Monday, September 30, 2019

Dockless e-Bikes Are A Wonderful Convergence of Technologies

I had the chance to use dockless e-Bikes during a visit to Seattle in June. They fully lived up to expectations. They were plentiful, easy to use, and powerful. 20 mph uphill with modest effort is a lovely way to get around. Especially if the city is bike-friendly, which Seattle generally is.

The whole dockless e-Bike experience is a wonderful convergence of technologies. Foremost, of course, the e-Bike itself. Then there is the Smartphone app to locate and effortlessly rent them (although they were so thick in central Seattle, you could often just stroll and find them within 2 minutes).

A challenge in bike-commuting in an unfamiliar city is finding a good, bike-friendly route. Google Maps makes short work of that--it quickly got me into a bike lane, and kept me on bike-friendly streets for the duration of my trip.

The only problem with relying on Google Maps whilst biking is being able to hear. Which is where the last piece of technology comes in. Nice wireless earbuds are easy to carry at all times, and a single bud in the right ear allows you to hear navigation instructions well, while keeping the left ear free to hear the sounds of the street.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Podcast Listening Tips

Short Version

  • Use Overcast if you have iPhone.
  • Speed up the playback. You both get through more content, and faster is actually better for holding your attention.
  • Try wireless earbuds--Airpods are most well-known, there are good budget alternatives. One of many benefits is ease of single-ear listening, which for spoken audio, is usually what you want.
  • Pro tip: if you use a Read Later app, such as Pocket, you can use the built in TTS (synthesized voice reads out loud) in all the same situations you listen to podcasts.

Longer Version

A bit of advice for those who haven't yet gotten into podcasts. There are so many. Any specialized subject, you will find a podcast on it. Podcasts especially have a "long tail' effect:

  • There are well-known, highly produced podcasts, often some kind of brand extension from existing media source (NPR, the extensive Ira Glass storyteller tree, Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell).
  • There are middle-market podcasts beg enough to attract sponsors, but still pretty niche.
  • Then there are many small Indie podcasts that are homebrew affairs, probably without sponsorships. Something for everyone.

There are many good podcast apps, but if you are on iOS, don't settle for the built-in Apple app, download the Overcast podcast app. It is definitely the best one for iOS. For Android, Podcast Addict and Podcast Republic are a couple of good ones that I am familiar with.

Start listening at 1.2X speed. You will get used to that quickly, and can keep increasing the speed. I listen at 1.5X.

Bonus tip: consider getting earbuds. Like the Apple Airpods, or Wirectutter’s budget choice for a mere $40 (I got them for my wife, they seem good).

The best ways to find podcasts are:

  • Referrals from friends.
  • Search the internet for topics of interest.
  • One podcast leads to another.

Don't rely on iTunes recommended list, and don't try to do general searching from the podcast app--only do that to actually add a specific podcast you have identified from a different source.

Washing dishes, cutting the lawn, doing laundry and of course, driving, will never be boring again!! I get I listen to 2+ hours per day on average (more on weekends).

Pro tip: if you use a Read Later app, such as Pocket, you can use the built in TTS (synthesized voice reads out loud) in all the same situations you listen to podcasts. They synthesized voice is obviously not as good as a real narrator/speaker/reader, but it is surprisingly tolerable.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Screens hots not allowed should not be a feature

The Android Mint app does not allow me to take screenshots. I do not think any app should have the ultimate authority to tell me what I can do with my device. I think I understand the logic, which is to protect the user (or maybe a rogue app) from screenshotting sensitive info. So maybe a consent dialog would be appropriate. But at the end of the day, if I want a screenshot of whatever my device is displaying, that should be my decision.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Movie Comments (MILD SPOILERS)

NOTE: Comments below are about the movie. I know there is also a novel. I am very curious to learn to what degree the novel does or does not suffer from these plot problems.

The end ruined it. Wild improbability piled upon wild improbability. The overall plot and theme could have been achieved without such insipid false drama.

Movies get 1-2 suspensions of disbelief. #1 was that she fell for the personal assistant service scam. That was fine--a small stretch, but plausible, especially for an "out there" person like her, and it was a brilliant plot device that plays into topical concerns about privacy and online scams. Suspension #2  was the idea that she could stage a comeback and design the next-gen South Pole station. That's a huge stretch--comeback alone would be big, but designing a polar station when she has no bona fides is really out there. That's okay--that is the one huge thing that makes it a compelling story and entertaining movie. But everything else should be plausible, in service of the bets already placed on incredible things.

For instance, if her family had tried to meet up with her in Antarctica but failed, I think it would have achieved the same ultimate emotional and plot effect. It would have shown they cared about her and literally would have gone to the ends of the earth to help her. Likewise the attempt to stow away and get to the pole. Much more reasonable if she had tried (that's wild enough) and failed, but in failing, attracted just enough attention for her bid to be considered for the  architectural "commission" to be taken seriously.

Strengths


  • Cate Blanchette's performance is great.
  • The Micro$oft employee husband was really well-calibrated, very human and not at all a tech/geek caricature.

Other Complaints


  • There is NO WAY that a mother-daughter relationship so enmeshed would: A) be a strong, healthy relationship; B) result in such a likeable, self-aware 15-year old.
  • The idea that Bernadette could, on the basis of one abortive family intervention, very quickly chart a clear path to fixing herself. It would have been much better if they worked in some mental health counseling between the breakdown and recovery.



Monday, August 05, 2019

Criticisms of Le Carre's "The Night Manager"

I love John le Carre, and enjoyed The Night Manager. However, I did not love it as much as almost all his prior books, because it seemed so implausible. WAYYYYY to many low-percentage things are banked on; my quick inventory:
  • The fake kidnapping won't result in an innocent being killed.
  • A slimebag like Thomas taking so much risk to save a random child is a big stretch.
  • Roper will take the bait on Apostoll's bad-mouthing of Corkoran, and choose to replace him with Thomas.
  • The crucial info they got was because Thomas went rogue (snooped in Roper's study, when his handlers expressly told him not to). What was likelihood they would have obtained such compelling intel, had Thomas not taken that risk?
  • The ensuing scene with Jed, where he bets everything on her goodwill, is a huge stretch.
  • That whole priest signing the photo that got him the passport was totally unforseeable? Was that just a bonus?
That is all bad enough. But one thing I really appreciated about le Carre is the "anti-James Bond" approach. Very little physical drama, and none of it involving the protagonist exhibiting physical prowess (more likely, the protagonist is knocked unconscious).

But Jonathan is quite Bond-like, a near-superhero. He is great at sailing, tennis (though that didn't figure in the story), mountain climbing (figured slightly), cooking. And despite only being an enlisted man (I think that is right?), he cultivates the refined manners manners to make a first-rate manager at 3-star hotels. And he is a top-notch streetfighter. And a ladykiller. And able to shrug off tortute.

I still enjoyed the book, but would have enjoyed it more if it had not gone all Bond.

Uber for Parking Spots

I believe there are a lot of private parking spots in cities that are grossly under-utilized. Offices and stores that are closed evenings, when big events are happening. Churches that don't have much going on weekdays. General excess capacity. Seems like it crying out for an Uber of Parking Spaces.

An obvious challenge would be policing usage. How can the private version of a "meter maid" quickly visually ascertain that a given car has paid for their spot? I think the key is for all spaces to be numbered. So the enforcement game shifts from checking the car, to checking the space.

I did a quick search to see if there are startups exploring this space. I found a couple of hits on "Uber for Parking", but nothing that matched my idea. One was on-demand valet parking. Pretty much DOA, due both to its labor intensitivity, and the fact that it does not leverage "sharing economy" principles. It mostly just offered valets to park your car in the same commercial spaces already available to the general public--it did not lead to greater efficiency by utilizing wasted, empty spaces.

This effort, on the other hand, is too old-economy contractual. It seems to want you to sign over your empty space for a month at a time, as opposed to using excess capacity day-by-day.

Seems like a significant business opportunity.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Hidden Benefit of eBooks

I like not knowing how close I am to the end of the book. With an eBook, unlike a physical book, it is easy to avoid knowing.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Dockless eBikes, Wow!

I spent half a week in Seattle in June, and had my first exposure to dockless eBikes. Total game-changer!

They were very dense, never hard to find one nearby. We had a party of three, 1.5 miles out from downtown, so we had to hunt a bit to find 3 bikes nearby, but still it was easy.

The bike itself is as-advertised. Speeds up to 20mph, going uphill at a good clip is effortless. The electronic assist was smooth and responsive, no skill required.

