Archive for March, 2011

LinkedIn Hoffman Defines Web 3 as Data

SAN FRANCISCO–What’s the definition of Web 3.0? Data, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman said in a Wednesday afternoon keynote conversation.

Hoffman spoke Wednesday night at the Web 2.0 conference here, where he also talked about the value of data. “One of the really important things good Internet companies do is not ambush their users,” he said in a conversation with AllThingsD’s Liz Gannes.

 

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According to Hoffman, Web 1.0 consisted of files, where users operated under pseudonyms in chat rooms. He defined Web 2.0 as the emergence of Web apps, where a community of users utilized their real name. Finally, there’s Web 3.0 – unfortunately, the platform that it uses isn’t a mobile one, but one that’s predicated upon data, he said.

LinkedIn, which filed for an IPO in January, now counts over 100 million users. This month, the site launched a LinkedIn Today news site, LinkedIn Skills, LinkedIn Maps, and updated its LinkedIn iOS app with the new news focus. With each, LinkedIn took its accumulated store of data, mined it, and returned it back to users.

In much the same way, Hoffman said, users may come to expect to trade their own data for some benefit, such as the way Mint.com asks for total access to a user’s financial history, but also provides a way of saving monry. But, he added, apps developers shouldn’t expect to be able to share information freely among each other. “The really key thing in data is that certain kinds of data are pretty innocuous,” he said. “You can’t get ambushed by them.”

Some, he added, are expected to be closed, such as credit card numbers and passwords. And some live in a middle ground. “Trading around a user’s location,” Hoffman said. “You have to be really careful”.

Some companies want data to be completely open, Hoffman said. While that might be acceptable for disclosing the type of movies that an individual likes, users might be more guarded about divulging who their friends are.

Hoffman closed by noting that LinkedIn could ask for gender information, but doesn’t. “As a general principle, you should only ask for data when you think you can provide a value proposition for users,” he said.

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Dating in Color

Let’s start this tale of failure with a truth-filled declaration: I have no problem meeting the ladies. Whether combing the pristine floors of the Chelsea Apple Store, sipping Earl Gray at a local coffee shop, or cruising the aisles at Barnes & Noble, striking up engaging conversation with the fairer sex comes pretty naturally to me. That said, I’m not averse to using the marvels of the modern age to help form a love connection. Plenty of venues are available, ranging from online dating to tweetups. This weekend, however, I chose to experiment by using Color (3.5 stars, free), the new Android and iOS application. Given all the hype about the app (not least in PCMag.com), I assumed there would plenty of users nearby, wherever I went.

 

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Here’s a little background for the uninitiated. Color is a free location-aware app that lets people within 150 feet of one another access photos, video, and messages, simultaneously, from multiple smartphones in real time, using patent-pending Multi-lens technology. If you’ve read my Color review, you know that I was impressed with the ability to quickly exchange photo and video—and, most importantly for my weekend mission, to interact with other Color users by leaving messages. Color is a photosharing app, but it’s also a social networking app, in a way.

My goal was this: To find a female Color user, chat her up, and, hopefully, prove worthy enough to get a date. I planned to use Color by entering an area with a high density of people (a bar, park, or busy Manhattan street) and pick up a fellow user’s photostream. Then, I’d quickly scan for a female profile picture, compliment her on a well-snapped photo, and let the magic happen. Unfortunately, there were very slim pickings. Very slim.

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Friday Night: Barhopping in Gramercy and the Lower East Side
After I finished clocking the day’s hours at PCMag.com, I made a straight shot for a local watering hole just a few blocks from the office. I waltzed into the bar, whipped out my iPhone, and launched Color. There were many women in my immediate vicinity, so I had high hopes (especially for the brunette in the purple sweater a few seats away). Five minutes passed…nothing. Then a half-hour. Then a full hour. None of the potential candidates made a blip on the Color radar. All that came out of this bar trip were photos of college-aged, collar-popping brahs who had no issue sharing their drunken photos. And a bit of disappointment.

I met some friends in a LES bar later that evening, and briefed them regarding the task at hand. One was fascinated by the app’s voyeuristic nature; the other not so much. After my demo, I began to get a bit antsy as I couldn’t find a female Color user in the area. I began to grow concerned—not so much for my dating life, but how I was going to pull these failed attempts into some semblance of a story.

Saturday Evening: Union Square Park, Nintendo 3DS NYC Launch Event
I decided to head downtown to Union Square Park, a central hub where you can find people from many walks of life relaxing, chatting, dancing, and thoroughly enjoying the small oasis amidst the speeding taxis and packed sidewalks. Surely, there would be at least one straight woman using Color that would find my mug acceptable to look at from across a dinner table, right? Wrong. Once again, Color—no, society!—failed me. There were a few ladies sitting alone in the park—women that I would normally approach in a non-Color situation—but, apparently, they weren’t hip to the app. I sat for a while accessing the situation.

The Union Square excursion wasn’t totally without merit. Nintendo was out in full force to celebrate the launch of its new 3D handheld gaming console, so Color users in the area—the male Color users, that is—amassed some interesting shots of people playing games, eating the Nintendo-sponsored tacos, and grooving to a DJ spinning the wheels of steel. As I left Union Square, I began to realize that finding a date using Color was going to be far more difficult than I initially imagined.

Sunday Afternoon: The Staten Island Mall
My final attempt to get a date using Color took place in the Staten Island Mall. I fired up the app and it populated with images from not one, but two, women. I perked up in the belief that this would be the moment that would make this experiment worth while. The shots of the life-size Lady Ga Ga cut-out and Twilight book covers should’ve given me a clue that the pair were high schoolers (which I confirmed by swiping through their photo streams). This would’ve been awesome 25 years ago, but as someone pushing 40, I figured it was in my (and PCMag.com’s) best interest that I keep moving.

Analyzing The Misadventures
I gave Color a fair chance; scenarios presented here are just the more interesting of the many tries I gave the app over the weekend. I made several other attempts to find a date using Color, but they amounted to nothing more than me sitting somewhere playing with my iPhone. My adventures in Color dating crashed and burned, not because I was overly stalker-ish in my pursuit, but rather because there simply weren’t any women of age using the app.

Considering the amount of ink that Color received last week, I expected greater gender diversity. There were plenty of men using Color—but where were the women? There is no shortage of tech savvy women living in New York City (I personally know more than a few), so I was a bit perplexed by the entire situation.

Color has been available for less than a week, so the adoption rate may not be there yet—which is the most likely scenario. But when you factor in the heavy coverage that the app has received, it makes the entire affair even more disappointing.

Maybe New York women are just particularly privacy-conscious, but right now Color seems like a boys’ club.

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iPad 2 Tips Tricks and Shortcuts

While some might argue that it can almost replace a full-fledged computer, the iPad was designed to be simple. Even if you have very little tech savvy, you can probably pick up Apple’s latest tablet and master the basic features in a matter of minutes. And the longer you spend swiping your way around the touch-based iOS, the more you’ll learn. Like it is with any operating system, though, there are just some things that aren’t obvious. You could (gasp!) pore through the 22-chapter iPad 2 User Guide (it’s got three appendices too), to make sure you’re not missing anything, but where’s the fun in that?

 

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After almost a month of testing and using the iPad 2, we’ve learned some cool tricks and we want to share. In the slideshow, you’ll find general tips that apply to multiple applications, along with those specific to Safari, Maps, iPod, and Photos. Whether you’re a seasoned Mac or iOS user, or even an Apple newbie, there’s something here for you. Have a tip of your own to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Pop Quiz Computer Ports and Connectors

Do you know the difference between the shape of an Ethernet, eSATA, and USB port? Take this short quiz and test your knowledge of external computer ports.

 

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From Firewire to USB, computers have a lot of different ports. And, the number seems to grow every few years. As it’s important for IT pros to know a DVI port from an HDMI port, I put together a quick pop quiz on common external computer connectors. As you take the quick remember the following:

 

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* The pictures are of the computer port, not the corresponding cable connector.
* This quiz doesn’t cover every port and connector in existence. I tried to focus on the most common.
* Some ports have different shapes–USB Type A, Type B, Mini A, and so forth. I tried to use the most common shape.
* The ports/connectors are listed in no particular order.
* I’ve spanned this quiz across multiple pages to limit the length of each page. There are 16 ports to identify.

