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2001 Q1

[30.Mar.01]
John Samuel, American Airlines' vice president of e-business, likes NWA's better than his own: "I'll be the first to admit I like Northwest Airline's (sic) homepage better than any other homepage out there."

Another interesting tidbit from the same article, and a sign of the times:
"A key problem with the site (www.aa.com), Samuel said, has been the BroadVision software it uses. American will be replacing the system with software from Art Technology Group. Its Dynamo software can be programmed with standard Java tools. The key factor, Samuel said, was 'how much more open the ATG architecture is. The Java programming capability has almost no restrictions.'"

Philip Kaplan doesn't mince words. Pud on the "Back the Net" campaign: "THE STUPIDEST FUCKING THING I HAVE EVER SEEN"


If you a.) have a broadband internet connection, and b.) use a laptop computer, and c.) live in something bigger than 500 square feet, then you need a wireless LAN. For less than $500 I can now wander around the house, untethered, and enjoy listening to the voicemails at psychoexgirlfriend.com without interruption. (Pssst. Don't tell the old lady next door about the new LAN. I don't want her setting up a porn server using my pipe.)

My setup:

D-Link DWL-1000AP (the access point)
D-Link DWL-500 (for the desktop)
D-Link DWL-650 (for the laptop)


[29.Mar.01]
Fresh from their failures in the wireline world, "dot-consultants" are jumping on the wireless bandwagon. But Pacific Growth Securities analyst Natalie Walrond raises a red flag: "Is (wireless) going to save the day? Probably not."

I've been avoiding reporting this news for fear of public humiliation, but in the semifinal round of The Sauced 16, Asahi Super "Dry" beat Paulaner Lager, and Labatt Blue squeaked by Gösser. Labatt Blue is the equivalent of NC State in '83 or Villanova in '85.

Jason Shellen is the DJ this week with The Return of the Guitar, which is perfect for "evening drives in the convertible (ok, moonroof open in the Jetta) or bolstering courage to ask out the new girl on the 3rd floor." Rock on.

In two weeks: James Lileks spins the tunes in a way only he can.

Let's open the mailbag:
I HAVE NOTHING BUT RESPECT FOR A GUY TO GIVE SUCH A HUGE GENERALIZATION ABOUT A PRODUCT WHOSE TIME IS YET TO (AND WILL) COME. YOU EITHER HAVE REALLY BIG BALLS OR VERY OLD AND SET IN YOU'RE WAYS, OR THIS IS SOME SORT OF PUBLICITY STUNT TO DRIVE PEOPLE TO YOU'RE SITE. I THINK ITS THE LATTER. NO WAY YOU COULD BE THAT SHORT SIGHTED. FLASH IS OBVIOUSLY NOT GREAT FOR ALL, NO PRODUCT IS. ANYWAY NICE JOB ON THE PUBLICITY STUNT FOR THE SITE. IT SEEMS TO BE WORKING! WHO NEEDS A GREAT SITE WHEN THERE'S PROPAGANDA! MAYBE TRY A SEX SITE FOR THE NEXT VENTURE?

Hmmm. Good idea.


[28.Mar.01]
Got to play with the new Kyocera Smartphone yesterday and it mostly lives up to the hype. It's about half the size of the original Qualcomm pdQ (a.k.a. "The Brick"), has a nice form factor, a big screen, a plain old HTML browser, and a built-in speakerphone, so you can do your Palm PIM activities while you jabber away in a movie theater or restaurant.

While Sprint rolls out cool new phones regularly and promises 3G speeds by the end of 2000, AT&T has offered the same two phones for forever, and may not do 3G for years. The only good thing about AT&T is the all-you-can-eat pricing, which is why I'm a customer.

Speaking of wireless, I just bought a cheapo wireless LAN for my house, which sure beats the heck out of wiring CAT-5 through plaster and lathe. Details to follow...

Back the Net, parodied.


[27.Mar.01]
Porn on the cellphone has a ways to go. I'm not even sure what the heck is happening here.

A few people have recently asked, "Hey, what does Dack look like?" Kottke once said I'm a dead ringer for Harry Potter. You be the judge. (Picture of me after learning that Adolph Levis, the inventor of the Slim Jim, had died at age 89.)

In a world where Traffic can produce four Oscars, a prolonged Hollywood strike would be a welcome development, indeed:
As for the question of what goes up on the silver screen, perhaps it will be the foreign fare, or the independent stuff that never had a chance in the Hollywood hierarchy, or best of all, perhaps the bygone movie, the type of matter that slipped on and off our radars before we had a legitimate chance to be entertained as well as examine what it meant in the first place.

<for golf fans only>

Hey NBC: No matter how much you wish it was a major championship, no matter how much you make that windbag Jimmy Roberts talk about it being a major championship, the Players Championship is NOT a major championship. And it never will be.

Best quote of the week:

Jimmy Roberts: "Does this mean as much as winning a major championship?"
Tiger Woods: "No."

</for golf fans only>


[23.Mar.01]
Damn. And I thought about quitting my job to write for their web site.

The big news in Minneapolis yesterday was the carnage at NetPerceptions, which cut 46% of its workforce (holy shit! 46%!) and saw its stock sink to $1.03. Now, I'm no mathematician, but with NETP's current market cap at around $27 million, and with about $90 million in cash, shouldn't someone just buy it, close it down, and deposit the difference?

The backlash against Iconocast's silly Back the Net campaign has begun, and not a moment too soon. It's like A Day Without Weblogs, only way worse.

At designinteract.com, Anthony Ramos discusses the Mac OS X public beta testing process, and doesn't like some of what he sees:
"Many companies imitate Apple. But we all secretly know that knockoffs don't matter much because they copy the style and miss the substance. Now, with OS X's brushed aluminum "scheme" (a fitting label if there ever was one), the Dock and general emphasis on the eye-catching over the truly useful, Apple seems to be thinking like its imitators."


[22.Mar.01]
Yet another Mr. T sighting last night on Conan.

The Sound and the Fury returns from its brief hiatus today with an excruciatingly long account of critic Mike Haney's 2001 SXSW experience.


