Siri and Text Messaging

A lot has been written about Siri (the new voice activated assistant in the iPhone 4s). I have to say that it works surprisingly well. It has been eerily accurate in properly transcribing my voice, although not quite as perfect in understanding what I am saying.

I just had a 3 message dialog with someone over text messaging using Siri. I never ever would have done that with texting previously but here I went speaking in complete sentences over text messaging and with 100% accurate recognition. I don’t know if the other guy was using Siri but if he wasn’t he must have been annoyed by how quickly I responded with a full sentence 🙂

It occurs to me that the average length of text messages might become longer and longer with the advent of services like this. I wonder if that is at least part of the reason that Apple is now bypassing the mobile operators when doing iPhone to iPhone messaging.

Groupon success catastrophe

I bought a Groupon for a local restaurant. About 1 week before it expired I went to make a dinner reservation and it turned out that they were booked up for the next 3 months – and so effectively I could not use the groupon for dinner. I have to use it for lunch, and given the price and the value of the coupon, I need to go with a group of 4 people!

I spoke to the owner about the situation, and based on his sad tone I asked him if the groupon promotion had been a good thing. He was adamant that it was the worse thing they had ever done and he would never do it again! They had sold tons of groupons and everyone waited till the last week or two to try to book and suddenly they are overrun.

Here’s a similar story of a groupon success catastrophe that just came across the wire:

“The bakery, based in Woodley, received 8,500 requests for a dozen cupcakes, far above the normally 100 it produces a month. Brown suddenly had to make 102,000 cupcakes. Brown’s company only employs eight people, and she had to bring in an outside agency to handle the orders. The temporary agency cost her $19,500, effectively wiping out her year’s profits, MSNBC reported. “Without doubt, it was my worst ever business decision,” she told BBC. “We had thousands of orders pouring in that really we hadn’t expected to have. A much larger company would have difficulty coping.” (from Global Post)

Tens of Thousands of Servers. Wait.

Just one phrase that jumped out of the new missive from Zuck about privacy:

“As a matter of fact, privacy is so deeply embedded in all of the development we do that every day tens of thousands of servers worth of computational resources are consumed checking to make sure that on any webpage we serve, that you have access to see each of the sometimes hundreds or even thousands of individual pieces of information that come together to form a Facebook page.” (from Our Commitment to the Facebook Community)

When I tell (non computer) people that it takes hundreds or thousands of servers in hundreds of data centers to run something like Google or Facebook they are surprised.

Even I am surprised at “tens of thousands of servers worth of computational resources.”

Wait, why the nuanced phrasing? What is a server’s worth of computational resource? Is that a server or something else? Wait, what’s a server anyway? Oh well. Parsing.

Lies people tell themselves

Michael Arrington is a famous Tech-pundit-commentator-blogger who recently left or got fired from AOL because he wanted to be a VC while being a journalist covering the companies he is investing in.

One way or another that led him and AOL and the super-popular blog he started, TechCrunch, to part ways. All that is interesting back story.

Arrington recently wrote a very provocative article arguing that people who are serious entrepreneurs in serious startups, especially in Silicon Valley, should be willing to give up their life for work: Startups are hard. So work more, cry less, and quit all the whining. Yes he is a genius provocateur.

“… You might be sad that you work long hours and that sometimes your boss yells at you when tensions run high. But you also know that there is nowhere on earth like Silicon Valley. Nowhere else that is structurally designed to help you make whatever you can imagine into reality. Nowhere else where there are so many like minded people who are willing to sacrifice and work hard to create something new….” (from Uncrunched)

This is the usual drivel that is fed to innocents in startups and would hardly be worth mentioning except that it got a huge reaction (both pro and con) in the rarified tech geek startup ranks. If you read the article you notice that Arrington quotes at length from a Jamie Zawinski who captured his feelings in a diary from 1994, for example:

“I slept at work again last night; two and a half hours curled up in a quilt underneath my desk, from 11am to 1:30pm or so. That was when I woke up with a start, realizing that I was late for a meeting we were scheduled to have to argue about colormaps and dithering, and how we should deal with all the nefarious 8-bit color management issues. But it was no big deal, we just had the meeting later. It’s hard for someone to hold it against you when you miss a meeting because you’ve been at work so long that you’ve passed out from exhaustion.” (from NSCP Dorm)

You get the idea. Well wouldn’t you know, Jamie Zawinski for 2011 is not so happy about being used to bolster Arrington’s article. In “Watch a VC use my name to sell a con” he writes:

“Follow the fucking money. When a VC tells you what’s good for you, check your wallet, then count your fingers. He’s telling you the story of, “If you bust your ass and don’t sleep, you’ll get rich” because the only way that people in his line of work get richer is if young, poorly-socialized, naive geniuses believe that story! Without those coat-tails to ride, VCs might have to work for a living. Once that kid burns out, they’ll just slot a new one in.” (from Jamie Zawinski)

You might gather that in this case I am more in Zawinski’s camp.