Note: Unfortunately, our poll tool, which I use to create each pop quiz, doesn’t let me indicate a correct answer after each question. To keep from giving away the answers before everyone has a chance to test his/her knowledge, and ruining all the fun, I’ve published the answers on the last page of this blog post. I encourage everyone to answer all the questions before looking at the last page or using your favorite search engine to find the answers.

Edit: I edited one answer on Question 3 (Figure C) to be more clear. The previous answer was still correct, but a bit confusing. Thanks to everyone who pointed this out.

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10 alternative careers for burned-out IT workers

I recently wrote an article that caused a bit of a stir. That article, 10 reasons for quitting IT, brought to my inbox an onslaught of email agreeing with my reasons and/or asking for advice on where to turn. After giving it some thought, I decided I would take a stab at a follow-up article to try to address the question “What should I do instead?” Here are a few possible alternative career choices for admins and consultants wanting to get out of IT.

Some of these ideas might make perfect sense, whereas others might make you say, “Huh?” Either way, look at them as suggestions that are related to your current field — which you may or may not have already thought about. The relation to IT might be a bit of a stretch in some cases, but for others it will be quite obvious.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

1: Auto repair
This might sound a bit crazy, but modern vehicles more and more depend upon computers. In fact, without the computer at its core, the modern vehicle wouldn’t be able to accomplish half of what it does. From emission control to hybrid power to brake control, automobiles depend upon computers. These computers are nothing more than embedded systems that depend upon another computer to troubleshoot, diagnose, and repair them. And since most IT admins and consultants love the thrill of fixing things, becoming an automobile technician makes perfect sense. Granted, you will need to get the proper training to make this leap.
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2: Teaching
The educational system does not have enough good teachers willing to go the extra mile to help future IT pros understand the career they are about to embark on. Does that mean you should step into education so you can beat it into your students’ heads that they will suffer immeasurable frustration during their career as a consultant or administrator? No. It does mean, however, that you can prepare them for the challenging road that lies ahead. And many of you will certainly understand how much difference it would have made in your lives if someone had helped prepare you for the challenges you have faced.

 

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3: Working for a smaller company
If you’re unwilling to completely leave the field of IT, you could step down from that fortune 500 position and join a much smaller company. Having a much smaller network to deal with, few computers, and users who don’t have that same attitude toward you will remove a world of suffering from your shoulders. You could even step into the not-for-profit world and really feel wanted and loved. Although the NFP field has its own set of headaches, they aren’t nearly as intense as they can be in the upper echelons of capitalism.

4: Architecture
This is another career that would require more education. However, you like numbers. You like the order and design of the world around you. And you could learn CAD more quickly than you learned subnetting. Architecture is one of those fields where the sky could literally be the limit. You could spend some time in the great outdoors, you would be using the numbers you love so dearly, you would have a modicum of control over your own fate (perhaps being self-employed), and you wouldn’t have to deal with downed networks, fail-over, end-users, and lazy programmers.

5: Programming
You’ve spent years dealing with bugs, bug squashing, and software in general, so why not join the developer ranks and start coding yourself? Most of the programmers I know are good, although quirky, people. Some of them live singular, solitary lives, work long hours, and are dedicated to what they do. The biggest difference between programmers and admins/consultants? Programmers’ stress and headaches are specific in nature and tend to involve only one or two major problems (code won’t compile, features need to be added, etc.). Now I won’t kid you into thinking that programming will be an easier, less stressful route than consulting or administration. But you won’t have to deal with the avalanche of problems coming from nearly every corner of every building you walk into.

6: Writing
One of the biggest downfalls in the world of computer software and hardware is its documentation. Because software and hardware are ever-evolving markets, the minute you put out a book or manual, it’s out of date. That means those manuals must always be updated, renewed, refreshed. Take those skills of yours and build a brand for yourself. Write the manual for a piece of software, hardware, or protocol. Or find a blog to write for. There are millions upon millions of computer users out there, and most of them have no idea what they are doing. The world needs good writers of computer manuals and how-tos, because we know the manufacturers aren’t creating these documents.

7: Management
Not that you would ever see me working the management side of the coin, but this field is a good fit for a lot of administrators and consultants. This is especially true for consultants who have had to run their small shop or one-man show and keep the ball rolling. Those types have the necessary marketing, management, and communication skills necessary for management. But understand this: You will be trading one set of headaches for another.

8: Research and development
Companies thrive on research, and that includes tech companies. What R&D departments don’t need are people who have no idea what they are talking about. As an administrator or consultant you have been out in the trenches. You know how things do work versus how they should work. You are fully aware of the real-world needs versus the company-created needs. A voice like yours could be of incredible value to a company creating the next big thing in IT. Of course R&D tends to live only in bigger companies, so you would have to make your way though the mounds of resumes already piling up on the HR desks. Figure that out, and you might have a perfect match.

9: Cosmetology
I know, I know. This one might seem crazy on the surface, but give it a chance. First, there is an elegant mathematic to the art of hair design. I did a short stint in the field and really enjoyed it. Not only are you dealing with real people with real issues (some issues a bit bigger than others), but you see instant results when you are done. There is no sitting around and waiting for the rug to be pulled out from under you (as is inevitable in IT and consulting) no dealing with budgetary constraints or security holes, no horrific hours, and no cloud!

10: Farming
I couldn’t resist. Based on the amount of readers who truly wanted to pull way back to their “roots” and be farmers, this seemed like the perfect way to end this piece. Farming might well be one of the single most rewarding professions in the history of professions. Yes, it’s hard work, yes there is very little money to be made. But man, is it a good way to reclaim yourself. Digging in the dirt, creating the very things that sustain life… what more could you ask for? If you choose to go this route, I would highly recommend you bank a nice nest egg first, because you won’t get rich off the fat of the land. Your soul might, but your bank account? Not so much.

Taking a break
Naturally these ideas are all subjective, but everyone has a skill other than IT they can bank on. Even if it’s not the most marketable, profitable, or manageable skill known to man, you have something you can turn to when IT or consulting loses its luster. And who knows, maybe a break from the field is all you need. Go be a farmer for a few years and then, if you need to, come back to IT. Don’t worry — admin and consulting work will still be here. You’ll probably have to play a massive game of catch-up, but you’ll get back into the race more quickly than you think.

Other alternative professions?
This is a just short list of possibilities, but there are plenty more. What other careers do you think might be well suited for those who are thinking about leaving IT? Have you ever switched fields only to return to a tech job? Share your thoughts in the discussion.

Ten Must-Have Apps for Foodies that Are not Food Apps

Before there were smartphones, I was the kind of foodie who stuffed her purse with scraps of paper, scribblings with the names, addresses, and cross streets of restaurants, markets, bakeries, and bars that I wanted to try. I had a pocket notebook on me at all times, as well as a tourist’s guide of my own city (my own city!) for the detailed maps and cafe listings.

Then came smartphones.

Smartphones revolutionized the foodie lifestyle, but not in the way some people might expect. Sure, apps for OpenTable and Menupages certainly come in handy, but there are 10 absolutely essential apps most food enthusiasts could not do without–and surprisingly, they are not “food” apps.

Say what you will about the word “foodie,” but to me, the term embraces all kinds of eating, drinking, and cooking, from haute cuisine to hamburger stands to homecooking. It’s a marvelously undiscerning word. You don’t have to know everything there is to know about, say, the Loire Valley to be a foodie, but you probably should have a few reliable tools on deck for the next time you’re faced with a bottle of Vouvray and forget where the heck “Vouvray” is.

 

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These 10 apps likewise serve a diverse range of purposes. They come in handy at the farmer’s market, high-end specialty food stores, restaurants, and bakeries. While traveling, they can point you toward eateries that are considered local favorites. When ostentatious menu descriptions start to go over your head, these apps can help you hold your own. They can even alert you to food recalls.

Click into the to discover these 10 essential apps for foodies that aren’t food apps. For more traditional apps for food enthusiasts, see “10 iPhone Apps for Foodies.”