Well, it all comes down DEC 31
Well, it all comes down to this. As Homer would say, "BOR-RING!"
Well, it all comes down to this. As Homer would say, "BOR-RING!"
But what if I don't want to find myself a new best friend? <sigh>
Busy day today. First of all, I went down to my old place of employ and had lunch with some friends of mine. Always nice to see those folks. My old boss, Scooter, walked by while I was lounging in a chair waiting for Ben to finish something up. Not wanting to be rude, I said, "Hi, Scott." As he passed, he glanced in my direction, realized who it was, and kept right on walking without returning my greeting. Scott, you may be running one of the larger Web firms in Minneapolis, but does that entitle you to act like such a little kid? Grow up, please.
After lunch, Ben and I went to Any Given Sunday. Not too bad. The only real problem with the film was that it was a football movie, and hence full of cliches and such. We learned "what football was all about" approximately 12 times. And we finally get to see Elizabeth Berkley play the role she's been meant to play: a high-priced call girl who lounges around naked. Not that I'm complaining....she's a very attractive girl. Maybe if I had a $1000 lying around....
After the movie, Ben realized that he had Timberwolves tickets for the evening and asked if I wanted to go. So, we went. The Wolves crushed the Bulls. The Bulls suck so bad, I can't even believe it.
Today, I'm pondering the questions concerning the very nature of the Universe.
The most important question concerning this matter is: Who is Jeff Veen? My colleague over at mouser.org has it narrowed down to Vanilla Ice, Richard Branson, the lead singer from Metallica, or John Tesh. Personally, I think Jeff Veen is Jeff Veen, interface guru for Wired Digital (now part of Lycos) and all-around nifty guy.
I've also been thinking a little bit about time travel and how it could be possible. Bear with me for a bit here.
If it were possible to know the exact location and velocity of every particle in the Universe (I know you can't because of the Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle, among other things) along with how those particles behave, you could then extrapolate the positions of everything in the Universe at every moment in the Universe's existence, effectively "seeing" what has happened in the past and what will happen in the future.
Let's say there's a huge mirror pointed in our direction located about 300 light years from Earth. If we had a sufficiently powerful telescope, we could aim it at this mirror, see the Earth as it appeared in 1399 A.D. (600 years having passed from the time that light left Earth, travelled the 300 light years to the mirror, and then the 300 light years back), and subsequently watch the Renaissance unfold.
The collective content management over at openlog is pretty amusing. Yesterday, I posted a somewhat derogatory comment about myself over there and today it's gone. I've seen other posts disappear as well. The look changes every once and while as well...I got some mail from one guy who changed the look because it wasn't very cross-platform.
Let's take trip in the wayback machine today, kids. First up is the Netscape Time Capsule, a look back at the origin of the Netscape browser, featuring old graphics and such from the Web site. Also of interest is A Brief History of Microsoft on the Web, detailing the evolution of the microsoft.com site from its (very) humble beginnings, including bloopers such as part of the MSN site going prematurely live because someone sat on the mouse.
If I have time later today, I'll upload a sample of my early Web work. Be prepared to laugh.
I pointed to the excellent Seven Questions earlier this month and, lo and behold, here I am on that very site yammering away on weblogs and Web design. It looks like Tom's been busy adding lots of other new interviews there as well....definitely a site worth keeping up with.
Wow, Einstein is Time's Person of the Century. Einstein is probably my "favorite" hero, not only because of what he accomplished, but also how he accomplished it. Sure, he was naturally very gifted, but he brought an art to science that few before or after him have matched.
I watched a documentary today on the technological developments of the 20th century. It's eerie (but not surprising) how closely the development of radio mirrored the development of the Web. One difference was the rate in which that development happened. Whereas radio took quite a few years to make a significant impact on American society at large, the Web went from 0 to 60 in about three and a half years. The actual figure is probably a lot less than three and a half years considering that Jay Leno is making eBay jokes and Jeff Bezos is Time's Man of the Year.
One of the biggest early concerns with radio was how to pay for it. Advertising seemed like the way to go, but was almost ruled out because it seemed too intrusive...something to the effect that "radio was like being invited into people's houses, and we didn't want to do anything to be rude." Ahhh, the good old days.
Some friends and I took in American Movie yesterday. Interesting stuff. I'd say more about it, but I think my critical analysis circuit burned out a few days ago and with the holiday rush and all, the replacement one hasn't arrived yet. I will say that one of the morals of the film is: "Kids, don't do drugs."
