Happy Birthday Hack O’ the Day

Baseball HackI’ve been meaning to do a unique (well, fairly unique) hack for a while. I’ve had the database of major league baseball players from The Baseball Archive loaded in mysql for a while, and I’ve thought of creating a little sidebar gadget that shows all the major leaguers who were born on today’s date.

Well, if you go over the right and scroll below, you’ll see that I’ve spent five minutes and finally done it. Listed are the players first and last name, as well as any nicknames they have, and the year in which they were born. You can click on their name, and that will carry you to the Baseball Almanac baseball-reference.com page for that player. Fun.

The Haunted House, by Walter Hubbell

The Haunted House, by Walter Hubbell begins amusingly with this introduction:

The manifestations described in this story commenced one year ago. No person has yet been able to ascertain their cause. Scientific men from all parts of Canada and the United States have investigated them in vain. Some people think that electricity is the principal agent; others, mesmerism; whilst others again, are sure they are produced by the devil. Of the three supposed causes, the latter is certainly the most plausible theory, for some of the manifestations are remarkably devilish in their appearance and effect.

Hehe.

Windows Live!

Microsoft announced “Windows Live” yesterday. What is it? Well, that seems to be the question of the hour. Apparently lots of Robert Scoble’s readers are asking the very same question. I’m not sure how live.com differs from the other beta portal project that Microsoft was touting. To me, they both seem like crude Ajax-ware which duplicate functionality done better elsewhere.

What it seems to really be about is Microsoft’s rush to convert their business model for web services into a Google one: support yourself by advertising. I’ll probably make that the subject of a future podcast rant (I’m not thrilled of the world where I need to view ads everytime I wish to use my computer. I pay lots of money to buy DVDs and Tivos just because the 20 minutes an hour that broadcast television steals from me annoys me… but I digresss).

But what’s really fascinating about the posting that I linked are all the comments. Microsoft, are you listening? You are doing a terrible job of explaining yourself. You are holding press conferences announcing products which aren’t ready, and then telling people that “don’t get it” that they should be patient. “The really cool stuff is coming.” I can’t think of a company that does product announcements worse than Microsoft.

Look at these comments:

  • It does seem typical though “We are Microsoft, we are all smart, we know better than you do. If you can’t see why you should buy our stuff, you’re just stupid.”
  • You enbarrased yourself with this *launch* (without actually launching anything)
  • What’s the difference between this and start.com?
  • It’s … err… a new PLATFORM! that’s it!!! It’s the new Web DNA!
  • I thought this Joe Wilcox post would explain what Live was, but it looks like he’s wondering what the rest of us are: what the hell is Live?

I think there are some positive signs in this announcement. It seems to be saying that they will support multiple platforms, including Firefox. But think about it: for other companies, this decision was made a long time ago. The marketplace made that decision. Firefox is winning marketshare, and if you want to reach the maximum number of users, even ones that run Microsoft Windows products, you need to support Firefox. It’s just a given for other companies. They don’t spend a lot of time considering not doing it, because they don’t want to piss off the significant minority of people who’ve moved from IE to Firefox.

Microsoft, in the meantime, is left with what they perceive to be as a dilemma. At the risk of presenting an overly dramatic metaphor, it’s like those idiots who are trying to keep young women from being immunized against the the virus that causes cervical cancer. They think “oh, gee, without the threat of cancer, young women will go out and have sex.” Of course, women will die as result of their indignation, but you have to crack a few eggs…

Microsoft in the meantime has been slow to deploy technologies which are browser agnostic because of the fear that without browser lock-in, nobody will buy their stuff. But what they are trying to do is to get their customers to serve them. They want their customers to say, “we need this product, and I’m running Microsoft stuff, so you should use Microsoft stuff too, for that extra baked in flavor!” That would work if Microsoft was the only game in town, but other companies (Google, Yahoo!…) are delivering better stuff for the customer, on platforms which are at least as attractive for the consumer. Microsoft is slowly awakening to the notion that lock-in is a poor strategy, and has been for a while. That they are only figuring this out in 2006 is somewhat surprising, given that pretty much everyone else has already figured it out.

Addendum: Oh dear lord. Twice in one day. More “launches” that actually don’t launch anything..