Ubiquitous Computing: Software above the level of a single device.

This week we discuss Tim O’Reilly’s fifth web 2.0 pattern: Software above the level of a single device. 

We are a world that is fast evolving towards being totally digitally connected. With the adoption of IPv6 the number of devices that can connect to the internet simultaniously increases almost innumerably to 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456. O’Reillys fifth pattern discusses best practices for harnessing the technolgical breakthroughs of our time to develop software that connects to the internet seemlessly over multiple devices.

youtube

Youtube is web 2.0 that is so popular it is almost synonymous with the word “Internet”. Since it’s inception in Feb 2005 YouTube has been about video content that is for the people, by the people, so it is not at all surprising that its developers are well aware of the importance of software above the level of a single device. The reality is that content wise YouTube can be used as a legitimate resource for almost every facet of our lives – work, play, health, education and relationships. So, it makes sense that YouTube has evolved from offering access in the form of a centralised website to being as adaptable to our new technology as we are, offering apps for almost every platform. Let’s look at how YouTube adheres to to O’Reiley’s best practices.

youtube2

Design from the start to share data across devices, servers, and networks

From the outset YouTube has strived to offer content accessibility through  providing HTML code along with its videos to enable easy embedding on any web page.

More recently:

One click sharing to almost all social networking platforms including facebook, twitter and google+, which expands on and compliments YouTube’s own ranking and commenting system.

  • YouTube Mobile – launched in 2007 for smartphones utilising RTSP streaming for video, was then relaunched in 2010 using HTML 5 eliminating the need to use the slower adobe flash player and optimising controls for touch screen.
  • June 2007 – Transcoded data to H.264 format in order to achieve compatibility with Apple iPhone, iPod touch and Apple TV
  • 2008 – 2009 – Youtube realises more of its users are accessing from set top boxes and full size screens so releases YouTube For TV and then later YouTubeXL
  • Available as a stand alone app for Apple iOS 5 / iOS 6 since September 2012 when it was dropped as a preloaded app.
  • Tailored applictions  for Playstation 3, Tivo, Xbox live, & Wii

Since day one it is very obvious that YouTube has had its finger on the pulse of its users viewing trends and has attempted to harness the latest technology to make data more available & accessible to users.

youtube4

Extend Web 2.0 to devices

YouTube offers applictions for almost all of the popular devices including iOS, Android, Xbox Live / 360, Playstation 3, Wii & Tivo and comes pre-packaged in the proprietry software of many smart TV’s, media streaming & cable provider boxes.

Use the power of the network to make the edge smarter

YouTube is able to tailer the viewing experience to your device through smart optimisation of the video bitrate, file format and clientside code to ensure compatibility with multiple devices usually via an app. A good example here is YouTube automatically rendering videos in much lesser resolution for smartphones, dramatically lessening the amount of data that needs to be transferred.


Leverage devices as data and rich media sources

Many smartphones and video cameras have the ability to shoot video and upload directly to YouTube through the relevant application as long as they have access to the internet.

Make one-click peer-production a priority

Almost all devices that have the ability to shoot video and connect to the internet can upload to YouTube in a single click. Often this will occur through utilising third party software and not necessarily an official YouTube app.

youtube3

Further Reading:

Learn all about YouTube via Wikipedia

Apple drops the YouTube app in iOS 6 

Evolution of YouTube : Beginning of age of personal media

How to share, embed and link YouTube videos

O’Reilly’s 5th Pattern: Software above the level of a single device

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Rich User Experience: Pixlr.com

This week I examine Tim O’Reilly’s fourth Web 2.0 pattern: Rich User Experience.  So firstly, what is a “Rich user experience”? I think James Ward explains it better than most in saying it is a “more natural – more connected, more alive, more interactive, and more responsive” user experience.

It was not long ago that in order to enjoy a graphically intensive, immediately responsive experience when connecting with the internet a user would have to install a heavy and often very large desktop application and point it in the direction of the corresponding internet server.  This desktop interface model was utilised so that most of the complex processing involving large amounts of data could be carried out at the client end and not take up precious band width.

Today, with faster, higher bandwidth internet connections, more intelligent and sophisticated programming techniques such as AJAX and HTML5, and global user demand for a truly ubiquitous internet experience we have dispensed with the data laden client side application and moved completely to an online interface.  Rich Internet Applications or (RIA’s) are the web applications designed to give users desktop like functionality through a web browser and are the same applications that make the Rich User Experience possible.

Since the dawn of desktop computer time graphics manipulation has been heavy on resources, so, how about a paint/photoshop style Rich User Experience?

pixlr

Enter Pixlr.com. 

Pixlr.com can be accessed from your web browser and is compatible with all of the popular varieties. Pixlr offers a fully functional picture editor that looks very much like a cross between Photoshop and Paint at a glance. Cut down varieties of the editor are also available from the main page for simple photo effects. So lets look at how it stacks up against the best practices for a Rich User Experience.

The Pixlr Editor:

pixlr editor

Combine the best of desktop & online experiences 

One of the best features of Pixlr is the fact that it feels like you are using a desktop application, and that is exactly how you want a photo editing suite to feel. It responds instantly and provides all the tools you are used to. There is seamless integration with both online and desktop based images as well as webcam, smartphone, and devices using both iOS and Android operating systems.

Usability and simplicity first

You don’t have to learn to use Pixlr, it is actually intuitive in it’s design and follows established convention for photo editing tools. It is essentially minimalist in design without flashy ‘additions’ that some other sites offer, this is a good thing. The options that are presented on the home page: Open Pixlr Editor (Advanced), Open Pixlr Express (Efficient), and Open Pixlr-o-matic (Playfull), quickly dispense with the need to annoy the user with superfluous information or features. If you aren’t familiar with exactly how Pixlr works it is designed to be intuitive enough to give it away for most users. Almost unbelievably, no registration required! Dive straight in!

Match the technology usage to the requirements

Pixlr.com harnesses technology well, in that it matches it to its user requirements. Through utilising predominately Flash, Javascript, HTML, & JQuery Pixlr delivers a photo editor that responds instantly and is truly ubiquitous in nature (smartphone, online, iOS, Android). Some might say the technology is lackluster or underwhelming, I say the fact that it intuitively delivers on what it promises to it’s target audience every time makes it smart technology usage.

Preserve content addressability

Pixlr delivers again here, providing desktop features within its environment including undo, redo and save. The user is always in control of the data they are manipulating and seamless integration with Facebook and other online libraries ensures pictures can be accessed, saved & restored from anywhere.

Deep, adaptive personalization

The thing I appreciate most about Pixlr is the fact that it is no nonsense and delivers exactly what is promises to its users. Pixlr does not ask for a registration, nor a login like almost every other site does and I found this refreshing. I think Pixlr has an excellent idea of what the average user in their target audience expects, and delivers a catered solution for that expectation. It has effectively pre-personalised the website around its target audience.

References:

http://www.jamesward.com/2007/10/17/what-is-a-rich-internet-application/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTML_5

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajax_(programming)

http://searchsoa.techtarget.com/definition/Rich-Internet-Application-RIA

http://w3techs.com/sites/info/pixlr.com