Sunday, December 10, 2006

i want to cry.

This has to be one of the saddest customer service conversations I've ever listened to: Vcents (transcript). Warning: those of you who are sensitive to inconceivably stubborn stupidity may be offended.

Friday, October 13, 2006

more bar

As previously menioned, I went to BarCampNYC2 a few weeks ago. It turns out Fred Stutzman wrote a blog post about the talk/discussion I hosted entitled "Monetizing Social Networks." This is pretty cool -- not just because I read Fred's blog, but because I actually first heard of BarCamp through an earlier post of his.

Anyways, it turns out his post about the session was "dugg," (digg article here) which is a testament to the whiz-bang job he did summarizing and analyzing the discussion, as well as to the amount of interest there is in the tech community on this subject. Now I don't have to feel like a tech-nerd-poser when I'm sportin' my free BarCampNYC2 t-shirt.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

it's been a while

but this is so totally me.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

i thought there was a bar involved...

So I went to BarCampNYC2 this weekend, which is less exciting than it sounds (camp!? bar!? sweet!), but still a good time. In a nutshell, BarCamp is a bunch of (somewhat) geeks getting together and talking about (somewhat) geeky things in (and this is where the false advertising comes in) somewhere other than a bar*. Discussion topics ranged from Pervasive Games (hosted by Dens) to "Hacking the Long Tail" to "Xquery Redux" (whatever that means). I led a little discussion on monetizing social networks which was fun -- a number of people there were actually running their own websites and were grappling with that very problem and had lots of good insight to offer.

In the spirit of geeks getting together to talk about geeky things, the entire (un-)conference was documented on a variety of web 2.0 sites, all tagged with "barcampnyc2". In particular, you can see everyone's photos on flickr, watch videos of some of the talks on Google Video, or read what other people had to say via Technorati.

* BarCamp gets its name from FooCamp. "Foo" & "Bar" are the traditional names given to throw-away variables when programming.
Photo is of the free shirt given to attendants. We do love them tech swag.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I always knew math was involved

Which Is All About the Unknowns

Female tourist: I don't get it. This isn't a square, it's like... triangular.
Male tourist: No, no, they just call it that because... well... it's like... a square... a square of people. I don't know, it has something to do with algebra.

--Times Square

Overheard by: Luke

via Overheard in New York, Sep 14, 2006

Monday, September 04, 2006

Sunday, September 03, 2006

the pink panther, resux

I'm on a Greyhound bus on my way to Wooster, MA and they're playing Steve Martin's The Pink Panther. Man it sucks. If the video store has any any Sellers version (except maybe Trail of the Pink Panther, which was made with a dead Sellers), or even the Benigni follow up, pick up one of those instead. Please. I can't play my music loud enough to make Martin's Inspector Clouseau tolerable.

(FWIW, Revenge of the Pink Panther has one of two movie scenes that has made me laugh so hard that I couldn't breathe)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Even though it's technically "reality television," Morgan Spurlock's 30 days on FX is amazing, compelling television.

Monday, August 14, 2006

back to beta

I never could tell anyone what exactly I was working on at, but now a year's worth of work is finally coming to fruition and has just launched (details) with this being the first public post ever made on the new system!

Excuse me while I go celebrate =)

Friday, August 11, 2006

blog this: TIME Magazine -- Numbers -- Aug. 7, 2006

TIME Magazine Archive Article -- Numbers -- Aug. 7, 2006:

36% Percentage of Americans surveyed last year who said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003

50% Percentage of Americans surveyed this year who say that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded in 2003

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

blog this: Henry Jenkins on the future of TV

I think Henry Jenkins makes a good point about the evolution of TV (and why it's easy to mis-imagine the future)

Confessions of an Aca/Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins: Catching Up: The Future of Television: "We picked up the July 17 issue of Newsweek, belatedly, and read an interesting article discussing what current network media consumption. The opening paragraphs, though, really annoyed me:

A guy--let's call him Brad--longed for the company of his wife, so he took his iPod to bed. Confiding in an NBC researcher, Brad tells how he inserted his earplugs, nestled down beside his bride and got lost in an episode of 'The Office' or another of his favorite TV shows downloaded from the iTunes store. His wife, meanwhile, was riveted by her favorite show playing on the bedroom TV. Yet another intimacy-challenged couple dialed up the heat on their relationship during the college basketball playoffs, say researchers for Verizon, the cellular-service giant. No fan of hoops, the wife snuggled up to her basketball-craving husband on the living-room couch, unfolded her cell phone and watched video clips streaming from Verizon's VCast service while he tuned in the game on CBS. 'She thought it would be a good way to spend time together,' says Ryan Hughes, Verizon's chief media programmer.

