mm032: Hmm, wonder about my OfficeJet…

June 24, 2007

Too good not to capture, even third hand! From Machinist (–>) again.

Article removed at the polite request of the copyright holder

Machinist: Tech Blog, Tech News, Technology Articles – Salon

Printers for years have been such a razor/blade business. Kodak is supposed to be releasing a paradigm changing system soon (half the price of HP replacement cartridges). How truthy will they be?

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mm031: … on the other hand …

June 24, 2007

From Machinist (–>) in Salon (–>), a second opinion regarding the previous post.

What’s the most-hated tech term? An odd poll by the British survey firm YouGov found that “folksonomy” is the most likely of any nerd-word to make people online “wince, shudder or want to bang your head on the keyboard.” The word “blogosphere” was second, “blog” was third, and “netiquette” came in at number four. But do folks say many of these anymore? “Blogosphere” and “blog,” sure, but it was the last century when I last heard “netiquette.” “Blook” — the allegedly popular blending of “book” and “blog,” which came in at number five — gets under 500,000 on Google. “Onomatopoeia” is more popular. Sounds like a push-poll to me.

Machinist: Tech Blog, Tech News, Technology Articles – Salon

Differences of opinion are so rare in the ‘sphere. I still hear “webinar” way too often to suit me.

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mm030: The ten most hated words on the Internet

June 23, 2007

From Ars Technica (–>) via Digg (–>):

The Internet has much to answer for, but one of its chiefest sins is its relentless stupifidication of the English language. And no, I did not just make up the word “stupifidication.”1

UK pollsters YouGov have just completed a survey on the web’s most-hated words, the abominations that threaten to turn English into a long series of “plzkthxbye” utterances. At the top of the list (and rightly so) is the word “folksonomy.” It’s followed by:

  • Blogosphere
  • Blog
  • Netiquette
  • Blook (don’t ask)
  • Webinar
  • Vlog
  • Social Networking
  • Cookie
  • Wiki

Now, any survey of this type isn’t designed to get at some sort of mythical objective truth about the Internet’s effects on English; it’s designed to come up with a handy top-ten list that journalists can use to pad out slow news days. As such, it’s just a measure of people’s pet peeves, so this seems as good a time as any to share a few of my own that didn’t make the official list.

  • AJAXify. As in, “I’m just going to AJAXify the web site and then we’ll be all Web 2.0 and stuff.” “To AJAX” is not an English verb. Please don’t use it as one.
  • Web 3.0. Web 2.0 wasn’t bad enough, huh? Shove a finger into that soft spot at the back base of your ear and you’ll know how I feel about this one.
  • Podcast. Our own Peter Bright has a well-known man crush on Steve Jobs but can’t abide the term “podcast” when used to describe any recorded audio placed online in any format. He has… strong feelings about this.
  • Crowdsourcing. Typing tags on other people’s photos? I want in. Wait. No I don’t.
  • Flash mobs. Hipsters show up in public parks at the same time using only text messages and web sites; NO PAPER SIGNS NEEDED. This is not, it has to be said, a huge breakthrough.

So there you have it: my non-objective collection of irritants. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go blog about a webinar.

1Okay, I did. Score another blow for the Internet-based assault on English!

The ten most hated words on the Internet

My business is webinars, although I prefer the term web conferencing, some of my best clients use the term and thus by default so do I. Sigh.

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mm029: The Bing Blog Working from home? «

June 23, 2007

Discovered at Digg this morning… take it from one who knows, these are pretty spot on.

