Exploring the impact of broadband and technology on our lives, our businesses, and our communities.

The decline of the Internet

LinkedIn can't seem to decide what it wants to be. A while back, it added Facebook-like features that everyone (including me) used for a while, but it takes time to sit on LinkedIn and read everyone's posts. Over time, the traffic on the groups has declined to the point where it is nearly non-existent. I know that some very large LinkedIn groups have a lot more postings, but my view is that if you have lots of time to write and respond to stuff on LinkedIn, you are probably not doing your job.

I got a message from someone today, and when I tried to reply, I found that LinkedIn had again changed its interface, and unless I missed it (entirely possible), there is now an instant message style interface. It took me ten minutes of clicking around a bunch of mostly blank screens before I was able to respond to the message request.

The new interface was (is) obviously buggy. So like many other Internet-based services, as these companies fiddle with the interface and the features, the software just becomes harder to use.

Once Skype was purchased by Microsoft, we noticed a gradual and steady decline in the quality of the software. As an example, we used to use the file transfer feature all the time (i.e. several times a day). We are back to emailing files around or putting them on the shared server (both less convenient) because the Skype file transfer fails so often we now just ignore it--if you can't predict when it will work and when it will fail, it is useless.

Apple has similar problems. In their desired to make all their Mac apps "the same" on the Mac and on iPads/iPhones, they have not only removed features, screwed up a wonderful interface, and introduced bugs. And they don't really seem to care very much. Steve Jobs has to be spinning in his grave.

Technology News:

Porsche say "No!" to Google and Android

Carmaker Porsche has chosen to go with Apple's CarPlay and will not support Android in its 2017 car models.

Google apparently wanted a complete and constant data dump from every car, all the time. Apple was not making that kind of requirement in its CarPlay licensing.

As Internet-based technology matures, I am glad to see that some companies are recognizing that privacy is still more important than technology. Kudos to Apple and Porsche for respecting their customers.

Technology News:

Knowledge Democracy:

Did the Internet just jump the shark? Is Peeple real?

So certain portions of the InnerTubes are all abuzz over this supposed new app and service called Peeple.

It is hard to know where to start, as there are layers of fear, loathing, intrigue, and suspicion swirling around this new service. The fact that it already has a page on Snopes.com should tell you something.

In short, Peeple is being described as "Yelp for people." So instead of posting a review about the restaurant where you just had dinner, you can post a review about your boss, your mother-in-law, the roommate that cheated you out of the last month's rent...anyone you like or don't like.

This has to be the worst idea of all time, and part of the reason some people suspect the whole thing is a hoax is because the core concept is so horrifying--is there anyone who thinks this could turn out well? Apparently the two founders do; they have a background in corporate HR, so you can sort of imagine that being able to easily check up on prospective hires might have some appeal.

But right now, the app and the underlying service seems to be vaporware, and there is much discussion that the November date for a beta version seems unrealistic.

I'm a bit jealous, as this would make a great April Fool's joke, but it is October, not April, and there are reports that they have raised several million dollars in venture capital.

Knowledge Democracy:

One ring to control them all

It is hard to know whether to make a joke about this or to herald it as another great leap forward in technology. Apple has apparently obtained a patent for a ring that can be used to control and interact with your iPhone.

If this sounds like a smaller version of the Apple Watch, you are right. The patent application mentions a microphone, sensors, camera, and perhaps even a display.

Now if this thing will talk to Google's brain implant that is going turn us all into "god-like" (their phrase, not mine) robots, well then, we are getting somewhere!

Technology News:

Selfies kill more people than sharks

Apparently it is more dangerous to take a selfie than to swim in shark-infested waters. More people are dying from self-inflicted accidents while taking a selfie than from shark attacks.

Folks, put down the selfie stick and try to acquire some situational awareness.

Nothing works anymore

Skype was a great piece of software until Microsoft bought the company. We have been using Skype chat and video for years; it is a very effective and efficient way of managing a company with employees located all over the country.

But once Microsoft started "fixing" it, it slowly became less reliable, with file transfers now so unreliable that we rarely use that feature anymore.