The whole eBike experience is a showcase for modern tech. Phone to find the bike, and unlock it. Google Maps to effortlessly find a bike-friendly route in a busy, unfamiliar city. Wireless earbud to be able to hear the navigation instructions. Worked great, Maps had me on nice bike lanes very quickly. Would have been so much harder if I had to try to plot my own bike-friendly route in the big city.

Only issue was price: not cheap. It varies a bit, but typically $2 to unlock, and $0.25 per minute. So for our party of 3, there were cases where Lyft/Uber was actually cheaper. I hope that will come down. I can see a minimum of $2-$3, but having that as a fixed cost along with a not-trivial per-minute charge is a bit stiff. Hopefully subscriptions and volume discounts.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

YouTube TV Analysis

We dropped DirecTV a few months ago, in favor of YouTube TV. Monthly bill cut in half, from $90 to $45. Not looking back. This is the real deal for many would-be cord-cutters.

Cons:

  • Fast Forward and Rewind much less accurate and responsive (but see PROs below).
  • A few channels I don't care about (HGTV, Discover) not included.

Pros:

  • Half the cost.
  • Use of Google Voice for Fast Forward and Rewind--in many cases, better than the highly responsive DirecTv controls, because I can say "Fast Forward 3minutes 40seconds, and that is executed within maybe 10s".
  • Cloud DVR is incredible. No limits.
  • Search is so much better than the clunky DirecTv interface.
  • Eliminates a lot of input switching. Mostly we are using either Netflix or YouTube TV, both via Chromecast.
  • No satellites on your roof, nor cables on the outside of your house.
  • Highly shareable.
  • Can watch your content anywhere, anytime.
  • No marketing calls.

Pro Sports Unions Should Aggressively Protect Members Financially

Sad story that superstar running back Adrian Peterson is broke. I think pro sports unions should be as aggressive as possible in protecting their members financially. Which generally means protecting them from themselves. Negotiate for something like 15% salary matching in an approved, low-expense, diversified fund that can only pay an annuity, no touching the principal until age 65.

I don't claim the 15% will be extra money to the athletes. It would effectively come as a reduction in salary. But for newly-wealthy pro athletes, it is money that will never be missed, and will hopefully save them from future penury.


Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Camera Apps Should Distinguish the Chaff from the Wheat

I take a lot of “utility” photos on my phone. Screenshots, grocery lists, broken stuff I need to find a solution for at the hardware store, documents I might want to refer to the next day, pictures of serial numbers too small to read.

I don’t want these polluting my photo library. I want options to frictionlessly classify a photo as “junk” (disposable) at the time it is taken, and have it go directly to a special category within Google Photos (or, ideally, any other photo app supporting the standard tagging API for Android or iOS). Much like the way Social and Promotional categories work in Gmail.

I think there are a few, complementary ways this could be implemented:

1.      A different camera icon/widget on the home screen.

2.      2 different shutter buttons on the camera app itself.

3.      Classification buttons when viewing the image, via floating clickable labels.

All could be useful, to me, #2 seems by far the most valuable.

(Whether disposable photos are auto-deleted within a few days, or saved indefinitely, should be configurable. As, for that matter, should be whether it synchs to the cloud from the device’s camera roll.)

Monday, July 22, 2019

Tweak for Basketball 3-Pointers

I am pretty happy with the modern NBA. But I am sympathetic to the idea that 3-point madness has gone just a bit too far. I can think of a simple tweak--reduce the point value to something like 2.7.

The most obvious downside I can see is that this would drastically reduce the likelihood of ties. That problem can be solved: a team has to win by a certain amount. I'm not sure what the right number would be, maybe 0.5.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

How Prince Worked His Magic On The Bangles' 'Manic Monday'

I always liked the song "Manic Monday" by the Bangles, but I never understood why. On the surface, it seemed like your typical late-1980s overplayed, one-hit-wonder pop pablum. But for whatever reason, it struck me as a perfect, fun, likable pop song (maybe it helped that its subject wasn't the done-to-death trio of Love, Loss and Longing).

I hadn't thought of it in years, but then I heard this NPR story, which explained that Prince wrote it for them. Made me feel much better about liking it.

Mobile Trashcan Washing and Tire Air Pressure



This mobile trash bin washing service s a business idea I had a while ago--a purpose-designed truck to come around and clean gross trash bins. Price is just a bit too high for my tastes, but hopefully either they will gain economies of scale, and/or attract competition. I think I would be happy to pay $15 for a one-time cleaning, or maybe $30 for 2x annual subscription. Their one-time price of $44 is way too much, and their minimum is $60 for quarterly--twice my threshold.

