Sam Davyson

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HTC Desire early pricing: probably too high 15/03/10 - 11.38

T mobile have become the first network to announce their HTC Desire pricing which is due to launch on their network in the next coupe of weeks (and every other UK network several weeks after that). Multiple networks from the word go should help to drive down prices. T mobile’s lowest tariff with data is £30 / month x 24 months with 900 mins and 500 texts. Total cost: £720.

Buying the phone outright is £440. With a suitable sim only tariff from any of the main networks you can get unlimited internet and plenty of texts and minutes on a rolling contract for £20 / month. Over 24 months the total cost of ownership comes to £440 + (24 x £20) = £920. So you save £200 by taking the contract with T mobile. This is the price that you are paying to lose the freedom of a rolling contract.

Of course the contract price should be less than the price with a rolling contract: each network wants you to commit for a good length of time to their network. Hopefully tariffs from O2, Vodafone and Orange will lower prices a bit more. Ideally an 18 month contract for £30 / month with unlimited internet.

I can’t help but thinking these prices are a little too high to differentiate from the iPhone. There need to be cheaper and good smartphones.


Introducing Davyson Continue

07/03/10 - 18.14

Davyson Continue is a seamless way to continue browsing the internet as you move devices. Imagine the scenario: you’re reading a news story on your laptop. You’re heading out but would love to continue reading on your iPhone when you get on the bus. With Davyson Continue you hit one button when you leave your laptop to save and then one button on your iPhone to resume. And you can do it back the other way too. Unlimited devices. All you need is the ability to add bookmarks.

No more having to navigate through websites to find where you were on your previous device. No more having to copy and paste or to type out long URLs. Instead Davyson Continue gets you instantly to the content you’re interested in.

Setting up is totally trivial on a computer (10 seconds) but a bit more hairy on the iPhone (maybe 90 seconds). It’s a hosted service available free with no signup required.

Find it in the Projects Directory.

March 7th, 2010 - 6.14 PM | No Comments »

Using an iPhone with no home button 04/03/10 - 15.56

If your home button breaks on your iPhone it’s easy to think that it’s game over. You have to turn off the phone each time you want to return to the home screen. But no! Luckily there is a workaround.

Setup steps
1. Put a passcode on your phone.

To change applications
1. Press the lock button to lock the phone.
2. Press the lock button to unlock the phone.
3. Slide to unlock.
4. Press “emergency call”.
5. Press the back arrow.
6. Key in your passcode.
7. This always returns to the homescreen.

It’s not ideal but it might seem somewhat more desirable than buying a new phone.


Leo Laporte speaking at TEDx 19/02/10 - 16.31

He’s calling for everyone to produce content: blog posts, video, tweets, photos. Anything.

He briefly addresses the problem that if everyone produces content there is no way that you’re going to get much attention. He worms out of it by suggesting that good content will surface. Maybe true but it means that 90%+ of content producers have to deal with no audience engagement which is what Leo’s found so rewarding with his TWiT network.

He’s certainly right to an extent but I think “old media” still have a solid position for the moment as places to find entertainment.


Why aren’t there cheaper smart phones?

19/02/10 - 16.25

People talk about the “apple tax” but the HTC Desire costs the same on pay as you go as the iPhone 3GS does (both £450). Yes you can argue that the HTC Desire better but we all know that Apple will be catching up in most areas in June and they will probably keep the price the same.

It seems to me that there is significant opportunity to offer powerful, cheaper smartphones. I know O2 are touting the HTC Smart as this very thing. But it doesn’t run android. I think (and hope) that when Nexus One and HTC Desire have their contract pricing plans revealed – should be soon as they launch in late March – we’ll see better plans for less. Ideally £30 a month for 18 months. But I fear £35 for 24. In which case they have no edge over the iPhone at all.

The iPhone is expensive and Apple is making huge amounts on it. HTC should be able to hit lower price points: don’t write much software, don’t do as much marketting etc.

[ originally published on Google Buzz ]

February 19th, 2010 - 4.25 PM | 1 Comment »

New Bookmarklet for DavysoNub

08/02/10 - 18.02

I’ve added a bookmarklet to DavysoNub which gives you all the power of DavysoNub from any website you might be on. Particularly improved is adding commands. Find a site that you want to add to DavysoNub just click the bookmarklet and use the “n” command plus the term you’d like it to have. The bookmarklet grabs the URL for you. So all you need to do is add a description and hit done. The bookmarklet throws you back to the URL you just added.

Possible future features include adding a description right from the page, and maybe an overlay so you never have to navigate away from the page.

