Friday, December 21, 2007

Pixelated Videos

I have written before about how the transition to digital technology is changing the notion and perception of 'static', whether new generations would recognize the references to static in pre-digital media, now that a transmission or playback error no longer takes the form of visual or audio 'noise' but pixelization or silence. Yet recently I saw a Verizon commercial where the daughter tried to get away from her curfew by having her friends imitate traditional static and her mother on the other end of the line pointing out that that was simply impossible on Verizon's network, after which the daughter switched to claiming the sounds were ambient noise.

I was thinking about this recently in the context of YouTube and the art form of the music video. It seems like a natural match, short video and a medium for showing short video, but it is actually a really bad fit in my opinion. Pop-music videos, like pop-music, rely on a lot of dynamic changes, like beats, to stay interesting, often punctuated by dramatic moments. In other words, something's gotta happen often, and have a big wow from time to time, or we get bored. Thing is, digital video is really bad at both, the encoding algorithms rely on there being very little difference between one image and the next to be able to pack video in what little bandwidth we actually have. Beats, visual or audio, going bam bam bam bam are about a full change between one image and the next. People moving over a static background means very little difference between one image and the next, so there is a lot of room for information to be pushed down the pipe. Have a the background moving as well, or changing color or brightness rapidly, and there is so much difference between one image and the next that the channel cannot keep up.

Somewhere in the early nineties, as music videos grew up from their infancy of just recording performances with camera tricks and their adolescence of trying to be a movie, the Brits started shooting videos with an insane amount of cuts and movement, foreground and background, to keep visual interest. I was recently thinking about the prime example of that style and wondering how it would survive on YouTube, and by coincidence it got posted on my flist today.

Bros -- "I Owe You Nothing"

Total YouTube failure. There isn't a single frame where there isn't pixelisation, where every face isn't some form of a blur -- and those boys were so airbrushed already -- and the backgrounds are just a mess. Look, this video isn't art and never was meant to be, but it was a prime example of its time, and it basically cannot be seen properly in this new medium. Contrast that with a video of which the director explicitly tried to make something that would work as well on a TV screen as YouTube. It had to be dynamic and exciting on the 60" screen, but not become a blur on the 2" one. It was done with very static backgrounds. Static camera shots. If there is movement, it is controlled. Close-ups are always still. The going in and out of focus on the face is so managed that the pixelisation works with it as a cute effect.

Rhianna -- "Umbrella"

Incidentally, I do not believe for a moment that was Rhianna herself dancing en pointe. I never got a full shot of her doing it. I am ready to be told wrong. I am also now wondering whether sets and editing rooms for video shoots will have rudimentary YouTube encoding equipment on hand to see directly how well a shot or cut will show up.

Not all of the early and mid-nineties videos are completely lost, of course, but often do not fare so well. Take the following one, one of my absolute favorite videos, which uses dance as its main visual hook. It stalls on my underpowered laptop from time to time, takes out fluidity or power in the movements, and chances are very visual dramatic moment at 3:52 simply gets dropped on the digital floor never to be seen because it uses one of the most awkward objects for digital video to try to encode: smoke, and lots of it. The result is an approximation of the performance: you kinda know what everyone intended, but you just can't really sink into it because your brain constantly has to fill in the blanks YouTube drops.

New Order -- "True Faith"

I can't wait for a better medium than YouTube for music videos. I consider it a bad fit. Music videos weren't made for YouTube, and YouTube obliterates them, makes them absolutely irritating. All the subtelty of lighting and motion becomes a stuttering mess. A medium that makes Mark Romanek's work look anything but sleek and crafted doesn't deserve it.

David Bowie -- "Jump They Say"

No, YouTube should be used for its own art and entertainment that was specifically made for it. Not to broadcast media that was made for a different form of transmission, but for people who start fresh, whose work does not rely on what YouTube is bad at, but use YouTube for what it is good at: the conversation YouTube is embedded in, to layer idea upon idea upon idea. Make it have its own stars, like Tim recently showed me.

kevjumba & Happy Slip -- "Put It In Purse"

Monday, December 17, 2007

Twitter Is Weird

Why is twitter not sending me an update to my registered IM when someone I follow updates? I am expecting a IM window to pop up from showing me the update form this person. Isn't it supposed to do that? Does anybody have it working?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Recruiters Suck

Hey Kelly, sweetheart, I really do not feel any more confidence in your recruiter powers when you send me mail telling me that you mistyped and that the job was at Yahoo!, not Google as you wrote when you originally sent me the open req.

I don't know why they seem to be all called Kelly. Meanwhile, I am expecting a call this week again whether I want to be a J2ME Blu-Ray content developer in Culver City (No.). And I will tell this recruiter that s/he is the 7th one to call me, because Ascent Media and Sony are calling one recruiter shop after another to fill those spots, and they all do the same Dice search and end up with me. I do not just not want the job because I am moving back to the EU, I also do not want the job because it has Outsource It To Romania As A Cost-Cutting Measure In 2 Years written all over it.

Off to deliver two broken computers I found in our basement storage to the Safe Waste people.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


My Yahoo! email account is getting an unreal amount of 409 spams. I think I made 5 million tonight alone going through all the UK lotteries, UN grants, and cheque-cashing commissions waiting for me.

Why that account?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Google Maps

Well, Google Maps for Symbian Devices is nice, and the fact that it will do aproximate positioning based on which cell tower your phone is attached to if the phone does not have GPS is actually useful: ok, so you won't get proper turn by turn directions, but a local search actually ends up being properly local within a few blocks. But a nice new feature that would integrate Google Maps beyond what a standard GPS can do, is to allow me to select a destination from my phonebook. Yes, I can save a destination into the phonebook, now I should be able to, when I want to enter a location, be able to click through and pick a name from my phonebook if it has a street address stored. I have a lot of addresses in my phonebook.

And then the next step is that, when I am going to a location, Google Maps should keep a running estimate based on current movememnt and expected traffic how long it will take to get to the destination. And make it really easy to call, or better, send a one-click text message to the person in the phonebook you are going to sayong how late you will be. Try that, TomTom.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Show Me Off

This is not easy to type with two kittens on my lap. At least they are sleeping.

So I was thinking some more about Amazon's Kindle, based on a conversation I had with Karen about how she was ok with electronic books but wanted a representation of them to be able to show, and I remembered that one of the lessons of the industry I am in is the intense relationship people have with mobile personal technology. It's not just for communication, or music; these devices become symbols, extensions of the owner's personality, signage about which tribes and institutions and feelings the user wants to broadcast belonging and allegiance to.

The same is true for newspapers and magazines: the benfits are not just their content, but being seen with them. Executives want to be seen reading the WSJ and not New York Post, design weenies want to be seen with Wallpaper, scoffing will ensue if music people are seen with the "wrong" music magazine. If publications weren't public signifiers, plain brown paper wrappers would never have been invented.

Kindle obliterates that benefit. All you will be broadcasting to the people in the train or street or bus or waiting room while using your Kindle, is that you use a Kindle. Kindle turns a form of identity-broadcasting off. This is a loss of benefit that Kindle has to also work against beyond all other issues it has.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

And I Repeat

My recipe for making LJ decentralized and under individual control, while retaining the community-aspect and friends pages.

Now I also want a script that migrates a previous journal to a new system, and a server that you can use to update old comments and RSS feeds when a friend tells you they migrated to their new system. It may be time to blow LJ up into the new blogging paradigm for everyone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"Um Yeah This Is He...?"

