Archive for Week in Review

The Vortex:The Jokes Just Write Themselves

The news this week needs no introduction. See for yourself.

News from the Social Media Vortex

–Chris Anderson, editor of Wired, briefly became the most annoying person in the technosphere this week (and that’s saying something) after an interview with Der Spiegel was published. Here’s how the conversation began:

SPIEGEL: Mr. Anderson, let’s talk about the future of journalism.

Anderson: This is going to be a very annoying interview. I don’t use the word journalism.

He then went on to say that the words ‘newspaper,’ ‘media,’ and ‘news’ are all so-last-century. As long as we’re talking about 20th-century words that have no meaning, can we extend the same logic to 20th-century tech publications? Just wondering.

–BlogHer held its annual conference last week and much of the ensuing coverage focused on the swag mania that took hold of some attendees. One power-mad blogger threatened to inflict libel on a marketer if he didn’t come through with a pair of Crocs. To thee I say, aim higher, self-righteous blogger! I’d have at least gone for a pair of Nikes.

–Steve Rubel gave praise to Kara Swisher’s blog, saying that she raises the game for bloggers by… using pictures. That can’t be right. Oh wait, here we go: “she uses clever headlines and imagery in her posts – often tied to movies.” There you have it, folks: ironic usage of film stills is the secret to good blogging.

–And it wouldn’t be a week in tech without a proclamation from King Arrington. The iPhone is no more! In a blog post redolent with the fumes of stone tablets (I’m really hoping you get that reference), Arrington declared that he “quit” his iPhone because it doesn’t use Google Voice or something. I don’t know. Are we really supposed to care about this? I changed my brand of soap recently; do I need to inform you with a blog post?

Apps on the Radar

–Not so much an app as an “It’s all over people!” proclamation, beware of one-character SMS messages on any GSM phone, not just iPhones. Two researchers were kind enough to demonstrate the hack yesterday, so if you get a weird text, turn your phone off posthaste. No one seems to know when you can turn it back on though so… good luck with that.

–Since you can’t use your iPhone anymore – either because it’s been hacked or Arrington told you not to – go Mad Men Yourself. The music will make it all better.

Tweet Twitterer of the Week

–Rather than one tweet this week, I give you possibly the best Twitter bio ever, from Mark Dykeman: “Too boring to follow. Extremely unlikely to buy, convert, or click on your link. Negative. Smarm intolerant. Eats puppies, kittens, and babies.”


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The Vortex: Back from the Dead

We’re back by popular demand – or at least a few random asides from people I pass on the street. It seems some of you genuinely missed the weekly snark-fest that is The Vortex, in which we take a moment to poke some fun at the Egotocracy. And once I started compiling items earlier in the week, I just couldn’t stop. This may be slightly longer than usual; there’s just so much to choose from! Let’s get to it, shall we?

News from the Social Media Vortex

-The big kerfuffle of the past two weeks has been King Arrington vs Twitter. Citing the entire history of the news industry as precedent, he decided that publishing confidential company documents sent to him by a hacker in need of a hobby qualified as sound journalism. Twitter has not ruled out the possibility of lawsuits. I think the best assessment of the situation came from a journalist friend who said, “Lovely how journalism has progressed from The Pentagon Papers to this…” Indeed.

-In other Twitter news, the company found a fan in Martha Stewart this week and a critic in David Letterman. Calling Facebook “dippy,” (my new favorite word), Stewart lauded the ease of using Twitter, though also strangely labeled it the ‘Wal-Mart of the Internet.’ (Is Twitter now hawking mass-produced crap made by Malaysian children?) Meanwhile, Letterman rebuffed Kevin Spacey’s attempt to lure him to the service, calling it a waste of time.  They’re both right.

-Social-networks-in-a-box site Ning reminded us that the tech bubble never truly dies, raising a $15 million funding round on a valuation of $750 million. In April, the company said its users had created over one million social networks, with only 200,000 of those still active. I’m no math whiz, but that sounds like a user retention rate of just 20%. How does that translate to a valuation higher than the GDP of, well, any country in the world? Just asking.

Apps on the Radar

-Mashable has a great piece on impressive implementations of Facebook Connect.

-Parents will appreciate Have2P, for those times when the young ‘uns just can’t wait, and Balloonimals, an ingenious little app that lets your kid blow up a virtual balloon and shake the iPhone to create an animal.

-Gamers need to check out Triazzle and Peggle, both of which are quickly addictive.

-And stoners should know about Cannabis, a recently approved iPhone app that will locate legal purveyors of medical marijuana. Not that I know anything about that.

Tweet of the Week

-This one was just too easy. In the category of Scarily Immersed in Social Media, we salute Mark Rizzn Hopkins for the following: “Ever wanted to micro-podcast to your FriendFeed? Try FriendBoo! http://riz.gd/bt2qn4”  Um, no Mark. No I have not.

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The Vortex: Partying like it’s 1995

The problem with neglecting to post The Vortex on a weekly basis is that it easily spins out of control. I’m staring at a raft of links I’ve saved up, wondering which ones will flag me as Out of Date, the ultimate sin in the technosphere. If you see something past its sell-by date below, just pretend you’re in a time machine.

News from the Social Media Vortex

-The social network we all forgot, MySpace, lost its founding CEO Chris DeWolfe this week. The rumored replacement is – surprise! – a former Facebook exec. Owen Van Natta, who hasn’t been confirmed officially, will hopefully figure out how to unseat his former employer as the top global social network. Also on his list – lose the wallpaper.

-In other news from the 20th century, Yahoo is shutting down GeoCities, in a move that likely had many commenting, “But how will my cat blog now?”

-In a Wall Street Journal piece, Mark Penn discovers that there are now almost as many bloggers in the US as there are lawyers. Bloggers of course quibbled with his math but the point is clear: we must defeat them! Quick, someone start a blog comparing the merits of frivolous lawsuits versus writing opinion pieces in your mom’s basement.

Apps on the Radar

-In place of an app I’m liking, I’m issuing a plea for an app I can’t seem to find. Anyone know of a translation app for the iPhone that *doesn’t* need a data connection to work? The ability to translate umpteen languages into English doesn’t do much good if you’re abroad with no data plan or Wifi.

Ephemera

-In the category of Horrifically Inappropriate Technology, we nominate ‘Baby Shaker,’ the new (approved!) iPhone app. So to confirm: cursing in iPhone apps – hell no; assault and battery of infants – welcome to the App Store!

-And in the category of I’m Thinking He’s an Atheist, we nominate John Soden III of Thomas Weisel Partners in San Francisco. This little gem is a bit old but you’ve got to love a guy who sends an office-wide email on Good Friday saying, “Unless you’re an orthodox something, please get into the office… Join Wells Fargo and become a teller if you want to take bank holidays.”

Tweet of the Week

-My Tweet of the Week section was thrown a curveball this week with the launch of Tweetingtoohard, a site that honors self-important tweets. Of course the flip side is that Twits will now be jockeying for position on the site, leading us even further down the Me Me MEEE abyss that is Twitter.

-In lieu of highlighting the self-important then, I’ll just settle for the funny. Which is apparently hard to find, as my nomination goes to Jason Kottke on April 1st: “Why is the Internet taking so long to tell me what to think about latest episode of Lost? It’s been over for 32 minutes!”

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The Vortex: Less is More

Were I to tag this week, it would look something like this: SXSW, Facebook redesign, Foursquare, Christopher Walken, not Christopher Walken, Rackspace, Rob Cordry. Allow me to explain…

News from the Social Media Vortex

SXSW occurred and a good time was had by all, especially Foursquare which seemed to win the “Twitter of 2009″ buzz award during the week. What’s Foursquare? It’s the new version of Dodgeball. Not familiar with Dodgeball? It’s a handy mobile stalking tool.

–The Facebook redesign occurred and is not receiving the warmest of receptions. In a polling application created on the site, 954,000 users so far give it a thumbs down, with 58,000 approving. Will the masses cry loud enough to be heard? I’m working on a longer blog post about this, so check The Guidewire later.

–Robert Scoble disappointed me by neglecting to mobilize his army, at least for the moment. Instead, he’s launching a new content community with partner Rackspace, called Building 43. I’m a little fuzzy about what the new site is exactly, as his explanation involved Creative Commons, cloud computing, interactive videos, and something about boats in a tide.

