Do you hate Android skins? Then you’re probably a guy.
The other day I had a Twitter exchange with Dan Seifert of the Verge about my dislike of stock Android. The divergence of opinion on the matter of toggles and notification areas reminded me of a conversation I had a few weeks ago at a Sony event. The electronics arm of the company invited women bloggers to have a conversation about marketing to women. At one point Helena Stone of ChipChick and I hit on what it is about Android that so many people we know find annoying about it: lack of efficiency. The number of taps it takes to do something simple is just silly. And hunting for apps in the Google Play store, who has time for that? I’ve known this is a problem for a while, what I didn’t realize is that whether or not you do seems to depend on whether you’re a man or a woman.
Many of the tech bloggers and reviewers I know have this (to me ridiculous) loathing of Android skins. The user interface modifications employed by HTC, Samsung, Sony, and almost every other manufacturer are a great scourge upon the land, according to certain technorati. How dare they mess with the purity of Android? Another thing many of these writers have in common is that they are male.
Like Seifert, many would rather add these features on their own by downloading a widget or app from the Google Play store. I agree that this freedom of customization is one of the awesome things about Android, and if you have the desire and patience to engage in this, then have fun. Not everyone does. As I said on Twitter, finding apps in Google Play is time consuming and frustrating. You can’t trust reviews, it’s not always apparent whether the app will do that thing you want even with a detailed description, and that is assuming the search results throw up the right apps instead of the hodgepodge of nonsense that sometimes happens if you don’t use the exact right keywords.
I don’t have time for that. A lot of women don’t, apparently.
If nothing else, good skins eliminate the need for all that up front effort and make it so users can be speedy and efficient every time they go to use their phone. Yes, there are a few other there are are overstuffed. Samsung’s TouchWiz is edging closer to that. The answer is more customization – let owners turn whole sections of the notification screen off if they don’t want to use them. I don’t need that section of suggested apps every time I plug in my headphones, for instance. But do not take away my toggles!
Outside of the world of tech writing, I’m interested in finding out if this hypothesis holds. So let’s do an informal survey in the comments. Do you love or hate Android skins? Why? And, if you’re comfortable sharing, what is your gender identification?
Now is the time on my blog where I out myself as a bit of a pen nerd. I know it might sound strange coming from a person who values digital over analog in many venues (I’ll take eBooks forever, please). When it comes to keeping a journal or writing notes, I prefer the feel of pen on paper. And I’m quite specific about my pens. I prefer gel ink, 0.7mm, in a medium-sized barrel. I only recently tried fountain pens again and found that I enjoy using them as well. Fountain and gel pens glide across paper with a smoothness that doesn’t hinder a fast writer, so all I need to do is to concentrate on the words and pen strokes. I will travel a long way to find (or replace) the right pen.
For those times I need to use a tablet that doesn’t come with its own pen, I often turn to a capacitive stylus. The experience is different, obviously, and I used to settle for whatever random one I had lying around. Then I discovered that all styli are not made the same. Some can glide across the screen almost as well as a fountain pen glides across paper. Who knew? And that brings me to my latest gadget worth geeking out over: the iWalk Amphibian.
The combo pen/stylus isn’t a new thing, and when I first saw this I nearly strolled on by without giving it a second glance. Then the manufacturer told me that the barrel fits Parker gel refills and so I had to try it. The man did not lie, they do fit perfectly. And lo my pen moved smoothly across the page and all was well. Imagine my happy surprise when I turned the pen over to use the rubber tip and discovered that it offered a great writing experience there, too. I tested it on the iPad and the Galaxy Tab 3 and in both cases the tip offered no resistance and allowed me to hold it at any angle I wanted. A squishy tip like this might not work as well for artists as for writers since my strokes don’t need flourish, they just need consistency. I also like that the cap fits on either end.
Since I received this from iWalk for review it has not left my side and now has a permanent place in my pen case. It’s by far my current favorite pen.
The Amphibian’s awesomeness came as a bit of a surprise since my last pen/stylus combo was partially disappointing. The Monteverde Invincia Stylus fountain pen is full of gorgeousness. The all-black brushed metal is hefty enough to feel substantial without being too heavy to use. It balances well in my hand with the cap on the opposite end or without it. The cap is where the rubber tip for tablets lives and it could not be more different from the Amphibian’s. It’s wide instead of long, firm, and drags just enough on the screen that it’s hard to write. Since the tip’s rise is so shallow you have to hold it at specific angles for the stylus to work. My fountain pen nib is medium yet doesn’t flow as well as other medium nibs I’ve used. It’s better now that I’ve used it more, but I am going to try switching it for a broad tip in the future.
