Website or No Website?

I am seriously considering changing my website anthonyfontana.com, which uses wordpress, over to only using my Facebook artist page OR a Google+ page. My site gets around 2,200-2,500 unique visitors per year. Most of this traffic, unfortunately, is not to view my artwork but to find out who I am or to read a blog post I’ve written. But usually only one or two blog post per year get more than 100 viewers.

So here are the pro’s and cons to switching from a blog site to a social site:

  • Pro: Better photo galleries. Facebook and G+ both have better photo galleries than WordPress.
  • Pro: Easier to manage. I’m in Facebook a lot anyways and already have multiple pages that I manage there. And with Facebook, there’s an app for that.
  • Con: No blog. Well no traditional blog anyway. I can still post longer textual posts as Notes on my Facebook and regularly on G+ pages.
  • Con: No importing my old blog content to either platform; since neither is a traditional blog. Although, this might not be a bad thing. Fresh starts are nice.
  • Con: I only have about 219 followers (Likes) on my Facebook artist/celebrity page and zero on my currently non-existent G+ fan page. Do I want to spend time to build that? How important is that function of the site? How important is building my brand as an artist, technologist, educator?
  • Con: No custom URLs for posts. So something that gets hit a lot like anthonyfontana.com/bio won’t be as easy to find it it’s buried in a Facebook info panel.
  • Pro: No more WordPress updates. Something inside me cringes that the whole site will break (there’s precedence for this) when I update WordPress.
  • Con: Two Anthony Fontana pages on Facebook. One for me, the person, and one for me, the brand.
  • Con: No ownership. No export. Although you can export everything from your Timeline and personal profile in Facebook I can’t find this option for brand pages.

Anybody doing this? Has anyone given up on their regular site just to use Facebook or G+? At this point I feel like I’ve talked myself out of this move. However, I might be willing to give it a try. Try: “do or do not, there is no try…” This type of strategy may need an all-in mentality and I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I manage two other Squarespace.com websites and I thoroughly LOVE their interface. Another option to get away from WordPress would be to switch to a hosted solution there – which is more than what I pay right now.

A whole other post, but in general I love the look and feel of G+ much more than Facebook. Google has done a great job on the design of their social networking site. I’m sad to see that it’s not doing as well as hoped. I’d invest more in G+ if I had time or energy.

Best and Worst of 2011

Best of 2011

Device: iPad 2
It’s hard to believe that this device isn’t even a year old! Released last March, iPad 2 brought a quicker processor, front and rear facing cameras, and a thinner and lighter look to an already amazing device. I’ve talked to a few folks who bought an iPad and yet still can’t figure out how to work it into their lives?! I use mine for everything from work to playmaking art to storing recipes. Thanks to Google Docs, I also used it while writing this post. It even inspired me to build a web app called QizBox (read more here). Also, this is my favorite smart cover.

All Around App: Vox
This little known gem is the most used app on my iPhone. It touts itself as a walkie-talkie app but it’s real function is asynchronous voice messaging – something sorely lacking from every phone OS. With the touch (and hold) of a button, I can send/record a voice message sent directly to another user. If the other user is available, we can talk in real-time (like a walkie-talkie), and if not… they can listen to the message when they are ready! This beats texting and driving. The app is free on iOS and Android.

Biggest Surprise: Siri
The iPhone 4S seems like a dud to me. Sure, it’s faster and… uhm, I think that’s all. Except for Siri. While there have been a ton of awesome jokes about Siri, it marks the third wave of computer interface milestones in the last several years (the touch interface that kicked off a revolution of phones/tablets AND the kinetic/body interface of the Xbox Kinect). It will be exciting to watch how voice interfacing competes and integrates with the others.

Game: Gamification
The best game of the year isn’t Skyrim or the new Star Wars MMO, it’s the gamification of everything. Its hard to throw a stick in any direction and not see how gamification, or the idea of adding game mechanics (badges & awards, levels, co-op or competitive play, and something social), is affecting many different fields. From waiting tables to the classroom, making our lives more playful and engaging is gamification’s goal. Check out Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal and her TED talk that influenced the inclusion of gamification in the design of my web app QizBox. Or these articles about Will Wright’s idea to turn life itself into a game called “HiveMind”.

