the culture and values of social media

Wifi enabled digicam: the future is, uh, soonish

Posted: October 13th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: gadgets | No Comments »

Glenn Fleishman reviews Kodak’s EasyShare digicam, a 1.0 product that allows you to send pictures to either Kodak’s proprietary online gallery site or an email address. You can’t post to Flickr from this, though: you upload the photo to the gallery, and then your email contact is sent a mail with the gallery address appended. Glenn notes quite a few shortcomings, but points out that a) Kodak’s good about modifying product in accordance w/ customer feedback and b) the shortcomings are all in the firmware/software rather than the technology.

Putting aside that this is a 1.0 product, what’s the impact of having immediately-publishable high-quality photos?

Obviously we can instantly publish photos now from camphones. I have a textamerica moblog, I send picturemail to my 1 or 2 friends for whom it actually works (Sprint: bite me) and I have lots of friends who post Sidekick/camphone pix to their Lj’s or Flickr accounts. But the quality is so terrible that this awesome list of things to use your phonecam for from 43 things (take pictures of movie times to show to your friends, subway maps to refer to when travelling, books to add to your wishlist, slips of paper you have on your desk) is pretty much unusable for me. A picture of a subway map would look like a big ass blur on my phone. I do use my digital camera for similar things: graffiti and street signs and dresses in stores that I like.

Basically, though, I think I just need a higher megapixel camphone with more storage than a wifi-enabled digital camera. I’m in an unimaginative mood today (it’s been spitting pouring rain in dark, gloomy NYC for the last several days straight).


Girls Just Wanna Have Tech

Posted: October 13th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: gadgets | 3 Comments »

So the digitallife trade show is this weekend – basically a preview of gadgets, games, etc. to get people all excited about buying them for the holidays. My friend’s company and the marketing drones surrounding NYU have been giving out mass free tickets, so of course I am going so I can geek out publicly and maybe get to meet Carmen Electra!!! After going to E3 two years ago, I know what to expect: mostly dudes, lots of scantily clad “models” wandering around, and very few events that even pretend to be targeted at anyone but guys.

Anyway, here’s the blurb for the “Girls Just Want to Have Tech” event:

Men buy technology for two reasons: because “it’s cool” or “it makes them look cool” but women are much more complicated creatures. What technologies do women really want? What’s the must-have product for the handbag? The favorite game? The product they would vote to take to that “desert island”? Where do they love to hi-tech shop the most? Would they rather date a guy who carries an iPod or a Pocket Protector? These and other secrets will be revealed as we report on the results of a nationwide survey and an on-the-show floor reality check of what women are talking about.

See demonstrations of the Top Five favorite products for women. Win prizes and catch a high tech fashion show. All sexes welcome!

HMMM SEXIST MUCH? Let’s rephrase the genders and see what we think:

Women buy technology for two reasons: because “it’s cool” or “it makes them look cool” but men are much more complicated creatures. What technologies do men really want? What’s the must-have product for the briefcase? The favorite game? The product they would vote to take to that “desert island”? Where do they love to hi-tech shop the most? Would they rather date a girl who carries an iPod or a Pocket Protector? These and other secrets will be revealed as we report on the results of a nationwide survey and an on-the-show floor [sic] reality check of what men are talking about. See demonstrations of the Top Five favorite products for men. Win prizes and catch a high-tech fashion show. All sexes welcome!

Ignoring the copy editing, which is uh non-existent (spelling the same term in the same blurb differently is usually considered bad form), what have we learned from our gender switch? First, doesn’t it seem really stupid to make huge generalizations about “what men want”? Wouldn’t we think that different kinds of men, or men in different industries, or of different ages, or with different interests would be looking for different things? Treating women as a monolithic and homogeneous target group (of 51% of the population!) who can be persuaded to buy something by slapping a pink coat of paint on it and maybe some bling is condescending, insulting, and a good way to end up with a warehouse full of pink cellphones. Instead of gender-marketing, maybe we should consider niche marketing based on, um, anything else? Do we think that, say, a 28 year old urban grad student and a 60 year old suburban soon-to-be-retired soccer mom are going to be purchasing the same thing? Let’s go with NO on that.

Second, see anything weird about some of the questions? Why on earth do we care where men shop or what women are looking for in a guy? We don’t, because “men” isn’t usually a group reduced to omg shopping!! and romance!! cosmo-style crappery. This information is irrelevant to product planners and it’s irrelevant to female-identified customers. Women shop online and at Best Buy for gadgets like everyone else. Also, what does what women want in a MAN (another enormous, ridiculous generalization, as if all women are a) looking for a boyfriend and b) looking for the same type of boyfriend — let’s ignore the general heterosexism of this discourse) have to do with planning products for WOMEN? It all comes back to consumer discourse defining female identity in terms of men.

Third, high-tech fashion shows are now and have always been complete garbage. Unless you’re showing me something super fucking cool like that knife-resistant fabric the US Army’s Objective Force Warrior initiative is working on, I have no desire to see models trussed up in PVC with iPod shuffles worn as necklaces. WIRED? TIRED. This isn’t Hackers. Let’s try something new.

This whole discourse totally mystifies me as I know so many girls into gadgets – not even talking about tech, just basic customer gadgets. Just as many girls as boys have iPods, cellphones, Treos, Sidekicks, digital cameras, laptops.. so why all this befuddlement over how to appeal to the female audience? Build a hot product that’s sexy cross-genders (exhibit A: Apple, exhibit B: Razr) and people will buy it. Build something fugly that looks like it’s designed for a 12 year old girl on uppers and a few girly girls will buy it, some girls will buy it ironically BUT if the functionality isn’t there nobody’s going to buy it.

