Instructions for today:
0. Pick up telephone.
1. Dial 1-800-555-TELL
2. At the menu prompt, speak “extensions”
3. When prompted, dial or speak 05118.
I just ran across the favorite item lists at Amazon. These lists are a great supplement to the collaborative filtering they already do (i.e. if you liked this book, you might like these three books too). If they hooked these lists into the item detail pages, they would really have a powerful way for people to find related reading/listening/viewing materials: “Like this item? It appears on these three lists.”
Recommendations based on purchases are fine, but nothing beats personal recommendations from people with similar interests or specific expertise. Once again, Amazon is doing it right.**
Some favorite item lists that I found interesting:
- Biggest Brains of the 20th Century
- The Only Reading List You’ll Ever Need
- Dictionaries of the strange and fabulous
- Best Of The Fully Loaded DVD
- Music that makes you question the band’s sanity
- I’m a Flailing Raver: The Best Electronic Records Ever
** Amazon does so many things right, but almost no one copies them, beyond stealing their tabs motif (which is not even close to being one of their best ideas). Someone should write a book on Amazon’s ecommerce practices; The Amazon Way: Doing It Bezos’ Style would be a non-technical guide for consumer-based, small-to-midsize ecommerce businesses wanting a template on which to base their online endeavors.
Kevin Garnett is making a big mistake by leaving Nike and going with upstart shoe and clothing company And 1. Sure, he’s probably getting more money and his own clothing line, but in the long run, it’s gonna hurt him. Nike is the biggest brand name in all of sports (put there primarily by Michael Jordan). They are bigger than any individual player in the NBA. They sponsor the right events, they paste pictures of their featured stars all over the place, their ad-buying budget is huge (they get the primo spots during big sporting events), their shoes are cool, and, most importantly, their advertising is of excellent quality. With all these things going for them, Nike can significantly elevate the status of even a superstar like Garnett. And 1, unable to match Nike in any of these categories, can’t really do anything for him other than throw lots of money at him.
When the MUNI goes into the long tunnel after a stop, the lights turn off for a brief second and then flash back on. What the hell is that? I believe They (yes, with a capital T) are hiding something from us. Something occurs during that second that the lights are out and the fans stop spinning. Something bad. Something really bad. The truth is out there, and I’m going to find it.
Sorry for all the posts about the MUNI lately; it’s the only thing I have time for these days, riding the MUNI. I take the MUNI to work in the morning, work, take the MUNI home, work a little more, sleep, and repeat. Hopefully my long Hell will be over at the end of today, and I can go back to a more normal work schedule.
New episode of 0sil8 coming later this week, God (and work) willing.
A Fortune Cookie Predicted This is one of my favorite EOD pieces ever. The punchline is at the end, as is usually the case.
How was your Thanksgiving weekend? Mine was short, only one day…I worked Fri, Sat, & Sun. Blech. But Thanksgiving dinner was good, the apple pie was quite tasty, a Symphony (Dvorak’s Symphony #9) was attended, and a very pleasant walk through Golden Gate Park was taken. If you live in SF and have never been to GGP, you should check it out. It’s one of the wonderful things about this city.
No response from Sumerset or Inc. Magazine (see yesterday’s entry below). Sumerset must have received my email; they took out the offending IBM search code from their pages and removed the huge link to the awards press release from their home page. I hope they change the design soon as well. They do a lot of good things with their Web site; it would be nice to see a design of their own making there too.
I got some German spam this morning, which, when put through Altavista’s translation service, reads:
“I say to you I have on weekend sooooooooooooooo, a giant thick AAAAL imprisoned, and wanted you to the meal to invite, still another few friend which you bring along want, I hab’mal to all my fish friends already a giant Mailing made, and with that new email sender have I equivalent 100 fish friends up once write down kvnnen.”
Fish friends! I want fish friends!
Math Against Tyranny is an article about why the Electoral College actually helps voters, not hurts them. The main point of the article is that districting up the vote allows for a balance of power between a majority and minorities, avoiding the “most insidious tyranny that arises in democracies: the massed power of fellow citizens banded together in a dominant bloc”. A very interesting read.
