there are 25 posts from June 2004

June 28, 2004

where does rss belong?

A quick thing to note about Apple’s preview of Tiger: they’re putting the RSS reader in Safari instead of It’s decisions like these by the major players (Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, Google, etc.) that will define the consumer mental model for feed consumption: does RSS augment/improve/replace the messaging experience? Or does RSS augment/improve/replace the browsing experience?

June 25, 2004

g-mailto bookmarklet

Following the lead of Rabid Squirrel’s g-mailto, I worked up a bookmarklet to pop up a new message window off my browser toolbar. I’ve only tested this on IE6 for Windows, but it’s the standard javascript stuff, so it should work everywhere. Here you go…

» Drag this link to your toolbar: g-mailto);)

If you read the Rabid Squirrel definition of field variables (to, cc, bcc, subject, body, etc.) you could probably modify the link above to fit your particular email needs. I haven’t yet mucked about to see if it’s possible to pull page titles or selected text from the browser and force it into message fields, but if that’s possible the bookmarklet could become a great way to have the “send page by email” function via Gmail.

Update. Lazyweb to the rescue! The ever-resourceful Adam Mathes hacked up an improvement that pulls the current page’s title and inserts into the subject line, inserts the page URL and any selected text into the body of the message. You can grab it here, or just do the drag thing again…

» Drag this link to your toolbar: g-mailit

I’ve got both of these living side by side now. One for quick access to a blank message (g-mailto), the other for “mail this page” functionality (g-mailit).


June 24, 2004


I’m at the Supernova conference today and tomorrow, and Kevin Werbach was kind enough to ask me to post to the Supernova blog, primarily on new media topics. So if you’re interested, follow along there.

June 21, 2004

new delillo in grand street

Via Curt Gardner’s fantastic site, comes news of a new piece from Don DeLillo titled “Counterpoint: Three movies, a book and an old photograph” in the latest Grand Street.

(But my God don’t bother with Grand Street’s website. Useless, useless flash with bouncing animated navigation and unreadable text. The only saving grace is that the #1 bookstore in their list of retailers is my local Black Oak Books. Off to the retailer we go for a single issue purchase, when they could have easily lured us into a subscription and a more profitable (direct) relationship. But I digress… New DeLillo!)

June 19, 2004

nightmare on madison avenue

The latest Fortune has a great piece on the state of the advertising business by Devin Leonard titled Nightmare on Madison Avenue. (Link most likely only valid for Fortune subscribers.) In it, Leonard deftly examines the impact that the decline and fall of the mass media is having on ad agences.

No surprise for anyone who’s been watching the business over the past few years, but it all comes down to (a) price pressure…

Some procurement people are squeezing their ad agencies in ways that their marketing department associates never would have dared. Last year DuPont’s purchasing department made agencies competing for its consolidated advertising account bid against one another in a live online auction. The winner of the $70 million account was Ogilvy & Mather. Scott Nelson, DuPont’s global brand manager, is quick to say that price wasn’t the only deciding factor. But it was painful for some people in the advertising business to see the late David Ogilvy’s agency treated like a furniture vendor.

…and (b) the shift in power from the creative to the quant.

The ascension of the media buyer completely disrupted Madison Avenue’s old assembly line. “We’re getting to the point where the media plan is done first, and the creative is developed behind it,” says Verklin. “That is a radical vision for the advertising business that would have been unheard of five years ago.” He adds: “We used to be the dorks. Now we’re driving the whole advertising process.”

Leonard nails it in the close, commenting on the upcoming Advertising Week, a September 2004 festival of Madison Ave. self-pleasure, featuring “some of the advertising world’s most cherished icons,” like Mr. Peanut, the Keebler Elves and The Jolly Green Giant. And he does it without even having to utter the phrase “self-involved baby boomers.”

So much of Advertising Week celebrates a vanished era when eccentric craftsmen ruled the business, media buyers knew their place, and 90% of the public watched prime-time television. Yes, that was a better time for many people in the industry. But it’s gone.

