Vicarious Viewing

I want to buy the new Wolfenstein game. That’s want, not need. However, I don’t want to spend the money on it right now, because there are bet­ter things to spend my money on, and I know what would hap­pen if I pur­chased it. It would not run well at max­i­mum graph­ics set­tings on my cur­rent com­puter, so I would feel the need to upgrade com­po­nents and thereby spend more money. In addi­tion, I would be hard pressed to find time to play it, and I would end up not fin­ish­ing the game and feel even worse about wast­ing money.

So am I to do? Enter YouTube. Yes, the same com­pany that is plan­ning to acquire Twitch​.TV because they real­ize the value that videos of gamers play­ing video games brings them. There are tens of thou­sands — more likely hun­dreds of thou­sands — of peo­ple like myself who for one rea­son or another find enjoy­ment in view­ing oth­ers play­ing video games. Getting more adver­tise­ments in front of those eyes means that Google can increase their poten­tial ad revenue.

For me, YouTube is a money saver when it comes to games. I still buy the occa­sional game if I want to invest my time and money in it, but more often than not, I will watch a game being played by some­one else when I have some down­time to fill. The beauty of it is that I can expe­ri­ence the game first hand, but like read­ing a novel, I can also skip to the end­ing if I so choose, or I can close the book and walk away if I decide I am not inter­ested in see­ing it through to the conclusion.

In the case of Wolfenstein, YouTube is allow­ing me to view, and play, vic­ar­i­ously though oth­ers, and that’s a Good Thing™.

Anti-Cloud Computing?

Over on Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow posted about the Adobe Creative Cloud out­age:

As Adobe Creative Suite struggles with its license-server outage, stranding creative professionals around the world without a way of earning their living, a timely reminder: a cloud computer is a computer you're only allowed to use if the phone company and a DRM-peddling giant like Adobe gives you permission, and they can withdraw that permission at any time.

I typ­i­cally find Cory to be very insight­ful. I think he has a point here, but misses another point. True, rent­ing cloud servers and appli­ca­tions, par­tic­u­larly ones that rely on DRM and license servers, is putting your­self and your money at the mercy of another per­son or cor­po­ra­tion where you have lit­tle to no con­trol short of tak­ing your money some­where else. I under­stand that he is speak­ing nar­rowly of rent­ing cloud soft­ware ver­sus pur­chas­ing licensed soft­ware to install directly on a com­puter that you own (although with Adobe’s phone-home licens­ing, this would still be an issue if you lose Internet con­nec­tiv­ity enough when attempt­ing to use their products).

However, we are all sub­ject to the whims of the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions providers to lever­age the Internet for appli­ca­tions and web sites. If Comcast decides to stop accept­ing my money as a cus­tomer, I have no other options to con­nect with the out­side world. (That’s not entirely true. I could still use POTS lines for dial-up, and I believe Verizon may have a DSL option in our area, but the options are not com­pa­ra­ble to cable con­nec­tiv­ity.) And that is a real prob­lem. As a cus­tomer of Comcast, I must main­tain a ten­u­ous bal­ance between being irri­tated with their ser­vice (or lack thereof) and pre­vent­ing them from becom­ing irri­tated with me for ask­ing for the level of ser­vice that I pay them to provide.

I real­ize I can­not run my own telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions infra­struc­ture, but I also real­ize that there is a real lack of com­pe­ti­tion in most munic­i­pal­i­ties, and that is a prob­lem. Even the server I run this site on is a rented piece of equip­ment that is con­trolled by the host­ing com­pany I pay who in turn are rely­ing on the ser­vices of their band­width providers. Let’s face it. The Adobe license server out­age is a huge prob­lem for a lot of peo­ple. It is also a great exam­ple of why ser­vice level agree­ments are so impor­tant, and why fault tol­er­ant enter­prise infra­struc­ture is critical.

I don’t know the details of the license server fail­ure, but Adobe needs to ensure that they cor­rect the infra­struc­ture fail­ures to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing again. In addi­tion, they need to reim­burse cus­tomers for the fail­ure to meet their SLA. As for the telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions issue… well, Cory has writ­ten far more about that state of affairs than I have or ever will, but there is room for improve­ment. There is a fair level of cer­tainty that the phone com­pany will not take its ball and go home, leav­ing us with no con­nec­tion to the out­side world, but it is true that we are entirely depen­dent on them in the Internet age.

Tumblr Revisited

I deac­ti­vated my Facebook account at the begin­ning of April with the intent of tak­ing only the month off as a sort of social media break. I also deac­ti­vated my Instagram account (it may as well be Facebook Photos). The only account that I kept active was Twitter, but I did my best to ignore it as often as pos­si­ble. It’s ironic that I feel so loathe to delete the Twitter account alto­gether, but I also do not want to keep it active. I dis­like the feel­ing of hav­ing a ran­dom open account just sit­ting out there on the Internet. It also makes it much eas­ier to fall back into the habit of using it when it is there. So that is what addic­tion feels like. ;)

I have yet to reac­ti­vate my Facebook account as I do not miss it in the slight­est. I have, how­ever, reac­ti­vated Instagram, but only for the pur­pose of beta test­ing for Kidpost. I fully expect to jet­ti­son it again soon. I am dis­ap­pointed that SmugMug is not one of the options for Kidpost, but I under­stand why. The API and the meth­ods of post­ing to it are such that it does not exist as a shar­ing place for its pri­mary func­tion, unlike other sites like Flickr which are meant for shar­ing first and foremost.

