March 30, 2001 +
The RIAA contends that Gnutella isn't worth the effort yet.
This is hypocrisy, but hey -- aren't you going to download Gnutella soon too?
And a huge thank-you to those of you who popped me a birthday note the last few days. I appreciate all the sentiments and kind words. The Ideapad soldiers on in an excellent mood.
March 29, 2001 +
Did you know it's my birthday today? I love birthdays. Join me in my happiness, won't you? In less than a minute you too can make me smile from anywhere in the world!
Even Yahoo! sent me a birthday card. Love it love it. Database automation at its finest.
March 28, 2001 +
All things considered, Major League Baseball's monthly subscription service -- $9.95 a month for unlimited access to streaming audio broadcasts of ballgames -- sounds like a good idea to me. And I don't get why some folks are crying foul. How is this terribly different from DirecTV's MLB Extra Innings plan? Oh, right, everything on the Web is supposed to be free. Well, nice sentiment, but we've learned the hard way what happens when we try that.
March 26, 2001 +
"I want to thank anyone who spends part of their day creating -- a book, a film, a painting, a piece of dance, a piece of music -- anybody who spends part of their day sharing their experience with us."
-- Filmmaker Stephen Soderbergh accepting his Best Director Oscar at the Academy Awards
And let's not forget to stare at Jennifer Lopez "showing off her jewelry." All hail Michael Caulfield's caption prowess.
Explore new music with me! Now Playing list is hopping again.
Speaking of new music, I've had fun exploring Kozmo's delivery receipts (I took a free delivery of Stevie Wonder's Innervisions this morning).
Kozmo will reverse-deliver items being returned -- picking up damaged goods and unopened items -- but it charges $5 for the privilege. Necessary but jarring. And, of course, one only receives Kozmo credit, not a refund.
Kozmo also says it checks ID on deliveries of alcohol, tobacco, and adult material. As if having to sign a delivery slip for two packs of Marlboros and "Beefy Blonde Babes IV" weren't embarrassing enough.
Most tellingly, there's a note underneath the payment details: "CYBER." There goes the revolution.
March 23, 2001 +
Last night I finally started reading -- and instantly started enjoying -- Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius.
Eggers' writing style is not unlike what mine would be were I more swaggeringly cocksure and a whole lot more talented. His sentence structure is intoxicating.
Of course, the real trick is not in simply writing well as much as making it entertaining and interesting. This is where Eggers truly succeeds, even in his colophon.
This is the most since I fell in love with Carl Steadman's web notes that I've longed to be a better writer. Color me impressed. (And jealous.)
Boogie down. (from Mark)
March 22, 2001 +
Music commentary: Yup, I like the new Dave Matthews Band album after all. More in the Auricle.
The Designer's Lunchbox. Priceless work from k10k. Simultaneously clever and useful (in a ridiculous sort of way). We're actually using that shade of gray-green on a new Economist.com project.
March 21, 2001 +
Verizon announced today that it will be including Yahoo Messenger capabilities on its cell phones. Between that and the kick-ass cell/Palm -- which would finally make a Palm Pilot personally worthwhile -- I may switch from AT&T Wireless later this year. (news link via GMSV)
Yes, customer service really is a mess these days. Folks are working hard, but the internal mazes and misunderstandings are only getting worse.
Fast Company: "The new economy was supposed to make service better, quicker, and more effective for customers -- and easier and cheaper for companies. None of that has come to pass. What happened?"
Chad, Lubbock's customer-care advocate, is talking to a woman who is Chad's customer-care advocate. She has called her customer-care advocate, who is busy on another call. So now we have two customer-care advocates on hold waiting for a third customer-care advocate. Meanwhile, a fuming customer from Lubbock (who may or may not be trying to rip Sprint off for $1,600 ) waits. On hold.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on customer service reps in India who have to fake being American.
"We watch a lot of `Friends' and `Ally McBeal' to learn the right phrases," Ms. Suman said. "When people talk
about their Bimmer, you have to know they mean a BMW."
I hope I never have to deal with a stolen wallet again, that's for sure.
