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Apps are redefining internet and social media usage

Apps: an abbreviation of ‘application software‘ – pieces of software that are generally very easy to download and install and that are often very specific in the task they are programmed to do.

At the moment we most commonly associate apps with mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets, but the term ‘app’ and app download/purchase environments (eg. App stores) are also making an appearance on the Chrome browser and as part of the latest version of Apple’s Snow Leopard operating system.

Some may argue that it’s just a change in the wording furniture, what used to be called ‘widgets‘ are now apps – for example the Opera browser has had them for years, and FireFox has long had what it terms extensions and plugins.* These add-ons have added to the services and tasks that can be done within the browser. I could also note here that the term ‘desk top app’ has been with us for a few years too.

Be that as it may, the popularisation of the term and understanding of ‘app’ – which we should probably look to Apple for – has meant that these bits of software that add to our experience of the internet have seen a significant growth and are changing the way we access, use and utilise the internet.

As part of Social Media Week, Tom Smith from Global Web Index has published research on what this means for social media, which makes for interesting reading. In particular, how apps and mobile usage are already matching PC usage for accessing social networks, writing blog posts and updating microblogs such as Twitter (see slide 14).

* This may well be notional rather than a precise understanding of the difference between these terms, so please do clarify significant differences in the comments below.

Testing the iPhone Hipstamtic Application

Flower and a beeOver the last week, I’ve been having some fun testing out the iPhone photographic Hipstamatic app, which the makers describe as “an application that brings back the look, feel, unpredictable beauty, and fun of plastic toy cameras from the past”.

The camera comes with three standard lenses called John S, Jimmy and Kaimal and three standard frame effects or as the app describes them “films” – Blank (a white border), 69 Ina (a beige fabric like border) and Kodot (a rough edged border on white).

Here’s a test sheet showing the different lenses and films:
Left to right – John S, Jimmy, Kaimal
Top to bottom – Ina, Blank, Kodot, Blank
A test sheet of hipstamatic photos

As you can see John S has a dark blue filter appearance, Jimmy a yellow filtered appearance and Kaimal a magenta/red filter appearance. Jimmy also comes through as the brightest – which works particularly well in the shot of the flower, on what was quite a sunny day.

One of the hardest things about the app is that, much like the toys it replicates, the image in the viewfinder bears very little resemblance to the final photograph, thus making composing a shot rather experimental. So often a good shot can take up to 6 attempts – unless you can just get lucky the first time.

There is of course a Flickr group dedicated to the app, full of examples of what’s possible. My eye also caught this discussion in the group wondering if it gave users a false sense of creativity. Of which, I’m sure such queries were raised at the introduction of the Brownie camera in 1900, and of the toy cameras that the Hisptamatic takes its inspriation.

The app enables you to send your photos straight to Flickr, although the iPhone Flickr app doesn’t enable you to post your photos to Twitter or another dedicated blog. So, I’m collating some of the best results here on Flickr but the more experimental ones are also appearing on my Twitpic page, such as this one, which believe it or not took a number of attempts to get right:

Cup of tea

How to get Twitter on your desktop and mobile

I’m preparing for my Twitter for Business, eMarketeers course on Wednesday (11 December 2009) and have put together a list of desktop and mobile applications – below. If you have any additions, experiences or recommendations I’d love to hear, as not all uses, phones or desktops are the same.

Desktop applications
All suitable for PCs and Macs. * indicates that it’s also available as a mobile version
*Hootsuite – http://hootsuite.com/ (via @simonianson)
*Mixero – http://www.mixero.com/
*Seesmic – http://seesmic.com/seesmic_desktop/
*Tweetdeck – http://www.tweetdeck.com Latest version (0.32.1) includes list management.

Twhirl – http://www.twhirl.org/
*Twibble – http://www.twibble.de/twibble-desktop/ (also has a mobile version)
Twitterific – http://iconfactory.com/software/twitterrific

Tweetie (MAC ONLY) – http://www.atebits.com/tweetie-mac/ Highly recommended by Mac/twitter users, @simonianson and @simonjjones.

Web clients – for when Twitter.com isn’t enough
Brizzly – http://brizzly.com/#twitter/-/home Operates very much like a desktop application
Seesmic – http://seesmic.com/app/

Mobile sites – using your mobile phone browser
Official Twitter mobile page – http://m.twitter.com
Dabr, an open course, mobile site for using Twitter – http://www.dabr.co.uk (highly recommended, works on most web enabled phones with a browser pre-installed)

Mobile applications – for downloading, all require a ‘smart’ phone
Echofon – http://echofon.com
Mixero (iPhone) – http://www.mixero.com/
Gravity (Nokia S60) – http://mobileways.de/products/gravity/
Tweetie (iPhone) – http://www.atebits.com/tweetie-iphone/
Tweetdeck (iPhone) http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta/iphone/
Twitterberry (BB) http://www.orangatame.com/products/twitterberry
Seesmic (BB + Android) http://seesmic.com/seesmic_mobile/
Swift (Android) – http://www.swift-app.com/ (via @pubstrat)
Twitterfon (Windows) http://twitterfon.net/
Twibble (Nokia, BB, SonyEricsson) http://www.twibble.de/twibble-api/
Twitdroid (Android) – http://twidroid.com/ (via @pubstrat)
Ubertwitter (BB) – http://www.ubertwitter.com/ (via @helenduffett)

Vodafone 360 launch – questions on privacy

Vodafone 360 Audio Boo
Listen: Vodafone 360 Audio Boo
Last night I attended the Vodafone 360 global launch party in Shoreditch, London (not quite as huge as it sounds, but fun none the less). Vodafone describe the new service as:

Vodafone 360 is a brand new set of internet services for the mobile and PC which gathers all of a customer’s friends, communities, entertainment and personal favourites (like music, games, photos and video) in one place

The emphasis is on the social element of mobile and internet usage and the ability to sync (or bring together) your different contacts and social presence on different sites together with your mobile contacts.

Christian Payne (aka Documentally) interviewed mobile guru Helen Keegan and I on our thoughts of the new service, and in particular some of our concerns about privacy.

>> Listen here.

I had three main queries:

  1. Did it sync with Gmail?
  2. Where was the data saved – on the phone, in the cloud, on a Vodafone server?
  3. How were privacy standards of users maintained, both of 360 service users and their contacts?

In the interview Helen made some interesting points about whether such concerns over privacy are cultural, and pointed out that they very much greater in the UK than they are in other countries.

Terence Eden of Vodafone kindly got back to me on these queries via Twitter as follows:

documentally – RT @edent: I heard all 16mins of http://boo.fm/b65672 @Kcorrick yes, it supports Gmail. Stored securely in cloud. Privacy v important

edent – @kcorrick privacy needs to be front & centre – also needs tight user friendly controls. I know we comply with DPA etc.

edent – @kcorrick FYI the guy managing Vodafone People is @alexfc – he should know the answers to your privacy questions.

These are encouraging signs and it’s fantastic that people like Terence are engaged to respond personally. This isn’t just an issue specific to Vodafone. As more and more of our data gets brought together like this – sometimes unbeknownst to us on services our friends and contacts use – we need to be aware of what’s going on, what controls we have over the information, who owns it and how it can be used, and whether we are comfortable with the answers we receive.