Posts Tagged ‘poggioli’

Steve Jobs

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

By Jason Poggioli
Last week an iconic figure of the technological age passed away, sparking dozens upon dozens of articles, memorials, essays, and remembrances. Everyone seems to have an opinion about Steve Jobs, ranging from hate to love, but hate ir love, it’s undeniable that he had a huge impact in the world of computer technology.

It’s difficult to know if Steve Jobs was the kind of man you’d like to have a beer with. Most accounts paint the picture of an extremely arrogant, yet intelligent man, who did not suffer fools easily. He was known for being a micromanager of design details, one time famously returning a newly designed iPod to the drawing board at the last minute because the headphones didn’t make a satisfying “click” when plugging them into the jack. Regardless, he led Apple through its most prosperous times to date, at one point raising it to be the most valuable company in the world, above even the giant among giants, Exxon-Mobil.

His career reads like a ready-made Hollywood success, failure, then success again story – the very essence of the American dream. Steve was an adopted child from a fairly ordinary middle-class family. After co-founding Apple with Steve Wozniak in a garage, his company rose to contend with the likes of IBM until he was ousted by the board of directors in the mid-80’s. Feeling betrayed, Steve founded another technology company, called NeXT, as well as acquiring the computer graphics division of LucasFilm which would become Pixar Animation Studios. After heading up the team that would bring us the classic movie “Toy Story,” the first film entirely in CGI, NeXT was purchased by Apple in 1996 and Steve found himself back where he started.

It’s undeniable that Steve Jobs was obsessed with elevating computer technology and to the status of the “every man’s tool.” Apple was always focused on creating not just a device for businessmen and nerdy hobbyists, but to create a machine that was as simple to use as a toaster and infinitely more versatile – a true computerized appliance. The products of Apple embodied this idea by revolutionizing existing technology rather than inventing them from scratch. There were already MP3 players on the market, but the iPod and iTunes took the concept to an entirely new level. There were already smartphones on the market, but the iPhone made them beautiful and powerful. The idea of a tablet computer was already prevalent, but the iPad was the first to occupy that niche successfully.

Less is known about his personal life although he was married with children including having fathered a child in his early years, out of wedlock, and whom he denied was his for many years. A glimpse into how he thought about life can be found in his Stanford commencement address from 2005, which is a beautiful and heartfelt speech that I strongly encourage you to read. In it, he explains how he learned the importance of bringing together technical science and artistic beauty to make a superior product. He also implores us to find what they love and to chase it unapologetically.

Perhaps the most poignant insight into Steve Jobs’ character can be glimpsed when, just a few weeks before his death, he explained why he had authorized a public biography of himself – to be published in two weeks – after years of leading a private, secluded life.

“I wanted my kids to know me,” Jobs was quoted as telling his biographer. “I wasn’t always there for them and I wanted them to know why, and to understand what I did.”

Google+, The Latest Social Network Craze

Sunday, July 10th, 2011

By Jason Poggioli
If you read the news at all you may know about the term “social networking” and if you’ve read the news at all recently you may have learned that Google has started its own version of social networking called Google+.

Social networking is simply a generic term for using the Internet in a way that allows you to share with friends or strangers whatever you wish. Facebook is the most commonly known social web site with nearly 750 million users sharing things with each other every day. With its user count rapidly approaching one billion people, Facebook is commonly accepted as the behemoth of social networking. In fact, it’s been said Facebook is to social network what Google is to search. This may start to change now that Google has entered the social networking arena.

Companies always look to ensure they have a defining characteristic that distinguishes themselves from the competition. For Google+, that market differentiation is what Google has called “Circles.” The concept is so simple and obvious it’s one of those ideas that has you smacking your forehead and wondering why it hadn’t been invented before.

If I decide to “friend” you in Facebook I send you a request to be your friend and I have to await your approval before we’re then “friends.” Once we’re friends on Facebook we can share things together. For example, I can post a picture and you can see it, you can post a status message like “I’m feeling blue today” and I can see and respond to it. Although there are ways to share things with only some of your Facebook friends it’s not very easy and definitely not intuitive. That’s where Google’s Circles concept comes in.

On Google+ when I want to “friend” you I just add you to one of my Circles. Google starts you off with one Circle called “Friends” and one called “Family,” but you can create as many as you’d like and name them however you please. In my escapades on Google+ these past couple of days I’ve created seven Circles. When adding people to my Circle I don’t need to ask their permission, I just add them. At first this may seem disconcerting, but it’s not.

Now that I’ve added you to my Circle I can see whatever you decide to share, but only if you share it with me (or the public at large). In other words, you have your own set of Circles (just as I do) and when you share something on Google+ you pick which Circles you share it with. If you’ve added me to a Circle and you share something with that Circle I’ll get to see it. But if you want to share something with a different Circle of people I won’t see it. Essentially this brings a level of privacy to social networking that has been sorely lacking for some time. If you want to share something with the world you can, but you can just as easily share something with a single person, too.

This differentiation that Google is bringing to social networking is probably the first feature to get noticed, but it’s not the only one. Google+ also offers a cool feature called “Hangouts” which allows users to create virtual videoconferencing rooms with the same control over sharing that Circles provides. I can create a “room” for a Circle or just two people. Of course, Google already has a slew of products online like its Google Docs and Picasa Web sites. Picasa is already tightly integrated with Google+ and I suspect it won’t be long before others are as well.

In the meantime, I’m on Google+ so feel free to follow me or ask questions in the comments below. I can also send you an invite to sign up if you’re looking for one.

Egyptian Uprisings & the Internet

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

By Jason Poggioli

Much of the recent coverage of Egypt’s uprising has been spent discussing the impact of the Internet on the people living under repressive governments. Clearly, talking head pundits haven’t been the only ones recognizing the influence of social media as the Egyptian government took the significant step of effectively disconnecting its entire country from the Internet in an attempt to stall the power of Facebook and Twitter.

“Pulling the plug” on the Internet during populist uprisings has been a tactic used before in places such as Myanmar in 2007 and Nepal in 2005, while Iran and China have chosen instead to take the less drastic approach of selectively blocking websites they determine to be a threat. Imagine yourself as a tyrannical dictator for a moment. The impact of the Internet and its social media creations like Facebook and Twitter certainly appear to require careful consideration regarding your future ability to maintain power, but how much would you really need to be concerned?

At first glance, social media, with its ability to bring millions of people together without centralized leadership or complex organizing seems perfectly designed for inciting populist revolts. The Internet breathes to life fads that effortlessly sweep around the world infecting millions of minds only to see them dissipate just as quickly as they were born. Videos, jokes, images all get passed around by email as people ask their friends and families, “Hey, have you seen this yet?”  Flash mobs, although benign and relatively harmless, are perfect examples of how a few people can quickly organize large groups to gather and act as one. The parallels to political protests are clear — if ordinary folks can pull together hundreds of people to dance at Grand Central Terminal then what could hard-charging politically motivated activists accomplish?

There is another side to this story, though, that isn’t discussed quite as often as how the Internet can contribute to democratic revolutions. In what ways can the Internet slow or limit the sweep of democracy around the world?

George Orwell’s classic “1984” has been referred to so often by those discussing the evils of a pervasively spied-upon citizenry that the term “Big Brother” is cliche. As overused as the term is, the cold fact is that it can be applied to the Internet for a pretty frightening comparison in countries like China. Worse still, the same Internet that enables productivity and economic gains can simultaneously be used for carefully targeted suppression of only a few (e.g. the trouble makers) within the same country.

While economic reforms roll through places like China, and their businesses take advantage of all the benefits the Internet brings, the Chinese government can use it to effectively quell social disorder before it begins and be more efficient maintaining power. China, and other similarly non-democratic governments, can use the Internet to target a minority of its citizens, like troublesome students, while allowing its faithful unfettered access to all the communication wonders the Internet holds. With centralized control of the Internet the government can allow state-owned corporations unfettered access while heavily restricting access in educational institutions and public cafes.

The fewer people a repressive government is forced to confront, the lower the chances of a popular uprising resulting in growth and change economically, but repression and stagnation politically — all on the back of the most sophisticated and widespread communication tool the world has ever seen.

So, if you were a dictator, how threatening would you find the Internet?

Jason can be reached at