there are 11 posts from August 2004

August 28, 2004

gmail and marketer control

Why are marketers so afraid of gmail?

So Al DiGuido, CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, a successful email services agency, had a piece in this week’s ClickZ titled Do You Gmail?, in which he advised marketers to consider refusing to send email to customers with addresses. As DiGuido explains it, the fear is that companies who have spent dear resources on customer acquisition will have their messages delivered alongside contextual ads for competitive products and services.

A major credit card issuer excels at attracting a particular market segment. Gmail offers that company’s envious competitors the opportunity to specifically and efficiently target that issuer’s customers with contextual ads. The marketer spent millions growing this segment; should it be protected?

Now, given the overall noise in the market, and the challenging signal/noise ratio in the email channel in particular, one would think that marketers would be looking for any invitation to communicate directly with their customers. How could a marketer even think about disrepecting a customer’s choice of email domains by refusing to send them email? If your relationship with your customer is so tenuous that you’re worried about contextual text ads inside gmail having a significant impact on your customer lifetime value equation, then maybe you shouldn’t be emailing that customer in the first place.

August 27, 2004

the toll collector

At this very moment the stretch of 880 between Oakland and the San Mateo bridge plays a larger role in my daily life than the Bay Bridge did a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve nevertheless been following the fight between Bay Area lawmakers and the Governator over who will pay for the already-commenced construction of a new bridge. Latest news from The Chronicle is “stalemate,” which leaves the construction project in limbo, and area commuters – who have been commuting over a demonstrably unsafe bridge since Loma Preita – are likely to end up footing the bill through the most regressive of taxes, increased tolls.

The history of the deal is laced with hubris (we’ll build a more dramatic bridge!), foolishness (but it won’t have any bike lanes!), short-sightedness (nor any light rail! or even additional lanes for commuters!) and most of all, politics. Bay Area types bristle at the recollection of the speed at which the southern Californian freeways were repaired after their earthquake, and one can only imagine the Schwarzenegger camp eyeing the CA equivalent of the red and blue map and asking themselves if this move would cost them any re-election votes. Now both sides are stuck…and without major renovations to the bridge design, costs are only going to go up.

Which is what made this obvious typographical error in the Chronicle piece so amusing (emphasis mine):

The administration wants to give complete authority of the project to the MTC, which would then likely have to raise tolls in order to pay for the retrofit. Schwarzenegger also offered $300 in state funds to tear down the old bridge.

Gee, thanks, Arnold!

August 25, 2004

flickr rainbow

From Tom Carden, an interesting use of the Flickr API and processing to build a composite photo of the last 12 images for the colors of the rainbow, based on photo tags. He’s got a live Java applet too. (Does Flash let you build screen saver apps? Someone should package up a Flickr-saver with user-defined tags. “Hrm, today I feel like New York pictures!”)

August 24, 2004

k street on dvd

For whatever reason, Trina and I were the only ones we knew who were hooked on K Street last year – the HBO mockumentary series from Clooney and Soderbergh. Produced weekly in near real-time (watch the weekly talk shows on Sundays, write the rough script on Monday, shoot Tuesday - Thursday, edit Friday, air Sunday, repeat), the series had this delicious mix of reality and surreality. Carville and Matlin hammed it up as themselves, while pros Mary McCormack, John Slattery and Roger G. Smith (who was brilliant) carried the drama. And there were enough cameos from congress-critters, presidential candidates, pundits and lobbyists to seed a “spot the insider” drinking game.

Despite the instantly-stale topical plot lines of the first few episodes, I’m ordering the DVD of the full season to relive the delicious Valerie Plame leak thread that brought down the Carville / Matlin PR firm. Damn you HBO for killing K Street and sticking us with Entourage.

August 24, 2004

getting smarter

Way back when, we used to have conversations like “what will we do with all the processing power that PCs will give us?” And those conversations used to center around things like photorealistic virtual reality computing environments, like the one demo’d in that crappy Michael Douglas and Demi Moore movie where they’re chasing each other through room after room of file cabinets or something.

