Finishing My Coffee
10Feb/100

TPUTH — Socially Generated Newspaper for Geeks, Designers and Venture Capitalists

TPUTH cuts through Silicon Valley spin

Socially Generated, Machine Filtered, Hand Polished, Electronic Newspaper for Geeks, Designers & Venture Capitalists

TPUTH lists as its captains of industry four stalwart icons of the modern era: Eric of Google, Bill of Microsoft, Steve of Apple and The Jesus of Lebowski. Niiice.

Pullin' the trigger till it goes *click*.

via Daring Fireball.

15Dec/090

Ron Burgundy Goes To Iraq

A guy I grew up with is an Army MP stationed in Iraq. Here's what he posted as his Facebook status yesterday:

Walked into an Iraqi Police Headquarters this evening where they were all sitting there watching Anchorman. Strange.

Doesn't get much more surreal than that. It's the little things.

What really bakes my noodle now, though, is the trail of breadcrumbs and the use of modern communication which led up to this whole snapshot.

  1. A dispute over poorly-aligned, antiquated punch-card paper ballots in Florida created controversy over whether George W. Bush was our properly elected President in 2000.
  2. A bunch of Saudi fundamentalists, trained in remote, mountainous, largely illiterate areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan and armed with simple box cutters, stole jumbo jets -- small, fuel-filled flying towns -- and crashed them into mountain-sized buildings in Manhattan.
  3. The Towers collapsed, killing thousands of people whose days had been spent working on computers, communicating instantly with colleagues around the world and using the very latest technology to run America's financial sector.
  4. The summary justification for U.S. involvement in Iraq is based on questionable satellite images and photos from surveillance planes presented to the world by Colin Powell, in classic tv anchor style, as proof that Iraq's tyrant was building nukes and/or biological and chemical weapons.
  5. We went to war in Iraq, quickly freeing the Iraqi people from a tyrant's grip. Saddam, overthrown and on the run, is captured and later executed. That execution is illicitly recorded on a cell phone and posted on YouTube for the world to see.
  6. Using jury-rigged, hand made, improvised explosives, insurgents from around the world gather in Iraq to fight off the Americans and our Western allies.
  7. My friend, who I haven't seen since high school, joins the Army and finds his way to Iraq.
  8. There, he works with Iraqi citizens who themselves are working to create order and stability. He stops by their office, a police headquarters, and finds them watching Will Ferrell in Anchorman, a movie lampooning San Diego, America in the 1970s, the absurdity of America's recent misogynistic past, and local U.S. tv news generally and on-air personalities in particular. The Iraqi police certainly have no context for any of the subtle humor, though Ferrell in that 'stache and those classic seventies' outfits goes a long, long way.
  9. An Army MP goes back to his barrack, fires up his computer and logs on to Facebook, updating his status.
  10. As Facebook is what reconnected us, I'm able to glimpse his surreal day from the opposite side of the globe, mixed-in with updates about one friend's Christmas cookies and another friend's love of cheese melted on burgers.

The mind. It boggles.

14Dec/091

Lebowski’s Calmer Than Glendale

Amidst a roaring fight over whether or not cell phone wireless towers (or antennas -- T-Mobile's plan hasn't even been finalized) are a safety hazard, interested readers in Glendale turned to Lebowski quotes to tone down the rhetoric. Good times in the comments.

Pete McFerrin: because helping residential property values should be the only goal of public policy, right? If I were a T-Mobile subscriber and I lived near that guy I would urinate on his front door every day, at the very least.

SecretAgent: @Pete McFerrin: And he would take photos of you exposing yourself and you would then be another perma-loser on a state wide data base.

Pete McFerrin: @SecretAgent: "8-year-olds, Dude. 8-year-olds."

SecretAgent: @Pete McFerrin: 8 year olds? That would place you yet again on another data base.

Pete McFerrin: I am considering a boycott of this blog on the grounds that not enough people get Lebowski references. This aggression will not stand!

SecretAgent: @Pete McFerrin: I'm calmer than you, Dude. Calmer than you.
And if you're going to piss on someones property then at least do it on his area rug. You know the one, the kind that really ties the room together.

If only every wish to urinate on an idealogical enemy's property turned out so well.

(via Laura, who first introduced me to the greatness that is The Big Lebowski)

14Dec/090

Avatar: Revolutionary Cinema?

Navi, the CGI-stars of Avatar.

Navi, the CGI-stars of Avatar.

It's rare that we're treated to a big-budget, big talent film that provides a new way of sharing information, telling a story, or looking at the world.

Citizen Kane took us through windows, cut back-and-forth through time, used impossible angles, and shared the comic-book panel-gestalt with high-brow film critics and the wider, movie-going general public (or, as Michael Chabon suggests, vice versa). Star Wars removed sci-fi films from B-movie status and lit the imaginations of kids the world over. Pulp Fiction and Memento (among others) played with time as Picasso played with visual angles, and The Matrix brought anime's influence to U.S. live-action, melding time-worn effects with new technological advances and a cutting-edge story to give voice to the Internet generation's worldview, dreams and fears.

While Eric Cartman would argue that Cameron stole his story, according to the early reviews James Cameron's Avatar should be, at the very least, a visual spectacle. Through a mix of CGI and live action, most of the movie's setting is computer-generated, as are the main characters for large chunks of the film. Some segments take advantage of new 3-D technology and are so well done that Ridley Scott is rumored to have scrapped some work he'd already completed on Forever War to switch to 3-D as well.

Most telling of all is Roger Ebert's review, edited here so as to remove spoilers:

Watching "Avatar," I felt sort of the same as when I saw "Star Wars" in 1977. That was another movie I walked into with uncertain expectations. James Cameron's film has been the subject of relentlessly dubious advance buzz, just as his "Titanic" was. Once again, he has silenced the doubters by simply delivering an extraordinary film. There is still at least one man in Hollywood who knows how to spend $250 million, or was it $300 million, wisely.

"Avatar" is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It's a technical breakthrough. . . It is predestined to launch a cult. It contains such visual detailing that it would reward repeating viewings. It invents a new language, Na'vi, as "Lord of the Rings" did, although mercifully I doubt this one can be spoken by humans, even teenage humans. It creates new movie stars. It is an Event, one of those films you feel you must see to keep up with the conversation. . . .

I've complained that many recent films abandon story telling in their third acts and go for wall-to-wall action. Cameron essentially does that here, but has invested well in establishing his characters so that it matters what they do in battle and how they do it. There are issues at stake greater than simply which side wins.

Cameron promised he'd unveil the next generation of 3-D in "Avatar." I'm a notorious skeptic about this process, a needless distraction from the perfect realism of movies in 2-D. Cameron's iteration is the best I've seen -- and more importantly, one of the most carefully-employed. The film never uses 3-D simply because it has it, and doesn't promiscuously violate the fourth wall. He also seems quite aware of 3-D's weakness for dimming the picture, and even with a film set largely in interiors and a rain forest, there's sufficient light. I saw the film in 3-D on a good screen at the AMC River East and was impressed. I might be awesome in True IMAX. Good luck in getting a ticket before February.

It takes a hell of a lot of nerve for a man to stand up at the Oscarcast and proclaim himself King of the World. James Cameron just got re-elected.

At the very least, it'll be better than Titanic. Happy holidays, indeed.

13Dec/090

2009′s Year In Ideas

Once again, The Times Magazine looks back on the past year from our favored perch: ideas. Like a magpie building its nest, we have hunted eclectically, though not without discrimination, for noteworthy notions of 2009 — the twigs and sticks and shiny paper scraps of human ingenuity, which, when collected and woven together, form a sort of cognitive shelter, in which the curious mind can incubate, hatch and feather. Unlike birds, we can also alphabetize. And so we hereby present, from A to Z, the most clever, important, silly and just plain weird innovations we carried back from all corners of the thinking world. To offer a nonalphabetical option for navigating the entries, this year we have attached tags to each item indicating subject matter. We hope you enjoy.

via The Ninth Annual Year in Ideas - Magazine - NYTimes.com (and Waxy)

8Dec/090

Behavioral Advertising Today, Privacy Issues Tomorrow?

"It appears incredibly benign," he said of the categorization that Google and Yahoo were doing. "It almost makes some people who worry about privacy look foolish, because it says, 'You like bicycles.'"

"What is not shown in this kind of thing, and possibly because Google doesn’t do this sort of thing — maybe because they don’t implement it yet — are the various kinds of psychographic, demographic activities that go on behind the screens."

Also interesting is the fact that both Yahoo and Google allow you to opt-out of categories that you've been sorted into via their ad algorithms (Not Slytherin. Not Slytherin. Not Slytherin).

I'd been to Google's new Dashboard before, but hadn't realized that, well, there's where you need to go to opt-out, if that's what you wish to do. To opt-out of Yahoo's categories, visit their Interest Manager (nice Orwellian ad-speak, no?).

via At F.T.C. Conference, Concerns About Advertising and Privacy - Media Decoder Blog - NYTimes.com (via Prof. Tuthill).

5Nov/090

Published In Today’s SF Chronicle

Privacy concern in Google Voice call recording

Monstrous privacy concerns loom: What information will Google collect from the calls it connects, and what will it do with that information? Google's privacy policy says it will store and maintain recorded conversations. Is it preserving the numbers called, the duration of the call and even the name and address of the person the Google Voice user called? When I call a person who uses Google Voice or he or she calls me, what control do I have over what information Google collects about me or about how Google will use that data? Apparently none.

Many thanks to Prof. Tuthill for the opportunity, collaboration and guidance. I'd never shopped an idea around to different publications -- the entire process was interesting.

21Oct/090

The Bigger Apple

A mouse, or the ship from Flight of the Navigator?

A mouse, or the ship from Flight of the Navigator?

Impressive enough that Apple stock hit an all-time high today. In the middle of a steep recession, Apple continued to grow. Add in contemporaneous moves by competing businesses -- Windows 7 comes out tomorrow, and last week Verizon and Google began advertising for their joint iPhone competitor, Droid -- and the milestone is even more spectacular.

Predicts John Gruber...

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Apple’s market cap will surpass Microsoft’s by the end of 2010. (Also worth noting: Apple has enough cash on hand — cash — to buy every share of Dell.)

Wow. Frankly, Apple has rarely had a day of announcements similar to yesterday's. Sure, most of the new products weren't ground-breaking, but there were upgrades aplenty and very likely zero misses.

I love that Apple has been developing tech in one line and then re-purposing it in other lines, bringing the innovation to all products. Mac Mini as home server. Unibody to all MacBooks, integrated battery first to all iPods and then to all MacBooks. And now Multi-Touch from the iPhone and iPod Touch screens and MacBook Pro trackpads all the way to the stand-alone mouse. As a bonus, the new Magic Mouse sure is purdy.

23Sep/090

Use The Camera You Have

Remember Chase Jarvis? I linked up his excellent iPhone photography back in April. His mantra was, and remains, that the best camera is the one that’s with you.

He’s taken it to the next step and released his own $3 iPhone app, The Best Camera, which lets you apply various useful filters to the photos you take on your iPhone.The app also lets you upload to various web sites (but, alas, not Flickr). And, if that’s not enough, Jarvis has released a book of his iPhone photography.


Chase Jarvis: The Best Camera

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4Apr/090

Second Circuit Promotes Confusion Regarding Trademark

How much TM protection is too much?

How much TM protection is too much?

When you use any "free" Google product (search, email, YouTube, etc.) Google displays some sponsored ads -- AdWords -- most notably on the right side of the screen. Other websites (most commonly blogs) also include these text-only ads on their websites.

AdWords is an incredibly successful program. Google's  innovation has been to mine anonymous user data to narrowly target the ads, displaying only ads relevant to a user's search or the content of an email or blog post. Both Google and the site owner gain revenue from displaying the ads, the advertiser gains access to the narrow subset of consumers most likely interested in what the advertiser is promoting via the ad.

As an example if you email your friend about coaching little league baseball, and you happen to mention that you live in San Francisco, you'll likely see AdWord ads for the Giants, Major League Baseball, and maybe someone like Easton, a maker of baseball bats. Old news, right? This all makes sense. The baseball emailer isn't stuck skimming ads about perfume or a shoe sale at Neiman Marcus or low-cost flights to London -- those ads would feel irrelevant, and would be a waste of everyone's time and money.

More controversially, Google also made a practice of selling ad space based on the user's input of trademarked terms. So if I did a search for "SF Giants," the official trademark of a professional baseball team, an ad for the Giants' hated rival, the LA Dodgers,  or for MLB fans against steroids might show up. Makes sense, right? Why always preach to the converted; sometimes it's most effective to spread a message to those who might be directly opposed.

More importantly, because Google was willing to sell the rights to any term to the highest bidder -- regardless of who owned the trademark -- to anyone who wanted to buy those rights, Google removed the need for them to make any decision about who should or should not be able to advertise to whom. As such, Google refrained from refusing to allow anyone to speak (so long as they were willing to pay for the ad). In so doing, they also refrained from infringing on any person's First Amendment right to speak and express themselves freely.

Problems arise because there is only a limited amount of real estate available for ads on any given web page. As such, company A's competitor, company B could, theoretically, buy up all access to A's available ad space in order to promote B's product. So while a search for A would show A's website as the first search result, all of the ad's next to that link would point to B's products... and there would be nothing that A could do to stop it.

When this started happening, a number of companies in A's situation felt that their opponents were playing dirty. Worse, they felt that Google, in selling their trademarked company or product name, was violating their right to control those words, which they owned. So, of course, they sued Google.

Trademark law, fundamentally, balances the need of a company to develop a brand and the need of consumers to know the source of a product (important when evaluating aspects such as quality or reliability) against constitutionally-protected free speech.

The first court to hear this challenge to Google's practice felt that Google was balancing free speech and trademark rights in an acceptable manner. The plaintiff appealed, and the Second Circuit this week overruled the lower court's decision. In seeking a middle-ground, however, the Second Circuit muddied the waters.

Today's ruling does not say that buying or selling a trademark as a search keyword necessarily infringes the trademark. The trademark owner still must prove that consumers are confused. The Second Circuit seemed to think that was shield enough for the likes of Google.

But this ignores the financial realities of litigation, and how those realities condition the business decisions of intermediaries. Google and advertisers who participate in the AdWords program have been targeted nationwide in a large number of lawsuits. The Second Circuit's ruling today makes it difficult for these defendants to get rid of these cases on purely legal grounds. Litigating a trademark case past this point, to summary judgement or trial, requires a substantial financial investment that most companies simply won’t want to make, even if they are confident they will win in the end. (Witness Blockshopper’s decision last month to settle with Jones Day after BlockShopper lost its motion to dismiss Jones Day’s trademark suit, even though the case was was widely ridiculed as preposterous.)