Real Life Conversations with a Trust Fund Baby: On Laundry

TFB: I’m going on vacation for two weeks, do you think 7 shirts are enough?

Sure, you can always do laundry.

TFB: Don’t know how, I’ll just buy the rest.

What did you do in college?

TFB: Got it washed at home.

You went that often?

TFB: Every 3 month or so.

You have enough clothing to last 3 months?

TFB: Yes

Then didn’t you just have to wash it at home?

TFB: My maid does it.

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The Fallacy of the Milgram Experiment

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Disclaimer: I’m writing this with only the knowledge I obtained by the Wikipedia article so perhaps I am making an incorrect conclusion from lack of evidence.

I read through the experiment after someone mentioned it as a proof that people follow the orders of an authority figure even if they thought it would cause harm or would lead to them killing someone. I’m calling complete bullshit on that right now. For some reason, the scientists administering the tests seems to have completely ignored the intelligence level of the subjects in the experiment. Specifically, the ability of a person to draw conclusions about safety based on prior experience. You can see a hint of it in the quote under the Ethics section for those that went through with the experiment.

My only hope is that members of my board act equally according to their conscience…

Which then confirmed by what one of the early withdrawers did:

In the journal Jewish Currents, Joseph Dimow, a participant in the 1961 experiment at Yale University, wrote about his early withdrawal as a “teacher,” suspicious “that the whole experiment was designed to see if ordinary Americans would obey immoral orders, as many Germans had done during the Nazi period.”

Both of these accounts suggest that humans that are participating in a scientific experiment would make some of the following assumptions:

  • The scientist is a benevolent dictator. What I mean by this is that the scientific community has a standard of ethics when doing human experiments and should not conduct an experiment that causes irreparable harm to the subjects. Logically, subjects would assume that even if the experiment does something harmful, like administer shocks, that the damage is within reason and acceptable. Why? Because that is what we expect from our authority figures. This is even proven true by the variation which changes the governing body to a less prestigious one:
Experiment 10 took place in a modest office in BridgeportConnecticut, purporting to be the commercial entity “Research Associates of Bridgeport” without apparent connection to Yale University, to eliminate the university’s prestige as a possible factor influencing the participants’ behavior. In those conditions, obedience dropped to 47.5 percent, though the difference was not statistically significant.
  • Fellow participants have agreed to take part in the experiment. This is important as the “teacher” automatically assumes that their counterpart subject, the “learner”, is willfully participating in the experiment. If not, the “learner” would have just left after being told of his role in the experiment. Thus, despite the “heart condition” that is mentioned or all the cries of pain, the “teacher” has no reason to believe that the “learner” feels that this experiment is unsafe for the “learner’s” health.
  • The voltages are safe to administer. As seen by this example:

Milgram himself provides some anecdotal evidence to support this position. In his book, he quotes an exchange between a subject (Mr. Rensaleer) and the experimenter. The subject had just stopped at 255 V, and the experimenter tried to prod him on by saying: “There is no permanent tissue damage.” Mr. Rensaleer answers:

“Yes, but I know what shocks do to you. I’m an electrical engineer, and I have had shocks … and you get real shook up by them — especially if you know the next one is coming. I’m sorry.”

In a 2006 experiment using a computer simulation in place of the learner receiving electrical shocks, the participants administering the shocks were aware that the learner was unreal, but still showed the same results.

  • Any participant that could call bullshit on the scientist did not continue with the experiment. Once they reached a point where they knew actual harm was being done (even if just mental damage), they quit. Luckily for the scientists, they didn’t have 100% educated engineers as part of their subject pool. Otherwise, I guarantee that the results would be the complete opposite of what they got. Furthermore, the followup experiment using a known visual “learner” is just complete bullshit. It doesn’t prove anything as the “teachers” in this case know that they aren’t doing any harm at all. So why the fuck would they stop?

Do I need to continue? The common theme here is that humans will make certain assumptions about safety based on what they’ve learned growing up. Take a pool of applicants that grew up in a safe, law abiding neighborhood and you will see a higher rate of obedience because they will think, “Hey, if everyone participating in this experiment agrees to it and the scientists are (or in their mind, should) good people, then what harm is there in delivering the shocks.” Take a group of well educated engineers that know what happens mentally and physically from administering shocks and obedience will drop. They will call bullshit on the safety claims by the scientists much earlier. Take a group of delinquents from a poor area and you will end up with wildly varying results. They will either do the experiment because they enjoy causing people harm or they will just stop earlier because the don’t trust the authority figures.

The common theme is that people aren’t stupid. That is the primary uncontrollable variable that comes with human psychological experiments. It seems as though scientists performing the Milgram Experiment are eager to reach a compliance conclusion. So much so that they are ignoring the intelligence of the participants. So please people, don’t use this experiment as “proof” that humans will blindly follow authority even if it causes harm to others. That just isn’t true.

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Signs of Bad Times for US Tech

2 1/2 years ago, I predicted that in 4-5 years (so 2013-2014) we’d begin to see a wave of companies and independent developers begin moving away from the US as a place of business because of software patents. Partly because the US has a severely fucked up patent system where glaringly obvious patents are granted (not to mention that the ineptitude of the patent office in anything remotely related to tech since they seem to ignore all prior art in the field). This ties into my theory that by 2015, the US would no longer be the leader in innovation in technology as our lead will be cut down by emerging countries such as China, India, and already strong countries in Europe such as Germany. Additionally, this loss will have the impact of dethroning the US as the leading economic power in the world. Of course, this wouldn’t happen if Obama decides to follow through on his campaign promises (anti-lobby stance and more transparency specifically as these are the main reasons the RIAA, MPAA, etc. are successfully pushing for idiotic things like 6-strikes law, stronger IP laws (PROTECT IP), and shooting down net neutrality), which, as we all know now, did not happen. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that my prediction is starting to come true 2 years early:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/appsblog/2011/jul/15/app-developers-withdraw-us-patents

This is just the start so you can probably expect this sort of sentiment to pick up and gain momentum in the coming year unless someone in the government starts doing something to rectify the problem. I’ll take the pessimistic stance and say that the US government is too corrupt to take the necessary measures to stop this trend. Instead, they will apply a band-aid fix that will fall apart after half a year or so once the lawyers find loopholes around it. The estimate for the US downfall (2015) shouldn’t change much since everything else in my overly complicated theory (perhaps I’ll write this up if I ever want to spend a week on a single post) is progressing at the expected pace.

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The Republican Congress is Racist

Bam! Going to post my most controversial opinion ever. I doubt I’ll ever top this one.

The Republican Congress is Racist

Ok so maybe not all of them, but I’d wager that 90% of them are racist. If not racist, then at least they condone racism and allow it to flourish.

You: So why hysan? Why would you say something so controversial?

Me: Because I read this article today by The Economist and had to wonder why the Republicans would be playing Russian Roulette with the lives of every American. Part of it is greed (not wanting to increase taxes to the rich), but a good deal of the sentiment I get from listening to the Republicans just seems malicious. It seems like they want to destroy Obama’s presidency at all costs. Then you think about all of the controversy about the Birth Certificate, religion (Is he Muslim? No he is not you dumbasses.), and all of the hubbub about him being the first black president. It feels like the leaders of the Republican party hate Obama more than any other democratic president because he is different. Politically? No, he’s pretty much the same as most democratic presidents. Background? Hell yes, he is different. He is the first black president. So my thinking is that the Republicans want to tear him down not for what he represents politically, but what he represents symbolically. Hence, racist.

This seems a bit loaded so let’s take a step back and first consider the problem that the Republicans are currently clamoring over: the debt ceiling. Should we raise it? Yes. Why the fuck not when we’ve done this over and over again throughout history. At some point we should stop using this tactic but now is not the time. It is irresponsible and, quite frankly, dumb as fuck to not raise the debt ceiling when we are in a recession. This is the worst time to be trying to make hard cuts. Save all of the arguments for a time when we have the luxury to say, “Let’s get our budget under control now that we aren’t in a goddamn recession.” Even if Warren Buffett said this in jest, it still shows the insanity of the position that the Republicans are currently taking:

I could end the deficit in 5 minutes. You just pass a law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of GDP all sitting members of congress are ineligible for reelection.

-Warren Buffett

Source

The Republicans are playing with fire (or really, more like a blowtorch) and are hoping to use that fire to burn Obama. The problem with this tactic is that they are going to burn all of us. The citizens of the United States of America. We are the ones who will suffer because the consequences of their actions will hurt us more than any of them. So again I ask, why would the Republicans go this far to make Obama look bad? And remember, they have been using this partisan tactic throughout the presidency which has resulted in sub-optimal results for normal citizens. Things could be a LOT better right now if they just focused on fixing the damn economy together.

Think about conservative media and the amount of propaganda they’ve been pushing to smear Obama’s legitimacy. It started during the election race and has not let up at all during this presidency. All of their “talking points” have been centered around labeling Obama as “different” whether it be through his legitimacy, his ethics, his background, or how he is un-American (He is not a fucking socialist. Please learn some government 101 please.). All of this propaganda can be categorized as a form of racism. Yes, I realize I’m stretching the definition here but using hyperbole seems to be the only way to get heard in America these days. Sadly, I’m one, powerless person who doesn’t have the influence to change anything in the government.

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NBA Lockout and Yao Ming’s Retirement

First off, a shout out to Yao Ming for all of the good he’s done for basketball. I will miss him for his play on court, his admirable conduct off the court, and all of the good he’s done in bridging America and China via basketball. His retirement will be a great loss for the sport and the timing could not be worse with the lockout.

As for this lockout, it’s hard for NBA fans, especially casual ones, to know who is right and who is wrong in the debate. From my point of view, there are some important things to remember no matter whose side you are on:

  1. The owners are running teams as a business. If they lose money, that is because of their poor decision making since some teams are clearly making money. As someone who has watched their parents build a small business from the ground up, do not have any power to negotiate with their union workers, and are dying because of outside forces (changes in US law regarding trade, 9/11 crushing NYC economy, and finally the recession), I have no sympathy for these owners who seem to make bone-headed moves every year (who the fuck signs Arenas to such a huge contract?). An agreement with a union isn’t meant to guarantee profit – it’s supposed to prevent owners from low balling employees. If the owner decides to shell out a ton of money and overpay, that is their problem. Not the union’s.
  2. Many NBA players are overpaid but the majority are not. There is a clear power shift occurring and that is due to the players getting better agents. For some reason, many of the NBA teams do not have the business savvy to negotiate fair contracts. So do not blame the players for simply out-negotiating their boss. I wouldn’t blame myself if I convinced my boss to overpay me an extra 10k a year. Would you?
  3. David Stern deserves some blame for the poor perception of owners in the NBA. The owners are grouped with the league side and in that group are the referees, many of whom are viewed quite poorly at the moment. Over the past decade and a half, the rules have slowly changed to make play more dynamic (read: guards become more valuable) and many fans have failed to keep up with the ever changing rules (hand checking, defensive rules, what constitutes a flagrant/technical foul, and finally the “respect the game” rule). In addition to these changes, the quality of calls made has gone down (one of the basketball statistic sites has analyzed some sample games and has shown this to be true) leading fans to dislike the league and by connection, the owners. So Stern’s moves to “control” the NBA has indirectly screwed the owners.
  4. The insistence on keeping the books private between the owners and the union has left all of us in the dark. So complaining about losses means jack shit to the casual NBA fan because everything we know about the numbers is speculative. If you want any sympathy from us (especially since many franchises have stupidly high ticket prices), show us the numbers. Until then, don’t even try to use such a weak sauce argument to convince people that the owners are “hurting.”

The NBA has been undergoing a transformation in the past decade that is diametrically opposed to the financial plight of the middle class American. We have slowly been losing money relative to inflation while the NBA has been trying to make the game more appealing to the upper class (NBA Cares == a more family oriented sport which attracts more upper class people – remember the lower class already liked the NBA) and in turn, ticket prices have slowly pushed out the more loyal fans (which tends to be those with less money). So the NBA and the owners really shouldn’t be surprised, or even expect, any sympathy from most fans when they are trying to argue financials. This is not a good PR strategy.

 

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Google+ 1 me?

