Friday, April 4, 2008

Fear of Web 2.0

It's uncommon to go more than a few days without seeing new statistics released detailing corporate adoption of Web 2.0 technologies. Usually the numbers demonstrate that rates of adoption are overwhelmingly underwhelming. Articles generally discuss how most executives don't even consume social media, let alone participate.

Headlines are rife with decision makers - ranging from managers to CIOs to CEOs - banning their employees from using networking sites such as Facebook and Digg, and even those executives' own LinkedIn profiles - more often than not created by tech-savvy assistants and to the ambivalence or outright duress of the executive himself - languish in an unupdated, unleveraged state of being for months at a time - assuming they're not forgotten outright. If you don't read blogs, it stands to reason that you'd probably have a harder time appreciating the value of writing a blog. If you've never been notified of an important event or met someone great through Facebook, you're unlikely to understand its value.

Most recently I read this article which offers more of the same: CIOs are afraid of social media and they shouldn't prohibit employees from utilizing Web 2.0 technologies. I absolutely agree with this. Unfortunately, the vast majority of this vein of literature - this post included - fails to pull the trigger on how that is to happen. The important thing to note from these unimpressive trends of (non)adoption of social media is not the numbers themselves, but on what causes those numbers to be so lackluster. Not the fear itself but the causes of those fears.

People are afraid of things because they don't understand them. Executives don't know what they should be doing with or about Web 2.0 technologies so they do what comes naturally; ignore them and focus on the more traditional tools that they know. While this may be a soothing short-term approach, it will scarcely suffice in today's rapidly evolving marketplace that rewards openness, collaboration and innovation - the very pillars of Web 2.0.

It is far too easy to dismiss these fears as the irrational and unwarranted paranoia of a bygone generation of fuddy-duddies. Rational or not, it is a key barrier to Web 2.0 adoption. The tools are usually simple and intuitive to use, many of them are free but for the temporal opportunity cost and they are proliferating at a more rapid rate than ever before.

That having been said, it is not a difficult barrier to overcome. As social media practitioners and even some savvy vendors have long purported, the solution is education. The more that these decision makers know about Web 2.0 technologies with regards to how they're being used, what they are being used for, who is using them and how the company can employ them to achieve real business goals, the more open to the use of these technologies within their organization they will be. True, it would be ideal for them to drink the cool-aid themselves, but until then it would be an enormous leap forward merely to quell their fear-mongered opposition to social media.

Knowledge is power.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Beijing Olympic Dreams - Going Down in a Blaze of Glory?

This morning I read three more articles about San Francisco's hotly-contested decision to allow the 2008 Olympic torch to be toured through The City.

At their most benign, the complaints regard the recent decision by a sub-committee of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors to reject language that would have condemned China for its human rights abuses - particularly in Tibet.

Two out of the three Supervisors on the sub-committee voted against the resolution - preventing it from being considered by the full Board.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom - who supported the sub-committee's decision - stated “If folks want to beat up China, beat up China but don’t beat up the spirit of the Olympics.”

While I agree with the Mayor's words, I don't believe that they encapsulate the question at hand. As the only American city to host the Olympic torch, San Francisco is in a unique position to at least express its concern with the human rights violations of which China is guilty in Tibet and elsewhere as well as with China's contribution to the atrocities in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Let me be clear. I do not believe that the city of San Francisco should insist that the Olympic torch not be taken through its streets. I think that the people who have planned to protest against San Francisco's decision to hold a parade featuring the torch would do better to use the increased media attention to protest against the Olympic games themselves.

A balance needs to be struck.

Just as boycotting the games is too extreme a measure - and one that would ultimately punish the athletes who have devoted their entire lives to Olympic dreams more than it would punish the Chinese government - failure to mention the myriad concerns regarding China's human rights record is too extreme in the opposite direction.

We must strike a balance. France is in the process of doing this as the first nation to publicly consider attending the games but boycotting the opening ceremonies.

One of the basic tenets of social media is engagement - and engagement requires give and take. You can't have a conversation with someone if you refuse to acknowledge them them. Similarly, once they're engaged, you need to be able to leverage that engagement to accomplish goals. Otherwise one entity dominates the conversation. What started out as dialog becomes monologue and ideas are no longer exchanged.

This may not always be a terrible thing. Perhaps a one-sided conversation is okay because the other side has nothing to say. When egregious human rights violations are involved, however, an imperative emerges.

Refusing to engage China is a mistake. The Olympics represent a celebration of something that is greater than any one nation or conflict. They acknowledge that it is more honorable to outrun, jump, swim or throw someone than it is to kill them. That having been said, after someone has been engaged, failure to exercise that engagement in order to make a statement that must be made is wasteful and makes the engager indelibly - if tacitly - responsible for the consequences of that failure to act.