It’s also dis­ap­point­ing that Facebook and Instagram are the only cur­rent options to test with on Kidpost. I sup­pose they are the eas­i­est to inter­act with and to mon­i­tor, but I am so tired of Facebook. It’s stag­nant, poorly designed, and a grand waste of everyone’s time. I’m even more dis­ap­pointed that Dave Winer is actu­ally embrac­ing Facebook and fun­nel­ing some of his con­tent into it from Fargo. I don’t know if he is just try­ing to boost read­er­ship and engage­ment, or if he really feels that Facebook is the place to be, but it really reminds me of the old AOL web browser replete with key­words and a walled gar­den that pro­motes igno­rance. That said, I am really start­ing to love Fargo and am even post­ing this to my site from Fargo.

So what’s this talk about Tumblr then? Well, I find myself repulsed by the hash­tag, URL-shortened, ran­dom online-picture/video stor­age ser­vice laden jum­ble that is Twitter. While they have made inter­face improve­ments, sup­posed con­ver­sa­tions get lost in the mix. My eyes tend to glaze over because pick­ing out the rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion from a 140 char­ac­ter post (the advent of multi-tweets, long-tweets, etc. have changed this as well). Enter Tumblr.

On Tumblr, there is cer­tainly a fair amount of mess as well with reblog­ging, copi­ous notes and likes, and mul­ti­ple quote embed­ding, but on the whole, it is mostly clean, allows for more than 140 char­ac­ters worth of com­men­tary, has in-built host­ing of images, videos, audio, etc. thereby remov­ing the need for using an exter­nal ser­vice which may embed prop­erly or may use its own redi­rect happy URL short­ener, and com­bines the fea­tures of a blog, Twitter, and even some aspects of Facebook into one neat, cus­tomiz­able pack­age. Also, they have a nice mobile appli­ca­tion. Very nice.

As I tend to only post quotes and links for shar­ing and remem­ber­ing on Twitter, and since it appears that Twitter’s tweet his­tory has a time-based dis­play limit, I find that Tumblr is a bet­ter place for these items. That’s not entirely true. My own web site is the per­fect place for these items, but for the time being, I am not entirely sure I want to keep those items on my pri­mary web site. I already have more exter­nal links here than I would pre­fer in ratio to posts of my own con­tent. Of course, con­tent for the sake of adding con­tent is not good con­tent, so there’s always that. If I have noth­ing to say, it’s bet­ter to say nothing.

Winter Wandering

When the arc­tic air sets in for a week at a stretch, the body decides that stay­ing indoors and curl­ing up in the warmth of a blan­ket is the best course of action to sur­vive the onslaught of the dis­agree­able ele­ments. However, as a nor­mal human being, the mind begins to wan­der as being trapped within the con­fines of brick and mor­tar, there is pre­cious lit­tle to slow the onset of the the dreaded “cabin fever”.

Thankfully, Mother Nature has found mercy and decided to give a momen­tary reprieve, whether for the sports fans who are get­ting pre­pared for the Super Bowl (screw you, NFL, and your heinous copy­right state­ments forc­ing oth­ers to use the term “Big Game”. I’ll call it by its name, and you’ll like it because it is free adver­tis­ing. Perhaps peo­ple should spend their money else­where and let the National Concussion League die a slow, painful death of idiocy)…

Apologies. Where was I?

Ah, yes.

Or maybe you are the out­doors type who enjoys win­ter sports, but who needs some­what tol­er­a­ble tem­per­a­tures to spend a few hours out on the slopes and lakes. Maybe you just want to go shop­ping. Whatever the case may be, get out­side and enjoy it while it lasts, because I think the cli­mate has one more nasty push in store before it decides to abate for the Spring flood season.

And while you’re out, why not return that over­priced NFL mer­chan­dise, because screw them. It’s an Olympic year. There are far bet­ter things to watch than that joke of a “Big Game” where the adver­tise­ments are more enter­tain­ing than the mouth-breathing announc­ers and well-compensated (albeit quite phys­i­cally skilled and tal­ented) brain destroyers.

Stay warm and be well.



Dave Winer on the next evo­lu­tion of “shar­ing”:

It's pretty obvious what comes next, via extrapolation -- from past turns of the wheel in software.

What comes next is an easy way for the generation of people who grew up on Facebook to create their own social networks, accessible only by the people they want to share it with.

A somewhat easier to use version of what AWS is today will be the platform.

And Harvard dropouts of the day will create AMIs their friends will configure cleverly.

The art in this new way of doing things will be clever twists on "share."

We’re already there. It’s just a mat­ter of time before the best, eas­i­est to use post­face­book­ist tech­nolo­gies bub­ble to the top and gain trac­tion. Facebook will not die. It will merely become irrel­e­vant. Some (includ­ing myself) would argue that it already is.