iPadDevCamp Hackathon Winners

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I’ve spoken and written about hackathons before. I think they are awesome.

Ravi and I didn’t intend to participate in the hackathon. Although I enjoy them, this time, I wanted to enjoy the conference and listen to the sessions. However after getting together with Ravi and throwing around a few ideas, I started messing around with the design for an app idea. After a few hours of doing that while listening to the sessions, the thing started to look like something after all. I spent a few more hours in the evening on it and told Ravi in the morning the next day that we should consider doing the hackathon. It doesn’t matter if we get it done or not. To me, just doing it was more important. Lo and behold we were able to submit something as a last minute entry. I was able to show the design and Ravi was able to show the tech demo of the app. We didn’t expect to win anything but the judges really liked what they saw. We’re working on it and hope to have it in the app store soon.

I think this just reinforces my belief that if you feel like you want to do something or ought to be doing something, you should just go for it. What do you have to lose? The most that could have happened was that we wouldn’t win anything. Who cares? Having done the exercise, we now potentially have an app to show and a possible source of side revenue as well as a showpiece for our skill.

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Minimalism in Web Design


As web designers we must resist the urge to keep adding. Clients often want more features and we struggle with how to do that tastefully, and in a user friendly manner. We also want to make our designs “prettier” by adding more “stuff” to it. This tidbit of advice from Coco Chanel for women resonates with me as a designer.

Do the hair. Do the makeup. Get yourself fully dressed and then, before walking out the front door, pause by the mirror and remove one item. Maybe it’s the hat. Maybe it’s the piece of jewelry you really don’t need. But the line, according to Ms. Chanel, between knockout and near miss could be found in a single overdone object.

link here

With that in mind, I’ve started to really think about the current project I am working on and what I can remove.

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Top 10 Free iPad Apps

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I’ve had the iPad since launch which is about 2 weeks now. I’ve downloaded most of the free apps that are made especially for the iPad and here are the ones that are I like in no particular order.

Kindle I’ve had the Kindle for a long time and love it. I find it very convenient to read books on my way to work. The iPad version doesn’t have that slick iBooks UI however I find that it’s actually easier for page turning. I also find that the user interface for the bookstore is a bit lacking – it’s essentially the Amazon website in a web view. However, I have access to all my books and that’s all that matter. Download link

Netflix If you have a Netflix account, then you need this app. You have access to all the on demand movies which you can stream instantly to your iPad. My only gripe is that the UI for app is basically the website – which isn’t all that iPad friendly. Download link

WeatherBug I like this weather app better than the Weather Channel app because it displays all the relevant information on the first dashboard. It seems they’ve really thought about the iPad screen and visualize a lot of information on a single screen. Download link

TweetDeck The TweetDeck app for the iPad is really nice. They’ve really thought about the form factor of the iPad and designed their app to fit it really well. It’s perfect for any power Twitter user. Twitterific is great as well, but I feel it’s a little too simple, like the Twitter website and for many people, that’s probably a good thing. The two apps are built for different types of users. Download link

ABC Player If you watch ABC shows this app is a must have. I’m a big V and Lost fan so this is great. One annoying thing about this app is that it doesn’t rotate depending on the orientation. I wouldn’t even mention this except for the fact that it’s a big brand. Download link

Epicurious This was one of the first iPad apps I download. I was very impressed. The design of it is really slick and suiting of a recipe book. It showcases the iPad really well. Download link

NYT Editor’s Choice The New York Times has always been at the leading edge of technology. I was an early adopter of the New York Times reader Silverlight app and AIR app that followed. They’ve always made well designed apps and this is no exception. Download link

Godfinger I am not much of a gamer these days but I was hooked on Godfinger for days. The graphics were cute and clean and the gameplay was incredibly addictive. Kudos to the team for sucking me in with all the game mechanics. I would give this game a negative score on utility because it’s got a high chance of making you less productive. Download link

Marvel Comics I’m not a huge fan of comics but I can appreciate the innovation here. The way that comics are presented here is pretty awesome. You can zoom in to the pane view and swipe your finger to the next pane. It’s a totally new comic book reading experience. Download link

Roambi This is a data visualizer’s wet dream. If you didn’t think the iPad had any business use, this app will change your mind. It turns your iPad into an instant dashboard. From a UI perspective, it’s downright sexy. I love it. Download link

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The iPad Early Adopter Experience

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I am not usually a super early adopter, especially of Apple technology because I know that Apple iterates fairly quickly and that their next gen products get better and better. Nevertheless, I decided to get an iPad as soon as it comes out. I decided not to just order it online, but reserved it so that I can pick it up in store to get the whole Apple experience.

