Friday, 27 February 2009

King of Kong: This is How Small You Are


Earlier this week, I watched The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters1

What I expected to be a light-hearted documentary about competitive video gamers took an unexpected turn into the dark, bizarre, lengths small people go to keep their name in the #1 spot, their clique tight, and outsiders out.

Since you’ve lived through your teen years, you know this phenomenon isn’t unique to video games. Kurt Schmidt talked about in the professional BMX Freestyle world in my podcast with him. There’s a decent chance it exists right now in one of your social circles.

The King of Kong’s editing showed Billy Mitchell avoiding his own restaurant, avoiding his challenger, avoiding directly reclaiming the title he holds so dearly. This sucks the life out of everyone is potentially a death sentence for Twin Galaxies. By contrast it showed Steve Weibe with a loving, supportive family – comfortable in the knowledge that this challenge is just one of the many he’ll be overcoming.

Happy ending.

Bonus: How Small You Are by Wonderlick

1. Netflix Instant Play via Boxee.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

iPod Touch 2nd Generation 16GB: First Impressions

A couple weeks back, I picked up a 2nd Generation Apple iPod Touch – partially so I could start playing with web apps for it and partially cause my much beloved 3rd Gen 40gig iPod is starting to flake out.

I’ve been primarily for programming-related movies (PeepCode, SDRuby, and Pragmatic Programers), a calendar & address book, and some ongoing mobile experiments.

Compared to a Palm device, the iPod Touch is a far better experience. No question. As a music player compared against my iPod Nano or 40gig – it’s a miserable failure – especially in the car. Even as a video player it’s awkward if only because video and audio are treated differently in terms of navigation and rating.

The ‘slide to unlock’ gesture is the most elegant, convenient way to wake a device up – far better than the 2 key combo sequence phones require.

I was surprised to see the iPod Touch doesn’t have a camera. I fully expected it to. The omission makes me think the iPhone is far more heavily subsidized by AT&T than I originally calculated.

I’ve added a only a small handful of free apps from the App Store, and deleted all but 3 of them; Alocola, Fring, and WordPress (which may be deleted shortly.)

The apps the iPod ships with fared about as well, but I can’t delete them easily, which makes me grumbly.

Mail is nearly worthless for anything more than 1 (, non-Google) account, because there’s no rolled-up aggregate view of mail and it relies on server-side spam filtering.

Calendar is such a nice app. Good monthly and list views, easy to move events around and update their information. This is best calendar I’ve worked with.

Maps – Google Maps itself is an amazing piece of technology, then wrapped into tiny, tiny, highly-mobile Apple computer – astounding. There are a couple oddities I’ve found though; when I ‘drop pin’, ‘edit bookmark’ is the action for changing the name of the pin’s location (shouldn’t it be ‘edit pin’ or ‘edit location’) also, I haven’t figured out how to access my list of pins/bookmarks. Any idea?

Stocks, YouTube, Music, Clock, iTunes Music Store, Mail, and Settings have all been relegated to a secondary app screen, cause that’s most effective way to hide them.

Overall, I’m ‘eh’ on the device. It still has what I consider the iPod’s fatal flaw – required tethering to iTunes (my phone can update wirelessly from across the room, why do the iPod need to be plugged in?) and I’m not sure what – aside from basic PDA and media playback – I’d want applications on the device to do.

So, the numbers in the AppStore Secrets report from PinchMedia don’t surprise me (punch line: apps have ~30 day lifespan).

Kindle 2: 9 First Impressions


Amazon’s Kindle 2 arrived today. It’s the 3rd mobile internet device I’ve picked up this year, and a few hours in, I’m more pleased with it than the other two.

My initial impressions:

  1. The monochrome screen is gorgeous, and looks almost textured – as if there were a digital compliment to letterpress.
  2. The slim, flat, form factor and white case make me want to treat the Kindle like a piece of paper. It seems OK with that, comfortably setting where ever I put it, ready to be picked up whenever – just like book or more accurately a newspaper. Like a newspaper, it feels comfortable in one hand with a cup of coffee in the other. I now have no guilt about dropping our Sunday newspaper tradition.
  3. The navigation elements are slow and sticky. I’m never quite sure if I pressed the Next/Prev Page button hard enough – for the ‘click’ and the on-screen reaction seem to be off by a beat. The joystick is nearly flush with the face of the device and square (square?) with sharp edges, making it just uncomfortable and kind of painful to use. So far, using my thumbnail seems to be the least awkward way to manipulate it. Oh, and it doesn’t fly across the screen – it’s more stumbles from active area to active area.
  4. I’m already annoyed by the famous-author-portrait screensaver. I’d much prefer the screen to be black when not in use, especially considering sliding the power-switch toggle is an easy and explicit gesture that I want it to wake up. (If you know how to turn off the screensaver, please post it in the comments, thanks.)
  5. The reverse-text-on-page-turn is a jarring reminder that I’m reading an electronic device. Dramatically minimizing any chance you’ll get lost in the story. Remind me of a time when cars couldn’t drive faster than horses. Hopefully, this will go away (I’ll stop noticing it and the next revision will use a more subtle indicator).
  6. OS X does recognize the Kindle as a drive. Excellent – I wish the iPods were this accommodating. Then, I was disappointed to discover PDFs need to be converted before the Kindle recognizes them. I found Lexcycle’s Stanza – works fair for converting (good for documents, useless for presentations) – and loaded up my library of Pragmatic Programmers PDFs.
  7. Amazon’s ‘Recommended for You’ is built into the device and should be classified as a national economic stimulus package. Unlike every other commerce venue – including Apple’s iTunes Stores – it’s far easier to make the purchase within the Kindle thank to not.
  8. Overall, the least interesting thing to me is the Kindle as an “eBook” reader – though I finally feel like I have a comfortable device to read PDFs on. I’m far more interested that the Kindle has a free, persistent 3G wireless connection, a full QWERTY keyboard and a very basic browser (javascript is off by default). I find it both terribly amusing and annoying that, long webpages on the Kindle are navigated with next/previous page buttons – instead of scrolling.
  9. The mobile versions of Cullect and Twitter are completely usable.


” The iPhone UI, right down to its flowing scrolling on its touchscreen, is elegant and happy; the Kindle is klunky and irritating.” – Jeff Jarvis

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The New Project Setup Checklist

As I mentioned earlier, one of my goals for this year is to launch 2 revenue-generating projects. I took a couple hours this morning and started the ball rolling on 2 of the potential candidates to fulfill that goal.

Here’s the checklist I use to lay the foundation for a project:

  1. Declare a descriptive code name
    A good code name (aka working title) has 3 characteristics; articulate the interesting aspects of the project, define the personality of the project, and be completely disposable. The original code name for Cullect was ‘FeedSeeder’. While ‘FeedSeeder’ worked for defining and building the system – it’s a horrid name. The code name for one of the projects inspiring this post is ‘cashboard’, which leads me to..
  2. Create a place for the project
    For me, this means creating a directory in my projects directory (~/Documents/Projects/) and an iCal calendar titled [code-name].
  3. Buy a good domain name
    If anything, the search for a good domain name confirms the need for a disposable code name. I search for domain names after I’m sure I’m serious about the project, though again, this might not be the final project name – Cullect was almost called ‘’ (again, bleeech). Once I’ve got the domain name, I usually dispose of the code-name and re-do Step 2 for the domain name.
  4. Set up the website and email at that domain
    For me, this means creating a ‘garrick@…’ user and installing WordPress on one of my servers at Joyent. This could also mean pointing a account at your domain, or something similar.
  5. Set up the Twitter account for that domain name.
    Finding a Twitter username can be as tricky as finding the domain name, and definitely stay as close to the domain name as possible. Use the email address you just set up – I even use a variation of it for my non-username Twitter ‘name’. Oh, and be sure to follow yourself 🙂
    Note: Whether or not Twitter is where people will be next year, it’s where they are now. Plus, if your project is a software application – there’s a good chance Twitter could be an interface to it.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Rule 1. Success Metrics are Things Robots Can’t Do.