By hosting the Olympic torch, we have engaged China. San Francisco should make it clear that it is hosting the Olympic torch out of respect for the hallowed tradition of the Olympic games and the honorable ideals for which it stands. Just as Mayor Newsom said that people should feel free to beat up China but not the Olympics, San Francisco should make it clear to the world that by hosting the torch, it is the Olympics that it supports and not the Chinese government and its actions.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Healthcare 2.0

I was at the hospital the other day because I was experiencing a pain in my right foot that my doctor said might be a stress fracture from overtraining. As it's only a few blocks away from my apartment, I opted to go to St. Mary's Medical Center.

They have a pretty clever advertising campaign on the streets near the hospital where the theme is a quote that you would hear right before someone is about to do something dangerously stupid, for instance "The expiration dates is just a guideline, right?" Followed by information on how to make a quick appointment.

They also have a pretty catchy slogan of "get in. get better. get going."

They make it remarkably easy to make an appointment, if you don't feel like spending hundreds of extra dollars unnecessarily by going to the emergency room. Not only can you go to to book an appointment, but you can send an email to and expect a speedy response.

In addition to a contact phone number to book appointments, you can text, that's right, send a text message that says "SEEME" to 89183 and book an appointment that way.

I was impressed. Even when they flaunt their hipness with the following: "P.S. We may be 150 years old, but we're very Web 2.0. To see what they're saying about us on, search the keywords, "St. Mary's Medical Center."

The hospital's advertisement of its Yelp presence impresses me. By directing patients and potential patients to Yelp, the hospital is entrusting its reputation to the only people that it makes logical sense to entrust their reputation - their patients.

This also happens to be a group of people who - with few exceptions (IE having a baby) are probably extremely unhappy to be at the hospital and whose negative experience of injury, sickness, death, etc. can't but have a negative effect on their experience and thus likely their review.

Even the best restaurants receive the occasional poor review from an unimpressed or offended Yelper, but that doesn't keep Yelp from being an extremely positive force for most restaurants that pay attention to what its customers are saying - both at the restaurant and online. The same applies to St. Mary's Medical Center.

By directing us to Yelp, they implicitly advertise that they have confidence in their facilities and quality of service and urge us to discover their quality from other people's first hand experiences.

With Yelp, they're saying "Bring it on."

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pi Day and Johnny Cash

First off, it was a pretty good Pi Day. I was forced to make do with a slice of pizza pie this afternoon although I spent nearly an hour traipsing about the financial district looking for a bakery that sold pie - either by the slice or the whole thing - without success.

I found this vignette of a couple who decided to name their baby Pi, because of the "infinite possibilities" he will have in his life.

Although part of me thinks that Pi is a pretty wonderful name for a kid, I can't help but think that he will experience infinitely more harassment and verbal abuse because of it.

I'm reminded of the great Johnny Cash song, A Boy Named Sue.

Mark's Myopia

Mark’s view of blogging as it relates to journalism is a myopic one.

His proposed alternative to NYT blogs – regarding so-called RealTime Yankees, City Hall, etc. – fails to address one of the most intrinsic and valuable elements of blogging. Yes, the ability to break and update events in near real-time is part of why people are increasingly turning to blogs for their news. When evaluating the merit of journalistic blogs, of equal or greater importance to real-time news updates is the ability of readers to respond to that news.

Blogs not only allow readers to respond to news items with their own updates and opinions, but readers can submit their own news items as well. Rather than being passive consumers of content, blogs enable a conversation that allows readers to focus on issues and events with which THEY are concerned.

Mark’s point of “brand equity” being diminished as a result of the user-generated content relies on the misconception that blog content will be indistinguishable from the rest of the site. This is obviously not the case. With a clear delineation between what is and is not UGC and guidelines and permissions, this basis for opposition disappears.

This two-way flow of information provides the blog’s host with valuable insights into its audience and – more importantly – engages the audience to an extent that wouldn’t be possible without the interactivity, accessibility and empowerment of blogs.

Far from diminishing the NYT “brand equity,” the NYT’s willingness to truly engage in conversation demonstrates its awareness of the importance of conversation and the wisdom of the crowds.

The Beatles are Bigger than Jesus

It's official, according to Twitter anyways.

Jesus v Beatles
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

I Prefer Pi

(A palindrome)

Happy Pi Day!

To go to the official Pi Day website, please click on the wonderful Pi limerick (Pi-merick?) below:

If, in a circle, a line
Hits the center, and runs spine to spine,
And the lines length is D
The circumference will be
D times 3.14159.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hillary's (mis)use of email

From TechPresident.

This seems to be a poor way to approach email for a few reasons:

1- Many people don't have images enabled. Even if I'm not worried about the safety of the images from the Hillary campaign, it's much easier for me to go onto my next piece of mail than it is to enable them.

2- As long as they're using images, they may as well actually use them well! Although they say that a picture is worth a thousand words, a picture of words is worth no more - and in this case, less - than the words themselves. It seems that the Hillary campaign is using images instead of text for some shortcut - whose benefit is still unknown to me - rather than fully utilizing the strength of the medium.

