So this is where all my time has been going…

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I had reason today to start wondering what online tools and services I’ve played with over the last few years. The most recent ones and those that I use regularly (go backpack!) come easily to mind, but I’ve kicked the tires on a lot of other stuff that has blurred into a single gently rounded, pastel pastiche.

By running through a couple of folders of old registration emails and poking around on Google I was able to come up with a list. Holy hell, was I able to come up with a list…and I suspect that I’ve missed almost as many as I could recall.

I am apparently a registered user of:

  • 43 Things
  • AllConsuming
  • Backpack
  • Basecamp
  • Blastfeed
  • Bloglet
  • Blogwise
  • box.net
  • BzzAgent
  • Cafespot
  • Campfire
  • de.lirio.us
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • Dodgeball
  • Facebook
  • FeedBlitz
  • FeedBurner
  • Feedication
  • FeedXs
  • flickr
  • Gliffy
  • Google (analytics, notebook, reader, calendar, apps, maps, kitchen sink)
  • HipCal
  • ItsyourTurn
  • Jigsaw
  • Joost
  • last.fm
  • Launchpad
  • Linkedin
  • meetup
  • MeeVee
  • myBlogLog
  • MySpace
  • Netvibes
  • NewsGator
  • Ning
  • outside.in
  • Pbwiki
  • pininthemap.com
  • Plazes
  • Plum
  • PRX
  • Root.net
  • SalesGenius
  • SearchFox
  • Second Life
  • share.opml.org
  • Skittr
  • Slideshare
  • StumbleUpon
  • SuprGlu
  • Swivel
  • Syndic8
  • Tangler
  • Technorati
  • ThinkFree
  • Threadless
  • toread.cc
  • tourb.us
  • Tribe.net
  • Twitter
  • Typekey
  • Upcoming
  • Vox
  • Wesabe
  • Widgetbox
  • Yahoo!360
  • YouOS
  • Yourminis
  • YouThink
  • YouTube

Widget Metrics and Linguistic Precision

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Comscore today announced the launch of “comScore Widget Metrix,” a new service to track the usage of widgets across the Web. The day before this announcement, VentureBeat posted the news that according to comScore’s numbers the slideshow company Slide is the world’s top widget provider, with the title “Slide pounds chest: Widget used by 14 percent of internet population.”

The problem is not that comScore is applying metrics to widgets, nor that Slide is extremely popular. The problem is that the comScore report very clearly uses “unique visitors” as its unit, but VentureBeat shifted that metric to “users;” however you may choose to define “using” a widget, loading a Web page that happens to have some embedded flash certainly isn’t it.

This kind of analytical sloppiness is what makes me suspect that there’s a widget bubble building up in the first place. If it is accurate to say that 14% of the Internet “used” Slide, it is also accurate to say that about 90% of the Internet “used” DoubleClick in the same period: in both cases we’re talking about something being displayed for an Internet user who may or may not have even noticed it was there.

Because widgets are new and cool, we want to believe that widgets are genuinely a different animal, and that they won’t — couldn’t — end up in the roadside ditch where we dumped banner ads. It’s easy, right now, to make the slip of reading comScore’s report and thinking about all those people using Slide’s widget, without ever realizing that you just transformed passive viewers into active users.

But before the Widget Mafia starts sending me angry notes again, let me make one thing clear: I absolutely believe that some widgets are genuinely a different animal, and that those widgets are going to change some of how we think about and use the Web.

I also believe a couple of other things, though. I believe that while “unique viewers” is a better metric than none at all, the widgets that matter are going to need something very, very different: be it actual widget “usage,” “engagement,” or what have you, widgets get interesting when people want to interact with them. And yes, I believe that the overwhelming majority of the widgets that we see in coming months and years will not be any more interesting than punch-the-monkey banner ads, and that if we want to avoid a widget bubble we need to maintain a healthy degree of skepticism.

T-shirts and Social Software

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A couple of weeks ago I was talking to some friends about what “social” Web sites interested me at the moment; I got some odd looks when I said that Threadless fascinated me. Now that Guy Kawasaki has jumped on the bandwagon I’m not looking quite so eccentric, am I? Seriously, though: these people have transformed buying a t-shirt online into an extremely engaging social experience — that’s some pretty hardcore Web 2.0 alchemy.

But now Reactee wants in on the t-shirt 2.0 thing. You choose a slogan and a keyword. Reactee prints up a shirt with their logo and your slogan on the front, along with instructions to send a text message containing your keyword to a particular number. Should anyone actually choose to read your shirt and send the appropriate text message to reactee, they then receive a text message that you’ve written in return.

For those of you who are a little slow on the uptake, this would be the Web 2.0 equivalent of wearing a “lose weight now, ask me how” button. But without the need to engage in actual conversation.

Jury Duty: May 30 – June 7, 2007

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About two weeks ago I was selected for jury duty in Kings County Supreme Court. On Wednesday of last week the trial started. This past Monday we started deliberations. At 11pm yesterday the judge found that we were deadlocked and unlikely to reach a unanimous verdict through continued deliberations, and released the jury with the thanks of the court.

Over the past four days I have spent something like 40 hours literally locked in a small room with eleven other people; every one of us could feel that room getting smaller with every passing hour.

I saw one juror who was certain — absolutely certain — of the defendant’s guilt on Tuesday morning listen carefully and thoughtfully to other jurors and re-reads of the testimony, and later thank other jurors for helping him see that he had missed some elements that had a significant effect on his view of the case.

I saw a juror break down crying, saying that it broke her heart to “think about another young black man going into the penitentiary,” but that she had to look at the evidence alone, and could not interpret that evidence in any way that let her vote “not guilty” in good conscience.

And, unfortunately, I heard a juror who was for many, many hours unwilling to discuss anything with the rest of the jury finally explain that the basis for her judgment was that “they all lie,” “they” being the ethnic group of one of the witnesses.

Last night I shared a cab home with a couple of other jurors, and as I was starting to get out the driver turned around towards us and said “thanks for keeping democracy strong.” I may be a big fat cynic on a lot of counts, but at that moment I was genuinely grateful to the man and at a total loss for words.

Today I’m trying to start processing it all with the little bit of perspective that a good night’s sleep and a sunny morning bring.