Monday, 27 April 2009

The future of Google and possibly life on this planet.

Just  yesterday, I got two invitations to connect via a social network. Not a big deal but that social network was Orkut. I can't remember when I signed up to Orkut but it must have been during my socialmediaholic stage. I first thought nothing of it but slowly but surely, like the liquid metal pieces of the evil android in Terminator II the pieces of Google's plot for complete internet domination is coming together.

I am a great supporter of a lot of Google's individual services. My main personal email address is a Gmail account and through that I can if I choose to use their GTalk IM service. I use Picasaweb along side Flickr and Photobucket. Some of the things that I don't use though are Orkut which sits in an odd market space. Not quite Linkedin but not quite Facebook either. Sort of like the poor cousin to Plaxo Pluse populated mostly by netizens from India. 

I use Google Reader religiously (mainly because it lets me read blogs that are otherwise blocked in China) and of course if you're reading this blog then you know that I also use Blogger which is also a Google Inc venture. At the back of your mind you know that this was all part of a huge strategy to take over the cyber-World but all these free services were just too damn convenient to ignore. Add to that Google Docs and you almost don't need to install any software on your computer.

Nothing seems new there but if you look at all these jigsaw pieces how would you put them together? Lets break them down:
  • Photo site with face recognition.
  • Blogging platform with blogger profile information.
  • Document/ spreadsheet manipulation and storage.
  • Social Network.
  • Instant Messaging (that includes Skype like VOIP)
  • Email (that can also support private domain names)
  • Google News.
  • Google image search.
  • Google Checkout.
and last but not least
  • Google Profiles.

Effectively this search engine company that promised us that they will "do no evil" has amassed the ingredients to completely control our online lives if it chooses to do so. To their credit, each functioning part of this online monster was launched and grown independently, like the individual arms and legs of a Voltron like manga robot but when they join together they appear to be some kind of undefeatable super robot. Imagine for a moment...

You check your Gmail, that is connected to your GTalk so you can be contacted by text or voice. Your news source also comes from the search aggregation of Google News that you get via your Google Reader. What you read is then shared with people who connect to you in Google Reader's shared items but also through Bloggers who follow your profile and whom you follow back. Eventually the people you follow join Orkut and put up personal information, photos etc like what people already do in Facebook. As the networks grow then become more interconnected. Your Google addessbook is the same as your IM list which then becomes the same as your Orkut friends who become the same people who subscribe to your Picasaweb albums. Oh and should I mention they probably have your credit card details too via Google Checkout.

Big deal I hear you scream. The danger is not the interconnectivity, it's the business that Google is in. Hoarding information. From Orkut it gets a piece of your personal information, from Picasaweb it learns what you, your family and friends look like and with geotagging they know where you've been. Your communications via GTalk and email are collected which is why you are given 7 Gig of storage space for free. Even Google Docs which is a better movement to public cloud computing than even Microsoft has out will be in the Google servers. Slowly slowly, bit by bit your identity from the smallest piece of sms to information on entire family trees will be collected, tagged and made searchable on Google's servers.

To top it all off, Google's new Profiles service lets you do all the hard work by linking all your social information onto one page.

All this story needs is a little bit of science fiction to make it scary.  

Remember when there was a little bit of hoo haa about adsense and context based advertising? Something that we now accept as the norm. The arguement against this was a privacy issue. We didn't want Google execs looking at our emails to put relevant ads into Gmail. Google told us only machines and algorithms were involved in the selection of contextual advertisements.

With so much of our information potentially hoarded by one company, how far are we really from developing artificial intelligence or at least those semi intelligent systems that form the basis of things like the Terminator, iRobot or Alien plot lines.

Don't laugh, when I was a kid, mobile phones were things that appeared in Star Trek and nobody knew what an email was. By the time my kids grow up, will the world be ruled by a machine?

Friday, 24 April 2009

Tweetdeck vs. Seesmic Desktop

Over the last couple of weeks since the release of the Seesmic Desktop, I've been pondering whether I would abandon the Tweetdeck and head back to the creators of Twhirl (my first twitter client). My decision is finally made although I'm hesitant to actually make any recommendations about the two clients for anyone who might come across this post. The reason is primarily because I don't think one is any better than the other. I feel that both clients tailor to a certain personality types and I happen to fall into the one that is more suited towards Tweetdeck. I will attempt to explain why.

Seesmic Desktop is a beautiful app. Nice colours, intuitive placement of clicks and buttons and the kicker is that it handles multiple twitter accounts. In addition to that it allows you to easily manipulate userlists, replies and DM's. With all this to offer you'd think that the Seesmic Racoon would be wiping the floor with Tweetdeck's Window's 2000 looking interface.

Thing is, although I've had Seesmic Desktop installed on my thinkpad for a couple of weeks now, when I want to take a stroll down Twitter street, I'll still invoke Tweetdeck.