3- You can share data more easily when it is in text form than when it is an image. This is especially important given the proliferation of such quick and informal information-disseminating venues such as blogs, Twitter and myriad instant messaging platforms. Even if you have images enabled, someone has to take the time to type out whatever information they want to share using those tools. With a text-based message, you can simply copy and paste. Simply put, information in text form has better legs than information in image form - particularly appealing/viral pictures aside.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sin 2.0

From the Vatican.

In a yearly proclamation, the Catholic Church announced updates to its list of what constitutes sin and should thus be avoided. Failure to comply will result in damnation - or at least further punishment in purgatory.

Pollution, mind-damaging drugs and genetic experimentation were added to the list, as was social injustice such as the exacerbation of the gap between the rich and poor.

There was a particularly interesting quote from Monsignor Gianfranco Girotti - the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the pontifical office that deals with matters of conscience and grants absolution:

"If yesterday sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has a weight, a resonance, that's especially social, rather than individual.

Essentially, the Pope is embracing the underlying tenets of Web 2.0. The connections between people are gaining importance in the Church's eyes because they are beginning to catch on to what marketers and social media practitioners have espousing for years: even individuals do not exist in a vacuum.

Will we begin to see Hail Marys on Twitter? Probably not. But this is still an interesting development whose progress will be interesting to follow.

Further coverage of the story here.

Environmental Harm from Video Games

Arguably the most social of media, video games are coming under scrutiny from Greenpeace due to their "frivalous" energy consumption. Read more about it here.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Hillary Campaign's Response to Obama's "Monster" Comment

"I'm willing to club a baby seal to make a deal."

Does anyone else remember that scene from the Weird Al Yankovic movie, "UHF"?

In an advertisement for a sale, a crazed use car salesman has an adorable baby seal on the hood of a car. He is brandishing a baseball bat and is screaming at the camera that unless 20 people come down to his lot and buy cars within the next 15 minutes, he is going club the baby seal. Presumably to death.

This email that I received from the Hillary campaign reminds me of that:

Gmail - Monster -
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

It's hard to take any of the literature I get from the Hillary for President people seriously when the suggested response to everything is, "So you should give us more money."

When she won states, she asked for money.

When she lost states, she asked for money.

And now, when the other guy says something mean about here, she's asking for money.

I am not ignorant of the importance of money to political campaigns, I just think that the people whose support she is counting on are smart enough to know that different actions ought elicit different responses. There are more logical ways for people to respond on Hillary's behalf like writing letters, making phone calls, etc. to the Obama campaign, both tying up valuable resources and letting Obama know the extent of their ire.

Perhaps Hillary supporters or the Hillary campaign itself could make a YouTube video spoofing Michael Jackson's Thriller or something around the song "Monster Mash." That would be an appropriate and proportionate response.

I guess it's not so much that the campaign is asking for money, it's that the request is couched in the inaccurate and I think at least marginally demeaning - to the intelligence of anyone who received the solicitation - idea that donating money will prevent it from happening again in this election or future elections.

Hillary's people should just say that those sorts of ad hominem attacks ought make us - the potential donors - so angry that we should donate money to demonstrate our outrage.

I think that would be a more honest, compelling and ultimately successful request.

A(nother) Dark Side of Social Media Networks

Social networks are being used to recruit for gangs.

I suppose that it's not terribly surprising, given that the majority of people that view my LinedIn page are recruiters of some sort. Although this is no laughing matter, it is at least somewhat funny to imagine someone listing their CV of mayhem and destruction in the formal LinkedIn or Facebook format:

Interests: Petty vandalism, violence, drugs, alcohol.
Previous (gang) experience:
Prisons served time at:

Thanks to Mukund for the tip.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Straight Talk Express Runs Both Ways

From Techpresident

Approximately 50 comments were posted on Hillary, Obama, and McCain's blog and the only ones that were allowed to remain visible were those posted on McCain's.

I like that.

This is exactly what I was talking about earlier in terms of conversation and the importance of reciprocity. Social media is rewarded for its authenticity, and censoring all but positive feedback results in something that is blatantly inauthentic.

Not only does that silence important voices of dissent, but it serves to devalue the content that is left on the site - both in terms of posted content by the blogger(s) as well as the comments that have obviously been vetted and found to be satisfactory.

The mindset behind this censorship indicates one of two things:

1) That the people censoring comments think very poorly of their audience. Their censorship suggests that they believe that the people are unable to critically evaluate and synthesize information in order to form an opinion. Instead, they must be force fed meticulously crafted and vetted content without deviation.


2) That the censors are so insecure with regards to their candidate's stances on issues that they can't afford to let people comment freely.

Either way, why would someone want to vote for that candidate?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Blogging and the Fourth Dimension

The fourth dimension being time, of course. The most important thing about comedy.

