Only Services in an Online World – the copybot cometh

Running a primarily web based biz I spend a lot of time reading and studying economics. Not the formula laden macroeconomics studies, but the real world version. How do we help our clients make a profit while we also make a profit to pay our people more. That version. So I find the copybot threat to product sales in Second Life very interesting. (SL is a virtual world where people interact).

CopyBot Roils SecondLife Economy

… Somebody in SecondLife, a popular multiplayer virtual world, created a
gadget called the CopyBot, which can make a perfect copy of any object
in the SecondLife world. (Here’s a Reuters story.)  This raises some interesting technical issues, but I want to focus today on how it effects SecondLife’s economy.

and O’Reilly’s restates the summary in his post on copybot (where I saw this first) as:

Raph’s conclusion is that infinite copying should be accepted as part
of the online world and products can’t be businesses, only services.

and from the reuters story, Revolution (who offered copies of copybot for sale) suggests this economic revision to your business plan

“Even if I pull this program, plenty of other people out there have it
or have the knowledge to create something bigger and better,“
Revolution added. “My advice is to offer the whole package when you
sell something. Don’t just offer a couch, but a couch that has several
custom poses “¦ work one-on-one with people to create unique things, and
offer customization services instead of throwing up some prims for sale
and forgetting about it.“

Not sure where this is all going, but it will be interesting to watch. And now I will go back to selling services. (note – I emphasized the word "services" in both quotes).

Second Life and Public Relations

  day 5_014 
  Originally uploaded by RubyJi.

Second Life seems to be all over my bloglines feeds lately.

Second Life is a virtual world where you become an avatar of your choosing and virtually/physically interact. While it looks like tremendous fun, I have been quite busy with first life and have yet to sign up for SL.

The fact that companies like Electric Sheep are making a living building virtual islands and virtual buildings for major brands makes this noteworthy. It does have a certain bubble feel.

It should be noted that mainstream media reporters are not excited about having to login to a virtual world to view your product announcement.

The photo is from RubyJ and shows very real topics being discussed. That is cool.

Web 2.0 Sucks! (Unless it’s accessible) – Sharon Rush Speaking tomorrow

Sharon Rush of Knowbility is our speaker for Netsquared Houston tomorrow night.

Houston NetSquared Meetup
Web 2.0 Sucks! (Unless it’s accessible) Sharron Rush of Knowbility comes to chat

Sharron Rush Executive Director


Tue 12-Sep-06 7:00 PM to Tue 12-Sep-06 9:30 PM

Program Description: (a.k.a. the "sales pitch" but it is FREE and for Non Profits so here goes.)

At this month’s Houston NetSquared meetup we’ll be talking with
Sharron Rush about the technology community’s role in making Web sites
accessible and barrier free.

As Executive Director of Knowbility (
), Sharron is constantly working on new and innovative solutions to
transform Internet technologies to be more accessible to the community
at large – including the elderly, the disabled and everyone else!

Web sites and online technology is good for everyone. Knowbility is a
wonderful online accessibility promoter and supporter, with events like
the Accessibility Internet Rally (AIR) –…   – and fantastic accessibility training.

this Houston NetSquared meeting, we’ll be giving away a copy of
Sharron’s book ‘Maximum Accessibility – Making Your Web Site More
Usable for Everyone’ (check it out online here:…  ). 

miss this great conversation about making the web an accessible place
for all. What are you doing to make the Internet barrier free? What
questions do you or your organization have about building an accessible
Web site? Join us!

Continue reading “Web 2.0 Sucks! (Unless it’s accessible) – Sharon Rush Speaking tomorrow”

Your Computer the Tsunami Super Hero

Via a post on slashdot, someone has invented a computer program to help detect tsunamis in real time. Like a weather forecaster for earthquakes that might lead to big waves. Except the forecaster is probably a bit more accurate than the weatherman.

The technical approach is interesting. It uses peer-to-peer technology similar to the seti project. The application itself measures shakes of your hard drive similar to what an earthquake would generate. If enough hard drives in a geographic area all jump at the same time, well, it is likely that entire area jumped. Brilliant stuff. A real world use. From the article:

Governments seeking inexpensive technology to warn of tsunamis could be
interested in a free software application that monitors vibrations in
the hard disks of computers in an attempt to detect the undersea
earthquakes that cause tsunamis.

The Tsunami Harddisk Detector is the brainchild of Michael Stadler, who demonstrated the prototype system earlier this week at the Ars Electronica exhibition in Linz, Austria.

As part of their operation, hard disks measure vibrations in order to
keep the read-write head of the disk on track. These measurements can
be read from some hard disks. The Tsunami Harddisk Detector captures
this vibration data and shares it with computers in other locations
connected via a peer-to-peer network to determine whether an earth
tremor is occurring.

Out of an Oddity of Timing and Photo Community Building

  Originally uploaded by eschipul.

(self promotion warning!) Out of an oddity of timing, specifically I hit upload on the way out to dinner, one of my photos was the 1000th Houstonist group photo on flickr.

Here is the post on Houstonist and here is the Houstonist flickr group. And of course here is the photo.

Hats off the Houstonist to leverage something as simple as acknowledging photos to build community. In fact the first time I saw a link to the Houstonist blog it was through flickr. Giving first is good karma.

And of course thanks for the honor of being photo of the day on Aug 31!

Now, how can folks like the Houston Zoo (another disclaimer: the Houston Zoo is a consulting client) engage the Houston zoo community on flickr. The Houston Zoo Elephant blog is exciting but not yet as participatory as flickr communities.

When One Technical Team Insists on Talking to Another Technical Team

From recent events at work…. When a prospects technical team insists on only talking to your technical team to solve the users problems; you have a problem. This point coagulated in my mind even more because as the whole things was happening I was reading The Inmates are Running the Asylum on software usability and design.

I called the bid process off. And probably hurt our reputation in the process. It was still the right thing to do – mainly for the potential client but for us also. Why?

It wasn’t just the geeks-only-talk-to-geeks aspect. There isn’t anything wrong with technical folks comparing specs. I can be somewhat of a geek myself at times. The challenge is the people who write the checks assume we the technical-team are off to the side solving actual user needs. And they haven’t actually specified any specific user needs, just overall demographics of theoretical audiences.

And we shall call the creation the <trumpet sound>USERS</trumpet sound>.

Ah… that word… the "user". Well just who the heck is that?

For too many of us the user is an amalgamation of audiences lumped together into this chimera of a beast. And truth be told that beast will never be happy. And YES this is even if the chimera signs off on the specification documents.

My point? I agree that the creation of personas is completely required for software development and web design. And I agree with the extension of that paradigm to marketing in books like Cat. On the other hand I don’t believe you can write functional specs for software without a big time budget. And your technical team can’t design for the people, they can only design for one person. And they should specify that. Just sayin’

Continue reading “When One Technical Team Insists on Talking to Another Technical Team”

Houston Technology Job Listings

The Houston Technology Center (disclaimer: HTC is a Tendenci client of ours) now is using the job board software for associations. So if you have a technology job listing need in Houston consider posting. The details are:

  1. Houston Technology Job Listings
  2. Post your job on the site here. Much lower cost than Monster and hey, it is local and local rules.

And as a friendly reminder, HTC is a non profit paid for primarily by tax dollars and grants up to this point. It will hopefully be self sustaining soon with the addition of the new building.

txtDrop Issues Reasonable Privacy Policy

Yea – a privacy policy from txtDrop.

TxtDrop is a new web-to-sms widget. A small html form you can add to your site, your myspace profile, your OiH  directory listing or whatever. The form allows a visitor to send you an SMS message (SMS = texting) for faster response.  Not the be-all, but another method of serving the visitor on their terms.

I first heard about txtDrop by seeing this post on TechCrunch. But I could not recommend it to anyone until I figured out the privacy and security concerns. The same reason I still won’t use Riya. We don’t want everyone sending us spam txt in the middle of a movie. Or selling it to someone offering great rates on mortgages.

The good news is Nate responded to my email this morning. txtDrop just issued a privacy policy that is completely reasonable by my reading of it. It sounds fair to both the company and to the user.

Continue reading “txtDrop Issues Reasonable Privacy Policy”

Everyone Needs a hug and the Ethics of Persuasive Technologies

Via Dina – this post highlights how a simple change in design radically changes behavior. Adding the default text to a form of "Everyone needs a hug" reduced flame comments.

That same post led me to this captology notebook article on the ethics of persuasion. From the article introduction:

Why pay special attention to computerized persuasive technologies?
The chief reason is that while non-computerized technologies can
certainly be persuasive, only rarely can they stand on their own . A
television with no infomercial to display will not convince you to buy
new cutlery. A whip without someone to wield it will cow no slave into
obedience. Even a carpool lane requires enforcement.

What makes computerized persuasive technologies more interesting
than these examples is that they can persuade independently.
Computerized persuasive technologies are also dynamic, changing in
response to different users and their inputs. They allow
persuasion "and the persuasive experience" to be simultaneously
mass-manufactured and user-specific. For instance, a wristwatch that
encourages you to keep running by congratulating you on the specific
number of calories you have burned is completely self-contained. This
leads to questions of agency: do you blame the wristwatch if a runner
suffers a heart attack trying to achieve a certain pulse?

