December 31, 2003

Jakob Nielsen Drinking Game

The Jakob Nielsen Drinking Game includes the usual equipment, and (among many others) these rules:
Every time he excuses his own refusal to observe the rules he dictates to everyone else on the grounds that he "knows his audience", take one drink.

If he mentions scrolling, take one drink.

If he mentions that users don't scroll, take one drink.

If he mentions link colors, drink: once for "blue" once for "purple" three for "red", which nobody who's used a browser since 1993 thinks of as a followed link color, anyway. It's the "active link" color, dammit.

By Steve Champeon and Jeff Veen.

[via The Viridian Design Movement email list]

Posted by johndan at 06:45 PM | TrackBack

December 30, 2003

Falling Out of Cars

Jeff Noon's newest book, Falling Out of Cars challenges (or celebrates) signal-to-noise ratio issues. From an interview with Noon in the Guardian:
"I started to break language down, to let it dissolve. And then to see what stories I could find in the debris..."

Things do not only change, they mutate; become other. Falling Out of Cars is part of Noon's continuing revolt out of genre and into creative resistance against all traditional forms of fiction, as if he believes that the ultimate incomprehensibility of life must be matched by an equal incomprehensibility of narrative. This is a road novel, stripped of plot and meaning. What you get is what you read. Anything else might risk making life comprehensible; and one gets the feeling that, for Noon, this would be to collude with his readers.

We need to get used to this sort of thing. We're not going to be able to manage information in the way that we hope we can--putting it into neat boxes, adding tags for semantic encoding, or getting smart software to deliver us just the pieces we need. We need to learn how to deal with overload and breakdown.

[via Blackbeltjones Work]

Posted by johndan at 11:03 PM | TrackBack

now listening

Kelly Joe Phelps, Slingshot Professionals.
Posted by johndan at 12:57 AM | TrackBack

December 27, 2003

After Tools

Cory Doctorow on what we do after we have tools::

The last twenty years were about technology. The next twenty years are about policy. It's about realizing that all the really hard problems -- free expression, copyright, due process, social networking -- may have technical dimensions, but they aren't technical problems. The next twenty years are about using our technology to affirm, deny and rewrite our social contracts: all the grandiose visions of e-democracy, universal access to human knowledge and (God help us all) the Semantic Web, are dependent on changes in the law, in the policy, in the sticky, non-quantifiable elements of the world. We can't solve them with technology: the best we can hope for is to use technology to enable the human interaction that will solve them.

[via Joho the Blog]

Posted by johndan at 12:01 PM | TrackBack

XML and Documents

Jon Udell, XML for the rest of us:
The idea was that by enabling documents to describe themselves, flow through networks, dissolve into fragments, and reassemble in new ways, the processes mediated by those documents — human memory, thought, and communication — could improve....

“The relational database is designed to serve up rows and columns,” said BEA’s Adam Bosworth in his keynote talk. “But our [XML] model of the world is documents. It’s, ‘Tell me everything I want to know about this person or this clinical trial.’ And those things are not flat, they’re complex. Now we have the way to get not only the hospital records and prescriptions but also the doctor’s write-ups.”

The doctors and bankers will get that, just as the highway patrolmen already do. XML documents, flowing through XML plumbing, can now deliver very real and tangible benefits. For the publishing geeks who started it all, it’s a moment to savor.

[via Joho the Blog]

Posted by johndan at 11:58 AM | TrackBack

Graffiti Archeology

San Francisco: Wired News]
Posted by johndan at 11:17 AM | TrackBack

Zaireeka, 4 CDs

With each experiement I was more encouraged--and even though it had its limitations, I was discovering the possibilities of using separate sound sources to expand on the ideas of composing and listening. And at the same time I was finding that the audience liked the idea of participating in their own entertainment... it was from this process, these failures and successes, that this four CD concept came into being.

- Wayne Coyne, Flaming Lips, Liner Notes to Zaireeka

amazon ($22.95) or ebay (price varies, although ebay appears to be comparable to amazon).

Posted by johndan at 12:12 AM | TrackBack

December 24, 2003


Fragments of architecture (bits of walls, of rooms, of streets, of ideas) are all one actually sees. These gragments are like beginnings without ends. There is always a split between fragments that are real and fragments that are virtual, between memory and fantasy. These splits have no existence other than being the passage from one fragment to another. They are relays rather than signs. They are traces. They are in-between.