You can grab the bookmarklet from the DavysoNub homepage.

February 8th, 2010 - 6.02 PM | No Comments »

Apple iPad

01/02/10 - 02.32

There’s been an incredible volume of text written about the as-of-yet unavailable iPad. I don’t want to add too much to it, other than just to place my opinion on the record for reviewing in future.

I think that the iPad will be a huge success. I don’t think it will have colossal sales initially. It’s going to take a while for everyone to see it up close and for developers to produce apps that show off the power of such a large screened portable device. I think many more of us than we expect may have one much sooner than we expect. Chrome OS netbooks or tablets versus this will be extremely interesting. Something of note is that Chrome OS has no native apps as a key part of it’s design – everything is a web app. Sort of fairer than Apple’s picking and choosing, but also sort of more restrictive than the App Store model.

A new version of the hardware will ship probably just under 12 months after the original which may address some of the issues that some people are pointing to as complete show stoppers. I’d be surprised if the price for the lowest end model ever slipped below $499. Although continual iPhone price drops would suggests Apple does do this, most of these relate to payment over the length of a long contract which disguises the rather static price. iPhones do not cost $99/$199.

February 1st, 2010 - 2.32 AM | No Comments »

Study suggests the number of friends people can maintain is not increased by social networks 25/01/10 - 15.10

We may be able to amass 5,000 friends on Facebook but humans’ brains are capable of managing a maximum of only 150 friendships, a study has found.

This comes at no great surprise to anyone. You may begin to ask why is it that you are willing to share so much information with up to 3,500 people you aren’t really friends with?


Why I think Facebook is bad

15/12/09 - 03.23

Anybody who knows me well will know that I’m fiercely anti-Facebook. It’s not that I’m not tech-savvy. I’m extremely interested by technology and am generally enthusiastic about the effect of the internet on communications. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people about how they use Facebook and through explanation of how I feel about the service several people have left Facebook – always with extremely positive results.

I want to be absolutely clear – what you do with yourself is totally up to you. This article is to explain why I’m not on Facebook as in some social circles this stance seems to require some explanation.

My objections split into two main areas.

Privacy concerns – I believe that Facebook is a young company with a known track record for massive privacy errors. I therefore think it’s inappropriate to trust Facebook with vast amounts of information: lists of friends, communications with friends, photos, status updates etc. Here are three times when I think

1. Deactivation and deletion. You couldn’t delete your Facebook account.

This is the original reason that I left Facebook. To do so you had to manually remove every piece of data you’d given the site and then email a support representative and request deletion. There was no easy way to leave at all. In late 2006 I had been repeatedly emailing Facebook requesting a resolution on this. I filed a complaint with the privacy watchdog Trust-e who validate Facebook’s privacy policy. Trust-e found that the grounds for my complaint were valid and Facebook were given 30 days to respond. On 31st January 2007 I got an email from Facebook’s chief privacy officer – Chris Kelly which said that:

“Our deactivation feature addresses most concerns by immediately making profile and other personal information provided by a user unavailable to Facebook users who otherwise would have been able to access it because of overlapping networks or confirmed friend requests.  Over time — how long varies depending on the type of data and the traffic on the service — much of the data pertaining to an individual’s deactivated account is overwritten on Facebook servers.”

That was the end of my complaint. I was short of time and couldn’t pursue it any longer. Things remained as they were – you literally couldn’t leave the service unless you made a significant time investment deleting everything manually. Someone in the summer of 2007 posted their story of 2504 steps to delete your facebook account. The situation found its way into mainstream media too. For instance around a year later in December 2007 The Guardian described Facebook as Hotel California – as in you can never leave.

In 2008 Facebook resolved this and did introduce a delete feature. It however remains rather hidden and not a simple process such that many people still believe you can not fully leave Facebook (instead thinking that the only option is “deactivation” which is just account suspension). In summer of 2009 Facebook’s practices came under review from the Privacy Commissioner in Canada who found numerous breaches. One was about this very issue of account deactivation and deletion. The report said:

Facebook provides confusing information about the distinction between account deactivation – whereby personal information is held in digital storage – and deletion – whereby personal information is actually erased from Facebook servers. As well, Facebook should implement a retention policy under which the personal information of users who have deactivated their accounts will be deleted from the site’s servers after a reasonable length of time.

