Saturday, February 27, 2010

(empo-tymshft) (empo-tuulwey) Loren Hodson? Steven Feldman? You've got similarities.

When I read this Steven Hodson post about this Loren Feldman post, I was struck by some similarities between the two. Let's compare:

  • First, they both are married men who love their wives dearly. In the end, that matters more to both of them than the other points.

  • Second, neither of them could make it as a Care Bear or as a diplomat. Both have been known to speak their mind, rather than playing nice.

  • Third, both are well-known within sectors of the social media community. Feldman, of course, is known for 1938media. Hodson, probably best known as a writer for the Inquisitr, also has his own empire of blogs, including Shooting at Bubbles and WinExtra.

  • Fourth, Feldman and Hodson do not solely rely on being social media mavens. Feldman is expert in video production, and Hodson is expert in the Windows operating system and other computer-related areas.
And it should also be noted that the fourth point is more important than the third point. And that is key.

Both Feldman and Hodson reacted to the Steve Rubel post "AP is Visionary: They See a 'Siteless Web'." Now I have my own take on the truth of Rubel's post, but let me share what Hodson and Feldman said first.

For Hodson's take, let me cut to the chase:

So let me get this straight. The future of the web, and all its incredible richness, is going to be places like Facebook, Twitter, Buzz and Foursquare.

If this is what the future of the web is going to be like then we will lose more than we gain.

Feldman also talked the loss of a company's brand identity in his video, "Social Media Will Kill Your Brand":

Now, I personally see no harm in having a presence on Facebook. (For the record, this blog has a Facebook presence, although I'm under-utilizing it.) In some ways, Facebook is the AOL of the 21st century. For some people, Facebook is THE destination, just like AOL was back in the day when every company had its own AOL keyword. If people are going to Facebook, and you want to attract those people, then it would certainly help to have a presence on Facebook.

But there's a world of difference between making a Facebook presence part of your overall strategy, and making a Facebook presence your ENTIRE strategy. Again, AOL is instructive. In his video, Feldman asked what would happen if Facebook were to disappear. In a sense, that's what happened with AOL. Not that AOL became a "ghost town," but certainly the online landscape changed enough that the importance of having an AOL keyword decreased dramatically over the years.

Now I'm probably not the best person to talk about effective brand creation - while I've certainly marketed the "Empoprises" brand to some extent, I haven't locked in the domain name. And we all know what can happen when you don't protect domain names.

But Hodson and especially Feldman have created excellent brand identity, and while they appear on other forums (this particular 1938media video was hosted on YouTube), they're both smart enough to not only maintain their brand identity, but to drive traffic back to their own sites.

Siteless? No.

But will Steven Hodson start playing with puppets?

Guess which airport I'm at!

OK, it could be ANY airport...

BNSF Tacoma

605 Puyallup Avenue, Tacoma. This continues to be a transportation hub, with Greyhound, light rail, and buses just steps away.

Friday, February 26, 2010

(empo-tuulwey) Hey #friendfeed50 - @parislemon was (mostly) right about FriendFeed

Sometimes TechCrunch can't win.

Because TechCrunch is sometimes perceived to be a secret power player aligned with the Bohemian Club and the Illuminati, it sometimes seems that EVERYTHING that TechCrunch writes is suspect.

On Thursday, MG Siegler of TechCrunch wrote a post entitled FriendFeed Goes Down Hard. Both Remaining Users Pissed. The post opened as follows:

FriendFeed is down right now. It has been down for the past 30 minutes or so. Sadly, that’s not news anymore. Not because, like Twitter of old, it’s down all the time, but rather, because it seems like no one really uses it anymore. Case in point, it’s been down for over 30 minutes and there are maybe 50 total tweets about it (and several are from the same users).

Before I explore the reaction to Siegler's post, let me quote one other excerpt:

It’s sad, really. FriendFeed was easily one of my favorite services (so much so that I’m still waiting for another service to replace it). But since the acquisition by Facebook, it has been a ghost town. And now, with its 500 Internal Server Error, it’s really a ghost town. The impressive team behind FriendFeed (most are still with Facebook now) have indicated they wouldn’t let the service wither, but that seems to be exactly what is happening.

The reaction to the post? This must be some machination of TechCrunch! @mitchelmckenna:

Techcrunch decides to kick #Friendfeed while it's down:


50 people notice Friendfeed down? Techcrunch miss the mark again #37moreFriendfeedsearchesontwittersinceIstartedthistweet


Once again @techcrunch and @parisLemon show pure class about FriendFeed being down. Way to be the Perez Hilton of tech journalism... again

And @thevixy also reacted, but she subsequently deleted her tweet about the matter. And even if she didn't, this is a family blog. Let's just say that she doesn't hold TechCrunch in the highest regard.

Now I have to admit that I was not part of the #friendfeed50, but I have a good excuse. I'm on a business trip at the moment, and to catch my 6:30 am flight Thursday morning, I had to wake up at 3:30 am. On Thursday evening I was waiting for NBC's tape-delayed coverage of Laura Lepisto's free skate program, but I fell asleep some time after NBC showed a featurette about logging. So I slept through the first couple of hours of the FriendFeed outage, and Siegler had already written the notorious p.o.s.t. by the time I woke up.

Yet, with all due respect to Johnny, Caroline, et al...Siegler was mostly right about the reaction to FriendFeed's outage.

While FriendFeed undoubtedly has a passionate following - and I number myself among that following - the fact is that FriendFeed's userbase is just a speck compared to the user base of, say, Facebook. In my personal case, I wouldn't describe my stream as a "ghost town," since my stream happens to be populated by people like Johnny Worthington who have stuck with the service. However, FriendFeed usage is down significantly from August 2009.

Now compare FriendFeed's usage to that of, another service that everyone says is dead:

Yes, that's right - MySpace has ONE HUNDRED TIMES as many users as FriendFeed.

So if everyone agrees that FriendFeed is a vibrant and meaningful community, then it only follows that MySpace's community must be the greatest thing since Kim Yu-Na.

Yet I have a sneaking suspicion that some people don't see if that way. MG Siegler's post on Friendfeed, last I checked, had about 30 responses, many negative. Does that mean that if MG Siegler were to write a so-called "nasty" post about MySpace, the post would wind up with 3,000 responses, many negative?

Somehow I don't think so.

In the end, however, the utility of a service does not depend upon the number of people using the service, but the benefits that you receive from it. On Wednesday afternoon, one of my Facebook friends (one who is familiar with FriendFeed) made that very point, which prompted me to respond:

And I do not leave services simply because they are bought by a larger company.

However, my Facebook friend replied that if the smaller service loses its effectiveness because of the acquisition, then perhaps it is time to leave.

In my view, two outages in the last few days does not mean that FriendFeed is dead - if that were the criterion, then Twitter would have died years ago - and Bret Taylor's prompt responses in both instances indicate that Facebook does continue to see FriendFeed as a viable service. Just in case Twitter goes down (again), allow me to reproduce Bret's tweets about both outages. Here's the first:

Network failure in FriendFeed data center. We are working on it, should be back up soon.

9:23 AM Feb 20th via web
Retweeted by 44 people

Only 44 people used Twitter's so-called retweet to spread the word? Where were the other six members of the #friendfeed50 that day?

And here's the most recent:

FriendFeed majorly down due to major power outage for multiple racks. Embarassing; we apologize, and we are working on it.

about 3 hours ago via web \
Retweeted by 45 people

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More #nbcfail - How connected users avoid NBC Olympic features and advertisers

You may already know how I feel about NBC's Olympic coverage, but allow me to recap.

For viewers in the Pacific time zone, NBC is tape-delaying its coverage of marquee Olympic events so that the events are televised in prime time. Therefore, I will not see any live coverage of the ladies figure skating events.

And because I do not rely on NBC for all of my Olympic coverage, I won't see a lot of tape-delayed coverage either.

In the real world, the ladies figure skating short program began at 4:30 pm Pacific time on Tuesday, February 23. NBC's Los Angeles affiliate did not begin its Olympic coverage until 3 1/2 hours later, at 8:00 pm. And based upon past performance, I knew that NBC was not going to show all thirty competitors in the short program. If I solely relied on NBC, I could watch four hours of Olympic coverage and not see anything of interest.

My primary interest was to see Laura Lepisto's performance, should NBC decide to televise it. Unfortunately for me, Laura Lepisto is not an American, so it was doubtful whether NBC would show it. But I could do some research.

The first thing I needed to find out was when Lepisto would be skating. Thanks to @Sakura0302, I was able to find out.

Group 5 to start at 19:47:30 21 LEPISTO Laura - 22 19:54:00 ASADA Mao - 23 20:00:30 KIM Yu-Na - 24 20:07:00 SUZUKI Akiko - 25 LEONOVA A

So if NBC were to show Lepisto, it would not appear on my Los Angeles TV set until after 10:45 pm.

By 8:00 pm, Lepisto had already skated, I already knew the result (61.36), and now the only question was whether NBC would show her performance. Obviously there were a ton of tweets about Lepisto at the time, but I was searching for tweets (from people on the East Coast) that specifically indicated that Lepisto was televised. And I found two tweets that specifically mentioned NBC analyst Scott Hamilton. One was from @JohannaAP25:

Scott Hamilton thanks for pointing out Laura Lepisto's tucked chin, now that's all I can look at. #OYlmpics

The other was from @shadesoftrue:

I really like Lepisto. She did well. Way to tear her down, Scott.

So, armed with this information, as well as all of the other results of the event, what did I do? I waited to turn the TV on until 10:45 pm, then proceeded to watch Laura Lepisto's routine. Personally, I didn't think that Hamilton was super-critical; critical, yes, but remember who came next. And if you didn't know who came next, right when Lepisto's routine finished, NBC interjected its Asada-Kim featurette, even before Lepisto's scores were televised. I kept the TV on to watch Mao Asada and Kim Yu-Na's performances, then turned the TV off. No offense to Joannie Rochette, but it was getting late.

So all of those companies that paid good money to NBC so that I'd see their ads? I didn't see any of them. Sorry, advertisers, whoever you are, but when you already know the results, why stay around for the ads?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Applying location technology to social issues

In the past, this blog has discussed one aspect of location-based technologies - namely, the ability for businesses to offer services to people who are in close geographical proximity to them. (One example often cited is Foursquare's ability to show special offers for participating locations if you happen to be close to those locations.)

But location - specifically, the ability to assign anything and everything in sight a geographical coordinate - can be used for more than food discount offers, as Physorg notes. (H/T All Points Blog.)

Physorg published a post that describes how professors William Alex Pridemore Tony Grubesic analyzed two layers of data - the locations of licensed alcohol outlets in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the locations of crimes in the same city - and detected a correlation between the two.

"A higher density of alcohol sales outlets in an area means closer proximity and easier availability to an intoxicating substance for residents," Pridemore said. "Perhaps just as importantly, alcohol outlets provide a greater number of potentially deviant places. Convenience stores licensed to sell alcohol may be especially troublesome in this regard, as they often serve not only as sources of alcohol but also as local gathering places with little formal social control."

They used the data to extrapolate some predictions:

Using different suites of spatial regression models, the researchers found that adding one off-premise alcohol sales site per square mile would create 2.3 more simple assaults and 0.6 more aggravated assaults per square mile. Increases in violence associated with restaurants and bars were smaller but still statistically significant, with 1.15 more simple assaults created when adding one restaurant per square mile, and 1.35 more simple assaults per square mile by adding one bar.

But does the data justify the conclusion?

"We could expect a reduction of about one-quarter in simple assaults and nearly one-third in aggravated assaults in our sample of Cincinnati block groups were alcohol outlets removed entirely," Grubesic noted. "These represent substantial reductions and clearly reveal the impact of alcohol outlet density on assault density in our sample."...

"Alcohol outlet density, on the other hand, is much more amenable to policy changes," Grubesic pointed out. "Unlike other negative neighborhood characteristics that often seem intractable, regulating the density of outlets, and to some extent their management, can be readily addressed with a mixture of policies by liquor licensing boards, the police and government agencies that regulate land use."

Perhaps, but if someone concludes from the data that the best policy change would be to outlaw alcohol in Cincinnati entirely, the economic laws of supply and demand need to be considered. Would such an action result in an increase in traffic-related deaths on the roads connecting Cincinnati with Kentucky? Would such in alcohol sales result in alternative unregulated alcohol suppliers entering the Cincinnati market, either as a unified syndicate or as competing entities (or gangs) of liquor providers.

That's the danger with analysis - people may analyze one set of data points and reach a conclusion, but ignore how that conclusion could itself affect the data in which they are interested.

Although it would be interesting to compare crime statistics before and after the beginning of Prohibition, and before and after the end of Prohibition, to see if the popular perception of Prohibition as a field day for illegal crime is in fact true. A discussion of crime and Prohibition can be found here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari, the Olympic story that NBC won't cover

By Sunday morning, I had finally had it.

If you've been reading my writings for the last several years, you know that I am not a fan of the way in which NBC covers the Olympics. By the time the main NBC network is done with its Olympic coverage, the resulting broadcast bears little relation to the Olympics itself. This is especially compounded this year, when people in southern California, which is in the same time zone as Vancouver, have to wait three hours to see any of the major Olympic events.

This year, I had already started the FriendFeed room nbcsucks, which tracks Twitter coverage of NBC's version of the Olympics. I did this after joining the Facebook group NBC Olympics Coverage Sucks.

But to be fair, I'm looking at the other side of things. One of the feeds in the nbcsucks FriendFeed room is NBC's own Twitter feed, and I have also joined NBC's official Facebook group for Olympics coverage.

Which is where I saw this item:

Here's a recap of all of yesterday's events at the Vancouver Games.

This West Coaster ended up venting a wee bit:

Actually, if I wanted to see a recap, I would have seen the recap that NBC showed on TV last night of all of the events that occurred 3+ hours previously. The one event that truly interests me is women's figure skating, but NBC will not be showing that event live, and frankly I'm not sure how many of the figure skaters will be shown by NBC, even on three hour tape delay.

Later in the thread, in response to several of us, Nick Stoops posted the following:

There are LIVE & FULL REPLAYS available @
NBC should do more self promotion about this capability during the countless commercial breaks in a hour; what's 10-20 more seconds gonna harm?

As I noted later in the thread, here's the problem:

Danielle/Nick, regarding NBC's replay capability - great idea in concept, not fully achieved in practice. Let's say, for example, that I want to watch the male Finnish figure skater. So I go to and choose "Figure Skating" as my sport. I then scan the available videos to find the men's figure ... See Moreskating short program. Unfortunately, as of 12:10 pm PST Sunday February 21, there are NO event replays for ANY of the figure skating events - not even NBC's coverage of the events, much less the "full-event replays" that are being discussed. Perhaps it's not NBC's fault, but it's disappointing.

So, because NBC probably isn't going to bother to tell you the story of Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari, I will do it myself.

For the record, Finland has sent three figure skaters to the Olympics. I have mentioned both Kiira Korpi and Laura Lepisto several times in my empire of blogs. Both skaters benefit from the highly-ranked competition between female Finnish figure skaters, a competition that started several years ago when Susanna Poykio was the first Finnish female figure skater to medal in a European event.

I'm not sure how many top-ranked Finnish figure skaters are on the men's side, but the fact that Finland could only send one male figure skater to Vancouver indicates that the competition isn't as fierce. Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari was the designated competitor for the men's competition. His ISU biography indicates that he is has been the Finnish national champion several times, and that he has placed as high as 14th in the European championships - something that does not sound impressive until you realize that the 14th place European figure skater is better than nearly all of the male figure skaters in Europe. So perhaps he wasn't going to get the gold in Vancouver, but he was no slouch.

While Bob Costas has probably never heard of the guy, the New York Times has, and the Times actually live-blogged the men's short program. Figure skating is sort of like golf - they start with a bunch of competitors, but only some of them make the cut for the final championship round. So Nurmenkari's first task was to make the cut by performing well enough in the short program to advance to the long program. Here's what the Times had to say:

8:17 p.m. |Finnish Hope

Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari of Finland is up. He was 22nd at the recent European Championships and has won his won national championship every year but one since he started competing in 2003. He is married to a former professional tennis player, Annina Ahti and has a son, Axel, who was born last August. Nurmenkari fell on his opening triple axel and has had a few more mistakes, but the crowd is clapping to the music to support him.

One more skater left until Plushenko graces the crowd with his presence. – Juliet Macur

Needless to say, Canada wasn't going to let the New York Times hog the whole story. Macleans also live-blogged the event:

8:15 p.m.
Finland’s Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari just totally bailed. And then fumbled his second jump…a salchow (yeah, that’s right, I just wanted to use the word).

8:17 p.m.
(Disclaimer: That jump might not have actually been a salchow.)

Nurmenkari got a little more coverage in the Finnish press. Here's a sample:

Vancouver. Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari haparoi pahasti olympialaisten taitoluistelun miesten lyhytohjelmassa. Hän kaatui heti ensimmäisen hyppynsä, kolmoisakselin, ja horjahti kahdessa myöhemmässäkin hypyssä.

"Kauden surkein", Nurmenkari kuvaili suoritustaan, josta irtosi 44,62 pistettä.

"Onhan se v-käyrä aika suuri tällä hetkellä."

Now I'll admit that Google Translate's capabilities have vastly improved since I was reading Kiira Korpi articles four years ago, but you don't need Google Translate to know that 44.62 is not a good number for the short program, as a later paragraph in the article makes clear:

Odotetun kovatasoinen lyhytohjelma oli äärimmäisen tasainen. Sen voitti Venäjän Jevgeni Pljuštšenko pisteillä 90,85. Aivan kannassa ovat Yhdysvaltojen Evan Lysacek 90,30 pisteellä ja Japanin Daisuke Takahashi pisteillä 90,25.

For clarification, the skater who scored 90.85 is known in the English-speaking world as Evgeni Plushenko. Plushenko and Lysacek advanced to the medal round. Nurmenkari didn't. listed the final standings for the short program; Nurmenkari's 44.62 placed him 30th in the list of 30 competitors; only the top 24 advanced.

But does that make Ari-Pekka Nurmenkari a failure? Not at all. For one, he was one of only thirty men in the world who were even entitled to compete in the Olympics, so by definition he is at the highest echelon of his sport. In addition, did you note the description in the Times live-blog of the event? While he made some mistakes early on, the crowd was clapping along with his performance and apparently enjoyed the opportunity to see him perform.

So how did NBC cover Nurmenkari? He has a page on the NBC website, but a statement at the beginning of his bio shows how much NBC invested in reporting on this athlete:

The biographical information was provided by the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games.

NBC spent a little more time on some of the other athlete pages, such as the page for figure skater Jeremy Abbott, who happens to be an American.

So now we move on to women's figure skating, and we in the Pacific time zone will be wonderfully blessed, as I noted before. According to, the ladies short program begins at 4:30 pm Vancouver (and Los Angeles) time on Tuesday, February 23. As with the men, there will be 30 competitors. NBC's Los Angeles coverage begins 3 1/2 hours later, at 8:00 pm, and they probably will not show 30 competitors.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Another story about ignorant computers - and now they're a security risk

You'll recall that I previously wrote two posts after the ReadWriteWeb/Facebook "login" fiasco. Here's part of what I said in the second post:

Computers are supposed to perform routine tasks for us so that we can get to the important stuff, like playing Starfleet Commander. But...computers are NOT performing these routine tasks for us.

Why not? Because they're ignorant. You can't talk to a computer in the same way that you can talk to a human being.

But I'm not the only one thinking of such things. My posts were inspired by an Oracle AppsLab post by Jake Kuramoto, and now Dave Winer has weighed in on the topic. He wasn't speaking about logging in to Facebook, but about computer usability in general.

Imagine you knew nothing about computers and somehone handed you a Macintosh and told you to figure it out.

How long would it take you to figure out what each of the applications did, or even what an application is, and how they differ and how they're similar.

Winer continues to flesh out his example, pointing out some of the bewildering computer behaviors that a new user would encounter. And this is on a Macintosh, a computer well-known for its relative ease of use. Put the new user on my Windows computer and tell him/her that you have to stop the computer by clicking the Start button - even if the new user could figure out what I meant when I talked about "clicking," the sheer lack of logic required to stop by starting would be baffling.

And, as commenter jeremyw noted, the incomphensibility of computers can have serious consequences:

Computer jargon, a “tick box” culture and unimaginative advertising are discouraging Internet users from learning how to protect themselves online.

Faced with such gobbledegook, many of the world’s nearly 2 billion Internet users conclude that security is for “experts“ and fail to take responsibility for the security of their own patch of cyberspace -- a potentially costly mistake.

Part of the problem comes from a natural human tendency, not limited to the computer technology realm, to gravitate toward using our own private, incomprehensible language. Michael Chertoff (yeah, him):

“If you don’t demystify security, people become anxious about it and don’t want to do it,” former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told Reuters on the sidelines of the EastWest Institute security meeting in Brussels.

“There are some people in the profession who to some degree enjoy the mystification of what they do, that it’s not penetrable. It’s almost a sense of superiority,” he said.

Doctors and lawyers used to enjoy “a sense of mystified special knowledge,” Chertoff said. “But ... once you empower people to understand what’s going on, doctors do a better job. So with cybersecurity the task is to make the architecture more user-friendly -- and to teach people better.”

And again, as I have argued before, computers are supposed to make our lives easier. Why don't they?

Friday, February 19, 2010

(empo-tymshft) Guilty by association (APMP)

I saw the tweet on Friday afternoon:

I just ousted @empoprises as the mayor of Hilton Hotel on @foursquare!

That led me to look back at some blog posts that I wrote last October, back when I became the mayor of the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa. And, naturally, I ended up looking at my Thursday 10:00 pm post, (empo-tymshft) On post-acquisition reorganizations. This post started off in a generic way, but eventually became personal, as I talked about my own job change that resulted from a post-acquisition reorganization.

To catch most of you up, I was a proposal writer for several years before I became a product manager. After my division was acquired, combined with another division, and reorganized, I ended up back in proposals after a nearly ten-year absence.

Two items merit comment at this time. First, you may remember that I said the following back in October:

And frankly, this is a VERY interesting time to be in proposals again...

This is still true, but not for the reasons that I was thinking of back in October. Without giving away any corporate secrets, let's just say that my presence in the proposals department has given me a number of opportunities that I wouldn't have had otherwise.

And I've also resurrected an old association. Back in 1999, at the encouragement of my then-Proposal Manager, I joined the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), and attended its annual conference down in San Diego. By the next year, however, when I had become a product manager, I let my APMP membership lapse. So now that I was back in proposals, I sent an e-mail to the APMP with the following subject line:

Can you reinstate an APMP membership from the last millennium?

Guess what? They could. They had retained all of my membership information from ten years ago, and I just had to update a few things (and, of course, pay the membership fee), but I am now again a member of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals.

Here's what they say about themselves - an executive summary, if you will:

About APMP
Our mission is to advance the arts, sciences, and technology of new business acquisition and to promote the professionalism of those engaged in those pursuits.

Through association and education, we provide our members access to tools, methods, processes, innovations, talent and specialized expertise that can directly improve the ability to acquire new business and to sustain growth and competitiveness in a dynamic and demanding marketplace.

Our membership is growing rapidly into an internationally recognized association with membership and corporate sponsors from a diverse range of disciplines and industries. Our members are committed to the pursuit of proposal excellence. Our journey has been one of promoting the professionalism of our members and shaping the future of the proposal profession in the United States and throughout the world.

Now this doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to Orlando - I probably won't - but it's good to be back in the APMP.

But Gordon W., your mayorship at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort is safe - at least from me.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

More on advertisers - there are too few commercials

After I wrote the previous post, I was sitting in a Starbucks in Claremont and thinking about the post that I had written, and I realized another problem with advertising.

There are too few commercials.

Allow me to explain.

Let's say that you're watching a popular syndicated show such as M*A*S*H on TV. Popular shows like this are shown on TV every day, on multiple channels. In fact, for a show such as M*A*S*H, it is quite possible that you can see the same episode several times in the same year. No matter how much you like a particular episode of M*A*S*H, you get tired of it after a while...even if Klinger happens to be wearing a very pretty dress in the episode.

But the frequency with which you see a popular syndicated show is nothing compared to the frequency with which you see or hear a particular commercial. If you spend any amount of time watching TV or listening to the radio, you may hear the same commercial several times in the same DAY. And you'll hear that same commercial, over and over, for weeks.

The problem is that advertisers are convinced that the only way to get their message across is to hammer the same message into your brain over and over and over and over again. Unfortunately, there are probably a lot of people like me who will switch the station if a commercial comes on that I've already heard too many times. The fatigue factor not only causes me to stop listening to the message, but actually causes me to dislike the product being advertised.

Frankly, I wish that advertisers would create a hundred commercials at the same time, instead of the few commercials - or the single commercial - that they create for an ad campaign. They don't have to be radically different - maybe in one commercial, Paris Hilton could be eating her burger while lounging on a Corvette, while in another commercial Paris Hilton could be eating a different burger while lounging on a Mercedes. Just enough variety so that when the commercial comes on, I might actually want to watch it or listen to it just to see what will happen next.

Perhaps Apple did it right when they only officially showed the "1984" commercial a limited number of times. Imagine if they had aired that commercial every hour on every network, like some advertisers do today. If I had been subjected to that commercial over and over again, I eventually would have wanted to throw the RUNNER into the Big Brother screen, just to put an end to the misery.

Again, make commercials that we want to watch, and guess what? We'll watch them.

Why advertisers have it all wrong

Rich Manalang is becoming a twentieth-century Luddite, or a Communist, or something like that. In short, he's doing something that just should not be done.

What is Rich's crime? He's taking a break from most social media:

In an IM conversation I had with Paul this morning, I decided to embark on an experiment. I’ve decided to drop out of all things social (online) for a few weeks. This includes Twitter, Buzz, Facebook, blogging, etc.

Basically, Rich wants to pare down his social media inputs for a period of time, in order to decide which ones are essential and which are not.

Rich is only allowing himself three exceptions: email and instant messaging, which he describes as "essential," and Google Reader, because it provides clear benefits to him. Unlike Google Buzz:

Anyway, the big reason I’m doing this is that since last Tuesday, I’ve sunk a lot of time into futzing with Google Buzz. That’s time I’ll never get back. Meanwhile, I have yet to see the real value of Google Buzz.

