a feminist technology blog

Category: software (Page 1 of 2)

Minor Detail Follow-ups, + ranting about WGA

I just realized that gmail had been filtering my blog comments into my spam folder, so I apologize for those of you who I haven’t responded to yet.

SXSW “featured” my podcast last week (I was like the second person to actually do it) so here it is, for your listening pleasure.

I’m headed to LA tomorrow for the iConference, where I’m participating in the Doctoral Colloquium, presenting a poster on the MySpace moral panic and sitting on an SNS panel with Fred, danah and Cliff, which I’m very happy about.

Otherwise, I plan on enjoying the 70 degree weather in LA and going to the Getty and maybe the La Brea Tar pits and definitely Aardvark’s on Melrose.


In completely different news, I am disgusted with Vista. I really enjoyed it for the first three months I used it, but now I’m seeing the cracks in the facade. The wireless networking is buggy. Explorer crashes not infrequently. There are well-known device driver conflicts that nobody’s figured out how to deal with, and it’s a terrible resource hog.

Worse, I hate Windows Genuine Advantage with a passion. I have no interest in having Microsoft “validate” whatever applications I choose to run. I am very suspicious of this as it smacks of Trustworthy Computing (which I worked on for 9 months or so): e.g. when Microsoft decides uTorrent cannot run simultaneously with WGA and blocks it, then there’s nothing you can do. The problem is that even with my totally 100% legal copy of Vista, I can’t install patches without installing WGA.

For example: there’s this bug where when I put my laptop into hibernate, about 60% of the time it crashes. This is, according to Microsoft, a “known issue” (thanks guys). On the MS support website, they claim a fix. So I go to Windows Update to get the fix. Of course, Windows Update doesn’t work in Firefox (which is exactly the kind of shit which got them under investigation for anti-trust and you would think that they would have stopped pulling it). So I open up Internet Explorer, which immediately tries to set itself as my default browser for everything (no thank you), navigate to Windows Update.. it won’t work without installing WGA. I find an alternative patch, but after it unpacks itself, it crashes. Hibernate bug still in full effect.

SO: what I’m going to do is call Sony, get them to send me a copy of my Vista disk (a) which should have come automatically with the laptop and b) which I can’t use to reinstall Vista b/c Sony packed literally like 40GB of bloatware on this laptop, including full, DRM versions of Spiderman 1 and 2), torrent Vista + SP1 (which has been released but not in an over-the-air update, wtf) + WGA crack, and use Vista to my heart’s content. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: When using legal software is MORE DIFFICULT than using illegal software, you have a problem.

Technorati Tags:

Podcasting V-Card Revoked

Oh my god, I just recorded the dorkiest podcast for my “I’m Internet Famous: Status in Social Media” core conversation session at SXSW Interactive (It’s SUNDAY MORNING at 11:30, people! You know you don’t have anything better to do than show up!). I’ve never done my own podcast before, and I think I should have gone FUNNER and SPARKIER. But I wrote a script and read it, using my best “enthusiastic lecturer voice.” I did loop in the backing track of “You Know I’m No Good” by Ms. Amy Winehouse in the intro.

I should have said on the podcast that I would give everyone bagels if they showed up. 11:30 on Sunday at SXSW, everyone is going to be hung over and mourning the day they were born, or at least the night before. But I’ll be up early and bright-eyed sitting expectantly at my table hoping people come give me free data for my dissertation topic.

Anyway, I used Audacity to record the podcast (my VAIO has a built in microphone, which I didn’t know, which probably means I can record directly to YouTube– ugh, the possibilities) and, like most open-source projects, the software is great but the Help files are atrocious. Someday when I am long tenured and have a lot of time on my hands, I will donate my tech writing services to my favorite open-source/free software. It’s a shame that lesser-than geeky types don’t contribute to F/OS projects as much as hardcore geeks, because UI, documentation and other non-coding efforts are just as important.

Hot list for March 5

This is possibly the most lukewarm hot list ever. First of all, I’ll probably never do one again (tired!). Second, nothing on this list is very new or exciting, it’s just stuff I’ve been feeling lately (expired!).

1. Twitteroo: the PC version of Twitterific is just as good and changes the experience of Twitter to pleasant co-presence rather than irritating interruption. I found Twitter unbelievably annoying and frustrating when it consisted of hundreds of irrelevant text messages clogging my inbox. Now it’s just an IM buddy on my sidekick and Twitteroo, and it’s great. Now I just need more Twittering friends, so add me.

2. Utorrent is about a hundred times lighter and less bandwidth-intensive than Azerus. Maybe this is just my imagination, or maybe it has magically coincided with Verizon getting their act together and improving my 164 kbps connection. Recommended.

I get a lot of email from product “evangelists” (hello, Microsoft, I see you extending your tentacles way past campus again!) asking me to look at their various MySpace widgets, video sharing apps, etc. Please note that I am possibly one of the least influential tech bloggers ever, but I guess if Techcrunch, boingboing and Mashable are ignoring your emails and your PR budget is zero, I am worth a ping. Anyway, I usually ignore these emails at best and write them polite but firm rejoinders at worst. But, in the interest of padding my Hot List, I am going to review a few of them, thereby supporting this entire model and ensuring I get hundreds more of these emails in the next month.

3. The first one is Lijit, a personal network search app. This is a “wijit” (arrgh, my bleeding eyes) that’s basically a search box. You configure the search box to include sources you “trust” (like your “blogroll”, one of the worst online slang terms evar, and other content you produce (like del.icio.us bookmarks or flickr photos). The theory behind this is presumably social search, or the idea that an expert would have better filters for a subject than a random person.

I get the idea, but the execution needs work. First, the signup process is a big pain. You enter your blog URL and it supposedly pulls your blogroll from your blog, but in my case, it just spit up My Crime Space, which is a nifty blog about MySpace and crime that I think I del.icio.us’d. Now that blog is all well and good if you’re doing a MySpace focused search, or something, but I can’t even slightly say I “trust” that content or that I vet that content or that I want that content associated with me! Feministing.com, yeah, since I am friends with several of the editors and I trust their editorial viewpoint, but not some random subject blog. Anyway, this all becomes irrelevant because the wijit doesn’t actually manage to extract my blogroll from my blog, since it’s in an oh-so-inaccessible sidebar, so I don’t bother adding any new blogs. Too time consuming!

In the next step, it checks the major social media sites for your username. This is actually a way cool feature I haven’t seen anywhere yet: it automatically found me on del.icio.us, digg (never posted anything), flickr, youtube, and LJ, and didn’t find me on LinkedIn or MySpace since I don’t use the same name for those sites. This is starting to get into those sticky situations where you’re not quite sure which of your public personas are appropriate to associate with each other.. in the interest of transparency (and rounded corners), I selected all of them except MySpace and LinkedIn.

Next step, you have to associate your Lijit account with a Gmail username (because the search engine is apparently associated with “Google Custom Search”. This is getting into seriously skeevy territory for me since I am paranoid about data aggregation, but I am still going to surge forward. They do point out that you can use a secondary (or “seperate” [sic]) Gmail address, so I use my old account that I used to use to respond to personal ads.

Ok, here’s the result:

Lijit Search

Does this actually help anyone out, I wonder? I would find this useful for searching academic papers, or someone’s notes, but just looking through someone’s flickr photos or their dugg stories can’t really give me too much more value than just doing a regular flickr search.

Plus, this really does dovetail with the project on personal surveillance and widgetry that I’m working on (more on that if we get the grant, hush hush). We’re all encouraged to merge our data together and track more and more about ourselves – couldn’t you see something like this adding your amazon or Zappo’s wishlist, your allconsuming info, your 43 things, your dodgeball venue database? Sure, it’s all voluntary. But I bet lijit’s profit model isn’t selling personal search tech to the enterprise; it probably relies on consolidating user information somewhere down the line.

Anyway, it’s an interesting tool but not something I would have looked at if I hadn’t been emailed about it, and I will probably never use it again. Overall, is it 2 Lijit 2 Quit? The jury’s still out. (I couldn’t resist. Sorry).

