It's hard to say these days

Topic Hijacking

clock September 6, 2011 08:22 by author Tom

MG Siegler has an almost touching post on TechCrunch.  Apparently the New York Times article on Michael Arrington’s new VC fund might have turned the tide against him inside AOL.  To the point where there’s a very real possibility he’ll be forced out of TechCrunch altogether. 

(for the record I’m not linking to the NY Times article because it’s so factually incorrect it would be irresponsible to do so)

TechCrunch is on the precipice. As soon as tomorrow, Mike may be thrown out of the company he founded. Or he may not. No one knows. And if he is, he will be replaced by — well, again, no one knows. No one knows much of anything. Certainly no one at TechCrunch. This site is about to change forever and we’re in the total fucking dark. I’ve been able to piece together little bits of information here and there, and it’s not looking good. Hence, this post.

I realize this is big news but there’s not much to comment on here. 

On one hand I know Mike Arrington has a lot of enemies (including many people I respect).  But I’d think even they would agree this VC fund is no different from other investments he’s made in the past and he doesn’t deserve to be tossed out altogether over it. 

At the same time while it would be sad to see Arrington leave under bad circumstances I can see some advantage from a purely selfish perspective.  As someone who has read TechCrunch from close to the beginning I’ve always felt the first 2 years were worth more than all the ones that followed. Even after TC got huge Arrington continued to post on a personal blog, CrunchNotes, and I always thought that was his best stuff.  I don’t think he’d be able to stop himself from writing so I can only see advantage in him being able to throw off the chains of running the #1 news site in the valley.

That’s really all I have to say on that.  The reason I’m posting is I wanted to comment on another part of Siegler’s post…

It has almost been exactly one year since AOL acquired us. At the time, they promised not to interfere with the way we do things. For 11+ months, they’ve kept their word, and things have run beautifully from our end. Our business is one of the few sterling ornaments on their mantel. Now they may break their promise to us. And if that promise is broken, it will break TechCrunch.

This is an important lesson to learn because I’ve watched the tech industry since I was little and this is the mistake that people make the most.  For some reason people continue to believe they can be acquired in a way that won’t interfere even though it has never, ever worked.  Let me put a finer point on that. 

Never believe a company acquiring you will leave you independent.  It is always Bulls###.  ALWAYS.  Always, Always, Always.  Always to Infinity. 

Any corporation is a collection of fiefdoms.  Because every corporation has a small group of powerful people and powerful people get where they are by doing everything they can to acquire more power.  Which means almost every corporation consists of a bunch of people in a mad dash to gain control over as many resources as possible.  This causes conflict and eventually leads to fiefdoms as each powerful person seeks to protect the power they have and focus those resources on gaining more. 

Once you are taken into a corporation you become a resource that belongs to that company and all those powerful people look to bring you under their control.  Regardless of whether it makes sense.

TechCrunch is the perfect example here because, as M.G. Siegler says, it pretty much runs itself.  The entire operation is built on hiring the right people and turning them loose.  So unless someone leaves there’s not much input needed from the corporate side.  AOL could (and should) have left it independent and raked in the cash (while getting the benefit of controlling the advertising on the site).

And that’s what AOL’s Tim Armstrong said they were going to do.    From the press release

TechCrunch and its associated properties and conferences will join the AOL Technology Network while retaining their editorial independence, further bolstering AOL’s position as one of the world’s leading providers of high-quality, tech-oriented content.

But that was never going to happen.  

Arianna Huffington is a very powerful person.  Which meant there was NO WAY she was going to let TechCrunch do its own thing.    Not only was it a resource she could have it was a resource she was entitled to given her title.   And even if she hadn’t taken control over it someone else would have because that’s how corporations work. 

So this is a lesson to any startup.  Before you sign your life’s work away come to terms with the fact that you’re losing it.  Maybe not the day you hand it over but eventually it will come under someone else’s control.  Either accept that or don’t cash out. 

Insights on Amazon’s Tablet

clock September 2, 2011 20:42 by author Tom

So M.G. Siegler has gotten his hands on Amazon’s new tablet.  It’s actually a pretty packed article with just about every sentence adding new information.  But here are the basics…

First of all, before every commenter asks, no, sadly, I don’t have any pictures to share. That was the one condition of me getting this information. So instead you’ll have to rely on my prose to draw a picture of the device in your head. Or you can just look at a BlackBerry PlayBook — because it looks very similar in terms of form-factor.

So here’s what I know and what I saw:

Again, the device is a 7-inch tablet with a capacitive touch screen. It is multi-touch, but from what I saw, I believe the reports that it relies on a two-finger multi-touch (instead of 10-finger, like the iPad uses) are accurate. This will be the first Kindle with a full-color screen. And yes, it is back-lit. There is no e-ink to be found anywhere on this device.

And here’s the part I find most interesting (and will focus on for this post)…

But the key for Amazon is just how deeply integrated all of their services are. Amazon’s content store is always just one click away. The book reader is a Kindle app (which looks similar to how it does on Android and iOS now). The music player is Amazon’s Cloud Player. The movie player is Amazon’s Instant Video player. The app store is Amazon’s Android Appstore.

Google’s Android Market is nowhere to be found. In fact, no Google app is anywhere to be found. This is Android fully forked. My understanding is that the Kindle OS was built on top of some version of Android prior to 2.2. And Amazon will keep building on top of that of that over time. In other words, this won’t be getting “Honeycomb” or “Ice Cream Sandwich” — or if it does, users will never know it because that will only be the underpinnings of the OS. Any visual changes will be all Amazon.

One  more quote…

the plan right now is to give buyers a free subscription to Amazon Prime.

The service, which Amazon currently sells for $79 a year, gives users access things like free unlimited two-day shipping, and no minimum purchases for free shipping. More importantly for this product, Prime users get access to Amazon’s Instant Video service. There will be more Kindle-related perks, I imagine.

I saw this coming from a mile away (or how ever far away you consider May 2011).  Not because I’m so smart but because this is what Amazon does.  Once we (pretty much) knew there would be an Amazon tablet this was the only move consistent with their past behavior.  Having seen this coming I’ve had more time to think on it and I think that’s given me two insights.

#1.  People are seeing this device in the wrong context. 

If you look an Hacker News you see responses like this (Credit: markgx)

Amazon could carve out the "sub-iPad" tablet market if their $250 price point holds and they release a usable tablet. Look at what happened with the HP firesale.

I think that’s the wrong mindset.  That continues to see the device as a “tablet” when in fact it is a media device.  Its competition isn’t the Galaxy Tab and the Xoom.  Its competition is the iPod Touch and the Portable DVD player. 

Think of it this way.  Most suburban families I know have a portable 3G/4G device that allows multiple connections.  So while they’re on a road trip all the kids can connect laptops and browse the web.  Beyond that we’re reaching a tipping point as far as cell phone tethering is considered.  I’ve even heard Ford is looking at building cars with WiFi built in (using the Bluetooth in your phone to provide the actual connection).  so the era of ubiquitous internet is almost upon us and it brings cloud based media with it. 

When that happens people will look for cheap media devices.   Cheap enough to buy for each family member.  Cheap enough that they can break without it being the end of the world. 

Amazon provides that and backs it with a first class media service. 

Think about it.  Amazon’s On-Demand Video Service is built into most high end TVs, blu ray players and surround sound systems these days.  It’s available on the Xbox 360, Playstation3 and Wii.  Plus you can get it on Tivo, Roku, and others.  So if you buy a Movie or TV show on Amazon you’ll probably have access to it on your TV already.   Which means you can buy media on your tablet and be confident it will be available wherever you want to consume it. 

Of course most Apple users will tell you they could already do that on their iPad/AppleTV/iPhone.  But that’s the point. 

#2.  It’s Amazon, not Google, that Apple should be afraid of. 

Amazon has built up the infrastructure they need to challenge Apple and they’ve used Google’s love of openness to co-opt Android (filling their hardware needs).  So while Google struggles with beta services that no one seems to use Amazon already has a music service, video service, book service and app store ready to go.   More to the point Amazon’s enlisted every Android tablet manufacturer whether they know it or not.  Right now I can use Amazon’s Video and MP3 service on my Xoom via Flash.  So if Mom or Dad in the family above wants to buy themself a higher end tablet they can do so without losing access to all their Amazon purchases.  

