Some thoughts on 2010

This is not a year in review piece, it’s just a collection of things that struck me over the course of the year.

VonnegutFavorite book: This would have to be Kurt Vonnegut’s A Man Without a Country. This book came out in 2005, but I just became aware of it this year (read my review). Once I did stumble upon it, I purchased and devoured.

It’s as close to an autobiography of Vonnegut as we’re going to get (unless there is some manuscript waiting to be discovered…), and while not a true autobiography in any sense, it’s Vonnegut writing about his life/thoughts in the first person. A very enjoyable – albeit brief – read, but good to spend some time with new (to me) Vonnegut.

Regina SpektorFavorite musician: Regina Spektor. I saw the movie 500 Days of Summer (more on this later), and the movie had an amazing soundtrack, with a lot of artists I wasn’t familiar with. So I purchased the soundtrack, and two of the tracks – two of my favs – were by Regina Spektor. So I purchased a couple of her CDs, and they are amazing: Soviet Kitsch and Begin to Hope. These are older albums (2004 & 2006, respectively), but new to me.

I don’t quite know how to quantify Spektor to those who don’t know her – perhaps a mix between Tori Amos (piano) and PJ Harvey (out of the mainstream folk/pop with balls). I love Spektor’s staccato beat, especially on “Us.” Awesome.

I just ordered a more recent – 2009 – release of Specktor’s, Far from Amazon. It got mixed reviews – for some it was bad because it wasn’t as pure/raw (voice/piano); others said it was still all Spektor, just with the full studio feel.

I have not received yet; it’ll be interesting.

My fav musical artist of this year, even if she has been around for years.

500 Days of SummerFavorite movie: Saw a lot of good films this year – all on DVD and not necessarily from this year – but the one that stands out is 500 Days of Summer. Quirky, non-linear, great mix of film and illustration, awesome soundtrack (see above).

Best movie ever? Of course not. Just a very watchable (over and over) film.

The Ugly American: The USA, with its vast wealth and international reach, has always been dissed – from some camps – for our intervention. We’re always sticking our nose where somebody objects to same.


After 9/11, the mistrust of the US seemed to increase. Understandable (to some degree), as we were engaging in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and dragging our NATO allies into same.

But the ugliness – the Islamophobia – that has occurred IN the US has been particularly troubling to me. The Ground Zero Mosque clusterfuck was a great example of the idiotic thinking of so many. Great wrap-up on same at TPM.

The last time something this crazy happened in the U.S. was the deplorable Red Scare/McCarthyism of the 1950s. Sure, Nixon had his Enemies’ List and J. Edgar Hoover, with all his paranoia, investigated, well, just about everyone.

But the communist craze – destroying people’s lives due to sometimes only perceived communist tendencies is a black spot on American history. And it’s very analogous to the Islamophobia going on today. People are defined by one attribute – Communist/Muslim – without regard to any other conditions. Communist bad! Muslim terrorist! Just depressing.

Add to that the unbridled gay-bashing that occurred this year as part of the, uh, debate(?) over the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), and there was a lot of hate Made in the USA this year, some directed abroad, a lot directed at our fellow citizens.

Not a good year to be proud of your country.

Tech Meme: Smartphones. Yeah, where have I been for the last three years…

It’s just that I live and work in the burbs, and when we vacation, we usually hit more rural areas. This summer, we went to Maryland (Chesapeake Bay – rural) and and Washington, D.C.

What struck me – as we rode the Metro, airport buses and just walk the mall – was the sheer number of people constantly texting/reading texts. It seems as if no one gets on the Metro and just spaces out and uses the commute time to just stare out the window and decompress. Nope. Right to the smartphones. Ditto for people on the mall, obviously on lunch. Not much talking, but staring and pecking at the candy-bar format phones.

As someone who has been far from the madding crowd for a couple of years, the change was startling – though not at all a surprise. Folks I work with do it all the time and I don’t think a thing about it – it was just with masses of people, just about everyone was heads down, which I had not really seen/taking in before.

2010 Tech Prognositicatons: How’d I do?

Run Lola Run
Starring: Franka Potente

This is just what the title says: Lola (Potente) running.

A German film, it won the audience award at Sundance in 1999.

Basic outline of movie: Lola gets a call from loser of a boyfriend; he’s screwed up and – unless he can come up with a lot of money in 20 minutes, he’ll probably be killed. Lola promises to get to him – with the cash (somehow) – in that time period.

Most of the movies is Lola running through the streets, trying to fashion a plan. She runs a LOT.

There are three sequences, all beginning the same (the phone call and her running out of their apartment). Yet each of the three sequences have very slight differences, and those differences make all the difference in the world to Lola and those close to her.

Oddball, artsy film. Not one you’ll watch time and again, but I enjoyed.

All movies

Well, it’s that time of the year: Prognoistications. As I have for the past couple of years (2010 guesses, 2009 guesses), I’ll first take a look back and see how I did for this year before gazing into the crystal ball for 2011.

