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Showing posts from 2012
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Content Isn't King

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Bill Gates famously wrote in a 1996 essay that "content is king" - what people want on the Internet (and in broadcasting) is "deep and extremely up-to-date information". The higher the volume and quality of your content, the more subscribers you will attract. That's a pretty simple formula and it can be applied to almost any business. For instance, the greater the variety of goods on the supermarket's shelves, the more customers they are likely to get.
Sounds great, but it's only true to a point. There comes a time when quantity and quality no longer play as vital a role in consumer choices as perhaps they once did. Take, for example, mobile phone apps. As of October 30 2012, both Apple and Android have 700,000 apps. Microsoft is catching up. But who really cares what the numbers are? Once they reach critical mass, another thousand means little. And apps (or their equivalents) on one platform are available on the others. Put another way, more doesn'…

Content Isn't King (Not)

Sorry, folks. In a senseless act of insanity, Blogger decided to randomly delete this post.

(Ironically, it was about content, something this blog post doesn't have.)

I will reconstruct the blog post from an early draft and re-post it.

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Devolution of the Diary

The question "How many people keep a daily journal" on Askville by Amazon provoked responses that range between "more people" and "less than half". Whatever the real number, people have been keeping diaries for hundreds of years. Wikipedia says that a work called To Myself by Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius could possibly be one of the first diaries ever written.

One might think that keeping a diary is a more feminine passtime. However, the appropriately named website, artofmanliness.com, provides a short list of famous men who kept a journal:
Theodore RooseveltThomas JeffersonCharles DarwinBenjamin FranklinLewis and ClarkAndrew CarnegieRalph Waldo EmersonCaptain CookWinston ChurchillSir Edmund HilarySir Ernest Henry Shackleton artofmanliness.com gives three main reasons to keep a journal:
Your children and grandchildren will want to read it.It can bring you to your senses.Journaling grants you immortality (Woody Allen: "I don't want to achieve immor…

[Private] Enterprise: Going Where No One Has Gone Before

In a conversation with the Mars Curiosity team at NASA, US President Barack Obama asked them to call him if they find aliens. Later on he said: It’s really what makes us best as a species – the curiosity we have, yearning to discover, the pushing boundaries of knowledge. But these sentiments don't jive with his proposed 2013 budget, which includes drastic cuts to NASA funding. In his opinion, government-funded space research and exploration (even with its valuable tie-ins with military advancement) should not be the government's concern. Despite the obvious advantages to the economy and defense, space is just not a priority.

But Obama has badly misread the landscape. The world is abuzz with space news:
the Curiosity mission to Mars (Aug 2012)the death of Neil Armstrong (Aug 2012) the international space station (Sep 2012)the retirement of the Space Shuttle Endeavor (Sep 2012)amazing images beamed back from Voyager 1 from the edge of interstellar space (Sep 2012)a father who …

Hyundai i800 CRDi 2012 Review

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For the past few weeks I've been zipping around town in my brand new Hyundai i800 CRDi 2012. The nine-seater car was converted from the commercial version to a passenger vehicle to accommodate a pneumatic wheelchair lift. The back panels were removed and tinted windows were installed. A proper floor and ceiling were put in the back, along with air conditioning and seats. For all intents and purposes, you can't tell that this was once a commercial vehicle.
Purrs Like a (Large, Overweight) Kitten The i800's build quality seems very good. The internal fittings are simple, but the car seems to be constructed solidly. The only rattling sounds come from the wheelchair lift, which has so many moving parts, it can be forgiven for groaning a bit when I hit a bump in the road. Road noise is higher than I would have expected, and the diesel engine isn't very quiet, but it's by no means a loud car - at least from the inside.
Leviathan The car is a beast to drive. A veritable t…

Time to Let Go?

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I was introduced to computing in the 5th grade. My first computer class was in the school's brand-new Apple IIe computer lab. On that first day we had no idea what to expect. Our teacher held up a 5¼" floppy disk and proceeded to demonstrate how not to treat it. He threw the disk across the room, he crumpled it in his fist, tossed it on the floor and jumped on it. He then attempted to rip the disk open with his bare hands. He let loose on the disk with a pair of scissors, dropped it into a metal waste-paper-basket and set it on fire. The folks at Verbatim would have been horrified; we thought it was funny. And from that moment on, the teacher had our attention.