So Rich is dealing with the time-sink problem, one that many of us have encountered. In a comment, I noted that Rich's needs are the opposite of the needs of the content providers themselves (the reference to gas stations relates to the television screens that have been installed at some pumps):

We have a need to get useful information as quickly as possible, while Facebook, Google, the gas station, and other content providers have a need to give us useful information, but keep us at their sites as long as possible (so that we view as many ads as possible).

What it boils down to is this - advertising is so bad that we don't want to watch it, and have to be bribed to do so. Let's face it - when television equipment providers built features into their equipment that allow you to skip over ads, you know that the situation is pretty bad. And if you don't have such equipment, then the appearance of a commercial often signals that it's time for a bathroom break, a trip to the fridge - anything to get away from the advertisements until the real show begins again.

And it's not just a television issue - you can find it in radio also. I'm driving my daughter to school this semester, and one morning she consented to let me listen to "Handel on the News" on KFI. We switched to that station, and it was in the middle of its "shortened" ad block that still occupies several minutes. So we switched back to her favorite radio station (to protect her privacy I won't reveal the call letters of the station, but the morning show host tends to talk about "American Idol" a lot)...and her station was in the middle of its own block of ads.

It seems that for 364 days out of the year, American advertisers create ads that people do not want to hear. But, at least in this country, there's one exception - the Super Bowl. On that day, all of the advertisers (or, to be more accurate, the advertising agencies) all compete to have ads that people will watch, like, and talk about the next day. Expectations are raised high - and, at least personally, the results are always less than stellar.

For me, the solution to this is simple.

If you are an actor, actress, writer, or someone else who wants to advance in the television industry (I'll skip radio for the moment), you may get your start on local TV, then move on to network TV, and then move on to the movies. By the time you reach the movie-making level, studios are paying millions of dollars to get the best actors, actresses, and scriptwriters to make mega-hits. At the same time, the smaller outfits are trying to compete on quality and good storytelling. Regardless, for many people, movies are the ultimate goal.

What if the ultimate goal was to get into a thirty-second advertisement?

What if writers were competing to write the perfect ad? What if actors and actresses were clamoring to get into one of those ads? What if producers and directors were competing to get rights to the next Folger's ad? Maybe it wouldn't pay $20 million, but you wouldn't have to make a huge time commitment.

Eventually, if such a system were implemented, people would WANT to watch the ads. They'd even put up with Bob Costas in the hope that maybe that hot Folger's ad might appear after Bob's latest Tribute To A Wonderful American Athlete's Younger Brother.

And, of course, this could move beyond television. Radio ads could get better. Those ads that are served up by Google et al could get better - things that you'd want to read, rather than things that require software to block you from reading them.

What does it take to get to a world where people WANT to view and read ads?

Friday, February 12, 2010

(empo-tuulwey) Change

A couple of recent posts tangentially touched upon change, so I thought I'd bring it to the forefront.

One of the underlying themes in this post was the assumption that younger people are more willing to change than older people. However, as this BusinessWeek post noted:

[A] PEW Center study showed last year that people in their 20s and 30s were actually more averse to trying new brands and products than were people in their 50s.

Then there's the whole ReadWriteWeb "Facebook login" controversy that I talked about here. One of my references, The Last Podcast post, noted that when people ended up at ReadWriteWeb rather than Facebook,

These people actually thought that somebody had either bought or redesigned their precious Facebook and now Facebook got so hard to use that they couldn’t get to Farmville.

I subsequently noted:

And before one assumes that such a negative reaction is confined to the technically illiterate, remember the negative reaction when FriendFeed introduced real-time and other changes? And THAT negative reaction came from people who are considered to be technologically savvy. No one likes change...

Indeed. Whether you're young or old, technically savvy or less so, you probably don't like change all that much. I'd venture to say that people who like change are in the minority, and even those people might like change in one arena, but hate it in another. Take the people who were absolutely thrilled when their Gmail accounts were filled with Google Buzz entries - what if you told them that as a next step, the ONLY way to access your Gmail would be to type "buzz" in a Google search box? I bet you there would be some really angry folks clamoring for "the way it used to be."

Change is necessary to progress, and sometimes far-sighted people will adopt change despite the initial backlash that they will receive. What if the original Apple Macintosh computers had gone with convention and retained 5 1/4" floppies? What if Ray Kroc had looked at the McDonald brothers' operation and decided NOT to expand it? What if we had elected Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton as President in 2008?

At the same time, sometimes change can go too far. The Edsel. New Coke.

It's impossible to know in advance whether a proposed change will be warmly embraced in the long term. So how do you decide whether or not to pursue a potential change?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Facebook login revisited - it's not system stupidity, it's system ignorance

This is a follow-up to my previous post on the topic, a post that referenced a number of other posts and comments. For example, here's a portion of the comment that I left at The Last Podcast:

Facebook, ReadWriteWeb, Google, and all of the rest of us are the stupid ones because we were unable to design an intuitive interface. Take a step back for a second. If you type “facebook login” into a box, SHOULDN’T our highly-vaunted technology be smart enough to log you into Facebook? So, who’s the stupid one here?

After taking some time to think about it, perhaps the word "stupid" isn't the best word to describe what is going on here. The best word is "ignorance."

But before I explain why, we're going to take a little trip into a fantasy world - a world in which I am incredibly wealthy. So wealthy that I feel so bad that Melinda Gates has to live on so little money. So wealthy that I can take my private 747 jet to a super-exclusive luxury resort on a super-exclusive Caribbean island. When I get to the super-exclusive quarters that have been assigned to me, I proceed direct to the third floor of the mansion, to the computer room, where there are three butlers waiting for me. Before entering the room, I peek at the three butlers that my immense wealth has allowed me to hire: a guy named Steve, who dances around the room until he hears me approaching; a guy named Paul, who is juggling a football, a basketball, and an umbrella; and a guy named Linus, who is holding a blanket and sucking his thumb.

(Sorry. Bad joke that I couldn't resist.)

As I enter the room, I clap my hands, and my three butlers immediately spring to attention.

"Gentlemen," I proclaim, "I want to play Starfleet Commander!"

After consulting with each other, the butlers decide that Paul should fulfill my whim. (If Louis were incredibly wealthy, Steve would have handled the task; if Jake were incredibly wealthy, the task would have fallen to Linus.) Paul goes to the deluxe computer in the room, types some stuff, and asks me a couple of questions:

"What's the e-mail address that you used to sign up to Facebook?"

"I promise I won't tell anyone, but what's your Facebook password?"

