Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Ring tone pollution...

On my current assignment, I spend much of my time sitting in a cube. The cubes are open plan. I'm not sure where the term “open plan” comes from, but if it's supposed to suggest that in the absence of walls “the plan” is known openly and not concealed in a manager's office, it was obviously coined with a huge tongue in the cheek. If there’s one thing that sitting in a sea of cubes does, it’s to dislocate one’s sense of belonging to anything, never mind a plan.

I thank an associate from Ubiquity for bringing to my attention the use of the word "polluted". In a lament to him about the death of meaning in a sea of new terms being used to describe a particular area of software just now (IMS related), he replied that the space was becoming polluted. I'd never thought of words as being pollutants before, but it's a nice metaphor. A pollutant is really something in the wrong place at the wrong time, so words can easily fall into that category, but not as easily as ring tones!

Apart from the background hum here, ring tones are a major pollutant – and irritant. Thank God that I have been assigned to a new cube away from the guy with the Ibiza-style rave tone, but only to be flanked with a really bad version of the “24 CTU-phone” tone – the tempo’s all wrong! Please! Fix it.

In certain shared spaces, ring tones should be made mutable by some giant hand in the sky that switches them all off. This has been discussed before in the context of sacred buildings where ring tones are a nuisance to devotees. Of course, with proximity sensing, this type of application is possible and long overdue. The question is whether or not an owner of a building has a right to mute phones in its corral. Let’s hope so. My tinnitus is beginning to take on a melodic colour - and it's not Beethoven's fifth.

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Lack of actionable ideas detector...idea #70/100

On my current assignment, I cannot tell if I am truly awake or still dreaming. Things don’t seem to make much sense, yet no one around me, save a companion outsider, seems troubled by the trend. Am I the only one who thinks that so many documents and communications are incredibly incoherent? In fact, I am beginning to suspect that incoherency must be the latest obfuscation method designed to exclude pretenders, not unlike the way the software industry works; how many words are there now for “program”?

For example, here is the opening sentence from a recent email:

“I've been passed your name by a couple of people involved.”

Involved with what? Here’s a verb in dire need of an object, but left dangling. Although, perhaps this is deliberate. Perhaps I’m the one who’s supposed to be left dangling. Who are these involved people and what is it they are involved with? Should I know? Perhaps I ought to. Oh dear! I’m left out in the cold and this guy is positioning himself as the gateway to those who are “involved”.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath is a huge cold mass of jumbled up words, which no amount of global warming seems to be thawing out. No surprise then that strategic thinking is so hard. If there’s one thing that strategy requires, it’s a coherent grasp of ideas and the ability to link them with appropriate words, essentially into a logical narrative; constructing strategy is much like story telling (which shouldn't be confused with fairy tales).

What I have found is that my ability to think of ideas has been seriously impacted by this sea of incoherence. I spend most of my time in one of two states: struggling to comprehend or just vegetating, which is an inescapable flip-side of the first state. This all takes place with a constant background hum where I currently sit. I’m not sure yet what makes the humming noise, whether it’s the air conditioning, the computers, or simply an artefact of abusing the vocal centre of the brain after repetitive attempts to comprehend the jumble of words in the latest email, document or – God save us – mega-participant conference call with no actions and with a set of minutes that bares little resemblance to what I heard.

An old idea has resurfaced just now somewhere in my vocal centre. Previously I had discussed the emerging possibility of recording everything we say (and hear) for life, the decreasing cost of memory making this immanently possible in a mobile device (with some sort of additional streaming to offload the files). It ought then to be possible to apply the equivalent of a grammar and style checker to conference calls, detecting a lack of coherent speech and an absence of actionable ideas. Will this be an acceptable defence for not knowing what the hell anyone is talking about? Perhaps I need to speak to those “involved”.

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Monday, October 17, 2005

I-Mode "faster than WAP"...

In the UK we have been hit by a huge billboard marketing campaign for the launch of I-Mode (on O2's network). One of the adverts says "I am faster than WAP".

Is this a repeat of O2's disastrous "Surf the Net" campaign, the one that gave users the impression that WAP was just like using the Web (i.e. broadband)?

I-Mode on O2 will use a GPRS bearer, similar to most WAP phones in the UK. To say that I-Mode is faster is problematic. Ignoring theoretical technical comparisons (see my book for that), the end-user is not going to get a "faster than WAP" experience, assuming that this is a meaningful comparison. After all, the word "WAP" has taken a back seat in customer facing materials these days, precisely because it doesn't mean much to the user.

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