Facebook agreed to clarify things on their site and to mention the deletion process when people deactivate. I don’t know if this has been implemented – and I haven’t heard anything concrete about deletion timescales. In any case – to me this is all far too little and far too late. And this is just the first issue…

2. Facebook Beacon. Resulted in a lawsuit which has just been settled by Facebook for $9.5 million.

I wasn’t an active Facebook user when Facebook Beacon erupted so I don’t know as much about this (full story on Wikipedia). The feature was introduced to port information from third party websites into Facebook and for that information to show up on your News Feed. The problem was that it was “opt-out” meaning that you had to specify that you didn’t want to be part of it on a provider by provider basis. By default data was being pumped to Facebook from these external sites. It took several months for Facebook to add a general opt out and now the service has been fully terminated after a lawsuit ending with a $9.5 million privacy based settlement from Facebook. The money will go to make a privacy enforcing body.

I just want to stress here that this is a company who asks you to trust them with lists of your friends, lists of events you are going to attend, photos of you and your friends, communication between your friends and more. To me it instinctively seems wholly inappropriate to trust Facebook with any of this information let alone all of it. Beacon was the brainchild of Mark Zuckerberg I believe as a way to make revenue. Here’s what he had to say when Beacon finally became opt in.

About a month ago, we released a new feature called Beacon to try to help people share information with their friends about things they do on the web. We’ve made a lot of mistakes building this feature, but we’ve made even more with how we’ve handled them. We simply did a bad job with this release, and I apologize for it. While I am disappointed with our mistakes, we appreciate all the feedback we have received from our users. I’d like to discuss what we have learned and how we have improved Beacon.

Facebook has succeeded so far in part because it gives people control over what and how they share information. This is what makes Facebook a good utility, and in order to be a good feature, Beacon also needs to do the same. People need to be able to explicitly choose what they share, and they need to be able to turn Beacon off completely if they don’t want to use it.

(Full blog post)

This was a big and important mess up with users information on other websites at its core. So big that it resulted in a U-turn, an apology and eventually complete termination of the feature.

3. Defaulting users’s information to be public.

This issue is ongoing and has been reported all over the internet in the last week or so. Facebook wanted to simplify the privacy controls on the website and introduce controls for each individual piece of information that you published to the site. They also did away with regional networks. The key issue was that to move people to the new system Facebook prompted users when they logged in that they had to update their settings – and if you were a normal average user who hadn’t poked around with their privacy settings before (99%+ I’ve seen estimated) – then the default options on the update tool are to make everything publicly accessible.

Just let that settle for a minute. Everything. Publicly. Accessible. This doesn’t make sense when you look at the aim they proclaim on their homepage:

Facebook helps you connect and share with the people in your life.

And it doesn’t sit with how Facebook has built itself up as a private area you can share information with people who matter to you. Remember Zuckerberg in the post about Beacon:

Facebook has succeeded so far in part because it gives people control over what and how they share information.

I know that they were trying to give control but it was a confusing pop-up and defaulted to something that almost nobody using the website would want. User testing would probably show that almost everyone would simply dismiss the message with the default settings and not read the panel at all. In doing this everything in their account suddenly becomes public.

And it gets worse. In line with these changes Facebook also changed what was publicly available information in their eyes. They decided that people’s friend lists were publicly available information – that’s that they should be available to people who aren’t even logged into Facebook. There was no setting or option for this – this was just the way Facebook decided it was. There was noticeable upset about this and Facebook have partly backtracked on it already (see this Facebook blog post) but not fully. Applications can still access a users friends list with no restriction.

Don’t think this is a big deal? Trust me this one more than any of the others is a massive deal. TechCrunch said The Facebook Privacy Fiasco Begins, Mashable said Facebook’s New Privacy Push Concerns Experts, Danny Sullivan wrote a piece called Now Is It Facebook’s Microsoft Moment?, and Vallewag called it Facebook’s Great Betrayal. Jason Calacanis posted to his email newsletter a posting entitled ‘Is Facebook Unethical, Clueless or Unlucky?’ coming down on the side of the first two. The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote piece called Facebook’s New Privacy Changes: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in which in they say:

In conclusion, we at EFF are worried that today’s changes will lead to Facebook users publishing to the world much more information about themselves than they ever intended.

I strongly suspect that Facebook will have to publicly backtrack on this whole move shortly. To me what they do is moot. Facebook have decided (for monetization reasons almost certainly) that it would be much better if people had their information generally public (like in Twitter). So to get this result they’ve tried to force users into doing this and have moved some data to be publicly available without any consultation at all. Unbelievable.

Fundamentally changes relationships – I have thought about this for some time and I have tried numerous times to put my objections into clear words but without much success. When reading about the latest privacy nightmare that Facebook is currently dealing with.

