11/13/06 - dodgeball truth

In today's excerpt - technology:

"Sooner or later we all face the Dodgeball truth. This comes at the moment when you realize that one of life's possibilities -- a product, an adventure, an offer, an idea -- is really meant for people younger than you.

"This bitter revelation is named for the relatively new Web-based service This is a social networking site, and it represents most of what is supposed to be advanced and exciting about the current wave of 'Web 2.0' offerings. Dodgeball's goal is to help you figure out, at any moment of the day or night, whether your friends or people who might be friendly are nearby. Toward this end, users construct networks of contacts -- you list your friends, they list theirs, and on it goes -- and lists of 'crushes', people they'd like to get to know. Then, with your cell phone or PDA, you send Dodgeball a text message saying that you've arrived at a particular bar or Starbucks or museum. Dodgeball messages you back with a list of people in your network who are within brief walking distance of your location -- and tells them, and your crushes, where you are.

"Dodgeball clearly meets most of the standards Tim O'Reilly, of O'Reilly Media, laid out last fall in his manifesto 'What Is Web 2.0.' (The paper can be found at It relies on users to create and continually refine its content. It combines, or 'mashes up,' different kinds of data and services: mapping systems, networking software, messaging services. (The single most annoying aspect of the annoyingly named Web 2.0 movement is the use of the term 'mashing up' to denote what in English we call 'combining.') Dodgeball is light, mobile, interactive. And for the life of me, I can't imagine when I would use it.

"Well, I can. Two years from now, if I'm at the Republican or Democratic national convention, I might want to find the 100 people I know amid the 50,000 I don't. Otherwise, I don't need Dodgeball to find the people who matter to me. My wife is in the other room, my kids are with their cell phones, I can trawl for friends and relatives via BlackBerry. Dodgeball is meant for people in their 20s --- my children's age. Anyone my age who has signed up is probably also lurking on MySpace."


James Fallows


'Homo Conexus'


MIT Technology Review


July/August 2006


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