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Privacy Policy in Apps [ with Infographic]

Developers want to do pretty and cool apps. Tedious privacy policies are often considered “suit-imposed” and not nice. Well, heck, they’re just text, aren’t they? However, not only do 70% of consumers actually want to know what you are doing with their data (this is according to MEF Global Privacy Report 2013). But there also legal obligations, you know. And, since July, there is a revised version of COPPA out (short for the Children Online Privacy Protection Act), which places even more onerous requirements on anyone publishing content aimed at minors.

It is however not only important that you do it at all but also how you do it. Transparency of terms is essential in a world of data (and, yes, I think since a certain Mr Snowden we are all a lot more aware just how significant that can be). If you only link out to a web page with 8,000+ words, you are not doing anyone favours: it doesn’t actually look very good (haven’t we all laughed on the 48 pages Apple wants us to read every time before we accept something? no one in their right mind will believe that even one consumer will do this; shady, isn’t it?). So best practice looks different and I would urgent everyone to follow best practice also for these “little” things.

MEF (full disclosure: I am director of their EMEA Board) has published a neat little infographic highlighting a few dos and don’ts. Have a look and go here for the full thing (and a version into which you can actually zoom into, too).

Mobile Gaming Whitepaper (and Event)

So I had recently the honour (and joy) to participate in a whitepaper on mobile gaming that the good folks of Video Games Intelligence commissioned as a backdrop for their Mobile Gaming Europe conference.

It is freely available here (though you need to register your details) and it is – needless to say – eminently worthwhile your attention… 😉

The conference itself will be on 20/21 November in London and is looking promising (even if you want to ignore my very own wisdoms). They assembled a speaker line-up that is the top of the crop in mobile games these days, including the head honchos from:

  • Super Cell (yup, the folks with the money)
  • King (the folks with the other bit of money)
  • Eidos (Ian Livingstone himself!)
  • Boss Alien (who did CSR Racing, one of the trailblazers in the F2P world)
  • Digital Legends
  • Fishlabs (the ones with the most awesome Galaxy on Fire)
  • DeNA
  • Facebook (the ones with the many users)
  • Digital Chocolate (the ones with the many years in the industry)
  • Bossa Studios (the ones with a BAFTA)
  • etc. etc. etc.

You get the gist: come along, join us, have fun and, perhaps, learn a little…

Leap Motion: First Impressions

I signed up for the pre-order of the Leap Motion controller ages ago. And, of course, it must arrive whilst I was on vacation… But, hey, it’s here now and since I was asked by a couple of friends to provide them with my thoughts, this is my first ever product review. A few words of caution though: I am not providing a fully-fledged review, just a few bits and bobs and my thoughts on the overall thing. For more traditional things, see e.g. here or here (consumer-focussed simple overview) or here (more in-depth technical).

Installation Environment

I installed it on my MacBook Pro (13” Retina, 3 GHz i7, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD) running on the latest OS (at the time of writing, that’s 10.8.4). It comes with two cables, a long and a short one, which is a neat idea. Alas, I would actually have wanted a cordless one but the, I guess, it might be a wee bit early for some BlueTooth 4.0 magic, so I’ll let this pass. It does not come with a manual and whilst that is oh-so-valley-style, a “cheat sheet” for the various gestures might be a good idea: as it is such a completely novel interaction method, it would make peoples’ lives a lot easier if they could check back quickly in the old-fashioned style. I mean, you could do it hipster-infographic-style as a hat-tip to the Valley, could you not?

You plug in, are asked to go to a website and install the software. Simple.

The Start

The first thing you do is go through an “orientation” programme, which is sheer beauty and gives you the first, well, orientation on what to do (and what not). This is the first bit where it shows you what it sees (in rough but pretty terms):

Then it shows you what it really sees (in more accurate and mechanical terms):

The rest is play. Here’s my son practicing his signature:

Using Leap Motion…

Then I started off. There are quite a few pretty cool apps available already (the company announced 1m downloads today, a mere 4 weeks after starting to ship to consumers). The New York Times app is nice (if practical). There are some sweet ones exploring molecules, etc. There are, alas, also some that don’t really work (yet). The usual shenanigans every new platform goes through. Anyway, I then downloaded the “Touchless for Mac” app, which turns the Leap controller into a navigation tool for your computer. And it works: It took me the best part of 20 minutes to actually get going nicely. I could open web pages, scroll through my Facebook feed, open links, play (and pause) video, etc. without too much struggle or stress. Latency is basically absent.

Mind you, this is not Minority Report if you are in the early stages of use (there is a “basic” and an “advanced” setting; I haven’t ventured beyond “basic” yet). But what would you expect? It is new, you have never used gesture controls in space (unless you’re Tom Cruise of course), so you will have to learn. I have little times for nay-sayers that already point out that it’ll fail because it is not perfect. It is a very impressive start!