The Butterfly Effect - Steven Johnson talks with four information-design experts (Jakob Nielsen, Bruce Tognazzini, Brenda Laurel, and Don Norman) about the ballot debacle in Florida, and why usability realy matters.
Steal a design, win an award. Sumerset Custom Houseboats won several awards in the 2000 Inc. Magazine Web Awards 2000**. According to a company press release, the site was chosen for its “simple, functional, yet elegant design”. The only problem is, they stole their site’s design from IBM’s site.
“But, but,” you say, “it looks different. It’s different.” However, if you look at the source code, there are bits and pieces of code from IBM’s pages (like this snippet from the above press release: <form action=”http://www.ibm.com/search” method=”get”>). I’ve written to Inc. magazine and to Sumerset to ask them what the deal is. We’ll see what they say.
**link via Eatonweb
An interesting article in today’s NY Times about genetically-engineered “golden” rice that contains beta carotene.
The curious thing about rice is that it’s a “self-pollinating plant”; that is, the seeds from a previous harvest can be used to plant the next harvest. Any farmer that grows this new rice can sell his crop as seed to anyone else…the self-pollination aspect of the rice makes any sort of top-down distribution difficult to implement. Who wants to buy from the source at a premium when they can buy from anyone else at a lower price?
It seems to me that this is rather like software and digital music, both of which are self-pollinating; anyone can make and sell copies (P2P?). Perhaps the music and software industries can look to the agricultural industry to see how they handle these issues.
It’s nice that the young people of today have goals. Goals are good.
Budweiser ad slogan circa 1937: “America’s Social Companion”.
Cool Hand Luke is also recommended. Paul Newman’s character is mysterious and deep without overtly seeming so, which is rare in movies these days. Nowadays, directors overuse music, lighting, and camera angles to destroy any ambiguousness in characters; they’re either good or bad, and you know which is which almost immediately.
I finished A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius the other day. I’m amazed at how well Eggers captures the experience of being 20-something in the 90s (which is really the result of being 10-something in the 80s); I related to the story on a variety of levels. Very good read, highly recommended.
The 2001 SXSW Website Competition: If you launched a Web site in 2000, you should consider entering it in one of 25 catagories, including Art/Culture, Design, Ecommerce, Low Bandwidth, Web Application/Internet Technology, and Weblog. The entry fee is super-low too: only $15 for individuals and $30 for businesses. Deadline is Dec 15th. Good luck.
The webcam (popup window) is back in operation. I know, I know, you’re disappointed. As a consolation, it won’t be on that often (until I can rig one up at the office), so that’s something to look forward to.
In case you’re interested, here’s an online version of the New Yorker article in which I was featured.
Pretty neat, eh? View the source if you’re interested in seeing how it’s done.
Former co-workers Michele (as Meg) and Kelly (as me) recreate this Jezebel’s Mirror Photo:
While I was saving that photo to my miscellaneous images directory, I ran across this blast from the past, sent in by a reader with way too much time on his hands.
“In the future, first of all, websites will be designed by my guidelines … for the simple reason that if they don’t, they are dead.” - Jakob Nielsen, Web Guru: It’s the User, Stupid!
Either Jakob is very confident that he is correct, or he and the rest of his usability mafioso are going to start offing people that don’t use their guidelines. I’m dreading the day when I wake up with my dismembered laptop screen lying next to me in bed. I shouldn’t have gone against the family.
I just had the best sandwich for lunch at Specialty’s.
Aside from the icky political aspect, several interesting things have emerged from the 2000 US presidential election results (or lack thereof):
- an example of how not to design an election ballot
- a spoof of said ballot by Amazon.com, who continues to impress me as a company that knows what they are doing (aside from that whole unavoidable .com impending bankruptcy issue).
- a well-done map of the election results by county. The NY Times does some really good work with charts and graphs….well, better than the USA Today anyway.
- a map with an alternate view of the same information, where the size of the states is not geographical but rather is based on electoral size. I’m not sure it conveys any more meaningful information than the previous map, but it’s good information design.
- the extent to which the press does not convey the correct information to the public. 13 Myths About the Results of the 2000 Election attempts to clear the air.
- a comparison between statistics that seemingly support a given conclusion and statistics that actually support that conclusion. The first graph shows that Buchanan got a lot of votes in Palm Beach County compared with other counties, but it doesn’t tell you whether that amount of votes is anomalous. The second graph, depicting a proper statistical analysis, does indeed show that Buchanan received many more votes than he should have under normal circumstances. (And guess which one they kept showing on the news and in newspapers…)
I encountered my mortality on the MUNI this morning. The driver was going much faster than usual; he was hurtling, really. “We shouldn’t be going this fast,” I thought to myself, “This really is too fast. Isn’t the next station coming up? Will he be able to stop in time or will we be dashed to bits against a 2 car, L, L?” The woman standing next to me applied makeup from a compact, oblivious to our impending doom. Many other people were asleep. Was I the only one that felt it, the imminent death of us all? (It turns out that no one died, was injured, or was even jostled slightly. Boy, was I wrong about that.)
In other news, there is no other news.
“One hot summer’s day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. ‘Just the thing to quench my thirst,’ quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: ‘I am sure they are sour.’”
The Fox and the Grapes, Aesop
I have completed my quest for a laptop bag. I decided on the Kensington SaddleBag. It has a padded compartment for my laptop, all sorts of neat pockets for Palms, phones, etc., extra room for carrying books, and just the form factor I was looking for (minimal exposed zippers & straps, black, no logos, taller than it is wide). It’s working out pretty well so far (for the 22.5 hours I’ve had it). Thanks again to all those that sent in their laptop bag recommendations.
Web2000 writeup still pending. My new job is interfering with that task (and others)…but in a good way.
I love that the rest of the world is getting back at us Americans for being so high and mighty when reporting about supposedly fixed, irregular, and otherwise cocked-up elections in other countries. My favorite headline so far is from The Guardian: “The presidency - a jalopy with failing brakes”.
Well, I’d like to ramble on about some new cool Web thingie or social trend, but you’re all too busy paying attention to this election business. Actually, so am I. Hurry, back to CNN!
I appears that Oracle has changed their site since yesterday to be a little more useful and a little less Yahoo!
Have you seen Oracle’s new Web site? If not, go check it out. I’ll wait…. You’ll notice that it looks just like Yahoo! I’ll bet you $10 that whomever was in charge of determining the look for the site purchased a copy of Jakob Nielsen’s Designing Web Usability (in which he opines that the best Web interfaces are those that people are most familiar with, i.e. Yahoo’s and Amazon’s) sometime before the design phase began. I could be wrong however, as the Oracle.com design team obviously didn’t follow his law that all links must be blue.
I coined a new word today (with help from Meg and David): “metatorial”. Derived from the words “meta” and “editorial”, metatorial is commentary about commentary. For example, much of the content on kottke.org and most other weblogs is metatorial in nature; people are commenting on other people’s comments. Update: forgot to add that metatorial is not really a new word…it’s an old word with a new definition.
The metatorial aspect of weblogs is just one of the things that makes a weblog a “new form of communication/publishing”; Peterme wrote about the immediacy aspect yesterday:
“It’s simply about putting form to thought and getting it out there. The omnipresence of the internet allows for the publishing of thought pretty much *as it occurs*. This is new. This is exciting. People all over the world, going about their business, have something occur to them. In moments they can simply *put it out there*. Whatever ‘it’ is. This is a notion that seems obvious when you look at it, but I don’t think the blogging phenomenon has ever been discussed in this way.”
“At first glance, weblogs don’t seem like anything new. Anyone with a text editor, an FTP client and a Web page could put one together. But how much effort is too much? The requirement to write HTML would probably exclude most people right off the bat. Remember when e-mailed URLs had to be cut and pasted into a Web browser? After it became possible to click directly on these links, the Web took a huge leap forward. Sometimes small changes can have unexpectedly large results. Weblogging appears to be one such small wrinkle in the Web today.”
OK, I think that’s enough about weblogs for one day.