Of course Apple’s still in the lead.   People have invested heavily in their iTunes libraries and getting them to switch won’t be easy.  But Amazon definitely has a shot.  To give you just one idea imagine an iTunes Match like service where Amazon makes your iTunes library streamable from their servers.  That would change the game in an instant. 

Final Score: Dow (-1.51%), S&P 500(-1.56%), Apple (-0.65%)

clock August 25, 2011 19:10 by author Tom

This is my “Steve Jobs has resigned” post. It’s a little different.

Here’s the deal. This post was written on 8/24 at 9:08pm PST and will be posted at 1pm PST tomorrow. Right after the stock market closes. I will not edit the content in any way. The reason I’m doing this is to make a prediction.

I predict Apple will do better than the overall stock market tomorrow.

I make that prediction for one reason: I trust Steve Jobs.

The drama lovers want to make this about his health but I really don’t see it. At the beginning of the year I theorized Jobs’ absence was part of a strategy to install his chosen successor and I think this is the pay off to that strategy. The strategy was built on proving Tim Cook was the right man for the job and that he was entirely capable of running Apple. I think this strategy was executed so well that the stock market, a notoriously jumpy community, will not punish Apple at all for Steve Jobs stepping down.

As for Steve Jobs himself I’d only say I’m happy for him.

Again I don’t think this is about health. If he was seriously ill he wouldn’t still be the chairman of the board. The chairman still has to appear in public quite a bit. Bill Gates continued to give speeches on behalf of Microsoft even after stepping down as CEO. I could see Jobs doing the same. Even if he doesn’t there are still public appearances. Think about how many times you’ve seen Al Gore at an Apple event and you start to see what I mean. So Jobs will be around.

But the truth is people get older and their priorities shift.

I’ll give you one example of what I mean by this. I have no doubt Jobs has fun during his various presentations. But it’s also a lot of hard work. It’s a “show” in the same way a theatrical production is which means you have rehearsals, choreography, mic checks, lighting checks, and so on. It isn’t a “jump on stage and speak from the heart” sort of thing.

A 56 year old worth $9 billion dollars is eventually going to come to a point where he doesn’t think it is worth it to go through all that several times a year.

And that at least has a pleasant pay off. Think about things like negotiating contracts with record executives. Or going through financial audits. Or dealing with the press after a scandal. These are all things a CEO has to do and all things that aren’t really worth Jobs’ time anymore.

Then there’s Tim Cook.

You can’t expect a world class talent to stand in your shadow forever. Eventually they’ll want to run their own show. That creates a problem for someone like Steve Jobs. Does he hang around longer and risk losing his best choice for successor. Or does he step down knowing the company will be in good hands. I think we got the answer to that question yesterday.

That’s my final point.

The company is in good hands. Not just Cook but Schiller, Forstall, and all the rest. It’s a world class team and I have no doubt they’ll continue to produce world class products.

Some Stupidity Defies Title

clock August 22, 2011 23:20 by author Tom

Good God this is dumb

Netflix's current pricing model allows unlimited downloads for $7.99 per month. Netflix saves, with every download, approximately 40 cents that would otherwise be paid to the U.S. Postal Service. If the average customer downloads 10 movies and TV shows a month, Netflix will save $4 a month for each of its 23 million customers.

Obviously these massive transmissions over the Internet are not really free. Someone is paying for them. That "someone" is the millions of broadband subscribers, whether or not they are Netflix customers.

How is that fair?

The reality is that Netflix and similar services want a free ride on the networks built with more than $250 billion in design, engineering, manufacturing, construction and maintenance -- a system that now provides broadband services to 95 percent of American households.

Let me establish a few things first…

1.  What the authors think is fair doesn’t really matter to me.  In fact I’d wager it matters very little to anyone. 

2.  What matters is the agreement I have with my ISP.  I trust my ISP has made a deal with me that allows them to make a profit.  If they haven’t that’s their own fault. 

