Archive for Week in Review

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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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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The Vortex: The Nice Version

I’m much less cranky this week, I promise. Plus, it was a pretty slow news week so there are more fun apps to tell you about than egos to deflate.

News from the Social Media Vortex

–There’s never a lack of pope-wears-a-funny-hat items in the technosphere. This week, it’s the discovery that “well-known” bloggers aren’t much known outside of Palo Alto. Mark Dykeman did some number crunching based on Google Blog Search results and found that household names in the blog world don’t necessarily equal household names in the real world. Check out his handy table for full results.

–CNN ran a funny piece on the 12 most annoying Facebookers. It’s pretty spot on and I couldn’t help categorizing my friends, and myself, as I read it. Post it on your wall and see if any status updates change for the better.

–And the latest Twitter parody is Woofer, a “macroblogging” service that requires a minimum of 1400 characters to post. Or as some call it, standard prose.

Apps on the Radar

–If you’re a fan of Qik like I am, you’ll be happy to hear that it’s finally arrived on the iPhone. Though of course you need the new 3G S for it to work.

–If your Tumblr account hasn’t been updated since, oh say, early June, maybe the new Facebook Connect integration will prompt you to get off your lazy bum and post something.

–The Google Wave preview opens to the public September 30th. Wheee! I am stupidly excited about this but can’t precisely explain why.

–The TomTom Navigation app is now up in iTunes. I could really use this app but will need to read more in-depth reviews before I fork over $99.

–In my ongoing search for a great iPhone news app, I’m encouraged by Mashable’s rave review of the NPR app. Doesn’t look like it has push technology for breaking news yet, but still worth trying out.

–And finally, check out Spider posthaste. Reviewers are fawning all over it, calling it one of the most ingenious games yet devised for the iPhone.

Tweet of the Week

–Thanks to one of my favorite tweeters @rainnwilson for notifying me that Paris Hilton now has a verified Twitter account. If I’m not careful, she could easily sweep tweet of the week regularly.

On my way to go visit some of the most poverty stricken villages in Central America. Going to be a very emotional day, God bless them all.”  No, Paris, God bless you.

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The Vortex: The Agony of Success

I’ve been awash in home-selling negotiations this week so I’m particularly cranky. You’ve been warned.

News from the Social Media Vortex

–As you’re well aware by now, Facebook acquired FriendFeed this week. Allow me to couch that: you’re well aware of this news only if you live in your browser. For those who frequent FriendFeed, though, it was like George Bush had been elected to a third term. Teeth were gnashed, tears were shed and exclamation points were employed with abandon. With characteristic good humor, FriendFeed set up a FestivusFeed on its site to allow for the airing of grievances.

I’ve been a long-time fan of FriendFeed and certainly understand the disappointment of a service’s community insiders. But the bottom line is that FriendFeed is a business that needs money to survive. Anyone who assumed that the site would exist as is in perpetuity needs to sign up for Economics 101 at your local community college. FriendFeed is an ingenious technology with a super-smart team that deserves to be seen and utilized by a much larger audience. Congratulations you guys – very well deserved. I can’t wait to see how far you go in Facebook.

–Marco Arment, Tumblr developer and Instapaper creator, took on Jason Calacanis this week, dissecting Calacanis’ I’ve-Decided-to-Hate-Apple post, picking apart the vast amount of circular, confusing and sometimes preposterous reasoning. There may have been a sound point or two in Calacanis’ post but those were overshadowed by his suggestion that we should activate multiple wireless services for one phone. Rather than defending his assertions, Calacanis instead “zinged” Marco by saying he needed a Wikipedia page and ending with a “for realz.” The really fun part? Jason did this on his personal Tumblr page.

–In related news, a Pear Analytics study found that 40% of Twitter updates are “pointless babble.”

Apps on the Radar

–Customers of USAA Bank will soon be able to deposit checks via iPhone, by taking a photograph of the front and back of the check. The actual check never even needs to be submitted. USAA is a small bank but their customers are primarily military personnel so they’re smartly adapting to fit client needs. Tech companies should take heed.

-AppsFire hasn’t been approved by iTunes yet but I’m hoping they jump on it. The iPhone app allows users to share favorite apps via email, something I’m surprised Apple didn’t come up with to begin with.

Tweet of the Week

–I fully admit to lifting this from the top slot on tweetingtoohard. But can you blame me? “I swear to g-d I can’t relate to most of society. I’m on a whole different level of consciousness.Its all so [censored] obvious. Wake the [censored] up.” – Loren Feldman

Wow. I need a shower after writing this one. Happy weekend, all.

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The Vortex: The Center Cannot Hold

News from the Social Media Vortex

–Someone broke the Interwebs yesterday morning, with a denial-of-service attack hitting Twitter, Facebook, Google, and LiveJournal. Twitter was the hardest hit (or the worst prepared), with the service going completely offline for a couple of hours. [And as of this writing, the site was down again this morning.] As expected, the universe folded in on itself as people tweeted about Twitter being down once Twitter was back up. Then John Hughes died and everyone shifted to Long Duck Dong.

–The other big story this week is so inside-baseball that you may fall asleep mid-paragraph. Robert Scoble “unfollowed” 106,000 people on Twitter. This proved to be a revelation for him – it cuts down on the noise! – which in turn engendered much discussion among people who monitor their audience with frightening acuity. Louis Gray parried with, “Wait, don’t do that!” saying:

“…to massively prune my list would introduce more problems, real and emotional, than it would present solutions.”

I think it’s safe to say that if Twitter ever causes emotional problems for you, it’s time to take a vacation.

–And though I’d love to ignore King Arrington for a week, the fact that he’s now battling the British judicial system is, well… I’m only human. He’s been found guilty of libel against Sam Sethi, charged with:

“a sustained campaign of character assassination against the Claimant… including threats to murder a business associate; of being psychotic; pathological; threatening; despicable; disreputable; deceitful; and a cheat.”

He should make that his Twitter bio. Anyway, Arrington says No Lawsuits Please; I’m Not British, which I’m sure will be a convincing argument to the UK courts.

Phew. Isn’t August supposed to be quiet? Let’s get to the fun stuff.

Apps on the Radar

–I so wish more developers were taking advantage of the iPhone’s push technology. The AP News app does a decent job but annoyingly doesn’t direct you to the related story. So I’m happy to hear that Breaking News Online is taking a stab at news alerts. I’ll be giving it a whirl this week to see if it’s worth two bucks.

Livestation has released an app for streaming live television to your iPhone. The selection is pretty thin right now but is sure to expand in the coming months.

Pitch of the Week

–If you’re a recipient of product pitches, add yourself to Jonathan Hirshon’s email distro.  The head of Horizon PR never fails to entertain and I find myself reading every one of his pitches, if only to reward his ingenuity. So in place of Tweet of the Week, I give you his intro to a pitch for Scenios:

A bonny Thursday to you, as the heat and humidity outside threaten to climb to levels unseen since my last Finnish Sauna experience (with an equal chance of cardiac lethality, I might add).  The economic climate is equally wilting,.…”

Now that’s a segue.

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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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