October 31, 2003

  • Thought

    Metafilter: Where is Boing Boing?:

    “We’re having server problems and working on them — I hope to be up in a day or so again, but it’s exacerbated by my crazy travel schedule.

    Please direct your friends to this note, and ask for their forebearance in sending email asking what’s up with Boing Boing. I’m getting several hundred of these a day, and it’s gotten so that answering those messages is actively interfering with my efforts to reestablish service.

    In the meantime, we’re still blogging, and the mailblog still works:


    posted by doctorow at 1:36 PM PST on October 30″

October 30, 2003

  • Thought

    Internet Advertising Report: Microsoft Outlook 2003 Puts Open Rates in Question:

    “The issue lies in the way Outlook 2003 handles images and links in HTML messages. In previous versions, graphics and links were delivered to the computer and appeared in Outlook’s preview pane (in default mode). Now, HTML, images and rich media are cached on the server and downloaded only when the message is actually opened. This protects users from viewing possibly objectionable images; prevents invisible executables from opening in preview mode; and scotches directory harvesting of e-mail addresses. Users must either manually click to load a message’s images and links, or turn off the image-caching feature in the preferences. “

  • Thought

    Guardian Online: Google fights for top spot:

    “Google will raise billions when it goes public in a few months, but Jack Schofield wonders if it will be overtaken by competitors.”

  • Thought

    CNET.com: Cyberpiracy north of the border:

    “CNET News.com spoke to Michael Geist, the Canada research chair in Internet and e-commerce law at the University of Ottawa, about copyrights, spam and other topics. Geist is also technology counsel to Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt, and he writes a newspaper column on cyberlaw.”

October 28, 2003

  • Thought

    New York Times: Google Studies Creation of Book Database:

    “Google.com has begun talks with book publishers to compile a searchable database of the contents of thousands of volumes, a publishing executive briefed on the project said yesterday.”

    Well that didn’t take long. Amazon just announce their service last week and Google is hot on the trail. My guess is Google will have a tougher time with publishers than Amazon.com because they don’t have as clear a connection to hard-copy book sales. Amazon can of course argue that the “search in the book” feature increases sales. How does Google make the argument?

    BTW, if you haven’t read Wired’s article on Amazon yet, you should. Great reading.

  • Thought

    PaidContent.org: The Minced Meat Music Pie: RealNetworks’ Sean Ryan:

    “[So if margins are not great, how do you make money?] You make money by subscriptions: it is a better business…it is a continual, annuity business. You bundle a la carte downloads on top of that. You don’t necessarily make money in any of those by themselves; you make money in total. For example, the assets we used to build Rhapsody are the same that power RadioPass, the free music experience, and the upcoming store. So we spread the work of encoding, of creating metadata, of taking credit cards etc across four different services, and then international services. So you start spreading your costs across different yet related products, and two, through distribution and marketing.”

    This is a great interview with lots of insights for those interested in where online music is headed. Anyone who’s used Rhapsody knows that Sean Ryan “gets it”.

October 27, 2003

  • Thought

    I didn’t know you could do this, but Google seems to have added another new feature, this time allowing you to ask for definitions of terms but entering something like define:best practice into the search box.

    While I like the fact that Google is doing everything it can to keep the interface simple, I think we might be reaching the point where this is ineffective. Many say that Google is becoming the operating system of the Internet. If this is so, my fear is that it is MS-DOS — command line rather than GUI.

October 24, 2003

  • Thought

    kottke.org: Guidelines for focusing on learning:

    1. Release the need to be right.

    2. Welcome one another’s thoughts and opinions.

    3. Suspend judgment.

    4. Listen for understanding, not rebuttal.

    5. Make personal statements by using ‘I’ rather than ‘you’.

    6. Clarify first what was said before you challenge someone.

    7. Take time to reflect.

    8. Lean into discomfort.

    9. Respond first to what was said before making your point.

    10. Have fun.

    Jason goes on to point out how few of us to any of this.

October 23, 2003

  • Thought

    Seth’s Blog: My note to Susan:

    “You say to the prospect: I will work with you to build a four-page engine of revenue. The idea: the client loads it up with targeted traffic that he buys by regularly trying and testing adwords and other relevant, measurable media. Then, I will regularly, constantly tweak (or redesign) the four page site to turn those strangers into friends (and maybe, if your product is great and your followup is appropriate, you can turn those friends into customers).”

    This is another great article by Seth. Read the whole thing.