If you haven’t already heard, Google is taking yet another foray into social media with the newly release Google+. The concept is interesting (especially the +Circles method of organizing acquaintances) and is something I’m sure many people would like to try. However, there’s the rub. Lot’s of us who hate Facebook (or are simply tech junkies) would love to try Google+ but cannot do so since it is invite only. This is par for the course when it comes to Google projects since it:

  1. Allows them to scale slowly.
  2. Do their A/B testing in waves.
  3. Build anticipation for a full release.

In addition to this, Google is trying to solve the problem of initial population seed with this reasoning:

The inability of Google+ users to instantly import their Facebook connections underlies the biggest immediate challenge to the product: Like all social networks, its value is directly related to the degree that one’s friends and contacts are also participating. Beginning a social network is always a huge risk because of the chicken-and-egg problem — the whole thing doesn’t work unless a user’s friends and contacts are on board. Otherwise the place risks becoming an “Emptytown” where people try it, are unable to connect with anyone and then forget about it.

Google hopes that its slow rollout will encourage a steady momentum, and in the early stages Google+ will provide enough value to keep the early adopters engaged, and that it will motivate them to invite their contacts.

Source

So basically Google is banking on their service to be awesome enough to keep users vested in the product. You know, this reminds me of another cool service that failed… oh yeah. Wave.

I’ll admit that I have a certain affinity for Google products and like to keep tabs on the news services they create. However, what pisses me off about their slow rollout strategy is that I have never gotten an early invite to any of these services. Google Buzz, with its instant turn on for everyone, was the sole exception and guess what? I still use it despite the early privacy problems. Google’s best bet in getting into the social arena is to go all in at the beginning and take advantage of the initial hype. If their platform is really so good that initial users will stay engaged, then having a larger (or unlimited) initial seed will help them build momentum faster and reduce the risk of the population dying out before the next wave of users (pun intended) come in (ex: perhaps rollout by region). All I’m asking for is a bit more info as to when new users can join in on the fun.

I also find it disingenuous to call the select group of initial users “early adopters.” They didn’t adopt anything. They were part of the chosen few. None of the people who saw the blog post on day 1 got to adopt anything. Here is a marketing tip for you Google – if you plan on creating hype and doing this:

Google+ is in limited Field Trial
Right now, we’re testing with a small number of people, but it won’t be long before the Google+ project is ready for everyone. Leave us your email address and we’ll make sure you’re the first to know when we’re ready to invite more people.
Then you should take a page out of Apple’s book and leak bits of information at controlled intervals. Use viral marketing to its fullest (you do own YouTube after all) and “leak” videos about the new service with a vague notion of a release date. Let your initial users take screenshots or desktop videos and post them on YouTube as a way to generate hype and garner instant feedback on what looks good/bad. As for the actual release date, it can be set right around the time when Google+ “is ready for everyone.” Let the hype engine build slowly and then open it up to everyone. Otherwise, all you are doing is pouring gasoline onto a fire without adding any wood. Tons of hype but quick burn out.

 

P.S. If you want more evidence of kind of negative backlash can be caused by a slow rollout, take Reddit’s recent April Fool’s prank as a case study. For those of us who didn’t get to join in early on, we ended up giving up on Reddit for a day and concluded that the prank had potential but was executed poorly. This is what will happen to Google+.
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LeBron James: Already Backtracking

Oh LeBron, when will you learn to watch what you say during interviews? It took a grand total of two days before LeBron tries to do his usual backtracking.

Tuesday, James backed down from those statements and said they were misinterpreted.

“Basically I was saying at the end of the day this season is over and — with all hatred — everyone else has to move on with their lives, good or bad. I do too,” James said.

“It wasn’t saying I’m superior or better than anyone else, any man or woman on this planet, I’m not. I would never every look at myself bigger than anyone who watched our game. It may have come off wrong but that wasn’t my intent.”

Source

Having been put under the microscope for a good chunk of this past season, I’ve read and listened to more interviews with LeBron than in all of his previous seasons combined and have noticed an interesting trend. His words are misinterpreted A LOT (well according to LBJ). So either he is either a complete dumbass (hence, he should have gone to college and took from courses in writing and public speaking), or he is flat out lying when he says, “that wasn’t my intent.”

As for me, I stand by everything I’ve posted. I believe my interpretation is spot on because LBJ didn’t apologize for offending anyone. Listen to his response and ask yourself, “Is he trying to do damage control, or is he actually sorry for what he said?” LeBron is not a child anymore and at his age, he should understand how blessed he is and the responsibility he has as a role model (yes, when you have millions of children watching you and trying to mimic you, you are a role model). For him to say something so irresponsible, even without “intent”, warrants a proper apology. So fuck you LeBron – you get no sympathy from me.

