November 6th, 2006

  • evan

ubuntu developer summit

I'm currently sitting in the back of the Ubuntu developer summit. If you're in town drop me a mail and we'll get lunch or something.

I'd especially like to bitch at someone (:P) about how out-of-the-box Ubuntu, even dapper, still doesn't support bold Japanese, which means Google search results look like they don't highlight for all Japanese queries. This is fixable and well-documented but apparently everyone who uses Japanese on Ubuntu must install the same hacks. (The fix is known, it's partially Firefox's fault, blah blah blah. Still grumpy about it.)


Also: A guy just gave a demo of another whiz-bang 3d window manager, then revealed it was written Java. Someone in the crowd asked whether it ran on free Java, and he said, "Well, Sun announced it will open-source Java." How do you come to an Ubuntu summit and demo software that isn't free? It's against the whole idea of the thing.
  • evan

bricking

I like how the word "brick" has now become a verb in technical jargon, meaning something like "to render an electronic device nonfunctional [as if a brick]". I've seen it come up twice in the past two days from distinct sources.
  • evan

youtube talk / livejournal success

This video on the motivation/inspiration behind YouTube is actually quite interesting and worth a watch.

Some points I'd like to highlight:
1) YouTube's growth was faster than anything we've previously seen. At one point he shows a chart comparing it to MySpace (where YouTube's growth rapidly surpasses MySpace) and points out that even MySpace during its time was faster than anything we've seen before it.

2) YouTube required the confluence of a few technologies that are fairly new, which is why YouTube didn't happen three years ago -- three years ago we didn't have all of: broadband in the home, cheap bandwidth, and cheap/pervasive recording technology like cell phones. He discusses Hot or Not at one point, saying that initially people were actually scanning photos of themselves for submissions. But digital cameras were becoming pervasive and Hot or Not quickly blew up at the same time. (You wouldn't believe it, but Hot or Not actually is a business. I talked to one of the founders at a party once and he said something like, "We at least make enough money to pay for a small full-time staff.") At the end of the talk he suggests that future killer apps will use similar combinations of emerging technology.

3) I couldn't tell from the talk how long they had been planning this (or whether he was just sketching in history in retrospect) but he summarizes some of the previous applications that indicated that the world was ready for something like YouTube. One example: he was initially skeptical of wikipedia but then he created an article and watched it grow, and from that learned that user-generated content can be of high quality. What I was surprised to see, though, was that of the five sites he discussed as major applications (wikipedia was one), the first was good ol' LiveJournal. (He even sorta half-way defends using LiveJournal here, saying that people are skeptical of this slide.) LiveJournal, he claimed, demonstrated (surprisingly at the time) that people were willing to share relatively personal things online with strangers, which is really quite similar to YouTube's format.

The most interesting bit to me though was that on that slide that describes LiveJournal he has a bullet that describes Xanga's numbers, because Xanga is a better example in terms of numbers. And while I don't consider LJ a failure, it certainly hasn't succeeded in the same spectacular way that other sites have. There are a number of interesting plausible reasons for this, I think. One is that it takes far more effort to maintain an identity via writing, especially personal writing, than it is to maintain an identity by just clicking on links (Friendster) or leaving nonsense comments (MySpace). And even those require more investment of personality and effort than looking at pretty pictures (Flickr) or funny videos (YouTube).

But here's another observation: YouTube had three cofounders. Two (or at least one, I assume two) were programmers and the third was a designer. LiveJournal obviously had Brad, and then there was also Anatoly or Whitaker or me as the other tech person, but there never has been a strong designer's influence (even now, I think?). And I don't mean design in the sense of pretty buttons -- I mean design in the important sense of making sure the site made sense to novice users or was easy to use. (For example, I think even now each new user generally has to have stuff like lj-cut tags, photo uploading, or even how their friends page works explained to them by other users. Yeah, it builds community, but it's still a serious barrier to new users.) I guess this is part of what Vox was trying to do, but to be honest I find it pretty confusing as well. I suspect I'm getting too old to use computers.
  • evan

shuttle st62k ("zen") fan failure

This machine (as in the subject) has been my desktop for a few years now, and I'm quite happy with it. I chose it because it was all over the silent PC websites as a very quiet computer and they spoke the truth.

Unfortunately, the fan recently failed, and I was concerned I wouldn't be able to find an appropriate replacement that was also as quiet as the old one. But I just swapped in the fan described on this page, a Zalman ZM-OP1, and it seems pretty good. So here's a post to give them some more Google-juice.