Filter looks at the day's top technology news through snapshots and analysis of what the world's media outlets are covering. Washingtonpost.com's new Mon.-Fri. feature is penned by technology reporter Cynthia L. Webb. If a technology story breaks, a company falters or triumphs, or there's a new trend in technology, Filter wants you to know about it.
And a recent article in The Village Voice reported that Friendster may masquerade as a place where friends connect, but it is really a no-frills dating service. "Not strictly a dating service, Friendster has built its success on its casual feel. There are no cupids or hearts on the site, nothing to indicate it's anything but a tool for connecting with friends. But although you could use it to meet a fellow Scrabble aficionado or an ultimate Frisbee partner, the site ends up being largely about dating. 'For every one user of online dating services, there are probably 10 people who would use Friendster because they're more comfortable with the approach,' says company founder Jonathan Abrams. 'Friendster is less creepy. It's a little more like real life.'"
The Village Voice: Six Degrees of Sexual Frustration
Alpha, Beta, Friendster
Friendster is not only part of the social networking trend, it's also among the companies that seem to exist in a permanent "beta state." That's according to a May 29 Wired News article on the beta-testing trend. "The term 'beta,' once used to describe a brief, private final round of software testing, is these days being bandied about by seemingly every publicly available Web-based service that thinks it may someday add or modify a feature. A glance at the homepages of popular services such as Google News, Friendster, Tribe or Orkut, as well as software from outfits like Mozilla and Netscape -- all of which have been in mainstream use for quite a while -- reveals that all are offering effectively unfinished work for popular consumption. To some, the trend is a dangerous sign of a move away from companies' commitment to rolling out only finished products," the article said. "'You can just release your beta into the world and you don't have to do any testing, because your users will do it for you,' said Jonathan Korman, the principal designer at Cooper, a consultancy that helps developers with usability issues."
Wired News: Mo' Better Testing Blues
Face to Face With Friendster
Social networking sites, profit or not, continue to spawn like hydras. One of the newer players is called The Facebook. Born at Harvard University, it's designed for college students and limited to each member's own college or university. The University of California, Davis student newspaper, The California Aggie, wrote about the site last week. "Facebook.com was launched Feb. 4 by Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg and his friends to connect students through social networks across colleges and universities, according to the website," the article said, noting that Facebook is exclusively for college students, "limiting access to only university affiliates, and so far, only certain universities. A registrant must be associated with a school that is part of the Facebook network, which currently has 34 universities, including all eight Ivy League schools, as well as UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley and UC Davis."
But like any good idea, there's a brewing row over who really founded the company, according to an article on Friday from Harvard's Crimson newspaper. A group of students behind "ConnectU.com, a competing online network released last Friday -- have launched a campaign to discredit Zuckerberg, claiming that he stole his college facebook idea while writing code for their site." Zuckerberg's response? "They kept talking about releasing it [in November]," Zuckerberg said, according to the article. "But all their graphics were still taken from copyrighted sources. It was clear that it was nowhere near release."
A computer glitch in the UK's National Air Traffic Control System snarled flights throughout the country today. "A spokesman for NATS, the National Air Traffic Control System, said "There are reports of some kind of computer system problems that we are in the middle of investigating,'" The Scotsman news outlet reported.
The Scotsman: Flights Hit By Air Traffic Control System Failure
BBC News Online reported that the problem was fixed and gave more details on what happened: "Nats' Flight Data Processing System failed at around 0600BST for an hour, after overnight testing of an upgrade. Thousands of passengers have been experiencing delays as airlines work to clear the backlog of flights. Planes had to be grounded at airports including Gatwick, Heathrow, Manchester and Inverness."
BBC News Online: Flights Resuming After Disruption
CNN said the "failure, which struck at about 6 a.m. BST (0500 GMT), came at the worst time of the day, when long-haul and transatlantic flights were arriving to land, and European fights were beginning to move around the continent, according to CNN's Diana Muriel."
CNN.com: Air Travel Chaos Hits Britain
NATS posted an announcement about the problem on its Web site. "We would like to apologise unreservedly to air travellers whose journeys have been delayed this morning following testing of the Flight Data Processing System (FDP), based at West Drayton. We would like to reassure air travellers that the safety of flights was not in any way compromised." The organization said an investigation into the problem was underway. Bon voyage!
Disk-drive manufacturer Seagate Technology said it will cut approximately 2,900 jobs, or 7 percent of its total workforce. "The No. 1 disk-drive maker did not specify where the job cuts will fall. The job reductions, announced in a conference call with analysts Wednesday, are part of a plan approved by Seagate's board to slash annual operating costs by $150 million. The company, incorporated in the Cayman Islands and operated from Scotts Valley, will also take a restructuring charge of $50 million in the current quarter. About 2,100 of Seagate's 42,000 employees are in the Bay Area, with locations in Scotts Valley, San Jose, Fremont and Milpitas. The local jobs include administration, sales, marketing, engineering and manufacturing, according to company spokesman Brian Ziel," The San Jose Mercury News reported today.
The Financial Times explained that "Seagate and rivals such as Maxtor, Toshiba and Hitachi have struggled to cope with an unpredictable market this year. But Seagate said Wednesday evening that its current fiscal fourth quarter had been marked by normal demand patterns for its products. It did not provide specific guidance for the quarter ending July 2," the newspaper said.
"This particular cut was really identified to try to make us more efficient," said Bill Watkins, president and chief operating officer, as quoted by The Santa Cruz Sentinel newspaper (Santa Cruz is next to Scotts Valley).
Filter is designed for hard-core techies, news junkies and technology professionals alike. Have suggestions, cool links or interesting tales to share? Send your tips and feedback to cindyDOTwebbATwashingtonpost.com. (Yes, those spammers have been having a lot of fun with my e-mail address lately.)