OS: Google
While Google itself is not an operating system, I use more Google apps on my devices. With a fresh new design and a billion functions, the search giant gets me where I’m going, answers all of my questions, stores my life and work, and connects me to friends. Not a day goes by that i don’t use something Google  Although they aren’t perfect (Gooogle+ = meh) I’m positive that Google will continue to surprise us big in 2012. And I truely can’t wait until it literally gets me where I’m going!

Music: Spotify Desktop
All the music I could ever want. Streaming. Free. Nuff said.

Movie: Winnie the Pooh
Personally, I’ve never liked Pooh, but this movie was hilarious! My kids and I laughter harder and quote more lines from this movie than any other of the year! This movie is another sign of what John Lasseter is doing for Disney. Yes, Cars 2 & Kung Fu Panda 2 were both awesome as well (Ska-doosh), and the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo was crazy suspenseful, but if you haven’t seen Pooh, try it.

Social: Google Hangouts
Apple’s FaceTime & Microsoft’s Skype should be shivering in their boots. Beyond just conferencing Google Hangouts is an amazing collaboration tool. And with an open API, I’m sure we’ll see more and more integration of Hangouts in 2012.

Worst of 2011:

Device: Kindle Fire
I bought a Kindle Fire, not with expectations that it would measure up to an iPad, but with hopes that this device could be the perfect low-cost solution to those entering the tablet world. I was sorely disappointed! My long list of complaints (uncontrollable carousel, poor Amazon Prime movie selection, a sluggish OS, and super small text) were recently featured front and center in a Mashable.com article. Luckily, the majority of those complaints can (and likely will!) be fixed with a software update. I look forward to an even better and cheaper Fire next year.

All Around App: Facebook
I’m not sure if it’s just me… But I receive dozens of Notifications in my on Facebook for Friends I’m not even subscribed to! It extremely annoying. What was once an easy website/app to use, notifying me when someone interacted with me, is now a cluttered mess that looks more like a Twitter feed. Beyond that, on some posts I can “Like” other users comments and on others I can’t. Also, the settings I have on my computer for whose updates I receive don’t seem to translate to my mobile device. WTF? With other options (Twitter & Google+) in the social network realm, Facebook is giving me many frustrating reasons to leave. – Side note: I was sad to see my favorite location based check-in app, Gowalla, first ruin itself, then shut down altogether to join the Facebook team. This has to be my runner up for Worst app of 2011.

Music: Spotify Mobile
I had 48 free hours of all the music I could love on the Spotify mobile app… Then it asked me to pay. Dear Spotify, I’ve spent a total of $9.99 on music in the last two years! I would never ever think of spending that PER MONTH for music! Your business plan is wack. Serve me more ads and give it to me for free. OR make your service free with the purchase of one 99 cent song per month. Also, as much a I love the desktop app, I de-coupled it from my Facebook account. The idea that I want to a) share what I’m listening to with friends or b) learn about music by hearing what my friends listen to are both false assumptions. I’d much rather rely on a computer algorithm to make recommendations – Thank you Pandora!

OS: Xbox
My particular gripe with Xbox isn’t it’s new interface (that’s ok), it’s the $9.99 a month they are requesting from me to use other services like Netflix, HBO, or Pandora that I’m already paying for! This attempt at Microsoft is nothing more than a cheap money grab. My friends who play games together online obviously have a reason to pay. However, if Microsoft is going to tout their new “apps” as a real competitor to Google TV or the upcoming Apple TV they’d better drop the Xbox Gold Live price tag altogether. Google doesn’t have one and I’m pretty sure Apple won’t either.

Biggest Surprise: No iPhone 5
While this shouldn’t have been a big surprise given Apples usual development cycle, the hype and media leaks surrounding an iPhone 5 were at a new peak last August. Rumors of a bigger screen and thinner profile are likely to be true when we finally see this model next year. I will definitely be getting one.

Social: #OWS
The Occupy movement stands for one thing more than any other- Get big business out of government. This message was seemingly lost among the protests and ensuing social media blitz. Furthermore, many smart people I know could not separate the message from the messengers. Yet, I could hardly find a person on either side of the party lines that didn’t agree that our government and politics have been overrun by big business money and lobbyists. It’s time we act like the 99% in a peaceful and cooperative way; without the craziness.