    If you (or someone you know) is doing what Seth is suggesting, let me know.

    (I would however object to Seth’s “Further proof that the web is now officially a direct marketing business” comment. While this is true, it implies that the web is now officially NOT something else. The web is many things and can be bent and twisted to meet many needs. Direct marketing is just one aspect. Small point, but an important one — always ignore statements that say “the web is…”.)

October 20, 2003

  • Should Dave Winer Call Google A “Total Asshole Company”?

    Dave Winer said “Google’s directory of weblog tools. None of the tools I wrote made the list… Google, this makes you look like a total asshole company.”

    Google’s Directory is based on DMOZ Open Directory, but filtered through Google’s PageRank so that the most relevant links rise to the top. I don’t think Google has any say about what goes in the Open Directory in the first place. But it does decide what goes in its edited version.

    Let’s compare:

    Google’s Computers > Internet > On the Web > Weblogs > Tools > Publishers

    Open Directory’s Computers > Internet > On the Web > Weblogs > Tools > Publishers

    Sure enough, Radio.Userland is in the Open Directory and not in Google’s. Furthermore, Blogger is number 1 on Google, but listed alphabetically in Open Directory. And Google only lists 37 links while Open Directory lists 52.

    So maybe Dave has a point.

    How does Google decide what gets in its directories? They use PageRank. So maybe Dave’s problem is that his corporate web site gets far fewer links than Blogger.

    Since we can’t see PageRank directly, let’s take a look at what Alexa says:

    It seems that Radio Userland doesn’t appear in the Google directory because it shouldn’t. Blogger’s 3 month average page rank on Alexa is 714. Radio Userland’s is 7,885. If the site was more popular I’m sure it would rate a link in this directory (note that Movable Type is number two in the Google Directory, reflecting it’s rank at 6672 over the last 3 months — once again, according to Alexa.)

    Doing a comparison of Google’s link count for Blogger, Movable Type, and Userland we see:

    Movable: 116,000

    Blogger: 62,500

    Userland: 33,500

    Of course PageRank combines number of links with quality of those links to determine page rank, so it may be that Blogger has better quality links. That may explain why Blogger outranks Movable despite the larger number of inbound links.

    In any case, I don’t see any reason Dave should be calling Google a “Total Asshole Company”.

October 18, 2003

  • Thought

    Contentious Weblog: The Challenge of RSS Evangelism:

    “I love being an RSS evangelist. I tell everyone I know why RSS feeds are so cool. They think I’m a geek. I don’t care, they’ll thank me for it later.

    But I’ll admit it… I get so frustrated trying to explain to people why I think RSS feeds are so cool and important — because most people don’t know what the heck they are. It’s kind of like explaining the Web in 1992, I guess. Unless you’re into weblogs, chances are you probably haven’t heard of RSS.

    I’m forever trying to bridge this knowledge gap, but that’s hard when RSS feeds are still so clunky to learn to use compared to the Web and e-mail.”

  • Thought

    PressThink’s What’s Radical About the Weblog Form in Journalism? is not only great reading in itself, it is also a great example of the power of comments on active sites. After finishing the relatively brief “top ten reasons” Jay Rosen provides in the original post, check out the dozens and dozens of intelligent concurring, dissenting, and amplifying comments that readers have added.

  • Thought

    CNET News.com: Net fraud and the truth:

    “A consumer stands a greater chance of being struck by lightning than falling prey to identity theft after paying a bill online. In fact, individuals actually reduce their overall risk of identity theft when they participate in some online monetary transactions.”

  • Thought

    Good article at Wired covering the implausibility of do-not-spam lists.

    The point that gets missed most often by supporters of do-not-spam lists is that we should all, automatically be on a do-not-spam list. Only if I give you permission should you be able to contact me by e-mail, commercially. “Everyone on the list” means that there is no need for a list, only for permission. Everything else is pretty much unworkable.

  • Sympatico’s E-mail Woes

    The Globe and Mail reports that “Spam is slowing down e-mail all over the world, but subscribers to Canada’s Sympatico Internet service seem to have been particularly hard hit.”

    That’s an understatement. We use Sympatico Ultra for Internet access and love it. Our connection is fast and rock solid.

    We don’t use Sympatico e-mail accounts. Our mail goes through our own POP3 server so we were unaffected by the problems with incoming e-mail, but because Sympatico blocks port 25 (used by SMTP servers) we have not been able to connect to the schafer.com outbound servers since moving to Sympatico. So we have been forced to use Sympatico’s outbound servers.

