Contradictory

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.

Notes:

* 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.

Free Idea: Collect Your Friends

A few weeks ago, I was working on setting up another webpage as a portfolio and jokingly made Holden Page a project. I then shared over on Friendfeed that Holden was now a personal project, which turned into a thread filled with Pokemon jokes. This is when I started thinking about how cool it would be if you actually could collect your friends in a game.

So with that idea I decided to lay out a few structures and ideas rather rapidly on what would be interesting. I’ve decided not to follow through with any of the aspects at this time and figured I’d make them public record. Obviously, the ideas are pretty closely related conceptually, they will be presented as such, but they may be applicable elsewhere. I’m just going to write it up as a bit of a package deal.

Concepts

  • Connect to one or more networks to gather friends
  • Convert your friends into  a set of useable gaming aspects
  • Random occurrence of friends or competitors
  • Should be able to collect, compete, or trade friends with others
  • Maintain a list of friends that will be commonly used

Connect to networks

Allow the user to import their Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ friends into the game. Personally, I thought Twitter would make a better base for the game, but it’s possible that both Facebook and Google+ would make better networks to connect with since they both have gaming platforms built in. There isn’t really anything novel here.

Convert you friends

This was the main idea that I thought could be used in an interesting manner, which also lent itself to Twitter quite well. Take the username of said friend and create a hash from it, doesn’t have to be unique. Use this hash to create parameters befitting your usage (e.g. Taking the Pokemon/RPG aspect, using the hash to determine HP ATK/DEF SPD S.ATK/S.DEF, and they’re various growth rates at level up.) In addition to or in lieu of the hash, you could also try to determine a type by analyzing the friend’s recent content and create a type for that user. This would be more advanced, but doable.

Random Occurrences

This is where I had issues, not so much the occurrences, but how the encounter’s would be handled. I couldn’t come up with any reasonable interaction for this portion of the game. The few very weak ideas I had were using recent content as a competitive method or creating a set of abilities from the hash.

Trade, Collect, or Compete with Friends

These tools are what I find interesting. By encapsulating these concepts into a game, you make sharing friends an aspect that would be a hopefully rewarding experience. This would hopefully increase serendipitous encounters with people you may not have encountered before, but also allow you to reward people for their interaction with you. I’m in love with this, honestly and hope to either come up with a decent way to manage it, or hopefully someone who sees this would.

Friends List

This would be the parallel to your team of Pokemon. The differences would be that it could be possibly generated by those people you interact with most, or people you most want to reward with experience. Experience could be tracked individually(only for the user) or by aggregate(for the friend id). This would allow for possible global ranking based on usage, which would be an interesting concept, compared to our current systems of trying to track and analyze social value.

Random Ideas Related

  • Items that can modify elements of the game, such as leveling up or accessing certain areas.
  • Add minigames for users to play, possible advertising location.
  • Allow users to send out and view network updates from in-game.
  • Instead of using network relationships, maybe use websites, or resources

Like I said, I’m not interested in following through with the concept at this time so go ahead and use them. If anyone would like to discuss them in a more in-depth fashion you can leave a comment or email me at jamesfuller@theinnovationist.com

Also I have to thank World of Higlet for getting this started, and had she not given me a nudge those many days ago I wouldn’t have thought about half of this.  In thanks I’d like to give a shout out to her current web-series, “Mind My Brains, Darling!“.

Pip.io Plowed Under As Seeds For Harvest Are Sown

I was stumbling my way around on Quora and saw a link to Pip.io, which I used, for a period, as it was a promising alternative to Friendfeed. I decided to click the link to see how the service has changed since my last use, and discovered a message saying it had shut down. The message is embedded below.

Dear Pip.io Members,

Thank you very much for your guys’s support! We couldn’t have done it without all of you!

I have decided to shutdown Pip.io and pursue other dreams.

When I started Pip.io, I dreamed of a social web that was more than just what Facebook and Twitter offered.

I dreamed of a social service that could unify and simplify the social experience people have on the internet.

However, even though I will be shutting down Pip.io, I have not given up on those dreams.

The best way to stay up to date with what I’m doing is on my blog at http://www.leoshimizu.com

Thank you members and hopefully we’ll meet again!

Sincerely,

Leo Shimizu
Founder & CEO

After reading, I had two questions, the first, “When did it close,” and the second, “What is he working on now?” So first I checked out the link he posted, but there wasn’t much there, but the Twitter widget on the side was interesting; it was pushing a link, http://ha.rve.st/, multiple times. Checking it out, from as close as I could get, it is reminiscent, in look and style, of Pip.io,  but the copy on the homepage, is intriguing.

Harvest is an easier and better way to consume the social web. Harvest is a communication platform that not only gathers your posts into one stream in real-time but lets you be you. Experience the social web in a way you never have before!

It lets you be you, by at least, discussing the concept of social circles, or “Personas,” where the problem is you only want to share with certain groups selectively.  It also, appears to manage imaginary connections across services, though I don’t completely understand their solution there. It also appears to be a cross-client and aggregation tool. You can check out a few public pages of the interface at http://ha.rve.st/leo/ and http://ha.rve.st/matt/, most others appear to be private. Image at bottom.

As for the other question, when did Pip.io close, I had to travel through Leo’s twitter feed. On May 16th, he discusses the possibility of a Pip.io mobile app coming soon. His next tweet, on May 18th, pushes http://ha.rve.st/ to a user quoting the phrase, “I have decided to shutdown Pip.io and pursue other dreams.” So I assume that means the Pip.io was shutdown on May 17th.

Best of luck to Leo and his partners, on this new project.

Harvest Acount for Leo

Why I’m Not Hoppy With The Cloud (Particularly Music)

When it comes to my opinion on the cloud, it comes from personal experience, over the past few years. I tend to heckle people who have shifted towards the cloud over the past year or two, and mock the cloud. In most cases, their choice is probably valid, because they don’t live in the same environment that I do, living last mile. However, even when I didn’t live last mile, I had issues with services that were based in the cloud, that have solidified my views. Just to note, when I’m talking about the cloud, I’m referring to the consumer side, it has different use case than that of using the cloud from a business perspective, which I’m mostly behind.

One of the people I tend to mock, quite often, is Louis Gray, who just wrote a post titled, “While Amazon Chokes on Lady Gaga, Spotify Flows“. In it he tries to promote Spotify, to US consumers (who can’t even use it), in the face of Amazon’s issues with users, trying to download Lady Gaga’s latest album for $0.99. The fact is that I would rather own the music, that rely on someone else’s right to license the music to consumers. If the service falters, I lose access to the music, and possibly my playlists.

To many, a failure might seem unlikely, but I doubt most of them have suffered through a failure in the service, or even a complete shutdown of the service. I happen to have experienced this on more than one occasion with since fallen services: SpiralFrog and Ruckus. I still remember how I waited patiently for my beta invite for 9 months, to get into Spiral Frog, I finally received my invite into the private beta on 8/31/07. Now I wasn’t much of a music fan, up to that point, only listening to VH1 in the mornings, and various metal bands in school. However, after I started getting acquainted with Spiralfrog, my library ballooned to 6000+ tracks in a few months.

The first failure came around January 2008, when I decided to reformat my system back to just Vista, rather than the dual-boot (Vista/Ubuntu) I had been running for my CS coursework. In the process, I managed to screw up and invalidated all the files, because of how the DRM worked. So I had to start downloading them all over again, at the same time I picked up on Ruckus, and started using them, again my collection ballooned upwards of 4000+ between them. In April of 2008, I moved home, where we were still using dial-up. So over time, the files either expired, or I didn’t feel like re-downloading the updated keys, to keep them going. Eventually, I just stopped using them, because it wasn’t worth the time or effort to keep up with, and they both went under, permanently invalidating any files I might have had left.

So towards the end of 2008, I started purchasing the media I wanted to listen, too. Originally, from iTunes, and then from Amazon, over the past 6 months or so. I like it this way, because I don’t have to worry about the service ending, access being invalidated, or some other circumstances where I don’t have control over them. I have little trust of the cloud, because of my experience of using it before, and how freaking annoying it is when it does fail. It’s wonderful when it works, but there are no guarantees, about it.

Spotify, is profitable in Sweden, but is operating at a loss, across all of it’s markets, and still hasn’t come to the US. As I’m sure other companies are dealing with similar circumstances, of managing the label contracts, as well as the stiff competition. Cloud music is a reality, but not if you expect long-term reliability, at least for the next few years. I expect Amazon, Google, iTunes, or one of the others to be the leader of the pack, but not Spotify, at least in the US. Amazon’s solution and Google’s solution, uploading files to their service, don’t thrill me, because of the tendency for low upload speeds on consumer networks.