Hi there. It’s Friday afternoon and I thought I would offer a few suggestions to those of you who have told your bosses that you are “working from home” today:

1. DO NOT leave your cell phone back in the living room when you step out to the diner for a couple of hours.
2. DO take your BlackBerry and cell phone when you go to the bathroom.
3. DO schedule a few short conference calls with anybody who works for you, since they are probably at the office cursing your name. This will show them you are fully engaged in the business of the day, which, of course, you are!
4. DO NOT start a complex e-mail chain with your boss too early in the day, since they often result in incoming telephone action that will raise the question of where you actually are in the physical (i.e. non-virtual) sense. NOTE: Even if you have received permission to “work from home” don’t remind your boss that you have done so. Reminding him or her of your status may impair your ability to do so again next week.
5. DO NOT start drinking any earlier than usual. Not even beer.
6. DO send out that lengthy e-mail with several Excel attachments that people have been waiting for since last Tuesday. This will serve two purposes: 1) demonstrate that you are active and on the field, in spite of all appearances; 2) stop anybody from replying to you on any issue while they chew over a spreadsheet they have no desire to deal with on a Friday during July or August.
7. DO NOT leave your Elvis Costello album playing in the background while you talk with colleagues, even if they are junior to you. Word will get around.
8. DO NOT answer the phone during your nap. Allow the ring to wake you. Splash some cold water on your face. Then return the call and apologize for having been “caught up” in something else while it was ringing. You may not fool anybody but it will be worth the attempt.
9. DO attempt to call your boss at 6 p.m., when you know he has gone for the day. You will appear on his call sheet first thing Monday morning as any industrious corporate citizen should.
10. DO NOT conduct any sort of business in your underwear. People will know. I don’t know how, but they will.

The Bing Blog Working from home? «

I never conduct business in my underwear, I swear. Really. I’ll add this blog to my blogroll, as Stanley Bing seems to be a kindred spirit.

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mm028: Bob Sutton

June 22, 2007

Bob Sutton (see the blogroll -> ) is the author of The No Asshole Rule, one of this year’s very hottest business books, and this quote is from his blog’s sidebar.

15 Things I Believe

Bob Sutton

Words to live (corporately) by…

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mm027 PowerPoint: Ugh!

June 22, 2007

From New York Magazine (via Arts & Letters Daily), a sidebar from a profile of Edward Tufte. As a distributor of countless PowerPoint excrescences, I heartily endorse Tufte’s crusade.

In the Magazine
6/13/07
3:50 PM

Edward Tufte and the Triumph of Good Design: Another Case Study

Edward TuftePhoto: Kyoko Hamada

This week’s New York piece by Christopher Bonanos, “The Minister of Information,” was the most unlikely spellbinder we’ve seen in our magazine in quite some time. Three big pages on a semi-obscure graphic designer best known to us for all the copies of his books we sold in the university bookstore we used to work in? Yikes! But it turns out that the story of Edward Tufte is a fascinating one, full of vivid examples of the way technology delivers information confusingly, and how Tufte leads the charge for simplification. (We’d like to see Tufte, for example, take a crack at the interface for our clunky blogging software.)

Tufte’s harshest words are reserved for that nightmare of modern office life, Microsoft PowerPoint. “It’s a low-resolution screw-up, like voice-mail menu systems,” he gripes. Here, exclusive to Vulture, is another excerpt from Tufte’s new book that explains precisely why PowerPoint doesn’t work.

Fig.1: The bad, via PowerPoint.

Courtesy of Graphics Press

The six PowerPoint slides above and the table below are presentations of the same data: a set of survival rates by disease. These slides were produced using the software package’s standard templates; they would appear onscreen one at a time, so viewers would need to flip back and forth to understand the series. A freshly diagnosed patient (or a harried doctor) would find such clutter impossible to navigate.

Courtesy of Graphics Press

Fig. 2: The good, via Tufte. Same data, way less ink. The eye immediately goes to the left-hand column of type, where the patient can quickly locate his or her illness; since the prognoses are arrayed from top to bottom, best to worst, one can immediately size up the situation. Moreover, the meaning of the lines connecting the numbers is immediately graspable, even without an index or key: Steep slopes mean trouble, shallow ones are better. There is as much information here as on those six slides, and it will fit on an index card. It is also comprehensible without a minute’s medical training.

