Monday, December 6, 2010


During the summer after our first year of college, some of my friends and I decided to organize a game of kickball—a game we enjoyed back in elementary school. When I told another friend about it excited and told me to let him know when we had a sure time scheduled. When we finally decided on a time I let him know, but he said he couldn't make it. He had a raid scheduled for that time, and his guild needed him. People really let their online relationships take precedence over their offline lives.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Too much of a good thing

Shortly before the Provo Temple was dedicated, President Lee expressed his concern that the accessibility of the temple would cause some BYU students to attend the temple so often that they would neglect their studies. President Hinckley exhorted all of us to seek as much education as we can. Like the attending the temple too often, it is possible to spend too much time in pursuit of knowledge. The Web gives us virtually unlimited access to knowledge on a plethora of subjects. If we let our pursuit of knowledge via the internet interfere with our relationships and responsibilities in our families, then even the virtuous cause of learning can be taken too far.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bugs in the Bazaar

In his paper The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric Raymond makes the astute observation that, with enough eyes looking at program source code, all bugs become shallow problems. From personal experience, I completely agree with this assertion. Anyone who has worked on a group programming project has probably had this experience: after pulling out your hair for hours trying to debug, one of your coworkers comes along and—after less than a minute—points out the source of the error. Sometimes the original coder is too familiar with his “perfect” design to see the bug, but many times the biggest factor in why one person finds the problem obvious when another doesn’t is just their different thought processes. This is the strength of the bazaar in debugging: hundreds of developers, each with their unique way of thinking, rooting out your bugs for you.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why Facebook?

I remember back when MySpace was the big thing. I might have had a bad impression from the horrid color schemes and terrible layouts that everyone I knew used on their pages, but MySpace always repulsed me. Again, I am probably biased because of my personal social tendencies, but I never felt the need to publish the happenings of my life on MySpace for everyone in the world to read. However, when Facebook first emerged I saw a completely different system.
During my senior year of high school, I was coming to the realization that all of my classmates—many of whom I'd known since elementary school—were heading off to universities all over the country, and I might never see them again. That's when a friend introduced me to Facebook. It was just what I needed: an online address book that your friends maintain on their own as their contact information changes.
As MySpace has slowly faded from existence, Facebook has continued to grow in popularity, expanding from its original college audience to include anyone from elementary school children to the elderly in nursing homes. Facebook is now worth billions, whereas MySpace is worth less than the current owner bought it for. I believe Facebook's success is due to its key purpose: keeping you in contact with your friends, both past and present.
Although Facebook has added many new (and some annoying) features over the years, it has managed to keep its original usefulness without becoming too combersome. A decade ago, a high school or mission reunion was very difficult to organize. Contacting hundreds of old friends across the country was a very time-consuming and expensive ordeal if done by phone or mail. Now, with the advent of Facebook, you simply organize a group like "Kaohsiung Missionaries" or "Southridge Class of 2005." You invite a few people you know to join the group, and they forward invitations on to a few more people—like a phone tree, but more organized since Facebook tracks which people have already been contacted. Once the group is formed, members can broadcast messages to the group, announcing the activity. After the original work of creating the group, any mass-message to the group takes no time at all!
Facebook continues as a major networking tool today. With it, I can track my classmates from high school and college, friends from my mission on the other side of the world, and family spread across the nation. Unless the people at Facebook do something very stupid to destroy the usefulness of this tool, I doubt it will become any less popular in the coming years. It has given us a way to keep in touch with our friends and family, wherever they go, so long as they maintain their profiles. It fills a need—a need that I personally experienced—and it fills it well.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Could Google cause a war?

A few weeks ago Nicaraguan troops set up camp on the Costa Rican side of the San Juan River. The Nicaraguan general in charge of those troops has justified his actions by appealing to Google Maps, where the border is misrepresented. Google has admitted that the border is inaccurate and is working to update the maps, but what if Google did something like this on purpose? With the amount of information that Google controls, it isn't beyond belief that someone within their organization could intentionally start a war. After all, Google can manipulate maps, news, emails, and search results. Governments should never rely on information provided solely by Google or any other corporation. If inaccuracies in Google's data—intentional or not—led to international conflict, it would still be the fault of the governments for not verifying their information rather than the fault of Google for misrepresenting it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The New Game Medium

While the music industry struggles with copyright enforcement, the computer game industry has found an effective solution to the piracy problem. Publishers provide online content and communities that users need official accounts to access. By forcing users to associate their license keys with their accounts the publishers discourage piracy, while also providing some benefits for the users. Since a license is associated with an account, gamers can log in from any computer and play. Since game publishers only allow one session per user, users are discouraged from sharing their accounts with friends. If your game CD breaks, you can simply download a new copy from the publisher because they still have your license on record. Several publishers have started selling licenses online systems and allowing direct download, eliminating the need for any physical media. The music industry needs to create a system that is beneficial to the users—not just the publishers—if they want to succeed in their anti-piracy campaign.