It is not the clash between these contradictory fragments that counts, but the movement between them. And this invisible movement is neither a p art of language nor of strcuture (language or structure are words specific to a mode of reading architecture that does not fully apply in the context of pleasure); it is nothing but a constant and mobile relationship inside language itself.

- Bernard Tschumi, Architecture and Disjunction, p. 95.

Posted by johndan at 11:31 AM | TrackBack

December 23, 2003

Public Utilities

From the NYT, a report on a performance art piece consisting of a bathroom, built of one-way mirrors (obscuring the bathroom from the outside), installed in the middle of a sidewalk in London. (The performers, I suppose, are brave passersby.)
It has been in place for only a few weeks, but "Don't Miss a Sec.," a contemporary art installation that is in essence a mirrored outhouse on a construction site near the Thames, has been raising heated, even violent emotions. While it may provide a fine opportunity to indulge in voyeurism and exhibitionism at the same time — like going to the bathroom in the bushes, if the bushes were in the middle of the street — in reality the experience is proving prohibitively unnerving to some.

[via underdog]

Posted by johndan at 08:41 PM | TrackBack

in passing....

In Passing logs overheard conversations:

"See, if I'm actually up and checking work mail at 5am, I make sure as hell that I respond to everything. Even stuff that I really only have a ping response on. Just so people know I'm working at 5am. I figure they'll figure if my answers are vague, it's because I'm so tired."

"That's not really what we've been figuring."

--Two men talking in line at Jamba Juice

"Wait a sec, these are heavy."

"Come on, we're going to be late."

"The girls are going to be late, so we can be late. Besides, they owe us a rib from way back."

--A teenage guy carrying several pizzas, and another teenage guy, outside Round Table

Posted by johndan at 04:36 PM | TrackBack

World Wide Media Exchange

A mutually constructed map of digital photographs:
The World-Wide Media eXchange (WWMX) is a centralized index of digital photos, where photos are tagged by the geographic location where they were shot.  It's an experimental research project run by the Interactive Visual Media Group at Microsoft Research.  

The project explores possibilities with digital photographs and geographic location.  The location where a photo was taken often provides strong clues about its semantic content and also offers an intuitive way to index it, even among a very large collection. 

The service is free now, but the overview uses the rhetoric of marketing (and asks, "What are the commercial possibilities...?" Still, an interesting idea.
Posted by johndan at 03:20 PM | TrackBack

Protecting Interoperability

EFF reports on a court case involving a group of programmers who developed free software that allows users interaction among users of Blizzard, a third-party game. Blizzard (and owner Vivendi Universal) sued the developers and an ISP over the software, because it allowed users to sidestep Blizzard's own proprietary service.

Note that users need to have actually purchased Blizzard in order to use the free networking software, so Blizzard's lawsuit isn't over purchase of the game, but over a piece of software that interacts with the already-purchased game, a feat that Blizzard claims violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

"Designing and distributing new software that interacts or competes with existing software is not a crime," said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. "The tradition of creating products using 'reverse engineering' has given us cloned personal computers and allowed independent and home mechanics to fix our cars."

This is an important case not merely for online gaming, but computer users in general. This interpretation of the DMCA can broadly be used to require any number of restrictions on how people can use products they've legally purchased. The "copyright" that DMCA allegedly refers to has always protected "first-sale" rights, basically meaning that once you've purchased a concrete product (like a book) you're free to do what you like with that product, short of making duplicates of the product for sale. This is the right that allows libraries to lend books out to patrons and used bookstores to sell used books. The DMCA has little or nothing to do with "copyright"--except that it corrupts the term in order to garner more profit for corporations and fewer rights for citizens.

[via EFF: Press]

Posted by johndan at 03:06 PM | TrackBack

Grid blogging II - Ritual

From notes from somwhere bizarre, another grid blog invitation, set for January 15:
Following the positive feedback and the desire to continue with the grid blog project expressed by a variety of different quarters, it seems like the right time to gear up to a second grid blogging day. Erik of hypothemic proposed a couple of themes: "ritual" or "information", with the former being seconded by Jean of creativity machine. I must admit that I find "ritual" particularly appealing and believe it has the potential to generate some very interesting contributions. I also think that it combines and contrasts well with the previous "brand" theme.