[21.Mar.01]
Confessions of a Flash Addict:
"I'm not exactly sure when I first became addicted to the abuses and misuses of Flash as it was a subtle seduction. It started out with nothing more than a bloated demo here, an oblique navigational system there, but the next thing you know, I was building entire sites with the damn stuff whether it suited the job or not."

I'm no economist, but let me get this straight: In order to avoid a deeper recession, the Fed lowers interest rates with the hope of increasing consumer spending. But Americans are already spending much more than they make, and have a fat credit card bill to prove it. Seems like there's a lot more pain in our future...

This Bush guy ain't half bad: Ringing Cell Phones in Oval Office Push Bush Buttons

Man, I'm really surprised to see NetMorph go tits up. I remember sitting in a meeting with them, being impressed by their technology and their client list, and listening to the head sales guy say they had no competitors. Now it's just a dirt party.


[20.Mar.01]
Gretchen Morgenson, I think I love you:
"Of all the hot air generated during the great bull market of the late 1990's, none propelled stock prices further than the notion that new economy stocks were a breed apart and should not be held to stringent, old economy investing standards."

Related link #1: The dack.com Investment Strategy.
Related link #2: 60 Minutes piece sends Tivo up 26%, even though the company is on pace to run out of cash by the end of the year. Sickening quote from little girl at end of 60 Minutes story, describing life before Tivo: "I used to play a lot more outside."

CNET: Is broadband Net access recession-proof?
dack.com: Yes.
I'd subsist on beans and rice (um, and beer, too) before giving up my DSL.

There's something rotten in Austin. Back from SXSW, Ironminds' crew tries new über-annoying Superstitials, which make CNET's giant Flash ads seem unobtrusive by comparison. Ahhh ... the future of content on the Web.


[16.Mar.01]
What in the hell is Chloë Sevigny doing on the "Hollywood Legends" cover of Vanity Fair? One of these things is not like the other, one of these things does not belong...

Fascinating article about Eric Greenberg, the guy behind both Viant and Scient. Some highlights:
» Forrester research analyst Paul Sonderegger on Scient telling clients they could get 'Amazoned': "It was the perfect selling environment. They created an atmosphere of fear, and oversold their capabilities in alarming ways. A lot of stuff was snake oil, and the clients didn't know it. That makes their actions more vile."

» Credit Suisse First Boston analyst David Sturtz on Scient's plan to move into "back-end" projects like automated supply chains: "Scient is dead. Why would any worthy client hire Scient to integrate its supply chain, given that its only experience is building front-ends for dotcoms?"

» Don't miss this: Fortunes made at Scient from stock sales before its shares crashed.

(Note: I'm not just kicking Scient while they're down. Really. Any company that insults our intelligence deserves to be abused.)

Forget the NCAA Tournament. All the hot hardwood action is happening in the Sauced 16. In what has to be considered a Cinderella story, Labatt Blue has made it to the Final Four. But does it stand a chance against Gösser?


[15.Mar.01]
If it's Thursday, it's all about the music.

Chill Out music critic Freddie B. hasn't been heard from in a while, but he's back with a 5-star stamp of approval for The Big Chill's Enchanted Garden. Quotable:
"Take note, Café del Mar. This is a highly original and eclectic collection that pushes the envelope of the Chill Out compilation in a new direction — and that's precisely what this genre needs."

I'm back in the DJ booth this week with The Big Chill, a groovy show that borrows from the Enchanted Garden double CD. Enjoy. It's a dandy.

In one week: This site's angry young music critic — Mike Haney — returns with a review of the music segment of this year's SXSW conference.

In two weeks: Jason Shellen takes control of the turntable.

In the future: James Lileks - Regrettable Music Mix
                    Jeffrey Zeldman - Web Standards Mix
                    Jakob Nielsen - Usability Mix

(Just kidding about that last one.)


[14.Mar.01]
Amazon's Honor System "slowly takes hold." (Note to Greg Lindsay: Sullivan has collected $3750, not $5000.)

It's worth subscribing to Forbes just for the quarterly FYI. P.J. O'Rourke provides a handy and snarky celebrity guide for those who think the last important LP was Rubber Soul, the last TV show worth watching was Hawaii Five-O, and the last good movie was Apocalypse Now. On Will Smith:
"Smith is talented and has a sense of humor, and you would, in fact, even like his music. Do not let this get out or it will ruin his career."

ITA Software's Trip Planner rocks. Miles better than Travelocity or Expedia.

In a world with amikottkeornot, there really ought to be an aretheyrealornot. (Damn. Already registered.)


[13.Mar.01]
At the UW, I never fancied Kappas (and they likely never fancied me) but a reevaluation is clearly in order.

I've been on the lookout for a good you-used-to-design-this-layout-with-tables, here's-how-you-do-it-with-CSS site, and Eric Costello's CSS Layout Tests is a good one. Several other examples popped up in a March 12th Metafilter thread.

Macromedia is conducting a Flash usability contest. Deadline is March 30th.

Speaking of Flash, here's part of Bono's latest email to U2.com members (thanks to Andrew Baron):
Today U2.COM is live with a new HTML version which offers fans far quicker loading times and a significantly more convenient use of the site.

We are aware that for many users access has sometimes been slow and movement between pages a little laborious.

Now if you connect to the net at speeds of 28k/56k you will find that our new version, which doesn't use FLASH, dramatically improves your experience of U2.COM. The only visual difference is that the Timeline is designed in a different way.


[12.Mar.01]
Man, I wish NBC would broadcast a New York Knicks game. Just once.

Kevin Smith's mom knows film. In the new book My First Movie the director recalls what happened after Mrs. Smith watched Clerks: "My mother watched the movie, and when she was done she said, 'You spent $27,000 on that piece of garbage?'"

What's wrong with this picture? In a few short weeks Andrew Sullivan's weblog has collected almost $3500 in microdonations. By contrast, Metafilter -- a community site where people feel like stakeholders, and presumably have a greater motivation for giving -- has been stuck at about $750 for weeks. Are the musings of a Catholic gay conservative really that popular? Or are Metafilter readers just cheap bastards?

Loooong New York Times piece about the problems at Yahoo! The market for banner ads is crumbling, and CPMs appear to be veering towards the $2-per-thousand-impression rate that exists for billboards.