Based upon the six word command that I spoke, my human assistant Paul was able to deduce that what I really wanted to do was to login to my Facebook account, then select the Starfleet Commander application. (For the purpose of this example, assume that you have to use Facebook to access Starfleet Commander.) I just spoke the six words, and it was done.

Compare that to how I access Starfleet Commander today. Trust me, it ain't as simple as speaking six words. Now if I'm using a browser that I've used previously, I can often access the application just by typing the word "apps" and waiting for the URL to appear. However, you may have noticed that in my fantasy example above, I had gone to a computer that I had never used before. In a case like this, more than likely I would do the following:
  1. Start up the computer and hope that I don't have to enter a Windows password that I don't know.

  2. Start up a web browser - hopefully, a familiar web browser will appear on the desktop.

  3. Go to, and hope that I remember what e-mail address and password I used for Facebook.

  4. Check this week's version of the Facebook UI to see where Starfleet Commander is now located.

  5. Click on the link for the Starfleet Commander application.
Now the steps that I listed above are presumably familiar to many of the people who read this blog post. But the fact remains that to many people - call them stupid, call them inexperienced, call them people with a life - the steps above are complete gibberish.

Is it any wonder that people end up going to a web browser and typing in "facebook login" because all of this "url" (does that rhyme with "earl"?) and "browser" stuff is not only confusing, but also completely useless.

Why is it useless? Because if all I want to do is login to Facebook or play Starfleet Commander, I shouldn't have to jump through a half dozen different hoops to do so.

Now you and I know that the task can be made much easier by putting a shortcut on a desktop - but try to explain to someone how to put a shortcut on a desktop.

Computers are supposed to perform routine tasks for us so that we can get to the important stuff, like playing Starfleet Commander. But, if you think about the example above, computers are NOT performing these routine tasks for us.

Why not? Because they're ignorant. You can't talk to a computer in the same way that you can talk to a human being, like my dream butler Paul.

And yes, I know that there are packages that allow you to speak to your computer, or to your phone, but these applications are very limited in their understanding. I can turn to my co-worker Matt and say, "I'll call Bruno and ask him about the picture." I cannot turn to my Motorola Q phone and say, "Hey, I wanna call Bruno now." The computer (or, in this case, the phone) is unable to comprehend the full richness of the English language, and convert my verbal ramblings into a task that it can complete.

We encounter these limitations every day of our lives. We need to tell a computer or a phone to do something, and we have to go through strange gyrations to get it to do what it wants. And yes, they're very strange gyrations. Would you speak to your spouse or your child in the same way that you'd speak to your search engine? I sincerely hope not.

This is the challenge that developers face. Even if the developers are working on an enterprise application that will presumably be used by people with a minimum level of computer knowledge, the truth is that the members of the target audience have wildly varying levels of computer skills, and that a good percentage of people - even in an enterprise environment - may be completely puzzled by terms such as "application."

Or "folder" or "directory."

Or even "login."

Facebook login - why do we make it so hard?

I should be able to start up my computer, tell it that I want to log in to Facebook, and have my computer log in to Facebook.

You know, just type the words "facebook login."

So why doesn't my computer allow me to do that?

(References: Jake Kuramoto's post and my comment; The Last Podcast post (my comment was posted 11 February at 2:00 pm); the ReadWriteWeb post and my comment; and the Signal vs. Noise post that occupied Jake's mind in the first place.)

For an opposing view, read this comment at Jake's post. An excerpt:

Web browsers have been pretty ubiquitous parts of our lives for the past +10 years. The fact that these people are able to get on facebook at all should signify how (pardon the phrase) "idiot proof" technology has become.

These people don't know what a web browser is, but they regularly use a real-time streaming social network filled with status updates, wall posts, pokes, and picture tagging. So no, it's not Facebook or Google's fault. It's no one's fault really. These people have chosen to be this naive about technology and will continue to be so.


(empo-tuulwey) Closed proprietary systems are not limited to the tech world - h/t @wae

There are those of us who loudly trumpet how wonderful open systems are...and then we go out and buy closed systems. Let's face it - what if you were to go to your average person on the street and say this?

I'd like to sell you a computer in which the operating system comes from the same vendor that manufactures the hardware, and you're not allowed to run the operating system on any other hardware. Oh, and by the way, this computer manufacturer also offers a cell phone, which only runs on one network and can't run on any other network. And the manufacturer must approve any applications that you install on the cell phone. And you pay through the nose for these limitations.

In certain segments of the tech community, the response would be:


Now, of course this is only part of the story. The reason why Apple is able to get away with this is because of a (somewhat well-substantiated) belief that Apple products offer higher quality than the competition. In fact, the argument can be made that Apple products offer higher quality BECAUSE of their closed proprietary nature. Obviously it's easier for Apple to ensure that its OS is compatible with the target hardware than for Microsoft to ensure that its OS is compatible with the target hardware. And, while Apple's application limitations on the iPhone certainly reduce the competition for Apple and its partners such as AT&T, the application approval process does help to ensure that people using iPhone applications have a quality user experience. (Remember DOS-like applications on the Mac? That won't happen with the iPhone.)

Well, I was recently reminded that this "open vs. proprietary" debate does not only occur in the tech world, when I saw this tweet from @wae (thibault wacrenier):

Ipad & Nespresso, that's an interesting point of view :

The link goes to this post from Matthieu Delgrange. Here's an excerpt:

En revanche, la tablette iPad est la seule à proposer un magasin intégré et simple d'utilisation, permettant d'acheter vos contenus digitaux et vos applications en ligne. En intégrant iTunes Store au coeur de l'iPad, Apple positionne son magasin comme premier pas pour l'achat en ligne. Même si théoriquement vous pourrez toujours acheter vos MP3 où bon vous semble, seul iTunes Store offrira une expérience utilisateur simple. Coté applications, c'est réglé, vous ne pourrez pas acheter ailleurs que sur l'App Store !

OK, I may work for a French company, but I still needed Google Translate to get the gist of the post. Here's its translation of the paragraph above:

In contrast, the iPad tablet is the only store to offer integrated and easy to use, to purchase your digital content and applications online. By integrating iTunes Store in the heart of the iPad, Apple positions its stores as a first step to buying online. Although theoretically you can always buy your MP3s wherever you want, only iTunes Store will offer a simple user experience. Side applications, it is settled, you can not buy elsewhere than on the App Store!

In other words, the territory that we already covered above. But the point of the article is expressed at the beginning, where the iPad is referred to as "le Nespresso de l'informatique" (the Nespresso computer).