Edward Tufte and the Triumph of Good Design: Another Case Study — Vulture — Entertainment & Culture Blog — New York Magazine

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mm026: Words of Mass Infuriation

June 22, 2007

Found at Arts & Letters Daily: 

Words Of Mass Infuriation

By Anne Applebaum
Tuesday, June 19, 2007; A17

“Eager to preserve the English language against a rising tide of nonsense,” a British newspaper asked readers last week to compose a piece of prose “crammed with as many infuriating phrases as possible.” The results make entertaining reading.

“I hear what you’re saying but, with all due respect, it’s not exactly rocket science,” begins one excellent example. “The bottom line is you wear your heart on your sleeve and, when all is said and done, this is all part and parcel of the ongoing bigger picture.” Another declared, “let’s face facts here, this could be my conduit to a whole new ball game. Awesome, or what?”

Some of the entries mocked bureaucratese: “Our own cost-benefit analysis of the ongoing target shortfall is that this predicament needs to be addressed proactively.” Others celebrated slang, either American (“chill to the max”) or British (“I was gobsmacked”) in origin. And all of them suggested an explanation for why it seems so difficult to follow the ludicrously early American presidential campaign: Too many of the candidates speak in prose crammed with as many infuriating phrases as possible.

The worst offender — and this week’s column is officially apolitical — is Hillary Clinton, who is “running for president because I believe if we set big goals and we work together to achieve them, we can restore the American dream today and for the next generation.” Clinton also believes that“we can give people the education and opportunities they need to fulfill their God-given potential,” and that “the foundation of a strong economy is the investments we make in each other.” Who could possibly disagree?

But maybe that’s what it takes to lead the opinion polls, at least at this stage. “Folks, we’re a bit down politically right now, but I think we’re on the comeback trail, and it’s going to start right here,” Fred Thompson said recently, speaking to an audience of apparently enthusiastic Virginia Republicans. And no wonder they liked him: This is a man who believes that “it’s time to take stock and be honest with ourselves. We’re going to have to do a lot of things better,” and who tells audiences that “I know we’re here for the same reasons: Love of our country and concern for our future.”

Well, I, too, feel love of our country and concern for our future, which is why I worry when Mitt Romney says that “it’s time for innovation and transformation in Washington” (was it ever not?) or that “America can also overcome the challenges and seize our abundant opportunities here at home” (does any candidate think otherwise?). Or when Rudy Giuliani promises a “mission of reform and change” (as opposed, presumably, to a mission of entropy and stasis).

Political campaigns only get interesting when the candidates stop speaking in ringing generalities and infuriating phrases — which doesn’t mean that they become successful, or even good for the country. John McCain‘s campaign in 2000 appealed precisely because he eschewed prepared gobbledygook — though that wasn’t enough even to win the Republican nomination. I am also still convinced that voters initially liked George W. Bush‘s inarticulacy: At least he didn’t sound quite as smooth, and ultimately meaningless, as everyone else. Only with time did his natural-born inability to speak English begin to produce infuriating phrases of unique pointlessness: “These are big achievements for this country, and the people of Bulgaria ought to be proud of the achievements that they have achieved” was a recent classic.

At the moment, the brightest new hope for the English language is Barack Obama, a fact I didn’t fully appreciate until I inattentively picked up what I thought was his best-selling new book, ” Dreams From My Father.” Expecting a dull political tract, I discovered an engaging story of his enigmatic father and his eccentric childhood, full of unexpected observations about race and identity in America and Africa, written with real elegance: (“Miscegenation,” he writes at one point: “The word is humpbacked, ugly, portending a monstrous outcome: like antebellum or octoroon, it evokes images of another era.”) Then I discovered that I’d read the wrong book: Obama wrote “Dreams From My Father” 15 years ago, before becoming a political candidate of any kind. Though his recent “elect-me-president” book, ” The Audacity of Hope,” has been praised for its prose, the jacket blurb describes it as “Senator Obama’s vision of how we can move beyond our divisions” to create a “radically hopeful consensus.”

I hear what they’re saying, but, with all due respect, I’m putting off reading it, afraid the deterioration might already have begun. Let’s face it, guys: No good writer, however eloquent, can possibly survive a two-year presidential campaign.

