September 29, 2003
Technology Review offers us Bruce Sterling’s “Ten Technologies That Deserve to Die”:
“Technologies die rather routinely — seen a Conestoga covered wagon lately? — but it’s rare for them to be singled out and righteously put to death. Some technologies, however, are so blatantly obnoxious that the human race would rejoice if they were obliterated. A wise society would honor its young technical innovators for services rendered in annihilating obsolete technologies that are the dangerous hangovers of previous, less advanced generations. Let me offer some candidates.”
September 28, 2003
Following up on Jon Udell’s “Mechanical Memory” post, I submit this quote from deep in a Globe And Mail article on Slow Schooling:
“U.S. developmental psychologists Roberta Michnick Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek’s book Einstein Never Used Flash Cards: How Our Children Really Learn — And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less hits bookstores next week. Prof. Golinkoff, who has spent her career understanding how the human brain works, decried the ‘roadrunner society’ that tells parents to accelerate children’s brain development.
Some earlier research has been misinterpreted, she added, to produce the notion that ‘if you don’t pour it in by the first three years, your kid is doomed. Your kid will never see Harvard.’ This idea that children must be constantly at work, she said, is folly: ‘We don’t need people who can spit back facts. We’ve got Google.’”
Jon Udell: Mechanical Memory:
“We all like to joke, nowadays, about how Google has become humanity’s collective memory, and we’re properly grateful not to have to remember a lot of things that we know we can just look up. We’ve gone through this before, of course. Pre-Gutenberg, we routinely memorized vast amounts of verse. Then we learned to offload chunks of memory to print. Now we’re learning to offload a whole lot more memory to the Net. I’m not saying I’d have it otherwise, but sometimes I wonder about the tradeoffs we’re making.”
September 26, 2003
New York Times: Do-Not-Call Listing Remains Up in Air After Day of Twists:
“The second ruling, issued today by Judge Edward W. Nottingham of Federal District Court in Denver, threw a more effective obstacle in the way of the list on the ground that it discriminates against for-profit businesses; the registry program still allows political and charitable solicitation calls to be made. Judge Nottingham ruled that by exempting the nonprofit solicitors from the registry, the F.T.C. ‘has imposed a content-based limitation on what the consumer may ban from his home.’
He added that ‘the mechanism purportedly created by the F.T.C. to effectuate consumer choice instead influences consumer choice, thereby entangling the government in deciding what speech consumers may hear.’ The burden on commercial speech was significant enough, the judge ruled, ‘to amount to a government restriction implicating the First Amendment.’
Because the ruling came on broad constitutional grounds the program’s future will probably not be settled in Congress, but in the courts.”
September 25, 2003
“Congress moved quickly on Thursday to reinstate a popular ‘do-not-call’ telemarketing list that millions had signed up for before it was blocked by a U.S court two days ago.
The House of Representatives voted 412–8 to give the Federal Trade Commission authority to run the national ‘do not call’ registry of phone numbers, which telemarketers would be prohibited to call. The Senate was expected to vote on a nearly identical measure later in the afternoon.”
“My name is Bruce Kasanoff, and I recently introduced a new service where I spend 30–60 minutes (their choice) talking to one of your best customers. As an objective and independent expert on business relationships, my role is to learn how they really feel about your services.”
Always On: The Blogger Revolt!:
“The bottom line as I see it is the original blogging community represents the early-adopters of a movement that will eventually radicalize the entire media industry. Some time off in the future, if major media brands do not open up their content to more participation, readers will just not trust them, and they will go elsewhere.”
Anthony Perkins faces his critics and makes a good case that Always On can work, whatever it is.
Globe And Mail: Will RSS kill the e-mail newsletter?:
“What does RSS mean to the content-rich e-newsletter industry? About three months ago, Ken Schafer, president of the Toronto-based Internet consultancy Schafer Group and a founder of The Association for Internet Marketing and Sales (AIMS), simultaneously launched an e-newsletter and added an RSS feed to his company’s blog. Though it’s difficult to determine exactly how many RSS users subscribe to a feed — marketers cite this as one of the few limitations of the system — he estimates that there are about 10 times as many people viewing his feed as the e-newsletter.
Mr. Schafer credits the concept behind RSS with the popularity of the program among his subscribers. ‘[RSS] feeds give the control back to the reader.’
As Internet content publishers, both Mr. Pirillo and Mr. Schafer believe that RSS could replace the need for e-newsletters.
‘It gives us everything we wanted from e-mail newsletters, and everything spam has taken away,’ Mr. Schafer says. ‘I would be surprised if in three years there are any e-newsletters left.’”
Seth’s Blog: Helping Jack with web design:
“You only have four paths:
1. get someone to buy something right now
2. get someone to give you their email address so you can build a relationship
3. get someone to tell a friend
4. get someone to go to another page on your site.”
Path Number 2 is the basis of most of Seth’s ground-breaking work on permission and viral marketing. But with the increasing pressure on e-mail as a commercial channel (spam filters, viruses, low-response, overload, consumer awareness of privacy and identity theft), I’m not sure that this is still a top priority.
It would be easy to say that Path 2 should be “get someone to subscribe to your feed so you can build a relationship.” Unfortunately, RSS Feeds are not yet ready for prime-time so we’re stuck at this point.
I wonder what happens to Permission and Viral marketing when everyone things that giving their e-mail address is the path to more spam and just stops filling in those boxes?
Seth’s Blog: The DMA steps in it again:
“More important, the Do Not Call list is the single best thing to happen to direct marketing since the invention of the catalog. Here’s a government-financed way of figuring out in advance who’s going to hang up on you.”
Editor & Publisher: Startups Offer Online Publishing Alternatives:
“RSS publishing is in its infancy, and only a small minority of technologists and publishers currently view it as a viable alternative to e-mail delivery of content. But that could change in the coming years, as a new wave of entrepreneurs grabs hold of the concept. The new applications and services being created are designed to overcome the shortcomings of current RSS publishing solutions, and offer a spam-proof publishing channel.
If this pans out, RSS content publishing could in time become as important as e-mail and Web publishing.”
The article spotlights some start-ups basing their services on RSS. The products look a bit old-school compared to something fairly earth-shattering like allconsuming.net, but still, good luck to them — the more the merrier.
September 24, 2003
Michael Moore.com: Michael Moore responds to the wacko attackos:
“One thing you get used to when you’re in what’s called ‘the public eye’ is reading the humorous fiction that others like to write about you. For instance, I have read in quite respectable and trustworthy publications that a) I’m a college graduate (I’m not), b) I was a factory worker (I quit the first day), and c) I have two brothers (I have none). Newsweek wrote that I live in a penthouse on Central Park West (I live above a Baby Gap store, and not on any park), and the Internet Movie Database once listed me as the director of the Elvis movie, ‘Blue Hawaii’ ( I was 6 at the time the film was made, but I was quite skilled in directing my sisters in building me a snowman). Lately, my favorite mistake is the one many reviewers made crediting the cartoon in ‘Bowling for Columbine’ as being the work of the ‘South Park’ creators. It isn’t. I wrote it and my buddy Harold Moss’s animation studio drew it.”
Michael Moore gives a great example of using the net to clarify and support positions you’ve taken in other media. He does a good job of debunking many of his critics and only occasionally slips into name calling himself. It would have been nice if a few more of his facts had been backed up by links to official websites.
New York Times: Court Finds F.T.C. Exceeded Authority on Do-Not-Call List:
“In a victory for telemarketers, a federal judge in Oklahoma has ruled that the Federal Trade Commission overstepped its authority in creating a national do-not-call telephone registry, which was to have gone into effect on Oct. 1.”
“OceanStore is a global persistent data store designed to scale to billions of users. It provides a consistent, highly-available, and durable storage utility atop an infrastructure comprised of untrusted servers.”
There was a moderately interesting story on PlanetLab in MIT’s Technology Review that pointed me to this very interesting project. The goal of the project is to create “storage in the sky” — a service that would allow you to store/back-up all of your digital life onto a network of well-encrypted, loosely organized servers around the planet.
I’m going to watch this one.
September 23, 2003
CNET News.com: Google tests local search:
“Like many Google experiments, the new function may or may not be widely incorporated into the company’s well-loved search engine, but Google has hinted at its ambitions for geographically targeted search in the past. Local search and advertising is also pegged in the financial community as a massive opportunity for major portals and search providers.”
