Blog Archive for December 2008

The Mall Shopping Letdown

I happen to work in an office next to one of the nation's largest malls, the Mall of America. It's nice because I can shop there if I need to pick up something, and I can do it during my lunch break. (Plus, there's a never-ending collection of restaurants and food courts to eat at.) However, this experience from last year is still why I really dislike shopping at malls.

So, last year I was getting my sister a Christmas present, and she specifically asked for a scarf and a hat from a major clothing retailer. I wanted to keep the present at $20 to $25, mostly because that's what we usually do in our family. So, I went into their store and could not find what she wanted. After a while, I found a matching scarf and hat that was similar and I thought she'd like. However, the hat was around $25 and the scarf around $20.

This brings me to the first thing. My idea of fashion clothing for myself is a $20 pair of cargo pants from Kohl's and a $20 T-shirt from a rock band I like. Everything else, actually including the pants, is purchased on a "That looks decent and the price is right" basis. I think my last had was around $8, and well, I guess I'd buy a scarf if The Day After Tomorrow happened. I guess I see very little reason to go to a fancy name-brand store when you can get the same thing at a discount clothing retailer for half the price.

Anyways, because I only have an hour lunch break, it actually took me a couple days of lunch breaks pondering over what I wanted to get her. I thought about getting the scarf or the hat by itself, but that seemed to be a bit of a cop-out. Finally, a day or two before Christmas, I decided I should just pony up the $45. It might be expensive, but it's my sister and she's worth it.

When I get up to the counter, the woman rings me up and tells me the total is $26. WHAT??!! I kept my composure, but I totally felt like smashing her head into the checkout counter. Darn it, if I had known this stuff would only cost me $26, I would have bought it three days ago! I would have saved hours and hours of mulling over what to do! I tried to calmly pay my $26, and I left the store cursing under my breath.

On the way out, I noticed a poster by the front door that, in neat little letters, said "Holiday Sale. 40% off everything". Ohh, so that's it, is it? From now on, I'll just stick to the discount stores where I pay the price on the tag.


Why I Hate Twitter

Those of you who know me know that I've been on Pownce for about a year.  In April sometime I started cross-posting my Pownce status posts to Twitter.  But, even before I started posting to Twitter, I didn't like it.  However, now that Pownce is leaving, I just want to go through the main reasons that I hate Twitter:

  1. 140 Characters: I like using these "micro-blogging" services to tell what I'm up to as well as to post quick thoughts on life, tech news, or whatever.  However, the limitation of 140 characters for each post is unneccesary and makes very little sense.  With posting to Twitter, I cannot just post a quick thought.  The 140 character limit makes me have to write down the thought and then spend a minute or two editing it down to 140 characters.  I'd rather write my thought and get back to work, not spend a bunch of my valuable time trimming my thoughts.  The 140 character limit to posts was because Twitter was designed to allow you to be notified and post via SMS/text messaging, but I only know of one or two of the 82 people I'm following who are actually using the phone to keep up with Twitter.
  2. Media Support: Sites like Pownce gave you lots of options for posting media.  You could post a link to the URL with a comment.  You can attach a photo to a post.  Linking to a YouTube video on Pownce automatically added an embedded version of the video to the page.  These are just nice little tweaks that make Twitter more useful, but Twitter supports none of them.  Serioiusly, most of these little tweaks would take, at the most, hours to develop and implement.  Most of the Twitter iPhone Apps or browser plugins give support for TwitPic, but beyond that, Twitter gives no support for anything beyond text.
  3. Follow Via IM/RSS: Back in the early days of Twitter, you could befriend Twitter on the Google Talk system and it would post all your friend's updates through your Google Talk IM system.  Also, you could tell Twitter that you wanted to search for a keyword and it would give you all the Twitter posts with that keyword in them.  And back in the day I could also get one RSS feed with all my friends' posts, which was really handy for making sure I didn't miss a post.  However, as Twitter became more popular, these features were discountinued.

Of course, the main thing that Twitter has going for it is that everyone is there.  I mean, I got some friends to sign up for Pownce, but they weren't doing much with it because no one else was there posting and reading everyone else's posts.  Twitter was appreantly the first place to make this "micro-blogging" thing big, and they've got a long head start on everyone.  I think a good analogy is the MySpace world.  I mean, anyone who has used the web knows that MySpace looks terrible but because it was one of the first and it caught on, it still has tons of staying power.

So what's out there instead of Twitter?  The most obvious is, a Twitter clone that is based on the open source Laconica platform.  The folks at have created a version of Twitter that can be set up by anyone who wants to create a server and the different instances of the Laconica service can communicate with each oher.  The folks over at TWiT Army have found that it creates smaller niche communities based on interests, but you can still follow people from other communities as well.  However, I'd have to say that the fact that Laconica still uses Twitter's 140 character limit is a bit annoying.

Another service I've been hearing about a lot and just started trying is FriendFeed.  It allows you to give it tons of feeds, from Flickr to Google Talk to any RSS feed to your Amazon Wish List and lots more.  It then monitors all of them and gives one feed of all the latest information.  I plugged almost everything I'm involved into my FriendFeed page and you get plenty of information about my activity online.  Of course, you can only put as much as you want on there, and I expect you can make it so only your friends can see the information you put in if you are worried about privacy.  And, of course, you can post status notes, links, or even photos right on FriendFeed's system - and they can even be longer than 140 characters!  Plus, to make sure your friend on Twitter are informed, you can have FriendFeed post to any or all of your information to Twitter as well!  Those who spend all day in their Google Talk screens can even get all FriendFeed activity posted to their Google Talk chat window as well, if they like.

Has Twitter created an interesting new medium for keeping up with friends online?  Yes.  But after a few years of keeping it simple and only lowering their services instead of expanding it, Twitter is just losing the battle.  I'd be fine if people started moving on or they started using a more open format, but I guess we'll see what happens.