Piggies for tomorrow

piggy bank

Piggies are for saving!

My piggy is Instapaper, Pinboard and Evernote, where I bookmark all the things that my ADD head says, “Oh I’ll want to read this later.” But when does later come? I think it’s tomorrow, and when I realize that, I figure heck! What was I worried about? I can look at that tomorrow? So when does tomorrow actually arrive? And then I realize that it never comes. (!!!!!) And so I go look at the content I want in my piggy, and it bleeds into my browser...slowly, oh so slowly, and I curse Comcast and I open a new tab and go to Feedly while I’m waiting to see what new might be there, and oh there is! So I start reading there and bookmark the interesting bits to Instapaper, Pinboard and Evernote....

And then I open a tab to Facebook...which does not allow piggies, where content floats by like cottonwood puffs on the wind and I watch it flit this way and that, and I say, “Oh, that’s pretty!” and then it’s gone, and piggies aren't allowed, no, I’m not supposed to remember, I’m not supposed to save these puffs, because there are more puffs, new puffs and old puffs that whirled around and came back again all on their own, and I must now see those now because I must not, may not, cannot save any for tomorrow. For there is no tomorrow on Facebook. There are no piggies allowed.

Second screen

It's not that we need a second screen, it's that we have an inadequate first screen.

If we're watching a great movie, we're engrossed, swept away. We're not even thinking about the phone in the pocket or purse. We're not wondering what's happening on Facebook or Pinterest. We're not even thinking about that.

That's the point, isn't it?

Previewing Google Wave and Twitter Lists

One of the wisdoms in web application development is "Release early and often."

Google and Twitter have both released software "tests" to select hundreds of thousands of users, both with the idea that there will be problems, but let people try them out, and then improve the software iteratively, based upon real-life user experience.

This is my first blush impression of these previews I've been privileged to explore this week.

Get on my Wave!

I've been trying Google Wave for this past week now. It's been a bit hard, since hardly anybody I know is on Google Wave, and of all the people I invited, only two have received invites so far. (I got 8 "invitations" that turned out actually to be "nominations" once sent. Sorry, Google, but invitations and nominations are different things.) So I've had only limited exposure to what Wave might offer. One on one, it's pretty much a glorified instant messenger.

Google Wave public waves

Then I was tipped to searching for "with:public" ... which brings in results every wave that has been posted for the public. There I found all kinds of waves on all kinds of topics.

Popping into random, seemingly interesting waves reminds me of the early CompuServe days, wandering around chatrooms, communicating with random people. Wave does afford the opportunity to get more in these wave connections than you might in a text-only IRC-style chatroom, but it takes time to engage. Do you have an abundance of time? I don't.

The biggest user experience change in what people might be used to is that you can see other people typing their messages in real time, as they type. You learn quickly can type and who bumbles around, who can do stream-of-consciousness and who is constantly editing every few words.

Shira Abel (whom I met on Wave) likes this real-time aspect:

And while some people would hate seeing what someone is writing while they are typing I’ve actually liked it from the few conversations I’ve had on there. It allows you to see the thought process – how fast or slow someone is typing shows how strongly they feel about something. Whether they take something out before pressing enter shows even more. Seeing the typing while it’s happening is the tone of the message. However, I would recommend that Google make the option to not see the typing for the Robert Scoble’s of the world – but please keep it for me. Living in Israel so far away from many of the people I collaborate with, having that little extra bit of psychological insight is actually very helpful in my opinion.

One of the biggest problems with Wave is getting drowned in wave after wave of threads (or "waves"). You have to create folders to organize them or you'll just get lost.

And call them waves all you want, it's pretty hard to surf them. Linking to other waves involves finding the other wave and drag-and-drop.

Google's help docs are their typical weak, uninformative obviousnesses that don't really illuminate much of anything. Embedding waves outside of the wave system is, so far, an arcane procedure I have not yet discovered yet. I'm still wondering how to install a robot. Maybe I'm not enough of a geek for this preview?