TTX — From TrueType to XML and Back: “TTX decompiles TrueType fonts to XML-based text files and back, enabling you to edit TrueType fonts with a plain text editor.” I don’t know that I’d ever use that, but it sounds pretty damn cool.
I like the Currentform Web site; some good design-type links in the weblog portion.
The Molecules with Silly or Unusual Names page reminds me of a joke I used to tell about Greek hero Heracles’ brother, Testacles. Trust me, it’s funnier in person. (I’m lying…it’s not funny in person either)
The New Yorker article is finally out (Nov 13, pg 102-108). Entitled “You’ve Got Blog”, it’s (for the most part) about Meg, me, our relationship, and, oh yeah, weblogs. The article reveals more about me - a relatively private person, despite the fact that I write about myself daily on this Web site - than I would probably tell my co-workers, parents, and most of my close friends, which I’m sure Rebecca is happy to hear, because that’s her job after all, to get people to share with her (and millions of her readers) what they wouldn’t share with those close to them.
Some Important Questions that Need Answering:
- Why is there no Jason car on the MUNI…you know, just for me? “Now approaching: 1 car, Jason. Followed by: 2 car, Jason, Jason, in 4 minutes.” It would help me so much in getting home faster.
- What is an “analog relationship”?
- Why is it that I get sick when there’s so much to do?
- Why do people think that not voting takes away your right as an American citizen to complain?
- When is Jason going to post his thoughts from Web2000? Why is he so lazy? (A: I’ll be posting a big round-up once I get less sick and have more time.)
Regarding my information overload post from a couple weeks ago, if you’re interested in such things, you might want to have a look at How Much Information? An interesting quote from the executive summary:
“This democratization of data is quite remarkable. A century ago the average person could only create and access a small amount of information. Now, ordinary people not only have access to huge amounts of data, but are also able to create gigabytes of data themselves and, potentially, publish it to the world via the Internet, if they choose to do so.”
That, in a nutshell, is why the Internet is so powerful. You can take your ecommerce dot com moneyfest and shove it up your ass…the real killer app of the Internet is ordinary people communicating with each other.
Related goodies for the interested reader: Papers on Communication Networks and Related Topics.
Thanks for all the good feedback about laptop bags; I’m still sifting through it all. For those who are interested, here are some links to the suggested bags:
Bill Clinton is speaking in SF today. At Moscone Center. Right where Web2000 is going on. It’s going to be a freakin’ zoo. Freakin’. Zoo.
Posted via Wireless Blogger on a Palm V
I know Courtney Love’s email address. Like you care. Like I care.
Day 2 at Web2000 was all about the Flash. I went to two sessions on the new actionscripting stuff in Flash 5. It’s all object-based and so much easier to understand than the scripting in Flash 4. I’m all excited to do some Flash stuff now. The presentations that Josh gave (as well as some others) are up on his company’s site.
One of the disadvantages of DHTML as compared with Flash is the lack of a development environment.
Lunch was quite nice…we ate outside on the grass next to a waterfall. Hidden spaces like that in a city are neat.
Just finished a really good session by Josh Ulm on actionscripting in Flash 5.
Posted via Wireless Blogger on a Palm V
After picking up my badge, I went to the online lounge for a bit to catch up with some friends. It was full of inflatable furniture and iMacs…and it was lots bigger than when I had last experienced it.
Ah….this is much better. I’m posting from an actual computer in the Online Lounge with an actual keyboard and actual net connection. My experience so far with the wireless handheld makes me (even more) skeptical about the whole wireless thang. Unless someone can come up with a killer piece of hardware that makes text-based wireless communication easier, I don’t see much happening with it in the next few years.
This is really hard to do. Grafitti is really slow.
The Growing Online Communities panel was very interesting. Quickly, here are some of the community spaces mentioned: email, mailing lists, chat, IM, weblogs, clubs, message boards, F2F meetings, and newsgroups.
Well, I just got the wireless thingie and after a little initial trouble, I am up and running. I am heading out to the community panel in a second. More later.
Posted via Wireless Blogger on a Palm V