Roddenberry was Right

Gene Roddenberry, the genius behind the early years of the Star Trek series, had an amazingly prescient view of the future.

In the original Star Trek TV series, crew members used devices called communicators which bore a remarkable resemblance to cell phones.

Then, in Star Trek The Next Generation episodes, items that seemed for all the world to be touch-screen computers, iPads, and iPhones were constantly in use. Digital everything. Ubiquitous screens.

Roddenberry got it.

And now, as we daily put to use that which he foresaw decades ago, we reach a point where old labels are shedding their meaning. We still use the term “phone” in various ways, but the idea of an analog device dedicated only to audio voice communication seems rather – quaint. But, we still cling to terms like cell phone, iPhone, Smartphone – heck, the phone is the least-used aspect of my iPhone!

In 10 years, we’ll look back and wonder at the old legacy labels that described separate “things” like phones or cameras or computers.

I’d like to suggest that ultimately, Gene Roddenberry had it right again. You know what these increasingly portable devices are, in their various configurations and form factors?

That’s right. Communicators. Personal Communicators. With which we send and receive messages, info, voice, video – it’s really a far more accurate description than phone, computer, tablet, or what have you.

Kinda brings a whole new meaning to the acronym PC, if you think about it…

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First Look: Skype Video on iPhone

This morning, I just finished a post on when things don’t “just work”.

Then I downloaded the new version of Skype for the iPhone, which includes the ability to do video calls with other Skype users. Jim Long (@newmediajim on Twitter) wanted to test it out also, so we had our first real-time conversation via iPhone-to-iPhone Skype video. Jim on a 3G network, and me from my home Wi-Fi.

In a word: Awesome!

It. Just. Worked. As with Skype on the computer, this was a totally intuitive process, and we connected right up and started chatting without a flaw or hiccup. Call me impressed. This may very well catalyze a changeover for me from casual (but happy) Skype user to a paid, heavy-use account.

If you haven’t tried it, give it a whirl. The future keeps arriving in the palm of our hands.

Photo credit: Jim Long

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Is This the Future of Knowledge-Sharing?

I love books.

I also enjoy magazines and newspapers. But we’ve all known for quite some time that the publishing world is changing rapidly, and a lot of our knowledge-sharing would be digital.

Despite that, I have not invested in a Kindle or iPad, nor am I reading books on my iPhone, because the idea of a simple porting of text to (smallish) screens isn’t compelling enough for me (yet).

Maybe that will change. For a long time, I’ve had the notion that the whole way we go about publishing “books” (static bodies of content that are obsolete the moment they’re published in a rapidly-changing world) needs to undergo a revolution.

We need to have multimedia, mobile, update-able knowledge-sharing. Perhaps even subscribe to people and knowledge-sharing projects over time (“progressive publishing“), not just buy a “book.”

Seth Godin wrote this post today. I promptly downloaded the Ideavirus iPhone app (worth the 99 cents just to evaluate!) because perhaps this is starting to approach the new way of knowledge-sharing. Video tied to abbreviated text. Potentially update-able. Looking ahead, all sorts of on-line community-building bolt-ons could be integrated.

I think we’re getting there. I’d urge you to invest the 99 cents and think about the possibilities. Because this looks to me like just a first-inning single, with plenty of power hitters in the on-deck circle….

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“So, Can Your iPhone…?”

Yes, I guess it can.

I was at a conference last week, and someone who is trying to justify, in his own mind, the purchase of an iPhone (go for it, John!) asked me if my iPhone was capable of storing video of an entire presentation.

I didn’t know the answer. So, it was time for an experiment. Could my iPhone capture my entire 50-minute presentation? And, from a distance of ~15-20 feet, would the audio even be discernible?

The results surprised me a bit. While the end product won’t make anyone’s Top 10 List of anything, the iPhone did capture the entire presentation with no problem, and (if your speaker is up loud enough), you can actually hear what I’m saying in this brief clip:

[From a presentation on Pharma Social Media - Where's the Low-hanging Fruit?]

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Why I Won’t Stop Blogging

Steve Rubel announced last week that he was going to stop “blogging” in favor of “lifestreaming” (the sharing of more immediate snippets of micro-media), and this opened up some interesting discussion among bloggers, well-summarized here by Louis Gray (and I agree with Louis’ perspective).

