Sunday, September 5, 2010

What "Ping" Really Means

When I was little, some Swedish was spoken in my house. At some point, I realized that our bathroom words were different from those used by my Ohio playmates. In my house, we didn't do "poop" or "poo" and definitely not "crap" and most certainly not "shit". We did "bice". It may be a complete coincidence, but I have never dined at the Italian restaurant named "Bicé".

The Story about Ping (Reading Railroad Books)I know what you're thinking. Ok, that's number two, so what did you call number one? No, not "pee" or "wee", and definitely not "piss". But I remember exactly when my mom explained to us that the word we used was not the one used by most English speakers. It was when my mom read us the book The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack. My little sister roared with laughter, because "ping" was our word for urine.

I have no idea whether "ping" is a widely used bathroom word, here, in Sweden or anywhere; I don't go around talking much about ping. But I can tell you that Ping, Apple's new iTunes feature, is a piss-poor excuse for a social network.

I read Dave Winer's post describing the lameness of Ping, but I was still eager to try for myself. Apple's ability to create things that "just work" is justifiably reknowned. But having put my toes in the water, my reaction was more along the lines of Swizec's scatologically titled post.

I was stunned that Apple had not implemented the obvious functionality. When you listen to a song, you should be able to push a comment for it to your followers. In Ping, you can't. iTunes knows the songs I've rated most highly. Inexplicably, these are not the songs it suggests for my profile. Ping seems only interested in things I've bought recently in the store. But it even appears to be inept at using my iTunes-store sanctioned activity in my profile. It's hard to believe that something so poorly executed could get released by Apple.

The Napster corporate logoAfter thinking about it for a while, I realized what had happened. Imagine a system that can tell people what songs you have on your computer, and can connect you directly with the people interested in those songs. You want to share information about the songs and connect to people. Does that sound vaguely familiar? Do you remember Napster? The only difference between a well implemented Ping and the legally challenged Napster is a way to push files around.

I think that Apple showed Ping to some music publishers, who flipped out at the possibility that it would be used for file sharing and forced Apple to cripple Ping. Or maybe Apple saw the file-sharing potential itself and worried that Ping could kill off its music based revenue stream. Or could it possibly be that Apple is being incredibly devious, and is expecting that someone, somewhere will see how to add file sharing to Ping, resulting in huge popularity of Ping even while some elusive third party assumes all the Napster liability? We shall see.

The only thing I'm sure of is that Apple isn't likely to discuss what "Ping" really means – outside of its own bathroom.
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  1. Of my huge wealth of wisdom I choose to come forth with the Norwegian equivalents:

    (roguhyl phonetically) Bimmeh-limm and bohmme-lohmm.

    I think which is which is fairly obvious. :)

  2. 'Bice' and 'Ping' together make 'Bing'. Coincidence?