Amazon: You Don’t Own Your eBooks

If all the books on your shelf suddenly disappeared, you’d probably say you’d been robbed. But when a Norwegian woman lost access to her Kindle books without warning, she learned she had never owned them in the first place.

Missouri’s Senate race a statistical dead heat: poll

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) – Democratic Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill holds a slim lead of 2 percentage points over Republican challenger Todd Akin – essentially a deadlock – in a race being closely watched following Akin’s controversial comments on “legitimate rape,” a poll released on Saturday showed.

Ukrainian President Yanukovich’s party set to win poll

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich’s pro-business ruling party seems likely to win parliamentary elections on Sunday, but will face a re-energized opposition which has vowed to fight growing authoritarianism and corruption.

Tablet First, Mobile Second.

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Editor’s note: Tadhg Kelly is a game designer with 20 years experience. He is the creator of leading game design blog What Games Are, and consults for many companies on game design and development. You can follow him on Twitter here.

For the past six months I have owned the epitome of geek chic: an iPad 3 with a Logitech Ultrathin. I bought it because it seemed like a neat and lightweight solution to a persistent back pain problem that I have with laptops. However as I used it, it would draw much attention.

Its appearance on a table in a conference would spark conversations. Clients would stare mystified while I showed them how it worked and then ask where they could get one of their own. Random passers-by would walk up to me at events, on the train or in cafes and start much the same conversation. What kind of wunder-kit is this? How does it work? What kind of battery life does it have? And so on.

Seamless keyboard and touch-screen interaction has been a part of my workflow for a while (to the point that I now hate using laptops), but for most people tablets have basically been content devices. They’re used to watch Netflix in bed or read ebooks in the dark. In the words of one satirical video from the first iPad launch, they have seemed to be little more than a big-assed iPod Touches.

This perception of what tablets are used for also affects how game developers approach them. Studios tend to think “mobile first, tablet second” in their priorities, and with good reason. For one thing, the install base of smartphones is much higher than for tablet. They may be exotic – cool, even – but developers reason that this also means lower sales.

So what they tend to do is create mobile version first and then embiggen them for tablet. Or just not bother with tablet at all, relying on the player to enjoy a magnified version of the mobile app. I don’t just mean for small games from tiny studios. Even comparatively big success stories like Rage of Bahamut still have that mobile-first sensibility.

A tablet is not a stretched-out mobile device. The kinds of interaction that tend to be fun within the tablet environment focus around drawing, multi-touch and direct manipulation of on-screen elements, whereas mobile is more about selecting and tilting. Tablets are also more comfortable to use in landscape mode than portrait (mobile is the reverse), and have more concentrated use-cases: In mobile gaming an individual game session should fit within the period of time spent waiting for a bus, but tablets are often used for sit-down-and-play sessions.

Tablets do not have the same problems of thumb occlusion as mobiles. Many console-style games have found it difficult to translate to mobile because they need a soft joypad, and so your thumbs block the screen. On tablet that’s not nearly as much of a problem (although it still lacks haptic feedback). Conversely, tilting on mobile is a relatively comfortable experience (such as steering in Real Racing), but on tablet is awkward. If, like me, you use stands with your tablet then tilting really does not work at all.

The fluidity of interaction with a tablet is also different to mobile. Smartphones are organised around holding the device in one hand and using the thumb on that same hand to interact. However tablets are either fully held in one hand and interacted with by index finger, or sit in a stand and accept multiple finger input. As I type this article, the screen is within reach. I often reach up to select, move the cursor, cut or copy text – and that happens with much less intermediation than a laptop touchpad.

What this means (for both apps and games) is that the kind of application that works well in one does not work so well in the other. As the market for tablets continues to expand, this also means that that tablet-centric kind of interaction is becoming more important to consider. Multi-column content, for example, and drawing verbs become predominant. Keyboard covers are not yet common for many tablets, but they will be. The first Microsoft Surface is a (flawed for several reasons) case in point. It seeds the idea of keyboard, stand and tablet together.

So if the physical case can be made that tablet games should be thought of as different to – rather than an extension of – mobile, what about the economic argument? Won’t games sell more on mobile, as they already have? This, in my opinion, is not a particularly smart strategy to adopt going forward.

In the last three years Apple has sold over 100m iPads. They still dominate the market, but increasingly there is also competition from Amazon, Samsung, Google and Microsoft. 2-3 years now there may be as many 400m tablets in various configurations out there, going at the current rate. Even the 100m mark is extremely impressive: It’s more than most video game consoles manage.

The price point of software is also an important consideration. On mobile the best price point tends to be very low (Free, or £0.69/$0.99) but on tablet it’s higher. So a tablet user is worth two or more mobile users, if you look at it that way. And given that they are likely to engage for longer periods of time, they are also more likely to be free-to-play customers if that’s your bag. Tablets are a massive market, in other words, but few are the game makers really looking at it that way.

Perhaps the first game that really took advantage of tablet was Draw Something. The mobile version was fiddly and difficult, but the tablet version was beautiful. You could draw awesome shapes, and watch other users do the same, and the size of the form factor simply made it work. Another game that is clearly better on tablet is CSR Racing. The bigger screen lets the cars really shine, and the gear-shifter and accelerator are not sources of thumb occlusion as they on mobile. These games are only just the start, and their attachment to mobile is still strong.

Understanding that tablet is more than just stretched-out mobile leads to all sorts of interesting design challenges. It also creates more of an opportunity to tell a marketing story, or at the very least garner some publicity around new kinds of game. You can delight your users in whole new ways and stand more of a chance of catching Apple’s attention by being powerful, beautiful and without regret.

