Monthly Archives: October 2010

Thoughts on The Social Network

uncomfortable

… and “uneasy” are two words that I’d use to describe my immediate reactions to The Social Network, aka the Facebook movie.

I’d previously heard various people talk about the film, including a very enthusiastic review on the Guardian Tech Weekly from Jemima Kiss, Gia Milinovich and Charles Arthur. I’d also listened closely to the thoughts of Leo Laporte and Jeff Jarvis on This Week in Google – neither of whom were so glowing, and who gave a reasoned discussion towards the view that the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is in fact “anti-Internet” in his portrayal of the themes. I was impressed that Leo had producer Dana Brunetti take him on during net@night that same week. The film is based on a book by Ben Mezrick and also, apparently, real interviews with a couple of the “injured” parties. Given the advance chatter, I was keen to see it for myself.

Firstly I will say this – the film was gripping. I was not bored at all, even though it was a couple of hours long. The music by Trent Reznor was great, and almost all of the performances were excellent. Before anyone comments, I also know it’s a dramatisation / fictionalisation… so I wasn’t expecting to go in to the cinema to watch a “true facts” documentary. I’m also not sorry to have been to see it!

It’s very hard to say what disturbed me or put me ill-at-ease. Anyone who thinks that Mark Zuckerberg comes off as some kind of injured genius good guy here is clearly not looking at the movie through the same lens as me. As presented, he’s not the nice guy that he claims to be at the end of the story. He betrays his closest friend – admittedly the man whose testimony much of the source material is based on – despite several acts of generosity on Eduardo’s part, including the way he apparently overlooked Mark’s personal flaws.  The Winkelvoss guys do not come over well in the script, and I did wonder whether part of what I thought was a flawed performance there came from having a single actor play both twins, which must have been technically tough.

I guess I got the uncomfortable feeling that the film was a pop at geeks, a pop at privilege as well, and the female characters were all pretty poor (either Sorkin hasn’t read up on how to create strong female roles, or felt they are not relevant in this geeky collegiate techy world). I think the multiple betrayals were probably what left me with the ultimate sour taste in my mouth. Maybe I’m not cut out for hard-nosed business 🙂

For all of that, there were some great comments… I particularly felt resonance in the discussion of how a site, a social model like Facebook, like the Internet itself, is never finished – like fashion, it evolves.

I’m still mulling my reaction, and may have to watch it again to rebalance (or perhaps reinforce?!) my views.

Footnote: did you know that IMDb is 20 years old today? Wow. That’s one of those sites that has showcased the power and changing nature of the Internet over time, emerging from the embers of Usenet lists, crowdsourcing people power to generate an amazing treasury of information, going commercial, and then acquired by Amazon in 1998. Congratulations!

Update: a day later and I’ve thought about this a little more. I think there are two other things that bother me about the film. Firstly I can certainly relate to Zuckerberg’s lack of social comfort in the rowdy college party culture, so I think looking at that made me a little uneasy too. Secondly, the film presents the genesis of Facebook / Facemash as a reaction to a break-up and fundamentally something of a revenge-driven science project… something that Zuckerberg has dived into as an attempt to recreate the college social experience so that other people will think it is cool (and presumably by extension, that he is cool), an attempt to boil it down to algorithms, rather than through a real desire to engage in that space himself. Perhaps the infamous privacy incident where he took his own content private when he couldn’t drive the new controls on the site a few years ago is a sign of that. Now, I know that the authors and filmmakers can say well look, we have the original blog post as evidence here… and I’m not denying that’s the case. I think that if that is all Facebook is, though… well it makes me feel pretty strange about using it and other similar sites to the degree that I do.

Product updates and new releases

I don’t have time to post an in-depth update on the latest announcements from IBM Hursley today but will hopefully have a chance to dig deeper on some of these later in the week. My colleagues in Development have been working hard on new and updated software offerings in the WebSphere Connectivity space, and today was “the big reveal” of a slew of them. For now, here are the links to the announcements… I’ll try to fill in more detail on some of the areas in which I’ve been particularly interested, soon.

  • WebSphere MQ Advanced Message Security (AMS) version 7.0.1, also available for z/OS of course! This is a new product providing significant enhancements to MQ’s security story by encrypting data at rest with no need to re-code your applications. This is one I’ll definitely be coming back to in a future post… it’s very cool indeed, particularly since it’s non-invasive and transparent to the user.
  • WebSphere MQ Low Latency Messaging V2.5 includes major updates to self-management and additional message delivery styles. Incidentally, I’ll be talking about WMQLLM at the European WebSphere Technical Conference in Düsseldorf next week (and of course I also have other sessions at the event on topics like Telemetry!)
  • WebSphere MQ File Transfer Edition V7.0.3 adds some nice web and REST features, as well as ad-hoc transfers and sweeter integration with WebSphere Message Broker (which itself gained new FTE nodes recently). There’s a fantastic story developing around enterprise managed file transfer interoperating with an ESB, here. Oh yes, and this version also works with AMS if you need to thoroughly encrypt your FTE data, both on disk as well as the existing wire capabilities using SSL channels.
  • WebSphere Message Broker Hypervisor Edition enables WMB to live happily in a virtualised environment on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and also to be used with the WebSphere Cloudburst Appliance.
  • WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus Registry Edition V7.0 puts the SOA registry at the heart of the ESB (which is quite honestly where it belongs!). There have been great improvements in WSRR and WebSphere ESB lately, and again I should come back to point some of these out soon.

Phew. Busy developers. If you follow me online you’ll know I’m a techie so it should come as little surprise that I’m excited, and dare I say it, “pumped”, about some of these updates. Looking forward to playing with them in more detail.

    CityOne takes serious gaming mainstream

    One of the topics I’ve been talking about as a sideline at work for several years since the early days of eightbar, and as one of the core topics on the weekly Dogear Nation podcast, is the idea of “serious games”: using gaming technology and immersive environments, combined with the web and emerging tools, to teach business skills and build awareness of social issues. We embraced environments like Second Life and middleware like Unity early on as we recognised their potential to add new dimensions to the learning experience. IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook gaming study was talking about Virtual Worlds, Real Leaders in 2007, and last year we published Lessons from Online Gaming. It has been something of a slow-burner, but it has continued to be an interesting field to watch.

    I’m pretty excited to see that today, IBM’s CityOne game has been launched. This is strongly tied in with the Smarter Planet initiative and aims to provide an environment which can teach the player about the challenges faced by cities today, as well as what IBM does, and how technology solutions can be applied to improve energy, finance, retail and water in urban scenarios.

    my city - Uberville :-)

    my city, "Uberville", in action!

    The game is accessible right on the IBM website and despite the “download” links and mentions in other news articles I’ve seen, it needs nothing more than a web browser to play (oh, and Flash – so I won’t be playing it on my iPhone, but then I’m happier seeing the graphics on a larger display!). Works just fine in Chrome on Ubuntu 🙂

    The aim is to balance a city’s resources and the happiness of the citizens, whilst attempting to triage problems and provide longer-term solutions through technology. I’ve had a brief play and found it really easy to get started, but within a few turns things start to get more tricky as funds may run lower. I liked the music, which was ambient enough not to be too annoying, and I also liked the way in which the image of the city gains colour as various tasks are completed – you’ll see the watercolour-ish appearance in the screenshot from my game, above. Another thing that the game has is an achievements system with badges that can be earned as aspects of the city’s environment are brought under control – this means it instantly feels familiar to gamers used to these kind of rewards systems, and constantly draws you in for another turn to see what you can unlock next time around.

    This isn’t the first such serious game that IBM has produced, of course – INNOV8 and INNOV8 2.0 have been successful over the past couple of years in teaching the principles of Business Process Management. However, CityOne does a nice job of connecting technology with an environment (a city) that many of us will be more than familiar with, and making the ideas inherent in a Smarter Planet become apparent. Well done to my friend Phaedra Boinidiris and her great team for creating another compelling experience.