This is the discovery of the day. Incredibly simple and blunt recommendations on how to bring a newspaper’s website up to date. My favorites are show who’s blogging the stories, and second, kill off registration, the last bastion of publisher stupidity.
“We took a long look at the features U.S. newspapers include on their websites a few weeks back. In doing the research, we spent more time than is healthy looking at these things. So we figured we’d use this new found expertise for good and offer the newspaper industry some unsolicited advice on how to improve their websites.
Figures. I go to my one and only baseball game tonight — Durham Bulls versus the Columbus Clippers — and a whopper of a thunderstorm rains it out. It wasn’t that I was looking for Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins (I met them once in a bar in the Bahamas on a bonefishing expedition and played pool and drank too much tequila with Tim in the lounge of the Pink Sands Hotel ((that’s my one and only Hollywood name drop)). It isn’t that I care much for baseball. I just wanted to sit in the southern evening and take in a frigging ballgame.
This was a company outing — after a full day meeting — and it was going to be fun … until the rain came. But whatever, I gave up on baseball on October 25, 1986 in the sixth game of the World Series, Red Sox vs. the Mets, when Bill Buckner committed his infamous error. The champagne was iced on the coffee table in front of me, ready to toast the Red Sox’s first series since cavemen roamed the earth, the big payoff of being a Red Sox fan since the age of 9 when they lost the Series to St. Louis in 1967 — The Impossible Dream Team with Jim Lonborg on the mound, Yaz, Tony Conigliaro …. I had stuck with them for twenty years, getting deranged and disappointed every season, my fanaticism rewarded only by the glory years of the Boston Bruins in the early 70s and the glorious dynasty of the Celtics in the 80s.
When Buckner blew it I threw the bottle of champagne at the TV and vowed never to watch another game, never read another newspaper article, to avert my eyes whenever they mentioned, shown, or otherwise invoked.
That worked until 2004 when they finally won a Series, but by then I was tainted, a fairweather fan. So … with cycling trashed by the Affair D’Floyd, I need a new sport. Maybe cricket.
Sheesh. This is like the campaign to out Joe Klein when he wrote Primary Colors. I hope the Fake Steve stays undercover for as long as possible. This is the blogged highlight of my day. Yesterday’s recommendation by The FSJ to Greenpeace took the cake. Today’s mea culpa welcoming the newest board member — after calling him a squirrel — is a classic. Someone needs to give this guy a contract.
I’m trying to put together a powerpoint in the style of Dick Hardt’s legendary Identity 2.0 presentation at OSCON last year, but damn!, it is not easy. Here’s the link to Dick’s masterpiece.
The old laws of three bullets and a chart go right out the window when you try a presentation that has a slide per sentence and requires a carnival barker’s patter to keep it rolling.
I’ve seen one other person attempt the format — David Vivero at IDG — who got great laughs when he showed a stuffed animal in his explanation of “taxonomy, err taxidermy”, a style allegedly pioneered by Lawrence Lessig. Which reminds me, one of these days I must buy Edward Tufte’s The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint.
A few years ago, while driving the backroads of the Cape to avoid the traffic snarls on the main drags, I was listening to WOMR – Outermost Radio — the weirdest radio station on Cape Cod and what you would expect from a radio station in Provincetown, the funkiest place on Cape Cod. The signal is faint, but where else can you listen to John Philip Sousa hour on Saturday mornings, followed by Tuvan Throat Singers, followed by the commercial fish landing report?
A song came on, I’d heard it before, September Song, a weepy classic from 1938 written by Kurt Weill.
“ Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December
But the days grow short when you reach September
When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame
One hasn’t got time for the waiting game
Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few
And these few precious days I’ll spend with you
These precious days I’ll spend with you”
The song summed up, right then, in the third week of September, with Cape Cod at its peak in terms of glorious weather, the bittersweet emotion of a summer’s passing in a resort town. While we natives may say good riddance to the craziness of the silly season, we know the northeasters of winter lie ahead, when the landscape turns into a black and white movie, and Cape Cod goes from glorious to bleak. I for one, will not be standing on an overpass over Route 6 waving goodbye to the Volvos with their kayaks and bicycles.
This summer seemed to end two weeks ago. Blame it on early school openings, but the traditional punction mark of Labor Day is gone. My two youngest start school on the 10th of September, my eldest is heading back to college in NYC on the 3rd, out of boredom more than anything else. Me, I’m looking forward to some clamming, a little sailing, and forging onwards with winter projects. My summertime productivity sucks.
The Times slams into Forbes.com this morning on the eternal subject of squishy traffic numbers. This is an issue endemic to the online media industry, one that harks back to the days of Time-Warner’s Pathfinder when Gerald Levin would boast about millions of “hits.” Now that the industry has settled down and focused on unique visitors, there is still a vast discrepancy between the external traffic reporters — ComScore, Nielsen, Alexa, etc. — and a site’s own server logs, ostensibly the only true measure of traffic, yet one wholly dependent on what filters and analytics are being applied to the raw numbers.
With no equivalent to the magazine industry’s third-party audit structure in place (BPA, etc.), online media has been able to play a game of squishy reporting since 1994. Take a good stat, lead with it, and let the rest of the numbers fall where they may.
“But a closer look at the numbers raises questions about Forbes.com’s industry-leading success. For its claim of a worldwide audience of nearly 15.3 million, it has been citing February data from comScore Media Metrix, one of the two leading providers of third-party Web traffic data.
“There are several problems with that statistic, though, and comScore has since revised the figure downward to less than 13.2 million as part of a broader revamping of its worldwide data for many sites. Jack Flanagan, executive vice president at comScore Media Metrix, said the new figures were released “a couple of months ago” after it changed its methods for estimating global audiences.”
While bragging rights are nice — “We’re the biggest” is always a nice marketing message — the advertisers are the one’s who are best placed to develop the metric that measures and that comes down to conversions. Forget CTR (click-through rates, forget reach (monthly uniques, visits), and focus on what happens to the referred traffic once it arrives in the form of generated leads, shoppers, etc. The notion that any media buyer would give more than a passing glance at gross tonnage metrics is risible. It’s their own metrics, how they measure what they’ve bought, that determines whether they’ll renew a campaign or drop it.
I try not to. A national business reporter pinged me this morning with a request to do an interview on a former employer. While flattering, I passed. Why?
1. The It-Takes-One-to-Know-One rule. In 1983, while covering local politics at a Massachusetts daily newspaper, I scored a serious scoop about a state senator representing a city that was home to my paper’s arch-rival newspaper. Front page, big lurid headlines, I totally de-pantsed the other paper. So their reporter called me to “congratulate” me. We saw each other all the time — this was a classic newspaper war deathmatch rivalry — and had a joking relationship. What I thought was a collegial conversation turned out to be their front page story the next morning. Lesson learned. The press shouldn’t talk to the press.
2. Don’t be retromingent, in other words, no pissing backwards. Slagging former employers, schools, colleagues is low behavior. This isn’t a case of not having nice things to say, but the odds of the one negative comment uttered in the course of an interview becoming the money quote for the reporter is usually 100%. No matter how well you stay on message, how much media training you have, you will feel misquoted.
3. Don’t let ego get in front of common sense. Seeing one’s name in print is a kick, sure, but ego aside, what’s the upside for the person being quoted? I’m not concerned about my “personal brand.” If I were I’d submit an op-ed piece to the same paper. This doesn’t advance the cause of current employer, it doesn’t make me more marketable. So … what’s the upside? Little to none.
Apologies to the reporter, but next time, work on your email presentation: asking me if there is a “potential downside” is like telegraphing your intentions.
Thanks to Buddy Ben for the pointer to this Engadget story/video on the death of locks. Think Kryptonite had it bad with the bike lock affair? You ain’t seen nothing. Couple seconds and 90 percent of all key-based locks can be “bumped” open. Load up on biometric stocks.
“…what would you say to the frightening truth that lying before the world these hundreds and hundreds of years we’ve been using tumbler locks, was a simple technique that allows an intruder to quietly, quickly, easily open any lock for the cost of a copied key? It’s called bump keying, and we can assure you it has nothing to do with certain white narcotics. By simply cutting some keys down to serrated-like edges of sharp, even peaks and valleys, an amateur can break into a home in less time than it takes to disassemble a bic pen.”
Funny, but in a random conversation today with a guy who’s ex-wife stashed all his valuables inside of a six-foot safe with a fingerprint reader, my wife came up with the demented solution to his speculation that even if he cut off the right finger and tried to swipe it, it would probably fail if it had a body-temperature sensor. My wife, nice lady, recommended microwaving the amputated digit up to body temperature.
Colleague Jim Leonard pointed me at this very cool demo, perhaps the coolest input design I’ve seen in a long time.
“While touch sensing is commonplace for single points of contact, multi-touch sensing enables a user to interact with a system with more than one finger at a time, as in chording and bi-manual operations. Such sensing devices are inherently also able to accommodate multiple users simultaneously, which is especially useful for larger interaction scenarios such as interactive walls and tabletops.”