Bradley just recently recommended to me Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point. It's a very interesting book that maps out how "social epidemics" begin, such as things that become massively popular in a short period of time. He goes through several great examples of how something small turned into something big through the help of three groups of people: Mavens, who are well-respected amongst their peers as knowledgeable, Salesmen, who are able to sell people on an idea, and Connectors, that help to spread the word. Gladwell posits that someone must fulfill all three of these functions for a social epidemic to occur. He then goes on to give several great examples of such happenings.
Bradley first pointed out to me that this could be used to describe the rise of Ajax, how a simple article written on a web site could ignite excitement in web development like nothing before. But I needed to dig deeper, I wanted to figure out who the Mavens, Salesmen, and Connectors were in this scenario, and I came up with an interesting answer. I propose that Jesse James Garrett, the man who coined the term, was both a Maven and a Salesman. His article was filled with facts, figures, and everything both a Maven and a Salesman would be telling people to get them onboard. Now here's where it gets interesting...who was the Connector? In this case, I believe it's not a who but a what; that what is the Internet.
I propose that the Connector was the Internet itself. Garrett put out this information to the world in a way that clicked with a great many developers. Developers read it, contacted other developers, and thus the Ajax phenomenon was born. When I say the Internet was the Connector in this social epidemic, I don't mean that the physical construct of web pages and links was the Connector, I mean that the nature of the Internet is one of a Connector: it presents information to everyone, and then they are able to point others to that information because there is a single place from which it can be accessed. The Internet is the ultimate Connector, which is why so many companies are doing Internet-only advertising in the hopes of spawning a great ad campaign.
In any event, it's really a great book. I think anyone in business should definitely read it.
So I finally bit and bought myself one of those sexy Mac Minis. I went with the lowest-end one, Intel Core Solo for $599. I really wanted this so that I could test more stuff on Safari, so no reason to get the top-of-the-line model (at least not yet). I also bought a Mac keyboard and mouse to complete the experience (I already had a monitor sitting around doing nothing).
When you first start up the Mini, it plays through this cheesy, yet amusing, welcome message before starting with set up. The setup is really logic: what language do you use? What keyboard configuration (U.S., Canada, etc.). The thing I really liked is that it assumed I wanted to connect to the wireless network in my place. This step showed the name of my router and asked for the network password. After that, it was all setup on its own.
The thing I didn't like was the forced registration process. Even though it specifies you do not need to register for your warranty, there is no way to skip the process, which asks for your phone number (always a cardinal sin in my book).
I've just started playing around with it now, so I'll reserve my judgement. I was sort of miffed that I need to download over 200 MB of updates as soon as I started the thing, and I didn't find iPhoto as intuitive as I was led to believe it was. In other news, I was happy to see my site looks pretty good in Safari.
Alfred Einhorn is a man who has my eternal thanks, especially today. It was in 1905 that he created the first injectable anesthetic that we lovingly know as novocaine. Having just had a gum graft this morning (and only barely lucid thanks to some lovely narcotics), I must say that I am once again grateful for this lovely anesthetic, without which I cannot ever imagine dealing with gum surgery or even cavities. Although everyone hates the novocaine injections, they are nothing compared to the pain we'd all be feeling without them.
I must admit, I chuckled heartily at the Apple ad showing the PC needing to reboot. He then asks the Mac if he has to reboot, and the Mac says, "not really." The irony comes with the fact that my iPod just froze on me. What was the offending action? Skipping to the next song. Thing just completely froze up. Apparently, this is not an uncommon occurrence, as there is a page on the Apple site describing how to reboot your iPod if it freezes. Oh the irony.
It's very tough to balance these two desires, as I enjoy both. I try to go back and forth, but sometimes it seems that one suffers so they other may flourish. Most often, the one that suffers is writing code. There's only so much time to write code when new information is available that could be included in a future book. I have so many projects in my head that will probably never see the light of day due to a lack of time.
Why not just stop writing tutorials/articles/books? See, I have this sick need to keep people as informed as possible. I happen to believe that there just aren't enough tutorials for a lot of great technology. Documenting APIs isn't enough to get someone started; you must give them concrete examples and explanations of those examples to convince them that something is useful. That is what I try to do as much as possible, but that also means I don't have the time to write the cool tools that I think people would enjoy too. Oh the strife!
Not sure this is playing out on a nationwide basis or not, but here in New England, one of the biggest stories is about Kaavya Viswanathan, a 19-year-old Harvard sophomore whose book is being pulled due to plagiarism. This is huge news for a lot of reasons.
First and foremost, she got a lot of publicity detailing how a 17-year-old girl ended up signing a $500,000 two-book deal with a publisher. All the talk was about how vibrant and different her first book was (it had an initial run of 100,000 copies). The book came out just about a month ago, and immediately signs of plagiarism started popping up. We're not talking about similar situations or characters here; we're talking whole passages lifted from one of four other books (compare it to The Princess Diaries, Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings).
The book had so much hype, that the author was even offered a movie deal. But with the book barely on the shelf, her school's own Harvard Crimson newspaper brought about allegations of plagiarism that have led to the unraveling of Kaavya Viswanathan's credibility, writing, success, and now her life at Harvard. Since the report came out, her book has first pulled off shelves with a promise to change the text, then permanently pulled off shelves, and finally her book deal was cancelled (every writing contract has a clause that states the author guarantees that the work is 100% original, thus allowing publishers out of book deals should the author violate and copyrights or trademarks).
Now, as a writer, I can understand how you can end up with ideas that you think are your own, but actually originate at something you read or experienced earlier. Of course in my writing, it's much easier to just cite the source; that approach doesn't work in a novel. What I find completely unbelievable is the statement that this author unintentionally internalized and then wrote out aspects from other books. When you internalize, you internalize ideas, situations, characters, you do not internalize entire passages word-for-word. I can't remember a single sentence from anything I read in the newspaper this morning, but she wants us to believe that she could remember whole sections of other books? Don't think so. Apparently neither does her publisher.
Now, it is entirely possible that someone else changed her original manuscript after it left her hands (see the controversy over the packaging company that owns half the copyright to the book) and that she is now taking the fall for it. It's possible, as I want to believe that no new author wants to put forth anything but 100% effort and honesty into what could make or break their name. I really want to give her the benefit of the doubt, but I'm finding it very hard. It is obvious to me that this case of plagiarism was intentional, and I really hope that it comes out she had nothing to do with it.
As while back I wrote about how Microsoft doesn't innovate, they simple wait for someone to define a market, then ramp up and take over. It happened to Apple, Netscape, and Real, and now the target is Google. Most people think that there's nothing to stop the Google juggernaut; I disagree, and it's already beginning.
To begin with, Internet Explorer 7 comes with a search bar that, by default, uses Windows Live Search. Naturally, Google is upset about this and is trying to make the courts stop Microsoft. On the one hand, I'm not a Microsoft proponent, but on the other hand, it's their browser and they can do whatever they want. Google has been sitting pretty with built-in searches in both Firefox and Safari, but neither group necessarily needed to do that nor asked Google for permission. They were designing for the users. So is Microsoft, who naturally thinks their solution is better than anyone elses (otherwise, they wouldn't have built it). I think Google is going to lose this round.
Next up, Amazon has decided to dump Google on both its Alexa toolbar and on A9. Both will now use the Windows Live Search service in place of Google. Some may say I'm saying the sky is falling, but Microsoft often makes small moves before taking over. In my opinion, Google needs to go on the offensive now if they want to remain dominant. Remember the famous words that signified the beginning of the end for Netscape: the Microsoft browser will be free. It all went downhill from there.