Tools vs. Toys: Why The Timeline Changes Nothing

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Yesterday Erick and I had an interesting discussion about Facebook vs. Google+ and I came down on the side of G+. Why? Because tools are important, toys aren’t. Granted Facebook’s 500 million visitors a day proves me wrong in numeric terms, but in general usability and quality, I’m coming reluctantly down on the side of Google Plus.

As you well know, Facebook won the Internet with its app features and new timeline feature, a view of your data that offers a sort of time machine into the distant past. I saw pictures of my kids from years ago, their faces implike and far more natal than they are now. It was a great feeling but it lasted maybe fifteen minutes. Now Facebook is showing me a list of things that happened since I was born, a fairly impressive feat given I spent two thirds of my life without the Internet.

Google Plus, on the other hand, introduced enhanced Hang-Outs. Leave it to Google to blow its wad on productivity software. While I find the value of Google Plus dubious at best, I think hang-outs are a great tool and quite disruptive. A room that I can use to share sketches, documents, and photos? Without having to download WebEx or GotoMyPC some other garbage screen-sharing app? That’s the world I want to live in.

I like Google’s tools. They are good and strong and useful. Google Wave was great (while it lasted) and hang-outs are great for tech folks who want to work together. Their goal is the steady erosion of friction between Google’s ad product and the Internet and they do it through the release of tools that Google programmers want to use themselves.

Facebook, on the other hand, is looking for the magic trigger that will turn all those eyeballs into paying customers. Zynga seems to have solved some of the riddle by selling social games, but by releasing Timeline Facebook has clearly decided to mine the valuable content they already have – your pictures, your preferences, and your recommendations. The fact that I can now embed Rdio songs onto my timeline is very telling: add in a music feature and you’ve got a music store to rival iTunes.

This is tools vs. toys. Google gives you tools to work in the information economy while Facebook gives you the toys to play in it. I’m not sure what’s better.

I’ve come to bury Google Plus and Facebook, not to praise them. Both services are essentially time sinks designed in both cases to stroke the souls of thousands of lonely people. I use them both, to be sure, but are they changing anything with these additions? Are they improving our lot in life?

Fans of Neil Postman will recognize a bit of stridency in my voice and I feel it is justified. Just as broadcast media controlled our minds two decades ago, one-to-one media control our minds in the early 21st century. It will take a few generations for us to become immune to the siren’s call of social media and by then the technology will have moved on.

There is a certain territoriality brewing in the G+/FB wars right now and I worry that soon it will be as corrosive as the Android/iPhone fights that pit brother against brother and father against son. I’m not saying I particularly care who wins here – I could take or leave both services and neither of them has offered me anything beyond an impressive list of human beings with whom I can interact. I thank both of these services for that opportunity, certainly, but I believe I’ve talked with perhaps 100 people in my social graph online and even fewer in real life. In short, if I’m so popular why am I still lonely?

In general, however, I can see people using G+ while people simply play with Facebook. It’s an important distinction for every day men and women put away their childish things and want to get down to business. Google is there for them at least in some regard and clearly Facebook is not.

IMF promises support for economy

The IMF says it will take decisive action to tackle the eurozone debt crisis and review the resources available to it to support countries.

Davies sets Solheim record as teams locked together

DUNSANY, Ireland (Reuters) – Laura Davies set a Solheim Cup points record with a fourball victory alongside Melissa Reid as Europe and United States were locked together at 8-8 on Saturday.

Apple Blocking Out Vacations for October 14th iPhone 5 Launch?

Sicily Apple Store, Photo courtesy of Valerio.

AppleInsider reports that Apple has started denying vacation requests for employees during the 2nd week of October.

Apple is quietly denying requests for employee vacations during the second week of October, hinting that the company currently anticipates an influx of customers to its stores around that time related to availability of its new iOS 5 and fifth-generation iPhone products.

Specifically, dates from October 9th through 12th and October 14th through 15th are said to be restricted, suggesting Apple plans on launching new products during that time.

The first set of dates from October 9th-12th could represent iOS 5 launch, as Apple has informed AppleCare to expect an influx of support calls starting on October 10th. Coincidentally, Twitter has announced their own developer session in London on the same date. The October 10th Twitter developer session is said to have a “heavy focus on the iOS 5 Twitter integration”.

Meanwhile, the 14th to 15th dates suggests that Apple may be preparing for a retail launch of their next generation iPhones on that Friday, the 14th. The timeframe is consistent with other circulating iPhone rumors as well as our knowledge of Apple’s expected availability for the White iPod touch.

Apple is expected to hold a media event on October 4th to announce the next generation iPhone as well as the official launch of iOS 5.

Update: UK Apple Stores have been similarly told to block out the “first two weeks of October”.

Life sentences urged in Knox case

Prosecutors in the appeal of two people convicted of killing a British student call for the defendants to have their sentences extended to life terms.

Satellite falls off US west coast

Nasa says its six-tonne UARS satellite landed off the US west coast early on Saturday with no reports of injury or damage to property.

Weekly Wrist Watch Round Up


How does Switzerland do US patriotism? With a watch of course. Like it or not, Perrelet has just released this spinning stars and stripes version of their Turbine watch called the Turbine XL America.

We don’t care that this watch is made for a Dutch soccer team – what we do care about is that this highly limited edition Netherlands-made Pellikaan Timing FC Utrecht timepiece is great looking with a sweet mix of classic, modern, and sport.

If you don’t have the right watch to wear while assembling your new computer rig – you know, to really get you in the mood- Click Watches’ DIP Switch or Turn Switch watch look like circuit board parts and are probably your best bet.

New from Porsche Design is the pretty neat looking P’6620 Chronograph Dashboard watch. We like the case the best, and with it you’ll have that comfy feeling knowing you are wearing something “designer.”

Sober and presentable is often how you want to go with a nice watch. No one is better at that than the British. English watch brand Bremont gets their new BC Solo watch reviewed here.

Since when to high-end timepieces and obscure comic strip character go together? They don’t, well save for this one-of-a-kind Reverso Zep watch from Jaeger-LeCoultre.

The best part of these “Sea-God” watches is that the guys who made them take them seriously. In reality they are an actually nice looking high-end joke. If you are a Rolex fan you’ll understand.