[2.Mar.01]
It's that time of year again. Time for the annual Alabama pilgrimage. It's a lot like Mecca, except there's more grits, mobile homes, and golf. See you on March 12th.


[1.Mar.01]
Ironminds' founder and editor Andy Wang is the DJ for the latest broadcast of The Show. Let the Mood Swings begin. (Note: It's busy on Thursdays.)

Asahi Super "Dry" and Paulaner Lager have made it through to the Final Four.

Microdonations aren't just for the little guy. Desperate for cash, Amazon is playing with them for MP3 downloads. (I wish they'd show the pittance that's in the "Virtual Tip Jar.")


[28.Feb.01]
Drains clogged? That's WAP's fault. Having a bad hair day? WAP is to blame. Your girlfriend dumped you and threw all your shit out on the lawn? Fuckin' WAP.

Business 2.0 is the latest to bash WAP with WAP Torture, an unrealistic, stacked-deck of an m-commerce test that involved buying a book using a Motorola WAP phone and Yahoo! Shopping. I often think of opening a Yahoo! Shopping account to order a book online, don't you? Anyhow, it took columnist Kim Cross 68 minutes to buy a book by Milan Kundera called "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting."

Let's just say you're like everyone else with a web-enabled phone and already have an account with a bookseller like Barnes & Noble, or Amazon. How long does it take then? One tester on a non-Motorola phone (more results later):

Barnes & Noble: 5:25 Entered the wrong email address to access account.

Amazon: 3:00 With one-click ordering. Spelled the author's name wrong twice.

Torture? Hardly.


[27.Feb.01]
Yesterday at the National Press Club Jesse Ventura blamed the media for the XFL's poor ratings. The XFL's poor ratings have a lot more to do with the inept color commentator.

He's laughing at you, Jesse, not with you.

Submit your questions about the Browser Upgrade Campaign to Macslash. Jeffrey Zeldman will answer some of them.

An excellent collection of isometric site design and bitmappy fonts, courtesy of ala web design.

The final results from last week's poll:

Which One?
You're at a bar. Two swingin' singles walk in. Which do you choose?


Nicole Kidman: 41.75%

Jennifer Lopez: 35.88%

neither: 22.36%

Total Votes: 1346



[26.Feb.01]
Elvis Mitchell is the official dack.com movie critic. "'3,000 Miles to Graceland' is as arid and flat as the Nevada badlands." full review

David Brooks worries there will be a technological breakthrough that makes cell phone use possible during airplane flights, so we'll all be able to hear "every last quotidian, picayune detail." Please, no.

Note #1: David Brooks' social commentary Bobos in Paradise is available in paperback.

Note #2: Brooks' article is illustrated by Nana Rausch, the designer behind the brilliant Sushi Bar and Soap-Machine (both Shockwave).

Note #3: Rausch offers a behind-the-scenes look at her life with fellow designer Peter Stemmler. She's naked a lot, apparently. Weliveinpublic.com, eat your heart out.


[23.Feb.01]
A guidance counselor once told me I was hanging out with the wrong crowd. Cell Phone Theater made the most recent issue of Gear, along with Naked News, Bush on Crack, and the Large Penis Support Group. Did you know that 1.5% of home accidents are caused by large penis-related incidents? Now you do.

Love him or hate him, Jakob Nielsen said advertising doesn't work on the Web 3½ years ago. From the Feb. 20 issue of Business 2.0: "Of the dot-com dreams left unfulfilled, the idea that ad revenue would support an ebusiness has been the biggest bust of them all."

From the mobile version of the suck list: "wap bashing sucks - this site is minty fresh!" Thanks, mom.


[22.Feb.01]
Napster as we know it will be gone soon, but that's OK with Mike Haney, who feels liberated by its imminent demise. From The Day the Music Was Reborn:
"I hate to go all "High Fidelity" here, but I miss my late-night trips to the used CD store, flipping through stacks of countless failed sophomore albums until I found that one gem, that one album I had always meant to buy, or had but lost, or never even knew existed ... and there it is for $6."
In the latest round of The Sauced 16, the Polish brew Zywiec upset reader favorite Pilsner Urquell, and Gösser trounced Pilsner of El Salvador. Pilsner of El Salvador's first round loss was more of a mercy killing than a battle against the mighty Gösser. El Salvador should stick to earthquakes and abject poverty.

IMDB users rate Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the 8th best movie of all time. Am I the only one who thinks it's just OK?

Got 2 cents in on a Zcast article about Flash for Pocket PC, but I can't link to it because, um, the site is done in Flash.


[21.Feb.01]
My name is Dack, and I'm a Blind Date-aholic.

Yesterday Webvan closed up shop in Dallas, a preview of what's coming to the other 9 cities it serves. If it does go down, the New York Times says "...it will be far and away the biggest financial disaster the Internet has yet seen." What's really amazing is that $1.2 billion "was invested with almost no research into whether consumers would want its service."

Jeffrey Zeldman's standards push is a noble and useful cause, but as I've been playing with a handful of Perl scripts to do the Nicole Kidman -- Jennifer Lopez poll, I've realized how damn nigh impossible it's going to be to rid the Web of FONT and TABLE tags.


[20.Feb.01]
Separated at birth? The Apple iMac and the AMC Pacer?

Separated at birth? Jennifer Lopez and Julianne Moore?

REVOLUTION has a date with the guillotine. "Let that shitty music magazine eat cake!," I say.


[19.Feb.01]
More subversiveness from The Idler: The Idle Skiveplanner. They suggest Tuesday is the best day to call in sick:
"While some of you may contend that Tuesday is too premature for a sicky, surely it is actually a real show of power. Employers expect Friday to be lost to fatigue and boozy lunches, but Tuesday is sacrosanct. Take it back and it will show you are not to be trifled with."
Idler editor Tom Hodgkinson has promised to DJ an upcoming version of The Show. If you like to loaf (and who doesn't?), this is a show you won't want to miss.


[15.Feb.01]
Jakob would be better off with banner ads.
Jakob Nielsen ran a three-day experiment with Amazon's microdonation scheme, and calculated a CPM of $11 for his Alertbox column. While that's more than the going rate for buckshot banner ads, consider: (i.). After an initial surge, the rate of microdonations would decline (just like it has for MetaFilter) and probably slow to a trickle. (ii.) Given the demographics and targeted audience of the Alertbox column, Nielsen could command a CPM greater than $11.

How oldschool are you? If you play your 78s with steel needles, not very. Nothing creates a warm, natural sound like a carefully selected straight-grown cactus needle.

From Sputniq, the Mother of Oldschool, comes the latest installment of The Show: Oldschool Covers. Pulled off vinyl with only the finest cactus needle. Have a listen.

Two more beers vanquished from the Sauced 16. In a major upset, Labatt Blue beat Beck's. (Note: I think the judges were drunk.)


[14.Feb.01]
Ironminds is giving off bad vibes. They're off the rest of the week due to fatigue and the "February doldrums." In the past month or so the number of articles has dropped significantly, and the weblog, once a collection of links and smart commentary, is now mostly just links. Is the end near? Please say it ain't so.

Surely there must be a way for content like Ironminds' to survive on the Web. Captain Cursor says micropayments are stupid, but microdonations apparently don't buy more than a case of cheap beer. Hmmm. May I suggest giant Flash ads?

Speaking of Ironminds, James Morrow tells it like it is about Olive Garden. The stereotypical Italians in those ridiculous TV ads wouldn't feed Olive Garden food to their dogs.
I would love to say that after that dinner, I realized that I was just being a snob, that the food really isn't as bad as people like to joke, and that it's great that all these people love going to the Olive Garden for a little watered-down culture. But I can't. The Olive Garden just sucks far, far too much.

[13.Feb.01]
That Chicago Enforcers — LA Xtreme overtime tilt on Saturday night was a real barn burner, but SNL's Lorne Michaels is pissed his show (starring the hot, hot, hot J. Lo) was pushed back 'til 12:15 AM in the East. An insider describes the studio vibe:
"The feeling around here is that no one minds when one of your hottest shows of the year goes 45 minutes late for the all important second game of the XFL. We're used to getting bumped by the sixth game of the World Series."

Heather Champ (of Harrumph!) is one of the judges for this year's 5K contest. Last week this column ripped Harrumph!, claiming the only way Heather's site could be rated popular by Yahoo! was by a defective algorithm. I was just kidding, of course. Harrumph! is one of my favorite sites on the Web. I'm also a big fan of Jason Fried's Signal vs. Noise, Matt Haughey's MetaFilter, and all those guys at k10k.

All right. Who is the smartass reader of this site in charge of the Yahoo! weblog listing? "play with me at your own risk. Don't expect an ongoing anger-management program." Very funny. Bastard.


[12.Feb.01]
In the spirit of Valentine's Day, Andrew Sullivan rants against romance:
But ever wonder why divorce rates are so high? The real culprit isn't some kind of moral collapse. It's excessive expectations, driven and fueled by the civic religion of romance. For a lucky few, infatuation sometimes does lead to lasting love, and love to family, and family to all the other virtues our preachers and politicians regularly celebrate. For the other 99 percent of us, relationships are, at best, useful economic bargains and, if we're lucky, successful sexual transactions ...

(Note #1: In the aforementioned article, Andrew Sullivan admits to just breaking up with someone, but he's still right about that "99% of us" thing.)

(Note #2: For frequent name dropping and daily rants against the Left, check out Andrew Sullivan's weblog. The unsuspecting sap was sold a Shockwave version of his text-only site, courtesy of Fantascope. Why? Because it "will look so much cooler.")


A
dot-com graveyard, complete with tombstones.

Flash at its best: army man calisthenics.


[9.Feb.01]
Pyra's demise is old news, but here's a contrarian eulogy from Edward Champion, who compares Pyra boss Evan Williams to French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps.

Musicmatch.com knows all about that weird chicks-in-headphones fetish. (Note: I asked Frank, the man behind headph0ne phet1sh, "what's the deal with the headphone fetish?" and he's written a whole article about it.)

There is a special place in hell for spammers. Even funny spammers.
SUBJECT: Oportunity
MESSAGE: UNIVERSITY DIPLOMA
Obtain a prosperous future, money earning power, and the admiration of all.

Diplomas from prestigious non-accredited universities based on your present knowledgeand life experience.

No required tests, classes, books, or interviews.

Bachelors, masters, MBA, and doctorate (PhD)diplomas available in the field of your choice.No one is turned down.

Confidentiality assured.CALL NOW to receive your diploma within days!!!

713-866-5555

Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including Sundays and holidays.


[8.Feb.01]
Holy stark contrast, Batman! Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl running back Robert Smith turns down tens of millions of dollars and retires to go back to college, while XFL players leave jobs as undertakers, shoe-shiners, and insurance salesmen for $45,000 salaries and $2,500/game winning bonuses.

I was once faithfully committed to Quick Time for web video, but my cheatin' heart has been won over by Windows Media. The Windows Media Video V7 codec really rocks.


J Lo - Your boy is goin' down!
(Gratuitous J Lo "that dress" photograph)
   Read Mike Haney's latest: Two Sides of the Same Coin

"One dates a bad boy, one thinks he is a bad boy, but Eminem and Jennifer Lopez are just two heads of the candy-ass beast that is pop music."



[7.Feb.01]
I've been wondering why people always email me for help with anger management. My regular response is: "You're asking the wrong guy. You know where I can get some help, too, asshole?" I finally asked the last guy how he found me. Turns out that a search on Yahoo! for "anger management" turns up dack.com, all because one day I had "part of an ongoing anger-management program" in the TITLE tag. Lessson: have fun with your TITLE tag at your own risk.

Didn't know this, but Yahoo! has a weblog category. Their double top-secret algorithm for determining the most popular sites is most certainly busted. I mean, how the hell could Harrumph! ever make the list?

Half of the Elite Eight has been determined in The Sauced 16. Japanese beers are kicking ass.

The Sauced 16 has raised the hackles of both Canadian and Australian readers:

FROM: Curtis Batt
MESSAGE: You chose Labatt's Blue to represent Canada?! ARGH. Not all of our beers are horse piss, so if you ever get around to a second edition, please choose something better. I suggest: Rickard's Red, Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale, Moosehead or for Christ sakes, at least Molson Canadian! (not that crappy "made for 'mericans" Molson stuff) Anything but Blue. (And never drink Budweiser from a Canuck brewery... the clydesdales serve double duty up here.)