In this case, it is certainly an important element of blogging - but certainly not the most important. Far and away the most important element of blogging is the quality of published material. Whether it's a recipe, a personal experience, or commentary; engagingly and well-written content will help your blog to be successful.

Obviously timing plays a role in that.

A recipe for Christmas cookies in April, or for a Thanksgiving Turkey in February will not be viewed as particularly salient or timely and thus as unimportant.

A personal experience will probably be conveyed with more clarity and emotion if it happened this morning than if it happened 20 years ago - however much you were able to ruminate upon it in the interim.

Commentary - unless a novel take on a historic event - is also unlikely to turn heads if the event is no longer interesting.

I think that there is an important caveat to that third point. There are some blogs, by virtue of persistence, luck, or what have you, are newsbreakers. They get their hands on a story immediately and share it with the world. The other newsbreaking sites - if they haven't already received the information from the source, will quickly take your hint and repurpose it for themselves. There aren't a whole lot of sites that can do this.

For example, if five minutes from now, aliens landed in Detroit and started having conversations with people on the street (let's assume that they have vocal chords capable of producing a range of sounds audible to humans and that they have somehow learned English and that the atmospheric conditions of Earth are not fatal to their alien biologies, etc.).

People would go to CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc. for their news. They would also go to the equivalently well-regarded online news sites. News-seekers would also likely pay attention to a blogger who credibly claims to have spoken to the aliens or was there when it happened. Perhaps he is even Twittering his encounters in real time from his cell phone.

The point is that you either have to have pre-existing credibility, the product of consistently breaking meaningful news in a timely manner, or you have to have an amazing angle.

That was an extreme example.

Let's say that there is an acquisition that has been in the works for nearly a week. It is no longer extremely new when it finally occurs, but it is still being discussed because it real. It has manifested. This is like being inundated for weeks by the scientific and trivial explanations of an upcoming lunar eclipse. It's not particularly novel but people write about it the next day anyways.

As I said before, it takes a certain degree of credibility to break these stories, both new and "old" news. Credibility that many of us - myself included - lack.

The best thing that we can do is to comment on the commentators. React to the reactors. In short: blog the bloggers.

By commenting on the blogs and articles of credible sources, you add to your own credibility - assuming, of course, that your comments are meaningful.

Doing this puts yourself and - more importantly - your ideas in front of the influencers and the people being influenced. If your ideas are valid, that audience might be convinced to go to you first. Gradually your role will change from a commentator to more of a reactionary.

In a sense, this evolution is a testament to the conversational - that is to say - reciprocal nature of new media. The readers not only determine what is written, but who writes it and from what perspective.

Power to the people.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Internet is a Series of Tubes


While most people are quick to write off Senator Ted Stevens' comment as testament to the inability of doddering old fuddy-duddies to understand the technological advances we see as commonplace, Senator Stevens' metaphor is far more apt than people give him credit.

The internet is a series of tubes. Great metaphor. Not just in an infrastructural sense but also in a deeper, metaphorical sense of which I only became aware recently while reading "Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope," a wonderful book written/compiled/fostered/nurtured by Zephyr Teachout that examines the role of the internet - and effectively social media - on the Howard Dean for president campaign of 2002 and 2004.

The internet is a series of tubes for the very simple reason that it moves something from one place to another. In the case of the internet, what is being moved happens to be data and the carrier is distributing electric pulses. In this very primitive sense, the Senator was right on.

In a deeper sense, he is even more correct and his metaphor holds even more water (pun intended).

The internet is a series of tubes because it provides the infrastructure to connect two complementary but disparate things: haves and have-nots.

The example about which Teachout's revelation came was in the case of a website being used to connect people in dire need of legal counsel with lawyers who wished to help needy members of the community.

Crowdsourcing is another great example of this. Many children dream of becoming astronauts. Unfortunately, most of these children become astro-nots and grow up to have everyday jobs like you and me (unless there are astronauts that read my blog about whom I am unaware). A crowdsourcing program at the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Center provides a venue for us wannabe astronaut types to contribute to man's understanding of the cosmos.

The enthusiastic people eager to contribute their time and energy to science was there. As was the need of scientists for enthusiastic, eager, and not necessarily PhD-posessing assistance. The internet provided the tubes or pipes to transmit the resources of an enthusiastic work force to the exact place those resources would be best taken advantage of.

This is why social media is such an amazing medium. Instead of being reliant on our geographic surroundings, the mass media, and those people with whom we come into direct contact for the appropriate tubes into which to channel our passions, we can go out and find them online - or create them ourselves.

Ning is a great example of this, as are Facebook groups and I'm sure many other outlets.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Crowdsourcing in Space

Whether being used to locate billions of dollars in gold for savvy mining companies or tracking online contributions to Barack Obama’s campaign it appears that my esteemed colleague Chris was correct in dubbing 2008 the year of the crowd.