Bonnie Sandy seems to have made more headway:

Extending the functionality…

(Psst! It's all one platform)

That's the message that Robert G. Picard seems to miss in "Blogs, Tweets, Social Media, and the News Business":

Judging from their widespread adoption, it’s hard to find a technology that news organizations don’t embrace. Read the Los Angeles Times on Kindle.

"Technology Diminishes Journalists’ Value"Watch ABC News on YouTube. Leave a comment on a blog about media and marketing from the Chicago Sun-Times. Listen to a podcast of “On Science” from National Public Radio. Participate in a discussion board hosted by The Washington Post about college admissions. Receive SMS news about the Dallas Cowboys from The Dallas Morning News. Get features from Time on a PDA and tweets of breaking news from CNN.

The mantra for news organizations is to be anywhere, anytime, on any platform. But is this strategy really a good idea? In an era when the business models for news are stressed, hard thinking should be done in assessing the opportunities that various technologies present. It isn’t the time merely to be copying what others are doing.

Tough questions must be asked to figure out which of the new technologies is beneficial for journalism and the business of journalism. Is each one equally useful? What are the real costs in staff time and the operating costs to be on the various platforms? What is actually achieved for the news organization in being there? Does every news organization need to be active on all of the platforms? Finally, how can a news organization achieve optimal benefit across platforms?

The answers we find might lead to deciding which of these technologies to employ.

I beg to differ. The way I see it, it's all one platform, one technology. What Picard is talking about is really a matter of context, not platform. These things he's describing are not things, not platforms, but merely doors into the big platform.

After all, all of these digital means of consuming news feed off of the Internet, and the Internet is a lot more than just a delivery system. We connect with each other in this realm. We share information in this realm. We recommend to each other in this realm. And what we do in one context appears elsewhere. It's all interconnected. Networked. Internet-worked.

In fact, the Internet is not even the thing. "We" are the thing.

It's a mistake to think of Twitter and Kindle and blogs and so on as different "platforms." They are all tools of one big machine. Different levers and buttons on the big machine.

And this is all the more true when you consider that peer-to-peer is a strengthening paradigm into the future, as Andy Oram wrote recently:

Recurring outages on major networking sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn, along with incidents where Twitter members were mysteriously dropped for days at a time, have led many people to challenge the centralized control exerted by companies running social networks. Whether you're a street demonstrator or a business analyst, you may well have come to depend on Twitter. We may have been willing to build our virtual houses on shaky foundations might when they were temporary beach huts; but now we need to examine the ground on which many are proposing to build our virtual shopping malls and even our virtual federal offices.

No, Google is not a monopoly

First, some context

Henry Porter, an opinionator granted a regular podium by the Guardian, has written a bit of a rant claiming that we're victims of Google, a "monopoly."

Google presents a far greater threat to the livelihood of individuals and the future of commercial institutions important to the community. One case emerged last week when a letter from Billy Bragg, Robin Gibb and other songwriters was published in the Times explaining that Google was playing very rough with those who appeared on its subsidiary, YouTube. When the Performing Rights Society demanded more money for music videos streamed from the website, Google reacted by refusing to pay the requested 0.22p per play and took down the videos of the artists concerned.

It does this with impunity because it is dominant worldwide and knows the songwriters have nowhere else to go. Google is the portal to a massive audience: you comply with its terms or feel the weight of its boot on your windpipe.

The article is full of these kinds of claims, all largely based on what seems to be either a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the Web, or a lack of understanding of the word "monopoly."

The core of Porter's ignorance, willful or not, is revealed in this statement:

Despite its diversification, Google is in the final analysis a parasite that creates nothing, merely offering little aggregation, lists and the ordering of information generated by people who have invested their capital, skill and time.

This is true only if you think that things exist on their own, and that their relationships to you, their relationships to each other, do not exist, or are not worth looking at, let alone making available for use -- let alone making relevant to our day-to-day lives.

Google provides a means of finding relevance in that sea of stuff out there on the Web. It's like a mega-index of the "book" of the Web. That relevance was largely hidden from us before search engines. To find relevance, one had to ask friends, browse libraries, analyze the Dewey Decimal System, dig up Yellow Pages, rummage through desk drawers to find that one tidbit of information you want right now.

That is hardly "nothing."

In 1787 Thomas Jefferson wrote: "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter."

Thomas Jefferson was also against a strong judiciary, which in hindsight sounds pretty foolish, imho. But Jefferson aside, there's no indication that what newspapers are in function -- delivery systems for filtered information -- is not going anywhere. It's just the newspaper industry, and the infrastructure and market that enabled the paper to be printed, that is going away. News is still happening. It's just that how we're getting it is changing.

There is a brattish, clever amorality about Google that allows it to censor the pages on its Chinese service without the slightest self doubt, store vast quantities of unnecessary information about every Google search, and menace the delicate instruments of democratic scrutiny.

I don't like how US-owned search engine companies are going along with the Chinese Government's restrictions on the Internet, either, but let's be clear: It's the Chinese government that is censoring the Internet. Google is going along with it, along with much of the rest of the American economy, let's face it. This is about corporate collaboration with government constraints on what we consider "American values," and not about a Google monopoly or how Google is anything but pretty darned typical these days.

Whither Twitter? Silicon Valley businesses pressured to do business

Every morning I reach for my iPhone to get the latest news from Bloomberg. (I'd probably go to the NY Times first, but their app is still far too unstable and slow to be of much use.) This morning, one headline jumped out at me:

Twitter Shuns Venture-Capital Money as Startup Values Plunge

Well I had to read that article. And it seems to hint at the piercing of the Silicon Valley Bubble -- not a floating bubble leading to a crash, but rather the isolation bubble, like Bubble Boy. What? Silicon Valley is Bubble Boy?

Evan Williams raised $22 million in funding for Twitter Inc., a Web site used by everyone from Britney Spears to Starbucks Corp. to Barack Obama. Sales? Those could come later -- that was, until the economy tanked.

Twitter may charge companies for access to its users so it doesn't have to ask venture capitalists for more cash, said Williams, the company's chief executive officer. As the value of Internet companies plunges this year, investors are asking for a bigger chunk of the startups they invest in.

"The VCs have the money, but they'll just negotiate harder," said Williams, who sold his previous venture, Blogger, to Google Inc. in 2003. "I want to manage things so I don't have to raise money in 2009."

In the rest of the tech world, and in the business world in general, making money is the first goal. No matter what else you are trying to achieve with your business, you need to make money so you can do the other things you want to do.

Which brings me to the Bubble. Silicon Valley has been this odd duck in the business world: An entire metropolitan region driven largely by R&D. In the Silicon Valley Bubble, the demands upon most businesses regarding sales revenues are largely removed from the environment. The dominant business model? Raise capital, then burn that capital in development of the FooBar Widget (as an imaginary example), hoping you get bought by Google or Microsoft before you run out of money. The real product is not the FooBar Widget, it's the company itself, and the targeted buyer is a new media or tech corporation with deep pockets and a hunger for new ideas.

It's a wonderful sub-economy, this Bubble, if you think about it. And necessary to cultivate many kinds of innovation.

Matt Marshall is blunt:

Last time, circa 2001, the entire VC industry got a “get-out-jail-free card” after the Internet bubble burst. That’s because the scores of new firms created in the late 1990s argued they should be forgiven for any poor performance — it was the bubble’s fault, and everyone was affected. Their investors — chief among them, the elite university endowments –agreed, and gave the VC firms more money to invest again. With most VC funds lasting for ten years, this ensured the VCs a very long life indeed.

He predicts that half the VCs will go under in the current economic turndown.

Barak Rabinowitz has an interesting post on how this paradigm shift is happening in the face of an un-tapped market.

There’s an elephant in the room of online advertising. An elephant in the shape of 400 million social networkers creating and consuming content, clustering around shared interests and activities — all who have yet to be tapped in any major way by web marketers.

Brave new world? The creepy "clowd" and the loss of privacy

I got a chill reading this post from Seth Godin:

So, very soon, you will own a cell phone that has a very good camera and knows where you are within ten or fifteen feet. And the web will know who you are and who your friends are.

What happens?

What happens is that you have no privacy. Seth sees a big upside.

See a dangerous driver? Send a video snippet to the clowd. The clowd collates that with a bunch of other shots of the same driver... busted.

