September 11, 2003

  • Thought

    CNET News.com: “P2P group: We’ll pay girl’s RIAA bill”

    “P2P United, a peer-to-peer industry trade group that includes Grokster, StreamCast Networks, Limewire and other file-trading software companies, said Wednesday it had offered to reimburse Brianna Lahara and her mother’s payment to the Recording Industry Association of America. Lahara’s mother agreed Tuesday to settle copyright infringement charges on behalf of her daughter.”

    Brianna could end up making a few dollars for a college education if this keeps up!

  • Thought

    “The RIAA Are Dicks. We Apologize.”

    “In any good community, people take care of each other. If someone is robbed, people put in what they can to help them out. Therefore, I am planning to raise $2,000 for this girl (the cost of her settlement), because I think she’s been robbed by the RIAA. Other folks tend to agree with me.”

September 10, 2003

  • First Spotting of “ALT Tag Ads”

    I just saw a new ad format that I haven’t come across before. I’m not sure if there is a technical name for this, but here’s what happens and how to experience it.

    1. Go to Designtechnica Reviews Sony VAIO TR1A Review. Scoll down to the body of the review.

    2. Wait about 20 seconds. See those double-underlined links? They’re ads:

    3. Hoovering over the link shows an “ALT Tag Ad” (I guess), and clicking takes you to the advertised site.

    While I guess I’d give this technique points for being in context, I’d have to deduct those very same points for deviousness as I’m not sure that users would expect ads in the middle of a review for a different product. Maybe the site has a clear description of their editorial policy and an explaination of these links, but I didn’t see it.

    Has anyone seen this before? Is it a formal ad product provided by a third party? What are they called?

  • Thought

    Editor & Publisher: It’s Time to Blog Hard News on Your Site:

    “The great thing about the blog concept for breaking news is that it puts online news organizations on the same speed footing as television. You could even argue that this model outdoes TV news, because a news Web site can publish a new bit of information instantly. TV news operations can do that too, but it’s impractical to interrupt non-news regular programming for all but the most urgent of headlines. The Web doesn’t have that limitation.”

    The entire article is really great — Steve Outing clearly gets it. I also found the “Letters” section at the bottom of the page worth reading as it provides several responses to Steve’s popular article on RSS replacing E-mail Newsletters.

  • Thought

    Globetechnology: Concept car cruises information highway:

    “Baka Trak-IT, a wireless company, has stuffed a concept car built by Daimler Chrysler with the latest in wireless technology, including wide-area and local wireless networks (Wi-Fi), and called it the Baka Wireless Freedom Smart Car.”

  • No More Blogger Pro

    I just got an e-mail from Evan Williams:

    Hi there. Evan Williams here, co-founder of Pyra/Blogger.

    I wanted to give you a heads-up about something we’re announcing shortly: We’re no longer offering Blogger Pro as a separate product and we’re folding most of the features into regular (free) Blogger.

    It’s sad but true. (Except it’s not really that sad.)

    Don’t worry — nothing you paid for is going away. And while you won’t be charged, your subscription is still valid. You will continue to have access to features like RSS and post-via-email that are still not in the free version. You’ll also have priority support from our expanded team and new support system:http://help.blogger.com .

    More importantly, I want to stress that we couldn’t have gotten to where we are today without you. Pro subscribers helped keep us going as a struggling start-up, when servers and bandwidth were at an extreme premium. We wanted to keep basic Blogger free, but we needed to start charging in order to keep the lights on. So we built new things that would appeal to some Blogger users (namely, you).

    Thanks to supportive people like yourself, this plan allowed us to grow and build a better service — and, eventually, get us to much more stable ground. We’re eternally grateful, and I hope you were happy with the relationship, as well.

    Today, as you may know, Blogger’s situation is much different.

    For one thing, we’re part of Google. (If you missed that announcement, check the FAQ).

    Google has lots of computers and bandwidth. And Google believes blogs are important and good for the web.

    This is a good thing.

    So we’re in the fortunate position of being able to give back to our users. Specifically, we want give all of you who paid for Pro, a Blogger hoodie as a way of saying thanks. Just go to [url] by October 1, 2003 to claim yours.

    We feel this move will be good for all Blogger users, and we’re excited about the many new things we have in the pipeline. Stay tuned.

    Thanks again,

    Ev.

    That’s got to be one of the nicest e-mail messages I’ve received. In fact, when I started using blogger, I loved it so much I felt compelled to sign up for the Pro version specifically so that those guys would get a bit of cash to keep the thing going. Being thanked felt really good.

  • Thought

    Fascinating ad campaign currently running all over the web for Linux (by IBM). You should watch the ad on their site:

    “If Linux were a person, he would be growing, fast. Taught by the best. Gaining wisdom beyond his years. And sharing. He would be in business, education, government and homes. He would be a nine-year-old boy changing the world.

    The spot has some cameo appearances by Coach John R. Wooden, Sylvia Nasar, Penny Marshall and Muhammad Ali.

  • Thought

    The Register: Web Sites That Crash:

    “Nine out of ten people have been forced to abandon an online transaction because the application failed before completion.”

September 9, 2003

  • Thought

    AlwaysOn: Broadband Behavior: I Want My Info Now!:

    “Tenure online has a profound impact on behavior. The longer you’re online, the more your behavior changes, the more you adapt, the more likely you are to be in an always-on environment and the more likely that will accelerate the change in your behavior. According to a UCLA study that AOL participated in, 50% of online users in the United States have been online for four years or more; 27% six years or more. That is a line of demarcation. Behavior starts to really change after four years. Our research says that tenure and an always-on environment go hand in hand. The environment mirrors the tenure effect, and they both affect user behavior.

  • Thought

    I found this particularly sad. My copy of PaidContent’s e-mail newsletter today included this disclaimer at the top: “I have made some deliberate mis-spellings, for obvious reasons.”

    Here is the e-mailed version of an article:

    Here is the web version:

    Note 1: Even the LINKS were misspelled in the newsletter making them useless.

    Note 2: The RSS Feed from PaidContent is based on the newsletter so even if you read the feed instead of the newsletter (I read the feed), you still get the typos and wrong links.

    I’d suggest that we all just spell things the way they are supposed to be spelled, and say what we want to say, damn the poorly thought-out spam filters.

  • Thought

    Boxes and Arrows: Natural Selections: Colors Found in Nature and Interface Design:

    “From complex web applications to informative “brochure-ware” sites, naturally occurring color combinations have the potential to distinguish (by helping create a more memorable website), guide (by allowing users to focus on interactions), engage (by making page layouts comfortable and more inviting), and inspire (by offering new ideas for color selection).”

    The article offers some great ideas on getting out of the “techno-color” rut. I particularly liked that the author used compelling photography as the foundation for a naturalistic color scheme. To a certain extent, this is cribbing colors from photographers instead of graphic artists because the photographer is still deciding on what is photographed and how. Still, this technique should be very useful.

  • Thought

    Not exactly a response, but PaidContent is watching response to Shirky’s article:

    “Clay Shirky writes another article on micropayments which is bound to create huge ripples in the industry…the last one he wrote practically killed the industry in its infancy.”

    Instead of detailed analysis, Rafat points to other people’s analysis.

September 8, 2003

  • Thought

    Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox: Misconceptions About Usability:

    “Misconceptions about usability’s expense, the time it involves, and its creative impact prevent companies from getting crucial user data, as does the erroneous belief that existing customer-feedback methods are a valid driver for interface design.”

September 6, 2003

  • Thought

    The Seattle Times (Dan Gillmor): Latest wave of newsreader software beats e-mail:

    “Every morning I learn the latest from a variety of news organizations, Weblogs, newsletters and other online information sources. But I don’t use my e-mail program or go surfing from Web site to Web site.”

  • Thought

    Clay Shirky: Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content:

    “Free content is thus what biologists call an evolutionarily stable strategy. It is a strategy that works well when no one else is using it — it’s good to be the only person offering free content. It’s also a strategy that continues to work if everyone is using it, because in such an environment, anyone who begins charging for their work will be at a disadvantage. In a world of free content, even the moderate hassle of micropayments greatly damages user preference, and increases their willingness to accept free material as a substitute.

    Furthermore, the competitive edge of free content is increasing. In the 90s, as the threat the Web posed to traditional publishers became obvious, it was widely believed that people would still pay for filtering. As the sheer volume of free content increased, the thinking went, finding the good stuff, even if it was free, would be worth paying for because it would be so hard to find.

    In fact, the good stuff is becoming easier to find as the size of the system grows, not harder, because collaborative filters like Google and Technorati rely on rich link structure to sort through links. So offering free content is not just an evolutionary stable strategy, it is a strategy that improves with time, because the more free content there is the greater the advantage it has over for-fee content.”

    It will be interesting to see if Rafat Ali has a response.

September 5, 2003

  • Thought

    SEMPO — Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization:

    “The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) was formed to help spread the good news about search engine marketing (SEM).

    SEMPO exists to fill the gaps in awareness and understanding of SEM, including educating marketing managers worldwide about what SEM is and how properly implemented SEM programs can provide some of the highest returns on investment possible in the marketing world today.”

  • Thought

    ClickZ: “A Really Simple Content Solution?”:

    “Marketers, publishers, even online newsgroups, list services, and some companies, are considering adding RSS to their online toolboxes. Is it time? There are pros and cons.”

  • RSS Will Be An Essential Part Of The Online Marketing Toolkit

    Jonathan Lane, a fellow AIMS member, just posted the ADL (AIMS Discussion List) asking for people’s thoughts on RSS. Here is the reply I submitted to the Moderator (June Macdonald):

    Hi all,

    Thanks to Jonathan Lane for introducing RSS as an ADL topic!

    I’ve been working with weblogs and RSS for a few years now and it is an essential part of my online experience. Many ADL readers are probably still in the dark about what RSS even IS, so I’d like to offer a few pointers to get people up to speed:

    1. What is RSS? Hand’s down the best explanation of RSS and why it is important is here.

    Another summary is at www.mnot.net/rss/tutorial/ and of course Googling RSS will get you pretty far.

    2. How can I stay on top of RSS news? There are tons of RSS resources popping up. Once you get a feed reader, you’ll be able to keep up with ALL of them! I’d suggest starting with Lockergnome’s RSS Resource Page and I’d also (humbly) point you to my blog as I’m posting most things I find on RSS as a marketing tool.

    3. How does RSS impact e-mail marketing? Steve Outing published a great article in Editor and Publisher on RSS vs. e-mail marketing. Highly recommended.

    4. What feed reader (aggregator) should I use?

    There is no clear winner in the race to build a better reader, so you’ll need to do some research on this one. I’d suggest newsgator if you really like working in MS Outlook and FeedDemon if you want a standalone reader. My guess is that a year from now there will be three clear winners in the feed reader race (one web-based, one integrated into Outlook, and one standalone).

    I look forward to some solid discussion on this topic in the coming weeks.

    Personally, if I was picking initials to bet my future on, I’d take RSS over SMS any day.

  • Thought

    EEVL has created one of the best overviews of RSS I’ve seen yet: “RSS — A Primer for Publishers and Content Providers”:

    “This document is aimed at publishers and content providers with the intention of introducing & explaining the concepts behind RSS and addressing some commonly expressed concerns. It is primarily intended for a non-technical audience who require an overview of RSS in order to allow them to make decisions regarding the possible use of the technology. However, the guidelines do provide recommendations for good practice, case studies on RSS production and links to tools and specifications which will provide useful starting points for those tasked with actually producing RSS feeds.”

    If you are just now trying to figure out what this all means, this is definitely the place to start.

  • Thought

    Church of the Customer: Rip Van Record:

    “For years we’ve heard the recording industry blame everyone but itself for the drop-off in CD sales. Overly protected and coddled, the industry is so dysfunctional that its best answer to declining sales was to sue its customers. Rather than focus on improving technology and delivery platforms, the industry sent its high-priced lawyers and lobbyists after customers, and the intimidation lawsuits continue to this day, further alienating an already disenfranchised customer base. Because of this, the recording industry was a charter member of Customer Hell.”

September 4, 2003

  • Thought

    Google Weblog: “Big News! New Google Operator”:

    “Today, Google introduced a new advanced search feature that enables users to search not only for a particular keyword but also for its synonyms. This is accomplished by placing a ~ character directly in front of the keyword in the search box.”

September 3, 2003

  • Thought

    Up2Speed provided commentary on amazon.com’s latest patent in “Amazon Patents Order Forms”:

    “Amazon.com Tuesday received a patent for using existing customer records to accelerate the purchase of something online by filling in details, like billing information.”

    Maybe I’m not reading this and the original CNET story correctly, but it seems that Amazon has patented pre-filling forms on websites with known user information. Can this be? This is standard operating procedure for websites that follow best practices — must we all start paying royalties to Amazon?

September 2, 2003

  • Thought

    Great response by Ross Mayfield to a Jimmy Guterman article in B2 on blogs:

    “I believe what Jimmy is saying is that there isn’t a consumer market for blogging and that it isn’t essential for businesses to address it. The problem is we are at the very beginning of a technology adoption lifecycle. Some serious companies have forecasted this market to grow and made their bets accordingly. Every time a journalist tries to wrap themselves around the existing market, what’s visible are early adopters. What stands out are the leaders in using blogs for publishing, who benefit from preferential attachment as the earliest entrants. And if you take the innovator dialogue too seriously it looks like a one-ring circus.”

August 29, 2003

  • Thought

    Emerging Technology: Built-In Spam:

    “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

  • Thought

    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.”

    (via PaidContent.org)

August 26, 2003

  • Thought

    Seven Deadly Sins of Web Writing:

    “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.”

  • Thought

    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.

  • Thought

    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.).