Toyota’s “death by a million tweets”

The Big Money on what Twitter did to Toyota:

Think about it: Prior to the advent of rapidly updated social media, bad news about cars seeped out at the local level. A pattern of accidents here. A sudden uptick in complaints to dealerships there. Like pre-9/11 intel—and, well, like post-9/11 intel—it was difficult to connect the dots. Sufficient evidence to warrant even a NHTSA investigation could take years to organize. Deadly cars could remain on the road for far too long, as an automaker sought to control the damage before the recall news broke nationally.

No more. Anyone with access to the Internet is now a micro-Nader, an antlike information-gathering-and-broadcasting agent who can contribute his experiences and interpretations to the data stream. This is why the Toyota recall has achieved brushfire velocity and stunned a company that, just two months ago, was literally on top of the world, with the most loyal customer base arguably ever assembled by a carmaker. With the monster recalls of the past, it was as if a manufacturer had been hit by a heavyweight punch. Reeling was followed by a determination to fight on, unless the company was knocked out (as Audi almost was). For Toyota in 2009, it was very, very different. This time, it wasn’t the big blow. It was death by a million tweets.

A social graph

Below is a graph of my Facebook network, created by the very nice Friend Wheel application which draws a customizable, brightly colored network graph of up to 400 of your BFFs. I had a grand time annotating it on Flickr.

My Facebook network graph

You can ask it to graph a subset of your friends, say one of your networks, or all your friends in common with another person. My clusters are fairly discrete, though not as much so as, say, this person’s, and I’m not sure how much of the difference is due to constraints on well-grouped the names can get.

Are there meaningfully different visual patterns associated with different personalities and social settings? I experimented with the latter by graphing the following subsets of my Friends List:

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It’s a walkable day in the neighborhood

Carbon gluttonously, I love driving. Road trips. Open highway. Freedom and power are yours at the turn of a key.

But I love walking as well, and driving to do errands isn’t so exhilarating. Having ended up living in large cities for the past dozen years, I’ve come to depend on having every amenity practically within arm’s reach.

I’ve sensed that this dependency on being right in the middle of things has only increased over the years, but have not been able to back this up with quantitative data, until I happened upon Walk Score [via Alex Steffen at WorldChanging, who has a lovely name for a given location’s walkable area: the walkshed].

Walk Score is a particularly nifty Google Maps mashup that measures the “walkability” of addresses in the US, Canada and UK, using Google Maps’ business listings. They define “walkability” in terms of being able to get by without a car. So living in a mountain cabin may be walkable, but by quite a different definition.

How it works:

  1. You enter an address.
  2. Walk Score looks for the nearest of each of the following: grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, movie theaters, schools, parks, libraries, bookstores, fitness centers, drugstores, hardware stores, and clothing & music stores.
  3. Walk Score calculates the distance to each amenity and runs the whole thing through its algorithm to come up with a “walk score” on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 is the ultimate Walker’s Paradise.

Excited beyond belief, I sat down to calculate the Walk Scores of the 13 US and UK dwellings I lived in up to mid-2007, plus, for good measure, the 7 apartments I stayed in while working in DC from fall 2005 to winter 2007.

Then I thought I should do a graph with walkability on the y-axis and my life in years on the x-axis, and then plotting my level of satisfaction along with it. But am lazy, so will eyeball the results and observe that:

  • The scores ranged from two 26s (the low end of the second-to-least-walkable category, Not Walkable) for Springfield, Virginia and Phoenix, Arizona, to two 100s in the Upper and Lower East Sides of Manhattan.
  • Unsurprisingly, walkability scores shot up after I left home and the suburbs to go to college and work in big cities.
  • Despite my love for amenities at my doorstep, there wasn’t much correlation between walkability and my own satisfaction within a city – maybe because the differences were fairly minimal. There would have been in Bangkok (Thong Lor: yay!, Soi Japanese School: Not so yay), but Walk Score supports only the US, UK and Canada.
  • 100s are part of the reason Manhattanites can’t live anywhere else in New York City.

I am loving Walk Score. The results pretty well reflected my intuitive sense of the relative walkability of each place. For one, it distinguished correctly between my place and my brother’s: just over five minutes’ walk apart, but in quite different blocks with his being much closer to the more residential, commercially fancier Madison and Park Aves and to Central Park. Beautiful, but a bit further from everyday amenities.

Of course these are scores based on fairly current information. It would be interesting to see how scores change over time. Our Brooklyn apartment would not have been so walkable even 3 years ago.

Looking forward to testing this in London.

Finding accommodation in London

[Originally posted on the Fletcher INTERNet]

Just to record some London accommodation ideas in case they might be of use to someone else sometime. It’s great reading everyone’s blog entries!

I’m house-sitting/-renting about a mile east of Karl Marx’s grave in north London. Lucked into this arrangement through sending an e-mail to csr-chicks, a Yahoo! group for women, and men, working in fields related to corporate social responsibility. (There’s also a much less active csrblokes.)

There must be similar listservs for other fields, and the advantage of finding accommodation this way is a sort of immediate trust that comes from shared circles. You also meet interesting people: the woman who owns the house I’m staying in is setting up a research project in Cornwall on global post-mining economic regeneration. The sustainable development issues surrounding the mining industry – where companies come in, mine for ten or thirty years, and get out, leaving the earth depleted and the community unemployed – are fascinating and something I’d like to learn more about.

Two useful accommodation websites, both free to use, are:

  • Lots and lots of short-term sublets in all price ranges and locations, probably because of the site’s origins as a way for Australian/NZ/South African working holiday-makers and backpackers to share info. Here I learned about “dossing.” A dosser is someone who just wants a roof over his or her head at minimum cost and pays £20-50 a week for couch or floor space in a big shared house ($36-90 at the current stomach-clutching exchange rate of £1 = $1.82).
  • Biggest section is London but they cover all other major UK cities along with Paris, Berlin, Lisbon, Milan, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Melbourne, Sydney… Mostly longer-term flat and houseshares, but has a section on sublets. Nice interface and search filter with criteria such as “Washing machine” and “Hate football.” had lots of ads from folks who were going away on vacation for a week or two or three and were looking to make a little extra cash by subletting their room or flat. This could be an unusual, homey, low-cost accommodation option for anyone visiting London, officially now the world’s second most expensive city (thanks for the link Stephanie… sigh). £100 to stay in Notting Hill for a week, anyone?

And there’s always one of the London university student halls of residence. These generally offer central locations, shared bathrooms and kitchens, and other amenities such as broadband internet access or music practice rooms.

As far as I know the University of London halls – University College, LSE, Imperial, King’s, etc. – charge by the night, so work out too expensive if you’re staying for longer than a week. Good, relatively central options for internship-length stays are the London Metropolitan University halls:

  • Cass and Claredale Halls of Residence, Bethnal Green, east London. Good location, nice rooms at least from the photos, and at just £66-84 a week, I probably would have stayed here if the house-sit hadn’t come along.
  • Other London Metropolitan halls, Holloway and Tufnell Park, north London

Two kinds of chat

[Originally posted on LJ]

A post on iWire last week hilariously outlines a Kyoto-esque framework for offsetting emissions of hot air from anthropogenic blogging sources.1 I reckon journalist/pundit blogs are to LiveJournal as carbon dioxide (CO2) is to methane (CH4).

While puttering around doing some housekeeping in the general area of my desk, I went ahead and loaded BlogChatter, “a real-time event stream of weblog updates … Pings to BlogChatter are displayed instantly the moment they are received, and only persisted in memory for no longer than 30 seconds.” I kept it running for about two hours in the evening Thai time and ran it again the next morning.

Judging from the data so far (very incomplete, includes only weblogs on Movable Type), the blogosphere doesn’t breathe too evenly – it hiccups. At 20:04:57 ICT I blinked and twenty-three posts appeared. During western hemisphere daylight hours activity was clearly more frantic, approaching hyperventilation around 9 am EST. I imagine if the site supported LJ pings, nocturnal, er, emissions would be better represented. All in all strangely soothing. Like watching a fishtank.

