Archive for ‘Tools’

April 11, 2011

Seeking Cat’s Owner Desperately

Fact: If I can’t find something on the Internet, it doesn’t exist.

Evidence: My mad web-searching skills helped reunite a lost cat with her owner.

The adorable kitty in the picture above walked out from underneath my car a couple nights ago and communicated its intent to reside in my house for a little while. I had to go out of town for the weekend so I put her in a bedroom with all the cat necessities and posted messages to our neighborhood listserv before I left. While I was away, my husband put up some posters with Mystery Kitty’s pic on it to let people know we found her. We didn’t receive a single phone call.

When I returned, I took Mystery Kitty straight to the vet to see if she was microchipped. Hallelujah! She was!
Not so fast! said the vet’s assistant. The microchip wasn’t registered to any owner and was put in by the animal shelter a couple years ago.

Off to the shelter we went. I won’t comment on the traumatizing experience of walking into that building and witnessing people abandoning their animals in front of my eyes.
The friendly volunteers who work there looked up the microchip data and found a phone number, which turned out to be disconnected. After I filled out a Request for Information Form (legalese for Cover Your Derriere), they gave me the registered owner’s full name and her last address. An apartment. What are the odds of the person still living there?

I went back to my car with Mystery Kitty and pulled out THE INTERNET.

Googled the owner’s name (along with location data etc). That person is almost invisible on the interwebs… but she left a trail: a 2009 online wedding registry! With a gentleman’s name on it too. Made the wild assumption she took his name. His very common last name. Common last names are the invisibility cloaks of the internet.

I shifted from searching-for-people mode to searching-for-address-mode and made my way to the Travis County Central Appraisal District’s website to search for properties by owner’s name. Entered all sorts of combinations (his last her first, her last her first, his last his first) until I found a home registered to “his first her first his last”. With the help of Google maps, I was there 20 minutes later (quite a ways from where I found the cat). Nobody was home. Left a note on the door with my contact info.

Several hours later, I got a phone call – turns out the registered owner gave away the cat two years ago. She got a hold of the current owner and his roommate came to pick up “Yen” (the cat’s actual name) shortly after.

The End.

Long live the Internet!

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January 6, 2011

Bump it (off the road)

Ever felt compelled to say something to the driver of another vehicle? I know I have… in the form of expletives for the most part. Which is probably why a tool like “Bump!” wasn’t designed for someone like me.

In case you’re too lazy to click on the link, Bump! is a service that allows motorists to message one another using a license plate number only. People can add their plate number (and phone number) to the website to start receiving messages. These can be sent straight to someone’s phone. Here’s all the good this service could bring to mankind:

  • letting people know they left their light on, their tire is flat or something’s leaking from their car,
  • kindly inviting people to move their car if it’s blocking yours,
  • telling someone who just zipped by in their ride that you think they’re cute,
  • get deals and discounts from retail stores/institutions that flagged your license plate number. That’s like Foursquare on wheels.
  • receive personalized service at drive-thru places.

The following staples of human interaction were cleverly left off the list:

  • Flipping off the person who just cut you off on the freeway,
  • Telling someone who just stole your parking spot what you think of their manners,
  • Warning the person tailgating you to back off,
  • Calling the slow driver in front of you who’s hogging the passing lane all sorts of funny names.

Call me a cynic if you want, but I think people are 10 times more likely to add this service to their road rage arsenal (already comprised of lively hand gestures, exacerbated facial expressions and aggressive car moves) than they are to use it to tell someone they’re cute.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the powers of the tool (it’s good!) and am sure it can be used for the greater good. I just think the majority of people in cars behave the same way Omid Djalili does in the video clip above.

Back in 2006, two guys created this website to allow users to report bad drivers by their license plate number. It’s a good venting outlet and is still quite popular. Can you imagine the possibilities offered by Bump! in this context? Endless!

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May 10, 2010

Kontain your excitement

Facebook not working for you? Find Twitter status updates limiting? Kontain was created to offer people a way to tell their story visually.

“Choose a photo or video from your PC or mobile device and quickly broadcast it to your friends and the world on a simple platform — it’s the new way for people to connect and share their life. (…) Kontain was founded on the belief in the power of visual updates. We love social media but we were frustrated by all the noise on existing networks, and wanted to watch instead of just read about all the things our friends and family were doing.”

Two things bother me here:

  1. People can already do all these things on Facebook – there’s hardly anything revolutionary about the Kontain concept. Even if the platform is better suited for sharing videos and photos, I doubt people will stop posting to Facebook where their networks are already established and where they can tag each other. I used to be a heavy Flickr user until I realized I could reach more people I cared about on Facebook.
  2. What’s with the name? “Kontain”? If the tool is social and all about sharing, why try to “contain” it?

I usually love signing up for any new communication tool I can find on the internet but I didn’t create a username for Kontain. I was just too put off by the constricting name. Communication is about outreach and expansion. Not about containment.

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May 5, 2010

Happy as a Bee

Is “Happy as a bee” even an expression? Not sure why it’s stuck in my head., an “online reputation” management platform, allows you to calculate your Google grade. Just tried it and scored B.

6 of the top 10 google results for your name are about you. Brand-Yourself can help you improve this score.

My dad scored an A+ and he doesn’t even know how to use a computer.

My husband scored an F. With a name like John Miller, what do you expect. I personally think he’s lucky; what’s better than potential employers finding 60% of good things about you on the interwebs? Finding nothing at all! Nothing to hold against you, nothing to investigate, just pure sexy mystery.

April 29, 2010

What’s really the point?

Struggling with a PowerPoint presentation for work. Things were A LOT easier before I read the following articles:

In a nutshell: PowerPoint is the root of all evil (per Tufte), flaws inherent to the tool dilute thought, the sequentiality and hierarchical structure of the software corrupts the message. The U.S. Army will bring peace to Earth before they can figure out the meaning of a convoluted PowerPoint slide, what’s on the actual slides should appeal to the audience’s emotions rather than feed information, and slides should be lean – as Seth Godin says: “bullets are for the NRA”.

I now have to transform my pretty wordy explanatory slides into lean mean (and efficient) machines of persuasion. I may need an extra month. Oh, right, the presentation is due tomorrow.