August 29, 2003
“To date, most software applications have been designed with one basic principle: to make it as easy as possible for the user to do what he or she wants to do. The emphasis on ease of use isn’t free of commercial interests, of course. Software companies know people are more likely to buy programs that are easy to use. But when commercial transactions insinuate themselves into the applications, the equation changes. Suddenly, the software companies aren’t making money simply from sales of the application; they’re also making money from sales generated within the application. Apple even gives away its iTunes software, so all the profits from the application are coming from the store.”
(via Tomalak’s Realm)
August 28, 2003
Fantastic article on RSS vs. E-mail Publishing in “Editor and Publisher” called With E-mail Dying, RSS Offers Alternative:
“Many e-mail publishers today remain afraid of RSS, suggests Pirillo, but there’s little to fear. He points out that the business model of e-mail publishing doesn’t really change using RSS. Readers still see the same ads, and the same content and design/layout that they would in receiving an HTML newsletter — assuming that they find your site’s headlines and blurbs worthy of clicking on to see full content.”
August 26, 2003
“The general quality of writing on the Web is poor. The way you write has a major impact on what people think of you. Avoid these common mistakes, and you will achieve more with your Web site.”
Another article on the prospect that SoBig is being created as a money-making scheme: New York Times: Spam-for-Money Plan Suspected by Expert on E-Mail Viruses”
Still, there is no evidence given as to why they think this is commercial in nature. The closest the article comes is:
“There is some evidence that he’s been tied in with spammers,” said Bruce Hughes, director of malicious code research at Trusecure. Although many companies blacklist Internet addresses that are the sources of spam, a strategy that used computers commandeered by the SoBig program would be almost impossible to defeat.”
Of course “impossible to defeat” is hogwash. Blacklisting would be useless in this case (which might be a good thing since it is largely a failed strategy towards stemming the flow of unwanted messages), but Bayesian mail filters like Cloudmark or SpamBayes would have no trouble with this.
Great article from Technology Review called “WhereWare”:
“The idea is to make cell phones, personal digital assistants, and even fashion accessories capable of tracking their owners’ every movement — whether they’re outdoors, working on the 60th floor, or shopping in a basement arcade.”
Most of what I’ve seen on this topic has focussed on location-based advertising (as in “The Gap can beam discount coupons to you as you pass their store!”). Most of this is uninspired hogwash that serves companies well, but not people. Some of the examples in this article speak more to personal use (finding out if a loved one is on their way to meet you or hopelessly lost, walking directions, etc.).
August 25, 2003
Respectfully, the people profiled in the NYT article “Former Dot-Commers Are Adjusting, Painfully” were part of the problem. Most of the folks in the article where senior executives of large corporations who jumped to wacky dotcoms right before the bust. Of course they jumped right back when dreams of options turning to gold vanished.
The New York Time’s Technology article called “Evite’s Day of Atonement” runs the body of an apology e-mail the company sent. It runs without commentary from NYT:
“Dear Evite Newsletter Subscriber,
Yesterday we mailed a newsletter to our subscribers with incorrect dates for three important holidays. Please accept our sincerest apologies for these errors and note the following corrections:
Labor Day, September 1st
Rosh Hashana, September 27th
Yom Kippur, October 6th
In addition, we also wish to apologize for having listed Yom Kippur as one of our ‘Reasons To Party.’ We understand and respect that Yom Kippur is a Day of Atonement, a day to be taken seriously to reflect and fast, and as such, one of the most important Jewish holidays in the year.
Again we deeply apologize for the error and thank you for allowing us to make this correction.
The Evite Team”
Let’s put aside for a moment how the original message was sent out in the first place and focus on the mea culpa. If you make a mistake, the best thing you can do is admit it, openly and candidly. Too many companies want to hide from the error, hoping no one will notice. Or they blame someone else. I think Evite did a very good job on this. The only thing I would change if I was running evite is I would have signed the apology and offered an e-mail address where users could contact me.
As a modern variant to Godwin’s Law (“As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”), I would submit the following:
“As blog comments grow longer, the probability of someone being called a “spammer” approaches one.”