[via notes from somewhere bizzare]

Posted by johndan at 10:33 AM | TrackBack

Now Listening

Dire Straits, Money for Nothing

I feel old; I can remember when all these songs came out. (OK, I am old. But I resent feeling it most of the time. But as I listen to songs like "Romeo and Juliet," there's a nostalgic aspect that likes feeling old, as if I'm in on some secret.)

Posted by johndan at 12:21 AM | TrackBack

December 22, 2003

Games and Politics

Another productively unsettling Shockwave game: September 12

[via Ann Frances Wysocki]

Posted by johndan at 10:59 PM | TrackBack

Paper Hawk

Read Michael Bierut's interesting review of Errol Morris's documentary, "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons Learned from the Life of Robert McNamara":
But, fittingly, it's the documents that steal the show. Time after time, McNamara describes the data that led him to make his decisions. And over and over, Morris fills the screen with words, diagrams and—especially—numbers. Not since Reid Miles designed for Blue Note has so much Courier been blown up to such seductive effect. Newpapers, magazines, textbooks. military reports, maps, every kind of information is enlarged to the point of abstraction—which to McNamara it all seems to be.
Technical communication historically valued itself for its ability to be completely transparent and neutral. But, we now know, that transparency is itself an ethical stance, one often used to hide real human effects.

(Bierut's title is also great--"Errol Morris Blows Up Spreadsheet, Thousands Killed.")

Shameless plug: Stuart Selber and I have an edited collection on technical communication called Central Works coming out from Oxford University Press in February 2004 that includes excellent pieces on this topic, including work by Steven Katz (on the rhetoric of Nazi memos) and Ben and Marthlee Barton (on the ideology of maps).

[via Design Observer: writings about design & culture]

Posted by johndan at 09:54 PM | TrackBack

A history of information design

Interesting information design history (html page w/link to .pdf] from Conrad Taylor:
The process of choosing which communication principles to teach, especially for our design and writing courses, has caused me and several of my colleagues to align ourselves with the Information Design movement. At the same time, we've drawn inspiration from people who are not usually identified as part of the Information Design community, such as Jan White (on publication design), David Ogilvy (on advertising writing and design), and various proponents of Plain English.

[via IDblog]

Posted by johndan at 09:37 PM | TrackBack

IRL and VR

Virtual interactions have typically been seen as inferior to "real-world" interactions. Halley Suitt asks why mediate relationships are different:
We've known one another online and by phone for nearly two years and only met in person yesterday. Is our relationship real now and was not real when it was virtual, supported by technology?
There are obvious differences between face-to-face and virtual communication. But is online necessarily inferior? Why?
Posted by johndan at 09:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

ToySight 1.0

From an Apple announcement:
About Toysight
A set of cool games and toys to play using your iSight or similar firewire camera. Using a system of object and motion detection to track your position, Toysight allows you to control buttons, sliders and perform gestures on the screen, putting you right in the action!

View QuickTime Trailer

[via Mac OS X Hot Downloads]

Posted by johndan at 08:41 PM | TrackBack

Computer Histories

John Paczkowski has collected people's stories about their first computer:
Maybe it's because the holiday season lends itself to reminiscing, or maybe we just touched a soft spot in the hearts of the GMSV faithful, but scores of you responded to our request for memories of your first computers. We were left misty-eyed by the ghosts of hardware past -- Sinclairs, Trash-80s, Northstars, Morrows, even the big iron that some of you bonded with in school.
I think my first was a Commodore 64 with an amber monitor and a tape drive.

[via Dan Gillmor's eJournal]

Posted by johndan at 08:40 PM | TrackBack

December 21, 2003

Creative Commons Sampling License

Lessig reports on this post from Jason Swartz. Too cool!
Particularly inspiring was [Creative Commons'] new effort to create a "sampling license" that allows musicians to release music with a default license that says you can sample the song without having to ask permission, even for commercial purposes, as long as you agree to only use some but not all of the song. It's an ingenious way to create a huge library of songs that are truly Ready-To-Sample without any FUD -- a true lawyer-free zone.
[via Lessigblog]
Posted by johndan at 07:59 PM | TrackBack


I've started a moblog at textamerica. Not so much because I need a moblog (my life's not that interesting), but because I need some justification for the cellphone....
Posted by johndan at 07:36 PM | TrackBack

The Aesthetics of Metadata

Kottke struggles with metadata:

Nothing takes the fun and personality out of writing like metadata. Josh Allen recently quoted Kevin Fanning as saying: When I'm old, here's how I'm going to describe the early 21st century: "We were always having to provide people with content. As software developers, photographers, writers, and users struggle to organize creative work so that people can locate what they're after, the work itself has necessarily been de-emphasized.

Could be, though, that we don't yet possess an aesthetic of metadata. What's the fundamental difference between data and metadata, from a semiotic perspective? Nothing concrete. Trackback pings do have meaning; so do categories. The notion that there's some "real" writing under the metadata is a fiction--a working fiction, but a fiction nonetheless.


Posted by johndan at 03:38 PM | TrackBack


For those of you playing along at home, a new set of draft chapters has been posted.
Posted by johndan at 03:29 PM | TrackBack

December 20, 2003

Big Loss for the RIAA

From Lessig

So wrote Judge Ginsburg in the case decided today, RIAA v. Verizon Internet Services. The RIAA has lost a big one. The DC Circuit Court of Appeals says the DMCA does not authorize subpoenas forcing an ISP like Verizon to reveal the identity of filesharers. Read the clear and convincing analysis of Judge Ginsburg here.

[via Lessig Blog]

Posted by johndan at 01:39 AM | TrackBack

December 18, 2003

Now Listening

Jay Farrar, Live in Bristol bootleg (8.21.00).
"Tear Stained Eye" is cut short on this recording (or at least my version of it); if you have a complete version, let me know.
Posted by johndan at 11:03 PM | TrackBack

Spiked Punch at the UPS Holiday Party

ups.jpgThe UPS truck showed up to deliver a holiday gift I'd ordered (managing our quarter-mile driveway, eight inches deep with snow). When I was walking to the front door, the UPS dude was sprinting up the front steps.

As I opened the door, he paused briefly, spun in a full circle on his right toe like someone from a Motown review, held the package out to me, and said, "Here you go, man." I wanted to run back inside and get him a dog treat or something.
Posted by johndan at 10:57 PM | TrackBack

Punch it

The Virtual Punchcard Server. DIY: punchcard-2.jpg
Posted by johndan at 10:14 PM | TrackBack

Shake it

snow globe
Posted by johndan at 10:56 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 17, 2003

now listening

Chet Baker, Lonely Star
Posted by johndan at 12:14 AM | TrackBack

Rhetoric 101: Know Your Audience

Electronic Arts Canada posted this well-targeted bulletin board: hiring.jpg The code translates as "now hiring". [via boing-boing]
Posted by johndan at 12:10 AM | TrackBack

December 14, 2003

The Problems of Emulating "Reality" in Interfaces

Buzz Andersen on attempts to increase the "realism" of interface metaphors.
The problem comes when the metaphor ties an interface too literally to the inefficiencies and limitations of the real world. We all appreciate the familiar “folders” of a hierarchical file browser, for example, but how would you like it if your Documents folder could only contain a small number of files?

It is the job of any UI designer to act as a mediator between the real and the virtual, but it is the measure of a good one that he or she gets the balance between concrete and abstract just right. By that standard, Sun’s UI designers have a long way to go before they can justify their claim that Looking Glass is more than mere “eye candy.”

Although there are numerous applications for mapping "realworld" frameworks onto virtual spaces, such efforts often confuse issues by focusing on realism rather than communication, work, and thinking. After all, using the computer is a waste of resources if it's not allowing the user to do something different than "reality". [via]
Posted by johndan at 02:24 PM | TrackBack

Text vs. Audio Messaging

Blackbelt Jones on the potential differences between email or IM spam and audio conferencing spam possible with new p2p audio technologies like Skype:
I think I just got telemarketed over Skype. Someone I don't know from Sweden called me and said that he'd made a music track he wanted to play me. I declined as politely as I could and then altered my preferences so that only my buddylist can call me.
Text and audio each construct different spaces of experience, with text allowing much more in the way of user focus control than audio. To block out textual messages, one has only to close their eyes or look in a different direction. Blocking audio requires a user to change location, cover their ears, listen to a louder audio source, or rely on an active sound-damping technology--all of which are much more complex than merely looking away. This key distinction will have much to do with the way that audioconferencing technologies are developed and used, as well as related issues such as voice recognition in computing. Although we commonly see text as an imitation of speech, as Derrida observed, they are very different methods of communication.
Posted by johndan at 11:54 AM | TrackBack

December 12, 2003

Wireless Connections at Work

Although Intel obviously has a stake in illustrating the benefits of wireless laptops in the workplace, NetWorld Fusion discusses an Intel report on productivity and wireless laptop usage at Intel. Claimed benefits include time-shifting, time-slicing, and mobility of workspace.

