New York Times falls into time warp — publishes story from 1996

How to Make Your Web Site Sing for You – New York Times

Scanning the daily headline email from the Times, I see this article by Eric Taub which essentially says that a corporate web site is important to its image and must be well written, filled with “addictive” content, and even includes the omnipresent Jakob Nielsen opining away.

WTF? Is it that slow of a news day that the Times has to dredge up the pablum we all had to endure in the mid-90s?

“Build a bad-looking small-business site filled with poorly written text, and your potential customers will go away. Build one that is attractive, compelling and clever, but crucial design mistakes will still guarantee that few people will know that the site exists.

Your Web site is like a digital business card, designers say, the first online look at your company that a customer gets. With luck, it will not be the last.”

Corporate criticism on a personal blog

There have been four or five occasions over the past ten months where I have found myself in disagreement with some corporate action and tempted to open up a new post and write about it.
So far I have resisted the temptation, but every time I do, I ask myself the question: “What would Scoble have done?” — in reference to ex-Microsoft blogger Robert Scoble, who earned the reputation of being a voice of candor in an organization viewed rightly or wrongly as impenetrable with a wall of highly managed corporate communications.

This blog is a personal possession that predates my employment. I talk about my professional life here — more in the interest of disclosure and reality than promotion — but it is not a corporate communications vehicle and as such, represents an interesting balancing act for me between personal and professional opinions.

Since my job description does not include the responsibilities of an ombudsman, I am not losing sleep over any ethical cowardice — none of these issues are Karen Silkwood whistle-blower types of things. People don’t die, wetlands don’t get poisoned … but they are actions which I feel, on occasion, either undermine our reputation (which is in my job description), will annoy our customers, (customer satisfaction is in my job description), or present a picture that is less than flattering.

I do push these issues very hard internally. I just fired off an note this morning on a new issue and will work towards some type of resolution as soon as I can, but airing that issue in public — and the issue is public because we published it and are being called on it in public — is not going to accomplish anything other than to pose a rhetorical question into the ether asking for another point of view.

I helped develop our corporate blogging guidelines — they are concise, less than two pages in length, and basically apply a Golden Rule type of guidance. They are not restrictive — they don’t hold bloggers to any standard of review or prohibition, aside from the sensible mandate not to divulge company secrets or material information that could affect the share price.

So, this is basically a disclosure statement that I am not the corporate ombudsman, nor am I going to tempt the fates by poking the hive with a stick.

Picking up the pen — X60 Tablet

After enduring the past few months of buzz and speculation about our new Duo Core Tablet, the X60s, and on the occasion of its announcement today, I strolled down the hall here in RTP and asked for one.

Two hours later I had my first tablet. I plugged it in, worked through the setup, and started experimenting with the pen. Pretty slick. Now the machine goes to IT to get fitted out with Notes, the VPN client, and to transform my data off of this machine, my X60s. So now I need work through the usual new PC migration hassles, redownload a top of weird apps and plug ins, and start committing to the pen interface.

The initial reviews have been very positive, and given the impact our previous tablet, the X41 made, I have no doubt this will be Lenovo’s high desire flagship for some time.

The new power of the press — Engadget eviscerates the Zune

Installing the Zune… sucked – Engadget

The folks at Engadget decided to install a new Microsoft Zune. This iPod wannabe has not arrived under the most auspicious circumstances, now that it is out, the Engadget people do what they did best and reviewed it. In great detail with many screenshoots and some hysterical captions.

“Ok, first thing we want to do? Obviously: options! Crap, as soon as we click the options button, it crashes. (Note top bar, not responding.)”

” While we were figuring out which tag to use, we were suggested some pretty awesome(ly awful) names:

  • TwinightRyan (sp)
  • UprightRyan
  • GrizzlyRyan
  • PraisedCloud
  • ScapularWorm and
  • HangingCheetah
  • PricyRacketeer
  • GutlessStudent
  • WontedSum
  • PeeweeDust

Do we LOOK like a scapular worm to you? Don’t answer that.”

I don’t care about the product, what I do care about is the new world order when it comes to product reviews. No more 250-word blurb by someone at PC Magazine talking pros-and-cons. The new world is what Engadget and Gizmodo and some guy named Fred are doing. Limitless space, a digital camera, a copy of Snag-It and a ton of attitude combine to put products under the total sigmoidoscope. I see this all the time with our products. A heat-seeking geek finally has his new laptop delivered after a week long delay in customs, and what does he or she do first? They take pictures of the packaging. And then they take a picture of them cutting open the box. And they take a picture of the accessories, the manual, the shipping peanuts!!!!! A couple hundred images later and they actually turn it on.
Imagine the horror at Microsoft.

Slate discovers the bus plunge story

The rise and fall of the “bus plunge” story. – By Jack Shafer – Slate Magazine

I was on this meme last winter. Now Slate has it. Thanks to Connie Mack for the pointer.

“As recently as 1980, the New York Times reserved an honored—if small—place in its pages for “bus plunge” news. Whenever buses nose-dived down mountainsides; off bridges and cliffs; over embankments, escarpments, and precipices; through abutments and guardrails; or into ravines, gorges, valleys, culverts, chasms, canyons, canals, lakes, and oceans, the news wires moved accounts of the deadly tragedies, and the Times would reliably edit them down to one paragraph and publish.”As an example of the genre, it’s hard to beat this 30-word gem I culled from the March 5, 1959, edition of the Times:

15 Africans Die in Bus Plunge
MATTAIELE, Union of South Africa, March 5 (Reuters)—Fifteen Africans were killed and thirty others were injured today when a bus careened out of control off a cliff near the Mabusa mission station, about fifteen miles from here.

