Posted by: rubberhawk | March 4, 2010

New Site

I’ve moved over to my own hosting:

http://iolopearse.com/

Any future posts will be on there. This blog will remain here for link validity.

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Posted by: rubberhawk | April 19, 2009

Channel Creep

Everything you see online these days is all about communication. Bebo, Facebook, MSN, Digg, Gmail, even Wikipedia if you think about it. Its all about who you can talk to and how quickly you can get your message out there. When developing a project many people worry about something called “creeping featurism”. You make something, then you realise, you can add this feature, then you add another one. Word 1.0 had about 100 commands. Word 2007 has some 1,500. And your letter to your grandmother still looks exactly the same as it did back then.

The same thing seems to be happening to the internet. If every site is becoming an application, a window you leave open when you logon just because then really the site is like a feature of the internet. On a regular basis I find myself opening up a number of tabs and just leaving them there, My gmail, twitter and facebook pages are open as we speak. Each one is basically just a channel of communication to a group of people. Each one varies slightly in who it reaches and how. Each one has its own merits and drawbacks. Depending on my level of boredom and what I’m avoiding doing I’ll spend varying amounts of time with each one. This is like creeping featurism but with communication, a sort of channel creep across the internet. As a new channel of communication opens up and becomes mainstream, it seems it eventually just turns into another way of ignoring people. In the interest of saving myself from an endless cycle of updating each site I’ve done what a lot of other people have done and tried to streamline how I publsh information online.

This is why I think twitter shines. Ironically, by being the most basic of communication platforms online it is also the most highly adaptable. No matter where you are online it can plug into almost any other site so I don’t have to. By posting 140 characters onto twitter, I also post the same message onto Bebo, facebook, all my IM accounts and my blog at the same time. At the same time, it also advertises itself on all these services in some way. Twitter helps me cross all the channel creep of the modern internet and bring it all together. The only problem that remains is how can twitter make money from this business model?

Posted by: rubberhawk | April 14, 2009

99 designs and online suggestion boxes

99designs.com is a site that makes use of crowdsourcing in order to put designers in contact with clients but in a very open, public and competitive forum. A client starts by uploading a brief to the site and starting a contest. Then designers can submit they’re proposals for solutions to the client who can review, comment and rate each one, even dismissing it. The idea of crowdsourcing is a new one, born out of the user-centric ideal of the web 2.0 boom. In layman’s terms the site is like putting a bucket labelled suggestions up somewhere and letting anyone and everyone hurl ideas at it, the aim being that on the law of averages, at least one good one will land in the bucket. In ways its similar to youtube in that huge amounts of content goes up on the site, but through a process of natural selection the best bits float to the surface somehow. For every good minute of content there’s at least an hour of rubbish there. The difference with 99designs being that only the contest holder has the final say.

Crowdsourcing is a good technique for small projects like a logo or quick redesign and that seems to be just what this site caters for. Every second contest is a logo or brand design. The site is an interesting idea with the potential to create a good online community that has its own reputation as a collective designer. Just as a designer lives on his own reputation or portfolio, this site will survive based on the reputation of its designers as a whole. It will be interesting how the site changes as its user base grows and changes. It may go the way of youtube with its steadily declining quality(partly due to copyright conflicts and its rising number of techno remixes).

Fundamentally the success of any web2.0 site lies in it’s userbase. Unfortunately this is the one aspect of a site that the creators have no control over. It seems to be the one true test of a modern site.

Posted by: rubberhawk | April 14, 2009

Turning customers into sellers

As of today, o2 is launching a new viral marketing campaign which seeks to turn existing customers into salespeople in their own right.

A new offer from o2 today encourages people to encourage others to switch over to their network with the promise of an iPhone for a fiver. All you have to do is get 10 friends to switch over to the network. Then when they have all topped up by €20, you get the opportunity to buy an iphone for just €5. The campaign is an interesting approach as people become more immune to the growing world of advertising around them. Everybody in the country already knows about the major mobile networks so making new interesting advertising is difficult these days. The site(getaniphone.ie) makes registration easy and fast and the invite system reminds me of every social network site on the internet. The site also supplies users with their own ‘marketing pitches’ such as treat cards to tell friends about as they try to convince them to jump ship. Of course, there are a lot of terms and conditions. A person can only be invited once to the website and there is a 30 day limit on the whole promotion. All 10 friends must have switched and topped up by €20 by the deadline, a month from now.