Several years ago, when we first went wireless at home, I was sitting on the front porch with my laptop, feet up on the railing, drinking a beer and watching the sunset while I finished up some work. I thought, "Isn't this great?" Then I realized what many people have--this is really a mixed blessing. Work can now follow me everywhere.

Still, having used wireless at both home and work for more than a year, Intel's findings do seem believable. Although hotspot access is spotty at work--central computing services won't provide it, so only rogue sites are available--the ability to move around even a limited zone with the computer is useful for meetings, access to other resources, etc. [via Lockergnome Bytes]

Posted by johndan at 08:07 AM | TrackBack

December 10, 2003

Human Uncertainty

From Loosely Coupled, an article on web services and usability:
It's much easier to write software if you don't have to allow for human uncertainty, so most software engineers don't bother. In fact, this mentality has become so ingrained that many people routinely speak about computer systems as if the primary design aim is to engineer out the human element.
Posted by johndan at 02:43 PM | TrackBack

interface/web design comic strip

ok/cancel is a online comic about interface design. The comics themselves are funny, but some of the discussion is a hoot as well. Here's a quote following the current post:
Project manager: where should HCI be in the process?
HCI people: everywhere!
Project manager: [furrows brow] Hm. Then I don't know how to draw the chart.
The one on usability testing for Lotus Notes is probably too close to the truth for humorous, though.
Posted by johndan at 02:09 PM | TrackBack

December 08, 2003

How many years does an Azeri have to work to buy a copy of WinXP?

From Boing-boing (I added a link to the original source):
Over at FirstMonday, Rishab Aiyer Ghosh has published a table showing how many years an average wage-earner in various countries around the world will have to work if they are to buy a copy of Windows.

Country     GDP/cap  PCs ('000s)  Piracy   WinXP Cost [3]
                                       Effective $ GDP months
Albania     1300     24           n.a.     15196    5.17

Algeria 1773 220 n.a. 11140 3.79

Angola 701 17 n.a. 28184 9.59

Argentina 7166 3415 62% 2757 0.94

Armenia 686 24 n.a. 28806 9.80

Australia 19019 10000 27% 1039 0.35

Austria 23186 2727 33% 852 0.29

Azerbaijan 688 n.a. n.a. 28708 9.77

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 01:50 PM | TrackBack

Manipulating Text

Very interesing piece from Lessig, on retroactively changing the text of news releases to reflect changing political situations (and attempting to hide the fact):

As everyone should know, one of the coolest things on the net is Brewster Kahle's Internet Archive, and in particular, his Way Back Machine. The Archive has been collecting copies of the Internet since 1996 (except for those parts excluded either expressly or through a robots.txt file). Using the Way Back Machine, you can see how a web page has changed over time.

As many have noted, the Way Back Machine helps correct one particularly Orwellian feature (bug) of the net -- that it has no memory. You can go back to a web page, and not know it has been changed. And recently, Brewster captured a particularly rich example of this airbrushing of digital code.

On May 1, 2003, the Whitehouse's Office of the Press Secretary released this press release, announcing "President Bush Announces Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended." But then, with airbrush magic, now the same press release has been changed to this, which reports "President Bush Announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq Have Ended." No update on the page, no indication of when the change occurred, indeed, no indication that any change occurred at all. Instead, there is robots.txt file disallowing all sorts of activities that might verify the government. (Why does any government agency believe it has the power to post a robots.txt file?)

Why would you need to check up on the Whitehouse, you might ask? Who would be so unAmerican as to doubt the veracity of the Press Office? Great question for these queered times. And if you obey the code of the robots.txt file, you'll never need to worry.