I couldn't work it out. Tweetdeck is uglier, slower and harder to use. I thought I was becoming one those people who still still carry a filofax and coins for the phone booth, but when I took a look at the tweeps I follow, I found that a lot of them (folk who geek more than me and would definitely have access to the Seesmic Beta before me) are still twittering from Tweetdeck. This gave me peace of mind that I was not adoptively inept but also made me curious why I was settling for something that was less empirically appealing.

So why did I not jump ship to a much sexier vessel? I can only speak for myself but I think in comparison Tweetdeck has become (for me) the twitter client reflection of my personality. I don't know about you but my desk is messy. I am the kind of person who has no idea what to put into my desk drawers either. If you do see my desk and open one of the drawers you'll find a collection of old pens, some working, some not, lots of dust and mostly stuff I don't use. On my desk are the things I use every day, my working pens, documents and manuals I need daily access to as well as anything that I might be currently working on. This is a lot like the way I've configured Tweetdeck. I have a column for my China tweeps, a column for people I've actually met and a couple of searches such as #gfwlist or #shanghai. I know I can also achieve this with more efficiency and ease on Seesmic Desktop but it's not splattered on my screen the same way Tweetdeck does it. I know the horizontal scroll is annoying and the column view requires practice to include the vertical scroll bar but for me it's akin to looking for that document by scanning my desk rather than going to a well organised system of filing.

I have a feeling that I am not alone in living in a world of structure in the guise of chaos, as opposed to living in a chaoticly organised world. To me Tweetdeck represents my frame of mind. Everything on my desk and nothing in the drawers whereas Seesmic Desktop is the opposite. The Seesmic Desktop gives me what I need immediately and no more. If I want more I need to open a drawer. This analogy is further illustrated by the inclusion of facebook statuses, 12seconds videos and a host of other things that could happily sit in a drawer rather than on the desktop.

Having said all that I want to make it clear I am endorsing neither client and that I am simply telling you the insanity behind my choice. If you have more than one twitter account, Seesmic is the obvious choice. If you are an inherently tidy person (neat freak) then Seesmic is probably more appealing to you. If you are the kind of person who cleans, dries and puts away dishes in the kitchen while you're cooking then Seesmic is the client for you, but if you are like me and like large amounts information (relevant or otherwise) at the tip of your fingers instantly then more than likely you're a Tweekdeck person.

UPDATE: I have an old box at home that runs on Ubuntu and because there is no "alternative link" on the Tweetdeck site, I'm running Seesmic Desktop on it. I have to admit that I miss my Facebook Updates. I also installed Orsiso on the Ubuntu box and realised that my Social Circle syncs between my desktop and my notebook. Very cool!

P.S. @tweetdeck: If there is a non-flash download link, do let me know on @dedlam

UPDATE 2: Finally got Tweetdeck installed on my Ubuntu box. I must say that it looks and performs exactly the same as on my XP notebook. Seesmic has some rendering problems and is now idle on the desktop as a backup to Tweetdeck.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Rationalizing my personal blogging

I recently took a look at my blogging presence on the web and realized that the last couple of posts that I have echoed over my blogs have been, well pretty boring to be honest. Somewhat like being forced to watch a holiday slideshow of someone you neither know nor really care about. When I looked further back to some of my earlier stuff it was less personal and more insightful and actually better to read.
So in my effort to compartmentalize my cyber personality I have decided to separate my blogging over a couple of different places.
First of all is my Blogger blog. This as my first blog and even though it is the ugliest it shall remain about non-personal issues, be it technology, China or politics, it will most likely end up there. (
My other blog is which will I will try to turn into my mobile blog. Inevitably the posts will be shorter and will hopefully contain more dodgy photos from my phone and give you a peek at what I see day to day.
Lastly, as I try to improve my photography skills I have just set up (which is still under construction). Hopefully this will become like a gallery. Don't expect to see happy snaps there because I have Flickr and Picasa to fill those needs. Hopefully this will be more of an artistic experience rather than picture of my son's new haircut.
So that's my online persona rationalized. Eventually as my Chinese improves I'll make use of my Blogbus account but until then, depending on what you as interested in I'll be posting on those 3 personal spaces plus the occasional piece and of course random brain dumps on I realize this is a big commitment so bear with me over the next couple of post and I'll see you on the other side.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Easter Weekend in Beijing

Having spend most of the last nine years in Shanghai, I've taken countless trips to Beijing over the years, but this last Easter weekend was the first time I ever went there as a tourist....(If you want to see the rest of this post, click here. It just looks prettier there) 

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Lady in a Red Jacket

Once again I couldn't resist taking a random iPhone shot of this woman
in the Metro in this bright red jacket. I hope you like my little
Photoshop Shake'n'Bake.

Posted via email from Dedric's posterous