Bye Conan

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Before singing Free Bird with Beck, Ben Harper, ZZ Top and Wil Ferrel Conan said something pretty profound. For one, he thanked all his fans for turning an otherwise sad moment in his life into a joyous and inspirational one while choking back tears. But in a sobering moment, he pleaded to his young viewers and shared some words of wisdom:

“All I ask is one thing, and I’m asking this particularly of young people that watch: Please do not be cynical. I hate cynicism. For the record, it’s my least favorite quality. It doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.”

If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. Not too bad as far as advice goes and not too surprising from a guy who, at a low point in his career, still has a sense of awe and appreciation for how he got there.

It reminds me of his commencement speech to the Harvard class of 2000:

I left the cocoon of Harvard, I left the cocoon of Saturday Night Live, I left the cocoon of The Simpsons. And each time it was bruising and tumultuous. And yet, every failure was freeing, and today I’m as nostalgic for the bad as I am for the good.

So, that’s what I wish for all of you: the bad as well as the good. Fall down, make a mess, break something occasionally. And remember that the story is never over. If it’s all right, I’d like to read a little something from just this year: “Somehow, Conan O’Brien has transformed himself into the brightest star in the Late Night firmament. His comedy is the gold standard and Conan himself is not only the quickest and most inventive wit of his generation, but quite possible the greatest host ever.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, Class of 2000, I wrote that this morning, as proof that, when all else fails, there’s always delusion.

I’ll go now, to make bigger mistakes and to embarrass this fine institution even more. But let me leave you with one last thought: If you can laugh at yourself loud and hard every time you fall, people will think you’re drunk.

Right now Conan is falling down and leaving the cocoon of NBC. It will suck for a while, and it’s been quite a mess. But I won’t be surprised when he rises again and carves out another little place in our lives where he can do what he does best: make us laugh. Good luck, Conan!

Heart statistics

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So I got this Garmin device that does GPS in hopes that it’d make me run more. So far it’s been successful. The GPS and Google maps mashups on their activity summary web app are super cool (see full example):
garmin

Over time, if you keep up with it you can see improvements in different categories:

  • Distance – you can run more as you get in better shape
  • Heart rate – peaks and average should normalize
  • Time – you’ll improve your time (ideally!) :)

Since I’m not a running super-beast and I’m not very fast, I have been pretty interested in the heart rate! I’m also interested in it because the first few runs were pretty tough because I’d run for a bit (at the speed I remember running at) and my heart would go nuts and I’d have to walk for a bit. For a while I’d have to keep doing that, and my heart rate chart showed why.

On my first run in about 2 years, I was getting owned:
first

After waking up this morning at 430am and going for a crazy morning run (which, if you knew me, is something I never do), I was happy to see this:
new

I still have to walk a bit in the middle of a 3 mile jog, but while I’m running my heart rate remains constant and it never felt like it was going to explode. I’m now able to sustain for longer and I also have less movement between 180 and 200 bpm (Note that the top graph was 1.5 miles and the bottom one was 3 miles).

As I was writing a blog about browsing statistics and how they can improve how we use the web, it made me think of this little Garmin watch and how knowing more about my own body can help me improve my life.

Data is good, knowledge is good. By itself, not so much — but if you use it right it can make all the difference.

Doing more with data

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Firefox users: Did you know that you have private database that contains all your browsing information?

Well, you do. And here’s the thing:

  • Only you have access to it
  • It’s under-utilized
  • You probably didn’t even know it existed

Browsing could be better. There’s no question about that. We have set conventions and preconceived notions about how browsing should be. That is, until the next big thing comes along and rocks our world.

It feels like using data to improve browsing is a no-brainer, and data-driven browsing is already the next big thing. You see this in search suggests, amazon suggested items, the iTunes store, and other sites. And that’s just all site-specific. Imagine if we used data the right way and made things just click?

On a limited scale, it’s all more than possible today. You have complete control over your own browsing history:

  • Sites visited
  • Bookmarks
  • Awesome bar history
  • Media viewed
  • Favorite sites
  • Search keywords
  • Trending of all the above

Simple fact is that you’re not using as much as you could.

The Firefox awesome bar was heralded as a great step in browsing innovation. And it’s true, it really was. And that’s because a lot of browsing is really repeat browsing. How many times do you go back and view what you just looked at the other day?

But that’s the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot of things we can learn about the web and about how we use the web to make it better. And don’t think about person -> corporation -> other corporations. For starters, think about what you could do with just your own browsing data, or your family’s browsing data:

  • Easy access to repeat searches – movies, facebook, maps, you name it
  • An automated media catalog of images, videos and news articles you read over time
  • A list of phone numbers you have looked up and who they belong to
  • A list of all map directions you’ve ever done
  • A list of people you read about over the last week

The awesome bar in Firefox already uses this, and it’s great to see some Firefox extensions are already tapping into the possibilities:

  • about:me lets you read about your own browsing statistics
  • Voyage is a very cool way to not only view the sites you’ve used but see how you got there over time and whether or not you Tweeted about it!

Those are just two examples of what we can do and where we can go. I’m pretty excited to see what happens next. Maybe you have the next great idea — go forth!