Waiting

For my new laptop to arrive. My old one was blue-screening a few minutes after every power-cycle. Using a temporary one at the moment. It’s old, it’s slow and I am loathed to personalise it with all my creative and publishing tools – as I would only have to do it all over again when I get a new one. So these pages are taking a bit of a back seat as a consequence.

Waiting in line at the cash machine.
(Barclays Bank Ealing Road – strangely the only ATM in the area)

So I’ve been exploring a little:

In late 2005 it was “The Long Tail“. In early 2006 it’s “Web 2.0“. Yes Web 2.0 – which is the great new web rising out of the splatter of the dotcom bubble. Whereas before we had ad banners, web sites, portals, directories and “stickiness is good”, now we have Adsense, Flickr, blogs, wikis, tags and feeds. Yes folks, Web 1.0 was centred around taxonomy, but in Web 2.0 it’s about “folksonomy”. (Answers on a postcard please.)

Whatever. The other day I discovered a potentially useful web application called Netvibes. Not sure who to credit for getting me there – but it’s rather nifty. On one simple web page I can get all my most important news feeds and blog feeds, display my delicious links, photos from my contacts flickr streams and my latest Gmails. Netvibes gives you some control over the layout of the page – which in return for a sign-up can be preserved and viewed from any computer. Whilst this concept of a “personalised portal” is not new – Netvibes has got that “flickr” kindof appeal to it – it feels really nice and easy to use – and it’s not Microsoft, Google, Yahoo or AOL. (Yet.)

Also – I think this concept of “my desktop – anywhere” is becoming much more acheivable. Why should I be limited in what I can achieve if I’m using a temporary laptop – or my friend’s PC – or a computer in a cybercafe on the other side of the world – or better still: a small hendheld on the top deck of the 79 bus? As data and applications become more storable and consumable in the network – there’ll be little value in the terminal device in terms of function (simply input and output) but more in terms of fashion (it looks and feels good – more so for the mobile ones that will be seen in public) and more context-relevant (it’s appropriate for the setting – e.g. TV/media-centre in living room, desktop at work, screen and keypad on fridge door etc.)

I have a few niggles with NetVibes though – the search module only currently supports a few search engines – and predictably not the one that I use. I defected from Google to a9.com nearly a year ago – and I cannot go back. There are several reasons: it’s powered in part by Google anyway – but it’s also enhanced by Alexa site data. But I like it most of all because (unlike Google) it displays all your previous searches and has loads of additional panes for things like images, notes and a view-anywhere boomarks manager that you can drag and drop search results into. (Definitely Web 2.0 this one.) It’s also relatively free of corporate spin which is all the more remarkable given that it’s provided by Amazon.com.

And finally – not Web 2.0 – but more mobile phone. A service called SpinVox. Have been trying this as my voicemail replacement for a while now – and once again: I cannot go back to “normal” voicemail. You see, I get a LOT of calls on my mobile phone every day, and I’m not always able to take them all – meaning I get a lot of voicemails. Which can be a real pain to listen to when the only time during the day that you’ve got is going to the bathroom in between meetings on days when they’re back to back – or rushing for a bus or a train on the way into work or going back home. Voicemail, in my opinion, is so 1990s.

SpinVox, however, takes voicemails that are left for me and converts them into text messages. Again – not a new idea, but the thing that I really like about SpinVox is that the converted text messages are sent to my phone as if they were coming from the person who left me the voicemail – which means the text message appears to come from (say) my mate Aishwarya, if Aishwarya leaves a voicemail for me. Which is great because if I’m in a meeting when Aishwarya calls me – I simply “reply” to the converted text back – which will amaze Aishwarya because of the speed with which I get back to her by text message. And the other thing I like is that the conversion from speech to text seems to be performed by a real human being. And I am convinced that the call centre in which the real human beings behind SpinVox are located is in India. Why? Because everytime someone with a complicated Indian-sounding name leaves a message for me which goes something like “Hi Jag, this is Aishwarya Rai calling …” the name in the converted text message is always spelt perfectly – as opposed to numerous spelling mistakes made with very common European names.

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