Last week, I went to see Professors Zittain and Lessig in conversation about the Dilemmas of Open Knowledge at the Harvard 375 roadshow in San Francisco. In response to a question about data and consumer privacy, Zittrain added on to the old maxim that if you were getting something for free online, you were paying for it with your data. Now, he said, even if you were paying for a service, a company was likely making money with your data too.
I’ve been thinking about Zittrain’s words all day following the Insta-Facebook announcement. One of the reasons that I like Instagram is that I hate giving my data to Facebook. I recognize the utility of Facebook as my de facto digital address book and as an event notifier, but I feel powerless when it comes to my data on Facebook. Even though I wiped out bands and movies that I like from Facebook years ago (I’m thinking it has been at least 4 years since I “deleted” this info), I still get Facebook ads related to this old data. And I hate that even though I disabled publishing of location and status tags on Facebook, my friends and family report additional data about me to Facebook. Even if it’s “private,” Facebook still knows it. Even if I hit ignore, Facebook still knows it.
Thus, I embrace Facebook alternatives, and I’m saddened when Facebook acquires these alternatives. With Beluga, I was sad because it was highly functional, and Facebook shut it down to force me to use Facebook messaging instead (I resisted). With Friendfeed, I nuked my own account. And now, as the Atlantic has posed, the billion dollar question is, “Will Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram cause an exodus?”
For now, I’m not nuking my Instagram account / app from my phone, because there simply isn’t a good alternative that I can think of off the the top of my head. Harking back to Zittrain’s words at the beginning of this post, one of the very few web services that I pay for is Flickr Pro, but given all of the churn at both Flickr and Yahoo lately, I have no idea what’s going with my data over there. Now, I mainly view Flickr as my backup for old family photos should an earthquake destroy all of our albums.* I swore off Picasa years ago because Google creeps me out as much as Facebook. So, I now feel that when it comes to posting photos online, I’m homeless. The only photo houses available are rigged with CCTV cams inside, so what am I to do?
*My backup method does not feel foolproof to me given Yahoo’s recent woes. I constantly worry about Yahoo sunsetting Flickr.
There have been a lot of these articles lately, and in the past year, the feeling of frenzy has accelerated in the Bay Area. Thousand page issues of Red Herring or the Industry Standard no longer appear in mailboxes, but the tech blogosphere is far more profilic than these mags combined.
So, here’s my two cents about the great questions: 1. Is there a bubble? and 2. Are things different this time? I think they can be answered through another question, “Who is chasing whom?” If founders are chasing investors, then there’s no bubble. But if it’s the other way around, and investors are looking for an entry into nearly every single start up idea out there, then we’ve got a problem. And from anecdotal evidence alone, I think we’re in the latter case. I definitely fall in with the bullish “Winter is coming” folks.
Part of me wonders where the money and people are going to flow next. From the late 90s to now, the pattern was tech boom then bust, and housing boom then bust, and now we’re in tech boom mode again. What worries me most is the mass migration that happened around 2001, the last time the bubble popped. Ninety percent of my friends left the Bay Area during that time (heck, even I left the Bay Area during that time). This is a transient place, but when leaving becomes the dominant mode, will I be left behind here with my non-profit friends and other perma-native-locals?
I’m trying to recall correctly whether the following art exhibit that a friend described to me was real or imagined. Perhaps you can help me out. A few years ago, my friend, who happens to work for a company that measures cellphone traffic, described an installation at a museum, where a light cloud was formed in direct proportion to cell phone emissions in and around the installation. In essence, calls and texts were visualized (that same interference you hear on your car radio, when you get a call on your iPhone, transformed into light).
If you asked me 5 years ago, to visualize cell phone art, I think projects of this sort, are what most people would have imagined. Thus, I am somewhat surprised, but not blown away with what, David Hockney is painting on his iPhone (story via Stribs). Or to put it properly, I am amazed that David Hockney is painting on his iPhone. This is not the first instance, of someone using his/her phone to create art; Jorge Colombo painted a New Yorker cover this May, but as these little stories add up, I’m excited for the day when I walk into SF MoMA and see an iPhone mounted on the wall, running through a slideshow of such works, and see the descriptive tile on the wall: “David Hockney / “Untitled” / 2009,” etc.
