Monthly Archives: April 2009

handset detection…

for those web 1.0 diehards – remember HTTP_USER_AGENT


Well the venerable user agent is the key environment variable used to identify the handsets users are using.

The upside is it is easy to read.

The downside is – the usage (and information) is entirely non-standard across multiple mobile operating systems and even model versions within the same O/S.

But the good news is – it has effectively been crowdsourced.

Check out this eponymously named site.


and while we’re at it…

what about viral spreading of apps on phones.
I do not understand why this isn’t used more often.

A couple of different ways this can be done – but all of them involve leveraging the existing contacts/address book in the phone. In other words if you download an app that you like you can then recommend it to your friends. You shouldn’t have to phone them, email them or text them to do this – it should be easily done – directly from the app.

  1. Invite – you click on one – or a few – names in your address book and all of them are sent an SMS with a link – following the link then directly installs the app (see next blog post)
  2. Over-The-Air Sideload – where you can actually send a full payload of app as an MMS or equivalent to another number

Clearly we are assuming a certain level of smartphone and a suitable data plan in most instances – but that assumption is getting safer and safer with every passing month.

There are a few varieties on the methods outlined above – some of them have been tried in the past (e.g. by Jaiku or Loopt) but in general it just seems like it is not done very often.

With EchoEcho – it forms one key aspect of the functionality. If you Echo someone who is already on EchoEcho then they get an Echo – but if they are not on EchoEcho they get an invite link – which installs the app on their phone within one or two clicks and then they get an Echo.

to network or not to network…

We obviously thought about social networks quite a lot when designing EchoEcho – it’s difficult not to when you have simple conversations that go something like this:

“So we’re building this new thing. It’s called EchoEcho and it allows you to share your location with your friends very easily.”

“Oh yeah. It’s a social network right ?”

Well…errm…no. Or rather yes and no.

We realise that a prolonged adjustment period of brinksmanship has been going on with social networks – and I’m sure many people are sick of having to create ¬†profiles and friend lists every time they join LinkedIn, ASW, Facebook, Bebo, Myspace (delete as applicable).

So we decided not to create a new social network  but to leverage an existing one which every mobile phone user already has.

The people in the address book on your phone.

Think about that for a minute – it might seem a little obvious (and perhaps more than a little odd that no one else has tried to do this) but the data is all there and the relationships are all there – if your number is in my phone you are likely in my friend list on social networks (assuming you are actually a member of said social network)

Sending echos to people in your address book (which in EchoEcho parlance means asking them the question “Where are you?”) and receiving an answer then becomes easier than sending and receiving and SMS.

Here’s an exclusive sneak preview of the notification message on Windows Mobile – each platform is a little bit different but this will give you something to chew on.

Windows Mobile EchoEcho

More on this over the next two weeks as we fasttrack towards a launch.

gardens and walls

So prompted by a John Borthwick blog post (here) a conversation with @aewo and @ori I got to think about a couple of things.

Namely – twitter and its completely open API…

This isn’t entirely irrelevant to our own cause – for EchoEcho we developed a completely open API to allow exchange of location information. I think twitter clearly demonstrates this is the way forward (ok well at least “a” way forward).

Of course we  made the API open deliberately because we wanted to encourage 3rd party mash-ups. Big whoop Рevery self respecting entity starting up these days is doing that.  (yes yes I know Рthe API specs and the site will be up soon РS60 and Winmo client will be available at beta launch РIphone and Blackberry soon thereafter)

But anyway – about those walls. And gardens.

Back in 1995 when  I was writing such choice prose as

maui is 11 hours behind the UK so I can spend the whole day on the beach – be back home at 6pm when the wind dies – and still have 4 hours to complete a report for a 9am meeting in London.

Creating a website like was kind of a pain. Handcoding html, uploading via FTP etc etc Рmost of you know the drill. Surprise surprise very few people (in comparison to the bloggers and microbloggers of today) did it.  These sites  were effectively destinations (as is of course most of the web of today)

Sort of like the equivalent of your front yard or garden Рright before people come over and visit. It takes time and effort to make it presentable because  people are coming to you. Just like it took time and effort to make those old websites.

Along come blogs and  social networks and suddenly you can have a cleanly templated site with searches, image slideshows, inlined HD video streams Рin less than 10 minutes.

So great – in our horticultural analogy this means that you now have a cool power strimmer for the hedge and all the plant beds are automatically dug up…but the point is – there’s still a destination – you still have to do ¬†some work to keep your garden presentable – even if said garden is just a single solitary page of facebook information.

Not so with twitter. That’s at best a t-shirt you choose to wear around town for the day.

It’s a broadcast rather than a destination. And it requires no effort.

The expression “walled garden” usually refers to walls (i.e. the fact that somebody is restricting free access to people inside or outside the wall) – not the actual garden itself – or rather the destination.

Twitter (to wrap this up…finally) has neither wall nor garden.