The 3.0 Vapors

Markoff’s front page opus in the Times on Web 3.0 has blogistan infected with a serious case of the vapors over the next big thing. This time its the “semantic” web renamed with a new dot.release moniker and blessed with the pixie dust of artificial intelligence. Whatever … while Markoff has been way ahead of the curve in the past — with the first mainstream media mention of the Web in ’93, etc. — this one seems to be much ado about nothing, and timed to prick the Web 2.0 O’Reilly conference bubble as that overwrought conference concluded last week.

“Their goal is to add a layer of meaning on top of the existing Web that would make it less of a catalog and more of a guide — and even provide the foundation for systems that can reason in a human fashion. That level of artificial intelligence, with machines doing the thinking instead of simply following commands, has eluded researchers for more than half a century.”

The notion, as I understand it, is that the act of searching becomes more relevant in the returns due to some machine intelligence assembling a cross-site result that is tuned more accurately to the searcher’s intentions. Whatever.  Markoff may be onto something, but I didn’t reach the end of the piece with any “aha” moment of revelation.

Whereabouts week of 11.13

Cotuit – 11.13

RTP – 11.13-16

Cotuit – 11.17-26 (vacation)

The thing about clams …

Where I live, Cotuit, Massachusetts, was once one of the premier brand names in gourmand circles due to the superiority of the oysters harvested from Cotuit Bay.

The Cotuit Oyster Company, founded in 1857, is still going strong from its shed near Little River, farming oysters over more than 37 acres of grants out in the bay. The Company, arguably the oldest continuous commercial enterprise in the village, has had some hard times over the last 50 years, most, in my opinion, brought on by the decline in water quality brought on by the World War II landing craft that trained here in the 40s to prepare for D-Day out of Camp Can-Do-It; the nitrogen loading of shoreline septic systems, lawn fertilizer and dog poop; and toxic run-off from storm sewers, automobile oil, and other junk.

In 1857, Capt. William Childs returned from a life at sea to the life of an oysterman. His business became one of the biggest on Cape Cod. Oysters then were packed into barrels and carts and transported across the Cape in large wagons to the railroad depot in West Barnstable. From there, they were shipped by rail to Boston, New York and other cities in the northeast.

By 1870, six other oyster companies worked the bottom of Cotuit Bay. In 1894, Childs’ son Samuel decided to go into the business himself. He established his shanty at the present location of the Cotuit Oyster Company.

In 1912, Harry Height, an executive at the Eastman Kodak CO. bought out most of the independent oysterman and formed the Cotuit Oyster Company. In 1923, he sold his right to the Seacoast Oyster Company of New Haven, Conn.

The industry thrived until WWII, when the Army erected Camp Can Do-It above the narrows in North Bay. Landing Craft training for the invasion of France caused havoc with the delicate oyster beds, churning up the bottom and fouling the water with silt. This and the hurricane of 1944 proved disastrous to the industry.

The Seacoast Oyster Company rebuilt their shanties and had the beds producing again by 1955. In 1960, the company turned over the grants to their manager Andy Post. Three Cotuit residents bought the company and incorporated it, renting the property and the name along with the trademark: Cotuits-R-Superior, from the Seacoast Oyster Company. Andy Post operated the business up until 1973 when Mr. Nelson expressed interest in buying the company.

When I was a kid the harbor was still pretty pristine and the bottom was covered with eel grass (zostera marina L.), a crucial habitat for baby clams (known as spat), scallops, and a healthy benthic ecosystem. The eel grass disappeared over the 1970s — as it did across Cape Cod — for a variety of reasons, including a suspected blights, and the bottom has steadily degraded into a mucky mess of algae mats, inedible spider crabs, and a complete loss of the healthy marine life I knew as a kid. There is an excellent page on eelgrass, the factors that contribute to its cycles, and the threats to its survival here.

Underneath it all, still thrives the clams. Specifically the quahog and the steamer. Oysters, wild ones not caged in the Oyster Company’s pens, are rare but findable if one knows where to look.

The story of Waquoit Bay, to the west of Cotuit, is interesting in that the bay also lost most of its eelgrass over the last 50 years, saw a total collapse of its scallop fishery, and has been the object of an intense ecological survey which resulted in the area being designation a National Marine Estuary project.

The single most important action that the government could take to restore coastal water quality, in my uninformed opinion, would be to build a comprehensive wastewater treatment facility and get every home within a mile of the water off of in-ground septic systems and into a true sewer system. That single action would take away the nitrogen loading that is spawning algae blooms which in turn block sunlight from reaching the bottom where the eel grass grows. It won’t be enough though. Motorboats stir up a lot of sediment and have exploded in numbers the past twenty years as the Cape has become saturated with second homes, moorings and docks.

Anyway, I have a 5 gallon bucket filled with steamers on the deck, ready for shucking and deep frying into fried clams tonight.

Stalking the wily quahog

Looks like fried clams are on the menu this weekend. The boat has been out of the water for the past two weekends following the gale of late October, but today I relaunch to catch the best part of the clamming season.

In the low sixties here on the Cape, unseasonably warm, so it would be a shame to spend the day cleaning out the attic or putting the gardens to bed.

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