June 2007 Archives

i love this mouse!


For about two years now I've been using Microsoft's wireless optical notebook mouse, which I've really loved. I have small hands, and the notebook mouse fits me perfectly. The wirelessness keeps me from knocking things over with the cord (like cans of diet coke), which I used to do a lot. I wasn't in any hurry to replace it--it's held up like a champ under heavy usage and lots of travel. But when I got to MSR this summer, I was browsing the company store and saw the brand new Wireless Notebook Presenter Mouse 8000 (why 8000? who knows? who cares? silly msft naming people).

Why was this one so seductive? Look at it:


See those buttons on the bottom? You can use them to control a Powerpoint presentation! On Windows or a Mac! w00t!

I have the Mira software that lets me control a presentation using my Macbook Pro remote, but that (a) requires me to remember to bring and use two separate devices (the mouse and the remote), and (b) won't work when I'm using my Vaio (which I often travel with because it's so light).

And this mouse feels great to use. It's...dare I say it?...sexy! Sleek, silky, smooth. Just the right weight and shape. Lovely.

I told someone a few months ago that my Windows Mobile phone was the only Microsoft-powered item that I had any kind of emotional attachment to, but I'd forgotten what a kick-ass job they do on mice, too...

supernova 07: clay shirky's "provocations"

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Clay starts by showing a photo of a Shinto shrine that has been rebuilt exactly many times over 1300 years. UNESCO won’t certify it as a 1300-year-old building--because it has been rebuilt over and over again. This is an example of them prioritizing "solidity of edifice, not solidity of process."

He then compares it to a conversation fifteen years ago with AT&T, trying to convince them that Perl was an appropriate tool for development. When asked where the support came from, he responded that "we get our support from a community"--which to them sounded a bit like “we get our Thursdays from a banana."

Money quote on this from Clay: "They didn't care that it didn't work in practice, because they'd already decided it didn't work in theory."

Perl, he says, is a Shinto shrine. It exists because people love it and care for it.

Best line of the day: Our tools turn love into a renewable building material.

Best predictor of longevity for anything—do the people who like it take care of it?

Linux gets rebuilt every night, by people who don't want it to wither away.

Until recently, the radius and half-life of our affection has been limited. In the past, little things could be done with love, but big things required money. Now, big things can be done with love.

Later in the discussion, Clay says the communication process (Delphi, etc) is a kind of a mcguffin. The bringing people together and getting them to talk to each other is the important piece. Denise argues that "the process needs to come to a conclusion that gives the decision maker what they need to make a decision" (and that they resolve conflict).

An audience member asks if there is there social software we can deploy to fix problems with cross-cultural communication snafus? Denise: "Expedia." (nice)

supernova panel on "virtual life or virtual hype?"

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Raph Koster leads off, saying that "3D is a red herring," and that most of the people in virtual worlds at this point are playing games.

Rueben Steiger from "millions of us" says that "people like 3D environments," that we "think in 3D" and thus the 3D internet is inevitable. The numbers now aren't important, he claims.

Clay Shirky says that the aspect to look at is game vs non-game. Games have led the way in adoption of virtual worlds. We're not headed towards general purpose virtual worlds, but rather towards specific implementations for specific purposes, and games are a prime example of that.

Raph points out that 3D, 2D, text is not the issue. ("It's all bullshit. It's irrelevant.") We've had text-based vws for a long time. If there isn't stuff TO DO, people go away. If there is stuff TO DO, they stay. If there isn't something useful TO DO, that's unique to that environment, it won't work. (Chat won't keep people in VWs, for example.)

(This seems to me to be very accurate for adults, perhaps not as much so for kids.)

Rueben claims that SL is a game, because life is a game. It's just a really really broad game. The inflection point for user adoption is around 3.5 hours...before that, attrition is high, after it's low. Funneling people to compelling content doesn't do it. Having them meet people does.

Clay says "I've never in my life bet against the users." The users are getting left behind by SL. The attrition both short and long term is significant. He says that games are cognitively special, and that game-like situations cannot be trivially imported into work (or the reverse).

Rueben says that registered users isn't the important statistic, it's number of hours of system use...which has been going up.

Raph calls bullshit on all them. Hours of use are measures of devotion, but not measures of adoption. Need to ask "of recurring users what percentage are coming back month after month?" There are industry standard methods for measuring this. To industry insiders, the LL numbers look wrong.

An audience member says that he wishes the panel would quit talking about Second Life.

Rueben proposes a grid with two axes--social to entertainment, and 2D to 3D.

Clay notes that we have seen over and over again that communication cannot be a perfect substitute for transportation.

Raph does a quick history of social virtual worlds. Too hard to encapsulate. Says that the 3D worlds folks seem to think they're going to "swallow the web"--and he thinks they're wrong.

Some discussion about federated vs scattered identity. Identity in a utility form is not the same as identity in an avatar or personality form.

Raph points out that virtual worlds and virtual reality have almost no overlap in practice. VW designers are not informed by VR research. What matters fundamentally is emotion, not representation; communication, not representation. Making representation better isn't the point.

An audience member asks if Facebook is a VW--Raph says that the dividing line is whether there's a modeling of "space"--is there north, west, east, south in Facebook?

Clay: screens are not the path to simulating being in a room. "Jaron Lanier is the Charles Babbage of our generation."

Time's running out, and I've left a ton out. This was a five-star panel. Smart, funny, articulate people who really know the field. One of the reason my notes are sketchy is because I was really engaged in listening...

southward ho!

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I woke up this morning dreading the day. Tomorrow I leave for six days in California (two in Irvine, four in San Francisco), and I desperately needed a haircut and a new wardrobe before I left. It seemed unlikely that either of those goals were achievable in the one day available to me, but I finally dragged myself out of bed a little after 9 and made what I figured would be the first in a series of futile calls to get an appointment with a stylist. To my amazement, the Pro Club said they could get me in with a stylist at 10:30! So I headed over there, got my ID card taken care of, and had my hair cut by Kelly, who did a wonderful job!

Buoyed, I then went to Crossroads Mall, where I struck out on clothes, but did find some attractive and comfortable sandals and shoes. Still needing presentable clothes for the trip, I decided to give Bellevue Square Mall a try, even though in the past I've found that the clothes there have been too expensive for my tastes, and designed mostly for supermodel-sized women.

What I found, however, was an abundance of beautiful petite-sized clothes (Banana Republic has an entire petite store! And J.Jill has almost as many petites as regular sized clothes), along with incredible sale prices. I ended getting four pairs of beautiful pants, and seven assorted tops--all petite-sized and nicely cut. So I won't be bringing my schlumpy, baggy wardrobe of jeans and fleece tops with me this week.

All in all, it was an excellent day. Very seldom do I do this kind of self-indulgent shopping, and it was miraculous that I found so many beautiful and well-fitting clothes at reasonable prices. Let's hope this is a good omen for the trip!

booyah kodak!

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Via my colleague Neil Hair comes this fabulous video by Kodak, originally intended for internal employee distribution but made available via Youtube for the rest of us. Very, very (intentionally) funny.

macbook pro network problems?


I'm trying to figure out if the problem I'm currently experiencing is a function of my cable modem, my macbook pro, or neither.

When I first go online with my new cable modem and my mbp (whether I'm directly connected via an ethernet cable or using an airport express for wifi), the speeds are fine. But if I'm on for more than an hour, the speeds gradually begin to slow down. It's most obvious if I'm playing WoW, since it gives me latency in milliseconds, and I can see it creep up. But it's also causing all other net-related apps to slow, and traceroutes are sluggish.

If I reboot the mbp, everything goes back to normal again, and speeds are fine.

A couple of technical people have told me that "there's no way" the mbp could be causing the network slowdown, but the fact that I can consistently repeat the process of rebooting the machine and having the network speeds immediately improve seems awfully suspicious.

Any suggestions as to what could be causing the problem, or what utilities I could use to better diagnose it?

I am planning on taking the mbp in to the Apple Store this weekend because there are other annoying things (the frequent wifi connection problems I mentioned a few weeks ago, a loud whirring noise from either the fan or the hard drive, problems with the screen not coming back after sleep, etc). But the more specific I can be when telling them what's wrong, the more likely it is that they might actually fix it :)

home sweet home away from home

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It was a lovely weekend in Seattle, which Gerald and I spent getting me settled into the new apartment, and celebrating our fourteenth wedding anniversary with a dinner cruise on board the Royal Argosy. It was hard to walk out the door this morning and say goodbye, but I know he'll be back in just three weeks.

The apartment is quite nice. Not luxurious, but very well located. We're two blocks from the Redmond Library (where I went tonight to get my card), and across the street from a plaza with a grocery store, game store, Hollywood Video, and chinese takeout. And we're adjacent to the Sammamish River Trail, which is making me seriously consider learning to rollerblade. There's a pool just outside our balcony, which will be great for the kids, but means that we get an awful lot of noise throughout the day from people frolicking. Still, if you have to have noise, joyful noise is the best kind.

Today was new employee orientation. While they claim it has been significantly revamped since I went through it just 23 months ago, it didn't seem that way to me. And again, as a visiting researcher I fall through all the cracks--they ended up once again putting me in the intern group, where I feel completely out of place.

I go back again tomorrow for just a half day, and then (finally) get to head to MSR. I'm so looking forward to getting to work with Lili, and seeing so many of the people I got to know when I was here before.

This week will be spent working primarily on the planning for the '07 social computing symposium, which is going to be in September. After that, I've got a couple of ideas for what I can work on that I need to bounce off of Lili before I start talking about them here. But never fear, more blogging is near. With the boys away, I'll have more time than usual for both reading and writing in blogs.

oh no! not my phone!


Our flights arrived safely in Seattle today (Gerald and I took different flights, since having him travel on the same flight as me was ridiculously expensive), but as we were leaving the airport my phone fell out of my bag and landed directly under the wheel of our heavily laden luggage cart.



The SIM doesn't appear to have been damaged, but the phone is mutilated beyond repair. So, I've got to decide what to do about replacing it. We're not due for a phone upgrade from Cingular for quite a while, so I'll have to buy one outright. Not sure yet what route to take...buying online (eBay or a discount retailer) makes the most sense financially, but it would mean a delay before I have a working phone. Buying it locally would be fast, but expensive.

Rats, rats, rats. Such awful timing!


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I leave in less than 24 hours, and I've only begun to pack. Ack!

More from the left coast once I settle in a bit...

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