June 17, 2004

efax sucks, part two

In reviewing a recent bank statement, we noticed that we’ve been getting recurring charges from eFax, for an account which we weren’t using anymore. So I log on to, have them send me my PIN, and then try to find the account cancellation function. Which doesn’t exist. And their help function 404’d. Then it hits me: I’ve been down this road before.

Turns out I’d waited in an online chat queue for two hours back in November of 2003 to cancel this very same account. And had written up the experience, complete with charts and graphs. So this time I dialed the corporate sales number and forced my way into a conversation with a level two support rep. Sure enough, they had record that my account was supposed to have been cancelled back in November. The rep was kind enough to actually cancel the account this time, and issue a credit for the monthly fees we’d been paying since then.

Back in November I noted that the reason I was cancelling was because they were raising their rates, and that if they had followed any kind of discriminatory pricing strategy, they would have left the “set and forget” folks alone. I quit eFax because they were raising the rates on a service I didn’t use. Their latest mistake may be an honest one (“well, gee, we’re sorry we didn’t cancel that account…”), but it’s these kind of tactics that kill satisfaction with personal service providers. Just because you charge a monthly fee doesn’t mean you’ve earned the right to a perpetuity…

June 16, 2004

measurable syndication

The FeedBurner guys are dealing with all the tough problems related to content syndication. Case in point – they just released a new version of their statistics functionality, a key component of their service that lets publishers track feed readership, aggregator usage and item-level clickthroughs. If you thought tracking web readership was difficult, try tracking RSS/Atom usage, with the heterogeneity of clients, feed polling intervals and multi-user aggregation systems (like My Yahoo or Bloglines). Disclaimer: I’m on the FeedBurner advisory board.

Dick Costolo, FeedBurner’s CEO, outlines the new approach in a post on the product blog. With the new release, they’re presenting a calculation of “daily circulation,” which they’re defining as…

Unique IP addresses accessing your feed today on behalf of a unique client feed reader plus the number of subscribers to your feed reported today in any accesses of your feed by an online aggregator.

Dick continues by pointing out that that “circulation is by no means perfect.”

There are a few different issues with trying to make a highly accurate count via this approach, including the usual IP address as person issues (although we try to mitigate this issue by only using “daily circulation” and not “weekly” or more, so that you have less likelihood of DHCP users reporting multiple IP addresses over the time period). The key is to think of circulation in much the way, well, commercial publishers think of it. It represents the best current approximation of how many people you reached today, via the various agents reporting back to us through feed accesses. This number is particularly interesting as a trend over time.

Whether FeedBurner’s approach is perfect or not, if RSS/Atom is going to evolve into a medium that supports commercial applications, we’re going to need to settle on a common definition of XML “readership,” while respecting the diverse landscape of feed consumers. Remember the transition in the web space from “hits” to “page views” to “visits”? We’re about to see something similar here.

June 15, 2004

it's messages all the way down

Apologies in advance for the less than half-baked rambler ahead, but Bill Seitz hits on something interesting about RSS and information management…

When an RSS item tells you something important, and you want to remember it, how do you do that? If it were EMail, you’d stick it in a folder, maybe set a flag or label on it. I guess now you blog it, which has the advantage of allowing you to attach more custom Meta Data so that it should be easier to find later. And some Rss Aggregator-s already have a “save” function, which I guess is an OK temporary approach…

Caveat the following as being from one data point – me. While I wait for the ultimate microcontent client, I find that I’m using several different “remembering” methodologies. And the decision re. which one to use is based on the interaction of privacy and context.

High privacy / high context: it goes in The Brain. Yep, still use it. Not as frequently as I once did, but it’s where I store links to companies, articles, people, etc., with related notes. It’s the personal research library.

Low privacy / low context: it goes in Delicious. Transient links of interest. The URL can stand on its own, and is linked to in an act of “hey, plus one from this corner.”

Low privacy / high context: blog it. Links of interest that require some sort of blather-mouthed commentary to prove just how “smart” I am.

“Sharable” privacy / varying levels of context: email it to folks. Like the story I sent to Matt Haughey yesterday about the ad buy that Schwab’s making on the Tivo network.

Which reminds me of Anil’s piece from late 2002 on the ultimate microcontent client. Still haven’t seen it, and yet the more I think about this problem of information discovery, sharing, routing and group forming, the more it seems that we’re headed to a deeper merger of the mail client, the browser and various and sundry publishing and content archiving systems.

I remain unconvinced that there would be anything better suited to this task than an email-like application that’s well integrated with the browser. What we’re talking about here is messaging: reading incoming messages (whether via email, RSS or whatever comes next), and writing outgoing messages: some to individual contacts, some to public spaces (like or delicious), some to semi-private group spaces (on orkut or flickr or mailing lists), some to a personal archive, and some to one or more of those destinations (cc, anyone?).

So…universal inbox (email, notifications, RSS subscriptions, whatever), universal outbox (email, blog postings, social network postings, social bookmarking, personal note taking / filing). All searchable. All cross-referenced with all the associated contact lists(s). All with dial-able social network-based filtering / content ranking.

I mean, c’mon, Google, is that too much to ask for?

June 15, 2004

aggregation as backup?

Dialing in from the land of unintended benefits, Mark Fletcher of Bloglines is offering to help anyone left stranded by the sudden disappearance of recover their content. Nice.

June 14, 2004

strong week

Strong Week (a weekly email newsletter geared toward the lively arts) is back after a painful hiatus; now with editions for San Francisco and Portland.

“As in life itself, forward liberally.”

June 14, 2004

ambient meetings

Reason #42 to ride the bus to work more often: you run into old friends on the walk from the bus terminal to the office. Ran into David Rose last week while picking up coffee and a bagel from Cafe Centro; David is CEO of Ambient Devices, the folks who make the glowing orbs, the weather beacons, and the upcoming executive dahsboards that pull information from a wireless network and display it “ambiently.” We spent an hour catching each other up and rambling through things like attention economics, virtual startups, information design, persuasive technologies and just how great it is to be a dad.

Ambient is featured in this week’s Economist (PDF version here), and there’s a great quote from David…

The problem with existing information-display systems, says David Rose, the firm’s chief executive, is that they provide too much detail and are too intrusive. By mapping information on to visual clues that can be taken in at a glance, Ambient’s products are intended to provide an unobtrusive alternative. “There’s a fallacy that more details are better,” he says. “What you actually want is awareness first and details on demand.”

The folks at the business intelligence companies like Cognos or Hyperion should be paying attention to what David’s up to; or even bundling their new dashboard product for execs. Awareness first, details on demand.

(Oh, and I also saw a prototype of a new device they’re working on, but if I told you about it, David would kill me.)

June 11, 2004

the mac pip

Apropos of nothing, from the Stanford site that documents the making of the Mac, the original Macintosh Product Introduction Plan, written by Regis McKenna in October 1983.

Macintosh cannot and will not be “all things to all people” – especially at time of introduction. Yet the dynamics of the industry warrant an extremely aggressive marketing program from the outset. It is our premise that we will only get to introduce this product once. We have an extraordinary product. We must surround that product with excellent service, support, applications software. In addition, it is of crucial importance that we communicate a believable and achievable marketing plan to our sales force and the public at time of introduction.

It’s a great read; not only for the religion (McKenna was instrumental in creating the cult of the mac), but also for the process. The doc covers the marketing strategy, product positioning, the product line strategy (for Mac software and peripherals), packaging, competitive analysis and repsonses, the marcom plan, the sales plan (and forecast) and the plan for seeding and building a developer community.

June 09, 2004

infect your friends!

Bryan Boyer points out a smart Gmail UI doo-hickey. If you have invites available, and you’re replying to someone who does not have a address, you get an unobtrusive menu item that lets you invite that person to Gmail. And it’s personalized with that person’s first name. (“Invite Tekla to join Gmail.”)

It’s the 2004 Google equivalent of the famously viral 1996 Hotmail .sig.

June 08, 2004

two reagan context pieces

Great pair of op-ed pieces in today’s Times that help put context around the Reagan legacy. First, Paul Krugman debunks the myth of Reagan as the patron saint of tax cuts:

But Ronald Reagan does hold a special place in the annals of tax policy, and not just as the patron saint of tax cuts. To his credit, he was more pragmatic and responsible than that; he followed his huge 1981 tax cut with two large tax increases. In fact, no peacetime president has raised taxes so much on so many people. This is not a criticism: the tale of those increases tells you a lot about what was right with President Reagan’s leadership, and what’s wrong with the leadership of George W. Bush.

From the other side, David Brooks argues that Reagan’s trademark optimism was more than just a personality trait.

Reagan described America as a driving force through history, leading to the empire of liberty. He seemed to regard freedom’s triumph as a historical inevitability. He couldn’t look at mainstream American culture as anything other than the delightful emanation of this venture. He could never feel alienated from middle American life, or see it succumbing to a spiritual catastrophe.

June 08, 2004

nice work, nick

Kudos to Nick Bradbury, creator of FeedDemon, for a very creative ad buy. Not sure how long this will be up there, but he currently has the top Sponsored Link slot for Google search results on nigritude ultramarine. (“Stop searching for nigritude ultramarine and try FeedDemon.”)

June 07, 2004

airport express

Great product line extension from Apple today – AirPort Express. There’s been a literal missing link in the Apple line between iTunes and the home stereo, a link that’s been filled in the market by products like the Slim Devices Squeezebox. AirPort Express / AirTunes is critical for Apple for two reasons.

First, it keeps the iTunes UI front and center for music selection and playback in the home. Other products (like the Squeezebox or the Tivo Series 2) put their UI in front of the user and relegate iTunes to ripping and management. Apple needs to control that every day user experience if they’re going to drive incremental “casual” business to the iTunes Music Store.

Second, it makes it easier for home users to get FairPlay protected AAC files bought from the Music Store across the house to the stereo. I’m not sure about Tivo, but Slim’s device can’t play songs purchased from the Music Store, since Apple hasn’t licensed FairPlay for use on other devices. Users have had to resort to third party utilities like PlayFair, or an inconvenient round trip buy-burn-rip dance in order to get their music across the house. With aggressive marketing, Apple’s product just might nip the external device market in the bud.

Update: ordered one. Ship date is mid-_July_.

June 06, 2004

bring in the program manager

Some interesting news from the OSAF – they’re hiring a Program Manager. Which means that Chandler must be far enough along in its development to actually need someone to translate, prioritize moderate and mediate end user requirements into a usable product. It’ll be interesting to see who they land for this gig; I can’t imagine a more important role in getting an actual product to market…

June 06, 2004


Subscribed: Bizwerk, the new biz blog from Caterina Fake. Best line so far: “Business books are as trendy as hairstyles and skirt lengths.”

June 05, 2004

lewis on s.r.b.

Michael Lewis covers socially responsible business in the Sunday Times Magazine. After speeding through the inevitable Google lede (“Don’t be evil”), Lewis dives into a class at Haas on Corporate Social Responsibility, and follows the students to Birkenstock USA, where they discover that the shoe maker “was reluctant to disclose the recipients of its philanthropy,” and was donating money to causes entirely unrelated to footwear, like the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

The students recommended that Birkenstock ditch most of their good works and put all of their energy into a single very public act that connected up naturally to footwear. They shrewdly recommended that Birkenstock sponsor walks for causes. The cause did not matter so much as the fact that potential customers would be walking many miles on its behalf, and, somewhere along the line, encounter a giant sign that said Birkenstock.