But perhaps the physical SF MoMA is the wrong way to think of the Museum of the Future.* From my Googling, I see that Hockney’s works are already on display in SecondLife homes. Perhaps the globally accessible Internet museum is it?
*”Museum of the Near Future” is more accurate, since this isn’t something that I expect to see in 10 years, but since the speed of information surpasses the speed of light these days, I completely expect this near the SF MoMA roofdeck sometime in November.
On separate thought involving iPhones this week. Based on the stat that 20% of all iPhone customers are in SF and NY, I was rather surprised by how common iPhones were in Singapore, but they were area. The iPhone is truly a global phone, at least in urban centers.
Perhaps, in time, the Kindle will make it to my list of top 10 happiness-producing purchases.
I wasn’t alerted to scope of the free content available on the Kindle (I’m too lazy to send my Kindle files from Project Guttenberg), until Robin Sloan pointed out that the Kindle public domain download for Trollope’s The Way We Live Now.
This got me to thinking, about the Great Books, particularly Harvard’s Five-Foot Shelf. Instead of running to the bookstore, 50 volumes are available (I’m guessing mostly for free, since they are in the public domain) with a few pushes of the thumb.
I’m still amazed that I can carry around the library of Alexandria in my purse, ’tis all.
Funny, here I go, I’m going to link to the NY Times‘ Style Section, yet again, as it laments the Kindle and the death of literary desire, otherwise known as a crush that one forms on a stranger based off of what book s/he’s toting on Muni:
And as books migrate from paper, it means the death of the pickup line, “Oh, I see you’re reading the latest (insert highbrow author’s name here).”
Michael Silverblatt, host of the weekly public radio show “Bookworm,” uses the term “literary desire” to describe the attraction that comes with seeing a stranger reading your favorite book or author. “When I was a teenager waiting in line for a film showing at the Museum of Modern Art and someone was carrying a book I loved, I would start to have fantasies about being best friends or lovers with that person,” he said.
Back when I was a lit major, I used to have these crushes. But over the years something happened, and I don’t anymore. Perhaps it’s because I’ve met enough people who had the same favorite authors as me, and while it makes for great conversation, it never amounted to any sort of spark. Perhaps it’s because I take it as a given that everyone has read Faulkner and Murakami and haunts Green Apple, so it’s a non-issue. The closest thing that I can think of to a modern equivalent of “literary desire,” is link desire, where a couple of years ago, my friend TT and I were leafing through Yelp, and I thought someone was attractive because he listed this as his second favorite website.
(Addendum: I realized that the “Oh, isn’t Bolano amazing?” pick up line has been replaced with, “Have you seen this app yet for the iPhone? Let me show you.”)
Our future President, whether he be President Obama or President McCain, may be wise to follow President Bush’s lead and swear off the Blackberry or iPhone.
Mayor Kilpatrick of Detroit, has been stuck in a mire of adultery, perjury charges, and calls for his impeachment that swirl around 14,000 text messages that he exchanged during a two year period with his chief of staff, who was also the other woman. In a messy divorce, Nevada’s governor has been charged with “textual misconduct” after exchanging 867 text messages in a 6 week period with a married Reno podiatrist that he describes as a close friend. Although he claims that it is innocent, that number is 4 times the amount of my monthly data plan.
Similarly, last year, Governor Corzine of the Garden State instituted a no email rule for himself after state Republicans called for the discovery of his emails with an ex-girlfriend in a lawsuit that charged impropriety in New Jersey’s negotiations with the state union of which his ex served as president.
Finally, although there is no evidence that Scarlett Johansson signs off her emails to Senator Obama with “xoxo scarjo,” she’s been touted in the conservative blogosphere as the Marilyn Monroe to his Jack Kennedy simply because she’s blond, busty, and emails the Democratic nominee a lot. Though, it would make for interesting reading in the Barack Obama Presidential e-Library one day, I wouldn’t want it to become his very own “Monica problem.”
Addendum: Also, while I think that Barack and Michelle are the real deal (citing to the victory pound as evidence), should he ever go on a crazy Sarkozy-Bruni bender (this would never happen, btw), I’d like Halle Berry to be our future first lady runner up.
*Addendum (06.25.08): Obama says that he’s not buddies with ScarJo afterall.