Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

Filed Under (Internet, Rants, Social Media) by Sean on July-23-2009

I am so sick and tired of classmates.com’s bullshit I decided to write a quick blog post about it. My biggest gripe about it is the fact that you cannot read your own guest book that others sign without paying for a Gold membership. This flies smack-dab in the face of what social networks are all about. Having grown weary of this charade after not being able to read several guestbook entries compounded by the spam I’ve received from classmates telling me someone has left a note and that I have to pay to retrieve it, I decided to update my classmates.com profile page. I assumed that I could provide at least a modicum of contact information, such as a blog link, or even links to other social network profile pages. Nowhere is there a predetermined place on your profile where you can enter such contact information. I decided instead to create an entry on my “Bulletin Board” (equivalent I suppose to Facebook’s Wall).  Here’s what I wrote:

Find me on facebook or my blog. I do not check classmates.com since they want you to pay in order to read what people have written you. Find me on Facebook at http://facebook.com/maslowbeer or my blog at http://seanstoner.com. Thanks for stopping by!

Immediately after submitting the bulletin board post, the site displayed a notice that my post had been hidden because I included website addresses, personal contact info or innapropriate language. So, I obfuscated the website addresses using the typical facebook dot com slash maslowbeer scheme. Seems classmate’s programmers have been very busy in detecting these schemes due to all the incredibly harmful content that has been posted such as links to facebook, because it detected these as links as well. The notice also told me that classmates.com was trying to create something that was “friendly for everyone.” Right.  Included was a link for me to submit the post for manual review by their “Content Policy Team” with a field for me to enter additional comments. So I took advantage of that and sent them this comment:

Seriously – every social network allows you to include contact information so people can find you and learn more about you. That’s the whole point of social networking. But, you choose instead to extort money from people to read what people have sent you, and add insult to injury by not allowing me to put up links to my profile on other networks or my personal blog. Your reasoning “to make classmates friendly for everyone” is complete and utter bullshit. I hope you guys get with the program. There’s a reason facebook is worth several billion dollars as a free site and your chicken-shit site isn’t. Finis.

It should be entertaining to see what their Content Policy Politburo has to say in response. I will post it here when I receive it!

Does everyone else hate classmates.com as much as me? Share your story in the comments below!

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Filed Under (Geekstuff, Internet, Social Media, Technology) by Sean on December-21-2008

I wanted to post this brief update about a new feature I discovered recently by accident while testing Twitter clients for my Android-based G1 smart phone. “@Replies” on Twitter now picks up tweets that are addressed to multiple people in a chain. These replies also appear to follow the same rules I pointed out in my previous post about Twitter in how @Replies work (alas it still appears most people don’t understand these important points, however). For example, if you send a tweet as follows: “@bob @jane @jim @jesus @mary @joseph have a good holiday,” then each and every person in that chain of addressees will have the tweet appear on their @Replies page! Note, however, if you interrupt the chain in any way, it breaks this behavior, e.g., “@bob @jane and @jim are you coming to my party,” @jim in this case will not get the tweet on his @Replies page. As noted, the rules from my previous post apply. In my first example, even if @mary doesn’t follow the person who sent the tweet, she will still get it in her @Replies tab nevertheless. Clients that use the Twitter API to track @Replies also follow these rules, as I found my accident when testing nanoTweeter for my G1.

Enjoy!



Filed Under (Internet, Social Media, Technology) by Sean on July-23-2008

It appears a major glitch has surfaced in Twitter where many people’s follower and followee numbers have been cut in half, in many cases. This is evidenced by the numbers that appear on your twitter page. You’ll also notice, if you visit the page of a suspected unfollower, you’ll no longer be able to nudge/message them, confirming your worst fears. However, if you visit the direct message page, you’ll notice they still appear under the drop down and you can successfully send them a direct message. They will also see you in their twitter stream, so don’t fear!

