Instapaper: Because the Device Shouldn’t Matter

Kindle next to iPhone
Image by alexhung via Flickr

Now that I own (and use daily) a laptop, iPhone, and Kindle, I’m developing a new relationship to text content. I realize that I shouldn’t have to care about the device. The news and other content I choose to read should just be there — available on whichever of my devices I prefer at the moment, in a format friendly to that device.

This is especially true for anything longer than about 750 words. I’ve found that’s my personal limit for reading through a Web browser, either on my laptop or iPhone. Yes, I can and do occasionally slog through longer Web-based content on those devices. But honestly, after about 750 words I tend to stop truly reading and instead scan quickly through the rest to gauge whether it’s worth further reading.

So I was pleased to recently discover an online service called Instapaper, which makes it easier to read electronic long-format content and to share that content across multiple devices.

Here’s how it works…

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New iPhone Software: Copy & Paste (Finally!), Intriguing APIs

:Image:IPhone_Release_-_Seattle_(keyboard) cro...
Image via Wikipedia

The iPhone is due for a major operating system update, and this week Apple revealed what the iPhone OS 3.0 software (due to be distributed summer 2009) will allow users and developers to do.

In a nutshell: Plenty.

The biggest splash: iPhone 3.0 will support copy and paste. Seems like a no-brainer, but so far iPhone users have not been able to employ this basic user interface tool which has been available since long before Apple even started making computers. The iPhone’s lack of copy and paste has led to considerable user frustration and some clumsy work-arounds involving javascript bookmarklets for mobile Safari. I’ve heard several people say they’d get an iPhone if only it did copy and paste. So it’s possible that this key bit of usability catch-up could broaden the iPhone market base.

But even more importantly: New iPhone APIs offer exciting opportunities — especially for news orgs and other online publishers… Continue reading

Safari iPhone bookmarklets: Clunky setup, but very useful

The new Apple iPhone
iPhone apps are cool, but sometimes bookmarklets are helpful, too. (Image by Victor Svensson via Flickr)

As an avid iPhone user, I love my apps! I use several of them daily, including Omnifocus, GroceryZen, Twittelator Pro, Google Mobile, iBART, and Google Maps.

Apps are not enough, however. First of all, some online services I use (like Gruvr or My511, nudge nudge) don’t yet offer iPhone apps. (This is especially annoying if they also don’t default to mobile-friendly site layout upon mobile access, grumble…)

But also, several very cool and useful online services are meant to play nice with the rest of the web.

For instance, I get value from my preferred social bookmarking service Delicious because I can use it to bookmark, tag, and comment on any page I happen to be browsing. And on Twitter I often tweet links to pages I find online. For these services, I want their functionality integrated with my iPhone’s Safari browser (since you can’t run two apps at once on the iPhone, and since the iPhone also doesn’t yet allow cut and past, grumble…)

That’s when Javascript-based iPhone Safari bookmarklets can come in handy…

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1Password is not for me: Doesn’t work with third-party applications

I use many, many online services that require passwords access. Some for important stuff like online banking, or gmail, or collaboration tools, or travel arrangements, or Twitter. Others are less important, like news sites that require logins. I was starting to get concerned about password security for all of that, so I tried the Mac application 1Password, which several people  recommended to me.

1Password seems pretty powerful. But it’s not for me.

Reason: 1Password only integrates with Web browsers, not with 3rd party applications. For 3rd-party applications, you can generate stronger passwords using 1Password — but then you have to store them in the OSX keychain or elsewhere. If you rely on such applications regularly, this vastly reduces the potential security benefit of 1Password.

This became a dealbreaker for me. Here’s why…

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Google: Could I import my custom maps to my iPhone, please?

Google Maps on Apple iPhone
Image by niallkennedy via Flickr

This week I’m headed to the Bay Area for an extended visit. I have lots of friends there and there are plenty of cool things to do there. I’ve started mapping all this stuff on a private Google Map — where I’ll be staying, nearby public transit stops, gyms, massage clinics, coffeehouses, music venues, grocery stores, etc. I just assumed that since there’s a pretty good Google Maps app on my iPhone, I’d be able to import all that data easily. Right?

Wrong!

