Most of you know I’ve been developing a site to create and host competitions. The first iteration was just a way to describe a competition and then have people submit entries through simple text. This was very crude and very boring. There was also no indicator of status in the competition. The site design was also pretty terrible. My new version is also pretty stark, but at least it doesn’t make you want to punch your own eyes out.

The new site is much better. The site design is going in the right direction. Also, there is a highscore list to indicate status. Status is so important in a race. It’s what spurs you on. Imagine running in a race and not being able to see the other runners. It would be boring, competition is inherently synergistic.

Mind you, the site is still very minimal, but I’m releasing this second version anyway so that I can learn how people toy with it. Oh, and the site used to be called Foobity, for the moment it will be called Competitar.

A New Type of Music Shop

January 19, 2008

After reading an article about music piracy I got to imagining what a really fantastic music store would be like.

I imagine a store with lots of low level couches that encourage people to face each other. In the middle of these couch clusters will be a station connected to a central server of music. You’ll be able to come with your own headset or use one of the store’s. Once plugged into the terminal you can set up your own list of music you want to listen to. You’ll be able to listen to this list in any of the stores. If you bring a friend, you can synchronize to the same music. The headsets will have mics, so that you can talk while listening to the music without worrying about disrupting people listening to other music, or necessitating a room.

The store makes money by selling USB sticks, drinks, maybe a tiny cover charge, and music. The music pricing will be based on how often the music is listened to in the stores. They’ll offer high quality non-drm mp3s that you can download to your usb stick. You get to pick the composition and format of the playlist that you buy.

When I was in gradeschool and highschool, I remember being so despondent about the lack of nice places to hang out. There were parties, but I didn’t drink. So a lot of the time in highschool, after I had eaten with my friends, we would just drive up and down El Camino in Mountain View. We had our hack to keep us sane, which was to the go to this LAN party/internet cafe. We’d play games there, but it had set-backs, like no girls and infrequent conversation.

I don’t know if I was the type of person who would have taken advantage of a music-house, like the one I’m imagining. Maybe there were a lot of hangouts that I ignored. But it still feels like there are a lack of enjoyable places that I should have been able to bike or be driven to. And I do think that the availability would have changed the way I socialized.

Maybe a music shop like this will never exist, but I think humanity could pull it off. Starbucks and Apple should team up to do this. Starbucks would manage the stores, and Apple would design them and make the technology for interacting with the music. However, the only way they would get music companies to buy in would be to set up an entirely mocked up store, and then get executives to come there. At this point, the polarization between the music industry and its customers has taken on too many of the blinding characteristics of warfare. The only way to convince people would be to show them.

All this prognosticating got me thinking about a lot of other store structures. For the most part, Starbucks is a hang-out like the one I’m thinking of. But they don’t encourage socialization with strangers, and everyone is listening to the same canned music. But they ARE a hang out. People will sit there for hours, and I see grade/high school kids come and chill for long periods of time.

So in any hang-out there is a medium along which socialization occurs. In a bar, the medium is alcohol. In the internet cafe, it was computer games. In community centers, it’s study areas and air-hockey. Each of them facilitate different atmospheres with less or more socialization, based on the medium adopted by the place. Recently there’s been a proliferation of Hooka lounges. Live music already has a venue, but I think recorded music has a place as a social stratum. And if managed properly, it can be the replacement for the currently waning cd store.

Of course, nothing is ever really destroyed. After all, people still buy and listen to vinyl records. But you have to be really blind and entrenched to believe you’ll never be displaced from the mainstream. It seems that one of the reasons there is so much contention about the use of music is due to a false polarity between people, generated by a myopia around specific issues. When we focus on people enjoying music, and the facilitators of that music getting payed, then there is no issue. The issue dissolves, rather than resolves.


January 16, 2008

I’m going to write longer blog posts. I noticed the ones that generated the most comments were often the longest. Interestingly, the post that’s gotten the most traffic is my short post on radio buttons in Rails. That posts popularity is undoubtedly because of its utility. You never know what’s going to be useful, so for now, I’ll just expound.

This was all inspired by reading a post by Steve Yegge, who writes some pretty neat things, including how he has found that post length correlated with success. Overall, I think what explains that phenomena is the amount of points of contact in established structures of the brain.

I remember a story about a salesman, that said he needed to make seven points of contact with a person before he could get past their filters of automatic rejection. I also read an article on seduction and the importance of making physical contact while conversing. The addition of touch to a conversation is just another point of contact you’ve added to make yourself more trustworthy to a person.

This gets me thinking about the importance/trust-structure of an essay. Must I cover a specific number of points before I warrant storage in a person’s head? Is there a maximum. Sometimes, especially when you are preaching to the converted, you don’t really need to say much to make a memorable point. And with people that you already have established relationships with, it also makes sense that you would have to say less. However, I just thought of some of the things I’ve said that have circled back to me through a friend, and these seem to be founded in the longer discussions I’ve had, and again where many potential points of anchorage were discussed.

So even conversation, perhaps any collection of related information can be thought of as a geometrically modelable system. Connect two points and you have a line. Three, a triangle. Four, a tetrahedron. So and so on.

Let me explain a little why I constantly model everything into geometric relationships. When I lived in San Luis Obispo, I had reached the height (or perhaps the depth) of depression. I was in a state of emotional paralysis. I wouldn’t leave my house, even to buy food. It was really really bad. But eventually my parent’s came and got me, and I started going to therapy, and there was all manner of getting better. One of the great things about getting better was my rediscovery of my ability to learn. One of the first texts I read while recuperating was “Synergetics”, a book about a geometry system that Buckminster Fuller created. Bucky is the guy who invented the modern geodesic dome. The book made a profound impact on me as it proposes many ways for the thinking about the fundamental relationship structures of nature, not to mention having some mind blowing diagrams. You can see a free copy of the book here.

Keeping in the vein of long exposition, Buckminster Fuller was a huge prognosticator. He really was an amazing guy to hear. He would go on an on, connecting space travel to structures and politics and history. When I was a child, I prided myself on having no heroes. Today, I’m not ashamed to say Bucky is one of my heroes, in the sense that I admire him, but not that I would ignore his deficiencies.

I’m also going to try speaking at length. I’m of the habit of going back and forth in a conversation, speaking and pausing, to prompt the other person to speak. I go to an event called Super Happy Devhouse which is a very cool hacker party, where people get together and write or discuss technology and startups. At this next Devhouse, I’m going to engage in conversations that I dominate, even if this risks rudeness. I suspect that it will alienate some, but I’ll start to gather a few “viewers,” who would be more than glad to buffer themselves from social anxieties by parking in front of a highly dynamic TV.

We’ll see how at-length goes.

Centralization is Valuable

January 2, 2008

The web is a decentralized mechanism for creating and accessing consumable information. However, centralization is very valuable to people and that’s how we’ve gotten a lot of institutional brands.

Here are some examples of companies and the resources they have successfully centralized.

  • Google: Advertising Space
  • Wikipedia: Summary Knowledge
  • Slashdot: Software Nerd Culture News
  • Digg: General Newness
  • Delicious: Bookmarks
  • Blogs: Journals/Columns
  • Youtube: Videos
  • Flickr: Photos

Like steel, oil, rail, radio, television, electricity, mining, and any other resource, there are efficiencies and profit to be had from consolidation of a resource. This is received with relish and disdain by different parties. Industry consolidation often means the death of out of the box thinking. People fail to recognize that such changes set the backdrop for new revolutions. What should be hoped for is a healthy cycling between centralization and decentralization.

What are other examples of centralized business/resource pairs on the web?