FROM: Dan McMullan
MESSAGE: Where are the Australian beers in the The Sauced 16 competition? This competition seems to be filled with your nation's mortal enemies from World War II (namely the Japanese and Germans in case you have forgotten), and seems to purposefully shun the Aussies, your allies in each and every conflict your nation whimsically seem to engage in. Yes, even the Vietnam War and the limited military outing in the Persian Gulf. We seem to fight for no good reason other than to win the half-arsed approval and military backing of the US when finally some Asian country invades us. Our only other national pursuit is beer making, drinking and other beer-related activities.

(ps: No one drinks Foster's in Australia.)

[6.Feb.01]
The good thing about lying in bed for four days is that one can catch up on a list of movies out on video. The bad thing is that it hurts even to read subtitles. (God help me, I almost rented a dubbed version of Das Boot.) Anyhow, a highlight of the Sick-as-a-Dog Film Festival was Beyond the Mat, a documentary about the lives of professional wrestlers. A washed up Jake "The Snake" Roberts complains that his wild sex life on the road made it hard to get excited about sex with his wife:
You get some kind of fame. All of a sudden you can have it every day. And then all of a sudden you want to get selective. One a day is not enough. Then you want two a day. Then three a day. Then two at a time. Then two at a time with toys. Then two at a time and I'll just watch. It just gets more bizarre and more bizarre.

I thought Mahir's 15 minutes were up, but he's now branching out into music. "I Kiss You" (with an extended mix) has been available for a while, apparently, and he's got a new single due out February 13th.

Dogmatic pinhead pseudo-intellectuals of the world, unite!


[1.Feb.01]
Greg Knauss doesn't know much about web-enabled cell phones, but that didn't stop him from writing an article for Monday's Suck in which he says: "... the only way to type on a numeric keypad is to repeatedly press a number, cycling through its associated letters." Wrong. Most phones come with Tegic's T9 text input that "knows" what you're trying to type. For instance, "wrong" is not 9777666[pause]664, but simply 97664 ... and can be hammered out in a couple of seconds by an experienced user.

(I often use my Mitsubishi T-250 to compose emails, and while I would much rather type on a full keyboard, of course, the numeric keypad with T9 is quite doable for short messages.)

Suck is (very) late to the trendy WAP-bashing game, so they've made up for their tardiness by painting an especially negative and inaccurate picture of the "wireless Internet." As someone who actually owns a web-enabled cell phone, I can honestly say that I'm quite happy with the Mitsubishi device, the quality of service from AT&T, and the cost. I use it for email, stock quotes, sports scores, betting lines, and to read news from ZDNet, Yahoo, ESPN, and even The Onion. And it works well for phone calls, too.


The Sound and the Fury is taking the week off, but Mike Haney has compiled a new addition to The Show: Sex and Violence: An XFL Tribute.


[31.Jan.01]
A new issue of the Wichita State University's excellent "Usability News" is out:

» Online Shopping: TV's, Toasters, and Toys! Oh My! (Holy cow! That's a lousy title!)

The home-brewed-looking AbtElectronics.com "was found to be significantly more satisfying than both hifi.com and bestbuy.com," and users rated it easier than the others to traverse partly because it uses hierarchical DHTML menus, a la microsoft.com.

» Developing Schemas for the Location of Common Web Objects

It seems like users — both novice and experienced — have been conditioned to expect things to be in certain places on a web site. Turns out, the web site we expect is designed an awful lot like CNET circa 1996.

Speaking of CNET circa 1996, here's one of several spins on those giant ads:
[snip]
In an attempt to be trendsetters ourselves, CNET has opted to change its formula for presenting advertising. Most of the standards for Internet advertising haven't changed since 1996. We felt it was time they did.

The first thing you'll probably notice is that the ad is bigger and it takes up more space on the page. Is this a sign that CNET is selling out and doesn't care about content? Actually, it's a sign that CNET wants to more clearly delineate the difference between content and advertising.

Instead of a banner and a host of small ads clogging the page, now there's just one big ad. It makes more of a branding impact for the company which is advertising on our site, and it is also easier to distinguish from content.

Of course, we'd love to hear what you think.

Laura Lindhe
Executive Editor
CNET Tech Trends
techtrends@cnet.com


[30.Jan.01]
Sweet! I'm a "dogmatic pinhead pseudo-intellectual." That's good, right?

Even NPR isn't a safe haven from the XFL hype. On yesterday's Talk of the Nation, legendary sportswriter Frank Deford talked XFL, and predicted failure.

Forget the Sweet 16, baby. This year it's The Sauced 16. 16 tasty lagers. Five thirsty judges. In a tight first-round matchup, Japan's Kirin Lager edged Norway's Aass Genuine Pilsner, 3-2. Somebody call the UN! We might have an international incident on our hands.

Last week's Ironminds weblog suggested Jenna Bush was foxy. Ummm ... no.

(Note: James Lileks on the folly of The Sauced 16: "I did a taste test years ago for a Pioneer Press piece. Served up a series of beers. The winner was a glass of all the beers poured into one glass, with half a can of Harley-Davidson beer. I didn't tell them that, of course — I think I called it Belgian Melange, or something. It was bitter & confused & undrinkable piss-sauce, and the panel thought this was a sign of rarified quality.")


[26.Jan.01]
Observations on the news.com redesign, and why I don't go there anymore.
» Visited and non-visited link colors remain undefined, so most users will get the default bright blue for non-visited and purple for visited. Same as it ever was.

» Even though the page is formatted with CSS, they've eschewed the hover pseudoclass that's all the rage with the kids these days.

» They've increased article readability by setting the site's width to 750 pixels, ditching the "liquid" design that had its day when Project Cool's Glenn Davis had his bully pulpit on the back page of Internet World.

» They've simplified and cleaned up the UI by going from three to two columns. A tour around the Web won't turn up many two-column news sites.
So, why don't I go there anymore?
The giant fucking Flash ads, of course. 360x300-pixel scabs planted right in the middle of every article. And they move. Some of them move constantly, like this one, which makes it impossible to focus on the content. And the bastards removed the menu so users can't right-click to uncheck "Play." Grrrrr.