September 21, 2003
There is of course much talk in the US about blogging politicians. Ontario is having an election October 2, 2003 and I was a bit disheartened to see how Dalton McGinty, leader of the opposition Liberal party, is blogging on “Dalton’s blog”
Here is a stirring excerpt from one of the four posts since the blog went live in May:
“Most nights, there’s a rally. Tonight, there was a dose of reality.
With the campaign ads on the air now, reporters ask me if the attack ads bother me.
What I heard today, in Sarnia and Wallaceburg and Walkerton, bothered me a lot more.”
(via BonaSource’s excellent user experience review of the three major party sites.)
September 20, 2003
“I’ve taken the scans down. But I think they need an official online home. Here’s the mail I sent to Isobel McKenzie Price…”
“A fawning 1938 article by Homes & Gardens magazine about Hitler’s Bavarian mountain retreat remains widely available on the Web, even after the discoverer and original poster of the article took it off his site when the magazine demanded its removal.”
CNET News.com: System alert: You’ve got worms:
“Some media reports suggest that a few of the present crop of viruses differ from those that infected computer systems in the past. One difference, they say, is that these bugs can capture e-mail addresses as well as IP addresses that can later be used to generate massive amounts of spam. How real is that concern? While it’s tempting to wonder whether the latest viruses are being unleashed with a profit motive — and the goal of using computers to send spam — most people agree that it’s unlikely.”
This is a good opinion piece on viruses, with particular attention being paid to whether spammers are behind recent attacks (unlikely) and if moving to a non-Windows OS makes sense (yes, unless everyone else does too).
September 19, 2003
I’ve used Cloudmark’s SpamNet since it was in early beta. I think it is one of the best anti-spam products out there. In a typical day, I get about 150 spam messages and SpamNet removes all but 3 or 4 of these. I don’t have a spam problem anymore.
Well, as a consumer I don’t have a spam problem. But as someone who sends e-mail newsletters to people who have subscribed at my site, it is a very big problem.
Overaggressive spam filters continually block legitimate e-mail communications, primarily newsletters and other corporate communications which can look “spammy” even if they are not.
In fact, the only problem I’ve had with Cloudmark is that it traps a fair number of legitimate newsletters I’ve signed up for as spam. This happens because Cloudmark users “vote” on whether messages are spam or not and Cloudmark then uses Bayesian filters to block similar messages from other users’ inboxes. This works well until a bunch of people decide that news.com’s newsletters aren’t worth reading and they “block” them.
Cloudmark got one step closer to the perfect solution this week when it introduced the Cloudmark Rating System which is effectively a global whitelisting process to avoid the blocking of mailings from people who are willing to identify themselves.
“The breakthrough email reputation system solves the industry-wide problem of false positives, or good email getting caught in spam filters. In the race to stop spam, false positives are crippling email as a viable way to do business. Ferris Research estimates the cost of false positives to businesses could be as high as $3.5 billion. Consumers, legitimate e-mailers and ISPs are all becoming collateral damage in the war against spam.”
This is good news. Now if only we could get everyone to switch to Cloudmark we’d have this problem licked!
September 15, 2003
But the image was cookied by Motorola. When I opened the post in FeedDemon I got a cookie warning. This leads me to think that cookies are acceptable in at least some versions of RSS.
I’d be interested in knowing if people are starting to see cookies as a way of tracking RSS readership, much like they are used in e-mail newsletters. Since each feed is not unique, I guess that “single pixel gifs” or “web bugs” are not an effective tracking tool in this channel.
For more on dugg.ca, see The Globe and Mail’s “Fast-food king tries a different taste test” article.
People are starting to talk about the subliminal ads in the recent McDonald’s Canada TV ads.
During the ad you will notice the URL dugg.ca. The URL is carved into a bench in one scene, a licence plate on the grand prize a few times, and a subliminal insert in other shots.
This might be something that McDonald’s is doing (as suggested by Marketing Wonk in their McDonald’s Has Lost Its Mind post).
Or it may be more along the lines of Vicker’s vote2day.com offline to online effectiveness campaign last year (which was absolutely brilliant by the way).
Major web buzz is building on this:
“Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe. ceehiro.”
Check out languagehat.com for some of the most insightful discussion.
September 14, 2003
Seth Godin was nice enough to drop by this page a few days ago.
I subscribe to Seth’s Blog and read his feed using FeedDemon. Seth most likely subscribes to an RSS Feed from Technorati that tells him whenever someone posts something pointing to his site.
