We’ve Moved!

The Guidewire blog has moved out of its one-bedroom condo to a lovely new permanent home at guidewiregroup.com. Please re-direct your bookmarks to the re-designed Guidewire Group site, where you can read all about our upcoming offerings and keep up to date with our usual blog musings.

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The Vortex: BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos

On my way to DEMOfall in San Diego this morning and loving/loathing the American Airlines onboard wifi. I can write The Vortex I missed Friday but then again… I can write The Vortex I missed Friday. Also the dude in front of me just reclined his seat. My keyboard is now embedded in my chest.

News from the Social Media Vortex

–Dan Lyons finally snapped and unleashed his fury on Twitter, though as regular readers know, I don’t necessarily disagree with him. As proof of his perceived stupidity of the service, he quotes tweets from Dane Cook. Come on, Dan, try a little harder.

–The much-anticipated rollout of MMS for iPhones supposedly started last week. I’m not sure if/how users will be notified of it though. Can someone make an app for that? (I’m joking. I think.)

–Hey! Somebody finally won the Netflix prize! BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos (that’s the name of my next child) won $1 million for developing a smarter algorithm to power the rental service’s recommendation system. Congrats BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos! God that’s a great name.

Apps on the Radar

–Google Labs has a fun new way to read the news, Fast Flip. Better emulating the experience of reading a printed magazine (pay attention, Kindle), Fast Flip is still an experiment but hopefully signals new attitudes toward digital content.

–And on that subject, I meant to tell you last time about News Dots, an interactive map of news stories from Slate that visually shows connections between people, places, and things in the news. To see the precursor to this technology, check out the Network Maps on Silobreaker, one of my favorite news sites (and a DEMO alum!)

–If all that news is getting you down, try The Onion’s new iPhone app, which includes no news at all, just ironic headlines.

–Two totally unnecessary but completely fun iPhone apps for you: an Army of Darkness app (!) complete with sound clips, and Pirate Tweets, for those times when, well jeez, when do you not need to talk like a pirate?

Tweet of the Week

–It’s a Facebook status rather than a tweet so no link. My college friend Abe has some of the best status updates around, though he does get a bit dark occasionally. He probably wouldn’t friend you if you asked (he’s bitter), so I may compile his truisms into a book one day. I’ll leave you with this to ponder today:

[Don't] remember exactly, but figure we all liked each other just a little better before it was possible to read an unending stream of each others’ inane bullshit.

Amen brother.

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The Vortex: The First Round’s on Me

Mr. Hyde it is. Dr. Jekyll was always the boring one, don’t you agree?

News from the Social Media Vortex

The technosphere was thrown into a tizzy (no really, they were) over the news that Facebook will include @mentions in your status updates. It’s being spun as an !attack on Twitter! So everyone choose your side. There will be no mercy for ambivalence.

–David McCandless has developed the fascinating and fun Hierarchy of Digital Distractions. Print it out, laminate it, and carry it in your wallet for those moments when you’re not sure whether to retweet or answer the phone.

–I was going to mention this last week but thought the post was already too Twitter-laden. Check out What The Trend, a super-handy reference that explains the reasoning behind mystifying Twitter trends. The minds behind it are also not above editorial comments; check out the explanation for “Michael” today.

–So you know Julia Allison? Yeah, I don’t really either. But she’s managed to make a name for herself as… um, I honestly don’t know what to call her. An Internet celebrity? The point is -  and this is admittedly coming solely from her – she is paid $4 a word for writing… something. We’re not quite sure what that is either. So to sum up: someone you’ve never heard of is being paid an obscene amount of money to write some sort of column for an unknown entity. That, my friends, is what The Vortex is all about!

Apps on the Radar

Yes, there were new Apple releases this week but they were pretty boring. I think the biggest “announcement” to come out of Wednesday was that Steve Jobs continues to soldier on.

