Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Catching Up With Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is a big buzzword these days and Wired has just began a review of the best and worst sites of Web 2.0. I thought this could be a good chance to visit some of these sites and see what I was missing. Here are my first impressions.

Wired list is split into Champs and Stinkers.. let's start with Champs.
  • Flickr - photo sharing site... I am not much into photos, so I'll give it a pass for now.
  • - clever name, though it did take surprisingly long time to load. The idea of web-based bookmarks is not new, but still useful. In fact, this is how my site started many years ago, though I've never come up with an efficient filtering /moderation system, so it kind of got overrun by people trying to promote their own sites.
  • - also working slow... unless it's my ISP acting up :) Kind of cool how they are using mouse wheel to zoom the map, but hard to keep track of where you are. I was trying to see what's happening in my state of Missouri, but it kept scrolling off the screen.
  • Digg - I've been hearing about this site so much, I cringe every time I hear the phrase "digg it". Tried adding their feed to my personalized Google home page, but wasn't too crazy about the warning I got: "Inline modules can alter other parts of the page, and could give its author access to information including your Google cookies and preference settings for other modules." Looks like an interesting blog site though, maybe I'll use it some more.. that is if I decide I can trust it with my cookies.
  • YouTube - looks nifty, seems along the same lines as Google Video service. I hope they are keeping an eye on the copyright checks, so they don't go the way of original (RIP)
  • Yelp - reviews of local businesses, always a good idea. I still feel that Web is not localized enough, so any site that provides local info is welcome. It also automatically recognized which city I live in, nifty!
  • Blinklist - another bookmarking service, exactly how many does one need?
  • Bloglines - allows to build a custom page with Blog feeds. That's what I am already doing with Google, no niche to fill there.
  • Basecamp - project collaboration service. Looks pretty intriguing, could be useful both at work and in business.
  • Writely - a web-based word processor. A neat idea if you want to save money and don't mind your private documents being stored online.
  • Dimewise - financial management site.. yawn. I don't manage money - if I need more, I find a way to earn more :)
  • Kayak - airfare and hotel reseravations. Mkay.
  • Spurl - what, one more bookmarking service? Sheesh.
  • LibraryThing - allows to catalog books, interesting idea. Reminded me of my younger geeky years of cataloging my reel-to-reel tapes and collecting stamps.
And now, the Stinkers (I didn't say that, Wired did).
  • MySpace - weird, how did it get on stinker list? Isn't it supposed to be the biggest thing since sliced cheese? Not that I am using it, but you gotta respect their subscription numbers.
  • Friendster - oh yeah, the Myspace before Myspace. As one person said - "if you need an online service to make new friends, perhaps you should get out more".
  • Goovy - I am allergic to sites that require Flash. I can live with a site that has a Flash intro and allows me to skip it, but if it's a requirement, I will go elsewhere.
  • LinkedIn - "making connections"... "recommended by Forbes"... uh-huh.
  • - I hope we're not gonna see an epidemic of sites that play on words that end with "us", it would be like telling the same joke over and over.
  • - seems like an novel concept - getting to know people before reading their profiles. This is kind of how real life relationships used to work.
  • Classmates - would be more useful to me if included the country I went to school in :)
So, what have I learned from giving these a glance?
  1. It's somewhat strange how these sites were picked, perhaps people were given a pre-defined list to vote on. Otherwise, I don't see how giants like Wikipedia didn't make the cut.
  2. Looks like the nerds are still in minority - most of these sites are not tech-oriented. In fact, I've been seen posts at Slashdot, where some old-time geeks say that they are falling behind the curve, as far as new developments on the Web go. So, I am not alone.
  3. Alexa "Movers and Shakers" could be another good way to see what's hot and what's lukewarm.
  4. Keeping up with entire Web is impossible. The only thing I can do is use the sites I've grown to love, while remaining open-minded about a possibility of the Next Big Thing.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Is Wireless For Real?

Sometimes I get a feeling similar to how the main character in The Truman Show felt - that the world is an elaborate show and a lot of what's happening is staged. One example of this is the wireless technology. I am not sure if it's for real or its' users are just pretending that it works.

For years I've heard about the glory and promise of wireless networks. Now and then I would succumb to temptation and give it another shot - always with decisive lack of success. I'll let you be the judge.

Many years ago, our local computer store was selling a product that would allow home networking over phone lines. I thought the idea was neat, since running network cables from room to room is never fun. So, I bought it, plugged in the transmitter in the basement and receiver in my own room upstairs. Then I connected my laptop and waited for the wonders of wireless networking to dazzle me. The signal was barely registering. I tried moving PC from place to place, bringing it closer to the transmitter. Eventually, I got a strong usable signal... when my computer was right next to the transmitter. That didn't seem overly useful, so I've returned the package to the store.

Some time passed and I've read the announcement that our Downtown is now a wireless-enabled zone! The idea of playing online games while getting fresh air seemed enticing, so I've bought a wireless network card and went to investigate. Me and my buddy drove around downtown with the laptop on, looking for the stable connection. A few times a network would register, but never actually strong enough to surf the Web. Eventually, the laptop battery died and the experiment ended.

Fast forward a year ahead. I've curbed my expectations and thought that perhaps there's some limited use for wireless connectivity after all. I bought a wireless router, hoping that I will be able to relax in the backyard, while being online. As I turned on my notebook, standing next to the router, the signal was strong and steady. I began walking away from it, watching the quality of connection like a hawk. It began to decline. As I exited the house, the strength dropped to 0% and my ThinkPad told me: "As far as I am considered, I am offline".

Time went by and our local TGI Fridays proudly advertised that they offer free Wi-Fi access. My brother is a sports addict, so the idea of keeping up with hockey scores while enjoying potato skins was appealing to him. We've packed the laptop and went to the restaurant. Waiter gave us the login and password info. We sat down and booted up the comp. A login screen appeared. We've exchanged hopeful glances. We entered the login info and clicked Submit. The browser paused, sat at 'opening connection' for a while and timed out. Additional attempts did not help. Our waiter turned out to be somewhat computer-illiterate person and couldn't assist. So, another try, another miss.

All is not lost though. A couple of weeks ago, our apartment complex was out of power and as I surfed the ABC news site on my cell phone, I realized that wireless is indeed useful - at least as long as you have no electricity.