My doctor so far is reasonable to deal with, but I can't get over HIPAA and office confidentiality rules that allow an office worker to tell me the results of all my blood work over the phone (including, say, an HIV test) after verifying my identity by having me answer "yes" to the question whether I am Fabian, yet require me to fax in a release form when I actually would like a copy.

I was told all returned lab results are ok, I just want to know how ok they are.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Dear Rhapsody on TiVo

I would have been more inclined to pay money for your service if you hadn't stopped streaming music in the last week of my trial. As in, song never loads. I could have dealt with your sucky, sucky interface, but I really do insist on actually having music to listen to, even if your catalog was a steaming pile of blah. (Bryan Ferry's section came up empty for example.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

And The First One To Complain About Readability Needs To March Off To A Sony Store

Amazon Kindle isn't a device. It is a service.

A service which includes Wikipedia on-hand anywhere in the US. I hope it does IMDB too.

Friday, November 16, 2007

If You Actually Were Important, You'd Be At The Hollywood Gold's, Not The One Downtown

Seen today at the gym: a guy doing weighted squats while on his cellphone. No, not a bluetooth headset, he's holding a cellphone to his ear and somehow keeping the bar on his back and squatting reps. Thank god it was in the Smith machine. I passed Bruce, Dean's PT when Dean was still in LA, on the way to a machine, and point him to this sight. I can't look away, it's like watching NASCAR for a crash. "Oh, [X]. He's probably pitching a new movie. Do we have any 'No Cellphone' signs up in this place?"


Dear Vendor At Farmer's Market

You know, if your Certified Organic Apples are just as expensive as the Certified Organic Apples at Ralph's (same variety), I really do not see the point.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

No, Let's Actually Talk

After their 1 to 10 rating system turned into a social disruptor,, a network of social sites for male-oriented male fetishists, switched to 'cruising'. It's just a button to click on someone's profile so your name, linked to your profile, shows up on a 'People Who Cruised Me' list, private to the cruised profile. The amount of times a profile has been cruised is public, and of course there is a 'Top 100 Cruised Profiles' list, reset every month.

I used to be cruised, and look at who cruised me, and cruise them back, out of courtesy I guess. It's a token of appreciation, a gift, and it seemed somehow rude not to acknowledge it, and cruising back was easier than writing 200 Thank You notes every month. And I decided it was too anonymous, and that if people liked me they should say so, so I clicked the button to opt-out of cruising.

Suddenly this crowd of people who came every beginning of every month to cruise me, many fuckin hot, stopped showing up. I guess I was no longer any help in their campaigns to make the Top 100. Haven't seen them in a while. Instead I actually get communication, and when I see a hot guy I make a point of telling him so in a message. I like it. No Top 100 list bullshit, I'd never make it on one with so many men on campaign for exposure. If I want exposure I'll just put a new pic up, the system flags that on another list.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I Bring Pop-Culture To The Semantic Web

So we're in the car, however long ago, and Dean is telling me about the latest development in the actual nuts and bolts of using Semantic Web technologies for heterogeneous data integration, including a new standard for a query language called Sparql. He mentioned he had suggested a language for scripting those queries together. SPARQLScript or something.

You can see where this is going to end up when I am in the picture.

"You need to finish those extensions, and submit them as a standard", I go, "and call it SPARQLMotion. And then when it gets caught in committee or people are slow, you can tell them that sometimes you doubt their commitment to it. In tears."

(Well, TopQuadrant did write the scripting language, but they got nervous about syntax and realized it worked better inside their suite of products as a visual script builder for fast prototyping. Still a way to chain SPARQL queries together and run them against data-sources. So I didn't end up naming a standard, just a product. The name is getting identified as an in-joke already.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Recruiters Suck

I am about to start advocating not putting up your phone number on C.V.s and profiles on job sites. It would have saved me from a whole lot of stupid.

No Kelly and Biff, once you leave a message that you have an awesome fitting opportunity because I have wireless experience, and then ask me questions that indicate the job is about writing C++ Wireless USB drivers, I am not coming in to Torrance because you say you have a pretty good fit other opportunity and "need to meet me first".

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Android Will Not Survive Rule #1

There's a lot of talk about Net Neutrality, the concept that networking providers should not throttle or charge differently for accessing different sites of the net, like, say, AT&T deciding that their residential DSL clients will only get Google's search page slower than they get to the search page of AT&T's Internet partner Yahoo, or even never get to Google at all, unless Google pays up, even though Google is already paying its network provider to put its content on the Internet. And then Comcast and Time Warner deciding to make their own deals for who gets preferred access on their pipes. Some people do not take this debate seriously, and think the market should just work it out instead of having the Government mandate that the Internet is the Internet and is too valuable to fracture.

I know what a non-neutral net looks like, where your network provider decides what you get to see and how fast and how it works. I've worked in it. It is why I am considering a change of direction in my career out of mobile. A non-neutral network is what tons and tons of US mobile consumers see on their phones when they start up their mobile browsers, or even their phones themselves. They can't go to the mobile sites they want to because the browser does not allow users to enter a URL so they can only browse sites the operator allows, they can't install new programs unless they are approved by their provider, their phones are locked down so that they have no choice in ringtones or who hosts their pictures except as their operator allows. The network operators, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, et., control their networks, and if I ever make a list of rules of the mobile industry in the US, at the number 1 spot would be "Operators Are Scum".

I am sure they are staffed with nice people, but over all, considering the price and service they deliver, they are scum, with their contracts and horrible customer service and oversubscription and ETFs and crippling of devices. These machines we have in our hands can do so much more than the stupid basic stuff they do now, but it becomes hugely expensive or impossible to do so, because operators would rather keep the market small by getting revenue from every bit of data and having their fingers in every pie, instead of allowing the market to be huge by charging just a reasonable fee for the pipes and not blocking consumers from actually using them. Sure Verizon would be unable to charge a buck or whatever for a subscriber to offload their picture using Bluetooth instead of forcing them to use Verizon's mail solution, but how much more would people pay Verizon in data charges if their users could use new fun services all the time? Say, automatic location-aware Twitter but with pictures, or something new?

(Of course, the nasty little secret here is not that operators couldn't handle the volume of data if all users were actually having this kind of fun. The nasty little secret is that, for a whole host of reasons, operators can't even handle the current amount of voice calls they have actually signed up to handle. Next time your call gets dropped, realize it is not because you entered a dead spot, it could also be because your call got kicked off the cell for a higher priority call like 911, or because, well, the cell tower you were being handed off to as you were driving or walking to a new area simply did not have the empty slots.)

I say this having worked for an operator, Disney Mobile, but we were a 'virtual' operator, a reseller, dependent on the 'real' operator that was managing our pipes. Now, we really did do our own bit of constraining here, after all, we were selling a 'safe' phone service to children. I still remember the Monday morning Product meeting where one of the people managing the browser portal on our service asked if 'The Onion' really should be, as it is called , 'on deck'. In the news section, no less. The look on everyone's face was priceless, 15 people or so looking at each-other with a silent version of What The Fuck? The Director of Product swiftly said no, it should not be on our mobile portal. Then we asked, just to be sure, what the headline was that morning on the mobile version of The Onion. An article about necrophilia. We sold these phones to 9 year-olds. Once again, no. I think the change to our portal was pushed out within minutes of that meeting being over, which is the fastest turn-around to a mobile product I have ever seen.

