Loose Thoughts On Technology

Sometimes I wonder what the point of technology is anymore. All of our basic functionality needs have been met, or at least mostly so. At this point, we have begun trading privacy for minor improvements. I’ve already talked about my Luddian emotions, but it seems that a growing group of people are becoming more perturbed by the audaciousness of companies like Google and Facebook.

I already have issues with phones, but that’s a personal choice, Google Glass is a precursor to a much wider spread issue in which individuals may lose their choice. I just wonder what we’re doing to ourselves, when technology provides only minor benefit but can have such a negative impact to privacy. Maybe we’ll adapt to it as we have other things in the past, but there are questions to ask. Should we accept these tools and what are the responsibilities of the users?

Should we accept the tools? I’m not saying we shouldn’t, but to me they personally don’t make sense. I find them to be a bit tacky, as I prefer life to be more simplified. Maybe others will accept them, but the decisions need to be made. I can’t possibly lay out all the responsibilities, because there are more than one technologies to talk about.

Also let’s talk about reliance on things that we don’t control. We’ve recently seen Google close Reader and it’s had a pretty large backlash, but nothing to be said from inside. You can no longer rely on these technologies, and if it breaks you very well may not have a way to fix it. That is another issue, but it’s not necessarily the technology, but our reliance on SaaS.

Another tangential issue is that most recent improvements have been minor. The ecosystem is vibrant, but what’s getting put out just seems stale. Today’s news is the same stuff as yesterday, and tomorrow will be the same, just with a new coat of paint.

Solving the Social Intent Problem, or Why Facebook Will Succeed

This is one of the biggest issue needing to be solved for the current and future crop of social media companies. As I had ran down in the previous post on user intent, Social Intent is lacking a direct monetization system. I believe that it can be solved and will be; this is my run-down of the issues and a few points of focus that maximize potential. Throughout the post, I’ll try to keep the points mostly agnostic, but still make specific points in the case of Facebook.

As is well known by now, Facebook recently had it’s financial potential put into question. The question came in two rather bold points, the faltering of the IPO and GM’s decision to pull it’s ads from Facebook. In my mind, both are wrong-headed if you look at it from a long-term perspective, believing Facebook can solve the Social Intent problem.

The first step in fixing the model is understanding what type of associations and products lend themselves to socializing in the real world where the money is. One area sticks out instantly here, communications and mobile, which I’ll come back to momentarily. The other areas to focus on are where we’re already doing in-person socialization and real sharing: sharing food(at restaurants), sharing music(albums and concerts), watching movies(at home or in the theater), other forms of in-person entertainment, and even things like sharing tools at work.

I have just listed a few different areas where advertising still makes sense on the platform, and enhances it. The next step is figuring out where and how to do the advertising. A few things that I think will work in the environment is promoting deals to groups of friends, using a focused approach to kick-off a word of mouth campaign, or promoting tools that extend or even compete with the platform.

Promoting deals to groups of friends is focused on experiences, and sharing them. Offering small group-buy discounts on services that bring people together would be a good sell. Also things that people would want to share with their friends after buying. The biggest thing though is where this should be, it needs to be mobile. Mobile means you can promote live deals on location data, this will be key for Facebook.

Facebook provides one of the most detailed systems for focusing on specific user for promotion. Using this to promote to a specific market that will love and share it with others will be gold. If you can find a product that is shareable enough, and can get some enthusiasts hyped about it, it makes sense to try this approach to reach a broad base cheaply. Not all products have a broad capacity though. Take GM for instance, vehicles aren’t one of the products that individually have broad capacity. GM’s ads weren’t fit for the market and eyeballs still don’t mean much ever after a decade.

This one is a bit questionable, considering I mention helping to promote competition. Of course, if they’re paying you, you get to see some metrics on how they’re doing, and you the sub-graphs may still be maintained or tightened by them. Promoting extension and competition make sense for a platform as it keeps the network tight, while allowing a form of escapism. In many ways, Facebook has huge advantages over most other companies in that they have both a large network that has hit critical mass and have a successful platform for extension.

This is a market or two and it’s currently anyone’s game to solve. I don’t know who’s going to get to the fruit first, but it’s there and I see it. Time to figure out if and how to sneak past the giant and grab it.

Ok, now mostly FB. There have been rumors and talk about Facebook phones or advanced cameras to compliment their service and photo-based extension of that service. I think, as I pointed out reason above, this is a no-brainer. You want to maximize the sharing on the site, but also promote real world interaction for the substance to share. If you can provide the tools to make this seamless in setting up and sharing experiences, from beginning to end, you’re in control. I’m not saying they need their own device, but it would make it more simple to do.

Facebook as it stands is profitable. They have the time and resources to solve this problem, and most of the secondary and sub-problems that I have missed and would surely arise during the process. If they figure this out they won’t have to worry about the doubt. It’s also why I feel long on Facebook, though I still believe it will come down further.

Usage Caps: Hidden and Invisible

I’ve been thinking about it, usage caps make sense, but the implementations that providers are offering don’t, with these arbitrary usage caps, that are mostly hidden. There is already a theoretical cap, that for all current intents and purposes seems invisible. That theoretical cap exists do to the maximum bandwidth that the provider supplies you with.

Let us look at some of those numbers. I’ll start with a simple example for a 1Mb/s connection and assume that this contains both up/down streams.

1Mb/s connection = 1/8th of a MB/s ;

MB/30 day month = 60s*60m*(24h/8)*30d = 324000 MB/month = ~325GB/month.

That’s the invisible bound on a 1Mb/s connection for 30 days, you can’t achieve greater than ~325GB/month. Then you have to factor in decay caused by latency and dropped packets on the line and assume maybe 90% capacity is possible, which brings you further down to ~290GB, realistically.

Taking that information, I think I would start people off with a percentage based amount of their bandwidth. I’d start off with a provision of a 40% utilization(~130GB/month), and allow it to be increased/decreased. It’s entirely possible that this is too high of a utilization offering to start with; for example,  when you get to 5Mb/s lines that same 40% is ~650GB/month. On the other hand, some companies want to cap it at 250GB/month which is less than 20% utilization of a 5Mb/s connection. It is my belief that they need to scale their utilization cap with their speed offering; to me, it doesn’t make any sense, otherwise.

If I can do this math, I’m sure they can and have done it as well. They already know what they are theoretically being asked to provide at peak times, and also what they’re capable of handling. How hard would it be for them to optimize this, and increase their efficiency?

Maybe offer a 10% utilization at 1Mb/s(~32GB) as a baseline, for those like RMS who don’t use the web with the exception of email? Then they can automatically roll you into the next 10% for the month, if you go over that limit. You automatically get rolled up 5 or 10%, at some percentage of cost. Once you have the roll over and initial utilization provisions determined, you can go about extrapolating and targeting different areas of what you provide.

Lets assume that you start with a base fee of maybe $10 + taxes and then a rate for bandwidth/speed similar to this:

For a 1Mb/s  plan: 32GB(10%) @ $10, 64GB(20%) @ $12, 96GB(30%) @ $14, and 128GB(40%) @ $16.

For a 2Mb/s plan: 64GB(10%) @ $15, 128GB(20%) @ $18, 192GB(30%) @ $21, and 256GB(40%) @ $24.

For a 4Mb/s plan: 128GB(10%) @ $25, 256GB(20%) @ $30, 372GB(30%) @ $35, and 512GB(40%) @ $40.

You can extrapolate further.

Maybe my scaling is a little off, a little too linear, as I’m not really accounting too much for trying to limit peak loads. Also I’m starting each tier at roughly the cost of the tier below at 35% utilization. There are lots of inefficiency in my model, but that’s because I don’t have the actual data required to see if this is feasible. I think it is still better than their blind caps that they try to hide.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions on how this could be done, or if it’s feasible, leave a comment.

