Word Crimes

Weird Al Yankovic is on fire. Great stuff. Both my wife and I thought it was a tad fast but in fact, it’s the right speed for its intended audience.

You should never write words using numbers, unless you’re 7 or your name is Prince.

Listen up when I tell you this: I hope you never use quotation marks for ’emphasis.’

Messages beta

Apple has finally started to unify their instant messaging universe. Many of us have been using iChatAV for years and have come to depend on it. Not everyone signed up and had an AIM account in the early days (AOL was and remains disdained by the power user types) although in time Apple allowed the use of a .mac address to use iChatAV and it worked and works well to this day.

In the iOS world Apple has had texting via cellular networks on the iPhone and with iOS 5 they’ve combined texting over cellular with an iChatAV-like application called Messages that unifies both cellular texting and IP-chatting. It works extremely well on both the iPhone and the iPad saving a considerable amount of money when one is on a wifi network by not using cellular minutes during that time.

There was no way to connect iChatAV on the Mac and Messages on iOS devices until now. Apple has finally released a beta of Messages for Mac OS X Lion that will ship for real with the next Lion update called “Mountain Lion.”

I’m using the beta now and it’s a wonderful improvement over the old iChatAV. I’m connected to my iPhone, my AIM buddy list, and all my cellular contacts. Very cool.

[via Zapong]


Verbling takes the concept of video chat with randomly selected partners and gives it a wholly worthwhile purpose. Using Verbling, you can connect to native speakers of another language who also want to learn the language you speak natively.

For example, I speak English, but I need to brush up on my French. I can use Verbling to start a quick, 10-minute chat with a stranger. Half our video chat will be in English, and half will be in French.

What a great idea.

Texting as sonar

Japanese Teenagers Teach Us Something About Being In Two Places At Once

Consider a fascinating study of the text messaging behavior of Tokyo teenagers that was conducted as part of a much larger investigation of “digital youth” by Mimi Ito, the late Peter Lyman and their colleagues. The kids text back and forth all day. What are they writing? What is so pressing that it can’t wait till they see each other?

Anthropologists looking at the matter were surprised to discover that the kids rarely send informative or detailed messages. As a general rule, they are not telling each other anything. Rather, they are just letting each other know that they are “there,” that they are online, in reach. Texting for the kids is a way of “pinging” each other. They bounce pings back and forth and so signal their presence for each other.

Perhaps it would be better to say that the kids are not so much signaling their presence as they are literally making themselves present to each other by establishing and then continuously verifying the existence of a communication channel. And there is need for this as well, it turns out.

I see this. Pinging or poking is useful and I’m finding myself doing it myself when I don’t want to call but want to let someone know where I am. Of course, the image of Japanese (or any) young people with their faces buried in their phones walking down the street or on the train is disturbing but in fact, I predict this trend will settle out as both the technology changes and we become more adept at integrating it into a more balanced social life (whatever that is).

Group Texting Grows Up

I have to say, my wife, who hates talking on the phone has been texting non-stop since getting my old iPhone. She even pulled me into it and I’ve been chatting for years. It is useful and no doubt less intrusive than a phone call at times.

OnPoint had a show on texting the other day. It’s worth listening to and commenting on: Texting Trends & Human Contact.

Tip: turn sound off on your phone, vibrate on, and then you can more easily ignore incoming stuff and deal with it in your own sweet time.

Kottke on Chatroulette

Kottke on Chatroulette

Jason Kottke reviews a new video conferencing site called Chatroulette (chat roulette). Connect with random people all over the world, no moderation, no rules, just a video and voice connection with god knows who or what on the other end. The site has no appeal for me but Kottke’s review of it is one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read. Read it, it’s funny as hell. If you have the guts to try Chatroulette let me know, I’d love to hear what you think.