Dyslexia means writing is painful but it makes what little I do write better.

I use IT in nearly every part of my working and personal life.

I’m sad to say it but I spend most of my waking hours looking at a screen like most modern professionals.

Much of this means I have to use the written word. 

Typing on a  laptop computer 
For me reading is easier than writing – apart from reading out loud which comes with a heightened level of anxiety of mispronunciation. 

I read voraciously but do have to re-read things to make sure that I have not skipped important information or misread something.

I am a curious person and the internet is full of things that hold great fascination for me, I am therefore resolved to the fact that the effort of reading is well worth the perspiration.

It’s writing that is really painful for me.

This pain is not entirely metaphorical I used to grip my pen so hard as a kid that my hand would cramp.

 Hand gripping a pencil 
Computers and assistive technology have helped considerably. I frequently use speech recognition, word prediction and would be lost without spellcheckers.  But they don’t completely remove the trauma of writing anything longer than a few sentences.

Colleagues may have noticed my keenness to switch from instant messaging to a voice call. This is no coincidence I can express myself better when I’m speaking. 

Of course not everything can be cut down to a short message or voice call, so I am forced to write. 

If speaking is easier why write?

I push myself to write as I am now because I have ideas that I want to share.  

Because writing is painful I think long and hard before I start writing – I have been thinking about this post for days now. 

This means that my ideas take shape before I write not during the writing, although the process allows me to refine them.

I am mindful of the difficulty some people have reading so want to ensure that what I write can be understood. I am careful and ponderous thinking hard about my choice of words and I try to convey ideas concisely.

Because I am more likely to have made spelling mistakes and typos I dedicate time to proofing and editing. This is arduous as proofreading is notoriously hard for dyslexics. 

Ultimately the effort of editing and proofing is worthwhile as I can check that my message gets across as intended.

Writing is like good whiskey.

If it takes time to produce it’s probably going to be worth the wait.

I believe that ultimately the lengthy fermentation of ideas, barriers to writing and discipline to craft words into something meaningful make for something that is worth reading.

I hope that you’ll agree.


Kew Gardens Tropical Extraveganza

Deep purple orchidsYesterday I was lucky enough to visit Kew Gardens to see the Tropical Extraveganza exhibition.20120220-111935.jpg

The displays of tropical flowers and orchids were quite simply beyond anything I have ever seen anywhere.

I went a bit snap happy with my iPhone camera and thought that I would share some of these pictures.20120220-112004.jpg

If you get a chance to visit Kew Gardens in the next couple of weeks I strongly recommend that you take the opportunity.


These Vandas are very fleshy and opulent.  I have some similar purple ones at home but have never seen colours like the orange and yellow ones below.20120220-112056.jpg

Vandas are epiphites something I did not appreciate when I first had one so I watered it to death.  You can see the green roots on these plants also photosynthesise.


 I wish I had the space to hang a display of plants like this.20120220-112225.jpg

This orchid below reminds me a bit of a narcissus.20120220-112156.jpg


As you enter the greenhouse you are confronted with towering displays of orchids.A pillar of orchid blooms


But its not just orchids that were on show there was a profusion of other plants too. 

  Floating flora20120220-112344.jpg


The Mobile App Phenomenon

It’s not the number of apps that matter.

Apps are important to the smartphone user experience and choice of device but they are not the be all and end all.

If you’ve consumed any media in the last couple of years you will have been bombarded by the message that “there’s an app for that!”.

Apple App Store Logo

Analysts and tech commentators like Robert Scoble are fixated by the App Phenomenon. Market valuations are predicated on how many apps a mobile platform has in it’s app store (sorry Apple not a Trademark – the judge rightly decided that it was a generic term). People are making value judgements based on numbers of apps alone.

android app store logo

To my mind this is not long term sustainable and does not reflect the reality of how many people use their mobile devices. Quality is important.

The tech community often operates in a bubble people feed off each other and are attracted to like minded individuals.

Whilst I enjoy twitter and love reading Engadget, techcrunch, scoblizer, mashable etc they are distorting people’s views of reality.

Robert Scoble and Mike Arrington are freaks!

Wow that sounds harsh!

What I mean is these guys are statistical anomalies, they do not resemble the normal consumer / user of technology. They adopt stuff before early because its their job to do so. They also often get free access to apps and gadgets because tech companies know that they love new stuff and will broadcast to the world if they feel like they are on the inside.

I am not condemning them for what they do, part of me would love Robert Scoble’s job:

Play with new toys, meet the toy-makers, surf the net, tweet a hell of a lot, post pics and generally brag about it in a likeable way.

But it’s a long way removed from the day to day lives of the vast majority of the people who buy smart phones and consume software and technology.

I would love to know how many of the “uber-cool” apps that appear in Scobleizer’s time line will be on his devices and used regularly in 6, 12 or 18 months from now.  My guess is that it will be a small percentage and those will be the ones with real value.

Real Life Technology Use

Think for a moment about your computer; there will be a load of stuff you can do with it but you probably don’t.

If you’ve had it a while most likely you’ll have filled it with stuff you’ve downloaded and programs you don’t use any more, slowly bringing it to it’s knees and reducing that whizzy feeling you had when you first used it.

No Bloatware logo courtesy of dl design

If you are disciplined enough you might give your computer an occasional spring clean and suddenly unburdened by the weight of bloat ware your computer runs sweetly again for a bit.

Why am I blathering on about computers when I should be talking about mobile? Well there is something to be taken from how we use the computer that points to weaknesses in the more is better apps argument.

I would be so bold as to say that “better is better”:

  • Giving customers what they need and will use is better.
  • Providing a compelling user interface that is a pleasure to use is better.
  • People liked the original iPhone not because of apps but because it was sleek, sexy and good to use.
  • Providing functions and features that genuinely make people’s lives better like voice over on IOS is better.
  • Secure push email (in it’s day) was better.
  • Turn by turn free navigation built into the OS is better…

Yes there will always be apps that meet a need that I will want and install on my phone, they may indeed inform my choice as to which phone I buy but it is not the overriding factor.

RIM as an example.

Blackberry Curve handset

Once the leading light of mobile the Black berry offered functionality that was not available elsewhere: Instant access to secure email and messaging where ever you are.  Business loved it and for a while they cleaned up.  But it did not take long for other to replicate the features.

The company is being slated at the moment and a tonne of money has been wiped off it’s market cap.

People point to a small number of apps in their store but the problem at RIM is deeper than that – the apps are expensive and poorly executed and most importantly of all the overall user experience has fallen behind pretty much every other mobile OS.

QNX may possibly provide a fix with the improved UX and android apps that but only time will tell and RIM will need to improve their hardware too.

Carrier Support is Key

Tommi Ahonen has been blogging about the carrier boycott of Nokia recently and how it is destroying their market share.  Most consumers buy their phones on contract and so carrier support is essential.  You can have a great package like Palm did with the Pre but without the backing of the Tel-cos it bombed.

There are a number of core functions that a user will want and that cannot live without that will play a large role in phone choice; as will price form factor and the over all experience.

It’s the total package that counts

That will be the clincher.

Do you really want to turn your phone into a smaller version of your PC with loads of rubbish that slows you down?

Overweight Android

To my mind: less but better is more.

The actual number of killer applications will be relatively small and most likely available cross platform (if not now then soon). Companies that only develop for iPhone are excluding the vast majority of potential consumers as Tomi Ahonen is fond of pointing out.

The day to day user experience is more important and at some point in the not too distant future people will wake up and stop swallowing the hype.