The iWalk Amphibian costs around $30, the Invincia Stylus costs around $90. Awkward.
Though well intentioned Tumblrs approach to blocking porn by making certain tags accessible via search has already backfired.
We originally reported on Tumblr’s new porn-blocking technique as a clever way to filter out porn for users who don’t want to see it while not limiting freedom of expression. Unfortunately, it looks like the decision had some unintended consequences.
By blocking the tags #gay, #lesbian, and #bisexual from search results in mobile apps, Tumblr blacklisted a lot of advocacy content in addition to porn, which has some LGBTQ users calling it “a crackdown on our very identities.”
From paper journal to digital note – is this finally convenient enough to do on a regular?
My big project last week was writing a piece on melding analog handwriting tools with digital ones. While doing the research and testing all the different methods a tidbit of information kept surfacing in my thoughts. Years ago I read an interview with actor/poet/artist/musician Viggo Mortensen where he recounted the time he lost three years worth of journals when some jerk broke into his car. I can’t find the original interview, but he talks about it in his introduction to The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2004:
“As I was in the process of moving from one house to another… someone broke into the passenger side window of my car and grabbed the backpack containing several notebooks I’d filled, since early 2001, with handwritten stories and poems. The backpack also contained a couple of journals, two screenplays, my passport, and two half-read books. The hardest losses were the stories and poems in the notebooks. I had been looking forward, in particular, to reviewing and fine-tuning hundreds of pages of, for me, uncharacteristically long and unguarded poetry that had been written during a series of very quiet nights spent in the Sahara Desert in late 2002.
“…I spent a lot of time and effort in the following weeks scouring my part of town, looking through trash cans and alleyways, offering no-questions-asked rewards, doing anything I could think of to find what was irreplaceable for me and probably completely useless to whoever had stolen it. Finally, I let most of it go…”
As writer who keeps a journal, this story makes me ill on so many levels. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost years worth of notebooks all at once. Eventually, I suppose, I’d get tot he same point as Viggo: letting it go because I’d have to. Still, just the thought makes me shudder.
The specific thing that made me recall that story was testing Evernote’s Page Capture feature. You might have heard of this in connection with the Evernote Moleskine notebooks made specifically to work with said feature. Page Capture lets you snap a picture of a handwritten journal page and save it as a high-res digital image. The service will attempt to recognize your handwriting and indexes the words it finds so you can search for them later. The idea is pretty awesome.
You do not need to buy one of the special Moleskines to get Page Capture to work. However, that paper has special dots and markings that help Evernote align the shots correctly. Otherwise, you need a steady hand or one of those smartphone scanner stand things. (Those are not a bad purchase if you have a phone with a good quality camera. No more needing a scanner or spending money on copies at the library.) The Moleskines also come with stickers for auto-tagging that are useful if your notes fall into those five narrow categories. Instead of those, I just use the area at the top of my journal page as a Tag Space where I write my own tags in my clearest handwriting. That way, even if I don’t digitally tag the notes I have a better chance of finding what I want via search.
The idea of scanning a paper journal to a digital file isn’t exactly new. But with smartphones being so wide-spread and the cameras in them getting better and better, I wonder if it’s now just convenient enough that writers would spend a couple of minutes every day adding their journals to Evernote and if that would end up being an effective backup system? I don’t want to give up my paper journal, but I do like the idea of having a copy of it somewhere just in case tragedy strikes. How about you?
“I JUST noticed something strange on Wikipedia. It appears that gradually, over time, editors have begun the process of moving women, one by one, alphabetically, from the “American Novelists” category to the “American Women Novelists” subcategory. So far, female authors whose last names begin with A or B have been most affected, although many others have, too. The intention appears to be to create a list of “American Novelists” on Wikipedia that is made up almost entirely of men. The category lists 3,837 authors, and the first few hundred of them are mainly men. The explanation at the top of the page is that the list of “American Novelists” is too long, and therefore the novelists have to be put in subcategories whenever possible. Too bad there isn’t a subcategory for “American Men Novelists.””—
Last week we sent out a survey to the over 17,000 people who signed up to help us work on our reader. Amazingly, we’ve gotten more than 8,000 responses so far, and they keep trickling in. Here’s what we’ve learned: