Monthly Archives: March 2011

on the bubble we are in

If you have to ask if your in an economic bubble the signs and symbols must already be quite prevalent. No?

…There’s the opportunity to be high-tech historians — to stop pretending that this never happened before, and to look carefully over where people messed up and how they succeeded.

If you’re a C.E.O., understand the investor in your company — why did you choose him and why did he choose you? It sounds simple but those who saw all money as equal were sorry they didn’t pay more attention. Analyze the details of the good and the ugly of Amazon, AOL and others.

We’ve also learned that a tech bubble will leave remnants of innovation, new technology, ways of doing things that may not have worked one way but will work another, in another time.

This time around, individual investors and consumers are more informed, in part because they are now true players. It is an Everyman’s Tech Revolution. More than ever, tech is part of our common experience. We’re blogging, posting on Facebook and Twitter, and reading e-books as part of our everyday lives. We are demanding more and newer technology, and don’t mind paying for some of it.

We’re in for a change-the-world high-tech-ego roller coaster again, but instead of getting comfortable with the familiar, whether you’re an entrepreneur or an investor, arm yourself with historical research, keep believing, and don’t buy that private plane just yet.

via The Everyman’s Tech Revolution – Room for Debate –

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on common sense and hindsight

Early in his new book,  Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer (Crown Business, 2011), Duncan Watts tells a story about the late sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld, who once described an intriguing research result: Soldiers from a rural background were happier during World War II than their urban comrades. Lazarsfeld imagined that on reflection people would find the result so self-evident that it didn’t merit an elaborate study, because everyone knew that rural men were more used to grueling labor and harsh living standards. But there was a twist, the study he described showed the opposite pattern; it was urban conscripts who had adjusted better to wartime conditions. The rural effect was a pedagogical hoax designed to expose our uncanny ability to make up retrospective explanations for what we already believed to be true. Though Lazarsfeld was writing 60 years ago, 20/20 hindsight is still very much with us. Contemporary psychologists call this tendency to view the past as more predictable than it actually was “the hindsight bias.” Watts, a Yahoo! Labs scientist best known for his research on social networks and his earlier book,  Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age (W. W. Norton, 2003), argues that this tendency is a greatly underappreciated problem, one that not only causes us to make up just-so stories to explain any conceivable outcome—but to delude ourselves that we can predict the future by learning from the past…

via 3quarksdaily.

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the I word

In light of the news from Amazon’s streaming music service, Sarah Perez asks: ‘is that really innovation?’ … I seem to remember this argument in 2007… it was called an iPhone, same begrudging reviews.

Perhaps it is time for a larger discussion about what we mean when we use the I word? 


…But is Amazon’s cloud-based music storage service really all that innovative? Some journalists and analysts are saying it’s not.

via Is Amazon’s Cloud Locker Really an Innovation?.

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Tools for Thinking; David Brooks

The good folks at organized a symposium, and 164 thinkers contributed suggestions. John McWhorter, a linguist at Columbia University, wrote that people should be more aware of path dependence. This refers to the notion that often “something that seems normal or inevitable today began with a choice that made sense at a particular time in the past, but survived despite the eclipse of the justification for that choice.”

For instance, typewriters used to jam if people typed too fast, so the manufacturers designed a keyboard that would slow typists. We no longer have typewriters, but we are stuck with the letter arrangements of the qwerty keyboard.

Path dependence explains many linguistic patterns and mental categories, McWhorter continues. Many people worry about the way e-mail seems to degrade writing skills. But there is nothing about e-mail that forbids people from using the literary style of 19th-century letter writers. In the 1960s, language became less formal, and now anybody who uses the old manner is regarded as an eccentric.

via Tools for Thinking –

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finding cultural distinctions the hard way

“I didn’t know it was against the law,” Isaiah said.

That is because culturally, such a fine distinction eludes most teenagers. Their world is steeped in highly sexualized messages. Extreme pornography is easily available on the Internet. Hit songs and music videos promote stripping and sexting.

“Take a dirty picture for me,” urge the pop stars Taio Cruz and Kesha in their recent duet, “Dirty Picture.” “Send the dirty picture to me. Snap.”

In a 2010 Super Bowl advertisement for Motorola, the actress Megan Fox takes a cellphone picture of herself in a bubble bath. “I wonder what would happen if I were to send this out?” she muses. The commercial continues with goggle-eyed men gaping at the forwarded photo — normalizing and encouraging such messages.

“You can’t expect teenagers not to do something they see happening all around them,” said Susannah Stern, an associate professor at the University of San Diego who writes about adolescence and technology.

“They’re practicing to be a part of adult culture,” Dr. Stern said. “And in 2011, that is a culture of sexualization and of putting yourself out there to validate who you are and that you matter.”

The prevalence of under-age sexting is unclear and can often depend on the culture of a particular school or circle of students. An Internet poll conducted for The Associated Press and MTV by Knowledge Networks in September 2009 indicated that 24 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds had been involved in “some type of naked sexting,” either by cellphone or on the Internet. A December 2009 telephone poll from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that 5 percent of 14- to 17-year-olds had sent naked or nearly naked photos or video by cellphone, and that 18 percent had received them. Boys and girls send photos in roughly the same proportion, the Pew survey found.

But a double standard holds. While a boy caught sending a picture of himself may be regarded as a fool or even a boastful stud, girls, regardless of their bravado, are castigated as sluts.

Photos of girls tend to go viral more often, because boys and girls will circulate girls’ photos in part to shame them, explained Danah Boyd, a senior social media researcher at Microsoft and a fellow at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

In contrast, when a boy sends a revealing photo of himself to a girl, Dr. Boyd noted, she usually does not circulate it. And, Dr. Boyd added, boys do not tend to circulate photos of other boys: “A straight-identified boy will never admit to having naked photos of a boy on his phone.”

Policy makers are beginning to recognize that a uniform response to these cases does not fit.

“I hate the word ‘sexting,’ ” said Andrew J. Harris, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, who is leading a study of the practice among adolescents to help develop policies to address it. “We’re talking about a lot of different behaviors and a lot of different motivations.”

There is the high-tech flirt. The troubled attention-seeker. A couple’s consensual exchanges. Drunken teenagers horsing around. Pressure from a boyfriend. Malicious distribution. A teenager who barrages another with unsolicited lewd photos or texts. Or, as in a 2009 Wisconsin case of “sextortion,” a boy, pretending to be a girl online, who solicited explicit pictures of boys, which he then used as blackmail to compel those boys to have sex with him.

The content of the photos can vary widely too, from suggestive to sadistic.

via High-Tech Flirting Turns Explicit, Altering Young Lives –

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on idiot proofing; a way to prepare for the thick human? or is it a way to prepare for the thick designer?

Some tropes are inexhaustibly offensive: smart-anythings, books for dummies, and in this case idiot-proof-designs. Fast Company ladles on the mojo for it’s brand character these days. But it often by pandering to a to a fox-news level of ‘lower common denominator’.

This review of an elegant USB work-around gets the right story, while getting the story all wrong. People can’t be blamed for the apparently retarded design failure of USB stansdards to include affordances! The designers and engineers who authored the standard can. And more to the point the mass manufacturers that have relied on a failed standard should be held culpable as well.

…It happens to me about, oh, 14 trillion times every day: I go to plug something into my computer’s USB port, and it doesn’t fit because I’ve got the plug-head upside down. Then I mutter some curse word, peer at it, and then plug it in the right way. If I added up all the seconds I waste this way in a year, it’d be… well, it’d be enough that I thank the design gods for Ma Yi Xuan, who invented a USB plug that fits both effing ways.

via Simple Genius: A USB Plug That Fits Even if It’s Upside-Down | Co.Design.

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forensic studies of MySpace begin

An article by Robert Scoble appears to have ignited a number of forensic examinations into the creative destruction of MySpace. The pattern that seems to emerge from it are a series of missteps that were cultural – and structural.

What is most intriguing to think about is a widening delta between the information architecture of the platform and the cultural ontology of Myspace.

…Myspace didn’t have programming talent capable of scaling the site to compete with Facebook.

Choosing the Microsoft stack made it difficult to hire people capable of competing with Facebook. .Net programmers are largely Enterprise programmers who are not constitutionally constructed to create large scalable websites at a startup pace. 

Their system had ” “hundreds of hacks to make it scale that no one wants to touch,” which hamstrung their ability to really compete.

Because of their infrastructure MySpace can’t change their technology to make new features work or make dramatically new experiences.

Firing a lot of people nose dived morale and made hiring tough. (duh)

Los Angeles doesn’t have startup talent capable of producing a scalable social network system.

Facebooks’ choice of the LAMP stack allowed them to hire quicker and find people who knew how to scale.

via High Scalability – High Scalability – Did the Microsoft Stack Kill MySpace?.

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