The explosion of the World Wide Web in the late nineties did give us the Dot Com crash, but even after the party was over it actually had, and still does, create new wealth, government budget surpluses, prosperity, and more access to good and services and information and emotions and news and connections than people have ever had available to them in all social stratas It would not have happened if Time Warner and Comcast would have crippled their networks and made Microsoft cripple their computers like mobile operators do now -- not that they aren't trying, by trying to kill BitTorrent sessions and Trusted Computing and AT&T's latest idea to check everything on its network looking for copyrighted content and then filter it out, and let us hope the people put a stop to it, both as consumers and legislators. But mobile could be even huger and more innovative, and it is not going to happen the way things are now: even the equipment maker with the most clout ever seen globally in the history of mobile telecom, Apple, had to get on bended knee for AT&T and close its machine off. All I can say is thank god it will make AT&T pay through the nose for the privilege, and it seems Apple will open the iPhone for third-party software anyway. But if AT&T decides that people are watching too much YouTube or doing too much chat with their unlimited plans, AT&T will simply throttle that bandwidth on that specific port, if not simply close it down, like T-Mobile did with Real audio and vidoe streaming, and there's nothing a subscriber can do about it, and I doubt Apple has negotiated minimum Quality of Service standards with AT&T either.

This is why I am skeptical of all these mobile software and services start-ups trying to bring new mobile whoo-hah to mobile consumers. First, you ain't getting those applications on the overwhelming amount of phones being sold. Even Windows-based smartphones on operators are often locked-down for new programs and data streams, witness the problems people have with Google Maps or Mobile Opera. Well, as a software maker you can get them installed, but you have to partner with the operator to get them 'on-deck' on the shopping portal where subscribers can shop for programs to install on their phones. This means paying the operator all kinds of fees. And if you want significant coverage, you have to do these partnerships with multiple operators then. The only slam-dunk categories of applications for which this works is games. Now think about start-ups like Plaxo, Yelp, Newsvine; every one having to pay Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T, for the privilege of having their cable & DSL subscribers be able to go to their sites, if not having to outright 'partner' with them, often exclusively. Yet that is exactly where we are in the mobile industry today. The only people mobile services are getting to install their products and viewers and uploaders, at least from the US, are weenies like me who paid 500 bucks for their totally unlocked phones who can install anything they want, and have unlimited data to go with it. That's not many people. The rest they get is people who can browse on their phones were they want -- which also is not everyone -- and thus get mediocre WAP sites to deal with, and lord knows what they can up- or download.

So when a new fabulous mobile start-up calls to recruit me, even if I ovelooked they are all in Silicon Valley, I always go "Eh?" Take the mobile world by storm with your fab new tech? Who is your partner? Did they make you give up 75% of the mobile users just so you could work with them? How deep will they bury you in their shopping catalog? Unless your fabulous innovative service works over SMS. Not MMS, because you will have lost the Apple iPhones right there, and for most people 'picture mail', as MMS gets called, costs a buck or more to send. And if it is SMS, do you have short-code set up yet with all operators? Really?

The mobile service makers have no clout in this market place. This includes Google. I am very happy for them how they announced their new, Open Source, go-play-with-it, operating system for mobile phones, in a huge consortium of 34 businesses. And I want to say nothing than good about it, not just because it is Google, whom I like for everything but their HR department -- future rant forthcoming -- but because a former Nokia colleague seems to be involved with it. Whom I could name-drop (hi David!), but he's taller, nicer, has a sexier foreign accent, and is a better software engineer than me (he could get the whole Symbian thing to work. In fact, he managed to do major architecture in it), so most of the time I do not want any of my friends to know he exists: I can't handle the competition.

I didn't find any major operators in the list of Android partners. It's nice that they already signed up a manufacturer, HTC, but the operators could simply decide not to sell those HTC models running Android, which means they could only be purchased as unlocked on the open market. Adds about $150,- to the what a user would pay for a non-Android phone available through an operator right there, and locks out all of Sprint and Verizon for now. (You can buy a SIM from T-Mobile and get your unlocked GSM phone to work, good luck doing the same on CDMA. Yes, Sprint has announced that they will allow you to unlock your CDMA phone, but did they announe they would let unlocked CDMA phones on their network? )

So, good luck to Google. Good luck to Android. And good luck to me finding a new gig. But now you know why in this corner, when it comes to the mobile industry, and last weeks jubilant ground-breaking announements, and his future...

(moar funny pictures)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

3G Is Really Really Fast

Unfortunately I am no longer on a global corporate mobile account, so I am paying $0.015 per kb. Uploading 3Mb pictures is not a good idea, nor is YouTubing in the train.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

What Format Does The World Have, Anyway

Sent to both my and mail:
Dear Fj,

I am S***** K***** with V***** & Associates, recruiters based in Boca Raton, Florida since 1993. I found your resume online and I believe I might have a good job for you.

My Client asked me to find a great candidate to join them, and your name came up during my research. This could mean that you are the Person we are looking for, or that you are active in a function that closely relates to it so you know others who can fill this open position (we pay excellent referral fees). Please read the note (1).

I will personally work with you through this simple and quick application process, starting right here and now:

Position Code, Title and Location: 1451 - 0SK0 - Director, User Experience - Santa Clara, CA
Start Date: ASAP
Remote or Onsite: On location at the Client's site 100% of the time. No telecommuting or remote work.
Additional Information: Below is all the information I have from the Client. Once I setup your interview, you will have the chance to ask them directly anything I do not include here.

The Company builds award-winning software and services which make mobile computing easy and essential for everyone.

" Act as advocate for user experience in Good's development team as they develop next-generation enterprise mobility software
" Manage UI design team
" Manage interaction and visual designers
" Manage technical publications team

Required Skills/Experience:
" 10+ years of product design experience
" 7+ years of management experience
" Must have outstanding interaction design skills
" Communication and persuasion skills
" Must work effectively with all members of the team, including product management, engineering managers, and management
" Enterprise software experience (a plus)
" Mobility software experience (a plus)

End of Description

Please tell me if you feel confident with the requirements and comfortable delivering on them. As soon as you send me your reply to all questions below, and your resume attached, we will talk on the phone. A technical interview with the Client will follow as the last step.

1. Are you a US citizen/Green Card/visa holder (please, specify)?

2. When will you become available?:

3. What is the yearly salary you expect (Important: do not respond with 'salary range', 'approximate', 'negotiable', 'about', salary plus any other concept, etc. The Client will provide benefits in addition to your salary, according to their policies, which will be explained to you during your interview with them.

Important: You and I, we are competing with other agencies for this position for you. The Client will select a professional based on credentials and cost. Please quote a salary you feel confident will land you this great opportunity, and will be consistent with your compensation history. I will not attempt to negotiate your compensation down with you, I will report to the Client the amount you quote here? $__________ per year on W2 (Fulltime Employee).

4. Very important: this is designed to save us both time and expedite a decision by my Client. Please complete the following Skill Matrix, answering each question with A) number of years of experience with the skill, B) your skill level on a scale from 1 to 5 (highest), and C) the last time you applied it. It has to be consistent with your resume.

