Tuesday, July 20

Desktop Web is Dead

I've had an emptiness inside me for a while now. The kind of cold, dark, gnawing emptiness that can only be filled with a fresh hit of sick software and/or tech.

Unfortunately I have not encountered any truly compelling apps via my desktop experience in many months now. Perhaps going on a couple/few years.

Desktop web ... and perhaps Web 2.0 as a whole ... are dead.

Know where I _have_ finally found that rush? My mobile experience since going Android, and switching to a mobile network with actual coverage (Verizon).

I'm getting my hit of tech not just from social or entertainment apps these days, but from the utility experience perhaps most of all. Apps like Google Maps, (especially with enhanced navigation in Android 2.1+) Evernote, GMail and the HUGE convenience of having all my contact info & photos/avatars combined into effectively one mostly usable, visible, format -- FINALLY -- is giving me at least twice the kick Twitter did when I "got it" back in '07. And then you've got the mostly as-yet unrealized potential of augmented reality apps that truly excite me.

In short, the mobile world is, at long last, maturing into an indispensable part of our daily lives as more than just a simple phone -- I finally feel like I can leave my PC behind some part of the time, and yet still be in touch with what I need to have access to for personal and work communications. The mobile entertainment experience is even gaining some traction with me.

Despite searching fairly long and hard, it has been a long time since I have had a compelling experience with a web app, particularly from a desktop perspective. Twitter is past its peak as far as my interest level goes. Twitter and Facebook remain useful points of contact, useful venues for lifestreaming, but they are no more intriguing to me than LinkedIn or CNN at this point, and the volume of noise makes it hard to find quality signal like the "good old days." (Anyone else miss Friendfeed from waaay back? Pre-Facebook purchase? Pre-early majority noise?)

The existing social media landscape becomes far more interesting when access is made ubiquitous and near-seamless by the latest generation mobile devices -- but even then, I feel like the overall importance or prominence of any one conventional app is diminished. It no longer matters if you are only on Facebook OR Twitter (substitute any number of social media apps/networks) because the device in my hand either combines, or makes equally accessible, your profile and communications in any of these media, networks and/or apps.

To an extent, it feels like we are on the threshold of some truly powerful handheld devices that will take our mobile experience, and our use of technology in our daily lives, to "the next level." Augmented reality that is not limited to a ~4" screen. (3D video calls and HUD GPS navigation via the one-device-that-does-everything-a-person-needs? Always-on peer-to-peer networks? Think of the possibilities! Auto-reroute around weather, accidents and construction in real-time based on reports from traffic ahead of you? Avoid restaurants with long lines? Find parking spaces? Food delivery to your location, not an address? Obviously there are security concerns ...)

What's the next great networked experience on the horizon? Is it desktop or is it mobile? Is it an existing app that no one's heard of yet, or perhaps an as-yet unexploited technology, platform or medium? Is technology holding that next wave back? Does Web 3.0 == mobile+augmented reality?

EDIT: A few notes. Threadsy is a handy way to combine things, but the experience does not light my fire. I never really got into Twine too hard before they got gobbled up by Evri. Quora I have recently found very interesting, but not life-changing. Rdio is nothing special.

Sunday, July 18

13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown

13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Financial Meltdown by Simon Johnson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A decent read, though not earthshaking if you have read much else in this genre. For instance, the author mentions trader-turned-law-professor Frank Partnoy and one of his works on the subject - the ground-breaking FIASCO, Blood in the Water - where Partnoy surfaces the use of the phrase "ripping his face off" when it came to traders burning clients and making huge piles of cash while doing it, and does some of the first modern-day muckraking around derivatives and those who profit from them.

That said, 13 Bankers is a broad work that does an excellent job of chronologically telling the story of how our fat pig of a financial system got to be where it is today. It is a story of greed, lobbying, more greed, loose regulation, under regulation, you-scratch-my-back-I'll-scratch-yours lack of regulation, enforcement and serious prosecution or penalty ... and more greed.

One area that 13 Bankers illuminates well is the grotesque growth in salaries in the financial services industries since the end of World War II. Shameful and greedy, no other way to look at it. This growth mirrors the rather inorganic growth of the megabanks themselves, from once-manageable entities contributing to the growth of Main Street to the greedy Goliaths they are today.

The American government, both through active collusion and passive failures to act, has failed its citizens, and the world at large, when it comes to reining in this monolithic industry full of "too big to fail" corporate entities who happily make money off the back of the rest of America. 13 Bankers is one of those works that is destined to make you angry.

If you have read no other nonfiction work about our modern financial system, 13 Bankers is the right place to start. If your reading list on the subject is more comprehensive, 13 Bankers is worth consideration, but not a must-read.

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