Category Archives: Technology

Good Robot, Bad Robot

Last week, iRobot saw a weird news article about the mapping data in their very popular Roomba vacuums. I have long coveted a Roomba, thinking that one of these days I’m just going to break down and order one. That it would mean that my travertine floors would never again sprout a swirling dust bunny.

But the news stopped me cold, and might have permanently killed my “one day” wishes to own a Roomba of my own. At first, the story was that iRobot was going to begin selling the home mapping data that has been collected over the last few years, detailing many aspects of each customer’s home.
Continue reading

How Process Simplicity Could Reinvent Late-Night Television

Netflix Late Night June 2014

Finally, the first woman has landed a late night comedy talk show on a major network.    So, is it CBS? ABC?   Comedy Central?  No, it’s Netflix.

On Thursday, Netflix announced that they would be “reimagining the late night talk show for the on-demand generation,” with an offering by Chelsea Handler.  The show won’t start until 2016, and some industry watchers have pondered the technical difficulty Netflix will face in broadcasting a same-day show.

Ridiculous… Netlfix has two years to solve a technical issue that has already been solved.  There are two technical processes in play here, both of which already exist.  For decades, traditional networks have been taping in the afternoon, to broadcast their late-night talk offerings in the evening.   For several years, Netlfix has been turning “canned” content into streaming content.

All they have to do now is stitch the two processes together… And speed up the resulting process so that it can take place in a few hours, instead of several days. Continue reading

Broken Windows and Corporate Decency

Broken Windows

Over the weekend, I became aware of trouble at GitHub, a collaborative center for software developers. Prominent developer Julie Ann Horvath (@nrrrdcore) detailed a campaign of discrimination and harassment at TechCrunch.

She described being harassed by the boys’ club of fellow developers, which she initially just ignored. Then, it appears that – as she gained prominence in the community – she was targeted by one of the founders and strangely, his wife, who was not an employee but frequently on the premises. And her code was wrecked by another developer whose social advances she had rejected. Bravely, she spoke up over the weekend, to describe her experience and explain why she was leaving the organization. Continue reading

Another Loose Thread for Cord Cutters

Unraveled Wires

The current incarnation of Aereo isn’t the “future of television” I’ve been hoping for, but it is sawing through one more thread in the process of cutting the cord on cable television.

About four years ago in a fit of pique over bad reception and high prices, we ditched cable. We did what more and more people have been doing over the last several years, becoming cord cutters. We subscribed to Netflix and Hulu Plus, and bought a couple of pancake antennas for local channels. The quality of what we watch went up immediately. Last week, I finally bought the little jewel known as Chromecast and am surprised to find that it gives me even more choices that I’m actually interested in, right on the family room screen.

Continue reading

The Slow, But Steady Demise of Cable

Frayed Cable

Almost four years ago in a fit of pique over bad reception and high prices, we ditched cable television. It was very satisfying to take our cable boxes and remotes down to the cable company and say, “Here, we’re done with these.” The woman in the service center wasn’t really our antagonist, so we just politely told her why we were ditching our service, and as we were leaving she good-naturedly said, “Good luck, but feel free to come back if you miss us.”

We haven’t gone back yet.

Continue reading

The Time-Vamp of Social Media

Cell Phone Ignore November 2013 MedI heard a great question the other day:  “How much time can you spend on social media without neglecting work or family?”

Think of it this way: Social media is like having real friends.  Let’s consider work first.  If you spent your entire work day socializing in the break room or chatting on your phone… well, you would get fired.  It’s good to be friendly with the people you work with – you should spend 10-20% of your work day networking with people in your company or industry.  But, except for brief check-ins for making plans, non-work “friends” should be addressed in your non-work time.

Continue reading

Want to Make an Ad Compelling? Make it Disappear

Disappearing Billboard

I started my career as a journalist.  Even now, I love looking back over the articles I’ve written.  I like that people can still find that content and that it might be meaningful to them days or weeks or months or years later.  As a result, I’m not sure I get Snapchat.  Or maybe, I’m not sure I want to get Snapchat.

Earlier this week, Henry Blodget made a prediction that Snapchat’s revenue play is going to be…. wait for it… advertising.

Hmmm… that’s a bit anticlimactic… Continue reading

The Sad Personal Truth of Big Data

We’ve been talking about big data for quite some time.  In conversations with sales and marketing professionals, I have spent more than a little effort discussing how “big data” is much more nuanced than just predicting sales.  (Although it’s really good for that.)

I read a piece on Wired today about the Netflix algorithm.  It’s a discussion about how Netflix uses data from your viewing history to predict what you will want to watch next.  In the article, Carlos Gomez-Uribe, VP of product innovation for Netflix says, “A lot of people tell us they often watch foreign movies or documentaries. But in practice, that doesn’t happen very much.”

Continue reading

The Speed of Knowledge

Genetic Code June 2013In 1987, the US Department of Energy announced a 15-year project to map the human genome, with a projected start date of 1990.  By 2000, scientists working on the project submitted a draft of the human genome, and submitted the final fully-mapped genome by April of 2003.

Yesterday, Eric Lander spoke about the project at the 2013 Aspen Ideas Festival, illuminating the stunning progress that has been made in the decade that has passed since we completed the first map of a single human being’s genome.

That’s what I want to write about here.  Not just the progress of this particular scientific achievement, but the exponential speed of progress when a community is focused on a goal.  And the economics society experiences as products and services move from invention to mass production. Continue reading