All your dates are belong to us

28
Sep
2012

File this under creepy. Where to begin? We all know the world is getting smaller, and privacy is harder and harder to control, especially on the internet. It doesn’t help that every time Facebook makes some site change they seem to erase all your carefully setup controls and start sharing everything with everyone. And oftentimes, our conception of privacy is not about certain information being public, it is more about the ease of accessing that information. It would definitely have been possible in a previous age to gather a bunch of personal information about someone with a trip to the county courthouse, but who other than some rich asshole going to the expense of hiring a private detective would have bothered?

So I guess just file this under one more chip in the wall: With the recent release of ios6 and Mountain Lion, one can now easily link one’s Facebook account to one’s contacts, and pull all info from Facebook into these contacts. While at first glance this doesn’t seem like a big deal, I have discovered a few areas where it is a little disturbing. Case in point: people in my contacts for whom I only have phone numbers, many times without a last name. Why would I have such numbers littering my contacts? These might be people I met randomly at a party or professional function, or online and exchanged just the minimal amount of information necessary. They might have been to call later about a website or other work, or more likely to set up a coffee or dinner date. And my contacts list (and most people’s I would wager) are littered with these past partial contacts that we rarely if ever get around to cleaning out.

Here is where it gets interesting. I noticed after linking my contacts, that a bunch of extra information was pulled down for these contacts. Info that I never had before, based on nothing other than the phone number. So suddenly I had profile pics and last names and some other info for these people. I hadn’t realized this before, but according to one’s privacy settings (those again!) on Facebook  if your phone number is in there, you can actually be found right on the Facebook website, just by entering that number as a search. No name or email even required. So I spent part of the morning revisiting my past dating life, learning things about these people that was not shared with me previously, and in most cases deleting these entries from my contacts.

If I were you, I would go into your Facebook privacy settings right now (and perhaps once a week given the capriciousness of Facebook tweaking) and make sure what is shared is what you want to be shared. Or just let it be. We are clearly headed for a Borg-like future anyway.

An asshole who made the world a better place.

6
Oct
2011

I felt that familiar buzz in my pocket coming from my iPhone. I had just received a text message telling me that Steve Jobs was dead. Everyone dies, and let’s face it we all knew this one was coming sooner rather than later. But surprisingly, it kind of hit me. It kind of represented something bigger than one person dying. I went home and read through some of the coverage, and felt a pang of sadness for what the world had lost.

There were all kinds of reasons I didn’t like Steve Jobs. I used to work at Apple in the late 90s and there were so many examples of what an asshole he could be. The stories of how terribly he treated people. How he would park in the handicapped space at Apple. His imperious manner.  His relentless tracking down and firing of someone that wrote a joke email about him.

Years later, as Apple came to dominate industries, I really rued his controlling, anti-competitive nature. The lawsuits against competitors, the ridiculousness of pricing in the iPhone ecosystem, the censorship of content. For so many years, Apple was the underdog and it was obvious to me how much better everything they made was than the crap that Microsoft and Dell gave to the world. And I would be lying if I didn’t also acknowledge how it mattered to me not to let the world be owned by any one company like Microsoft. That we needed (and still need) competition and variety. That we need to encourage creativity with openness. Now that they are on top, Apple sometimes forgets this, and becomes a part of what is terrible. They often behave as a monopolist, and this is very distressing.

But there is no ignoring the truth that our world would be a much uglier place without Steve Jobs. The beauty that has gone into so many things I use on a daily basis is largely because of him. That it is possible to take delight in a certain kind of creativity, and to have tools that help that creative vision come to life was not in any way an inevitability. Over and over again through the years, I have asked myself a simple question that no one can answer: Why can no other company make technology this beautiful and fun to use? There are amazing designers all over the world, in almost every industry, but in the computer field there is nothing that approaches Apple. Even the very best that others have produced reeks of cheap imitation of Apple. Steve never invented anything directly, and yet so many of the things we use today would not exist but for his vision and dedication to making them.

iPad, shmypad

8
Apr
2010

I got a chance to play with an iPad at the Apple Store the other day. Here are my impressions.

PRO:
– Very nice looking
– Very fast and responsive
– Nice use of extra screen real estate for calendar, mail, contacts and other apps

CON:
– It gets very heavy very quickly. No one will use this like a paperback.
– No camera. this is really a deal breaker for me
– Much more of a consumption device than a creation device.
– As much as I hate Flash (as a developer), it is a glaring omission in a device made for browsing the internet.

Ultimately, I can’t really see why (outside of object lust) anyone would want one unless they have no other computer. But then, without a computer, they would have no way to sync this thing, so there goes that theory. In any event, I am surely not representative of the market for this thing. If it could have been a full fledged communication device (talk, video conferencing, photo sharing, as well as multitasking IM) I could see a much better use case.