I.e.: Experience 4 years - Skill level 5 - Last Applied January 07

1) Product design experience (min 10 years): years ____, skill level ___, last applied ___
2) Management experience (min 7 years): ____, skill level ___, last applied ___
3) Interaction design: ____, skill level ___, last applied ___
4) Enterprise software experience: ____, skill level ___, last applied ___
5) Mobility software: ____, skill level ___, last applied ___
6) Do you have a Bachelor's degree (required)?

* Please attach your resume as a Word document

I will handle your information in strict confidentiality and only to obtain the contract you seek.

As a Recruiter, I chose my clients and requirements with you in mind. I am equally aware that you get to choose the Recruiter you will work with. I hope to earn your trust and that you feel comfortable working with me.

If you received a similar invitation or phone call to apply for the same position through another agency, I encourage you to consider that V&A has very good chances at landing you the contract: our processes resulting from over a decade of constant improvements, results in a lower cost to the Client, speedy handling and high rate of placements.

I hope to hear from you today through your complete response and resume. My mission is to get you the job you want.

[Name, contat info]

PS: This is a real opportunity with my Client; I am not wasting your time or mine.

(1) Referral Fee: please forward this email to that person/s and copy me and/or gives us her/his name. If I hire he/her thanks to your introduction, you will accomplish two things: found a great job for someone you know and get a referral fee ranging from two hundred to two thousand dollars directly from V&A, depending on the contract. We will not disclose your name to anyone.

My response:
> PS: This is a real opportunity with my Client; I am not wasting your time or mine.

Considering the job you are showing me is 6 hours of driving away from
my current residence, I am not so sure about that.

FJ van W*******

And then I get an automated response that my response was received, which includes the precious line:
Please take a quick look at what you sent me and make sure that you
included the answers to all the questions and your resume attached in
World format

Friday, October 26, 2007

Arrogant Dismissive Me

My N73 has a voice synthesizer built in that can be used to announce who is calling. If the number of the person calling is in the phone book, the voice will say the name -- often not so very good, but recognizable -- in between the sweet tones of the stereo high-fidelity ringtone, so I would know who was calling me from across the room. Nobody almost ever really called me, and the people who called me are friends, so it was very seldom I would hear the ringtone without an announcement. Until now. For the last 3 weeks. And when I hear the ringtone without the name, I can predict now with 90% certainty how the call will go. And it is making me wonder about the state of tech on all kinds of levels.

If the voice sounds like the person learned English in India or Pakistan, it starts off with "Hi, I am looking for Van / FJ Van?" An American-English voice will look for FJ. They will both ask me how I am, the US voice sounding a little less scripted, but we both know we don't want an answer. They'll tell me they found my resume on Dice, and they have a position that they'd li--

I have learned to cut them off to save us all time: "What city?" It's always something in the SF Bay Area, usually Mountain View. My Dice profile lists as work locations LA and, as a long shot since you can fill in two cities, Vancouver. Very seldom the caller will acknowledge that LA is not in the San Francisco Bay Area, usually they do not and they will barrel on and I stop them to tell them I am not interested in relocating.

I keep wondering if they consider that everyone will relocate as a given, are just calling everybody desperately, usually based on a bad keyword match. Today, when the answer was again a city in the Bay Area, I asked "Are you looking at my profile? Can you see what I entered as locations to work?" He glossed right over the fact I am nowhere near SF, making me wonder if he even knows what California looks like. I think I am going to probe a little deeper with the next call.

Maybe in a couple of months I will be deeply regretting blowing these calls off, because I do blow them off right now. I have my doubts about LA, but I am making some awesome friends here. I live in a modern and solid 1000 sq ft loft, which I consider gorgeous, with walkable services nearby, my own deeded parking, and close to major roads to take me to other interesting parts of the metro area. OK, so I couldn't have afforded this on my own, but that doesn't mean I am about to give it up to either live in Oakland or have a roommate, and do Silicon Valley traffic. I keep wondering what salary I should demand to compensate for the change in real-estate standard of living. As said, I didn't cut this morning's call off, but just named a number as my base yearly salary that was 50% over what I made in Disney Mobile. Again a gloss over, he would submit my request.

Of course when I received the position in email, it wasn't a good fit, just a bad keyword match, and I could see it a mile away. But I am really curious now. Are some of these recruiters actually working off-shore, without a map? Are insane salaries available? But just so you know, and in follow-up to John wondering why rents are actually going up and other's locked musings about real estate in SF crashingadjusting or not, I am getting these calls daily, sometimes two a day. Open positions in tech, and especially mobile tech, are way up in the SF Bay Area.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Loved It!

Talking to Helen, photoshoot stylist and lifecoach -- I keep thinking she should combine the two: fix your wardrobe, pad, and career in one very expensive go -- she asked me in five minutes a couple of question that made me rethink what I want out of work. So what did I like about past gigs?

And I realize that the gig that I have had which I ended up liking the most was when I did two external sites, and for Nokia. First of all it was working for a company I could respect, and that had its act together or at least was striving to do so. I really liked the corporate culture of Nokia because I could handle it. A core value was respect, and the company meant it, those cute Finns, even though they could complain so bitterly on the Intranet their manager wasn't giving it. You have to love a company where I could have an internal blog telling people honestly how a re-org of our department was botched, and the only response I ever got from above was my direct manager telling me "The division heads don't like what you wrote, but you were truthful, and the company did set up and allow this internal-blogging experiment, so that's all." I'd work again for the company itself in a heartbeat.

Second the work for these sites was relevant and served many people doing interesting things. When I worked on WAP tools, it became quickly apparent that most of it was to be used by people who wanted to create what I call the Mobile Pizza-Coupon Delivery Eco-system, and that was disheartening. The whole WAP thing just ended up getting no respect. Putting researchers in touch with each-other and creating tools for their work was fulfilling. I didn't get very far with that, just the first iteration before I moved on, but I could see where I could take it. The whole thing was kind of glamorous as well because it was so high-profile -- second time something I made hit the Slashdot front page -- and had such growth potential; for example, there was an article in some business magazine about how P&G had used their research website to create a whole research extranet and research ecology, and I was seeing myself doing that over future versions as the sites grew.

Third, event though this was a two-person project, Barbara and I, and I was not its manager, I had a lot of control, being both technical and creative lead. Thanks to working with Disney Mobile I have learned how to be a better creative lead on projects like this, knowing what to farm out and what to do myself better. Although, of course, the project had no budget so I had to do everything myself, and I did it well within my capabilities. Technologically I was also doing too much myself setting this new thing up, but since it was new it was fun, as was making it ready to go on autopilot and be maintained by others as I worked on the next new thing.

Fourth, I was compensated well on many fronts. Hell, by the end I was even in my own office. So why did I leave that gig and Nokia? Location was one: I wanted out of Boston, and Nokia was not located where I wanted to be. I also did not have the clout in this project and company to say "I want to do this from a distance permanently"; that month that I worked on this while in a flat in Amsterdam basically happened because my manager and I didn't tell anyone I wasn't in my cube. It turned out to be a fabulous move; thanks to my location and working habits, I was catching the best parts of both the European and American workday during a critical phase, thus shortening the lag in certain problems. I was also working with a fabulous hosting team, the kind of guys who were truly comfortable using IM and email.

