Monday, December 27, 2004

Blog Business Summit

I'll be attending this conference in late January. I'll be happy to answer questions and gather feedback from our existing FeedBurner users and I hope to learn and converse with some of the notable talents in attendance. As FeedBurner's design lead, I enjoy hearing from everyone who has interacted with our service — I'm continually wowed by how individual and interpersonal business that involves bloggers has become. Just about everything you do involves starting, completing, or sometimes just locating a conversation that matters to you. Other voices may join in, but ultimately businesses that work with bloggers have to treat them as influential peers and get them the general or specific answers that meet their needs. The power in the customer service relationship has never been more in the hands of the customer than it is in the transparent world of online publishing, and I think that's a great thing.

And now, the conference link:

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Alternate Universe Playoff Theory

I loved this alternate reality from John Nestor. As he laid it out, a thrilling, bowl-based tournament of upsets, close shaves, and expected championship performances makes for a thrilling December full of college football. Gone are the dud matchups and obvious pretenders (oh c'mon, Syrcause); instead, all principal grievances are settled between the lines, and mighty Auburn and Cal get their shots but ultimately don't prevail.

This concept leaves some important questions of tradition unanswered (i.e., would the Rose Bowl ever reliably feature Big 10/Pac 10 matchups again). Also, I don't really know if players can be expected to be anything other than full time athletes (forget classes, books, all that "education" crap) if their schools end up in 14, 15, and even 16 game regular seasons. Sure, there's been plenty of talk about college football playoff solutions in the past few seasons -- but somehow this piece helped me visualize this tournament as a December Madness plan that could work. There's just the small matter of getting the military/industrial complex that is college trustees, bowl organizers, sponsors, and the NCAA on board.


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

New Yorker Caption Contest: My Entry

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about the The New Yorker's Cartoon Caption Contest. The contest officially closed yesterday. For review, here's the cartoon:

Here's my entry: "I can't in good conscience recommend the hand rolls tonight."

My runners-up:

"Well, the tuna never takes it personally. Try that."

"Yes, ever since we were kids. Honestly, he hasn't given it much thought."

"Work release program. It was either this, or menace the shipping lanes."

"Extra wasabi? Won't make much difference either way."

"The special requires real teamwork to bring to the table."


Friday, December 17, 2004

Error messages rarely close the sale

About two weeks ago, I got the following message from Microsoft Entourage (the bastard child of Outlook and OS X) when I attempted to connect to my free Hotmail account:

hotmail madness.jpg

You can bet I was pretty upset to learn that access to Hotmail was going to cost me an additional vig each month when I've already paid for this particular access client — Entourage. It's not like they made Hotmail a pay-only service and Entourage was just another, undifferentiated gateway into its special little world of wonder. Compounding my blind rage at this point was the fact that my introduction to this new business model was delivered through a freakin' modal dialog error message. I couldn't recall seeing a message or announncement in my Inbox in recent weeks or months that might've prepared me for this. No. It was just, >boink<, and at that moment I'm on the outside looking in. No spam for you!

Oh, and if you had the chutzpah to click Learn More...? I think you ended up at some very generic "Upgrade your Freeloader Account Now!" appeal. Not unexpected. But hey, how about at least a "Valued Entourage User! Get Hotmail Plus for the first 6 months for just $1.99!" or something to reflect that fact that I was already bought in. Just personalize the gesture a touch more, and I might've given it a second thought.

I have a feeling someone high up in the program management food chain at MSN relented, though, because a few days later this message did not appear again when I dared connect to my Inbox through Entourage. Been moving along just fine ever since.

Do you connect to Hotmail through Outlook using the mother ship OS? Did you ever see this dialog box, even just for a couple of days? I wonder if I was part of some sort of test-marketing campaign. I don't remember anyone declaring "Microsoft PR crisis brewing in the blogosphere!" or any other hue and cry rising from the blogmasses around this issue. I'm still just a bit baffled. Even if MSN's fair intention was to convert freebie Hotmail users, going about it through the error handling UI of the mail client is no way to make that winning first impression.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

bad times for st. nick in old londontown

Apparently British high street shops just can't be bothered to provide a proper Father Christmas anymore. A winning quote from this article: "It's no wonder the experience of visiting Santa at Harrods, the luxury department store with a full-fledged grotto, delivers all the cheer of a rugby scrum in the mud."

You can tell this article must've been an absolute gas to write.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

SwiMP3: Tunes for lap-grinders

Saw this on the morning news: it's an MP3 player meant designed specifically for use while swimming. The SwiMP3 uses bone conduction to transmit sound while you're knifing through the water. Supposedly your skull bones will vibrate the fluid of your inner ear and, in the process, transmit a quality audio signal. This is so totally Buck Rogers, but I guess I can buy that it's the likeliest way to get audio through when you're mostly underwater. It looks a little bit balky to me -- especially the base unit -- but the one reviewer listed didn't have a thing to say about the form factor getting in the way.

I swim a lot of laps in the winter, so I have to admit I'm pretty psyched about this product -- it's something I'd really like to try before I buy, though. Frankly, swimming laps is pretty dull work. Breaking up the routine with some motivating music would really help get me out of bed when it's so damn dark and cold outside.


Thursday, December 9, 2004

Look out

I think you're gonna end up seeing a lot more of this on Gene Keady's farewell tour:

This year's men's team is just bad, bad, baaaad.


Saturday, December 4, 2004

The New Yorker Cartoon Caption Contest

Thanks to Dick for pointing this one out. If you think you've got the funny, you've got a chance to show everyone (in writing, at least) on the peerless pages of The New Yorker. Their 6th annual Caption Contest is under way and the entry box officially closes on December 20th. I've already whipped up a few entries and submitted my favorite; Dick and I will both post our nominees and final sumissions on the 21st.


Thursday, December 2, 2004

An HDTV primer from...Slate?

I'm just as surprised as you to think that a quality guide to buyer's basics in HDTV and related technology could be found in a political/social rag like Slate, but it's true. Fred Kaplan's article deftly navigates the acronym-infested waters of your local hi-def retailer's showroom and arms you with easy answers to the basics of display technology (DLP vs. plasma vs. LCD vs. projecton variants vs....ah, forget it), price points, and even a good tip on professional HDTV calibration (hint: have it done).

I haven't taken the plunge yet myself, but this was definitely helpful. I had a feeling "EDTV" was crap, and this piece removed all doubt!