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Worldwide Ace » A Brite Spot

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A Brite Spot

19 January, 2009 (13:18) | New Media

“So how’s that going for you?” asks Thor. He’s not really focusing on me, but I don’t mind. I’d rather he pay attention to driving on this cold January night than look at me.

“There are issues. Every once in a while, I try to check in somewhere and it simply doesn’t work. The other day, I was at Cheba Hut and I got no response. Then I went to the barber shop and there was no response. After that, we hit Jo-Ann Fabrics and I got no response. How am I supposed to report on the cuteness of the staff—or lack thereof—if BriteKite won’t even recognize my check-ins?”

Thor’s phone doesn’t even accept text messages since he broke the screen. He told me he was aggravated about something and began to ring his phone like a wet rag, not realizing he had cracked the screen until he looked. Like a good Norse god, Thor’s humongous size means he often forgets his own strength.

“Can you rank places in BriteKite?”

“No. That would be cool if you could. Give five stars here, two stars there. Mostly I can just post pictures of what’s going on and leave little notes. If you visit the location on the site, it gives you a list of what people have said.”

“If I were going to get into the whole Twitter/BriteKite scene, I’d want to build a BriteKite app for iPhones,” Thor tells me.

Thor’s got skills. He’s been a creator since the dawn of time—or at least for as long as I’ve known him. It’s strange to see such a big man hunched over a tiny keyboard, delicately tapping away, but it’s his calling. It’s more profitable than being a professional lightning tosser these days.

“I suspect there’s already one out there. After all, there are a million and one iPhone twitter apps.”

“Yeah,” he sighs.

I’m slowly realizing that it all already exists. Yes, you read that right: it all already exists. Everything.

You’ve probably heard the expression “everything’s been done before.” Well I’m not talking about creativity or the postmodern effect on society where everything is simply a variation. We still have new realms to explore and create in, but they’re very specific and require high talent and training.

When it comes to computing, every piece of software has already been created. Every application is already out there. The only new things are created by new hardware. The iPhone appears and within a few days, there are iPhone apps popping up everywhere. There’s no ingenuity left in web apps, only the wait for a new technology to appear.

Take Twitter for example. Twitter is a combination of Instant Messaging (AIM, Yahoo, ICQ, etc.), the mobile platform (on which AIM and IM already existed in addition to text messaging), RSS feeds and search compatibility (most common on blogs and podcasts), and a bulletin board system (or forum for those of you too young to have played with BBSs). That’s it. It’s nothing new. Just a combination of old that happened to catch on.

But Twitter wouldn’t have succeeded if the hardware in phones hadn’t changed to make it possible, plausible and common to surf and post from anywhere. The ingenuity was in the hardware more than the software. And soon, there will be another hardware revolution changing the way we can do things, which will launch and evolve new software.

I’m sure plenty of people are anxiously awaiting that day, but for now, it’s easier just to find what you need. All you need to do is search.

Well, search and hope the company supplying what you want didn’t already go out of business.

My Twitter feed is rolling by in Twhirl when I spot @Conrey mention he’s now on Yelp!, a location review site. Yelp! offers exactly the sort of reviews and review capabilities that Thor and I had discussed, except it doesn’t seem to be mobile enabled.

I create a Yelp! account and quickly post three reviews to get the ball rolling and check out the site. Its reviews keep useful info in a menu below, allow for star rankings and a full review. It’s everything I want to see in a review—assuming the reviewer actually says something useful.

If I could combine Yelp! with BriteKite and Twitter, I might have something. Then again, someone probably already did.

Within a few hours of creating my Yelp! account, I am completely enamored with the system. I call my dad to tell him about it.

“Oh yeah. I’ve been pushing Yelp! for a couple years,” he says. My dad’s always been tech savvy, but I’m still surprised when he beats me to something. “Hold on. Let me forward you the email I sent to Ralph.”

Within moments, it’s popped into my inbox:

YELP! started in San Francisco and expanded to the Boston area last year. It’s now in a number of US cities and recently began its first over-seas operation in London.

It contains user-submitted reviews of restaurants, stores, schools, parks, festivals, dry cleaners, veterinarians, hospitals — in fact, just about anything that has a location that can be plotted onto a map.

In addition the the candid reviews by real people, YELP!’s greatest virtue is that it lets you find things within a specific local area. For example, I was looking for a nice restaurant located between Boston and Lowell to celebrate Paula and Liz’s shared birthday last January. YELP! came up with a superb small French country restaurant in Acton. It was perfect.

“Wait,” my dad says, “I’m pretty sure I even sent you something from Yelp!. Hold on.” I hear his keyboard clacking the background and as I refresh my inbox, there’s a resend of the Yelp! newsletter about Boston beers.

“I had no idea,” I tell him guiltily. “After all, you send me several hundred messages a year.”

I post a review of Lucile’s and Sputnik when I get home on Saturday night. My eyes are twinkling and I’m excited to try and post a review every day until I’ve reviewed everywhere I like to eat. It probably won’t last.

Already, I feel overwhelmed with sites to pay attention to. But until I have something real to do with my life, I’ll be trying my damndest to keep it all updated.

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  • The Old Bear

    Maybe you’re right when you say “When it comes to computing, every piece of software has already been created. Every application is already out there.”

    In her book Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Hyperspace, M.I.T.’s Janet Murray wrote:

    “Hypertext formats are not new as intellectual structures. The Talmud, for instance, is a giant hypertext consisting of biblical text surrounded by commentaries by multiple rabbis.”

    Considering the limitations of the two-dimensional page, the rabbis did a pretty good job of cross-referencing concepts and commentaries by allocating portions of each page to different text functions. When Tim Berners-Lee came up with a way to use computers to facilitate hypertext, he was standing upon the same concepts of organization and linking that were embodied in the 3rd- to 6th-century rabbinic texts.

    See: Is the Talmud a hypertext?

  • TheOldBear

    Maybe you're right when you say “When it comes to computing, every piece of software has already been created. Every application is already out there.”

    In her book Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Hyperspace, M.I.T.'s Janet Murray wrote:

    “Hypertext formats are not new as intellectual structures. The Talmud, for instance, is a giant hypertext consisting of
    biblical text surrounded by commentaries by multiple rabbis.”

    Considering the limitations of the two-dimensional page, the rabbis did a pretty good job of cross-referencing concepts and commentaries by allocating portions of each page to different text functions. When Tim Berners-Lee came up with a way to use computers to facilitate hypertext, he was standing upon the same concepts of organization and linking that were embodied in the 3rd- to 6th-century rabbinic texts.

    See: Is the Talmud a hypertext?