Anne Applebaum – Words Of Mass Infuriation – washingtonpost.com


mm025: Tsar of All the Electronic Meetings?

June 21, 2007

MUDGE’s Musings

So, I have to say that I laughed out loud as I read this article in The Economist (glossy hard-copy version) at lunch today. LOL is easy to type, but in my case, seldom occurs when I’m reading, especially alone. But, there it is, I laughed. Does this tickle you the same way?

Absurd titles

Tsarstruck

Jun 14th 2007
From The Economist print edition

It is time to let the Russian royal family rest in peace

Peter Schrank

WHEN, a few years ago, word came that British bird lovers anxious about the decline of the house sparrow had appointed a sparrow tsar, it seemed that the tsar vogue must have reached its zenith. France already had a crime tsar, London a traffic tsar, Japan a banking tsar, the European Union a foreign-policy tsar, and America had tsars for adoption, baseball, B-movies, manufacturing, record labels, you name it. No one, however, could outdo the sparrow tsar, or so you might think. Surely he would prove to be not so much the reductio ad absurdum as the dernier cri, the ne plus ultra in the once-rarefied realm of tsardom? But no. The latest newcomer, unless one has been added since you started this paragraph, is President George Bush’s war tsar.

In fact, tsar-creation has never even faltered. Newish title-holders include Canada’s copyright tsar, New Orleans’s recovery tsar, Singapore’s baby tsar, Tony Blair’s respect tsar, Thailand’s condom tsar and America’s nipple tsar (Michael Powell, whose job as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission was to prevent a repetition of Janet Jackson’s televised bosom exposure). They join an ever-swelling band of AIDS tsars, counter-terrorism tsars, cyber-security tsars, economy tsars, food-safety tsars, learning-disability tsars, piracy tsars, water tsars and even mental-health-service-user tsars.

All of which is a bit odd. One of the few points of agreement for most of the 20th century was that tsars were a Bad Thing, a particularly nasty example of natural selection that started with some brutal caesars, took in some belligerent kaisers and found its most excruciating expression in the Russian variants. Their rehabilitation in almost every quarter must rank as the most sudden, surprising and complete in the history of brand management. Republican Americans cannot get enough tsars. The purist-nationalist French, overseen by the Académie Française, seem ready to embrace them. And the Russians—yes, of all people, the Russians—have succumbed to an advertising tsar. A haemophilia tsar cannot be far away.

Nowhere is the triumph of the tsars more evident than in the wicked world of drugs. This world is divided into countries whose citizens yearn to see a drug tsar appointed and countries that have already got one. Why is a drug tsar so universally necessary? To see off the drug barons, of course. Until quite recently barons were a Good Thing. They brought bad King John to heel at Runnymede. Now they are a Bad Thing. What next? Führers, Caudillos, Duci, Gauleiters and Generalisimos must be due for a comeback.

It is time to put a stop to all this. The English language, borrowing, as so often, from Latin, already has a word for a supreme head. It is supremo. Journalists should try using it (they can fall back on big cheese occasionally). For their part, governments should try using titles that accurately describe the activities of their officials.

Bring on the serfs and kulaks

Once upon a time Britain had a minister for war. Now the same job is done by the secretary of state for defence. It also has a Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. No one would guess it, but he is a deputy government whip. Minister for delivery and quality sounds plain and straightforward, but no one knows what he delivers, never mind its quality. Does the minister for social exclusion promote social exclusion, just as the minister for education presumably promotes education? Perhaps it does not matter: in Britain obfuscation is all.

Japan, by contrast, has a minister for the privatisation of the postal services. That is explicit. Unfortunately, minister for the rechallenge is not. His job is to give people a second go in life, though that sounds very much like the responsibility of the minister for disaster management. In Japan, however, that title means what it says. Elsewhere it refers to damage limitation, a task for spin doctors.

Now did the tsars have spin doctors? They certainly had lifestyle gurus. Time, surely, to rehabilitate Rasputin.