But it’s only recently that I’ve had a machine fast enough to let me turn on Word’s autospell checking functionality without having it feel like my screen refresh speed was slowed to a sluggish crawl. (I type reasonably fast, and a less than snappy editing control just kills it for me.) Now, you could blame that on the Word team (and you’d probably be right in doing so), but I’m looking at the glass half full – not only is my machine able to parse spelling in the background, it’s also able to do things like manage presence, index files, check for mail, play music and download files in the background (not to mention all the several layers down stuff like run my display, manage memory, etc.), all while preserving my snappy writing environment.

This is why I’m bullish on things like Blinkx, Dashboard, Lookout, X1, Apple’s Spotlight and some of the more interesting features of Longhorn – apps that leverage Moore’s law not for whiz and bang, but for finding and contextualizing information that’s of interest to me, right now.

Yeah, yeah…this is all stuff some people have had for years (decades?), and if you knew what you were doing, you could have this all today. But still…never underestimate the importance (and difficulty) of migrating these apps to the average user. Rememberance agents for everyone!

August 23, 2004

stolen scream

So the story about the stolen Scream was all over the news last night, but what I had completely forgotten until reading this morning’s story in the Post is that this is the second time this piece’s been heisted – last time was in 1994 at the start of the winter Olympics in Lillehammer. You’d think they’d have figured out security by now…

Oh, and how long until The Onion does a piece on having an dot com office worker’s inflatable Scream punching bag swiped from a little-used conference room?

August 17, 2004

the point of an auction

In a cogent piece of analysis on, Gregory Rosston explains the point of the Google IPO auction process:

Press reports on the day of the IPO will focus on the offering price and the bounce that “lucky” IPO buyers get. If the bounce is close to zero, that would be bad, according to the popular press. But the press is wrong. In fact, a bounce of zero would signify a resounding success, because it would mean the shares have been priced correctly.

If there is a large immediate bounce, then Google and its investment bankers did not do their job in designing an efficient auction mechanism. The profits gained by IPO shareholders would cost existing Google shareholders dollar for dollar.

See also, via Kottke, this post from, with an explanatory chart from the Times.

August 06, 2004

feedburner / delicious

More chocolate + peanut butter: Feedburner is now splicing delicious feeds, grabbing them once per day and inserting them a la Veen. If you’re pulling my Feedburner feed, you’re now seeing my delicious links in there, along with my public Flickr photos.

August 05, 2004


A quick announcement: in another week or so I’ll be joining Six Apart as VP, Product.

I’ve been doing personal web publishing in various forms and methods for going on nine years now – while doing daytime things like managing products, going to school, consulting, building email progams and advising a few startups. Stating the Obvious and have enabled me to find a voice, float ideas, build new friendships and experiment with the tools that empower individuals and teams to share and spread ideas and information.

It’s not every day that you’re given the opportunity to turn your after work passion into your full time job. I couldn’t be more excited to join Mena, Ben, Barak, Anil, Andrew, Ezra, Paul, Mie and the rest of the crew at Six Apart.

(Yee haw!)

August 04, 2004

hammer, nail, plank.

Henri Cartier-Bresson has died, at the age of 95. From the Times’ obit, these two fantastic paragraphs…

He insisted that his works not be cropped, but otherwise disdained the technical side of photography; the Leica was all he ever wanted to use; he was not interested in developing his own pictures.

“My contact sheets may be compared to the way you drive a nail in a plank,” he said. “First you give several light taps to build up a rhythm and align the nail with the wood. Then, much more quickly, and with as few strokes as possible, you hit the nail forcefully on the head and drive it in.”

(Hammer, nail, plank. I can’t wait to see how Kenneth Baker turns such a simple philosophy into 1500 words of inscrutable Art Speak.)

August 04, 2004

aol / mailblocks

So AOL picked up Mailblocks. All the attention is focused on the Mailblocks challenge / response filtering methodology, which reportedly AOL will integrate into its existing mail services. even described Mailblocks as an “antispam software company” in its story, instead of an email inbox provider (web, POP, IMAP) with great filtering tools. But I’m more interested in what they’re going to do with Mailblocks’ web app, which while less whiz-bangy than Oddpost’s is faster and more usable…though still not on Firefox.

Terms weren’t disclosed. Any guesses? Oddpost: $30mm. Mailblocks: $____mm?