Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Why is Facebook hiding platform application user numbers?

Facebook's launch of their new platform has been the hot story of Silicon Valley for nearly a week now. An initial rollout of 80 apps on an open platform created a wave of buzz and adoption that has been impressive to behold. But the hot story hasn't been just about Facebook. It's been about Jeff Jarvis' teenage son Jake creating a app that garnered over 15,000 users. And most notably, it's been about iLike's astonishing rise to over 750K users in less than a week.

Are stories like this one on VentureBeat -- all about iLike, and not about Facebook -- the reason that, with the rollout of their new "most recent" and "most popular" functionality for finding apps:

facebook apps detail

Facebook appears to have hidden the number of users for a particular app? I can still see the friends, I can still see the reviews, but I can no longer see the number of users:


Whassup? Hey, Facebook! Doesn't open mean open?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Zvents answers Eric Schmidt's question; John Battelle worried

On Searchblog, John Battelle writes,

"The Day I Ask a Search Engine 'What Shall I Do Tomorrow' the day one of you, please, should put me out of my misery... once I can have that kind of a conversation with a search engine, it's entirely arguable if the search engine is anything other than a human being, right?

John, Zvents has been built to answer exactly this question. Here's your answer to, "What shall I do tomorrow in San Rafael?".

And since Eric Schmidt asked the question in the first place, here's the answer to "What shall I do tomorrow in Mountain View?"

It's not human. But it's pretty smart!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Hey, Scoble: It was a B-24, not a B-17

Robert writes: "Oh, heck, I just posted some photos of a B-17 that’s been buzzing Silicon Valley, too."

That was a B-24, not a B-17. Twin tails. Four engines. Passed over my house about six times this weekend, at about a thousand feet.

At one point I thought I saw a B-25 as well (twin engines, twin tails) but I may have been mistaken.

I had a thoroughly mis-spent youth as a WWII airplane geek, and occasionally it pops through. How mis-spent, you might ask? How many nine-year-olds do you know that listened to their record player on an original B-26 pilot's flight helmet instead of earphones?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Steve Ballmer: Market Capitalism Doesn't Work

I found this quote on Donna Bogatin's Digital Markets blog. Regarding Google:
“I don’t really know that anyone has proven that a random collection of people doing their own thing actually creates value,” [said] Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO.

Um... free markets? Invisible hand? Hello, Steve.

I don't want to beat on Mr. Ballmer too hard, because it's always been a peculiar tension of capitalism and a thorn for its most fervent (market fundamentalist) adherents that the macrofauna and apex predators of capitalism, public companies, work nothing like free markets internally, and in fact strongly resemble the command-and-control economies that capitalism is supposed to supersede.

Nonetheless, a very funny quote.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

No wonder the country is a mess

The NY Times notes some interesting results of financial disclosure forms by presidential candidates:

Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California, reported assets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars but also said he owed more than $30,000 in car loans and more than $75,000 in credit card debt.

There are two ways to read this:

a) for a decade Congress has been run by people like Duncan Hunter who are too dumb to understand that $75K in credit card debt is a financial disaster, and equally too dumb to understand that pile-driving the budget into the ground by combining an expensive war, a moronic new Medicare benefit, and giant tax cuts is a financial disaster.

b) is even more depressing. For a decade Congress has been run by people who don't care about running debts up while in office, because they know their special-interest buddies will lavish them with rewards for their toadying once they've done their duty and graduate to the private sector.

The Times being the Times, of course they focused the article on the fact that some of the candidates are rich.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Hand Wringing About Education

It seems to be our national pastime to worry that today's kids are kind of dumb compared to some ideal representation of past glory. One of the key ways this is expressed is bloviating articles about dumb high school kids that come out every time some national test result is published.

The New York Times is the latest perpetrator of this meme. Despite generally positive results versus earlier years, the entire spin of their article is dumb kids, dumb kids, dumb kids. But the remarkable point to me is what an incredibly high standard they need to invent in order to garner a suitable quotient of worry.

They write:
...more than half of the nation’s high school seniors still showed poor command of even basic facts like the impact of the cotton gin on the slave economy or the causes of the Korean War...

I am in the tiny fraction of humans who enjoyed and excelled at history so much as to enter a PhD program at a top tier university in the subject, and I don't view either of those items as "basic facts". A "basic fact" is something like, "What was the outcome of the Korean war for Korea?" (answer: Partition along the demilitarized zone between North and South).

"Causes of the Korean War" is really quite complicated, especially when subjected to the incredibly imprecise testing method of multiple choice, with questions designed to trick. It's only because I was a very serious war history geek that I knew much about the occupation of Korea by Japan from 1905 through World War II when I was in high school, and any attempt to address the causes of the Korean War which ignores the post-colonial impact of Japan's departure is laughable.

I also happened to study the history of science and technology in grad school, and I find the claim that "impact of the cotton gin on slavery" is a "basic fact" to be downright silly. I suppose that the answer to the question is that the cotton gin made the refinement of cotton into cloth cheaper and faster, driving down its overall price and putting demand-driven market pressure on the South to vastly expand the institution of slavery in order to grow more cotton to process with cotton gins; but I would be extremely impressed with any high school kid who could come up with that; so impressed as to probably offer them a summer internship at my startup.

The reporter, Sam Dillon, closes his piece with an example multiple choice question, which is a rhetorical hook designed to let your typical upper-middle-class, highly-educated New York Times reader walk away from the article shaking their head about those dumb kids:
The test asked students, “What did Abraham Lincoln mean in this speech?” and listed four possible answers.

a) The South should be allowed to separate from the United States.
b) The government should support slavery in the South.
c) Sometime in the future slavery would disappear from the United States.
d) Americans would not be willing to fight a war over slavery.

Fifty four percent of the fourth graders given the test failed to pick the correct answer, letter c). “These are very worrisome results,” Mr. Rabb said.

You've got to be kidding me. That is the trickiest wording imaginable for that question; the right answer is wishy-washy and vague, and the three wrong answers are precise sentences about the key issues of the civil war, with the key word "not" either missing or present to make them false. Knowledgeable is not logical, and logical is not diligent and precise, and I am dubious that this question answers anything more than whether high school seniors are highly logical, diligent, and precise in their test-taking. No. Shock, surprise.

Parents have been griping about the fallen morals and depressed intellect of their children since at least the introduction of that social scandal, the waltz, into England in 1820. Get over it, everyone. Your kids are going to be fine.