Their first album was best

Just got an email that starts:

Dear Old Skool Account-Holding Flickr Member,

On March 15th we’ll be discontinuing the old email-based
Flickr sign in system. From that point on, everyone will
have to use a Yahoo! ID to sign in to Flickr.

It’s not like I didn’t know this was coming, it was inevitable really. It’s not even that I mind having things linked; after all Google knows my home address, credit card number, where I go at night and who my friends are. No, it’s just that I was special, damn it! I got to go in through the secret VIP entrance and to keep my account on the QT like all the cool kids.

More importantly to me, my Yahoo account was originally opened just to catch spam and doesn’t even have my name on it. I know it doesn’t matter for the purposes of Flickr, but it bugs me and I try not to use it. I had to resuscitate it for the Hack Day groups and it was a irritating then too. Just try to update your display options to show your name in the groups and you’ll see that it isn’t enough for your email to be unique.

Anyway this isn’t meant to be a rambling diatribe on Yahoo policies, just a note to say that I remain as resistant to change as ever. Viva!


Early 2008?

You have got to be kidding me. You know, I love my city and I think it’s great that everyone is as concerned as they are about doing the right thing and double-checking repercussions, but this is ridiculous.

Some background: San Francisco’s mayor said he wanted to get free wifi for the city in 2004, because poor people were getting left behind yet again. Google basically walked up and said “Look, we can give you free ad-supported internet access for everybody in the city. You can use it or not, if you do we’re gonna use all our superseekrit ad-targeting biz on you just like we do online, ‘cept more so seeing as how we can triangulate you and see what you’re doing even if you aren’t logged in to an account with us. Or you can not use it. Up to you, but ads are what we do and they work better the more we know about you so we do that too.” Fairly straightforward. Use it with no privacy or don’t use it, pretty much. SF complained and got Google to agree to lose the triangulating part, or at least make it optional. Keep in mind that the pay services currently in existence won’t go away, this is an addition to what is already available.

Okay, so we’re ready to go now right? No. SFist has a brief summary today of the discussion that is still ongoing (and likely to slow things down even further). There’s also an article on MuniWireless. Personally, I’m enormously frustrated. The entire debate has morphed from how to get free wireless to largest number of people into how the city can profit from it. How about approving the plan now and then putting all this effort into transitioning to public-owned wifi after the contract expires? At the rate government bodies move, it will take 16 years to have that in place anyway.


Okay, so that last post got off to a bit of a late start. I did just survive a bad bout of norovirus, so I think a little slack could be cut. In fact, there are a few things about being violently ill during your holiday break that I’d like to take this chance to celebrate:

Five Good Things About The Norovirus

1.  Getting an early start on that New Year’s diet

2. Kicking the caffeine habit

3. Being doted on like you were 5 years old

4.  Three solid days in bed

5. Feeling a great sense of accomplishment just by walking out the front door.

Number 3 of course is dependent on getting sick while visiting your mom’s house, preferably while she still doesn’t have any grandchildren.


I resolve to blog more. No, really!

All a’Twitter

I’ve been using dodgeball for a while now, and as the reports of other one-to-many SMS services came in I thought, “Why would I need that when I can just send shoutouts?” I would probably have happily ignored them all if my curiosity hadn’t been piqued by Twitter. Specifically, the fact that it was founded by Ev (who is invariably interesting and frequently surprising) and that a number of dodgeball users turned out to be also using it. Now that I’ve taken Twitter out for a test drive, I’ve noticed several things that make it really different.

The most obvious thing is that it isn’t location-specific. Limiting messages to friends in a specific city is perfect for what dodgeball is designed to do, which is coordinating your social life. After all, knowing where my friends are in New York doesn’t help me plan my Friday night in San Francisco. But what if I just want to share a quick anecdote or something funny or a random thought? That’s got nothing to do with where we are physically, so sending my message only to friends in the same city is pointlessly limiting.

That said, the most significant difference has nothing to do with the technology. It’s the way that Twitter is actually used, which has more to do with who is using it and what they believe it’s for than with what it can do. I tried to describe this to friends at dinner the other night, and after a few minutes of my stuttering and throwing out random examples somebody said, “So it’s like LiveJournal for text.” That’s really the best explanation I’ve heard, although Twitter isn’t limited to SMS. It’s moblogging LJ-style for people (myself included) who probably would not otherwise blog things that inconsequential or personal or random. Check out the public timeline and you’ll see what I mean. It’s also compulsively addictive, in the same way so many social software services create a kind of positive feedback loop.