Now I do admit that I am re-examining the tools for on-line sharing of networked communications, spurred in part by the expanded capabilities of the new iPhone, which will allow for simpler sharing of photos, video, and audio. I’m playing with Posterous as a way to have a one-stop media  distribution center (digital sharehouse?), and some of this definitely falls into the “lifestream” category.

But stop blogging? No way.

There is value in sharing a beautiful picture, or a quick audio, or an interesting link, or a snippet of thought. The conversation and easy banter on Twitter and Facebook is enriching, no doubt. But for development of thought, more detailed analysis of ideas, ongoing discussion of topics, and 360-degree expression of personal and/or business message – you simply cannot replace a blog.

We live in an increasingly fragmented world which encourages the development of shorter and shorter attention spans. I don’t see that as necessarily a good thing. Writing a blog, and reading a longer-form post by others, forces us to think, to develop a train of thought, to react to more detailed explanation and argumentation. I hope we never lose that. A life stream is one thing. A well-crafted blog, over time, becomes a thought-river.

UPDATE: Robert Scoble writes an interesting piece on the enduring value of a blog vs. the more ephemeral entries on micro-blogging sites. Plus, Chris Brogan on Strategic blogging. Both of these perspectives make it clear why blogging is not going away.

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Creativity Reawakened

I used to take a lot of pictures.

When I was single, and in the days of marriage before kids, my camera (a 35mm SLR for those old enough to remember pre-digital days!) was a regular companion. I delighted in nature photography, often using slide film (farewell, Kodachrome!). Did some experimentation with black-and-white, and some macro stuff. It was a hobby, a creative outlet, and what developed was “the eye” – I’d always walk around thinking about how some scene would be composed as a photograph. I’d look for pictures.

All that changed once the realities of career and children set in.

Sure, I would now take pictures of the kids, and, on trips away, the creative urge might re-awaken. But by-and-large, the impulse to see and create photographs was submerged. I missed the outlet, but I was immersed in other, demanding priorities.

My cameras mostly languished, little-used, as the creative drive was temporarily replaced by functional picture-taking. And my ventures into video ended up the same way – it was a lot of work to bring equipment, set it up, download and edit, etc., and usage was mainly functional.

When digital photography came on the scene, the remarkable immediacy and ease of use help bring about a brief re-awakening. I remember well the day after the birth of our last son over 7 years ago, when a glorious morning led to a flurry of lovely pictures in the scenic lakeside area that is between our house and the hospital. Nonetheless, the demands of life kept the creative fires burning low, and the quality of digital cameras still had a ways to go – especially as cell phones began to make picture-taking and sharing drop-dead simple.

Fast forward to spring 2008. A first generation iPhone in hand, I began to fall back in love with taking pictures. It was all-in-one, it was convenient and sharable, it had crossed the threshold of easy. Most of my pictures we were more on the level of friends-and-family, however – quick shots to share. Because the quality was good but not exceptional, and there was no ability to focus. The camera did not inspire an artistic and creative sensibility.

PurpleFleur smAll of that changed with the new iPhone 3GS.

For all of the many new and improved capabilities in the device, the most surprising effect, for me, has been a burst of photographic creativity. The camera is now higher quality, and allows focusing and close-up shots in an astonishingly simple interface. It now allows video capture, again with great simplicity and pretty good quality. And best of all, I now suddenly find myself walking around with “the eye” engaged, not on rare occasion, but every day and everywhere. Because I can compose quality pictures (and video) using an always-ready device, edit and share with ease and immediacy, and now I’m back to viewing the world the way I used to when I was a young buck with his Nikon.

I’m seeing pictures again. Eye and mind and heart are re-awakening to the world around me, which can be captured and viewed with a creative impulse unhindered by preparation and process. I get up in the morning, and often wander out in the yard, iPhone in hand, wondering again at dewdrops and flower buds, at shapes and sun and shadow. It’s not just an increase in technical capabilities. It’s a boost in happiness.

I knew I was getting a better iPhone. But I didn’t anticipate getting back something very important that had gone drowsy. A reawakening of creativity.

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