And I’m so glad they specified that “all sexes are welcome”. The rest of the panels, which, since this is the only one targeted to women are presumably targeted to men, do not have such a disclaimer. Why? Because once again, men are the default and male environments are the default. An environment designed “for women” needs a disclaimer so nobody thinks it’s one of those super-weird, exclusive, creepy “women’s” environments filled with man-hating feminazis.

….

I’m still stoked for this show and I can’t WAIT to get my hands on the Xbox 360 marketroids and ask them lots and lots of questions about how the gamertags work.


AOIR 2005

Posted: October 6th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: academia, technology | No Comments »

’ll be blogging from AOIR as I can. You can check out the technorati tag AOIR for posts from my fellow internerds.


Ning

Posted: October 5th, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: social networking | No Comments »

BoingBoing blogged the launch of ning, a make-your-own social software site. The basic purpose is to provide the tools for people to clone low-budget versions of popular social apps like Flickr, Match.com, Craigslist, Hot or Not, blah blah. So far not much up there — a bunch of “Pirate vs. Robot?” and a sweet little del.icio.us clone.

I LJ’d this link and the only comments were “why would people want to duplicate sites that are already out there? Won’t it be confusing to have a million Flickrs running around?” Well, sure. And I’m not going to use a Flickr clone with 1/8th of the functionality when I have, well, Flickr itself to use. That’s not the point.

The point is that this is a remarkably rich and flexible toolkit that can lend itself to a myriad of applications we haven’t even envisioned yet. A few ramifications:

1) Dev time is taken out of the equation for low-volume, basic-functionality apps. So creative/visionary/youngster types without the tech skills to build a major site can hack one together in no time, meaning they can concentrate on the imaginative aspects of creating their own site. Need I remind you what happened to blogs? Back in 1995 when I launched my own homepage, everything had to be hand-coded. I had what you might call a “blog” back then, but it took me forever as I had to update and create every page uniquely. As basic HTML that anyone could do was replaced by complex coding that could really only be done well by someone willing to take the time to learn it, those of us who were only coders out of necessity had less and less desire to maintain a personal homepage.

When Pitas launched in 1999, it was the first real automated blogging software that allowed writers to focus on writing rather than coding. Now we’ve got Blogger, Movable Type, Blogspot, LiveJournal, and a general shift towards applications/sites that host/encourage unique user-generated content.

There’s a business reason for this, of course: get users to create your content and you a) get free content b) increase your sticky time c) increase your business virally.

(It’s also interesting that we’ve seen a return to uber-basic site design, rather than the fancy stuff that was fetishized back in the late 90′s/early 00′s, but that’s another post.)

2) I’ve been very inspired by Cory Doctorow’s current short story on Salon. Cory’s basically laying out a new business model: parent companies serving as incubators/networks for thousands of small, flexible, unique startups. Ning seems similar. The site Ning hosts a grillion tiny software apps. Although 90% of them will be crap, boring, forgotten, or ordinary, there’s a definite chance of 10% being cool, and 1 or 2 percent being really outstanding. Those outstanding apps will probably generate enough revenue through advertising and pageviews to fund all the rest of the crap on the site. And I also guarantee that the cool users will create widgets and gewgaws that will easily increase the coolness of everyone else’s sites. Which brings us to..

3) These apps don’t have to appeal to everyone. Unlike Flickr or Match, which by design have to appeal to a wide group of people, Ning apps — like blogs– have low enough overhead that they can be extraordinarily specific. Like a routine-sharing application for burlesque dancers. Or a personals clone that matches up senior citizens with student volunteers. It’s the difference between your 2600 chapter’s wiki vs. Wikipedia. We haven’t even really scratched the surface of the specificities of social apps because most of them have to be general and generic. When that’s taken out of the equation, I feel like the actual applications of the applications are going to blow wide open.

I’m going to be watching this site pretty closely. Drop me a line if you’re doing someting cool with it.


laptoppery

Posted: October 3rd, 2005 | Author: | Filed under: tinkering | No Comments »

I’m no IT administrator, but any long-term Windows user accumulates install and fixery knowledge as if as by magic. If by magic you mean “because Windows basically sucks.” This time around it was a 2K bug: if the system hive gets over 16MB, the system doesn’t boot. Yeah, that’s awesome, huh?

Let me just remind you that I moved to New York about five weeks ago. Half my stuff is in boxes scattered between Brooklyn, my mom’s house in Westchester, and my old apartment in Seattle. Surprisingly, I did not choose to drive my Win2K disk cross-country. And, uh, I also left the cable connecting my external CD rom to my laptop in a box marked “Tech Shit”, in Seattle. So STEP ONE was having my friend FedEx me my laptop cable. STEP TWO was downloading a .torrent of a Win2K .iso and burning it on my desktop.

STEP THREE was following all the KB instructions to the t, but the SYSTEM file was mysteriously *missing* from the c:\winnt\repair directory. Frustrated, I posted to Usenet (STEP FOUR) and the dudes there were basically like “You’re fucked, go buy an external USB case for your HD and back up your data.”

STEP FIVE was surprisingly easy: take out the HD, put it in the external USB case, plug it into my desktop, back up all my thesis files, papers, pictures, and mp3′s, and then screw it back into the laptop. This evening’s fun project involves a clean install of Win2k as I wait for the .torrent of XP to download. I’m totally proud of myself. I was dreading going to AOIR with no laptop– how will I blog? And share Flickr photos? And dork out? Now I can’t wait.