Friday, July 15, 2011

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and often a path to profit

When I was a little kid in school, the teacher used to dole out little star stickers for good behavior, getting all the questions right on your homework, and so on.

As of yesterday, Google is giving out badges for reading the news:

As best I can tell from the Google blurb, instead of being a Foursquare “Mayor” I can get colored badges for reading categories of news.  More news in a category means a better color: bronze, silver, gold, platinum, with an eventual rise to “Ultimate.”

I’m really not sure what to think of this.  Is reading a lot of news articles like “eating your peas” as the President wants the Republicans to do?  Maybe Google is on to something here.  Colored badges for the GOPers that play nice on the debt ceiling debate!

Google is on an imitation roll lately.  Google+ seems to be attempting to combine Facebook (Stream), Twitter (Following and Inbox), Skype (Hangout), and pick your own flavor of photo sharing (Photos) and instant messaging (Huddle), with its own RSS/news feed thrown in (Sparks).

Google is getting a bit of media flack for its imitation; but, it’s also getting a bit of praise for the slick and often improved way it does what its competitors have been doing.

Ford wasn’t the first car company; but, it invented the assembly line.  Microsoft stole Windows and made it ubiquitous.  My Space came before Facebook, which pretty much drove it out of business.  Remember Dogpile and Alta Vista and Google’s other early competitors?  (Interestingly, they are both still around – and – the latter looks like an early, stripped down

The interesting thing about Google+ is its shopping mall versus boutique approach to the internet.  In a way, it’s a throw back to the early Yahoo and AOL – come here (and stay) for all of your World Wide Web needs!

I signed up for Google+ the other day, as those of you that got here from my Stream know.  So far, it’s Facebook with a much better interface but only a couple of “friends.”  (Be an early adopter, hang out at the mall with me, sign up so I’m not lonely!)  I can say that Sergey Brin is boring and the Mark Zuckerberg has nothing to say, literally, nothing. 

Until you get here, maybe I’ll spend my time getting some nice shiny, colored badges.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Nope, No Way, Maybe

I’m not paying Netflix double what I’m paying now for what it gives me.

I used to get three at a time DVD’s with the streaming service when it came in. I added the Blu-ray when it became available.

I cut back to one DVD at a time when I ran out of new movies I wanted to watch.

All the while, I read about the business model. I should have known.

Netflix doesn’t want to send me round pieces of plastic. That costs too much money. And, most people want instant gratification.

People pay more for instant.

Then too, Netflix’s content providers saw all the money it was making on the sweet streaming deals it had signed. They wanted more of the pie.

What to do, what to do.

The future is streaming and streaming content is going to cost more money. And, DVD’s have high overhead.

We have no real competition for either service.

Ta Da!

Split it Netflix decided and it is a good decision for Netflix. More money to pay the content providers on the streaming and plastic ends of the business. More marginal income on both sides too.

They’ll lose some people, probably like me on both ends and keep one or the other income streams from most people.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’m almost sure I’ll drop the DVD service – Redbox and Amazon will be the beneficiaries of my plastic or streaming purchases of new releases. The question is whether I’ll succumb to Netflix being the only real source of broad choice streaming content. I don’t want to; but, I might. Doing so, gives Netflix about the same revenue it gets now with no physical costs and I really don’t like the fact that Netflix has the leverage and I don’t.

I’m off to research steaming content sources and will let you know what I come up with, if I come up with something.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bring On the Default!

I’m ready to see us exceed the debt ceiling and see what will happen. 

Greece seems to be doing okay, Spain and Portugal are still clicking along.  I’m pretty sure Ireland and Iceland are still there.  Us?  Talk about too big to fail.

Minnesota, last I heard has not slide under Wisconsin, which hasn’t slide into Lake Michigan.

I did like the President’s line today that it’s time to “eat our peas.”  But his buds and their opposition only want dessert in the way of scoring points with those they see likely to vote for them next year.

On the left, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are off the table.  On the right, that’s pretty much all we can cut from, and no tax increases on anyone, anytime, for any reason.

Boys and girls, that ain’t going to cut it. 

Maybe a double dip recession will help for those of us with jobs.  Think about it, the markets will tank again and you can ride them back up (assuming you get out in the next week or so).  If the markets crash, gas will probably go back down with them.

The poor, the halt and the weak?  They’ll still be around, in about the same shape as they were before the default same as in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The boys and girls in Washington will eventually cobble something together, fixing none of the structural problems, same as they did a couple of years ago to “fix” the most recent recession.

Then for a few years we can go back to our desperate, or not too bad, lives till the next time our representatives let things get to yet another crisis.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Why are you down on our schools?

That’s what a friend asked me in a comment to a Facebook link I posted to this opinion piece by Roger Ebert to which I’d added a header of “another thing wrong with our schools.”

For those of you that don’t feel like clicking over, Ebert bemoaned the MacMillan Reader edition of The Great Gatsby, which dumbs the novel way down, promoting it as some sort of gateway to reading to be used by teachers.

I take Ebert’s side; but, that isn’t the point of this post.

My friend and I went back and forth in the comments, the gist of my end of them being that schools “teach to the test,” and don’t teach a love of, and the method of, learning.

Here in Atlanta we have a current scandal running because a hundred or so Atlanta teachers and administrators made wholesale corrections of students’ achievement test answers. I’m not too interested in the fact of the cheating, as deplorable as it is. But, it seems to me that is a somewhat predictable result of an overwhelming emphasis on shoving a prescribed body of “education” down the throats of our kids with the hope and expectation that they will cough it back up on the yearly tests.

The failure is at both ends of the ability spectrum. Neither a very smart, nor a barely able, five-year old seems to get the different educations that each needs. The very smart float through the system, unchallenged. The barely able are pushed along, not helped to do more than get through the process of getting an “education.”

I don’t know much about current curriculum; but, I do know that whatever is being taught is resulting in too many adults that don’t spell very well, can’t write very well and don’t read at all. It results in too many adults that have little or no ability to think critically. It results in an increasing number of our “hard science” professionals being foreign born.

Kids aren’t fungible, they are unique. Education isn’t one, or two or ten sizes fit all. Until we figure out how to create a system that finds out what a particular kid “is,” where the kid is on his particular path and how best to move him along that path, be it at the high, middle or low end of ability, all the money in the world won’t result in an educated society.

Friday, July 01, 2011

July 4, 1776...

gave us the Declaration of Independence.

March 4, 1789 is a more important day as the Constitution became operative having been endorsed by New Hampshire, the necessary ninth state.

December 15, 1791 is arguably even more important, the Bill of Rights was ratified.

Then too, if you aren’t Caucasian, a date in the late 1800’s during or just after the Civil War, or the day Brown v. School Board came out might be a big day for you.

Gay and living in New York?  Last week had a pretty good day for you.

Then there’s Arab Spring which is spinning into Summer.

But, live in Syria and you don’t have much to celebrate, yet.

All that in mind, maybe Monday will have just a bit of importance as the anniversary of a distillation of some ideas that informed what has come after:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security….”

In the words of a friend, have a sparkly Fourth.  But, words do matter.  I’m thinking about what we learned and applied from the paragraph above, and what it says that we forget.