Sunday, March 29, 2009

new blog

My new blog is active at

Friday, March 20, 2009

blogging displaced by that whole work thing

If any of you are still reading, apologies for going dark. Too much work, too much travel. Sitting in the United Club at Heathrow with T-Mobile's WiFi barely working. Just finished a book worth reading, Fooled by Randomness. Jonathan Seelig, of Akamai and Globespan fame, recommended it. Enjoyable, topical, and provides a delightful framework for thinking about how to measure performance against underlying trends -- particularly when the underlying trends change dramatically.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

world builder

This is so evocative of Second Life. Nice coverage of its creation story by Hamlet.

World Builder from Bruce Branit on Vimeo.

Amazing what serious talent, tech, and $2000 can do...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

foreclosure math

Via Google, estimates on total number of US homes current foreclosed or being foreclosed vary between 1M and 2M. Let us assume an upper bound of 2M homes.

Median US home prices are freefall, currently around $175,000, down from a peak of over $300,000 in 2006. Of course, in foreclosed areas like Cleveland, the real value is basically $0.

So, let's try to determine the sum total of wealth lost by these "toxic assets", assuming 50% of foreclosed home are worth effectively $0 and half are worth the current median.

(1M homes) x ($300,000 lost) + (1M homes) x ($300,000 - $175,000 lost) = $425 billion

So, $425 billion to keep 2 million families in their homes, make it easier for those families to hold on to jobs and to keep working, to prop up the all the credit default swaps, etc, that are collapsing because these mortgages aren't being repaid, and to ensure that banks don't collapse due to unpaid loans.

Why are we pouring the money into the banks directly rather than protecting tax payers? Oh, because doing this would reward a bunch of predatory lenders?

First, which is more important: keeping people in homes as we enter a second great depression or punish those who took advantage of lax regulations to cause it?

Second, and more importantly, the act of repaying these loans would enable a process of identifying the top 20% of most egregious loans, allowing those who broke the law to be prosecuted.

OK, I'm not an expert, but given the astronomical sums we're talking about, keeping a sizable percentage of the workforce in homes plus propping up the umpteen trillions of dollars leveraged against those mortgages, $425 billion is starting to look pretty reasonable.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

kindle app for iphone

While not quite the technology convergence of a Roomba getting run over by a Segway, being able to read Kindle books on iPhone is pretty darn close. Amazon just released a new app for iPhone that let's you do just this and it is very slick. You connect it to your Kindle account and all your Amazon book purchases are available, with the last page you're on more-or-less properly synced up.

Very cool.

The reading experience is very good for such a small device, the interface is slick, and downloads quick on even a 1G iPhone.

Downsides? Really the only big problem is that there doesn't appear to be a way to send mobipocket, pdf, or other text files to iPhone the way you can for Kindle. This is a real bummer, as currently 23 out of the 135 books on Kindle are Amazon e-books. The rest are mostly from the Baen library. I hope they decide to fix this, as it makes both devices more valuable to me.

Still, combined with Amazon's new digital publishing platform, Amazon is working hard to create a strong ecosystem around e-books. Great opportunity for authors who can move early, I suspect.

Friday, February 27, 2009

kindle 2 review

I've posted a fair amount -- and quite positively -- about my current Kindle, so it should come as no surprise that I was quick to order Kindle 2. It arrived Wednesday and I broke it in with Daemon, Daniel Suarez's impressive debut novel (more on that in a moment).

If you've seen a picture you know that the Kindle 2 is much thinner and sleeker than the original. This translates to a much more solid feel out of the box, although I've found it to be slightly less comfortable to hold, perhaps due to Kindle 1 muscle memory. To first order, it operates the same as Kindle 1. The boot time is much faster, the inward clicking buttons superior and less prone to accidental clicks, and the page flips enough quicker to be noticeable. The new screen's 16-gray levels make photos look surprisingly good, and being able to charge via USB helps me on the road. Finally, while I miss the sparkle, the multi-way stick does make highlighting a lot easier.

Downsides? Moving content over from my first Kindle was a pain, mostly because Whispernet and/or Amazon were clearly slammed Wednesday night. The leather binder doesn't have the original's elastic to hold it closed.

All-in-all, a great set of incremental improvements and an even better device for my needs.

As for Daemon, I really enjoyed it. It has all of the trappings of a first book -- uneven pacing, limited character development, some typos -- but, wow! I've never seen a book that mixes action; this level of understanding of the god complex all game developers have; the technology around robotics, virtual worlds, and the net; and, wraps it all up in book that is speculative while only leveraging real tech. Very cool and quite recommended.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

virtual anti patterns

I've previously written about the password anti-pattern, so it is distressing to see it becoming the standard in virtual worlds as well. James just posted about what would otherwise be a w00t-worthy event from the bright folks at realXtend, direct teleportation between Second Life-compatible virtual wrolds!

Very cool stuff, except for:

When you click the link, the viewer brings up a log-in window; enter in the avatar name and password associated with the other world you're going to, and the teleport process begins. [emphasis mine]


What makes this all the more distressing is that two years ago, Mark Lentczner, Ian Wilkes, and I designed the solution to this on a whiteboard. We had recognized that between OpenSim and whatever came next, that there would be a critical need to enable interoperation through communication/shared presence. It also provided a nice model for scalability, not to mention allowing for deeper interconnections between Second Life and the rest of the web. It has influenced internal design discussions, as well as the standards efforts, but hasn't moved fast enough to be available to projects like realXtend, which is too bad.