"Or when they say `No way, Jose,' there is no Jose,"
added Ms. Suman's co-worker, Nishara Anthony, who
goes by the name Naomi Morrison and, if asked, says she
comes from Perth Amboy, N.J.
I have a handy contact form now. It's about time. I'd have had it sooner but I'm a bit of a programming moron, so Cameron did it for me, because Cam rocks. All hail Cameron! When Cameron was in Egypt land....
March 20, 2001 +
Salon is testing a premium subscription level this spring, allowing people to pay for content and not see ads.
This is step one toward what should become a widely adopted model, although I'm not sure losing the ads is the right way of doing things. I pay for numerous magazine subscriptions and the daily New York Times (on paper!) and I see plenty of advertising. Indeed, some magazines are bought primarily _for_ the ads.
I hope to have a full essay on this subject later in the week.
Wireless porn. Because where there's technology, there's images of naked chix.
March 17, 2001 +
Thursday morning, when I thought the Shamrock Shake had disappeared, I emailed McDonald's to find out why. Friday afternoon, they wrote me back. Nice turnaround for such a huge company.
Speaking of which, I had a second Shamrock Shake Friday afternoon. And I figured out the taste: some vanilla and mint, yes, but the primary flavor is -- drumroll, please -- pistachio. Yes, the same flavor behind the oddly green nuts and oddly green ice cream is in the oddly green shake.
I have always liked pistachio ice cream. Mint, too. Makes sense that the Shamrock Shake tickles my tastebuds just so.
Rolling into St. Patrick's Day in style round these parts. No green bagels here, thanks. I'll stick to nut-enhanced artificial flavoring. Mmmm....
March 16, 2001 +
Googled someone lately? Paul Ford takes the concept one step farther, as always. Ftrain is great.
Sass-back of the week: "That's a little bit like asking if I look good in a dress. We don't know, and we'll never find out." (scroll down to 5:11)
Did you know that tucked into the middle of ESPN.com's baseball coverage is a link that lets you read Peter Gammons en español?
There's actually a whole huge ESPNdeportes subdomain within espn.go.com. Looks like most content is being translated from the original English. This is a huge undertaking -- and, likely, a very smart one.
March 15, 2001 +
Disregard my statement below lamenting the passing of the Shamrock Shake. According to Buzz, an entertainment magazine in Illinois, the shakes are still available and contributing to a good cause, but not every outlet carries them. I found one proudly listed on the beverage board at the McDonald's on 51st and Broadway today.
I hadn't had one in a few years until today, but I'm still a fan. They're creamy and yummy in their own way, sort of a cross between vanilla, mint, and Hycomine. I'll probably be coughing and bloated all afternoon, but it was worth it.
Following the NCAA tourney today? Launch the Fastbreak Scoreboard. Man, this thing rocks.
If you're anything like me, you miss Shamrock Shakes too.
Debunking the myths of UI design, from IBM DeveloperWorks. Indeed. This needs a highlight sheet, though, so the lay client can follow along. (via Tomalak)
True to its roots, even Linux's logo is open-source. (via Signal vs. Noise, who linked to the UI design article via Tomalak too)
March 14, 2001 +
Today's fun New York City fact: just 4.5 percent of voters in the 1997 mayoral election were white Protestants.
A Flash/DHTML discussion with our master programmer at work has led me to some wonderful examples of DHTML craftiness with dynamic API work on Richardinfo.
~ Las Meninas rendered in movable 3D.
~ Resizable, draggable interior windows.
This is all mildly beyond me from a development perspective, but the possibilities DHTML presents are phenomenal, and a compelling argument for me to ease my hard-core backward compatibility stance.
March 13, 2001 +
The New York Times wonders, Does Primedia's anti-adult-material stance for its newly acquired About.com contradict its anything-goes policy for the racy ads in the back of its New York magazine?
In what my brother calls "post-Napster syndrome," I bought three new CDs today, all of which I might have sampled with MP3s but blindly purchased anyway.
I am happy to report that Kozmo's still got it. Placed my order at 1:31 p.m. for a 2-to-3 delivery window, and the music arrived punctually at 2:29 in a happy orange bag. And Kozmo, in order to boost off-hour orders, lifted its delivery fees for orders placed before 3 p.m., so I didn't pay extra for the convenience.
I don't know how Kozmo made money off my transaction, but it's still a fun way to shop.
Enron and Blockbuster ended their video-on-demand partnership today. So much for my VOD beta-testing.
March 12, 2001 +
I officially hate the ridiculous and impossible concept of "above the fold" on a computer screen.
If it's Monday morning, I must be tired. Not because it's the start of the work week, but because I'm always up late Sunday nights reading the New York Times Magazine.
The Times covers such diverse and fascinating topics as a commentary on why Americans aren't happy yet, airlines' comfort solutions, Wolfgang Puck's favorite dishes, and a great essay on cutting-edge musicians selling their work to advertising agencies. And this was all in yesterday's issue.
Throw in the Ethicist column and a little William Safire, and the result is one of the best general-interest magazines around. And it's a newspaper supplement.
I've been meaning for months now to post, deconstruct, and basically buy all the items on Elvis Costello's 500 Essential Albums list. Seems Elvis beat me to it, though. Take a look at a great piece by a true pop-music aficionado.
March 9, 2001 +
Gotta love how hackers are exploiting the ignorance of less computer-savvy lawyers and corporate executives.
The DVD encryption hack DeCSS has been banned from distribution -- it can't even be printed on a T-shirt -- so two programmers boiled it down to seven lines of Perl code and started emailing it around. So much for squelching.
Meanwhile, the file-sharing folks at Aimster are "encoding" file names by throwing the first letter of a word to the end, a la Pig Latin; the end result is protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the very law concocted to protect the entertainment industry from unauthorized copying.
You should be reading Uncle Bob's Diary O' Chuckles regularly. Trust me on this one.
March 8, 2001 +
The Things You Learn Dept.: 1800flowers.com cultivates its own flowers and ships them priority overnight to their destination. FTD.com dispatches local florists to assemble and deliver its orders.
Having ordered from each, I can report that both have flawless ordering processes and delivered beautiful fresh flowers right on time (although neither provides a useful excuse for when your loved one says, "These are so gorgeous! Where'd you get them?").
Flower delivery is ecommerce at its finest. Who'd'a thunk it?
March 7, 2001 +
Web site screenshots, October 1995. This is how the Web looked when I learned HTML (on BBEdit Lite and Netscape 1.1, btw). Notice how little Yahoo's basic structure has changed.
(this essay is part of the Auricle and cross-posted here)
An excellent, highly opinionated Metafilter discussion on Napster filtering raises the issue of looking at the situation objectively.
Hard facts exist behind the Recording Industry Association of America's heavy assualt on Napster's file-sharing liberties. And the facts say this:
1. Musicians, as all artists, are entitled to copyright their works. A copyright ensures that no one will copy said work without authorized permission from the rights holder. Napster, of course, obliterates that.
2. The RIAA, representing many copyright holders, views Napster as an infringement on copyright. This is a correct assumption, and this is why Napster is staring down a court injunction. Whatever counterarguments users and Napster can present, people swapping files are indeed breaking copyright law.
3. No one has proven that file-sharing is a detrimental practice. For all its bluster, the RIAA has only chosen to ignore the fact that sales of new compact discs rose significantly last year despite heavy Napster use. The RIAA claims singles sales have declined, but singles sales have been flat since the major labels phased out 45s.
What most Napster users and fans tend to ignore is that the RIAA is, under current law, correct. By swapping files they might otherwise have purchased, Napster users are getting something for nothing. This deprives the RIAA's constituents -- labels, songwriters and musicians all -- of the financial benefit they have come to expect. Regardless of the supposed benefits and advantages, Napster users are guilty as charged.
However, the RIAA, by attacking the most blatant symptom of its problem, is not solving the problem itself.
The RIAA is running scared -- rightly so -- and its chasing after Napster may ultimately prove futile. The proverbial cat is out of the bag, and if Napster disappears, plenty of other file-swapping programs will likely take its place.
