January 31st, 2004


Call the Orkut exterminator!

I've checked out Orkut, and although it has some nice design refinements and an apparently better database infrastructure than other similar services, there's one thing it doesn't have... soul.

For all the effort that has gone into it, Orkut is a remarkably boring place... about as exciting as Stanford University on a Monday night before midterms. Maybe they shouldn't have started the site off by having Google employees invite their friends -- far better to give the initial accounts to carny freaks and sex workers instead. It's doubly pathetic to see so many "software intellectuals" linkwhoring as if their whuffie depended on it. "I just expanded my social circle to 3,582,191 people! Whoo!" Way to go, sporto. You know your life sucks when you use the word "friends" primarily as a technical concept.

It may take a few harried weeks for them to adopt the best that Orkut has to offer, but Tribe.net is a thousand times better socially, and for those into subcultures (esp. in the S.F. bay area), it kicks butt and takes numbers. Look deeply and you'll find all sorts of cool private events. Look deeper still and you'll probably get some. I'm sure they'll appreciate having a site like Orkut to borrow ideas from, though.

I know I'm going to regret this in fifty years, but I'll say it anyway. I can't think of another kind of social software application of this ilk that I want to see. Not one. Really, the problem is that you're practically expected to join them all. Yeahright. Good luck. I like keeping up on the new features, but at a certain point, why join yet another nearly identical service after you've made your initial investment of your time? Enough is enough.

Ultimately, people will either want just one site of this ilk that works for lots of different people in lots of different ways (unlikely) or they will want to have ones that tie together and allow interaction between services (more likely). If Orkut really wants to make a difference, they should consider the idea of being highly customizable *AND* geared towards interacting, at least with other sites running Orkut's software on their server. By itself, Orkut is just another particularly senseless part of Google, Inc., but if they actually empowered their users to do cool things with their software, you've got real possibilities. Spread the seeds and let a thousand Orkuts bloom.

Don't ban Al Jazeera -- ban the Iraqi government.

Al Jazeera has their rights to report in Iraq restricted again, but this time for an even more inane reason than before...

In this case, Al Jazeera was having a television call-in program and a person called in and said a few disrespectful things regarding the family members of people on the Iraqi Council.

As a means of comparison, it's almost as if CNN were banned from entering any government office in Washington D.C. or attending any press conference because a dial-in caller said that Bush's grandfather was a Nazi lover and his brother helps rig elections. Hell, it's not even that extreme. Why should Al Jazeera be responsible for the brief comments of a single caller? Big networks like CNN have gotten live calls from Howard Stern fans making crank calls, for god's sake. People will call in and act reputable, but once they're live on the air, they can say most anything unless bleeped or cut off the air. That's why they call it "Talk Back Live"... n'est ce pas?!

To the Iraqi National Congress, all I can say is "Nice democracy you're building there, pinheads..." You'd think Bremer would argue against censorship, but... no. Not a peep.

If the rest of the world's media had any balls, they would make a real issue out of the threatening, censoring environment they are being forced to work under in Iraq, but they don't want to get kicked out of Baghdad's endless stream of government briefings and press conferences either. They'd rather be safely cloistered in highly security, air-conditioned government offices, moving in packs and getting the word on the land straight from the camel's behind rather than risk going out in public, taking a few risks, and inspecting the teeth. Such brave journalists!

Really, at this point the Iraqi Council might as well jump to the logical extreme, ban all satellite dishes by threat of death, and force people a constant diet of government-run propaganda. Hey, it helped Saddam keep the Iraqis in the dark for decades... why wouldn't it work now?!