Programming Early

[via Atanu] Salon writes:

For three years — ever since my son Ben was in fifth grade — he and I have engaged in a quixotic but determined quest: We’ve searched for a simple and straightforward way to get the introductory programming language BASIC to run on either my Mac or my PC.

Why on Earth would we want to do that, in an era of glossy animation-rendering engines, game-design ogres and sophisticated avatar worlds? Because if you want to give young students a grounding in how computers actually work, there’s still nothing better than a little experience at line-by-line programming.
Click Here!

Only, quietly and without fanfare, or even any comment or notice by software pundits, we have drifted into a situation where almost none of the millions of personal computers in America offers a line-programming language simple enough for kids to pick up fast.

Reading this article brought back memories of how I learnt programming – in BASIC when I was 15 years old.

Apple’s Strategy

Robert Cringely writes:

Is Apple selling iPods to sell music, for example, or selling music to sell iPods? It is most decidedly the latter. Based on a claimed 1.5 billion song sales at $0.99 each, Apple has made gross revenue from music sales of just under $1.5 billion since 2001. Yet in the same time period the company claims to have sold 60 million iPods, which represent (at an average $200 price) $12 BILLION, or EIGHT TIMES as much revenue. So the game is about selling razors, not blades, at least not yet.

Apple deliberately repositioned its movie offerings to be better than broadcast quality but less than DVD quality and quite a bit less than HD-quality. Doing so saves on bandwidth (though less than you’d guess — moving NerdTV from 320-by-240 MPEG-4 to 720-by-480 H.264 increases the required bandwidth by only about a factor of two, the new codec is so much more efficient), but it is also politically expedient when thinking about Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and Target — the three largest sellers of DVDs and, not at all coincidentally, the three largest sellers of iPods, too.

Even Williams on Odeo

GigaOM has a post on Evan Williams’ candid confession of what went wrong. A must-read for entrepreneurs.

1. Trying to build too much Odeo set out to be a podcasting company with no focus beyond that.
2. Not building for people like ourselves For example, Williams doesnt podcast himself, and he says as a result the companys web-based recording tools were too simplistic.
3. Not adjusting fast enough The company thought its comprehensive web-based strategy would win out over the competition, primarily Apple, in the long term. It turns out long term is not soon enough for a startup if youre trying to get a foothold.
4. Raising too much money too early Williams seeded the money with $70,000 of his own money, and after the TED excitement added another $100,000. After he tied up over a million in angel funding, a term sheet came through from Charles River Ventures at three times the angel round valuation. They took the money.

5. Not listening to my gut When youve got a bunch of money and youve hired a lot of people and youre talking to your board and youre talking to reporters, your gut can get drowned out.

Mobile Search and Advertising writes: “The biggest challenge for mobile search is likely not the technology but figuring out an appropriate business model. In contrast with the wired Web, in the wireless world the operators themselves control what content users can access.”

Tomi Ahonen writes: “Nicole Kidman loves the after shave of Brad Pitt? On the bottom of the screen – click here to buy the after shave…. Remember on the web it is not possible to click-to-buy. We need credit cards or paypal accounts to buy on the web. But on the phone click-to-buy is not science fiction, it is totally viable today, as the phone is the only mass media with a built-in payment mechanism.”

Bottom of Pyramid Mirage?

Atanu Dey discusses a paper by Aneel Karnani:

Karnanis paper argues against the BOP proposition. He summaries the BOP proposition as: there are profits to be made by selling to the billions of the worlds poor, and by doing so, bring prosperity to them, thus alleviating poverty, and that multinational corporations (MNCs) should sell to the poor to do good while doing well for themselves.

First there is the disagreement regarding the actual size of the BOP market. The BOP camp estimates that the potential market at PPP terms is US$13 trillion. Karnani estimates a more modest US 1.2 trillion at PPP, and more like US$ 0.3 trillion at the financial exchange rate. Thats an order of magnitude difference there.

Furthermore, Karnani points out that the poor spend most of their income on food; the poor have little disposable income. Therefore, if their incomes dont rise, they cannot afford to consume more than they actually do. If there are ways of making stuff more affordable to the poor, it is certainly not by selling stuff in smaller packages. Smaller packages in fact have a higher unit cost, not lower. Pretending that smaller packages increase affordability is similar to pretending that selling food in very small packets will solve the hunger and malnutrition problem of the poor. He concludes that the single serving revolution is a dud.

More discussion.

TECH TALK: The Now-New-Near Web: Facebook and Feeds

About two weeks ago, Facebook made a change in the home page that users saw when they logged in. This was the announcement made by Ruchi Sanghvi, Facebooks product manager for Feed:

We’ve added two cool features: News Feed, which appears on your homepage, and Mini-Feed, which appears in each person’s profile.

News Feed highlights what’s happening in your social circles on Facebook. It updates a personalized list of news stories throughout the day, so you’ll know when Mark adds Britney Spears to his Favorites or when your crush is single again. Now, whenever you log in, you’ll get the latest headlines generated by the activity of your friends and social groups.

Mini-Feed is similar, except that it centers around one person. Each person’s Mini-Feed shows what has changed recently in their profile and what content (notes, photos, etc.) they’ve added. Check out your own Mini-Feed; if there are any stories you don’t like, you can remove them from your profile.

The features caused a huge uproar among the Facebook community. At a technical level, it was about making awareness of the changes in ones friends much more apparent easily. As Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO, explained, This is information people used to dig for on a daily basis, nicely reorganized and summarized so people can learn about the people they care about. You dont miss the photo album about your friends trip to Nepal. Maybe if your friends are all going to a party, you want to know so you can go too. Facebook is about real connections to actual friends, so the stories coming in are of interest to the people receiving them, since they are significant to the person creating them.

The end-result? Facebook did an about-face and changed the features within a couple days. Mark, once again: We missed this point with News Feed and Mini-Feed and we didnt build in the proper privacy controls right away. This was a big mistake on our part, and Im sorry for it. But apologizing isnt enough. I wanted to make sure we did something about it, and quickly. So we have been coding nonstop for two days to get you better privacy controls. This new privacy page will allow you to choose which types of stories go into your Mini-Feed and your friends News Feeds, and it also lists the type of actions Facebook will never let any other person know about.

What was interesting about this whole debate was the idea that Facebook was trying to make a reality bringing the whats new in the lives of friends as a river of news on a persons profile. And take a persons actions and surface them to friends as part of their river of news. It was, as I think about it, all about the New Web.

Tomorrow: Facebook and Feeds (continued)

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