4. Cellblock (awesome name) also emailed me as they appear to be doing a massive blog outreach — their “reviews” page includes about 20 blogs I’vve never heard of and no actual publications. Anyway, the app itself is fairly cool. Each cellblock widget has a unique email address. Anyone who has this address can email it pictures, txt messages, etc. and it will show up in the widget- sort of the same as a Flickr pool or a del.icio.us tag. I’m assuming the theory behind this widget is beautiful optimism about citizen journalism and Hollaback NYC and such, but in reality I bet it would be like “email me your upskirt pix!!1!” This doesn’t seem to have caught on much, which is unsurprising since nobody I know has ever heard of it.

The picture/audio/video widget space is SO overcrowded right now that it’s hard for anyone to get heard above all the din. Who’s actually emerging strongly here? Stickam has been around for a while, Flickzor is gaining some traction. We’ll see who throws the best party at SXSW.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Liveblogging UNC SSS: Tagging: One Minute Wrap-Up

Each person gets one minute to say something about tags.


  • There are many uses of tags:
  • For information retrieval: finding vs. browsing
  • To perform identity, identify self with community of practice
  • Making sense of the object tagged; also express opinion/political thought/point of view about an object (for example, tagging a book on amazon “this sucks”)
  • Learning new ideas from tags
  • Using tags as reminder followups: todo, toread
  • We must consider context
  • Relationships between tags and communities: some tags identify you as a community member, some people use tags to find like-minded people, some people’s tags are more valuable because you share interests.
  • My contribution:

    These types of organizational systems (flickr, delicious, rawsugar, etc.) privilege certain kinds of use
    1. ephemeral knowledge / informalized knowledge / cannot be articulated
    2. communities of practice whose expertise does not line up with the tools available
    3. So who is represented? Who speaks in these systems? What is more or less valued?

    RAW DATA: may be mistakes, there are certainly people left out.

    Read More

    How to Embed YouTube Videos in PowerPoint

    No, you can’t do it automatically and it is kind of a pain in the butt. After a lot of trial and error I have my method down, so I thought I would share it with you all.

    1. Use KeepVid to download the YouTube video as an .flv file.

    2. PPT won’t recognize FLV files as movies — you can’t embed Flash in PowerPoint, apparently– so you need to convert it to MPG. I use a program called Riva FLV Encoder.

    While Riva converts to FLV by default, it can convert from FLV as well.

    Install the program and select the FLV you just downloaded in the “Input Video” box.

    The “Output Directory” will be automatically selected, as will the filename for the “Destination Video File.” By default it is the .flv extension, but just change this to .mpg.

    3. Click “Encode”. This will take a while depending on how powerful your machine is.

    4. Open Windows Movie Maker (hey, it’s free and it comes installed on XP by default). Click “Import Video”.

    This can also take a while. For some godawful reason Windows chops up certain videos into lots of little bits. If you’re editing down the file for a presentation, this can be really useful, however. Just drag whatever bits of the video you want on to the Video storyboard, etc. This program is made for 11 year olds, so you should find it pretty simple.

    5. When you’re done, click “Save to my Computer” and go through the wizard.

    6. Now you can import the .mpg into PPT as an embedded video. NOTE: POWERPOINT DOES NOT AUTOMATICALLY SAVE THE VIDEO AS PART OF THE PRESENTATION, so if you’re going to be running the presentation off a CD/someone else’s computer you’ll have to fiddle a bit.

    The easiest thing I’ve found is to select the “Package for CD” option, which will make a CD including the .ppt file and all linked files. Click “options” and make sure you select “embedded TrueType fonts” if you’re not using one of the standard Windows fonts.

    All this rigamarole should be completely unnecessary soon, as I’m sure Google’s PowerPoint clone will include YouTube video embedding as standard. Keep your fingers crossed.

    Happy finals to everyone!

    Technorati Tags: , , ,

    fun with google music metrics

    Robin sent me a link to Google Labs Music Trends. It tracks what Google Talk users are listening to.

    First, consider a few points:

    1. Google Talk currently has a whopping 1% of the IM market with 44,000 users of the client in June and 3.4 million unique users overall in May (Google Talk standalone client is different from the Talk integrated into Gmail).

    2. You can only report Music Status through the standalone client, not the Gmail version.

    3. Music Status doesn’t automatically update this chart. Rather, you have to opt-in to share data. From a privacy perspective (not to mention PR), I fully applaud this decision. From a data-gathering decision, this means that Music Trends is measuring some absurdly small percentage of 44,000 users.