Its an interesting challenge for both the customer and the company and I’m intrigued to see where it goes a month from now. These days switching networks is basically free, it just takes time and effort. The question is, is Apple’s shiny new iPhone enough to motivate people to try.

Incidentally, if you’re thinking of switching networks, let me know;)

Posted by: rubberhawk | April 13, 2009

There’s always a catch…

Anyone whos ever bought dvds or games from overseas will be familiar with the idea of regions or the PAL vs NTSC dilemma. A movie made for sale in Europe is encoded in the region 2 format, whereas American DVDs are in region 1 format. DVD drives are also encoded in a similar fashion. The result is that the different regions aren’t compatible. Ultimately, it just a form of control created by the various corporations so that they can control where their products go and when. Altogether, DVD comes in 7 regions. Blu-ray on the other hand only divides the world into three regions with 70% of Blu-Ray discs being region-free altogether. So it would seem that the days of geographic discrimination are slowly approaching an end. Sadly, there’s always a catch.

The next big area is probably going to be streaming content over the web. While, DVDs were divided up into 7 global regions, a website can discriminate on a per country basis very easily. Because every user on the internet is assigned an IP address and each IP address can be checked against a location database (try it) a website can easily check where you are. While the possibilities for this technology are huge the main use for it so far is in restricting access to sites. Already, many major US entertainment sites do it such as hulu.com, which was set up by entertainment networks to stream television content online as a legal alternative to youtube. If you’ve never used the site its because it doesn’t work outside the US due to this IP based blocking technology. Of course their are ways round it but due to the bandwidth demands of streaming video, it isn’t easy or cheap.

This IP filtering technology is also likely to be adopted by a large number of corporate media sites as it is so simple to  implement and makes protecting rights easy. Getting around in contrast is difficult. Free anonymity sites generally are slow and buggy which often “breaks” bandwidth heavy, interactivity laden sites like hulu. What we’re much more likely to see in the future is more and more sites like ipredator.se which offer to give users their anonymity back for a small fee. Ironically while the internet is often seen as a liberating platform for media, it seems that is is getting ever easier to keep your content under your control in the online world. However all it usually takes to get around any form of DRM is a little time and ingenuity from the online community. People will always be able to get the content they want, just not always through the channels that the companies want them to use.

Posted by: rubberhawk | April 13, 2009

Someone’s lying to me somewhere

Jay Walker once said that for every megabyte of information we send over the internet we use the equivalent of a lump of coal in energy. My laptop’s downloaded 8.4GB and sent 1.4GB in the past seven days. Thats some 5o bags of coal in a week. Thats an average of 2600 bags of coal in a year for just me. There’s five laptops in this house alone!

Another blog that looked very scientific said that viewing 100 pages in a day is the equivalent of watching 10 minutes of TV. Elsewhere says a google search is the equivalent of running an 11 watt light bulb for an hour.

On top of that the new Macbook pro uses half the energy of the average light bulb lighting the room that its in. Does that mean that the fancy new battery out of a macbook pro could light a two bedroom apartment for 24 hours before it needs recharging? Even better, if you charge your battery at your local starbucks for free while you sip on a skinny latté then you could light your apartment for free for 1,000 days before you need to replace the battery. Thats three years for the price of an Apple battery(€139), the equivalent of buying 8 or 9 bags of coal. That, in turn, is enough for just over a day and a half of web browsing which is the equivalent of watching… um, some TV. I’ve used up all my maths for the day.

Whichever bit of that was true, I should stop googling pointless things like “how much does a lump of coal weigh?” before I kill another polar bear.

Posted by: rubberhawk | April 13, 2009

The rooftop office

It’s a sunny day but I’ve got work to do so…

  • Laptop…check
  • Headphones…check
  • Flat roof….check
  • Cool Drink…check

This is the reason wireless was invented. So I could procrastinate and enjoy the sun at the same time. Now if only my battery lasted more than 15 minutes.

Posted by: rubberhawk | April 13, 2009

Apple’s latest gambles and sneakiness

The latest “new innovation” by everybody’s favourite corporate giant, Apple is to no longer use removable batteries in there latest range of laptops. on the plus side it means up to eight hours of battery life and up to 1,000 recharge cycles. This sounds good but so does everything if you only look at the Apple website. Separate batteries has long been a defacto standard of the laptop world.