There's a kind of outrage here that people might be sitting side by side in bed and consuming different media content. Now, substitute books or magazines for television content and see if you feel this same level of shock and awe. I think we'd think it a little odd if the couple always coordinated the books they took to bed with them. As my wife points out, in the old days, the wife would have been banished from the room while her husband watched the big game, so, yes, there is some element of togetherness, snuggling down physically together, even if you are in different mental spaces. In any case, other research on television suggests that while homes may have multiple televisions, only one set is on during prime time in most households because we still prefer to watch television content socially rather than individually and the shows that do best are those that give us content we can talk about with others."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

remixed cover

I really like DJ Z-Trip's remix of Run Run Run's cover of Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You". Check it out at So Much Silence.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

emotional eye candy

Penny Arcade got me revisiting the we feel fine project which, in turn, led me to the awesome website of co-creator Jonathan Harris. Now I'm just itching to get artistic again -- perhaps I should start by putting my old "eyes" piece back online, for those of you who still remember it....

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Many of you have probably heard the new Gnarls Barkley song "Crazy," but also worth checking out is Ray Lamontagne's cover which can currently be found here

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

watch a talk

I've been lucky to see a number of interesting talks and I figured I might as well point out a few they you can be lucky enough to see too:

How to survive a Robot Uprising -- hearing him talk was actually funnier than reading the book.

DNA and the Brain -- A talk about autism by James Watson of Watson & Crick.

An Inconvenient Truth -- Al Gore's talk about global warming (you'll have to go to a theater to see this one)

Does all this linking to Google video make me a company shill?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

emusic traps me again

I was all set to cancel my eMusic account because I felt I had grabbed all of the music they had that I wanted. But there in my "your new arrivals" they had 3 albums I wanted. So now, (The Tourniquet, Get Behind Me Satan, and White Blood Cells later), I can't help but continue my subscription and hope that the quality new music keeps rolling in.

(And they now have the entire Stereophonics catalogue! That's at least another 3 months worth of downloads.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


An interesting blog post on the evolution of Yahoo & Google's front pages - Maeda's SIMPLICITY: Yahoogle!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

al gore on snl

Last night's skit with Al Gore on SNL was, I must say, quite awesome. Thanks to Adam for the pointer.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

colbert mocks bush

Last night, Stephen Colbert gave a speech mocking President Bush at the White House Correspondents Dinner, which Bush attended. The video (a 3 parter on YouTube on Google Video) is pretty long, but quite funny. It's getting some "blogosphere" buzz... will it go viral like Jon Stewart's "Crossfire" appearance?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

deal expectations

NBC has a game show called Deal Or No Deal in which the contestant picks one of 26 suitcases containing amounts of money ranging from $.01 to $1,000,000. After picking the suitcase, the contestant slowly eliminates the other suitcases, revealing their amounts. The contestant is periodically offered a "deal" to trade in their suitcase for some amount of money.
If you've eliminated a lot of the high paying suitcases, you get offered a low deal. If you've eliminated all but the most valuable suitcases, you get offered a pretty sweet deal. If you decline all the deals to the very end, you get the amount of money in the mystery suitcase.

It seems like a clear case of probabilistic expectation, so I was curious if the "deal" offers were just the expected value of the contestant's suitcase; I don't watch the show often and I don't normally carry a calculator with me, but I was watching last night and had my laptop with me, so I decided to quickly calculate some odds.

When we tuned in, the current contestant was down to 3 suitcases: $.01; $400k; and $750k. Ignoring the one cent suitcase, that's 1/3 * 400k + 1/3 * 750k or an expected value of $383k. Her deal? $375k. Pretty close. (She took the deal; her suitcase was worth $400k, so she only lost out on $25k. Chump change =).

One contestant later, they were down to 8 suitcases with one worth $750k. The offer given to the contestant was $21k. Now $750k / 8 is almost $100k, so the deal value was clearly below expectation. The contestant eliminated two more (low value) suitcases, and her deal got bumped up to $63k. One more low value suitcase down and her deal went up to $96k (her suitcase now had expected value $150k). She took that deal.
They then walked through what would have happened had she had continued the game. She kept eliminating suitcases until there were 2 suitcases (the one she'd picked and one last mystery case) and they said her offer would have been $400k. $25k above expectation.

So it looks like the game has an increasing expectation multiplier that actually hits >1. I guess if I'm ever on the show, I'll work my way down to 2 suitcases and then take the deal -- proving once and for all that mathematicians make piss poor gameshow contestants. Now if only they'd bring back Let's Make a Deal...

Monday, March 20, 2006

google current feed

I'm a fan of current_'s Google Current segments, so I tried to set up an RSS feed with enclosures so that I could use a video podcast program (like iTunes or Democracy) to download them, but Google video requires a "secure url" parameter for downloads, seeming to imply Google doesn't want people doing stuff like that. The best I can do is use the video feed API to create a feed of links to new videos.

Import this RSS feed into your favorite aggregator (like Bloglines or Google reader) and it'll update with links to new Google Current segments in Google video.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

the future of online music is.... sometime tomorrow? we'll have to get back to you on that.

