Saturday, May 01, 2004

Being lame

Normally, I would mercilessly ridicule anyone who was in bed at 10 p.m. To commit such an offense on a Saturday night would merit more drastic measures, like, uh... sounding that much more incredulous when I partake in the merciless ridiculing. Yeah.

But tonight is different. First of all, I'm kind of biased because the offending party is me, and I like me. Second of all, I was a grouch (euphemism) all week because I got no sleep last weekend and never found a moment to catch up during the week. Tomorrow will be the first day I've been able to sleep in and enjoy it (I technically slept in on Friday, but it doesn't count when you're up till 3:30 a.m. writing a paper on rewards, incentives and appraisals. That's even more boring than it sounds.) in two weeks. The birthday weekend was worth it, but dammit, I'm still tired.

Interesting things continue to happen in the world, however; the press wouldn't have it any other way. In tech, Google is finally going public, and after being a Yahoo! fan for years, this is something I'm going to pay attention to, particularly since they've started branching out beyond the ridiculously lucrative web search (we're talking profit margins in excess of 40%. Anyone know if Larry Page or Sergey Brin is single?). Google is getting into the online shopping arena by using their search technology to power Froogle (hehe), and even more interestingly, they're beta-testing an email service called Gmail.

This last deserves some attention: when I first heard about Gmail, it was cited as the latest method of infringing on one's right to privacy, because the business model that supports it is the placement of targeted ads on one side of your screen based on keywords in the email you're reading. This actually isn't any different from using the regular search engine, which works in the same way: relevants results on the left, targeted ads on the right (which I've never noticed until now, actually... I wonder if they're paid according to click-throughs or exposures?). I was offended, of course; my email is private! I want to read the Calvin and Hobbes sent to me daily in peace! But then I read that each email account gets an entire gig of memory, free. And that turned my head, especially after caving a few months ago and giving Yahoo! ten bucks for the year so I could have 10 KB of memory on that email account and stop getting those warning messages.

SO, when I saw that, as a member of Blogger.com, I had the chance to try out one of these accounts, I signed right up. Twice, actually; the first time with my usual screenname @gmail.com, and the second with the first initial last name screenname, which is really common and, if this thing takes off, will serve as proof that I got there first. (Look, I already know I'm lame, that's the title of this post and I'm in bed at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night posting on my blog. I can't go much lower.) Anyway, I decided to see how this thing works. Bear in mind, I love my Yahoo! account and have for years, but this is just plain amazing. All your messages are searchable (I wouldn't expect any less from Google) and the idea of a free gig still takes my breath away, but there's more: a message's entire history is available on one page in a new format Google calls a conversation. For example, if you get a funny email and forward it to your friend, next time you click on that email, you can see both what it says and what you wrote to your friend when you forwarded it. And the functionaliy is amazing too; it just works faster than Yahoo! or any other online email service I've ever used. And the issue with the targeted advertising? I closely read the terms of agreement when I signed up to see what it said about that; a computer program scans for keywords and then matches advertising to you, and as a direct marketing student, it's really impressive to see that done well. I also don't mind that it's a computer doing it, because that's not really any different than how anything else works on the internet, and I find it far less invasive than I do pop-ups (which usually aren't even relevant to what I'm looking for). And finally, Google's text-based advertising means the entire site is just cleaner. On Yahoo!, there's usually a big square of graphics on the right-hand side which is occasionally animated as well, which can be really distracting. Until I had email without it, I never appreciated what the web environment could be like without that stuff. It's refreshing. I could probably go on, but that's probably enough for now. Bottom line, I'm a fan of Gmail, and would consider switching to it as my primary personal email provider if it weren't for the fact that everyone already knows my Yahoo! address.

One other tech innovation that made me happy: it only took four months, but after being fed up with all the pop-ups that come with the adware you need to put up with to run Kazaa and iMesh and your computer, I finally switched my internet browser from Explorer to Firefox. And I highly recommend Firefox. The one feature that Explorer has on it is opening a new window that's a copy of the one you already have open, so when I'm doing research, I'll have to go back to it (that feature is necessary for comparison shopping). But overall, Firefox beats the hell out of Explorer, because while blocking all pop-ups is the best feature, there are a couple of other handy innovations as well. (Thanks, Jeremy!)

In the personal growth sector, this weekend was finally the one where I watch all those movies I've been meaning to for so long because whenever I mention I haven't seen them, people gasp and then pretend not to know me anymore. Last night my roommate got all offended that I'd never seen Footloose, and since nothing was on TV, I went and rented it (she also asked me to pick her up some popcorn, so I think there was an ulterior motive). And while I was there, I also picked up Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Usual Suspects. I still have some catching up to do; other required films include Sixteen Candles (just have never seen it all the way through), Caddyshack, and Better Off Dead. Maybe I'll get some of those tomorrow.

I think that about does it for me tonight.

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