[Lessig Blog]

Posted by johndan at 01:27 PM | TrackBack

December 07, 2003

'bots primer

Here's a primer on 'bots from Tim Bray. The majority of web users don't use 'bots much, but as we start to gain tools that allow easy development, they'll likely take off. They're not new, but they're relatively simple and extremely powerful. If you're not familiar with them, 'bot are (usually) small programs that interact with data. In a web context, they go out and gather information from sites, based on various, user-defined criteria such as content, date stamp, etc.
Robots—also known as spiders—are programs that retrieve Web resources, using the embedded hyperlinks to automate the process. Robots retrieve data for all sorts of purposes, but they were invented mostly to drive search engines. Herewith a tour through Robot Village.
Tim's overview is relatively conceptual, an indicator of the still specialized nature of 'bot programming. It ain't rocket science, but it ain't a cakewalk, either, and usually requires knowledge of a scripting program. But, at the conceptual level at least, 'bots provide an important opportunity for customizing information gathering when dealing with extremely large information spaces (e.g., the web, usenet, etc.). [via ongoing]
Posted by johndan at 10:34 PM | TrackBack

December 05, 2003

l2l (listener to listener)

Slashdot carries a link to a Wired article on TunA, a p2p music app that searches for nearby WiFi-equipped music players so that the user can skim playlists and listen to other users' tunes.
Media Lab Europe, research partner to MIT Media Lab, is testing tunA, a software application that employs Wi-Fi to locate nearby users, peek at their music playlist and wirelessly jack into their audio stream. Pronounced like the fish and signifying music "tunes" and "ad hoc" file sharing, tunA is being designed for wireless PDAs, cell phones and even its own hardware device.

"TunA alleviates the alienation of using a Walkman, and it makes it more of a social experience. You can listen to your music and still open yourself up to people around you," said research fellow Arianna Bassoli, who masterminded the project late last year after researching the way young people in Dublin interact -- or don't -- in public spaces.

Some aspects discussed in the article are interesting--streaming from someone's computer to your own cellphone, or embedded chat--but the core features are already available in iTunes.... share.jpg
Posted by johndan at 11:13 AM | TrackBack

December 04, 2003

Intellectual Property Rights and Gaming

Check "The State of Play: Free as in Gaming," by James Grimmelmann, which analyzes a recent announcement by Second Life that it will allow players to own the intellectual property of the virtual objects they create within the online game.In other words, the owners of the gamespace continue to own the game's rights, much as a landlord might own an office complex, but the inhabitants own the rights to the objects they create inside that space.
# Castronova cares about the game society, but not so much about the platform. He's thinking about these in-game values as things that we ought to encourage, perhaps by giving appropriate economic incentives to game owners. It's okay with him if the owners keep their game platforms locked down. As long as some owners give their players a rule-set that preserves in-game freedom, fairness, and community, it's all good.

# Benkler is more or less the opposite. He'd love to see some games ripped open at the level of the platform -- developed by distributed groups and run without a single centralized owner-god-wizard. In his writings on the regulation of communications infrastructure and media concentration, Benkler has consistently emphasized the view that avoiding such concentrations of power at the infrastructure level is the most important act -- from it, everything good flows.

# The agoraXchange people want both the platform and the game world to be open. Now, the question above tugs at apotential tension between these two forms of openness. When push absolutely comes to shove, the agoraXchange team will assert control at the platform layer if their core values are threatened in the game universe; otherwise, they walk the walk and quack the quack of freedom at every level.

# Bartle really doesn't care about either form of freedom. My caricature of him lives in what might be caricatured as the "game designer" paradigm: I want to be free to create whatever strange and twisted world I want. If players like it, they'll join and stay; if they don't like it, they'll go somewhere. Now, Bartle is a great designer, and as with the other great designers, his writings involve an exquisite level of sympathy for (and understanding of) players. But his is basically a "game"-centric view: if you build it, they will play. There aren't political questions here, except potentially if stupid lawyers come barging in and start treating games as something other than games.

[via Boing Boing]

Posted by johndan at 04:05 PM | TrackBack

now listening to

Bardo Pond, Bufo Alvarius, Amen 29:15
Posted by johndan at 03:18 PM | TrackBack

Study on the Effects of Spam on End Users

Surprising PEW research study on spam, including survey results such as
  • 7% of email users report that they have ordered a product or service that was offered in an unsolicited email, although not all of this is pure “spam.”
  • 33% of email users have clicked on a link in unsolicited email to get more information....
  • 32% consider unsolicited commercial email to be spam, even if it came from a sender with whom they’ve “already done business.”

