A couple years ago, I wrote a post called Google, Rome, and Empire. The gist of the article, of which I was very proud at the time, was that Google’s grand plan mirrored the structure of Roman roads in their build-out period, and that Google would unify its dozens of small properties with its five or six big ones by means of a single meta-service.
I envisioned this rich tapestry of services, obscure to monolithic, hooking in through engines and tools to a vastness of data and users, and, at the other end of the telescope, a single point of entry through which one would have instant access to everything from maps to obscure scientific results to the current price of tea. A bit like the real (or rather, idealized) empire, really: An assemblage of hamlets and metropoli, farms and academies, every citizen knowing that their via vicinale led to a via rustica, which led to a via publica, which led to Rome.
This constellation of services, this web of empowerment, resources, and variety. This bright future.
I’m feeling let down.
I’d like to think that I was at least not wrong the whole time. I think my optimism was warranted, just as I think their ambition was real. In a way, that ambition is intact. But it has been perverted. Google was like the Library of Babel: As near as infinite as the Internet age was likely to get. This mind-blowing edifice, bricks of information, mortared together with context, and gilded with accessibility. And they’re building it all so you’ll go to the gift shop.
I suppose I’m criticizing them for deciding to become a business rather than a public service. That was their choice to make, of course, but I think it’s safe to say their choice was a poor one. The Google of the early 2000s, globe-spanning and yet delighting in esoterica, was on its way to becoming a historic framework, Standard Oil crossed with Bell Labs. Not only that, it was crazy, starry-eyed: It was an asylum by and for the lunatics, a padded room big enough to hold the world.
What was it about being the connective tissue of the net that became so distasteful to Google? What was it that made them shutter project after project, things that could have lived out their natural lives for years on minimal resources, supported by a thankful and loving community in happy allegiance to the Google Empire?
Google+ was, as I saw it, a huge misstep, albeit a high-quality one. But other products, other “sunsets” (each less scenic than the last) hinted at a company growing not just sloppy, but callous. More wood behind fewer arrows, when the whole point of Google was that its quiver runneth over. Now, with the senseless shutdown of Reader (I won’t bore you with my own analysis; there’s plenty already (but take this)), I’m faced with how deliberate and tawdry the whole thing has become. God damn it, Google.
It’s not that we can’t move on from Reader — maybe its demise will even help with the rebirth of RSS, or whatever comes next, and make us really look at how ideas move around the Internet. And it’s not that I hate Google+, although I sure as hell don’t have to like it, either.
It’s like seeing your favorite fighter (I was going to say Ali, but Google doesn’t deserve him, even in simile) throw a match for the money. He’s no worse a fighter for it, but could you ever cheer for him again?
How can I be excited for Google Glass now? How can I be pumped for I/O or 3D Google Earth or a partnership with the Library of Congress, or anything they come up with? They’ve poisoned the well in the worst way; they made it clear that Google is worse than mercenary — it’s banal.
I can still be happy for what they’ve given us, and that’s not a little. They led the data-voracious of the world, spurred sluggish markets into action, and truly revolutionized (I don’t use the word lightly) the way we navigate data by changing what we think of as data (namely, everything). I can still follow the good works of the Maps and Books teams with approval or marvel a bit at the technical accomplishment of Glass, or thank them for their advocacy in Washington, though now it is without positive sentiment, like looking at the drawings some other person’s kids did at school.
Google’s greatest legacy may be in the lesson that they have given the next generation of companies and visionaries. Google said “Don’t be Evil,” and they meant it, but they found what others have found: it’s easier said than done, not because of temptation, but because nobody is quite sure what evil is. Luckily, those that are to come may be guided by a simpler principle:
Don’t be Google.
Continue reading here: God Damn It, Google
Sadly, the People’s Choice award doesn’t guarantee that this design, dubbed NYFi, will ever see the light of day. The city has said that the concepts from the design contest will “help shape the future of New York City payphones.”
The proposed NYFi design comes in two models, one for commercial districts and a smaller version for residential and historic areas. It would be based on an open software platform with modular hardware that could replace bus tickets machines, Muni Meters, MetroCard machines, assistance kiosks and bicycle share stations.
NYC put out a call for designs to its public phone system late last year. 15 submissions were chosen as semi-finalists to demo their prototypes at at a Demo Day last week and then the popular choice winner was decided by the all-important Facebook page vote.
I think the moral of the story here is that if you offer anyone free Wi-Fi, they’ll vote for you (though, to be fair, some of the other designs did too). It’s kind of like that kid in elementary school who always won the class president election by promising free soda in the cafeteria.
In all seriousness, though, there’s some great work across these winning designs. Some of them might take a bit of work to implement in real-world situations, but they’re definitely working to reimagine the payphone’s role in the city.
With just about everyone carrying around a cell phone these days, the usefulness of traditional payphones is winding down. There’s plenty of room for disruption here, and we’re grateful to the designers that are imagining how to improve them.
See original here: High-tech payphone concept with free Wi-Fi wins NYC design challenge
The Xi3 Piston opened for pre-orders on Monday, and seemed to be the first of many Steam Box type devices powered by Valve’s online gaming store and service. But Valve quickly came out and said that despite their investment in Xi3, the company has no “official involvement” in the development of the Piston itself. Now Xi3 is firing back, admitting that while it received investment and the Piston console was built as the result of a request to build a device specifically for Valve, Valve isn’t currently involved in the project.
Xi3 says that Valve president Gabe Newell personally asked its founder and CEO Jason A. Sullivan not to disclose any info about the relationship between the two companies, and that’s just what it has done. The Piston was never an official “Steam Box,” Xi3 says, which is also what we pointed out in our article. Instead, we suggested it would be one of many devices from third-party OEMs that could fit the generic description of a PC console designed for Steam.
The release from Xi3 also goes on to claim that the Piston can actually do one better than any official hardware, since it’s fully open to support a whole host of different gaming platforms, not just Valve’s. Xi3 also says that it’ll ship with Windows initially, since that’s where the “vast bulk of game software and computer gamers are today,” not Linux (thought it is Linux-compatible). Xi3 says this is where Valve and it have a philosophical difference, and where the Piston will be able to offer consumers more choice than any officially blessed Steam Box.
Sullivan says in the release that pre-order demand has been very strong so far, and the company is actually concerned it won’t be able to meet holiday 2013 demand for the console. But the tone overall seems a little like that of a child whose affection was spurned: it gives the impression that Xi3 was slightly taken aback at the force with which Valve distanced itself from the Piston project.
Whatever the situation between Xi3 and Valve, the upshot is that there will be ‘Steam boxes’ and there will be ‘Steam Boxes,’ (Official) and Valve might have trouble keeping the public educated as to which is which. And in the end you have to wonder if it matters, so long as both provide full access to Steam and its games in a console-style environment.
I’m shopping for a car right now. Just something that can handle a little city driving and frequent trips to the cottage in the warmer months, with the ability to haul a decent amount of cargo. I’m weighing factors like size, fuel economy, engine power, cargo space and FWD vs. AWD, but for my purposes most of those points are relatively moot; I really just need something to get me from A to B. But I find myself more concerned with the in-car entertainment system, and how it works with my mobile device of choice.
I’m far from a car buff, so my priorities might not line up with those of actual automotive enthusiasts, but my smartphone is no less important to me on the road as off. In fact, in many ways it’s more important in a vehicle I’ll be using mostly for long highway drives and the occasional commute caught in traffic. From experience with Zipcar and rentals, I know that the difference between a car that plays nice with my iPhone versus one that doesn’t can mean the difference between a pleasant trip that leaves me feeling rested and relaxed, and a frustrating journey that just ends up fraying my nerves.
Here’s what I want from an in-car entertainment system in terms of how it handles a smartphone connection, in both an incarnation that should be fully possible given today’s technology, and one that’s maybe less realistic but more ideal:
Car makers are taking steps in the latter direction, with Siri integration coming to cars from a number of manufacturers including GM, Honda, Audi and more. But this is still taking the form of integrations with existing systems like Chevy’s MyLink, which in my opinion are about as friendly and necessary as overwrought manufacturer skins plopped unceremoniously on top of stock Android.
Cars that run Android were among the trends spotted at CES this year, but companies have been demoing in-vehicle Android for a while now. The problem is that you often won’t recognize it. What car manufacturers need to realize is that mobile tech has answered a lot of the same problems they have when it comes to navigation apps, in-car entertainments and utility software in ways that don’t require much rethinking or translation. Taking steps to minimize driver distraction is obviously one thing, but from my experience with SYNC and the rest, that hardly ends up being a core focus on most car-focused interface-design choices, so it’s a thin argument for sticking with the existing direction most are headed in.
A user’s mobile device affects more and more of their lifestyle choices, resulting in the rich ecosystems we see out there today for accessories and appliances that are compatible with iOS and Android. Car makers need to realize this isn’t just a nice-to-have for consumers going forward, but an actual top-tier priority. In other words, the first person to build me a car that replaces the dash entertainment system outright with an iPad (as a standard, factory-installed option) wins.
Read more here: How To Sell A Car To The Mobile-First Generation
If Battlefield is the soul of Disrupt, Startup Alley is the ever-beating heart. It’s a wild marketplace where startups gather on the show floor to demo their creations.
Making these connections is critical to keeping communication flows open between the startup cultures here in the U.S. and other parts of the world. With new markets emerging fast, we were joined in September at Disrupt SF 2012 by Brazilian, Mexican, Chilean, Argentinian and Korean startups.
For Disrupt New York we are working with the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) for emerging companies to come and join the Indian Pavilion. In addition, we’ll be partnering again with Initial.vc to bring Israeli and Brazilian companies to the US.
What is Startup Alley?
Exhibiting startups must be less than two years old and have less than $2.5 million in funding. Each day the ’Audience Choice’ Startup Alley company gets to present on stage at Disrupt and earn the chance to fight for the Disrupt Cup and $50,000 grand prize. Interested startups from Israel sign up here! For Brazil, sign up here! Startups from London, Berlin, Paris, Helsinki and Stockholm can sign up here. And if you are any sort of startup and want to join us in Startup Alley, please sign up here.
Disrupt New York is being held at the The Manhattan Center at 303 West 30th Street NY, from April 29-May 1. Accelerators, VCs and industry/government associations who would like to partner with us and bring a group of startups to Disrupt NYC please email Jamie Quiocho.
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