    Which is why you get stuff like this (apologies for image width)

    For those of you who don’t remember your hott 80’s hits, “Shattered Dreams” was a one-hit wonder by Johnny Hates Jazz (“You’re giving me, giving me/ nothing but shattered dreams, shattered dreams”) which isn’t likely to have a resurgence any time soon, let alone in the new hot “Gym” remix format.

    If one person’s mistagged Shattered Dreams can get to #8 on the Google chart, how hard can it be to skew it? I downloaded Google Talk, opted in, and have been playing MSTRKFT all afternoon in an attempt to thwart its careful collection of analytics. I urge you to do the same.

    The chart apparently updates once a day, so tune in the next few days to see if this did anything.

    (For a decent collection of online listening analytics, I recommend Last.fm’s charts; although these are similarly skewed towards highly technical, highly dorky, highly OCD internerds, who appear to listen to middle-of-the-road soft alternative rock.)

    social networking and music

    Music has been an enormous part of my social life for as long as I can remember. In high school, my friends and I spent a lot of time refining our musical preferences until they accurately reflected who we wanted to be (goodbye, INXS and Billy Joel; hello, Ministry, Tori Amos, Concrete Blonde). In college, I was the music director of my college radio station and spent a huge amount of time being a snot about bands on major labels, shopping for 7″s, and going to shows every week for free with my co-DJ Kara Flyg. Post-college, I moved to Seattle at least partially due to the music scene and immediately became part of the ecosystem of bands, DJs, promoters and club owners that permeates the social structure there. Anyway, the point is that music plays a really important part in social networks for young people; it provides a hook for identity (I listen to hip hop vs. I listen to underground hip hop vs. I listen to new bay hip hop / hyphy), it provides a commonality for friendship, and it provides social capital in the form of knowledge.

    We’ve all had the cool friends who introduced us to the cool music. In high school it was my friend Arielle, via her older sister. In college it was my friend Chrissy, who knew all about the Olympia music scene. Post-college it was usually various boyfriends. Nowadays, music blogs fulfill that role for many people, and then the people who read the music blogs fulfill that role for their friends. But even among the bloggers, the person who first writes or breaks a particular band is going to be considered way more important than a me-too writer.

    For bands, this is great because it means that there’s a vested interest for lots of people in finding out about relatively unknown bands and promoting them. And, unlike in 1993, nowadays that process goes on via digital publics rather than via offline networks of mix tapes, listening to tracks on car stereos, reading about bands in zines, and watching opening bands.

    There are a host of services that have grown up around the social aspects of music. (Everyone reading this knows Pandora and Last already, so I’m not going to bother going into functionality specifics, just social practice).

    last.fm lets you track all the artists you listen to and generates charts based on the data. It also has lots of community/friend features that facilitate recommendations. Last will recommend stuff to you based on your preferences, and you can send your friends recs for things you think they’d like. In a lot of ways, Last’s charts (which people display on their MySpace profile or blog – see sidebar) function in the same ways as “now playing” on LJ or My Favorites on MySpace: as a way to show off your musical taste, therefore your identity or simply how cool you are (and of course, more underground = more cool. I’m not sure how my love for Kelly Clarkson works in this model). I really don’t bother using the friends feature on Last because, well, whether or not I’m friends with someone has very little to do with whether I’m going to like the same music as them or not.

    Pandora is more effective at recommendations since it generates streaming radio of artist suggestions based on songs or bands that you input. There’s a nice little hack that feeds your Pandora listens into Last so you can keep track of what you’ve heard, which points to the fact that Pandora has no way to broadcast or otherwise announce your preferences to the world. If you listen to some super cool, super obscure, super amazing artist before all your friends but none of them know about it, does that diminish the value?

    Mog is a music blogging network. I have no desire to blog about music and I find Mog’s little audio tracker (which works in the same way that last.fm does) very intrusive, but I can say that Mog is a nicely designed site with some nifty 2.0 features. It’s highly community based, and rather than friending your RL friends, Mog emphasizes meeting new people with similar tastes. This is very smart, as I’d rather get recommendations from a hard core music junkie who I trust but have never me than some random college friend of mine on Friendster (must start using that as an example again now it got 10mil in new VC.. must be that there patent!).

