LinkedIn: The Game

Beating LinkedIn: The Game is tricky, but not impossible. If you can believe this guy:

The general goal of LinkedIn (the game) is to find and connect with as many people on LinkedIn (the website) as possible, in order to secure vaguely defined social capital and potentially further one’s career, which allows the player to purchase consumer goods of gradually increasing quality. Like many games, it has dubious real-life utility. The site’s popularity and success, like that of many social networks, depends heavily on obfuscating this fact. This illusion of importance creates a sense of naive trust among its users. This makes it easy to exploit.

To novices, the game appears to be open-ended, and impossible to “beat” in any clearly defined sense. But it is, in fact, possible to win at LinkedIn. I have done so, and you can too, by following this short strategy guide. […]

This would be even funnier if I could just shake the premonition that a few years from now some high-flying junior minister in the DWP will announce that in the interests of reassuring hard-working taxpayers that their hard-earned money was being used to fund the most agile, modern and thoroughly digital solution to the problem of unemployment available, all claimants of Universal Credit would be required to provide evidence that they had registered with Microsoft’s LinkedIn service and that they had pursued at least 10 job opportunities a week. Even more importantly, Microsoft had kindly agreed to take up a contract to police this target and consequently a portion of existing DWP staff in Jobcentres would be transferring to the private sector to work in the new MSDWP service, which would also be taking over the contract to run the Universal Credit system.

Magically, this move would both allow the DWP to wash their hands of all responsibility for administrative cock-ups in Jobcentres, but also bring to an end all those boring National Audit Office reports that kept on rating the Universal Credit programme as risky and over budget.1 You might laugh, but give it a few years and some Ayn Rand-reading acolyte a decade or so out of university and a couple of years into his or her tenure as a Conservative member of Parliament will think this the best way to distance the government from the embarrassment of Universal Credit. The main problem will be finding someone within Microsoft both senior enough to agree a deal of that size and dumb enough to not recognise this for the hospital pass that it would be.

[Via The Tao of Mac]

Atari 520 STM

Having just read The Jackintosh: A Real GEM – Remembering the Atari ST, I feel a massive nostalgia rush coming on:

After Commodore Founder Jack Tramiel was forced out by his board, he decided, after a brief hiatus, to get revenge.

Tramiel knew that a 16-bit computer was next on the horizon for Commodore, and he wanted to beat them to the punch. So, in early 1984 he formed a new company, Tramel Technology (spelt without an ‘i’ to encourage people to spell his name correctly), and lured a number of Commodore engineers to jump ship and come work for him. […]

Back in the late 1980s, after several years of following Sinclair Research’s product line up to and including the Sinclair QL1 I found myself tempted by the Atari 520STM, the model with a decently high-resolution (for the day and price) monochrome monitor. OK, so the 520STM was never going to be a games machine, but it was a cracking little workhorse for Desktop Publishing (I adored Timeworks Desktop Publisher) and I spent way too much money on nifty GEM-based word processors and spreadsheets over the years. That first version of Digital Research’s GEM environment worked beautifully on the hardware, to the point that several years later when I finally gave in to the rising tide and bought a Windows 95-based machine for my personal use (having long since been using DOS/Windows systems at work) I genuinely felt like I was taking a step down usability-wise and looks-wise.

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

2001 remembered

Stephen Wolfram, on the legacy of seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey when he was eight years old:

It’s hard for me to believe it’s been 50 years since I first saw 2001. Not all of 2001 has come true (yet). But for me what was important was that it presented a vision of what might be possible-and an idea of how different the future might be. It helped me set the course of my life to try to define in whatever ways I can what the future will be. And not just waiting for aliens to deliver monoliths, but trying to build some “alien artifacts” myself.

[Via Sentiers No. 37]

Surfacing

Microsoft are clearly very proud of the Surface Hub 2, which looks all shiny and ready to suck up every byte of bandwidth that your network connection can offer to power all those pixels it wants to deliver.

No question about it, it’s a handsome beast of a device. I work in an office where we’ve just switched to Windows 10 earlier this year and we’re in the process of encouraging everyone to make as much use as possible of all the collaborative technologies that we now have access to1 and I can just imagine our managers drooling over one day deploying this sort of technology. I can’t help but note that Microsoft are refusing to quote a price just yet, but it’s amazing what you can justify spending money on when you’re kitting out new offices so give it time and I’m sure a Surface Hub will pop up somewhere near you.2

[Via Future Drama]

Kindles and touchscreens

I had no idea that my post earlier today was going to be eclipsed by a much better, deeper take on the whole topic of how touchscreens make for a user-hostile interface, this one from Craig Mod:

I’ve been using Kindles on and off ever since they launched. Our relationship has been contentious but I’ve always been seduced or re-seduced by their potential. At their best, they are beautiful devices. At their worst, infuriating. They are always so close to being better than they are.

Initially they didn’t have touch screens, but Kindle.app on iOS did. The iOS app worked in its own funny way: adopting its own interaction model. An analog to that model found its way to hardware Kindles. I think this was a mistake. […]

A different corner of the same topic, to be sure, but the basic “invisible user interface elements are bad” problem at the heart of the issue.

Via Tim Carmody, guest-posting at kottke.org

Reasons why touch interfaces are terrible as tools for discovering new features, part 89

From Federico Viticci’s post 11 Tips for Working on the iPad:

[Here’s…] a list of my favorite long-press shortcuts in Safari.

9: Tap and Hold in Safari

Safari Reader (text icon on the left side of the address bar). Display settings to always use Safari Reader on the selected website or for all websites.

Considering how much I’ve missed per-site Reader activation since last I used Safari on MacOS X (where I used CustomReader to achieve precisely this effect, I have to wonder Why Was I Not Told About This?

The thing is, I have no doubt that that feature got the odd mention in any number of reviews that appeared when it first appeared. If Apple are going to hide it away behind a long-press shortcut, I have to assume that Apple are OK with users not being aware of all the features they roll out in iOS once a year or so. This is where an operating system with a menu bar wins every time…

Fribo

The idea behind Fribo seems to me to be much more palatable than the prospect of every household getting an internet-connected microphone that broadcasts details of everything within earshot to a central server:

When a Fribo in your home hears a noise that it recognizes, it sends a message to another Fribo in your friend’s home, or even to an entire network of Fribos belonging to people you know:

As an example, let us assume one friend opened a refrigerator. When [Fribo] receives this event from the server, the robot starts to communicate this to the user by saying, “Oh, someone just opened the refrigerator door. I wonder which food your friend is going to have.”

Fribo, in other words, is not exactly a social robot: It’s more like a social networking robot. But unlike most social networks, Fribo was carefully thought out to respect your privacy as much as possible. Note that the message sent to your friends is anonymous—it tells them that someone is doing a thing, but not who. If they’re interested, they can let Fribo know by knocking on something nearby, and your Fribo will tell you exactly who responds. If you like, you can then ping them back directly.

I could do without the frequent prompts to remind your friend to bundle up in bad weather, but the general concept seems interesting.1 Initial testing took place in South Korea, so it’d be interesting to see how that sort of implementation detail changed if they tested this in a different culture.

[Via Sentiers 28]

‘Smart’ Homes, Dumb Users?

I meant to post a link to The House That Spied on Me, a Gizmodo story that looked a little deeper into just how much data a ‘connected’ household is leaking, when I restarted this site a few weeks ago:

Our 1970s apartment building did not offer enough electrical outlets for this 2018 smart home, so we had power strips and outlet expanders everywhere, to the point where I was worried I was going to spark a fire and burn our smart home down. (This actually might have been cathartic.)

I had to download 14 different apps to my phone to control everything, which meant creating an account for each one of those apps. (Yes, my coffeemaker has a log-in and a very long terms of service agreement.) After setting them up, I thought I’d be able to control all the devices by issuing voice commands to Alexa via the Echo—the smart speaker that we’ve been using for the last year as a glorified timer and music player — but this did not go as well as I had hoped.

I can’t help but wonder, given the sheer quantity of End User Licensing Agreements they must have been required to click through to install all that software, whether in the end what’s going to kill the concept of smart homes isome gigantic legal tangle where it turns out that we’ve all clicked-through-but-claimed-to-have-read-and-understood conflicting agreements that we’ll let every app/device phone home and upload whatever date they deem necessary.

It’ll be reported that User A failed to live up to their solemn contractual obligation 1 to allow Amazon (or Apple, or Google, or Facebook, or whoever) to slurp up X megabytes of data per day, and therefore User A was in breach of their obligations to the company. They would henceforth be liable to pay a fine of US$X per day until they stopped running the other 15 apps/devices that wanted to upload their respective megabytes of data per day.

If we’re lucky, ordinary end users will conclude that it’s safest to avoid the whole mess by not letting their home network become a home to a dozen or more smart devices. If we’re unlucky, this will be seen by whichever company is seen as market leader as the perfect moment to announce that if we convert to their devices and software they’ll guarantee to have them cooperate with one another so that they can all leak data about us in a much smoother, more coordinated manner that we’ll barely notice.

(Alternatively, this whole thing will look like a fabulous income stream to the other 15 companies if they can get their lawsuit in first before the poor end user goes bankrupt trying to keep up, and we’ll really be in trouble…)