Why does my mobile phone suck so much? (Part 2)

So, we've covered why cellphones blow in the USA. But even in Europe, mobile phones are still pretty lame in terms of cost and capability. Given greater competition and lower overheads per customer, surely European mobile services should be much cheaper? And to a certain extent, they are. But even at the lower prices, the incentives are all the same: return on investment on older technology for networks, driven forward only by the relentless pace of competition. In the case of the European carriers, the bigger problem is fear. European carriers -- like all the other ones -- abandoned voice as a revenue generator a long time ago and have bet the farm on other services: initially SMS, but now data. But the problem with becoming a data carrier is that you risk the fate of the ISPs: back in the early to mid 90s being an ISP was an awesomely profitable business, but by the turn of the century ISPs had become commoditized, interchangeable entities, bundled in with other services. If all you are is a data pipe,...
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An ode to the essence of boy

How do you know you're gay? It's such a nonsensical question. How do you know you're straight? You know who you fancy. And I've always fancied boys*, before I even knew what it was to fancy someone. When I was barely ten I was already drawn to certain boys in my class; the pretty ones. I was already lusting after teenaged boys on TV; only powerful hormonal influences could make Wesley Crusher seem cool, and as for Lucas Wolenczak, well, even today I have only wistful sighs. There's something about boys. They have something girls don't. The way they move: half the time they are like oversized puppies, always a step away from tripping over their own feet. And the other half of the time they suddenly break into a fluid motion of grace and power. And it's not just some boys, it's all boys. They're hypnotic. It's just a matter of degree. Every one has some attractive feature. A strong jaw, a high cheekbone, a witty turn of phrase, a quick smile. Sometimes they are beautiful; subtle masculinity hidden under an...
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Site news

Scratchpad links in the combined RSS feed now work properly, and Planet Afterlife works, although I have not fixed the root problem and it will eventually break again.
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Why I love the Wikipedia

I read Kottke, quite possibly the best blog on the Internet. He has a small post about an old photo of Helen Keller, which was rediscovered, apparently 4 days ago. This made me realize I didn't know an awful lot about Helen Keller apart from some tasteless jokes, so I checked out her wikipedia entry... ...where the photo discovered 4 days previously had already been inserted into the entry. Try that with Britannica.
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Your attention please

Marc Andreessen has talked to Barack Obama for 90 minutes and written about the experience. I don't want this to be buried in the scratchpad; you'll want to read this. Tidbits such as: Senator Obama's political opponents tend to try to paint him as some kind of lightweight, which he most definitely is not. ... I think he's at or near the top of the scale of intelligence of anyone in political life today. ... He's crisp, lucid, analytical, and clearly assimilates and synthesizes a very large amount of information -- smart. If Marc Andreessen thinks you are smart, you are really freakin' smart. Secondly, this: One of the reasons Senator Obama comes across as so fresh and different is that he's the first serious presidential candidate who isn't either from the World War II era (Reagan, Bush Sr, Dole, and even McCain, who was born in 1936) or from the Baby Boomer generation (Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Al Gore, and George W. Bush). ... It's very clear when interacting with Senator Obama that...
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Tales of the unexpected

You know those nasty dreams you sometimes have, where you suddenly find out you have an exam in 10 minutes that you completely forgot about, and you go crazy with panic? Well, that was sort of like my day. Backtrack a bit: a couple of weeks ago, as twitter informed keen readers, I went to the dentist for the first time in a while. This resulted in a ton of work, including a temporary crown last week. Also last week, I decided to finally follow up on my new year's resolution to get a driving licence. This involved calling the California DMV and making an appointment to apply for the licence. I decided to be clever and schedule the appointment for the same day as one of my dentist visits. Going to the dentist involves me working from home a day anyway, because the dentist is in San Francisco, and until I can drive, there's no practical way for me to get to the office in Sunnyvale if I miss the morning shuttle, so it seemed a more efficient use of my time. The DMV has a telephone system that is supposed to...
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Useful junk

I am not a fan of spam, either online or in meatspace. I regularly mock it. However, there is one form of junk mail that I appreciate: fast food menus. These are really convenient and geographically targeted and relevant to me. How else would I know where delivered to my area, and what they offered? Are there any other examples of junk mail you find actually useful?
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Twitter color wars 2008: blue team avatar generator

The illustrious and wonderful Ze Frank has started using Twitter and, being the kind of guy he is, has immediately turned it into some kind of bizarre social science project which has got completely out of hand and turned into the 2008 color wars, which is already very popular even though nobody, not even Ze, is quite sure what it's going to be yet. It will be some kind of game involving text messaging, and that's about all I know. Basically, it involves joining one of the teams simply by following them on Twitter. There is no rhyme or reason to the number, size or composition of teams. Your choice of team is arbitrary. When I was at school, my school divided its students into red, green, blue and yellow "houses", which were very similar to the teams at Ze's summer camp. I was on the blue team back then. Plus, as anyone who is not reading this site through an RSS reader knows, I'm a huge fan of blue in general. So I spent an enjoyable couple of hours this morning making a nifty blue team avatar maker for...
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Seldo.Com is 7 years old today

7 years 2,555 days 61,320 hours 3,679,200 minutes 1,298 posts (roughly one post every other day) ~2MB megabytes of plain text (not counting three plays) ~350,000 words (one word every 7 waking minutes) Four published designs and more than a dozen unpublished ones. Ages 19-26, incompletely but permanently recorded. More than a quarter of my life!* Thoughts and fears and hopes and dreams and rants and emotional crises and prejudices and hissy fits and drama and arrogant pronouncements and terror and joy and love and loss and controversy and, oh good god, blogging my lunch... everything that has been me. I don't usually celebrate the birthday of this blog (in fact, almost every year I forget until several days later) but this year feels a little special because this year I think it becomes my longest sustained personal endeavour. Longer than I have spent at any school, any job. I have lived with my blog longer than I have lived in any one place other than the house I grew up in. Seven years... it's just a...
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The Emergent Web

Nate Koechley, who is really smart, did a brief post a couple days ago on the way APIs are beginning to multiply and cross-pollinate in ever more interesting ways. He says he doesn't know what it means, but I think I do. And since I have a habit of thinking these things and not writing them down before they are obvious, I have decided to publish rather than be damned. Tim Berners-Lee, my own personal nerd idol, who I couldn't possibly respect more unless he could fire lasers out of his eyes*, thinks the future of the web lies in the semantic web. He has thought this for a long time. And on the face of it, it seems like a great idea: if you turn the web into a giant collection of structured data, you can then build amazing robots to crawl all over it and draw inferences and glue things together in new and unexpected ways and wow, you have a whole new web and also some magical self-aware software, and incidentally you've built what it was that Sir Tim was trying to build in the first place: a linked...
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The Emergent Web: the elevator pitch

Okay, for those of you who had trouble focussing long enough to read my last post, here's the executive summary. Everybody wants to know what's coming next for the web. Lots of people think it's going to be the semantic web, but I disagree. The semantic web will never happen because there is no economic incentive to create it. The web is not about semantic documents, the web is about processing data into information. The software that does the processing is the important part: these are web APIs. APIs are soon going to hit critical mass, and begin to feed off of each other, multiplying exponentially. A critical component will be meta APIs that capture and transform other APIs The value created will be largely unexpected, because the interaction of services is hard to predict. This explosion of new services and data will be the emergent web. It is going to be a game-changing event, comparable to the birth of the web itself. The emergent web will happen because web services will make tons of money The people...
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