I made something cool today. I saw Iron Man 3 yesterday; it was horrible. There is a scene, however, where Tony Stark is stranded in the wilderness. He stumbles his way to a pay phone, dials a number and instantly beams his message to his girlfriend. I was reminded of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, a tearjerker where something like this would have been incredibly useful. It’s a pretty cool concept, one that would be especially useful during the myriad natural and human made disasters of late.
I wanted to replicate it. I’ve worked with Twilio’s APIs before, liked them and knew something like this was possible, so I got home and made the same thing. It’s free and open source. Dial in to your personal beacon phone number, type in your passcode and record your message. Your recording is instantly sent out to a predetermined list of contacts who are also SMS’d a link to download the audio for safe keeping.
It uses Twilio’s awesome voice and SMS APIs. Twilio is cheap as well, and I’m fairly sure this would also work with one of their free trial accounts. Check it out on GitHub.
News as we know it is dead. Traditional television and long-form news sources will never again be the public’s primary method of breaking news consumption. Consumers cannot and will not wait the time it takes for outlets to create edited and detail-heavy content. Twitter has revolutionized the concept of news consumption, giving each “accidental journalist” a worldwide and limitless audience while at the same time furthering the concept of a news “drip”; consume details as they break, not retrospectively. NBC’s @BreakingNews is an amazing example of the popularity and demand for this preference of to-the-point, real-time content updates over long-form traditional content. With over 5 million followers on Twitter, the account’s popularity and staying power are clear.
During time-sensitive and rapidly developing events, the Boston Marathon bombings being the most recent, Twitter is increasingly often the first place journalists, officials, and live spectators go to break news. Predictably, such information spreads like wildfire; the retweet is an amazing content distribution tool. Such rapid dissemination is both a product of the brevity of tweets, the willingness of users to accept and propagate potential misinformation, as well as Twitter’s large contributor base, all concepts that traditional news media lacks. Of course, misinformation is and will always be a problem on social media; social media’s roots in anonmyity only contribute to people’s willingness to circulate and trust unverified information, however the same issue is apparent in traditional media as well. Recently, after claiming to have verified their information with law enforcement officials, media outlets began reporting that there was a Boston bombing suspect in custody. The FBI and local law enforcement were quick to scold the outlets, saying that there was in fact no arrest made, and that claiming there was an arrest could potentially interfere with investigations. Misinformation, it would seem, is not entirely limited to social media.
Quality concerns aside, a rapid increase in discussion surrounding a specific topic is worthy of investigation in and of itself. If the use of the word “earthquake” were to rapidly increase in prevalence in social media, it would be safe to assume that there was in fact a notable event occurring which involved the word. Whether or not an actual earthquake occurred is a matter of algorithmic verification, however the change in volume of discussion alone is enough to warrant a raised eyebrow. Armed with the data, discerning the validity of the discussion is a trivial matter.
This is where I come in. We at Sibyl Vision are well on our way developing a tool-set that acts as a discussion monitor for specific topics, giving users the option to be alerted when their subscribed properties become news worthy, rather than when the articles have been written (ahem, Google Alerts). Consumer demands for content distillation and instant communication have surpassed the capabilities of media companies. We now care most about a topic while the articles are being written; by the time these articles are published we have moved on to new information. It is time to take the content curation responsibility away from the editor’s desk and put it in the hands of the hive mind, and this is exactly what we have done. Stay tuned for Sibyl Vision’s Activate.
In a few weeks time I will be crossing the extremely arbitrary threshold that is turning eighteen and into quasi-adulthood. In the past few years I’ve cycled through a few personal domains, never settling on one that really stood out. For the longest time there was pkazazes.com; as a domain name, it was wholly unoriginal, predictable, and otherwise uninteresting. It was more of a DNS’d server-side testing ground than anything else. I don’t even think it had a landing page, and archive.org seems to agree with that.
After pkazazes, there were a couple of amateur portfolio pages showcasing my app-of-the-month work, which eventually culminated in pkazz.com becoming my domain of choice. You were great while you lasted, pkazz.com, however it’s time to release your ugly and childish five letter URL back [from] whence you came. An internet résumé was great when I was doing month-to-month contractual work, however the requirements of my digital presence have changed. I feel that now, more than ever, getting my thoughts down on paper is important. My usage of Google as an internet presence litmus test has only increased of late, and I’m sure the same can be said for many others. For this reason and more, I felt an overhaul was in order.
peterk.co has the vanity of the ever-trendy .co TLD, is short, available, personal and more professional than pkazz.com. It will surely be my home for years to come.