Posted by JBMaginaty on December 11, 2009 at 8:08 pm (original comment)
Reproduced without permission.

Relationships have a life cycle. They grow, they develop, and they either become static or die. Static can be strong and positive (as in someone you love and trust) or just ho hum (status quo), with every variation in between.

The variable that determines how quickly a relationship’s life cycle moves is the amount of exposure we have (to information) about the other person.

What is FB, essentially? It’s an information hose, it’s all about information exposure. Privacy is it’s core enemy.

What does FB do to your relationships? It speeds up their life cycles. It is a relationship life cycle catalyst.

I think when people realize this, that being a FB participant is akin to dramatically increasing the speed of one’s relationships, they will run from FB as they would to “FIRE!” shouted in a crowded theater.

[And before you think that this is good, that it’s better to build and amass friends quickly, to identify and eliminate enemies with ease, ask yourself these questions: “Of those it took me a lifetime to befriend, how many of them has FB taken from me? Of those friends I have met on FB, how many of them do I really know? How many of them feel substantial to me? How many of them could I really substitute for those I have lost to FB?” I imagine the answers are too many, none, none, and NONE, respectively.]

It’s the mystery of others that keeps us interested in them. It’s what we don’t know about them and their lives that makes us want to know them more (and sometimes, yes, less). It’s what we don’t know about their week that makes us want to spend time with them this weekend. It’s what we learn about them in the natural context of living life that makes us want them to be part of our lives for as long as we live or never again. And FB destroys all of this…

There is no mystery to you anymore. With FB, too many people know too much about you already. Why would they be interested when they know everything there is to know?

[Worse is that FB allows you to fabricate a self that is completely out of context with reality, with your real life in a real world that is challenging and hard and ugly and beautiful and complex and wonderful; and, that false self does not and will not hold up in real life, neither for you nor for others who befriended you through its facade.]

In short, the more information you give, the more predictable you become. The more predictable you become, the less interesting you are. The less interesting you are, the fewer relationships of any substance you will have, and you even threaten the ones you do have.

In that sense it’s good that FB allows an unlimited number of friends: You’ll need every one of them.

I couldn’t agree with this more. It brilliantly captures the fundamental problems with the model that Facebook represents.

Either one of them – privacy or the way it changes relationships – is enough to cause me to steer well clear of the company. That’s why I am not a member and why I don’t ever foresee myself being a member in the future.

I want to finish with a few thoughts about what a suitable platform would be like to enrich the experience that email gives us. Requirements in my eyes for any candidate are:

  • interoperability – I want to be able to communicate with users using other companies (or even my own) product based around an open standard.
  • portability – I want to be able to change providers if I’m not happy with the service that I’m getting or I disagree with policies or for any reason I want.

There is only one candidate for this at the moment which is the Wave Protocol and the first service that supports it: Google Wave. Obviously an essential component is widespread adoption which Wave certainly does not have – and at present there is only one provider so it is not clear how portable data will be. It’s also not fully finished yet, and it’s rather complicated and difficult to explain what it’s trying to do (the Google introduction video is 1hr 20 mins). But it’s the only thing that is going in the right direction at the moment. I don’t think it’s an email replacement – but it could definitely be a good compliment a few years from now. Until then if you want to reach me – good old email will do.

December 15th, 2009 - 3.23 AM | No Comments »

Google lowers prices on Picasa Web Album / Gmail Storage 11/11/09 - 19.09

A couple of years ago I wrote about Google introducing the pricing structure for Picasa Web Albums. I regarded it as quite a step for Google to start charging for something that consumers would need (I say this to distinguish from ad sales, or enterprise hardware they sell).

The prices were also a bit high. Well now they’ve come out with the headline “Twice the storage for a quarter of the price” which means it’s now costing 1/8 of what it used to cost. Initially it was $20/yr for 6 GB and now they’re offering 20 GB for $5/yr so it’s actually more than 3 times the storage for a quarter of the price from their original offering – but there may have been intermediate prices making todays headline accurate.

This is really very competitive. You can get 80 GB for $20/yr. An external hard drive here is around £30-40 for 80 GB – obviously you wouldn’t but a drive so small – but it’s probably ideal for most peoples photo collections. This sort of pricing means that over three years the price is roughly the same rented from Google or by buying a hard drive.

I’m not trying to say that both give you the same thing – obviously there is a lot more flexibility with an external drive than Picasa Web Albums / Gmail. But if you want to have your photos backed up then this seems like a very economical way to go about it.