Ad Hoc Advertising

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After reading this little anti-BzzAgents rant, I start to think that it might be for the best that I never took my “Ad Hoc Advertising, Inc.” idea past the Web site template stage. On the other hand, since my idea was to get a lameass business model patent on…

“[a] ‘peer to peer’ advertising network, consisting of non-celebrity individuals, wherein analytical tools are used to identify ‘key opinion influencers’ within the intersection of the network’s participants and the advertiser’s target market; those individuals are then commissioned to promote the advertiser’s product/service on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, generating ‘buzz’ or ‘street level’ awareness of the offering”

…perhaps I should have moved forward with it (note: this was a couple of years ago when it was necessary to use the phrase “peer to peer” in any new idea). Could have been suing BzzAgent even as I write this. Oh, well.

Still no kid yet, by the way.

What’s in a Name?

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What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

I seem to be obsessing over names today. As reported pretty much everywhere, Microsoft has been handed a defeat in the EU, and will be required to ship a version of Windows without Windows Media Player in Europe; according to BetaNews, this version of the OS will be known as “Reduced Media Edition.”

After some recent lapses in vigilance on the part of Microsoft’s Marketing department, it’s nice to see them back on top of their game. Reduced Media Edition? It’s weaker than some other promising candidates such as Windows: Crippled Edition, or Windows EU (Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You), but it still manages to convey that all-important “don’t blame us, you asked for a lame version of our software” feeling.

This reminds me of the great trend that I’ve been seeing in the text of MPAA movie ratings. While the ratings are set by the MPAA, it’s looking more and more like producers get creative control over the text associated with that rating…with predictable results. Take Vin Diesel’s tender coming of age story xXx, for example: it got a PG-13 rating, with the associated text: Rated PG-13 for violence, non-stop action sequences, sensuality, drug content and language.

The MPAA is worried about “non-stop action sequences?” Please. I only wish I had access to the report that evaluated whether or not more 14 year old boys got suckered into seeing this after learning that The Man thought they might not be able to handle all that non-stop action.

At Least “Neo” Didn’t Make the List

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The process of assigning a name to one’s child is a frequent topic of discussion around our house these days. We have a strict “no comment” policy on our candidates, though, so you’ll get no inside information on that here.

What you will get is a link to the Social Security Administration’s popular baby names database, which has been a source of great entertainment over the last few months. Among the little gems that one can find:

Popularity of the name Trinity
Year of birth -> Rank
2003 -> 57
2002 -> 70
2001 -> 67
2000 -> 74
1999 -> 216
1998 -> 555
1997 -> 547
1996 -> 687
1995 -> 683
1994 -> 821
1993 -> 951

So…can anyone guess what year The Matrix was released?

Like a Blogroll, but Not Really

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What with the whole impending child thing, my concentration is pretty much going out the window…anything that takes longer than about fifteen minutes isn’t going so well. That, of course, makes it a perfect time for a stupid little programming diversion.

Those of you who visit the site may have noticed the sad little “links” section on the right-hand side. I dropped a few links in there when I set up the template and haven’t looked at them again since. They were good links, but…well, (a) it irritated me that they were static, and (b) I’m far too lazy to actually go in and change the template manually whenever I find an interesting site.

I could have used something like blogrolling to solve these problems, but laziness gets in the way there, too: that’s another Web page that I have to go to to manage them <shudder>. In any case, since FeedDemon allows me to export an OPML file of my subscribed feeds — which accurately represents the stuff that I’m actually interested in and reading at any given time, anyway — it seemed like it’d be a fun fifteen minutes to turn that into a little linking tool.

While I had to go over my time limit by a few minutes (I spent several of them trying to remember how the fisher-yates shuffle was supposed to work before I gave up and googled it), my links are now thrillingly dynamic and the code actually seems to work correctly. At midnight each and every night a little script now runs through the OPML file of my currently subscribed feeds, selects six at random, and displays them under the links heading of the site.

Feed subscriber, feel free to click through and enjoy — it makes me happy to see you all in my server logs.

Blogfodder, volume II: Why Can’t Search and Sort Just Get Along?

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I have to admit that this blogfodder topic is a little weak, since I’ve already spouted off on this at least once before, but the desktop search arms race that’s currently underway has brought a little currency to the topic.

There was a nice post on the Social Customer Manifesto a few days ago, entitled The Radical Insidiousness Of Desktop Search. It’s full of good information and well thought out…go read it.

The proposition that I find hard to accept, however, is this: It is only a matter of time before the “flatness” of the web becomes mirrored in how people use their local systems, and maybe even in how those systems are organized. With a solid desktop search engine, why should I bother to put things in folders anymore? I can put everything in one place, and the search engine will find it for me. My job just got easier.