On Saturday April 3, I got to the Apple store on Michigan Ave at 8:30AM and there was already a long line that wrapped around the corner. I originally planned to get there at 7:30, but I just couldn’t get up. It was raining and I brought my flimsy umbrella.

While in line, I asked people around me why they wanted an iPad. One guy was an early adopter. He also stood in line for the iPhone. He said that the line for iPhone was much longer. Another guy was a startup founder and wanted to put his apps on the iPad at a convention to get people to come play with the iPad and hence his app. Another was a writer who was excited about the possibilities of publishing on the iPad.

This is where the Apple experience begins – even before you set foot inside the store. There were Apple employees handing out umbrellas for those who weren’t prepared for the bad weather. They even had Starbucks coffee for those people who wanted it. Some enterprising folks set up their hamburger/hot dog stands nearby. Apple employees also came by everyone to pick out those who had reserved their iPad to hop on another line.

About half and hour or so later I finally made it inside the store. I was greeted by two columns of Apple store geniuses all cheering, clapping, and whistling, and congratulating. It was as if I had won some Academy Award seriously. They really made you feel like a rockstar when in the fact only thing you were doing is lining Apple’s coffers with more money. I tried to quickly make it past that. It was hard to make eye contact because I felt really weird being congratulated for apparently doing nothing.

I picked up a couple of the official iPad cases. Tim Courtney called me up while I was in line to see if I could pick him up one. – The power of twitter. On my way out of the store, a correspondent from ABC asked if she could interview me. She said that many of the people refused to be interviewed and were downright rude to her. She mentioned something about not wanting to be portrayed as hardcore mac fanboys. Whatever. Being a shameless self promoter I naturally said yes. Here’s the segment. I was disappointed that they pretty much took all the interesting (where I pimped all my wares) parts out. I took the train home and had to go train a bit. Yes I did not touch my iPad for a couple of hours even though I was one of the first people to get it.

Anyways, late in the afternoon I finally did get to play with it. Here’s my “Unboxing” video:

My first impressions were:

  • Dang, this thing weighs a ton, compared to my kindle
  • The screen is really nice
  • iPhone apps look horrible on it – which is great opportunity for enterprising folks
  • Not too crazy about typing on it. Takes a while to get used to.
  • Apps made especially for iPad look gorgeous on it
  • The official iPad case feels cheap. I’ll probably have to replace it with something else.

As I get more and more into it, my impressions will undoubtedly change so stay tuned for more.

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On Innovation Part 2 (How Apple Does It)


Back on the topic of innovation. I’ve been thinking about it a lot these days. We can’t talk about innovation for 5 minutes before someone invariably mentions Apple and how innovative they are. Well, I thought I’d take some people on a bit of a visual history tour so people can see where Apple gets their innovative ideas.

An old Gizmodo article shows the similarity between the iPhone calculator app and the Braun ET44 calculator.iphone_braun

Another article I found on Metro Hippie shows even more similarities between Braun products and Apple products.design-apple-braun

I’m not trying to hate on Apple if that’s what you fanboys are thinking. The point is that Apple liberally “borrows” ideas from others that they see work well. The point is that Apple’s “concepts” are seen as innovations, but clearly, these designs were not dreamed up in the Apple ivory tower. More often than not, innovation comes from without. People get tunnel vision on what they are working on or they are too close to the problem that they can’t see how things could possibly work better. Sometimes what is needed is inspiration from a fresh perspective from those who look at the world from a different point of view.

Which brings me to one of the most famous quotes of all time:

Good artists copy, great artists steal. – Pablo Picasso

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