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So this week has had a pretty epic amount of peer pressure resistance failure on my part. After holding out from getting a Facebook account for probably 2-3 years longer than most people I know at this point, I finally gave in last Saturday and got myself an account.  This was after being harangued by a fair number of friends for months, maybe even years now and generally resisting because....well, simply because I didn't really see what it offered to me I suppose.  I've had a LinkedIn account for a while, which I got when I was looking for a new job a while back (that, obviously, never panned out).  It seemed decent enough, but LinkedIn is very clearly a "work" networking tool, with a strong focus on the professional.  For me, that seemed like enough in terms of social networking.

Facebook, on the other hand, is a lot murkier (Twitter, i think, can suffer from the same problem).  That's where you see people who for some reason have their boss as a friend and then are surprised when he catches them calling in sick after posting pictures of their drunken antics the night before.  Certainly, it's a networking tool that a lot of people still use to connect professionally, but the line is a lot blurrier -- or rather, people don't take into account that there's a line, even though the Facebook Lists feature allows you to segment your friends lists into "people I want to display my drunken antics to" and "people I need to maintain a professional relationship with."  Not to mention it seems chock full of productivity-destroying games that may or may not be cleverly disguised scams.

On the other hand, I've also read articles and seen presentations on the web on how Facebook can be used productively -- though to be fair, a fair number of people trumpeting its usefulness are people who specialize in social media marketing.  So, eventually, I cracked; already this week I've found it's a good way to keep in touch with people I don't necessarily have reason to talk to on a regular basis.  Not only is this a nice thing socially, but maintaining those relationships is probably not a bad idea professionally either when I start job hunting again, or looking for roommates, or looking to unload furniture, or whatever else I might use it for.  Thankfully, the games stuff can largely be avoided by judicious use of the ignore function (which I have made great use of this week).  So far, I think it's been a net positive, and I sort of wonder if it wouldn't have been a good idea to get started with it long ago.

This week also marked the end of my "a cell phone is for making phone calls" mantra; after 3-4 people already got them at work, I finally went out and bought myself a Motorola Droid Thursday night.  I admit I'd be looking a bit jealously at people's iPhones for a while, and I've been chatting with Deidei via Google Talk on her G1 too, which made having a phone that was a bit more than a phone seem pretty handy.  When I went to Seattle this year for PAX, it was the first time when I really used a lot of text messaging and I realized how handy something like that might be when you can't really have a phone conversation.

Since the Droid is my first smartphone, it's a little hard for me to say how it compares to the iPhone, the G1, or the other offerings out there.  However, I'm already finding stuff like being able to browse the web and SSH from my phone to be pretty damn handy, in addition to combining the features of an mp3 player and a PDA.  Will I end up getting 30 bucks of value out of the data plan every month?  I'm not sure, but at this point I wouldn't be surprised.  I'm looking forward to trying out the navigation features next time I go to Chicago, as well as all the other apps you can get for it.

And despite these two failures of will, I've already got people trying to get me to join Twitter now....
Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about, and a couple weeks ago I mentioned it as a big reason why I was going to cancel my satellite service.  Well, it looks like I'm not the only one who is looking at doing that; this article from Businessweek points out that last week's Disney-Hulu deal may bode poorly for Apple's iTunes store, in terms of TV shows, as well as YouTube and traditional cable companies.

I suspect the outlook for YouTube is not as dire as the article might try to paint it.  While Hulu is definitely looking like it is going to be the one-stop-shop for watching TV and movies online, the bulk of YouTube's content is user-generated and I suspect that seems a little too dangerous for traditional media companies to really deal with, so Hulu and YouTube are two different niches in that case.

My big hope is that Hulu's growing dominance means the end of those super-shitty proprietary video players, like the one ABC uses -- I'm not sure what the point of those are except to encourage people to use the better quality and less annoying torrents of the shows (which are conveniently free of commercials).  If the intent was to put it in a format that couldn't easily be ripped and saved, they did exactly what the increasingly annoying DRM on most PC games is starting to do -- punishing legitimate customers for not buying (or, in this case, just consuming) a less-annoying illegal version.  Nice move, guys!  Hopefully the deal with Hulu means Disney is getting the idea that this has been counterproductive.

On the other hand, iTunes' business model is looking a little worse for wear now.  I can't see paying even a moderate charge for new episodes of TV when you can get them for free from Hulu; the only thing you get with iTunes over Hulu is the ability to play them on a 2 inch LCD display, which really doesn't seem like that big of an advantage to me.  iTunes might still be able to find a niche selling complete seasons of shows that aren't available, or by lowering their price to something truly negligible, but it doesn't seem like that would be too profitable for Apple.

As far as cable companies, the BW article talks about them offering the Hulu service in addition to your cable, and all I can think of is, why?  I assume it would be like what Hulu offers through the PS3 -- but I really don't understand who that's supposed to be for.  People who don't have a video game console or a computer?  How many people does that actually cover these days?  How is it different from the on-demand services that most cable companies offer now?  I don't think anyone is going to sign up for cable TV service if they can get everything they want with just the data service -- eventually, I suspect that's all there will be, because channels and schedules are just going to go by the wayside.  As DVRs and stuff like Hulu continues to penetrate the market, "appointment viewing" is going to completely disappear, and all that the TV schedule will mean is the day that episode drops (not much different from how podcasts work these days).

In the longer run, I think that means the end of "TV" (of course, I think people have been saying this for ages).  With no channels or restrictions on schedules, what is the point?  Everything will just go over the same data pipe, and you'll go to Hulu or Revision3 or whereever else the content is hosted and watch or download whatever you want to watch right then.  I hope that means the end to region-restricted video too (one of the biggest complaints on RPGnet about Hulu is that it's not available to people outside the States, at least for the most part).  I guess we'll just have to see where things go over the next year (or more likely, next decade or two).

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