Monthly Archives: September 2006

Firefox 2.0 and the use of democratic features

Anti-phishing in Firefox

Lifehacker covers some of the new features of the upcoming Firefox 2.0. The fact that it will support google suggest and integrate with bloglines seem useful to me personally. A more interesting feature though is this anti-phishing/forgery one (pictured).

It seems to track phishing sites based on some central database, and people can “rate” a site as a forgery or not (I’m guessing by the “This isn’t a web forgery” link). I imagine it isn’t purely a human-generated list of sites, but I think the trend towards democratic, “wisdom of crowds“-type features is going to increase in browsers. Right now there are some Firefox plugins that fall into this category (stumbleupon comes to mind).

A lot of the web-2.0 apps these days rely on some democratic way for users to affect the experiences of the community. For example, if enough people digg a story it makes it to the front page, where it’s viewed by more people. It’s also common for even older sites like craigslist to offer features like “report this post as offensive” and rely on their user base to filter out content that might be inappropriate for other users.

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Hyperbole is a pet peeve of mine

Some uses of hyperbole bother me for no particularly good reason. For example, the description of the Opera web browser here states that Opera “runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and countless other platforms.” It then links “countless other platforms” to this page, which lists the 11 platforms that Opera supports.

See, counting them wasn’t that hard. I wonder at what point in that list they gave up and said “there are just too many here to count.” Although, they went a step beyond that, because rather than saying “several” or “more”, they went ahead and said “countless.” As if “it is simply impossible to enumerate the mind-boggling number of platforms that this product supports. You couldn’t even count them if you wanted to.”

It reminds me of the time when Schulte and I were in Vegas and he joked that he’d misplaced a bunch of chips in the room, and there’s “no telling” how much they’re worth. We then determined that there probably is a way – if we looked at each chip, noted the value written on it’s surface, and summed them.

A visual representation of screen resolution

Last year I had to make a table of how the various screen resolutions map to their cryptic acronyms, because I couldn’t find a nice consolidated list.

I just stumbled upon this sweet graphic at wikipedia which does a good job of showing them all. The red line represents 4:3 formats, and the purple line is for 16:9 (widescreen) formats.

Screen Resolutions

For reference, QVGA is what your iPod can display, XGA is probably what your computer is running, WUXGA is what my computers run, and WQXGA sounds like heaven. Well, maybe unreadably-tiny hell if your screen is 15″, but heaven if it’s 30″ Apple Cinema Display.

Programmable Soda – don’t make people think.

Gizmodo posted this article about a Massachusetts company who’s come up with the idea of a soda bottle that’s programmable. For example, if you wanted some cherry, and some lime, you could push some buttons and add flavors as necessary.

I think I dislike this idea for the same reason that I’m not enamoured with those restaurants where you pick your ingredients and they cook it for you. I’m not a cook. I know what I like to eat, but I don’t know how to make it. I don’t know what flavors go well together in various ratios. I go to a restaurant to have a cook do that work for me. I buy soda knowing that a bazillion people already taste-tested this thing, and it was good tasting enough that a company decided to spend a bunch of money putting it on the market. Once I find out I like it, I can buy it again and it will taste the exact same – every time.

Maybe there is someone who wants a soda with 3 squirts of cherry, one lemon, a hint of vanilla, and a half squeeze of lime. That reminds me of that Brian Regan bit about how donut places have this donut with chocoloate all over the top, but sprinkles only on half of it. As if there’s someone out there who’s so particular about their donut topping that they need the ingredients in those exact amounts. It’s called the “Sprink Smidge for Lunatics.”

Users want video downloads on the TV

ArsTechnica covers an Accenture study which reported:

The results found that nearly half (47 percent) of those surveyed in the US want to be able to download movies, TV shows, and other video content to their television sets, with even more of those surveyed globally (54 percent) wishing for such technology.

This starts to support some of the theories that Paul Graham espoused in his essay The Power of the Marginal:

The big media companies shouldn’t worry that people will post their copyrighted material on YouTube. They should worry that people will post their own stuff on YouTube, and audiences will watch that instead.

If we get to a point where people can rouinely get video-based content via the web on their TV, that starts to put network programming and user-generated content on a more even playing field. They will have to compete for user’s attention on the big(ger) screen.

Why the Rich Go Broke

There is an interesting article at the New York Times entitled Fortune’s Fools: Why the Rich Go Broke. There are some pretty crazy stories about people who have gone from incredible wealth to bankrupcy and near poverty.

One part of the article reminded me of the talk of leverage in the comments section of a recent blog post. F used the term “leverage” which I wasn’t familliar with in the context of finances. In the article, Warren Buffett is quoted using it when talking to a group of college students:

Warren E. Buffett told an audience at Notre Dame that debt and alcohol were ever-present culprits in financial demise. “I’ve seen more people fail because of liquor and leverage — leverage being borrowed money,” he said, according to a transcript of his comments. “You really don’t need leverage in this world much. If you’re smart, you’re going to make a lot of money without borrowing.

“I’ve never borrowed a significant amount of money in my life. Never,” he added. “Never will. I’ve got no interest in it. The other reason is I never thought I would be way happier when I had 2X instead of X.”

A real estate tycoon would probably have the exact opposite thing to say (with regard to leverage) but it’s an interesting statement nonetheless.

Nerd word of the day: Idempotence

I came across this word when reading about pipelining at mozilla.org. They used it casually, as if everyone knows what it means. I looked it up and it’s actually a useful word, at least in the context of computer science.

In computing, idempotence is the quality of something that has the same effect if used multiple times as it does if used only once…

There are a lot of times where knowing whether or not a function is idempotent would be handy, especially with stuff like character-escaping.

MySpace copping an attitude

Dare had an interesting post about how the COO of News Corp (parent company of MySpace) came out and said some disturbing things about MySpace’s role in the internet ecosystem.

From COO Peter Chernin:

“If you look at virtually any Web 2.0 application, whether its YouTube, whether it’s Flickr, whether it’s Photobucket…almost all of them are really driven off the back of MySpace, there’s no reason why we can’t build a parallel business.”

Pete Cashmore correctly points out that Flickr probably had little success on the back of MySpace. I’d also add that digg, del.icio.us, writely, gmail, google maps and the vast majority of Web 2.0 sites are not driven off the back of MySpace – so Chernin is making a huge overstatement. Admittedly though, Photobucket and YouTube are good examples of businesses MySpace could probably kill (or substantially wound) if they wanted to.

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