Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Best iPhone App Review Site, Reviewed

Actually, it's not just the best iPhone app website, it's also the only one I've seen that's any good at all. One might imagine that anyone setting out to help users sift through the 85,000+ programs now available via Apple's app store would take a cue from the gadget itself by creating a website that's reasonably simple and intuitive. Instead, pretty much all of the dedicated app review sites available are bloated, hard to use, and ugly.

In contrast, First & 20 takes a simple idea and executes it beautifully: it has asked a growing collection of "designers, developers and tech writers" to provide a pic of their iPhone home screens and to write a little about some of the apps they use most. The website's simple design also takes many cues from the iPhone's user interface. But most of all, it answers the first question if want to ask anyone with an iPhone: what apps do you like and use the most?

Of course, it would be even better if the net was widened a little to include people from some other, less techie industries. Judging by the choices up there right now, you'd be forgiven for thinking that everyone who uses an iPhone is also obsessed by Twitter (the two most popular apps are Tweetie and Birdfeed). And the running count of white/black phones seems rather superfluous. But, these small grumbles aside, I love it simply for introducing me to a bunch of excellent apps people with brains actually use.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Last Post: When and How to Close a Blog

I've just posted the final entry on my other blog Strange Things Will Happen. I started it a couple of years ago when I moved to the States from Britain, and it was my first adventure in blogging. Closing it was therefore a difficult decision to make, but ultimately the central idea -- me writing about life on the wrong side of the pond -- had run out of steam. Over time, the lack of desire to write fresh posts tells its own story. But, after realizing that it's time was up, I decided to finish with a definite full stop rather than just let it die through neglect alone: hence the concluding post.

Still, I feel slightly weird that it will continue to be available online for the foreseeable future. Part of me wants to delete it now, rather than let it grow old and stale in plain sight. But I realize that this is just my inner print journalist talking. Sure, libraries always do their best to make sure printed copies of newspapers and magazines don't ever disappear completely, but prior to around 1996 the effort you would have to make to find any publication more than a few months old meant that, to all intents and purposes, it had ceased to exist. The same is still true for many print-only publications. Being put in an archive box or relegated to microfiche may not be death, but it's close enough.

Here online, everything stays as it is -- or at least it's supposed to. Google is even digging up old books and resurrecting their pages through the god-like power of scanning. Soon nothing will disappear, and everything will be available with a few taps of a keyboard -- unless one of those taps is marked "delete," that is.