No, probably not. But to find Dinosaur Comics, one of my favorite webcomics, touch on pretty much the exact same pretty much completely random idea I pretty much wrote about many months ago… this makes me very happy. A lot.
Author: Everett Guerny
Steve Jobs on unintended uses of tools
A choice quote from an all-around interesting interview:
The point is that tools are always going to be used for certain things we don’t find personally pleasing. And it’s ultimately the wisdom of people, not the tools themselves, that is going to determine whether or not these things are used in positive, productive ways.
Google+, the best Multiply.com clone ever
First, a word of disclosure: I worked for Multiply for nearly four years. This means I know what I’m talking about. I also no longer have any financial interest in their success. This means I’m probably not that biased. Oh, and I only wrote this because I felt like it. This means nobody asked me to.
I had the good fortune of receiving an early invite to join Google’s vaunted, Facebook-killing, world-saving, next-generation-social-network Google+. There’s a lot of shiny newness to be excited about; Google seems to have brought a few new interesting ideas to the table vis-à-vis sharing and communicating. They also seem poised to introduce the masses to a few good ideas for privacy.
In terms of privacy options, Google+ lets you:
- …separate your contacts into distinct “friends,” “family,” etc. buckets
- …share content privately with each of these groups
- …filter your view when consuming content posted by each of these groups
- …use this ‘extended network’ concept to share beyond your direct contacts, but still less than the entire world
They’re also rather old ideas.
I joined Multiply in late 2005 as a marketing copywriter/company blog writer/customer service person/wearer-of-other-hats, and by that point, Multiply had already figured out a solution to the problem of sharing content privately among all the groups of people you know. In fact, by then they had been at it for about two years. See the features listed above? They were all at the core of the product.
Not impressed? It’s important to remember what the social networking landscape looked like back then:
- People had already figured out that Friendster was kind of garbage.
- People hadn’t yet figured out that MySpace was complete garbage. It was hugely popular by mid-2000s standards, but many times smaller than the Facebook of today.
- Facebook (okay, “thefacebook.com”) was open to users at a bunch of colleges, but outside of that, wasn’t really a big deal.
- Twitter (“twttr”) didn’t exist.
Oh yeah, and here’s what privacy looked like:
- Friendster: Who the fuck remembers?
- MySpace: Gave you the option of making your profile entirely public to the world or entirely private to your contacts… all of your contacts.
- Facebook: Your profile was available to all of your contacts, and everyone else in your “network” (which at the time meant everyone who went to your college). You couldn’t make anything public.
- Seriously, you guys… Twitter didn’t exist.
Okay, so we’ve established that privacy wasn’t much of a consideration in services of the day. But maybe it is today…?
All the Google+ privacy features you love — here’s how Multiply did ’em:
1. …separate your contacts into distinct “friends,” “family,” etc. buckets
Google+ today gives you the option of putting your friends and family into neat little buckets (they call them “circles”). Multiply made you do it. When adding a new contact or inviting someone to join you on Multiply, you’d have to pick a “real world” relationship type. There were dozens to choose from (friend, cousin, neighbor, boyfriend, work supervisor, etc.). There was also “online buddy,” which was for connections to people you didn’t know very well. Online buddies would be kept slightly at a distance, kind of like “acquaintances” on Google+.
2. …allows you to share content privately with each of these groups
Having these relationship types on record let you share everything in friend/family/professional buckets like Google+ does now with circles (oh, but minus the professionals). You could share privately with one or more of these groups, giving you essentially different networks under a single account. It boggles my mind that even today, some people have multiple Facebook accounts just for the sake of keeping their worlds separate.
3. …filters your view of content posted by these different groups
You’d mostly be consuming content on Multiply through a tool that went through a few names (“Message Board,” “Explore Page”) but ultimately became known — somewhat unfortunately — as the “Inbox.” What was this like? Think of the Facebook “News Feed,” only a few times better… and a few years earlier. On Multiply you could use the Inbox to view the latest posts and content from your contacts. On MySpace and Facebook, you’d be bouncing from profile to profile to see what was new with your friends — great for page view metrics, crappy for user experience. :-) The Inbox also let you easily filter your view to include content and updates from many of your contacts’ contacts, and optionally (and to a lesser degree), your contacts’ contacts’ contacts. How far ‘out’ into your network you could see depended on the relationship types you and your contacts had chosen.
4. …use this ‘extended network’ concept to share beyond your direct contacts, but still less than the entire world
With this information, Multiply would provide context when exploring your network. Enforced relationship types made it clear to your contacts just who the other people you knew were, which provided extra context for social interactions on Multiply. Wouldn’t it be nice if when you’re about to meet a new person in real life, someone would tap you on the shoulder and whisper in your ear “that’s Alice, your friend Bob’s sister.” You’re damned right it would. You’d see this information all over Multiply, whether consuming extended network posts in your Inbox or reading the comments on a friend’s post. Google+ can’t do this, because it doesn’t know who these people are, and Friend/Family/Acquaintances/Following is something Google+ considers a private distinction… which on the other hand makes some sense, due to some complexities of interpersonal relationships.
