there are 13 posts from November 2003

November 26, 2003

all hail joshua.

Holiday weekend advice: be delicious by building your own Muxway.

November 25, 2003

traywick contemporary

It’s official. Kenneth Baker in today’s Art Notes:

Traywick transforming: The Traywick Gallery in Berkeley will close its 10th Street location when its current show of work by Johnna Arnold and Dennis Begg ends Nov. 29.

But the business will reopen soon, with the same Web address ( and phone numbers, as Traywick Contemporary. Proprietor Katrina Traywick wants to break out of the storefront mold to work on various kinds of projects with artists she represents, including shows by appointment only and special events in temporary public venues.

The East Bay can ill afford the loss of a reliable showplace for contemporary art, but at least Paulson Press has taken over the space adjacent to the one Traywick has occupied for six years.

Note: the date above should have read Nov. 22. It’s been a great six years in the public space – and here’s to new things!

November 25, 2003

design and data

I was fooling myself with all that Georgia. I’m not a Georgia person.

(Those of you reading the site in your favorite 3-paned news^H^H^H^H RSS reader won’t really care. Which reminds me – Six Apart needs to get moving on the whole stats thing. I can tell how many folks are viewing the website, and from whence they came, but how many are reading in a trisected UI? And in which trisected UIs are they reading? And heck – here’s one that’ll really tick off the purists – how ‘bout some transparent GIFs and chocolate chip cookies to track usage by individual? That way we could know who’s grabbing the feed, what portion of those folks are reading the feed, and then what portion of those folks are actually clicking through to site to comment. Oh, and, while you’re at it, how about some outbound clickthrough tracking so I can tell if people actually follow the links I so lovingly provide? Imagine a world where Six Apart-hosted sites get their inbound and outbound traffic and link data pumped into Technorati automagically, and Technorati can rely on that data (instead of spidering the Six Apart universe) because it comes from a trusted source. Because who wouldn’t trust the Trotts?)

Anyway. I’m more of a Verdana person.

November 22, 2003

worth skimming

Worth skimming: Ad Age’s 2003 Marketing 50. Profiles of the 50 marketers who brought you the “big brand success stories” of the year. The people are “interesting.” The list of brands, more so. Sierra Mist. Splenda. Trading Spaces. La-Z-Boy. LeBron James. Michelob Ultra. Bend it Like Beckham. Phat Farm. Grey Goose Vodka. 50 Cent. Special K Red Berries. Nokia 3650. Coach. Zocor. And more….

November 22, 2003

delillo on oswald

Frontline posts Q&A with Don DeLillo, Edward Epstein and Gerald Posner on “Oswald: Myth, Mystery and Meaning.” Here’s DeLillo on the absurdity of a single man changing the course of history.

The 20th century was built largely out of absurd moments and events. In time we had to invent an adjective, European and literary, that might encapsulate the feeling of impending menace and distorted reality and the sense of a vast alienating force that presses the edges of individual choice. These things are Kafkaesque. In America it is the individual himself, floating on random streams of disaffection, who tends to set the terms of the absurd.

November 19, 2003


Erik Benson made my head hurt this morning.

Okay, if it’s digital, then we’re back in the “the universe is a big computer” debate. Then, I want to know how fast this computer has to be. What are the limits to its calculation power? It probably has to hold the entire state of the universe in memory at all times (it even has to hold time in memory), in order to calculate the movement of galaxies and solar systems. Is the speed of light hitting up against some calculation boundary? Is that why we haven’t discovered anything that can go faster than 299,792,458 meters per second?

Erik, please. Stop it. Get back to your novel, wouldja?

November 19, 2003


Matt Webb:

There’s some interesting potential in auto-generated weblogs with small human involvement. I wonder if you could use the Bayesian systems that work on figuring out spam email to look at everything being linked on Blogdex, and train it to post only things you would want to post anyway. You could have a more-or-less “original” weblog by training the network to rank higher less-or-more popular links.