Historically, distributors of creative property rebel against new technology that shifts their paradigms. Record labels once wanted reimbursement for allowing radio stations to broadcast their music. The film industry expected videocasette recorder sales to destroy movie-ticket sales. The same patterns apply to the music industry's view of Napster and its ilk: Why will consumers pay for something they can get for free?
The answer lies within the products themselves. Many Napster users find new music and ultimately buy the CD at retail. Fans want liner notes, cover art, hidden tracks, multimedia. They want to see and hear their bands perform live. They trade music because they want to share; swapping music exposes people to new sounds and only leads to increased musical awareness and consumerism.
The RIAA is missing a golden opportunity, and years may pass before it catches up to the system that is moving forward. All it may take is some creative thinking: How about a pay fan site, like paying for a fanzine produced by the band? How about the purchase of a retail CD giving an inside scoop or a discount to a live ticket? How about selling CDs at a discount to people who have sampled MP3s off the album, and tracking album sales?
None of these suggestions will solve the problem at hand, which, to the RIAA, is the unauthorized, unpaid distribution of its copyrighted project. But in winning its battle with Napster, the RIAA has done little to advance its troops in the digital market war. The end result won't be known for years, and don't be surprised if the major labels wind up on top. But the system will likely be changed for good.
The Napster legal affair is only the beginning of the battle for digital rights. The next few years should be even more fascinating.
March 6, 2001 +
Arial: the USA Today of sans-serif fonts -- cheaper, lesser, ubiquitous. (via XBlog, which I am starting to love)
Filepile is really nifty. 'nuff said. Try it. (via Metafilter)
A Manhattan real estate broker in New York magazine's annual real-estate issue: "I'm not going to have (anything) to do come April. I think starting in May it's going to be rough, with a lot of layoffs. Psychologically, it's going to be a mess."
I think I'll revisit the multiple listing service in about six weeks.
March 2, 2001 +
And now for a quick analysis of instant messaging services.
Yahoo Messenger tracks user preferences through its server-side login system. AOL Instant Messenger tracks them through local preferences files.
Yahoo's is a bit slower to take effect, but for an Internet-based communication applicaton, it's the far more effective method. When I switch between my Mac and PC at work, YM brings me the same lists and the same layouts. Tracking my stocks and headlines on one application is nice, too.
AIM forces me to re-enter my buddies on each computer (whose IDs I have to write down manually, because one AIM shuts down when I log in from a different one) and botches my buddy icon display. Today, I had to reinstall my PC's AIM, and I lost half my buddy list, which I then had to recompile from my Mac's list, instead of working off a central file.
As soon as the common messaging standard takes hold, I'll be ditching my AIM for good. Yahoo has cuter emoticons, anyway.
So Anil tells me AIM is supposed to store buddy lists online. Which doesn't explain why mine doesn't, of course, or change my opinion. But color me corrected. Now it's time to investigate the glitch. (YM still has the cuter emoticons.)
A new guy strutted into the Web Design Saloon this morning. His name is Adaptive Path, and he's a powerhouse consortium of developers and designers who specialize in "user experience."
I know and admire some of the folks in this company, who have been responsible for excellent work in the past. I wish them great success, especially if they can lay claim to some of the media yakkety-yak the Nielsen Norman Group currently possesses.
Objectively, though, I can only scratch my head and cross my fingers. Dotcom employment is a mess right now; job postings to the mailing lists I read have almost completely dried up. Usability consulting firm Creative Good laid off the bulk of its staff this week, and web writers are bracing for hard times.
Here's to hoping they shine brightly through the darkness.
March 1, 2001 +
Tired: Wired's Tired/Wired list.
Wired: Tired/Wired special dot-com collapse edition. Perfect.
I find the Silicon Alley Reporter and its sibling products to be among the worst professional-grade products around in terms of writing and editing skill. But they manage to come up with some excellent, thought-provoking articles. Today's feature wonders: What impact will dotcom cutbacks and layoffs have on New York's insane housing market?