Does this mean that spammers are the new Nazi’s? Will we see spammers looking the other way while bloggers storm the prison camps to free newbies?
The BBC announcing that they are going to post their entire archive online is big news.
Danny O’Brien’s Oblomovka provides some good insight:
“Now, ask yourself: why is it called the Creative Archive? Could it be something to do with a series of talks Larry Lessig gave to the BBC earlier this year? Conversations that continued in San Francisco with Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive?
I hope so. If it is, the public domain (or at least, the domain of the freely distributed, freely available content) is about to get a very sizeable grant. Eighty years worth of radio, televisual and film content, from the General Strike to World War II to the era of Benny Hill and the world of the Hitchhiker’s Guide . From Richard Dimbleby and the Coronation to David Dimbleby and Donald Rumsfeld.”
(via Boing Boing)
August 22, 2003
“Sobig smashed all the records in terms of pure numbers, but that’s not nearly the whole story,’ said Simpson. ‘This is the sixth in a series of controlled experiments. This isn’t about some kiddy writing viruses in his bedroom — this is really a very sophisticated example of organized crime.”
I’m not sure about this statement. Clearly, Peter Simpson, manager of ThreatLab at Clearswift, benefits from fear, uncertainty, and doubt about viruses and spam given Clearswift’s business.
Is there any proof or corroboration of this assertion?
August 21, 2003
Google has new AdSense Ad Formats
August 20, 2003
Google has just added another very cool feature — the Google Calculator.
Just type a math problem into the search box and you get back your answer.
Actually, I meant “in an imperial gallon”.
How about trying to tell relatives in the the US how hot it is here today.
This is interesting.
The Guardian will be publishing a column in the “real” (print) newspaper from Jason Staines, who posted some comments to their blogged items. From comment poster to columnist in a few short days:
“Eilan (aka Jason Staines), who has contributed to our discussion here on weblogs over the last week, agreed to pen this week’s Second Sight column in the newspaper. We thought he did a much better job of proposing a downside to the blogosphere than many of the higher-profile critics who have been having a go of late.”
The comments that got him the gig are here.
Update: Here is the column he did for the print and online version of the Guardian.
August 19, 2003
My first reaction to Randall Chapman’s article “A Marketing Definition in Six Words” was that his six words were too general, and therefore less than useful.
His definition of Marketing is:
“Marketing means solving customers’ problems profitably.”
But as I read the article, I came to agree that this is as good a definition as any. I’m not sure the “we’re all in marketing or we shouldn’t work here” argument will play well in larger companies, but it probably should. Too many people confuse advertising as equalling marketing.
Then again, I think you could make an equally solid argument that:
“Business means solving customers’ problems profitably.”
“Sales means solving customers’ problems profitably.”
August 14, 2003
[email protected] offers us a scholarly (ahem) defense of pop-ups in “Darn Those Pop-Up Ads! They’re Maddening, But Do They Work?”
“E-commerce experts at Wharton and elsewhere say pop-ups are not universally loathed and irrevocably worthless.”
Question: Does something have to be “universally loathed and irrevocably worthless” before we say it might not be the best way to communicate with potential customers?
August 13, 2003
Dave Winer blogged on the emergence of Nutch. This probably marks the official beginning of “nutch-mania”. Or maybe the first stages of GoogleSlagging going public.
“Every time Google gets competition, I hope this is the one that sticks, the one that makes search a two horse race.
As a heavy user of search, I know this is not a good situation, one Silicon Valley company with so much power. When one of them takes hold it’s as if we have a new royal family, people who breathe air that’s finer than ours. They “get” things we don’t. They think outside the box, we’re stuck inside.”
“Nutch is a nascent effort to implement an open-source web search engine.
Web search is a basic requirement for internet navigation, yet the number of web search engines is decreasing. Today’s oligopoly could soon be a monopoly, with a single company controlling nearly all web search for its commercial gain. That would not be good for users of the internet.”
August 12, 2003
BusinessWeek has a huge feature called “The Future Of Technology”.
