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Bathroom humour

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Are people really that freaked out over enforcing who goes into which bathroom?

Forgive my lack of patience with the oh-so-frightening oh-so-mythical spectre of an iOS user pretending to have a Google Nexus and sneaking into an Android bathroom. (Frankly, a lot of my fellow iOS users are plenty creepy in their own washrooms. Dude, put the iPhone away at the urinal. That’s why the good lord gave you back pockets.)

Look, I can get how disorienting this can all be to people who cling to a rigidly-enforced binary model of the mobile marketplace. But the fact is our understanding of it is changing, and changing rapidly, to a more inclusive one.

Really, it’s just a question of human decency. I’d hate to see politicians being this harsh around something far more central to your sense of self than your choice of mobile OS. Something where a group of people face abuse and discrimination from community, employers and the state alike. Something where political consultants demonize them as a way to polarize the electorate and mobilize a fearful base of voters.

That would be unconscionable.

Get out of my underwear drawer: mobile apps and privacy

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I like to think of the apps I load on my mobile devices as guests I’ve invited over. I want them to be themselves, relax, chat… but I also want them to have some level of respect for the place.

I don’t expect to find them looking through my underwear drawer.

But some apps do just that. (Provided you’re willing to accept “underwear” as a metaphor for your address book.) The moment you head to the kitchen to whip up a plate of cheese and crackers, they’re peeking into your medicine cabinet, flipping through your diary or perusing that photo album of awkwardly-posed boudoir shots you’d swear you’d hidden at the back of the bedroom closet.

App vendors will tell you (as they nervously scrunch and unscrunch your “Incredible Hunk” mini briefs) that they’re just trying to be helpful. And they would never, never use this information that they’ve just sent back unencrypted to their servers for anything except improving your user experience. Possibly also for a funny skit they’re doing for next week’s we-just-got-our-first-round-of-funding party. Did you notice your underwear is now sorted by texture? Isn’t that helpful?

And in the vast majority of cases, I think developers actually are trying to be helpful. They’ve had a cool idea, something that could be useful, and they can implement it with just a few lines of code. When most of your job involves seeing data in terms of its structures and relationships, it’s easy to miss the question of how that data’s owner feels about it.

Of course, there are vendors whose motives aren’t nearly as pure, and involve aggregate data mining (in the mountain-top-removal sense of “mining”) at best.

The point is, get out of my underwear drawer. Unless I’ve explicitly invited you over for that purpose, and believe me, it’s a very select few guests who fall into that category. (They’re the ones who get the good cheese and crackers.)

Boundaries, people.

Bumping uglies

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(I originally posted this on ReadWriteWeb.)

No big writeup this weekend, folks, as I’m on holiday in France, a country probably best-known as the one-time home of Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur. And maybe as the setting for some of “Julie and Julia.”

But the news that PayPal will now allow you to transfer money to someone just by bumping your iPhone or Android device with theirs – that’s pretty cool.

Makes you wonder what else you could swap. Maybe DNA?

PhoneGap in action

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Brian Leroux, Filip Maj and company were in rare form at OSCON this morning, demoing PhoneGap, Nitobi‘s open-source mobile app development framework. PhoneGap solves two big problems for mobile developers: the number of platforms you need to develop on, and the number of app stores and distribution channels you face.

I was there, stylus in hand, to capture the broad strokes. What I didn’t get down here was the very cool experience of watching them create and launch an Android app in just a few minutes. (Thanks to a document camera, the audience watched the whole thing unfold on-screen.)

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