Go to getsatisfaction.com and report this bug or ditto if someone else has reported it (many have). I suspect this is due to a database caching issue since they have started partitioning the application to make it scale better. Hopefully they fix it soon!!

UPDATE

It appears I spoke too soon! I just noticed that my direct messages page does in fact reflect a number much less than the followers I have; in my case, this is a reduction of more than 80%! Likewise for the number of people I follow.

If this is a catastrophic data loss where we will have to re-follow everyone we’ve built up over months or years, I suspect Twitter stands to lose a similar percentage of users . . . .

Come on Twitter!!



Filed Under (Geekstuff, Internet, Social Media, Technology) by Sean on June-15-2008

Since Twitter‘s popularity is ever accelerating, resulting in it almost becoming a utility, not unlike email, I wanted to take a moment to lay out some details about how communication takes place using it. I still find many do not realize how @ replies work and as a result their tweets are not received by their intended audience.

The problem arises when a twitter user tweets about what another twitterer is doing, e.g., “@ted is kicking my ass in Wii Tennis.” Let’s say that @bill is the sender of this tweet. Let’s assume that both @bill and @ted have @sue as a follower. @sue will get the above tweet on her twitter stream, as intended. Let’s also assume that @betty follows @bill, but not @ted. Here is where things get dicey. @betty will not get this tweet on her twitter stream, even though she follows @bill who sent it! It will still appear on the public timeline. The problem is that Twitter assumes that all tweets that begin with @username are intended as a tweet directed at that user. In this case, Twitter assumes that @bill’s tweet above is being sent to @ted, when that is clearly not the intention. An additional unintended consequence is that this tweet will appear in @ted’s replies tab when @ted is logged into twitter through the web.

The lesson to be learned here is to never begin a tweet with a @user unless it is intended as a reply or tweet to that user.

How do we get around this such that we re-frame this tweet so its original intent is realized? Simply insert a word, character or space before the @user as appropriate, or, better yet, exercise those elementary school grammar muscles and rephrase the tweet altogether, e.g., “getting my ass kicked by @ted in Wii tennis.”

There is an exception to the behavior that I’ve outlined above. On your Settings page, there is a Notices tab. Contained within that tab is a section called “@ Replies.” The default setting (and recommended setting if you follow more than a few dozen people) is “@ replies to the people I’m following.” If you select the “all @ replies” setting, then you would get all @ messages from someone you follow even if you don’t follow the user to whom the tweet is addressed. If @betty above had this setting chosen in her settings, she would get @bill’s tweet above in the second paragraph. If @betty followed 400 people, however, and each person sent an average of only 3 tweets per day addressed to people @betty didn’t follow, she would get an additional 1,200 tweets per day! I personally wish Twitter would allow you to set the @ reply settings on a per followee basis. For example, if @betty followed @bill as above, and @bill was a very clever twitterer or A-list twitterati who communicated with followers that @betty would perhaps also be interested in following, then she could optionally select a custom @ reply setting for @bill such that she would see all his tweets, even if they were directed at people she didn’t follow. Likewise, she could decide that she doesn’t want to see @willy’s @ replies if they aren’t directed at her or people she follows.

I hope I’ve accomplished my mission of clearing up how @ replies work in Twitter, and more importantly, compel twitterers to stop starting tweets with @ if they aren’t directed at that person!



Filed Under (Internet, Life, Stuff) by Sean on April-2-2008

Ok, fellow peeps, tweeps, lurkers and whoever else out there on da Interwebz – April 3, 2008 is officially Good People Day!

