Dvorak on Vista

John Dvorak is not impressed with Vista’s advertising or prospects as a buzz-worthy application, saying the promotional web info …

looks like an advertisement for an expensive prescription drug for constipation

and suggesting the market impact will not be very big.

I actually think he’s wrong, and Vista will usher in some significant changes, especially as users integrate sidebar and desktop “gadgets” and we see the desktop and websites look more like myspace pages, littered with dozens of mini applications. If Vista realizes the promise of facilitating RSS and gadget centric information architecture I think it could be a significant part of the significant changes sweeping the online environment.

TechMeme, paid blogging, and Zunes

Lots of interesting tech news today from TechMeme which is starting to distinguish itself as “the place” for tech insiders as Digg and Technorati increasingly seek to cater to a huge audience and Slashdot remains problematic because it’s not as robust with community input.

The New York Times reports that Huffington is adding “original” reporting to her extremely popular political blog. I wonder if this is as much for advertising credibility than quality, which clear thinking people know is not a function of whether you get paid to blog or not. Hey, wait a minute. A lot of bloggers (including me) are skeptical that paying people for blog posts, reviews and other online content serves the best interests of the blog community.

Yet nobody seems to frown on a journalist when they get paid to blog. Or, for that matter, run copious amounts of expensive advertising beside quality content as Mike does over at TechCrunch. For the time being I’m refiling my pay per post concerns under the folder “maybe right, but maybe just hypocritical pseudo-elitist nonsense”.

Also at NYT is this piece on the Third World Laptop project bringing cheap computing to the poor all over the world. It’s a very exciting concept that will certainly bring about big changes and also many unintended, unpredictable consequences. I remain confused as to why Bill Gates has opposed the laptop project because even though clean water and health and food are more immediate needs, the Laptops will connect the first and third worlds in ways that will *demand* more proactive participation in third world development by us rich folks. Also this project brings some of the best thinkers – people who often dwell in abstract and expensive first world problem solving realms – into the of “global poverty and development” department of innovation. Gates’ outstanding contributions in this realm are of global and historical significance so I hope he will eventually see how the laptop project is part of this excellent trend that is connecting the rich and the poor.

Aleks Krotoski has a great piece about digital violence over at Second Life where that blossoming virtual community is now under attack by opportunistic and malicious … programs. It’s not only art that imitates life, it’s virtually impossible to escape our human inadequacies even when humans are not physically present in the environment.

And those nifty Zunes can’t seem to crack the IPOD dominance in digital MP3 players. I often wonder how much of the tech trends are habit and how much innovation. Zunes seemed to offer better features yet they appear to be losing the battle. Ironically the neat song sharing feature using DRM restrictions seems to be backfiring on the Zune.

Yahoo beats Google at something other than … sports.

Google is closing down it’s answers feature which has been very inferior in performance compared to Yahoo’s and was missing the point in Web 2-point-0.

Hey, I pointed this difference out about one year ago.   This is actually a very interesting example of how Yahoo is more 2.0 friendly and better at bringing people into the computer equation, and helps disprove Matt Cutts’ recent, mildly back-handed compliment suggesting that Yahoo is only better in sports.

More important is that it’s a small indicator of how the battle lines are getting drawn in what may be the most significant, fun, and interesting corporate battle in the history of commerce.   Who you gonna call . com?    Yahoo as community builder, Google as search behemoth, Microsoft as “where o where did our monopoly go?!”   Who will rule the net?    There’s room for many players so it could even be a combination or companies yet to be invented.

So, how about a price spike in Yahoo stock, which seems to happen with GOOG every time that Google farts.

Hey Wall Street!  Yahoo!!!  Look!  Hey!

Disclaimer:   I own some Yahoo Stock and have some old Google puts that will expire soon, worthless.
Serves me right for betting against brilliance, though I still think Google is priced using an irrational exhuberance stock picking algorithm and Yahoo is … undervalued.

Blogs – why listen to the man when you can listen to the guy sticking it to the man?

Jeremy, over at one of the very best non-official blogs, is noting the challenges of corporate blogging which has been exploding thanks in no small part to the blog evangelizing efforts of another great non-official blogger Robert Scoble.

This reminded me of a nice talk I had with Google’s Adam at Pubcon where I was telling him that I’d rather read his own personal blog where he often has very thoughtful posts, or read Matt Cutts, than read the Google company line at the corporate blog.

Ideally I’d like to see Adam talk about Google stuff from his own perspective, as Jeremy has done so effectively over the years at Yahoo and Matt sometimes does at his blog. Corporate suits should take note of the amazing reservoir of credibility Jeremy, and a handful of other unofficial folks, have created with their frank, honest and introspective styles.

