Archive for the ‘Culture/Technology’ category

The Power of Twitter

November 20, 2009

this post is also posted on my personal blog. You can view it here as well.

Recently I keep hearing the same story over and over about twitter. The headline reads 40% of twitter is pointless babble. Now of course there are a variety of reasons the headline is misleading. First and foremost is the method the study used to determine pointless babble. Of course there is always a random tweet out there, even I occasionally engage in what is clearly pointless babble, but in a lot of cases what you or I may think is pointless babble may be of great value to someone else. I know in Facebook (FB) land I don’t mind random posts about what someone is doing, after all I do have a true friendship with most of those people. Another problem with the headline is the subtext. Essentially they are trying to say that twitter is pointless. Here is where I would like to show you the power of twitter. I’ll show you how I’ve used it in some very powerful ways.

It started last year (2008) when I was working on a project for work. I was trying to interface a router with my Comcast internet. Sounds easy, but for some reason my router wasn’t working. In frustration I tweeted about it and in my tweet in included Comcast. Not long afterward I got a popup from a Comcast representative asking me what the problem was. At first I was a little weirded out, but after we went through a few steps together I found it quite helpful. I didn’t ask for Comcast to contact me, but they did and they were quite helpful, probably more so than if I had called. It was at this moment I realized just how powerful twitter can be. I probably posted the same “tweet” on FB, but certainly didn’t get an answer through FB from a Comcast rep. The nature of FB is closed, which is in some ways a very good thing, but in this instance even though I have 3x as many friends on FB I still wouldn’t have gotten a Comcast rep. I’m just not friends with any.

More recently I needed to book a bus between Boston and NYC. I was booking for a Tuesday departure and Tuesday return. As such I needed a late bus. The one company I wanted to with, Bolt Bus, didn’t go late enough. I searched online, but I really wasn’t turning anything up. So I tweeted. Another difference between my FB friends and Twitter friends is that more of them are local or tailored to my profession. I figured if I tweeted there were plenty of Boston followers that would help me out. I got this response in little time at all. Not only did Megabus work out, but I got the round trip tickets for $2.50. In the process the official Megabus twitter account also contacted me.

Later that week I started having problems with this very website. Again out of frustration I twittered about it. One of my followers was kind enough to take the time and help me through the problem.

Probably the most fascinating story is the one that happened recently. My wife got in a minor accident with an MBTA bus. From the sound of it she cleared the red light, but there wasn’t enough space for the bus to make the turn. The end result was that the bus hit our car. When my wife confronted the bus driver he had already let out all of the riders leaving no witnesses. To make matters worse the bus driver already made up a story to try to make my wife the guilty one. I tweeted about the situation and got this in response. Which eventually led to an actual witness. Fortunately, it looks like everything is going to be taken care of without such a witness, but it is nice to know I can contact one if I needed to.

This *is* the power of twitter. Sure there are times when I get random tweets, but for the most part I ignore them. And of course there are plenty of people not worth following, but that is why I don’t follow them. But when it comes to getting things done or answering questions that Google doesn’t suffice for twitter is there and is quite powerful. These are just my personal examples, there are plenty more. Examples like breaking the news about Michael Jackson, or following real life opposition in Iran. None of this is pointless babble. It has real worth, and despite what anyone may think of twitter it is what you make it. If all you want is pointless babble have at it, but you can make twitter much much more.

Chrome OS goes open source

November 20, 2009

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/11/releasing-chromium-os-open-source.html

When the technology became available for personal computers on a desktop, there was a significant paradigm shift in the way operating systems worked.  And ever since the notebook has come into the mainstream, notebook operating systems (largely) have been desktop operating systems crammed into a smaller can.  Yes, mobile phones came along with their own OSes, but it’s about time operating systems had a significant shift in the way mobile computing happens.

That said, I’m not entirely sure Chrome OS is it.  But I’m interested to see where it goes.  I like their security model (as long as we can trust the application host?).  And for a group that has milked their customers for personal information for so long, I’m hesitant to think they should be the ones providing apps for you to, say, manage your finances on.  Sorry, call me a conspiracy theorist.  I’m actually not, because I don’t have a theory.  I’m just distrustful.

Bottom line: Chrome OS looks very promising.  If it is to OSes what Chrome is to browsers (as I type this post in a Chrome window) it might just be the catalyst that gets me to finally buy a netbook.

L.A. to go to cloud-based email

October 28, 2009

The city of Los Angeles is moving their email (for 30,000 employees) to Google.  This will be a good viability test for the system.  I know they’re mainly concerned about security, but I think it will also be a good test of uptime and customer service.

I think it will be a good practice run for Google.  If they can support this many users with business-level security and uptime needs, it will be a good starting point for selling the same service to other government organizations.

It should be noted, before we get too excited, that this is EMAIL.  Not file servers, not thin client desktops linked to a cloud-based array, just email.  It’s a fitting place for L.A. to start, since cloud-based email has been around for a long time already.  We’ll see if they migrate more areas over to cloud-based solutions as time goes on.

Here’s the L.A. Times article.

GeoCities and musing on growing up digital

October 26, 2009

RIP GeoCities (1995-2009)

We will miss your animated GIFs, your annoying <MARQUEE> tags (or <BLINK> if you used that other browser). Seriously, I shouldn’t care – I hosted my site on Angelfire -but the memories of hand-coded sites (or un-user-friendly site wizards) from the teenage years are making me feel so nostalgic. It was a good run, GeoCities. Thanks for helping the Web through its adolescence.

