Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tweets…

If you have not been following the latest Twitter drama, I thought I’d share it briefly here on this blog.

Meet Connor Riley.  She seems like a nice enough young woman, going to UC Berkeley.  Her personal student website is online, including her resume.  After all, she is looking for a job.

Good news!  She landed an offer from Cisco, one of the few big tech companies hiring these days.

Unfortunately, she sent out a message on Twitter that was captured as follows:


She apparently didn’t understand that by default, everyone can see  you tweet.  Needless to say, someone at Cisco saw this tweet (likely from a saved search or TweetDeck stream for “Cisco”) and responded as follows:


Thus, the “Cisco Fatty” incident was born.   Amazing stream – you can see the Twitter search here.  The drama.  The intrigue.  A couple articles:

Connor actually posted a response on her personal site.  It’s not much, but here’s a sample:

Sometimes in the course of applying for a job, it becomes apparent that it’s a job you don’t want to do. I declined one such job early on Tuesday, and then, because I live at some distance from many of my close friends, I decided to use Twitter to tell them about what I had been thinking.

Let me tell you about how I use Twitter: I have 45 friends. I know all of them. They know me. 95% of them have lived in a dorm or a house with me. I practically can’t offend them, although sometimes I try.

So one checkbox stood between my using Twitter correctly to suit my needs and my using Twitter in a way that would make @timmylevad start baying for my head.

It’s not really that compelling.  Still, I found myself thinking about a few things:

  1. Get used to “Bad Tweet” stories. We’ve heard a few “bad tweet” stories before (remember the “Memphis” incident?).  And we’ll hear more.  It’s the new, hot social medium, and these stories will take on a life of their own.
  2. The bad economy affects reactions. This would be one of those classic schadenfreude stories, except that with the economy where it is, people are particularly indignant at anyone who would flaunt and dismiss a great job at a great company like Cisco.  It’s overstating the case, but in some ways, this taps into anger the same way the AIG bonuses do.  This is just a Gen Y, techie version.
  3. Twitter seems private, but is public. There are least two very clever aspects to Twitter that have helped its member and usage growth.  The first is being designed, from the ground up, to separate “following” from “follower”.  Who you see is kept separate from who sees you.  The second, however, is a play on privacy.  Twitter feels private, and the interface leads you to believe that only the people following you can see your tweets.  However, in reality, everyone can see everyone else’s tweets by default.  The advent of realtime search streams has only made this more obvious.

People use Twitter like its a new, better form of group chat… but it isn’t.  These messages don’t just go to friends and family on your buddy list.  These updates don’t go only to your connections. And until the interface changes to suggest to people that their tweets are public, we’re going to see more and more people make the same mistake that Connor did.

Would You Pay $12.99 for 5 Hours of Facebook?

This is a note I meant to post over a week ago, but didn’t get around to it.

The question is, would you pay $12.99 for 5 hours of Facebook?

The reason I ask is, until a couple weeks ago, I would have assumed the answer was no.  Facebook has become the latest in a line of great, free internet products.  It flows open and free, like a trillion pages of Niagara Falls, unimpeded by usage charges.

Then I flew Virgin America to JFK & back.  5-6 hours each way.  And the flights had Wi-Fi.

(The Wi-Fi was fantastic, by the way.  I got a phenomenal amount of work done on the plane, and having live access to email and the web was incredibly useful.  Having realtime access to Twitter wasn’t as useful, but certainly was fun.  I also saw some funny behavior patterns – like people watching live sports on the laptops while their seat-back television was on CNN or CNBC.  Anyway, I digress…)

For $12.99 you got wi-fi… for about 5 hours.  Worth the cost most likely to make the flight productive for work, especially compared to an $8 snack pack.

Next to me on the plan was a woman, likely 20-25 years of age.  As soon as we were allowed to use our laptops, she flipped hers open, paid the $12.99… and went to Facebook.

I was sitting one seat away from her, so I could see what she was doing.  She spent about 3 hours on Facebook, with a small amount of miscellaneous web surfing mixed in.  But it was almost all Facebook.

It was interesting to me, because the economics of Facebook have been fodder for discussion in the Valley for a couple of years now.  And here I was, watching someone pay $12.99 for Facebook.

It then occurred to me how much money the “dumb pipes” of the internet are really making.  How many people upgrade their internet service to broadband because they want to make YouTube faster?  How many people are effectively paying the service providers to access content created by others?  How many people pay charges for internet service at hotels, airports, coffee shops?  To wireless providers, cable providers, satellite providers, phone providers?

It’s an interesting counter-balance to the argument that the service providers give for bandwidth throttling and other pricing power maneuvers.  They would still argue they aren’t getting enough of the pie.

Still, I’m pretty sure that Facebook got 0% of that $12.99.

Makes you realize why AOL actually worked back in the day.  You know, in simpler times.

Two Thoughts on the AIG Bonus Scandal

I normally don’t comment on politics here, but wanted to share a couple thoughts I had about the recent churn and furor over the $165M in bonuses paid out to approximately 370 employees in the AIG financial products division.  As everyone now knows, this is the same division that apparently ended up with such large unhedged exposure that it required $170B of US government “investment” to prevent global economic collapse.

Now that’s chutzpa.  World record chutzpa.