The funny thing about metrics – the wrong one distracts more than it helps. And in this modern age, a technological hack can be built (if it doesn’t already exist) to give you the desired numbers.

Bernard Madoff
Click Fraud

This is why I’m not a big fan of measuring the success of a website based on click-through-rates or unique visitors. Both of which are distractions, and things automated scripts can be written to steadily increase the rates of.

On a much smaller scale, take a look at my “Twitter influence” according to Web Analytics Demystified.

For kicking Twitter’s tires for 2 years, I’m ok with my influence “becoming apparent” – it just betrays this report is worth exactly what I paid for it.

WebAnalyticsDemystified’s algorithm is obviously heavily weighting ‘retweets’ – the act of someone else repeating what you’ve said within Twitter. If you’ve followed along, I’ve railed against the act of retweeting that I’ve fostered an echo. I find @retweetgarrick an amusing joke. WebAnalyticsDemystified says it1 increases my influence.


So, to increase my ‘influence’ on Twitter, I should create an army of @retweetgarricks?

Yeah, we should probably just find a different metric.

1. Robots are neuter.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Monday, 9 February 2009

Twitter as Trusted CraigsList

A couples weeks ago or so, I made my first purchase off Twitter – a Nokia E71. I had been eyeing it on Amazon for weeks, but never had a reason to click purchase.

Then late one Friday night Dino mentioned a friend of his was selling.


Notice Dino isn’t selling the phone. A friend of his is.

Dino’s in Wisconsin. His friend’s in Nevada. I’m in Minnesota. Dino and I haven’t met, we just follow each other on Twitter.

A modern day handshake?

This is where Twitter beats both Craigslist, Amazon, and eBay. Twitter is 100% trusted reputations.

By the way, if you follow me on Twitter, you know I’ve been quite happy with the Nokia e71. Far happier than I was with the Blackberry and approaching the happiness I had in my early days with the Treo 650.

Elsewhere, Dave Winer just suggests Twitter needs a Craigslist-like service.

Trends to Watch: Landfill Mining

When I separate my trash, how do I know I’m putting the ‘recyclable’ bits in the right bucket?

Without being an expert in waste handling, I don’t really know.

Plus, if there’s an innovation in the waste processing – and something previously bound for the landfill can now be re-processed, the non-waste-handling experts among us would be the last to know.

Meaning a great deal of potentially useful resources are still getting buried, along with years of other now-useful bits.

What if we could mine landfills, for all the un-recycled treasures they’re holding prisoner?

Forget ANWR, we need to encourage drilling for oil in Puente Hills.

If not oil from plastics or aluminum from cans, how about just the land itself?

“At some point the land upon which landfills are located will become too valuable to leave as landfills….” Patrick Atkins, president of Atkins 360 LLC

This post inspired by MPR’s “Food: the next frontier in recycling” report

(Yes, this goes back to my single-sort post)

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Give Me $5 For Follow

Since the beginning for 2009, I’ve been ‘following’ 1 Dunbar of people on Twitter.

Since not everyone in that 150 posts at the same frequency, things are pretty quiet (arguably a good thing). I’d like to add a few more of you to the mix, but I don’t know who.

So, I thought I’d put the question in your hands while simultaneously putting a price on the attention I’ll be giving you 1.

If you’re on Twitter and I’m not currently following you – and you’d like me to – I’m asking $5.

Your Twitter Handle

1. Background on this concept can be found at: What Andrew Baron Should Be Selling: Following and Twitter: Build a Revenue Stream on Dunbar’s Number