March 20, 2003

  • Thought

    BTW, Cloudmark’s Spamnet which I’ve been using since the first beta version seems to have really nailed its algorithms with the latest beta version (Beta 9) of their MS Outlook plug-in. I’m now finding that over 95% of spam is being filtered correctly and the number of false positives seem to have dropped quite a bit.

    It’s also worth noting that the false positives are pretty permission-based lists that have at least one of these three characteristics:

    1. In frequent mailers — companies that don’t send for a long time seem to get picked up (probably because people don’t recognize them). CNMA is in this camp.

    2. Low value lists — things that are probably of far less value than the subscriber would have expected. People “block” the messages rather an unsubscribing.

    3. Drifting permission — mailers seem to be pushing the bounds of permission and getting penalized for it. For example content-heavy newsletters get through but if they send a “special offer” from a “valued partner” they get tagged as spam.

  • Thought

    Senderbase.com is a new service from IronPort (an anti-spam company) that offers a peak into who the big online mailers are, including estimates on how much mail is coming from each company.

    Of course there is a hidden implication in a lot of Ironport’s language that just because someone sends a lot of mail they should therefore be filtered out and can’t be permission-based or welcome in users’ in-boxes.

    The arms race between legitimate mailers and ISPs seems to be escalating.

  • Thought

    The The Center For Democracy & Technology has released an interesting study of where spammers get e-mail addresses (it’s a 16 page PDF). It offers some fairly practical tips on cutting down on likelihood of your address being trapped by address harvesting apps. The best advice is to simply replace the “@” in your e-mail with word “at”, so that “[email protected]” is written as “example at schafer.com”. This seems to fool all e-mail harvesters but after a moment’s thought is intuitive to most humans.

March 19, 2003

  • Thought

    People are forever missing the point on how to do a presentation. PowerPoint just makes matters worse by encouraging presenters to use the screen for THEIR needs (i.e. putting their speaking notes up on the screen) instead of the audiences needs (i.e. to provide visual clues to the structure and meaning of what is presented).

    Doc Searls had some good advice on giving presentations back in 1998 that are still mostly relevant (although the suggestions to use hotbot to steal copyrighted images seems a bit out of touch with the times!).

  • Thought

    Great article on ClickZ by Danny Sullivan. The article goes into great detail on Contextual Advertising, including a look at what Google is doing, like the Google AdWords ads that appear within banners on BlogSpot Blogs like IsThatLegal?

March 12, 2003

  • Thought

    If you’re looking for wonderful, mindless distraction, go directly to panoramas.dk and try out some of the full-screen QTVR images. If you haven’t seen these 360 degree photographic images, you’re in for a treat. And if you have, you should still check out the full-screen gallery because they are very large, high quality images that go beyond much of what I’ve seen previously. (link via boing boing)

March 11, 2003

  • Thought

    “The web is dead and will be replaced by an executable architecture.” So says Forrester CEO George Colony.

    The sort of bluster is unbecoming of leading Internet thinkers, but understandable given that making bold statements is what gets Forrester the press that gets them the clients.

    I think that the idea of the “X Internet” or executable Internet is already a reality in places, but Colony falls for a classic mis-interpretation of the Net. People feel an uncontrollable urge to say “The Net is…” and pick one thing, or one analogy for the entire net. If the “Net is…” anything, it is the infrastructure that most non-real-time human-to-human and human-to-machine and machine-to-machine interaction will happen over. What we’re communicating and how we communicate it is entire up to the parties involved. Sometimes it’s static content on a page, sometimes a stream of consciousness weblog, sometimes an online application, sometimes a web service, sometimes it’s software, sometimes it’s entertainment, sometimes it’s something we never imagined.

    I suggest we all stop trying to limit the Net by overdependence on real-world metaphors.

  • Thought

    The Shirky article I just mentioned had a link to a Wikipedia page called “Our Replies To Our Critics” which gave me a new perspective on this fascinating experiment.

    Wikipedia is kind of an “encyclopedia by consensus” where anyone can add or edit an article on anything. While this sounds ridiculous when heard for the first time, the logic explained by the replies to critics page makes some good points.

  • Thought

    Clay Shirky’s analysis of why the Net is different is always refreshing, particularly in these days when it seems that there is little interest in change and innovation online.

    Clay’s done a great piece on the “group-as-user” and the impact on software and site development.

    Here’s a quote to set the context…

    “The radical change was de-coupling groups in space and time. To get a conversation going around a conference table or campfire, you need to gather everyone in the same place at the same moment. By undoing those restrictions, the interent has ushered in a host of new social patterns, from the mailing list to the chat room to the weblog.

    The thing that makes social software behave differently other communications tools is that groups are entities in their own right. A group of people interacting with one another will exhibit be behaviors that cannot be predicted by examining the individuals in isolation, peculiarly social effects like flaming and trolling or concerns about trust and reputation. This means that designing software for group-as-user is a problem that can’t be attacked in the same way as designing a word processor or a graphics tool.”

March 10, 2003

March 8, 2003

  • Thought

    A ClickZ article called “Context Is King, or Is It?” follows-up nicely on my “context is the only way” comment yesterday.

    The article talks a lot about the Google “Content-Targeted AdWords” program. This new program allows advertisers to use content sites Google partners with to run AdWords-like ads within those sites. The thing that makes this different from an ad network like DoubleClick, is that the ads published on those pages directly relate to what the page is about. By using Googles massive and intelligent search algorithms, the AdWords on the partners pages are always relevant (i.e. in context for the user).

    One example Google provides is of the “How Automatic Transmissions Work” page at howstuffworks.com. The page includes Adwords from Google that sell rebuilt transmissions, etc. Of course the live execution of the page doesn’t quite live up to the mock-up because the funnel is not full of willing advertisers yet.

    The article also is the first to (kind of off-handedly) mention what I think is the real reason Google bought Blogger — big heaping wads of context to put Content-Targeted AdWords in. I think a lot of the blogging community looked at it as a technology purchase rather than an ad placement opportunity. Follow the money.

    Google is brilliant. By purchasing Blogger and implementing Content-Targeted ads within it, they have cut the two biggest costs associated with running an ad-based content site — the cost of selling the ads, and the cost of creating the content. The process is essentially automated with Google left to manage the infrastructure and cheque credit card deposits.

March 7, 2003

  • Thought

    This InternetRetailer.com article on eBags.com moving more of their marketing budget to search listings is fairly typical of what we are seeing happening with online marketing. I’ve long preached “context is the only way” for online advertising.

    People are task driven online and want to reach some goal. If you can align advertising with the goal of the user, you will benefit them, and yourself. This strategy is what’s behind the success of search engine links like Google’s Adwords. Because the ads are in context and can be considered largely “content” on the page (i.e. the ads match what the user asked to see) they are more effective at moving the user to their goal and therefore more effective for the marketer because the marketer’s message is actually wanted by these users. This has to be more effective then distracting people from their task because they meet some demographic or interest expectation in the marketer’s mind — “I’ll promote the new Malibu on this mom’s site because women visit that site and they’re my target market”. Or worse yet, just distracting anyone that stops by because the CPC deal lets you blanket the net with pop-ups.

    I’m watching for a major overhaul of online marketing towards context and tight alignment with content over the next few years. I’ve been calling for this since 1997 but with Google and Overture showing people what it looks like in reality, it may finally catch on.

March 6, 2003

  • Thought

    Here is the brief article Chris Daniels wrote for Marketing Magazine wrote about my resignation from AIMS:

    “Schafer Resigns As AIMS President”

    March 5, 2003

    After just a year as the first paid president of the Association of Internet Marketing & Sales (AIMS) Ken Schafer has stepped down from the organization he helped create.

    Schafer says he wants to return to his roots of “creating great online ventures,” such as he did when he started his career spearheading the first online initiative for Sony Music Canada. He has no immediate plans, but says he will consider his options over the next several weeks.

    Schafer was made the organization’s first paid employee about a year ago. His move to a paid position from a volunteer one was part of a larger initiative to move the non-profit organization to a paid membership model, which was implemented this past September. Schafer co-founded AIMS-which now boasts over 4,500 members across the country-in 1996.

    AIMS will continue to be operated by its five-person board of directors. A new president is expected to be hired in the coming months.

    Thanks to Chris and Marketing for allowing me to reprint this.

  • Thought

    A few weeks ago I was watching City-TV here in Toronto and an ad came on for the Ford Focus. Nothing unusual about that, but what was unusual was the now familiar “i” logo for accessing interactive TV options that appeared during the ad. The interactive screen that came up overtop of the Focus ad after I pressed select on my digital remote asked me if I was looking for “fun”, “convenience”, “economy” or some such list and after making a selection the next screen asked if I would like to get a brochure on the Ford Focus. I clicked “yes” and the screen said thanks. End of interaction.

    Yesterday I got a really nice package in the mail from Ford that included the promised brochure along with an offer of a free gift if I went to a dealer for a test drive. They referenced the generic ford.ca site in the introductory letter and mentioned that I could “build my own Focus” and get pricing at the site.

    This to me was a great example of tying together iTV, Direct Mail, dealer-level walk-in generation, and the web into one well-executed campaign.

    If you know more about this particular campaign, especially how successful it has been for Ford, I’d love to hear from you.

  • “Doing Something” About Spam

    There is a growing urge amongst everyone using the Internet to “do something” about spam.

    The growing frustration with spam has lead to more consumer and corporate anti-spam filtering technologies. “ESPs” (E-mail Service Providers) are legitimately afraid that false positives by these filters are going to decrease the overall effectiveness of e-mail as a communications tool. And ISPs are getting very tired of the costs associated with the massive amount of unwanted messages that they have to deliver.

    Following behind the host of technical solutions to spam are the interest groups and task force groups being set up to represent the interests of each group.

    For example, the ESPs have set up a group via the NAI. And now standards body the IETF has set up the Anti-Spam Research Group to research technical solutions, some of which this CNET article says make take years to implement — because fighting spam may mean a fundamental change to the way e-mail works.

    JamSpam appears to be looking for a holistic approach, recognizing that all involved (okay with exception of the spammers) have legitimate concerns and the only solutions that will work are ones that recognize everyone’s issues.

    I have two big concerns in this rush to action:

    1. ISPs have taken it upon themselves to determine what is and is not wanted e-mail. That means that things that people legitimately want and senders have legitimate reason to send, are not being delivered by ISPs. While everyone can sympathize that they get more mail than they want to handle and that this is driving up their costs, they need to let the user decide what is wanted and what is not. Imagine of the Postal Service decided it had too much mail and these LL Bean catalogues seem to be in the mail far too often so they decided to dump them all in a big recycle bin.

    2. The other big issue as I see it is the amorphous definition of “spam” itself. Many people now think of spam as ALL marketing messages, or ALL messages from businesses, or ANY message that they are not interested in. And because people have been given the dubious advice to “never unsubscribe from spam” because it will beget more spam, we now have a situation where legitimate mailing lists have hundreds of subscribers who are submitting them to spam filters rather than use the standard unsubscribe feature to get off the list.

March 4, 2003

  • Stepping Down From AIMS

    Given the AIMS Announcement that is going Tuesday morning, there will most likely be a few more visitors here than usual. If you’re new — welcome! Take a moment and subscribe to A Piece Of My Mind while you’re here.

    Right now there is a mad dash to get everything in place for the Tuesday event and to put the finishing touches on transition work, so I don’t have much time to post right now, but I promise that, starting March 10th, I’ll be posting here regularly as I have in the past.

    AIMS has been a major rush and I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished, but it has also been an incredible drain on me personally and professionally. AIMS became a 24 hour non-stop whirlwind over the last year and it hasn’t left me much time or energy for other important things I’ve been meaning to get to — like this blog.

March 1, 2003

  • Thought

    Your web experience is your brand.

    This ClickZ article uses Google as an example of the user experience trumping all the fancy graphics and flash intros that people think equal brand online.

    I must agree.

January 27, 2003

  • Thought

    Interesting to note that Jupiter Research has set up a weblog area for their analysts to pontificate in real-time.

    Considering that Jupiter makes it’s living selling in-depth reports by these analysts, I see this as a very smart move. The analysts can add insights into the overall blog culture, picking up links and being included in blog-rolls. This will help a lot more people see that they know what they’re talking about (hopefully) and therefore build an audience for the paid research.

    I think this is a good example of the business use of blogs by content-heavy companies.

November 1, 2002

  • Thought

    “The legit e-mail marketing companies…are really going to hate this feature,” Smith continued. “They use e-mail Web beacons…to gather statistics about e-mail advertising campaigns.”

    Will they ever hate it.

    A recent CNET article called New Outlook to give spammers the boot details changes to Outlook (the most used e-mail application) that default to NOT loading HTML images from remote servers when a message is shown. It’s not entirely clear if this only related to “preview windows” or all windows, but for legitimate marketers this is really going to mess up the move to HTML messaging, and along with it muddy e-mail tracking stats further.

    At the same time, it’s a boon for people tired of HTML-laced spam, so it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out between now and the launch of Office 11 in the summer of 2003.

October 23, 2002

  • Thought

    Well, it looks like the “DMA giving in” on Spam is not exactly what it seems. From my understanding of reports I’ve read over the last day or so, the DMA is calling for legislation, which is good, because we’re at that stage now.

    But they are suggesting (as they always have) that unsolicited e-mail is okay as long as you have a real From and Subject line and provide a street address.

    The idea is that this law would get rid of all the dubious spam that gets sent, but would also clear the way for “legitimate” companies to spam anyone they wanted to. This was always their position and it is dead wrong.

    The DMA should follow the strategy of the CMA which has had a very enlightened policy since 1997 (disclosure: I was one of the authors of the CMA policy).

    This Wired News article called “Spam So Bad the Spammers Balk” gives a good overview.

October 22, 2002

  • Thoughts on Spam as a Marketer and a Human

    Alexander Bosika wrote recently about the DMA’s decision to “crack down” on spam. Since he baited me to comment, I’ll fall for the trap.

    Spam is a big issue that I tend to look at from two vantage points.

    1. As an individual.

    2. As a marketer.

    As an individual, spam is certainly a huge issue for most people. I think the issue has been somewhat exaggerated by the fact that the people comment on spam (journalists, pundits, those active online) also tend to have the most exposure of e-mail addresses online and therefore tend to have their e-mail addresses harvested and passed around a bit more. Good luck using your inbox effectively if you used your main e-mail address to register a domain.

    Still, for those less highly involved in online issues, spam is still a big problem for them. And certainly, the rise of hard-core spam with really raunchy subject lines doesn’t give anyone comfort that things are getting better.

    As an individual, I use Spamnet by Cloudmark. This is the best solution I’ve seen to date, building on the P2P concepts of Napster and some clever pattern recognition algorithms. The software is still buggy (it’s in beta), but it is getting close to primetime and more and more I’m seeing it listed as one of the options people list when talking about “fighting spam”. My guess is that 9 months from now (if not soon), Cloudmark will be the Google of spam-catching.

    So as an individual I see Cloudmark as a gift from above and use it constantly, even with the bugs in the beta version.

    As a marketer, Cloudmark scares the crap out of me. Because it allows users to determine what is spam, it has a tendency to give “false positives”. A False Positive in this context is a legitimate opt-in e-mail marketer getting labeled as spam. Cloudmark tends to be better than most, but the false positives it gives are very interesting. Because people vote on each message in real-time rather than identifying in advance which IP addresses or domains to block, you see the internal workings of people’s feelings on e-mail marketing.

    When the NYT sends me a book or movie updates, they always get through. As soon as they send a “special offer to NYT subscribers”, it invariably gets dumped. Amazon new release listings tend to get through Cloudmark, but the “affiliate updates” which contain a lot of promotional information, some of it for partners, gets labeled as spam.

    This means that marketers need to live in constant fear of having any given message deemed as low enough value to be spam, even if every name is legitimate. And the problem will only get worse as these tools become more prevalent and more effective.

    My guess is that e-mail marketing will change radically in the next 9 months as Cloudmark hits critical mass. When it tips, everything will change.

October 16, 2002

  • Thought

    Usability (and Google) fans might enjoy this Good Experience interview with Marissa Mayer, Product Manager at Google. She was their first full-time usability person and offers interesting insights into how Google has managed to stay simple while adding features.

October 12, 2002

  • Thought

    Jakob Nielsen is of course always a sharp cookie. But in this recent article he focussed on the usability of e-mail newsletters and came up with a must read for any e-mail marketer or online publisher.

    Keep it simple!