I probably still have a bunch of floppys sitting in a box somewhere. I used floppy disks all through university, so I still may have some assignments I wrote using Zardax, an Apple IIc word processor. Alas, the floppy disk is a relic of a bygone era. File sizes have far surpassed the capabilities of the faithful flop…

Yesterday's Champion

After quite some time in an irrationally self-inflicted exile on the bench, I started jogging again. No, really, it's true. Over the last two years it's been an on-again, off-again affair, but I think I'm jogging consistently enough to consider myself back on track.

I recently read through my Jerusalem marathon training blogs from 2009 and 2010. They were very inspiring. I read how I started off on the treadmill at the gym and then progressed to running on the street. I read of how I completed my first 5 km run, my first 10 km run and ultimately how I smashed my PB in the marathon by about 4 minutes. I didn't blog about this, but in September 2010 I took a leisurely 20 km jog around Ramat Beit Shemesh, just for the fun of it.

Since then I lost momentum and added weight. Now I'm back at the beginning - I have to do it all over again.

For the last few weeks I've been schlepping myself around Ramat Beit Shemesh, trying to recapture my former glory. I'm workin…

It Would Take an Action Hero to Save Music

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When I was growing up, an afternoon at the library, browsing through a seemingly infinite number of books, was a common Sunday activity. Mostly, the library was a quiet, air-conditioned sanctuary where everyone had equal access to as many books as they could poke a library card at.

Considering the number of librarians employed at the local library, it doesn't take much to realize that to own all those books would be an expensive undertaking and an organizational nightmare.

My father once built a huge floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and my mother cataloged all of our books, Dewey Decimal System-style. Alas, with the rest of us kids running (around) the house, maintaining this private library was nigh on impossible. But it was a valiant attempt.

Today, e-books are cheap and sometimes even free. One hand-held device can contain thousands of books, easily sorted according to title, author, genre, subject, date or even publisher. More importantly, there's ample time to read through all…

Home Videos: Get in on the Act

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In 1927, Warner Bros produced the first talkie, The Jazz Singer, on a rather large budget of $422,000 (about $22 million in 2012 terms) - approximately 1.5 times what most silent films had cost to make until then.

In 1995, the Los Angeles Times reported that the average cost of making and marketing a feature film was approximately $50.4 million. In 2011 it cost around $65 million to produce the film plus another $35 million to market it - that's a cool $100 million. 3D movie production company, False Creek Productions, calculates that 3D movie production will set you back an additional 19% (PDF). Mega-3D-blockbusters, like Avatar, reportedly cost somewhere between $280 million and $500 million to produce (plus marketing costs).

In stark contrast to this, according to NuWire Investor:
The cost of producing indie [independent] films varies widely depending on the project, anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $20 million or more. Some indie films, while not usually full-length fe…

Call for Links to Home Movies

I am writing a blog-post about home movies. Send me a link to your home-made videos and I may include them. The deadline is Sunday 26 August, 2012.

Send all links to yossi at ykarp dot com.

So be part of it and don't delay!
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Press 1 to Give Up

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Without taking any formal polls, I estimate that 99% of the world hates automated answering systems.

There's a dark, dank office in the lower basement of a ramshackle castle atop a spindly hill, in which sits a hunchbacked hermit who rubs his calloused hands with evil glee as he codes telephone-menu software. Once in a while, when the crashing thunder shakes the windows from their hinges and the lightning rips through the eerie night sky, you may hear a prolonged, maniacal laugh echo through the deep, desolate valleys as he releases the next version to production.

But we forgive companies because we think that there isn't much of an alternative - it's a busy call center and they have to manage all of the incoming calls somehow, right?

I recently read an article about how companies use a special algorithm to determine if it is worthwhile to answer your phone call or not. The software calculates whether there are others in the queue who are likely to spend more money than y…

Is HR the Enemy?

The purpose of every HR department is to practice the HR policies set by the company. HR reps aren't there to represent the employee - unless, of course, the company policies and the needs of an employee happen to coincide (sexual harassment issues, for example). This may seem to be a sweepingly broad statement, but it is the reality of corporate life.

If you haven't already experienced HR's two-sidedness then you probably haven't been paying attention. The benefits, fun and good feelings that the HR department is responsible for are merely part of a wider aim to smokescreen employees from the true company goals. For instance, the purpose of company fun days, parties, food and birthday gifts is to lull you into a sense of loyalty, community and belonging so you won't leave.

Call me a cynic, if you like. I prefer the word "realist". And, yes, I have been burned by HR before, but that was back in the day when I naively thought that HR's job is to help t…

Turning More into Less, More or Less

One of the important skills a Technical Writer needs is to be able to take long-winded sentences, cut out irrelevant, repetitive, and useless words to make the sentence shorter, thus making it easier for the reader to understand.

Re-write:

To communicate effectively, Technical Writers must be able to edit text for clarity and brevity.


When editing my own work, I sometimes pretend that the text awkwardly creeps across to the next page. The challenge is to use fewer words without changing the meaning of the sentence so that all of the text fits on one page - no re-formatting allowed. It's often easier to write an entire paragraph than it is to convey the same information in a single sentence, so this little game makes for tighter writing.

Knowing which words to cut and which to keep is a skill. Twitter provides a great training ground for improving in this area. With only 140 characters to get your point across there isn't much room for warbling. Increase the level of difficulty b…

Yelp Me This

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According to their website, "Yelp is the fun and easy way to find and talk about great (and not so great) local businesses".
The following two videos, pushed to my Flipbook "Gear and Gadgets" feed, are dramatizations of two reviews, performed by actors. Normally, I would just retweet, but these are just so funny, I felt compelled to share them, Jublerant style.
YouTube summary: Professional actor Chris Kipiniak puts the full weight of his dynamic gifts behind this interpretation of an online restaurant review.
YouTube summary: Award winning audio-book narrator and actress Therese Plummer (The Good Wife, Law and Order SVU) lends her expressive talents to this rendition of a Yelp review. Follow on Twitter: @ykarp
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Virtually You

Zynga reported a $22.8m loss. Its shares plummeting, analysts are forecasting an uncertain future for the maker of the hugely popular game, Farmville, and six other top games on Facebook.

Whoa! Unsatisfactory revenues for the developer of popular games? Yes, because the number of users of largely free games doesn't reflect earnings.

Zynga makes its money by selling virtul goods, like tractors for Farmville. Selling virtual goods for a web-based game is a relatively new business model. No inventory to warehouse, no deliveries to make, and no storefront to pay for. Selling virtual bits and bytes (things that don't exist but that people pay for) sounds great, but is the experiment failing?

I am tempted to argue that paying real money for a virtual tractor in a game that I don't personally own, is a waste. But consider this - we have been trading in virtual goods for quite a while. Some examples:

Virtual money (credits) for online stores - eventually you can exchange the curr…

Love Your Fellow Shark

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Does it get more exciting than this? Shark Week begins on August 12, 2012. If you love these the bone-less, fanged and fearsome kings of the sea, then Shark Week is for you.

If you really want to get into the whole shark thing, why not get yourself a robot shark? Hours of fun and excitement scaring the living daylights out of family, friends and total strangers.


But we really do need Shark Week because, aside from the Chinese who love shark just a bit too much, the ultimate marine predator generally gets a bad rap. But why? All sharks do is maintain the natural balance of nature. If you happen into their environment, its not reallytheir fault if you look a lot like dinner. 

From an early age we arebrain-washed educated to stay away from sharks at all costs, just like in this poem:
A Shark is a PetA Funny Shark Poem by Kenn Nesbitt A shark is a pet
that you don't want to get.
There is nothing less fun than a shark.
He doesn't have fur.
He won't cuddle or purr,
and he never t…

Pants

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I saw a chef walking down the street today. I could tell he was a chef because of his weird-looking pants. Naturally, this got me wondering about who else wears strange pants.