Read the full article on ethics of persuasion here:

The topic of ethics of persuasion is very germane for us right now as we focus on persuasion architecture as a company. Looking forward to bringing this up at this month’s IABC luncheon!

Net2, Save the World, And Some Self Serving Bastard

At the conference this week. Not much writing but plenty of posted photos in the overall net2 photoset.

The conference itself has had plenty of realistic content. More than a few challenging questions. And it is generally grounded. No fear of being overwhelmed by causes given with the diverse crowd everyone is into their own particular interest. The dialog is appropriately focused on where non profits and tech overlap and how the tech can help.

One panel I enjoyed was the social networking panel. This pre-panel post on social networks by Bob sums up social networking features of most of the popular sites from his perspective. It is clear there is plenty of room to improve! Again and again he points out the lack of mature content driven social networks as opposed to content driven sites with minor social networking capabilities.

And last but not least and a bit off topic, a link to some self serving bastard on the pretense of a link count. <grin>

Speaking of Ahead of the Curve – I want to “Digg” to

In a world of G/Localization, I want to be able to digg by geographic region to a local news source. Yes digg for content that is globally interesting, but also digg specifically to if a story of local interest breaks. Or both.

Dwight – you have gotten the chronicle to be the top blogging newspaper. Now, can we digg it? (yes I just made that a verb – but you know what I mean).

Also note I am not talking about trackbacks or even cross posting of blogs, but nominating blog posts for professional journalist review locally. A subtle difference I guess, but I think direct is better than assuming reporters are trolling geographic filtered feeds of furl from blogs or similar. This would take someone specifically nominating in a geographical area of interest.

For example, I’d like to bring this post to your attention. But I can’t trackback unless I stretch it and somehow relate to the innovation in porn post. OK, I did that.

Peer to Patent Review of Patents: The Best BoingBoing Post Ever

Via BoingBoing, this one is important: Patent office will ask the public to "peer review" inventions

<rant>This is important before we all lose our rights to go to the bathroom. Interesting that private interests in the form of patent abuse are one of the greatest challenges to personal rights today. Be careful before you say that brand name out loud! From the BB post:

Cory Doctorow:
The US Patent and Trademark Office has launched "Peer to Patent," a
community patent peer review project. The USPTO is overloaded with
patent filings, so it does little or no investigation into patnets
before rubber-stamping them, expecting that the courts will sort out
who invented what. This changes the patent system from something that
promotes invention to something that rewards companies who aggressively
sue inventors.

Peer to Patent aims to address this by encouraging the public to review
patents, to determine whether they are valid based on the at-large
expert knowledge about what has already been invented and what is a
new, useful, nonobvious invention. IBM has agreed to have its patents
vetted by the public as a guinea pig in the project.

Now, before assuming I have gone nuts, yes I think Cory is over the top. Hell, even HE thinks he is over the top (his blog IS called "craphound"). But we need Ying to counter Yang, and we definitely need software patent reform to level an uneven playing field in the global economy.</rant>

I just hope this means we don’t lose out on those informative /. rants on patents. Now that would be a shame.

Are Super Bloggers Just Efficient One Wo/Man Newspapers?

This is an interesting point of view. Scoble is a newspaper. Bubba is
the current editor
and people don’t like changes on the editorial board.

Scoble has a guest blogger named Bubba. Bubba posts with a comment on how someone said:

Scoble is a like a mini-newspaper. That’s why many folks read his
blog. Links to interesting stuff going in tech mixed with some MSFT

The comment section continues with varying notes from "identify yourself" presumably with "posted by Bubba" or something at the end. And on the flip side one comment questions if asking for links to post is a fair tactic?

For a newspaper sources are natural. Scoble and Steve are so influential partially BECAUSE people send them stuff. Boingboing has an interesting stuff form. Sure they were super-humans-who-don’t-sleep already, but once the role had been established now they are media and media has sources beyond "what I saw today was". Sources.

My two cents – I like Bubba’s honesty saying "hey, tell me something interesting for the good of the audience." Great job as guest editor bubba!

Interplast Rocks – Your Chance to do a Random Good Deed for the Day

People like to give stuff away. They like to be a live node on the network. It makes you feel good to put money into the Salvation Army till at Christmas. So here is a quick feel-good opportunity for you.

Please consider adding a link to your blog to the Interplast Blog. I met Seth through Netsquared and learned that the folks at Interplast do this:

Interplast, the first international humanitarian organization to
provide free reconstructive surgery in developing countries, makes a
direct and profound difference in the lives of 3,000 children each year
who suffer physically or emotionally from a congenital deformity or

What’s in it for you? It will make you feel good. That’s it. Consider it your good deed for the day.