Thursday, 24 July 2014

Unique language sarcasm tones

I read recently that the sound of sarcasm is different in every language. You might think that verbal sarcasm would be easy to detect regardless of the language, but that's just not the case. This does, however, make sense of a story Arj Barker told about performing in Germany. His sarcasm-based comedy didn't quite seem to hit the mark, and even allowing for the idea that English might have been his audience's second language, this would better explain why they didn't seem to get it: they didn't know how to listen for the English-speaking sarcasm tone.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Fortunately, on the internet, we can all detect sarcasm in text perfectly.
PPS - Just like that.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Facebook Save proves Facebook doesn't like to share

I'm not a huge fan of the way Facebook wants to be a "roach motel" on the internet: content checks in, it doesn't check out. It's a problem on the mobile app more than the desktop website, because sometimes I'll see an article I want to read, or a video I want to watch, but I can't right now. From that point of view, I'm glad they've introduced "Facebook Save", which is a glorified bookmarking feature to let you save an article for reading later, into a special feed on the Facebook site.

What bothers me is that this plays straight into their roach motel business model. See, there are plenty of other bookmarking tools out there, and plenty of services to save articles to read later. I use one of them often. It's called Pocket, and it's fantastic. This Facebook one could very easily be replaced by Pocket, if only the Facebook mobile app had a "share" function that worked with the normal Android "share" channel, instead of assuming that Facebook is the only place I would ever want to share something I found on Facebook.

This was clearly not the easier path for Zuckerberg Incorporated. Adding a whole new level of functionality to Facebook should not be the default behaviour. It's big, it's potentially buggy, and it reinvents the wheel. The only reason to behave this way is to avoid the suggestion that there's anything on the web but Facebook itself. In other words, Facebook went to a lot of trouble and expense to keep you on their site, rather than learning to share.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I've checked for the new function but I can't find it yet.
PPS - Functions like this tend to roll out slowly.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

A hard lesson in supply and demand

When I was a young boy I tried various ways of making money, as many children often do. Since my parents were right there and we had a decent supply of fairly thick paper in the house (scrapped printouts from Dad's work) I decided I could make bookmarks and sell them. I scribbled on a page, cut it neatly into long rectangles, and my parents patiently bought one each for the wildly inflated sum of 20 cents.

This is where my tiny brain began to misunderstand the economy of the situation. "If one bookmark gets me 20 cents," I thought to myself, "then 10 bookmarks will get me $2!" I began scribbling and cutting, even designing in new features such as a line marker arrow to show where on the page you had finished reading. With my genius new bookmarks, I once again made my sales pitch to my parents, who explained to me that they simply didn't need that many bookmarks. I thought maybe I could sell them to the neighbours, if we went door to door, but again (saving us all some embarrassment) I was turned down before that plan got off the ground. I had oversupplied my market and my thriving bookmark business was done before it really got started.

At other times, my friends and I picked mulberries from a tree in our back yard, packaged them in cups and managed to sell some to the neighbours, who were probably (again) just being polite, but I believe we ran out of customers before we ran out of our small cups of over-ripe bitter berries.

I can't recall any other money-making schemes I undertook, but I do remember every time feeling either disheartened at the lack of demand or being denied the opportunity to sell my wares. I don't know if this ruined the entrepreneurial spirit in me or if I never had a good grasp of the concept in the first place.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - In either case, I haven't started any businesses lately.
PPS - Or created any products to sell, either.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Cloud doesn't mean much

With the movie "Sex Tape" out now, and the trailer containing the phrase "Nobody understands the Cloud!", perhaps it's time to give ourselves a definition we can use. Ready? Here goes:

The Cloud is the internet, when marketers want it to sound new.

There. Now you understand the Cloud. If you want to go into more detail, the word "Cloud" is most often used to describe services provided over the internet, such as file synchronisation or database storage. This is, again, because of marketing, but there's nothing new or special about these services except the name "Cloud". The internet was perfectly capable of these services before companies built them, and it's still the internet afterwards. "Cloud" is just their word to make you think they've done something brand new and revolutionary when all they've done is put some extra services online that weren't online before.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's faster to say, so I guess that's something good.
PPS - I wouldn't call that quite enough, though.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The stickiness of choice

When you look at the table of which big digital marketplaces sell what kind of experiences - books, movies, TV, apps, music, games - it certainly looks like there's lots of competition, and there is. However, the lack of compatibility and the abundance of DRM in the space makes each choice much more "sticky". If you buy a Microsoft Surface, for instance, you won't be running any Android apps. If you buy an iPhone, you will find yourself also buying your music, your books and your movies from Apple, too, because they won't work anywhere else. And the more you buy there, the less you will be willing to change platforms. You make your choice once, and then the inability to pick up your stuff and take it somewhere else means that you are stuck, unless you are willing to abandon your whole library and start over.

Furthermore, even where there is some compatibility (as with, say, the Kindle app on Android) you are unlikely to take advantage of it, because the fragmentation of your library is a major pain. I don't want half my books in the Google Play Books app and half in Kindle. Why would I? I'd have to remember what collection each one is in, and that's more likely to depend on purchase price than on any kind of theme. It's far easier to choose one platform and stick with it, because anything you buy in one place is locked to that place. You don't own it, you just pay to look at it through a window. If you walk away from that window, your stuff stays there, because it was never yours. Human nature fights very strongly against that kind of sunk cost. If I paid for it, then I feel that it is mine, and I shouldn't be punished for wanting to take it elsewhere. Because I am prevented from taking it elsewhere, I stay where I am and defend the one choice I made several years ago.

This is the way we are building the world now: all the world's media is sectioned into a series of deep holes, and you get to choose which one to jump down, but only once.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm not a big fan of deliberate incompatibility.
PPS - The best software needs to be compatible with multiple other programs or else it's pointless.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Cooking at the office

Something I would like to see some top creative chefs attempt is cooking at the office. Going beyond reheated leftovers and the occasional toasted sandwich, what can you prepare and eat, in the space of 30 minutes, with the tools available at most offices (microwave, boiling water, toaster at minimum, and perhaps sandwich press and coffee drip, if you're lucky)? I expect you'd be using a fair amount of foil and getting creative with the sandwich press most of the time, but I'm barely a home cook, let alone a real chef, so my impression might not be accurate.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You could probably bring an electric stove top if you were desperate.
PPS - You wouldn't want to prepare it all from scratch, either, I'm guessing.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

What I think of what I make doesn't matter

For some reason just recently, my mind went back to a church service in 2005 when we had some artistic displays. I put together an origami diorama representing the created world: frogs, butterflies, flowers, grass, that type of thing. To me, it looked ugly, hasty and uncreative, especially next to the beautiful things I saw beside it. I was embarrassed by it. You can read my original rant here.

With some distance in time from that service, what actually stands out to me is what my friend Erin said in response. None of that quality-based judgement even crossed her mind at the time. My clumsy creation got her thinking about the world in terms of God's creative act. The way I thanked her for that observation, at least on this blog, was to harp on again about how I didn't want my name on the piece. Well, I'm apologising for that now. I'm sorry, Erin. You went out of your way to tell me that something I made had a positive effect on you, so thank you. I want to spread more of that positivity around.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'm also sorry it took me 9 years to gain the necessary maturity.
PPS - Also, huh, I've been blogging here for 10 years as of March. I didn't notice.