Chautauquas

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Friday, August 26, 2005

mobile content - some more discussion

Since, the comments on my blog are not readily visible, I thought I'll reproduce Dennis' comment on the main page for reference as I discuss some ideas. My ideas follow Dennis' comment.

Dennis wrote:

"I just love the power of the blog and I'm thankful that you've addressed these issues so openly. It’s difficult to give an answer to your question so I hope my rambling makes any sense.

Extrapolating existing concepts unto a new platform will not be (or only limitedly be) successful. Mobile is a different state of mind and it requires a different way of interaction. I totally agree with you there.

PHONifier is a far from optimal service. I totally agree again. Even more so, PHONifier will die over time and the quicker it dies the better. When you think about it, it’s idiotic that a PHONifier type service is needed to surf content on your mobile…

That we need something new instead of an extrapolation of a PC-based browser I don’t really agree with. I do believe that the way we present content to a mobile device should change. No one knows what navigation structure to use, to name a simple example. Yet the tremendous talent behind modern day websites shouldn’t be delayed because they need to learn something new. All they should have to learn is how a mobile user thinks and then be able to apply this knowledge in a simple and intuitive way.

The connection between ShotCode and PHONifier is there because it allows anyone without mobile knowledge to instantly set up and try out a mobile service. Your current, standard webpages, can be “optimized” on the fly.

How we can make this “optimization” even better or completely eliminate it, I haven’t figured out yet. As far as I've understood CSS already allows you to do a lot of this optimization quite easily. If you have any ideas I’d love to hear them. Let’s keep on trying things until we find it. :) "

I'm immensely impressed with Dennis' comment especially the humility in the way he talked about PHONifier which by all means is a great product for our present day needs.

I think I didn't communicate clearly what I had in mind about the extrapolation of a PC-based browser. What I was trying to talk about was broader than just the browser. I hope the ramblings below make some sense.

Consider the PC-based browsing model, it is an each-time-discover-push-and-pull mechanism. That is, every time a user browses, he/she first needs to discover/state the correct hyperlink, then the user pushes a request to the server, which then pulls the information requested and provides it to the user. This model relies on the user being able to discover the correct hyperlink to click on or type the URL into the address bar and in the case of PC it is easy because the user has a mouse and a keyboard.

Now, consider RSS/atom, it's a one-time-discover-and-pull based model, where a user subscribes to a feed once and it is pulled each time there is an update. The reason why we have seen so many mobile RSS readers spring up in such a short time is the simplicity of accessing syndicated content. One doesn't have to deal with discovery (navigation) and requesting (typing or clicking) each time one needs information.

Now, consider the above difference in the models, in light of the potential success of mobile RSS readers and the certain failure of WAP. I see an indication of what can succeed on mobile phones. And note that when it came to syndicated content, the content providers did not have to learn a whole lot. I'm not saying that all content has to be syndicated, I'm saying that we have to come up with a mechanism that incorporates some insight about how users have been behaving when it comes to mobile content and what model has succeeded and what has failed.

You're probably thinking that RSS is just a mechanism of delivering content and not a way of optimizing it for the mobile screen. You're right it is not optimizing content for the mobile screen. Yet, in terms of the overall "mobile experience" that I keep talking about, RSS provides for a better experience on cell phones than pre-RSS ways of accessing content. So does shotcode. The mobile experience is larger, wider and bigger than just the screen and navigation.

While RSS feeds just eliminate the 'discovery' requirement as discussed above, the mobile browser will bridge the 'discovery' and 'navigation' gap based on some new model where the providers will not have to learn a whole lot. The browser might thus support a different model (different from the PC-based way) of accessing and providing content altogether and therefore will not be an extrapolation of the PC-based browser.

That's sort of what I had in mind when I wrote about extrapolation. Maybe it doesn't make sense, maybe it does - but I agree with the notion of "let's keep trying until we succeed!". :)

Comments anyone? You can reach me at harshdhundia at gmail.

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