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Scripting News, the weblog started in 1997 that bootstrapped the blogging revolution.

Today's iPhone isn't a reading device Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Here's how the browser on my desktop works.

I click on a link and immediately start reading the text on the screen.

When I click on a link in Safari on the iPhone, before I can read anything, I have to futz with the display resolution of the browser to make the text visible. This may not sound like a problem, but what a distraction, when following a link, before getting the idea, your mind has to take a detour into managing the device. In reading as in the movies, suspension of disbelief is broken when your mind has to exit the space of ideas and manage the projection device. It's wrong for the device to ask you this, even as a setup issue it should be usable out of the box, but it's unacceptable that it make the user configure the browser every time it displays a new page.

Today's iPhone isn't a reading device. It wouldn't take much to configure the browser to be an excellent reading device, but Apple will have to give up the idea that the browser should work the same as the desktop browsers do. The iPhone is nowhere near as capable as a desktop display. Wishing it were so, and shifting the burden to the user to make it so, is not an acceptable solution.

I thought I could overcome this by creating a special version of a site just for the iPhone that crammed all the text into a narrow column, thinking that the browser wouldn't see any need to make the text small because it would have all the necessary horizontal screen real estate to display every character at a fully visible resolution.

Nope. It still displays the text in an unreadably small font.

Here's a photo of the iPhone displaying a test page.

It's behaving like no web browser I've ever seen, and it's behaving badly. It's breaking an implicit agreement between all platforms that co-exist on the web. We create sites that assume nothing about the device they're being rendered on, and browsers should take care to make our text readable for users of their device. The iPhone web browser doesn't keep that promise.

Caveat about 'initial' reviews Permanent link to this item in the archive.

One of the things I've learned from being a developer is to keep a notebook with my impressions, the things that confused me, the questions I have. That was before I had a weblog. Nowadays that notebook is public, which helps me share my process with others.

This has a lot of advantages, for one, it gets me answers more quickly. It also teaches other developers how users think, think of this as a small contribution to improved usability in all products. It also provides feedback to the developers of the products I'm using, if they're listening (I find out later they often are).

So with that caveat -- I'm still not able to synch the iPod in the iPhone the way I want to do it. I turned off the automatic synching on the front page of the iPhone panel in iTunes, now all the songs appear, but they're grayed out. I want to remove them all. I can't for the life of me figure out how to do it.

Another problem, I tried connecting a set of Bose headphones into the headphone jack on the iPhone. No music comes out the other end. Huh?

PS: I was able to reclaim all the space used by the deleted songs by choosing to Synch only selected playlists, and selecting none of them. When I hit the Apply button magically my used space went from 3.8GB to 0.2GB. I have no idea why this worked, but it did.

Picture worth 1,000,000 words Permanent link to this item in the archive.

Paulo: "Nothing like a good conversation with a friend."

Initial review of iPhone Permanent link to this item in the archive.

I just spent a couple of hours playing with my new iPhone.

I remember that the first few times I try a new cell phone, I wish it would just work the way my old one did. So I'm trying to factor that in, and imagine what it will be like to use it later, but it's not easy.

I was able to register with AT&T, choose a service plan, get a phone number, and make a phone call. I was able to use Google Maps to locate my house, and while YouTube was slow, and so was the email app, even though both were running over my fast wifi as opposed to the relatively slow AT&T network, they were all usable and useful, and in some cases represent features the Blackberry doesn't have, and would be nice to have. But there are optimizations I hope Apple makes soon.

This is my fifth iPod, and it works differently from the last one. I like to use my iPod with manual synchronization, but that doesn't appear to be possible with this one. I'm not happy about that! I have my iPod act down, and I want to use this relatively small one (it has just a 4GB capacity) the same way I use my larger, 60GB video iPod. It doesn't seem possible.

Look, all the other people reviewing the iPhone are gushing. I just don't have that in me, at least at the beginning.

And there's a major usability problem with the Safari web browser, it's hard to believe that Apple didn't see and fix this problem before shipping, because it seems to make all websites unusable in the default configuration, with the default font choice, and there doesn't seem to be a way to change their choice of font. Is it possible they made this choice so that the TV commercial would look good, and forgot to test the browser the way real people will use it? I must be missing something??

(After watching the commercial I have an idea how this might work. There seems to be a tapping interface that makes the text larger. Hmmm.)

Given that all developers are going to be using Safari as their development platform, this problem seems vexing.

I took a couple of screen shots to illustrate.

Here's my Blackberry, in its default configuration, being used to read this weblog. You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

The Blackberry isn't very stylish...

And here's the same site on my iPhone. My eyesight isn't great, but I can't imagine even someone with perfect eyesight being able to read this.

The iPhone is elegant...

Has anyone figured out how to change the default font size in Safari?

Postscript about "initial" reviews.

Dan Gillmor: "This feels like a beta product."


Last update: Saturday, June 30, 2007 at 10:16 PM Pacific.

Dave Winer, 52, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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Scripting News

On This Day In: 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997.

June 2007
May   Jul

Things to revisit:

1.Microsoft patent acid test.
2.What is a weblog?
3.Advertising R.I.P.
4.How to embrace & extend.
5.Bubble Burst 2.0.
6.This I Believe.
7.Most RSS readers are wrong.
8.Who is Phil Jones?
9.Send them away.
10.Negotiate with users.
11.Preserving ideas.
12.Empire of the Air.
13.NPR speech.
14.Russo & Hale.
15.Trouble at the Chronicle.
15.RSS 2.0.
16.Checkbox News.
17.Spreadsheet calls over the Internet.
18.Twitter as coral reef.
19.Mobs of the blogosphere.
20.Advice for Campaigns.
21.Social Cameras.
22.The Next Big Thing.
23.It's time to open up networking, again.
24.Am I competing?

Teller: "To discover is not merely to encounter, but to comprehend and reveal, to apprehend something new and true and deliver it to the world."

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