Technology has been disrupting traditional business models for a while now, but there are a few significant areas where the old models continue to persist, despite being ripe for disruption. This is about to change.

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A common refrain from Apple Watch owners is that most apps kind of suck and that app developers don’t yet know how to design for the Watch. This is to be expected with a new technology, and even Apple seems to be struggling a bit.

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Just a quick note in case you are experiencing the “There is no song” error on your Infiniti or Nissan vehicle when connecting your iPhone through the USB port. After searching for an answer and getting no useful results, I resorted to trial and error and discovered the following:

If you have no music installed on your iPhone, and by this I mean at least one song that you can play in the Music app, you will receive this error.


Here’s what happened to me: I had recently wiped my phone clean and then started systematically installing apps one by one. Because I don’t really buy music any more, I had no songs loaded on my phone. Instead, I use streaming apps, primarily Pandora and Spotify. The lack of a “song” stored on my phone appears to confuse the audio system into thinking there is no song.

I have an Infiniti and a Nissan. On the Infiniti I was still able to play music through Spotify and Pandora despite the “no song” error (see image above), but on my Nissan I was unable to play any music until I added a song to my Music library.

Once I added a single song to my phone, everything was back to normal.

So, if you get a “there is no song” error on you Infiniti or Nissan vehicle after plugging in your iPhone, simply add a song to your Music library. Don’t have a song? Head to the iTunes Store and search for “free songs”. Download the first one you see.🙂

Did Apple screw up with iOS 6 Maps? You bet they did and they’ve admitted it publicly. But let’s be clear about where the problem is. There are many gaps in the data iOS maps deliver but for many areas, such as the Bay Area where I live, I haven’t noticed any major issues. In fact, I’ve been using the maps app since the iOS 6 dev release and I’ve found the the turn-by-turn directions to be quite well designed.

What’s to like about the iOS 6 Maps design?

Turn-by-turn directions are well designed and if you happen to live in an area that’s well mapped, you might actually start to use them on a regular basis. Some of the things I like about Apple’s turn-by-turn design:

  1. Maps are vector based and render fast
  2. The perspective of the map is easy to read and maximizes your view of upcoming turns
  3. Streets are dynamically flagged as you approach, making them easy to read
  4. The big, bold “highway sign” at the top of the screen clearly tells you the next turn, how far away it is, etc.
  5. Turn-by-turn directions are visible from the lock screen
  6. Voice-over directions are superb. I literally drove from start to end on one trip without ever looking at the screen. The voice prompts are timed so well, that I never felt the stress of wondering if I would miss a turn. I can’t say the same for most other turn-by-turn voice instruction.


If you live in a major metropolitan area, you may find the maps app works just fine. If you’re in an area where the map data is weak or you’d just rather not risk it, there are plenty of alternative mapping apps that you can use, including Google Maps in your browser. My favorite alternative for turn-by-turn and traffic information is Waze.

I have homeowner’s and car insurance with Allstate. I recently moved and today I decided to head on over to to update my address. The experience was funny enough that I just had to document it here.

Below is a screenshot from my Allstate home page. It’s a section titled My Profile and it shows my name, mailing address and email. Next to this info is a handy link titled Update Profile.

My Allstate Profile

Clicking the Update Profile link takes you to the page below. First, take a moment to appreciate the redundant “help” text on the page. Next, note that there is no option for updating your mailing address. Brilliant.

 Update Allstate Profile

It’s always important to know your audience when creating content, but a common mistake I see time and again (and have been guilty of ) is to believe that sophisticated audiences will not appreciate clear and simple content. This happens a lot in technology. But take a look at this video for the Nest. There’s a lot of sophisticated technology in the Nest and it’s aimed at a fairly sophisticated audience, but Nest spends its time explaining the benefits. The technology fades into the background. As it should.

Whether communicating with potential customers, users or your engineering team, it’s important to remember that all audiences appreciate clear, simple messaging. Don’t create complicated messaging for sophisticated audiences and don’t dumb down your message for the novice. Creating a common understanding is the goal and clarity of message is how you get there.

There are a million lame excuses to NOT make your UI better. Here are 10 of the lamest with contributions from the Twitterverse:

  1. Users have already been trained to do it this (crappy) way.
  2. First, we need consensus.
  3. That’s not technically feasible.
  4. It’s not consistent with the rest of the product. (@madhuprabaker)
  5. But we already coded it this way.
  6. We’re done with that feature.
  7. But I love it!
  8. No one uses that feature anyway. (@surdattack)
  9. That’s not how [competitor x] does it.
  10. That’s hard to do!
More lame excuses:
  1. The devs don’t like it (@paz0r)
  2. The users don’t want that (@MrAlanCooper)
  3. We’ll fix it later (@claushoefele, @jeffcortez)
  4. Fast is better than good (@bradhaynes)
  5. That’s non-trivial.

What are some of the lamest excuses you’ve heard (or used yourself)? Share them in the comments.

