Weeknotes: Sunday July 26th 2020

I started writing a post this week about the two major trends in computing devices at the moment: pervasive computing (voice activated wherever you are); and multi-posture (devices which enable different modes of work by physically changing).

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in this (much of which I’ll save for the actual post) but one is that companies are tending to be good at either one or the other, but not both. Apple and Microsoft have both produced high-quality multi-posture devices in the form of Surface Pro X and iPad Pro; Google has produced great pervasive hardware in the form of the Hub stuff. But when Apple or Microsoft has tried pervasive, it’s been second-rate (Siri, Cortana, HomePod). Likewise, when Google has tried its hard at multi-posture, it’s been terrible (Pixel Slate).

I’m very curious about why this should be. What is it, attitudinally, which pushes companies into one camp or the other?

Related to this, apparently the Surface Duo is edging towards a release. The Duo is interesting because it’s all about that approach of multi-posture hardware which can be one thing or another – in this case, a “book”, or a simple single flat screen.

How is that different to a folding single screen? A folding single screen is only ever one thing: its small screen is simply a smaller version of the whole thing unfolded. Two screens on the other hand have to be true to what they are – they can’t really pretend to be a single spread with a huge bar in the middle. Folding the device makes it into a different thing.

Danny wrote a terrific thing about the fundamental unit of news being the story, not the article, to which I say a resounding YES. Hub pages, which encapsulate the story of the story, as it were, are a truly web-native way of doing news (and Google likes it too).

Om found his first post about Twitter, or Twttr as it was at the time. Two things:

  1. You can understand every single problem Twitter has by its origins as a presence notification function. It was never designed to be a social network where strangers followed you, reply to you, etc. It was just designed to tell other people what you were up to.
  2. I’m pretty jealous that Om still has all his ancient blog posts.

Tim Bray does not like the way Safari organises lots of tabs.I don’t know, maybe, just maybe, having 20-30 tabs open is stupid…

To put that in a way that’s a little less facetious, I’ve always struggled to understand the use case for having 20-30 tabs open at the same time. You can’t actually work on that many tabs. You probably shouldn’t be context-switching between that many applications at the same time (the more you context-switch, the less focus you have on the task at hand). And if you’re just saving something to come back to later… use a reading list app?

(Related: people who talk about “how they multitask” set my teeth on edge. You can’t multitask: it’s just called “making it harder to focus” and it’s one of the reasons I love working on the iPad)

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