Short Nerd Chief

Posts Tagged ‘Robert Scoble’

Space makes Scoble cry (me, too)

Posted by Fred on February 29, 2008

WWT We now know what will make Robert Scoble cry – the immensity of the universe and our tiny little place in it, as visualized by Microsoft Research’s Worldwide Telescope. MS describes WWT as “a rich visualization environment that functions as a virtual telescope, bringing together imagery from the best ground- and space telescopes to enable seamless, guided explorations of the universe.”  That is, perhaps, the world’s most boring description of a service that is incredibly amazing.  Even an astrophysicist gets a little giddy talking about it:

“The WorldWide Telescope takes the best images from the greatest telescopes on Earth … and in space … and assembles them into a seamless, holistic view of the universe. This new resource will change the way we do astronomy … the way we teach astronomy … and, most importantly, I think it’s going to change the way we see ourselves in the universe,” said Dr. Roy Gould of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics. “The creators of the WorldWide Telescope have now given us a way to have a dialogue with our universe.”

It’s a pretty one-way dialogue, but the images released so far for the as-yet-unavailable service do pack quite a wallop.  Here are three, stolen shamelessly from the TEDBlog:

ted08_wwt1

ted08_wwt2

ted08_wwt3

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Kinda Big MS Research announcement that makes Scoble cry coming?

Posted by Fred on February 15, 2008

What is Scoble talking about here?

It’s not often that I see software that really changes my world. It’s even rarer that I see software that I know will change the world my sons live in. I can count those times pretty easily. The first time I saw an Apple II in 1977. When Richard Cameron showed me Apple’s Hypercard. Microsoft’s Excel. Aldus’ Pagemaker. And something called Photoshop, all in his West Valley Community College classroom. Later when I saw Marc Andreessen’s Netscape running the WWW. ICQ and Netmeeting which laid the ground for Skype.

Like I said, these things don’t happen often.

Yesterday was one of those days. Curtis Wong and Jonathan Fay, researchers at Microsoft, fired up their machines and showed me something that I can’t tell you about until February 27th. I’m sure you’ll read about his work in the New York Times or TechCrunch, among other places. It’s too inspiring to stay a secret for long.

While watching the demo I realized the way I look at the world was about to change. While listening to Wong I noticed a tear running down my face. It’s been a long while since Microsoft did something that had an emotional impact on me like that.

Kevin Schofield says you shouldn’t get ahead of yourself:

But I want to be clear: we don’t have some huge product announcement planned for the end of the month. Microsoft Research doesn’t do product announcements. And we certainly don’t roll out “______ killers” (fill in the blank with whatever product or company you choose) just in case you were hoping for something like that. Coincidentally, at the end of the month there IS a big product announcement from Microsoft for three products that ALL happen to have technology from MSR in them. But Microsoft’s product teams do those announcements, not MSR. We did have a big announcement two weeks ago about the new lab that we’re starting in Cambridge, Massachusetts. (and thanks to everyone who sent their good wishes!) And we will be showing a whole bunch of new cool things to some reporters, bloggers and visitors at our annual MSR Techfest event in March.

All that said, the research project we are showing at the end of the month is exceedingly cool and we hope it will have an impact. Will it make you cry? Well, your mileage may vary. But in any case you’re just going to have to wait and see.

Anyway, what do you think it is? MSR says it’s not a product per se. Scoble follows up by calling it a service, not a product. An inspiring service, which would make it a change for MS, which makes a lot of nice products, but whose services are less than inspiring (Skydrive, Hotmail, Spaces, all the Live stuff).  Scoble lives and breathes social networking, so it probably has lots of social features, but then again he chokes up a little bit about iPhones and photography, so who knows? Maybe it’s a web service that runs on the iPhone, lets you take photos like Thomas Hawk and microblog them to your 6,000 closest friends. I’m more interested in what makes Scoble cry. Probably puppies, unicorns and rainbows.

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Scoble hates on the Kindle: doesn’t do enough irrelevant stuff

Posted by Fred on November 26, 2007

Scoble doesn’t like the Kindle much.  If by “not much” we mean “everyone associated with the project should be fired.” He’s got an advantage on me – he’s used one for a week, which is exactly a week longer than I’ve used one.  But I still say his criticisms are (largely) bogus.

Scoble: No ability to buy paper goods from Amazon through Kindle.

Me: Robert gets off to an OK start here; it’s odd that you can’t use an Amazon product to buy other Amazon products.  But is the Kindle an all-purpose internet device or an e-book reader with internet functionality designed to complement e-book consumption?  It seems that Kindle’s mobile broadband and web access is really intended to get content from the interwebs onto the device so you can read it. Everything else is secondary (but it’s still an odd choice on Bezos’ part).

Scoble: Usability sucks. They didn’t think about how people would hold this device.

Me:  Fair enough if true.  Ergonomics are important, and others have complained about button placement. It does seem ergonomically superior to the Sony reader and much smaller repurposed devices (PDA, iPhone, etc.).  An e-book needs to be roughly the proportions of an actual book, in my opinion.  There’s a reason books are shaped like they are.

Scoble: UI sucks. Menus? Did they hire some out-of-work Microsoft employees?

Me: Robert is starting to go off the tracks here.  This is a variation on his later beef about touch screens.  Not everything is an iPhone. Not everything should be.  Sure, a UI based on big icons and a touch screen would be great, but for 90% of the time you’re using the device, you don’t need to touch the screen (it’s an e-book reader, remember?).  The primary requirements for the display are (a) that it is easy to read, which means black text on a white background and (b) it doesn’t drain the battery in two hours.

Scoble: No ability to send electronic goods to anyone else. I know Mike Arrington has one. I wanted to send him a gift through this of Alan Greenspan’s new book. I couldn’t. That’s lame.  No social network. Why don’t I have a list of all my friends who also have Kindles and let them see what I’m reading?

Me:  These are actually two different complaints, but they come from the same place.  Just like everything need not be an iPhone, not every service should be Facebook.  This mad rush to create social networks around everything diminishes both the social network and the service.  There’s plenty of other avenues to share your reading list with your friends, and Amazon rightly chose to concentrate on the core functionality of the Kindle instead of the latest Web 2.0 faddishness.  It’s a far more significant accomplishment that you can download e-books into your library wirelessly than it would be to create a Kindle social network that most people wouldn’t use anyway.

Scoble: No touch screen. The iPhone has taught everyone that I’ve shown this to that screens are meant to be touched. Yet we’re stuck with a silly navigation system because the screen isn’t touchable.

Me: Wrong, wrong, wrong. Touchscreens are a good idea for some devices, but a bad idea for others.  In some cases, adding a touchscreen would make the device harder to use (imagine replacing the TV remote with a touchscreen). In this case, adding a touchscreen would require compromises in other areas. It would make the device significantly more expensive.  It’s already too expensive at $399. It would decrease battery life, as the reason the battery lasts so long is that e-ink only draws power when the display changes (ask Steve Jobs about design compromises driven by lengthening time between recharges). Finally, the screen on the Kindle is designed primarily for displaying text.  Everything else is secondary, and for now at least, there’s no such thing as an e-ink touchscreen.  And for an e-book, e-ink and menus trumps touch.

The Kindle is clearly an imperfect device, that is incrementally better than what came before it. The technology still isn’t there to make it good enough to replace paper for me, and the economics of the Kindle Marketplace are still off.  So there’s a lot to criticize.  That it isn’t an iPhone/Facebook/browser that happens to also display text isn’t where to start, however.

Posted in Books, Technology | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Scoble’s apple tastes sour

Posted by Fred on November 16, 2007

Scoble appears to have run into a snag with his MacBook:

Screw you Apple and your ads saying you’re better than Microsoft. Screw you. Screw you. Screw you.

Screw you and your controlling PR machine.

Grrrrr.

I’m guessing he’ll soon be inundated with comments that fall into these categories: (1) Scoble is obviously an idiot (these will often start with “Why don’t you just…”) or (2) yeah, but think how bad it would be if you were using Windows (these will often include the phrases “Winblows”, “Windoze”, “M$” or “Windows ME”). This is why it never pays to join a cult of personality, whether it be in Jonestown or Cupertino (was that over-the-top?).

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Blogger Anagrams

Posted by Fred on October 25, 2007

Kottke links to some rude anagrams for “Ann Coulter”.  Fair enough – Coulter’s hard to take, and Jason clearly doesn’t like her (I don’t either, and I agree with her sometimes). But did you know that anagrams for Jason Kottke include “To Joke, Stank” and “Ask Ken to Jot”?  Here’s some more links:

For the record, my name yields the greatest anagram ever: Short Nerd Chief.

Posted in Blogging, Funny | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »