Monthly Archives: March 2009

Sucks-Rocks

Sucks-Rocks is a neat site which does a basic web search for the term(s) you specify, and tells you if the things people say about it are generally positive (ex. “X rocks”, “X is sweet”) or negative (ex. “X sucks”, “X is lame”).

I was curious on what people thought of Netbooks, since my feeling is that they’re pretty useless.

Interestingly, the search results for “netbook” and “netbooks” are completely different. “Netbook” is highly rated (9.6) and “Netbooks” is not (5.6). I assume this is because when people use the singular form, they’re talking about a Netbook they own (ex. “My netbook rocks”) vs. the plural which is from bloggers like me who’ve never used one (ex. “Netbooks suck”).

That makes me curious as to whether or not people find them useful after buying one. Or alternatively, if the results are being skewed by people who generally commend the thing they’ve dropped a few hundred bucks on so they don’t feel so bad. That phenomenon is part of what makes high-end electronics reviews so hard to interpret. It’s tough for someone who just spend $3k on a plasma TV go online and say the picture is “just ok.”

BrightKite for Dodgeball users

Now that Dodgeball is gone, here’s a short guide on how you can replicate the Dodgeball experience in BrightKite.

Friendship

The notion of friendship is more complicated than Dodgeball’s. First, in order for people to see your exact location, you’ll need to make them a trusted friend. Also, how you receive their checkins and posts is configurable on a friend-by-friend basis. If you want to receive all checkins from all friends via SMS, you’ll need to choose “Edit Friendship” for each user and set that. So, in short:

  1. Make each of your friends “trusted”
  2. Choose to receive their posts and checkins via SMS

Strangers

There are a bunch of features that deal with meeting new people, and being alerted when other BrightKite users are in your vicinity. This is configurable under Account Settings -> Notifications -> Nearby Notifications. You can theoretically use this single area to control notifications from all of your friends, but because it’s location-centric (“only let me know when people check in within x kilometers from me”) the only way to replicate Dodgeball’s behavior is to configure your friends on a user-by-user basis, above. So, that’s how I do it.

SMS

They have very similar SMS commands to Dodgeball, including the @ notation for checking in and ! notation for posts (nearest equivalent to the Dodgeball “shout out”).

Locations

The way they do locations (ex. @viceroy) is similar to how Dodgeball did it in the old days – that is, they validate that they know the location you’re requesting in a database before allowing the checkin. You can create custom-named places (called “placemarks”) like this: search on their site for the thing you want to check in to, by address (ex. “1501 Pike Pl Seattle, WA 98101″) on the resulting page you’ll be able to add that address as a Placemark and give it a friendly name (ex. “Pike Place Market”). When you’re out somewhere you can also type “MARK friendlyname” to create a placemark for your current location. I think those methods only create a placemark for you but they have a hack for creating public placemarks as well.

Cool New Features

It had a few things dodgeball didn’t…

  • You can define a “Quiet Time” when you don’t want to receive SMSs… good if you have friends who check in at the airport at 7am.
  • Rather than having everyone check in at the same place, on person can checkin and the others can just text “JOIN username” to replicate their checkin.
  • It has a full iPhone app that’s pretty sharp
  • You can add pictures to your checkin, which go into the friendstream and also, optionally, can be sent to flickr.

Why not…

  • Google Latitude? They currently don’t support iPhones, nor (to my knowledge) do they offer a basic SMS interface for people with older phones.
  • Twitter? It’s not location-centric and your posts go to everyone who follows you.
  • Loopt? Was, at least for a while, very iPhone-centric. It looks like it’s on more phones now though. I just haven’t heard much about it recently. Also, when I was using it the model seemed a bit different. You didn’t “check in” so much as you opened it and it broadcasted your location. There were options to post messages though.
  • FourSquare, from the creators of Dodgeball? We’ll see what it’s about when it’s released, hopefully soon.

C-SPAN

I’ve always found C-SPAN interesting, but not engaging enough to sit down and watch most times. Occasionally they’ll have a good show on, but often they’ll just show live footage of the House or Senate which can be pretty slow.

Yesterday it occurred to me that I could stream it at work and listen while I worked, which I did all day. It was interesting, and worth doing again. Among the things I heard:

  • One congresswoman reading from a Dr. Seuss book, and explaining how important reading is. It was the National Education Association’s Read Across America day.
  • The White House Daily Briefing with Obama’s Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. This time was spent in part with him answering questions about recent comments from Jim Cramer (who said Obama has caused “the greatest wealth destruction I have seen by a president.”) and recent comments from Rush Limbaugh. There were also a number of questions which could be paraphrased as “Obama said [insert vague statement here] about the economy, what precisely [did he mean / will he do] about about that?” which were largely answered by some degree of clarification, and usually some promise about him releasing more details soon.
  • There was a fairly lengthy debate about re-authorizing the “Civil War Battlefield Preservation Act” which from what I gathered is some spending bill regarding battlefields in the South.
  • There was some discussion of the economy taking place, but I don’t know under what context (that is, I don’t know if the legislators were voting on something.) I was amazed at the lack of depth in discourse. People were just re-iterating soundbites such as “Socialism is great until you run out of other people’s money.” Not so much a debate as a battle of catchphrases.

I’m currently listening to a debate as to whether or not March should be considered “National Criminal Awareness Month”. And, I’m not joking, Rep Zoe Lofgren from California just said that it would help make Americans more aware of how harmful crime is.

It’s eye-opening to see how congress spends it’s time, and how they conduct themselves. I’m hoping that if I listen enough I’ll have a better understanding of how things work there. At present I cannot understand why someone would stand up and read from “Oh the places you’ll go.” I’m not trying to be critical, I genuinely don’t understand why.