And last night, I watched live as Bono, The Edge, and the other two guys rocked Pasadena and the world watched on YouTube.  IMO, the blog community, in addition to YouTube and MySpace (which are both arguably just blogs 2.0 anyhow) were direct descendants of the 1990s trend toward a personal presence on the Web for those who don’t want to toil over code.  The fact I grasp how to edit the URL of this post (which I just did) started with the 90s and personal Web sites.

GeoCities (and the other wannabe GeoCities sites) really did bring the Web a long way by making it possible for nontechnical people to easily post content to the Web.  And while the Web was perhaps a teenager at the time, for me (and lots of others who were teenagers in the 90s) it helped US through our adolescence.

I was a late bloomer, and I caught on around 1998.  I got a giant tome on HTML from the public library, and started reading and coding.  Before long, I was lost in the world of <BR> and <A HREF>, where I searched long and hard for websites with free horizontal-bar JPEGs and JavaScript snippets to add a scrolling status bar.  It was my first experience in speaking a language a machine could understand, and it significantly influenced my development as a technologist.

My site only contained some personal views and a very long list of music-related jokes (Why do violinists put rags on their shoulder?  So they don’t drool on themselves!!!  Yes, that one was on there).  It was not impressive, but it WAS to me because I had my own world where I was the WEBMASTER, and the WEB was still just a little bit mysterious. =)  These days, it’s a glut of information, smut, and third-rate instantiations of Godwin’s Law (and parodies of such instantiations, and parodies of the parodies).  Still mystery, but more like the Badlands are mysterious, rather than the first-girlfriend mystery I felt back then.  Or maybe the Web WAS actually lame back then, and it was really just adolescence being mysterious.

So we will miss thee, GeoCities of yore.  Thank you for the precedent you set of free personal web pages for everyone.  We hope you understand how deeply you affected a generation.

My change of heart

September 30, 2009

Ten Reasons Why Windows XP Will Be Around For A While.  I saw it this morning.  http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/10things/?p=1045

It’s a good list, and a point of view I would have religiously followed until very recently.  So I’m coming out – I’m not so sure about keeping XP anymore.

There, I said it. =) My reasoning before was something like this: “It works fine, and the replacement is junk, so why upgrade?”  But I think that with W7, there will not be the same reasons to keep XP around.  Here’s a few factors that contribute to my thesis.

1) Hardware standards have come a long way since 2002.  A small example?  DX10.  Yes, I know if you’re not a gamer, you might not care, but it’s just an example.  I personally think it’s time to up the ante on the OS and make fuller use of the newer hardware available.

2) That new hardware?  It’s getting cheaper.  One of the big complaints about Vista was that people had to spend a lot on new hardware to run it.  But in the end, this might have been good for the computing world, because it pushed people to get rid of the dinosaur in their basement.  But now, you can get an amazing desktop system for $500, or a notebook for $650.  The hardware isn’t that expensive at this point.

3) Windows 7.  It looks like it’s going to be to Vista what 2K/XP was to ME .  On top of that, one of the very points in today’s TR article was that XP will stay around because W7 includes a virtual version of it.  Huh?  I can see where he’s pointing (that companies will stick with XP software because of the virtual option) but I think it will go the other direction.  I think yes, we’ll keep some (not all) of our XP software, but I think companies will eventually ditch XP in favor of W7’s virtual option.  And from an IT standpoint, the end is obviously near, and MS will either have to revamp their entire compatibility strategy (way outside the box) or we’ll have to figure out how to make newer software.  But for now, I think the virtual XP will facilitate a move to 7, rather than hinder one.

I will say this.  Microsoft hit a gold mine with XP.  They should take it as a compliment that they themselves haven’t been able to top it yet.  But they will need to eventually if they want to keep market share.

Microsoft to give preview of Office Web

September 18, 2009

I am curious to see what good (and bad) things the Web App version of Office will hold.  Obviously, not all features will be included.

I’m not sure what to think.  I feel like Microsoft products are thoroughly ingrained in the business world, and we’re not moving away from them anytime soon.  This is OK by me.  For all their problems, they tend to be predictable and generally reliable.

Check out a bit more rundown on the upcoming testing here.

In the above link, one commenter alleged that Office Web would be useful if you had to show a presentation but didn’t have Office (and did have Internet).  I might point out that MS already covered that base by providing free viewer software for Office.  I think they’re really trying to move production work with Office into a browser.  Not just for viewing – they want people to work in the browser.  We’ll see how it catches on.

Teens don’t tweet?

August 31, 2009

I saw this as a trending topic recently.  It’s true, I don’t follow any teenagers on Twitter, but that’s because most of the younger generation (even the <30 crowd) I see on TT and the public timeline mostly post obscene or useless information – which, furthermore, tends to be filled with grammatical errors and misspellings.

Here’s a thought.  Social media like Twitter is text only.  Yes, you can link to other things, but it’s harder to simply spy on people like you can on Facebook so easily.  It’s information-based, like the Web was originally supposed to be.  I like it that way, because that’s life in the 21st century.  But it’s possible that the medium itself is a little more conducive to business use and adult interaction.  Thoughts?