Saturday, March 28, 2009

Link Targets

As in, how much text the anchor tag surrounds. This has driven me nuts for quite some time. At the NYT, they do it right. At Slate, they do it horribly. I submit, for your eyes only dear reader/link-clicker...



Which is the better target? So obvious. Slate's "single page" does take you to the middle of the article, truth be told, but still.

Ada Lovelace Day - Maria Mitchell

Well, it appears to be one of those new, bloggy things, but someone is trying to start an Ada Lovelace day where we honor and blog about women in science. You should all know who Ada Lovelace is anyway! Why March 24th, I am not sure, it isn't her birthday according to Wikipedia (but you never really know with Wikipedia....). 

My favorite woman in science is, and always has been, Maria Mitchell. (Sorry Madame Curie!) Quaker, Unitarian, Nantucketer, scientist (mainly an astronomer).

I am also a big fan of the Maria Mitchell Association, of course. 

Alas, NYT - Almost But Not Quite

The NYTimes doesn't quite get the net, not yet. They still think they are a newspaper company, as in, paper, meaning, on paper. They need to really internalize that they are (and yes, "they are", not "it is", reification is a no-no but grammatically preferred, what to do?), that they are an information company. So when I was just reading an article about immigrants to the US and hospitals, I found this interesting bit:

So, "hospitals" should be to some source about Swedes and Norwegians having different hospitals, right? (They used to be one country, so, different hospitals? Must be interesting!) But no. It's a NYTimes link to NYTimes stories about hospitals. Not helpful! When will they get it?

Viruses, Botnets, Compromised Machines

What articles almost never mention is that these computers all run Microsoft Windows. Global Chinese spy net? Attacking Windows. What you should do? Not run Windows at your business. 

Conway's Law

A great article from 1968 I used for my dissertation... it's online? The author has a website? People who were publishing in 1968 have websites?


There is an overview and the paper (which is short) is also online. Amazing. Go, the internets.

Conway, M. (1968). How do committees invent? Datamation, 14(4), 28-31.

Conway's summary:

Any organization that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organization's communication structure.
Ties in nicely with Chandler's Strategy and Structure.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

When Things Disappear From Google

On occasion I admit I look over how many cites my academic papers have received. No no, not vanity! Honest! Really I want to see who is citing them and what their work is -- maybe it is something interesting that I want to read! My Slashdot piece has 21 cites listed, but I thought it had 22 once. Slashdot is not the hot topic it used to be, so maybe the other, newer, pieces will survive the test of time (statistically speaking this is unlikely, most papers are never read, it is quite the long tail).

But this Google Scholar link used to have all of my papers, and now my most a recent one which had been listed and actually cited by someone I know is no longer listed. What happened? My "A Cross-National Study of Computer News Sites: Global News, Local Sites" (The Information Society, 23, 2007), is no longer listed (well, not currently). It's just gone. Weird.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

When Branding Overshadows Product

Snapple? Pepsi? The SciFi Channel? Tropicana? What are the people who work for these companies... these brands... thinking? Why rebrand? Or, in Tropicanan's case, un-rebrand? Was something wrong with the old brand? Is changing the spelling or a logo "rebranding"? If the product is exactly the same...

Clearly, the branding mavens are out of control, and have sunk their claws deeply into the belief systems of the influentials at these companies. Tropicana managed to escape (honestly I didn't mind the new logo, but I thought it was some abstract modern design and didn't initially notice it was just a glass of orange juice). The SciFi Channel seems to have gone insane. A rose is a rose, people.

Let's recap for a bit those of you who don't follow the insane branding world.

The worst of the four above recent examples is the SciFi Channel, which is changing how its name is spelled to "SyFy". Pronounced the same, it is unusual enough that it can be a legal property. "The SciFi Channel" and old logo weren't? Sure they were! Idiots. The NYT has a good writeup of the plain facts (and mentions Tropicana's reversal).

The NYT image caption is a head-scratcher, though. "Fans of other-world TV know how to say their channel’s new name." Well, no, it's not their channel. Seriously. 

Here's a good writeup about how scifi (and scifi/fantasy) is actually tremendously popular (Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lost...) (And I know a Margaret Lyons but she seems to have vanished off of Facebook. Hmm.) The writer at cnet actually mentions New Coke. Ouch! But accurate. 

Most serious writers are avoiding the entire "it sounds like the word syphilis in Polish" debacle. So much for global brand awareness. (Thus it needs to be mentioned.) And really, they show wrestling! Pathetic. 