A bonus idea I have is to combine this with other household chores that are pretty easy for a professional, but tedious for the homeowner. The best example that comes to mind is tire air pressure. The challenge there is that it would require the car to be available in the driveway on the trash day--doesn't work for most people.

Saturday, May 25, 2019



I was unimpressed by my first visit to Aldi. Seems like Walmart prices, with less selection. But I have to be honest, I didn't give them a thorough vetting, because I was immediately put off by the need to produce a quarter as a deposit on a shopping cart (I remember when that experiment came in, and I am pretty sure I haven't seen it in over 20 years; I get the logic, but in this day and age, now that MSP street parking is digital, the chances of me having a quarter on me are zip.).

I ran across this interesting article. The headline grabbed my eye--"brutally efficient" is clickbait for me. I was amused that it led with the quarter thing. But as a sworn enemy of overpriced, branded consumer packaged goods, this is what makes me feel like I should give Aldi another chance:
Bargain hunters across the income ladder end up feeling like they’re outsmarting other, higher-priced supermarkets and big brands when they see their grocery receipts. Aiming to be the "smart shopping alternative,” Aldi wants to "spread the message that traditional grocers and brands simply rip off consumers,” she said.
Music to my ears. Also, maybe the long-anticipated nationwide consolidation of grocery outlets is beginning.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Commercial Push Notifications Are the New Marketing Email

I installed the new Sam's Club Scan & Go app on my phone. It is invaluable--you check yourself out. So what does Sam's treat me to? This inane push notification. Like I don't know I can buy potential Memorial Day party supplies at Sam's. They would be so much better off holding their fire for something that might actually be useful. Even if that means they never push anything at me. Or maybe something 1-2 times per year, telling me how much I have saved via their lower prices. Or an occasional, general-purpose coupon.



Because there is a beautifully simple, zero-tolerance response to these kind of dumb-assery:


Highlighting and Annotating on the Web: Business Opportunity for Medium

I read a lot, and I am a big fan of highlighting. For years I have thought good highlighting/annotating of web docs needs to be much easier. I have dabbled with various extensions. They are okay, but still kind of high friction, especially when it comes to sharing--my primary reason for highlighting. At work, I often resort to pasting into a Word doc and using Track Changes.

I would really like this to be a W3C standard and built into browsers (no I don't have all the technical details). But in the absence of that, it seems like a decent incremental opportunity for Medium. (I'm not a big fan of unnecessarily centralized blogging, but just saying...)

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Jargonwatch: Double-Click

Business term, meaning to delve further into a subject. Seems to be supplanting drill-down.

Double-click is a computer input action. The odd thing is, double-clicking has been deprecated by most IT useability gurus for a decade or more. So odd that it is suddenly cropping up in this sense.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Two-Party System, Isn't

It's amazing how ingrained is the idea of the "two-party system"in the American consciousness. But unless I am very mistaken, it is not a two-party system, it is a two-party happenstance that has ossified into an utterly dysfunctional status quo.

I think it is generally accepted that our founders--worshiped for their acumen and foresight, often with considerable reason--were not generally favorable disposed toward political parties. The system they bequeathed us was not oriented toward parties, and certainly not enshrining a sclerotic, potentially un-reformable diad of Republicans and Democrats.

So as a first step towards reform, how about if we understand and acknowledge that the two-party system is an accident, not a system.


First Smart Elevator Experience

I spent the first 12 years of my career at Otis Elevator. It wasn't the best fit, but things you do early in life inevitably leave an impression. So I am always mildly interested in elevators vertical transportation technology.

Last week I had my first encounter with "smart elevators". Something that was talked about at the time I joined the Old Elevator Company (c. 1987), but seemed very futuristic back then. In the ensuing years, I knew they had become a reality, but being a creature of the suburbs, I rarely encounter any kind of elevator; and smart elevators are only going to be relevant in a >7 floor building with a bank of 4+ 'vators.

So it was interesting and gratifying to see them in action. There are no buttons inside the car--you make your choice of destination floor while standing in the hallway. The people I was visiting said that when they get in a normal elevator, they are prone to step in and do nothing, forgetting that they need to register their floor destination from inside the cab.

Definitely major progress.


