Friday, December 12, 2003

In Praise of Mediocrity

The title of the article says it all: Young Success Means Early Death.

Apparently, even after correcting for every other statistical factor, politicians, Nobel laureates, and popes who achieved their success earlier in life tended to die at a younger age.

"Those who climb to the loftiest peaks in the shortest time also die younger. For the eminent, and perhaps for all, an early rise may lead to an early fall."

In my youth, I always ascribed to the faster is better theory, and felt a bit chagrined that it took me until I was 19 to graduate from college (when other friends I knew were already in medical school by that time). Now I realize I should be thankful for my relative lack of early achievement!
Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!

Why does it not surprise me that Santa Cruz is the site of the trial of this wacky idea?

The best part is that investors have already ponied up $2 million. And Homer Simpson will drive the cars.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The Cylons Are Coming

Though I am reluctant to admit it, I was a big fan of the original Battlestar Galactica in all of its cheez-tastic splendor (Lorne Green! Dirk Benedict! The Cylons who appeared to be the evolutionary descendants of KITT from Knight Rider!). I can actually name specific episodes, like "The Guns of Ice Planet Zero," and remember specific plotlines ("Watch out, it's the Lupus!").

Like many fans, I was a bit worried about the buzz from the new Battlestar Galactica miniseries. Starbuck a woman? Cylons that look like humans?

After watching several hours of action, I can say three things:

1. The new miniseries is almost, but not entirely unfaithful to the original.
2. Despite some slow pacing, the miniseries is much better than the original.
3. Edward James Olmos is outstanding in the lead role.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

The Internet and the UN

God help us all, the UN wants to get involved in governing the Internet.
Making Social Networking Work

The key to understanding the social networking phenomenon is realizing that it's really two separate areas. The first area is growing your network. Sites like Friendster place their emphasis on letting you find new friends (although the focus is ostensibly on friends of friends). The second are is leveraging your existing network. Sites like LinkedIn emphasize facilitating information transactions within your existing network.

While Friendster has gotten most of the attention to date, I've become more and more impressed with LinkedIn. Just today, LinkedIn sent me an email announcing the feature I've been screaming about for months: The ability to import your Outlook Contacts to find out which of your contacts are already on LinkedIn. I immediately imported my 1,000+ Contacts, and discovered that about 50 were already on LinkedIn--not bad, considering I had fewer than 30 connections at the beginning of the day.

Plus, with LinkedIn's case-by-case control over making and forwarding requests, it manages to overcome the queasiness that I might feel about sharing my contact list.

I still think that LinkedIn should display Level 1 contacts (friends-of-friends), but they're already making themselves fairly useful. Who knows, in a couple of years, I might even pay for it!

Monday, December 08, 2003

Beating The (Cell Phone) Numbers

About a month ago, I surveyed the various wireless carriers. You see, I knew that number portability was coming on 11/24, and I intended to be ready.

After checking around, I found that T-Mobile offered more minutes at half the cost of AT&T Wireless (my old carrier). As a bonus, while AT&T's coverage is generally better than T-Mobile's, T-Mobile actually worked within my house (I had signed up with AT&T before I moved into my house...and of course I didn't want to give up my phone number).

On November 24, I signed up for T-Mobile and applied to have my number ported. I was told that the port would occur within 4-48 hours. Until then, I'd have to carry around two cell phones--my AT&T phone, and my T-Mobile phone. I figured, what the hey, it's just for one, two days, tops.

A week later, the switch still hadn't happened. And I wasn't alone!

Fortunately, the FCC demanded that AT&T explain their problems by 12/10. Oddly enough, today, my switchover finally happened.

The moral of the story is that you can't fight consumer choice. More are more, companies will have to count on better service, rather than proprietary lock-in, to retain their customers. This is a lesson that AT&T Wireless will soon learn, much to its regret.