Mike Matas

Really Curious Development…

Mike MatasThis post gets filed under the really curious category.

I’ve followed Mike Matas‘ work since back in 2005, when, as a high school student, he designed Delicious Library. Shortly thereafter he went to Apple and designed UI elements. You have used his work if you have an iPhone, an iPod Touch, or a Mac. His work has impacted the way you physically interact with and perceive these technology tools: see this link, and therefore the way you think.  Over the years I’ve blogged about his work here, here, and here.

His photography and video work are shared on his blog and are stunning—including the way you interact with them on his blog. He stopped working for Apple and toured the world for a time.  You can follow him on Twitter, which is how I knew he was in India.

His most recent endeavor has been co-founding a new startup called Push Pop Press, an ePublishing company for the iPad that published Al Gore‘s latest media-rich book for the iPad, Our Choice.

The news:  Push Pop Press has just been acquired by Facebook. This is interesting to me. What in the world is Facebook up to?  The UI at Facebook has always been functional (basic), not always intuitive, and simply ugly to me.

Push Pop Press’ announcement of the acquisition has this to say:

Now we’re taking our publishing technology and everything we’ve learned and are setting off to help design the world’s largest book, Facebook.

Although Facebook isn’t planning to start publishing digital books, the ideas and technology behind Push Pop Press will be integrated with Facebook, giving people even richer ways to share their stories. With millions of people publishing to Facebook each day, we think it’s going to be a great home for Push Pop Press.

This is a curious and unexpected development. My guess: Facebook’s ability to learn everything they possibly can learn about you is about to become deliciously enticing to use and experience. They just one-upped Google in a huge way, Google being another of the ugliest user interface experiences ever designed (in my humble opinion)—especially considering how much time and effort they put into it!

I have always thought that form is just as important as function.  Without form that well-serves function, function is actually restricted.

Not everyone is taking this announcement as good news, and I certainly understand why they feel the way they do:

…this news frankly bums me out.

We sorely need independent innovation in digital publishing. We need talented people who are willing to try things. Meanwhile, all of the money, attention and technological skill is marching in the opposite direction. Most big media companies with plenty of capital and deep technical talent see few if any reasons to innovate or invest in books.

Surely there are writers with fantastic ideas for new kinds of publications. And many of them could also learn the tools to create these apps on their own. But to paraphrase W.E.B. DuBois, when God makes a writer, He does not always make the pushing sort of person who beats his way through doors thrust in her face.

The ideas are there; the talent is there; the readers are there. But when the three come together, inevitably someone else can figure out a way to use the technology for a different end. The better and more experimental it is, the more likely this is true.

This is not the only reason transforming digital publishing is so difficult today. But it is one of them.

Source:  Tim Carmody’s article at Wired:  This Is Why We’ll Never Have Innovative E-Books