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 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 titled:

10 Mindful Ways to 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?

Twitter for Students

I was thinking about compiling a list of possible use case scenarios for Twitter in education and found some great links that already do that:

There’s one top tip I couldn’t agree with more:

Track a professional: If you’re interested in pursuing a particular career and want to learn more about a certain leader in that field, you can “follow” a professional’s tweets.

For lists of the Tweeters I follow in specific fields, visit:!/anthonyfontana/lists

I am always willing to find new folks to follow in each of those fields as well. So send any suggestions to @anthonyfontana or comment below.

Twitter tastes Delicious

Yahoo recently announced it was shutting down or selling Delicious. is a social bookmarking tool bought by Yahoo in 2005. Delicious says it will stay open.

I say Twitter should buy Delicious. Talk about a powerhouse combo! So many people use Twitter to aggregate and pass links, often times never saved or seen again (just like the tweets themselves). But wouldn’t it be great if every link you ever tweeted was automatically bookmarked and stored for you? What if every posted by everyone you ever follow was stored too?

What’s even greater is that Delicious does tags (folksonomy), something long missing from Twitter. Could Twitter put that tag system to use, not only for links, but to get rid of this silly hashtag stop-gap measure and get down and dirty with some real taxonomicial mojo?

A few years ago, links were the currency of the web: traded, saved, and stored. Very few of us keep detailed records of links, unless doing research or a paper or something. If we did keep track, we had a myriad of resources to choose from: blogs, wikis, and RSS through sites like Delicious. Today however, we’re still passing links every day, but with Twitter as our aggregator. Where succeeded over Delicious was in its community. Where Twitter succeeded over was… in its community (and respect for community). Where Twitter fails is in its storage and search for past links and other metadata, i.e. who passed it to who and how.

Twitter is growing up fast and has made only one big purchase: Tweetie, the best Twitter iPhone app at that time. In doing so, it strangled the market for Twitter apps and put a solid stamp on its mobile product. By buying Delicious, Twitter could do the same for the short URL, which was developed entirely on the premise that most links take up too much of the 140 character limit. There are security concerns with such links and where they might land. Giants like Google have stepped into the foray with and Delicious uses But services like and seem to be ruling the day. But for how long? By buying Delicious, Twitter could shore up the shortened URL market and with deeper integration and tools then they currently use now.

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?”


Here’s a look at some of the drawings I’ve been working on. These are all small and stay in the book. I’m thinking about doing a larger series of them.

Twitter + Live Broadcasting

I have written about a log of new streaming video tools on my previous blogs which can now be found under the category live broadcasting.

Two new sites launched this week taking that “conversational” approach to the next level using Twitter. Camtweet and Twitcam. Read more here.

CamTweetThe app Camtweet requires invites to participate in early testing, has a really ugly UI, and when has a chat room viewers sign into with thier Twitter ID/Password. When someone Tweets from your page, it includes a link to your show. Good idea! The rest of the site lacks any other bells or whistles.

TwitcamTwitCam is powered by LiveStream (formerly, I talked about in the Live Broadcasting 2.0 post) and works about the same. Log in with your Twitter cred, links and more… Plus a very pretty UI. I’m surprised however that LiveStream does not supply users with more tools or features that are in the full LiveStream accounts. For instance, the ability to play YouTube videos or show a ticker at the bottom of your screen (regular features on LiveStream). I am guessing that LiveStream is just trying to get users to broadcast first, but pulling in Twitter users and will move forward from there.

If there’s one think I’m surprised about… it’s that the TwitCam name isn’t already owned by King TWIT (This Week In Tech) Leo Laporte.

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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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