And the clowd also knows where you are, camera or no camera. So it can tell you when your old friend is just two gates away from you, also wasting time at the airport waiting for her flight. Or it can do Zagats to the ten thousandth power by not only suggesting the best nearby restaurant (based on your food circle of friends) but can also integrate with Open Table and only recommend restaurants that actually have room for you. Or it can let restaurant owners do yield management and find you a table at a good enough restaurant at the best possible price...

This is going to happen. The only question is whether you are one of the people who will make it happen. I guess there's an even bigger question: will we do it right?

If you do what he describes, can it be "right"?

Imagine the feeling of going to the doctor for that private medical condition, and everybody knows. Imagine being stalked by an admirer or resentful ex while you go about your day. Imagine broadcast spam being pushed at you via phone where ever you go. This adds a whole new meaning to the term "cyberbullying."

The drunk driver scenario? On one level, it's a description of being guilty until proven innocent. Everything you do is under scrutiny.

And of course, not all scrutinizers are equal. It's quite obvious that the government and big business will have more scrutinizing power than your snoopy neighbor. Is that the life we want in a free society?

There at least should be a toggle-able opt-in/opt-out, yes? Or are we to live in the Matrix, plugged in with no option, doing our duty by exposing our entire lives to the machine?

To me, the real possibility of this new age is the empowerment of the individual. That's the power of free (as in freedom) exchange of information. That's the power of open source. That's the power of collaboration, mash-ups, crowdsourcing. Empowerment, not simply a cooler, sexier sublimation to the System. Isn't that the real dream? Isn't that the un-tapped economic and cultural goldmine?

Yet another Top 100 list! Cue the crickets!

Now that we mere tech plebes have been blessed with yet another definitive "Top 100" list of bloggers, I can rest and relax, knowing that order has been imposed upon the universe.

...below are the top 100 tech bloggers/authors, based on the total number of headlines they have had on TechMeme from January 1, 2008 to today....Since a lot of the top leaderboard blogs are multi-author, this helps to shake out who’s actually writing the popular stories.

Am I alone in feeling that anybody who claims to be in a position to declare a "Top [capital 'T'] 100" list of bloggers somehow is denying the incredibly diverse reality of the intertubes? Surely there are many ways to measure a "top 100" list besides mentions on a single SV/SHR-centric tech site, no matter how popular. Certainly my list would be different than yours, or TechMeme's. Especially when it comes to tech blogging. Really, most of the really interesting tech stuff is not happening under VC funding -- which I feel renders it all but invisible to most of the SV blogmedia world. Isn't most of what is called "tech blogging" really blogging about venture-financed tech? That's quite a subset of all of technology, and "Top" only in a rather narrow sense.

Maybe they should call it "Top 100 Industry Bloggers"?



No doubt many on this list are very interesting bloggers. For the most part, they haven't crossed my path. Precious few are among the 500 blogs in my RSS reader. I guess I'm just too geeky.

For once, I'm wishing more sites were like PayPal

I'm not a fan of PayPal, with its poor customer service (which is a huge deal when it comes to handling money), but I'm with them on this:

Web payment firm Paypal has said it will block "unsafe browsers" from using its service as part of wider anti-phishing efforts....

...Paypal said it was "an alarming fact that there is a significant set of users who use very old and vulnerable browsers such as Internet Explorer 4"....

...Paypal said some users were still using Internet Explorer 3 , released more than 10 years ago.

IE3?? Holy cow! I don't even think that's loaded on my old IBM Intellistation that's collecting dust in the corner.

Here's a surprise to me:

Paypal said it supported the use of Extended Validation SSL Certificates....

...The latest version of Internet Explorer support EV SSL certificates, while Firefox 2 supports it with an add-on but Apple's Safari browser for Mac and PCs does not.

(Emphasis added.)

The best show on the web, grasshopper

I've seen a lot of interesting stuff on the web, but really, for a regular show with snap, among the best is Epic-Fu. Check this one out from a few weeks ago:

Zadi Diaz has been a star for a while, but I'm just catching on, thanks to TiVo. Fun fun, and often really pretty weird. Good fun stuff.



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