Sunday, July 11, 2010

Can Digg Come Back?

Digg v4

Turns out that I'm doing well enough after the surgery to blog, so thought I'd put together a little post since last week was a bit light on the news.

I didn't want to talk about it until it was actually in production, but several people have gotten their eyes on the next iteration of Digg, and it's definitely a bigger change than previous upgrades. The question is, is it enough to reinvigorate Digg? Unlike a lot of other folks, I really don't think Digg is dying - not by a long shot. They still get a lot of traffic, they've just been on a decline. Despite the fact that the new Digg looks way too much like Facebook, I think it has a ton of potential and is the best direction to take the social news site in.

Currently, Digg works by just having stories voted up by its users within various categories so that you read the news that the masses deem most interesting. However, this process has proven to be flawed as the wisdom of the masses isn't always so wise and often skewed by people who you don't agree with (i.e. fanboyism is rampant). The new paradigm unashamedly takes a little from Facebook and more from Twitter in that you follow individual sites and users to get the stories that they think are valuable instead of the general rabble. This is one of the few application of social networking these days that actually makes sense. I think most of us talk to our friends about some story they saw or read about and want to share on almost a daily basis, so Digg would be ideal for that.

Another cool feature is that websites can automatically submit their newest stories to Digg. I think this can add up to a winning combination for Digg. By getting the content providers more involved and empowering the little guy, I think they can bring back a lot of people that have probably left Digg in recent years. All they have to do is make sure it gets publicized well enough. If this doesn't work though, it could potentially be the beginning of the end for Digg, but I think Digg would have a pretty long tail even then.

Twitter and e-Commerce

Twitter is trying a new way to make money, but it's a rather unoriginal idea: twitter feeds for retail deals. This has been done by Amazon and several other sites as well as a ton of small businesses already. It's not that it's a bad idea, but I think it's bad that it took them this long to put something like this together. It's not the best sign of Twitter's future if they're this behind the curve.

YouTube Leanback and 2304p

I like how often YouTube experiments with new things. Last week two cool features were revealed. One of them is called Leanback, which feels an awful lot like a precursor to Google TV. It basically lets you experience YouTube on a bigger screen, or even just on your computer screen but with minimal user interaction unlikely typical YouTube browsing. It provides better flow between videos you'd be interested in given your subscriptions and viewing history, and you can search and immediately consume videos from your search results.

Less cool, because it's less useful, is the ability for YouTube to support more than 1080p resolution: 2304p (4096 x 2304). Very few people have displays that support this and is probably more ideal for a small theater than your living room, but I do like that YouTube is thinking big.

iPad Ad Second Look

For the record: I think the iPad is really cool for what it is. I have no desire to get one because I know I'd play with it for a while and then never touch it, but it is compelling. Still, I can't resist pointing out this analysis of an ad showing a scene from Star Trek on the device in a better format than you'd see in real life. Apple did this also with Flash on the iPad - why do they keep fudging their ads like this if they already have a product that makes people piss their pants? It's just in poor taste, and it's disappointing. The one thing I've always come to expect from Apple is quality, even in their advertising. The antenna scandal with the newest iPhone and iPad chicanery like this is just unfortunate.

Other Stuff

There are a couple of stories I noted that I found interesting but have nothing to say about, really.

Java developer is now one of the most difficult positions to fill in IT. It's ironic how many more people know C/C++ than Java given how much more confusing they are, in my opinion.

Facebook has bought Nextstop, which is in the business of user-generated destination guides.

Have a sunny week, everyone!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Apple's iPhone Launch Under Fire

You're Holding it Wrong

Believe it or not, I'm tired of doing derogatory Apple stories. Still, this has been too big a story to pass up, so I'm going to speak my piece about the iPhone 4 launch and keep it brief.

As is now pretty famous, it turns out that holding the iPhone 4 naturally affects the antenna such that you lose some signal and may be more prone to drop calls. AT&T is notorious in many parts of the country for dropped calls, so this is a pretty big drawback to a release that a lot of users seemed pretty pumped for, especially since a lot of folks skipped out on the 3GS in anticipation of it. This is a company that has built its entire brand on great design, so something like this is really an unacceptable blow to their brand.

If they just dealt with it responsibly, I don't think it'd be such a big story because I'm sure that for many people it isn't actively a huge problem. Instead though, they're claiming that a software glitch is to blame and, literally, that people shouldn't put their palm on the bottom part of the phone. What's truly outrageous is that they're selling a bumper that fixes the problem. So they knew far in advance that this was going to be a problem and decided to sell a way overpriced solution instead of giving it away for free. It's amazing how many people are ok with buying this thing. I personally wouldn't get one just out of principle until they gave a free solution. I know not all iPhone users are that silly, but I'm a fan of this really funny video criticizing an iPhone buyer. Too bad the guy who made it was fired from Best Buy, but Best Buy's terrible customer experience and management is a story for another day.

