The Real Reason You Turn Off Your Phone on the Plane, Ctd.

Jordan Crook, over at CrunchGear, digs into the “why do you turn off your phone on the plane?” story, and finds some interesting, and more concrete, evidence:

In one instance, with two laptops being used nearby, the plane’s clock spun backwards and GPS readings began going off. In another example, altitude details were jumbled until the pilot asked passengers to turn off their gizmos. A Boeing advisor, Dave Carson, believes that the signals radiating from portable electronics can mess with sensors hidden in the passenger areas of a plane, and that those signals are far stronger than what Boeing considers acceptable during a flight.

Interestingly enough, the most dangerous device was the iPad, followed closely by the iPhone and BlackBerry smartphones. New planes with the proper sheathing shouldn’t experience many problems, but Carson claims that phones are a genuine safety hazard on older model air crafts. Whether these incidents were caused by electronics or not, 75 problems over six years isn’t exactly a staggering stat.

Reader See, Reader Buy

Tanzina Vega at the New York Times reports on Hearst’s new digital-magazine development, which lets readers buy the products they see advertised on websites or in apps:

One partnership with Pixazza, a Mountain View, Calif., company that makes images interactive, will allow readers to click on photos and get more information about the products featured in the image. The first brand to use the technology will be Glidden Paint, an Akzo Nobel Paints brand.

Users who visit the Web site for House Beautiful will be able to scroll over the images in photo galleries on the site and see a selection of paint colors similar to the ones in the photo, the name of the paint color they saw in the photo and the paint’s price. From there, users will be able to go the brand’s Web site and, perhaps, make a purchase.

This is such an obvious thing to do that I’m shocked it hasn’t happened yet. You’re reading, say, Wired, and you see an ad for a gadget that you think is cool. Why should it take you eight taps, and four different websites, to buy that thing? If Wired (or any of a million other magazines) could sell it to you right through the app, everyone wins. They’re more likely to get a kickback on whatever they sell directly, advertisers get a new metric of how successful their ads are, and readers get to buy the things they see, instead of having to write it down or clip it in order to get it later. Heck, why stop at ads? If I review a gadget, or write a story about clothes, why shouldn’t you be able to buy what’s being discussed right away?

Of course, this gets messy in a hurry. If part of my goal as a writer or publisher is to get you to buy things (and the more you pay, the better), there are all sorts of associated issues and compromises. But I love the concept here, and I’m betting you’ll see a lot more of it as magazines and newspapers look to make advertising on the Web work.

Without a Phone Number, How Will You Reach Me?

For decades, the way most people knew us was by our phone number. That was how people reached you, period. Now that’s changing, says Nilay Patel over at This is My Next, and Google, Apple and Microsoft are leading the way:

And Google’s now beginning to take the next steps: you can make and receive VoIP phone calls from your Google Voice number using Google Talk on the desktop, Google Talk on Android 2.3.4 offers voice and video calling, and the company just rolled out tight integration with Sprint that replaces the carrier’s voice services with Google’s offering. Taken together, these are no small moves: a Google Voice user on Sprint can make and receive phone calls using their Sprint number from the desktop without using their minutes, a major first in the industry. But all of these advances are still intimately tied to the phone system and phone numbers — and while Google’s managed to abstract the phone number away from the device by building on top of the existing system, none of its services are completely functional unless you’re paying a carrier for a voice plan. Google might well be able to transition its service away from the requirement eventually, but Microsoft and Apple are are trying different tactics entirely.

Nilay makes a lot of interesting points, and I think he’s dead on that the phone number is dying, but I think the broader issue here is the shift in the ways we can be reached. Your “here’s how to get in touch with me” used to be your phone number, and that was it. Now there’s Skype, Facebook, Twitter, email(s), IM(s), and on and on and on – you don’t have one way to be reached anymore, you have five, ten, or more.

We need a single way to be reached, still. Email’s probably the closest thing to the ubiquity of the phone number, but even it has its complications – you’re a name at a domain, not just a seven- or ten-digit number. Facebook and Twitter are vying to be as simple (if Twitter has it their way, I’ll just be @piercedavid all over the Web), but they’re not there yet.