Here’s what I was expecting for 2010:

  • Apple’ll come out with a tablet: Even for Apple, a company known for it’s secrecy re: new products, this was a gimme. I though it would come with an HDMI port – that was my big “guess.” I was wrong. Let’s call this a wash because of this. I should have known better – Nothing the Lord Master Steve loves better than cutting ports…
  • Steve Jobs will announce a deadline to step down as Apple’s CEO: He shows no signs of slowing down. Wrong.
  • There’ll be a lot of fuss about mySql (now that Oracle has purchased Sun, which bought mySql): I think I’m spot on with this one: Lot of concern, but nothing – good or bad – materialized. Correct.
  • Google’s Chrome Browser will end the year with a market share around 10%: This report show’s Chrome’s use about 9.25% at the beginning of December with a strong upward trend. I’m giving this one to myself. Correct.
    Update 1/3/2011: Chrome hits 10%
  • Facebook will have an IPO: Completely wrong. More than anything, they seem to be positioning themselves (via VC cash and other moves) to create the company they want before the IPO and they having to worry about shareholders. Looking to be a smart move. But I was wrong.
  • Twitter won’t have an IPO: Correct, but in part (?) because Twitter can’t figure out its business model. Once they figure that out – and execute on same – may be ready to go public.
  • Ruby (on or off “Rails”) still won’t catch on as the “hot new language” to play with: Kind of hard to quantify this, but Ruby still doesn’t have the momentum of Java or PHP. The new languages that appear to be in demand are JQuery/JSON/HTML5 stuff. One for me.
  • Google Wave still an “interesting idea”: I wrote that Wave was “just too ambitious to take hold” in 2010. Or, apparently ever. Google killed Wave in August this year. I’ll give myself this one (didn’t take hold this year), but – to be fair – I didn’t expect it to be killed this year.
  • Geo-location will have another huge year: Uh, yeah. Foursquare. Yelp. Gowolla. GroupOn. Totally correct.
  • Ebooks’ usage soars: the iPad (not just an ereader) is on pace to sell 7+ million units this year. Kindle is rumored to move 8 million this year. And other tablets/readers (Gallexy Tab; Nook) continue to prosper. And the ebooks associated with them will total approximately $1 billion this year, and are projected to reach $3 billion by 2015. Called this one.
  • Newspapers continue to flounder – badly: I’ll give myself a push on this one. Yes, newspapers continue to flounder, but I stuck my neck out and said Rupert Murdoch wouldn’t put up any paywalls in 201. He put up paywalls in the UK in June, 2010. Not that it helped – now he’s betting the farm on an etablet-only pay-for-news app. So a push.
  • Cloud computing use will continue to grow, but not to the “yeah, most use it” levels: I still stick by this. Lots of chatter about same, but relatively little deployment (by number of users – I do believe the amount of content in the cloud has soared this year, but only for a small subset of internet users.
  • Microsoft will struggle to redefine itself in 2010: Correct. Microsoft is seeing its cash cows – Windows and Office – on the PC marginalized by the surge of Macs and cloud computing (Google Docs, for example). At the same time, Microsoft has missed the biggest tech opening in the last few years – mobile phones – badly. The new Window Phone 7 (or whatever it’s called) is supposed to finally get them close, but they are three or so years behind Apple/iPhone Google/Android in this now-hugely important area of tech. It’s just embarrassing for MS – they used to run a large portion of pre-Smart Phones with Windows Mobile; no more. And there have been public relation disasters with mobile. Remember the Kin? Launched in May 2010 as a social-networking phone (i.e. for 16-year-old girls…), it was killed by MS in June 2010. Less than two months after launch. Ouch.
  • Speaking of Microsoft: Ballmer gone: Wrong – he’s still there, but only by a thread. Ozzie Osborne, the tech visionary who was steering MS after Gates stepped down, left MS this year. Yikes! Balme is a sales guy, not a visionary.

So how did I do?

  • Correct: 9
  • Push: 2
  • Wrong: 3

Not great, considering some of the topics addressed (newspapers will have a rough year; in related news, the sun will rise tomorrow…).

And some of by ballsier predictions – Job’s announcing retirement, Ballmer getting shown the door – never happened.

Oh well, what’s done is done.

The (possibly) next exciting entry: 2011 Tech Prognostications! Whoo-hoo!

It’s about time

Credit: Screenshot from

Long overdue, to me.

Will it create a ripple effect in the military? Probably.

Did the integration of troops (during the Korean War, I believe), have ripple effects?


Still there? (racial/gender etc)


Some folks will never accept another gender/faith/ethnicity/sexual orientation of another. True in the military and out of the military.

Will the repeal of DADT wreak havoc on the troops? Well, the troops have spoken, and not so much.

I don’t always agree with the wars we’re fighting, but I’m never against the troops committed there. That’s what they do, and they are doing the work of heroes.

Yet I don’t care who those troops are: black/white, men/women, straight/not, religious/not. Still heroes.

Repeal of DADT is an American step forward.

Yahoo continues to die, bit by bit

Yahoo!In a death of a thousand cuts, Yahoo!’s circling of the drain continues with two more cuts over the last two days:

  • Death of Yahoo! Video – Unable to compete with YouTube, it has stopped accepting uploads and will turn off downloads on March 15, 2011.
  • Another round of layoffs – about 4% of the remaining workforce (650-700 employes)

Things must be grim there.

Update 12/16/2010: Eep! Many properties getting the ax: Is Yahoo Shutting Down [Update: Yes] – is a service I never used, but many swore by. Acquired by Yahoo! and (to me) instantly neglected. Again, Yahoo! is where start-ups go to die….

Update 12/18/2010 When TechCrunch is saturated with news of your decline (image, right), that’s telling:


WikiLeaksI’m still not sure about the whole WikiLeaks mess that’s dominating the news/web.

It’s a complex issue, and there are many facets to the story.

However, I am sure about a couple of aspects of the WikiLeaks story:

The hackers who are exacting revenge (denial-of-service attacks, outright hijacking of sites) over sites that have distanced themselves from WikiLeaks are just dead wrong. Whatever you think of WikiLeak’s founder – Julian Assange – and his actions, there is a lot of gray area in which to say he is doing some good. Impeding the access to Visa’s & Master Card’s web sites because they cut off WikiLeaks is just criminal. There is no upside. Yes, it is civil disobedience, to some degree, but civil disobedience requires a public – not anonymous – act of protest. Just wrong.

Jeff Jarvis is wrong. I usually agree with Jarvis (a professor of Journalism at CUNY, and someone who “gets” the internet), and his defense of WikiLeaks contains many compelling points. However, Jarvis totally misses the boat with this paragraph from the article:

Of course, we need secrets in society. In issues of security and criminal investigation as well as the privacy of citizens and some matters of operating the state—such as diplomacy—sunlight can damage. If government limited secrecy to that standard—necessity—there would be nothing for Wikileaks to leak.

   — Jeff Jarvis,

While I agree with the first two sentences, the third is an incorrect conclusion that totally disregards human nature: Do we need to know why Hillary Clinton is traveling to China to meet with some X person? No. Do we need to know how actor/actress Y is doing in rehab? No. Do we need to know the sexual orientation of this or that public figure? No.

Do we still want to know?


If we were an incurious lot, Nick Denton would have to fold up and the other titles he runs and get a real job. Ditto TMZ and so many more.

This has always been the case; Sherwood Anderson’s 1919 classic, Winesburg, Ohio, revolves to some degree around this issue of privacy: In a small town, there are no secrets…even if the so-called secrets are never publicly voiced.

And I think Jarvis is wrong for a second reason: In the case of politics – why we went to war etc – there are real reasons to want to see the secret documents. Think Watergate and the Pentagon Papers.

If we just complacently accept that what is secret is of no import to us, we are implicitly trusting government.

And ever since Watergate, the average US citizen has had issues with implicitly trusting government. The war in Iraq – i.e. how did we get here? – has made many citizens even more skeptical of government actions.

But, again, I can’t quite figure out what side I come down on with Assange’s actions. It’s a turning point in journalism and the web, however. I’m sure of that much – just not sure which way we’ll be turning.

Or if that direction is the correct one.

We don’t need no stinkin’ $6 billion…

Group OnWell, the rumor running around the web this week was the possible acquisition of Chicago-based by the tech giant Google.

Initial reports had it as a $2.5 – $3 billion deal; later reports doubled this buyout offer.

While there are no concrete confirmations, yesterday insiders reported that GroupOn spurned Google’s offer, possibly in favor of doing an IPO in the next year or so.

I have a few thoughts on this:

  • I like GroupOn – I subscribe to the daily newsletter; have used it twice so far (Art Institute of Chicago renewal; restaurant discount). I think it’s a brilliant concept – now widely copied, of course – that, once you see, you smack your head at the sheer obviousness of it. Duh! Why didn’t I think of that?
  • There were reports earlier this year that Yahoo! was trying to acquire GroupOn; that frightened me: Yahoo! – to me – is where promising start-ups go to die.
  • When I first heard about the possible Google purchase, I wasn’t surprised, but I kind of wished that they (GroupOn) had remained independent and continued to innovate in a way they couldn’t under the new Lord Masters.
  • Wow. GroupOn turned down a reported $5+ ($6?) billion. It must be 1) Crazy; or 2) Have a lot of faith in the products and its direction.

GroupOn just introduced some new tools, and – with these tools – they are actually moving into what is, to me, a Googlish direction. Among other things, it allows merchants to enter – online – various deals (I’ve only read an overview; may have some details wrong).

This is important for two reasons:

  • The current deal structure made potential deal partners wait for months before getting a listing, and it took a lot of human (salespersons) time/effort. Now more deals, can post a deal faster, less human intervention per deal. All of that goes right to GroupOn’s bottom line.
  • Is it just me, or does this sound a lot like Google’s Ad Sense, but for deals??

In other news, Amazon just invested $175 million in what is probably the No. 2 (after GroupOn) deal site, LivingSocial.

Fad? Flame-out? Over/underhyped?

Too early to tell, but investors are opening their wallets like it’s 1999.

Are we on the top of another internet bubble?