#67 in the UK100 influential blog list

Apparently this turgid literary cesspit of a blog, written by a dyslexic who can barely string two sentences together, comes in at number 67 in the UK100 blog roll – compiled by PRBlogger (Stephen Davies) using Technorati ratings.

Wow, what an indictment upon the UK blogosphere! To think that only 66 enterprising folk could come up with something better then this crap really takes the biscuit. Or cookie, as we say here in America (seeing as I don’t even live in the UK anymore)…

Did you get a Chumby in round 2?

I just got an email from the Chumby people (what is a Chumby, you ask?) regarding my application for a free one. They actually were soliciting free sample requests, accompanied by hacking ideas for them, some time ago.

Chumbys

Sadly, I didn’t get one:

Dear Free chumby Sample Requestor –

Thanks for taking the time to register for a free chumby – we
appreciate your interest. As you might guess, we have been swamped
by thousands of enthusiastic arguments, just like yours. We are
working hard to read every last one of them. We are also working
fast and furiously to build more chumbys.

We’re going to have some more prototype chumbys available in the next
several weeks – and, at that time, we will make some hard choices and
give some away, probably about 50 or so. Please understand that due
to the overwhelming positive response from people like you, we cannot
possibly give these limited prototype-version chumbys to everyone who
has replied.

The good news is that chumbys will become commercially available next
spring for what we hope you will find to be a very compelling price :^)

Once again, thank your for your continued interest and support.

Check back with us from time to time at http://www.chumby.com – there
are exciting things in the works at Chumby Industries!

Sincerely – The Chumby Team

http://www.chumby.com

It just goes to show that going to FOOCamp has it’s rewards after all! :)

I’m guessing someone got one in this round, which was the the first public request round after FOOCamp where they gave many away to attendees. Did you get one this time out, and what did you write you were going to do with it?

Personally, having seen Tara’s one since applying for my own, I’m actually not all that impressed with them. They seem quite big for what they are, and rather limited in their functionality opportunities – especially with the size of the screen etc.

Ev Williams buys back Odeo and Twitter

I’d like to congratulate Ev Williams + team on buying back Odeo and Twitter from his original investors.

It’s thought VC’s sunk $5m into Odeo but after Ev’s buy-back they walked away with their full money back. Ev wrote on his blog that Odeo had money in the bank and “could have held out for a couple years” – so it’s therefore not unreasonable to assume that he didn’t have to come up with the full $5m out of his pocket as he would have obtained the money in the bank too.

Those who were at the Future of Web Apps conference will no doubt remember Ev’s heartfelt and very genuine presentation about his own failings with Odeo.

At the time there was a fair bit of ‘chatter in the circles’ about whether Ev had blown his chances of ever getting VC money again. Even though he’d been honest about what had happened, being so open and revealing in public was very much out of the ordinary.

If nothing else, I’m sure today’s move will restore any credibility Ev may have lost in VC circles. Sure, he admitted he made mistakes with their money but he’s now done the very noble thing of giving it back to them.

I personally don’t think much of Odeo – but then I’m a bit over podcasting (especially as I haven’t owned an MP3 player in recent years – and never one that was bigger than 1Gig). Twitter on the other hand looks interesting, but sadly I can’t make or receive texts to shortcodes.

I’ve wondered how Ev would cover the costs of running the service, which is essentially an SMS broadcast service amongst friends. However according to this blog, Obvious Corp will make it a policy to charge for its services – possible further step away from the crippling ‘free culture’ the industry continues to suffer from.

Best of luck Ev for the future!

Firefox 2.0 bug: looses form data when back button is pushed

I’ve now lost two blog posts from a nasty little bug in Firefox 2.0 concerning the back button.

In a nutshell, any form data entered into a web page is lost if you press the browser’s back button.

My laptop has back and forward buttons above the left and right cursor keys, and I occasionally press them by mistake. In the past an accidental press of the back button could be resolved by simply pressing the forward button. Firefox 1.x would preserve the form data as it was when the back-button was pressed. Alas in Firefox 2.0 this is no longer the case… :(

I use WordPress’ default web-based admin panel for posts, and I’ve now lost two blog posts because of this. I won’t go back to Firefox 1.x yet because I love the in-form spellcheck. But it’s frustrating!

