Random thoughts on startups, tech, and life in general... mostly written late at night...
In addition to my interest in tech stuff - I am also an avid sailor. Since December I have been sailing a Spiral. This is a fun class - a lot like a laser (if you know what they are) - except a tad smaller.
So I have learnt a lot over the past couple of months - and since there isn’t a lot of content on line about Spiral sailing, I am going to add some here.
I met with some success at the recent NSW State Titles (3rd overall, 2 heat wins and a 3rd). Before that I had a pretty ordinary showing at the National Titles. I mention this simply to set the context for any comment I may make.
I plan/hope to post on a couple of different topics:
There seems to be a huge uproar about the internet’s assault on my privacy.
At the very same time the internet is stealing hours and hours of precious time, checking for news, reading facebook and twitter and so on. And this theft is in many cases deliberate. (I posted some thoughts about ‘desire’ and the internet recently.)
Why is there no uproar about the assault on my time? It seems to me that loss of privacy that may cause ‘potential harm’ is of little consequence compared to ‘actual time’ I am losing. So if giving Google some increased access to my personal data allows them to make their services more useful and relevant for me it seems like a good trade.
I was looking for a quote to close this post. A recently famous Steve Jobs quote came to mind, but instead a far older one is appropriate:
“If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be the greatest prodigality.” - Benjamin Franklin
I have spent some time recently working with Angular.js and thought I would record some thoughts. In particular I was working on an RSS Reader type application with ‘infinite scrolling’ functionality. So in dot points:
So overall, for a dynamic application involving both reading and writing of dynamic data Angular.js could well make you life a lot easier. For predominantly ‘read only’ applications it may not be the right fit.
There seems to be a debate about advertising as a business model. I have been thinking about this on an off long but was inspired to write this post by Fred Wilson’s recent post. My comment is to ask a question: Why is it that content publishers get to sell access to my eyeballs to advertisers? I understand that for ‘traditional mass media’ there is no practical way for me as a consumer to sell that access directly to an advertiser….. but in the enlightened internet age, why can’t I have a direct relationship with the advertisers and decide who gets access to my eyeballs… why does a content publisher get this exclusive right?
A thought just occurred to me….. That is a surprisingly pleasant experience… When a thought occurs I consider if I should tweet it…. sometimes I do. Sometimes though the thought is hard to express in 140 characters… maybe I should blog about it…. maybe I should flesh it out some more…. and then ir normally dies - blog post never written… So today I am starting on a concerted mission to blog more regularly - but in a shorter, less well formed format…. At least then it might get done!
Just a quick note in case anyone else finds themselves in the same position.
I have just recently set up the excellent Sublime Text 2. One of the appeals of using this editor was sharing the one set-up across my Windows desktop, my Macbook Pro and the various Ubuntu virtual machines that I run in Virtualbox.
All was going swimmingly until I tried to set a convenient font size. The font size that looked right on the Linux guest (on the Macbook Pro) looked too small on the Macbook. To cut a long story short - I found no great answer.
In this configuration the difference was caused by a different dpi setting for the two systems. The native Mac was working with a 72dpi, and the Ubuntu virtualbox was working with 96dpi. There didn’t seem to be any way to dpi setting for Ubuntu. The closest I got was change the text scaling factor as so:
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.interface text-scaling-factor X
I tried setting X to 0.75 (75dpi / 96dpi). This made all of the system fonts smaller. So then I was able to set larger system fonts on the Ubuntu guest that looked about the same size as they did on the Macbook Pro host - for most applications. (e.g. Terminal and gEdit.) However for some unknown reason, Sublime Text 2 did not seem to recognise this change in any way. (I am guessing this is because I did not acutally change the dpi in the Ubuntu vm - just changed the text scaling… and Sublime Text must be referencing the dpi in some way.)
So where I am at now is setting the text-scaling-factor back to 1 (so that within Ubuntu, font sizes with Sublime and other apps are aligned) - and having to manually change (increase) font size whenever I switch to editing within OS X.
So if anyone reads this after spending an hour or two looking for a solution…. feel consoled that you are not alone.
And if you happen to know a better answer - I would really like to know it.
Lots of people seem to worry about being profiled by their use of the ‘net. ‘Big data’ is coming to analyse your every click, tweet and post for someone else’s benefit. This is captured in the ‘if you are not paying, you are the product’ soundbite that reverberates around the internet.
Some people obviously go to great extremes to maintain their anonymity online - but it seems pretty hard to do this without losing some value. (I am not going to get a huge amount of value from Facebook if I don’t have an account - and log in occasionally.)
So if we must leave a trail of data behind us on the internet I wonder if it is possible to leave a trail that is so full of noise that it is essentially useless for profiling? In engineer-speak - can enough artificial ‘noise’ be added to my online activities so as to make the signal difficult for these algorithms to extract. In the case of Google Search for example, would a computer issuing fake queries on a massive range of topics be able to limit Google’s ability to identify the ‘real’ queries.
Probably just hair-brained idea with no practicality - but it is sort of interesting to imagine what would happen. This thinking has been inspired by the recent Twitter vs app.net dichotomy that has already had too much said about it… The choice that is being portrayed is between an organisation that will make decisions in the best interests of advertisers, vs an organised that has promised to do it differently. But if I always retained control of my data - then I would not have to rely on promises…
In all the hoopla about Twitter’s continual clamp down on the use of its API (including by such people as Dalton Caldwell, Fred Wilson and I am sure many others) there has been much debate about ad supported vs paid services. There has also been some debate about developing competitive alternatives to Twitter, including Dalton Caldwell’s app.net and proposals to build upon existing open protocols (such as by Dave Winer).
My less than 2c contribution to this discussion is to wonder aloud about the market dynamics of ‘social media’/’user generated’ content sites. What is it about these ‘new media’ that seems to promote a ‘winner takes all’ dynamic. How many ‘twitter copycats’ are there? Yet ‘conventional media’ has many competitors… say mainstream daily print newspapers supported many competitors vying for ad dollars and customer dollars simultaneously. In this analogy I don’t see Facebook and Twitter as competitors… Twitter is like the daily news compared the the ‘weekly glossy’ of Facebook.
The relatively high switching cost (setting up accounts, finding people to follow and so on) compared to traditional media (buying a different newspaper, or flicking channels on a remote) seem to be pretty key to me. All of which brings an example that will be familiar to anyone with the slightest notion of Eric Ries and the Lean Startup ‘thing’ - and that example is IM. Eric often talks about his experience building on top of existing IM networks only to discover that his customers actually preferred to have multiple networks managed by an ‘all-in-one’ client.
Will we get such all-in-one clients? It is quite likely that these will be on Twitter’s hit-list in terms of any API crackdown. But without this, it would seem we will be limited to ‘one provider per media’. And replacing the incumbents is a lot bigger ask than simply providing a competitive alternative.
I found something very useful for me today that I only just discovered: Google Search settings.
On the Google search results page (not the home page) there is a little gear icon in the top right that lets you change some search settings. There are a few handy ones in there - but there was one real eye-opener for me: “Where Results Open”. When this is selected - if you click on a google search result it opens in a new window/tab - instead of the current one. This might sound trivial - but it will save me countless Right-click…. Open as New Tab operations!!