OK, so I’ve decided the weekly thing isn’t going to work. Rather I shall seek to write when I can and publish when it’s worth reading.
The nature of search
I’ve known this for a while but it has recently been front of mind. Modern search engines are all but useless for finding esoteric details about popular products.
Search for “how to set iPhone wallpaper not from photos” and you’ll get endless numbers of “tutorials” on how to set your iPhone wallpaper from Photos. Try “how to authorise app to iCloud” and you’ll get nothing of the sort. Amidst numerous articles written at the launch of iCloud, you’ll find endless “tutorials” on how to authorise iTunes to your account.
I put “tutorials” in quotes because so many of these helpful tips are little more than common sense. Sure, there are a lot of non-techie users out there who won’t know where to go, but will they be searching online for the answer? My guess is they’ll ask friends, or figure it out for themselves, or just go without.
Another thing… why do SO MANY people think it’s a good idea to publish their own version of such simple tasks? It’s a fair bet Apple will have instructions, though they may often be a little dry. It’s a very safe bet that iMore, HowToGeek, MacRumors, and many more mainstream sites will have something with a little more humanity.
Finally, there should be a law about having to include a date — including the year — on every how-to post. Software, hardware, and operating systems change a lot over time and much of what is written ages out very quickly. I don’t begrudge it still being there, I just want to know how old it is. And what’s with those people who put the date without the year?
Each to their own, I guess, but all this creates a lot of noise in search engines which, I believe, colours their results. It seems to me that the more times a topic has been written about, the more likely the search engine will consider it is the answer to my question. Increasingly, it isn’t.
Yes, yes, yes. iOS, macOS, bugs, yada yada. Although I’m suffering some real doozies at the moment, that’s not what this segment is about.
I was walking out of Wellington Railway Station the other morning when I spied some kind of display comprised of a number of banners, several people standing around, and a large TV screen. On the TV screen was a fairly good 3D rendition of part of the local railway system.
It turned out the whole thing was promoting some upcoming infrastructure upgrades that involved duplicating the remaining single-line section of the Hutt Valley line. I got speaking to one of the chaps who explained what was on the screen.
“We’ve designed the entire project in 3D (sic) so we decided to try to pull out something and make it like a game so the public could get an appreciation of the work.” He offered me what looked like an X-Box controller, which controlled the direction and location of the “camera” over the scene, as trains whizzed past on the digital tracks.
Except, my attention was almost immediately taken by the birds. This rail line begins right alongside Wellington Harbour and then essentially parallels the Hutt River, so the sight of seagulls is common. It’s just… in the real world, the gulls tend to fly facing forwards.
There were numerous gulls flying through the scene — all travelling parallel to the railway line, and all facing 90 degrees to it, flying sideways. I remarked upon this and was told I was the first person to mention it. I suggested there was perhaps a stiff southerly to explain the anomaly. (The line runs essentially north-south.)
Bugs. They’re everywhere.
That concludes this edition of Echoes. The comments are open, but will be moderated for civility. Alternatively you can hit me up on Twitter, where I go by @zkarj.