    SonicLiving is a music calendar app that mines your iTunes , Last and Pandora logins, creates a database of your preferred artists, and lets you know when and where they’re playing. This is a very beta site, so don’t expect perfection, especially if you don’t live in SF or NY. But the idea is great. Particularly when artists are having to come up with new monetization strategies that aren’t “sell albums” or “get on MTV” (see my last post on this). Since going to shows is an inherently social activity, and finding out about shows takes quite a bit of effort sometimes (esp. living in a giant, music-heavy city like NYC), this is a genius idea. It’s not quite there technologically, but the guy running the site is super responsive. Definitely one to watch.

    (Another interesting site to watch is pocketfuzz, which is basically a peer production marketplace around mobile content. Pocketfuzz partners directly with artists (5000 of them!) who create ringtones of their own music and sell through the site. Disclaimer: my friend Danny is one of the creators of this site).

    Finally, we have MySpace, which I’ve already talked about in some detail with regard to the changes it’s made in fan-band interaction. Expect to see lots of auxiliary market sites popping up that provide tools for bands to use to promote themselves on MySpace; the basic feature set for band pages is super low (music player really being the only differentiation from the regular user pages) and a smart young company could definitely find a niche there.

    On the other hand, all the zillions of MySpace multimedia player companies should probably find a different model unless they are taking advantage of the network features of the site. Why have music information on a social networking site unless it taps into the network in some way? What are my friends listening to? Who’s changed the song embedded in their profile? What’s popular in my network? What’s new? What’s hot on MySpace? MySpace has such crap functionality compared to the other sites I’ve written about in this post that it’s almost laughable– unlike Last or SonicLiving, MySpace has no way to tell what you’re listening to, and the only ways you can update your profile music-wise is by changing the single song you’re allowed, or by changing your “My Favorites” music manually. If MySpace had better, cooler, more automated music tracking tools, it could really be useful for finding out about music, promoting music, and tracking music. Right now, though, the big advantage MySpace has, music-wise, is that lots of bands use it. That’s it.

    Expect to see a lot more in this market space. The cool thing about social music software is that it tends to be written by people who are really super passionate about music– Mog and Pandora reflect this especially– which makes it more interesting than contenders in the, for example, YAVVS (Yet Another Viral Video Site) space, most of which look generic, boring, and desperate to grab YouTube ad dollars. I’m looking forward to watching these sites as they mature.

    Widgety Tidbits

    1. Talked to the Slide guys last night at the WWDC Bloggers party and yes, the new MySpace slideshow is definitely a Slide.com product. Which I’m in full support of, as it’s a cool piece of software.

    2. All summer I’ve been posting about MySpace’s secondary markets and widgets. There are tons of new widgets coming out daily, and the best way to keep up with them is to read the widget blogs like Widgetoko and Flying Seeds. I’m not so interested in individual widgets (although I like Meebo’s embedded IM widget a lot, to the point where I might install it on this blog)– what’s fascinating to me is the number of widgets that attempt to monetize user-to-user interaction.

    For example, here’s Favorite Thingz (please forgive me):

    Basically, the user goes through a process where they create a badge by picking bands, movies, brands, services (websites), stores and teams until they have about ten. Each one of these “thingz” gets rotated through one’s badge (widget) and apparently the user earns some sort of kickback if they get clickthroughs. There is no explanation of this process on the site. Do referrals need to purchase something? Where do they purchase it? How do the users collect their commissions?

    I have no idea how they picked the “thingz”: I believe they’re probably placeholders, unless Chanel has decided that user-to-user microtargeted advertising via MySpace profiles is their new publicity push. It is slightly shady that users can pick from liquor and condom brands– and what teen is going to want to broadcast their love of Carefree or Tampax to the world?

    Mashable sez: “A really neat product“. Well, maybe. But it still remains to be seen whether the users actually get anything, and whether the products being offered are actually co-sponsored or not. I’m betting they aren’t. Kids are putting Chanel, BMW, Hummer, Coach, Louis Vuitton all over their MySpace pages already, so this model is an interesting way to kick back to what is essentially free advertising; but how much does it lessen the Chanel brand for it to be splashed all over the profile of a 16 year old girl from Florida who loves Rhianna and Hollister?