ARHHHHHHHHH! :)

Google can go shove their lexicographical ‘advice’ up their ass

‘Do you “Google?”‘ has to be one of the most patronizing blog posts ever to have originated from the Googleplex. (In fact I’ve just noticed that the title itself sets the tone of the post – a blatant mocking of the slogan of it’s nearest competitor.)

The issue at hand is the supposed over-use of the term “Google” as an interchangeable for the word “search”. Google is concerned it could potentially lose most of the rights of trademark due if common usage of the word is deemed to have occurred in everyday English language.

This is what’s known as a ‘Genericized Trademark‘. Of course, Google have pulled this shit before – previously on the media and industry – but this is the first time they’ve focused their attention directly towards Joe Public.

Google logo behind a red banned symbol

Google begins their post by highlighting the ‘fate’ of such ‘victims’ (their words) as Thermos, Cellophane, Escalator and Trampoline. At this point my heart already begins to bleed for them. Why, what almighty travesty must have occurred when my forefathers started to refer to the receptacles they kept their tea warm in as ‘Thermos flasks’ and the kitchen wrap their sandwiches came in as ‘cellophane’.

Whilst I respect the concept of trademarks, I ultimately believe that no one owns or controls the English language – which of course is an ever-evolving and organic concept. What defines whether something is part of the English language is simply whether it’s used enough in common dialogue. In fact, according to the Oxford Dictionary a word must only be published five times in the space of five years for it to be considered to have obtained ‘currency’.

It’s thus with some guile that Google has taken the trouble to write this very blog post – to do it’s utmost to prevent the term from becoming so common it becomes a generic trademark by default. From that perspective the post reads more like the final move of a desperate party who can see that the end is nigh. This is it’s last-ditched attempt with a somewhat defensive public plea.

I also don’t like the fact that this post, which has the intended ‘casual front’ of something a bored employee must have written during a slow afternoon one day, is clearly a very calculated and considered move by Google’s PR and legal teams.

In fact the informal tone trips itself on occasions as it clashes condescendingly with the very formal ‘key phrases’ obviously written by the legal team to keep the post ‘on message’. For example:

“Google is a trademark identifying Google Inc. and our search technology and services. While we’re pleased that so many people think of us when they think of searching the web, let’s face it, we do have a brand to protect, so we’d like to make clear that you should please only use “Google” when you’re actually referring to Google Inc. and our services.”

(emphasis mine)

If the direct approach doesn’t work, Google goes on to offer some ‘hopefully helpful examples’ of when it’s ok and not ok to use the term ‘Google’. I’ll leave you to be patronized as you read them for yourself in the post, but suffice to say it’s all a bit cheeky considering the point made above — that correct use of language is defined by the masses.

It also gets my back up that each example concludes with a verdict of “Our [Google] lawyers say:”. Why do I want to be told how to construct my sentences by Google’s lawyers? Under the binds of an employment contract or similar can a company dictate how it’s brand is or isn’t used in everyday discussion – but last time I checked Google declined my invitation of employeeship and thus life-long dedication to the lexiconic correct usage of their oh -so-mighty brand.

Brand management – bad for business

But in an era of API’s, data sharing, and general Web2.0 love, I really don’t get why Google is being so, well, Web1.0 about this? (well ok maybe Google is only Web1.5 to begin with!)

In many ways, having “Google” as a generic term for “searching” does nothing but promote their brand and reaffirms their presence as the top search provider. People choose Google because of the quality and reputation of it’s product – esp in an environment where there is no financial or economic considerations to use one product over another (unlike, for example, the vacuum flask market where genuine Thermos brand items tend to be more expensive than their generic rivals).

Consumers don’t choose Google because of it’s brand or the ‘lifestyle marketing’ built around it and thus I feel Google has very little to loose. Think ‘coke’ and the potential benefits Pepsi might obtain by using the generic term ‘coke’ for an example on that one.

In the UK the term ‘Hoover’ became the common term for a vacuum cleaner due to the company’s success back in the middle of the 20th Century. These days the Hoover is a small-time player in the market but it’s presence is kept alive by the everyday use of the term. In fact the prevalence of the term ‘Hoover’ in a market where it is no longer the leading manufacture creates a heritage which bestows virtues of quality and dependability (perhaps unwarrantably) upon the company.

Go shove it

But in the end, regardless of whether it’s positive, harmful or somewhat in between for Google, I for one don’t like to be told how to use the English language.

The decision of which words I use is my decision. The decision to refer to trademarked terms as generic terms in conversation through to casual blogging is my decision. Together as society, the choice of which terms are used regularly and thus become officially public domain is our decision.

We own our language. So Google, you can go shove your lexicographical ‘advice’ up your ass.

George Bush uses ‘The Google’

I need to replay the video to check, but I could have swore he said:

One of the things I’ve used on the Google is to pull up maps. It’s very interesting to see where — I’ve forgot the name of the place, oh yeah — Canada is. But you get the satellite, and you can — like, I kinda like to look at Iran and remind me of where I wanna bomb sometime.

Originally from Think Progress.

Google Blog Search gets love from Google News

As I thought, Google have promoted their lowly Blog Search (off the back of the launch of their ping server).

Google News is showing some love by linking prominently to Google Blog Search – both on the front page and on News search results.

As Marshall Kirkpatrick on TechCrunch point out, it’s an interesting move considering Yahoo! removed the blog search functionality from their own news offering just a few months ago.

With my ‘media’ hat on, I find it a curious move for different reasons to Marshal. My main point is that not all blogs are ‘news’ per se and so it seems odd to squeeze such a feature into such a tight vertical. Sure it makes sense for news providers like the BBC and NYT to point through to the blogs talking about a given story on their site (sadly BBC doesn’t do this yet) but that’s drilling down from an already specific topic into the blogosphere.

Google News, on the other hand is about searching within the news vertical – and many blogs lie outside of this vertical.

We’ll see whether this is the permanent home of Google Blog Search, or just a temporary location to test the waters…? I wonder what Technorati’s next move will be – a news-focused subsite, perhaps?

IE7 hits the streets

As expected, IE7 has been released.

I had to download manually from microsoft.com/ie in order to force my computer to get a copy now. Otherwise I think the idea is that you wait for your copy of Windows to decide to see if it’s up-to-date and then at that point download the update for you.

If you’re ‘working the industry’ then really you can’t afford to wait for your computer to decide to download IE – in which case I would strongly recommend downloading the client now!

Don’t forget Firefox 2.0 is also due out v soon – so keep checking the Firefox site.

MMORPG: Time the industry started to act responsibly?

Having literally lost a year of his life to playing World of Warcraft (WoW), a ‘successful’ player anonymously writes about the personal, social, financial and physical costs of the addictiveness of WoW. However, his chilling story could be that of any MMORPG – present or future.

World of Warcraft (WoW) is one of, if not the, original and most successful MMORPGs out there. It’s combination of Tolkin-esque sci-fi thematics (similar to those of Miniture wargaming) and pioneering might of the genre has created a userbase of more than 6 million people

However perhaps one of the most interesting (and to some degree frightening) point is the sophistication of the product – both in terms of the economics of the game and it’s addictiveness.

The economics side of things has been well documented (gamers in sweatshops in China and Eastern Europe who play the game full-time to earn virtual assets their employer then trades on the open market, through to recent news that the $million’s traded every day are attracting the attention of global tax authorities).

The addictiveness, on the other hand, seems to be less publicised – which is why this story is perhaps so poignant.

The blog post itself is fairly long, but I thoroughly recommend reading it. But here are some key quotes:

“It took a huge personal toll on me. To illustrate the impact it had, let’s look at me one year later. When I started playing, I was working towards getting into the best shape of my life (and making good progress, too). Now a year later, I’m about 30 pounds heavier that I was back then, and it is not muscle. I had a lot of hobbies including DJing (which I was pretty accomplished at) and music as well as writing and martial arts. I haven’t touched a record or my guitar for over a year and I think if I tried any Kung Fu my gut would throw my back out. Finally, and most significantly, I had a very satisfying social life before.”

“…the time it requires to do anything “important” is astounding, it gives people a false sense of accomplishment, and when you’re a leader, and get wrapped up in it, no matter how much you care or want people to care, you’re doing the wrong thing.”

“To really be successful, you need to at least invest 12 hours a week, and that is bare minimum. From a leadership perspective, that 12 hours would be laughed at. That’s the guy who comes unprepared to raid and has to leave half way through because he has work in the morning or is going out or some other thing that shows “lack of commitment”.

“I know of children and spouses being forced to play and grind [repetitive in-world menial work to gain status/credit] for their parents, threats of divorce, rampant neglect, failing grades in school, and thousands of dollars spent on “outsourcing” foreign help. … The accomplishment and sacrifice itself are meaningless a few days later.”

I think I played WoW once, for about an hour, back when it first came out in late 2004 and before it was as established as it is today. Orcs, warlocks and elves aren’t really my thing and it reminded me of the “Warhammer 2000” craze that went around my school when I was a kid (I wasn’t into orcs then either, but my mate ‘Pottsy’ was). I decided to uninstall it.

However I am much more interested in SecondLife – which has (perhaps wisely) kept the ‘theme’ of their system neutral, avoided a class/level system and removed the need to perform explicit tasks, aka grinding (which is very much at the heart of the dynamics of WoW). To this extent SecondLife is considered an environment rather than a game.

My biggest concern about SL (SecondLife) is that I could quite easily get addicted to it to the same degree as the anonymous blogger above has with WoW. I already know one person who is pretty addicted to SL – both in terms of the time spent on it and money s/he spends on the system (buying virtual land, which in term attracts a further monthly maintenance fee).

The key issue about all these MMORPG systems is that they have been intentionally engineered such that value increases exponentially as more time (and money, in the case of SL) is spent. In other words, you have to play a considerable amount of time to get something meaningful back, and once you have already committed that amount of time you are sucked into playing further to maintain your investment.

This is more noticeable with WoW, as noted above. In fact the anonymous blogger writes in the blog post that anything less than 12hrs a week is going to make you a “useless player” – with 10 hrs a day being the kind of commitment needed to further within the system.

In SecondLife it’s more subtle – Linden Labs (the game’s creator) state that you don’t need to put any money into the system in the same way that you can technically walk around any city with no money in your pocket. However, like a city, to get something out of the game you have to put some money in (or somehow earn some money).

The logical conclusion of pretty much anything you do in SecondLife to achieve this endeavour is that you will find yourself needing some land – a place to sell your wares, run your event, etc. All of which means spending more money but then, perhaps crucially, spending more time building to realize the opportunities the land has created you. Then you spend even more time in SecondLife because of the time and attention you have already invested into it. The cycle continues.

Yeah, much of this is simple socio- and monetary-economics – and we’re all adults playing these (well maybe not – but that’s another story). But the point is the abstract nature of these environments means that we end up behaving in ways we wouldn’t normally. Like spending time in the game rather than playing with our kids, putting money into the MMORPG then paying for food or bills etc.

So you have to ask yourself: if the business model of these game developers is to get people spending as much time in-world as possible, what does success ultimately look like?? Grad students wasting their talents (the anonymous blogger was a recent grad student) because they can’t hold down a professional job? Parents neglecting their kids? Players experiencing noticeable deteriorations in their health?

I’m not saying we should close these systems down – in the same way that I don’t feel gambling or alcohol should be banned (both of which have similar social affects if abused). However industries like that of the drinks industry are very keen to self-regulate and act responsibly – initiatives in the UK such as drinkaware.co.uk, which is included in practically every TV or print advertisement for an alcoholic product.

I don’t see anyone in the MMORPG industry self-regulating, which is disappointing. The addictiveness of these games seems to have been left to the media to call out and the more ‘conservative’ governments’ to legislate against.

Like any addiction, the first step is to admit there is a problem – and we’re not really even there yet. No one in the industry has really raised the issue – that includes game developers, industry authoritarians or the community to any significant degree.

What do I suggest? Well, I don’t want these games banned. But I think some recognition that the use of MMORPG’s appears to be more addictive than other forms of Internet use would be a positive start. From there hopefully responsible game developers will produce measures to tackle the issue and those who don’t will get called out. Some scientific, cognitive research would also be of interesting, but that’s far beyond the scope of my expertise or familiarity.

In the meantime, do explore and enjoy MMORPG’s – but perhaps always have in the back of your mind (like I do) the addictiveness of them and control your use accordingly.

And don’t even get me started about the paradigms with the Matrix – this really is a dream-world, Neo.