Friday Grab Bag: Twitter Etiquette, Buy vs Lease, To Dodgeball or Not, and More

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Originally uploaded by sogrady

Been a long, complicated week here at the home office. Some highs, some lows, the usual.

The good news is that it’s Friday, the Sox are on TV tonight, and I don’t have to get on a plane tomorrow morning. In other words, I have no complaints.

Baseball is Back

Per our original contract, the majority of my baseball related musings have been banished from this space, relegated to my own little Sox corner of the interweb (it’s hilarious to be back on a site that measures traffic highs in the dozens ;). As an aside, I’ve actually been a bit surprised at how much easier it is to maintain a second site. While I’m sure that resolve will be tested over the months ahead, it’s been fun so far.

But anyway, as documented on Twitter, yesterday marked the first competitive games for the Sox this season – using the term competitive somewhat loosely, as the opponents were Boston College and Northeastern, respectively. The second contest was broadcast via WEEI – available to me via the interweb at redsox.com – and was a soothing balm to an otherwise rough week.

Tonight, however, is the real deal: the Red Sox, on TV, versus some actual professionals. I’ll be at the Pour House for the ballgame; you should be too.

More on Twitter

The Times’ motto, as I learned at an early age, was all the news that’s fit to print. The implicit distinction, of course, being drawn between all the news that’s fit to print and all the news. As I’ve discussed before, while I’d never try and dictate how others use a service like Twitter, their views on what’s fit to print – or Twitter, as the case may be – invariably colors my own willingness to subscribe or not.

What’s interesting is that there are actually a few people that agree: I’d believed that I was a lone voice in the wilderness on the subject.

As Alex puts it:

Twitter could be vastly improved if they simply changed the question from:

What are you doing?


Say something interesting.

A statement that I, personally, agree with. As does Rafe.

Again, the point is not to attempt to impose some half-assed form of censorship on Twitter or its users, but rather to explore the nuances of a flexible and widly divergent medium. Also, to explain how I personally determine the types of streams I choose to subscribe to.

To Lease or Buy?

In the O’Grady family, we were raised to own cars rather than lease them. My parents, and more or less all of my aunts, uncles and grandparents all bought cars and drove them until the end of their practical lives. Which often was years after the last payment had been mailed. At any given time then, only a couple of people in the family were driving new or nearly new cars, but the rest of us were free of the payments which characterize the first few years of ownership and the entirety of a lease period.

While I’m content to drive a car more or less until it’s on its last legs however (and, to own the truth, have a hard time giving them up even at that point), the same cannot be said of a laptop. At RedMonk, we try and target machines for something along the lines of two year lifespans.

This insistence on newer hardware made me consider something I haven’t before: should we be leasing our laptops rather than purchasing them? Eventually I’ll have my brother run the numbers and see what the math looks like, replete with fancy NPV calculations and so on, but in the interim I’m curious as to whether or not any of you would recommend one approach or the other. Are there significant limitations to leased machines that I should be aware of?

Whither Dodgeball?

One of the downsides to putting your audience before yourself while Twittering is the need to throttle entries that are pertinent only to a select audience. On an isolated basis, there’s no issue: like many, I regularly will reply to an audience of one using an @ tag. But it’s not something I’m comfortable doing multiple times per day, every day.

Thus potential use cases such as informing my Denver Twitter contacts that I’m having lunch at McCormick’s or beers at the Pour House can’t be anything more than sporadic mentions here or there, according to my self-imposed rules.

As a result, my initial inclination was to build a separate interface on top of WordPress just for the use cases I’m talking about, but then I considered the fact that Dodgeball was built explicitly for this purpose. Though neglected by Google and abandoned by its founders, the service is indeed still up – which surprised one of the folks I invited.

The early returns are not promising, though they’re unquestionably jeopardized by the fact that most of the Denver folks are out of town this week. It’ll be interesting to see, however, whether Dodgeball can pry its way into the behaviors of the Twitter addicted. Because I’m not terribly eager to wait for Twitter to add support for groups.

Anyone else using services to easily and frictionlessly connect groups, whether geographically colocated or otherwise?

Why SSD?

Upon hearing that I’m likely to purchase at some point in the future – whether it’s now or in the August timeframe – a Lenovo X300 – several folks have asked me why I intend to purchase a device with an SSD, which is not only a relatively new technology but one commanding a significant premium.

At this point, there are three reasons I think the expense is justified, at least for my requirements:

  • No Downside:
    This is actually a lie, due to the one exception I’ll get to in a moment, but Flash technology is generally one with little to argue against it. No moving parts is good. As is the lower heat. As is the lower power consumption. As is the silent operation. As is higher performance. And so on.

    Flash drives will unquestionably evolve significantly in the years ahead, adding capacity and lowering prices, but even now they offer immense benefits to users.

  • Ok, The Downside:
    I don’t mean price in this case, because that’s to be expected for a new technology in high demand. You can choose to pay the premium, or you can choose not to. No, I’m referring instead to the limited storage capacity of the drives at the current time. Come August, Apple, Dell, Lenovo and others may be offering models with SSD’s that exceed 64GBs in capacity, but right now that’s about as big as they go.

    But fortunately, I’m well prepared for that: my current machine – a Thinkpad X40 – features a 40 GB drive. Seriously. So the primary downside, to me, is quite manageable given the constraints I’ve been operating under for several years now. It won’t be for many, of course. But between my inclination to favor SaaS clients over client applications and the fact that my primary storage concern – music – has always been a desktop play, I could survive on 64 GBs with no issues whatsoever.

  • The Performance:
    In the NotebookReview guys’ tests, the SSD equipped X300 was beaten soundly by a non-SSD MacBook Air model in a processor test that forces the machine through recursive mathematical calculations. As would be expected, given that the former features a dual-core Intel chip running at 1.2 Ghz, while the latter brings with it a dual-core 1.6 Ghz processor.

    What was interesting, however, was the subsequent benchmark that tests not just the processor, but memory, hard drive and OS. In that test, the X300 reversed the previous results, besting the MacBook Air by a significant margin. Largely due to, one suspects, the inclusion of the SSD (which, it should be noted, is an option with the MacBook Air). The question I’ve had, then, is not whether the SSD’s would be faster, but rather how much faster they’d be for real world usage.

    If Wil Shipley is to be believed on that point (thanks to Alex for the pointer), the answer is significantly. Witness the following:

    SSD’s love context switching, as well. Having an SSD is a lot like having 64GB of RAM in your machine. Sure, I’m going to lose in a Photoshop filter race with your machine, but I’m going to crush you switching between the 15 applications I have open right now. Again, it’s not a surprise to say that if video editing or cutting-edge video games is your primary purpose, you’ll probably find the MacBook Pro faster. But if you’re writing software or just snurfing the web and running lots of apps, this machine is faster.

    Given that I have a dual Opteron workstaion for the video encoding, but use my laptop primarily for surfing the web, writing, and having a dozen plus applications open at a time, the SSD certainly seems like a worthwhile investment.

Anyway, that’s my justification, so don’t burst my bubble.


  1. I should point out that while the Times’ public motto is “all the news that’s fit to print” it is something of a common unspoken rule in the newspaper business that the reality is “all the new that’s print to fit”. This stems from the fact that they sell ad space and what is left over is filled with news. Even the Times is a business.

  2. regarding Dodgeball, you might find Jaiku a better alternative (at least the founders of Jaiku are still at Google :), and James might even have some invites left!
    Jaiku has the concept of channels that you can setup and subscribe to, that sounds like *exactly* the usecase you are after (Denver beers, Baseball tweets etc)

  3. Our parents must be the same age as they *never* even considered a lease my entire life. I was 35 when I did my first one thanks to all the years of struggle.

    I now apply my general rule of gadget lust to cars (just like computers) and figure that I will be desperate for a new one within 6 months let alone 3 years. Just accept it and you will feel fine.

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