Some random thoughts wrapped up as predictions for 2011

jetsonsLast month, I wrote a post for the blog at Hammock.com about my content marketing predictions for 2011. I’ve picked up a couple of predictions from there, however, most of the following comes from my “one day, blog about this” folder on Evernote.

So, in the form of predictions, here are some thoughts:

Magazine apps will stop being called magazine apps: Okay, I know it. This won’t happen. Magazine is such a convenient and important-sounding metaphor and, for traditional magazine publishers, a brand extension. When a publisher or developer calls something a “magazine,” there’s no need to say, “this is an app that includes big photos and text and the content is updated on a recurring basis.” Unfortunately, big photos, text and content updated on a recurring basis can also describe pretty much any popular media site on the web. Throw in video, audio, slide-shows and what do you have? Pretty much any content-focused app. So what do you have left to hang the word magazine on. Answer: Page flipping. So that’s what it has come down to: Of all the amazing things that can be done with the technology and platform of an iPad, the magazine app is becoming known as the app that has “pages” that “flip.” Geez. I need another prediction, so…

The developers of any app that includes text will discover accelerometer-aided “text scrolling” is better than page-flipping: If you’re a user of Instapaper Pro on the iPhone and you use “tilt scrolling,” you’ve probably wondered, “Why isn’t this on every eBook reader, web browser, etc.?” I mean, you tilt your device a bit forward and the text scrolls down. You wonder, “Isn’t this the way you would do it if you weren’t tied to metaphors like ‘page’ and ‘flip.'”?

Expect an announcement about Flipboard, Twitter and something that sounds a lot like an RSS “newsreader”: Okay, while I just, in a nuanced way, slammed Flipboard, let me admit that nothing I say in these predictions will slow down that juggernaut. So, at least, let me hope them success on something they’ve discovered builds on a foundation already blessed by publishers (rather than trying to convince publishers they are something new — which publishers naturally think is threatening): Making the notion of subscribing to an RSS news feed less geeky. What do I mean? Well, first, a couple of weeks ago, Flipboard CEO Mike McCue told the New York Times that “Twitter is becoming a social RSS reader…You follow certain people who provide a kind of social curation above the level that is likely on a blog.” Right after that, it was announced Mike McCue had joined the board of Twitter. And a couple of days later, there was a release of a Flipboard feature that makes it easy to use Flipboard as an RSS newsreader. And since almost every publisher has dozens of RSS feeds they already know are traffic-builders and, well, Twitter is probably their second source (or first) of traffic, what if Flipboard & Twitter were trying to jointly pitch media companies instead of having two sets of evangelists, biz-dev and sales people doing such pitching? And what if those RSS feeds and Twitter tweets were being presented in “flipping pages” that include advertising, also?

Call those “data points” or “tea leaves” or, what it actually is, “conjecture,” but those are the kind of things that start to happen right before real news occurs.

Questions & Answers will still be questions & answers: There’s this dream use of the internet. It goes something like this. I want to know an answer to something. I go to the internet and ask it. Magically, the answer appears. Oh, and if I’m the owner of this service, all of those answers are provided by experts who do so for free. Now, if you’re a well-funded and connected startup with a new and shiny way of doing this for yet, the hundredth time, you may be able to gain publicity among the techno-taste-makers, but, as Michael Hyatt tweeted the other day, “I need another inbox like I need a hole in the head.”

Apple will mashup features of Keynote and iMovie and create a program called iAnimator: A long time ago, I suggested that all Apple had to do to increase sales of GarageBand was to “re-metaphor-ize” the same features, using podcasting terms rather than music-recording terms. I don’t know if it helped with their sales, but they did shortly thereafter add podcasting metaphors (not because of me, it was a rather obvious opportunity). Here’s another opportunity: Keynote and iMovie features can, together, provide a decent animation platform hack for many how-to and fun uses. (Here’s a Christmas greeting video animation I helped create using a Keynote-iMovie hack. Key tip: Automate all transitions and master the transition, “Magic Move.”)

Designers will discover the key to user-love is simple, minimalist, user interfaces: Technology is often accused of making our lives more complicated. When publishers think that, to be impressive, an iPad app or website needs more bells and whistles, they fall into the trap of doing just that — making things more complicated. However, many of us are attracted to technology that helps us gain efficiency and achieve order — that dampens noise and distraction. Such neo-minimalist new products as the multi-platform product, Instapaper, are gaining a big following among early-adopting tech influencers.

You will publish an e-book: Or, you will if you want to. Two words for 2011: Kindle Singles. Here’s some math that jumped out at me while reading this post: If an author has a traditional contract with a major book publisher, an ebook sold for $9.99 via the Kindle Bookstore earns the author $1.75 per sale. However, if the author sells the book directly to the reader, via the Kindle Bookstore, the author will net slightly below $7. I know writers aren’t always good at math, but stick with me, please. Let’s say, when Kindle Singles launches, the average price of these new, shorter-form, eBooks is $2.99. If an author sells direct, they will generate more net revenue per sale ($2.09) from a short eBook than they could by selling a standard-length book sold by a traditional publisher ($1.75, if priced at $9.99). Draw your own conclusions. (But expect for me to be publishing lots of Singles in 2011.)

You will publish your book in print: Book publishing using print on demand (POD) technology and innovative distribution methods is a concept that has been around since slightly after the Guttenberg press. However, some inside-baseball channel wars and pricing elasticity challenges have prevented its long-hyped potential from matching its reality. I predict 2011 is the year that happens. (Note: I predict this every year.)

You will start thinking the word “social” is so last decade: Maybe this is just wishful thinking, but I’ve been saying the following for about three years: When you start calling everything “social,” then you don’t need the word social. So, if every page on the Internet has “like” buttons and comment boxes and at least two ways to join or see what friends have visited that page, is there really a need to use the word “social” anymore?

