Spotted limping under the bird feeders this morning. I am locked and loaded as they say in the Oliver Stone movies, ready for round two with Willard. Evidently he was wounded, crawled off for a few days, and is now back looking for sustenance. Die vermin! Die!
Alan Mutter is the smartest person writing about the fate of the newspaper industry in a post-Web world. In 1984, at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, I lied my way into a job interview with him when he was the managing editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. He told me if I wanted to be a San Francisco newsman because I liked the weather I should go pound sand. He saw right through me.
Anyway, Alan’s in the blogroll, has been for a while, and seems to have a better finger on the fishwrapper pulse than anyone else blogging.
Scoble on the inefficiencies of podcasting. I have to agree. Maybe it was a confluence of iTunes embracing podcasting, a new Nano, and a commute long enough to want to fill the time with something other than the BBC and NPR — but I don’t listen to podcasts anymore.
With time the most inflexible commodity at all, multitasking mediums have a shot at succeeding — e.g. listening to music while reading. Serial mediums do not. While I can watch some forms of television and work on email, neither activity get full attention. Podcasts are useless while reading or emailing.
So, is podcasting hosed? I dunno. Anything that lets a user accelerate consumption through a skim is fine — e.g. a text blog. Anything that requires full attention better have enough impact to deserve it.
Colleague Michael Mann is discovering his inability to read or write to his wordpress.com hosted blog within China. I am a WordPress blogger — but host it on my own server and act as my own sysadmin — so apparently I am visible within the country. The good WordPress folks at Automattic provide an excellent service, but for any blogger trying to work within the Great Firewall … forget about it.
When I posted that I figured out how to read blocked blogs within China — and then coyly said I wasn’t going to divulge the secret — I didn’t mean using IP anonymizers and other backflip moves. The secret is an acronym, has three letters, is the essence of blogs, and can be aggregated in a feed reader like Bloglines. Directly accessing a blocked blog is a futile effort.
The esteemed Jim Forbes writes a good essay on how notebook vendors should use their online presences to drive web sales. The punchline: get away from spec sheets and speeds-and-feeds and talk to the customer in terms they understand, telling them, if you want to do this, in this environment, then you want this model. Hit them with legal disclaimers, engin-nerding, and what I call “drag-net” marketing (“Just the facts, mam”) and you will stun them in the headlights of too many choices. Jim says Apple is best, followed by HP.
“In today’s fast-paced notebook market, the way to turn clicks into sales is to move away from static data sheet based web pages and jump with both feet into online displays that show how a portable can be put to work immediately, solving real world problems by providing a useful and highly targeted out-of-the box experience.”
I became a major fan of Omniture SiteCatalyst while at IDG last year, driving a 30% increase in traffic just through simple blocking and tackling site operations and content management through the system’s excellent dashboard interface and sitemap overlay. Omniture, for those non-metrics weenies out there, is a web-hosted service that uses jscript tags to track the traffic patterns through a web site. It is waaaay more sophisticated than I have the time to be, but, it is an excellent tool for informing all design, content management, and strategic plays for a complex web site.
It always irked my sense of Yankee thriftiness that we at IDG were never exploiting the full power of SiteCatalyst — it’s commerce and cart tracking capabilities — now we can.
As I find time over the next weeks I’ll be building my own dashboards for monitoring the health of the site and especially path analyses for determing where the traffic is going. It’s one thing to drive traffic into a site, it’s another to know whether or not that traffic is bouncing off the homepage or following the paths set by our online promotions and content strategists.
One of my passions is mastering Italian cooking, specifically northern Italian cooking, specifically ragu (not the horrid stuff in a jar at the supermarket), specifically Bolognese. “Spag Bol” is a European staple. You can get a bowl of the stuff anywhere. But once upon a time, when I was in my James Bond/Robert Ludlum stage of my career, working for a Liechtenstein financier and commuting between Zurich and the shores of Lago Lugano, I was driving a rented Mini Cooper S at high speed along the shores of a magical alpine lake, pretending I was Sterling Moss winning the Mille Miglia, when I zipped past an outdoor trattoria — a shack with some picnic tables right on the waterside.
I backtracked, pulled in, and made it known that I wanted food. Not knowing what I wanted, I put myself in the hands of the owner, who returned with a bottle of beer and bowl of gnocchi covered in a meat sauce that was characterized by lots of orange grease.
From the first bite I knew it was the best thing I had ever eaten. Ten minutes later the owner returned to ask me how it was going. I held up two fingers. Do it again.
Ever since that lakeside lunch I have been in pursuit of the orange-greased meat sauce, aka a ragu, or, as the French would say, a ragout. I have, for years, been relying on Marcella Hazen’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and her recipe for Bolognese. It’s a decent recipe, but never yields the perfection of the lakeside trattoria. This weekend I read Bill Buford’s account of his obessive Italian cooking quest, Heat and realized Hazen was for amateurs. Buford, like me, is a ragu fanatic, and throughout his account of his year in Mario Batali’s kitchen at Babbo in NYC, he focuses on two quests — the perfect ragu and the perfect pasta.
All I know and care about is that my experiments are relished by my family and friends, and nothing beats a bad weather weekend than trying to move one step closer to that Lugano lunch. Somehow, I know I’ll never get there, but trying is a lot of fun.
Last week’s return to Raleigh wiped me out — too many post-bike crash pills, too much heat, I spent my days looking for a place to fall down and take a nap — so I’m hanging back, with guilt, on the Cape the next two weeks to get this head injury thing over with once and for all. Last night my best buddy, a physician and fellow-cyclist, was over and asked how I was doing (he’s the one who came out of radiology on the day of the accident and told me my neck was broken in two place s ((it is not))). We got on the topic of medicines and not knowing their names I brought in the bottles.
He looked at them, he looked at me.
“I see the new ergometer in the garage. Are you exercising?” This is a physician-patient question where the patient usually needs to be evasive and dissemble. Not me.
“Yes I am,” I said. “30 minutes a day.”
“You moron. You’re taking a beta blocker that limits your heart rate. It wants to beat more when you exercise, but it can’t. Bet you feel real dizzy afterwards?”
So, I guess my neurologist never expected to have a patient who would be loony enough to try to go anaerobic on a daily basis while recovering from a concussion. I will stop taking that pill.
I will be working from home in Cotuit this week — no major face-to-face stuff scheduled in the land o’Lenovo — which is a mixed blessing as I have a ton o’ stuff going on and need to push my agenda forward. Last week’s experience with the tech support swat team was something that had to be experienced in person, and I wish I had had a DV video camera to capture some of their wizardry.
I’ll be on the cell phone all week. 508-360-6147. Then comes the dreaded Fourth of July weekend, the official kick off of the silly season here on the Cape.