Is this the sorry state of advertising on the Web? Where content must now be unreadable to be monetized?* Jakob, hurry up with that new-fangled micropayments thing already!

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal told the sad tale of internet grocer Webvan, the company that's up against "good old fashioned human behavior" in the words of Webvan's own CEO, George Shaheen. Anyhow, they're betting their survival on big orders from busy families, a strategy that ain't gonna fly, according to reader Brian Carter:
"Family shopping, where you might be able to make money, is done by women with kids who are looking for any hint of a reason to get the hell out of the house. Strap the little tykes into a grocery cart, rip open a bag of Doritos for them and have at it for an hour. It beats trying to navigate a Web site looking for Cheez Wiz while little Teddy is tonguing the light socket."

* straight from the BSG


[25.Jan.01]
I'm sure the upcoming SXSW Interactive Festival will have some worthwhile presentations. I'm sure some of those presentations will be given by some very smart people. But my perception of SXSW as The Avis of Web Conferences was reinforced when I learned that one of the presenters has no experience doing what he/she will be showing others how to do.*

This was supposed to be easy. Rip the music that was played at W.'s inauguration parties, and then make a quasi-academic argument about how the incoming president's inauguration entertainment choices are an insightful glimpse into how he will run his administration. But it didn't work out that way. Read Mike Haney's latest, The Column That Wasn't.

* Name concealed to prevent public humiliation. That would be mean.


[24.Jan.01]
I'm not about to compete with the king of mullet hunting, but here's an old school mullet, via Antiques Roadshow.

Speaking of mullets ... I'm completely fascinated by the XFL, and I think Vince McMahon has created a tasty recipe for success. Combine the testosterone-soaked trash-talking and hot-dogging of the NFL with the testosterone-soaked trash-talking and hot-dogging of the WWF. Mix in a bunch of strippers, call them cheerleaders, and encourage player-cheerleader dating. Add a dash of "reality TV" by miking up helmets. Purée players with rule adjustments like "no fair catch." Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. You've got yourself one hell of a soufflé.

Some other XFL notes that may be of interest only to me:

» XFL head coaches are legitimate football men. For instance, Chicago Enforcers' coach Ron Meyer was the head coach of the New England Patriots from 1982-84, and the Indianapolis Colts from 1986-91.

» Not all XFL players look like this. One XFL roster includes Rashaan Salaam (owner of a Heisman Trophy) and Alvin Harper (owner of two Super Bowl rings).

» The XFL is pissing off NFL owners and GMs because it has severely reduced the supply of players available to the NFL.

» Check out a few of the XFL's TV ads. "Daddy wants some popcorn." Yes, I do.

» XFL Phase II: Cameras in the cheerleaders' locker rooms.

» The logo for the Orlando Rage has a mullet:

Orlando Mullets


[23.Jan.01]
The source of Scient's wisdom — revealed! From Scient's list of 13 things to know for success in the next economy:
"10. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in groups. You'll have to confront lots of people, including customers, who resist change."

From the despair.com Idiotic Insights™ collection Idiocy poster:
"Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups."


Last week's criticism of the award-winning Viaduct site hatched a few emails, one from the designer of the Viaduct site:
Reading articles about your own work is often interesting, criticism is most helpful and can aid future designs and updates to the site. What seems to be forgotten however is that all of the issues presented are neither sudden mistakes nor lapses in design and usability judgement, and are in fact thrashed out with the enormous scrutiny to create what is believed to be the best user experience.

"Endless Loops, so you can't tell where they start or end."
One of the most challenging things for me is containing content (in this case the products) across endless pages without a simple method to browse the information with ease. The reason for looping the products is simple, to enable the user to place the mouse over the roll buttons and create an interactive show reel of the furniture. Aimed primarily at interior designers, these people know the furniture and its designers and recognise the products simply by shape and form which in this case aids the speed of viewing and download time to the section. The reason for all this is called 'Target Audience'.

"cutesy color-dip"
The is the easiest to answer, yes we would love to create a whole range of animated wave motions with a real sense of random beauty that doubles the file size and makes people wait incredible amounts of time..........whoops.

"the Web is just like an animated print layout"
I would agree in many cases this is true. However this is a term I would liken more to sites that use full screen jpgs and are simply click throughs of something that could have been created much more effectively in HTML. The key to Flash sites is simplicity and seamless fluidity, I see too many sites that use the functionality of Flash simply because it is there and end up shouting about what Flash as a technical tool can do rather than focusing on the brand and user market.

Alex Griffin
Deepend London


[19.Jan.01]
Cancel my subscription, already!

I cancelled FastCompany almost a year ago and they just keep on coming. Rather than immediately file the February issue in the trash like so many have been filed before, I thought I'd check out the cover story "Act II for the New Economy." Could FastCompany have turned over a new leaf?

Nope. The first article in the New Economy section is Scient's Near Death Experience, in spite of its title, a full-on blowjob of an article that must've required the author to strap on kneepads. It's seven pages of Scient PR, pitching their "next economy" snake oil to anyone foolish enough to listen. But you don't need to hire them. They've shared their secrets in a sidebar on page 106: "How to Win in the Next Economy," a list of worthless tripe such as:
1. When the penguins start jumping, it's probably too late. If you wait for everyone to agree, any idea will be old news. Ignore group-think.

4. Growth and profits matter. A good business is a good business. A bad business sucks.

7. Don't get out of the Trojan horse until you're inside the gates. In other words, don't announce to big, established players that you intend to redefine their business -- and thus invite them to crush you before you do.

9. Companies will be part of interdependent "econets." The defining organization will be a porous network of partnerships.

13. Legendary businesses require courage. The people who win will be those who say, "We have whatever it takes."

Whew. I feel better now. It sure beats taking an anger management course. Now I'm off to re-read G. Beato's wonderful article "IT TAKES COURAGE TO BUILD LEGENDARY BUSINESSES..., How Scient helped Verde.com go from launch to bankruptcy in less than 60 days."

(Note: Christopher Lochhead, Scient's Chief Marketing Officer and man chiefly responsible for ScientSpeak ("The new economy is dead! Long live the next economy!" — "We're on fire!" — "It takes courage to build legendary businesses.") has left "to pursue outside interests." In the next economy.