Feature Idea for Spoiler Prevention

As a major time-shifter, I hate spoilers. Better spoiler protection is WAY overdue. I would like to see
all social media apps include anti-spoiler-walls in their editors. E.g., "click REVEAL to reveal spoiler text". Same goes for professional publications--newspaper websites are often the worst offenders.

Forward-THinking Municpal Minibus Uber

Uber doesn't cut down car usage, it cuts down mass transit usage. So while in some ways I can't wait to see the advent of autonomous vehicles, another part of me dreads it, knowing anything that drives down the cost--in depreciation and driver time--of individual transportation will only make the problem worse.

I feel like a good solution would be a municipally-operated minibus version of Uber. Proper taxing of carbon and transport infrastructure would also help. Maybe HOV-style public-only lanes as well.

Yelp $$ Scale Needs Work

I've been quite happy with my Yelp experience over the 8 or so years I have been using it. I am not a super-heavy Yelper, but I use it steadily, mostly when looking for restaurants while traveling. I honestly can never remember being disappointed, and often have found real, out-of-the-way gems.

But one area that Yelp has been weak in, with zero improvement, is the $ cost ratings. Yelp assigns 1-4 $igns to give an indication of a restaurant's cost. Very important information, obviously. Problem is, the way the scale is used in practice throws away most of the bandwidth. One $ is fast-food-level. Two $$ covers everything a competent but unremarkable family diner, up to a pretty good, independent restaurant. That is easily a factor of 2X--entrees from $10 to over $20. Three $$$ is somewhere many would consider a one-every-5-years splurge, and $$$$ is "take out a bank loan".

So most of the time, I am in the $$ range, and the range is too broad for my liking.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

I get that AirPods are great

But the newfound discovery of the freedom of wirelessness is hardly new. I've been using Bluetooth headphones for over a decade. I assumed they would catch on really fast, especially among younger people. So I have been surprised, over the years, how willing people are to tolerate tangly, wired headphones.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Feature Idea; QR to Capture Beloved TV Screensaver Photos

10 years ago, a smart photo frame, powered by an SD card, was considered cutting edge. Too much maintenance to become common, but the idea was right. At the time, I blogged about my ideas for turning a family room big-screen TV into a nice screensaver.

Fast-forward a decade, and that capability is in place. For some reason it is not as popular as I would have imagined, but let's set that aside.

I love having my large family room TV display both personal and other photos. There are a few features I wish it had. Tops on that list is the ability to share photos that viewers like.

So my feature idea is that every photo should have a QR code, and any person in the room admiring the photo currently being displayed could scan that QR, to get the photo on their own device/account. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

On the Folly of Brexit, and the Undesirability of Referendums

I'm not a big fan of referendums. There are lots of reasons, but even in an ideal situation, most issues are too complicated and contingent to be reasonably turned into a ballot measure. Only really simple, clear-cut and most crucially, revocable topics seem remotely suitable. Examples:
Should we pass a bond to fund the new high school?
Should the drinking age be lowered to 19?
So Brexit was a poor proposition for a referendum. Certainly because it is complicated, but most of all because it is highly contingent, and not readily revocable, if conditions or sentiments change in the future.

Once a referendum is held, there is a general feeling that the people have spoken, so there is no opportunity to reconsider. That is the case with Brexit. However, given the inability of the ruling party to pass its proposal, I think there is a solid case for a do-over.

Promises were made by the Brexit supporters that there would be little harm, and many benefits, to leaving. They are utterly unable to deliver on that. The current agreement is hated most by the pro-Brexit crowd, because for various complicated reasons, many of the constraints (real or symbolic) of EU membership remain, while major benefits are lost. So it can't pass Parliament. But if the UK "crashes out" with no treaty, then all but the most denialist agree that major harm will occur. So given the current impasse, the promises underlying the Brexit referendum have been broken, and the referendum should be considered null and void.

Adding to the case is the fact that the pro-Brexit crowd didn't have the fortitude to put forth one of their own to lead the government in executing Brexit. That task fell to Theresa May, who was anti-Brexit. (You wouldn't know it by her rhetoric since then, and I think that is a failing, but that's another story.)

And if there is a new referendum, be smarter about the wording. The original question was phrased "Remain a member of the European Union / Leave the European Union". As this article points out, wording matters a lot. In hindsight, better wording for the original would have been: "Remain a member of the European Union / Negotiate and ratify a treaty for leaving the European Union". 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Design Flaw: Clogs in Dishwasher Spray Arms

The job of a dishwasher is to wash one's dishes. Extensive Any pre-rinsing should not be required. The dishwasher manuals even state this.

