a feminist technology blog

Month: July 2006 (Page 1 of 3)


I’ve been out of town a lot, hence my lack of blogging.

Today I got email from the folks at plugaid about their new site creamaid. This is all set up to be mysterious, but it’s basically a commercial version of their flagship product (a tool for blog-based persistent conversations). In other words, it allows people to blog for $. Say the Nike/iPod shoe launches today. Nike/iPod could offer $2 to any blogger who wrote about it on a certain day. Creamaid is a way of tracking this.

Here’s how it works:
1. Participating site (nike.com, for example) posts a Creamaid box on their site
2. Blogger clicks “participate”
3. Blogger enters his or her email address
4. Blogger cut-n-pastes tracking code which she/he includes in his/her entry about the product/thing/topic, thus pasting the Creamaid box on their entry as well
5. Creamaid emails blogger with $X through PayPal once he/she has blogged.

There are a number of things that are really interesting about this. Monetizing blogging isn’t new at all, and we’re only seeing more of a movement toward monetizing user-contributed content (partly perhaps because people are starting to wise up to the fact that many Web2.0 companies are getting “rich” off their users’ content contributions). But this is a very centralized way to track this process.

I’m also curious if the blogger can blog *anything* about the product – like what if I said “the new Nike/iPod thing totally sucks, and both companies use sweatshop labor!!” Would I still get my two dollars?

Finally, anyone who does post about the topic also gets the Creamaid box on their blog post. People might like this. Plugaid allows for very centralized blog-to-blog conversations, using a persistant comment box that is common across blogs (which is very neat), but I’m not sure whether people will respond positively to Creamaid as it could be used for fairly intrusive and annoying embedded advertising.

So my verdict is that the service is kind of cool, but, as with any technology, we will have to see how it’s used. I am NOT one of those people who thinks that blogging should be some sort of purist activity in which nobody makes money. Nor do I think that money should be every blogger’s motivation (my motivation in blogging is to promote my academic career, and I’m not very shy about that). It’s up to the individual blogger whether to add AdWords or anything else, and it’s also up to them to feel comfortable with the amount of corporate shilling they do as part of the blog. It’s also up to them how they want to respond to critiques, and people who choose to participate in monetizing activities should be prepared for criticism at this point in the evolution of blogging.

Honestly, all this is so silly since “blog” is just another word for “personal homepage” or “journal”, all of which have been around for 10+ years. This site alone has been going in its current incarnation for seven years (I’ve been “homepaging” since 1995), and I don’t think the current blog is that much different from all my old hand-coded homepages. People have been selling their thoughts online since the days of Canter and Siegel. People who get all huffy about the blogosphere, in my experience, are people without long-term internet experience.

It’ll be interesting to see if Creamaid catches on. If nothing else, it seems to have a clear and obvious business model, which is a refreshing change in Web 2.0 world. But is anyone really using Plugaid yet?

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Link roundup for July 27, 2006

Famous logos reworked with saturated colors, roundy edges and other new new media cliches.

Fantastic post on why women may act in ways that are contrary to their best interests as women. Very thoughtful.

links for 2006-07-26

Terrific blog on sexism in science/tech

After posting my rant about C|Net’s stupid article about women and gadgets, my call for people to write more about sexism in technology was answered with a link to Thus Spake Zuska. Zuska has a BS in Engineering, an MS in nuclear engineering, a PhD in biomedical engineering and a grad certificate in WoSt, and thus is eminently qualified to write about the topic of sexism in the academy and industry.

This blog is HARD CORE and I cannot believe how egregious the practices she writes about are. For anyone who wonders innocently “why aren’t there more women in the sciences?” a brief skim through the front page of this blog alone will answer that. Zuska focuses on sciences in the academy, although we all know that sexism is hardly confined to one particular sphere.

In full disclosure, I am not a scientist, I am a dot.commer (and a humanities major to boot). I’ve been doing dot.com stuff since 1998 (with two summers at Microsoft before that) and I can honestly say that although I’ve generally worked in all- or almost-all male environments, I have rarely if ever experienced outright sexism against me by any of my superiors and co-workers. I could dredge up a few incidents, but they are not representative of my overall experience. (I do understand that many women would not be comfortable working in all-male environments, which in themselves discourage women from the field). But obviously liberal web2.0 companies in Seattle and San Francisco are very different from academic science departments, which are cut-throat and backstabbing to begin with.

I’d be curious to hear from any women engineers about this. Perhaps my experience is because I work in product planning and consulting and researching, which are more female-friendly (I guess). Anyway, read the blog, it r0x0r.

Off to LA tomorrow. Finally met danah last night, and had a nice long talk with Clay Shirky. I have to say that the SF tech world beats the pants off NYC in that department (not in transportation, weather, nightlife or shopping, though).

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MySpace to Secondary Markets: Drop Dead


Originally uploaded by alicetiara.

On Monday, MySpace started displaying the following message when you log in (this is kind of a crappy screenshot, but you can see it larger if you click on it):

“hey folks – we are moving myspace music players and video players to flash 9.0. flash 9 has security fixes so that people can’t mess with you on myspace. if your ‘about me’ got screwed up this weekend, you could have been safe if you had flash 9 installed. here’s an easy way to install it, go watch this dashboard video i posted last week. if you don’t like dashboard, just watch any video in our video section, and you’ll be prompted to install flash 9.”

What Tom doesn’t mention is that Flash 9 has a a new attribute for the [object] tag called allowNetworking. When set to “internal”, it prevents the use of any Flash Player APIs which interact with the browser, including getURL() which is used to link to other pages from the player. (Note that josh endquote explained this to me). He writes:

“MySpace now transparently adds ‘allowNetworking=”internal”‘ to all Flash Player instanced placed in its pages, effectively disabling any buttons which link anywhere.”

So: stuff like Slide.com, RockYou.com, and YouTube’s Flash video wrappers will no longer be able to link back to the sites if the user is using Flash 9. Generally adoption for Flash isn’t that quick — but since all users with Flash 8 currently have broken MySpace video/audio players, you can expect that to have somewhat of an effect on the adoption rate (i.e.: skyrocket).

MySpace can say all they want about wanting to protect users, but really this is about them protecting their advertising dollars. The barnacle-like secondary market sites will have to find increasingly creative techniques to launch Flash-based content within the site if they want it to spread virally.

This is actually quite wily on the part of MySpace. And it’s going to be interesting to see how much influence they have on the adoption rates of Flash 9… I wonder if they have a formal partnership with Macromedia/Adobe.

Expect a LOT MORE moves like this from MySpace. I’m aware of a few I can’t talk about that I know will have huge impacts on secondary market sites. If you work for a startup whose entire business plan depends on mooching off MySpace’s user base, you guys might want to consider diversifying your revenue streams.

Link roundup for July 20, 2006

Cool wiki about “astroturfing”: fake grassroots movements funded by big corporations/political orgs

links for 2006-07-19

links for 2006-07-18

Link roundup for July 14, 2006

Cool new blog about obesity from Yale.

Excellent critique of Dandelife, which lets you create a multimedia story of your life.. and license it to corporations.

New widget that lets you post audio, text, and pictures by phone, email, or txt. Post the widget on MySpace, Blogger, Livejournal etc. and you can send whatever you want through it.

iLounge unboxes the Nike/iPod nerd-to-5K kit. Nice OOBE.

google & social software

MediaMetrix’s May numbers on social networking continue to provide analysts with fodder. This time c|net combines the parallel trend of Googlebashing with a lengthy discussion of whether or not Google is missing the social software wave. Tidbits:

1. MSN Spaces the #1 global network? 101 million visitors/year globally.

2. Orkut isn’t popular. Wow, thanks for the hot tip. While something like 85 percent of Brazillians use Orkut, you’ll notice that the site hasn’t really changed at all since it launched (during my MA, when I was writing my first paper on social networks). This means that it doesn’t incorporate customization options, video sharing, blogging, and all the rest of the stuff “the kids” are clamoring for. Also, the name is terrible and doesn’t exactly inspire younger or hipper users to flock to it, but apparently Google isn’t in any hurry to extend their core brand over the site.

(However, Orkut has 33.7 million/visitors year globally while only 210,000 of them were from the US)

I think the two statistics above can provide valuable insight into the difference between American internet use and global internet use. Technologists tend to focus on the echo chamber of US-centered net business, especially those of us in Seattle, New York, and San Francisco. But while we may be enamored with the latest hot social software, we should also be looking at what people are actually using. This is not usually what’s hot and trendy. Witness Microsoft pulling 98 support when there are still 70 million users worldwide on 98. I have another post percolating on this that I’ll write later today.

Finally, Google does own plenty of social software: Blogger, Dodgeball, Google Talk, Google Calendar, Orkut, Answers, Google Video, Notebook, Maps, Page Creator: all of these are components of what could be a really comprehensive and amazing integrated social solution. Of course, Google hasn’t really shown much ability to synthesize in the last few years and has rolled out a lot of half-baked solutions. But that doesn’t mean that it’s some sort of failure of the company to launch some ridiculous Google Spaces or Google LiveLinks or something, especially since many of these components are highly prominent in 2.0 mashups. Google may be deserving of backlash in some areas (although to be honest most of the backlash I see is just sour grapes and David and Goliath syndrome) but this isn’t one of them.

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