It was exciting to take the traditionally most closed part of a closed company and giving it an opportunity to interact with the world, something many of the researchers clamored for but the company culture decidedly did not. My project manager, who had gotten the ball rolling, did a lot of the legwork to get publishing policies in place, create buy-in, move a consensus-based company into a new direction on this vital issue. She did all this work brilliantly. However, here was also the second problem with this project: once I set it up and I saw what the potential was, I wanted to lead it. Another component of my perfect job is that I mean something, that I get to leave my mark, develop leadership and rise. That was not going to happen here while we were both working on it. I would never do any kind of leadership play, not while I respected the work that Barbara had done so. So therefore my ambition was in the way of staying. I would only stay a web-slinger on this project if it had my name above the line, else I would want to do the usual hit-and-run. I just did not want to be a 40 y.o. underling web-slinger. Creative consultant, services prototyper, technology analyst, fine, but not the same thing for years unless it was mine.

Just going over my past gigs and evaluating which one I liked most was very useful. I hope the next opportunity I get will be a good fit on these levels.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

So, Um, My Fellow Techies...

Do any of these people make you think they understand the specific niche of tech you are in and how you fit into the complex pantheon of services?

Sometimes headshots are just a bad idea.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Disney Mobile Quits

Actually, it's really not that bad; there have been issues with my job since day 1 here, 17 months ago, and this 60-day lay-off period is a rather excellent way to end if it has to end. I hope to finally take some time for myself like I wanted to do when I left Nokia.

From a distance, I know my life this year looks like a country song: partner gone, cat dead, job gone, now all I need is for my truck to break down and my trailer to be re-possessed. But in reality, me getting a kick in the pants to leave Disney Mobile by virtue of Disney Mobile shutting down is not just ok, it's all right. I have been prospecting, but due to the nature of how recruiters find jobs through keyword hits, all I have been offered so far are Symbian C++ coding jobs. My answer has been identical every time: "You couldn't pay me enough to go back to that. I'd rather work a garbage truck." Oddly enough, recruiters do not answer that email.

I guess I won't get a chance to have a snippy exit interview in which I tell management how they obviously are losing the best person ever to work for them!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Lates Keynote Thoughts

When the Motorola RAZR was introduced in 2004, it's unsubsidized price was somewhere between $800 and $600, with subsidized versions -- 2 year contract required -- starting at $300 if you were very lucky. Right now, about 3 years later, you can practically get it as the prize at the bottom of your box of Wheaties (and Motorola has basically run the design into the ground by overexposure). Let this be a lesson to any high-end mobile phone buyer: you pay your money to have it now.

Also, if the latest rumors are true and the iPod Touch has, or will soon have, Bluetooth, the whole Nokia Tablet effort now has a fierce fierce new competitor. One that has effectively disguised itself from a geeky multimedia device into an iPod "that also can do other stuff". Which is probably a better strategy to make a device like this sell bigtime to consumers.

99c is expensive for a ringtone of music you already have -- in effect you end up paying for the convenience to splice out the 30 seconds of ringing exactly like you want, not like some ringtone aggregator thinks you should want, with a minimum of hassle. Customization is a huge seller for these intensely personal devices, and being able to make your exact ringtone like you want is a win here. Apple did manage to irritate both ends of the market, though: 1) the ringtone-maker costs less than buying a ringtone would if you had already bought the song, so aggregators are being undercut 2) people end up paying twice for music they already have, pissing consumers who know what is going technology-wise off, and mildly annoying the consumers already used to paying two bucks fifty for a ringtone of music they already acquired otherwise. I predict a huge success.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I think I should do my resume in LOLCat.

No, Me!
1999 K THX BYE

Sorry, 'M On The Phone Right Now
2003 K THX BYE


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Phone Sounds

By law, digital cameras in Japan must make a sound when taking a picture. Being able to take a pic without a shutter sound or a beep or chime to let people know they are being photographed is a no-no. When I got my N73, at a time it had not been officially released in the US yet, the importer got it from Hong Kong, guessing by the plug on the charger, and thus it had an Asian software build. Had.

When I used to work for Nokia, I was lucky enough to be a beta tester for phone models. This means that often the phone I was testing had to have a new version of its operating software put on it so we testers could find new bugs and report them. This process of updating the system software was called 'flashing the phone', and it could be the quite the production. It always involved a strange custom plug at the end of a data cable that would fit strangely inside the battery compartment, with pins that would probe deeply into nooks and crannies to find the contact points of the memory-chips, and bizarre instructions for using software so unfriendly only a chip-designer could love it. Seriously, on some models getting the flashing to work right involved holding your breath and slaughtering chickens and doing incantations while walking clockwise around the computer. During one beta test we managed to completely brick my phone. Flashing went awry and it could not be reflashed. It had to be sent back to the Mothership. Yes, I managed to really find the bugs everywhere, including updating procedures.

Nowadays the smartphones can be reflashed by anyone at home. I guess Nokia realized that since they were unavoidably shipping bugs on these sophisticated machines, allowing the user to upgrade to new builds would bring support costs down. It must be cheaper than users shipping phones back or going into stores to get an upgrade. You download the Nokia Software Updater, tell it to sense your phone attached to the computer with the bog-standard data cable that was in the box, the Updater downloads the latest build off the net, and shoves it onto your phone. No chicken required.

Back to my Asian-identified phone: even when I set it to the 'Silent' profile (make no noise ever), it will still make a shutter sound when I take a picture, as it should by Japanese law. I didn't like that. It screws up pet pictures: they wonder what the sound is, or wake up, and come over to sniff. Over on Facebook I joined the N73 group, where someone posted a pointer to a page on how to update an N73 to N73 - Music Edition. It turns out that you have to find another shady piece of software that will allow you to screw with the memory settings in ways the standard official Nokia Software Updater doesn't. Specifically, the software allows you to change the Product Code set inside the phone. As in, you change the number and your N73 is no longer Asian-identified, but Euro-identified. Or Bulgarian-identified. Or Australian-identified. Inside it seems they are all the same chips for all versions anyway, it's just that one code set in deep memory tells the phone what software it should have.

I installed the software, and felt nostalgic: the interface is indeed so techie only a chip designer could love it. I found the Euro product code on the list. I hooked up my phone, and made the software overwrite the Asian product code deep in the bowels of my phone, and burn in the Euro code. Yes, phone, you are now an imperialist round-eye model! Then I started Nokia Software Updater, who took one look at my phone and said "Ohgod, you are running completely inappropriate and also outdated software for your model. Here, let me get the latest build that is right for you, you Euro thing."

Now when I set my phone to 'Silent', the camera no longer makes a shutter sound when I take a picture. And a couple of browser bugs are gone. But no shutter sound. Europeans are a devious people.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Lord help me, I am on facebook.

I keep having to fight temptation to answer "How do you know Beth by checking "We hooked up."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

And The Irking By Visuals Continues

As a former tools developer at Nokia, I had a developer id. Since I knew my involvement with mobile would not stop once I left Nokia, I entered my personal email as part of that id. Which is why this morning I found this:

Calling All Innovators!

Nokia is pleased to launch the Mobile Rules! Competition, the leading annual competition for mobile applications and business plans. The goal of this effort is to bring together the most innovative thinking on applications, services and business models. Business managers, entrepreneurs, developers and creative professionals can benefit from this engagement and will have a chance to get products and services into the hands of millions of Nokia device users, operators, integrators, and enterprises. Act now to be part of this exciting innovation. Here's how The Mobile Rules! Competition works:

Track 1:

Mobile Applications categories:

* Multiplayer/Connected Games
* Multimedia
* Enterprise
* Infotainment

We are looking for new applications etc whatever [...]

