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Steve Bogart


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2 November 1999

Time is not on my side
-- Indigo Girls, "Land of Canaan", Indigo Girls

Now...This: Site Idea: World Wide Notary

A trusted entity that can certify that "content X was at URL Y (located at the exact IP address Z) at time T" seems like it would provide a valuable (though not widely-used) service.

Moxy Früvous is playing in St. Louis this Wednesday night, 10:45 at The Side Door. I'll almost certainly be there; look for the guy, I have no idea what I'll be wearing.

In other Früvous news, they played on World Cafe last Saturday night, and were their usual silly selves. If there were an archive of the broadcast, I'd point to it.

A few people have asked me if Mac OS 9 is worth upgrading to. My answer is 'probably not'.

I think the features they're adding (Sherlock 2, multiple-user features, keychain, yadda yadda) are fine and necessary for the progression of the OS, but aren't useful enough to be worth the price tag.

Specifically, multiple-user functionality (the main new feature) is only useful for people who have to share their Mac. Unless you have a family that shares your Mac, this is pretty much useless for now (Unix-style 'root' vs. 'user' privileges, which would be useful for a single-user Mac, are coming later if at all).

The other things it adds seem kind of cool, but aren't worth $100 to me by a long shot, especially given that within 9 months or so we'll have Mac OS X to jump to, which will probably be another $100 with no rebate for having bought version 9.

MacOS 8.5 was a good upgrade in terms of added features and stability, and my Mac OS 8.6 machines (a blue G3 and a PowerBook) are quite stable now. If you're on a pre-8.5 machine, it may well be worth it to upgrade to 9 to get the benefits of essentially three system upgrades in one. If you're already at 8.6, though, I don't think it'll be worth it to deal with the cost and the breakages (which there seem to be plenty of with Mac OS 9).

Friend Seth Golub (if you're a Perl user, you may have seen his Text to HTML converter) is currently in the UK with an ailing laptop. He has some gripes about Sony's international customer service:

  • My Sony VAIO PCG-838 notebook computer [Seth's site]
    One of the reasons I went with Sony is that I thought they were a global corporation and that I wouldn't have trouble with them while I was in the UK. I was wrong.

    The screen died a few weeks ago. It took me days on the phone to convince Sony-Europe that they were obligated to fix it.

    They've had it for two weeks now. They're waiting for a part, they don't know when or if the part will be shipped and refuse to find out...

Read the whole would be funny if weren't annoying.

Obligatory epinions musing: Seth's description of his problem is something that could be posted as an epinion. I wondered about the relative flexibility of posting it there instead of posting it on his own site, where he has full control over presentation, ability to edit at will, addition of links, sub-documents, et cetera, so I poked around a little bit.

It turns out that one can edit one's own epinions after posting, which is Good. However, the downside of that is, edits could cause some unwanted side effects from the point of view of people who rated that epinion.

For instance: What if Seth posts his description of his problem, others find it Very Useful, and later Sony solves all his troubles. Seth is filled with a warm feeling towards Sony, rewrites his epinion to reflect his positive experience and wipes out his previous comments as though they had never been (which Seth wouldn't do, but let's just say).

Do the other members' ratings stay in their previous state? Is his new opinion presumed to be as useful as his old opinion? And should the other members' names be attached as an endorsement of the opinion even if they might now disagree with it?

Which brings me to my primary gripe with epinions:

Rating an opinion Very Useful, Useful or Not Useful is only marginally better than not rating it at all. It's a drastic over-simplification of the issues involved.

'Usefulness' is not the only relevant axis on which you can rate someone else's opinion about a product -- how about Factually Correct vs. Factually Incorrect? It's not at all the same question, but it seems relevant to me. And there are many more axes than that... Insightful vs. Superficial? Balanced vs. Biased? Fat vs. Big-Boned?

Since there's no place for an explanation why one finds an epinion Not Useful (unless you go to the trouble of writing a conflicting epinion), the rating comes off as a general stamp of disapproval, or even something to be taken personally -- "Your opinion is Not Useful. Period."

So, let's say someone rated this log entry of mine Not Useful, as I imagine epinions folk would be inclined to do. Does that mean:

  1. They know facts which contradict what I say, or
  2. They consider me generally wrong-headed, or
  3. They disagree with this particular opinion, but don't always dismiss me as a matter of course, or
  4. They neither agree nor disagree, they just got Nothing Useful out of reading my opinion, or
  5. (I'm sure there are more I'm missing...)


A more flexible method of rating or responding to an epinion (and for the original author to respond to the responses) would make it much more useful to me as both a reader and a writer of epinions. It might make look a bit more like Slashdot, but it would enable a much more accurate indication of what people think about others' opinions. Which seems to be the point.

And hey, wait: aren't markets conversations? Shouldn't epinions be?

I can sense that I'm beating this into the ground, so I'll stop for now.

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