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  • The Real Reason We’re Disappointed About Google Acquiring Nest

    Posted on January 16th, 2014 Brian No comments

    nest-thermostatLeave aside the privacy concerns for a moment. The issues there are real enough: The non-answers in their privacy statement leave enough room to build a data center in, and both the words and the actions of the leadership at Google can leave no doubt that they intend to push the boundary of what is creepy in pursuit of more, better data about you. They need it to target you with ads.

    But that isn’t enough for disappointment. Paranoia and cynicism? Sure. But not disappointment. So why did the Internet react so strongly at the news?

    Nest is in the thermostat and smoke detector business. The make money in one way: Selling you thermostats and smoke detectors. The economic incentives drive them to make better thermostats and smoke detectors. The best damn smoke detectors and thermostats we have ever seen, in fact. So good that we were willing to pay a 10x premium for what is normally a $15 forgotten-about white box. One could only imagine all the cool things that were coming – and Nest had every reason to keep making them better: To sell us more thermostats and smoke detectors.

    Google is in the advertising business. They make money in one way: Selling advertisements to be shown to you. The economic incentives drive everything in their business to that end. Everything else is secondary, and must at least provide some benefit to their primary business. Android is about controlling a mobile platform so they can mine it for data and show you ads. Gmail is about mining your email for context and showing you ads. Web search is about understanding you from your web activity and showing you ads based on it. And Google has every reason to find new ways to learn more about you: To sell more advertisements.

    And there’s the rub: All of us could all see the potential of Nest to make our lives better in real, concrete, visceral ways; and they had the economic incentives to make it happen. Under Google, the economic incentives have changed, and with it the goal. Instead of making great products, the goal is now to push as close to the Creepy Line as possible. It won’t start out that way, but it will end up that way. You can’t fight economics.

    The products will continue to improve, of course. A secondary goal must be to make them good enough to compete in the market, but it will always be secondary. It’s easy to see how much potential has been lost, and that is ever so disappointing.

    “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks.” – Jeff Hammerbacher

  • I Am Not A Search Engine; Google Didn’t Buy Me; Please Don’t Sue Me

    Posted on February 13th, 2010 Brian No comments

    The big news from the Google front yesterday was their purchase of Aardvark, a search engine that leverages social connections to find folks who might know the answer to your question.  It’s pretty cool looking technology, which you can try for yourself at vark.com, but all the hype is prompting me to make a few points here.

    1. I am a person, not a search engine.
    2. Google didn’t buy me.
    3. Ardvaark is spelled differently from Aardvark, which is way different than vark.
    4. The name Ardvaark (or the variation Jr. Ardvaark) has been my handle since I first started coding a quarter century ago.
    5. The domain ardvaark.net has been my personal home page on the web since 2001.
    6. My site ends in dot-net, not dot-com.
    7. So you see, Google, there’s no cyber-squatting here.  Please don’t sue  me.

    That is all.

  • Google Wave and Prism: A Match Made In Heaven

    Posted on October 21st, 2009 Brian 4 comments

    Google WaveI received a Wave invite from Tim this morning. (Thanks, Tim!)  I’m still not sure of Wave’s usefulness as a tool, although I had quite a positive experience doing a little collaborative feedback and editing.  However, after about five minutes of using it, I was sure of one thing:

    This thing screams for its own window.

    That’s where Prism comes in.  Prism allows web applications to be run in a separate browser process, complete with a separate profile, their own window, and a unique taskbar icon.  For long-lived applications like a calendar or a chat tool, this is far more useful and stable than opening yet-another tab.  Furthermore, I like to read web pages in a tall window (roughly the same proportions as an 8.5×11 piece of paper), but I prefer my communications tools in a wide window.  Prism let’s me easily size Wave however I’d like.

    How To Set Up Google Wave in PrismAfter you install the add-on and restart Firefox, just navigate to Wave, click on the Tools menu in Firefox, and click Convert Website To Application.  You’ll want to cut out the cruft from the end of the URL, leaving just https://wave.google.com/wave/.  And it’s usually helpful to leave the status bar in place.  If you’d prefer to have wave in the system tray, you can check that box here, too.

    Google Wave in Prism in Windows 7 TaskbarYou’ll also want to pick a different icon – especially if you’re on Windows 7.  The default favicon.ico that Prism auto-downloads is very small, and scales up really poorly.  Here’s a 256×256 one that I used as a PNG and as an ICO.  It looks great in my task bar.

    I also use Prism with Google Calendar and Toodledo, and love it.  And I’m about thiiiis close to pulling Google Docs into it as well.

    Google Wave in Prism on Windows 7