I could not possibly compile a list of all the awesome people out there in my life and my new and quickly growing social media friends on Twitter and other networks, since it would crash Firefox from taking up terabytes of memory! Gary Vaynerchuk, the most awesome host of Wine Library TV, came up with the idea for Good People Day (see the video below calling us to action!). It’s all about spreading the love and positive karma. For me, this includes all my tweeps and fellow twitterati, all my fantastic social network friends, and many nameless people that hang out in the numerous IRC channels and lend help to those like me who often cry out for it when we can’t get something to work. Gary is truly a role model for this spirit of helping and generosity. He literally answers hundreds of emails and tweets a day to people he doesn’t even know who ask about wine. Just the other day I was asking him advice via a tweet about a certain 1997 Merryvale Profile and whether I should drink or cellar it. His direct message to me within minutes, “DRINK IT.” This is at 10:41pm his time on a Saturday night! How much love is that? And he doesn’t know me from Adam other than as a fellow twitterati (though you certainly don’t have to be a top twitterati to get a quick response from him!).

So I’m sending out much love and positive karma to all those who save my bacon and otherwise lend a helping hand, and to those who follow me on twitter, read my blog or have any interest in what I have to say. This goes to all my close friends, family and total strangers (whom I hope to meet someday at a tweetup or meet up or camp)! Try not to complain or be negative and extend the golden rule to the maximum to everyone you interact with, on line or off. I vote we make April 3 Good People Day every year!

PASS IT ON and keep showing the love!



Filed Under (Internet, Rants, Technology) by Sean on March-18-2008

I am getting increasingly aggravated at Firefox’s lack of adequate garbage collection. Firefox, over the typical span of usage over several days, or weeks, in which multiple tabs are opened and closed, possibly hundreds of sites visited, cumulatively thousands of JavaScript functions executed, and Flash instances instantiated, begins to consume inordinate amounts of memory. I have seen my Firefox process consume well in excess of a gigabyte, for example, though I’m only looking at 2 or 3 sites simultaneously. When I visit the Firefox IRC channel and inquire about this, as so many have before me, the excuse is given that the poor code written within websites or many memory leaks that plugins like flash and quicktime have are the culprit and are completely outside the responsibility of Firefox and its developers. I don’t buy it. Firefox, by proxy, is the new operating system in today’s world of Internet delivered applications. Thus it is Firefox’s responsibility, in my opinion, to perform aggressive garbage collection and manage memory leaked by wayward processes spawned from within it. In my typical session, where I have two gmail accounts open, and a couple of other tabs open simultaneously, I have to restart Firefox or kill it forcefully every few days it seems. As a Linux user who typically experiences login sessions measured in weeks to months of uninterrupted uptime, this is simply unacceptable. Supposedly version 3, which is currently in beta, addresses these many issues. We will see. I’m sure some of the garbage collection features and fixed memory leaks will undoubtedly help. However I feel the pathology of, “it’s not our problem” is the wrong attitude to take by Firefox developers. They need to step up to the plate as the developers of the Internet operating system of the future and do everything possible to deliver the best user experience possible.

Let’s watch and see what happens.



Filed Under (Business, Internet, Technology) by Sean on February-22-2008

Business Week has re-released its original story about the importance of Social Media (i.e., blogs). This time, many of the predictions and facts are annotated with updated information snippets. It is certainly an interesting re-read to see how far we’ve come!



Filed Under (Business, Internet) by Sean on February-9-2008

How about that! It seems Yahoo agrees with my valuation of the situation and intends to reject Microsoft’s bid.



Filed Under (Business, Internet) by Sean on February-4-2008

I was certainly as surprised as anyone to see Microsoft’s $46 Billion bid for Yahoo. In my opinion this prospective acquisition ranks somewhere between the most ill-conceived idea ever to a decidedly mediocre, ho-hum idea.

It seems at first pass this is a great deal to short term Yahoo shareholders who are looking for an exit. Yahoo’s stock and innovation alike have languished for years. I believe Yahoo’s woes result from an identity crisis. Are they a media company? A technology company? An Internet search engine? A software company? A software as a service (SAAS) company? Who the hell is Yahoo? As a result Yahoo has, in a way, suffered double jeopardy from this lack of identity. They have aligned their market capitalization to that of traditional media companies, while completely stalling innovation as a technology company.

I think Microsoft and Yahoo have it completely wrong — “it” being strategy. Google has it right, pure and simple. The race is a race of innovation. Google’s innovation has continued to accelerate since its founding. Microsoft continues to dump its decade old software into a blender and spit out boring variations on the same theme. It uses its monopolistic hegemony, ties with PC manufacturers and extortion over its existing install base to keep market share. Google has innovated new and exciting ideas in software to get things done, which has resulted in its meteoric rise. Yahoo once had this innovation bug too, until it decided it wanted to become a media outlet sometime around 2001; it has paid the price ever since.

I believe I can speak with some authority on these three companies since I’ve been a paying enterprise customer of each (in the tens of thousands of dollars and beyond); presumably I’ve seen the best they have to offer and have counted on them to provide mission critical services. In the last 6 months, I have entirely moved away from both Yahoo and Microsoft as a paying customer and user — a timely and fortuitous move in my opinion. I have moved away from both for what can be summed up thusly: please stop telling me how I’m supposed to do things. It seems whenever I try to accomplish a task, their software dictates how I’m supposed to do it rather than the other way around. I think it’s ironic that, as a paying customer of Microsoft and Yahoo, I decided virtually simultaneously to ditch both mere weeks before this development. I don’t think I’m the only one doing so, either. Does Microsoft think that by combining with Yahoo they can stall or reverse the flight? I think not.

So what do I use these days to get things done? I switched to Open Office (which also forms the back-end of Google Docs) to do all of my basic document creation and Ubuntu Linux for my desktop computer’s operating system. I use a mashup of Google Calendar, Contacts, Evolution, my Treo and some web services middleware to keep it all in sync for my PIM. I have been using Linux as a server platform and built an entire company on it since its beginnings in the early 1990s. Back then, when I wanted to implement a feature in software that wasn’t available (which was often it seemed), I would simply dive into the source code, add the features I needed and recompile with my trusty C compiler. Try doing that with Microsoft software! In some cases, where I still have to use Internet Explorer to visit websites designed by Neanderthals that still require IE instead of working with standards compliant browsers like Firefox (I find it amusing that Microsoft’s own web site’s simple “About Us” page has roughly 195 validation errors), I use Wine, which works amazingly well. I also use numerous other open source, free applications from repositores containing thousands of increasingly mature applications. I will devote an entire post to typical applications used for various tasks as well as open source alternatives/equivalents to brand name software (hint: want to install a Photoshop-like graphics application NOW? type “sudo apt-get install gimp” or “yum install gimp” and presto! It’s installed and ready to use within seconds. That was easy!) My apologies, however, as I digress. I do not intend to foment the proprietary vs. open source debate here; that will be another post entirely.

Let’s discuss Yahoo’s languishing innovation, for example. I’ve used their Mail Plus web application for email for many years. One of the things we all deal with is spam. No matter how good spam filtering software is, even the most sophisticated, trained Bayesian filters trap false positives. Therefore it is important to cull through your spam folder to mark these emails as ham (i.e., not spam) to train your spam filter to not trap them in the future. The easiest way I know to do this is perform simple searches of your spam folder and look for legitimate senders and the like. My spam folder collects over 5,000 messages each month. What is my problem? Yahoo doesn’t let you search your spam folder. With the number of users commenting on this oversight in Yahoo forums, you would think Yahoo would listen and correct this problem post haste. In fact, I emailed Yahoo customer support about this issue more than 4 years ago. They still haven’t done anything about it. Presumably, from a software perspective, the reasoning for this is that spam outnumbers legitimate email 6 to 1 and indexing this would add an unnecessary burden on Yahoo’s compute infrastructure. But they are (were) a search company, right? They give you a work-around but it is virtually impossible to implement with anything more than a handful of messages. Google let’s you search your spam mail just like normal email, as you would expect. Google, quite frankly, just “gets it.” Yahoo and Microsoft don’t.

