Four short posts: 12 May 2009

[Stealing Nat’s “Four short” format again…]

  1. I went to Google and searched for a non-location-specific term today (I can’t be more specific since the search was for a birthday present for my wife, but let’s pretend it was “baseball cards,” since that was the general form — a noun with nothing geographically-specific about it). On the first page of results was a list of shops in my neighborhood that sell that thing (in our pretend example, baseball card trading stores). The specificity of the local results was quite good. Now, I know full well that my IP address identifies my location all too accurately, and that Google and many other sites track that information — and I’ve known that for a long time. Nonetheless, seeing my neighborhood right there in the search results made me want to never use any Google site again. Call it “uncanny valley” or “rubbing your face in it” or whatever you want — it was just too close to home in the most literal sense. I’m off trying Yahoo Search as an alternative — not that I have any reason to believe Yahoo treats such data any differently, but simply because having alternatives is a good thing. (For the record, I’m a noted privacy freak and I don’t pretend to speak for anyone else on this topic. I know that resistance is futile. I continue to believe that there is a great divide on sensitivity about privacy — you’ve either had your identity stolen or been stalked or had some great intrusion you couldn’t fend off, or you haven’t. I’m in the former camp and it colors the way I view and think about privacy online. It makes me indescribably sad to see how clearly I and others in my camp are losing this battle.)
  2. I’d really like to end up on Wrong Tomorrow for predicting that the iPhone OS will be dominant for the next decade. Who knows? Prediction is completely impossible, which is one of the things that makes life fun. The tech industry seems particularly predictable, though, in that it just keeps acting in waves. The iPhone OS seems to be playing its cards right. Go ahead, commenters, freak out like you did the last time I said this. :)
  3. I noted to a friend the other day (while encouraging him to go work there) that I measured Twitter’s value by seeing Tweetie (an awesome iPhone Twitter client) ascend to one of the four apps in the bottom bar of my iPhone. Those bottom bar apps are the ones I use all the time (the others being the phone, SMS, and email apps). Tweetie replaced Safari, the web browser, which is pretty amazing as a symbolic shift. No other third-party app — including my own company’s app — has made it into the bottom bar for me. Who says Twitter isn’t valuable?
  4. In contrast, using Twitter makes Facebook like watching repeats on local TV when you’re home sick. I really hope the automated and out-of-control cross-posting comes to an end soon. Facebook wins for posting private messages and having inline replies; Twitter wins by letting you see the data some way other than through the official orifice (desktop clients, iPhone apps, SMS, etc). I would accept separate message streams for different types of data; or the death of Facebook in my friend group — whatever. Unfortunately I doubt I’ll get either wish.