Android devices will continue to improve. Apple iOS devices will continue to improve and also get cheaper and more ubiquitous: First off, there is no reason for anyone to make predictions about market share of iPhones until iPhones are sold by Verizon. I know, personally, three people who have been putting off purchasing an Android phone to see if, indeed, that will happen and when. The market of those willing to change to ATT for the iPhone is pretty-much tapped. However, in the meantime, Android phones have improved — perhaps not to parity status, but they’re getting close. And they’re cheaper. Despite conventional wisdom to the contrary, I predict Jobs will compete on price when it comes to the iPhone. I also predict there will be no -killers; this is a case where competition is great for everyone, including those of us who are inclined to use Apple products.

In 2011, I predict I’ll purchase an Android device: Not a phone, but something.

Keynote help: Why Helvetica Neue may be incompatible with Helvetica Neue

In September, I wrote a post about things one should consider if they are creating a Keynote presentation that will be displayed on an iPad, as well as on your computer. (If you’re not a Mac user, Keynote is software that can be used to create a PowerPoint presentation. That, of course, was a joke — although it is probably what most people think Keynote is.)

While it may be understandable and reasonable to have slightly different capabilities in the Mac and iPad versions of Keynote, I’ve recently become aware of an incompatibility, of sorts, between two different Macs running the same presentation. To me, that seems like a bug.

Here’s what happend: I know the font Helvetica Neue works on both the Mac and iPad versions of Keynote, so I’ve begun using it a lot these days. However, when I recently tried to open one of my presentations on someone else’s Mac, I received error messages indicating some font incompatibilities related to Helvetica Neue.

With a few clicks, I could see that Helvetica Neue was on the computer, so I was perplexed how I could have created a presentation on a Mac using Helvetica Neue and moved it to another computer that has Helvetic Neuve, but there be incompatibility issues.

Fortunately, this is just the kind of situation where it comes in handy to have an in-house team of designers and technical people who work on both print and web projects. So, fortunately, I was able to turn to Patrick Burns, Hammock’s resident professor of fontology, and ask about my incompatibility issue, “What up with that?”

Patrick explained to me that a downside of my using an up-to-date version of the Mac OS X is, that if I use a 10.5+ “system font” in creating something, it may not be a system font for the pre-10.5 Mac OS X — and the old Mac version will consider the font incompatible, even if that font exists elsewhere on the machine. (For a long explanation of this, including how to fix it, here’s a long article about the issue, and what to do about it.)

If this were any company than Apple, I’d suggest this was a bug. However, I have learned over the past 10 years of blogging, never to suggest something like this is a bug as there is an army of Apple fans who will argue that it’s the user who is a bug, and that anyone with any sense should know how to fix it. And, furthermore, anyone who didn’t update to 10.5 the day it came out deserves having the bug…

But it’s Apple, so, please, dear Mac fan boys, do not consider this a suggestion that Apple did something wrong.

Tips for creating a Keynote presentation that will be used on an iPad

ipad keynote

While I know the ins-and-outs of Keynote fairly well, I’m not a designer. Fortunately, I work with some great designers and from time-to-time get asked to provide some technical tips while one of them is working on a project that involves presentations.

During a recent project related to some presentations a client’s sales group will be using with iPads, a designer and I became aware of some finicky needs the iPad “app version” of Keynote requires to easily accept a presentation developed on the desktop version of Keynote. (I assume these principles apply to presentations created in Power Point, as well, but someone else will have to run such tests.)

While I feel one can, if in a bind, create a presentation on an iPad, it’s never going to be my preference. I’m far too comfortable in a work flow that depends on my Wacom pen tablet and the light-weight software utility called Skitch.

However, if you are going to create on a Mac and present on an iPad, get ready for some bugginess. Here are a few tips I’ve learned the old fashioned way: trial, error and Google.

1. Know the limitations of the iPad Keynote app prior to starting the project: Recently Apple posted this best practices for creating a Keynote presentation on a Mac that is intended for an iPad. You need to bookmark it as it provides two lists that you will find handy: A. A list of fonts native to the iPad B. A list of effects supported by the iPad app.

2. Don’t use any font or effect not supported by the iPad (thus, why you need that list handy): Note for those who didn’t hear me the first time: A lot of problems will be averted if you limit yourself to effects and fonts that actually work on the iPad. [Later: Some very nice person created this page that displays every font that is iPad native.]

3. Here is an effect that you’ll try, despite me telling you not to, twice: Don’t “Group” objects on your Mac version of Keynote and expect the effect to survive the trip over to the iPad.

4. Very important: Use .png format graphic files rather than .jpg. Trust me, do this. If you don’t, you’ll have missing graphics and you’ll be trying to figure out why they disappeared. Most confusing, some jpgs will convert easily, while others won’t.

5. Resize your .png graphics to the largest size they will appear on the iPad screen. Don’t leave them “big” — like the way I sometimes do: I’ll insert a large graphic file into a presentation and merely shrink the display size of the graphic. With presentations that you think may end up on the iPad, you need to go ahead and use the “Preview” utility (or use what I use, Skitch) to resize the image before adding it to the presentation. (And yes, the Preview utility has a resize feature.)

6. Advanced suggestion: If you are familiar with the transition “magic move,” it works nicely in the iPad app and can be, if you’re creative, a good means to hack some animations that might be missing. But, like alcohol, use animations in moderation.

There may be some other nuances I’ve missed with certain types of elements others use in presentations, but at Hammock, we avoid bulletpoints and Excel-created charts and grafts, so I have no tips related to them — except, if you want to be a good presenter, avoid them if possible.