And it's mostly true--modern dishwashers do a great job of getting the dishes clean, even if there is layer of spaghetti sauce or whatever on them. The spray arms have these teeny little holes, to produce a high-pressure spray. Combine that low-volume but high-pressure spray with extended time and high humidity, and it works wonders.

Problem is those tiny holes. They are prone to clogging. I can't think of any good way to prevent that. So my complaint is not the clogging itself. My complain is how difficult it is to un-clog them.

Sure, you can ream them, as this video explains. But all too often, that just drops the clogging particle back into the body of the spray arm, where it will lurk, waiting to be pushed back into the orifice the next time a cycle is run. This typically lasts ~10 cycles, until the particle has been sufficiently eroded as to no longer block the orifice.

The MVP solution, IMO, is for the arm to be disassemble-able. I want to be able to open up the arm, to access the interior, so I can flush out the offending particle. Ironically, my very first, builder's-grade dishwasher had this feature. None of the 4 higher-end ones since then, including a very highly rated Bosch model, has.



Monday, January 07, 2019

Fat-Burning Heart-Rate Zone

Nice to see this article explain how the "fat-burning zone" is utterly misconstrued and generally bs. When it comes to diet or exercise, I've always been a believer in calories-in, calories-out.

And as a lifelong, daily exerciser, I've always thought the heart rate obsessions was a silly, fiddly distraction, unless you are a semi-pro or better. If the time spent measuring and logging heart rate were just spent exercising more, you would be way ahead. 

Idioms Where the Mondegreen Version Makes More Sense

Mondegreens are typically mis-heard phrases where the mis-heard version makes a certain amount of sense, though often less than the intended version, and where the meaning is entirely different. But I can think of a few idioms where the mondegreen version is likely to sound far more sensible, to modern ears. Herewith my analysis and grading.

Vale of Tears vs Veil of Tears

"Vale of Tears" is a biblical expression referring to the inevitable tribulations that are part of all hu`man lives. I take "vale" to be an archaic term for "valley". But it isn't obvious why a valley should be associated with tears. Even after 10 minutes of searching, I'm not clear on the association--is the volume of tears shed so great that it could, figuratively, fill a valley? My best guess is that a particular biblical tragedy happened to occur in a vale/valley, giving birth to the phrase.

"Veil" is a homophone for vale. The image of seeing through a "veil of tears" immediately makes sense. In fact, a "veil of tears" strikes me as a beautiful, arresting poetic image.

VERDICT: In this case, I think the mondegreen is much better than the original.

Flesh Out vs Flush Out

The Mirriam-Webster site advises "think of fleshing out a skeleton". Not completely insensible, if one thinks of an artistic process of depicting the human form, but far from obvious. Whereas "flush out" is quite straightforward, assuming one is familiar with the usage of "flush" in the sense of dogs driving game out from its hiding place so that hunters can shoot it.

VERDICT: To flesh out is a rich metaphor, but obscure to most readers. A slight preference for the modern version.

Time Sink vs Time Suck

"Time Sink" is intuitive to scientists and engineers familiar with concepts such as "heat sink" and "electron sink"--something that will suck up all surplus quantities of the element in question. But for the layman, I assume it is utterly mysterious. Whereas a "time suck" suggests a sinkhole or quagmire, into which large quantities of things disappear.

VERDICT: Tie. Time Sink is a rich STEM metaphor, but very inaccessible to the layperson. On the hand, "suck" is not a noun (at least not one we prescriptivists would countenance), so the modern usage is downgraded on technical merit. I'll call it a tie.


Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Nonprofit or Government-Sponsored Social Graph?

Social networks are likely central to many forms of future business innovation. Innovations such as experimenting with business models other than advertising and marketing. The problem: it is now all-but-impossible to get a critical mass of people to sign up for yet another network. This creates a huge barrier to entry, entrenching the established networks (Facebook foremost among them). App.net is one relatively well-known example of how even a high-profile, technically outstanding entrant, with something truly innovative to offer, quickly fails.

Is it possible to create a durable, viable, public social graph as a service? I am thinking of something either sponsored by a quasi-governmental entity (like Fannie Mae, or ICANN), or funded as a stand-alone organization (like Mozilla).

In particular, with the looming expectation that Facebook and the rest are going to be subject to coming government regulation, could the requirement to allow users to export their social network be part of such regulation?