Digest: Hacker Spaces, R, Disqus, Social Media, Kinect Hacks

I really need to do a better job of pushing out these digests more often.  The intent is that sometimes I come across a link about which I don't have enough to say to warrant an entire post, but I still want to share with people.  So I save them up and when I have enough I publish a digest.  Unfortunately I have been saving plenty of links but not doing such a hot job about creating the write-ups and as a result my digests have been too long.  Hopefully I'll do better.

Mark Suster posted some thoughts on his blog about why he's planning to stick with Disqus instead of jumping on the Facebook comments bandwagon.  I agree with a lot of what he says, which is why I'm linking it here of course.

I've followed what my old friend David Weekly has done with the Mountain View Hacker Dojo with interest over the past few years.  I've wished that we had a strong enough technical community in the DC area to have a hacker space movement here.  During some idle Googling recently I've discovered that we actually do.  There's a new one not far from where I live called Reverse Space.  I swung by to check it out and it's still very early and a work in progress but I'm thrilled that there's spaces for the technical community in the DC area.  In looking through the list of hacker spaces on hackerspaces.org there are actually several in the DC and Baltimore area.

I don't use R at the moment but given the sort of work I do I suspect I may use it in the future.  For those not in the know, R is a statistical programming language.  I haven't used it but I hear it's great and it certainly has a devoted following.  I casually pay attention to the R space and I saw the recent announcement of the RStudio IDE.  Here's a review I found.

On a non-technical note, I came across this article on CCN Money that discusses the possibility of banks limiting our ability to spend with debit cards in the future.  For years I only used debit cards.  Lately I have started using a charge card and paying the balance in full each month.  But I stll hate the idea of limiting the financial options of people without great credit who can't quality for reasonable credit or charge cards.

There are so many "social media experts" out there but I often wonder what the real ROI for a business is on their social investment.  I think it's probably a lot more about driving brand awareness and customer relationship development than hard, measurable ROI.  Still I was interested to read this article on Venture Beat that reports a study which shows social media popularity can perhaps predict stock prices.  From the article
The study tracked three brands, Starbucks, Coca Cola and Nike, over the course of 10 months in 2010-2011. The number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers and Youtube views were used as measures of each brand’s social media popularity.

I think it would be useful to look at Twitter @mentions as well.

I don't have an XBox 360 or a Kinect but I'm very interested in the creative things people are doing with hacking the Kinect.  I came across a couple of articles on Engadget about creative uses for the Kinect.  One article discussed using the Kinect for 3D modeling in free space.  The other article talks about a project to help the blind "see" by getting haptic feedback.




Gary Vaynerchuk Talks Social on This Week in Startups

I came home from work today and fired up my Apple TV to find a special bonus episode of This Week in Startups featuring Gary Vaynerchuk (@GaryVee), author of The Thank You Economy, amongst other titles.  I wouldn't call the program an interview in that Gary is a force of nature and as soon as Jason introduces him he takes off on a tear, prognosticating about the future of social engagement by brands.  There are plenty of "social media expert" talking heads out here that don't rate a mention here.  The difference with Gary is that he has uncommonly deep insights into how customer engagement that strike an emotional chord can drive conversion and loyalty for a brand.  He gives several great examples and anecdotes.  If this is at all your area of interest, I highly suggest giving the program a look.


kickstarter.com - Interesting Way to Raise Money for Creative Endeavours

I was reading the anti-Facebook  privacy driven Internet zeitgeist around the new Diaspora project.  I'm not sold on the idea of Diaspora, a peer to peer solution for social networking.  I doubt it will have any more success than Freenet and other similar peer to peer projects which haven't gained traction.

What is interesting to me is that Diaspora has managed to raise $171,866.00 in about a month on kickstarter.com.  That's an incredible amount of money in the form of gift contributions, not investments.

For those not familiar, kickstarter is a site that allows teams and individuals to publish an idea for a creative endeavour and set a fundraising goal.  Site visitors then have the option to pledge donations and if the goal is met, the project is funded.  The funding is in the form of patronage not investment so the creators retain complete ownership of their work.

This is not the first site that I've seen with a similar model, but in browsing the list of projects it seems that a fair number are getting the funding they're seeking.  If I were in the market to finance a short film, musical composition, or free software project I would definitely try their service.

This Week in Startups

Jason Calacanis has launched a new talk show style podcast called This Week in Startups.  The first episode came out on May 2nd, featuring Brian Alvey who founded Crowd Fusion.  There is also a tech news segment and I enjoy Jason's "John McLaughlin" style predictions.

Overall it's an enjoyable show, but it's long.  I wish I had more time to watch/listen to these types of podcasts.  Unfortunately I don't even have time to listen to hallmarks like This Week in Tech.  So I doubt I will be a regular viewer of This Week in Startups, but for those who have the time I'd recommend it.

I'm still waiting for when I can download this kind of content to my TiVo.

My How TV Ratings Have Changed

I'm a big fan of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles on FOX. I didn't start watching the show terminator-the-sarah-connor-chroniclesuntil earlier this year. But I then bought both seasons one and two from Amazon's on-demand service to catch up. I also bought the first season on DVD and preordered the second season. I like the show.

So I was dismayed last night when reading that it's unlikely to return for a third season. Which got me curious about the show's ratings.

I used to be fairly informed about the entertainment business. Well television, movies, and music at any rate. I've never known much about the theater. A long time ago I had this idea I wanted to buy a television network (a story for another day). So I set about educating myself on the business.