Birkenstock’s CEO, of course, bristles at the idea; and Lewis raises the point that perhaps it’s this low-key, anti-marketing driven approach that’s what’s working for Birkenstock. “Word spreads,” he argues. And while he does circle back to the Google shareholder letter at the end of the piece, he doesn’t quite connect the dots in the way I had hoped he would. Google – and all the rest of this Interweb stuff – has the opportunity to amplify the Birkenstock approach to corporate philanthropy. Let Birkenstock do good, and if the word must be spread, let the magic of http and Google do the word spreading.

June 05, 2004

disappearing email news

So a headline showed up in my aggregator from Google Buys E-Mail Software Company, but the story 404s, and searches at turn up nothing. I know I’m not imagining things, because at least one other person blogged it, and Google News indexed it. Who’d they buy? And what happened to the story?

Update, in case you’re interested. Google bought Neotonic, but that was old news; the acquisition happened back in April of 2003. Which is probably why pulled the story.

June 04, 2004

10 to 13

Jon Udell writes about the pending transition of the ISBN code from 10 digits to 13 digits on Jan 1 2005. I wonder if a micro-market of ISBN integration consultants has popped up to exploit the opportunity to transition publishers, distributors, libraries and retailers to the new format. I’m imagining a few enterprising Y2K consultants pounding away at legacy databases and implementing middleware to translate the 13 digit code to 10 and back again…

June 03, 2004

it's all about relevance

The themes at Inbox seem to be relevance and heterogeneity. The attention and investment that’s going into email – at the ISP level, the enterprise level, the workgroup level and the client level – signals that the channel isn’t going away anytime soon. The folks here are focused on creating technology to improve the signal to noise ratio for the email user. Spam filtering, email collaboration tools, alerting technologies, client side developments – they’re all pointing towards helping individuals focus on information that matters to them.

This is not a challenge that’s going to get addressed overnight, since by definition there’s nothing more personal than “what matters to me.” One filtering technology may solve your spam problem, but not mine. One email client may do wonders for your information management challenges, but fall completely flat for me. The application space is broad enough – and the market is large enough – to support heterogeneity of approaches up and down the delivery chain.

June 03, 2004

until further notice

I’m posting back over here. Why? Because I have the attention span of a moth.

If you’re reading this in an aggregator, and want to stay with me, point your client to

June 03, 2004

inbox conference

Really looking forward to being at Inbox tomorrow; I’ll be surprised if anyone actually shows up for my session at 8 am. I’m very interested to see if there’s any connection there between the email “industry” and the folks that are buyers / consumers of enterprise-level email services. While I didn’t get a chance to hit this year’s Ad:Tech, what I heard over and over from attendees was that the buzz was high, but it was all the usual suspects talking to themselves again…and very few buyers of the products and services being hawked and squawked. (Is it even possible to put on an industry conference in a vertical and break out of the echo chamber?)

Relatedly, Esther Dyson reports that the CIOs in attendance weren’t really clued in to sender authentication: “‘Are you prepared to implement Sender ID?’ Excuse me, but they didn’t even understand the question. One started talking about how he wants a personal spam filter. Another said yeah, we’re a PR firm and we really are careful about what we send out.” Without a homogenous spam filtering solution (and thank GOD for that, that’s the last thing we need is a single toll taker deciding what’s in and what’s out), it’s going to take a lot of down and dirty blocking and tackling to get the Fortune 1000 (not to mention the middle market players where stuff like sender auth really could have an impact) to pay attention.

June 03, 2004

busting a syndication myth

In a must-read piece, Dick Costolo of Feedburner dispels the myth that we’re headed to a glorious monoculture of syndication formats and aggregating clients: “Even if we can all get along and agree on a common base syndication format and the number of different clients dwindles to a powerful few, the entire syndication space will simultaneously witness a growing sophistication and accompanied level of fragmentation through conflicting namespaces and specialty clients.”

If you thought the format wars have been ugly for the core elements of Title, Link and Description, just wait until all the relevant parties start battling it out for domination for namespaces related to music, books, consumer packaged goods, calendar events, transaction confirmations, etc., etc.