A few days ago I posted about Seth and just below it I provided some perspective on RSS as a marketing tool. When Seth followed my link to see what I said about him, he read my RSS post and pointed his readers to my post:
“It’s a tricky topic, but I’m going to start taking us through it over the next few weeks. Ken Schafer’s Blog is way ahead of me.”
And so Seth and I complete the Technorati two-step as I (one of Seth’s humble readers) am told to go visit my own site.
Note that, unlike a mailing list, I can’t “see” that Seth came and I don’t know if he has now subscribed to my RSS feed because you don’t get a subscriber list when you publish RSS. The only way I’ll know if Seth does subscribe is if he responds, say to the “Don’t Call It RSS” post below.
BUT, what are the chances that Seth would have subscribed to my newsletter had I posted my thoughts in that format instead?
Church of the Customer: Rip Van Record, Part II:
“Obviously, the Internet is the best channel to share knowledge; when intellectual capital is shared with multiple online networks, it can spread quickly to others who naturally gravitate toward it. (We call this ‘Napsterizing your knowledge.’) Sharing knowledge is not the end-game; it’s the marketing. The next level is finding value that enthusiasts will pay for. Like Bowie says, performing will become exponentially more important for musicians. We would add that maintaining strong relationships with fans — their customers — has never been more important for artists than it is today.”
In reading Sam Ruby’s RSS presentation to Seybold I was once again struck by the variety of standards, non-standards, and standards-in-waiting that get generically lumped together as “RSS” in a non-technical setting.
My concern is that “RSS” is too cryptic, unintuitive, and inaccurate to encompass all we mean by “RSS”. And I’m also looking for an over-arching metaphor that can be used to describe aspects and things related to “RSS”.
Let’s look at e-mail as a starting point in developing a “grand metaphor” for “RSS”.
The term “e-mail” means “electronic mail” an easily understood metaphor devoid of acronyms. Once a user grasps the basic metaphor, all the accompanying metaphors are self-evident.
So a new user quickly learns that:
“It’s mail, but on your computer. Instead of typing a letter then printing and mailing it, you just send it from your computer outbox to the other person’s computer inbox over the Internet. The Internet acts as the printer, the envelope and postal service.”
The mail metaphor is all-encompassing of the technology. Almost everything related to e-mail uses metaphorical equivalents from physical mail — “inbox”, “message”, “check your mailbox”, “you’ve got mail”, “cc”, “newsletter subscribers”, etc. We use a flying envelope as its symbol without a second thought. Acronyms are buried in administrative settings.
Imagine if instead of using this grand metaphor e-mail had instead been commonly referred to by the underlying technical specifications (as RSS is):
“It’s a POP2/SMTP reader. You use it to download POP3 or IMAP feeds from a remote server and compose SMTP replies that a recipient can read using their POP2/SMTP reader. Oh yeah, no one uses POP2 but that’s still what it’s called because that was the original standard people used.”
What we need is an grand metaphor for everything related to all aspects of this:
“The process by which a publisher provides recurring content that people can read via applications that automatically check for new content from all publishers the reader chooses to monitor.”
Right now we talk about “RSS”, “Syndication”, “Feeds”, “Channels”, “Subscriptions”, “Publish and Subscribe”, “Readers”, “Aggregators”, “NewReaders”, etc. None of these terms provide the over-arching metaphor I think we need to really move RSS past the tipping point with average users.
A global RSS metaphor would have to:
1. Clearly capture the essence of the process defined above.
2. Provide “sub-metaphors” for all processes, people and things related to the global metaphor, and do so consistently. (i.e. no mixed metaphors)
3. Be easy for non-industry types to understand, explain, spell, and remember.
4. Should not overlap with metaphors already used online. (I don’t think you can have multiple metaphors in the same medium, but that may be open for debate)
5. Should not get over-extended and tacky.
What might this grand metaphor be?
For those looking for a more technical understanding of the different flavours of RSS, a trip to Sam Ruby’s RSS in Depth presentation from Seybold is worthwhile.
September 12, 2003
ClickZ: Making Sense of AdSense… Et Al.:
“Search engine marketing (SEM) and publishing content intersect, now that Google and Overture have entered into contextual publishing of keyword-based ad listings. This column considers matters from both the publisher and marketer perspectives.”