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sponsored post Rolling Stones misquotes aside, I think it’s time Software as a Service (SaaS) was politely asked to step off the cloud bandwagon and stop confusing everyone. As if many of us didn’t have enough problems trying to help everyone else understand the concept of cloud computing – while shaking off the ‘slightly odd, socially-awkward geek’ tag that dogs IT – last month saw the launch of Cloud Girlfriend. Yet another SaaS service that manages to perpetuate not one but two unfortunate myths.
Yes, you too can avoid the embarrassment of never getting a date, while showing off a hot girlfriend to all your old high school mates you should never have invited on Facebook. That’s right – you know they were all sniggering at you in their well balanced married-and-mortgaged-with-two-kids lifestyles while your Twitter stream was filled with your World of Warcraft adventures. (“My level sixty dwarf just got wiped by a level ten troll #WTF?”)
Well, that would be the case if we were all basement-dwelling geeks with egg stains on our Iron Maiden t-shirts. But some of us don’t actually have a problem finding a real girlfriend. (It is sadly noted that it seemingly wasn’t deemed necessary to release a ‘Cloud Boyfriend’ alternative. Welcome to 1995.)
Cloud Girlfriend allows you to create your ideal digital sweetheart and then interact with her through your chosen social network. Your friends will see you having conversations with your faux beau, and will even see photos of her, as you lead a fictional long-distance relationship. She will post adoring tweets for you or loving messages on your Facebook wall for all to see. But her entire personality and existence is stored virtually in ‘the cloud’ – apparently. However, the strings to your virtual admirer are pulled by ‘a real girl’ according to founder David Fuhriman on Quora.
So, not really very virtual then. It isn’t made clear how much of the service is automated and virtual, and how much is really just people creating and interacting with fake accounts on your behalf.
Of course, it’s entirely possible Cloud Girlfriend breaches Facebook and Twitter terms and conditions, which may make this a pretty short-run business. It’s almost as if the major social networks had enough foresight to prevent deceptive manipulation of their platforms. Who’d a thunk?
So far, so very silly and mildly amusing in a sad ’what will they think of next’ kind of way. But my issue with Cloud Girlfriend is not merely that it’s just – well – creepy.
Is this really the best illustration of the cloud? Is it really deserving of putting the C word (not that one – the clean one!) in its name? Last week, JP Morgenthal over at Cloud Computing Journal explored the common practice of using Facebook and other popular SaaS offerings to illustrate the concept of cloud computing to non users.
“Software-as-a-Service is merely a consumer of cloud computing and not a component of cloud computing. Or, as we like to say in the architecture world, SaaS uses cloud, not SaaS is a cloud. Hence, the Facebook application is not cloud.”
I happen to agree. Using Facebook to define the cloud is like using your television to define electricity. Although your television plugs into your wall socket, you can’t point at it and say “See that? That’s electricity, that is.” And in his wildest moments, Logie Baird never once considered calling his invention the ‘Electricity Screen’ to capitalise on all that electric hype.
Using SaaS to define the cloud is lazy. It’s a small, inaccurate answer to a bigger question deserving of accuracy. And it only creates more questions later that can bring you embarrassingly unstuck – just like a digital girlfriend.
In conjunction with Delimiter, we’re running a competition on this issue. To enter, simply tell us in 25 words or less how you would define cloud computing to your kids or grandparents and you could win a Ninefold prize pack; including an iPod Nano, a Ninefold t-shirt and $100 Ninefold credit. Don’t take it too seriously – silly and entertaining entries are encouraged. Entries close April 30.