I'm not usually a big fan of class action lawsuits because they're often stupid, but I'm glad people are filing them against Apple for this. It's terrible to think that they can get away with selling an obviously flawed product. It's just unethical. It's like selling a car that explodes at the slightest touch knowing how unsafe it is *cough*Ford*cough*.

Aside from this flaw, the new iPhone seems like a cool product. Face Time is surely going to bring about many more phones with video chat, and the improved screen is going to lead to more competition in screen quality, as well. It's a bigger evolution than the 3GS was.

Hello Samsung Epic, Goodbye Kin

It looks like Sprint may finally be getting a cool Android phone with a physical keyboard soon: the Samsung Epic 4G. I'm sad to say that it may end up being my next phone if Palm doesn't come up with an improved Pre (I just need it faster and with better battery life). Engadget got their hands on it and it seems pretty damn snappy. I don't know if Samsung has the best track record, but I think Samsung has enough really solid products on the market in general (especially TVs) that they can still recover.

Sadly, it looks like Kin is a different story. Well, maybe it's not so sad since the Kin was an odd little device. Microsoft has finally axed the little feature phone that couldn't. While that article from Ars is a pretty great summary of the situation, my own take on the situation is that Microsoft was building for a market that didn't really exist anymore, partially because their product cycles are so long and they started work on it back when a successor to the Sidekick made sense. Microsoft has so many great engineers, they're just being mis-managed as a whole with these long product cycles and silly strategic decisions. I think it'd do a lot better to split up into a few key pieces that operate independently and try and drive down some of the politics.

YouTube and iTunes Hacked

The YouTube "hack" is actually pretty simple, but still an interesting story. They were susceptible to an injection attack, which just means that YouTube didn't sanitize comments well enough to check for people writing scripts in the comments and have them execute each time the page is loaded. This could mean a pop-up alert box telling you that Justin Bieber is dead. I'm pretty surprised it wasn't discovered sooner since that's a pretty obvious problem, but it could be that people knew and didn't make it publicly known.

What's much worse though is a still-developing story on reviews being doctored in iTunes by accounts getting hacked to buy hundreds of dollars worth of apps and write one-word reviews. What was once believed to be a single person turns out to be somewhat of a conspiracy as multiple people are apparently doing this. It's likely that Apple has known about this and kept it quiet, but whatever the case may be it definitely casts doubts on how controlled iTunes really is. Don't be too hard on Apple though: it's inevitable that the biggest app store would get targetted by disingenuous people like this.

There's actually one more security story, but admittedly less interesting. Foursquare had a security hole allowing people's private check-ins to be seen publicly. It was later dealt with, but the response time was definitely disturbing. Just another example showing that no matter what you set your privacy at online websites, you can't be 100% sure that it's protected.

Big Decision for YouTube

This story is a bit old, but didn't get a whole lot of coverage despite how big of a deal it is. A district court ruled that YouTube is immunity from being sued by Viacom for copyright infringement because they remove infringing material as soon as they're notified it. Basically, the fact that infringing content can be posted to YouTube is legal as long as YouTube takes down infringing content, but this is not enough for Viacom or the RIAA, who really want blood.

How do these people sleep at night? I can't believe that there are people out there who subscribe to this nonsense that the Internet should be on lockdown so that the rich can get richer.


Ok, it's been a long week so I'm exhausted and need to get to bed soon, but there are a bunch of stories I don't have time to really discuss from the past couple of weeks that I think are still worthwhile.

CNN Money interviewed Jeff Bezos and I just loved his answer to what revs him up. He's really one of the greatest CEOs of our time.

Another low-key story that I think is really important is that some are pushing for HDBaseT to replace HDMI, which adds Internet connectivity to the audiovisual equation and looks very similar to Cat 5 cables.

Amazon has acquired deals site Woot, and their internal memo regarding it is really priceless. When I first read it at the office I was literally laughing out loud and distracting some co-workers.

It's been rumored for a while and is now official: Hulu is rolling out Hulu Plus for people who want Hulu as it is now, plus back-episodes from shows' entire runs. If they had more shows, I don't think that'd be such a bad deal, but I don't know what'd keep you from just getting it for a month and watching the entirety of whatever show you're interested in. Anyway, it's $10 a month, and ads are still going to roll.

Amazon dropped the price of the Kindle to $189 and has released a new Kindle DX in black graphite at a new price of $379. From what I hear from current DX users, the new case is going to help with making it even more readable in bright light. Oh, and the old one is $20 cheaper.

If you're shopping for a new ISP, PC World has a great study of ISP speeds across the country based on people's broadband speed tests. Looks like Verizon FiOS is the winner in many areas - too bad they have atrocious customer service.

If you're shopping for an HD TV, Maximum PC has some excellent tips for you.

If you're a Java developer, you pretty much have to watch this trailer for "Java 4-Ever". It's not what you may think it is, it's much funnier. Not entirely NSFW, but mostly is.

Ok, I'm having my wisdom teeth removed this weekend so I anticipate being in too much pain to blog next week, but will try to post the following week. Peace out!