    The same company made MyPickList, which attempts to monetize user-contributed reviews.

    As usual, I’m ambivalent on this stuff. Academics would moan about the commercialization of everyday life, etc. etc. and to a large extent, I’m suspicious of that stuff too. But this isn’t the same as whisper marketing; it’s really more like wearing a Nike t-shirt or carrying a Coach knock-off bag. Yes, there are plenty of kids who are going to plaster their profiles with these types of self-created advertisements in an attempt to generate revenue, but it’s not like they would be pristine and beautiful in the first place. They’d be covered with YouTube videos of ghost ridin’ the whip and Diet Coke and Mentos rockets. So I guess given that, and given that we obviously live in a world where people express themselves through the consuming and flaunting of brands, the kids may as well get some revenue pocket money back from all this brand association.

    Technorati Tags: , ,

    MySpace launches new killer image apps

    I just did a huge competitive analysis on MySpace, Friendster, Bebo, Cyworld and Facebook. MySpace has been rolling out some cool stuff under the radar lately that I was pretty impressed with. First, it seems that they’ve upgraded their photo hosting to unlimited, or at least more than the 9-10 photos that were previously alive. Not good for Photobucket!

    But they kind of had to: compare the photo tools for the other social networking sites:


    • Unlimited photo storage
    • Ability to identify people in pictures
    • Really nice web-based uploading/photo album tool


    • 50 picture limit


    • Unlimited photo storage
    • Nice photo album organization


    • Built-in image editing software (granted, it sucks: it doesn’t work in Firefox and required three different plug-ins to work in IE, and then it still didn’t work)

    Also interesting is that MySpace recently launched slideshows. Now, I can’t tell whether they partnered with Slide.com for this, but I suspect that they did, since they look so similar:

    Slide.com slideshow

    MySpace slideshow

    Which is good for Slide. I like their product a lot; they have a snappy UI and great MySpace integration. Anyone know whether this is a real partnership? If it isn’t, MySpace should be spanked for ripping off Slide’s design.

    Anyway, MySpace is slowly but surely continuing their drive towards demonetizing secondary market applications. I have a lot to say about all the Flash 9 stuff from last week that I’ll write about later today.

    Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

    Review: MySpace IM

    MySpace launched its instant messenger clone in beta a few months back and now it appears to be ready for prime time. I installed it and have a few thoughts on the product.

    Setup is easy, just download and install the application.

    However, adding friends is a big pain. The app doesn’t autopopulate your friends list, and there’s no feature to let you add all of them at once. Rather, clicking “Add Your Friends to IM” brings up your Friends, 20 per page, sorted (as usual) by date the person joined MySpace. (The way your FL is sorted, BTW, is one of my top pet peeves of the site, because it makes it really difficult to find people if you have large numbers of friends. Why can’t they institute alphabetical sorting already?) Since you can’t see all your friends on one page, you have to go page by page and click “add everyone on this page to IM” which, if you have 321 friends like I do, is a big pain in the ass. I had to do this 18 times.

    The second obvious flaw is that the application does not integrate with MySpace’s pre-existing IM feature. I’d expect that my Friends who are on MySpace currently would display within the IM application as “online now”. But this isn’t the case. Rather, in order to chat with your MySpace friends through the application, they need to install and configure it. So the IM is basically useless if your friends haven’t bothered to do so. As a result, the only one of my “friends” online is “Tom”.

    What works

    – Smooth interface without too much extraneous advertising; less intrusive than MSN or AIM (I use Trillian and Google Talk).
    – Makes it very easy to access various MySpace features
    – Plus, gives MySpace persistent desktop real estate.
    – Easy application installation

    What doesn’t work

    – Setting up friends is a big pain
    – Should integrate with pre-existing MySpace IM/PM features

    Overall: A great deal of room for improvement. I won’t be using this until enough of my friends install it for it to become compelling. MySpace should also realize that their early adopters on these types of technologies will likely be power users who have tons of friends, and adjust the UI accordingly.

    Technorati Tags: ,

    Page 1 of 2

    Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén