Tag social software

Kodak Gallery breaks the cardinal UGC rule: Let users own their stuff

I recently had a problem with Kodak Gallery. I made the mistake of using them for some photos about six or seven years ago, when I didn't know any better. Someone at Kodak has decided to make a buck off of this mistake, and the mistake of hundreds of thousands of other poor souls who also became Kodak Gallery users. They said they would delete our photos if we didn't buy a bunch of stuff.

I spent a couple hours writing a simple ruby script that let people download their full Kodak galleries without resorting to paying exorbitant fees to get an Archive CD. Or in the case of one user, NINETY archive CD's.

Here's the comment I received earlier from a Kodak Gallery user named Deepak Jain this evening that blew me away:
I've been using Kodakgallery since 2003 (when there weren't many options and I figured Kodak was a good enough name to stay around). I didn't even mind buying stuff form them until photographs became passe.

I even tried to buy their Archive CD except their system can't process > 40,000 images via Archive CD.

They keep canceling my order without comment. [ed: emphasis mine]

(Current photo storage: 62.532 GB Used,
219 galleries,
Your Archive CD Pricing:
Number of Photos: 42666
Cost of your CD: $667.85 FYI).

Works like a champ. Send me an address and I'll send you some beer or money or something.

It's one thing to charge, and it's another thing to charge a user $700. But to not even be able to process that order is incompetent and absurd. To be honest, I made the same mistake. I thought Kodak was a good enough brand. Evidently good enough to eat 70 gigabytes of cherished photos and require an open source ruby script to extricate it.

Deepak, I'm glad the script ended up being useful for you. User generated content sites of any kind should heed this rule: Let users download their data. Making a buck is fine, and in fact necessary. But when you're dealing with people's memories, do not hold them hostage.

Technology is not dead. It is exponential.

Electricity greatly improved our quality of life. But I'm not going to get excited about buying a basket of utility companies. Same for the Internet. Can't live without it, but can't live with it (in my portfolio).
--James Altucher via online.wsj.com

James Altucher will eat his words. To count tech out at a local minima is absolutely absurd. Fred Wilson is right: Tech is alive and well. But there are deeper reasons than what Fred Wilson mentions.

Other than computing technology, what field can boast exponential gains? Green tech is much talked about of late, but what are the rates of improvement for battery power, photovoltaics, and clean energy? Miniscule, in the single digit percentages. We can only wish for exponential advancement in almost all fields of technology. It's just not a reality.

With computers, we are blessed by the exponential curve of Moore's Law. Ray Kurzweil plots this exponential curve:

Just look at the innovation that has happened in 40 years. Bill Gates is famed to have said in 1998: "If General Motors had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving twenty five dollar cars that got 1000 miles/gallon."

Instead, GM has gone bankrupt, and now we have one-inch-thick netbooks that we can buy for less than $300 that provide 300,000x the computing power of the ENIAC, which cost $500,000 and filled a very large room in 1946!

The exponential march of software begets the exponential march of software capability. Software has gone more and more high level. Instead of slinging machine-readable bits, we started writing assembly. Then C/C++. Then Java and Perl. Now, Ruby and Python -- each step is less efficient for the computer but more efficient for the human. In 1946 you needed a PhD to even get near a computer, and only now are we seeing the rise of the truly interconnected, paperback computer that costs next to nothing but is indispensible for everyday life -- not just for an educated elite but for every person on the planet.

The advent of the Gutenberg printing press and modern mass-produced book changed society at its core -- at its basic fabric, humanity as a whole became more educated, more equal, more enlightened, and far more human, rising out of the depths of ignorance. The rise of cheap, ubiquitous books formed the modern world. But now we have a book that is infinite in length and unbounded in capability to teach, share, educate, and think.

So we've got an exponential engine of innovation, and it is transforming society before our eyes. And we're at a such a local minima where the WSJ is calling the whole engine dead.

We're still only beginning this mad experiment of infinite and ubiquitous computing. The greatest, most earth shattering software has yet to be created. On the upslope of an exponential, you'd be insane not to go long.

In an era of re-tweets and re-blogs, what happens to truth?

Following the crowd is best strategy for an individual until too many people follow the crowd, and then it’s a terrible strategy.  The irony.
--Mike Speiser via laserlike.com

In his blog post today, "Are social networks destroying knowledge?" Mike Speiser explores whether our new online medium is actually leading us astray in some way.

I'd go further and wonder -- do we become more disconnected in that we have greater variety and choice in media? American political discourse has become more rabidly partisan than ever. Farhad Manjoo of Salon posits we are in a post-fact society where it's difficult to know what is true and not.

I'd argue that social networks don't really make this post-fact society any better or worse. It's nothing new compared to the initial shock of the new that was Web 1.0. The only difference is now we can be misled a lot faster.

Postbox -- The new email client that totally rocks. Now in public beta, released today. I highly recommend it.

My friend Scott MacGregor is a cofounder at Postbox Inc -- he previously was the lead developer on Mozilla Thunderbird. They recently left Mozilla to work full time on Postbox, which is built on top of the Thunderbird core.

Desktop Email Revitalized
Remember all those things that Gmail does well but other mail clients are kind of crappy at? Conversations in threaded view? Fast search? Extracting out links and other useful stuff like addresses and phone numbers? These guys got it right.

Bugs are fixed, and fast
Especially on Mac OS X, which always had nagging bugs in the editor that never were fixed previously. I can finally paste screenshots into my mail editor window. Admittedly, Mail.app has always allowed this, but when you have multiple IMAP accounts with thousands of messages Mail.app is kind of a non-starter.

Their public beta is downloadable as of today -- works great on OS X, and I believe they have Windows versions too.