  • Thought

    Here’s a NYT article called Online Fans Start to Pay the Piper.

    The article covers the increased acceptance of paid online music services like listen.com. This makes total sense as Listen is making baby steps to the musical nirvana — the day that we have a true celestial jukeboxes — all the songs you’d ever want, easily and instantly accessible via a simple, powerful interface.

October 4, 2002

  • Thought

    I stopped attending Internet World in 1998. (I started attending in 94). So this ClickZ article called “Internet World — R.I.P.” wasn’t a shock to me, but it did make me a bit sad.

    While the need for a universal “everything Internet” conference is probably not realistic anymore, I pine for the days when I could know pretty much everything important about doing business online.

    Here’s a representative quote from the article:

    “The economy” is too simple an explanation of why visitors and exhibitors alike stayed away in droves. From a marketing perspective, Internet World makes no sense.
    “It’s simply not targeted,” Topica CEO Anna Zornosa shrugged after surveying the sparsely populated hall, “everyone here is only talking about how empty it is.”

October 3, 2002

  • Thought

    If you’re not from Toronto you may not know that our “New York City run by the Swiss” is often used as a body double for major US cities, particularly NYC. In fact over 1,365 films were shot in Toronto in 2001.

    One of the more disconcerting aspects of Toronto substituting for NYC is that it is not uncommon to be driving down the street and see a classic NY Yellow Cab driving down the street followed by an NYPD cruiser. Occasionally you’ll step onto an otherwise ordinary street in Toronto’s financial district and see street signs in MPH instead of KPH, or USA today newsboxes on the corner.

    For those of us who have spent any time in New York, this can cause a bit of vertigo. There are times where you have to stop and think why what you see isn’t quite right.

September 24, 2002

  • Double Opt-out?

    Many e-mail marketing experts recommend “Double Opt-in” as the best approach to building your e-mail marketing list. Double Opt-in means that the subscriber must respond to a confirmation e-mail before they are put on the list (i.e. you sign up at a site, get an e-mail saying “confirm subscription”, and only if you reply to that confirmation e-mail do you get put on the list). This is done to ensure that there is no abuse of an open e-mail list (for example, some people have been known to sign up enemies to lists they know they will hate — like baptists on the Barbie Fetish list.)

    Yahoo seems to have taken this to some perverse extreme by introducing “Double Opt-out”.

    I just unsubscribed from the Tom Tom Club mailing list (don’t ask), and got this reply from YahooGroups (where the list lives):

    Subject: Please reply to unsubscribe from tomtomclubnewsflash

    Hello,

    We have received a request from you to unsubscribe from the

    tomtomclubnewsflash group. Please confirm your request by

    replying to this message. If you do not wish to unsubscribe from

    tomtomclubnewsflash, please ignore this message.

    Regards,

    Yahoo! Groups Customer Care

    Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/

    While double opt-in is good because it keeps consumers off lists they might not want to be on, double opt-out is bad because it keeps consumers on lists they clearly want to get off of. Another move by Yahoo! that shows that they just don’t get the ‘Net anymore. Very sad.

    (And the pop-up ad for a casino on the Yahoo!Groups homepage didn’t help much with my opinion either.

September 22, 2002

  • Thought

    The world’s favorite statistic about phone use is no longer true. Clay Shirky debunks the myth that 50% of the people in the world have not made a phone call in this short Wired article.

September 19, 2002

September 18, 2002

  • Thought

    This article from the Washington Post (via BizReport) talks about another effective use of the Net I don’t see covered much — micro-commerce sites. By focussing on incredibly small niches and keeping costs tight, a small company can build a nice business online. Instead of thinking about e-commerce as producing the “next Walmart”, I think it is more interesting to look at its potential to create the next “corner barbershop”. i.e. a nice business for two or three people to profit from that serve a specific need of a community.

    Of course, online, that community is not defined by the neighborhood they live in, but more likely by an obscure passion.

    Here’s a quote:

    “In many ways, the very same aspects of the Internet that benefit the largest global marketers can also offer benefits to the smallest outfits,” said Dan Hess, vice president of ComScore Networks Inc., an Internet research firm. “It offers an unmatched, unparalleled ability to reach niche groups of consumers. There is no other medium that can do that.”