Well, it beats sitting around waiting for people to post in your LJ.

A warm real-time, face-to-face coffee with noman tonight at the new Starbucks at Tops on Thong Lor (it’s even more hi-so than the one across from Oishi). Looking forward to seeing matana back in Bangkok this weekend.

1 As opposed to the 27 million blogging sheep in New Zealand.2
2 Yes, I know.

I heart Google

[Originally posted on LJ]

A running list of Google-inspired concepts, games, neologisms, activist campaigns and so forth.

Google and society

Postcards from Planet Google, The New York Times, November 28, 2002.
On the Google Zeitgeist – the unparalleled view that Google has into global trains of thought. Most interesting Google article I’ve ever read.
Google dating, aka Beer Googles
According to a recent article in Glamour, 76% of women have admitted to doing this, while only 28% of men have. I cannot speak for the men, but the perhaps unrepresentative sampling of myself + Maggie indicates a 100% incidence.

Google as food for academic thought

The Google Death Penalty
What happens when Google decides to eliminate a website entirely from its index, meaning that no search terms will find it. Harvard law professor Jonathan Zittrain researches government-requested Google Death Penalties.
Google: a case study
From an e-commerce course taught by North Carolina State management professor Michael Rappa.

Google as entertainment… and as art

Objective: to find a two-word query that results in a single result (“Results 1-1 of [any number]”). No quote marks allowed. The queried words must be dictionary words. Quickly spotted was the Heisenbergian irony that a successful Googlewhack listed on the Whack Stack thereby destroys itself.
Google Strange
Someone has Googled odd text strings and recorded the findings, which demonstrate that no matter how odd you think you are… someone is odder. Cf. “LiveJournal
See what Google has to say on a given person, place, object, topic, etc. Nothing to say about me yet *snif*
Google Bombs
Because for Google’s search algorithm, “what you say about a page becomes just as important as the actual content of the page.” Sounds like high school. Sabotage your rivals in the Google dating stakes.
“Rejected Google holiday logos” Photoshop contest
I was quivering with anticipation as I clicked on this link but was disappointed to find most of the entries (a) in poor taste and (b) more importantly, not funny.
Geoff’s Google Duel and Google Fight
Pit George W. Bush v. Bin Laden, Britney v. Christina, Microsoft v. the law, a picture v. a thousand words or any other two entities you like against each other in the only quantitative assessment that matters in today’s celebrity-centered society: how many Google hits your query turns up.
Google Poetry
Enter a query and inspire a poem in your choice of Hippie, Beatnik, Shakespearean, Swedish Chef (?) or plain styles.
The Google AdWords Happening
In April 2002 French artist Christophe Bruno launched a small poetry happening via Google AdWords. It lasted for 24 hours before he was forcibly removed. “My first satisfaction occurred when somebody who had typed ‘hemorrhoid symptom’ on Google arrived on my website, after having clicked on my ad.” “Sex” costs $3,836.79 per day while “death” costs just $42.66. Market forces at work. But “capitalism” is $2.74 and “communism” is $0.33.

The inevitable backlash

“Semantic ethnic-cleansing” caused, inadvertently or not, by the dangerous combination of Google goggles and the blogeoisie.
A Livejournal community and website that has nominated Google for 2003 U.S. Corporate Big Brother of the Year.
Google erases anti-Scientology links
The Church of Scientology manages to censor Google. I wish they actually had sued, because The Church v. Google has a good 21st century ring to it.
Google, the new Microsoft.
Mr. Anti-Google and his site
Google, the new Pinochet.

Other Google resources

Open Directory’s Google listing
Happy Piles of Google Hacks
Google Pranks and Games from the new O’Reilly book Google Hacks. The other “hacks” on the sample page are not what you’d normally think of as hacks, but rather power tools for getting the most out of one’s Googles.

Finally, I believe I am losing brain cells as it took me a good half hour to realize why Froogle is called “Froogle.”