Friday, December 10, 2010

Social Networking - Required Reading

Social networking. We've all heard about it, and we know that Facebook is the dominant player. But what does it mean? And what does the future of social networking look like?

For some thoughts on this, consider this article from TechCrunch:
"Social Networking: The Future" by Mark Suster

Note that the article is the third in a three part series, where the previous two parts (linked in the third part) discussed the past and present of social networking.

Without going into a lot of detail about the past and present (the future is what I really care about), the article on social networking's past had some great points that remind us that, as always, "sub sole nihil novi est." Most interesting was looking back on AOL. The article says it best:

"And then came AOL. ... It became the onramp for newbies. The funny thing about AOL is that while you dialed up to the Internet, the goal of AOL was to keep you locked into their proprietary content and thus earned the classification of 'walled garden' because they kept you inside AOL. They had a proprietary browser, their own search engine, their own content, chat rooms, email system, etc."

Does this remind you of any companies nowadays? It should...

"As I like to say, my Mom would call me proudly and say, 'Honey, I’m on the Internet!' And I’d say sardonically, 'no, Mom, you’re not on the Internet. You’re on AOL!' I don’t think she really understood the difference. AOL was controlled by one company and the Internet was distributed. AOL controlled the services, taxed companies to access users and decided what was good or bad. AOL was closed, the Internet was open."

Replace the word "AOL" with, say, your popular social networking site and see if the analogy works for you. Maybe not quite yet but where they're headed...

Suster continues:

"When Time Warner & AOL merged it was widely feared that this would be a monopoly that would control the Internet. Ha.

"As I write these words I’m aware that I could practically change the words AOL and Facebook for much of this section and with a few factual tweaks it might not be noticeable to the reader who I was talking about. More on that later."

I wrote my commentary above before I read this paragraph. If you didn't make the same connection earlier, before you read this last paragraph, you've not been paying attention.

Okay, back to the future. :) Suster makes the following points about the future of social networking.

"Ultimately I don’t believe users or society as a whole will accept a single company 'locking in' our vital information. ... Facebook will succumb to pressure and over time make this available to us ... Either they make our social graph portable or we’ll find other networks to join."

"Since 2006 I have been lamenting what I see as 'the Facebook problem' – they are trying to lump me into one big social network. Nobody exists in one social network. I have the one with my friends where I want to talk about how wasted we were at the party last weekend that I don’t want to share with my family network where I share pictures of the kids with my parents and siblings. I don’t want either of these mixed with the business social network in which I want to maintain the appearance that I’m 'all business' ... Facebook has jumbled these all together and then tried to bandage it by making groups available."

"And young people aren’t stupid ... To get around all of this jumbling of social graphs they simply create multiple Facebook accounts under pseudonyms or 'nom du guerre' for their real discussions and more pristine Facebook accounts for their real names. I wonder how many of Facebook’s 500 million users are created for this purpose? I’ve confirmed this trend with several young people."

"If I were Facebook I would have simply created two places where you could network, Facebook 'private' and Facebook 'open.' The latter product could have competed directly with Twitter and could have had an asymmetric follow model. ... if they would have done it this way they never would have crossed the ethical lines that they did and we could all just love Facebook instead of our love-hate relationships."

"As our social graph becomes more portable I believe that social networking will become a feature in everything we do. You can already see it slipping into services like Pandora where my social graph instantly appears and my friends’ musical tastes are displayed without my knowing this would happen. On NY Times I’m getting recommended articles by friends and I didn’t explicitly turn this feature on. This trend of social pervasiveness will continue."

"One thing that is obvious to me is that while many websites want to have Facebook Connect log-ins to know more about you, they don’t really know what to do with you once they have that information."

"I know that in 2010 it seems ridiculous to say anything other than 'Facebook has won—the war is over' and I know that it feels that way right now. Facebook is so dominant it is astounding. In a complete return to where we all began with AOL—the world is 'closed' again as Facebook has become this generation’s walled garden. When you’re on Facebook you’re not on the Internet—you’re on the InterNOT."

"It is no doubt that the next decade belongs to Facebook. But the coincidence is that 10 years out will be 2020 and when we look back from that date I’m certain that people will also find a Facebook monopoly a bit laughable."

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thoughts on WikiLeaks and Amazon, and Censorship and Walls

This is really quite amazing. The WikiLeaks documents are on sale at Amazon. You heard that correctly. From
"WikiLeaks documents expose US foreign policy conspiracies. All cables with tags from 1- 5000 [Kindle Edition]"

Remember that Amazon booted WikiLeaks from their servers just like other companies, such as credit card companies, stopped doing business with WikiLeaks. So for this to show up on Amazon is using these companies' business models against them. Whether you agree with whoever did this or not, you have to admit this is brilliant. Make Amazon look hypocritical and foolish, and pay for it via credit card companies so that they look foolish, too. Brilliant. Just brilliant.

It is also amusing to read the comments and ratings for this product and find out just how stupid people really are. Read what I wrote above. I didn't say that Amazon was hypocritical. I said that they looked hypocritical. It doesn't take a lot of research to find out that authors can self-publish on Amazon. Point is, Amazon didn't do this. An individual or a group did.

So what should Amazon do? Should they remove this product? If they do, aren't we heading rather quickly into slippery slope territory?

After initially refusing to remove a book about pedophilia, Amazon eventually gave in to public pressure. But similar books still remain on sale so just removing one book doesn't really solve the issue at all. Should they police and censor all the offerings on their site? Is that even possible, as people continue to post more self-published books on a regular basis? (I'll give you a hint: The answer starts with an "n".)

And what about the credit card companies? Apparently it is wrong to do business with WikiLeaks but the KKK is okay. From The Inquisitr:
"Ku Klux Klan is okay, Wikileaks is bad, says Mastercard and Visa"

Stop trying to block information, that is a losing battle. Just like building walls (whether in China, in East Germany, or on the U.S./Mexican border) is also a losing battle. Why do people keep doing things that simply don't work, when we KNOW they won't work?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Racist Liberals, Let's Make a Deal, and Other Questions

Tammy Bruce makes a good point in a recent tweet:
"Hey liberals, so many of you are criticizing Obama these days. When did you all become racist? #justwondering"

It's a great question. Because, as you know, when conservatives object to Obama's policies, liberals do not feel the need to respond on the merits (because they cannot). They just claim that conservatives object to Obama because they are racists. Tea Party participants are not acting out of principle, they are racists. And so forth.

But now that Obama has struck a deal, apparently liberals are racists, too. This is obviously true because they are criticizing Obama.

Or has Obama struck a deal? There is something missing here, something important (hint: something from the West Coast, with a hideously stretched face).

It feels to me like Republicans are walking into a trap. Democrats are selling it extremely well. It reminds me of the way Clinton completely outplayed Gingrich, and the press is clearly working with the left here.

The scenario I see is that Obama cuts a deal with Republican congressional leaders (check). The left wing media attack Obama, reading their lines right off of the script (check). Pelosi and Reid reject the deal and demand major changes (coming soon). Republicans stand firm and balk at the new deal (I hope). Press blames Republicans for backing out of the deal, which was portrayed, and will CONTINUE to be portrayed, as a big Republican win (a lie, but inevitable). Press blames Republicans for backing out of the new terms, terms they never agreed to (you know they will). And absolutely NOBODY notices that the Democrats have majorities in the House and the Senate in addition to occupying the White House--point is, if the Democrats want to avoid a big tax increase they don't need ANY Republican support (doesn't take a genius to predict this).

The thing I can't figure out is Obama. What is he thinking? Is he getting what he can (another incredible increase in unemployment benefits) while Democrats still have control? Is he smart enough to be setting the trap I described above? Is he trying to do the right thing for the country for a change? Does he realize that raising taxes at this point would push the already-high unemployment figures above 10%? Will he ever have the balls to stand up to Pelosi and fight for his deal or was this all just a show? Is he a completely clueless sock puppet?

I don't know the answer to the above questions, but I would suggest that you can't go too far wrong if you select the sock puppet one. :)

Our incompetent government can't even devalue our currency properly

This story from Yahoo! News is one of those that is sad and funny at the same time:

"Government can’t print money properly" by Zachary Roth

"More than 1 billion unusable bills have been printed."

"It would take an estimated 20 to 30 years to weed out the defective bills by hand, but a mechanized system is expected to get the job done in about a year."

"Combined, the quarantined bills add up to $110 billion -- more than 10 percent of the entire U.S. cash supply, which now stands at around $930 billion."

Honestly, our government can't even do its illegitimate functions (printing worthless paper "money" backed by nothing but a promise) properly. Sad but true.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bar Stool Economics - Tax Cuts

Here's an interesting illustration of how tax cuts work, for the economically illiterate leftists out there.

Here is the link to the Mother Jones chart that the speaker refers to:
"Chart of the Day: Tax Cut Fever" by Kevin Drum

Monday, December 6, 2010

Nexus S!

Great news today! Google just launched the latest Android phone. For those of you, the smart ones, who want a phone without the bloatware that carries insist on loading nowadays, your phone has arrived.

From The Official Google Blog:
"Introducing Nexus S with Gingerbread"

And the official Google site for the Nexus S:

It will initially be available exclusively at Best Buy:

And a review from Tech Crunch:
"TechCrunch Review: Google Nexus S"

"The bottom line is this. If you are an iPhone user this isn’t going to make you switch. If you’re an Android user you will want this phone more than any other. If you’re currently neither, we recommend that you go with the Nexus S."