Foleo, Surface, Stumbling etc

There’s lots of news out there which I won’t bother you with because you’ll be reading it elsewhere. But here are some links in case:

  • Palm has a new mini laptop called the Foleo. I like the idea, but I fear it will go the way of the LifeDrive, which I also kinda liked.
  • Microsoft has launched a desktop (literally) device called the Surface. Which looks fun, and embraces the idea of moving beyond the keyboard not a moment too soon, but don’t expect to see it anywhere in your living room any time soon.
  • eBay buys StumbleUpon, a group bookmarking tool I’ve written a column about somewhere. I don’t use StumbleUpon that much but I love the idea of a community-powered browsing guide. Let’s hope eBay doesn’t mess it up like they seem to be doing with Skype.
  • Microsoft releases a new version of LiveWriter, their blogging tool. Scoble says Google is planning something similar. True?

Oh, and Google Reader now works offline. Here are my ten with it, and a how to guide at ten This is big news, because it’s the first step Google have made in making their tools available offline. I’ve found myself using their stuff more and more, so the idea of being able to use the Reader, Calendar, Docs and Gmail offline seems an exciting one. (We’re not there yet, but Google Reader is a start.)

This brings me to again plead with anyone offering an RSS feed of their stuff, to put the whole post in the feed. Offline browsing is not going to work if you can only read an extract.

It’s Not Always About Online

Software developers used to write programs that looked and worked great on their big-monitored, big-powered, big-hard drived computers, forgetting that most of us have small screens, weak computers and no disk space. Now, with Web 2.0, they’re writing programs that assume we’re always online. Well, we’re not. Cameron Reilly of The Podcast Network, trying to retrieve his flight booking in a hurry, highlights the dangers of relying on something like Gmail when either you, or it, isn’t always online:  

Pull up Gmail to check my booking. Gmail down. GMAIL DOWN??!??!?!?! Get a message saying “sorry, gmail is down. we’re trying to fix it. please check back in a few minutes.”I don’t have a few minutes. Need to get my ass to the airport or miss my flight. Jump in car. Check Gmail again from my mobile while I’m driving (don’t crash don’t crash oh don’t crash) – still down.

Yes, he probably should have printed it out at the time. Yes, he should have saved a copy to his hard drive/phone in case. Yes, we shouldn’t rely on free email services, however big and snazzy the company. But the truth is that (a) Cameron is as human as the rest of us and (b) we use these services as if they are a service, which they’re not. They’re a luxury that only exist as long as the company want them to exist, and as long as we’re online. 

This second lesson is easier to remember if you live in a part of the world where most of the people are not online for most of the day. This is partly because it’s not that kind of culture, and it’s partly because the quality of cable Internet here is so low. But this is a good thing, because it means I never rely on online email for important stuff, and because it means that whenever I find something good I save it somewhere I can retrieve it whether or not I’m online.

Bottom line: I love web-based applications like Basecamp. But I’m never going to build critical tasks around them so long as I can’t access them, or a recent backup of them, when I’m offline. This is one area where the likes of Groove have an edge. And while the argument may follow that one day everyone will be online, I’m betting that one day, too, everything will come to a shuddering halt when the Internet fries one day and we’re all scrambling for our offline backups.

Oh, Cameron made his flight ok, by peering into his offline backup. In this case his brain.  

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Podcast: Online Shopping

From the BBC World Service World Business Report: Online shopping

Here’s an excerpt from the original piece (subscription only, I’m afraid):

Why does buying stuff online still look so similar to buying offline?

First, Web sites still use the whole browsing-shopping basket-checkout metaphor, an approach that even real world shops are trying to get away from. Then you have in-your-face promotions, top 10s, on-sale items, buy-two-get-one-free offers, which to me don’t sound that different to your average supermarket gimmicks. Amazon has made some steps forward, such as pointing out that purchasers who bought a certain product have also bought other products, and allowing users to search for text inside books. But these are hardly huge leaps. After all, couldn’t we look inside books in a bookstore, or ask an assistant for suggestions about similar books?

And for those looking for links, I mentioned Etsy in the piece; a couple of others worth checking out are Kaboodle and Wists.

Wiki, Where Art Thou?

I need help again, so I’m turning to Loose Wire readers yet again. I’m looking for a wiki-type free from database, simple yet intuitive, that allows users to add and update material easily online, but which can also be downloaded in its entirety and viewed offline. Right now I’m using, which is excellent, but won’t work offline. Any thoughts? I’m aware of a few out there, but was hoping for something as simple to install and use as Schtuff.

A Way To Marry Offline And Online Shopping?

Further to my post about the perils of offline browsing and online buying, here’s a possible solution, from Wi-Fi Networking News: Software that lets PDA users check out details and reviews of a book while in the bookstore. SmartWorlds’ free software lets PDA users (customers can borrow a PDA and scanner from staff) shop and learn more about books while they’re in a bookstore: Users are connected to’s site where they can read reviews of the book, check pricing, and see other books recommended by readers.

Here’s the neat bit: In Boston, where the service is in place, the Trident bookstore is considered an affiliate of Amazon so if users of this service later buy one of the books they browsed for on Amazon, Trident earns a commission. Whether other bookstores are brave enough to do this I’m not sure, but it’s a possible answer to the problem outlined in the earlier post. The beauty of it is that the bookstores play to their strengths: a great, comfortable place to browse and hang out, and the unmistakable allure of allowing customers to have that book in their hands, right now.