What to look for in 2012:

Devices: iPad 3 (5”x7”) – Sony Gaming TV – iPhone 5
iPad 3: I’m hopeful there will be a 5″x7″ iPad 3 announce in the first quarter of 2012. The 5″x7″ size of the Kindle Fire was one of its best features! Plus, it would make this amazing device more affordable.
Sony Gaming TV: Pushed to 2012, this TV allows two users wearing 3d glasses to see different images when looking at the same screen. I think this tech will quickly move beyond gaming as many families will use the glasses, combined with headphones, to watch different content while looking at the same screen.
iPhone 5 - I think I’ve covered this.

Social: Everywhere

I think by the end of 2012 we will see chatrooms or comment boards everywhere. With apps like Oink allowing you to comment on any object anywhere and Twitter chat and Foursquare continuing to gain momentum, the obvious next step is a live chat feed attached to every place, thing, and tv show – and possibly every person too!Fresh newsreaders like Google Currents and Flipboard have brought back a desire to seek out news again – now that it’s formatted in a clean and readable interface (I always hated RSS readers anyways). I can easily see how format flow and interface could influence education, textbooks, and wikis (check out QWiki).

Finally, as information overload continues to grow, curatorial and creative story telling tools, like Storify, will too! Even smaller social networks, like Path, might help to cut down on the increased information stream on Facebook and Twitter.

Mindful Social Media Practice

I found this article on the Buddhist website Tricycle.com titled:

10 Mindful Ways to Use Social Media

http://www.tricycle.com/community/discuss-10-mindful-ways-use-social-media

The article really spoke to me in terms of how many people could use social media but often don’t. In fact, it seems to me that many of the complaints about social media stem from their interactions with or understanding of social media by those who don’t practice mindfully. (And I’m sooo guilty of this too!)

Ever hear someone complaint that Twitter is a broadcast medium where everyone is shouting and no one is listening? Or that they’re afraid spending their whole lives on Facebook? If you use social media mindfully, authentically, aware of your intentions, truthfully and in a helpful way, while still being here, now, in the present moment with the people you’re with I believe many of those complaints would begin to dissipate.

It’s when we begin to use social media as a coping mechanism to escape the reality we’re in that often times leads to this all-or-nothing outsider mentality. What mindful social media practice means to me is that when I’m online, I can be totally online. When I’m offline, I can do that with my full attention too. It’s when I get distracted in between… usually on my phone, answering an email or responding to a post while walking down the hallway that I realize I’m not mindful of reality. I’ve found it much more helpful to eat while I eat, surf while I surf, and walk when I walk. And that doesn’t mean that since I have the internet in my pocket I can’t look something up when I need too, even if it’s in the middle of a meeting.

So the question is, are you using social media to escape reality?

Best and Worst of 2010

Best of 2010:

My ‘Best of’ list may help you save a few bucks next year, be more (or less) productive, or just keep you busy clicking links for a while.

Device: iPad
http://www.apple.com/ipad/
I take it everywhere. It’s my GPS, MP3 player and radio while I drive. It’s my pencil and paper at work, it’s my computer of choice, even if it’s not capable of everything I need at all times. My top uses and apps:

All around app: Google Voice
https://www.google.com/voice
This app is totally free (used in a browser) and has saved me $15 a month in texting fees by routing the SMS texts thru my email and data plan on my phone. I can also use the Google Voice app on my Blackberry to send or receive texts if I wish. I get my voicemail transcripts in email to read when I can’t take a call. It’s a game changer for saving money.

Biggest Surprise: Google Chrome
http://www.google.com/chrome
The most secure browser out there and perhaps the fastest one too. I now know why they made this little browser into it’s own operating system. I’m already living in it. Customize it with extensions and without the (Firefox) lag. Here’s a few I like:

Music: Pandora/GrooveShark
http://www.pandora.com/
http://listen.grooveshark.com/
Everyone uses Pandora. The fact that it’s on every device I own makes it ultimately useful at all times. Gooveshark is another great web app where you can actually listen to the songs you want. I’m not sure how they are making this happen since it seems to be peer to peer (P2P) sharing. Make a playlist, listen to whole albums, Tweet a song with a tiny URL… all for free! Sorry iPad users, this puppy uses (ugh) Flash.

