Random Ideas

Copy Globe's "Reality Check"

I am on the road in Toronto, so not a lot of blogging, but let me point to an idea that should spread. The Toronto Globe and Mail has a regular feature called Reality Check, where they take claims by politicians and officials, especially ones in negative ads, and research them.

Of course, it's easy to politicise such a task, finding flaws only in the party you don't like, but with proper checks and balances to produce objective journalism, I think every newspaper should have this, and featured prominently. Yes, we see it in blogs and mailing lists, but usually with bias. We need it in newspapers.

Term for people blabbering on cell phones

You have all seen them standing on sidewalks, talking loudly to nobody, waving their arms. Too well dressed to be crazy homeless folks -- then you notice the earbud, and know they are on a cell phone. We need a term for these people and this phenomenon.

Some ideas:

  • Cellchotic (and Cellchosis)

  • Schizophonia (And the afflicted are Schizophonics)
  • Celliloquists (not as derogatory)

Your ideas?

Google is the new Microsoft

No, I don't mean Google is the new overly aggressive, cut-throat monopoly on the block. What I mean is that with the IPO hype and dominant brand in search, Google is the new #1 on the block, and that's going to have a price.

People here in Silicon Valley hate Microsoft, it's almost a given. And they don't just hate Microsoft because it's done bad things -- though it has. They also hate it, on principle, because it's #1. Just as I described in one of my first posts that much of the world hates the USA because it is so big. Rational or otherwise, it's a natural impulse.

Google will be distrusted and feared more than it deserves as long as it is at the top. And of course, it won't be a perfect company. Not only do all companies make mistakes, but Google has announced how it wants to take lots of risks and make lots of big bets, assuring it will also make lots of big mistakes. Not just technical and business mistakes, but social ones.

The reaction to GMail, which I wrote about earlier, is yet another taste of this. There are issues in GMail that need addressing. But our generally reasonable colleagues at EPIC have reacted to it way too strongly and quickly for a not yet released product.

Of course, many would say they dream of the day they are so big that people distrust them on principle. They would love to have such problems. And in that thought lies Google's potential salvation from this problem. They can embrace the irrationality as one of the costs of being big. Yes, it adds to the cost of doing business, but the great thing about being #1 is you can afford it. Realize that the other guys wish they could get so much negative publicity.

This doesn't mean you can't be bold, though it does make it harder. But that can be a challenge rather than a barrier. And it can make the company a better company. Google is a better company at not-being-evil® than Microsoft, and that will stand it in good stead, but they will find it's not enough. The #1 company has to not only not be evil. It has to be good.

New word: Spamigation

Spamigation: The abuse of bulk legal action. Filing lawsuits in bulk (as in the RIAA filesharing lawsuits or DirecTV smartcard lawsuits) without taking care to assure all defendants are actually at fault. As such, some defendants are bound to be entirely innocent, but this doesn't matter because you don't really plan to take any to trial.

Can also be used for threats of legislation, when sending out cease and desist and other threatening letters is bulk, because it's easier to bulk threaten than to research. Possible alternate spelling: Spammigation.

Some new terms to throw out

I like to make up terms. Here are some more for your use or enjoyment.

Returned to Fry's Electronics and re-shrinkwrapped. "Don't buy that one, it's been re-fried!"

Nerd Trolling
For women who want a geeky guy, dressing up to the 9s and going out on Friday night to the computer store, then standing in front of the hard drives muttering about whether you should get SATA, IDE or SCSI. The guys there alone Friday night are single, smart and probably well off or gainfully employed. Much better odds than the bars.

Modern, post-modern and futurist are not enough. If you're into the Singularity, worry about Gray Goo and copying uploaded human minds, you're a post-futurist.

Don't call it a hole, call it a window

In talking of computer security, we often use the term "hole" to refer to a security flaw. We also say vulnerability or exploit.

Instead of calling it a hole, I suggest calling it a "window." As in "Somebody found a window into ssh" or "They got in through a window left open in Sendmail."

The plural is left as an exercise to the reader.

Fairer bathrooms

We've all seen public bathrooms where the women have a line snaking out into the hall, but we guys can just "whiz" in and out. We have sympathy (but not too much, see the joke)

Here's a good solution that will probably never fly because we're uptight. Two bathrooms: One small one with nothing but urinals for men, and another one with nothing but stalls to be shared among the sexes.

In effect, it would offer most of the building's entire pool of stalls to the women when they need it, instead of the 60% or so they get now.

Why not do this? Well, some women would prefer men not use their stalls, due to certain prejudicial (or justified) opinions they might hold about our collective restroom hygene. And women might also miss the private "just for women" chat and appearance adjustment space at the sink.

These concerns could be fixed one of two ways. Have men's and women's "ends" to the line of stalls, so only when it was full would women find themselves moving into the area we've used. And possibly have two private sink areas, since there is not as much contention there, and they take less space anyway.
I can credit the idea that the sexes want their private space.

Oh yeah, the toilets could have a little pin that pokes out when the flush lever is pulled that tips down the seat if it was left up. Does that make it better? :-)

Or are we just too uptight to do this? I know women who, facing the long line, waltz into the men's room. They obviously won't mind. I don't see men minding. It's sometimes means a longer wait for a stall, but it's fair.

So what about it, ladies? Would you prefer this arrangement?

Have a superbowl commercials party

For the second year in a row, I'm having a "Superbowl Commercials" party featuring my Tivo. Since the Tivo lets you watch a program while it's being recorded, you can watch the football at 20x speed and slow down for the commercials, and be finished when the game finishes.

To start and give the Tivo a chance to buffer up some game, we head for the hills in a renunciation of the couch potato for a hike. Then we return for the commercials and party.

Of course these commercials are hugely expensive and thus pretty good, and much more fun to watch with a crowd of cynical friends and perhaps some alcohol.

Have you got a Tivo or similar device? Hold a party of your own. I was asked, tongue-in-cheek, whether skipping the football part was unamerican. What could be more american than watching commercials?

Update: Party was a grand success, big crowd, all had a good time. After 2 years this is already a tradition. Tivo, bless their Orwellian hearts, tracks user clickstreams and reported in their press release that the Janet Jackson nipple was the most replayed event in their history. And yes, the folks at my party also wanted a slo-mo rewind.

Update: A new superbowl commercials party is planned for 2005. This time, it will be in HDTV, using the open source MythTV software. I'll blog a more detailed entry about it after the party.

USA/Microsoft Metaphor

Many in the USA have trouble grasping how the country is viewed by those of us from outside it. I recently realized one analogy which explains this for those who are techies, especially Linux/Mac techies.

The rest of the world views the USA the way we techies view Microsoft. Except with tanks.

We fear Microsoft's power, but most of us still give them money. The power of both is largely economic. Neither MS nor the USA is on the whole evil, both are a mix of evil and good. Both are arrogant and don't grasp their own arrogance. Both have a smug leader. The list goes on for quite a ways.

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