The online edition has extended Q&A’s and commentary from the usual suspects: Andy Grove, Nicholas Negroponte, Bob Metcalfe, Jim Clark, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Carly Fiorina, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Sam Palmisano, John Chambers, Marc Andreessen, Joe Kraus, Paul Saffo, Masayoshi Son, Scott McNealy and Bill Joy, Tim Koogle, and Mark Cuban.
August 11, 2003
All amazon.com affiliates will want to read Kottke’s “Amazon Associates Beware” at kottke.org.
I’ll be one of the “faculty” for Schulich School’s Masters Certificate in Marketing Communications Management course this fall:
“The Masters Certificate in Marketing Communications Management is Canada’s first university-managed marketing communications program to be endorsed by the Association of Canadian Advertisers. The Masters Certificate in Marketing Communications Management curriculum has been developed through extensive consultation with major national and international marketing organizations. Their critical input helped identify the core competencies today’s marketing professional requires for performance improvement.”
I’ll be providing an overview of the Internet as a communications medium as part of the course’s kick-off “bootcamp” sessions.
August 9, 2003
Loads of e-mail marketing horror stories from Jared Blank in a ClickZ article called “E-Mail May Cost More Than You Think”:
“E-mail messages are inexpensive and easy to create, factors that have led many marketers to use them carelessly. Just as many of us send e-mail to friends with little thought as to how it will be received, marketers frequently send e-mail without considering the message’s branding implications. How else can you explain the errors I’ve noted above?”
“Heuristics, or “rules of thumb,” can be useful in both usability evaluations and as guidelines during design. Jakob Nielsen’s 1994 set of usability heuristics were developed with a focus on desktop applications. In 1997, Keith Instone shared his thoughts on how these heuristics apply to what was a relatively new area: websites. Today, in 2003, with Flash-enabled Rich Internet Applications (RIAs) becoming more popular, Nielsen’s heuristics still offer valuable guidelines for RIA designers and developers.
In this article, we focus on Flash because it currently dominates the RIA landscape. However, many of the lessons for Flash apply to other technologies as well.”
FYI, here is the link to Jakob’s Heuristics for User Interface Design.
August 8, 2003
notlong is a great little micro-service created by Eric Hammond.
This site is a fine example of minimalist design and emphasis of functionality over flash.
Pay particular attention to the competition link on the site. How many sites can you name that provide links and an A/B comparison of all their major competitors.
The problem with contextual advertising is that computers don’t really understand context, they just look like they do.
The most common way this shows up is in ads that match keywords, but not the intent of the page.
For example, amazon.com’s page for
Alfie Cohen’s “Punished By Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes” offers these contextual ads (served by Google):
The Tools You Need For Your Next Incentive
Find Solutions for Your Business Free Reports, Info. & Registration
Personalized awards & incentives sold with our Price Guarantee.
Oh dear. These folks won’t get a very good response selling ads for incentive programs on a page for a book that is explicitly AGAINST incentives.
August 7, 2003
These eight simple suggestions will not only reduce spam complaints against your company or organization but also increase the chances that others will read your messages.
1. Never (ever!) purchase, trade or borrow an email list.
2. Always send a welcome email to members when they have signed up, but be careful.
3. Keep records of those who have signed up.
4. Remind people that they have subscribed to your mailing.
5. Always be sure to include an alternate means of contact to your subscribers.
6. Try to send mailings to your subscribers on a regular basis.
7. If you have not sent a mailing for a while, initially send a message to no more than 1,000 randomly selected subscribers.
August 4, 2003
Is it possible to put your entire site on one page? The Lightning Field shows us the answer is “yes”.
(Is this on your “to do” list in life? It’s been on mine since I was a teen — the site bubble the idea up from “but how?” to “maybe someday” on my list.)
I’m seeing a trend towards “super clean” web sites. Sites are starting to understand that the goal is to get the user on their way as quickly as possible as opposed to overwhelming them with every possible option.
Here are two current minimalist favourites:
TypePad in particular has this zen elegance and simple design that immediately makes you think “these guys are on the ball”.