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April 30, 2014

2014 Tech Theme -> Inclusion

Tags: Everyday Life — 10:33 am Comments (1)

Over the years, the tech industry has had some lovely tech themes: Killer Apps, the Web, Search, Portals and Vortals, Dynamic HTML, Personalization, Verticals, Everywhere, Web 2.0, Web services, mashups, Digital Divide, Mobile, Location, HTML5, the Cloud, Apps, and now we’re looking at “Wearables” and “Contextual”.

Mitch Kapor and seemingly the tech scene in Oakland are pushing for the tech theme of Inclusion and I’m right there with him.  Doesn’t have to replace our fascination with wearables or context (e.g. Siri or Google Now), but it should be one of the themes that we carry forward.

Who are we including as our customers, as part of our development team, as part of our projects, as part of our investors? Are we valuing diversity? Are we equipping minorities with the training, tools, access, opportunities, money/resources to thrive or lean in? The truth is we’re missing out on a lot when we’re not being inclusive.

(what diversity in tech should/could look like)

Look for “Inclusion” or #Inclusion or include or inclusivity, etc. Inclusion is a tech theme you can be proud to be associated with, to be thinking about, and a nice theme to move forward.



Home monitor/computer and Home storage device

Tags: Everyday Life — 1:37 am Comments (0)

*drafty*

In the next 5 to 10 years or so, we’ll have a “home monitor” or “home computer” and a home storage device as a part of our homes much like a thermostat, heater, A/C, etc.

Home energy storage is an easy concept — big battery is charged from the electrical grid or solar panels on the home and essentially runs the electricity for the house and helps keep the home off the grid or helps a home be more efficient by powering it up during peak hours. This is one of the reasons why Tesla seems to be more than just an electric car company. A Tesla battery in every home and business? Sounds pretty cool to me.

The home monitor/computer (needs a better name) is going to be a little bit harder to define and it can go a couple ways. The first way is as an extension of the NEST and becomes that connected device that monitors *everything* about a house, temperature, water usage, water quality, air quality, security, and electrical usage. The next is the ability to manage each (automatic turn on/off/regulate) for appliances and lighting, temperature, etc. But how great would it be to know air quality and water quality in your house at all times. I’d love that, I’m sure others would too.

We’re moving into the phase where there are connected devices doing that one thing and doing it really well like a NEST thermostat or smoke detector, or one of those smartphone door locks, or one of many connected security systems. There are devices that exist that already do some of the “smart home” functions — pricey though. And then you could even plug your car into the home monitor to make sure everything is running smoothly. Lots of possibilities.

The other way this could go is the home computer/home server where a home server manages all the computers and data for the home, all the photos, music, videos, documents, online accounts and entertainment that serves as the method to keep the main files, serve as a backup, and also as the intermediary to a cloud back up service. Some of this is available now but haven’t seen a clean Apple-like solution.

The home server feels like one of the cleaner ways to manage a household where everyone (2+ people) has a computer and a smartphone and possibly another device like a tablet and then another couple of tvs in the home and a few music devices. In a shared household environment, where’s the main file (that photo, that music file, that video, that contract) that everyone can use? Alternatively, those files could be all on Dropbox, Google Cloud, iCloud, SkyDrive, somewhere else in the sky?

Where’s the primary file? What device can I access it from? Can I cache/store it on that device? Is that file backed up? Is that file backed up to the cloud? Digital hoarding at it’s finest or just where we are these days with tech assets.

Going through the user experience is best when considering the most important files you own/store, so likely photos, music, videos, and certain documents.

 

 



November 26, 2013

Is agency the next big thing?

Tags: Everyday Life — 4:18 pm Comments (0)

I was going to write this last week but it looks like the concept might be coming up again given this article per Mozilla’s new hire and the concept of smart agent.

Basically the idea is this: the web is moving towards becomes a better agent. It takes the concept of the web browser as “user-agent” and really becoming an agent that works for you much like a real estate agent, travel agent, concierge, financial adviser, etc. In order for this to happen though, there needs to be a deeper relationship, the agent needs to know you better in order to give better advice and ultimately act for you.

Early Realization

Google Now, Siri, Pandora’s results matching, Amazon’s recommendations are all early implementations in the realm of personal assistant. Motorola Assist is another example as it knows when you’re driving, having a meeting, or going to sleep in order to make recommendations for you. The initial phase is gathering the information, finding out what people are doing, and then building services around those actions. When the agent can actually act for you, buy that product for you, book that flight for you, make the reservation for your  wedding anniversary dinner at your favorite restaurant, that’s when we might have something.