Obama is pushing hard to get this reversed.  Trouble is, the contracts were signed before the bailout, and Connecticut actually has a law that requires double payment of withheld compensation.  Way to go, worker protection laws.  A couple thoughts:

  1. Avoid Bankruptcy at your own peril.  Our legal & financial system is like a giant, complex distributed system.  As anyone who works on distributed systems knows, common definitions and patterns are essential.  We have a pattern that’s been built over more than a hundred years for having debts greater than ability to pay.  It’s called bankruptcy.

    The problem is, AIG never went bankrupt.  That means all of the common agreements and assumptions, both written and unwritten, about failed businesses no longer apply.  In a bankrupt company, all debts are subject to negotiation, including wages and compensation.  Every state is different, but the lattitude to control the existence of prior contracts is huge.  By not letting AIG go bankrupt, we’ve probably actually limited the number of options we have in this and thousands of other situations tremendously, because there isn’t a hundred+ years of legal precedent for businesses that “should have failed but didn’t because of US government investment”.  Nope.  None.  As a result, a lot of laws that apply to companies that don’t go bankrupt apply here.

    This should be a giant warning flag to anyone who thinks keeping the auto companies in pseudo-bankruptcy is a good idea.  (They themselves are beginning to realize that negotiations with creditors, suppliers, distributors and the UAW are very complicated when you can’t invalidate contracts…)

  2. Sunshine may be the best disinfectant. I’ve heard a variety of proposals on this topic, ranging from the fatalistic (you can’t take the money back) to the extreme (we’ll fire anyone who takes the bonus.)  I’m skeptical that the latter really has teeth (Here.  Take $3M.  Don’t come back!), and I’m concerned the former declares defeat.

    Here is a middle proposal.  Publicity.  Cuomo is right on this one.  Give in to the subpoena. Publicly list the name of every single employee of AIG that receives a bonus over $5000 this year.  Name, Title, City, State.  Give them the option of declining the bonus, or appearing on the list.

    In this economy, with this attention from the public and the government, that list is one place I wouldn’t want my name to be.  It would follow you forever, and that’s assuming the government doesn’t directly target you.

Just a thought.  It might be naive, and I’m not sure of the legality of putting names on a list like that where a lynch mob might literally come out with torches and pitchforks.  But it’s a thought.

iPhone 3.0 Event Next Week: March 17th


Got the graphic from CNET.  They have some details about the event:

Apple distributed invitations Thursday for a March 17 special event in Cupertino, Calif., to discuss the iPhone 3.0 software and a new software development kit.

Next Tuesday’s event will come a little more than a year after Apple unveiled the original SDK at the iPhone 2.0 software event, setting the stage for over 25,000 iPhone applications to make their way onto the App Store. Speculation about a new iPhone had mostly centered on new hardware features, rather than software upgrades, but it seems Apple has something up its sleeve.

Hoping to see OS-level support for some missing basics:

  • Clipboard (cut & paste)
  • Background processing (some form of mult-tasking where apps can receive updates even when they aren’t front-most)

I’m wondering if we’ll see any significant hardware enhancements or new models announced.  The iPhone currently drives developers to really focus on a single screen size… would be nice to see more robust handling for multiple sizes/shapes to give more flexibility to hardware in the future.  It’s not that you can’t make resolution-independent applications today – you can.   It’s just not encouraged or optimal.


Forget the iPhone Nano, I want a MegaPhone.

Caught this news today – rumors of Apple ordering a large number of ten-inch touchscreens from the same provider of iPhone screens:

Apple Orders Touch Screens for Q3

I hope its true.  I’ve realized that my iPhone has really become my preferred portable computing device.  I’ve gotten very used to the swipes, the pokes, the pinches.  I’ve grown to appreciate and need the fluid animation, the transparency, the flow of the interface.  I believe I now prefer the iPhone interface to Mac OS X, and that’s saying a lot.

My iPhone is about Twitter (Tweetie is my client of choice), LinkedIn, Mail (Exchange integration gets me work email so much better than Outlook Web Access), and of course, the web.  The endless supply of applications doesn’t hurt either.

I realized a few months ago that, while I still have a large Mac Pro tower at home for heavy lifting, more often than not when I’m hope I just want a bigger iPhone.  On the go, I’m happy to have something that fits in my pocket.  At home, I’d like to have something bigger when I’m sitting at the table, on the couch, etc.  My wife has a MacBook today, and I tend to use it around the house for a lightweight machine.  But more and more, I find myself preferring my iPhone to the MacBook.  I just wish it was bigger.

All the rumors last year were about the “iPhone Nano”.  The analogy was simple, even if misnamed.  Apple initially launched the iPod with a larger device and a hard drive.  But they hit scale with a cheaper iPod Mini, and then, of course, the iPod Nano, which hit $99 and unprecedented unit sales.

Well, I don’t want an iPhone Nano.  I want a big iPhone, 4x the size, same operating system, applications, etc.  Just bigger.  Maybe boost the storage too, so I can fit larger resolution video on it as well.  I want a MegaPhone.

In fact, calling it a phone is a misnomer.  While I wouldn’t mind the ability to make a call from the device, I think what I’m really saying is I want a jumbo-sized iPod Touch.  The MegaPod Touch?