I presume this graphic will be taken off the ad-server soon, so we will not longer see the image of some young guy with slicked hair and sunglasses in a limo with two women styled and posed as lifestyle sexual accessories next to him, one holding a phone to his ear. And it just frickin bothers me. It so normative of gender roles (guy == winner, chick == spoils of competition), so crass about consumerism, does not project a professional image, not welcoming to women innovators and entrepreneurs in my opinion, and all of it completely unnecessary.

There are many reasons I would work for Nokia again in a heartbeat, and one of them is that I could resurrect my internal blog and post this there and maybe get it noticed, or hit the internal HR / Employees forum with it and get this noticed. I hope someone does. I am sure then there will be responses that it was meant as fun and the poster should not feel so easily slighted and something about feminists ruining everything and how most of the competitors will be men anyway so what is the big deal anyway, but I'd still go ahead. This is not a respectful image.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Remake Us

There's something about this level of retouching that so disgusts me. I know personally from a stylist that retouching, either mechanical in the old days, or Photoshop now, has always happened for covers, but this reworking of the body shape seems to be getting more extreme.

Professional models don't get covers anymore. The supermodel craze has died out, and it turns out models don't sell covers anymore, but celebrities do. Check the covers of Elle and Cosmo, where they used to feature Naomi and Linda even before they became household names, now they put Kelly Clarckson and Anne Hathaway because the magazines noticed an uptick in newsstand sales when the face was relatable and familiar. Except now that the magazines no longer hire professional genetic outliers to model, they feel the need to turn these otherwise-gifted women, already under a microscope to be prettier than the rest, into genetic outliers again with slender arms and no wrinkles. Enter electronics.

"Men's Fitness" recently got busted doing the same to their cover celebrity, Andy Roddick. Somehow being a really talented tennis player with a professionally trained fit body was not simply not good enough. Which actually does say a lot for the standards "Men's Fitness" and "RedBook" are trying to set: Already Attractive and Managed Aging Is Not Good Enough. Exquisitely Trained Professional Athlete Is Not Good Enough. Being normal must really suck then.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Everyone Gets Expensive Phones!

One thing about the iPhone: I no longer feel the need to mumble about the price or apologize for owning a 500 dollar phone myself. "I just wanted a really good lens." Which is also why the iPhone is not a compelling phone for me personally, all its quirks and compromises aside.

But looking at how much damage my expensive phone has taken in a year, I foresee many iPhone tears.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hopefully This Link Will Lead Nowehere Soon

Someone's trying to sell the PHKL on eBay. Except I know Melinda would never list it as working, nor have access to the four-figure-dollars Kimora Lee Simmons Hello Kitty bling to sell with it for 50 bucks.

A HK fan emailed me this morning to ask what was up. I checked and reported it to eBay, but I bet they won't do shit for a while.

Jeezus this thing has legs.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Distributed LJ

Necessary to create a distributed blogging sturcture with different levels of access to posts:

  • Blogging software on a host
    • that can serve as OpenID validation (the 'home account')
    • that can authenticate readers with their OpenID identity (friends)
      • using cookies stored in the browser so friends don't have to log in every 20 minutes
    • that allows comments based on these identities
    • that allows posts based on these identities as moderated by the journal owner (communities)
    • that understands different authenticated OpenID readers have different access to posts based on groups (filters, friends groups)
    • that will show a different RSS feed to RSS readers that authenticate based on OpenID
    • that has an RSS reader page that can be pointed to other feeds and will authenticate itself when asked (friends page)

  • A central page that lists
    • how to download and install this blogging software on your own domain
    • which hosters will host this blogging software for you, and a brief overview of what their access, bandwidth, acceptable use, and suspension polices are -- preferably with one-click selection and install (choose name of your blog, accept TOS, blog is now hosted on provider of your choice)
      • fee-based or ad-supported hosters available for different users

Pleasant to also have: a protocol for user-icons in this distributed blogging network so that leaving a comment with my OpenID will also point to the icon hosted on my blog / site with the right mood. Polls. Voice posts. Good integration with picture hosting, or its own.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Please Hold

The house-guest we had some years ago for some years was an Old-School Telephone-Network Enthousiast, the kind that mourns the technological repercussions of the break-up of Ma Bell for aesthetic reasons. If you are into networking, find yourself one and talk to them. They'll teach you why, for example, as I paraphrase, "5 nines [99.999%] availability is a disgrace; if a switch is down for more than ten minutes a year a district manager would have been fired. That's 911 availability you're talking about here." And much other tidbits about the astounding engineering effort the enduring old telephone network is.

It was because I lived with one that I will never get Voice Over IP, also known Phone Service From My Cable Company, as my home line, and why, even though I work in the mobile industry, I always have land-line. Well, I also have to have a land-line in this building: the doorbell rings it when some comes calling. But mobile services are flaky, and cable phone depends on the cable company -- and the cable company has never been solid wherever I lived. How are you gonna use your cable phone to call the cable company when your cable is out? That's 911 availability you're talking about here.

As happened last night. I lost cable around midnight, and since I do not get paper bills, I couldn't quickly get online to find the tech support number instead. I pick up the phone and decide to give The Former Shell Of AT&T a workout, dialing 411.
The recording asks: "What cities please?"
-- "Los Angeles, California"
A new voice: "What number?"
-- "Time Warner Cable"
And instead of being switched to the mechanical voice to read me the number, a human moment occurs with a single sentence that catches me by surprise: first the operator says something useful only she could know. "I have had a lot of people asking for that one, so be prepared to hold. Here it is..." And then she switches me to the number read-out.

Indeed, by the time I navigated the tech support phone tree to the option of "Yes my cable-modem is on, I have restarted, your modem connection light is blinking, I am not an idiot", a recording tells me call volumes are so high they can't handle my call, they won't even put me in the wait-queue, please try again later. I guess there is critical mass of cable-modem users on a Saturday early morning in downtown L.A. now. I went to sleep. And also, you can find the old service-oriented attitudes of the fierce telephone network of old still peeking through.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Nothing Good Can Come From This

Outtake from front page of

Not satisfied with destroying Usenet before its time, Steve Case has now decided hypochondriacs need targeted support in driving themselves nuts.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What Did You Think The American Dream Was? And Now What?

Circuit City is following the trend of having better financial numbers by trimming labor costs. Like the short-sighted retail idiots that they are, CC decided to do that by firing their best paid -- and thus supposedly highest achieving -- floor staff. The Slashdot write-up about it is not particularly interesting except that it included the phrase 'American Dream'. That is not interesting by itself either, a bit maudlin actually, but it did spark very interesting comments about what posters though the words 'American Dream' means.

I am not sure what the concept classically means, although of course the Wikipedia knows all. I am aware that the phrase has been explored a lot in many venues.

For me, I always thought it was about upward mobility, as some posters do, and I have mixed feelings about the state it is currently in. A number of flist readers have achieved it by clawing their ways out of grinding poverty to where they escaped their trailer-bound destinies and now live in homes of their own, raising children or pets, and the two I am thinking about did it both by hard work and smart choices, very American Dream, even if the choice was slightly smarter at the time than the same choice would be now with deployments to war-torn Iraq. There are very mixed statistics out there, though, about whether much of this upward mobility is still available. I keep thinking that hard work alone is less important and luck keeps getting more and more to do with it, especially since the twin behemoths of un-insurability for health-care and a credit industry intent on squeezing every dime they can from the lower economic strata by exploiting information imbalance seem to keep more and more people down.