Apple is often accused of not really being innovative but rather, of just using existing ideas and marketing them as such. But at the end of the day this is what innovation is, a good idea is just that. Innovation is a good idea applied and Apple is one of the few large corporations willing to make these risky decisions. They did it years ago when they decided not to make the flash storage removable on mp3 players and they’re doing it again with batteries. There are are obviously reasons for keeping removable batteries. One is swapping them when you’re out in the field. Another is because so called “trickle charging” is bad for them. I don’t have a source but that is the rumour. This is often the reason why display models in shops are battery free(Another is just because it makes them lighter to prospective buyers). Even with detachable ones Apple laptops were awkward to use on just mains due to the mag-safe connectors coming out so easily. Without a battery, your cat can and will instantly undo 4 hours worth of work because he’s bored. So from that point of view it makes sense if you don’t want to remove it anyway.

Overall I think for most people it is a good thing. But in my experience the only two consistent flaws in an Apple laptop are the speakers(Others are so much louder and some HP’s even come with mini subwoofers now) and the batteries. Eventually they just all wear down in some way. Mine is down to a fifteen minute lifespan. Many others I’ve seen just go to sleep almost immediately. A new battery is the easiest way to fix this. As for the danger of trickle charging? While it does cause problems for cheap rechargable AA batteries, I assume its much less of a problem for laptop batteries, especially Apple ones (Which I’ve just looked at in System Profile and have discovered are made by Sony). Unfortunately, the only proof we’ll ever see won’t be for another 2 years really. Ultimately it won’t make a huge difference though as the battery itself is not actually that difficult to change yourself. Already, tutorials are online showing people just how the battery is removed. All it takes is a little bravery and two screwdrivers.

The real problem that people should complain about though is the decision to drop FireWire from cheaper models. It kind of got snuck in there under a big banner of “HEY! look at the battery”. Don’t think we haven’t noticed Apple…

Posted by: rubberhawk | April 13, 2009

Google will eat itself…eventually

Google’s AdSense system is by no means perfect. The idea behind it is that everytime you click on an ad, the website its on gets money and the website it links to, pays a fee. Google takes a commission along the way. It makes a profit by sheer scale of operation. Even just a tiny 1 cent commission may not seem like much but if you have 10 billion clicks, thats a 1 million Euro.

Naturally, such a  a large operation is open to fraud and Google curently estimates some 10% of its clicks to be fraudulent. One site however claims to be using revenue earned from AdSense to buy Google shares, eventually generating enough revenue to own Google itself.

To quote the website(gwei.org):

We generate money by serving Google text advertisments on a network of hidden Websites. With this money we automatically buy Google shares. We buy Google via their own advertisment! Google eats itself – but in the end “we” own it

When they do own Google their plan is to hand it over to GTTP (Google To The People) which hands Google back to the public. It all seems well and good with the website already claiming to own almost half a million dollars worth of shares, but unfortunately if the site is somehow not a hoax, then at the current rate Google could be ours in a mere 202,345,117 years.

Of course the site is not real and is more of a piece of online performance art that questions Google’s monopoly on information in the real world.

Posted by: rubberhawk | April 7, 2009

What’s wrong with netbooks

Yesterday I was driving past Harvey Normans and decided to call in to see what all the fuss was about(I’ve never been thair before. While I was in there I checked out the laptop section and for the first time saw these fancy netbooks in real life. A netbook for those who don’t know are small cheap ultraportable laptops with screen sizes that rarely top 12″. They tend to be all about battery life, weight and are usually heavily underpowered compared to normal notebooks. They are the latest craze in the notebook world. While I was browsing the shelves I was approached by the saleswoman and had the following conversation:

Her: Hi, can I help you?

Me: I was just looking at the netbooks. How much are they?

Her: Well the Aspire is €350 and the other one is €399. The Aspire comes with 1 gig of RAM and 160Gb hard drive….(she rambled on for a minute or two about them).

Me: And the Toshiba costs €399?

Her: Yes

Me: Why don’t I just get that one for the same price?(pointing at a full size laptop right next to it)

Her: Well [netbooks] are very handy if you want to carry them around a lot, whereas the bigger ones are better for playing cds and music and doing work and stuff.

Me: Anything useful really.

Her: Yeah…

To be honest, anytime I see pictures of netbooks the gimmickiness of it all reminds me of that onion video.

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