[If you receive this post via email, you will have to visit the website to see all the pictures and get the full effect: http://www.ykarp.com]

Chefs
If you're a chef and you're late to work, wear your pajamas. Nobody will notice the difference.

Golfers
Some golfing pants are handed down from generation to generation, never getting washed so as to preserve the luck.

Clowns
If your jokes are no good, you can always rely on your fashion to make the audience laugh.

Mascots

Wear this, but only if you have the figure for it.

Knights in Shining Armor

Sneak up on the heavily armed castle wearing these metal pants.

Elvis


Don't. Only Elvis can get away with pants like these.



Curlers

Curling is a strange sport as it is, so what's with these pants?

Beefeaters

No pants here. But of course, in England, nobody wears p…

As Good as a Holiday

I've been using Tim now since Feb 2012. For those of you who missed that blog, Tim is my Samsung Galaxy Note. He has really changed the way I navigate my online life.

Email
Email is now more or less instantly downloaded to my pocket. In other words, if you send me an email, Gmail picks it up from my ykarp.com email server. My phone then syncs with Gmail and the phone whistles that mail has been received. The delay is inconsequential, but I do notice that my daily Dilbert email reaches my work computer a minute before my phone does. I love Dilbert cartoons, and I'll take 'em wherever I can get 'em.

The emails I write from my phone are also shorter than ones I write from a real computer. That's undestandable given that touch-screen typing is slower and less accurate (actually, I'm writing this blog post on my Galaxy Note in portrait view right now!) Perhaps I shouldn't, but I also forgive myself more for grammatical errors, punctuation mistakes and typos for t…

Why Science is Wrong

Leonardo da Vinci was obsessed with manned flight. He never successfully built a flying machine, although he did design a helicopter-like machine that would have worked, had he built it, and he was reported to have successfully tested the first parachute. But a working flying machine eluded him because he was fixated on flapping wings. Had he thought of fixed-wing aircraft, nobody would ever have heard of the Wright brothers. But you can't blame Leonardo. It is only natural that we look to our environment for clues. The practice of nature-inspired inventions is called biomimicry. Examples of biomimicry abound. Velcro, for example, is an invention inspired by plant burrs. The design of turbine blades is based on the shape of the flippers of humpback whales. Gecko Tape was invented by Manchester University scientists who observed how geckoes are able to climb along ceilings leaving little to no residue.Biomimicry is a brilliant starting point for inventions. It is a sort of challeng…

Meet TIM

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For the past four weeks or so I've been the owner of a Samsung Galaxy Note. The Galaxy Note is my first Android phone (my first smart-phone being the underwhelming Nokia N86, running a Symbian OS).

I really love this phone, which my wife named TIM: That Infernal Machine.

I know my new phone is a new and exciting toy, but there is so much I can do with this thing that I find myself using it at every available opportunity. Twitter, Facebook, email, news, games, and the occasional phone call. I use it to check the train schedule, jot down ideas, read books, watch videos and translate words. There isn't time left for old-world activities, like having a face-to-face conversation (unless Skype is involved).

I bought the Galaxy Note for a few reasons, but mainly because I wanted a smart-phone and a tablet, but couldn't afford both. The Samsung Galaxy Note provides both the portability of a phone and a 5.3in screen, just big enough to enjoy the web and video.

While doing extensive …

Sned the Email!

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A number of years ago, I scoured the Internet looking for a good, free replacement to Outlook Express. I tried a few programs until I hit on one that took my fancy. I think it was an early version of Foxmail. The layout was Outlook Express-ish, but in a more cartoony sort of way, which, for some reason, was appealing.

Written by a Chinese developer, the email client's Help was in Cantonese. Thankfully, the UI was in English and the program was quite straightforward so I could figure out most things on my own. I used this email client on my family computer for a number of months and grew to love its quirks and foibles. The UI was decent enough, but the programmer had made a glaring typo and it became customary in our house to SNED an email, instead of SEND it. Although we have moved on to a different email client, from time-to-time we still say SNED, just because.

As amusing as it may be, I think that the world has enough experience with software to no longer have to tolerate SNEDi…
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