If the American Dream is about being able to achieve a house of your own, a car, support your spouse and kids, stay comfortable, the American Dream in most places is just plain dead. Unless there is a huge correction in housing prices that could only be termed 'deep recession', or the US worker stops being thrown around like cattle to be pleased at getting 7 bucks or barely more an hour with no municipal or government services like cheap public transport or free higher education to go with it, owning many of those markers is just not going to happen, unless you are willing to enter dangerous deals with the credit industry.

For some, the words mean the ability to make it huge. Further upward mobility, from, say, where I am, into the stratosphere. I am not even sure that is any more achievable through just plain hard work than it used to be. Supposedly I have better access to it than most people because the latest success stories concentrate around the IT industry, but when I look who made it, hard work is not the only common thread. We all get to constantly work hard in IT, our schedules demand it because production is both so unpredictable and always behind what the market actually wants. The other commonalities I see for people that ascended is also access to all forms of capital (human, financial, creative), and, hoping I don't sound jealous or something, simply being at the right place at the right time. Which product takes off, which product could handle taking off, which product was not killed by the company that had it. It is completely unpredictable to me which products those are before they get big, and what it is about the people that make them. Being the smartest cookie in the bunch barely helps; there's tons of smart cookies out there without high-flying IPOs to look forward to. Or just look at the dot-com flotsam trying to have a second act after the first one was over: Marc Andreessen comes to mind. Jobs did it, though. But again, does anyone want to say that Jobs got there by just hard work?

But going back to the dream being about being able to become and stay comfortably middle class, I just don't know anymore. It seems to me The Netherlands is far better at achieving that version of the American Dream than the US is. Of course, the people in the US when told about what it takes in The Netherlands to maintain that, reject it, because, as I have been told, they think more equality through taxes and national ethos would hamper the second part of the dream, that of reaching the stratosphere. I find that the basic idea of rejecting unions and socialized medicine is that, by having them, you hamper getting obscenely rich. When I hear that verbalized I always think of homeless people using money to buy lottery tickets instead of vitamins. And really, are there per capita so many fewer really rich people in The Netherlands? Should anyone care? Sometimes it feels to me the promise of class mobility to the sky is as much an opium to the masses as religion ever was deemed to be to the person who coined the term. Just make sure the hope stays alive and the masses won't revolt to demand health, safety, solidarity, education.

So what does the phrase American Dream mean to you, more or less personally? Do you remember being in school learning about it, or listening to your parents going on about it? Did you believe in it? Is it happenning? Did your belief about what it means change? It that new belief happening?

Monday, March 26, 2007

2nd Lifeblog post

Then again, it does yay better in a brightly lit room than it used to. I guess it was my dim living room last might that threw it off.

Note that this is the camera on the front of the phone, meant for video calling (much movement, low res) not the 3MP back camera I usually use.
Mon 2007/03/26 13:00 20070326527

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Lifeblog post

The software update fixed lifeblog, but did not do much for the front cam.
Sun 2007/03/25 21:00 20070325525

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Snake Issues

So the product manager inside Nokia of the high-end N-series, intent on alienating the US market by using marketing terminology that will never play there while also sounding borderline stupid in Europe even among the geeks, has decided that these phones need to be referred to as 'multimedia computers'. And indeed, these phones have one thing indeed in common with actual desktop or laptop computers: you can update the system software. In fact, you pretty much have to: although they aren't being released with as many bugs as the first run of the Nokia 7710 was (hi ), the N-series phones are not perfect machines once out of their testing period. They're just too multi-functional, and every model pushes a new frontier in functionality. You'd need longer and bigger beta tests to get that perfect.

Instead they get pushed out the door when they are acceptable, and owners can get updates for the OS over the web, easily installed over the supplied USB data cable. Now, I am not saying releasing buggy phones in a sort-of public beta test is actual Nokia policy: I have not worked for Nokia in almost a year and when I did I never had insight at what level of bugs -- and there are always bugs in every system released, no matter who makes it -- Nokia deems a product releasable, just so you know. But yes, these fantastic machines, and I do like my N73, can now have their base OS updated without having to go to a store.

I have already done so once, and it was smooth and brilliant. Now it seems a new update is out for the N73, and I could do it again, except for one tiny stupid thing. While you can back up all your data and 3d-party software easily before an upgrade and restore it all just fine afterwards, it seems the upgrade wipes out the data of the levels reached on the built-in game of Snake 2.0. According to the progress bar there seem to be 36 levels, and, after months of play in the subway, I am now at level 36. I don't want to throw all that away. Not even to fix a lingering memory leak with the camera, or the inaccuracy of the battery meter. I keep thinking I am just one day away from finishing that last level...

Then of course I saw on the Wikipedia that Snake 2.0 actually has 45 levels. Drat. Here I was hoping for some festive 'You won!' graphics and music sequence after level 36. Still not doing the update, though.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Maybe You Are Trying Too Hard To Connect To A Modern Audience...

...when you end up writing a sentence as stupid as the last one here:
Some of his letters to her, she said later, were as many as twenty pages long. It sounds a lot like a steampunk version of an online romance.
"The Mysterious Love of Sonia Greene for H.P. Lovecraft" Posted by Annalee Newitz 6:33 PM

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ok, No Blogging

I have decided against a tech blog. For one, it really is a lot of work if it is to become something serious to give me cred. For two, my current parent company is just the wrong one to do something like this with that could make them all totally paranoid. Were I working for a tech company I stand a chance of getting them on board, this entertainment conglomerate that has no corporate blogging in place, no, I do not want to trailblaze that. I may revive my public one-man journal club, though.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Take Your Crap Marketing And Shove It

1) The correct response of emergency services to an unknown unaccountable object in a public space, especially near critical infrastructure, is to assume it is an explosive, and send out the full bomb response. This is true in London, Rotterdam, Madrid, Algiers, Dublin, Paris, and Tokyo. It seems many in the US are not on board with what has been reality in the modern world since unexploded WWII ordinance and disaffected 60s German bomb-wielding hippies started showing up, but then again, this is the country that had to learn the hard way that allowing knives on airplanes was just ludicrous. Alas, after they learned this lesson the security services in that area of public life went completely overboard, and I bet they will in public life as well if the US has to learn the hard way the lesson about unattended unaccounted-for objects meriting a bomb-squad response every time. These objects merit this response, even if the first thousand of them end up harmless when they look harmless, because looking stupid one thousand times is far outweighed by the benefit of having had an adequate response when the object was not harmless notmatter what it looked like.

Then again, I suspect the way things end up working in the US is that the homeless are the first response squad for unidentified objects like bags and suitcases left in public places. Which is gonna hurt some people, but nobody the US in general deems important.

2) If you leave three-dimensional crap around, as in boxes, installations, bags, bulk of any kind, you are going to trigger rule 1. Failure to account for that, or finding it ridiculous because your crap is of course benign and/or has some socially redeeming value and/or you got away with it in other places, makes you look incredibly dumb to anyone who has actually not been numbed to the international situation in at least the last 50 years. Well, ok, 'dumb' may be a bit harsh, we could also allow 'suffering under the common delusion of American Exceptionalism: "Crap happens everywhere else in the world, not in the US because God Loves Us, so I have nothing to worry about"' See that issue of allowing knives on planes again.