    This wasn’t a problem until last week when we started having trouble sending mail. First messages appeared not to send at all. When they did send, we got messages back from recipients wondering why we were sending five or six copies of all our messages. It turns out that Sympatico’s overloaded outbound e-mail servers couldn’t keep up with confirmations from recipient servers and therefore they would keep resending until they got the hint that the messages had indeed gone.

    After a few days of this, I threw my hands in the air and said: “there’s got to be a better way”.

    After some serious Googling, I discovered “Alternate SMTP Servers”. No-IP.com and DynDNS.org (and probably many others) offer simple services where you can send your outbound mail via their servers after connecting on a port other than port 25 (which many ISPs, like Sympatico, now block).

    This simple solution seems to have done the trick and after a few days of using DynDNS we seem to be communicating with the world again.

    Between this and the increased use of overly-aggressive spam filters, I find myself questioning whether e-mail is getting to people or not. Soon we’ll be back to where we were ten years ago before people started checking e-mail regularly. We’ll have to phone people to say “did you get my e-mail?” Ugh.

October 17, 2003

  • Thought

    Dan Bricklin Reviews “The Innovator’s Dilemma”:

    “Like many others, I have been recommending Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma for many years. Clayton, along with Michael Raynor, has just come out with a follow-on book, The Innovator’s Solution. I wholeheartedly recommend the new book to anybody dealing with innovation or corporate strategy. It looks like it will become a classic, eclipsing the previous book. Starting a new venture or a potentially disruptive product without understanding the concepts in this book is a much more risky endeavor.”

  • Blogger = Moderator: The Ultimate Solution To Comment Spam?

    Great post on “Comment Spam” at Weblogging for Poets:

    “Most of all, though, we should push back any time someone even remotely mentions ‘blacklist’ and ‘weblog’, or ‘blacklist’ and ‘internet’ in one breath. Always. These words, they don’t go together.”

    I’ve been doing a lot of work in (legitimate) e-mail marketing for the last 7 years and it is incredibly frustrating to see honest e-mail lists getting blacklisted for arbitrary, unchallengeable reasons. And equally frustrating that willing subscribers do not receive messages they are expecting because someone upstream has decided a block of IP addresses aren’t worth bothering about.

    I also remember days and nights (including Christmas and New Years) logging in to the Sony Music Online BBS back in 1994 as we fought an unending war with the kids posting trash all over the discussion boards. So I’ve come to appreciate the need for the unsung heroics of moderators.

    It seems to me that comment-enabled blog owners need to think of their blogs more as communities or discussion boards and their role as being a moderator. Most moderators quickly realize that truly open systems are unworkable because there is no check against anonymous abuse.

    IP banning is one way to check that anonymous abuse, but a flawed one, as Shelley discusses in her post.

    So serious consideration must be given to one of two options:

    1. Pre-post Registration by commenters

    2. Pre-post Comment Approval by moderators

    While many may argue both of these go against the intent of open dialogue and limit the speed at which ideas flow, these solutions are undoubtedly the price we will have to pay to get a signal-to-noise ratio that is acceptable.

    Believe me, after spending a few years babysitting tweens who spend all non-school hours posting “ sucks” on your discussion board, you don’t want to have unfettered access to your space!

    Of course, the other option (which I’m currently using) is not allowing comments on the blog, but rather encouraging others to blog responses and link back.

  • Thought

    Jupiter Research: Web Site “Personalization” Does Not Always Provide Positive Results:

    “According to Matthew Berk, Research Director at Jupiter Research, ‘Most Web site personalization projects fail to deliver real business benefits. Our industry has always assumed that a personalized Web site was a better one, both for the visitor and the site operator. Our research has found that this is not the case.’

    According to the report, for every intended benefit tied to a personalization-related agenda, site operators can select from many other tactics to achieve the same goals, at far lower cost. “To drive key business metrics, most sites are better off focusing on the basics, like usability, information architecture and making key tasks easy for users to accomplish,” said David Schatsky, Senior Vice President at Jupiter Research.”

October 16, 2003

  • My Strategic E-mail Marketing Seminar Is Fast Approaching

    On October 23rd I’ll be starting my third year teaching the Strategic E-mail Marketing Seminar for the CMA.

    All but one of the past seminars have sold-out and I expect this one to do so as well, but as I write this there are still a few spots left.

    Here’s the overview from the CMA:

    “E-mail is hot! Why? Because it works.

    We all use e-mail every day, but don’t think an overflowing inbox means you’re an e-mail marketing expert. Ineffective e-mail marketing can do more harm than good, so it is imperative that you learn from the successes (and mistakes) of others.

    Using over 70 real-world examples and an interactive learning format, this seminar provides both novice and veteran marketers with the resources they need to plan, build, execute and evaluate e-mail marketing campaigns within their companies.

    With a high-energy, fast paced, hands-on approach, Ken Schäfer condenses ten years of “live on the Net” marketing experience into one day of practical advice.”

  • Two New Services Launched Today

    My postings have been sparse this last week or so as I’ve been putting the final touches on site updates in advance of the launch of two new services today:

    One is a Report called “The Schafer Group Guide To Corporate Web Sites”. This 145 page Report covers 123 best practices using more than 100 screen shots. I’ve been looking for something like this for years and in the end I needed to create it myself. I’m excited to be sharing this with the world and hope others will find it as useful as I do!

    The second is a Web Audit. This service provides clients with an expert assessment of how they are doing (good and bad) with respect to all 123 best practices identified in the Report. The Audit features a Priority List of suggested improvements, ranked by their potential to improve the site’s usefulness to customers.

October 11, 2003

  • Thought

    Rick E Bruner’s Executive Summary: Micropayments: An Open Letter to Tony Pierce, Clay Shirky and PayPal:

    “All of this brings me back to a widely linked article that Clay Shirky wrote a few weeks ago about why micropayments would never work. Micropayments has long been a pet issue of mine, as I believe it is a critical missing link in the whole online publishing world. I meant to challenge Shirky’s article earlier, but Tony and Vin’s posts finally gave me the extra push. So here is a rant that I’ve actually been incubating for years. Specifically with regard to Clay’s essay, I had several objections…”

  • Thought

    CNET News.com: Dell.com gets a makeover:

    “Dell hopes to get to the point more quickly with a new version of its Web site, set to be unveiled over the weekend.
    The new Dell.com is designed to offer a cleaner, more streamlined view of products such as PCs and servers and easier access to services such as tech support.”

October 10, 2003

  • Thought

    The Register: Google bug blocks thousands of sites:

    “Google, like the rest of us, seems to be fighting a losing battle to make sense of a rising tide of Internet garbage. But a programming error by the search engine has compounded the problem: by inadvertently blocking thousands of sites from Google users.”

    There seems to be an ongoing undercurrent of concern over the health of the Internet. Google seems to be more susceptible than ever to link spam, blogs are closing community functions because of comment spam, and we all know what our inboxes look like these days.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers, but I will offer a warning that those proffering solutions look for unintended consequences of their technologies.

October 9, 2003

  • Thought

    New York Times: Getting a Bead on ‘Buzz’:

    “Marketing executives worry much more about word of mouth today than they did a couple of decades ago. But even companies that consciously do ‘buzz marketing’ do not necessarily know how buzz works. Word of mouth is hard to track or measure. After all, most conversations are private and ephemeral. Nobody keeps a record.

    Unless, that is, the ‘conversation’ takes place in an Internet forum. To see how word of mouth might affect new TV shows, Professor Godes and Dina Mayzlin, a marketing professor at the Yale School of Management, tapped this recorded form of conversation. Using online archives, they tracked postings in Usenet discussion groups at the beginning of the 1999–2000 TV season. (The paper, now under review at the journal Marketing Science, is available at www.som.yale.edu/faculty/dm324/papers.asp.)”

October 7, 2003

  • Thought

    ClickZ: Hub Media Strategy:

    “Hub Media is the notion most or all non-digital communications in a plan should drive a person to the Web for a larger payoff. It’s supported in this research by data suggesting the Millennial Generation multitasks at extraordinarily high levels. The one medium almost always present in the multitasking equation is the Internet.”

October 3, 2003

  • Thought

    VentureBlog: Much Ado About Email:

    “It suddenly seems fashionable to predict the death of email. Ray Ozzie thinks that it’s about to be replaced by workspaces for important tasks. Joi thinks it’s broken. Hornik believes that it’s the end of the web as he knows it (but he feels fine).

    No way.

    There’s too much at stake. Email’s too important to die, or even change in any significant way, and tens of billions of dollars in entrepreneurial capital and hundreds of millions of votes can be brought to bear on the spam, noise and virus problems.”