The real question is: Are you ready to try? Are you willing, as Flipboard did, to go tablet-first and cut down for mobile later? Are you willing to consider game designs that actually don’t work at all on mobile? If you have a larger canvas to work with and new verbs to explore and burgeoning market, are you willing to try and explore that new space rather than the embiggened one you’ve assumed it to be up until now?

Tablets are increasingly ubiquitous, and their influence will only continue to grow. It’s time to get over the big-assed iPod Touch phase and take them seriously.

LinkedIn And The Mutable Rules Of Social Networking

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What is a social network? In general terms, Facebook is a network of friends and family. Twitter is a network of people/things you find interesting. And LinkedIn is a network of colleagues – to cover off a few of the big ones. (I’m still trying to figure out a neat description for Google+ — feel free to add yours in the comments.) But those neat descriptions are simplifications of more complex and changeable realities.

The rules of social networking are mutable. Necessarily so. As the services shift and evolve – to encourage more people to join and do more interacting – your individual use has to change to keep up (or drop off entirely as you abandon the service). And as the size of your network grows it can also demand new rules of interaction that work with a larger audience.

Plus, the more you use a social network, the more it can change you – the more personal info you share on Facebook, say, the more normal sharing that info becomes, maybe encouraging you to share even more. Even if you start out with hard and fast rules a careless click or two can soon reconfigure all that.

With all that in mind I’m curious to know how people approach LinkedIn. What are your rules for connecting with people on LinkedIn? And how have they changed?

I ask because I feel I’m at a juncture where my current rules need updating. When I started using LinkedIn (in 2008) the service put a lot of emphasis on only connecting with people you had indubitably ‘done business with’. Which made it pretty straightforward to decide when to click ‘accept’ and when to pass by on the other side. In any case, the vast majority of LinkedIn requests came from direct or indirect workmates.

But in recent years – and even more so since joining TechCrunch – I’ve been getting increasing numbers of LinkedIn requests from people I haven’t worked with, even tangentially. Sometimes these people are in a similar line of work or in the same industry. And sometimes requests appear entirely random – with no apparent connection at all — and not all look like mistakes/spam. (Being a journalist complicates the picture, of course, since it’s a line of work that necessitates getting in contact with people you don’t know yet.)

Put simply: The old rules of LinkedIn interaction aren’t working anymore.

I must admit to not being a particularly involved user of LinkedIn. Twitter has been my network of choice for years. But taking a fresh look now, LinkedIn looks to have evolved from being a service that links you with the people you work with right now, to one that’s about building networks of people you might work with in future and/or who might be able to facilitate your career in some way.

Which makes perfect sense – that’s what traditional business networking is all about — but it also means using the service requires a lot more thought than it used to, deciding who it makes sense to connect with and who to avoid, on a case by case basis. (Interestingly LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner approached the question of what LinkedIn is from the other way round, when he described it as a service for connecting talent to companies.)

LinkedIn has got a whole lot bigger since I joined – membership has climbed from 32 million to 175 million+ since January 2009. Over the years it’s also incorporated Facebook and Twitter style features such as status updates and Likes, and most recently the ability to follow key influencers – so again, it’s a whole lot more involved than it used to be.

Another way LinkedIn appears to be trying to steer/encourage users to broaden their networks is by polarising the options for responding to connection requests – to either ‘accept’ or ‘report spam’ (though procrastinators can still just ignore the request). 

In an effort to get a sense of how people are using LinkedIn these days, I queried my Twitter followers to ask what their rules for accepting LinkedIn connection requests are – asking whether they A) accept every request they get; B) only accept requests from people they know personally/can vouch for their work; or C) accept requests on a case-by-case basis.

While the responses spanned the range from “I only accept if I have met or spoken to the person” to “Mostly a). Why not?” – most people said they accept requests on a case-by-case basis – presumably connecting with people they haven’t personally worked with where they feel the link might be relevant/useful to them.

But almost as many people said they only accept requests from people they know personally/can vouch for — suggesting a lot of people are still treating LinkedIn as a strictly limited network of current colleagues.

While interesting, this was only a snap poll so I’m keen to hear more views on how people are using LinkedIn — tell me your rules of interaction in the comments.

Judging from this small sample, LinkedIn use appears to be transitioning from a network of ‘known knowns’, to a broader network of ‘unknown knowns’. (And the user uncertainly during this state of flux explains this additional response that was tweeted back to me: “D) only log in every six months, take one look at the list of total strangers wanting to connect, and run back to Facebook.”)

From LinkedIn’s point of view getting more people connecting is essential to continue growing its user-base and therefore its business. Which explains its shift in emphasis from a tight circle of current colleagues to a network of virtual strangers with the potential to further each other’s careers.

But when it comes to getting a large swathe of its user base to get over their aversion to connecting with total strangers — well, there’s clearly some work to be done there.

[Image: vladeb]

Berlusconi threatens to bring down Monti government

ROME (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on Saturday his centre-right bloc may withdraw its support from the government of Mario Monti, a move that could throw Italy into political chaos ahead of next April’s national elections.

Two dead as police clash with protesters in Peru’s capital

LIMA (Reuters) – Two people died and 21 others were injured in Peru’s capital on Saturday as protesters clashed with police trying to shut down a sprawling wholesale market, raising the death toll to four since street battles erupted at the site on Thursday.

In Florida, black churches scramble to get early voters to polls

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) – Errol Thompson, a Baptist pastor in Orlando’s black community, acknowledges that the excitement over Barack Obama becoming the first black U.S. president has cooled.