Monday, August 28, 2006

Reading list from my summer break

Vacation is a great time for reflection and reading. Over the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to finish several books including:

Naked Conversations -- light reading on business blogging basics. didn't really learn anything new, other than background info on blogging at MS

Free World -- started a while ago, and finished it on the train from NYC to Baltimore. Rather interesting and timely in light of all the happenings in the Middle East and all

The Long Tail -- expansion of an earlier article posted in Wired. Still have several questions with regards to the role of The Long Tail and local civic or political life. Choice is one thing when it comes to buying things, but connecting with others is different, especially when civics and politics are factored into the equation. -- Been meaning to read this ever since I picked up Bowling Alone years ago. This dives deeper into some of my unresolved questions from reading The Long Tail, while addressing broader legal and societal concerns.

Kafka on the Shore -- pure "fluff" when compared to everything else I've been reading. There's not too many fiction writers I follow, but Murakami is one of them. Beatifuly written, disturbing as always, and difficult to put down.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Affiliation as it relates to reputation

I first noticed it with Yahoo! Avatars and their sponsorship of WorldCup. Mixed in with jerseys from various teams, you could choose your cause such as, Breast Cancer awareness, World AIDS day, and the like. Now according to a recent article, YouthNoise and Meez are getting into this game as well.

YouthNoise, a community meant to inspire and empower young people to catapult their passion and idealism into movements that sustain the planet, teamed up with Meez, a company that helps people create their own 3D avatars. For some time, Meez has hosted virtual clothing by real life brands. It makes sense that virtual cloting for causes would take shape.

All this has me thinking about one's overall reputation and representation online. With services like Yahoo! Avatars, Meez, Acheivements on Xbox, or even tagging on 43 People, isn't affiliation with a group or cause an important part of reputation? The actions that done by people (online or off), the time they spend with a product or service, and the content (information) they share all help others gauge the relevance of content found online. Does it not go to reason that one's affiliations can also play a role in helping others gauge the value of the contributions of another online?

Also, what of overall preferences? What else could be shown/discovered to help provide people with a greater context with who they find online? What would this look like? Where would it show? To whom would it be shown? Also, what would it look like if you and others could upload tags/clothing/etc for others to see? What sort of control would you have over your profile according to others? Is that even a concern?

Certainly there comes a point when too much information right off the bat is just not useful at all. But what is that threshhold? Who determines it? What may be relevant information for you in evaulating content contributed by someone online may be worthless to me.

Anyway, lots of thoughts to ponder. Thankfully, it's still early with all of this and we're all just getting started.

Monday, August 21, 2006

back, and almost ready to play

After a trip to the East Coast to visit family and friends (Boston, NY, upstate NY, Baltimore), I'm now back in Seattle catching up with the latest happenings.  Right now, I'm checking out  Windows Live Writer, and it seems pretty cool.  Supposedly it is well integrated with maps such as Windows Live Local.  Let's see if that's the case...

[map deleted]

Apparently it's actually branded as a Microsoft Virtual Earth map, rather than Windows Live Local.  Hmmm.  Might just be weird branding stuff.  At any rate,  I think I'll keep experimenting with this tool to see what all it can do.

Update -- Apparently the image upload, at least with this map, is not working though Blogger supports image uploads.  I have deleted the map in hopes of publishing this post.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Netroots Victory

I haven't followed the Lamont v Lieberman primary race too closely, but from what I understand, there is no denying the impact of the internet in securing Lamont's primary win over Lieberman. This is quite exciting for someone who has followed the impact of online communities on local politics -- it is all about community afterall.

Related links:
CNet -- Lieberman defeat a win for 'Netroots' politics?
YouTube Nedheads group
The Nation -- Ned Lamont's Digital Constituency

The Long Tail on the local level?

I've been reading Chris Anderson's The Long Tail recently, and I can't help but wonder what the impact of the long tail is on communities, boradly speaking. On the one hand, the whole notion of people finding their niche is a great exaple of communities coming together. On the other hand, if everyone finds their own individual niche, does that encourage balkanization? What happens to communities on the local level? Perhaps the book addresses this later. In the mean time, I'm still pondering how the Long Tail translates on a broader, societal level.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Card readers and eye contact

Kudos to my wife for pointing this out, but in recent shopping trips at Target, Safeway and QFC she noticed that how card readers were used impacted the amount of eye contact between the cashier and the shopper. Specifically:

In Target, the card reader takes the card into a machine, and gives the purchaser instructions on what to do. The cashier, without anything to do, bags the items being purchased. The only eye contact that may occur is when the cashier turns the receipt to the purchaser (provided it's not placed directly in the bag)

In Safeway, the overall experience is similar. While the card reader machine does not take the card during the transaction, all instructions are posted on the little card reader screen. Interaction with the cashier is minimal, though they make it a point to thank you by name (provided you have one of their club cards). Presumably this is meant to personalize the experience, however if you have a difficult to prounounce name, it becomes more of a hindrance to that personal touch.

In QFC, the checkout experience is most varied. On the one hand, they have the self-check out stands where you do not need to interact with another human being. On the other hand, the check out experience in a line by a credit card is the most personable of the three stores sampled. Instead of sliding the card and following all instructions on a screen, to run the credit card, you give the card to the cashier. The cashier then hands you a slip to sign, and you return it to them. Though it seems to vary on the cashier, whether or not they check your signature, the amount of eye contact, and potential eye contact puts both Target and Safeway to shame.

There are no profound insights here regarding credit card readers, or customer loyalty programs. Rather, the only observation here is on how tech can help or hinder actual interaction between people depending on how it is used.