Where 2.0

June 24th, 2005

wherelogo.gifDamon, Jon and I will present Project PlaceSite and discuss wi-fi cafe fun in San Francisco next week at Where 2.0, O’Reilly’s new conference about location-aware tech.

If you’re there, come say hi.

Wi-Fi Cafes in the News: Look Again

June 12th, 2005

A bizarre media storm has gathered around wireless Internet cafes. Project PlaceSite and I have benefited. But this all deserves a closer look.

Tomorrow’s New York Times quotes me in an article by Glenn Fleishman. My words appeared in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer piece last week. On May 30 a Financial Times article about wi-fi in cafes mentioned “zombie effect” [definition here], a term we invented to explain some of the reasoning behind PlaceSite. All this mainstream coverage followed Web buzz about an entry by Glenn on his Wi-Fi Networking News weblog. The entry announced that a Seattle cafe had tried turning off wi-fi on the weekends.

I’m thankful for the PlaceSite publicity but for the record: each of my partners, Damon McCormick and Jon Snydal, contributed to this project at least as much as I did. Professor Marti Hearst served a critical role as our project advisor.

A problem with the coverage: The Financial Times article strongly implies a trend in cafes across the country that involves reduction or removal of wi-fi access. But the opposite is true, at least in Seattle and San Francisco: wi-fi is becoming more ubiquitous in cafes. The article cites just three cafes — one in Seattle and two in San Francisco — that have limited their wi-fi access. But hundreds of cafes in these cities offer wi-fi service, and more cafes add wi-fi every month.

I see no evidence of a new trend: both of the San Francisco cafes in question have been experimenting with limited access for more than a year.

The other articles, particularly the New York Times piece, were more balanced and better informed about this. But I sense a media snowball effect that might trigger an avalanche of inaccurate coverage.

A warning to reporters: consider the numbers here, so you don’t mistake aberrant behavior for what’s clearly the norm.

Improve Your Mac’s Legibility in Sunlight

June 12th, 2005

With a single keystroke in OSX, you can invert your laptop’s screen and turn it black-and-white. That improves the legibility of things that are hard to see in brightly-lit environments. Repeat the keystroke and you’re back to normal.

Here’s the key combination:


Bonus: now you can freak out your Mac-using friends who haven’t heard of this feature, but who let you near their keyboards.

“Brand New Flashmob Opera”

June 8th, 2005

There’s a new opera about flash mobs on the BBC. Please someone, send me a rip of this.