Having said that I pay Verizon for a 25 Mbps (bits not bytes) connection.  That means I’m entitled to run 3.1 Megabytes over that connection per second.  A quick look in my iTunes folder tells me an hour of HD content is about 2 Gigabytes.  So if I’m streaming that content I am, on average, consuming 555 Kilobytes per second. 

As a Netflix user I’m consuming 4.4 Mbps (bits not bytes) of a 25 Mbps connection (or around 18% of my capacity).  Also note I’m not streaming video or even using the Internet 24 hours a day.  U.S. Households average about 5 hours of TV per day.  If I were to watch 5 hours per day on Netflix my average bandwidth consumption would be 10 Gigabytes where as the capacity I’d be entitled to would be 267 Gigabytes (Meaning I use 3.7% of the capacity I’m entitled to)

So how exactly am I costing other Internet users for my massive transmissions? 

More to the point people who get very cheap connections (Verizon offers 1 Mbps for $24 a month) are bandwidth locked so they CAN’T stream HD Video.  So anyone streaming HD video is more than pulling their weight. 

Netflix isn’t getting “a free ride on the networks built with more than $250 billion”.  I am in fact paying their fare and the fare of 3 other people about their same size. 

(For the record the authors work for an organization which is backed by the Cable companies and this is a pretty obvious attempt to justify throttling other video services in favor of those services the cable companies provide)

Accept It and Move On

clock August 18, 2011 23:10 by author Tom

Larry Dignan of ZDNet has a piece that gets to the heart of the webOS debate.  Basically HP has two choices with Palm’s webOS since they’ve decided not to make webOS devices anymore: Sell the Intellectual Property to someone looking for Patent Protection or License the OS.  He doesn’t see much future in licensing the OS.  To quote his post…

The math doesn’t quite work. HP lost $332 million on corporate investments. That loss basically equates to the Palm unit.

But if HP were to pursue a licensing model it would have to get $5 per device and sell more than 60 million units to break even at the cash burn.

I agree it doesn’t make much sense to HP.  But the point I’d make is it makes even less sense for another hardware manufacturer to make webOS devices. 

HP isn’t going to jump right into licensing.  If they were the only sane thing to do would have been to announce it at today’s conference call and they didn’t.  So even if HP goes the licensing route they’re probably going to debate it internally for  6 months or so.

Now assume HP finds a company that is willing and able to produce a licensed device right away.  It would take that company at least a year to get that device to market (and that would be if they rushed).

So best case scenario it will be 18 months before another webOS device makes it onto store shelves. 

Then we have to look at developers.  webOS developers have been screwed over TWICE in LESS than a YEAR.   Once when Palm almost went out of business and now with HP abandoning webOS.  Larger developers have already bailed (see: Amazon and Adobe who both bailed before their Apps were even finished).  Small developers can’t afford to devote resources to yet another webOS device that may never materialize. 

So having said all that a Palm licensee would have to be a company that…

1.  Is willing to devote considerable resources to a platform that most people think is dead

2.  Is willing to bet Android, Windows and Blackberry’s OS won’t significantly improve by the time they get to market

3.  Is willing to risk their reputation by rushing a device to market (ask Motorola how well that worked out with the Xoom)

4.  Is willing to either (a) accept their platform won’t have developers or (b) pay developers to write programs for the device

No company is ever going to be willing to do all that. 

And don’t look to HTC or Samsung.  Both already have customers committed to the Android platform and both have their own user shells already.  So what lure does webOS really hold for them?  If HTC covers webOS in SenseUI then what advantage does webOS really give them?  Even if Google went crazy and started favoring Motorola for Android updates it would still be easier for HTC or Samsung to fork Android than it would be to start all over with webOS.  Even if they desperately wanted a hedge bet it makes more sense to go with Microsoft (who by necessity is committed to Windows Phone 7 in a way HP could never be). 

So in conclusion webOS is dead.   Undeservedly dead but dead none the less.  Accept it and move on. 

The Elitist Technology Industry

clock August 12, 2011 15:48 by author Tom

I don’t consider this blog pseudonymous.  My info is in the about page and anyone who e-mails me gets a response using my full name so I’m not really trying to hide anything as much as I’m following the example set by my favorite childhood blog/website (tomshardware  where Tom Pabst always posted simply as “Tom”).

At the same time I  understand why some people choose to be anonymous on the web and I support them in that choice.  Which is more than can be said for Google

Google responded tonight to the widespread criticism of its controversial Real Names Policy. Some artists, abuse survivors, political activists in repressive countries and their advocates have argued vehemently against Google's requirement that Plus accounts be registered under real names. You could call it a "go by what you are known as in real life (don't worry Lady Gaga)" policy, too.

Tonight the Google Plus team responded to the extensive public conversation. Its decision? Instead of immediately suspending accounts that seem to violate the policy, and then letting users appeal, now Google will send warnings that users have 4 days to comply with the policy before they are suspended. In other words: the policy stays, the enforcement of it will just be slowed down.

Here’s Google’s own video response…



I’ve said this before and it’s even truer here: The Tech Field is dominated by people who, whether they intend to be or not, are elitists.  

People from Upper Middle Class backgrounds or higher who have never had to worry about losing a job.  To most of these people the worst thing that could happen to them economically is having to move in with their parents.  As such they don’t grasp the pressures everyone else has to deal with.  They believe the only reason to use a pseudonym is obstinacy. 

But Lower Middle Class and Poor people have to be cautious about the world.  They can’t go on social networks and say whatever they want because they have jobs they could lose and losing that job could mean ending up on the street.  Pseudonyms allow those people to participate on the web without having to live every day in fear of a co-worker stumbling onto their profile and disagreeing with something they said. 

You can’t claim this doesn’t happen.  The President of Harvard was forced to resign because he suggested, as one of many hypotheses as to why women are under represented in math and science departments, that women might have a lower aptitude than men in the aggregate.    Note he didn’t endorse this hypothesis as something he believes in and he presented scientific research he thought MIGHT support it.  So all he really did was make the audience aware of the claim and as a result he was forced to resign from Harvard AND lost his chance to be Secretary of the Treasury for the Obama administration.

Given that can you really expect an office clerk barely scrapping by at $14 an hour to speak freely on the Internet under his or her real name?  Of course not. 

It’s ludicrous to even suggest.  So whether Google is doing it on purpose or not the end result of their policy is elitism.  Keep the poor down while the rich get to bask in the glow of new technology. 

One And Done

clock July 14, 2011 23:05 by author Tom

So I kind of lost it for a while. 

My annoyance with Microsoft over its .NET and Silverlight policy pushed me to the point where I just couldn’t write blog posts.  Because every one of them would turn into a screed against Microsoft.  But I’m better now. 

That said I couldn’t let this one go.  So one more screed and I’m done with this…

I used to like Tim Heuer.  Mr. Heuer is an Evangelist for Microsoft Silverlight and I credit him for convincing me to go with Silverlight over Flash.  So obviously when this whole Windows 8 incident blew up I looked to his blog.  What I found was an advertisement for Microsoft’s Developer Conference in September.  Looking a little deeper I found developers essentially begging him for answers and getting nothing.  The one response he did give was to this comment…

Tim we are very concerned about what Microsoft is doing. HTML 5 and Javascript are not true development technologies and lack basically everything that .NET and Silverlight provide for developing rich, powerful and meaningful applications... apps that do things other than weather and twitter feeds.
Why is Microsoft evidently abandoning its own technologies that millions of its own developers have been using for over a decade now? As of today, there is no unique advantage for developing for Windows 8 platform vs. Andriod or iPhone/iPad.

What happened to all the things you and John Papa convinced to developers few months ago regarding Silverlight?

His response was…

Jo Doe: The assumption that lack of information means bad news is upsetting. The announcement for the preview for Windows 8 mentions that "There’s much more to the platform, capabilities and tools than we showed today."

How snide is that? HE’S UPSET? Gee Tim I’m sorry people’s concern for their career upsets you. Maybe you should close your comments so as not to be bothered by all the people you led down a dead end path.