In the Heart of Corporate America where I toil, I fit in a particular niche: no one else in the company does anything like what I do. I am the champion (if I worked on the left coast I might style myself the evangelist) of our web conferencing technology; I teach it in formal on-line classes two or three times per week, week in and week out (over 3,000 people have attended one or more of them) and have done so for years; and I travel the local empire to assist the coordinators of large-scale or mission critical conferences to “broadcast” them via our web conferencing technology.

I think that I must be the Web Conferencing Tsar.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

MUDGE

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mm024: Bloomberg!?!

June 20, 2007

MUDGE’s Musings

[NBC News via MSNBC.msn.com]

So how interesting that the week that NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg announces his withdrawal from the Republican party he’s the subject of a valentine from Business Week?

The American businessman-politician has a long and storied history. From Alexander Hamilton (industrialist) to Herbert Hoover (mining consultant) to New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine (CEO, Goldman, Sachs (GS)), wealthy and connected executives have, for better or worse, tried to bring corner-office management to the public arena. With the arrival of George W. Bush, MBA, we began to hear a lot about the so-called CEO President who was supposed to muster a greater degree of executive decisiveness and accountability. But four years of war and the Katrina debacle have blunted that talk.

Which brings us to New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. This forthright and prosaic 65-year-old billionaire just may have the right combination of managerial, risk-taking, and political skills to create a new model for public service—possibly even at the national level should Bloomberg run for President.

Applying lessons from an early career on Wall Street and from two decades building his eponymous financial-information and media empire, the mayor is using technology, marketing, data analysis, and results-driven incentives to manage what is often seen as an unmanageable city of 8 million.

Bloomberg sees New York City as a corporation, its citizens as customers, its sanitation workers, police officers, clerks, and deputy commissioners as talent. He is the chief executive. Call him a technocrat all you want; he’s O.K. with that. “I hear a disparaging tone, like there’s something wrong with accountability and results,” he says. “What was I hired for?”

Yes, Bloomberg has endured setbacks. His failed attempt to build a football stadium in Manhattan gobbled up time and energy for much of his first term. And while his takeover of city schools five years ago from the state has led to dramatically improved test scores, there is a long way to go before the mayor can declare victory. Plus, some of his ideas—including his suggestion to pay kids for good grades—grate on educators.

Yet his checklist-obsessed operating style has resonated with New York’s famously cynical citizenry—70% approval ratings attest to that—and well beyond Gotham. “People see that this can be done in a place like New York, effectively managing something so large and complex,” says Time Warner CEO Richard D. Parsons, a Bloomberg friend and someone mentioned as a possible mayoral candidate himself. “And they think, ‘Hey, this can be done elsewhere.'”

I’ve got to tell you that I’m intrigued. The Democratic party can’t lose in 2008, except under two possible conditions: Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. This last pains me, since I think that electing either a woman or a person of color to the presidency would be tonic to this country, demonstrating a societal maturity much longed for. However, Hillary is a lightning rod, and Obama, while a very bright and eloquent man, does not seem to have sufficient management experience to get the job done. What we don’t need is four years of Jimmy Carter: high ideals, no idea of how to execute them.

I’ve watched Michael Bloomberg over the past 5½ years from afar and have been impressed. It’s execution, folks, as Mr. Bush Jr. has so tellingly demonstrated.

And, I don’t have to feel guilty about having nothing available to donate to his campaign because HE DOESN’T NEED MY MONEY!
George the 3rd has shown us by horrible example that a key attribute of a top executive is picking competent subordinates and giving them the space they need to do their jobs. Rumsfeld, Michael Brown of FEMA infamy, etc. after gruesome etc. Look what Bloomberg did in NYC, again quoting BW:

The first thing most politicians do upon winning office is fill top jobs with people to whom they owe their support or who have long-standing ties to the political Establishment. Bloomberg arrived at City Hall with no such debts. That’s partly because he financed his own campaign. But even if he hadn’t, Bloomberg says, he still would have recruited his lieutenants based on their ability to set targets and hit them.