I've discussed Nespresso before (in the comments to my Flavia post), in a tweet from last spring, and in a Foursquare checkin. As the Foursquare checkin notes, I have the ability to buy Nespresso packets (the "application software") from a brick and mortar store, but if I didn't, I'd go to the appropriate web page (the "app store") to make the purchase. I'm not going to get Nespresso packets at my local Wal-Mart, and to date I have not found a third party company that offers packets compatible with my Nespresso machine.

If you want to talk about a closed, proprietary system, this is it.

But Nespresso lovers put up with it because of the quality of the coffee, although I'm sure that there is a subset of Nespresso users who bail, saying that the closed system isn't worth it and Folger's or Kirkland or whatever meets their needs quite nicely.

And one does not have to be consistently an open systems person or a closed systems person. I'm sure there are people who use Nespresso and Windows - in fact, I'm one of them. There are probably people who drink Kirkland coffee while using their iPad. And there are certainly people (I know one of these also) who hook their iPods up to Windows computers because they don't see the point of a Mac, but they love their iPods.

But if you see someone waving the open systems banner and loudly declaring that closed systems are evil, ask them what coffee they drink in the morning.

(Picture source, license)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

If Brent Bouchez and the Pew Center are right, I might become a target market again

When you're blogging, it's key to differentiate yourself from other bloggers. Well, other than my belief that Brian Eno's father is Slim Whitman, one key differentiator between myself and other bloggers is my age. For example, I'm older than Louis Gray, Jesse Stay, the Ffundercats, Robert Scoble, and just about every other blogger that you read.

Which means that I am, in a sense, clearly outside of many demographics that are targeted by advertisers, including those who advertised at the Super Bowl. Brent Bouchez at BusinessWeek talked about this:

Seeing that the median adult age in this country is 49, the average TV viewer is over age 50, and most Americans watch the Super Bowl, one can infer that the median age of Sunday's Super Bowl viewer was in the neighborhood of middle age.

It was disconcerting to see advertising that mostly starred twentysomething men who seemed to be slaves to their thirst for beer, chips, and girls. Unintelligent slaves at that.

I, on the other hand, was represented by Betty White (88), Abe Vigoda (89), and a guy on a power chair (about 95). Don't get me wrong: I like Betty White, but she's old enough to be my grandmother.

But, of course, we all know why advertisements target younger folks. It's because of a truth that everybody knows.

[M]ost advertisers believe consumers over 50 are stuck in their ways and don't try new brands....

There's only one problem. This truism may not be true.

[A] PEW Center study showed last year that people in their 20s and 30s were actually more averse to trying new brands and products than were people in their 50s.

I couldn't find that particular Pew Center study, but I did find these statistics from the Kaw Valley (Kansas) Senior Monthly:

The senior citizen group (age 50 and over) offers an expanding target market opportunity. Not only is the senior citizen group growing at twice the rate of the rest of the population, they also have more free time, are more prosperous, and reflect a greater propensity to spend than ever before.

Senior citizens are the wealthiest consumer segment and have the largest disposable income of any population group. The average per capita discretionary income for Americans 50 and older is more than $8,400 per year, compared with $6,505 for Americans of all ages.

Senior citizens are living longer and more active lives than ever before. As a result, they have more disposable income to spend on financial investments, insurance plans, non-profit organizations, health, travel, gifts and general merchandise.

Advertising in Kaw Valley Senior Monthly allows businesses to reach the area's rapidly growing senior population with highly targeted messages at very affordable rates.

Now the chances that an advertiser will act on this information are about as high as the chances that an NBC entertainment executive will make an informed decision. However, it's worthwhile to fantasize that next year's Super Bowl will have advertisements that are specifically targeted toward me.

I can see it now - people on a hill, no job worries, lots of leisure time, all singing, "I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony...."

(Swedish babes picture source, license)

Monday, February 8, 2010

My own Loic Le Meur - Michael Arrington moment, in which I (almost) played the part of Michael Arrington

I have mentioned a few times on my blog that my division was sold by Motorola to another company, but I don't believe that I explicitly mentioned that the acquiring company is a French firm. This resulted in an amusing incident last week which bore some similarities - but, luckily, not a lot of similarities - to a much more publicized incident between two public figures that took place in December 2008.

Perhaps you recall the incident, which occurred at the Le Web conference in Paris. During a panel discussion, invited panelist Michael Arrington made some points which he later recounted on TechCrunch.

The last session at Le Web was a live Gillmor Gang....At about the 14 minute mark a discussion of Europe v. Silicon Valley erupts.

Conference organizer Loic Le Meur (a French entrepreneur who moved to Silicon Valley for his most recent startup Seesmic) says that Silicon Valley moves too fast, and that Europeans enjoy a good two hour lunch just to experience the joy of life.

My response...: the joy of life is great, but all these two hour lunches over a bottle or two of great wine and general unwillingness to do whatever it takes to compete and win is the reason why all the big public Internet companies are U.S. based.

Le Meur subsequently addressed the issue on his blog:

Michael focuses on my "we know how to take quality time in Europe" and my example of a two hour lunch versus five minutes at starbucks if you are lucky. There is a huge difference between being lazy and taking time to know each other. It is one of the main cultural differences I feel everyday as I moved to Silicon Valley: every minute, every coffee, every phone call must have a point....

Don't even think about starting a conversation in Silicon Valley by "how was your week-end" or "how are your kids", they all want you to go straight to the point and no time to lose. I never thought inviting someone I really liked to know better to dinner would get me an email from his assistant "why would you like to invite him to dinner?". I do not think europeans are lazy taking the time to know each other and build deep long term friendships that are not limited to business and I do not think this hurts Europe in any way. On the contrary.

While one cannot claim that all Americans are impatient, or that the desire to get to know someone is solely limited to Europeans, it does appear to be generally true that Europeans will take more time to do things that appear to be inconsequential to Americans. I've noticed this several times, including during my visit to Europe in 2000 and during several visits of Europeans to California, and this point was brought home to me last week.

First, a preface - when I'm working, I normally don't go out to lunch. I brown bag it, and I don't even go down to the office cafeteria - nearly all the time I stay at my desk, at my computer, doing important things like tweeting or playing Starfleet Commander. It should also be noted that I, like some other writers, am not necessarily a really social person. So for me, the whole concept of a two-hour lunch on several different levels.

But I couldn't brown bag it last week, because I was on a business trip to my company's Tacoma office. An office that has a sprinkling of French nationals working in it.

The office is in downtown Tacoma, with a number of places open during the lunch hour, so around lunchtime on Monday I got up, left the office, and headed to one of them to, in American terms, "grab something." I did so and was sitting down to eat it, when one of the French nationals came into the restaurant. He expressed surprise that I had just gone out on my own to grab lunch. I ended up eating with him and two other co-workers, and had an enjoyable lunch.