I was so intrigued by the idea of successfully enlisting random strangers to do important and interesting things that I did what I do whenever something incites my cat-like curiosity. I looked up “crowdsourcing” in wikipedia.

I was surprised to see that there is an unprecedented crowdsourcing program in action at the UC Berkeley Space Sciences Lab. My running buddy, Ryan “The Brain” Ogliore, works there, and he was kind enough to offer some insight into his project, AKA, Stardust.

<Stardust Probe

Would you tell me a little bit about yourself and what you’re doing?

I'm a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley's Space Sciences Lab. I work on NASA's Stardust mission: a comet-return from a Jupiter family comet called Wild2.

What is Stardust?

The Stardust mission captured cometary particles in a low-density material called aerogel. Before the rendezvous with the comet, the opposite side of the collector was exposed in a part of space where a stream of interstellar dust travels through our solar system. This material has been viewed astronomically before, but never has a solid sample been returned to the lab for study.

What does the Stardust crowdsourcing project entail?

The interstellar dust particles that were collected by Stardust are microscopic, and they make very tiny tracks in the aerogel. To scan the entire surface of the detector would take many person-years of microscope-searching. The detector containing the interstellar tracks was photographed digitally. The logical thing to do, then, would be to program a computer to scan through these digital images and find the tracks.

This turns out to be a very difficult if not impossible problem, because the aerogel contains many imperfections and cracks that would fool an image-recognition algorithm. A person, however, with minimal training, can identify these particle tracks with high accuracy.

So Stardust@home was created as a way to have hundreds of volunteers search the microscope images and identify particle tracks that interstellar dust made in the detector. Using test images randomly given to the volunteers, or "Dusters" as they've called themselves, we determined that they were very good at this task.

The volunteers are extremely dedicated, abundant, and talented. Unlike other projects, like SETI@home, which are essentially a large, distributed electronic computer, Stardust@home is a network of human brains doing something that (at this point in time) only human brains can do extremely well.

How long has the program been in place and what have your results been so far?

The project has been going on for a year and a half and we already have something to show for it: last week, three of the candidate interstellar particles, found by our volunteers, were extracted from the detector.

The project's success is dependent on the work of the volunteers -- this is real science, unique and exciting, that was made possible by the "crowds" of passionate people, eager to be involved with the science.

I think this kind of cool space stuff appeals to a lot of people, and the opportunity to actually search for an interstellar needle in a haystack is something people jumped on: every time you log in you can see a piece of never-before-seen galactic material.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

The Stardust@home approach has proven successful and could spawn another image recognition project: instead of looking for interstellar dust, trained eyes can search for hominids.

Thanks a lot, Ryan!

(End of Interview)

Even aside from all of the amazing things that are being accomplished with crowdsourcing, I am constantly impressed by the underlying sentiment from which these projects emanate. More than anything else, I think that crowdsourcing highlights the willingness of people to pitch in and selflessly donate their time based on their desire for excitement, a challenge, or simply to help in whatever manner they are able. As much as crowdsourcing can accomplish for the original sourcer, the fulfillment and sense of purpose it provides the crowd should not be overlooked or undervalued.

To quote Bill Nye – science rules!

Typical Obama Type

Forgive me for the pun.

This article discusses - or should I say psychoanalyzes - Obama's decision in type-face.

Definitely watch the embedded video.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Mobile Search

An enlightening simile from an article on iPhone:

"Searching on a computer, he said, is like going to a store, where the customers sees every product displayed, and can make comparisons, touch the products, even try things on for size. Doing the same search on a mobile, he said, but like trying to shop in the same store but "through a drive-up window." No matter how much stuff is in the store, you can only find out through the cashier at the drive-up window."

"The dilemma, left unsolved by the panelists, was how to squeeze the user through that window, past the cashier, to sample all the things in the store, without guilt, while still feeling grateful to the cashier who seemed, all along, to be standing in the way."

Movie Review. Shoot 'Em Up

This is the first celebrity guest blogger we've had on TheRoaringLyon and I hope it's not the last.

I present to you a movie review by SnowMongoose:

Film Review: Shoot 'Em Up

This movie delivers. The title fully expresses what the film is about: over the top, out of control gunplay. Carrot toting bum Smith (Clive Owen) (And yes, he does quote Bugs Bunny) is sucked into a mysterious tumult of bullets and death, obtaining (delivering!) a newborn and ending up at odds with the sadistic and ruthless Hertz (Paul Giamatti). Monica Bellucci reprises the role of ‘hooker with a heart of gold,’ providing extra impetus for Owen as his conscience forces him to protect her and baby Oliver every turn. (More importantly to the plot, Bellucci’s specialty in the world of prostitution is defined by her lactation, making for an atypical heroine)

Owen touches on familiar territory, as an aggressive, very angry, one-lining version of his character from “Children of Men,” and as Smith, he can be summed up in one line: He cuts Oliver’s umbilical cord… with a bullet. Come on, how badass is that?! Seeing Giamatti in such a bizarre role, after growing to appreciate his work in “Sideways” and “Cinderella Man,” was a treat, and provided much of the initial draw for me to see “Shoot em Up” in the first place. (And incidentally redeemed the damage he may have done to his reputation incurred by his role in “The Nanny Diaries”) Combining cold cruelty with quirks (a scarily analytical mind, a brief brush with necrophilia, and recurring cell conversations with his nagging wife) has been seen in the past, but not with the feel that Giamatti accomplished here.