Based on my limited experience I’d guess that other services could easily fill different niches, again not because the technology is so different but because the way the community uses it is. If Twitter is the LJ of moblogging, then surely there’s room for the LinkedIn and the Facebook too. As each service matures and finds its community of users I’m sure we’ll see the technology differentiate more and more to meet the demands of that community, but what is fascinating to me is to watch how driven by the initial adopters these future changes really are.

WishRadar launches

WR logo

This week was the long-awaiting launch of WishRadar, a new service started by some very good friends of mine. At least it was long-awaited by me, because I hate keeping my mouth shut. If I were beta-testing your software you’d never know this because I will literally pick through every single thing on your entire site and send long bullet-pointed lists of improvements, which is how I know that their Privacy Policy says in part:

Think of us like a 100-foot huge, frickin’ sweet robot with flame throwers that is totally way cool, and only does things you ask it to, because you have the remote control. The robot can’t go off and destroy cities, or fight Voltron, or provide any information to or anyone else without your permission, because you are the only person the robot obeys.

It’s nice to see Jason using that law degree.

As you might be able to tell from the name, WishRadar is a tool designed to work with your wishlists. It’s not social software, the social components are there but designed to play a supporting role. It’s not a site for sharing recommendations or personal opinions either; you can see what other people have on their public list but since it’s all stuff they don’t have yet their opinions may be suspect. It’s not about designing a new shopping process or what movies your ex-girlfriend liked or who’s got a new CD coming out this week or what the kids are wearing these days. It’s all about the acquisition, baby. It’s getting what you want for less.

There are plenty of things that Amazon does really well already, that fall under the the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” rule. For web developers, that rule might be reworded as “if it isn’t necessary to build a separate walled garden, don’t.”

  • User reviews. Amazon has a huge database of reviews supplemented daily, and their “Real Name” program basically certifies it as legit.
  • Recommendations and lists. The recommendations are created using a combination of your past purchases/wishlists/views and what other people with similar purhases, etc. liked, spiced with a dash of marketing eeeeevil. It works. The lists have that unique human touch (read: freakiness) that makes them such a great way to find, say…stories about figs, if that’s what you want.
  • Purchasing and shipping. With one click check out, supersaver shipping, etc. you don’t have to think about it, even when you’re buying from some tiny marketplace seller and not actually from Amazon.

I don’t know about you, but if I want something and I like the price I tend to buy it immediately. If I can’t afford it or don’t think it’s worth the price I add it to my wishlist, where it disappears forever. My wishlist has been the graveyard where products go to die, I have no idea if the price drops or it’s discontinued and I only think of it when I add yet another thing I’m not buying.

WishRadar leaves Amazon to do all the stuff it’s already good at, and takes over where it does less well. See something you want, but not willing to pay the price? It turns Amazon into Priceline: set whatever price sounds good to you and it’ll let you know when your target is reached. For those who just can’t wait, it also turns Amazon into a mobile price comparison service you can use from your phone (without a data plan!) and updates your wishlist while it’s at it. It also lets you import more than one wishlist, watch other people’s, and get it all delivered to your inbox, feedreader or phone.

I’m guessing you can see why this would appeal to me. I think it’s super-cool and handy as hell, though I’m not exactly impartial. See for yourself, or just subscribe to Jonathan’s massive ode to coveteousness to keep your indie rock/web dork/modern design references current.

Holy crap, Beck!

Damn, Yahoo really pulled out all the stops for Hackday. Check this out: 40 wifi access points with 1G uplink, according to what Jeremy Zawodny told me. Wifi is smoooooth. Attendance capped at 400 (ish) techies so plenty of elbow room, oodles of de-luxe new API goodness to play with, and the entertainment for the evening? Oh, that was Beck.

Picture 500 geeks watching Beck play with a full band…in Puppetron. Live puppeteers are mimicing the band as they play, and a mosh pit breaks out on the lawn and the geeks are screaming and losing their shit and then the puppets start hacking and rapping and masturbating to puppet porn and and and…I don’t even know how to describe what I just saw. Wow, just…wow. It’s been a fantastic night, and the hackfest hasn’t even started in earnest yet.

I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow.