Ben Brooks on the Potential Lure of Windows 8

Ben Brooks:

Last night I saw an ad for Best Buy that features a convertible Microsoft laptop of some sort and I have to say, I can see the appeal of that for people. For example I am tapping this out in my iPad, sitting in a vacant office space waiting for a service technician — this is something I do often. I have my iPad 3 with LTE, my iPhone 5 with LTE, and my retina MacBook Pro all here. Yet I’m only using the iPad, because at a moments notice I will need to get up and meet a technician. With my laptop that means I’d have to close it up and stuff it carefully back in my bag. The iPhone is too small for typing like this, so I go with my iPad, but I would be done with this post already if I had a keyboard for the iPad, then again that’d be silly because my retina MacBook Pro is right here.

Easily one of the most unexpected articles I ever would've expected to see from Ben. And I mean that in a very admirable and positive manner.

The newfound Microsoft philosophy is, as I've written before, not without its allure for even the most staunch of Apple advocates. Although I suspect it will take some time for Windows 8 and this conceptual shift to gain traction, if Microsoft is able to win over — or at least intrigue — people like Ben, then it could well find success sooner rather than later.

Of course, beyond the interesting notion of a versatile computing experience, Microsoft and its partners must deliver upon such a bold idea. And, at the time of writing, they have not yet done so.

So, I certainly hope Ben's concluding "maybe" evolves into something more concrete. I'd be genuinely fascinated to hear his thoughts on the topic, particularly if he were to rely upon a so-called "hybrid" device for an extended period of time.

The New Brooks Review Business Model

Ben Brooks:

Simply put: I hate the business model of this blog, well actually I hated the business model of this blog.

The monetization of Internet content is easily one of the most compelling, rich, and fascinating narrative threads occurring within the online writing community today. On a daily basis, discussions seem to sporadically ignite concerning the nature of advertising, sponsorships, and membership drives.

Yet, despite the excessive volume of discussion, few people dare to embark upon a measurably new path. Although reticence is certainly comprehendible with regard to career stability, the publishing sphere is ripe for disruption, and those who dare to experiment are likely to be well-rewarded.

Today, Ben Brooks has implemented a pseudo-paywall system for his site, The Brooks Review. Admittedly, when I heard the term “paywall,” my immediate reaction was of sincere pessimism. Experiences with The New York Times, The London Times, and The Wall Street Journal have each left me with rather bitter sentiments for paywall implementations.

And yet, Ben has embarked upon this path intelligently. Rather than simply following the industry standard, Ben evidently took a long, hard look at the pre-existing paywall landscape, and has sought to improve the situation. Offering a number of novel intricacies to the equation, Ben has contributed something measurably new to the discussion. Regardless of any degree of success, I believe the contribution is of the utmost importance, and Ben has certainly made one today.

Thus, despite any divergence of opinion between myself and Ben in matters of technology and business, I cannot help but tip my hat toward his bold decision today. Independent writers are increasingly shaping the landscape for intelligent discourse, and monetization — for better or worse — is an integral element of such an equation. Rather than simply perpetuating the status quo, Ben has embarked upon something unique, and that’s certainly deserving of praise.

Further information is available from The Brooks Review Membership Page.

Misjudging Free


Yesterday, following Read It Later’s pivot into a less discriminatory “for later” service, Pocket, the Internet was abuzz with discussions of presumed ill-intent and accusations of poor business practices. Federico Viticci and Ben Brooks had a (presumably) amiable back and forth between their respective weblogs, and Twitter was filled with commentary.

For my part, I wrote an article back in February that aptly articulates my feelings on the matter. Entitled, “Fearing Change,” I wrote:

Embracing change allows for a dialectic discussion between innovation and the status quo. Without this conversation, things cannot and simply will not improve for anyone. In that light, wedging one’s head into the sand and swearing off anything different is absolutely pointless.

The world is a much better place once you snap out of an apprehensive and confused state - once you open the curtains and view the world for what it really is. Hiding under the covers and refusing to acknowledge anything beyond your desired state of affairs is cowardly, not constructive, and contributes absolutely nothing to the betterment of the situation.

Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but fear of it certainly is.

The presumption — without justification — that a company will hurt you and your interests betrays an infrastructure of fearful thinking. Moreover, it is not in keeping with the nature of the age in which we live.

Business is currently a hot bed for rampant and dazzling innovation. Holding oneself back from embracing such change, particularly when relying upon pessimistic and cynical presumptions, merely serves to stunt the aforementioned “dialectic.” Furthermore, given the ever-changing nature of the Internet, swearing off perceived imperfections in business practices inevitably paves a path toward disconnected isolation and paranoia.

We no longer live in a world in which commerce is characterized by the simplistic exchange of currency for a product or service. Instead, the Internet has given rise to utterly new forms of revenue generation. Although, arguably, many of these methods are inherently flawed, I have faith that such problems are merely indicative of the Internet’s continued growing pains.

Moreover, many of the Internet’s most prominent innovators have an insatiable desire to develop fantastic new services. In doing so, there is a perpetuated adrenaline rush leading toward the inevitable release of said service. During this time, I imagine pondering the nuances of business models and monetization are rather low on the list. Instead, people simply want to bring something inherently good and new to their audience. Perhaps that causes problems down the line but, rather than feeling resentful toward such innovation, I feel endlessly grateful. Without the blind maneuvering of innovators, we’d be left with few of the Internet’s most prominent services.

Thus, I choose not to view the innovation and imperfections of various services in a fatalistic light. Rather, I choose to embrace the discussion, enjoy what is new, and to foster an accordingly greater understanding and ever-increasing quality of life.

With specific regard to Pocket, I’m admittedly impressed. Although I have unsuccessfully courted and experimented with Instapaper-competitors for years, I tend to think Pocket has latched onto an intelligent and important point of attraction. Rather than focusing upon text, Pocket foregoes any specific allegiance to a particular medium. Instead, Pocket is a colorful, enjoyable, and useful window onto the Internet in its entirety. In many respects, Pocket fills the gap between “for later” services and Pinterest. Perhaps that is uninteresting to some but, for me, I find it thoroughly compelling.

Advice For The Aspiring Blogger

Yesterday, Ben Brooks and Shawn Blanc recorded episode 39 of their talk show, 'The B&B Podcast.'

While the show is worth regularly listening to in its own right, yesterday's episode is a veritable treasure trove of advice for the aspiring blogger.

When initially starting out, I spent a significant amount of time writing to renowned writers (including Ben and Shawn), and the advice received has been invaluable. Although I wouldn't recommend flooding your favorite writers with such requests, I'd certainly suggest heeding their advice when they offer it.

As such, hearing the two of them discussing their craft on their talk show is a great, accessible opportunity for people to learn some fundamental lessons about writing (without smothering anyone with emails).

Check it out here.

Ben Brooks Reviews the Fitbit

Ben Brooks:

And that’s not what the Fitbit, UP, et al does. Save your money, because these activity tracking devices are about as good as the Palm Treo was when all we were looking for is an iPhone.

If you can't tell, Ben is unimpressed. And justifiably so, after his experience with the Fitbit. For instance, I was unaware that the extra functionality came at an annual premium. Absurd.

Having said that, I've been using a Jawbone UP for the past week or so, and I must say -- I'm a fan.

Although wearing a rubber bracelet takes some getting used to, I find the statistics and information the UP provides to be pretty interesting. While Ben is, of course, right, and the information is cast askew due to the hardware's limitations, the numbers are nonetheless influential in terms of keeping track of your health.

As Shawn Blanc said in his review:

The UP is certainly not for hard-core health nuts and exercisers who want something scientifically accurate. The UP is for average folks who want to have a better idea of how active they are — or are not — and who want to use the high-level data the UP provides them as a way to make daily and lifestyle changes regarding their activity.

My experiences perfectly echo Shawn's sentiments. That is not to say I disagree with Ben, I simply have different expectations of such devices.