Movies/TV: Netflix
http://netflix.com/
I cancelled my cable bill this year and saved a bundle with Netflix on my Wii, iPad, and laptop. The streaming library is ever increasing and if you like TV, are willing to give up new content full of commercials, this is your last stop. My favorites:

Game: Angry Birds
http://www.rovio.com/
2 Games, a bazillion levels, hours and hours of addictive fun. iPad/iPod Touch/iPhone and Android. Nuff said.

OS: Android
http://www.android.com/
Although I don’t own a device running Android, the fact that I want one so badly is proof that the fastest selling mobile OS on the market kicks ass. It has a huge development team, an open system, and took Linux from being a joke (sorry Linus) to what could end up being the most widely distributed OS of our time.

Movie: Inception
http://inceptionmovie.warnerbros.com/dvd/
Nolan’s best movie to date. Thrilling, conceptual, and an all around spectacle. Buzz Lightyear, Iron Man and Zuck didn’t stand a chance.

————-

Worst of 2010:

Devices: Google TV / Apple TV
The biggest let downs of the year. A device that could change everything. A device that could have brought the best mobile operating systems (Android and iOS) to our TVs and give us millions of apps to play with… instead searches our cable box for content and giving us more ways to pay for overpriced content. Boo. Fail.

All Around Worst App: iTunes
For the 10th year running: iTunes. What a beast. Slow to start up. Hard to use. Copying all my files to who knows where (whenever my hard drive is suddenly out of space, iTunes is to blame). Here’s an app by the maker of the iPad whose iTunes app doesn’t even perform the simplest task: subscribe to podcasts – i.e. automatically download new content. This year iTunes also introduced Ping, a social network (as if we needed another) for music. Note to Apple: Concentrate on usability and usefulness.

Music: The Social Network OST
My biggest gripe here isn’t with the music. I’m a huge Trent Reznor / Nine Inch Nails fan! My problem is with the price. Facebook is free. Everything Trent does is free. This is one piece of musical soundtrack that should have been free.

Movies/TV: Hulu and Hulu Plus
What a joke. Limited content, too many commercials, and an over priced app for shows that eventually expire. Hollywood really has to be reaching with this last ditch effort to save commercials. Forget it. Put a Pepsi or McDonalds logo (linked to a limited time offer) down in the corner and drop the commercials and the charge for the app.

Guest post on official Facebook in Education blog

I was invited several months ago to create a guest post on the official “Facebook in Education” blog. My post went up today and can be found here (full link below). I’m happy to see that Facebook has vision and dedicated staff towards seeing this massive platform put to use in education.

As a Learning Management System the Facebook group enabled important educational exchanges, but there are a few additional features that could make this platform even more useful. The ability to see all contributions made to the group by a single person would enable a teacher to view all comments, links, pictures, videos and even “Like” buttons used by a student within the group page.  This would enable an instructor to easily track and measure student engagement. Adding the ability to make separate photo albums would enable an instructor to differentiate contributions posted from different classes. If Facebook groups also had the ability to add applications, a teacher could feed information from other sources, via RSS or SMS, directly into the group page. Finally, if Facebook had the ability to host document and slideshows, there would be no reason to use Google Documents or another document hosting service – students could read documents or view lecture slides without leaving the group page.

http://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-in-education/using-a-facebook-group-as-a-learning-management-system/10150244221815570

What Google Wave Could/Should Be…

(Disclaimer: I’m not an expert or a programmer. I just see a need for better designed communication system.)

I think many people were disappointed last week when the 100k invites for Google Wave went out and everyone realized… Google Wave isn’t what they think it is. The consensus: Wave is a glorified (or confusing) email/chat system that has its own protocol for creating collaborative documents. Woo hoo.

What were we expecting Google Wave to be? I think most people expected a system that would merge email, chat (IM & SMS), with the communication of Facebook and Twitter streams (links, video, pics, and more). An all-in-one protocol for messaging perhaps?

Why it’s needed:
A number of APIs allow us to send SMS Tweets that update our Facebook feed. We can send an IM to update Twitter. We can email a picture to Flickr which updates our FriendFeed and perhaps that posts back to Twitter or Facebook. Right now these services and connections are spread out over a number of sites (and frankly, it’s very hard to keep track of what is updating where and when I do what?).