PSA: Time To Step Out From Under Text-Shadow

Over the past few, weeks I’ve been noticing more and more often that when I highlight text it gets blurry and muddled. The culprit that causes this being text-shadow. Until now, I’ve normally marked it down to some obscure default in a theme, or something that makes it appear so frequently.

Twitter Text-Shadow

Can we please stop this.

Unfortunately, I noticed it on the new StackExchange homepage and decided to tweet my outrage. While I was there I decided to check Twitter. Sure enough, in their footer box they had the same damn affliction. While they do it mostly right, it still bothers me. Can we please get to grips with this.

Here are a few rules:

  1. If it’s content that is meant to be read, and actually consumed, don’t use text-shadow. Period.
  2. If it’s a headline/html5 logo, you might be able to use it, but 90% you shouldn’t. Think hard first.
  3. If you don’t know why you need it. You probably don’t. Let it go, you won’t regret it in the least.

So let’s all play our part and clean it up. Stop using text-shadow in your stylesheets.

Why I Don’t Use Google+

I was asked for feedback in a conversation about the new names policy for Google+ by Louis Gray, Product Marketing Manager for Google+. I had pointed out that this doesn’t solve any big issue I have with the service. This statement provided no value, and I felt that my response deserved to be more thorough and possibly actionable. My biggest issues revolve around responsiveness of the site and the social experience.

My experience with the site has been pretty crappy as far as responsiveness goes; I can’t put all of this on Google, as I do have a slower connection. I can like, er, +1 an item and it doesn’t take, I do it again, and then it takes and un-take simultaneously for example. Posting has horrendous lag particularly when trying to select circles, all 8 of them, in which to display. Notifications are so slow, they’re sometimes as far off as several hours at this point, which is the worst I’ve seen since launch and continues to degrade. If you’re browsing, occasionally comments don’t show up without a refresh of the page or opening a thread in another window. So as far as responsiveness of the site, I’d put them above Twitter, barely, but still way, WAY, behind Facebook or Friendfeed. They’ve made improvements, but even so it still seems to be degrading faster than they can keep it up, this without mention of the memory issues.

My personal social experience with the site has felt off. It is okay at a lot of things, but isn’t the best at any. Circles are in theory good, but in practice this doesn’t seem to be the case. I’m not going to share anything I want my close friends and family to see, because Facebook already does that and is more closed off; there is no need to try and pull all these people over and shove in a circle. It’s hard to find valuable content, without immense amounts of effort at some point in the loop. If I follow someone who occasionally shares something I find interesting, or shares a topic I want squared away to the side; the only recourse I have is to put them in a circle, otherwise I have to wade through the noise, and even circling them isn’t a perfect solution. Twitter is much better at handling noise, by having compressed context. I can parse a tweet a lot faster than the longer form content shared on Google+.

The service just feels like a waste of time, when there are alternatives that aren’t as much of a waste of time and more productive. The only exception I make is when I have specific need to share with a few specific people that do use Google+, and it would be quicker to contact them this way. I don’t have any good ideas on how to fix the social experience, but they can start with the responsiveness of the site.


Over the past few months I had a building tension in realizations. This stretching is everywhere. What I want and what I feel is right. What I love and what I need. What I do and what I’d like to. So many contradictions from the past, present, and future represented that it’s depressing.

As some of you know by now, I’m mostly* cut off without choice. This is something that doesn’t bother me much though as I had grown to be quite dispassionate about the current state of affairs, both legislatively – even if I’m not around SOPA is bullshit – and technologically. The realm has stagnated, changes are more often of the ‘OOH SHINY’ variety, than of anything that is something that can be productively leveraged.

In my mind, technology should be about enhancing productivity or boosting efficiency, as such saving life. However, all the big players have stabilized their market, and now they’re just pushing the tendrils further and further with mediocre improvements that increase lock-in. As they go further, they’re shifting their mass as well, and the shift is towards the cloud**. I get it, you want to restrict consumption sources and maximize its flow to your coffers; that’s fine, but be reasonable.

An anecdote, a few weeks ago my mom purchased a tablet for my younger sister and asked me to load some apps onto it for her. This was an excruciating experience and left me with an extremely bad taste in my mouth. The tablet wasn’t up to Google’s standards, so no Market app, that sucked. I figured I could add Amazon’s Appstore and that would be just as fine, and it worked pretty well, until I made a realization. About $20 in I realized that, all the apps were verified to my account and couldn’t be used if the Appstore app wasn’t installed and my user account logged-in. There is absolutely no way that’s going to happen, because I use 1-click, and I could find no option to disable purchases.

I went through the process of setting up another Amazon account, just for the device, and provided it a stipend via gift-code figuring that would be good enough and she could add what she wants herself; it’s not, you have to have a card linked to the account before any purchase could be made. There is no way to add apps using Amazon’s Appstore, that doesn’t require leaving your account there, no way I could find to gift apps, and no offering of a stipend system. This sucks, and is anything from simple. I don’t know if it’s similar with Google Market, or even iTunes, but it’s a really shitty experience.

Another anecdote is the necessity for me to have a physical phone. When I need a phone, often for texting, I will often use Google Voice, which is no longer linked to a physical device that I know of. Yet, I constant get berated by them to add 2-step verification, which I can’t use anyways. Or in my search of hosting, a phone number is required which I guess I can understand for contact purposes, but it doesn’t help me. I’m essentially locked out of paying for something I want, because I don’t have a phone. Fuck you, I want to give you money, and because of my personal decision not to have a phone, you won’t let me. You are an idiot, and this is a pretty shitty experience.

Technology fucking sucks, not really, but these systems sure do.

At the same time, I love it and spend most of my time programming for fun and to automate tasks in my life. It should be used to save time and make better decisions. Those instances are just two of several that make me loathe and wary of technology. In this, I’m held in a state of contradiction.

On to a topic I’ve touched on several times over the past 4-5 months, but couldn’t get out of fear of backlash. Now is probably the best time to get it out where I won’t be drawn into the thrall of an argument. Feel free to skip this next section, as it is a bit political in nature. Bottom of post.

Another area that I’m held in a state of contradiction is life, death, and healthcare. What I would love to see and what I believe is better for the present and future or the nation and the world are at odds. I side with what I feel is right, but it does make me hurt inside.

On the one side, I would love to see everyone become centenarians, cancer not exist, and no one need worry about how they pay for it. The other, I see death as necessary, and possibly already less prevalent than necessary, cancer and other illnesses as agents of this change. I’ve been called heartless by some on where I stand, maybe they’re right, but I doubt it.

“No man really wants to die.” We don’t want to die and we don’t want those we love to die, but it is an eventuality. It will happen, and there are two paths, die fighting (for quantity) or die living (embracing the moments you have). Most people equate quantity with the goal; age is the barometer on life after all.

I have spent years with dying people, they managed to get the time, but I don’t know that it was worth it. I’ve been around them all my life, between my mom’s patients, when I was younger, family friends, my great-grandmother, and currently one of my grandfathers. In most of these cases, death is strung out over years, and it’s painful to just about all involved. In only one case did I see it used as a way to actually live longer, out of about a dozen.

I watched two of my mom’s friends die of Hepatitis and the gradual organ failures that came with it, when I was younger, I didn’t know at the time, just that they were sick. They managed to make the most of what they could, and for the most part embraced the time they had, like few others; they where the exception.

I have also watched people like my grandfather lose everything, except for their life. At that point, it’s not a life, it’s a personalized hell and they get sucked in to it. My grandfather survived prostate cancer, but he lost his life to the treatments and now broods in his resentment of the doctors. It’s such a pitiful thing to watch, sure it’s nice he’s here, but I have more memories of the pain and anger than of the happiness and fun times.

This is why I chose to request a DNR order, and won’t seek further care in any terminal or potentially terminal case. This is my choice, and I shouldn’t be taxed for not fitting in with the model of what I and others want. In just about any need I would have for medical care, it will be cheaper for me to pay out of pocket on a need basis, throughout my life, because of that decision. I don’t need help covering it. This is why I still say that the Healthcare Act is unconstitutional in its request that I have to pay for something I do not need. Of course, I’m on the receiving side, being below the poverty line which isn’t something I oft admit. I still cannot agree with it.

I think that we’ve gotten the whole concept backwards. As it stands now, our system takes money from the young and sends it to make sure our older population has a secure and comfortable life. We should be securing our youth; they are the future after all. Take money from social security and Medicare, and invest it in programs that drive experience and knowledge into our youth and protect that investment. While I’d love to live forever, I think that if you want that that is your burden to bear, not the publics.

This means some people in my life today, wouldn’t be, and that makes me sad. I don’t know what I would do without them. What I’ve said was hard, but its how I feel. This is what the populace embrace, but I don’t know or think that it’s the right choice. In this, I’m held by the contradiction.

I don’t claim to know the solutions to either of these issues. I don’t have them. I don’t even know where I stand, often it’s somewhat murky. We all have our contradictions, I guess, and these are some of mine.


* If or when I really want to end this exile, I can either purchase a new router or run several dozen feet of cable. It’s only been a few hours, but it feels nice. It’s been like an erratic weaning process over the past few weeks of network issues.

** I can point out rather easily that such a thing as ubiquitous computing via the network is a lie. If the device, or capability, isn’t available when you need it, then it is useless. At this point, and for the foreseeable future, availability isn’t a promised thing.

Anonymity And Stratification

Our perception and thus our lives and surroundings are driven by biases. They are internal and external. They are mental and physical. These define our world and define us.

Erosion, by wind and water, is biased in that it takes the most direct path with the least resistance. The wind and water are of coursed biased by their own factors such as temperature, gravity, or  physical displacement. Solution caverns are formed after long periods of graceful wearing by biased paths of water dripping through the stratified layers of earth and wearing limestone or another composite down. Men are similar in that we make our paths through life using biases to survive.

Our biases help us to form groups, of positive and negative responses, based on prior knowledge or instinct(biases shared from previous generations), and particularly opinion. Biases based on opinion — family, friends, religion, race, color, creed, nationality, wealth, just about way to slice society and ideals into disparate groups — create stratification within our modern societies. We take in what we see, what we hear, what we feel and our biases respond with negative or positive reaction. These reactions aren’t always rational, because they have been passed through a filter before being truly inspected.

How can we limit our biases? How do you limit the effects of stratification, being in or out of group, above or below a threshold?

I don’t think we ever can completely destroy bias, a factor being emotion, but can we limit it; I believe so. Social networks are often based around a user’s identity and relationships, and also the sharing of the user’s ideas and emotions. Each is a form of bias, but what if we can remove everything that is unnecessary, the relationships and identities. You end up with a muddled stream of anonymous content, you strip away the biases you have positive and negative that aren’t relevant to the actual content. We hear how bad anonymity is, but just because you hide the identity doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have to exist.

John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory

John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory

Why does anonymity have to devolve? What if you can have your anonymity along with identity, and the responsibility (most) people have when it is our identity attached. Can you impart the freedom of stratified bias, while simultaneously allowing the community to hold itself to a standard without abuse. To be honest I don’t know, but both on their own are simple, the first being the standard identity based model, the other being more akin to 4chan’s open anonymity. Maybe it should be as simple as an interface switch, that can show identity, if it is wanted, but otherwise hides it by default. Relationships shouldn’t have to be destroyed in order to have the anonymity exist.

Anonymity like the biases can’t and won’t be perfect, but there have to be some ways to limit and control them. This post was partly spawned by thinking about group stratification and realizing I had partially solved it with little app I made for myself a while back that removed all external points of identity, incidentally. It my content streams from Friendfeed, and was amazed at some of the reactions I had to things I had liked that I normally would have scoffed at.