I am the ghost of groovymother.com. Woooooo!

This is an old page from Rod Begbie's blog.

It only exists in an attempt to prevent linkrot. No new content will be added to this site, and links and images are liable to be broken. Check out begbie.com to find where I'm posting stuff these days.

Filed under 'quoraanswer'

June 11, 2010

Whither Bacon?

The following is my answer to the question “Why are some people obsessed with bacon?” on Quora

Diet Coke with Bacon

First, the technical answer: Bacon is a particularly umami packed foodstuff, making it almost universally delicious.

This means that, more than other meats, it can be combined with other flavours in interesting ways. An event like BaconCamp showcases its flexibility; bacon can enhance dishes both savoury and sweet.

But on a more base level, I think bacon’s popularity (and cultishness) is more tied to its emotional feeling. Bacon is cheap and easy to cook. You can buy a large pack from the supermarket for a few bucks, and prepare it by frying, grilling, broiling or microwaving. (If good quality steak was as cheap and easy-to-prepare as bacon, we’d probably see FiletMignonCamps sprouting up!)

In the US, bacon’s an integral part of most of the crazy-huge breakfasts served at diners and restaurants, so it gets internally associated with the times you’ve treated yourself to breakfast out. And in the UK, a bacon butty, usually with plenty of ketchup (also extremely umamiful), is standard fare for when you’re short of cash, hungover and/or lazy (ie. students eat them A LOT)

Because of these experiences, bacon is subconsciously tied to “comfort food” in our brains. Most people enjoy it, and vegetarians often comment that bacon is the one meat they miss. Since it’s a relatively-unspoken common bond, when it is brought to the fore in (primarily internet) culture, it’s something large numbers of people respond to with “Yeah! I love bacon too!” Amplify this in the standard internet hyperbole filter, and there’s your “obsession”.

May 22, 2010

Squaring Up

The following is my answer to the question “How is Square going to give out merchant accounts with minimal verification while still preventing fraud?” on Quora

I’ve signed up for a merchant account with Square, and received my card reader today. There were several steps along the way that I noticed that could contribute to lowering fraud.

  1. In order to start accepting payments, you need to supply a physical (non PO Box) mailing address so they can send you a card reader.
  2. To activate the card reader, you need to supply your social security number so they can run a credit check on you.
  3. Upon activation, you are limited in the size of transactions you can perform in a week. My limit is $100 per transaction, and $700 a week. Presumably these numbers will change as they become more or less confident in a user.
  4. According to the TOS, new users, or users who have suffered chargebacks, might be required to lodge a reserve on their Square account before they can accept further payments.
  5. Before they will deposit your money, you have to go through the standard “verify two sub-dollar deposits” test to ensure you have access to the bank account.
  6. Transactions are geotagged based upon the cellphone’s location. This is presented as a handy feature for users, but I suspect it would make for interesting fraud datamining.
  7. Swiping cards with a reader requires the presence of a physical card. Yes, they’re forgeable, but it’s still harder than entering a stolen number.
Filed under : :

May 19, 2010

Time to get Married

The following is my answer to the question “Question for men: How did you decide it was time to get married?” on Quora

When I first started dating Joy, I warned her that I didn’t see myself ever getting married.

Six months later, I’d proposed.

The turning point was probably when we’d been together a few months, and we were talking about moving in together. I suggested buying something, rather than renting, and Joy pointed out that I was talking about making a 30 year commitment to a mortgage, but wasn’t considering marriage.

She was right. I could see myself with her for the rest of our lives.

So, I’m afraid the answer from my perspective: “You just know.”

Filed under : : :

May 18, 2010

Why don’t more people use ad-blocking software?

The following is my answer to the question “Why don’t more people use Adblock Plus or other ad-blocking software?” on Quora

I think there’s one main reason: They don’t know such software exists.

And even if they do, it’s not a one-click install-and-forget procedure. Once you’ve installed it, you have to deal with false positives and things not working 100% right. Occasionally, content gets blocked, or JavaScript stops functioning. I install ad blockers on all my browsers, but there are always sites I need to whitelist. For that reason, I never recommend ad blockers to my non-techie friends & relatives.

Filed under : : :

The Swing to Chrome

The following is my answer to the question “Will Firefox have double-digit market share in 3 to 5 years?” on Quora

I doubt it.

I see (non-mobile) browser users approximately falling into three categories:

  1. 60% are users who will always use the default browser installed on their computer. This is IE’s bread and butter. Combines home users who don’t know what a browser is or why they’d ever change, and works users who are forced to use whatever their IT department prescribes. (Also now includes people buying their first Macs and starting to use Safari)
  2. 10% are users who will seek out the “best” browser. In the early 2000’s, perhaps paid for Opera (and maybe still do), since around 2003 using Firefox. Care about things like speed, memory use, privacy, and extensions.
  3. 30% are users who would normally be in the first category, but have friends or relatives in the second. Have installed Firefox (or had Firefox forcibly installed on their behalfs) and perhaps even keep it up to date.

At the moment, I see the middle 10% swinging wildly towards Chrome. Over the last few months, given the OS X beta release, the improvement of the Developer tools, and the release of extensions, I’ve seen anecdotal Chrome usage amongst my peers (and disgruntlement with the bloat and slowness of Firefox) increase massively.

This will have the tail effect on the third group — I’ve already switched Joy to Chrome, and the next time my mum asks me something about her Firefox installation, I will undoubtedly suggest the same.

And finally, given Google’s immense power and advertising ability, they could even start to reach into the non-techies. They can use their search “monopoly” to strongly suggest Chrome installation, reaching out to people that Mozilla can only dream of.

The competition might give Mozilla a boost to improve Firefox, but the current change in their momentum doesn’t look promising for their future.

May 16, 2010

The importance of an API

The following is my answer to the question “Rod Begbie, what are all the reasons you want a systematic way to retrieve your answers from Quora?” on Quora

Off the bat, it’s important to state: I like Quora. I’ve had tremendous fun on the site, have learned a bunch, and gotten to gather some top notch insight from smart folks.

But the other day, I found myself spending 10 minutes writing an answer on Quora, and realised I was throwing my time away. I was writing something that will be seen by, at most, a couple of hundred people.

A couple of hundred intelligent people, sure. A couple of hundred relatively-influential-in-the-tech-industry, maximum-of-two-degrees-away-from-the-founders-of-Facebook people, even. However, that pales in insignificance to the number of wonderful, influential and awesome people out there on Teh Internets as a whole.

And even assuming that the beta-wall drops and the great unwashed get to gaze upon the wisdom of Quora, my writing is still at the behest of the great Quora gods. If they delete or edit my post, or the hard drive crashes, or they decide they’re getting out of the Q&A business and turning off the servers, all my time is lost.

By writing an answer on Quora, I was giving my time and value to Quora The Company, without getting anything of any real value back. Yes people could vote me up or down, or comment on what I wrote, but I can theoretically get that by writing a blog post and linking it on Reddit or Hacker News.

The Quora terms of service make it clear that I “own” my content. I want a way to get a feed of everything I contribute so I can store it away and do with it what I want.

Why is this important? Twitter’s a grand example. Right now, it is impossible to download more than 3,200 of your own tweets. The API simply balks if you request anything older. Luckily, I started archiving my tweets long before hitting that limit, so I have access to everything I’ve ever posted there.

Similarly, I upload my photos to Flickr. I get all the benefits of Flickr’s superior community and organizational tools, but am also able to run a script which downloads and backs-up all my photos, their descriptions, tags and comments.

And in both these examples, I am able to pull my content in real time and display it here on my blog. My output is collated and tagged in the way I want. I can run a blog search and find something I wrote two years ago, whether blogpost, tweet or photo description.

So, until Quora offers such a feed, I am resolved to not answering any more questions. Or rather, if I do, it will be by writing a blog post and posting the link to Quora.

About This Site

This is an archive of groovmother.com, the old blog run by Rod Begbie — A Scottish geek who lives in San Francisco, CA.

I'm the co-founder of Sōsh, your handy-dandy guide for things to do in San Francisco this weekend.