–My initial excitement over Christopher Walken on Twitter was quickly dashed. It’s apparently an “experiment” – and an old one at that – by Clusterflock.org. Dear Clusterflock: 1) Don’t toy with my complex Walken-related emotions and 2) Change your name. Immediately.

Apps on the Radar

–My good buddy Josh pointed me to Contxts.com, a why-didn’t-they-think-of-this-sooner technology. SMS business cards. Brilliant. Think of the trees, people, and sign up for this hugely simple service.

Tweet of the Week

–My new favorite Tweeter is Rob Corddry, who curses heavily and never fails to amuse.But his rant to his two-year old couldn’t match the sheer terror inspired by Jason Calacanis: “Just had lunch with the former head of the CIA. fascinating discussion about religion, nukes, the middle east, oil and electric cars.”

Where to start: How did faux-celebrity Calacanis wangle lunch with the former head of the CIA? Did he bring a hit list with him?  Can we get more details on the “nukes” part of this discussion? Will any of us ever sleep peacefully again? I need answers.

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The Vortex: Jailhouse Rock

I stumble into this week’s Vortex still bleary-eyed from DEMO 09, so be gentle dear readers. If my verb tenses don’t match, blame four days of company-launching mixed with profuse cocktail-drinking. Welcome to the DEMO experience, Matt!

News from the Social Media Vortex

-Alert the authorities: Scoble’s leaving Fast Company. He’s hoping to announce his next project at SXSW next week. I’ve previously predicted that he will someday deploy his followers into an actionable army; we should all now await our mandatory draft orders.

-Speaking of alerting the authorities, Jason Calacanis fessed up yesterday to employing a convicted felon. After much effort and thought deciding which statement in his post deserves the most incredulity, I settled on Mahalo’s “rigorous hiring process.” It involves “five to eight interviews,” and three to five reference checks, but not, apparently, a five-second Google search. It’s worth reading what the developer was convicted of. Especially if you’ve given Mahalo any payment information in the past.

Apps on the Radar

-Webware points us to a handy browser tool, Ajax Document Viewer, that allows you to preview pdfs in your browser without downloading them.

-Amazon launched a Kindle app for the iPhone. I’m intrigued enough to check it out but honestly can’t fathom reading a book on that small screen.

-I have a long list of whiz-bang stuff from DEMO to download. XMarks (bookmark-powered Web discovery), Evri’s new toolbar and Collections feature (personalized search), Cc:Betty (email organization), Sobees (social desktop aggregator), and Gwabbit (Outlook contact organization), just to name a few. Check out all the demonstrators for yourself at DEMO 09.

Twitterer of the Week

-If you’re a fan like I am, you’ll be happy to see that David Lynch is now twittering. (And yes, it’s really him.) Daily weather reports mixed with deep thoughts – how very Lynchian.

Ephemera

-Do check out The Daily Show’s hilarious report on Twitter. I expect Grunter and Voweler to be launched within the month.

-This is from several weeks back, but too funny to resist. Mullah Zaif, a former Taliban official, is as in love with his iPhone as us infidels. “I’m addicted,” he said, “the Internet is great on this, very fast.”

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The Vortex: Zeroes and Ones

We’re back after a week away, half of which was spent in the Dublin airport. I love Dublin and we met some fantastic companies, but when I go back to see them, I’m taking a boat.

News from the Social Media Vortex

-The previously mentioned Shorty Awards, for great achievement in Twittering, were awarded in Brooklyn this week and it’s fitting that the attending crowd wouldn’t shut up long enough to hear anyone’s 140-character speech. That’s the essence of Twitter, really: never stop talking or you’ll become invisible.

-At the same time, a Pew report out this week finds that 11% of online Americans are using Twitter. What’s more interesting is that number was 9% just last November. Impressive growth for a service with zero revenue.

-When The Interwebs Go Horribly Wrong: I submit YoBusted.com, a site that allows friends to post embarrassing pictures of you, and won’t take them down until you pay a subscription fee.

Apps on the Radar

-Lose It! I’m not embarrassed to say I’m trying to cut a few calories, but when I searched for an iPhone app to help, the options were surprisingly limited. Lose It! is free and fully featured, with a huge database of foods, weight and nutrient tracking. Come on, get healthy with me. And while you’re at it…

-Yoga Stretch – If you’re new to yoga, go to some classes first. But if you know your poses and are looking for a good at-home practice, I highly recommend it. Also perfect for when you’re traveling.