I mean the guy’s an evangelist.  His JOB is to convince people to use this technology.  Now Microsoft is sending signals that they might be abandoning that technology (after less than three years) and he plays coy.  Refusing to give information to the very people he led down this path.

Actually I shouldn’t say that.  The refusing to give information is almost certainly Microsoft policy.    The issue is his tone.  It wasn’t “I’m sorry I can’t tell you anything right now and I understand why you’re concerned but everything will be alright”.  It was “Your concerns have upset me so shut up and wait until September when we’ll allow you to pay $2,000 to find out if you’ll still have a career in 2012”. 

And then he just stopped paying attention to his comments at all. 

Yes I’m being hyperbolic and Yes I think Silverlight will continue to exist past September.  The point isn’t that I think Silverlight is going to disappear.  The point is Microsoft’s so far from a “customer is always right” mentality that evangelists are actually admonishing developers for upsetting them. 

Could you ever see David Heinemeir Hansson doing something like this?  Hansson is a self-described arrogant man and I can’t see him ever coming close to this.  Because above all else he CARES about his platforms continued survival.  He cares whether developers think it is dying or not. 

Which leads me to the point of this post.  I’m a Microsoft Developer.  I like the community, I like the tools and I think the solutions you can build with those tools are superior from a cost/benefit perspective.  So I’m going to stick with it until it is no longer feasible to do so (at least professionally).  But I will never recommend anyone else use closed source tools again.   You just can’t trust companies with the ability to flush your skills down the toilet on a whim.  The sheer callousness with which Mr. Heuer treats people who put their trust in him should prove that point.  In the end large companies and their employees have to look out for themselves and you as a developer are, at best, a secondary concern.  Your concerns, Your career, Your projects and all the rest mean nothing to them. 

Which is exactly why you have to insulate yourself by using solutions that can’t be easily tossed away. 

Facebook’s good for you? I doubt it…

clock June 16, 2011 14:43 by author Tom

Facebook is bad for you.  It just is. You know it is.   I’m not saying you shouldn’t use it.  We all do things that are bad for us and in moderation that’s ok.  But don’t kid yourself.  It’s bad for you. 

Despite what this study says

Among the findings of a phone survey of 2,255 American adults conducted by Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project last fall:  Facebook users are more trusting of other people, they have larger numbers of close friends, they exhibit a higher level of civic engagement and they get more social support from their friends.

The survey's findings challenge the common perception that social networking sites isolate people or undercut their real-world friendships and interactions, said University of Pennsylvania professor Keith Hampton, the lead author of the report.

To my eyes there are two questions raised by this study…

1.  Is the metric they use a good measure of social well being?

2.  If not why would they use it?

On the first question let me address the individual points. 

Someone who logs into Facebook multiple times a day is 43% more likely than other Internet users and more than three times as likely as someone who does not use the Internet to feel that most people can be trusted.

Social Well Being shouldn’t be measured by how much you trust total strangers since that is a function of life experience and not of one’s social interactions.   Social interactions rely on how much you trust your friends and neighbors (a.k.a. the people you’re actually social with).  In fact an over abundance of trust in strangers can indicate a lack of social well being.  People who are desperately seeking friends because they don’t have any will be more inclined to trust total strangers.

Someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other Internet users.

How exactly do you measure that?  Because it seems that’s an easy metric to get wrong.  For example, would knowing more about someone’s schedule make my “ties” to them closer?  There are several people whose schedule I know because they posted it on Facebook yet I haven’t spoken to them in years.  While there are people I speak to on a daily basis whose schedule I don’t know.  So that’s just one way I could appear to have closer ties to someone I don’t actually interact with.

Someone who visits the site multiple times a day was two and a half times more likely to attend a political rally or meeting, 57% more likely to persuade someone to vote for a candidate and 43% more likely to have said they would vote.

I’m sorry but if your scale of “social well being” includes becoming deeply involved in political movements I think you need a new scale.  For better or worse politics has become the worst side of many people’s personalities.  It’s the place where people feel they can be hateful towards their fellow man.   I’m not against being civic minded or knowing the issues.  But that’s a function of research and spirited debate with people you disagree with.  Political movements are about feeling so confident in your correctness that you surround yourself with like minded people and go around trying to bully others into joining you. 

“they get more social support from their friends.”

Again this is a metric that’s easy to fake.  Whenever someone posts about something bad happening to them there’s an outcry of “support”.  But does a comment on your Facebook wall really mean you’re being supported by friends?  Ask yourself this: Would you rather have 20 friends post “I’m so sorry for your loss” or one friend sit with you through the night and give you a shoulder to cry on?  Who in those two scenarios is really being supported by their friends? 

So, if I’m right and this study is flawed why is that relevant? 

Part of being human is doing things that are bad for us.  The trick is to only do those bad things in moderation.  Drinking, Watching TV, even eating Pastry is bad in excess but enjoyable and relatively harmless if we control ourselves. 

The largest barrier to self control is and always will be our ability to justify.  Telling ourselves what we’re doing “isn’t that bad” is how we give ourselves permission to do more of it.  That’s what this study is. 

It’s an attempt by people who are obsessive about social media to justify that obsession with a bogus metric.  The “lead author” of the report is someone who has currently dedicated his career to social media to give just one example.  Given that do you really think he was going to design a survey that would discredit social media?

Again I’m not saying you shouldn’t use Facebook.  If it makes you happy than more power to you.  But don’t ignore the facts.  Every second you spend on Facebook is a second not spent actually interacting with your friends and nothing anyone can say will change that. 

Addendum: After I wrote this a link was published to the full report which can be found here:  I don't have time to read it now but I did want to post this in regards to the "core ties" question above...


The average American has just over two discussion confidants (2.16) – that is, people with  whom they discuss important matters. This is a modest, but significantly larger number than  the average of 1.93 core ties reported when we asked this same question in 2008. Controlling  for other factors we found that someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9%  more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other internet users.


Fact Check: Bill Wagner on Windows 8

clock June 9, 2011 15:57 by author Tom

Apologies for the glut of Microsoft posts but obviously this is something I’m passionate about

I have a lot of respect for Bill Wagner.  His books on C# were my primary reference for many years (and might still be had I not committed most the lessons therein to memory).   But his post on Windows 8 is misleading.  He gives 3 arguments in favor of the new shell.  To be honest the third argument  made no sense to me.  But I address the other two below…

It’s time: While there have been several improvements and refinements over time, the current shell is fundamentally similar to Windows 95. Revolutionary in its day, that was 15 years ago. Desktops were more prevalent that laptops. Tablets were primarily a research toy, not a production device. The term “Smart Phone” didn’t exist. The idea of connecting a TV to the internet made no sense.

I’m not disagreeing with the statement that “It’s time” because that’s entirely subjective.  But to say Windows 95 was “Revolutionary in its day” is just incorrect.  In fact just the opposite is true.  Microsoft lagged behind Apple with its MacOS and IBM which had pushed OS/2 Warp out nearly a year earlier.  Both had similar shells.  So there were many great things about Windows 95 but being revolutionary wasn’t one of them.

Consistency: Consistent user experience is very important. It enables users to leverage what they’ve learned in one application (or device) and apply it to new experiences. That doesn’t necessarily mean having identical experiences everywhere, but it does mean having a consistent experience everywhere.

Consumers want to leverage the same skills whether they are using a phone, tablet, desktop/laptop, surface, or TV screen.

How this is an argument for Windows 8’s new shell I really don’t know.  As he points out in the earlier section the Windows 8 UI is revolutionary in many ways meaning it doesn’t resemble anything else on the market (except Windows Phone which almost no one uses yet).  Beyond that Windows 8 isn’t even internally consistent since it opens up a classic Windows desktop to run legacy apps.

Next he goes on to the developer issue.  He says…

I’ve said nothing about the developer story. I really don’t know. You’ve undoubtedly heard discussions around C++ (or WinC++), and HTML5/JavaScript. Those technologies make sense, for different reasons.

C++ still has a larger developer community that any other programming language on the planet. With so much emphasis on .NET and managed code, the market seemed to forget that Microsoft has one of the major C++ compilers, and produces many familiar windows applications.