Before I begin, let me say a few things

(a) I don't like DRM. I realize that for now we often have few choices, but I really do hope the public comes to at some point and demands that media distributors stop treating us (the customers) like we're a bunch of crooks
(b) I think music CDs should cost $12 or less. Maybe it's because that's how much the cost back when I first started buying CDs, but I find it hard to believe that inflation is the reason why the average CD is something like $15.
(c) I worked for as an intern in the summer of 2003 and have a number of friends who work there. Amazon feels very strongly about "passing the savings on to the customer," but recently I've become rather disenchanted about their average customer experience.

Alright, on to the actual whining.

Earlier today I decided I was going to buy Supernature by Goldfrapp and Back to Bedlam by James Blunt. Now, I'm excited about these two albums, but it's not like I'm buying my favoritest albums ever, so I'm looking for the best deal possible and while I'd prefer to have a physical do-as-I-please copy, I'm not above saving some money and putting up with some lower quality DRM nonsense (how bout them principles, eh?).

So I go fire up the ol' web browser and head on over to Amazon. Sure it's not instant karma, but they'll have a low price, right? Well, Back to Bedlam is $14 (a dollar off if you buy the "clean" version, but that's a tirade best left for later). Supernature is $14, with a special edition DVD version for $15 ($1 for a random extra junk seems more than reasonable).

My original thinking had been that I would pay $12-13 for a physical CD, but any more than that, and I'll just buy the damn things for the flat $10 on iTunes. $14 > $13, so looks like iTunes will be lining their pockets with a few more of my dollars.

Haha. Did you see that? Silly Akshay thinks that just because iTunes says full albums are $9.99, that they'll actually be $9.99. How naive. No, it actually turns out that the James Blunt and Goldfrapp albums cost $11.99 and $12.99 , respectively.
In particular, the James Blunt album includes a "Bonus" video that I don't want but can't buy the album without; oh boy! I can buy and album that's supposed to cost $10 plus a video that costs $2 for the low low low price of $12! Thank god for iTunes and how it lets me buy my media a la carte! Bleh.

So what did I do? I put on my shoes and walked my butt over to Best Buy where I bought the two albums on sale for $$10 and $$12 (+ $1.84 tax). No waiting for Super Saver Shipping, no DRM crap. The normal Best Buy prices are $13 and $14, so even if they hadn't been on sale, buying them on Amazon would have saved me about a buck (after taxes).

So for all our wonderful internet and technology, the best deal for this customer was to walk a few blocks over to his local record store to buy what he wanted. What does it mean? It means we still have a ways to go before the future of online music shopping is here... or maybe it'll just never come. While the world waits, I guess I'll stick to buying physical CDs and what limited stuff I can get off of emusic.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


I saw this comic in emilie's aim profile a few months ago and today I had the strong urge to dig it back up. I probably won't win many coolness points by admitting that this is absolutely hilarious... but it so is.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

all grown up

Well, I guess I graduated almost 2 years ago, but it's amazing to see people I knew in school having a noticible impact on the world around me.

  • At work, everyone loves playing Guitar Hero -- a game for the PS2 that Ethan Fenn ('04) helped develop. I remember that when I asked what he was working on, he said "it's a kind of music game." Man, it's a lot cooler than he made it sound.
  • iPod Hi-Fi. Home Stereo. Reinvented -- it's Apple's version of the Bose base, and what WeyWey Lin ('06) worked on last summer during her internship (I actually got to be the first person to tell her it had finally launched)
  • I always knew he would shake things up, but it was still crazy to see an article by Keith Winstein ('04) on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
  • At a party two weeks ago, I met a girl who mentioned that she was going to a concert this week. The performing artist? Vudoo Soul. Or, if you knew him in school, Chris Vu ('04). It was great to see and hear him again; especially with friends who only knew him as that voice they loved.

Makes me want to go out and do something. All in good time, I hope....

Thursday, February 23, 2006

new music (via kcrw)

My iPod died a week ago, so I've been heavily leaning on my favorite online radio station, KCRW, to keep me musical company at work (Morning Becomes Eclectic in particular). In addition to playing great, new stuff, they also keep their entire playlist online so you're never left wondering what that song you just heard was.

Below is some of the stuff (not all of it is new) that I'm now addicted to thanks to KCRW:

Saturday, February 18, 2006

well i'll be damned

There's a strange feeling you get when you discover that a joke you love has a second meaning that's always been there, unbeknownst to you.

Case in point, I've always thought Family Guy's cover of Elton John's "Rocketman" is absolutely hilarious, but I just discovered yesterday that it's actually a parody of an eerie, 1978 William Shatner cover. Now I feel all weird inside.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

a look at blogging

not dead... yet.

Anyways, I ran across this article about blogging in New York Magazine and thought it was quite the interesting read. So here I am... blogging about it. yeah.

you like that? how everything came full circle? I thought you might.