I’m still pretty much a corporate blog bigot, feeling that a large company blogs generally suffer from the items Jeremy notes PLUS the fact that usually it is very low level folks in charge of the blog and they simply can’t afford to rock the boat.

A notable exception is Bob Parsons over at Godaddy. I suppose his blog might be considered personal more than corporate, but this is my point. He’s wonderfully honest and insightful discussing Godaddy because nobody can kick his ass. He can write about the man without fear because he IS the man. His series about strategizing and running 2005 Superbowl TV ads was one of the most interesting things I’ve ever read about big ticket advertising.

So I’ll take Jeremy and Adam’s advice and check out the corporate blogs again, but I’m guessing I won’t be reading the man when I can read the guy who is at least willing to stick it to the man.

Real Estate or False Estate?

I’d really like to buy some real estate this winter if the price gets right, but it’s a nervous time since prices appear to be on the way down for at least another several months and as I see it could fall or stay low for the next few years, even indefinitely if global tensions and US spending continue at the current levels.   This article suggests some really good deals in housing, though I think I’ll stick to the local market I know a lot better than these.

Bravo Branson

Richard Branson, in this Forbes article, does a fine job of articulating how and why entrepreneurial capitalism and social responsibility can work together in vibrant ways.   Branson recently pledged to give *all profits* from his tranportation companies to projects that are working to alleviate global warming.     Although I’d rather see the money go to global health initiatives it’s admirable and exciting to see how socially proactive the “super rich” like Branson, Gates, and Buffett have become.     In fact it almost seems to be “infectious” which bodes well for a world desparately in need of innovative thinking combined with big money to fund clever projects.

I’d like to see a study of what may be a natural tension when Governments do a “really good job” at eliminating significant problems because it puts bureaucrats out of work and shrinks budgets.   Could this help explain why governments often seem to spend so much and accomplish so little when it comes to solving significant problems?

It’s all about the O

Thanks Overstock.com !    I wanted to get my parents a memory foam mattress topper and Overstock continues to have great prices  –  $79 for  2″ foam.   This is about half the (otherwise good) Costco price for similar stuff.   Surfing around for more items I bumped into a 1G mem card for my Treo 650 at $26, also about half the going “good” price.    Free shipping made it a no brainer but then I realized “hey, there might be promo discounts” and a quick google search got me a link to an extra 15% off, which was very nicely tagged onto my existing shopping cart after visiting the (Overstock created?) coupon site.

The causes of a problem cannot total more than 100%

There is a lot of blame going around the world these days.   I think it would be helpful if people blaming others for a problem would first define the problem and then assign blame to all the parties involved, with the total blame equalling 100%.     The conflicts in the Middle east come to mind as an area where this might be helpful.     If a car bomb planted by insurgents kills 100 people how do you rationally allocate the responsibility?    I see all the following parties as having at least a measure of responsibility:

The insurgent bombers themselves
The insurgency who helped the bombers
Iraqi govt security forces (for failing to protect)
USA Govt military (for helping to destabilize the region)
Foreign funders of insurgency
Iraq citizens who support insurgency
US Citizens (for funding the inital conflict)

A reasonable list goes on for some time, though I wonder if you could simplify things by grouping political allies and adversaries?    At first this excercise seems somewhat futile, but I think it forces people to address issues that are usually left off the table such as “how much responsibility does an individual have for their direct violent actions?”.       I’d suggest that however you allocate responsibility you cannot rationally say the total is greater than 100%.

My working assumption is that people generally fall into two camps on this – one that says individuals have a lot of control over themselves and therefore bear most of the responsibility for their actions.  The other group suggests people’s actions are best viewed as the product of complicated forces that are usually out of the individual’s control.   These folks look at individual behavior more forgivingly and see societies as responsible for problems far more than individuals.
In the USA, and even internationally I think, individual accountability people tend to be politically conservative while society accountability people tend to be liberal.

Time for computer glasses?

I didn’t realize how specialized glasses had become.   There are computer glasses for people who spend a lot of time at the computer, which appear to be a form of progressive bifocal like the ones I have now.   The anti reflective coating on these ise delaminating and it’s driving me nuts but I have not had time to take them in.   I didn’t realize what it was at first, thinking it was paint or some other residue stuck on the lens.   But it’s a coating that is degenerating, causing fuzzy spots on the lens.

I think it’s time to try the computer lenses since I’m at the box 8 or so hours per day.

Time on Risks

Today there is a great article in the online edition of Time magazine about how irrationally we process risks in our daily lives.   I just wish they’d also point out that the extension of this mathematical ignorance, combined with religious intolerance, can account for most if not virtually all of the most pressing global problems.

We are stupid beings.   The recognition of that fact brings us much closer to a measure of salvation and solutions.