If the phone number’s dead, as Nilay makes an excellent case for, what’s next? Could it still be my phone number, just detached from a single platform? Or will something else come along and become my, er, calling card?

Fixing Email

Chris Anderson (not the Wired Chris Anderson, the TED Chris Anderson) bought the domain, and is looking for input on how to make email stop being both a time-suck and a source of stress and guilt for people. He offers a few things wrong with email, and a few solutions. My favorites:

3. Chose Clear Subject Lines.

Here are some that don’t work:
Subject: Re: re: re: re
Subject: Hello from me!
Subject: next week….
Subject: MY AMAZING NEW SHOW starts next week at the Vctory Theater at 113-86 Broad Lane, every night 8 PM 6/7–7/12

Here are some that do:
Subject: TED Partnership Proposal
Subject: Rescheduling today’s dinner with Sarah G.
Subject: Noon meeting cancelled (eom).

EOM means ‘end of message.’  It’s a fine gift to your recipient. They don’t have to spend the time actually opening the message.

4. Short Does Not Mean Rude!

Let’s mutually agree that it’s OK for emails — and replies — to be really short. They don’t have to include the usual social niceties,  though the occasional emoticon is no bad thing 😉 . No one wants to come over as brusque, so don’t take it that way.  We just want our lives back!

I’m extremely pro-this idea. I spend too much time dealing with email, but more important to me is getting rid of the time I spend feeling bad about email. I’d love to solve that, and I agree with Chris that the only way to do it is to change both how we approach email, and how we write and read them. An email charter is a fantastic idea.

(Via Swiss-Miss)

The Real Reason You Turn Off Your Phone on the Plane

Ina Fried notes a study showing that there might be some truth to the notion that your cell phone could interfere with a plane’s navigational system:

According to a confidential study unearthed by ABC News, a study by the International Air Transport Association trade group found some 75 incidents of potential interference reported between 2003 and 2009. The involved interference with everything from flight controls, to navigation to communications systems. The type of device suspected of causing interference varied, though the most commonly cited likely troublemaker was the cell phone.

Personally, I think this is all a load of crap. First, because words like “likely troublemaker” and “potential interference” abound, and the fact that 75 incidents over 7 years is not a high number (and certainly not a high enough number to call a real sample). There’s just nothing conclusive there, and it seems to me that there’s nothing new being reported.

I also, however, think it’s a load of crap after a conversation I had last night about the real reason we’re asked to turn our phones off. I was flying from New York to Ohio, and spent just shy of three hours talking to the flight attendant while we sat on the tarmac waiting for who-kn0ws-what to happen so we could take off. At one point, I asked about the cell phone thing, because I needed to text Claire, who was picking me up, and tell her that I wasn’t going to be landing for 400 years or so, and I wanted to know if it was okay for me to ignore the announcement that had already been made.

His response was both confident and fascinating. He told me that the reason we’re asked to turn off our phones has nothing to do with interference. The problem that arises when you’re on your cell phone (or any other electronic device, really, especially those involving headphones) is that if there were an emergency, or the captain needed to disseminate information quickly, Guy Chatting on His Phone is both not going to pay attention because he’s on the phone, and he’s going to be talking over the captain and therefore making it harder for other passengers to hear.

This is a guy who’s been working on planes for 20 years, and he told me stories of booking hotels while the flight is heading downward, of having contests to see who’s phone held service at the highest altitude, and all sorts of other stories. And he was positive: your phone will not cause interference issues on the plane. But you should turn it off, for your sake and everyone’s.