This should be built into the RSS aggregator tools; the framework for this kind of functionality is already in FeedDemon. Instead of keyword searching, do Bayesian classification for posts that you have trained the system to find interesting, and put that in a watch feed. FeedDemon already outputs RSS for that watch list; transform it to Atom or something metaweblog friendly and auto-post it back to the web. Voila, instant sidebar. (Note: Bayesian classification isn’t just useful for binary decisions (spam/not, interesting/not), but as POPFile has demonstrated, classification into a variety of categories. Have one “interesting” feed published to your public site, another “interesting” feed published behind the firewall. And yeah, I know I’m harping.)

November 18, 2003

it's all his fault.

So Jason’s gone and redesigned, integrating all his content into one column, with all sorts of tricks to have movie reviews, book reviews, “classic” posts, remaindered links, etc., appear in-line but with mini-templates of their own. All of which is great, of course…I mean who doesn’t love the big K?

Then why do I have this nagging feeling that someday we will all return to the talismanic ur-format of, where everything’s on one page, all scrollable, searchable (CTRL+F, anyone?) and even permalinked for user-friendliness. Categories? Context-providing Google links? Comments? Revenue producing reading lists? Micro-ads? Daily, weekly and monthly archives? Feh. It’s all about the output.

Remember, kids: this is all his fault. All of it. I blame Carl, and you should too.

November 13, 2003

link dump

Eight links in four minutes. (Yeah, I used to run one of those sideblogs, but what a frickin’ chore that was.)

November 07, 2003


I know it’s beta, but why the heck does the Google deskbar waste so much real estate in its result set by insisting on showing the Google logo and nav? The design intent of the tool is right on: provide fast, reasonably unobtrusive access to Google services in a keyboard-friendly manner. They nailed the taskbar component, but need to refine the search results component by developing a custom results page that (a) optimizes screen real estate and (b) leverages the keyboard-friendly nature of the rest of the app. Personally, I’m hoping for an alternate UI that ditches the browser component and displays results in a richer client…

November 05, 2003

where are the young men?

Very interesting piece today by Stuart Elliott in the Times re. the declining prime-time network telvision viewership among the key 18-34 male demographic. The network execs are blaming faulty measurement tactics at Nielsen; and Nielsen execs are rightly worried about the network worriers, since all those worriers pay the other worriers’ bills. (Follow me?) At any rate, the only one in the piece talking any sense is Steven Sternberg, a senior VP of audience analysis at Magna Global:

“Name three series that appeal to young men - you can’t. … If you’re not programming to them, they ain’t going to be there.”

Having just exited that 18-34 demo, of course, I’m now all of a sudden a huge fan of Everybody Loves Raymond, C.S.I., Malcolm in the Middle and Will & Grace. In fact most nights I can be found smack dab in front of the tube, enjoying both the quality programming and their commercial breaks, occasionally shaking my imaginary walking stick at all those youngsters and the nerve they must have abandoning the network broadcasters for those damned video games, chat rooms and porn sites.

November 04, 2003

one chart and two hours later...

Yesterday afternoon I got a message from eFax, telling me that my monthly service fee was going up from $9.95 to $12.95 per month, a 30% increase. My first thought was “oh yeah, my eFax account. I really don’t need that anymore, I should just cancel it.” (At which point the voice of my inner discriminatory pricing fan kicked in and said “God knows how many subscribers they’ll lose because of this email – the casual folks who rarely use the service and tend to even forget it’s there…they should have just raised the price on the active users, and left the ‘set and forget’ ones alone.”)

My second thought was “let’s go cancel my account.” Easier said than done. An 800 number for customer support was non-existent. The help section of their website was useless, and the account management form only offered options to update my billing information. But then, buried deep in the FAQ – question #83 out of 83, no less – was the answer: I had to click to join a live chat session with a customer service representative. And that’s where the fun began.