    [via Slashdot]

    Posted by johndan at 03:14 PM | TrackBack
  • NetNewsWire Eddy award

    NetNewsWire, the RSS aggregator I used to browse weblog RSS feeds and post to Datacloud the majority of time, has won a 2003 MacUser Editor's Choice award (called the "Eddy," in the magazine's attempt to make themselves sound like the movie industry). More info available from Ranchero's weblog, publisher of NetNewsWire.


    Posted by johndan at 03:13 PM | TrackBack

    December 03, 2003

    Help Desk Responses

    Here's a response that someone in my office received a few weeks ago regarding a tech support request they made from our centralized, outsourced computer support system:

    Subject:Support Case Help Information
    Date: Tue, 04 Nov 2003 08:22:26 -0500
    From: Customer Support/Help Desk
    Organization: Customer Support/Help Desk
    To: [...]

    Dear Customer,

    Enclosed is important case information that may be helpful in solving your support case:



    Thank you!

    You're welcome!
    Posted by johndan at 02:53 PM | TrackBack

    Tom Peters on Design

    Posted recently on the ID Discuss list:
    "The dumbest mistake is viewing design as something you do at the end of the process to 'tidy up' the mess, as opposed to understanding it's a 'day one' issue and part of everything."
    The poster pulled the quote from some else's .sig, but hasn't been able to locate the precise source of the quote. Anyone recognize where this is from?

    (Source or not, it's a good quote.)

    Update: Well, that was quick. While I was posting the note above, another person posted the source to the list:

    Management Guru Tom Peters on Design In "@ Issue" Vol. 6, No. 1.


    Livia Labate

    Posted by johndan at 10:25 AM | TrackBack

    December 01, 2003

    Eco on the Web

    Umberto Eco essay from Al-Ahram Online: "Vegetal and Mineral Memory: The Future of Books". Among other things, Eco points out the interactions between the finite and the infinite. New notions of creativity.
    Grammars, dictionaries and encyclopaedias are systems: by using them you can produce all the texts you like. But a text itself is not a linguistic or an encyclopaedic system. A given text reduces the infinite or indefinite possibilities of a system to make up a closed universe. If I utter the sentence, "This morning I had for breakfast...", for example, the dictionary allows me to list many possible items, provided they are all organic. But if I definitely produce my text and utter, "This morning I had for breakfast bread and butter", then I have excluded cheese, caviar, pastrami and apples. A text castrates the infinite possibilities of a system. The Arabian Nights can be interpreted in many, many ways, but the story takes place in the Middle East and not in Italy, and it tells, let us say, of the deeds of Ali Baba or of Scheherazade and does not concern a captain determined to capture a white whale or a Tuscan poet visiting Hell, Purgatory and Paradise.... TV zapping is another kind of activity that has nothing to do with watching a movie in the traditional sense. A hypertextual device, it allows us to invent new texts that have nothing to do with our ability to interpret pre-existing texts. I have tried desperately to find an instance of unlimited and finite textual situations, but I have been unable to do so. In fact, if you have an infinite number of elements to play with why limit yourself to the production of a finite universe? It's a theological matter, a sort of cosmic sport, in which one, or The One, could implement every possible performance but prescribes itself a rule, that is, limits, and generates a very small and simple universe. Let me, however, consider another possibility that at first glance promises an infinite number of possibilities with a finite number of elements, like a semiotic system, but in reality only offers an illusion of freedom and creativity.
    [via Hypertext Kitchen]
    Posted by johndan at 09:03 PM | TrackBack

    now listening to

    Olivia Tremor Control, Presents: Singles and Beyond
    Posted by johndan at 05:56 PM | TrackBack

    Design and Function

    The NY Times Sunday Magazine focuses on design this week. (Free, but registration required. It's worth it.) The whole issue is a good, entry-level approach to design concepts, but here's one very important quote from an article on the iPod by Rob Walker:
    "Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like,'' says Steve Jobs, Apple's C.E.O. ''People think it's this veneer -- that the designers are handed this box and told, 'Make it look good!' That's not what we think design is. It's not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.''
    Posted by johndan at 05:53 PM | TrackBack

