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Swaine Manor: Of Bling, and Bing, and Ning

Volume Number: 26
Issue Number: 01
Column Tag: Editorial

Swaine Manor: Of Bling, and Bing, and Ning

A riff on Macworld, Roman Numerals, and Chinese Theaters

by Michael Swaine

I've attended a lot of Macworld shows over the years and, like Macheads everywhere, I used to look forward eagerly to the Steve Jobs keynote that always kicked off the event. This year it falls to John Gruber to explain to us how blown away we are at the awesomeness of it all and (dare I hope?) to tell us about that "one more thing."

Well, maybe not that "one more thing," since Steve may have kinda usurped that.

One Man's Bling

But you know what? It's all right. It really is. I'm finally getting used to Macworld without Steve Jobs, and I can get used to Macworld without Apple. Or Adobe. Or Quark. Or Epson. Or XtremeMac. It's better this way. It makes it easier to focus on what really matters.


I want my techie bling. I want an egg timer shaped like an Apple with a bite out of it, but nobody seems to want to jump into this inviting market niche. I want toys and gadgets too nerdy for The Sharper Image. I want stupid app tricks. I want bags with corporate logos for carrying my swag.

I want those UltimateEars earbuds that cost more than my computer and, the company says, will require an ear impression from my audiologist. I didn't even know I had an audiologist. They must be good!

I want iSaidWhat?, an iPhone app designed to embarrass my friends. I secretly record them, mix their words up, and post the result on Facebook or Twitter. What could be greater than that? I'm guessing this is an app that comes with a strong legal disclaimer.

I want font bling. I admit it, I'm a font geek. Priori Acute is a font inspired by M. C. Escher drawings. Serifs twist into nonexistent dimensions and dazzle the eye. I want that. I want to blog in it. I want font influence, like Al Gore, who recently got Typotheque to change the numeral 1 in their Brioni font. Now that's bold. I want the SarcMark: that sarcastic character created by a company of the same name, but I don't want it enough to pay for it, especially since the backward-facing question mark is already broadly understood to indicate sarcasm and doesn't cost two bucks. SarcMark is a dot in a spiral and is intended to represent sarcasm. I'm sure its brilliant inventors will be very successful.

OK, my bling may not be your bling.

Ning People

And my Ning may not be your thing. Are you a Ning person? IDG set up a Ning social networking site ( for Macworld a year or two ago, and I get the impression that it's running on autopilot, fueled by socnet energy. IDG may not even remember that they have the site. You should check it out before they find out and shut it down, especially the video of the little girl painting with ice cream and the dog licking up the painting. It's a comment on the ephemerality of art, I imagine. The site is also very pretty. Which makes me even surer that IDG isn't managing it.

Not to change the subject or anything, but do you realize that this year we Macheads celebrate the start of Year XI of OS X. Woo-hoo, right? And you thought Microsoft went a long time between releases. But I'm sure that Apple just wants to do it right. They won't go to eleven until they can put on the kind of release extravaganza that a full Roman numeral version update deserves, with geeks in togas and giant pillars on stage, and that won't happen until Nigel Tufnel can free up some time in his schedule.

Google and Bing

We'll wait just a minute while the younger Macheads in the group Google "Nigel Tufnel." Ah, back already? So you got the eleven reference, then? And the giant pillars? OK, moving along—which is exactly what Apple could be about to do with respect to Google.

There was a time when the default browser on Macs was from Microsoft. Could it be that soon the default search engine on Macs and iPhones will be from Microsoft?

Google has kicked China to the curb, and there could be some interesting consequences. I mean beyond China's refusal to show Avatar in its sixty zillion theaters. Now I have to confess, that blindsided me. How punishing Jim Cameron hurts Google is a lesson in corporate influence that I do not choose to sign up for. Especially since Chinese theaters are still showing the 3-D version.

But here's an easier question: If Google's decision to stop censoring search results in China leads to China kicking Google off all Chinese computers, who would benefit? I'm willing to do that math: Microsoft would pick up the search action and associated ad business with its Bing search engine.

So I'm not surprised to hear that Apple is being very Bing-friendly these days. Bing could be the new gateway to China.

You heard it speculated here first.

About the Title

"Swaine Manor" is a Batman reference, of course, but not to the TV Batman or to the Tim Burton Batman, but to the Frank Miller Batman. If I were permitted to choose a Frank Miller Batman, it would be the Frank Miller/Dave Mazzucchelli "Year One" Batman. "Michael Swaine" is, of course, a reference to Michael Swaim, the Cracked magazine writer who first pointed out that the term "Genius" in "Genius Bar" is sometimes applied sarcastically. Probably with a SarcMark.

Michael Swaine is the former editor-in-chief of Dr. Dobb’s Journal ( and current editor of PragPub (http://, the electronic magazine for pragmatic programmers. You can reach him at


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