Archive for December, 2004

43 Things – YASNS With a Point

It seems like there are more and more social networking services popping up all the time, but many of them are no more than a rehash of what SixDegrees used to be — i.e., I know you, and you know somebody else, and we’re all connected. It was a brilliantly innovative idea, but unfortunately not extremely useful, which might explain why SixDegrees isn’t around any more.

Fortunately, the nature of innovation is such that people build on the ground-breaking ideas of others, and now we’re starting to see people come up with ways to actually do something, like share musical tastes or trade business contacts, with social networking services.

Well, here’s another one. 43 Things allows you to form networks based on common personal goals. If I want to learn Spanish, I can mark that as my goal and I’m instantly connected to everyone else with that interest. Each goal has a blog to which its participants can contribute, so you have people sharing their advice and experiences.

It’s pretty interesting so far, as I’ve been exploring and marking so many of those things that I’d love to do and never get around to. One small issue that, since the interests are user-contributed, I’ve noticed is that there multiple goals that basically mean the same thing, which could cause missed potential connections if the participants of one don’t know about the other. Still, having the possibility lends to the free-form spirit that allows interesting unexpected developments in group-based technology.

It’s in beta and is currently invitation-based, so if you want to give it a spin, send a comment with your email address (it won’t show up on the blog) and I’ll send you an invite!


Weblog Comment Spam

As weblogs continue to grow as a medium, its enthusiasts are unfortunately faced with the dark side of that popularity. That’s right — spam. Now that only the most creatively-crafted spam makes it through the average mailbox’s filters, how ever is the more vapid virtual vendor to attract attention? Well, they apparently start taking advantage of less mature technology to make our lives miserable in a whole new way.

In a trend that extends their pattern that started with email of taking a new, exciting, open means of communication and trying to ruin it, spammers are forcing weblog authors to take action to prevent their pages becoming filled with crap. Comments add a unique flavor to blogs. They allow readers to participate and feel some ownership. Anonymous comments, where allowed, create still another dimension. But when you allow just anybody to add whatever text they want to a public forum, you’ll inevitably wind up, as I did this morning, with pages full of ads for free online poker.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good card game as much as the next guy, and heck, dealing with comment spam makes me feel like I’m one step further toward becoming a “legitimate” blogger! But this is the wrong forum for it. So what’s a guy to do? You can go the Slashdot route and simply allow anonymity but create a mechanism for self-regulation. Or you can go to the other extreme (a la boingboing) and disallow comments completely. In both of those examples, that choice largely defines the feel of the entire site. And neither really works well without a huge base of readers — let’s face it, my DSL provider’s not particularly nervous by the amount of traffic this weblog gets (who did that poker company think was going to see their spam anyway?).

So while I had tried for a short while to embrace the freedom that comes with anonymity, if you want to comment now you’ll have to register with typekey first. It’s not too tough — give it a try. If there are any real people reading this, I’d love for you to say hi and let me know you’re there! And if you’ve ever had to deal with the same problems, let me know how you solved it.


My Grocery Store Rant

In February of this year I moved for my job, as do many in the software field, to the San Francisco Bay area. Coming from Rochester, NY, a medium-sized city, and having visited San Francisco on many previous occasions, there were a lot of changes I knew to expect. Public transportation, for one. I love not driving to work. If you do drive at all, even if it’s not to commute, the sheer volume of people mean that your life must be planned around traffic patterns. Rent, of course, is too depressing to talk about. And then there’s the weather–no rain and a little cooler in the summer, with no winter to speak of. It’s a mix of good and bad, but nothing particularly shocking.

// begin whine

For the past several months, though, I’ve been feeling the need to rant about the grocery stores here. It’s one of those things that nobody thinks about much when moving, but, assuming you eat, has a big effect on your day-to-day life. Sure, the prices are a little higher and it’s still a little weird seeing wine and liquor on the shelves, but that’s nothing unexpected. There are a few things, though, that really get on my nerves. Maybe I have unreasonable expectations. Maybe I’m just a big whiner. It’s likely I’ve been ruined by Wegman’s for the rest of my life. Oh well, you can decide for yourself.

First, the price of produce is crazy. Bananas are always more than 70 cents per pound. We couldn’t get tomatoes for less than four dollars a pound yesterday. A box of Clementine oranges is eight bucks. We’re talking double the price in New York. And this is where they grow the stuff!

Then there’s the feeling I get when I realize that half the dairy expires in two days, and maybe another quarter of it is already past its “sell by” date. It’s the feeling that I have to try to avoid a bait-and-switch more suited to a sleazy used car dealership than a grocery store. It seems like I never had to be so careful in the past. Wasn’t this supposed to be the land of ultra-regulation?

But that’s not nearly as bad as the shock you’ll get when you try to get in line. At the wrong time on a weekend, I’ve stood in lines fifteen carts long, stretching into the aisles. People still shopping have to turn around and go all the way back to get to the next aisle because there’s no room at the front near the registers.

Seriously, what is it with these grocery stores? Am I just in a particularly lousy area? The store I usually go to has ten registers, a few of which are usually not open, even during the busy times, plus four self-service checkout stands. The stores I’d grown accustomed to had, in about the same amount of space, about twice the number of registers. And we’re talking a much lower population density. How does that work?

Anyway, that’s enough moaning for now. I feel much better! I would be interested, though, in hearing about anyone else’s experiences to see if perhaps I’m just shopping in the wrong area or store.