Yesterday, there a major Skype problem that affected many users. It was cleared up after a few hours, but in the meantime we tried to switch to Google chat/video. Two of us spent about twenty minutes trying to connect to each other and finally gave up--and we both have existing Google accounts. Google's minimalist interface design is so obscure that we simply could not tell if something was broken or if we were missing some hidden button somewhere.

In the office, this led to a water cooler discussion about how nothing seems to work anymore. The mad rush to connect everything to everything via "the cloud" has led to dumbing down of features, complicated log in sequences, too many userid/passwords to remember, erratic performance, and long delays because former desktop only apps now have to shove everything through the cloud.

Xkcd, as usual, identifies the mounting problem in one simple graphic.

Are ad blockers the death of the Web?

Pundits all over the InnerTubes are predicting that Apple's support of ad blockers is the death of ad-supported Web sites. Maybe so, maybe not. But I have not heard anyone discuss the inverse: the proliferation of ads was killing ad-supported Web sites.

The increase in ads has been a kind of drip-drip-drip....barely noticeable until it seemed to reach a preference cascade for me. Some Web sites had so many ads popping up, over, under and around the content that the site was pretty much unusable on smaller devices like a smartphone or small tablet. So I reluctantly stopped going to those sites unless I was on a desktop.

So it is not really about ad blockers at all. It is really about how content--good content--is going to be supported in the future if there are fewer ads.

The other thing I don't see much discussion of is the supply and demand problem. That is, if there is an infinite supply of ads and ad space (on the Web, this is pretty much true), then the value of placing any single ad approaches zero--basic economics.

What the ad blockers may accomplish could be a return to sanity, with fewer ad spaces on Web sites, and advertisers willing to pay more to get access to that more limited space.

Technology News:

Knowledge Democracy:

Death of TV: Part LXXIII: 21% of homes using Internet for TV

A new report from TDG says that 21% of U.S. homes are now using Internet set top boxes for TV content. This is a 63% increase just in the past year. In the important 25-44 year old age group, the penetration rate is 29%, which matches closely an earlier report that 30% of young people have never had a cable TV or satellite TV subscription.

Knowledge Democracy:

Network shaping

I had a call recently from a vendor trying to sell us "user controlled network shaping." I asked him who would want to do that, and he really could not answer the question. He just kept repeating how great it would be when users could configure the network to meet their needs.

I have seen a number of articles recently about "network shaping," and many of them make the pitch that this will be great for customers. I've never thought, "My copper-based phone service would be so much better if I could shape and control the bandwidth allocated for dial tone to my premises."

Very few telecom users care about the network...they care about the service. No one ever called the phone company and ordered three hundred feet of twisted pair, or called the cable company and asked for five hundred and twenty-five feet of coax with a DOCSIS 3 interface.

Users want to be able to choose among a variety of competitively-priced services. Users want to customize and select their services, but they don't want to customize the network. The future is in complete separation of transport and services. All the problems we have now are because transport and services are bundled together, so we get inferior transport (inferior bandwidth) because that's the only way to get the service.

As the Local Transport Provider (LTP) model becomes more common, the benefits will become more apparent. And for those that continue to insist that this is some esoteric and untested approach, it might be worth actually talking to LTP networks that have been in operation in the U.S. for years, like nDanville and The WiredRoad.

Technology News:

Trying to make money on the Internet

As sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (and many many others) try to create shareholder value, the pressure on users of those sites continues to increase. But as always, it is as much about time as it is about utility.

While we use things like Twitter and LinkedIn as part of our marketing strategy for Design Nine and WideOpen Networks, we have low expectations. There is only so much time that any one person can spend on these sites. For example, LinkedIn has done a fair job of aggregating useful information, but it's the proverbial "drinking from a fire hose." You could easily spend many hours a day just reading postings on LinkedIn, and if you have take your job and your work seriously, you just aren't going to do that.

When LinkedIn first introduced the Facebook-style interface, a lot of people began posting, but over time, I watched the frequency of those postings decline until there is very little new content being added in the half dozen or so groups I joined on LinkedIn. Busy, productive people don't have time to "hang out" on Google Hangouts, LinkedIn groups, Twitter feeds, and the myriad of other Web sites clamoring for attention. It's a race to the bottom.

Technology News:

Pages

Subscribe to Front page feed