–Flickr finally arrived on the iPhone, letting you shoot pics and video on your phone and upload directly to the site.

–Football season is here (woo hoo!) and my favorite sports app, Sportacular, had a nice recent upgrade for the iPhone that includes push notifications. Louis Gray prefers ESPN’s app but he’s just plain wrong. Shall we settle it with a duel?

Facebook Lite is here, for those times when you… I don’t know, need more white space. Do with it what you will.

–And if you’re like me, you love a good pandemic, so check out CNET’s round-up of swine flu apps for your iPhone. When the media isn’t whipping you into enough of a frenzy, fire up the CDC News Reader or, even better, Outbreaks Near Me to complete your hysteria.

Tweet of the Week

–Alex Iskold wins the prize, with a tweet sent mere moments ago. And one that makes me wonder where he’s choosing to school his children.

Picking up kids from school. Weird, it smells like scotch around here.

Here’s hoping your weekend is filled with inappropriately placed scotch fumes.

Wait!! I almost forgot to mention – if you own a Kindle, do me a solid and fill out this survey. I’m doing a usability study for a client and could really use your opinions. Once you’re done with that, you can resume your drinking.

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DEMOfall 09 is Nigh

Happy Friday, all.  Never fear, a snarky Vortex approacheth. In the meantime, I want to take care of a little business and remind you that DEMOfall is coming up September 21-23 in San Diego and you don’t want to miss it for several reasons:

-60 fantastic new technologies launching

-Chris Shipley’s last DEMO and Matt Marshall’s first as executive producer – there’ll be lots of fun happenings around both

-A once-in-a-lifetime gathering of 20 years of DEMO alumni for the Lifetime Achievement Awards, including Donna Dubinsky, Diane Greene, Jeff Hawkins, Shai Agassi, Ben and Mena Trott and many others

Friends of Guidewire are eligible for an exclusive discount, so click here to take advantage. And if you’re an unfunded startup, drop me a line at carla@guidewiregroup.com and we’ll see what we can do to get you through the door.

Hope to see you in San Diego!

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The Vortex: Deep Thoughts Edition

It’s funny – I started this weekly wrap-up to skewer the insanity of the technosphere. It’s an odd little world that thinks an awful lot of itself and needs a dose of reality on a regular basis. But sometimes I just can’t muster the energy to make fun of Scoble’s latest rant, or whatever that week’s kerfuffle is. And, as you may have noticed, these posts have been drifting more towards actual news updates and app reviews. So I’ll put the question to my small but faithful group of readers: which Vortex do you like better – Jekyll’s or Hyde’s?  (If you need a prompt, Hyde was the evil one.) In the meantime…

Robert Scoble thinks Twitter is worth “five to ten billion dollars.” Sigh.

–Sarah Lacy is mad at Brazil because she didn’t get her visa arranged in time. The only thing missing from this temper tantrum is the sound of stamping feet.

–We’ve all done it but John Hodgman did it in spades. What was meant as a direct message on Twitter instead went out to his 82,000+ followers – his cell phone number.

–Yeah, this site is petty and mean. But gosh, it’s funny.

And with that, I’ll leave you to a happy holiday weekend. Step away from the computer, get some sun, and meet me back here next week.

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The Vortex: There’s a Curse Word in This One

Perhaps it’s the end-of-summer quiet but there wasn’t a lot of technosphere silliness this week – just actual news! Don’t get too comfortable; September is just around the corner.

News from the Social Media Vortex

–It’s America’s Funniest Home Videos for the 21st century. YouTube is now giving revenue share to uploaders of hit videos. Once a video gets a certain number of viewings, YouTube will offer to put ads around it and give you a cut of the profits. So get that cat on the piano pronto and start counting the dollars.

–The big kerfuffle of the week resulted in the word “skank” being tossed around with abandon. So that’s fun. Model Liskula Cohen won a lawsuit against Google, forcing the company to reveal the identity of an anonymous blogger who called her a skank and other unseemly things. The ruler could have much broader ramifications for blogging; could this be the beginning of the end for trolling?

