Archive for “July, 2011”

iOS App Loopcam and the Animated GIF

Oh Internet, look how far you’ve come. From AOL optical disks, IRC chat rooms, GeoCities and <blink>questionable design standards</blink> to celebrity profiles, Klout scores and rounding web company valuations to the nearest billion, you’ve seen a lot.

Throughout these times of exponential growth, dynamic change and elevated user expectations, one lone image format continues on, leaving smiles in it’s wake. I’m of course, talking about the Graphics Interchange Format, more commonly known as GIF.

GIF animated banners were a hallmark of the 1990’s Information Super Highway. Often garish and obnoxious, they prompted users to BUY NOW or CLICK HERE with moving images at a time pre-dating HTML5, Flash rollovers and YouTube.

Yet time marches on. And on today’s modern web, the GIF is technically flawed. It’s palette is limited to a spectrum of only 256 colours and it’s file size can become considerably large as new frames are added for increasingly more complex animations. These technical limits, and the death of the GIF’s most popular authoring tool Adobe ImageReady in 2005 played a key role in the formats descent from the public eye.

Until now.

Largely credited to the runaway success of Tumblr, the GIF is beginning to make it’s return to computer screens across the globe. Today’s GIF is supercharged. Gone are the days of banner ads or Peanut Butter Jelly Time, the GIF’s of today are personal short stories told in only a handful of frames.

Introducing Loopcam.

At the time of this post, the freshly pressed iOS app Loopcam might still be news to some. Introduced as a free App to the store in July of 2011, Loopcam let’s users create GIF-loops on the go and share them with their friends across networks like Twitter and  Facebook.

In addition to basic social sharing capabilities, users can also post their GIF-Loops to a shared Loopcam branded Tumblr where uploaded GIFs can be tagged with a username. By linking directly to the tag, users can in essence, hack their way towards a custom profile.

I’ll be completely transparent here. When first using the app, I felt it was missing something more “social”. Perhaps I was expecting something closer to Instagram, where I have an established profile, I can follow friends, add comments and so on.

Yet despite not meeting my expectations initially, I still couldn’t pull myself away from the app and began to realize that Loopcam is a social network (of sorts). It’s not a full blown offering with mass amounts of VC funding and hype like we’ve come to expect but rather a hand-rolled social offering reminiscent of web efforts from a forgotten time.

As if it were mirroring the struggles of the GIF format, Loopcam is also technically limited, yet it’s making excellent use of free web services like Tumblr to remain viable in today’s social web. And yet again, smiles continue to be left in the wake as Loopcam user-base continues to grow daily.

Call it nostalgia or simply a desire to root for the underdog, the fact remains, Loopcam is new, on the rise and trailer loads of fun to use. It’s taught me to not always expect that new web offerings be fully baked and sometimes, it’s the limitations and idiosyncrasies of a service that truly defines it’s value.


Joining the Board of the Empire Club of Canada!

I’m so very pleased to announce that I have been elected to the Board of the Empire Club of Canada, effective September, 2011!

In case you’re unfamiliar with the Empire Club, it’s:

“One of Canada’s oldest and largest speakers’ forums with a membership comprised of some of Canada’s most influential leaders from the professions, business, labour, education and government. Over its history it has been addressed by more than 3500 prominent Canadian and international leaders – men and women who have distinguished themselves in many fields of endeavour.”

This year, their aim is to bring in speakers who have bold ideas about the world’s biggest challenges. One of my charges, as a member of the Board, is to suggest speakers for the upcoming year. Just to give you some context, past speakers include Winston Churchill, Indira Gandhi and the Dalai Lama (do click on the links – they have a great archive of transcripts from past speakers).

I also look forward to bringing a little social savvy to the Club as well – more on this later!

So here’s the question – with special focus on diversity of background and voices – who do you think I should nominate for this year?

What is Google+?

Recently I’ve been thinking that social networks are getting a little too messy. I’ve felt it’s time for another big shift in how people communicate, and I’d love to see companies start to pull all the small pieces together – That’s why I’m so interested in the new Google+ project.

Google + image

Google has attempted many things to encourage users to spend more time using Google products doing activities other than searching. While Gmail, Chrome and Android have been very successful, we all remember the flop known Google Wave. On Tuesday, June 26th, Google started a very limited field test for their latest social network project, Google+,and unveiled the first five features: Circles, Hangouts, Instant Upload, Sparks and Huddle.

Please see the video below for a quick tour:


Everyone is saying that the project is Google’s answer to Facebook. However, there are couple of signs showing that it could be much, much more than that. Google+ could be the centerpiece to Google’s entire strategic map to link search, social, and mobile together in a seamless and intuitive package.

Google+ was developed by Google’s internal team, unlike Google Wave, which was outsourced to an Australia-based team in 2009. Google+ is the result of a year-long project led by Google’s SVP of Social, Vic Gundotra, and hundreds of Google engineers. It involves almost EVERY Google product. Google is already showing a very strong commitment to this project.

Google made significant changes to its user interface (UI), likely in order to accommodate Google+.  And remember, historically Google has been really conservative in changing their minimalist webpage, adding a black navigation bar at the top is definitely a big step for them.

Google+ is also a mobile app. By making use of Android’s dominance in the mobile OS market, Google+ has the potential to become an integral part of the Android experience, and will easily end up in the hands of all the existing users.

The key for Google is to figure out how to leverage the huge number of Gmail users. They have to identify and focus on people’s real needs for a social network, while providing the best product experience that links social, search and mobile together.

Here is the question I’ll leave for everyone: Do you think you that you will ‘hang out’ more on Google than Facebook?

P.S. Check out the Google+ virtual tour to see more videos and experience it yourself !