The numbers behind “quality of education”

Gathering up numbers to shock, awe, and entertain is a core part of making interactive media engage people. It’s one of our favorite tricks:

150 Billion Stars, 50 million transistors, 50,000 blood cells on the head of a pin.

This works well enough, but even numbers can get political, in fact it is especially numbers that get political:

“The new fighter replacement program will cost over 30 Billion dollars”

“One in five kids in Canada go to school hungry”

“Every day, 500 Canadians are diagnosed with Cancer”

These numbers affect us quite personally – it’s our money and our lives and our culture. It matters a lot more than say, the mass of the moon in our perception.

And unfortunately we consider both the mass of the moon and the number of kids that go to school hungry as equivalent in terms of factual accuracy – because they are both expressed as numbers.

People – and headlines – don’t seem to have time to factor in the nuance of turning a complicated system into a single statistic; a stat should really have a big asterisk after it, just like the price of a new car, and small print should say what the accuracy of the stat is and how it was calculated.

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The Practical Take on Platforms

theFWA has a great set of quotes from leaders in the creative industry about what transitions like the one from Flash to other technologies really mean. Beyond the rhetoric, these are the tools of a community, and it is the creativity that is the real strength, not the platform. Also, a great Freudian slip in the use of the word “canvas” :

…”The relevancy of Flash and potential of HTML5 both lie in the hands of the creative community. More importantly, the future of the Internet remains a vast and exciting canvas so long as we seek to continually provide the most engaging and effective user experiences possible.”

Jared Kroff, Creative Director, RED Interactive Agency

Good Week for Interactive Devs!

The scare this year has been that you, as a developer, would have to choose a platform and focus on it. Noone minds a bit of focus, but the fact that seemingly artificial barriers to re-use of code and effort were being introduced; the mobile platforms were making it necessary to choose a side, because learning all the platforms was a big reach. Blackberry, Android, iOS, Flash Platform, each with its own SDKs, IDEs, frameworks, and of course, time destroying tricks and gothas. But things are looking a little brighter:
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Android and the closing of open platforms

The Nexus 1 from Google is one of the few mobile devices with a stock build of Android.

It is the exception to an unfortunate rule where manufacturers are skinning Android with their own UI components at the expense of users.

Most of these interfaces are a personal matter of choice whether the user likes them or finds that they actually increase the usability or utility of their handset.

One thing that is not arguable however is that the Manufacturers who choose to do this are effectively becoming gatekeepers for Android updates to these Users. Need to Update to Androis 2.2? You will have to wait until you manufacturer has updated their skin and chosen to push the update to the User’s phone. The time for this is not exactly days and can be months, or never.

This differentiates mobile from desktop and notebook, where manufacturers could add some bloatware to Windows, but it could be removed and essentially made stock. This option is not available in the Android situation, unfortunately.

Manufacturers ideally should either make the turnaround times for updating phones much tighter (the update delay from from Android 2.1 to 2.2 is infuriating), or make their skin not stand in the way of defaulting to a stock install, or for that matter a whole market of 3rd party skins. If the User chooses to keep it, great, then the Manufacturer has actually made a piece of software front-end that enhances the stock UI. From recent reports this is often not the case, but because bypassing the custom UI is either prohibited or difficult, the Manufacturers are simply letting Google do the heavy lifting while they simply stand in the way of what android does best – promote rapid innovation.

Competition through exclusion of alternatives has never benefited customers.

Where is my bonus feature? Tablets and lessons from DVDs

Wired has an iPad app – you would assume it is one of the best, and yet what are the new features? Where are they?

The cost of interactivity beyond what we see on the web now is prohibitive, just like bonus content on a DVD, the easiest thing to add is ‘outtakes’ and in this case, the easiest thing to add is Social functions, as these require nothing more from the publisher than what they are used to producing. Interactivity beyond this is hampered by a lack of a common, simple-to-use standard, like Flash.

As magazines go digitial, the biggest hurdle will be one of apathy.
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