However, whether failing to account for this rule (that leaving wired bulky gleamy obscure crap around will trigger rule 1) means you are dumb or deluded, said failure does mean you do not really understand the current culture of Emergency Responses you are in. In other words, if rule 1 caught you by surprise, you certainly lost all cred for being a 'Culture Jammer' or some other edgy moniker of social enlightment. You're basically the real-life equivalent of a script-kiddie in a hacker world who is trolling irc for scripts to hax0r (lol) a MySpace account of a n00b you hate who goes to your High School. If you're gonna do shit as outlined in rule 1, just be ready to deal with it, ok? Don't get caught with your pants down and having to explain the person paying your paycheck why their name is being dragged through mud and bills are being sent to their corporate HQ. Or even worse, not have counsel and bail lined-up when the executors of rule 1 come knocking.

3) 'Guerilla Marketeers', 'Viral Marketeers, 'Web 2.0 Social Artists', whatever you want to call them, are the saddest sack of sell-outs you have ever seen. They take all the tools created for communication, for making people think, for bringing us together, for creating the unexpected, and use it to become a billboard while claiming to be cooler than being a billboard. Well, maybe if you think 'deceptive' is cool, they are, but still, consider what the actual goal is: selling. Whether it is sending models to bars to use your latest phones, giving crap to bloggers, tagging penguins on sidewalks, repeated slapping ugly posters on every empty space you see, or doing something to trigger rule 1 (even if inadvertently, but that just means you fall under rule 2), you're just another corporate shill, ok? There's no glory in it, especially not when it is done for the product carefully crafted to appeal to the market segment that needs to think of itself as 'edgy' by an enormous corproate behemoth. Especially if said edgy product is actually not that edgy, but just unknown and mediocre. 'Guerilla marketers' are basically artists who sold out but think using their same tools and not wearing a tie somehow makes them different from a Madison Avenue hack who comes up with jingles for Air freshner. Except the hack actually does get to have a cool appartment in Manhattan, and the Guerilla Marketer is still stuck in Allston, if he's lucky to have sold out enough.

4) The way to disguise a bomb in the US is by making it look like a mechanical corporate expression people will now be too embarrassed to report. This, I have been informed in the entry about this in 's journal, has already been discussed in 1997 at the federal government level. The public at large outside of Boston calling Boston wuzzes for reacting along rule 1, is happily reinforcing this rule. Don't forget to thank them.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

This Webshopping Thing Has Gone On For Too Long

I am at the point that I will only look for stuff at Amazon and else consider waiting for the weekend and going to a store, because I don't ever want to create another web-account at some webpage. Always filling in the same crap, forgetting passwords, I am so tired of it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

2nd Thoughts (and Why Is Nobody Paying me For This?)

6 months from now: iPhone Nano. Smaller form factor, more standard keypad, stripped down functionality (calls, messaging, music, cam, limited browsing), same ease of synchronization. It is the sync that will make people so happy. Can you sync with Windows PCs?

My off-the-cuff advice to Nokia and SE: dump Symbian now. It won't catch up to this kind of experience. Linux barely will unless you put a fuckload of work in it, in-house, using enlightment. Sign an agreement with Adobe and concentrate on having your high-end phones run FlashLite as much as possible in the OS stack, with a J2ME subsystem for compatibility. The tech can handle it, and the UIs 3d partys will make will be amazing.

On The iPhone

The Apple Phone is an astounding technological marvel. Where Microsoft set up a whole new OS product line for years, at great cost, to bring the Windows experience to mobile users, Steve, in standard Steve fashion, just waited until the hardware caught up to be able to leverage his current software assets. It's his style. Just like when he was leading NeXT: they were one of the last workstation makers to stay exclusively Black & White, waiting until they could offer color without all the compromises like color mapping X11 required.

Cingular, I am totally guessing and speaking on my own behalf, is subsidizing this for around 200 dollars. Which means that this device's real market price is around 800 to 900 dollars. For that price he is in the same ballpark as the Microsoft-powered big smartphones like the high-end GPS enabled HTCs and iPaqs. He has blown them out of the water with their interface, though. It looks amazing and will be a joy to use just for the eyecandy.

However, he is taking two big risks in that UI. One is text entry. Soft keyboards are not as well liked as thumbboards. No, I cannot point to a reference for that. Just trust me on it: people would rather use their two thumbs to enter text that having to use their pointing finger while holding the device in the other hand. Mac OS X does have handwriting recognition built in, it is called Inkwell, so maybe that will be a text-entry modality that will make this more pleasant for a minority of users.

The second big risk is the touch screen itself. You can't dial this thing blind. You can't feel your way around the keys. Touch feedback is always a concern for users when they use keypads. Yes, the controls can be totally flexible when you have no defined hardware buttons, but without the spring of the key back to your finger, users feel lost, insecure, unhappy. This has been reported since the Timex Sinclair ZX81 became a global hit in home hobby computers in the early eighties. I truly hope Apple got the engineering right on this touch screen to make it a joy to use. I do not see it. It still am not entirely happy using 's click wheel on his iPod.

Then there's the next little issue nobody noticed yet, well, except for the guys at Gizmodo: its size. Yeah, that hand model they are using for the promo shots of the Apple phone? <insert big hands / big wrists joke here>. This thing is marginally more pocketable than a Newton was, and that was one of the big minusses against the Newton. did some fact checking and found out that Apple lists a different size for it than Gizmodo does. This new size is far more viable as a pocketable device. Still on the big size, but not ridiculously so. No longer in MessagePad territory.

just pointed out to me that, four, this thing may just be terribly fragile. Mobile devices like phones have to be engineered to withstand actual life. That people throw their phones arouns is a fact, whether people mean to do so or not. Nokia phones, for example, can take drops that would destroy most other equipment. Even the hard-disk N91 can be dropped from heights on floors that would make iPods cry anguished tears.

I can tell you all one thing, though: the mobile Researchers, Product Managers, designers, and all other staff involved in the high-end Nokia N and E series lines are right now in need of a stiff stif stiff drink. Maybe two. Same for the Walkman people at Sony-Ericsson. Because whether the Apple Phone is a success despite its size and interface or not -- both issues did hamper the also insanely marketed Sony PSP after all -- the whole set of expectations people will have for a high-end mobile media phone device just changed. Offering the N93 feature set for 800 Euros simply will not do anymore. Over. Go make something hugely better. In fact, stop dicking around and just rush this into production now.

Oh, There Was A Show In las vegas Too This Week?

My god I can't remember a Macworld keynote as porno as this one. It's all moneyshot after moneyshot, culminating now in a tech threeway. However, the big climax keeps not coming.
Chris: i wonder if the gravitational pull of steve's distortion field is preventing the price from escaping his mouth.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I Want Free Stuff!

You know, I really need to overhaul my blogging strategy. Because what I want most of all this year is to be recognized as an opinion leader so I'll be sent free high-end crap to review. Also, I want a ranting blog so I get invited to political events. And a technology pundit blog so I can have a consulting career. And none of those should be on LJ, because nobody in the blogosphere takes LJ seriously.

You know, when I heard SixApart had this super-secret project Comet in the works to put together the best of LJ and TypePad and their other properties, I was hoping it was a way to host your own blog on your own site, yet retain the ease of use, all the posting gateways, and , using OpenID, all the community features of LJ. I also wanted software that allowed you to have multiple facets to a single blog depending on where people came from. Alas, all they created was Vox, some sort of next generation LJ of which I still do not understand what its actual niche is.