Monthly Archives: June 2006

Dodge Caliber is not my friend

Jim Benson picks up a riff on my post below on MySpace in his “Fox ain’t so sly”:

Ed describes the pollution of too many ads on a page or inserted into too many opportunities. But there is equal or perhaps greater pollution of confusing objects with people. On a social networking site, you will rarely ask Dodge Caliber for a restaurant recommendation or to help with a personal problem.

This improper use of “friend” quickly destroys community – which is all MySpace is there for. If Fox were truly sly, they’d come up with another distinction and make it a game to join as many things to you as you could.

This got me thinking about a new network/blog app I’ve started to use, Vox, which gives users a chance to build “collections” of objects (books, music, video, photos) and share them as first-class objects in the system. It’s not much of a stretch to think of someone enthusiastic about their latest shiny toy to link to a few books about it, record a podcast about it, show a video or photos of them using it. That’s not quite the same as being that object’s friend, though – friendship on Vox implies a desire to connect not just to one individual item but to a whole stream of new stuff coming from them.

Is it weird to think of items for sale as similar to people? Jim’s question about whether your car would give you a restaurant recommendation actually is a worthwhile one – certainly, I’d trust it to tell me about out of the way drive-ins, and there’s almost certain some promoter somewhere trying to figure out what the 00’s equivalent of the Levi’s Jeep or the Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer is. My shoes could be friends with my socks! Her perfume writes an advice column! The dinette set in New Jersey gives you a recommendation for a mover. &c.

Everywhere you go, they’re trying to sell you something

This story about MySpace describes the slope that social network applications start heading down once they get big enough. Attract enough eyeballs – 100,000? 1 million? – and you can start to monetize them with advertising. Pull in the really good demographics, and you can start polluting at will.

Business 2.0: How Fox got so sly – Jun. 28, 2006:

Mark Kingdon, CEO of Organic, Dodge’s agency for the experimental campaign, says the response was impressive, and Dodge is considering how to further exploit MySpace by, say, inviting its new friends for a Caliber test drive. “Every other medium is polluted with advertising messages,” he says. “Social networks are a virgin territory.”

For all of its momentum, Levinsohn’s approach has many vulnerabilities. One is the possibility – seemingly more remote by the day, but still there – that MySpace will turn out to be a fad.

Not long ago nobody thought that could happen to Friendster, the pioneer of social networking, which recently offered to sell itself to Viacom for about $20 million, say people with knowledge of the talks. When Viacom (Charts) passed, Friendster came back a few days later with a reduced price of about $5 million. Viacom passed.

Will a MySpace full of ads for cars and soap and hamburgers eventually get so “polluted” that the teeming hordes – or more importantly perhaps, the cool kids and trend setters – move on to some other system?

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with a camera as my guide

The Times’s John Markoff writes a story “With a Cellphone as My Guide” about GPS-enabled phones in Tokyo that let you point at objects and see what they are. The technology from GeoVector is pitched as a way to let you “click on the real world”, using your phone and accurate positioning information as a key in a search for information about local items.

I’m generally skeptical of claims that a closed device like a phone can deliver accurate local information. Typically the way these things are rigged up is that there’s a database owned by some provider of business details, and your search goes into that walled garden. You’ll get the generally positive restaurant description, and not the latest health department report warning you of lukewarm food, when you point at a place to eat. The assumption is that you are a consumer, ready to gulp products and crap some cash. (Otherwise, how do you pay for such a thing?) It’s a free service because it’s only ready to deliver messages that have been paid for by someone else.

The premise of Adam Greenfield’s Everyware is that computing becomes ubiquitous, and all sorts of devices we don’t current think of as being active elements start to light up to guide our attention. Rather than think of the world as a convenient source of queries into a remote database, the perspective is that lots of stuff around you radiates information which you pick up and listen to. That perspective, rather than a query into the all-knowing search engine in the sky, makes a lot more sense to me.

looking for some connections in neighborhoods and communities

There’s a whole range of books and thinking about virtual communities, focusing on how you construct a system online to build community, strengthen ties between people, welcome newcomers and recognize leaders, etc. I’ve most recently been reading Amy Jo Kim’s book on the topic, but there’s a lot of others, and you can’t help but seeing the word “community” in any book about online conversation software.

In some parallel universe, there are books and thinking and writing about neighborhoods, new urbanism, the power of being local, and other ways to connect up with people who are within a few hundred feet or a few miles of you. I have Superbia! (on “new suburbanism”) on hold at the library now, for instance, which talks about tearing down fences in your neighborhood and holding potlucks.

In personal experience there is a lot more of a tie between these two topics than has been satisfactorily explored, and I’m casting about for someone who has done a good job. A lot of the older online community books never even acknowledge that people might see each other in person, let alone organize their days and years around periodic meetings. The local community stuff generally doesn’t get much farther than suggesting a mailing list and doesn’t tend to incorporate much in the way of nuance in mixed online/offline community.

Suggestions? I know there should be case studies somewhere, where someone has treated the online and the offline existence of a group as two parts of a connected whole.

The Power of the Marginal, essay by Paul Graham

Another really good Paul Graham essay, on why innovation comes from the margins: The Power of the Marginal:

The word “try” is an especially valuable component. I disagree here with Yoda, who said there is no try. There is try. It implies there’s no punishment if you fail. You’re driven by curiosity instead of duty. Which means the wind of procrastination will be in your favor: instead of avoiding this work, this will be what you do as a way of avoiding other work. And when you do it, you’ll be in a better mood. The more the work depends on imagination, the more that matters, because most people have more ideas when they’re happy.

which continues:

This leads to my final suggestion: a technique for determining when you’re on the right track. You’re on the right track when people complain that you’re unqualified, or that you’ve done something inappropriate. If people are complaining, that means you’re doing something rather than sitting around, which is the first step. And if they’re driven to such empty forms of complaint, that means you’ve probably done something good.

How to: pull an old hard drive out of a Windows laptop for use on a Mac

The goal in this case is to pull a drive out of a Dell CPx-J laptop, stick it into an enclosure that supports USB, and read the data on my Mac. I’d like to do this non-destructively, e.g. so that the data doesn’t get wiped in the process.

I don’t know how to do it yet, but here looks like some parts of it:

Dell CPx-J shop manual (PDF) – $6.99

Linux Dell Latitude CPx J-series – L Vu-Quoc, U Florida Gainesville

Dell support

CPx-J service manual (free from Dell)

Some open questions:

Is the drive inside proprietary, or will an ordinary drive enclosure for ATA drives

handle it?

How big is the drive?

to be continued….

t-mobile 7100t sound quality problems

If anyone has ever talked to me on the phone, they know that sometimes my cell phone sounds lousy.

T-Mobile promises that there’s an upgrade to the phone’s dsp software that handles calls better when there’s a lot of background noise. Unfortunately, it requires the installer that only runs on Windows, and they don’t have a Mac version or a corporate store with an Internet connection that I can run this one.

time to scrounge – or time to replace the phone and the carrier when the contract expires in November.

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