[18.Jan.01]

Britney Spears shows some nip
(Gratuitous Britney Spears "nipple slip" photograph)
   MTV is positioning Britney Spears to be the next Madonna. Read The Passing of the Push Up Bra, by Mike Haney. A sample:

"MTV needed someone who could do what Madonna never did: bring sex not just into your home, but into your junior high. And then, from the swamps of Louisiana, came Britney. Cute as a homecoming queen, well choreographed and armed with an intact hymen and a bevy of catchy tunes, Britney was the obvious choice. But the plan is inherently flawed, and it will backfire."



New radio show: In Sweet Harmony. DJ David Wertheimer of netwert.com has compiled some of the best pure pop-rock gems of the past few years. Enjoy. (Note: Sorry if you can't listen today. It's a little busy on Thursdays.)


[17.Jan.01]
Former SPY Magazine writer Mark Ebner now has his own nationally syndicated radio show, and emailed me looking for "a cultured voice from the midwest to check in with now and again." You've got the wrong guy, pal. Try somebody else. Now beat it. Monster trucks! This Saturday at the Metrodome! Woo hoo!

Related Note 1: In 1996 Mark Ebner infiltrated The Church of Scientology (or is it a cult?) and then told a story about it for SPY.

Related Note 2: James Lileks is interviewed in Neale Talbot's latest endevour: The Fantastical.

Yesterday's link to Viaduct inspired sharp criticism from one of the judges for Communication Arts' 2001 Interactive Design Annual.
CA has asked me to jury the 2001 Interactive Annual. By pointing me to the work of Deepend, one of their 'favorite' studios, you have singlehandedly caused me to dread the entire process. Even their best site, Viaduct, is riddled with beginning user interface mistakes.

Trying to browse our client's products? Let's put them in an endless loop so you can't tell where they start or end. Then, we'll _fade them in and out_ while you move them, to make it even harder to tell where you are. Finally, let's make the scroll controls active on rollover, so that basic navigation becomes a constant game of acquire-the-target.

Even the Flash gravy is half-assed. That cutesy color-dip that highlights a section when you roll over it? Roll away, and it just runs in reverse, ruining the illusion of weight and motivation. Listen closely, kids: you animate the _entire_ _motion_, from off to on and back again, all with appropriate ease-ins and ease-outs. Then, you cut the animation into two halves.

I'm becoming thoroughly convinced that the only reason Flash is so wildly popular is this: It comforts graphic designers with the familiar. It lets them pretend that the Web is just like an animated print layout. Hint: it's not. Grrr.

And now, thanks to FlashMania™, it seems that Director, a truly useful and powerful interface design tool, is being neglected. Have you heard Macromedia's announcement about porting Director to Mac OS X? Neither have I.

[16.Jan.01]
HOW (the design magazine) has proclaimed Deepend the world's #1 interactive agency. Heady praise. Is it deserved? Some of their web work:

Design Museum
A Flazoom reader posted, "Click on 'Launch Gallery' and you get a window explosion. I thought it was the 4th of July. Why do designers think it's OK to do that to their site's users?"

Rapido
Dirty. Listen to Victoria say "I want to make love to you" and other arousing phrases, in four different languages.

(Note: Got an email from a chap at Rapido, and they sent their Deepend-designed site to the glue factory some time ago. The current site was designed in-house.)

Viaduct
Featured in CA's 2000 Interactive Design Annual. Also, the inspiration for the groovy t-shirt design.


[15.Jan.01]
Amazon's new "Listmania" feature is the work of the devil. I wasted most of the weekend reviewing list, after list, after list ... nearly bankrupting myself in the process. What a great idea. I mean, who doesn't like lists?

Author Harold Evans wondered if there is any correlation between being a well-read president and a successful president. Turns out that bibliophiles (e.g. Jefferson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, Nixon, Clinton) have a higher average ranking (from the Siena Research Institute & C-Span) than non-readers (e.g. Harding, Coolidge, Grant, LBJ, Reagan, Bush). I just don't see W. as a reader ... as in actually being able to read.

From Confessions of a Lonely Atheist: Emory University primatologist Frans de Waal has observed chimpanzees exhibit "... examples of sympathy, empathy, reciprocity, and a willingness to follow social rules." Evidence for those who don't believe you need God to be good.


[12.Jan.01]
In his latest editorial, Flazoom's Chris MacGregor asks his fellow Flashers (again) to act responsibly when wielding a tool as powerful as Flash. He also claims that Jakob Nielsen's Flash: 99% Bad "pulled the plug on the Internet's best design renaissance." Intrigued by the power wielded by Mr. Nielsen, I asked Chris to elaborate on the chilling effect of the Alertbox column:
"Jakob's essay has lead to a slowdown on new Flash projects. Some companies have called for an internal moratorium on Flash development, while others are pulling their Flash content. Flash developers are now finding that they have to sell the benefits of Flash to their clients all over again."


[11.Jan.01]
Mike Haney, an angry young music writer and regular contributor to this site, is at it again with "And The Winner Is ...", a plucky critique of Dick Clark and his American Music Awards. "God-willing, maybe Dick Clark will retire from the music business in the next year or at least suffer a stroke that renders him incapable of producing the 29th Annual AMAs."

Cool "Chill Out" music site: thedownbeat.org.

My beer-guzzling buddies and I are bitter about someone else copying Thomas Forget's "80 Ounces to Freedom" exercise. We wanted to be the first copycats.

Malt liquor newbies will benefit from The Beginner's Guide to Malt Liquor. Beware the potency of St. Ides: "Strictly for professionals. Never drink alone. Psilocybic. Liquid antimatter. Never mind about operating heavy machinery, you'll have trouble lighting a cigarette. Good thing, too, cause St. Ides is flammable."


[10.Jan.01]
A tip o' the cap to the Industry Standard for adding their own layoffs to their Layoff Tracker.

DJ Rap, aware of the strange popularity of women in headphones, put a busty blond with headphones on the cover of "Learning Curve." British label Fantazia has taken it a step further, putting TWO women with headphones on the cover of "Aural Pleasure," in an about-to-kiss pose. Coming soon to an album cover near you: sex scenes with women in headphones.

(Note: I'm told the woman on the cover of "Learning Curve" is DJ Rap. Oops.)

This is too perfect. The logo for the XFL's Orlando Rage has a mullet.

Orlando Mullets


[9.Jan.01]
Back in September WebWord picked Ted Baker Online as the winner of the Flash Usability Contest. In terms of usability, Ted Baker Online can't hold a candle to Divine Interventions, "the home of the Baby Jesus Butt Plug and more." The makers of the butt plug, along with "Jackhammer Jesus" and "Buddha's Delight" have figured out how to enable the "back" button, bookmarking, and printing from the browser. Way to go.


[8.Jan.01]
Better late than never. Ironminds has launched a weblog.

<the last post about Domo-kun, I promise>
I had no idea Domo-kun and his faithful sidekick Usa-ji (old bunny) were such big stars. They have their own webcam, and a fan tribute site. Some of my favorites from the latter:

#1 Giant Domo-kun and Usa-ji ice sculpture.
#13 Domo-kun the gymnast.
#18 Domo-kun frolicking in a field of flowers.
(Note: I'd link right to them, but the image gallery is done in Flash.)
</the last post about Domo-kun, I promise>

The Conversation — one of the all-time best sleepers — is now available on DVD. Director Francis Ford Coppola calls it his best movie. You may have heard of some of Coppola's other films: The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II, Apocalypse Now ... Jack.

Gene Siskel (the dead one) picked "Jack" as one of the worst movies of 1996. Roger Ebert (the fat one) and The New Guy have picked their worst of 2000 (below). I hear Travolta is threatening to do a sequel to "Battlefield Earth."

Gone in Sixty Seconds (Cage, Jolie)
What Lies Beneath (Ford, Pfeiffer)
Isn't She Great (Midler, Nathan Lane)
The Next Best Thing (Madonna)
M:I-2 (Cruise)
Scream 3 (Neve Campbell, David Arquette)
Battlefield Earth (Travolta)
How the Grinch Stole X-Mas (Carrey)
Road Trip (nobody)
Ready to Rumble (David Arquette, again!)
Beautiful (Minnie Driver)
Little Nicky (Adam Sandler)
What Planet Are You From? (Shandling)


[5.Jan.01]
Is the Flash player a security risk?

SPY Magazine (oh, how I miss ye) predicted this almost three years ago. For a magazine whose premise was combining celebrity coverage with serious political issues, one wonders what took so long ... even with JFK Jr.'s star power.

Paul Allen — the Accidental Billionaire — has had a run of bad luck with his VC firm Vulcan Ventures. Mercata announced it was going tits-up yesterday, and many more of his investments are like a Fucked Company who's who: Value America, drugstore.com, HarvardNet, 800.com, myplay.com, Oxygen Media, Replay TV, sandbox.com, stamps.com.


[4.Jan.01]
The mystery of "Little Monster Man" has been solved. Ken'ichi Unnai of SAP Labs in Tokyo says his name is domo-kun, the official mascot of NHK, a Japanese TV network. I don't understand a damn thing, and the UI is a bit different, but you can see domo-kun in action at domomode.com.

With the help of generous contributions from some excellent writers, the music section of this site keeps getting bigger, and better. Twin Cities-based scribe Mike Haney is writing a weekly column called "The Sound and the Fury," which he's subtitled "An angry young man struts and frets on the state of music today." What do Kriss-Kross and James Taylor have in common? Find out by reading his premiere article "Greatest Hits?"

"Chill Out" critic Freddie B. has given the 5-star stamp of approval to "Coming Home," a loungy compilation that's one of my favorites from last year.

Finally, the radio show has changed its tune a bit. Instead of broadcasting at a specific time on a specific day, the show is now available anytime, any day ... and each broadcast will have a specific theme. Check out the first show of 2001: "The Best of British Chill Out 2000," featuring tracks from Bent, Bonobo, Blue States, Kinobe, and Lemon Jelly. Tune in, turn on, chill out.


[3.Jan.01]
At the height of its popularity, with 75,000 registered users and a write-up in the New York Times, Blogger begs its users for cash. From the "Help Make Blogger Go Faster" page: "What we're trying to say is that we're low on funds, which has kept us from making the hardware investments needed to keep the Blogger service snappy and fun."

Separated at birth? In its continuing Flash Usability Push, Macromedia hired something called Girlzilla to test two Flash sites ... a test that looks an awful lot like Flash vs. HTML.

Still can't find the perfect present for that special someone? (Sorry, I missed this column during Christmas.) How 'bout a personalized action figure? One's own action figure combined with "Little Monster Man" (pictured below; still no definitive answer on his real name, dammit) could make for an excellent movie.

Andy Wang read this site yesterday. My life is complete. Good luck with Ironminds, sir. (An Ironminds article that will make you laugh: "I Duct Taped Bull Ice Malt Liquor to My Hands")


[2.Jan.01]
Did you get a lot of nice presents? I did. Got a one year subscription to Fuse, a Montgomery Ward gift certificate, and a really cool stuffed animal that's the perfect mascot for rageculture.com. I'm calling him "Little Monster Man" (pictured below), but I know that's not his real name. Do you know? Please tell me.

Little Monster Man

Three years ago actor Michael Douglas duck-hooked a drive into another golfer's crotch, forcing the removal of the poor fella's left nut. The victim wanted $85 million for the lost ball, but last week was awarded just $1.5 million.

The 1st rule of investing in stocks: NEVER listen to analysts' recommendations. Invaluable New York Times columnist Gretchen Morgenson claims today's system of stock analysis is broken, and skewers several of Wall Street's "star" analysts, who have become nothing more than very highly paid PR hacks. The following analysts had "market outperform" or better ratings on their stocks even as they blew up, or in some cases, blew apart:

Mary Meeker, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter: Amazon.com, Priceline

Anthony Noto, Goldman Sachs: Webvan, Ashford.com, eToys, PlanetRX

Jack Grubman, Salomon Smith Barney: Rhythms NetConnections

Sara Farley, Paine Webber: Priceline

Henry Blodget, Merrill Lynch: Internet Capital Group


lyrics I dig
"They can take away my pride and my dignity

They can use up all my blood and sweat and tears

They can take away my name and give a number

But they can never take away my sex and beer"

— Pat McCurdy


email: dack@dack.com© 1978-2012 dack.com