Okay, so why bother to put anything in folders anymore?

Because there are different kinds of searches. When searching the Web, most people are (at present) performing a relatively non-specific search: they want to find information related to a specific set of keywords, but they’re not looking for one particular result. Finding one specific document on the Web is actually really difficult unless you know a set of search terms that pull your document as the top result…I’ve got dozens of bookmarked (i.e. “sorted into a folder structure”) Web pages, precisely because it took me a lot of poking through search results to find those specific documents; as far as I know, there’s still no easy way to search for “that PDF that was linked from the fifth result down on the third page of results for a search on “computational linguistics.”

Some desktop searches are general, topical searches, of course, and a flexible desktop search tool is perfect for these cases, but when I want to find something on my local machine I normally want one specific file and no other.

Let’s suppose that I was working on a presentation about three weeks ago, on the topic of data segmentation strategies (which is what pretty much all of my presentations are about), and I now have time to come back and finish it up. I could go to my search tool, figure out keywords that are likely to get that presentation without too many other documents, perhaps select a date range when I think it was created or last modified, maybe a file type, and then pick my presentation out from the results. On the other hand, I could go to ~/docs/working/presentations/, open up the file, and start working. If the file isn’t where I think it should be, then I’m off to the desktop search tool (and grateful that it is available to me), but searching should be an option rather than a requirement.

Search and sort complement each other, and I don’t understand why anyone would seriously consider throwing away one just because the other works pretty well for a lot of stuff.

We’ll end there…in case I don’t get around to the RSS vs. email blogfodder entry, just fill in those terms in place of “search” and “sort” and you’ll pretty much have the idea.

The Perils of Caller ID / The Abomination Known as Jigsaw

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With (1) the impending arrival of my first child, (2) doing my actual real job, and (3) preparing to not be doing my real job for a week or two when item (1) actually goes into production, I haven’t been posting much in the last couple of weeks, and I don’t anticipate posting much over the next couple. Since I know you all are suffering from horrible withdrawl, I’m trying to get a few items out of my “blogfodder” files and up here for your enjoyment.

The Perils of Caller ID
My wife’s due date was this past Wednesday, but the kid appears to be quite happy where he or she is at the moment, displaying no inclination to head out into the cold, grey December weather that we’ve been enjoying here in NYC.

Due to the technological wonder that is telephone caller ID, our friends and family no longer answer our calls with the traditional “hello,” the archaic but enjoyable “ahoy-hoy,” nor yet the now familiar “what do you want?” Instead we’re greeted with with “do you have a baby yet?” or the occasional “where’s my damn grandchild, already?

I’m seriously considering contacting these guys to see whether we can get our ID changed to NO, NO BABY YET for a while.

Blogfodder Item One:
Dismember Your Business Relationships with a Jigsaw

A few days ago I dropped a del.icio.us link into the feed about Jigsaw, “an Online Business Contact Marketplace where business people buy, sell and trade business contact information.” It came back into my head when I came across this reference to Duncan Work’s Call for a Social Networking Bill of Rights.

One of the premises of this essay is that “[t]he right of each user to control access to information that they contribute is fundamental. Each individual must have control over his or her own information.” I couldn’t agree more, and what’s so fundamentally fucked up about Jigsaw’s premise is that the information being contributed to the network is not information about the user — the system explitly requires users to contribute other people’s information.

If I wanted my contact information out there for public consumption I’d join Linkedin. (Actually, I did join linkedin a while ago, to see how it worked, and just now discovered that I’m four degrees of linkage away from my boss. I have to contact him through another friend, apparently…I’ll have to revise our org charts accordingly.) The point here, though, is that Jigsaw asks you to treat your friends and colleagues as pieces of meat, to be bought and sold for your benefit rather than their own.

Kinder and gentler folk might just call this Yet Another Social Networking System that should quietly fade out of existence before long, but to me…well, I’m just disappointed that Jigsaw apparently came to the party too late to register the URL that they really wanted: www.businesspimp.com.

Update: Jigsaw Even Lamer Than Expected
So I registered for Jigsaw.

Problem one? Their confirmation emails point you to an activation page on http://www.jigsaw.com, but that domain doesn’t actually resolve. You have to manually remove the “www” in order to actually confirm your request. Nice. Quality workmanship.

Problem two? I searched for contacts in my company. There were eight results: three valid, four invalid, and one with just a name, no title attached…great. Three of the invalid ones were for people who left the company anywhere from 18 months to three years ago, and two of them actually had the person’s name completely wrong.

I find some consolation in this: while it’s an incredibly bad idea and encourages disrespectful treatment of your personal network of contacts, at least it doesn’t work very well.