Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How Twitter Will Change The Way We Live

June 5, 2009: summarized from Time Magazine -- The one thing you can say for certain about Twitter is that it makes a terrible first impression. You hear about this new service that lets you send 140-character updates to your "followers," and you think, Why does the world need this, exactly? It's not as if we were all sitting around four years ago scratching our heads and saying, "If only there were a technology that would allow me to send a message to my 50 friends, alerting them in real time about my choice of breakfast cereal."

I, too, was skeptical at first. I had met Evan Williams, Twitter's co-creator, a couple of times in the dotcom '90s when he was launching Blogger.com. Back then, what people worried about was the threat that blogging posed to our attention span, with telegraphic, two-paragraph blog posts replacing long-format articles and books. With Twitter, Williams was launching a communications platform that limited you to a couple of sentences at most. What was next? Software that let you send a single punctuation mark to describe your mood?

And yet as millions of devotees have discovered, Twitter turns out to have unsuspected depth. In part this is because hearing about what your friends had for breakfast is actually more interesting than it sounds. The technology writer Clive Thompson calls this "ambient awareness": by following these quick, abbreviated status reports from members of your extended social network, you get a strangely satisfying glimpse of their daily routines. We don't think it at all moronic to start a phone call with a friend by asking how her day is going. Twitter gives you the same information without your even having to ask.

The social warmth of all those stray details shouldn't be taken lightly. But I think there is something even more profound in what has happened to Twitter over the past two years, something that says more about the culture that has embraced and expanded Twitter at such extraordinary speed. Yes, the breakfast-status updates turned out to be more interesting than we thought. But the key development with Twitter is how we've jury-rigged the system to do things that its creators never dreamed of.

In short, the most fascinating thing about Twitter is not what it's doing to us. It's what we're doing to it.

Read more at: http://tinyurl.com/qtvneh

U.S. Deals Blow To Online-Poker Players

LM Comment: This week's big news from the world of online gambling.

June 10, 2009: summarized from The Wall Street Journal -- In an apparent crackdown on Internet gambling, federal authorities in New York have frozen or seized bank accounts worth $34 million belonging to 27,000 online poker players, according to representatives for the players and account holders.

In an operation that began last week, the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York froze or issued seizure orders for bank accounts in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Arizona held at Wells Fargo, Citibank, Goldwater Bank and Alliance Bank of Arizona.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office had no comment.

The accounts are managed by Allied Systems Inc., and Account Services, which handle cash for popular online poker sites, including Full Tilt Poker, Poker Stars, Ultimate Bet and Absolute Poker. Though the money belongs to the poker players, it is held for them in accounts managed by the two service companies.

Account Services, which had an account worth $15 million frozen in its San Francisco bank, doesn't accept deposits, but writes checks to players who are cashing out, said lawyer for the company, Jeff Ifrah. As a result, thousands of players receiving checks from the company won't be able to cash them, he said.

The seizures come as a debate over Internet gambling heats up in Washington. Last month, U.S. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D., Mass.) introduced a bill that would legalize and regulate Internet gambling.

Federal authorities say online gambling is illegal, but Internet-gambling advocates say it is a gray legal area. In 2006, Congress passed a law making it illegal for banks to processing payments for unlawful Internet gambling. Critics say the law is unclear.

Poker players don't consider poker a game of chance, but a game of skill, and argue that poker shouldn't be lumped in with sports betting, for example.

The government has prosecuted Internet gambling in the past, including sites that allow users to bet on sports and play poker. The massive seizure by the U.S. attorney is the first time federal authorities have targeted online poker accounts, according the Poker Players Alliance, a Washington-based lobbying group for online poker players.

The Alliance said there are 10 million Americans who play online poker for money, and estimated the market at $6 billion.

The Alliance "is disappointed that this unprecedented action has been commenced against law abiding poker players," said former U.S. Senator and Alliance Chairman Alfonse D'Amato in a written statement.

Read more at: http://tinyurl.com/n4rb6b