-Speaking of traveling, did I mention my 30+ hours in the Dublin airport? I don’t think I’ve ever been more grateful for my iPhone. VirtualPool, 2 Across crossword puzzles and Platinum Solitaire kept me (somewhat) sane. And I may have sold my colleague Mike an iPhone on the strength of Enigmo alone.

DEMO trends – where the innovation lies with DEMO 09 applicants

-inventive thinking in crisis communications for businesses

-a whole new way to view large amounts of online content

-live music search for the masses

Tweet of the Week

-This was an easy one. The always entertaining Jason Kottke, ladies and gentleman: “Hey blogosphere, shut up about cats, bacon and Shepard Fairey for a second, I’m trying to think.”

Ephemera

-The hot topic on FriendFeed this week was whether the service is doomed. Too many geeks using, not enough mainstream use, other services cribbing features, etc etc. The answer may lie a few entries down, however, where one of the most popular items of the week was the following: “I just added an XML-RPC interface to the FriendFeed API, so it’s now even easier to use. For example, one line of code can print my feed: for entry in ff.feed.user.paul()["entries"]: print entry["title"].”

And no, that last phrase isn’t html ephemera, it’s what he actually typed. I can feel the mainstream-ers coming now.

Happy Friday the 13th/Valentine’s Day everyone, depending on your point of view. The Onion sums up the holiday best, I think: Nation’s Couples Descend On Nation’s Rotating Restaurants. See you next week.

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The Vortex: The Volcano Bubbles

Lots o’ links saved up this week. Let’s see if I can adequately sort through them without boring you. No Vortex next week, as Chris and I are headed to London and Dublin for the next round of Innovate!Europe workshops. Pip pip.

News from the Social Media Vortex

-Twitter possibly raised another round of funding, on a rumored $250 million valuation. Here’s the question you should ask yourself: if Twitter started charging $20 a month to use it, would you pay it? If not, would you truly miss it? Be honest. Duncan Riley’s assessment is so apt, I may just make it the motto of this weekly review: “Until the very end, the citizens of Pompeii continued their decadent lives, until being buried for eternity.”

-Here’s a fun one. A conservative take on Wikipedia, called Conservapedia, has been taken down after Wonkette revealed a not-so-veiled hit list of Democratic senators on the site.

-The Boy Genius Report posted a spot-on list of things to hate about the iPhone. I would like to add the awful Google Voice Search to that list, which translated “Who directed A Fish Called Wanda” into “bass fish called wanda.” Not helpful.

-And I suppose we have to mention the kerfuffle of the week. Michael Arrington was spat upon in Munich and Jason Calacanis immediately responded with a call for an industry-wide group hug. I’ll simply posit that civility and manners in the technosphere should be an everyday fact of life, not a one-day occurrence when spittle is hurled.

Apps on the Radar

-Sarah Perez pointed me to RepairPal, an incredibly helpful iPhone app that uses GPS to deliver roadside assistance, auto repair estimates, and a repair shop directory.

-Hangman Cheat – if anyone can beat this thing, you are my linguistic hero.

-Not so much an app as a new feature, you can now submit news items to Techmeme via Twitter. Good idea in theory but I pity the soul who’ll have to wade through all the PR tips and self-promoting bloggers. (God knows I’ll be promoting myself shamelessly.)

DEMO trends – where the innovation lies with DEMO 09 applicants

-rich media publishing integrated with key back-office tools

-more location-aware mobile couponing – really getting a lot of traction this year

-highly personalized semantic networks

Tweet of the Week

-I swear I’m not kissing butt here. Chris Shipley’s tweet from the DLD Munich conference made me guffaw – and wish I was there: “At #DLD: ‘moving to an era of bio spare parts’ – Philippe Poullety. After visit to beer garden last night, I await the spare liver.”

Ephemera

-In the This Should Help You Sleep at Night department, a New Zealand man bought a used MP3 player filled with US military data, including personal details of US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. The worst sentence: “He says he will hand it over to the US Defense Department should it ever ask.” Um, let’s go ahead and ask, shall we?

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