Profile of Michael Hickins
News & Commentary Posts: 178
Articles by Michael Hickins
Now there's a way to read bedtime stories to your kids without actually being there. Jason Kottke calls the system "slick." I call it sickening.
Internet Explorer is slowly losing market share to its biggest rivals, Apple and Google, for reasons as disparate as they are significant.
The news that WhiteHouse.gov relaunched this week running open source Drupal software raised eyebrows and hackles among knee-jerk anti-Obama types and a small cadre of ignorant bloggers.
We've seen how social media like Twitter and Facebook can be used as part of a winning election strategy, but the same tools don't seem to influence elected officials or public policy.
Maybe folks are simply trying to talk themselves out of the recession (which would be a good thing in itself), but it seems like the conversation around cloud computing is shifting from cost-cutting to unleashing innovation.
I knew things had really changed when I came across a homeless man sitting on the ground at Columbus Circle last weekend, panhandling for $15 million to fund an "electronic Democracy project." One thousand dollars would go towards an iBook and $5 for lunch. He wouldn't tell me about his project in detail unless I put up some "serious money," but his request drove home how much has changed in our society since even the recession o
Voting machines and their foibles were catapulted to the top of public consciousness during the 2000 Presidential election, but have gone largely unnoticed in subsequent elections, which is a good thing. The possibility that a widespread glitch could affect a close national election, and the potential for this to undermine democracy, cannot be overstated.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco likes to boast that he can't be covered. Now he says he's the one who'll be doing the covering. Of news.
Much has been made of the premature obituaries for Second Life, but while the virtual world manufactured by Linden Labs has prevailed long beyond its presumed expiration date, the business model seems too arcane and forbidding to inspire many imitators.
CNN.com unveiled a new site design to reporters Thursday that it will launch on Monday that includes more prominent use of video and a radical change in how it incorporates so-called citizen journalism.
The network neutrality forces are trying to make the case that regulations will be good for business -- even for the likes of AT&T and Verizon, which are quite frankly the targets of the Federal Communications Commission's rulemaking proposals.
Identity management, from both national security and personal security standpoints, could well be the next big policy debate we have in the United States.
Prominent tech companies and individuals associated with the creation of the Internet (although not Al Gore) are filling new Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski's inbox with letters in support of his proposed network neutrality rules.
Verizon's recent TV ad comparing its national wireless coverage to that of AT&T's is a double-barreled attack on both AT&T and, by mocking the iPhone's "there's an app for that" slogan, AT&T's partner in smartphone domination, Apple.
My recent post about BadCompany.com, which blacklists customers who claim refunds from their credit card issuer rather than directly from the retailer, raised a number of interesting questions: have any retailers actually signed up for this, how does BadCustomer even get a hold of those names, and isn't it a violation of customer privacy for retailers to revea
Privately-held Twitter has been closely linked to three incidents that we know of in which the Internet service worked closely with official United States agencies. The first was in Iraq, then Iran, and the most recent in Pittsburgh.
How's this for a new customer service angle? If retailers get tired of your returns history, you might be out of luck next time you shop for something online.
Twitter may have to find itself a new business model, if recent numbers are any indication.
Acid-tongued Tweets are eating away at the fabric of our national conversation 140 characters at a time. Meanwhile, regrettably to my mind, "Twitter is emerging as a new and powerful political tool."
It appears that the Federal Communications Commission isn't immune to industry pressure after all.
How much has changed online in the past three years? My family and I just moved to a new apartment, and much of the move was facilitated by aspects of our digital lives that either didn't exist or weren't ubiquitous enough three years ago to have made a difference.
Executives from Cisco, EMC, Dell and Symantec gathered at the United Nations today as a sort of coda to the climate summit held here last week, to talk about the role IT can play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and reversing catastrophic climate change.
Every time I'm at an airport and I see one of those giant SAP ads claiming that the world's best-run companies run SAP, I wonder how many of the executives those ads are targeting choke on their Dramamine at the reminder of the ungodly implementation cycles, which are matched in gruesomeness only by the dreadful 22 percent maintenance fees charged by the vendor. I wonder if they worry whether they'll lose their jobs over the cost overruns or the fact that the software doesn't allow them to innov
The reputation of crowdsourcing as a way of generating new ideas got a recent boost from the $1 million Netflix prize, which was awarded to a group of people who invented an algorithm for suggesting movies to users of the online movie subscription service.
The PTA at my daughter's school spends $3,000 per year for an online learning management system. That's $3,000 every year that they shouldn't have to spend.
Yesterday I posted my outrage about a poll that appeared on Facebook asking if President Obama should be killed. Yesterday, I wondered how we should balance our needs for civility against the equally pressing need for everyone to have access to this kind of vehicle for expression and connection.
My initial reaction when I saw that Facebook hosted a poll asking whether or not President Obama should be killed was blind fury. Why haven't they stopped this? Where are the voices of outrage from national political leaders who stir up a hue and cry whenever someone allows a kitten to fall from a tree?
Qaeda-linked terror suspect Najibullah Zazi left a digital trail a mile wide for federal investigators to follow, but stopping seems to have required too much luck and footwork.
Gordon Bell, often described as "the Frank Lloyd Wright of the Internet," firmly believes we'll all be paperless and recording our lives digitally within a decade.
The sky is falling, to hear the incumbent carriers and their industry association shills, because the FCC under new chairman Julius Genachowski is going to enforce network neutrality provisions.
Advertisers may be stalking you on Facebook and trying to learn your predilections, sexual, socio-political, and otherwise, but Big Brother isn't on the case quite yet.
An Iranian living in the U.S. called a friend of mine who lives here in New York and said, "I see on my caller ID that you tried to call me. What's it about?" As you've no doubt guessed from the title of this post, my friend had done no such thing. A few weeks later, the same thing happened with another Iranian living in the U.S.
Big businesses like Verizon and AT&T might be gnashing their teeth about the Obama Administration's policies and priorities, but small businesses and innovators should be rubbing their hands with glee.
A disparate bunch of advocacy groups are trying to save the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from the onslaught of the Cuckooberries.
Google's new Fast Flip is a half-baked attempt to solve two problems with one service, which isn't entirely a bad thing, since half-baked is in many cases better than raw.
Cloud computing has broken into the mainstream of enterprise IT, but adoption remains fragmented by industry, and acceptance among administrators is far from unanimous.
We're apparently not quite sure if too much citizen intervention in our government's life is a good thing or not, to judge by Anand Giridharadas's piece in this weekend's New York Times Week In Review.
Twitter is starting to lay the groundwork for an actual business model by making some changes to its terms of service (TOS).
The growing kerfuffle over Google's settlement with the Author's Guild concerning the digitization of books is just the most recent proof that Google has become the new Microsoft where regulators on both sides of the Atlantic
It's hard to talk to people about Google's Wave without enduring a certain amount of eye-rolling. So I take comfort in seeing that Dan Woods of Evolved Technologies is taking it seriously.
Candidate Obama would have known what to do if someone wanted to stop him from spreading his message. His unprecedented use of text messaging, Facebook and other social media supported more traditional communications means (if email can be considered traditional) to propel his campaign.
Enterprise 2.0 is often nothing more than a faith-based attack on hierarchy and organization, or so it must often seem. It's the gist of a recent piece by the estimable Dennis Howlett that was picked up by noted Enterprise 2.0 evangelist and Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee.
For years, the rumor was that Google was going to buy Salesforce.com as a way of breaking into the enterprise space.
The hand-wringing over yesterday's Gmail outage was as predictable as it was wrong-headed.
What's Craig Newmark's "real sin?" It turns out that his transgression isn't, as the cover of the recent Wired would have it, "refusing to evolve," but rather of pride, an old fashioned desire to do some good.
The unqualified success of the first part of the government's broadband stimulus effort is forcing broadband carriers to change their tune.
Privacy and anonymity are very close relatives, but their fates seem to be headed in very different directions, as recent examples from the worlds of Google and Facebook illustrate.
How are schools preparing our kids for the world of social networking? Not so well from my experience.
Stonie, you're doing a heck of a job. Today is the anniversary of the first day of the 2008 Democratic Convention, which is arguably the first day of the rest of Twitter's life; Biz Stone, Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey have to be shaking their heads in disbelief at the sensation that their creation has created over the past twelve months.
Blog fights are fan favorites that tend to be treated like fluff, but they actually serve an important purpose, and the angrier the fights, the better.
If ten years ago someone had told you that nine women, or almost ten percent of Forbes' list of 100 most powerful women, represented the technology industry, it would have seemed like an improvement over the status quo. But today it feels like a bit of a step backward, especially when you consider that two of the nine names could easily be slotted into other categories.
Just think about this: the National Football League may be more enlightened than New York Times sports writer Judy Batista, who ragged on Donte' Stallworth for posting what she considered a flippant Tweet.
Government 2.0 has been identified in a couple of ways: one could be really called Politics 2.0, and is best personified by the digital grassroots organizing of the Obama campaign.
Where's the so-called liberal media when you need it? Large carriers like Verizon, Qwest and AT&T say they are refusing to apply for broadband stimulus funds because they don't want to accept government "strings" and because they can't "compete" with government, and the national media repeats their charges verbatim.
Two reports surfaced in the past couple of days that, put side by side, offer an amusing look at Twitter usage, painting it as a playground of the hyperactive and the self-obsessed, doling out wit and foolishness in almost equal measure.
Wall Street Journal (WSJ) honcho Rupert Murdoch wasn't kidding when he said that his properties would start charging for all online content.
Federal agencies handling applications for broadband stimulus grants have been forced to extend the deadline for applications because their online systems have buckled under the strain.
If nothing else, the broadband stimulus package has given the public an insight into how government procurement works -- and the result is educational to say the least.
You'd think that with the economy being what it is, companies would be trying just a little harder to hold onto their customers. And the little things, like making it up to customers when you inconvenience them, or adopting opt-in policies for marketing gimmicks, is much less expensive than any new marketing programs or feature sets you can think of.
From Alex Rodriguez to David Ortiz, the same question is asked every time the name of a big-time baseball player on "the list" is leaked to the press: how come the records weren't destroyed to begin with?
There's a growing sentiment that Twitter is failing us - not because its service was shut down last week, or because it's failing to articulate a coherent business plan (not that it's any of our business, by the way) - but because it's causing a URL-shortening service to shut down.
Microsoft is making it tough for developers new to the Microsoft universe to link up with Bing. Not the kind of thing Microsoft wants to repeat as it tries to build share for its brand spanking old search tool.
Twitter has been down most of this morning all over the world because, it says, of a denial of service (DOS) attack. Is it payback for Twitter's attempts at fighting malware?
The FCC's abrupt intervention last Friday into the quarrel between Apple and Google may have won more than a stay of execution for Google Voice; it may have heralded the beginning of a wide-ranging net neutrality movement in Washington of which Google has long been a proponent.
Google's new offline ads encouraging IT administrators to switch to Google Apps show just how serious it is about going after Microsoft for enterprise business.
Using Google Docs could put you in legal hot water if you're unable to comply with a subpoena to produce documents during a trial.
One day soon, some marketing company is going to go too far in its quest for short term gains, and betray our real identities to one of its customers. Or it will turn out that one of them has been doing it all along for years.
I'll admit to experiencing a tiny ego frisson upon reading the email notification that Microsoft News is now following me on Twitter (and since I'll be Tweeting this, I assume someone at Microsoft News will feel the cool pleasure of a python having taken the measure of its prey).
Cloud computing is still a long way from becoming a mainstream technology because of persistent fears about security and reliability that are stoked by entrenched vendors at every opportunity.
In a small but important victory for public-private applicants, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) chief Larry Strickling told incumbent carriers that they'll have to prove their cases just like everyone else if they want to challenge broadband grant proposals from smaller players.
It turns out the White House doesn't hate Twitter as reported, or at least not as much, or at least not for very much longer.
If you've had an uneasy feeling over the past decade or three that things are going to hell in a handbasket, there might be some empirical evidence to support you.
Something few people could have foreseen is the impact that apps have on smartphone and feature phone sales; as the iPhone has demonstrated, apps really are the tail wagging the handheld dog.
Twitter continues to change the way people do business, and more importantly, how customers relate to businesses. We've already seen large corporations like Comcast use Twitter to monitor what their customers think of them, but small companies can also use it to great effect.
Microsoft is pursuing the Burger King store location strategy, announcing that it will basically shadow Apple's retail stores with stores of its own. It has doubled down on that approach by snagging Apple's former vice president of real estate, George Blankenship.
Unfortunately, we all know a lot more about Twitter's business plans than we'd like, since TechCrunch made the ill-conceived editorial decision to publish the stolen contents of files it received from a French cybercriminal.
Google is asking us to submit ideas for a national broadband strategy that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), led by chairman Julius Genakowski, is required to present to Congress in February 2010.
By publishing documents stolen by a hacker, Michael Arrington has proven he doesn't have the judgment necessary to run a news organization. He should have the decency to step down.
I'm all for holding companies responsible for their actions, but sometimes it's hard to predict how those actions play out.
The Internet is afire on account of the immortal words of fifteen-year-old Morgan Stanley intern Matthew Robson: "teenagers do not use twitter."
I didn't agree with everything David Pogue wrote in his glowing review of Bing last week, but I did agree that Google would try to duplicate or surpass any improvements Microsoft would bring to search.
Professional baseball scouts as well as managers and, yes, fans, will be soon have access to technology allowing them to measure the heretofore unmeasurable and forever-debatable: who is the best shortstop in all of baseball? Is it Derek Jeter or Omar Vizquel?
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is calling for "qualified" volunteers to screen applications for the $4.7 billion it has to spend as part of the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus package.
Government Web sites were subjected to a denial of service attack over the past few days, which may have the unintended consequence of helping the Obama Administration sweep away privacy concerns as it begins implementing a controversial cybersecurity plan.
Twitter is at the heart of yet another controversy, this one involving Internet viruses and spam.
Sarah Palin's abrupt resignation on Friday wasn't a surprise to anyone who follows her on Twitter or Facebook, and that's all the former vice-presidential candiate really cares about.
Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether we really need real-time search, I'd like to dispense with the notion that Bing is now providing real-time search of anything relevant on Twitter.
Vice President Joe Biden is in Pennsylvania today to kick off the Administration's $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program, announcing the release of the federal agency regulations, also known as the Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA), that set eligibility rules.
One of the most compelling attributes of Web 2.0 is that it transformed the static Interweb from something pushed at us to something that includes our inputs. The coincidence of Howard Dean's intelligent use of the Web, the rise of Facebook in public consciousness and Barack Obama's very technologically-savvy campaign has led to the expectation that Government 2.0 would quickly follow.
The ball might finally get rolling tomorrow for the $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus funds, not a moment too soon where operators and Internet-starved rural communities are concerned.
Those geniuses in Redmond seem to have decided that we'll pay just about anything to get rid of Vista, even if that means spending $119 to upgrade to Windows 7. By the way, that's $119 per user, not per household.
An influential technology lobby wants President Obama to create an Office of Innovation Policy (OIP) to help spur innovation in the U.S. It sounds like the making of a new alphabet soup, but the idea has some merit.
If all you've heard is business complain that increased taxes and government regulation is driving investment and innovation abroad or is otherwise bad for business, you haven't been listening to IT vendors.
If once is a coincidence and twice is a trend, then I can confidently attest to the fact that if you're going to lose your Jesus Phone anywhere on earth, make it New York City.
Apple says Steve Jobs will return to his position as CEO at the end of June. That ought to be enough to quiet rumors to the contrary. But ghoulish reporters, abetted at times by others shedding crocodile tears, are fixating on Jobs' ongoing health crisis like nobody's business.
While many of us are holding our collective breaths in the hopes that Web 3.0 (or, as Robert Scoble would have it, the 2010 Web) will help drag us out of recession, some remain intent on blowing dot-com-like bubbles.
TweetDeck, the popular Adobe-based client that enhances your Twitter experience partly by, well, keeping you off the Twitter.com site, is now available as an iPhone app.
Robert Scoble thinks that too many people, especially small businesses, aren't benefiting from the fruits of Web 3.0, or Web 2010, "or whatever you want to call it," as he said to me this evening at an event hosted by Rackspace (his blog's current sponsor) at the New York Stock Exchange.
Twitter has proven once and for all that sometimes less is more, that David can beat Goliath, and maybe even that the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Contrary to popular opinion, Twitter isn't reporting on Iran or the Swine Flu or calling people names. Twitter didn't cause Iran's supreme leader to call for an investigation of the election results. People did that.