Time-Shifting Sports Doesn't Work

Grantland, the new site from ESPN that has completely dominated my Twitter feed for two days now, has some great long-form writing on it (mostly about sports, because of, you know, ESPN and all). But one thing that caught my eye was Chuck Klosterman’s piece about how the DVR changes how we watch sports:

If you watch a game in person, you’re forced to connect with it emotionally (even if you don’t want to be there). If you watch it live on television, the network airing the game tries to compensate for your physical distance by maximizing the pertinent details — they shoot the game from the best possible vantage point, they show replays from different perspectives, and they hire announcers to contextualize what you’re already seeing. But here’s what the networks can’t do: They can’t make you forget what time it is. They can’t trick you into believing that this game is still happening. They can’t make you forget that the outcome of the game has been established and that what you’re now seeing has been scripted by the rotation of the earth. You know this, and you can’t unlearn it.

One of the reasons I’m most glad I don’t have cable is that it’s actually made watching sports more fun, because sports is never something I just have on in the background anymore. If I want to watch a game, I have to make a conscious effort to watch a game. I have to put on pants, leave my apartment, pay six times what it should cost to drink, and spend three hours sitting in a noisy bar when I should definitely be asleep or doing something more productive.

My return for that, though, is that I’ve never been so into sports on TV. I eat the games up, because I’m so invested in them by the time the game even starts. I’m connected to the teams, to the people around me, and to the whole experience in a way that wouldn’t exist if I weren’t at a bar watching it with people, and especially if I weren’t watching it live.

The Dedigitization of Everything

Rob Walker’s got a new gig at the Design Observer, and his first piece is a great one. He writes about how, instead of everything physical being digitized, the digital is now being made physical (physicized? Physicalized? One of those):

On a purely visual level, none of these shapes strike me as intrinsically beautiful or even pleasing, so what’s the appeal? There’s something jokey about bringing a cursor arrow, emoticon, or the all-powerful “like” symbol into the physical world. But there’s something else going on here too, and it’s not the opposite of immaterialism at all. Rather, it’s the inevitable flipside of the same phenomenon. Because like all jokes, these contain a truth: a de facto acknowledgement that the border between the worlds often called “virtual” and “real” is extremely porous.

Some of the examples I’ve taken note of involve characters from video games and the like, but that doesn’t seem particularly different from a Mickey Mouse doll or a Hello Kitty bracelet. I’m more interested in the stuff with no personality at all, referencing the most banal symbols of the screen world (like this pillow with the RSS icon, by Craftsquatch) or even attempts to capture the stuff of digital life that isn’t particularly visual at all (as in this somewhat silly necklace noticed by On The Ground Looking Up, from plastique, featuring the disconcertingly large word “tweet”).

How Technology is Changing Food Writing

Poynter, one of the most consistently interesting sites on the Internet, pulls together food critics’ musings on how technology has changed what they do and how they do it. A couple of interesting perspectives and points here. Ruth Reichl, who used to edit Gourmet magazine:

Everybody has always thought they could be a food critic, that hasn’t changed.

One of the things I like about the “Yelps” of the world is that, as an audience, people can read all these things and read them intelligently instead of just listening to one voice.

One of the big problems I had as a critic was me just wanting to say “I’m just me, I’m just one person.”

Sure, I think about this stuff and I’m trained and I’m educated in this field, but I’m still just one person.

Craig Laban, the critic for the Philadelphia Enquirer, sees both a difference in the food-critic industry that’s driven by technology, and one in the things-to-critique industry:

If you do this long enough, you see the cycles and the fresh faces. Now it’s food trucks, and each restaurant has a farm and they’re making bitters for their own cocktails. More people want to make things for themselves and that makes life a lot more interesting for us. They’re making their own bread and charcuterie and bitters and taking whole animals and breaking them down.

We’re constantly moving forward forward forward, but we still need people who can remember the traditions and remember the food ways that tie us to our history. You don’t want all that to get lost in youthful energy.

Everything You Need to Read About Apple's WWDC Keynote

So Apple had a big event today, on the first day of the WWDC conference, and they launched a ton of new features and products, representing what amounts to a total refresh of iOS. I’ve been reading about this thing all day, and it’s now a big jumble of facts and things that start with lowercase i’s. For my sanity, and yours, here’s what to read to get all the important information:

It was a big day for Apple fans (and a bad one for some developers) – what’d you think? What else is important to know, or read, from today?