Two gems. The other day, she was complaining about how she didn’t like something. It might have been a piece of carrot. She said “It’s too crunchy.” It wasn’t, and we told her so. “It’s too soft then.”

And tonight, at the top of her lungs, “I’M NOT YELLING!!!”.

Philip Bloom in Brisbane

Philip Bloom knows a lot about DSLR video. If you’d like to hear what he has to say, he’ll be in Brisbane for two dates only: Feb 25 (Fri, 6pm-10pm) and 26 (Sat, 12pm-4pm). Book your tickets here:


A great chance to find out more about video on digital SLRs and network with the local community. I’ll be there on the Saturday if you want to meet up. Bring weird Final Cut Pro questions for me if you like, it should be a good time.

There are also dates available in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, but tickets are limited.

On the opinion of the internet

Among the great things that Twitter has given us (instant worldwide directed mass push communication) there’s the tendency to oversimplify, to dumb down, and to manufacture soundbites. That soundbite culture, already a poison for news media, reduced common opinion to a win/fail mentality where there can’t possibly be something that’s mostly good, or which some people enjoy while other people do not.

So, for example, an opinion held by someone in one part of the world may be retweeted to others, worldwide, who may not be terribly well informed about this particular topic and receive this opinion as fact. One example: I recently received a tweet that went something like this:

“In the battle between HD-DVD and Blu-ray, who won? Streaming.”

And that might well be the case in the US, where Blockbuster went bust and the video shop is a distant memory — Netflix and streaming (Netflix or otherwise) have killed it. But in other parts of the world, say, Australia, it simply isn’t. Few people have the bandwidth for streaming movies on a regular basis, and fewer still have the ability to play them on their television. We don’t have a Netflix competitor worthy of the name, and the iTunes store has a much thinner range of content, very little in HD. We also have a thriving real-world video rental market, where physical stores still distrubute real discs, and where Blu-ray sits right there on the shelf next to DVD for every major release and many minor releases. On a Tuesday, everything’s $1 or $2 if you go to the right place.

So, while the US-centric “discs are dead” perception might be valid for them, much of the rest of the planet makes do with a physical distribution method for just a little bit longer. Quite a lot longer if we don’t get an NBN any time soon — if I can’t stream Blu-ray quality I’ll just wait for the Blu-ray, thanks very much.

There’s a second opinion pushing Blu-ray down, that the discs themselves are burdened with the studios’ need to add bullshit and “enhance” the movie-watching experience. Certainly, companies rarely improve things by getting between me and an entertainment experience; last night, I disconnected the PS3 from the net so that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World would even play — it just sat there “loading” while it had a net connection. Now, I don’t particularly care if my net connection was flaky or their server was down, this is just not good enough. Between that and the endless, painful PS3 updates, it’s very tempting to leave the plug out. We’ll see.

Still, the movie rocked. Fantastic, 10/10, brilliant, incredible, innovative, unexpected and funny. And much better in Blu-ray than any other distribution format. It would be a sad, sad thing to lose support for the best (still flawed!) format available here because it doesn’t suit people in other parts of the world. Now, I don’t think that’s going to happen — Blu-ray players can replace DVD players but not vice-versa — but “buzz” has enough power these days that the perception of a problem is enough to kill a product.

HD video is just one of the many things discussed on social media. If you’re on Twitter, I’m sure you’ve seen headlines presented as opinions (alone or with acronyms like LOL or WTF appended) and had your opinions influenced, even if you didn’t have time to follow the link. Beware: your opinion is not the only one out there; even limited awareness of contrary viewpoints will go a long way. One-line solutions aren’t enough.

What Was That Noise?

My iPad book for kids is now live and free in Australia and New Zealand:
What Was That Noise? AU·NZ

No catches, no ads. I wrote and spoke the words, drew the pictures and edited the sound effects; I hope you and your kids like it. There are sharing links on the final page if you want to tell your friends on Facebook or Twitter.

If you’re in the US, UK, Canada or elsewhere, it’s not free, but it’s cheap as it can be ($0.99/£0.59):
What Was That Noise? (international)

The World is Grey

And not just because it’s raining.

Once upon a time — forgive the computing example — I would have always said that the best choice for a computer is a Mac. And most of the time I still would: Macs are easier for most people, in most situations. However, I wouldn’t, today, try to talk an accountant into a Mac for their work computer when their dedicated software package runs only on Windows, nor can I recommend a Mac if your budget is $200. Grey uncertainty has crept into my world view.

Today’s internet and today’s media is focused on two sides and conflict between them. Fail vs win. The truth, in most things, is grey. Yes, the apps you can run on a stock iPhone has to be approved by Apple, but the far reduced risk of malware means that’s usually a win for the consumer. The comparative openness of Android, conversely, does not mean that the carriers won’t gum it up with all kinds of crapware that can’t be removed, or that the overall user experience is going to be better.

Follow forums and message boards on tech sites, however, and all you’ll see is polarity; one side pointing fingers at real or imagined “fanboys” on the other. A perceived failure on a single issue is apparently enough to taint a product forever. The media aren’t much better; the stories that get headlines are usually big wins or big problems. Worse, to produce easily written A-vs-B stories, the media will report conflict where none exists. I’m still hearing “I thought there was a problem with that phone” regarding the iPhone 4, from non-tech people who read an article in a paper or saw something on TV. Scientific consensus on climate change and safety of the MMR vaccine is clear, but the public view is not nearly so unified.

Presenting products as a total success or failure (instead of “mostly pretty good”), science as perfect or flawed (instead of mostly correct) or just repeating false data until it becomes “common knowledge” are all symptoms of the problem. Politicians love to be able to claim a win (in power) or claim a failure (in opposition) and rarely admit the opposite to be true. Even scientists would prefer to post results than nothing, and while they should be able to post a paper with inconclusive results, it won’t make everyone happy. (I don’t even want to tackle theists who think they have all the answers already.)

The truth is that the world is grey. Great products have flaws. Food that’s mostly good for you could sometimes be bad for you. Science’s main strength is that it’s OK to prove past science to be flawed. Most politicians have something valuable to contribute, but their entire worldview is unlikely to coincide with your own. To dismiss something because of a small problem is, in the end, to dismiss everything.

Next time you buy something, vote for someone, form an opinion or even fall in love, remember that the object of your attention is not perfect. Expecting it to be will leave you in a state of perpetual unhappiness.