Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Sun 24 Oct 2010 4:14 pm   //   Posted in: In the news, Media, Technology

Phrase of the year: It Gets Better

The It Gets Better Project is so good, so spot-on, that it ought to be celebrated as a triumph of Internet video, social media and even the English language. I can’t find one damn reason to be cynical about it.

You’ve probably seen at least a piece of this campaign. It’s an online media project started last month in response to a series of suicides by gay youth who were bullied in school. Writer Dan Savage started a website and YouTube channel seeking videos of adults counseling kids to hang in there, it’s going to get better. Savage recorded the first video with his husband, and promoted it in Savage Love, his nationally published sex column.


Wed 20 Oct 2010 7:00 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Facebook and freedom

The other day at work, someone spotted a customer complaint on a social network that I don’t use. I got started setting up a profile so I could respond to the customer and try to put things right. (This is a big part of what marketers do these days, in case you were wondering.) It felt like a million steps. The web site demanded a profile picture, and insisted that it be a photo of an actual person (not a logo), or else your messages would be deleted. I also noticed this site already had two entries for our company, under two slightly different names, both with an incorrect address and phone number. It soon became clear I would need to set up 3 profiles, one for each incorrect version of the company, and one for myself (since you can’t send messages from a company to an individual, which was all I really wanted to do in the first place).

I might have been better off just letting it go, but I wanted to do the right thing. Unfortunately, it became a huge frustration rather than a positive communications experience. Basically, I was letting a company I heretofore never cared about suddenly push me around, demanding my picture and phone number and a big chunk of my time. (You may have already guessed that the site I’m talking about is Yelp.) How annoying!


Thu 30 Sep 2010 8:24 am   //   Posted in: Labeling, Media, Technology

Nobody knows what “social graph” means

For three years, people who write and speak about technology have been using the phrase social graph. It’s sometimes used casually like a synonym for Facebook, the company that popularized the term. But what does social graph really mean, and where did it come from?


Mon 27 Sep 2010 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Media, Technology

Flow chart: Choosing a social network

Social media is too confusing! In an effort to simplify it, I took a stab at creating a chart illustrating when it’s appropriate to post an update on each of the social networks I use.

Thu 16 Sep 2010 8:21 am   //   Posted in: Technology

Your Facebook status will get you robbed. Uh, really?

Computers are scary! Eye strain, Internet addiction, identity theft, not to mention the fact that technology makes us isolated and alone. And now this: Burglars are monitoring your Facebook status, and will break in when you’re away.

Wait a minute. That makes no sense.


Thu 2 Sep 2010 7:25 am   //   Posted in: Music, No right to be good, Technology

The joy of uncool

Yesterday Apple announced some new social networking features for iTunes as part of a new service called Ping. If you choose, you can show your friends what music you’re listening to.

Bad idea.


Fri 23 Jul 2010 6:35 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Media, Technology

Is Yahoo News proud of its comments feature?

“It’s as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots.”
Gene Weingarten, writing about web comments in the Washington Post.

* * * *

Yahoo News is one of the most popular news web sites in the world. It has a problem, though. Every major story comes with a generous helping of the most vile hate speech you’ve ever seen.


Mon 5 Jul 2010 7:30 pm   //   Posted in: Bicycles, Brooklyn, Technology

Using GPS to map a bike ride

I hope you enjoyed your 4th of July weekend! I took Friday off, and had today off as a holiday, granting me a 4-day staycation here in Brooklyn. However, my weekend was disrupted somewhat by some scheduled dental surgery; I had my final two wisdom teeth extracted Friday. This wiped Friday off the map and made Saturday and Sunday an odd muddle of World Cup soccer, barbecues, beer, good times with friends and suffering from mouth pain.

Today, however, I’m feeling mostly recovered. I planned to spend the full day for a long bike ride. Unfortunately, once I woke up, I couldn’t muster the motivation to spend a full day outside in this heat. (It hit 98 today in Central Park.) Instead I rode a loop out to Coney Island and back.

On today’s bike ride, I used a free mobile application called InstaMapper to track my route on a map. I’ve tried InstaMapper before with limited success; the GPS on my Blackberry isn’t always reliable, and the program itself seemed to shut itself down randomly. Today, however, it worked brilliantly. Assuming it’s all still working, you can see an interactive map below showing my ride with pretty good precision. I find this kind of thing amazing.

Sun 6 Jun 2010 8:31 pm   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, Technology

What Facebook thinks Brooklyn looks like

What the hell, Facebook? I understand you probably need a little 50×50 graphic for every town in the world, but what’s up with Brooklyn’s?

I mean, what is that? A shot of the old Pier 1 warehouses seen from Manhattan? Or Omaha, Nebraska, on a hazy afternoon?

It’s not like we have a shortage of icons. A rooftop water tower. A slice of pizza. The F train climbing the Culver Viaduct. The Williamsburgh Savings Bank Building clock tower. The Parachute Jump. The Cyclone. And isn’t there a bridge in Brooklyn that people might recognize?

Come on, Facebook. The 2.5 million residents of Kings County deserve better.

Tue 18 May 2010 11:10 pm   //   Posted in: Stray data, Technology

Online writing and the power of “should”

Today’s blog post is about using math to make writing more effective. You should read it!

A couple of months ago, I noticed a curious phrase showing up on lots of blogs.

“You should follow me on Twitter here.”

This phrase stands out for being terse, awkward, even rude. Most people would write “Please…” instead of “You should…” Yet this specific line of clunky self-promo copy spread like the flu. A Google search for that exact phrase returns 154,000 results! (For comparison, a search for “Please follow me on Twitter here” returns 1,690 results.)

We can trace this phenomenon to blogger Dustin Curtis, who used testing to find the optimal way to convince people to follow him on Twitter. “You should follow me on Twitter here” was proven to be the most persuasive sentence. You should read about his experiment here.

I have conflicted feelings about this. On one hand, I don’t want to endorse shoddy writing edited by machines. On the other hand, shouldn’t you use every weapon in your arsenal to make your writing more effective? You should!

I decided to try a test of my own. For the last six weeks, visitors to this blog have been part of an experiment.