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'Technology' Archive

Letting my geek flag fly.

3G iPhone coming soon.


Steve Jobs has confirmed that a 3G iPhone will be released sometime in 2008. 3G is a much faster, much more robust wireless network offering near-broadband speed whereas the EDGE network the current iPhone uses is not much faster than a 56k modem. 3G was skipped over due to the chipset’s huge power need which would have drastically shortened the iPhone’s battery life. Job’s is confident the technology will have improved by mid to late next year.

So if you can wait, it’d probably be wise to do so.

More on 3G vs. EDGE.


Google Toolbar Bug: AutoFill

Google ToolbarI love the Google Toolbar addon for Firefox. It makes all my surfing a lot faster. One of my favorite features is the ‘AutoFill’ button. For those who don’t use it, it’s a one-click form auto fill. You save all your common info (name, address, phone, email, even credit card info if you want) and any text field that the toolbar thinks it can fill in becomes highlighted in yellow. Click the button and all the fields are filled out. Very nice.

The other day I commented on a half dozen or so blogs (visit these in the new sidebar section –>). Imagine my surprise when I returned to these posts the next day to find my comments missing. If it had just been one I would’ve assumed it was a fluke, but it was all of them, and on different sites.

I emailed Ryan at Employee Evolution and he let me know that all my comments had come in as spam. I just commented on a post there tonight and my comment appeared immediately. The difference? I didn’t use AutoFill this time. Maybe there’s something that happens when the browser fills in the name and email fields automatically that triggers the spam filter on certain blogging software. I’m not positive what the details of the problem are, but I’ll be typing in my info manually from now on. Other Google Toolbar users, you’ve been warned.

For those of you who don’t use it, this is the only bug I’ve found, and it’s a small one. It’s an indispensable addon, if not only for it’s auto spell checker in text fields. I’m an awful speller so this really helps. Although, it doesn’t have “dialogue” in it’s dictionary for some reason.

Download the toolbar here.


Are we but sheep? How social influence affects market trends.

In a study conducted by Duncan Watts, a professor of sociology at Columbia University, users were asked to listen to, rate, and were given the option to download a number of songs they’d never heard. This study had two groups. In one, users just heard the song before rating and choosing whether or not to download. In the other, the user was also supplied with the number of downloads the song had so far. Theoretically, the results should have been the same - good songs are good songs. They were not. In the second group, songs that started to show an increase in number of downloads would suddenly start moving to the head of the pack, gaining popularity quickly. What does this mean? It means that whether we like it or not, we’re social beings and want to feel like part of a trend.

This reminds me of a course I took in college called Technology Transfer. In it we studied, among other things, the concept of how new trends disseminate into culture. There are the first to jump on board - the early adopters. This is a small fringe group who are often seen as the ‘eccentric’ or ‘geeky’ in society (think Bill Gates and Steve Jobs when they were first developing the personal computer). These people are not the ones leading the charge for what is accepted in society. This makes the risk high in this stage - things are usually expensive, and often support and investment is not rewarded with long term benefit if the item in question fails to grow. The second stage of adoption is known as the early majority. These are the people who are comfortable with some risk, but wait a bit to see make sure they aren’t jumping on a trend. While only slightly larger than the early adopter group,  these people form the ‘voice’ the rest of the people listen to. They are the trusted leaders of society, and after their endorsement, popularity surges exponentially. This is the exact trend this study proved.

It makes sense. If I felt on-the-fence about a song the first time I heard it, then saw that 1,000 other people downloaded it, that might convince me it was quality (a hundred million Elvis fans can’t be wrong, right?). Likewise, if the number of downloads was minimal, I’d assume the song might not be worth it. I’d like to think if I had a strong reaction - either negative or positive - that the group opinion wouldn’t matter, but a look at my iTunes might suggest otherwise.

Even more interesting is the presence of a certain “butterfly effect” in the results. The second group in the experiment, the ones who saw the number of downloads, were divided into eight different “worlds” so that users could only see the downloads for their own world. Again, theory would suggest that the same songs would show spikes, that maybe it is based on some short of quality judgment. Again, we’d be wrong. Different songs in each “world” showed success. It would appear that random variations of downloads cause different songs to become the dominant successes. It would appear that whenever the early majority jumps on board, popularity follows, indeterminate of quality. It’s reassuring, somehow, to know in a parallel universe Smash Mouth would’ve never been popular.

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