Evolving from…

Where is this evolving from? The concepts are “personalization” which we’ve seen with My Yahoo!, iGoogle, NetVibes; recommendation engines from services like Pandora, Amazon, and loads of other web sites; the notion of likes and having a “likes” database that could power better recommendations; avatars and the creation of mini-me type experiences on the web; if this then that type of services; identity, signing into a web browser and knowing history and bookmarks; and, web services in general that are talking to each other and they’re letting us be our own real estate agents and travel agents. The next step is better recommendations, actual transactions, and then our interaction with our agent is maybe just the confirmation of the transaction.

For example…

tbd…and that’s why the concept of a “real” agent is hard. But a real agency works when you have a deep relationship with your agent and he/she knows you. Can you take that to browsers, the web, and do you want Google, Apple, or somebody else developing the agent that’s really going to work for you?

And ultimately, I’d love to be able to give my “agent” $1,000 and have it make me some money (should’ve bought some bitcoins)…

 



November 19, 2013

test

Tags: Everyday Life — 12:06 pm Comments (0)




November 8, 2013

Firefox or Chrome, what’s the difference?

9 years ago

Lifehacker has an article Which is Better: Chrome or Firefox?  It’s funny because my kid  asked a similar question two days ago.

What’s the difference between Firefox and Chrome? And this is more or less what I told him:

The way the Web and browsers work is you can choose any web browser you want. With the Web, you choose what application you want to make web pages with and choose whatever you want to view it, that’s just how it works or supposed to work. Great right?

Browsers consist of the backend, frontend, and services. Firefox is based on Gecko, Chrome is based on Webkit, same with Safari, and other browsers have different browser engines. The different browser engines have different components to parse through the HTML, images, JavaScript, etc and they build the Web page. Some browser engines render pages faster than others, some do it more “correctly” to the Web standards, and others have experimental features. That’s why I like using the Nightly builds of Firefox, and I’ve been using Nightlies since 2001 so neither Firefox nor Chrome for me.

Next part is the front end and that’s all the features and look and feel that help you browse the web. Some of these features are like tabbed browsing, or bookmarks, a download manager, or add-ons. So if you think the browser backends are more or less equal, you can choose from how the browser looks and what features you might like better.

Finally, these browsers integrate different services. Chrome integrates a lot of Google services and some people like that so they choose Google (if it’s actually a choice and not shoved down their throats some other way). Firefox doesn’t have as many services tied into the browser as Google which can be either good or bad depending on what you like. Firefox is more feel good and more about the Web where Google is more of a Google-centric view of the Web.

For what it’s worth, I worked on Firefox (and shipped 9 years ago tomorrow) but feel free to choose what you want.

 



November 7, 2013

Veblen Index

Tags: Everyday Life — 1:48 pm Comments (0)

Placeholder.

Thinking about a Veblen Index, companies that maximize the theory of the leisure class such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay etc. In essence, these companies are middlemen, they don’t really make anything (physical goods), they don’t have any inventory, but they facilitate transactions like nobody else.

Companies that maximize middleman transactions.

The alternative is a Veblen Index that looks at companies that make “Veblen goods” or luxury goods.



October 9, 2013

better with use

Tags: Everyday Life — 11:11 am Comments (0)

[placeholder]

“Better with use” should be a bigger theme and a greater emphasis/focus within the tech industry. The components of “better with use” are there with the concepts of personalization, history, recommendation engines, identity/single sign-on, “sticky” features like bookmarks but the feeling of better with use hasn’t crystallized. Part of the issue is the need for the industry to innovate and to show newness (to sell more stuff and to IPO/flip and IPO again) and it’s hard to show age and wear with software when you’re continually redesigning and introducing new features at a rapid rate. It’s also just hard to show age/wear with software in general.

Products that are Better with Use

There are lots of products that become better with use such as: cast iron skillets/cookware, woks, leather saddles (other leather products like bags, baseball mitts), denim jeans, suits and other clothes, shoes, linen sheets, musical instruments, and cars.

Some products need to be “broken in”, some build a patina that can help protect the product and give it some character, other products when used look better than new. And sometimes new products are created to look used and worn because the worn/used look is valued more like designer jeans.

Software that’s Better with Use

Installing the Concept



September 26, 2013

quick backstory on #hashtags

Tags: Everyday Life — 7:30 am Comments (0)

I’d much prefer to make this drunk history of hashtags but I’m not funny and it’s not that interesting. So quick it is. To get the real story you have to ask Chris Messina but I kinda know Chris and kinda saw how this evolved.

Three things about hashtags you need to know are IRC, Foocamp, and Chris (and possibly Stowe Boyd who coined the term).

IRC or Internt Relay Chat is a messaging/chat protocol. You get yourself a chat client, you /attach yourself to a network say irc.mozilla.org and then you join a topic by doing /join #sometopic. And that’s where hashtags came from, it’s how you create a chat room on a specific topic. IRC is popular with software development, it’s just how you get things done. And it’s old school, like really, really old.

Where does Foocamp come in? Well, Foocamp was an adhoc meetup/conference of exclusive tech luminaries (e.g. Google founders and friends) created by Tim O’Reilly who does most of the books and conferences for the Tech industry. It’s exclusive and not open so thus came Barcamp (e.g. foobar or fubar) which was open to everybody. (I wanted to attend the first one in 2005 but I had something going on the following weekend. I also thought it was funny because the founders of Barcamp weren’t invited to Foocamp).

At these conferences, white boards and wikis and chat clients and all sorts of tools are used, and IRC chat is often used as a “back channel” to communicate in the background. You might have the one conference topic channel say #Barcamp and then tons more based on whatever people want. It’s a good way to communicate and a good way to get introverts to talk too.

Anyway, the rest of the story I don’t really know. I guess Chris asked the Twitter guys (and we’re all in the same area, it’s a small circle) to use # for #barcamp which makes total sense. At this time Barcamp had Matt involved, founder of WordPress around, and so all sorts of communication tools we’re being used and tested out. Note that Twitter was founded by the Blogger guys (which sold to Google and now they’ve founded Medium!, yikes), so like I said, these guys all knew each other.

So that’s pretty much it. Hashtags weren’t meant to be abused #so #that #every #word was hashtagged. It does make sense when you want to follow a topic, but allowing just anyone to create a hashtag (not the person who wants to start the topic), certainly makes it less valuable. But it’s still early, early days (Twitter hasn’t even IPOd yet) so I’m sure the whole hashtag phenomenon/protocols will work itself out.

Hashtags though have filled a void left by AOL Keyword (remember that) since urls are sometimes taken via squatting and it’s just easier #hashtag something especially in a commercial or print ad even.



September 25, 2013

Winter 2014 preview

Tags: Everyday Life — 11:16 am Comments (0)

tumblr_inline_mtjb4ayRqQ1r41n17 tumblr_inline_mtjd314qFf1r41n17

Here’s Kirkwood’s Tumblr account.  It’s already snowed and supposed to snow today too. A few good things happened in Kirkwood this Summer:

  • new siding and windows for the Sun Meadows complex,
  • new recreation building for the Kirkwood Community Association getting ready for a January ’14 opening,
  • electrical lines laid down so Kirkwood will finally get it’s electrical on the grid versus burning diesel for its electricity,
  • new ski patrol building at the top of Chair 10, The Wall, to improve grooming
  • picked up some nice, good looking snowshoes for cheap on eBay for us and for guests who don’t ski or snowboard

Should be a good year up there.



September 20, 2013

the theory of conspicuous likes

Tags: Everyday Life — 12:22 pm Comments (2)

(JPEG Image, 323 × 156 pixels)

On the web, the act of liking something serves as currency and is a good enough substitute for actually knowing a person, knowing a subject, purchasing a good or service, or participating in an event, allowing a person to maneuver upwards within his or her social class.

“Like” tools or companies like Facebook, Pinterest, Google, Apple, Pandora encourage their customers to like posts, events, people, products, thoughts, all sorts of different things. The goal for them is to generate money for these “likes” through advertising and also getting the transactions or “conversion” for actual goods. For companies that advertise, the goal isn’t necessarily to get the transaction, it can be more the branding play which may encourage a future transaction. An example is encouraging people to like Aston Martin even though only a small subset of people can actually buy that car. For the person who buys the Aston Martin, it’s made even more valuable because people or even friends that person knows values the brand highly.

What’s not obvious is that the act of liking something is enough. I only need to like the Aston Martin and not purchase it. I only need to like President Obama, I don’t need to have met him or know him. I only need to like marathons, I don’t need to run the actual event. Just liking something gives me similar cachet versus an actual transaction.

The measure of where you sit within a social class can be defined by traditional achievements, level and breadth of knowledge, level of wealth, health, level of influence, amount of friends. The ability to articulate preference and taste via “likes” maybe another measure that trumps some of these traditional achievements.

Do you now then “like” more things? Sure, participate. There will be a point where your level and collection of “likes” is saturated and there’s no additional gain in your social status. To be clear, “liking” something however is not always a flippant or subconscious act by most people. People are aware that “likes” make a statement, they’re conspicuous and they’re attempts at increasing one’s social status. Not only does liking something serve as a cheap substitute for acquiring and owning something, it’s a cheaper way to gain more Facebook likes and status.



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