My son (18, slightly geeky [and designy] aspiring Physicist and skateboard apparel entrepreneur) was, unsurprisingly, a lot faster than I in picking this up. It took him the best part of 5 minutes to successfully navigate around the parts that caused me some trial and error (small buttons, e.g. the “close window” one). BTW: Even my wife thinks is cool, and she hasn’t even seen Minority Report!

Apps, Apps, Apps…

In the year of the Lord (if you are so inclined) 2013, we all know that any device is only ever as useful as the applications that exist for it. And this is where the whole Leap experience delights and, erm, shows potential for growth at the same time: there are some apps out there already (and bear in mind that it’s a mere 4-5 weeks they are in the market only) that show you what can be done with this. And I would say it shows great promise! There are, however, also some absolute dogs (I won’t name and shame as I have no inclination of rubbishing brave developers that took an early leap [sic!] of faith to get behind a new platform).

User Interface

The biggest challenge is the bridge between today’s computer interfaces (I have yet to play around with it on Windows 8; need to “borrow” my daughter’s computer for that) are either mouse- or touch-centric. This is to say that they do not take into account the intrinsic constraints of gesture-based UX systems. That is to say: there is a natural constraint in how the Leap Motion can work with today’s computer systems. That, however, is (arguably) not the Leap Motion’s fault. The promises are huge as it removes artificial middlemen between the content and the user’s natural input mechanism (of which gesture is one). However, the full power of it will only come to fruition if paired with an OS interface that is designed for it, and this might – at least in the short term – be the snag: Leap doesn’t have that.

They have done a lot of things right though (the developer uptake is testament to that for a start) and it would be thrilling to see it being married to an interface that is actually built for it. It is not that hard, I think: Leap Motion’s own store shows (in a webpage) how to adapt a few things that make it very usable indeed.

Big buttons, clear borders between items, etc. make it a whole lot easier to navigate fluently and quickly using the gesture input. This is running in a present-day browser, so can’t be rocket science. There are already some convincing implementations of the Leap’s controls into live services: Google Earth as well as Nokia’s Here Maps already allow you to use the Leap Motion controller as an input device and that works really well!

One downside is the “jump” if you scroll: it sometimes just drops when you move your finger forward (a “click”), essentially misinterpreting what you want to do. This then can open another app (because it got “hooked” in the app tray below) or do some other stuff you didn’t really want it to do. Because of the above-mentioned challenge with small “close window” buttons, this is not a welcome distraction.

Another challenging piece is to use the Leap Motion in concert with keyboard and touchpad: because your fingers move in and/or near the “vision” of the controller, it sometimes interferes by e.g. re-setting your pointer to somewhere else on the screen, which is somewhat annoying. For everyday use, this is even fatal: if you always have to activate/de-activate and/or connect/dis-connect, you will probably not be using it at all once the early excitement has worn off. But let this not deter you from the concept: this last challenge could very easily be abolished would OEM incorporate the controller into an actual computer: the moment you use the keyboard, the Leap controller would simply be “muted” (or something a whole lot smarter than that). None of the constraints are flaws of the technology but merely on how it interacts with today’s commercially available hardware. If you allow a crude comparison: a Lamborghini Aventador would not have been much fun on cart tracks in the 19th century: the device would simply not interact that well with its incumbent environment. Alas, we are not 150 years apart here: all components exist and could work hand in glove (I know, tacky pun) with each other with only very few tweaks.

And Onwards!

And this is where it gets exciting: imagine a controller like this for navigation tasks, voice, etc for things like text input and couple this with anything from Google Glass to Pico Projectors (fairly sure Wikipedia needs an update here) to proximity-aware screens in your environment (you walk into your home, it all comes alive on a 50” screen whereas it would happily play on your Google Glass-type screen whilst you are on your way from work in the metro/tube/bus/subway). You have the freedom to choose and use natural inputs (voice, gestures) depending on what makes most sense for the task at hand. Doable? Absolutely. Close? I suspect so!


So what do I think? After the above, you’d appreciate this is only an interim conclusion. In principle: I love it! How often will I use it in the next six months or so? Not very much, I guess, as it still doesn’t have the critical bits I particularly need (I am one of the boring MS Office/Keynote/Chrome types). But what can it (and/or competitors, successors, subsequent evolutions of it) do? Enormous things!

Humanities and the (Global) Silicon Valley

So… this is something I have been carrying around with me for a while. A long while. The thing is this: the Zuckerbergs, Pages, Jobs (may he rest in peace) and all those other rockstars from the valley generally missed (and, unfortunately, still do miss) one thing, and that is a decent ethical compass. Now, I won’t accuse any of them of being bad people, not at all. However, I do think that the infatuation with engineering talent does tend to blank out the “good” in as most people would see it. The Valley is, essentially, a left-brain affair. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of creativity, etc going on in the Valley (see the capitalized way of putting it?) but a lot of it is lacking essential ethical values. Why is that? Because engineers don’t think that way.