Right now, the closest I can get is to e-mail the link from my private Bay Area map to my iPhone. When I click that link in my iPhone e-mail, the map opens — in the phone’s Safari web browser, not in the Google Maps app. Which makes it much harder to use and far less useful on the go.

I’ve posted a query about this in the Google Maps forum. But so far, I haven’t found a solution.

Does anyone know any tricks for this? Is this something that an iPhone app could be written to support?

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Fun interactive visual tools: Why should journalists care?

Last week I wrote a lot about various interactive visual tools that can help people connect differently or more deeply with news and information. This was for a session I led at a Knight Digital Media Center seminar for the leaders of the News21 project.

Yeah, so what? Why should journalists and news organizations care about these tools? How can this help their communities, journalism, and (most critical right now) business opportunities? What’s in it for journos and news brands?

That’s what Meabh Ritchie, a reporter for the U.K. Press Gazette asked me to clarify. She’s writing a story on this, and I’ll link to it when it’s up in February 2009. The short answer is: This stuff is effective and (more importantly) FUN! — for journalists and news audiences.

But here’s the full version of my answer…

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iPhone Copy & Paste Tease…

The more I use my iPhone, the more I just want to cry or scream at the lack of copy & paste functionality.

Last night I was on my way to the home of a new acquaintance for a Labor Day BBQ. I’d put his address in my calendar entry for the party, but hadn’t yet made an address book contact for him. Once on the road, I wanted to bring up his location on Google Maps on my iPhone. (No, I wasn’t driving.) I found that, unlike in the contacts database, you cannot click on the address in the location field of an iCal entry to map the location. ARGH!

So I had to open the calendar entry, quickly memorize the address in the “location” field, switch to the Maps application, and enter the address before I forgot it.

Dumb. Yes, I want calendar entry locations to click over to maps. But even more generally, I want iPhone cut and paste!

Then the universe began to tease me, cruel fiend that she is…

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Missing some iPhone calls? Turn off 3G

I’ve been having a rather troubling (but hopefully solveable) problem with my new 3G iPhone. Several of my incoming calls have been going straight to voice mail. The phone isn’t even ringing.

This is happening when my line is free, and when I’m showing adequate signal bars to receive a call.

I’m on the phone with AT&T Mobile support right now, and they said they’re tracking this problem with iPhone service. It appears to be happening when your iPhone is set to be on the 3G network. Apparently 3G isn’t as good for voice as it is for data.

Is this happening to you? Call AT&T! AT&T Mobile is collecting examples of this problem occurring. I’ve entered a trouble ticket for my problem. But if this is happening to you, call AT&T (611 on your iPhone) and let them know that you’re having the same problem. They have a master trouble ticket going on this, and they’re encouraging people to report the problem. The more examples they have, the better they can diagnose and fix the problem (so they say).

When you call, it helps if you can cite a specific example of a call you missed that you should have received.

Recommended tip: If you’re missing some calls, be sure to deactivate the 3G network on your iPhone when you don’t need it to browse the web. (Settings -> General -> network, then click “off” next to “enable 3G”)

This will also save on battery life.

Apparently while you’re not on the 3G network, it’s pretty tough to take a call and browse the web at the same time. I can live with that particular tradeoff for now, as long as I’m receiving all the calls I should be receiving.

Posting to wordpress from my iphone

I’m writing this on my iPhone. Just installed the free wordpress iPhone app. This would really be great if there was a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPhone. (I loathe this $@?:&@!!! Touchscreen keyboard for anything more than a few words at a time…)

But the big bummer here is that I don’t see any way to create links in a blog post here. Just text. Hmph.

(UPDATE: I might be wrong about that. Editing here to add a link to my Twitter page. We’ll see if that works…)

(UPDATE 2: AHA! It does work! I can handcode HTML with this app. But it’s ultra-tedious.)

Of course, there’s still the glaring usability problem that there is NO GODDAMN COPY AND PASTE on the iphone! :-/

What am I supposed to do, memorize URLs 4 characters at a time & keep switching between the wordpress app and mobile Safari until I get the whole thing? Probably I’ll just scribble them down in my paper notebook and then type them in. How’s THAT for cross-platform technology integration?

Well, at least the WordPress iphone app works. That’s a good start.

UPDATE 3: TECH BREAKING NEWS!!!

New iPhone copy & paste tool: