Twitter for Stars

I think Twitter, as designed, has at least one compelling application: linking fans to stars. Fans want to know what their stars are doing and they will even pay to know. Seemingly mundane details of little or no value in peer-to-peer use of Twitter changes into precious tidbits in fans-to-star use of Twitter. To stars, it's a way to cultivate their fan community. Once the communication channel is estabilished, it can be used to syndicate attention. By attention, I mean commercials but not the old kind.
When Michael Jackson drinks Coke in TV commercial, what's the message? The message is Michael Jackson prefers Coke over Pepsi. The same message can be sent via Twitter if Michael Jackson used Twitter: I am drinking coke, he'll twit. Once the advertisers grok what's going on, they'll offer substantial money to twittering stars, not for commercials, but to simply use their product so the stars will mention their products when they twit. That's big and more effective than TV commercials in my opinion.
I haven't experienced it myself (by nature, I have never been a fan of anything) but I suspect there is a pleasing psychological effect when fans mimick stars…in real time. It's like the way crystals resonate, hives hum, and flocks line up. I am sure consumer psychologists could explain this better than I can.

Closing Doors to Identity Abuse

It's not the theft of identity that concerns people. It's what thieves do with stolen identity. So if there was a way to prevent high damage activities thieves can do with stolen identity, we would all be better off. How often does an average adult apply for a new credit card or get a mortgage? For most people, the answer will be rarely. And when those occasions arise, the time window is relatively brief. So why are we keeping the door open all the time, inviting thieves?
I wouldn't mind paying for an identity service that helps me control specific uses of my identity, informing providers of affected services accordingly. In a way, it's a security related application of Doc Searls' VRM idea. When I am ready, I'll let you know. Until then, refuse applications from me. Even better, call the police so unsuspecting identity-thieves will get caught.
Related Post: Inconvenience as Service 

Lolicons prefer Amazon Japan

I wonder what Jeff Bezos would say about this. Above picture is of a DVD on sale at Amazon Japan. Apparently, it features a 12 year old girl (my chinese is rusty but I recognize the age character next to 12) wearing what appears to be a thong. I know there were some controversies over whether underage girls should be allowed to wear thongs in America and some probably do but, as far as I know, no one is selling DVD of them posing erotically. It may be legal in Japan but it's disturbing nonetheless to see America's close ally pushing their obsession with kawaii so far.

According to a recent informal street poll of japanese men, more than 90% admitted to having some attraction to underage teenage girls, 5% to preteen. When is it too late for a society to right itself? When should a foreign country interfere and at what level?

Face Snatchers!

These guys in Germany built a 3D facial reference model out of some 200 faces (watch the video at Wired) then used it to extrapolate 3D face model out of 2D photos. Since the reference model includes facial expressions and variations, resulting models can be changed to add weight, age, and even smiles. Wow. Face morphing application alone could be very useful but 2D to morphable 3D face modeling is just fantastic.
 

Black or White Hat?

I think discovering security holes is clearly benefitial but inventing new tools that make it easier to exploit those holes seem overzealous to me. Yes, I understand these tools can be used to protect but what about tools that use questionable means? Jikto, for example, uses unsuspecting website visitors' browser to scan other websites for holes. Would any businesses use such tools to protect their sites? If not, who does it benefit? Is it security researchers' job to push the envelope of black hat's state of art?

"This is going to drastically change the scope of evil things you can do with JavaScript," Hoffman said. "Jikto turns any PC into my little drone. Your PC will start attacking Web sites on my behalf, and you're going to give me all the results." – Billy Hoffman, creator of Jikto, a researcher at SPI Dynamics

  <p>I believe that even the loftiest principles should be bounded by context. While I don&apos;t think security research should only be done reactively, I think active research community should provide better guidelines to prevent people going overboard. 

Adobe Apollo Alpha

Adobe released an alpha version of Apollo, a rich-client platform based on a tightly integrated mix of Flash and web browser. The Flash part of Apollo builds on Flex2/Flash9/AS3/AVM2 bundle of acronyms and the web browser part comes from WebKit, which Apple is also using in Safari. The weight of the merger amounts to about 8MB of runtime code. With runtime installed, AIR applications (*.air) can be downloaded and run. It's similar to the way Java WebStart works: almost but not quite like regular applications.

Flash runtime footprint has always been rather small and so is WebKit so it's a good match. And Flash applications can be pretty small but I have a high respect for engineer's capacity to be sloppy and wasteful so monster-size Apollo apps is likely to be a norm. It will be interesting to see whether graphics-oriented nature of Flash developers will outpace over-architecturing nature of Java developers when it comes to bloated code.

The major issue I have with Apollo is this: it's too WebStart-like.

RUNTIME DEPLOYMENT: I haven't been able to locate any document outlining Apollo runtime deployment strategy. I don't see box-makers nor OS makers shipping Apollo runtime built-in without forcing Adobe to bleed a lot of money or years of lawyering so they are in the same muck as Sun is with Java and WebStart. Cross-platform advantage of both platforms is nullified by .NET's built-in advantage IMHO.

APP DEPLOYMENT: AIR app installation, as of this alpha, require a file download, double-click to launch, then three dialogs on Mac (haven't tried it on PC yet). It's IMHO unnecessarily complex and annoying. WebStart app installation is annoying too but to a lesser degree. .NET apps are regular executables so .NET has the advantage here.

MEMORY FOOTPRINT: Like Java and .NET apps, Flash app memory footprint is rather large, in tens of megabytes. While this is not a major issue for really useful rich client apps, it's a burden that will suppress popularity of simple (in terms of functionality and developer time investment) Apollo apps which are necessary if not essential to float an application platform like Apollo. But then both Java and .NET shares this problem so this is a non-factor from competition perspective.

I can go on but I'll stop here for a premature conclusion: Unless Adobe make some serious changes, Apollo will be relegated to same lackluster status as WebStart and a tool for building pretty-yet-rarely-used widgets. If all Adobe wants to do is grab some headlines and become a subject of empty speculations for a while, I am sure they wil accomplish that, until attention moves elsewhere. But if they want more, they will have to stress more on shipping Apollo as the next generation web browser, not a not-quite-visible tide carrying a flotilla of cute apps functionally indistinguishable from other apps.

Twitter Killer App

There he goes again. Dave Winer hooked up NYT feed to Twitter, turning Twitter into a high frequency syndication network of sort, a killer app for Twitter IMHO. Since it's a personal use, it doesn't have the hangups of social use. Social angle can still have high relevant though if it is easy to 'bounce' individual one-liner news (hopefully with links intact) to one's twitter account. Bouncing incoming news to network of followers makes Twitter viral and turns useless "what I am doing" chatter into more useful "what I am interested in", a meaningful context for conversations and reference point. In simple-speak, interests last much longer than acts (most of which are irrelevant, not only to others but to the user).
New solutions create new problems. If Twitter becomes a medium for real-time mobile news delivery, user experience could suffer because there is only one inbox: the user's Twitter account. Something clever has to be done to help users sort things out. Another big problem is the misfit between Twitter's trickle-like user experience and flood-like output news media as a whole pumps out. News filtering technologies will have to be weaved in carefully to choke the flood without destroying ease of use.
Anyway. Kudos to Dave for coming up with an ass-simple (aka obvious in hindsight) use for Twitter.