Went to my mom's for Christmas yesterday. My sister brought her dog with her. Folks that know me know that I am a cat person and really don't care all that much for dogs because they are loud, slobbery, usually not well-trained, and smelly. My sister's dog is none of these things and ended up being quite pleasant....and really fun to play with. We had him racing around chasing his squeak toys for hours. As Nichol would say, "he's a fun dog."
It snowed here today. Nothing like snow to put one in the holiday spirit. And by "holiday spirit" I mean "the mood for full-on, unadulterated, American-as-apple-pie commerce":
And by that I mean that I went shopping today. Well, I actually went to Target for about 20 minutes with some friends so they could finish their Christmas shopping. And did we find a nifty gift for a certain little boy out there. The Leap Frog Alphabet Pal teaches you the alphabet by saying or sounding out all the letters; each of the caterpillar's feet is a letter you see. The best part is that by pressing letters consecutively, you can make the thing say words....and more importantly, naughty words. The letter combinations of "F" & "K" and "A" & "S" were particularly effective. No one else in the crowded toy aisle found this amusing, but Mark and I were chuckling heartily.
New Volkswagen site. Much cleaner than the last one....I'm just glad they didn't try to force the curvy Beetle aesthetic to the Web. Bravo to the Web design team for their restraint.
A nifty article on how portals are not the primary source of traffic to Web sites. I've known this for a few years now, at least for my own Web properties.
Is user customization on Web sites always a good thing? I'm not so sure. I need to do a little research on this matter.
The rise and fall of Jason's hair. The advantages to having short hair are low maintenance, very little shampoo usage, the savings on haircuts (I cut it myself, believe it or not), and the lack of the dreaded "hat-head" (alternatively referred to as "bed-head"). The disadvantages to having short hair include being mistaken for a neo-Nazi skinhead and losing about 400% of my available body heat out of the top of my head.
The coolest Web holiday greeting card I've seen: a snowball fight game. Requires Shockwave, but well worth it.
Albums from Rage Against the Machine and Daft Punk on sale at NetRadio for less than $10.
I've covered this before, but I ran across this great anecdote in a book I just finished:
"Richard Feynman, [Murray] Gell-Mann's chief competitor for the title of the World's Smartest Man but a stranger to pretension, once encountered Gell-Mann in the hall outside their offices at Caltech and asked him where he had been on a recent trip; 'Moon-TRAY-ALGH!' Gell-Mann responded in a French accent so thick that he sounded as if he were strangling. Feynman - who, like Gell-Mann, was born in New York City - had no idea what he was talking about. 'Don't you think,' he asked Gell-Mann, when at length he had ascertained that Gell-Mann was saying 'Montreal,' 'that the purpose of language is communication?'"
Think about that the next time you feel the need to use jargon or overly obscure words just for the sake of hearing how smart you sound.
Ben Affleck on the culture of celebrity and why he posts his thoughts on the Web:
I think there is some responsibility on the part of those folks who benefit from the attentions of some section of the public to be responsive to that group.
I went for a nice long drive today...in a snowstorm. I went against my better judgement, but it wasn't that bad. I had Underworld and Orbital to keep me company. It was just what I needed, a drive with my thoughts. I also got all of my winter driving practice out of the way.
I am so fucking lonely and bored right now. Being sick sucks.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
For the love of Pete. It's over. Would you just give the damn domain to someone who cares and will at least update the thing more than once every six months.
From an email recently sent to me: "no one else cares about internet crap like you do". That's the nicest thing I've heard in quite a while.
Greg Knauss answers Seven Questions. Lots of other good stuff @ 7Q as well. Tom seems to know the right questions to ask of all sorts of people...which, I would imagine, is more difficult than it seems.
From the Atlantic Monthly, the Periodic Table of Rejected Elements.
Happiness is new flannel sheets on one's bed.
I am currently evaluating Blogger 2.0...I'm thinking of using it to update this page. I love the interface, but I'm a very picky consumer...if it can't display this page exactly the way I want it, I'll keep doing it the old fashioned way.