Jason Perlow recently wrote and article entitled I’m sick to death of Android. In it, he talks about how he’s been an Android user since the beginning and describes what attracted him to Android.

I have always liked the fundamental concept of Android — an Open Source smartphone and tablet operating system that could be used on a variety of manufacturers devices with varying feature sets that gives consumers the added benefit of choosing exactly what product suits their specific needs.

Android also provides for the additional openness of having 3rd-party App Stores that suit the needs of different types of customers if the Google Android Market (Now Google Play) doesn’t fit the bill.

And of course, there is also the ability for the base OS itself to be modified as well as the ability to side-load applications of your own design for use in vertical markets.

So, what’s wrong with Android?

  • Real people don’t buy abstract concepts like “openness”.
  • Real people don’t respond well to lots of choice.
  • Real people don’t want multiple App Stores to suit their specific need because their specific need is simple — tell me where to go to buy apps.
  • Real people don’t want to “side-load applications” and don’t know what the hell that even means.

Google has been focused on building the “ideal world” according to geeks and geeks said, “Hooray! We like the fundamental concept of open! Open is better than closed! We want to have 3 different App Stores! We want side-loading!” But geeks, I’m afraid, are not real people. Real people buy products that simply work well and they’re busy spending money in Apple’s “closed” App Store. And they’re happy. And there’s nothing abstract about it.

NOTE: I do realize that geeks are people too. Hell, I am one! But they’re not most people. I’m just exercising a little artistic license.

This weekend I’ve been catching up on season two of Downton Abbey (I’ve only just started, so don’t spoil it!). I watched season one on my big screen TV via a Roku box and Netflix, but season two is not available on Netflix or Amazon, so the Roku box was not an option. I remembered that PBS has an iOS app and was happy to discover that I could play season two episodes through the app. I also have an Apple TV connected to the big screen in my living room which meant I could use AirPlay to send the show from my iPhone or iPad to the TV. Problem solved!

I found season two, episode one in the PBS app and streamed it from my iPhone to my Apple TV. Right away I noticed that the quality of the picture was much worse than I had seen with the Roku and wondered if I’d get a better picture through the iPad. On the surface, it didn’t seem like that should make any difference. If it’s the same show, same app, same OS, so the picture should be the same too. But it turned out that, when streamed from the iPad, the picture quality was significantly better. What was going on?

While I don’t know for certain, I’m fairly sure that PBS sends a smaller file to the iPhone than it does to the iPad. Why?  The phone has a small screen, so all the extra data required for high resolution video is unnecessary. Phone users are “on-the-go” and often have slow connections, so a small file will download faster and start playing sooner. In other words, the PBS app has been designed for the “mobile context”. But the mobile context is a myth (be sure to check out Josh Clark’s excellent presentation on the topic). It falls apart as soon as I stream media from my phone to my big screen TV. In my living room I have a wi-fi connection and I don’t care about file size, I just want the best quality media experience I can get.

We can no longer presume that the content accessed through mobile devices will also be viewed on them. With AirPlay, mobile device experiences can just as easily become 10 foot lean-back experiences, negating all your assumptions about display size and bandwidth. Responsive meda strategies will need to get more sophisticated to take this into account.

I recently switched my broadband / cable provider from Comcast to Astound. In general I’ve been happy, but there have been a few hiccups. By far, the most confounding and amusing one is the website registration process.

As a new customer to Astound, if you want to access their “web self care” site,  you need to create a new account. Sounds reasonable so far, right? But take a look at the image below. Have you ever seen a registration form with three password fields? I haven’t. Now, look closer. Notice that one of the fields is called “Registration Password”? What the heck is that??

After some trial and error, I determined I’d need to call customer support — which, by the way, was exactly what I was trying to avoid in the fist place!

My call to support went something like this…

Me: I’m trying to register for “web self care” but it says I need a registration password?

Astound: I’m sorry about that. I can help you. Please verify your name and address.

M: < verifying my name and address >

A: Okay, I’m going to hang up now and call you back on the phone number you gave us when you signed up for service. Then I’ll give you the registration password.

** I shit you not. **

M: Oh… kayyyy… < click >

Phone: RING!!

M: Hello?

A: Hello, Mr. Villamor. Here is your registration password: a s t o u n d, all lower case. (Update: password is now astound1)

** I shit you not. **

M: Thank you. Can ask you a question?

A: Sure.

M: Why on earth do you have a registration password? I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.

A: We do this for your security so that an unauthorized person cannot access your billing information.

** I shit you not. **

M: That makes no sense. If I haven’t registered yet, there’s nothing to protect. Not to mention, I don’t care if someone knows I owe you $96.67. What’s the worst they can do, pay my bill? And by the way, not even banks have registration passwords. Might I recommend that you stop wasting people’s time with this?

A: It’s for your security. Can I help you with anything else?

M: Yes. Can you tell me if I am a character in a Kafka novel?

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