The tempo never wanes, staying redlined for the vast majority of the movie, with only an occasional detour for halfhearted attempts at plot turns. (Intrigue involving the firearms industry, presidential candidates, and harvesting bone marrow, to name a few)

My only regret involving this film is that I only watched it with a handful of buddies, at home… I feel that the combined oohs, ahhs, and “Oh my god, that just happened” type laughter from a full theatre would have been worth every penny of my eight or so dollars. Only if one decided to view this film without taking the title seriously, or had an overt sensitivity to violence could one walk away from it with a bad taste in their mouth: in either case, no amount of changes could have redeemed the experience. I’ll give this one an easy 8 out of 10, crisp, brutal-yet-playful action, inventive shootouts, a uniquely evil villain, and an interesting spin on the obligatory hottie costar.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

IKEA Taking a Poke at Lasse Viren?

It may be coincidence.

It may be that after naming hundreds of thousands of affordable Swedish furniture, food, and nick-nacks, the branding people at IKEA are at the end of their ropes.

But naming a toilet brush/holder after four-time Olympic gold medalist Lasse Artturi Viren whose past is spotted with allegations of reindeer milk and more troubling accusations seems a little too ironic.

Then again, the universe has a way of making sure that these kinds of coincidences happen...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Evolution of Tech Company Logos


Very cool.

Here's a little trick I learned in the CIA...

On YouTube.

Get the full article here.

It's not surprising that the intelligence community is monitoring user-generated content for important intelligence. While some people might think that monitoring such seemingly innocuous lines of communication is a waste of intelligence dollars, I would simply point out that gambling on the average human's stupidity is usually a good bet and that there is probably some extremely sophisticated screening and searching technologies and techniques available to these analysts to separate the wheat from the chaff in regards to credible intelligence.

I wish there was more information on how exactly the CIA is leveraging social media in the intelligence war on terror.

Lies, Damned Lies, and...

This graph on Valleywag would be far more informative if it indicated how large each of those markets is.

The Chart: Why Google's unstoppable
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

While Google search is clearly dominating the Australian market, because the graph doesn't tell us the size of the market, we don't know if Google's far smaller market share in Japan is in fact a less substantial market for it.

I'm not saying that the graphs isn't useful and interesting. It is extremely important to know how much of the market each company controls and it is one of the only objective ways to tell which search company is "winning" in those places. I'm simply pointing out that the raw numbers are essential to a full grasp of the relationships between Google, MSN and Yahoo.

I will try to find the raw numbers as to the size of these markets and post them later...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

SF City Politics

This is a fairly interesting article about the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

It comments on the salaries for the Supervisors (a mere $37,858 before legislation in 2002 bumped it to it's current $90,000) as well as the frequency with which they meet.

It struck me that one of the recently disgraced and now former Supervisor Jew's advisors made a particularly poor choice of words when she - describing the emptiness of City Hall during the holiday season - stated, "You can shoot a gun down the hall, and you wouldn't hit anyone."

Her connection to Ed Jew aside - that is a really awkward way to emphasize her point.

She may as well have said, "It was so empty that Supervisor Jew was able to shake down tapioca-drink vendors for tens of thousands of dollars right outside his office."


"City Hall was as empty as Supervisor Jew's alleged residence in the 4th District."

Either one works.

Lions and Tigers and...


I was reading an article on the city of San Francisco's response to the tiger attacks that occurred on Christmas day last year and came across this interesting excerpt:

"Animals whose escape would be rated a "Code 1" danger include lions, cougars, tigers and chimpanzees, Mollinedo told Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier in answer to a question."

The article explains that a "Code 1" danger would call upon use of a new siren system as well as the planning and coordination of emergency responses by police, firefighters and zoo staff.

I'm just curious as to why chimpanzees are considered in the same category as lions, cougars and tigers.

Is flying feces really that dangerous?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Political Campaigning - Bringing Families Together (and money)

Because Hillary Clinton was one of the most powerful First Ladies in recent political memory, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Bill has been pushing the envelope of spousal advocacy for his wife's presidential run.

I think that President Clinton would probably be supporting Obama if he didn't have such an obviously vested interest in Senator Clinton's campaign and while it's obvious why he is exerting his massive influence in her favor, I can't help but think that his behavior is somewhat ignominious for who should be such a distinguished member of the Democratic Party. While it is fine - and expected - of him to endorse a candidate, I do not think that he should be out shilling for one as tirelessly as he is for his wife.

As much as I like Bill Clinton and wish that he could run again - damn you, 22nd Amendment! - I do not think that a Hillary presidency will be tantamount to a Bill presidency. Voters need to realize this fact and that - matrimonial pacts aside - Bill might very well support another democratic candidate.

That was a lengthy digression...

I was very surprised to find out that the families of candidates are sometimes reimbursed for their "services."


"Records show that Joe Lieberman’s presidential campaign paid his wife, Hadassah, at least $22,000; his son Matthew received about $34,000 and his daughter Rebecca about $36,000. The Bush-Cheney re-election campaign paid Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary about $81,000."

Is that even legal use of campaign monies? If so, what would/do political contributors think about their donations being used to line the pockets of the families of their chosen candidates?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Don't you wish that you'd studied Latin in school...

...Not so that you could - as Vice President Dan Quayle desired - to speak with people from Latin America, but so that you could understand websites like this:

Pizza 2.0 : A Slice of the Web
Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

I came across this today and was driven to Wikipedia for an explanation as to why this is so commonly used by web designers as a placeholding text.

According to Wikipedia: "In publishing and graphic design, lorem ipsum is common placeholder text used to demonstrate the graphic elements of a document or visual presentation, such as font, typography, and layout. It is a form of "greeking".
Even though using "lorem ipsum" often arouses curiosity due to its resemblance to classical Latin, it is not intended to have meaning. Where text is visible in a document, people tend to focus on the textual content rather than upon overall presentation, so publishers use lorem ipsum when displaying a typeface or design in order to direct the focus to presentation. "Lorem ipsum" also approximates a typical distribution of letters in English."

If you were curious, it is from Cicero and it reads: (According to H. Rackham's 1914 translation)

"Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but because occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?"

Pretty cool - and a very interesting internet factoid - but how many people who use it are aware of its origin? It is interesting to think how many things are done simply because they were done before without any additional thought as to why they're done and whether they ought to be perpetuated.

This is probably a problem in most companies. New hires are taught how to do things the same way that the people who hired them were taught and unless feedback is explicitly solicited, it is unlikely to be divulged. So rather than constantly having the processes by which an organization is run fine-tuned and refurbished through repeated and perpetual evaluation, these companies stagnate and are forced to spend enormous sums of money on consultants and so forth.

It's not so hard to ask the Deming-esque questions without having to pay a "TQM consultant" thousands of dollars to prompt you.

Just stop every now and then and ask, "Why?"

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Facebook Users Should be More Like My Dad...


After much cajoling from my brothers and I, my father finally relented and created a Facebook account. With nothing but the most basic information in his profile, he sent me a message saying, "Ok, I have facebook... now what?"

I told him that now he needs to put up a picture and search for old friends.

He responded the next day with the following: "A picture? I don't think so. I don't think this was a good idea."

My father promptly disabled his account - presumably never to access it again.

Okay, so if more Facebook users were like my dad they wouldn't be Facebook users for long. I DO think that they should be MORE like my father in his awareness of the awesome - and potentially terrible - power that Facebook has to share information.

For example, I do not use any third party applications. From the moment they came out I steered clear. Generally this is pretty easy to do. I have no desire to SuperPoke someone when a good old fashioned poke will suffice. Nor do I feel the need to have a graffiti wall, or a specific bookshelf (after all, my favorite books are listed just above) and I certainly don't want to compete in an online Rocham-bull competition - although I'm remarkably good at the game for it's supposedly being a game of luck.

Even the one application that has seriously tempted me, Scrabulous, is being taken care of by Hasbro and Mattel.

Why am I so loathe to allow myself the simple pleasures of third party applications?

Because I don't want third parties mucking around with my profile and information.

This article validates my paranoia.

The vast majority of Facebook applications take your data - with Facebook's permission - to their own servers unnecessarily. They don't need much - if any - private data and yet cull the entirety of your Facebook profile for their diabolical purposes.

What are those purposes specifically?

The multitude of hypothetical answers to that question is why I don't use third party apps.

I've gotta run, my dad and I are going to play a game of REAL Scrabble...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Top 20 Images from Google Maps/Earth


Zion I at The Independent - 1/12

On Saturday night I went with a couple of friends to see Zion I perform at The Independent.

Let me first say that I've only recently begun listening to Zion I, but from the moment I first heard the seductive and catchy tones of "The Bay" I was hooked.

I was incredibly surprised that one of my friends was able to buy a ticket to the show at the door at 9:00 the evening of the show. I'd purchased my ticket in advance thinking that the show would almost certainly sell out. I thought that $20 was a pretty reasonable price to pay but perhaps Zion I doesn't yet have the name recognition to demand that sort of price.

I thought that the show would be especially popular because Zion I is himself from the Yay Area (Oakland).

The Independent is a pretty great little venue. I've seen a couple of shows there now and have not yet been disappointed. I've always been able to enjoy the show without worrying about it being too crowded, loud, dirty, etc. My first of only two complaints about the venue is that the men's room was pretty poorly kept.

The other complaint - which is more of a comment, anyways - is that there was a group of four young gentlemen who stood in the middle of the floor for the entire show smoking joint after joint. It was like Jesus' miracle with the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish... only with weed!

Each time they'd finish smoking one joint, one of the guys would pull another one out from his pocket, light it and start passing it around.

Moreso than by the veritable cornucopia of marijuana that was contained in their hoodies I was amazed at their brazen consumption of an illegal psychoactive drug.

Nobody seemed to mind particularly and it may even have added to the authenticity of the event.

The opening acts were both pretty good with my personal preference being the first performer whose name I've forgotten. He had a line that was something akin to: "Fools think they can step to this but I've been kicking these rhymes since I come out the you-ter-iss"

Pure magic.

The second opener - who was by no means bad - was a group called Honor Roll. These guys were better performers than the first act but not as talented rappers.

Zion I was amazing.

I was going to write more about Zion I's performance but I'd rather just encourage everyone reading this to attend one of his upcoming shows. He is smart, funny, and puts an incredible amount of thought and energy into giving his audience the best show that he can.

My next trip to the Independent? The Simpsons Movie on Monday night. Free with purchase of two drinks.

It doesn't get much better than that...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Free to be You and Me...

I really enjoyed this article from Wired magazine.

As someone who recently got an iPod Touch - and thus is dependent upon mooching off of free wireless networks nearby - network security is an important issue to me.

From my apartment I can view as many as 17 separate wireless networks but only two of them are not password protected. And my connectivity is sporadic at best. It's even worse at the laundromat where I'm forced to spend hours defending my clothes. Here - the Washing Well, if you're curious - there are no fewer than 22 separate wireless networks within range ONLY ONE OF WHICH IS OPEN. Talk about Tantalus...

Obviously I support the freeing of wireless networks but I think that this article evaluates the issues very thoroughly and logically.

I can only hope that my neighbors are convinced...

Monday, January 7, 2008

Online Action and Real Life Results

I found this extremely interesting article on techpresident.

Although I've only played WoW for about 15 minutes in my life (I had an orc warrior) I have friends who do little else. Some of them play WoW so much that their personal, professional and academic lives suffer as a result. I can't even count the number of times I've implored my friends to come see a movie, to dinner, to a bar or to the park only to hear the reply, "I can't. My guild is raiding ___ dungeon tonight."

"Well, how long will that take?" I ask, knowing full well that I will have completed my plans and gone to bed long before the raid is complete.

"I dunno... maybe 5 or 6 hours?"

Game. Set. Match.

I do not believe that my friends are unique in their attachment to this game. I'm sure that many of the 9 million other WoW users are similarly devoted/addicted/hooked.

Their online time is precious. They pay $15 a month for their account and they plan to get the most out of their investment. When some of my friends have quit their jobs and stopped going to class in order to play more WoW, I came to the conclusion that their online lives are more valuable than their real lives.

Now, what does this all mean in the context of hundreds of Ron Paul supporters holding a WoW rally online? I think that this may indicate that Paul's dungeon-raiding online supporters are even more zealous supporters than the Paulies who attend rallies and debates in real life.

While this sort of display doesn't necessarily manifest in votes on election day, it certainly calls attention to the dedication of Ron Paul's supporters as well as the need for more tech-accessible ways of interacting with the political process.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Interesting discussion of Twitter today on Techmeme.

This article in particular.

Why Startups Cost Less

Here is an interesting article that quickly summarizes why so many startups are born each day.

It's interesting that even though there has been considerably more scrutiny into the viability of startups since the late 90's, the severely decreased cost-to-entry has acted as a counterweight to that force. The result is that even without VC backing, companies are able to spring into existence. This is why we see startups flopping left and right and yet more and more keep coming. The ideas aren't necessarily better, the stakes are just smaller.


Clean Up the 'Nets

The earwax eating Australian Prime Minister who I wrote about a couple of months ago is now pursuing a massive internet censorship campaign.

There are a few thoughts I had while reading the article.

The first was that it was an opt-out censorship rather than an opt-in censorship. That means that an Australian internet customer must call their provider or - even worse - someone in the government and request that their pornographic websites be unblocked. This seems like it could raise privacy issues somewhere along the line.

My other thought was regarding the fact that blocked sites must be manually logged into the filter for them to be blocked in this censorship system. Even if you're able to filter all of the dirty sites one day, the filter wouldn't stop the most inappropriate site on the planet the next day as long as it was created - or its web address was altered - after the filter's original calibration. This means that someone's job (or some peoples' job) is to browse the net looking for newly minted porn sites and logging them into the filter.

Those would/will be tax dollars hard at work.