New design for CamWorld. Nice and clean as usual, with more punch than the last go-round. The new color schemes in particular are very sharp...the subtle change of color and texture from the background to the area containing the text is extremely effective. It adds depth and substance to the page without looking overly boxy. Speaking of boxy, that open box icon in the upper left-hand corner looks a little like something you may have seen on another site somewhere.... :P
I've posted the voicemail messages I received. Most of them are pretty good; my favorites are marked with an asterisk. I don't know who sent most of the messages....now's the time to fess up if you'd like. Although, if I were the guy singing "Natural Woman", I'd take that little tidbit of knowledge to the grave. (realaudio required)
**This is the neatest thing I've seen in quite a while**. Launch.com's new LaunchCAST feature lets you set up your own radio station to listen to over the Web. You can grab songs for your playlist from real-life radio station playlists, from other LaunchCAST DJs, or by rating the songs as they are played. As you rate songs or choose DJs & radio stations that you "trust", the player learns from that and starts pushing you music that you are likely to enjoy.
The amount of customization possible on the site is amazing. You can rate any song, album, or artist on a scale of 0 to 100...the higher the rating, the more it gets played on your station. Most of the rating is done using thousands of little Flash movies: you rate a song and the rating is sent to the server without refreshing the page. The player is done mostly in Flash as well. Great concept and great execution. Someone over there knows what they are doing.
One last thing about LaunchCAST: anyone can listen to anyone else's station. If you have Flash and Microsoft Media Player (both required), you can listen to my LaunchCAST station. I spent quite a bit of time tailoring the playlist to include lots of electonica and not much else. You'll hear Bjork, Fatboy Slim, mu-ziq, and The Chemical Brothers for the most part, but since it's not completely within my control, it will also throw in some Linda Ronstaht. If you like Linda, fine. If you don't, just hit that "x" button on the player and you'll never hear that song again.
Now...if I could only put all that on my Palm V....
A few movies I've seen recently:
The Green Mile: Very good, but not great...if that makes sense. If GM gets Best Picture and Hanks gets Best Actor at the Oscars, I'm going to be upset. There were better films and performances out there this year.
Toy Story 2: Better than the first one, funny, well-done. The graphics were amazing; some of the shots looked real...and I mean really real, not that fake real that everyone refers to when talking about computer animation. Also, listen carefully for the Star Wars sounds in the first 5 minutes of the movie.
Free Enterprise: Great movie if you paid any attention at all to Star Trek. I think this movie sets the record for the most references to other movies and TV shows, breaking the record previously held by Kevin Smith's four films. Plus, William Shatner swears and does a rap rendition of Julius Caesar. Seriously.
Puppets are huge these days. Exhibit A is the very funny sock puppet in the Pets.com commercials. I don't know what it is, but I can't get enough of those commercials. I laugh every time.
Some great puppetry is featured in Being John Malkovich. The opening scene was like nothing I'd ever seen before; I had no idea that you could do things like that with puppets.
But I think my favorite puppet appears in this Levi's commercial (well worth the download). How they managed to interject that much personality into a puppet, I will never know.
Animated characters have gotten more personable as well. Like the puppets mentioned above, the robot from Iron Giant and the toys from Toy Story 2 have far more personality that most currently working actors. More on this later.
Many wrote in about my thoughts concerning Yahoo! and Web-based personal bookmarking and suggested I check out Yahoo! Companion, which basically makes Yahoo! a part of your browser. It also lets you store your bookmarks on the Web so that you can get to them from anywhere. Useful, but boring. I guess the main point that I was trying to make is that My Yahoo! could be so much more, well, Mine, by keeping track of my surfing for me and allowing me to keep track of my favorite places to visit.
Great deal: Netradio.com is running a promotion selling 10 CDs a day for $9.88 apiece. They seem to be popular titles as well, not crappy overstocks. (disclosure: I worked on the Netradio.com Web site).
I set up a Manila site (by the name of snugglepants) last night, just for fun and to see how flexible it was compared to Pitas, the only other Web-editable site building tool I've used. I fooled with it for about 20 minutes; here are my impressions:
- Overall, not too bad. Or as Dave would say: Neat!
- It cannot possibly be as easy to run a site with Manila as it is billed to be. But I can see that after spending some time experimenting with the app learning all the many features, Manila would be quite a powerful tool for managing weblog-type sites.
- The in-page help was poor. Half the time, I didn't know what I was doing. Sure, I could have gone to the help section, but I would like to see more help where I actually needed it.
- I got a very unhelpful error message when I tried to edit my page without having logged in. Perhaps a login form at that point would have been helpful.
- There should be more than one choice for an overall template. While you can change the template by editing HTML (I used one of the default Pitas templates...tee hee), there should be more default choices. Of course, I would imagine that one could use Frontier to extend the Manila app and add this functionality.
- I was a little confused by how the messages work. Shouldn't they be appearing on the front page? Why not? And what's with the little skull linking to the messages from the home page....surely that couldn't be more unclear. I know, I know....read the help, stupid. But....it's just a little weird the way it defaults to that.
- I do like the way that the admin module appears to have a personality, much like the one over at Pitas, which has a whole lot of personality. It doesn't bore you to death....the tone is friendly and it helps you along. The text is not dry and boring; it was written by humans for humans.
After having used Manila and Pitas, as well as some Web-based site admin modules at various jobs, I fear it is impossible to build such an app that anyone could use. My mom, a very novice Web-user, wouldn't know where to begin with such a tool. I'm not sure my dad, who is a more experienced Web user and pretty intelligent guy, would get it either. Just my quick opinion.
Joey Anuff, of Suck fame, is writing a book about day trading. I rubbed Joey the wrong way briefly at SXSW when I suggested that not selling your Web-based content or art is not necessarily a bad thing. I was quickly rebuffed.
Sometimes, freedom isn't all it's cracked up to be.
After three months of waiting and two assurances that "your order will be shipped in a couple days", Buy.com has shipped my copy of Remedy by Basement Jaxx. The jury is still out on whether I actually receive it or not. I'm not holding my breath....nor am I ever purchasing something from Buy.com again.
Back from Chicago. A round-up of things from the journey:
- Overall, the conference was good, but not excellent. No real insight was in evidence, but it was solid stuff.
- The process of getting a non-Web company online is less about putting that company on the Web as it is a balance between experimenting with what that company could/should be doing on the Web and minimizing the risk of screwing things up.
- Pretty graphics with no thought put towards usability, communication, and interface design is like putting lipstick on a pig. (paraphrased from comments by John Christ, USWeb/CKS)
- USWeb/CKS uses the Rational Rose visual modelling tool when building sites.
- "various chutneys"
- The traditional model of innovation is that innovation is a slow process, with innovations occuring infrequently and sequentially. The Internet is allowing for discontinuous innovation with several innovations occuring at once.
- Every company is becoming a service company.
- The Lands' End Web site has some excellent examples of customer support. The help page provides lots of options the customer can use to resolve their problems, Lands' End Live provides real-time support over the phone or via chat, and they will even send you fabric swatches so that you can actually feel what your shirt or sweater is going to look and feel like before you buy.
- People don't ask the right questions. Search engines are often not useful because of this, whereas librarians are because of the live interaction between the searcher and librarian. Through experience, I've learned how to ask the right question (or use the right query string, if you will) of the search engines that I use. Most Web users don't have that experience....so how can search engines become smarter and get people to ask the right questions?
- If the big dot commerce players have their way, the process of shopping in the physical world will be replaced by the process of defining who you are, where you live, what you like, and what you own so that they can then do your shopping for you (like Amazon's recommendations, only on a grander scale). So all that time you previously spent in the car on the way to the mall and back will now be spent in front of your computer making lists and setting preferences.
- My plane was 4 hours late on Friday night...I didn't get home until 3:30 am. I was Jack's sense of disbelief at the extent to which my week sucked.
From Jeffrey Zeldman's I See Dancing Beans @ Mappa.Mundi:
"What is your company?" says the bolder of the two. "I've never heard of it."
"It's a personal site," I say.
She brightens. "Oh, you mean like dating services?"
"No, I mean there's no company, itâs just me. It's entertainment for the Web."
"Ah. Who supplies your entertainment content?"
"I do. I supply the entertainment content."
She says, "What is your revenue model?"
I say, "I don't have one."
The women giggle as if I've said something witty. They cover their mouths like children. We exchange business cards.
Because of a Hellish (yes, with a capital H) week, I whiffed on going to the aforementioned Walker function yesterday and missed out on meeting Auriea. Rats and double rats.
My roommate got his new Surround Sound system installed yesterday, so we had to try it out by watching Iron Giant. The new setup definitely kicks ass and Iron Giant was just as wonderful the second time around. Do yourself a big favor and rent this movie when you get a chance.
Attention Yahoo! This is what My Yahoo! should be (instead of a lame news portal thing like everyone else): allow people to aggregate their bookmarks in their own personal Yahoo! hierarchy. Yahoo!, first and foremost, is a tool for people to find sites that they want to go to. More often than not, people go back to the places they've already visited, so why not keep track of that for them. Then think of all the analysis you could do on that data to suggest sites to users based on popularity and build a better general Yahoo! directory. Companies like Backflip are trying to do similar things, but a company like Yahoo! with millions of users and a database of millions of sites already in place could really offer something useful.