After that incident (which raised the whole Loic Le Meur-Michael Arrington debate to the top of my brain), I realized that I needed to be more sensitive about such things. So on Tuesday I asked one of my co-workers, who also happens to be a French national, if he wanted to go out to lunch. He replied that he would like to do so, and asked me where I wanted to go. I forget exactly how I replied, but my response did imply my preference for a "hasty" lunch. The co-worker brought up the cultural differences noted above. In the end, we went to a Thai restaurant together and I had another enjoyable lunch, although I'm sure that the lunch was probably a little too "hasty" for my co-worker's liking.

In my head, I side with Loic Le Meur in the Le Meur-Arrington lunch debate. There is obviously a tremendous benefit in getting to know the people that you are working with - especially in the case in which a company is acquired by another company, and the people from the two companies need to learn how to work together. I cannot reveal our lunch conversations in this blog, but the subjects of those conversations, while possibly seeming superficial, were in some respects quite key to the integration of multiple cultures into a single corporate culture. And to those who claim that the long lunches are a sign of laziness, the two French nationals that I named above are two of the hardest-working people that I know.

Yes, in my head I side with Loic Le Meur - but sometimes I don't follow my head. As I mentioned above, this is partially my fault and has nothing to do with my nationality. But it's something of which I need to be aware, to make sure that I do what's best for me.

The one thing that helped me is that I was somewhat aware of the issue before my trip to Tacoma. And for that I can thank Loic Le Meur, as well as several other Europeans, who have served to bring it to my attention.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The problem behind Wikipedia's demand for citations

Perhaps a disclosure is in order, though not of the FCC disclosure kind. Several years ago, there was a sports radio show in Los Angeles called Roggin and Simers Squared. Two of the three hosts, Fred Roggin and T.J. Simers, were well known in Los Angeles sports circles. The third, Simers' daughter Tracy Simers, was not as well known, her only media experience being a weekend show hosted with her dad. From this, she ended up as one-third of a sports talk team on morning drive. I mentioned Tracy Simers in the blog that I was writing at the time (most notably here), and the posts with Simers not only were highly rated on my blog, but highly rated on Google itself - a situation that persists today.

At the time, I began thinking that Simers' presence on a radio show in a major market deserved a Wikipedia article, so I wrote one. But if you search for that article today, you won't find it. Why? Because, as I noted in a January 2008 post, someone had tagged the article with a "general notability guideline." This concept is explained by Wikipedia itself:

Within Wikipedia, notability is an inclusion criterion based on the encyclopedic suitability of an article topic. The topic of an article should be notable, or "worthy of notice"; that is, "significant, interesting, or unusual enough to deserve attention or to be recorded."...Notable in the sense of being "famous", or "popular"—although not irrelevant—is secondary.

This notability guideline for not policy; however, it reflects consensus reached through discussions and reinforced by established practice, and informs decisions on whether an article on a person should be written, merged, deleted or further developed.

So, at some point after Tracy Simers went off the air and returned to a more private life, some Wikipedia editor decided that her career was not notable enough for mention in Wikipedia. So my article got yanked. Not that I'm bitter at the scumbag who did that or anything.

Another of Wikipedia's policies is that articles have to be fully sourced. If Robert Scoble were to edit his own Wikipedia entry to say that he wears glasses, some Wikipedia editor would argue that the statement is not fully supported. Never mind the fact that the subject of the post made the statement; to the mind of a Wikipedia editor, the tidbit wouldn't be considered factual unless Shel Israel wrote a blog post that mentioned Scoble's glasses, and some person cited THAT post as supporting evidence in the Wikipedia article.

Which brings us to Posterous. As I write this, the Wikipedia article on Posterous includes the following statement:

It boasts integrated and automatic posting to other social media tools such as Flickr, Twitter, and Facebook, a built-in Google Analytics package, and custom themes....

This last statement is supported by a footnote, and the footnote cites an article that presumably mentions the claims of the sentence.

Why do I say "presumably"? Because the footnote in question reads as follows:

2. ^ Daniel Brusilovsky, TechCrunch (2009-09-23). "Posterous Adds Theme Support; Continues To Grow".

If you happen to click on the link to the September 23 TechCrunch article, you get the following message:

Page Not Found

Sorry, we couldn't find the page you were looking for. Please return to the homepage.

(If you don't know WHY TechCrunch deleted this particular article, read this post.)

But this isn't the only case in which a cited article disappeared into In fact, this is just a small symptom of a pressing problem that Steven Hodson addressed. As his post title notes, there is no such thing as permanence on the web.

We like to believe that all our contributions around the web and on our blogs will last forever. Unfortunately this is nothing but a dream that we will take to our graves.

Take a look around.

Twitter: even now everything you post is gone after two weeks after you wrote it.

Forums: totally at the discretion of the forum owner. Once they decide to shut it down your contributions are gone.

Blogs: our blog content only lasts as long as our domains do. Stop paying those fees either because of financial problems or death and at some point all that content is gone.

Who knows how many links in Wikipedia articles - links that were used to buttress the content of the articles - are now dead links?

But then again, Wikipedia itself could be gone fifty, or twenty, or even ten years from now.

Especially if someone in the Taliban gets editing privileges. In that case, bye-bye Bill Handel.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A belated mention of Glen Bell

This story is a couple of weeks old, and I apologize for the delay. David Allen covered the deaths of two people with local connections, including Glen Bell. If the last name sounds familiar, it should - he has a taco restaurant named after him. However, as the Press-Enterprise noted, his influence extends far beyond the chalupa:

Mr. Bell, best known for starting the Taco Bell chain...was one of several Inland [Empire] entrepreneurs who recognized that the car culture that developed in the late 1940s was turning the public into an eat-and-go society.

The longtime San Bernardino resident not only originated the fast-food taco, but also worked with one-time employee John Galardi to start what became the Der Wienerschnitzel hot dog chain. Another employee, Ed Hackbarth, went on to open what is now known as Del Taco.

"If you think about it, except for pizza, just about every kind of fast food started right here in the Inland Empire," said Jack Brown, a longtime friend of Bell and chairman of Stater Bros. Markets.

Brown said Mr. Bell was one of a handful of local icons -- including Neal Baker and the McDonald brothers -- who not only transformed the American restaurant and culinary landscape but also spawned an industry that now employs thousands of Inland and U.S. workers.

For those who don't live in the Inland Empire area, "Baker" is also a significant name among fast food eaters out here. But Baker and Bell chose different paths. As Baker's widow notes:

"Neal just decided he wanted to keep his restaurants local, so he didn't go with national franchising."

Bell, on the other hand, sold his Taco Bell chain to PepsiCo in 1978; it is now part of Yum Brands.

So while people think of Los Angeles as the center of the movie industry, the 909 is known as the birthplace of several fast food chains.