And by and large, that is what he has done. Not surprisingly, he reached into the business community, appointing a former partner of private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners named Daniel Doctoroff to run New York City’s economic development office. And he brought over four of his executives from Bloomberg itself. One of them was Katherine Oliver. Bloomberg had a turnaround mission in mind for her at the city’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting.

Oliver was working in London, overseeing Bloomberg global radio and television operations, when she got the call. Her marching orders from the mayor were simple: build a customer-service organization. She wasn’t prepared for how much the film office needed modernizing and refocusing. Toronto and Louisiana, among other places, were stealing business from New York. Production companies were required to visit the office and fill out permit applications on paper. And to Oliver’s astonishment the agency had only one computer. Most staff were tapping away on electric typewriters.

Within a month of her arrival, her 22 employees had new Dell (DELL) flat-screens, and production companies were able to file for permits online. Approvals have since surged to 200 a day, up from 200 a week in 2002. Oliver also put a photo library on the Web site, letting producers scout locations from their desks. She began offering a combined 15% tax credit to film and tv productions that complete at least 75% of their stage work in the city. Oliver says the program has generated $2.4 billion in new business and 10,000 new jobs since 2005. She offered filmmakers free advertising space on public property. And she set up a dedicated team of 33 police officers to ease shoots in the city. “We tried to look at this as B to B,” says Oliver. “This is a microcosm of what Michael wanted to do for the entire city.”

The movie industry isn’t complaining. Veteran producer Michael Tadross says the city’s film office is much more efficient. “You get maps, diagrams, and suggestions of where to shoot during one-on-one meetings with folks in the office,” says Tadross, who just completed filming a remake of The Omega Man, I Am Legend, in New York. “I have always felt big cities should be run by businesspeople, not politicians.”

I’m ready. I’m all in! Let’s figure out how to elect this man.

Do you suppose that Move-on.org will throw me out?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm023: Trying out WLW

June 19, 2007

MUDGE’s Musings

Since early last month, when I began to get real with this project, I have been using a tool called Qumana to create and support Left-Handed Complement. I found it to be useful in a few ways, but awkward in many.

While surfing this past weekend, I found mention of Windows Live Writer, with some extremely positive endorsements, not least from Digital Inspiration (see the blogroll for the link).

Enough good things have already been said about Windows Live Writer. If you still haven’t heard about it, Live Writer is an extremely powerful WYSIWYG blog editor from Microsoft that is miles ahead of competition (from w.blogger, ecto or blogjet) both in terms of features and user interface. It also have a very reasonable price – $0.00

As Amit Agarwal says, the price is right and it promises WYSIWYG, sadly lacking in my (previous?) tool of choice.

So we’re giving it a try tonight; so far so good. See the Qumana thing really seemed to be about the advertising they’d like you to sign up for. Really, do the two or three of you really need to see more “context sensitive” advertising? I’ve not thought so. Doesn’t seem part of WLW’s setup, so far, which is a positive.

And the WYSIWYG seems a tall improvement. Writing in Qumana has been a chore, since it seems a very basic (think Notepad) editor, and formatting seems to go away when posted. We’ll see what happens here shortly, but WLW already looks more like L-HC looks (nothing extraordinary, based on a stock WordPress template, but I like it).

What I had taken to do for Qumana is actually write in a simple editor, Wordpad actually, so that copying the text out didn’t grab out too much overhead — using Word or in my case OpenOffice.org Writer took much baggage, and formatted very little anyway. So, I’d write in Wordpad, open up a new post in Qumana, copy over “MUDGE”s Musings” and then copy the text from Wordpad into Qumana, adding tags and links. Kind of a bother.

WLW so far seems much simpler: I am writing, and I can see what it’s gong to look like. I just saved a draft of the above, and WLW shows me in its control panel that it has done so, another plus. And it just added the blockquote from Digital Inspiration, and it was seamless. This is the kind of thing I used to have to do directly in WordPress (post-posting as it were); this is much easier. Very good stuff so far.

So, a blog about the nuts and bolts of blogging. How self-referential and navel-gazing can I get? Just watch!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–Mudge

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