Google Buzz: the social media shitmix

Back when I was a high school student in North Vancouver I’d sneak into my parent’s liquor cabinet some Friday afternoons after school.

I’d pour a small (theoretically imperceptible) amount from each and every bottle there into an empty yogurt container (an example of the three R’s recycling at it’s finest).

But I wasn’t the only one who did this; most of my friends did, too.

We’d meet later in the woods on the mountainside or just on a suburban street corner somewhere to share and sample one another’s concoctions. They were all, invariably, awful.

We had one name for every recipe: shitmix.

It occurs to me that with Buzz, Google has succeeded in creating the equivalent of digital shitmix. They snuck into the liquor cabinet of their competitors and produced a nasty blend that neither smells nor tastes quite right.

A splash of Twitter, a healthy pour of Friendfeed, some Facebook, FourSquare, Brightkite, Yelp. That can’t be good for you all mixed together indiscriminately.

Like shitmix, everyone wants to sip Buzz. But unless you’re desparate for a cheap drunk with a wicked hangover, the drinking ends there.

Life after files and folders

It’s silly.

We still use this rigid system of files and folders on computers almost 4 decades after it was conceived of in a lab.

Even back then it was only a moderately good concept. Better options existed.

But like the combustion engine, it’s a bad idea we seem to be stuck with.

Fortunately, the end is in site.

What I call the “library model” of document management is gaining traction. It’s the electric engine of the computer industry. Continue reading

On Windows Phone 7 and underpant flashes

I’ve been ruminating about the flash that seems present throughout the Windows Phone 7 platform (as opposed to Flash, which isn’t anywhere), growing concerned that by hiring a designer from Nike, Microsoft may have been slightly misguided in their intent to deliver a positive mobile experience. Flash over function, as it were.

Then I came across this post tonight: “Information Resolution on the Windows Phone 7 Series“. The basic premise is that Microsoft’s interface design may have introduced too much of what Edward Tufte refers to as, “computer administrative debris.”

It’s like when my son watches figure skating, he keeps laughing at the flashes of underpants and misses the grace of the dancers. Windows Phone 7 may have just a few too many flashes of underpants in there.

Where is Northwestel’s network management practices disclosure?

Reading Michael Geist’s blog post, Canadian ISPs Fall Short In Meeting Net Neutrality Requirements, this morning I was reminded of the CRTC’s net neutrality decision last year, requiring Canadian ISPs to publish a disclosure of their network management practices.

The point of this publication is to make customers aware of what sort of traffic shaping and bandwidth adjustment practices ISPs might utilize to control access to the internet. For example, Bell limits access to P2P applications such as BitTorrent during certain hours.

I looked through Northwestel’s rather lamentable site this morning (which, it should be noted, features an ever-increasing number of dead links and broken application features–who’s managing that site, anyway? Anybody?) but came up empty handed.

Anyone seen or heard of Northwestel’s network management practices disclosure? They are required to have published it by now, and I’d be interested to read it.

iPhone is officially old skool

I’m loathe to admit it but the Windows Phone 7 (what happened to Windows Phones 1 through 6?) officially makes iPhone’s interface feel old school, particularly in the home screen department. I get a really nice feeling from what little I’ve seen of the platform, but it’s hard to judge a device until it’s in your hands. One thing’s for sure: I love how Microsoft has contextualized information on the device rather than segregated it to individual apps. That’s my concept of Relationship Technology in action.

I certainly hope that Apple has some user experience surprises up their sleeve in the forthcoming iPhone OS 4.0. They need to differentiate from the copycats like Android and meet Microsoft’s new challenge.

Is recycling in the North really a good idea?

I’ve been having trouble with the whole concept of recycling in the North lately. As in: is it really a good idea?

The first two R’s I have no problem seeing the value of: reduce and reuse. Yeah, they just make sense on so many levels.

But recycle? In some ways, it doesn’t seem to fly for the far North. For example, I’m having trouble grasping how the concept of shipping garbage thousands of kilometres to undergo a toxic material retrieval process makes sense. It seems we’re just trading visible garbage (landfill) for invisible garbage (air pollution).

I’ve been doing some research on the subject but have come up largely empty handed. Does anyone know of any research that has been conducted on the subject of long-range recycling and its effects on the environment?

I’m particularly interested in learning just how much pollution is generated through the process of recycling materials in an environment such as Whitehorse. How do we measure the air pollution generated by thousands of people driving their Yukon beaters down to idle for fifteen minutes at Raven once a week, of the heavy machinery used to manage and compact the garbage at Raven, of the trucks that carry the garbage thousands of kilometres to be recycled?

