Sometimes you’re old

Every time the singer turned the mic towards the crowd, everyone but me shouted lyrics in unison. They were at a concert, I was at a calculus exam in underwear.

Happy Birthday Twitter

Twitter turns five years old officially today. I remember when it came out and that I hated it from the start, due to the precious name (it had the groan-inducing title "twttr" originally) and that I rarely used SMS on my clunky t-9 keypad phone. I recall that eventually I gave in sometime in October, and my experience with the still mostly-SMS service was so annoying (my phone woke me up buzzing at 2am when a friend went to Whole Foods and told everyone about it on Twitter) that I couldn't figure out a way to stop the SMS updates and eventually I had to email Biz personally to get it to stop. I found this fun email exchange with Biz and Jack in my Gmail archives:

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My friend Eric had put my phone number in as someone to follow even before I signed up so the moment I did, I started getting his replies without any way to shut them off. The texts stopped after this email exchange with Biz, but the experience soured me on the service so much that I didn't return to redo my account until February of 2007.

It's weird that it started off so badly since I've been using it happily ever since. I'm glad they were in it for the long haul, because it wasn't until I got a iPhone in 2007 and custom iPhone apps came around in 2008 that the service really started to shine for me personally.

The future of Microsoft

A lot of people seemed worried about Microsoft's future, given less people are buying computers running the Windows OS and their Microsoft Office cash cow could be threatened by free alternatives going forward.

But I have to say in the week I've owned an xbox 360, I can't believe how often I've used it (often for watching movies/shows on Netflix streaming) and how slick and user-friendly the platform is. The new Kinect is pretty amazing, going way past the cool intuitive approach of the Nintendo Wii with the simple controller by getting rid of the controller entirely. I threw the dance party kinect game up yesterday when some friends came over and everyone from age 5 to 50 enjoyed getting down to 70s hits.

Put simply, the xbox 360 is an incredible home entertainment delivery device, one that has already got me to spend $50 on xbox gold and $50 on xbox live points, about $250 on games, and this is in addition to the $300 unit I got as a gift. It's a pleasure to use, super handy for streaming movies, and the games are super fun.

Microsoft has a killer living room appliance and bridge to the internet that easily hooks up to your TV. If their business models around gaming are at all set up correctly, they should have no problem remaining a dominant force in the technology world.

Charming wake up

20.-American-Beauty-1999_imagelarge Whenever I hear the default iPhone alarm chime “Marimba” I’m instantly reminded of the soundtrack from the climactic scenes in American Beauty. My mind sees flashes of a nude teen covered in roses for a split second before my homophobic neighbor puts a bullet in my skull.

It’s a great way to start a morning.

Twitter doesn’t scale when you have 2.5 million followers

From Lance Armstrong's twitter stream, he decides to play a little guessing game with his followers and posts from his blackberry (ubertwitter client) on the massage table:

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Then he later logs onto the website to see his @replies tab to figure out the winner, but then this happens:

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In the future, Lance should try out something like ThinkTank or maybe not throw guessing games with 2.5 million people at once :)  

In Defense of Twittering During Tragedy

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Yesterday, I noticed blogs lighting up as they passed along the story of a mother supposedly twittering while her son drowned and the massive backlash that followed including instant accusations of parental neglect.

The story sounded too good to be true, the kind of stuff people write in their heads and hold in draft mode until the first opportunity presents itself to publish it, so I didn’t read the specifics until this morning at ABC News. As an avid twitter user myself and someone used to sharing information about my life with friends online for 10+ years, I was astounded at the amount of negative attention the mother, Shellie Ross was (and still is) receiving from the story. 

I’m someone in a similar position who posted to twitter (while in my hospital bed) just a few hours after my initial diagnosis of having a large brain tumor, and I have to say it was specifically so I could let my immediate friends and family that follow me on twitter know exactly what was going on as soon as possible. Posting to twitter meant I didn’t have to do a dreaded phone call to dozens of people immediately after hearing my diagnosis, and for me it was both a time saving way to get the word out as well as the easiest way to communicate while I was exhausted and in and out of consciousness in the hospital.

The obvious sticking point in many stories about this drowning incident seems to be about new media and old. No one is surprised at frantic cell phone calls in a hospital waiting room, but apparently button mashing on a cellphone to alert friends via text to twitter is a surprise, simply because it is new.

What happened was a tragedy plain and simple. The family was doing things in the backyard, the pool gate didn’t get closed, and an accident occurred. Some time after (reports vary but it looks like about half an hour after paramedics arrived) she updated her friends and family and asked them to pray for her son. This could have been on the trip to the hospital, as she was leaving home, or when she first arrived. Five hours later he was pronounced dead, and she updated her friends and family with the terrible news. 

I myself posted to twitter five times from the hospital after my initial tweet, bringing people up to speed as I learned more. Half a day after I settled in at home I wrote a blog post further explaining it. I did this again to fill friends in and so I didn’t have to relay the story 1,000 times later. I was commended a lot privately and publicly for being open and honest and sharing my story but to be frank I really don’t know of any other way to be, this is just naturally the easiest way to communicate with friends and (some) family.

Since my parents weren’t tuned into twitter, I did have to call them on that first day, and each day there after. In the end when I got home, I had to call about a dozen friends and family members that also aren’t aware of my twitter account (or even what twitter is), and I have to say those were some of the most difficult calls to make, to drop bad news on happy friends and family. It was hours of work too, to explain and answer questions over the phone.

Twitter is a great tool for personal broadcast to a vast set of friends and family and it’s quickly turning into a new default communication medium for the online world. It can certainly be distracting in the face of day-to-day cubicle work, but in this specific case it appears certainly to me that it had nothing to do with the death and was actually helpful at alerting friends to the accident and later informing them of the tragedy, and mirrors my own use of the service in a vaguely similar situation.