Cloud Four Blog

Technical notes, War stories and anecdotes

Google Launches “My Location”, but Good Luck Using it on your iPhone

Jason has amusing coverage today of Google’s new “My Location” service, which seems to us to be a pretty cool concept, but not without some hiccups:

“According to the news reports, you press zero on your mobile phone while using Google Maps to find your approximate location using cell towers. The iPhone lacks GPS so this new service sounds like a winner.

Except you can’t press zero on your iPhone. There is no zero key to press. There are no keys at all on the iPhone.”

Read more on User First Web!

Cloudies Getting Excited about New Office!

We get our keys to our new office tomorrow, and boy are we excited! I have a feeling that this weekend is going to play out like a movie montage from a bad 80’s flick: mad scenes of painting and hammering and organizing, ending in perfection, of course, after lots of cross-fades and corny music.

Our new digs are in the Olympic Mills Commerce Center (formerly the B&O Building), which is being renovated into green-friendly spaces catering to creative and intriguing tenants. We’ll be across the hall from a bookbinder and an acupuncturist. On the fourth floor–of course!

What We Believe

Despite the fact that we’ve worked together for years, the first thing we did when starting Cloud Four was to make sure that we shared the same values and beliefs. We spent a weekend defining what we expected of each other and who we wanted to be in our relationships with our customers and employees.

Recently, we had a customer tell us that what he valued most about working with us was that he knew that he always got the straight scoop. He said that he knew that we would tell him the truth and give him the best advice even when it wasn’t what he wanted to hear, but instead was what he needed to hear.

There is little feedback that a client could give us that would make us happier. Honesty and integrity top the list of things that we value. Here are some others:

  • We believe that the world is an abundant place. We believe that the world reciprocates generosity. Therefore, we are optimistic about our work and the people we work with.
  • We believe that openness and transparency are the foundations of trust. We will answer any question you have. We will explain how we do what we do and provide visibility into what we are doing every step of the way.
  • We believe in vigorous discussion. Ideas can be tested and challenged without becoming personal. And only through this discussion can the best ideas be found.
  • We believe that our success is tied to the success of our larger community. Our business is nothing more than the people in it, the customers we work with, and the community we live in. Business = People. It’s that simple.
  • We believe that culture is key. Our culture is the embodiment of our values. We treasure our culture and use it to guide our growth.
  • We believe that we can make a difference. We make a difference in the lives of our customers, employees, and community. Call it naive idealism if you like, but we still believe that a small group of dedicated people can change the world.

Finally, we know that we have the best jobs in the world. We love what we do, and we have fun doing it.

If these values resonate with you, you’re likely a dream client or a future employee. Either way, we’d love to hear from you.

Akismet Numbers Paint Picture of Comment Spam

I knew comment spam on blogs was a problem, but I didn’t know quite how much of one until I happened across Akismet’s Zeitgeist page recently.

Akismet is a comment spam protection service that is free to use for non-commercial use and integrated with popular blog software (e.g. WordPress, which we use at Cloud Four).

But I never knew the true numbers before: of the 3.67 billion comments Akismet has seen, only about 295 million are legitimate. That means only about 8% of all blog comments filtered through Akismet are legitimate. That’s kind of grim.

It makes me realize that having Akismet activated for my blog isn’t just a nice-to-have, but a must.

gPhone = Open Handset Alliance

The gPhone isn’t a Google phone. Instead, it is the formation of an alliance to develop an open platform for mobile devices.

The new consortium is called the Open Handset Alliance. The Alliance is formed around the Android platform that Google has contributed to the Alliance. Andy Rubin, Google’s Director of Mobile Platforms, describes Android as:

The first truly open and comprehensive platform for mobile devices. It includes an operating system, user-interface and applications — all of the software to run a mobile phone, but without the proprietary obstacles that have hindered mobile innovation.

If this is true–and the devil is in the definition of “open” as it always is–this could be a substantial development for mobile devices.

UPDATE: According the Open Handset Alliance FAQs, the platform will be released under Apache v2 Open Source License. The code will have a publicly accessible repository. It sounds very open thus far.

Last summer at Web Visions, I had an extended conversation with Kinan Sweidan of Ximda who had presented on determining location using mobile devices. During the conversation, Kinan talked about how difficult it was to develop on mobile devices.

The primary problem seemed to be carriers who don’t see their phones as a platform for other development. Handset manufacturers are beholden to the carriers because their hardware and software are useless if the companies like Verizon and AT&T decide not to allow the phone on their network.

The economics also favor the carriers because the cost of developing a phone is higher than most consumers will pay which is why the cost of the hardware is often underwritten by signing contracts that lock in services. Apple is rumored to receive another $432 from AT&T for every iPhone that is sells.

With this as context, it is possible to see why the Open Handset Alliance could be a game changer:

  1. The price of developing new hardware will presumably decrease because of an open and shared development of the OS. A decrease in handset costs will loosen the hold carriers have on phone manufacturers by decreasing the need for underwriting of phone costs. This does not decrease their stranglehold on their networks. Legislation would be required for change that dynamic.
  2. The combination of Android and Apple’s recent decision to release an SDK may mark a turning point in the understanding that the value of mobile devices will increase as they open up to outside developers.

If the second point has actually come to pass–if in the last few months the mobile industry has woken up to the realization that their future is dependent on becoming a platform for a wide variety of developers–then things will get very interesting very quickly.

The possibilities for mobile devices are astounding. 2008 is shaping up to be a very big year for mobile.