What other negative environmental impacts of recycling in a northern community might exist?

And then how do we compare that to the potential impacts on the local environment if a recycling program weren’t in place?

In other words, how do we measure the total value of a northern recycling program against its environmental impact?

The recycling paradigm seems to be an established fundamental aspect of urban environmental management; but does that paradigm extend to the North?

So many questions…

Why does Northwestel bundle?

The concept of bundling services together is an important one in a competitive environment. Down south, where there are many choices of telephone, internet, and television providers, and by bundling services together and offering a small discount, providers can actively prevent their customers from defecting to competitors.

But there is little to no competition in the North. Which makes you wonder why Northwestel bundles, seeing as the company enjoys, for the most part, a state-sanctioned monopoly.

Assuming Northwestel’s marketing people aren’t simply doing it out of some misguided, blind “me-too” mentality, I’d posit that there are four reasons that Northwestel bundles their services: cross-sales, obfuscation, artificial price inflation, and vanity.

Northwestel’s bundling program can be perceived simply as a mind game to cross-sell you services you don’t need or want. For example, when I subscribed to cable internet I was reminded about Northwestel’s bundling program. I could enjoy a discount on my internet service if I subscribed to cable television. Everyone loves a deal, but if I had subscribed to cable television well, sure, I’d pay less for internet, but I’d be paying more, in fact, for a service I didn’t want.

An important natural side effect of cross-selling and bundling is that it obfuscates the true cost of services. Once you bundle up 2 or 3 services and apply a small package discount, how do you tell which service you’re paying too much for? How do you assess the value of the services you are receiving from Northwestel? Once wrapped up in a bundle, most people can’t.

Bundling may also enable Northwestel to artificially inflate the price of individual services. Say the normal price of a service is its “discounted” bundle price. By adding a bit to that, Northwestel can leverage the bundle to convince customers to normalize the cost. Those of us who choose not to bundle go on paying the artificially high prices. Honestly, I’m at a loss as to why I’m paying $10 more per month for internet access just because I choose not to subscribe to cable TV; it defies logic and is simply an artificial penalty that Northwestel has chosen to impose on me.

Even if Northwestel isn’t simply blindly towing the Bell/Telus/Rogers marketing line of the bundle, consumers will expect it to. Rather than being perceived as a company that doesn’t offer value programs similar to its southern counterparts, Northwestel has chosen to offer a bundle program to save face.

After all, even if Northwestel dropped prices across the board as low as possible and simply offered them individually, it wouldn’t take long for a sourpuss like me to complain about the fact that Northwestel doesn’t offer discount bundles to northerners.

That said, with only a modicum of creative marketing, Northwestel could easily deflect that argument. Instead, the carbon-copy bundling program is imported.

In a competitive marketplace, bundling telecommunications services is a smart idea. Once you’ve engaged with a suite of services from one provider and been granted a discount, you are highly unlikely to seek out the services of a second provider, even if that second provider offers superior quality services or lower pricing.

But in the North there’s virtually no competition and Northwestel enjoys a near-complete monopolistic position. You really have to wonder about the company’s motivation for bundling services.

9 reasons the stylus sucks

Four recent events proved to me why the Tablet PC’s pen-like stylus is a rubbish idea.

Last month my old Newton MessagePad 130 was returned to me. I played with it for a while. My son played with it for a while. Actually, he just got mad at it for a while. We both thanks Steve Jobs for killing this platform. The Newton has many flaws, but chief among them is its dependency on a stylus.

Last month I also bought a small stylus-ish thing for my iPhone, the pogo. It cost me $30 at a London Drugs in Vancouver. After playing with it for a while I realized: the iPhone doesn’t need a stylus. If it’s so cold outside you don’t want to take your gloves off to use your iPhone, then you shouldn’t be using your iPhone (the device is only officially supported down to 0˚C anyway).

Finally, Bill Gates complained that the iPad sucks because it doesn’t have a stylus. Yeah. Because the Windows-based Tablet PC that depends on a stylus has done so well. Pretty much whatever Gates says in regards to the tablet/iPad platform can be tacitly disregarded. He’s clearly out to lunch.

Anyway, it all got me thinking about why the digital stylus is, for general use, the dumbest idea since the seedless watermelon. And I’ve put together 9 reasons describing the stylus’ failings. Continue reading