I don’t know what he bases that on.  None of the major Operating System manufacturers use C++ as their primary development environment (Apple: Objective-C, Microsoft: C#, Google: Java).  Plus C++ is a distant third in the TIOBE index as well. 

HTML5 and JavaScript are the hot new technologies, and are receiving tremendous buzz. Microsoft cannot ignore them, and it’s smart to announce support for them in the next version of Windows as early as possible.

No one’s against them supporting HTML5 and Javascript.  The issue is making it their primary focus at the expense of existing technologies. 

I’ve been accused of being on a rampage against anyone who supports the new Windows 8 interface.  That’s really not the case.  I’m actually in favor of it to a large extent.  I don’t believe users will embrace it but I hope I’m wrong.  But the issue here is he’s using false references to make the shell look like a safer bet than it is.  That’s what I have a problem with. 

The Strategy Behind Twitter Integration

clock June 6, 2011 18:02 by author Tom

From TechCrunch

Apple just announced a fairly in-depth ‘Twitterification’ of the newest version of its mobile OS, iOS 5 (which we reported last week to be taking place). As Apple says during the WWDC keynote today, there are 1 billion Tweets per week now and we want to make it even easier for all our customers to use Twitter in our iOS products.

Now Apple provides a single sign-on for Twitter use on the phone, and with any app you download, it will just ask you for Twitter credential permission. There’s no need to re login. Apple has taken it a step further to integrate Twitter into many of its own features and applications like camera and photos. You can also Tweet articles and content directly from Safari, Maps, videos from YouTube, etc and add location as well. And Twitter photos and @usernames can be autopulled into the phone’s contacts.

Does this seem odd to you?  It should.  Building someone else’s product into your operating system without any quid pro quo arrangement is pretty unheard of.  I’m not sure I can think of a single example of this happening in the past.  But when you think about it from a strategic standpoint it’s actually pretty brilliant. 

You see Apple is behind in the social realm.  In fact they’re WAY behind.   I’d argue they’re so behind that execution alone won’t catch them up.  In order for Apple to catch up, the market leader (Facebook) will have to stumble. 

But here’s where Apple is lucky.  Facebook has already stumbled.  They missed Twitter’s appeal and though they’ve tried to catch up with their Status Updates it hasn’t worked yet.  Apple obviously sees this and is endeavoring to make it worse.  

For a second let us look at what Facebook does.  It allows users to connect with each other by letting them share things easily.  Be it Text Updates, Photos, Interesting Links, or whatever.  People visit Facebook to see what their friends have shared. 

So to cripple Facebook you’d need to leverage their one weakness (text updates) in a way that causes other weaknesses to spring up.  Which is exactly what Apple is trying to do.  By making it easy for users to share other things on Twitter they have a very real shot at depriving Facebook of the updates that keep it alive.  

Look at the official post on the Twitter Blog

Twitter has always been the best way to instantly share whatever is happening around you, and everything you're interested in, anywhere you are. And today we're working with Apple to make sharing on Twitter even easier: Twitter is built right into iOS 5, coming soon to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices worldwide.
This means that you’ll be able to sign in to your Twitter account once and then tweet with a single tap from Twitter-enabled apps, including Apple’s apps—Camera, Photos, Safari, Contacts, YouTube, and Maps. And developers of all of your favorite apps can easily take advantage of the single sign-on capability, letting you tweet directly from their apps too.

Notice it isn’t “keep in touch” anymore.  It’s “instantly share whatever is happening around you”. 

But there’s more.  Once iOS users start posting to Twitter exclusively they’ll draw their non-iOS users in.  The beauty of doing this with Twitter is it doesn’t benefit Apple directly.  Google wants Facebook to go away too.  Since Twitter isn’t owned by Apple there’s no harm in pushing Twitter integration for Android.   In fact the apps already exist. 

So while integrating Twitter into iOS is an odd move it’s a very strategic one.  It exacerbates Facebook’s weakness by empowering the company’s chief competitor.  If Apple can get its customers to post all their updates, photos, and web links to Twitter it will be a crippling blow to Facebook. 

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