    [grid::brand] The Emergence of Corporate Subjectivities

    Some random thoughts on the growth of branding in general and on the Web, as part of the grid blogging project. 1. The value of individual objects within a specific market class (compact SUVs, entry-level DVD players, Windows-compatible computers) cannot easily be differentiated based on functional utility. What's the inherent (unlearned) difference between an Isuzu Rodeo and a Honda Passport? Between Coke and Pepsi? The prevalence of buyer's guides is not merely due to the growing complexity of products; it comes partially from our inability to see any tangible difference between groups of products in a class. We want someone to give us a reason to make a "sound" decision. In most cases, though, it's a toss-up. 2. Multinational corporations increasingly rely on their brand for identity, their corporate subjectivity, so to speak: Ford, McDonalds, Guinness, Nike. The brand identifies itself with specific products so that the perceived utility value of the products shifts to the brand itself. 3. The disappearance of functional utility between specific products across brands in a class becomes covered over by the increasing visibility of brand-as-value. For example, Nike, as a brand ID, becomes the cornerstone of corporate subjectivity, beyond the identifiable value of specific, concrete, usable products. The visibility of the Nike logo in general becomes valuable on its own in many situations such as sporting events. 4. Although capitalism has always included "trusted" or "valued" corporations or State-approved entities (contemporary intellectual property emerged from the guilds and States approving very limited-term monopolies in specific product lines and/or markets), brands today are marketed almost completely in the absence of specific products. 1. The value of individual objects within a specific market class (compact SUVs, entry-level DVD players, Windows-compatible computers) cannot easily be differentiated based on functional utility. What's the inherent (unlearned) difference between an Isuzu Rodeo and a Honda Passport? Between Coke and Pepsi? The prevalence of buyer's guides is not merely due to the growing complexity of products; it comes partially from our inability to see any tangible difference between groups of products in a class. We want someone to give us a reason to make a "sound" decision. In most cases, though, it's a toss-up. 2. Multinational corporations increasingly rely on their brand for identity, their corporate subjectivity, so to speak: Ford, McDonalds, Guinness, Nike. The brand identifies itself with specific products so that the perceived utility value of the products shifts to the brand itself. 3. The disappearance of functional utility between specific products across brands in a class becomes covered over by the increasing visibility of brand-as-value. For example, Nike, as a brand ID, becomes the cornerstone of corporate subjectivity, beyond the identifiable value of specific, concrete, usable products. The visibility of the Nike logo in general becomes valuable on its own in many situations such as sporting events. 4. Although capitalism has always included "trusted" or "valued" corporations or State-approved entities (contemporary intellectual property emerged from the guilds and States approving very limited-term monopolies in specific product lines and/or markets), brands today are marketed almost completely in the absence of specific products. 5. Individual brand names, in an advertising driven (postmodern) economy, tend to trade in lifestyles, personal images, and imaginary relations in which consumers insert themselves. Purchasing the product "sutures" the consumer into that image, albeit in an unsatisfactory way. The cycle begins again. Advertising shifts from information about a product to information about a proffered lifestyle. From Advertising Age:
    BUENOS AIRES ( -- In a curious marketing effort combining old-time big-top hokum with high-tech consumer products, Philips Electronics is about to launch the Philips Electronic Circus on a 12-city tour of South America. Among other things, the Philips circus includes three tents (top), a digital female target for the knife thrower (middle) and a live magician who interacts with a digital assistant. Philips Electronic Circus on a 12-city tour of South America. It is literally a three-ring circus, with a ringmaster, knife-thrower, magician, acrobats, midgets and wild animals. Some are living, breathing people in costume and others are digital video images playing on the Philips equipment that is the real star of the show.
    6. The growth in symbolic value of brands, as it becomes divorced from specific products or markets, requires control over symbols rather than simply markets. Logos and brands must be unique 7. The Web continues the collapse of utility as value in the form of domain names, a high-profile piece of real estate in the battle for mindshare. Because brands are no longer linked firmly to specific types of products, on the World Wide Web, a brand must be able to claim a universal symbolic value. From Wired:
    Take the case of Uzi Nissan. This North Carolina-based software developer -- born with the brand names of those two wholly American lifestyle products, guns and cars -- has been operating his two-employee business through awebsite he set up in 1994. There's a car company, however, that has its eye on his prize. The Nissan v. Nissan lawsuit -- picture the acrimonious custody battle of Kramer vs. Kramer, but without the cute kid -- is now in the "discovery" phase, awaiting this month's decision on an appeal over a preliminaryinjunction issued and affirmed last March by the U.S. Ninth District Court.
    8. The Global Village: One world = one market.
    Posted by johndan at 11:51 AM | TrackBack