Now, I’m normally a fan of chat-based customer service. When done well, it can be a quick, easy and painless way to get a fast answer to a direct question. When done poorly, however, it can be very, very frustrating.

eFax uses an online chat service from LivePerson, which is helpful enough to tell you what position you are in the queue, and how many people are in the queue, but not quite helpful enough to provide you an estimated wait time until your chat with a representative. So, when I clicked to chat and entered the queue, I was in position 20 of 20. Two minutes later the chat window stole focus from whatever else it was I was working on, and informed me that I was now in position 18, with 24 people in the queue. Two minutes later I was 18 of 26. Etc., etc.

Now, about ten minutes in, I noticed that while I had advanced to position 16, the queue was now 29 people long. So since the chat window was coming to the front of my desktop every two minutes to let me know where I was in the queue, I started to note the time and position, and chart it.

All told, it took me 134 minutes to be first in line and have my question answered (which it was, reasonably expeditiously, after a couple of scripted last ditch efforts by the chat rep to save my account). 134 minutes, 19 position advancements works out to be an average of 7 minutes per customer in the queue. At one point (my minute 94) there were 69 people in the queue. If that 69th person and everyone in front of them had stayed in the queue, and reps had been clearing folks at that average rate (one every 7 minutes), it would have taken them over 8 hours to be served. As you can see from the chart, though, there was a fairly healthy queue abandon rate – from a high of 69 customers in the queue down to 40 by the time I left. Still – that 40th person would likely be stuck “on hold” for 4.7 hours assuming the rate stayed constant and no one in front of him or her abandoned their place in line.

There’s probably a reason eFax is raising their rates 30% – they need to stay in business. And customer service is probably one of their biggest variable costs, so I understand their desire to minimize the expense needed to serve each incremental customer. But the two-plus hour “hold time” I experienced (not to mention the 8+ hour theoretical hold time of that poor 69th chap) completely killed any hope that eFax had of saving me as a customer when it came time for their rep to provide the (reasonably generous) scripted offer of a few free months and an upgrade in service level…

I will say this, however. Had I spent two hours on the phone waiting on hold to cancel my account, I would have been calling the Better Business Bureau. Instead, it was a two hour wait for an online chat, and the upshot is that I’m posting here…

November 03, 2003

lessons in service

I had the sweet luxury and privilege of enjoying the “kitchen table menu” at Charlie Trotter’s this past weekend in Chicago. The six of us were seated right in the kitchen, within arm’s length of the chef de cuisine; watching him orchestrate chefs, hosts, wait staff and expediters was something to behold. It wasn’t anything like the chaos that I’d read about in Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, but instead ordered, professional and focused: focused on quality, presentation, timeliness and an appearance of effortlessness. It was the epitome of what’s required for flawless back-room execution of the experience economy. And the food was great, too…

Tempura of Dungeness Crab with Daikon & Hearts of Palm. Nantucket Bay Scallop with Hijiki & Green Tea Noodles. Buttermilk Poached Poussin Breast with Golden & Striped Beets. Watermelon Radish Ravioli with Raw Cashew “Cheese.” Warm Souffle of Red Hubbard Squash with Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette. Tai with Fennel, Battera Kombu & Bras D’Or Oysters. Fingerling Potato Soup with Alba White Truffles. Hawaiian Moi with Leeks & Elephant Garlic Emulsion. Quail Breast with Cabbage & Kohlrabi Whole Roasted Squab with Boudin & Red Endive. Triple Seared Kobe Strip Loin with Minnesota Wild Rice & Pearl Onions. Velvet Rose with Juniper Figs & Roasted Walnuts. Golden Russet,Spartan & Cortland Apple Sorbets with Sarsparilla Soup. Almond Financier with Huckleberries & Mascarpone Ice Cream. Parfait of Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta, Sauternes Jelly & Spicy Pear Chocolate-Coffee Tuile with Espresso Sauce. Mignardises.

I’m usually suspicious of celebrity chef enterprises (Trotter’s latest book Raw, was published on Tuesday by Berkeley’s Ten Speed Press), but the experience we had on Saturday night is making Lessons in Service from Charlie Trotter a tempting purchase…