My point is…
But when you hear someone ask why it took until 2011 to develop a system that allows you to share in a somewhat sane sense, kindly enlighten them. I was there, I heard the world cry out for a better mousetrap, and I watched the world not beat a path to Multiply’s door. If there were a prize for being first, it’d be a plastic-gold turd trophy inscribed “LOL.”
I’m not saying that everyone should go join Multiply. Odds are, nobody you know uses it anyway.
So, congrats on the splashy beta, Google, but remember: people say they want privacy, but just want to be where their friends are. Good luck combining the two.
I had a strange moment of serendipity earlier this evening.
I was reading some RSS feeds and I saw there was a new post to the Flickr tag “firstgoatse.” (If the term goatse is new to you, I’m not sure what to say except: don’t blame me when you look it up… now. The above link is safe to view, by the way.)
I felt like I hadn’t seen a ‘firstgoatse’ in a while, so I checked it out. The photo itself was unremarkable, but I was viewing it on my Nexus S phone and happened to glance away from the screen, at the phone itself. Something clicked in my head, and I thought of a way to breathe new life into the age-old pastime of showing your friends disgusting images and capturing their horrified reaction for sharing on the Internet.
HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS WE ALL HAVE SMARTPHONES WITH FRONT-FACING CAMERAS!! (It must be the future!) These tiny pocket devices are cornucopias of giving: lulz for us, lulz for the Internet, and horrific, can-ever-forget memories for our friends!
Basically, what the best app ever would do is display a horrific image of your choice… self-supplied of course, in case your poison is more tubgirl, or whatever kids these days show other kids these days. It would also capture the reaction of the person holding the phone via the front-facing camera, at the very moment of exposure.
A series of photos leading up to the moment would work nicely too. Heck, what about capturing a video of the entire reaction? For all I know, kids these days are showing each other the video equivalent of that guy bending over and… ugh. For bonus points, it might even combine the original and reaction videos into one, side-by-side, not that anyone would want to ever view that.
I’m ready to believe that a mobile app like this already exists. It clearly, however, can’t exist for iPhone, because Apple doesn’t allow that brand of awesome, and I can’t be bothered to check the Android Market (aside from, okay, my quick search for “goatse,” which turned up nothing), but this is clearly the kind of app that the wold today could use.
Well, there’s a Mac app, but who can fit that in their pocket?
Hey world — somebody make this!
Link: Ten Things I Have Learned by Milton Glaser
All I really need to know I learned in a half-hour while reading this talk from graphic designer Milton Glaser, thanks to a link from Gordon Zhu.
IT work for no fun and no profit
Hey non-heartless geeks, how do you avoid becoming some random person’s computer guy1?
I was just blindsided by my friend’s aunt and before I knew it, I was showing her how to use her laptop’s right-click button to delete unwanted desktop shortcuts in Windows XP. Then, she wanted to know how to delete a bookmark from her Internet Explorer bar.
She scared me on the last one, though; through her broken English, she seemed to be describing an unwanted browser toolbar, and warning sirens went off in my head as I started thinking I was going to be asked to remove one of those. Then, as she cursed Internet Explorer while it took nearly a full minute to load, I had to fight the urge to make a quick exit through the window — closed and locked, of course — before I could be asked about removing spyware or defragmenting. I almost suggested she just buy a whole new computer, before realizing that I could just as easily be conscripted into helping with that.
Ugh. It turned out to be simple stuff in the end… but this is how it always starts.
Before I know it, I’m going to be fixing her router, before troubleshooting her DSL problems, before being roped into advising her on which of the programs that she installed on her computer she no longer needs and can be removed to free up space on her hard drive.2
Proof that there is no god: I look the part.
This is bug #2. Let’s fix this.
- Did that term sound sexist? I meant only to refer to Nick Burns, my tech support hero.[↩]
- This is actually a true story.[↩]
In lieu of actual content for the month of February, allow me to present to you some junk I just threw together.
I created a little ‘me’ favicon for writegeek a good while ago, but it never really occurred to me until this evening that it was in black and white, and not for any good reason, at that. I guess it matches my current theme, but that wasn’t my intent — or my theme — at the time I created it.
So I added some color.
Here is the original version.
Here is a new version I was considering. While it better represents the shape of the, um, pointy thing my hair does, it makes my hair as a whole look thinner than it actually is.
Here is what I ultimately went with: the original version with color. I think it’s a pretty good representation of my hair, and reminds me why I didn’t try to get too realistic in the first place.
Creating a favicon is a pretty cool challenge… at 16x16 pixels, talk about a limiting medium! Its limitations help, though; I’m not really visually talented, so there isn’t any expectation of anything complex. It seems like, for the most part, there’s really only one way to do things.
It’s also pretty amazing what a couple of pixels’ difference can make.
Thoughts? Feelings? …Improvements?