I could bore you with numerous other examples exemplifying huge holes in Yahoo’s business, especially when it comes to their horribly contrived customer support system (even after a perfectly composed, detailed email describing an obvious bug including all relevant details fit for a quality assurance team, you get a ridiculous response prompting you to perform insipid tasks such as checking to see if your computer is plugged in and the like), but I’ll get back to the thesis of this article.

Microsoft is another lost company. I have a great deal of respect for Bill Gates, but I think Steve Ballmer seriously needs to cut down on LSD or whatever deleterious hallucinogens he may be using. Their problems are compounded by pathology within MS that their shit doesn’t stink. In my opinion MS would benefit greatly by adopting open source and creating value on top of it in areas where they excel such as user interface design and features (though that’s arguable with the latest version of Office as an example). Vista was an absolute waste of millions of development man-hours that could have been better used bettering the best-OS-MS-has-ever-made Windows 2003 line up (XP and 2003 Server). I mean, seriously! One of the big deals about Windows NT was its goal to be fully POSIX compliant. Seems they completely forgot what they were trying to do. Even now, 15 years after NT’s release, Microsoft operating systems (still based on the NT kernel architecture) still lack probably the single most powerful aspect of POSIX and *nix systems – a powerful, scriptable, robust command line shell – a must for any serious server administrator’s tool chest.

All in all, the reasons a Yahoo acquisition is a bad deal are many. For Yahoo, it would mean the demise of a company culture that could once again foster great innovation. It would mean some promising software products, including recent acquisitions, could hit the chopping block (Zimbra, Flickr). It would be bad for Yahoo customers who went to Yahoo to get away from Microsoft in the first place. It would mean melding two distinctly different infrastructures (Yahoo is primarily based on open source software fundamentals and linux based platforms). It is bad for Microsoft for the same reasons (i.e., once the above things are priced into Yahoo stock after an acquisition, much of the value would be lost). From a strictly economic and shareholder return perspective, Microsoft would do better to buy back its own stock than acquire Yahoo.

Both companies are suffering from bad strategy. Microsoft is the blood-thirsty bully, reacting to competitive threats with attack posturing and hegemony rather than quietly winning the war through innovation, ala Google. However Microsoft does have a very talented workforce and very smart people which it could leverage if it weren’t for the raving lunatics in the executive suite and the prevailing proprietary technology dogma that should be laid to rest. Microsoft should launch into open source, deploy hostable, SAAS versions all its leading software, port its software to run on Linux and even create its own Linux distribution. Microsoft made a huge bet that the likes of John Gage were wrong with his infamous phrase, “The Network is the Computer.” Microsoft bet wrong. The war is on applications and functionality and efficacy of those applications to get things done. Not operating systems. Increasingly the Internet is the deployment medium for these applications. I suppose perhaps Microsoft has figured this out which is what the Yahoo bid is all about. I still believe, however, that just like Microsoft’s huge miscalculation about the importance of the Internet back in the 90′s, they are still running in circles based on flawed assumptions and fundamentals.

Similarly, Yahoo has the people, the smarts, the culture, market share and the infrastructure to really compete against Google. Its problem is simply lack of a coherent vision of what it is, what it is trying to do and why (and what it wants to be when it grows up). It does have a new mission statement, which is a good thing. Now they need to really put words into action. Microsoft is only buying Yahoo because of its brand and its existing audience, not because of its capability to innovate. I don’t believe mergers just to acquire customers ever work, especially when a large percentage of the customers you’re acquiring got there to begin with by avoiding you. I’m also speaking from personal experience; my Internet company in the 90′s was acquired by a company in an effort to acquire customers and not to continue our proven strategy of success (that will be another whole blog post). The problem was that their going-forward strategy was flawed and as a result the whole house of cards fell down.

In summary, I think this proposed deal is a bad deal on just about every front. Many news outlets and bloggers are calling the bid hostile but that remains to be seen. I only see it as unsolicited, but not yet hostile. Yahoo does have poison pill protection in the event they also see the takeover as hostile. It will be interesting to watch from the sidelines and see how things develop.