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    Sunday, April 26, 2009

    Goodbye, Internet of My Youth

    It's a day a younger me would never have thought would come: Geocities has closed. As I stop and think about it, it's mind boggling.

    My first real foray into the Internet and online social interaction was roleplaying in chatrooms on AOL, circa 1996. I was a real geeky kid (no surprise) and my love of tabletop roleplaying, anime, and console RPGs found chatroom roleplaying a potent drug. I created several characters whose lives were just as real to me as my own, who I lived through, and events in their lives I'll always remember.

    Every character on AOL had their own profile within their account, but some had a separate character profile on AOL Hometown or Geocities. This was back when HTML was incredibly impressive and the people with these custom created webpages were the dedicated gamers. A couple of cribbed pictures of vampires, drawings of castles, and white text on a black HTML background was the coolest thing around. I eventually got on the bandwagon and created my own, complete with my character sheet, a layout for my character's house, and a list of my adventures. It was unfortunately deleted after I stopped logging in years ago but if I close my eyes I can still remember the layout and the red-on-black text.

    These primitive webpages are a vivid part of my teenage memories, and so it is with heavy heart that I pour one out for my homey, Geocities.

    Yahoo Quietly Pulls The Plug On Geocities

    RIP GeoCities, You Will Be Missed

    Thursday, April 23, 2009

    Photo Odyssey

    I'd like to take a moment to highlight the Japan side of things going on. I admit I don't take as many pictures as I should, particularly when friends ask what I've been up to. It's a combination of typically not carrying around a camera on me and unique things becoming normal the longer I'm here.

    There are however a number of great photo blogs about Japan online and my particular favorite is Tokyo Times.

    The blogger/photographer behind Tokyo Times, Lee Chapman, has a tendency to take pictures uncommon even for us expats. Sure, there's the occasional fun Engrish shot (most recently this great find) but by and large his photos highlight the unseen, underappreciated sights of life in Japan. He takes candid shots of Tokyo inhabitants going about their daily lives that are my personal favorites, and explores ruined places for a glimpse at a Japan recently passed.

    If you're interested to see what day-to-day life is like in this country, I highly recommend going to Tokyo Times.

    Wednesday, April 22, 2009

    Battle of the Twitterers

    Recently while logging into Twitter to add a friend I noticed a small advertisement for TweetDeck, what I assume is Twitter's in-house desktop interface. Being a long-time user of Twhirl I decided to check out its features and see if it might be worth making the switch.


    • Separation of Tweets, replies, and direct messages into separate columns is a nice improvement over the occasionally confusing one-column view Twhirl uses.

    • Mimics Twhirl's retweet/actions mouseover on friends' icons which is a great idea. I always like it when originators humbly integrate a competitor's superior features/improvements, such as IE's adoption of Firefox-like tabs.

    • The ability to make groups of friends and separate accordingly may be useful for those users with a huge number of friends.

    • You can add your facebook status updates (apparently Twhirl can do this through FriendFeed, but I'm having some trouble setting up my Facebook updates in friendfeed) TweetDeck does allow you to update to Facebook as well.


    • It's almost too big. With all the numerous columns and the larger size of Tweets, compared to Twhirl, I feel like I need to be using TweetDeck maximized on my external 24" monitor.

    • The close dialog for columns is downright frightening, asking if you really want to "delete" the column, and telling you "this action cannot be undone - choose wisely". All its doing is closing the column and you can reopen it by the corresponding button at the top.

    • Facebook support is great and a good addition considering the current popularity of the service. However I prefer my FriendFeed window in Twhirl which, while certainly less widely adopted, is a much more robust addition.

    In the end I'll stick with Twhirl for now. It's a more compact application, in terms of screen real estate, and I prefer its features. The one thing that could possibly make me switch is the grouping feature on TweetDeck but I currently don't have a glut of friends on Twitter to justify using it.

    Do you have a preference for either program? Or another Twitter desktop interface? Leave a comment and let me know.

    Thursday, April 16, 2009

    A Step in the Right Direction?

    YouTube recently announced that it's made a deal with Sony Pictures, CBS, MGM, Lionsgate, Starz, and the BBC to show full-length films and tv shows on YouTube. They'll be supported initially with advertising, as everything else on YouTube is, with the possibility of micropayments in the future.

    I want to believe this is a mature step by the television and film industry, recognizing that the game has changed and they'll need to change if they want to remain competitive. However it's probably too early to call this a sign of a change in behavior. It's more likely a tentative exploration of ways to co-opt the popular video service as an advertising tool rather than jump fully into the future of content delivery.

    (CNET via PSFK)

    Monday, April 13, 2009


    By now those of you with Twitter have probably seen at least a tweet or two on AmazonFail. Basically Amazon employees delisted a bunch of books from their main search with homosexual content or characters by labeling them "Adult". The story was rapidly spread through Twitter by tweets tagged with the #AmazonFail tag.

    There's a very rational account of the phenomenon from author Neil Gaiman, whose retweeting of the story certainly helped to boost its awareness. Notably he opines that it's really not clear whether this was an evil or simply stupid move on the part of Amazon/Amazon employees. It's such a huge company that it really could have been either one.

    The power of Twitter and social networking is what's amazing about this story. Shortly after the resultant noise Amazon claimed the delisting was not deliberate but a "glitch" and took steps to list those books on their search again. Social networking was able to bring the outrage, the voice of these people, to the ears of such a huge corporation and effect change in an unpopular change. I think those looking for meaning and to define what Twitter and its purpose is have seen its a tool for political as well as commercial awareness.

    Wednesday, April 8, 2009

    All Aboard the Twitter Train...

    ...But where is it going?

    An article on Rotorblog today points out exponential growth in Twitter's ComScore web traffic ranking and that the social communication tool has become the third most popular social networking destination aside from Facebook and MySpace. This is interesting because most articles I see about Twitter nowadays point out the celebrity rush to jump on the bandwagon, how many corporations and celebrities jump on it in the hopes of driving traffic back to their site, it's ghastly "replacement" of regular blogging (which people have been conjecturing and complaining about since it popped up on the Social Media radar), and the other long-standing gripe about how meaningful is a 140 character form of communication?

    These two opposites seem to suggest to me that Twitter's not going away anytime soon and the grumbling is really just anxiety about where it will go next. Which is a good question: what's the next logical step from here? As social communication becomes more truncated I think Twitter fills a desire to say something terse but meaningful. No Tweet can be longer than 140 characters so there's little room for a spectrum of worth. When I Tweet about the turkey sandwich I ate for lunch and Neil Gaiman Tweets about his book winning a Newberry Award, they're limited to the same amount of information, are both easily digestible. I would argue this is a function filled by Facebook's Status too.

    So if short social messaging fills such a cozy niche, what could people possibly want more?