Three-Dot Lounge for October 5, 2014

Three dot lounge is a mostly-weekly collection of things that deserve more than a retweet. Stay tuned for fascinating opinions and pithy commentary. Also keep an eye on my Twitter feed for more interesting stuff.

I’m fascinated by Ello because it reminds me of when the social web was still new

I’m fascinated by Ello because it reminds me of when the social web was still new

I think the reason we’re looking at finding the next new social service is because the existing ones (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) have matured and their focus is on revenue and “building the business” and not on innovation. That’s a basic reality of any service or technology. Rarely does innovation come from the entrenched leaders.

That said, I’ve gotten my Ello account and I must say it has “app.net” written all over it. Lots of people are signing up for it, and most of them seem to be waiting for everyone else to dig in and make it interesting. Myself included.

My general response to Ello’s design is a combination of curiosity and frustration. It feels like they played the “minimum viable product” game on steroids, and it also looks like the designers got too interested in showing off how talented they are, and not interested enough in making the site usable. I’m having lots of “how do I get from here to there?” problems, and stuff works curiously but not necessarily well. I’m frankly not that impressed nor motivated, but like app.net, I’ll watch and see if they iterate the product into something usable and whether the people around me fill it with content. If they do, I’ll join in and make content for it as well, but for now, I’m on the sidelines and think this one will end up in that long list of fad sites that head off into “oh, is that still around?” status fairly quickly — with app.net, yo, quota and klout.

Moose Death Prompts Crackdown on Wildlife Photographers

Moose Death Prompts Crackdown on Wildlife Photographers

Sad, but not surprising. A group basically circled a moose until it stressed and freaked a bit and injured itself trying to break free. It had to be euthanized for the injury.

Also sad, but not surprising, to hear people start griping about “constitutional right” to do things, even if it leads to the death of the animal they looking at. I’m glad, though, that the rangers are cracking down and going undercover to do it; it’s unfortunately needed, and more parks and reserves need to consider that tactic to catch the idiots.

My only disagreement with the piece is that the people who caused this aren’t wildlife photographers, they are tourists with cameras. The photographers who have half a clue wouldn’t do this; the few outliers who are idiots and would don’t deserve the term photographer.

And this is why we can’t have nice things. That, and the idiots who keep crashing their quadcopters into things.

Why This Bot’s Crappy Photos Got Way More Likes, Favorites and Comments than Your Good Ones

Why This Bot’s Crappy Photos Got Way More Likes, Favorites and Comments than Your Good Ones

The short answer is that if you’re putting energy into trying to get likes (or plusses, or favorites) you’re doing it wrong, and they’re basically worthless and those systems are easily manipulated. This should not be a surprise, either.

Introducing Groups.io

Introducing Groups.io

A new mailing list system by a friend of mine, because we really need something to replace Yahoo Groups and Google Groups — email is far from dead, but innovation in email has been massively missing. Mark knows his stuff, his last email system was bought by Yahoo and is now known as Yahoo Groups. We’ve both felt for a while there was a lot of opportunity in a new!improved! system, but Mark actually went out and built it. My only involvement here was occasionally saying things like “doing great, Mark, keep at it!” — but it’s long overdue.

The battle in California to save waterfowl from ending up as dead ducks

The battle in California to save waterfowl from ending up as dead ducks

For the second year in a row we’re seeing major problems with avian botulism in the refuges in the state. Tule Lake is again badly hit. The problem? A combination of the ongoing drought here in the state, and complex, broken water usage rules and regulations leading to thousands of dead birds and no easy solutions.

The Plan to Demolish SF’s Old Bay Bridge Could Be Derailed By Birds

The Plan to Demolish SF’s Old Bay Bridge Could Be Derailed By Birds

Turns out the cormorants really like nesting on the old bridge, and attempts to have them move to the new one — including bird condos — have failed so far. And because they’re protected, if they don’t want to leave, you can’t force them.

Apple, employees raise $50 million for charity, program to expand globally

Apple, employees raise $50 million for charity, program to expand globally

One of my criticisms of Apple when I left was it’s lack of philanthropy and giving back to the community and people that helped make it successful. Steve’s view was this was a personal thing and not something he wanted the company involved in.

It’s very nice to see Tim Cook change this, and Apple employees dig in and make it happen. Well done, all of you. I’m proud to see this.

Should instructors take pictures during workshops?

Should instructors take pictures during workshops?

I think Gary nails this. I don’t expect workshop leads to not take photos, I expect workshop leads to not neglect the people paying to go on the workshop. to the degree you can do both, fine, but the workshop members come first.

It also depends on whether the trip is oriented around instruction or the workshop leads are acting primarily as location guides. For our upcoming workshop, I’m expecting mostly the latter, but you can bet I’ll be asking questions and taking advantage of having time with Michael Frye in person when I can.

Palen solar project dropped by developers

Palen solar project dropped by developers

And a badly designed solar project bites the dust. The reality is that this, like the Panoche Valley project, were being built not because they’re great ideas but because government grants and subsidies made investing in them worth doing (to a point). The Palen project, though, was using the solar tower method, which has proven to be more expensive than photovoltaic panels, less reliable to operate, and has rather nasty ecological side effects. This plant’s plan is being dropped not just because of opposition but because it’s a bad design and it’s unlikely it’ll be used in any significant way in the future — the future here is in panel farms, not these tower designs.

Panel farms aren’t benign, either, but can be designed to mitigate the problems they cause. What’s even better than that is urban infill — there’s a lot of roof space in most urban environments that can be fitted with solar panels that don’t require damaging hundreds of acres of land to build a big panel farm. The problem with urban infill solar is that utilities want to deal with one big interconnect and not many small interconnects, so they fight that idea whenever it’s raised.

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