My neighborhood is plastered with advertisements asking me to go online and invent a new Mountain Dew flavor. I still only drink the original kind, not even the diet and definitely not that weird red kind, so the idea of "inventing" a new one has zero appeal (made worse by the election fever bandwagon branding: Dewmocracy [gag]). But I had to laugh at what I imagined that brainstorming meeting to be like - a bunch of people in a room trying to figure out what the Web has to do with soda and how to take advantage Web 2.0 trends. It turns out the actual site is about a lot more than just inventing a new flavor, but that doesn't mean the idea is any better. (After wrestling with the site for a half hour I still wasn't able to get it to accept my registration so I can't speak to the game itself. I'll try again later.)
Lately I've been seeing a lot of examples of efforts to incorporate new "user generated" ideas that don't live up to their promise. Steve Outing explains why his grassroots user-generated niche sports company didn't sustain itself.
This left-wing blogger mocks the weak response to a Republican user-generated video campaign.
And I'm still a little bewildered by how the Molson campaign asking college kids on Facebook to submit party photos of themselves went wrong. If beer companies are going to kowtow to universities they might as well start selling milk. But as with the examples above, the lesson is clear that it's one thing to "get it" and quite another to do it.
Speaking of empowering the people, Naomi Wolf laments the lack of civics education and general democratic enthusiasm among young people. This is a mainstream piece but it fits well with the disillusionment I expressed the other day with the way American politics are conducted. As closely as I follow local news, I confess I don't have any idea what it takes to run for local office and I'd sooner blog about my neighborhood than participate in its governance.
Futuristic green technology that will save us all of the day: A maglev turbine - The answer to my first objection: "The turbine uses 'full-permanent' magnets, not electromagnets — therefore, it does not require electricity to run." China is already building one but there's some activity in the U.S. as well. In looking for info on the activities of the U.S. company MagLev Wind Turbine Technologies I found this press release, straight from the "you can't make this stuff up" files: "Maglev Wind Turbine Technologies, Inc. (MWTT) is pleased to announce that Mr. Laurence E. (Larry) Blow has agreed to join our company as Chief Consulting Engineer." How can you lose with a wind power company under the guidance of Mr. Blow?
Speaking of new technologies, Sense of touch restored for woman with bionic arm - They took the nerves in her shoulder that would have received signals from her missing hand and routed them to a spot on her chest. Touch the chest and she feels it as though it's a touch to her hand. With the prosthetic arm they send pressure signals from the artificial hand to a mechanism that squeezes that spot on the chest, giving the sensation of touch-like pressure in the missing hand. And this is a real thing, not a "if the theory proves correct the implications are..." kind of item.
Speaking of mechanizing the human body, the video here on the Sarcos exoskeleton will make your head spin. Check out the part where the guy describes the robot suit that obeys your commands when you're in it but can be sent on its own missions when you're not in it. There's no mention of the possibility of one robot sending another one on a mission to find Sarah Connor, which seems pretty short sighted if you ask me.
Speaking of prosthetics (but only because this essay refers to Facebook as a "neural prosthesis"), How Your Creepy Ex-Co-Workers Will Kill Facebook describes a problem I thought was exclusive to social lummoxes like me but I guess is universal. Actually, for me the problem isn't so much getting friend requests from people I hate as it is the range of the degree and nature of the friendship I enjoy with the people who send me requests. What do fellow local bloggers, long lost high school chums and former bosses have in common? Not a damn thing as far as I can figure. I've come to think of Facebook as a phonebook and friend requests in terms of whether I'm OK with that person being able to contact me easily. The only social application I'm really able to handle is Instant Messaging. I need to deal with friends one at a time. I'm not skilled enough to manage my own "network."
By the way, if you don't care about Facebook specifically but still want to be aware of the trend, the last few sentences of the above essay are what you want to know: social networking systems as they're designed right now naturally grow beyond their usefulness and the best solution for a user is to go to a new site and start over. "As more users flock to it, the chances that the person who precipitates your exodus will find you increases. Once that happens, poof, away you go -- and Facebook joins SixDegrees, Friendster and their pals on the scrapheap of net.history." Worth keeping in mind next time you find yourself wondering how many new social networking sites there can possibly be.
Remember a while ago when I was disappointed to read a poor prognosis for the future of flash memory because I was looking forward to flash laptops? Here's a review of a flash notebook basically delivering on the promise of flash memory (except for the price).
NBC to Use TiVo's TV Viewership Data - As usual I don't have any first hand insight into this, in spite of this blog's NBC parentage, but I wonder if having this kind of hard data will change the way TV is programmed. I've always been amazed at how inexact the ratings system is for an industry with so much money at stake. Earlier this month we saw how a changing in ratings assessment methods resulted in a radical restructuring of New York City radio's list of most popular stations.
The time has come to mention the tree man. I haven't seen any coverage of him in mainstream U.S. media but it's just a matter of time. "Tree Man" has some kind of virus that causes him to be covered in overgrown warts (for lack of a better term) that give the afflicted areas, especially his extremities, the appearance of tree bark. I had dismissed earlier stages of his story as online freak show curiosity but now it seems like every new development gets the viral relay treatment so before he's on the Today show and you haven't heard of him, meet Tree Man.
Speaking of viral phenomena I haven't mentioned yet, I was reading Helen's new piece on watching Web video and her mention of watching Two Girls One Cup video reactions. Recently the reaction of a Kermit the Frog puppet to the video scored high ranking on Digg.
NOTE: If you want to participate in the trend of recording yourself watching the clip for the first time then stop here (finding the very NSFW clip is up to you). The rest of this entry is written in white font so you can't see it against the background (RSS readers may not respect the font color). Drag your mouse over the empty space below to see a description/spoiler of what the video is (and why you probably don't want to play the reaction game).
I'm not going to link to the video as it's arguably grosser than any other gross-out Web item we've seen yet, including goatse and the tub girl. It's not hard to find anyway. What I will do however is give you a straightforward description of what the video shows since every mention I've seen of it uses some coy phrase like "let's just say..." followed by something that does not come close to actually describing it. Two Girls One Cup is: One woman defecates in a drinking glass (the cup) held by the other woman who then sloppily eats the excrement. The two celebrate their soiled state with some messy kissing followed by vomiting in each others mouths.