The internet, and how we use it, are both fascinating things. It is in a constant state of flux. Things come and go. What was the standard yesterday, may be forgotten tomorrow. And you never really know what that next big thing will be. The information superhighway is littered with the bones of once great services and applications (Posterous, twitpic, Google Reader). Of course, not everything just shuts down. Some services continue on, a shadow of what they once were (Livejournal, Myspace).
The current leaders in the social space are easily twitter and facebook. But you have to assume that it is at least possible that they could suffer this same fate. What could be next? Have a look at ello. facebook has been having a bit of a revolt over their recent announcement that they are going to start shutting down accounts that are not using real names. This is particularly problematic for performers, who have an account under a stage name. It seems to have been a bit of a perfect storm for ello, as many people are now heading there to at least give the service a try as a facebook alternative.
As you can see in the screenshot of my account up top, it is very minimalist. There is no advertising. And they are clearly marketing themselves as the anti-facebook. Here is the pitch you’ll find on their website before you sign up:
| Your social network is owned by advertisers.
Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.
We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.
We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life.
You are not a product.
It is a noble idea. And it is easy to see how people that are growing ever-more annoyed with the antics of facebook would embrace it. The fly in the ointment, as always, is whether or not it will be adopted en masse. Google + is great, but I rarely use it because it just doesn’t have the user base that facebook does. The people and organizations I want to interact with are not there. Now, we wait to see if ello can crack that particular nut, or if they are just another interesting idea that comes and goes.
The Ice Bucket Challenge Has Been Won
Chances are you have seen a lot of ice bucket challenge videos recently. After all of that, we can now declare a winner, and it’s an adorable English munchkin.
If you would like the backstory on how this all came to be, check out this story on Mirror.
Nextdoor, the anti-facebook
I like to think that I’m plugged in to the goings on of the internet and our digital world, but occasionally something comes along and you have just missed the boat. Such is the case with Nextdoor. In case you also didn’t know, nextdoor is a social network, with a particular restriction. When you join, you verify your address, and you are placed in your neighborhood. So you are only interacting with your neighbors.
Today was the first time I had even heard about it, but it seems there are already nearly 40,000 neighborhoods using it. And a quick trip through the signup process shows me that there are already 111 members in my neighborhood. I’m sure the content varies wildly depending on the neighborhood. In my sleepy little burg, you’ll find things like printers for sale, babysitters wanted, questions about whether the internet is down for everyone else, and someone looking for a good mechanic.
You can also look just at specific posts in a number of categories: Classifieds, Crime & Safety, Documents, Free Items, Lost & Found, Recommendations. I’m happy to report that my neighborhood is looking pretty safe according to nextdoor. And just a bit surprised to learn that I have access to free horse manure. It’s a really interesting idea. The wonder of the internet and the modern social networks is how it allows us to be connected with people across vast geographical ranges. The fly in that ointment though, is that it occasionally comes at the cost of the connections in our near vacinity. This is a very clever way to approach that.
The Wayback Machine… Tom Emanski
If you grew up watching sports in the 90s or the 00s, chances are you know the name Tom Emanski. The commercials for his baseball fundamentals videos were ubiquitous. The most famous of those was the one you see above, featuring the Crime Dog, Fred McGriff (who should totally be in the Hall Of Fame. It’s not a difficult leap, given how long those commercials ran, to think that the video series was very successful. Possibly more successful than you would even imagine. Fox Sports has a great article on the history of Emanski, that covers how the video series came to be.
There are some very interesting numbers included in there. The first video was released in 1986, and the commercials ran until 2007. What’s more, even though the commercials stopped, you can still order those same videos today. Amusingly, while they were eventually upgraded to DVD, you can also still get them in the OG VHS. Perhaps the most surprising number is how much Emanski paid ESPN for all of those commercial spots (estimated at over 50,000 airings). Up front, nothing. When the videos started, ESPN was not the sports juggernaut it is today. Because of that, Emanski was able to make a deal where ESPN would get a percentage of each video sold through the commercial.
The aftermath to the whole story is different as well. After becoming a household name in baseball, Emanski effectively disappeared from public view, leading to some wild internet rumors about where he may have ended up. The truth is less exciting, but his story is still completely fascinating.
As an avid watcher of the History Channel with a generally curious nature, I have more than the average familiarity with the American pyramids. In all of that watching and reading though, I never came across the story of chunkey. In case you didn’t know, chunkey was the football/soccer of the pre-European Americas. The game involved teams of two, one with a small disk made from stone, and one with a spear. The first player would roll the stone out onto the field, and the next would try to place the spear as close as possible to the stone. There is a good article on the influence of the game at io9 and you can find more on the game at wikipedia.
Solar Freakin Roadways
Clearly, as the video illustrates, there are many obvious benefits to this idea. The big rub here is whether or not the solar roadway will ultimately be cost effective. If they are going to require a concrete road for the panels to be placed on top of, they are going to be much more expensive than your typical asphalt roadway. How long is it going to take those panels to produce enough energy to recoup those additional expenses? That remains to be seen.
So begins the rise of the machines…
You may have never heard of Eugene Goostman, but his is a name that will go down in history. Eugene is a 13 year old from Odessa (Ukraine, not Washington), that just passed the Turing Test. Rather, a group of Russian programmers that created the program that presents itself as Eugene passed the Turing Test.
The scifi bent on this is that it is the next small step on the way to a real A.I., which may or may not bring about the destruction of all mankind. In actuality, it is less about creating A.I. than it is about clever programming slight of hand that enables the program to fool a group of testers. The fact that Eugene is 13 and not a native English speaker certainly worked in his favor.
Eugene managed to fool a third of the testers, just eclipsing the 30% required for passing. If you are curious to know what those chats might have looked like, TIME conducted an interview with Eugene. I am guessing that round would have fallen in the 67%. It is still an important milestone being passed. Each huge moment in technology is approached with tiny steps, like this.
Put some Seattle on your desktop
We are getting an early start on summer in the Jet City, and there is nothing like Seattle when the weather is nice. I took this shot of the space needle last night as I was on my way to a theatre adventure. Click it to get the huge image for your desktop.
Getting Started With Open Stack
With the rise of cloud computing, and the accompanying popularity of Open Stack, there is no shortage of pages on the internet talking about how to get started experimenting in the Open Stack world. I’ve recently been playing with Red Hat’s RDO version. The documentation is not the deepest, but it is solid, and the biggest strength of RDO is the speed to get it up and running. You can having a working Open Stack system in under an hour. Of course, that is just the first toe down the Open Stack rabbit hole, but if you are curious, it is a great place to start.
Sony announces 185TB magnetic tape
There is an interesting press release on Sony’s site, announcing that they have developed a new nano-grained magnetic layer for magnetic tapes. The big story here is that this new technology has shown to allow a staggering recording density of 148 gigabits per square inch. That is some 74 times the density of current magnetic tape media. A tape cartridge using this technology would be able to hold the 185TB from the headline. That is amazing.