Zooomr / The Canadian Dollar / Saving Ideas

The meme sites were abuzz yesterday about Zooomrbelieved by some to be a Flickr killer, and purportedly writtenby a 17-year old in three months. Two of its killer features,apparently, are the ability to addaudio to pictures, and to geocode pictures.

Aside from the shameless rip of Flickr’sname and appearance (don’t people feel a little ashamed whenthey do this? While it works for parady and satire, when used for alegitimate company it makes the foundations appear dishonest andshady, especially when the product is targeting at exactly the samemarket and use), superficially ripping off an existing site iseasy. We subcontract some work through several of thecode-farming sites, and every day we see low-cost jobs completedfor tasks like “make a clone of MySpace” or “make aclone of Ebay“. Hysterics about how amazing it is that asuperficial Flickr clone + marginal features (such as a mash-upwith Google maps, one of the cheapest techniques to liven up awebsite) was written in three months betrays a basic lack ofunderstanding about where the difficulties of software developmentlie.

My daughter trying out her new boots

Of course, like the widely hyped Riya, Ihaven’t actually been able to look at Zooomr — it appears thattheir servers fell over and died under the onslaught (one of thosenon-superficial features you have to design in is scalability, andappearances are that it wasn’t a primary concern).

As an aside, I read TechCrunch, but take everything Mr. Arringtonand crew say with a monster-sized grain of salt: He seems far tooincestuously embedded into the Web 2.0 hype community to offerany sort of critical analysis, and occasionally offers upsome highly suspect infromation (such as yesterday’s recommendation that everyone sign upfor TrustedID to take advantage of already existing, usuallyfree services for $8 US per month).

Speaking of geocoding and ideas, years back — early in Google’sascent — I emailed them advocating that they pioneer andevangelize geocoding standards for webpages: A standard thatwould allow web authors to indicate where, if appropriate, aparticular webpage applied. For example Burlington, Ontario,Canada, perhaps even a particular street corner for a fish shop(possibly longitude and latitude). This thought came to mindbecause of the difficulty searching locally, which naturally led toa diminished value for small, localized businesses to takeadvantage of the web — while we were gaining the ability tosearch a world of information, it was becoming, andremains, enormously difficult to zero in on locallyrelevant data.

At the same time I advocated that they should pioneer webclient geocoding — a proposed feature that with the user’sauthorization would enable an HTTP header, much like thelanguageheader, that would indicate what geographical location orproximity that they are most interested in, automaticallyincorporated throughout the web. Obviously there are some privacyconcerns with this that would need to be evaluated. As it is thissort of feature has somewhat been accommodated via reverse-DNS and geographical recordscorrelating with IP.

Google has added some hit-and-miss, high false-negative code totry to detect and extract addresses on websites, but it only partlyachieves the goal. It would have been very advantageous for bothusers and businesses if geocoding were a principal element of pagemarkup at the outset.

While commenting on a grab-bag of thoughts, here in Canada we’vewatched our dollar climb about 30% against the American dollar overthe past two years. While a part of this can be attributed to themonstrous reserves of the oil sands we harbour, with a world oilprice that finally makes it cost-effective to perform the costlyoil extraction,  the principal reason our dollar has ascendedhas simply been the decline of the US dollar on world markets (e.g.we’re largely spectators along for the ride). Several importantAsian currencies are tied to the US dollar, and thus have alsodropped against the Canadian dollar.

The impact this has on Canada is that anything sourced in theUS, or in Asian countries whose currencies are tied to the US$, is that much cheaper in Canada. While our exports are moreexpensive to some countries, and thus less competitive, fororganizations that rely upon substantial foreign inputs for theirproducts or even operations, this can be a great advantage.

Given that I’m in the IT industry, of course I’m talking aboutcomputer hardware.

From LCD displays to laptops to servers, the prices across theboard are amazingly low, and if a shop held off upgrading a server,there are some fantastic currency advantages to doing so now. Youcan get more computer hardware for less, far beyond the power/$advances of the computer market.