What Wave and its ‘bots’ (or programmable plug-ins that deal with Waves) could/should be is… an organizational tool for all the many forms of communication we use to interact with other people on a daily basis. Google seems to be the business ready for this, with products like Gmail, Gtalk, Google Voice, and the power of Google search. Facebook, according to CEO Zuckerberg, would love to be the number one form of communication on the planet. The first to sort out the mess that is 101 million ways of interacting and communicating, will win. It’s that simple.

How it should work:
An interactive all-in-one communication tool should:

  • Be open and extensible
    • Any communication format can be sent to/from email, to IM or SMS, into World of Warcraft or Second Life (any game or site w/ chat), or translated into Japenese and sent as Voicemail, etc.
    • With my permission, any bot should be able to access certain Waves and make this happen. Right now, we grant these permissions through APIs for various sites/tools we use.
  • Have algorithmic privacy controls
    • A public Wave about my recent surgery is automatically sent to only my family, close friends, and doctors. However, a Wave to my doctor is private. A link to melanoma goes to anyone interested in health (or at risk!).
  • Be interoperable
    • A friend’s Wave about an NFL player comes to me because I am have that player on my Yahoo! Fantasy Football team. Another friend’s Wave about a player I am not interested in, does not come to me.
  • Be verifiable
    • I should know who is communicating with me. A system that verifies identity on (at least) 3 platforms is needed to reduce spam and allow for more productive communication.

What it could do:
Besides allowing for Google, Facebook, and Twitter to use this new messaging protocol and still compete for your eyeballs on their brand/version of this one-stop-shop for communication, a system like this could be used for bigger and better things. First, I would assume that whatever system was created for this would have a mobile app on many phones, or at the very least be able to convert anything to SMS. Second, I would assume that this would be the protocol adopted and used for all communications systems: phone calls, emails, IM, chat, status updates (even collaborative docs). Again, this would allow all platforms to fight competitively about branding and front end design while still allowing users to ‘do more’ with their communications.

Now let’s say I am playing World of Warcraft and my wife is at the store. With the touch of a button I can send a /tell that will arrive as a text message on her phone. “Buy some milk”.

Someone could write a bot that would poll (Wave already has a polling bot) all Ohioans about the upcoming Issue to legalize gambling or even Obama’s healthchare plan. All verified user data could then be sent to my local representative or Senator. Talk about a powerful lobby for the people.

Add geographical locations in the mix and a 911 call about a man choking might send an SMS to a nearby doctor/paramedic and save someone’s life. “You are a registered paramedic. A man in a brown coat is choking at the restaurant next door. Can you assist?”

Google Voice: Widget, iPhone Saga, & More

Call me google voiceGoogle Voice has added an embeddable widget so that you can now call a user directly from a website or blog. I just added mine on the right side of my blog here, just below the Meebo widget. If you care to call, you’ll get my voice mail where you can leave a message that will be transcribed to email and sent to me immediately. What does this all mean?

This is just one more step Google taking dominant control of communications in all modes. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook has openly stated that he’d like to see Facebook be the #1 form of communications on the planet. While Facebook may be one of the best (and easiest) ways to share words, links, and pictures… a few areas they are not so strong in is voice, SMS text, and even webcam (Facebook applications aside). GTalk and Gmail have had webcam abilities for a while. Goolge Voice brings Google one step closer than Facebook in the are of SMS texts, which are completely free and unlimited, and Voice in the form of phone services that are way ahead of what your mobile carriers are giving. They also work right on top of your carrier’s services in the form of Mobile Apps and more… hence the reason Apple denied the Google Voice app from the iPhone store and the reason the FCC is currently looking into thier actions.

I was speaking with a friend the other day who has an iPhone, a limited texting plan, and an unlimited data plan. He was very interested in getting the Google Voice app for his iPhone so that he could send unlimited SMS text messages through the app and under his unlimited data plan. Obviously, this is something AT&T anticipated and a reason they presumably pushed Apple to block the app.

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    Anthony Fontana is Geek, Artist, Educator, Learning Technologist, App Designer, Virtual Campus Admin, Graphic Novelist, Zen Buddhist, Father and more...
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