Reading roundup for Sat Sep 11: Android closed or open, Nokia and dreamers, the media and the Yamuna, bicycle-friendly Portland and more

We begin today by a rant on how, thanks to carriers (mobile operators), Android is often more closed – and more anti-customer – than even iPhone. (“What happens when Verizon won’t update your phone to the latest greatest Android software — not because they can’t, but because they want you to upgrade to a new piece of hardware and sign the new two-year agreement that comes along with it? The game remains the same.”). This is exactly what I’d written in last week’s blog post.

Moving on, this post on HBR.org blog posits that the era of creating the ‘social graph’ – your immediate network and the network around it – is pretty much over, with Facebook and Twitter and Google and  their smaller ilk. Innovators in the next era will use this social graph to create ‘games’ of sorts with our real-life events (“The appointment dynamic is powerful enough to alter the behavior of an entire generation — “happy hours” are appointment dynamics, as is the pervasive game “Farmville” by Zynga. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of what it can do. Imagine… leveraging this dynamic to improve the adherence rate to often less-than-pleasant medicinal regimens, or the government creating a large scale game (with financial incentives as rewards) to alter traffic patterns to decrease highway congestion in the mornings.”) (via @jeanmarsh)

Finally, Businessweek laments that Nokia’s new CEO is just “another suit, and not the dreamer that Nokia needs to beat Apple and Google.” Of course Nokia needs a flagship series of products in the same league as Android and iPhone. But it’s also competing with every single other mobile phone manufacturer at every price point in every geography. Most American commentators miss the much larger pyramid of all cellphone users for the tiny pyramid of smartphone users at its top. It seems to me as though being a phone factory is indeed Nokia’s DNA, and it’s doing a pretty good job with that.

In non-tech, we read this piece in the Indian Express about breathless media coverage of the raging Yamuna river that was supposed to flood Delhi but ended up not raging, and consequently, not flooding. (“he had succumbed to the invitation of a young reporter who, speaking in Punjabi, had urged him to roll up his trousers and get into the water. He had done so, but the river had only lapped his ankles. She had egged him to go farther.”)

Then, a post from a bicycle evangelist in Portland, Oregon about the city’s new 300-mile bicycle network (From a person quoted in the article: “Seriously, y’all. I’m a business person, and this is what I’m hearing: Businesses say they can’t attract workers to come live here if we don’t provide parks, exercise and safe places for their kids to ride. Bottom line: Businesses need fit and healthy employees, not couch potatoes.”) A running theme through the post is bicycle lanes as a shared community resource that fosters connections. Urban India, in spite of a huge, almost omnipresent State, is woefully short of these shared community resources – parks, promenades, benches, lakes, public parking (cars, two-wheelers, bicycles), even sidewalks and toilets. Consequently, Indians are remarkably uncouth, aggressive, callous and ultimately destructive in their use of these resources. They view them not as scarce and therefore valuable pieces of property, but merely items that someone else will grab – and destroy – if they don’t. The State, the looming, all-controlling State sanctions hopelessly inadequate quantities of poor-quality public spaces at zero cost, and urban India treats them as such.

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