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LeBron James: Money Maker, Fan Hater

The Mavs won it all last night in a great game to finish off one of the most exciting series I’ve seen in a long time. Congrats to Dirk, Kidd, Cuban (awesome owner – he’s even paying for the Dallas parade out of his pocket), and all of the Dallas players and fans. This was a well deserved win.

With that said, did anyone watch the post game coverage? Specifically the podium interviews with the players after the game. One of the journalists asked LeBron about the haters (of LBJ and the Heat) and what he thought and he gave an answer I did not expect:

All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before. They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that. They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy that not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal, but they’ll have to get back to the real world at some point.

Source

Wow… The way he said this and his body language at the podium completely changed my impression of him as a person.

His view of NBA fans can be summed up as, “These people are just serfs with shitty lives (relative to LBJ’s) and I’ll do them a favor and let them be happy for a few moments before they go back to reality.” Real classy LeBron. I guess it isn’t a mystery why he left Cleveland – he didn’t give a rats ass about the fan base over there. Making money and living a comfy lifestyle seems to be his #1 priority. Can’t say it’s a bad choice, but I personally believe that life is more than making money.

Then there’s the idea that us fans have shitty lives and watching the NBA is some sort of escape for us. Hate to tell you this LBJ, but not everyone is as delusional as you. Most of us are well aware that the NBA is just a hobby and like most hobbies, it is only a small part of our lives. The NBA is just another [reality] TV show we get to watch for entertainment. We don’t use this as an escape from “the real world.” Perhaps going to college, meeting different people, and learning to grow up might have done some good for you because your cognitive abilities are lacking.

I wasn’t a LeBron or Miami hater before the interview and am still not after. However, I no longer have any sympathy for LeBron.

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Conjectures on The Backplane

Update: Moved this post from my personal blog to here since I’m going to redo my old blog.

So a friend of mine over at Street Side Soap Box pointed me to a BusinessWeek article about a stealth startup named The Backplane. It’s founded by Troy Carter and backed by big names such as Matthew Michelsen, Eric Schmidt, and Lady Gaga (owns a 20% share)5. Based on the whois registration, Backplane seems to have been created around March 3, 2010 so a bit more than a year of work has gone into this platform. Of course everyone is going to ask, what the heck is The Backplane? As a stealth start whose landing page only has a single contact email, we will need to use a lot of investigative research to put together some sort of image about what The Backplane is.

LinkedIn Profile1

Twitter Account2

Facebook Page3

Bloomberg BusinessWeek Profile4

CrunchBase Profile5

Tomorrow Ventures Portfolio6

From the very sparse information gathered from those sources, we can conclude that The Backplane is:

  1. In the Computer Games industry.1
  2. Is a company that operates a community platform for influencers focused on creating technology around deep fan interaction and exclusive content.4
  3. Their platform will blend technology and entertainment and plans to provide a venue for online communities by combining brands’ various social media presences into one platform.5
  4. And is current hiring hackers (trendy way of saying programmers). No job description though so email your resume to them if you want to take a shot in the dark (Updated) Found a job description here and seems like they are building their platform using Python on GAE (big indicator that they want to position themselves for a Google buy out at some point): info@thebackplane.com or jointheteam@thebackplane.com or alex@thebackplane.com.2,3

Well that doesn’t tell us much so I guess it’s time to use quotes from various sources to try and figure out what they plan on doing. First up is the BusinessWeek article:

The group subsequently founded the Backplane, an online platform that allows fans to build all-encompassing e-communities. … is in talks with Eminem, Justin Bieber, and the National Football League. Its most important client, however, remains Gaga. Littlemonsters.com uses the Backplane technology to create a Gaga universe for her 38 million Facebook fans and 10 million Twitter followers—replete with e-mail addresses and calendars. “The goal is for everyone to start their own interactive community,” says Michelsen. “If you’re a Girl Scout mom, you could have your own Backplane with 12 other moms.” Though the Gaga model seems a bit more promising.

Ok cool, sounds like the platform is a go on Lady Gaga’s site. Let’s go there (http://www.littlemonsters.com/) and see what happens. Two options for registering, Facebook or Name+Email, and this is what you see after registering:

Lady Gaga - Little Monsters

Yay, I get to be one of the first! But when?

Well I guess the platform is NOT up and running (at least for users). So let’s see what else people are saying.

The Backplane’s Facebook Page > Sign up now at littlemonsters.com and you will be included in the beta! (Ok, that answers the question of why nothing is up yet.)

WSJ Blog > The Backplane Inc. aims to create a platform combining calendar, email and social networking functions to allow groups ranging from Girl Scout troops to celebrity fan clubs to communicate seamlessly.

TechCrunch > … blend technology and entertainment and plans to provide a venue for online communities by combining brands’ various social media presences into one platform. … Gaga is an advisor as well as an investor, and apparently has incorporated elements from her music videos and tours to add “authenticity” to the site’s design. Backplane will launch this month…

Lady Gaga forum > BRAND NEW OFFICIAL LITTLE MONSTER COMMUNITY

Lady Gaga’s Facebook Page > Calling all Geeks! Lady Gaga needs your help to build our new home, LittleMonsters.com! We need your computer programming skills: 1) Scaling for millions 2) Creating rich interactive experiences; 3) Managing an ocean of videos, songs, posts. If you have the skills & want to help build Gaga’s new online destination sign up at littlemonsters.com, then email our web development team at jointheteam@thebackplane.com

Once you combine what TechCrunch and the WSJ wrote, you get a fairly good idea of their core goal, and it’s definitely a bold and lofty one. Instead of competing with social networks to be the “best” social network, they are going to try and compete by integrating all of the social networks into one. Now there are lots of possible problems with this:

  1. There is no guarantee that the main social network platforms won’t fuck around with them by deprecating APIs or just changing how the APIs work. Twitter I believe has started doing #1 to take control of the 3rd party Twitter app ecosystem. Meanwhile, Facebook is well known for being guilty of #2 and it isn’t even for a malicious reason. Their company policy is to push changes all the time and fast so things tend to break willy nilly in their API. You’d think this wouldn’t be a major problem if they can just fix things quickly. However, if The Backplane becomes huge, then every breakage that leads to say 30 min of Facebook integration not working every week or month or so is going to affect a ton of people in a very bad way.
  2. I sure as hell hope that they aren’t related to this: https://sites.google.com/site/backplanespec/ since this project seems to be using a widget approach and is a shitty way of integrating the services. Since they mentioned the other functionality (calendar, email, etc.), there is a chance this is how they will work. Seriously doubt it though since they are a stealth startup and wouldn’t put info like this up on the web. This is most likely just a huge coincidence.
  3. The calendar part of it may be tricky to implement and I can see them rolling their own for better/tighter integration with whatever services they provide. This is a fairly loaded market with everyone using something different to scratch their particular itch. If they can’t make this as useful as existing solutions (Google Calendar, Outlook, etc.), then people might completely ignore this feature. Email also faces this same problem. (The plus side: I can envision them being bought out and used as Google’s way to finally get into the social arena [successfully] and being used as another vector for pushing Google Apps.)
All of the released information sounds fluffy and nice but isn’t terribly interesting. We still don’t know exactly what they plan on doing or how they are going to do it. So I’m going to make a few conjectures from the tiny bit of info that is actually out there and try to come up with the feature set that I predict they will tout.
  1. Seamlessly integrate all of the major social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) into a single website. That way you can post updates and see updates from your friend without having to go to different websites. I call this the Yahoo! model except Yahoo! went the route of trying to manage (and create content for) all possible news media in a single platform instead of integrating with existing sources.
  2. Provide an e-commerce platform for selling products. Since different Backplane communities will still be tied together via the Backplane platform, you’d end up with a giant official mall of products. Hello Amazon competitor and good bye Ebay stores.
  3. Provide or integrate basic user apps such as:
    • calendars – Probably will be used to do something like show Lady Gaga’s upcoming events and what you will be participating in if you buy a concert ticket.
    • email – Used to email you updates or send “exclusive” events but really is going to be their method of competing with Facebook’s messaging/email system. I’ll bet that this is going to start out as simple email integrating with Gmail, Hotmail, etc. and then expand into something more similar to Facebook’s message system and try to compete with them. This is because Facebook’s message system will keep people on Facebook since APIs will not be good enough to integrate with that feature and for Backplane to get people to stay on their site, they will need to make Facebook’s messaging feature obsolete at some point.

    And then there are other apps they can implement. I assume some of the more obvious ones to implement would be:

    • chat – Not just site only chat like GChat or Facebook’s chat system, but something like Meebo where it integrates multiple chat platforms into one that can be used via the website. They’ll take it one step further and integrate it with the social networks and their own social network system (see #4 below).
    • profiles – Like all social networks, privacy be damned. People like to say, “I am ___!” because most people are narcissistic and think random people will care about who they are. In reality, this is just more information for advertisers to use for better targeted ads. The general populace won’t care (Remember Diaspora?) and will want to fill out a profile (or if Backplane is smart, allow them to import their profile from somewhere else).
  4. Create their own social network system that is centered around/customized for the community the website is built for. They’ll just rename the basic core tech into something more relevant for that community. For example:
    • A notification system that sends maybe texts messages or provides and RSS feed update can be called “New Events” for Lady Gaga’s updates. Meanwhile for the NFL, you can have multiple different feeds that do the same thing but are for more specific stuff like “Injury Reports”, “Breaking News”, etc.
    • Something similar to a forum for community discussions. However, if they are smart they will go a very different route. Forums are nice but they aren’t “cool” and are basically the historic precursor to more specialized social networks. Instead they will try to put some sort of spin on it to attract users. I don’t know what they have in mind but it has to be able to somehow differ what already exists (it should be obvious how each of these adapted the generic forum idea into their goals):
      • Twitter is user-centric. People follow other people and the platform is all about YOU. It evolved into a community system via hashtags (Twitter was not the ones to introduce this feature, it was someone in the community that made it up and got it to spread).
      • Facebook is group-centric. Using Facebook is all about being part of one or more groups. Your basic social circle of friends is the most common group. You can join or create other groups that focus on causes, brand loyalty (advertisers drool for this), political movements, etc. But what it all boils down to is creating your online presence, making it public, and forming a group where your “voice” (i.e., the wall) can be heard.
      • Reddit, Digg, Metafilter, and Hacker News (ycombinator) are discussion centric. There is so much noise with everyone talking on the site for a given topic that you are effectively anonymous. Very rarely will people remember your account name unless you consistently post or discuss things and get rated highly. The create a self-sustaining discussion community by centering their sites around users submitting links to interesting articles and providing a voting mechanism for pushing the most interesting topics (and discussion comments) to the top.
      • Yelp is opinion-centric. The social aspect of their site is centered around people voicing their opinions (about restaurants in this case) and hoping to be heard. This is done by rating and/or reviews.
      • Meetup.com is event-centric. Their whole site is based on creating events and providing the tools to invite and organize the event. Although all of the socializing is done outside of the website, these users turn into return customers and will continue using the site because of how it enables them to create a community in the real world. This is good because it is partially self-advertising as people will mention meetup.com as how a given event was setup.
      • Youtube.com is content-centric. They build a community where people upload content in order to create a following. Everyone has the idea that they can be famous if given some outlet for their creativity and Youtube ends up being one of the best platforms for pursuing this goal. I doubt that this is going to be their primary way of creating a community as content will be a separate part of this site (see #6 below).
  5. In a similar vein to the above, it would be smart of them if they incorporated a way for people to interact with the head honcho of the community (Lady Gaga herself, NFL players and coaches, etc.). I assume this has to be one of their main features to draw in potential clients since the goal of the client is to create a community around his/her/their identity. So there has to be a mechanism that allows for people to feel like using this site makes their voices heard more (praises, complaints, desires, etc.). Otherwise, there will be very little differentiating this site from non-official sites like Facebook, Twitter, ESPN, etc. I will laugh in their faces if they don’t manage to use the biggest advantage they have which is being the official website of ____.
  6. A platform for the “media” part of social media. As mentioned by Lady Gaga herself, this site will feature loads of content like videos, pictures, music, and, if the LinkedIn profile is correct, games as well (hello Zygna competitor). A smart company will learn from the existing social media ecosystem and realize that there should be official content (uploaded by the site owners) and user generated content. The experience should be centered around fostering community participation as the creativity of users can only help you attract new fans. Of course, they may not allow user uploaded content for fear of running into the whole Youtube vs Viacom problem. Dealing with DMCA requests will only add to their startup costs.
  7. Their final feature is to somehow allow all of these various Backplane websites to communicate with each other seamlessly. That way people can search, find, and join other communities easily. How will they do this? Well for joining, it should be easy since if one profile on one Backplane site would be shared and used on all other Backplane sites. This can be achieved through a few different methods:
    • This can be done by sharing a single account management system between all Backplane sites. Would require some sort of central Backplane server.
    • Or you can go the OpenID route. Example: the StackExchange sites allows profiles to be easily shared between all the different StackExchange sites.
    • But in Backplane’s case, they are clearly trying to leverage Facebook logins to create a ubiquitous account system and will probably try to use this to import user profiles as well.

    As for integrating the various communities for easy searching? I have no idea how they will do it, but I assume they’ve analyzed the Facebook model of groups have a good idea of how to do it better. Perhaps making the core Backplane site into something like Backplane CommunityTM (Putting the TM there for kicks. No idea if it’s actually trademarked.). Once this is in place, I bet this is what they are hoping will eventually replace all of those other social media websites and make them #1.

In my opinion, their goal is to take the opposite route that all of the current social media sites used in creating a social media platform. Instead of building a community and using the community to draw in big companies (Musicians, Sports Leagues, Retail Companies, etc.), they are building a platform around these big companies and using that (that = the company + the super-easy-to-use platform) to build a community. This is good for Backplane since there is a clear monetization model to sell to investors. If they are really smart, they can reduce the reliance on advertising and focus on making the platform attractive to users instead of trying to find ways to “sell the users” (aka: the Facebook model) to make money.

 

Of course, this will only work if they manage to use their celebrity power (Lady Gaga) to spread the platform quickly once it is released. If they don’t get enough buy in from other major entities, this will never overtake the current social media juggernauts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) before they counter with some new awe inspiring feature. The stealth startup + media hype strategy will only give you a tiny buffer of time before everyone else responds.
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Fake Exercise

For a normal individual without any sort of physical abnormalities, body weight is a relatively simple mathematical formula.  Your body naturally burns X amount of calories just by being alive.  Physical activity will add Y amount to your caloric expenditure.   If I is the variable for intake, or how much you consume, then:

If I = X + Y, bodyweight will stay the same.

If I < X + Y, bodyweight will fall.

If I > X + Y, bodyweight will rise.

Weight loss or lack thereof is, in most cases, the manipulation of the above function.  Many people diet, which causes a reduction in variable I.  Many will choose to exercise which is an increase in Y.  Some may choose to do both to maximize their results.  Regardless of which route is chosen, as long as the variables change over a prolonged period of time, results will ensue.

Now the office I currently work at is predominantly female.  As a result, weight loss is a frequently broached topic.  Besides the annoyance of listening to so many body image issues so consistently, I don’t see much harm in this chit-chat.  What really bothers me is the loud declaration and gross exaggeration of facts by the most vocal of those who sit around me.

To put it bluntly, these ladies are on the, shall we say, larger side.  For some reason unbeknownst to me, they choose to raucously articulate their physical exploits at least two or three times a week.  Now I have nothing against fat people.  It’s most oftentimes a choice and who am I to judge how they live their life?  But at the end of the day they are fat for a reason, whether it is a lack of self-control, poor dietary habits, or what have you.  So if they really are running marathons, playing volleyball, tennis, and softball, chances are they shouldn’t be fat.  Hell, I’m in great shape and I’m pretty certain that I cannot run as many marathons and partake in as many sports in the period of time they claim.  Nor do I wake up early in the morning for a “quick” three to five mile jog through Central Park when the weather allows.  That is not a ridiculous distance, but neither is it a cakewalk.

Fact of the matter is, if their activity level is truly that high, then they should be far from the rotund states that I see every day.  I don’t mind if they are fat.  I don’t mind if they want to talk about their exercise routines.  Hell, at the end of the day, I really don’t mind that much if they lie about what they do.  But the line is drawn when they belt out their efforts as if they were Moses on the Mount.  No one needs to hear it and if they really want the rest of us to appreciate the pains they go through for weight loss, at least lose the weight first.  It’ll be more believable.

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