Apps on the Radar

–If you haven’t already heard that the new Facebook iPhone app is here, you likely don’t need it.

–If you’re a hardcore Firefox user, check out SmarterFox. It has a plethora of browser tricks that will make IE seem even quainter. (Jessica’s slideshow here gives a good overview.)

–Frequent fliers should check out WorldMate, an app that creates automatic itineraries from your fowarded travel confirmations. There’s a free and paid version, the latter of which gives push notification of flight delays. Yeah, you think you won’t need this. And then you meet the Dublin airport.

–The unfortunately named CommuTweet (aren’t you expecting updates from Karl Marx?) lets users tweet about traffic jams in which they’re sitting. Kind of a “it’s too late for me but save yourselves” sort of thing.

16Apps pokes its nose into your Twitter stream (or Last.fm or FriendFeed) and then recommends iPhone apps for you. From my updates, it surmised that I curse, drink beer and am into politics. Wow. I sound like a real winner.

Tweet of the Week

–Why didn’t I think of this? Some enterprising fellow created the Twitter id @shitmydadsays and it’s as funny as you think it will be. I had a hard time picking just one tweet so go read the whole stream. But this one made me giggle a bit more than the others: “Your brother brought his baby over this morning. He told me it could stand. It couldn’t stand for shit. Just sat there. Big let down.”

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Here, There and Everywhere

I need help. No really, I do. No snark, sniping or sarcasm this time – I need some honest-to-pete technological counsel. While this is not a problem your average Internet user faces, it is something those of us living in our browsers struggle with daily: how do you choose where to post stuff?

I have The Guidewire blog. My Tumblr account. Facebook profile. And Twitter. Oh and there’s Sharp Skirts, but that runt of the litter hasn’t been updated since Sarah Palin first graced us with her presence.  Arguably, each of those sites has a different audience and focus. Of course the audiences overlap. And are also disparate. My high school Facebook friends don’t care about tech startups. Actually some of them do. Are you grasping my problem here?

I finally emerged from my cold-medicine fog this morning and, as usually happens with renewed energy, had a dozen items I wanted to share: a picture of the Loch Ness Monster (ahem), a fabulous Bill Withers tune, a quick comment to my tech friends in Austin (soon to be my new home!), a quiz to find out which Tarantino character I was (that had particularly high priority), and apparently ten thousand parenthetical remarks to accompany each item.

It didn’t take long for me to grow frustrated, as I had a decision to make with each item: where does this go? Do I tweet it, which will also dump it into my Facebook status – unless it contains a link, which will add it to my Facebook feed? Post it on my Tumblr account? What the hell do I have a Tumblr account for, anyway? Should I just save everything for the giant link-dump that The Vortex is becoming? When can I stop asking questions?

This is a technology problem that desperately needs an answer. Give me one feed to rule them all, as it were. I don’t care where it lives. I don’t care if it filters down into 100 different sites and services. Just give me one button to push, no decisions to make, and one united audience. To avoid inundation on the reader end, perhaps filter the feed by subject. So my tech stuff gets one designation and elusive mythical creatures gets another. Then followers choose what they want.

At one time not so long ago, I believe this magic solution was called a blog. You posted interesting items and thoughts and categorized them. People commented and forwarded the link to their friends. It worked pretty well. But blogs are no longer sufficient and our sharing has quickly become over-sharing. So here we find ourselves, members of more communities than we can keep track of, asking our friends and followers to come visit us here. No wait, go over there. But have you seen that up there? Honestly, I don’t know what the solution is. But could someone come up with it? It seems we’re way past the point of having one, unified, all-purpose online identity.

Now I’m going to hit publish on this post, which will send it to my Facebook feed. Then I’ll send out a tweet with a link. Maybe I’ll even call my mom and give her the URL…

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