Tropicana is of course owned by Pepsi. Why did they rebraaaaa..... Ok ok, re-logo. They are both the same brands, let's be honest here. Same product, same executives, same company, same misguided branding mavens, the only thing that changed (and will unchange in Tropicana's case) is the logo. Changing a logo is not changing a brand. If you cannot make a decent product, the logo is irrelevant, and I think the entire "branding" mess overlooks this vital step. Here is an accurate take on the Tropicana logo remake

And Snapple. New logo does what? Snapple was the first big iced tea, but the field is crowded now, and to me it's a product problem. I want less-breakable plastic bottles (which I recycle), less sweet and no high-fructose corn syrup. Oh, the new logo does none of that? Really? Well then. (I think they may have expanded their product line, but I don't follow the tea market that closely.)


From "Google submission hammers section 92A", by Ted Gibbons, for New Zealand PCWorld:

Google notes that more than half (57%) of the takedown notices it has received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998, were sent by business targeting competitors and over one third (37%) of notices were not valid copyright claims.
You see what's wrong with that, right? The 57% doesn't bother me so much, but only if the claims are valid. The 37% is horrible. I could go on to explain why, but I'll let the EFF explain the DMCA.

Monday, March 16, 2009

It Does Not Just Work

I am occasionally moved to use strong language in email to certain close friends, since there is occasionally maddeningly inane material out there (well there always is inane material online, just it's worse when it comes from a source that should know better). 

One of these friends, however, works at a place that has filters on its email server, so I get a 550 "denied by policy" error every time (so infrequent I always forget). Oops.

So much for the Internet and the free flow of information.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Found! Old and New Phone Photo

I just came across my digital copy of AT&T's videophone, I forgot I had it in a file. Here is the phone recently at the Gizmodo event, and below in an original advertisement. Adjust your antennae for maximal signal clarity! (Ok really he's just selling hats. The hyper-connected information future is always about never leaving your home while buying everything. Nature is too uncontrollable to let people out in it.)

The advert places the phone on a dais (not quite a desk). It is sublime, it cannot be questioned. Futuristic chairs, too.

Late edit: I came across the cite for the photo with the man in the chair:
Lipartito, K. (2003). Picturephone and the information age: The social meaning of failure. Technology and Culture, 44(1), 50-81.
The image is on p. 71.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Subversive Internet

Two very exciting posts (no, articles) about the Internet over at the NYT. One is about a Saudi woman who posted a video of herself driving on a public road to YouTube. As you know, that is currently illegal in Saudi Arabia. (I do not know why it is illegal, seems like straightforward old oppression of women.) The other is about the dreaded Chinese grass-mud horse.

Not bad for a mythical creature whose name, in Chinese, sounds very much like an especially vile obscenity. Which is precisely the point.

Although the large amount of spam found hourly in my spam folder (go, Google filtering!) attests, sadly, to the dimmer side of human nature (notice I did not say "to the dimmer side of the technology"), these two examples are exciting because they show some of the potential for the anti-authoritarian subversive uses of the Internet. Now of course if you are a Chinese filterer, or a Saudi official, you might disagree, but then you could go write your own blog about it. This blog is mine.

I especially like the Saudi driving, because the Internet can act as a medium to slowly introduce and maintain a conversation about the issue, bringing it into the mainstream. Even if it is disagreeable to many, just having it more widely covered is a step. Change often takes time.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Books As Technology

Besides being a big fan of Penny Arcade, I am also a big fan of books. They just work. And they are durable. I could expound on Innis' theories of time and space, but let's just say that books can easily be sent across space (no, not outer space, geographical space) and can also survive across time (with acid-free paper). 

Monday, March 9, 2009

Will They Learn? TW and Phone Support

So, my Time Warner Cable Internet phone connection is not working. As you can see, my Internet service, provided by same, is. I had no dial tone this morning. So I went online to the TW phone assist page. It said chat is a great way to connect, but there was no active link. (Later it would appear that their chat starts at 1pm.)

Instead I try the Road Runner (Internet service) chat help, thinking they could point me to the TW phone help chat. But no. First, the web page asks for my information such as email address and name. Then I get a chat window. The first thing the tech asks for is my email address and name. Incredible.

Eventually he gives me a phone number to call. I hope you see the problem here, because he didn't. He also gave me a 15 digit ticket number. Does he really expect me to read out 15 numbers over the phone? 15? Are they insane?

I then got another tech in chat, via the phone help space, but he too said he could not help (but not why), and he too gave me a phone number to call.

What in the world is Time Warner Cable doing? 
(Luckily their phone people -- I went outside to use my mobile -- actually know what they are doing and fixed my problem, but they still ask for your phone number after you have entered it. If I give their system my phone number, they shouldn't make it so obvious that they don't use it in all the ways it would make my life easier. It's a simple information hand-off between systems. They can't do it. If they can't do such a basic function, what other basic things can they not do?)