Engineering is Cool… but not enough…

Now, I think this is missing a huge trick (and, yes, as a humanities guy I would of course say that) because it leaves aside the sentiment of at least half of the population (I would posit that it is more than that as – although perhaps in a foggy, undefined way – most people do actually prefer ethically sound principles.

Now look at the major success stories of recent times. Let’s say Apple of Facebook. As to the latter, there has been a scathing (but rather excellent) article by Hamish McKenzie on PandoDaily today (which actually triggered me to write this thing tonight; thank you, jetlag…) looking at the missed tricks of Facebook Platform. This followed a piece by the most excellent Walter Isaacson in the Harvard Business Review of “The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs” (eminently readable and highly recommended!).

Both Jobs and (admittedly) to a lesser extent Zuckerberg are quite awesome entrepreneurs (and I use both their products daily) but there was always something that irked me… And I realized it was their lack of ethics. Because, you see, I believe they have none. That is also why my regard for the “don’t do evil” motto of Google reached an all time low recently (check here if you don’t believe I could have such a low; I did!). And the reason is not that they are bad people. The reason is they are (were…) engineers. And engineers don’t think in certain ways. But, I would say, that (absent) way of thinking is important… really important in fact!

Humanities to the Fore!

And so I would call for every company to make sure to have someone in their upper ranks who comes from the humanities (yes, Google, I am looking at you; you are particularly bad in hiring those…) because, you see, those folks add (or can add) this additional dimension that will really allow you not to do evil. If you only have shit-hot engineers (and I adore those as much as anyone), you won’t be able to add that balance that you really need.

The challenging thing is that the result may – in the interim – be OK as in you might be making loads of dollars, and, yes, I know that this is good enough in most engineers’ book. However, if you want to build something to last, you will need to make sure that you have a balance that makes the Karma be good (and remember I am Atheist, so this is about doing the right thing and all…). And you’ll need those touchy-feely folks for that! There is – often, not always – a distinct lack of this in modern-day hot-shot start-ups. And the only thing I will say is this: to preach to the altar of engineering is as bad as preaching to any other altar; it tends to blank out other bits of life, and that, in itself, is bad.


Big Data is Awesome. Or it is Not.

Only a few quick thoughts after inspiring days…

Big data has opened a lot of channels (and, no, not only to the NSA). The computation of vast amounts of information has incredible opportunities – quite literally the stuff movies are made of, right? And, of course, this means that there are both insanely awesome as well as insanely scary opportunities out there. Oh, and then there are insanely boring ones, too.

The difference between the first two and the last is in the ability to, well, compute it cleverly, i.e. use adaptive techniques. Because – as I never tire harping on about – it all doesn’t matter unless you can provide context. Context, however, is a fickle beast. Because it tends to shift; it is not a steady target. So the true magic lies in the ability to adapt, to vary your responses to an analysis depending how a specific data set develops and changes. And, no, that is unfortunately not mundane. Emerging data sets have the terrible instinct to multiply in options (think of the rice corns on a chess board example). So to tackle that process procures a very pure form of awesome. And that, my friends, is what we need to strive for!

If you have been following, it is not news to you that I am immensely intrigued by these dynamics. But for tonight, that is all.

Event: Start-Up Grind Los Angeles

If you’re in Los Angeles this week, I would urge you to come over to the Startup Grind Meetup on Wednesday night where my good friend (and exceptional speaker) Robert Tercek will give a keynote. It is bound to be full of enlightening stuff about the future of media & technology (he’s been there and done that many a time, be it with Star TV, Sony Digital, Packetvideo, Oprah Winfrey Networks or any number of ventures he was involved with over the years).

You can RSVP here and buy tickets here (they’re cheap, don’t worry).

Hope to see you there (because, yes, I will indeed be in town this week).

Event: ICT Spring Luxembourg

Are you in Luxembourg and not involved in either counting money or European law? Then I would urge you to come along to ICT Spring, the conference that will take place next week.

it is a widely varied agenda. I’ll be speaking on a panel on “How Games are Impacting the Global Social and Business Landscapes” (yes, it is about gamification) and will be joined by a venerable list of A-listers:

  • None less but Trip Hawkins (founder of EA and Digital Chocolate);
  • Boris Pfeiffer (MD of Kabam Europe);
  • David Gardner (Co-Founder and General Partner of London Venture Partners); and
  • Raphael Goumot (Founder of CREAgile and previously Head of Games at France Telecom/Orange)

It should be rather lively indeed and with the event being headlined by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Eventbrite CTO and Co-Founder Renaud Visage and a raft of other very high-profile speakers, it promises to be inspiring and, well, simply awesome.

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