a feminist technology blog

Month: January 2006 (Page 1 of 3)

I’ve actually done this presentation

Penny Arcade on Infinium, part 300.

It was in a hurricane, in Sarasota, Florida, to a roomful of rich Republicans. I was the demo monkey and was flown in, first class, specifically for the one night. Everyone in the company got drunk afterwards in a bar next to a Harley-Davidson dealership. Very classy exprerience.

I actually really loved working at Infinium, and there were some truly amazing people there. I KNOW we have a terrible reputation, OK? But working with best-of-breed dev teams is always awesome, and I still believe we had the foundations of a truly spectacular project.

links for 2006-01-31

links for 2006-01-30

Quote of the Day

In our times people are often willing to make drastic changes in the way they live to accommodate technological innovation while at the same time resisting similar kinds of changes justified on political grounds.

Winner, L. (1986). The whale and the reactor: a search for limits in an age of high technology. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 39.

Wikipedia Experiment

This week I’m changing my start page to the Wikipedia Main Page in an attempt to become better informed about international news and general information outside of my technology-entertainment focused world. I am so used to clicking on “home” 20,000 times a session to get to my start page that this is going to frustrate me, I just know it.

(This is part of a sort of silly attempt to see how much impact minor technology changes have on my life.)

Broadband: The Scourge of High Speed Adoption

For years and years and years, the conventional wisdom with regard to high-speed internet use in the home is that there just needs to be one killer app and everyone will switch to cable/DSL/T1.

Nowadays we have those killer apps, and they aren’t really apps at all but “killer content”: porn, mp3’s and movie torrents. People also use high speed internet at work and school and get used to having ultra-fast net 24/7. Broadband rates in the US right now are at about 63% for active internet users, which is an undefined metric as far as I can tell, 56% among all “internet subscribers” (i.e people who pay for internet in their home) or about 12 out of every 100 people overall.

(nifty chart and dubiously acquired statistics here.)

But there’s a big stumbling block here. And it is that dealing with broadband providers sucks.

The telcos have a stranglehold on the broadband market. You can choose to work with an indie ISP, those that are left, like Speakeasy, Drizzle (in Seattle), New York Connect, etc. But for 90% of the country, people have a choice between their local cable monopoly (in Seattle the cable company you go with is dependent on a deal made many moons ago between your apartment building owner and the cable company) and their local telco monopoly (Qwest, etc.).

Let me ask you this: how is YOUR DSL/cable customer service? Because ours is terrible. We pay $65/mo for a really crappy wireless cable modem with a top speed of 11.00 mbps that is constantly dropping the signal, conflicting with other networks, and generally Not Working Right.

I am the designated technical support person between my roommate and I, so I get to spend a lot of time on the phone with Time Warner (yuck! ugh!) Roadrunner Cable. The process usually goes like this:

1. Dial number, go through automated voice-activated service that ends up with me red in the face yelling at the phone like a crazy

2. Hold for 30 minutes

3. Explain problem to Tier 1 techs who can’t help me

4. Hold for 30 minutes

5. Explain problem to Tier 2 techs who can’t help me

6. Hold for 30 minutes

7. Explain problem to Tier 3 techs who schedule someone to come out and help me in two weeks

Two days later, modem magically starts working again.

This is not the kind of customer service I should get paying $780/year for internet access. And I don’t think this is atypical. The long waits, rude and clueless customer service people, and generally extremely unpleasant experiences associated with broadband are a severe stumbling block for increased broadband adoption. A couple hundred thou on hiring more customer service peeps would go a long way towards making the process more bearable.

Also: I am “not allowed” to port forward on my router, which is not really a router at all but just a device that connects me to the router owned by Roadrunner, which of course is inaccessible and all locked up. So I get crappy torrent speeds and would have a very hard time if I was a gamer or someone else who depended on port forwarding for some of my applications. I can’t stand being treated, as a customer, like an idiot who can’t be given sharp objects in case I stab myself in the neck. I have got to get a new provider.

(Or is Time Warner just singularly terrible? Recs for NYC broadband providers please!)

links for 2006-01-29

NYT: Seeing Fakes, Angry Traders Confront EBay

eBay full of fakes
[NYT, registration required]

I’ve long heard of Chanel, Balenciaga, Louis Vuitton and other luxury brands keeping track of how fakes are selling on eBay. I figured that this was a practice that eBay was fairly strict about, as they frame the site as a great place to buy high-end goods for cheap and are always flashing around brand-names in their ads. But apparently not. This article starts out talking about some jewelry dealers who’re trying vigilante-style to smoke out a group of fakers, but Tiffany and Co. are also apparently angry about the amount of ugly fake heart toggle necklaces being sold on the site.

What I think is interesting here isn’t that eBay isn’t doing anything. I’m never surprised when a corporation won’t take responsibility for something within its own borders. No, what’s interesting is that it’s the features of the system itself that makes this possible. No oversite from eBay and very few mechanisms for user-user policing.

I’ve written before about how the reputation system doesn’t work. the harm of retaliation for leaving negative feedback is greater for buyers than for sellers, so people generally don’t do it. But eBay can’t police all the thousands of transactions that happen each day either. So this means you have a marketplace full of faked or misrepresented items, and few options for users who are aware of these practices. They can’t leave messages for other users, they can’t request the items be removed unless they themselves have bought them and found them to be fake, and the sellers usually won’t bother responding to emails.

Obviously the danger is that rival sellers will sabotage each other’s stores. But in practice I haven’t really seen anything like that, whereas I’ve seen a great deal of people puffing up their positive feedback and driving up their bids by using multiple accounts or friends and family. The high-volume pirates from Hong Kong and China who sell low-quality Marc Jacobs jackets for $25 are organized and professional. If the site actually does care about keeping down piracy, they need to look at alternate models of policing, perhaps organized around community moderation rather than a top-down authoritarian approach.

links for 2006-01-26

links for 2006-01-24

Page 1 of 3

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén