Remember those sand art videos I've featured occasionally?
Well, these aren't videos, but they're kind of along the same lines. Sure beats the old "Wash Me" stuff that I used to write on dirty cars. It's amazing what some people can do with simply tools, isn't it? Check out Scott's work by clicking on the link below.
Monday, December 31, 2007
Remember those sand art videos I've featured occasionally?
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The pool shot of shots
And One Guitar Video
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
What? You've never heard of Life Day? You're kidding, right?
Actually, I hadn't heard of it either, until Merlin Mann talked about it during the latest MacBreak Weekly podcast (#70). But if you're of a certain age, anything to do with Star Wars can grab your attention - at least it got mine. And what he was talking about was the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special.
That's right...a holiday special, featurng the original cast members, including the robots and special guests like Art Carney, Bea Arthur and the Jefferson Starship. What a trip.
As usual, to find out more, I turned to Wikipedia. And you won't believe what the entry on this subject looks like. It's one of those amazing, in-depth articles, lovingly put together by many people, which contains virtually everything that could possibly be known about this subject. It's a treat to see, even if you're not a Star Wars fan. You've got to be impressed (and if you're like me, maybe envious) by the dedication of some folks. Here's a bit from the intro:
The Star Wars Holiday Special was a two-hour television special (including commercials) set in the Star Wars galaxy. It was broadcast in its entirety in the United States only once on Friday, November 17, 1978 on CBS-TV from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time (EST). In it, Chewbacca and Han Solo visit Kashyyyk, Chewbacca's home world, to celebrate Life Day. Along the way, they are pursued by agents of the Galactic Empire who are searching for rebels on the planet. The special introduces three members of Chewbacca's family: his father Attichitcuk, his wife Mallatobuck, and his son Lumpawarrump.Apparently, Star Wars Creator George Lucas was upset with the show (its main claim to fame is how terrible it is) and he's been working hard ever since to make sure no one ever saw it again.
Again from Wikiepedia:
Lucas, who had had very little to do with production since his initial plot outline, was given a private screening of the completed film before it aired. According to reports, he was disgusted with what the producers had done to his story and greatly disliked the special. Rumor has it that he had signed an agreement for it to air at least once, and after seeing it, decided that it would never again be shown on any network after its first airing. The show was greatly hyped on broadcast TV, however, before its debut on November 17. Although ratings were excellent, since the airing many have considered it a general disappointment, and even an insult to the Star Wars saga.And finally,
Lucas himself has rarely commented on or even acknowledged its existence, except to friends and co-workers. Generally, however, he holds a very low opinion of it. For instance, Tom Burman, one of the costume designers for the holiday special, has said that Lucas once told him that he was very disappointed with the final product.Alas for George, (but good for us) the age of the Internet has meant that the show is now available (albeit illegally, I suppose) on sites like YouTube, which features a 5-minute version called The Two-Hour Star Wars Holiday Special in only Five Minutes, and GoogleVideo, where you can watch the whole, spellbinding 117 minutes.
At one Australian fan convention he reportedly said "If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it." In an online chat with fans, he reportedly said: "The holiday special does not represent my vision for Star Wars." In an interview with Maxim magazine in May 2002, Maxim asks the question: Any plans for a Special Edition of the Holiday Special? Lucas responded with "Right. That's one of those things that happened, and I just have to live with it."
This was one of those lucky finds that I just had to tell you about. There's not a lot of literary merit involved, nor will it make you do your job better, I'll admit. But I bet you'll smile a few times, if only at the sheer weirdness of the 1970s minds that conceived this little gem.
I know it's not Friday, so I'm not supposed to be having fun, but here's the 5-minute version from YouTube. I suspect it will be more than enough for most of us.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
So if you're out for an evening walk during this holiday season, you might notice that Mars is the brightest star in the sky. Today, it's the closest it will be to the Earth until 2016. This photo was taken by the Hubble telescope recently. Space.com has links to some videos and tips on viewing the red planet. Here's an excerpt from their article.
The red planet is now the brightest "star" in the evening sky, easily visible by mid-evening until dawn. It comes closest to the Earth today at 6:46 p.m. EST, when it will be 54,783,381 miles (88,165,305 kilometers) from us.So if your kids or houseguests are getting a little rowdy over the holidays, send them outside to check out the skyscape. There's nothing like a nice walk on a winter evening to unwind those tense holiday-ready muscles. Or, if you're in a horse-drawn carriage, you might feel as Robert Frost did.
Mars looks like an orange star to the naked eye, but it's revealed as a disk with many features in modest telescopes. It will put on a good show all month.
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost (1874-1963)
Monday, December 17, 2007
Anyone who is familiar with some of the websites I've worked on (like this one or this one) will know that I think content is more important than style. I like a good-looking site as much as anyone but only if the design adds to the users' ability to find the information they're looking for.
So I wasn't surprised to learn that Nielsen has some reservations about websites that serve up all the latest Web 2.0 goodies without paying enough attention to useability issues. His latest "Alertbox" article is called Web 2.0 Can Be Dangerous...
Here's an excerpt:
Unlike some older technologies (notably, Flash and PDF), Web 2.0 ideas are not inherently bad for users. They can be highly effective; we sometimes see examples of usability-enhancing Web 2.0 designs in our studies. But it's more common to find Web 2.0 ideas that either hurt users or simply don't matter to users' core needs. While the latter case might seem innocent, irrelevant website "enhancements" diminish profits because they indicate a failure to focus on those simpler design issues that actually increase sales and leads.If you're interested in learning more about what works and doesn't work for website users, you'll enjoy this article. And if you're not signed up for Neilsen's Alertbox newsletter, I recommend you start getting it. It's always interesting.
While there's no single definition of the much-abused "Web 2.0" term, I'll look at four trends that are often considered its defining elements:
"Rich" Internet Applications (RIA)
Community features, social networks, and user-generated content
Mashups (using other sites' services as a development platform)
Advertising as the main or only business model
Friday, December 14, 2007
Now I know that sitting here in Canada, we don't have to worry about anything like that, now that Conrad Black is going to jail and Izzy Asper is gone. But still...should we be worried?
Plenty of people think so. And some of them have put together a video to rally support against the plans for consolidation. Here's the video, with an introduction from the MediaChannel.org blog:
Powerful U.S. Senators from both parties berated FCC Chairman Kevin Martin about his plans to open the floodgates of media consolidation across America on December 18th. And Martin didn’t flinch.
It’s easy to stand firm when you’re a Bush operative with the backing of the White House and a seven digit paycheck waiting for you when you quit your job.
Opposition to media titans like Rupert Murdoch buying up more media is a reaction to the pathetic state of journalism and entertainment. To drive home the point, Free Press launched a 3-minute “Junk Media” video to sound the alarm, and rally opposition to the December 18th vote:
Monday, December 10, 2007
For the next couple of weeks, they're giving away a Christmas compilation they've put together from Magnatune artists. There's a good selection of stuff and it will be great to have playing in the background at your Christmas party. (I haven't got my invite yet, by the way.)
When you head to the download page, you'll notice right away some of the features that make Magnatunes such an interesting place. For one thing, their motto is "We are not evil." That's a good start.
The next interesting factoid is that their music is all DRM-free - always. And you have a wide variety of choices in how you want to receive it. You can get a CD (and pick your own price) or you can download the music in a variety of formats. And if you ever lose the file, you can always download another copy for no cost.
It's an interesting place. I recommend taking some time to look around their website after you download your free Christmas music.
And if you're into books and looking for some alternatives to the traditional way of buying and selling your collection, check out Bookmooch, Buckman's latest creation. Here's an interview that helps to explain the concept.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
But I secretly yearn to be a fan. Remember the scene in Pretty Woman where Richard Gere takes Julia Roberts to the opera and tell her that if you cry you'll get it - and she does? (I'm hopelessly mangling that scene, but if you remember it, you'll know what I mean.) I cried when I watched that scene, so I think I qualify. (Of course, the fact that I cry during movies like Pretty Woman probably indicates other things about me, but let's not go there.)
Long story short -- I want to point you to a blog post by Mr. Andy Ihnatko over on the wonderful CWOB (Celstial Waste of Bandwidth) website that I just know you're going to love as much as I do.
Andy is probably my favourite blogger - an absolute must-read. (He's worth following on Twitter too).
Right now, he's running a series called Itunes Advent Calendar, in which he offers up a juicy morsel from Itunes for each day of Advent.
But enough from me. Go ahead and read his post, watch the video and see whether it makes you cry. Then you can join the club.
Monday, November 26, 2007
I've got lots of things to say, but for now, let's just savour the moment.
Did you watch the Grey Cup on Sunday? THE RIDERS WON!!!
Although I don't live in the province anymore (except for a month each summer) I'll always be a Rider fan, like virtually every other ex-pat I've ever met. We're a loyal bunch and while we've suffered over the years, that was all wiped out yesterday. How sweet it is!
I was a reporter for the Saskatoon Star Phoenix when the Riders last won in 1989 and I wandered the streets and bars late into the night gathering colour for my story on the fan reaction after the game. What a feeling.
So I can only imagine how good it felt last night in the Queen City.
Congratulations to everyone in Regina -- and to Rider fans everywhere. It's been a long wait, but it was worth it.
Friday, November 09, 2007
This is a good use of the medium. The video is short, snappy and lays the issues out in a clear fashion, with plenty of graphics to back up their points. Anyone looking for advice on how to put together a presentation that works should take note.
What I can't understand is how the issues in this strike have been allowed to go on for so long. It was almost 20 years ago that the writers agreed to give up a significant part of their share of the home video pie, to help get the business going. Now, 20 years later, everyone agrees that what's happened to them is unfair and should be fixed. But during all this time, the writers' share of those revenues hasn't changed. Why didn't anyone from the big companies ever say "This is silly and needs to be fixed"? Seems like a no-brainer to me, but then, I often thing that common sense should prevail. Silly me.
If you support the writers, head over to UnitedHollywood.com to see their blog, or sign their petition.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Well, it turns out that while it's an interesting illusion (see the comments on that post), it's scientific validity is in some question.
Some minds a great deal more learned than mine spent time on the illusion and came up with interesting results. It seems the linkages between which way the dancer appears to be spinning and which side of your brain is dominant are not so clear cut. In fact, they may be wrong.
Over at the Freakonomics blog, Steven Levitt used his readers to conduct some statistical analysis. His results would seem to indicate that the confusion might stem from the initial article mixing up the hemispheres -- by stating right, when they meant left, or something like that.
As a follow-up, Levitt points to a post at Sciencline.org by Jeremy Hu, which goes into a lot more depth on the whole Spinning Dancer issue, and casts further doubt on the validity of the whole thing.
I'm not sure whether any of this is of value to us, but I am intrigued by what some very smart people can come up with when they look at an animated graphic on a website. Most of us look at it and say "cool" while they come up with a whole theory about what it might mean - or not mean. I guess that's why I'm not an academic.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
In their November, 2007 issue, now available online, writer Ellen McGirt takes a look at this rising tech company, which is certainly the darling of the moment. If you've been hearing about Facebook but you aren't sure what all the fuss is about, give it a read.
Last week, Microsoft paid $240 million for just 1.6% of the company, which means (according to Microsoft) the value of the company is about $15 billion. Which is crazy, according to some (or maybe all) analysts, notably John Dvorak, who thinks Microsoft is nuts.
FastCompany (and I'm sure plenty of other sites as well) also has an interesting look at the relationship between Microsoft and Facebook and why they might have done this deal.
Whatever the true value of the company, there's no denying how popular the social networking site has become. Heck, even I have an account there and a lot of my colleagues do as well. Although it started out as a place for college kids, its wide open now and being used by people of all ages.
What's interesting is that unlike some other sites, such as MySpace, Facebook seems to have captured the imagination of business types, who are using it as a business tool.
But is Facebook really leading a revolution or is it just the flavour of the month, like Friendster or other social networking sites that have gone before it. They all ruled the roost at one point, but faded as new players came along.
Personally, I think there's something different going on now. What's happening is that these sites are starting to figure out how to work with each other, so that you don't have to recreate yourself each time you join a new one. It's early yet, but I think that the ability to follow the activities of people you know as they go about their daily lives is something that we'll come to expect.
What about you? Are you using Facebook, or Twitter, or some other service that keeps you up to date with what your friends are doing, and let's them know what you're up to? Do you want to participate in something like that?
Whether Facebook or the other sites out there now are the ones that end up sticking is an open question. But what seems clear is that the connected world we're living in today is a reality that isn't going to go away.
By the way, you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook (membership required) or LinkedIn or Flickr or MyRagan (again, membership required) or...well, you get the idea.
See you online.
Monday, October 29, 2007
If you're a fan of The Daily Show, you're aware of Colbert (the "t" is silent), who first gained fame for his reporting skills on that esteemed fake news show.
More recently, he's been the star of his own show, and it was there a couple of weeks ago, that he announced he was going to be a candidate in South Carolina on both the Democratic and Republic ballots. He says he's running on the favourite son ticket, since he was born there.
OK, so he's not for real, right? It is a phony campaign, put on by a comedian. And it's not unique. Anyone remember Pat Paulsen, who ran for President six times?
But while Colbert's campaign may be a comedy skit, there's no denying that he's starting to have an effect. Some people think his campaign might even be illegal.
Last weekend, he was a guest on Meet the Press. This week we learned that a Facebook group called 1,000,000 Strong for Stephen J. Colbert has racked up more than 1 million members in less than a week.
This campaign has caught the public's imagination and it's going to be fun to watch it unfold.
Unfortunately, it could all come crashing to a halt in just a few days, since the deadline for getting Colbert's name onto the ballots in South Carolina is looming in early November.
For those of us here in Canada, we can only look at what's happening in the Presidential campaign with envy. While we might be poised for a federal election here, there's no sign of any levity around the battle of wits (?) between between the politicos up here.
What we are in desperate need of is more fun in politics. Remember how much fun the Rhinoceros Party of Canada used to give us with promises like these?
Repealing the law of gravity
Paving Manitoba to create the world's largest parking lot
Providing higher education by building taller schools
Instituting English, French and illiteracy as Canada's three official languages
Tearing down the Rocky Mountains so that Albertans could see the Pacific sunset
Making Montreal the Venice of North America by damming the St. Lawrence River
Abolishing the environment because it's too hard to keep clean and it takes up so much space
Annexing the United States, which would take its place as the third territory, after the Yukon and the Northwest Territories (Nunavut did not yet exist) in Canada's backyard, in order to eliminate foreign control of Canada's natural resources
Those were the good old days, weren't they?
And of course, who could forget the Natural Law party? (Disclaimer - I voted for them, along with about 12 others.)
Hmmm...I wonder what it would be like if Rick Mercer ran for PM?
Darn. Looks like even our comedians get all serious at election time. Scratch that Draft Rick movement.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Another example of just how fascinating the world is when you take the time to watch it, instead of trying to change it.
Thanks to No Impact Man for the blog post and Tuco Rides for the photos.
Friday, October 19, 2007
We were driving by the Vancouver airport about 4 pm, just at the same time that a small Cessna took off from the airport and promptly crashed into an apartment building near the airport, leaving a gaping hole in the side of the building (shown in the photo on the right.)
Fortunately, the plane didn't catch fire and although the pilot was killed, the two people inside the apartment were only injured, one seriously. It could have been a lot worse. (Link to the Globe and Mail story)
As we continued into Vancouver, we saw a couple of fire trucks race by us on the other side of the road. Then we ran into seven or eight ambulances. We had to keep pulling over because the southbound lanes that the ambulances were travelling in were completely filled with Friday afternoon traffic and it was tough for them to get through.
I suspect that if we had been just a few minutes later, we might not have been able to continue through on that road. Traffic for a long way around the site was shut down for awhile until the police could figure out just how bad things were.
The map below shows where the plane hit the apartment. We were driving north on Hwy 99 at the time.
I caught a bit of the live coverage on the TV here at the hotel later, and I've got to give credit to the supper-hour news folks. They were all valiantly working overtime to get as much information as possible out as quickly as possible. It reminded me of the movie Broadcast News, when William Hurt steps in to anchor the special coverage for some crisis in the middle East. Today's events might not have been as dramatic, but I bet they got the hearts in newsrooms across the city beating pretty good.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
And if you're planning on booking a trip with these guys, you might want to think twice about that. At least wait until you read the rest of this post.
Yesterday, I received a notice from them about an itinerary change to the tickets I've booked for my daughter's trip from Tampa to Victoria in December.
The email was marked urgent and said:
Dear Expedia.ca Customer,That seems pretty clear. So I picked up the phone and spent the next two hours on hold, waiting for a representative. No luck.
We have received notice from US Airways that they have:
* Updated the arrival time for 1 of your flights
* Updated the departure time for 1 of your flights.
It is important that we speak to you as soon as possible to review changes from the carrier so that we can discuss alternatives. Please contact us at 1-888-EXPEDIA (1-888-397-3342) or from outside North America at +1-613-780-1386 .
While I was waiting, I checked their website and saw this note:
Oh, Oh. Sounds ominous.
Customer service improvements underwayWe're currently receiving a large volume of telephone and e-mail inquiries. As a result, your call wait time or e-mail response time will be longer than usual. We're working hard to improve service capacity as soon as possible; in the meantime, we appreciate your understanding - and your patience.
This morning, I called in early. But it made no difference. I left the line open with the music playing...and waited. A couple of hours later, I took the dogs out for a walk. When I returned, I was still on hold. Now, it's a few hours later and still nothing. I've also emailed their support group, without any reply.
Apparently, I'm not the only one having troubles with this company.
I found a website called MyExpediaExperience.com that was put up by a guy in Ontario. It's a litany of frustration.
And over at the Canadian Forums on TripAdvisor.com, there's more stories from angry and frustrated Expedia.ca customers, who are all having the same issues with not being able to get through to anyone at the company.
The problems seem to date from September and are still continuing. Several people say they've complained to the better business bureau and various consumer organizations, but there's no reports of what's come of that.
What's missing in all of this is any response from Expedia. They haven't said anything in any of these forums, nor is there any explanation on their website, beyond the notice above. They obviously are suffering from some serious issues, but without any explanations, their reputation is taking a pounding.
And with the busy holiday season coming up, they're going to be run right out of business if they don't pull their act together.
UPDATE -- Shortly after I wrote the note above, I found a way to get around the line-up and it worked. I saw a posting that recommended NOT pushing any buttons on your phone after you connect to the 1-888 number. Just wait...and sure enough, I was connected within about 10 minutes.
Good news, right? Wrong.
I spoke to a nice young woman who checked the file and said it looked like there were some minor changes to the schedule, but nothing to worry about. (I had already figured that out by checking the flight info with United Airways myself.)
After taking all my information and confirming the changes, she came back on the line and told me that she couldn't actually make the changes -- that needs to be done by the "Change" department. Was I willing to wait on hold while she transferred my call?
"Will I have to wait for hours again just to get through?" I wondered.
"I don't know," she replied.
"You do realize that I've been trying to get through for two days? I don't really want to do that again, you understand. Will I be placed in the main queue or transferred internally?"
"Oh, it will be internal. And I'm sorry about the wait. We are experiencing a heavy call volume and we're trying to rectify the problem."
Well, at least she was sticking to the key messages, even if she couldn't do anything.
Give me a break. She was very apologetic, but unable to offer any alternative. So I went back on hold yet again.
That's where I am right now. On hold again...I'll update this post if I ever do get this resolved...
UPDATE 2: I still haven't got through to anyone. I tried for awhile again this morning but I had to leave for Vancouver. Looks like this ticket may remain unconfirmed...for awhile anyway. Hopefully, someone will respond to email at some point.
UPDATE 3A while after the previous update, I did get an email from someone at Expedia. They asked me to provide them with a phone number, so someone could call me back. I sent them the number, but I never did hear back from them. Strange way of doing business.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
When I was younger, my fondest dream was sailing around the world, just like Joshua Slocum in Spray. I devoured books about sailors, especially that special breed that went to sea alone. The circumnavigation of the world all alone, with just the fish and occasional bird for company.
The first sailor I remember encountering (in print) was a 16-year-old kid from California called Robin Lee Graham, who sailed the 24-foot Dove around the world from 1965 to 1970. He wrote a book about his adventure, called Dove, which I read when it came out in the early '70s. I think it was that story that got me interested in the whole circumnavigation genre.
I've never followed through and sailed anything, despite my keen interest. I've always rationalized that by saying that sometimes its better to keep dreaming than get bogged down in reality. Whatever. I did own a small dinghy sailboat briefly, but that's been the extent of my sailing career. Lately, kayaking has become a new passion. However, living on the beautiful west coast of Canada, who knows? Maybe those dreams of heading to the open sea have a better chance of happening here, where I can walk to the ocean.
But I'm still a sucker for sailing stories and these days I'm following another solo voyage around the world. But thanks to the magic of modern communications, I'm able to keep track of this guy in real time.
Glenn Wakefield sailed out of Victoria on Sunday, September 23 aboard Kim Chow, his Phil Rhodes designed Offshore 40' sloop. He's embarked on a solo, non-stop circumnavigation west about from Victoria, making him the first sailor to attempt the voyage from North America. He's hoping to sail back into Victoria next July, 10 months after he left. It's a fascinating story about one man living out his dream and you can follow along at his website.
Although I don't know Glenn, I do know his wife, MaryLou, who is handling the PR side of things from her Victoria home. Each day, Glenn radios a report to a ham radio operator, who then emails MaryLou with an update, which she posts on the website. She's also able to send Glenn email, although he's been having some problems with his on-board computer, so I'm not sure how well that's going.
You can follow along on the daily updates at this page, although there's no RSS feed or email option. But it's going to be a fascinating journey. I'll provide occasional updates as it unfolds.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
According to an article from Australia's The Herald Sun if you see the dancer in the image turning counter-clockwise, you're using more of your left-brain and vice-versa.
They say that most people see the dancer turning counter-clockwise (left-brain). Apparently, some can make her change direction, but I only see her turning clockwise. Here's what they say the two sides of the brain represent:
LEFT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
words and language
present and past
math and science
acknowledges order/pattern perception
knows object name
RIGHT BRAIN FUNCTIONS
"big picture" oriented
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can "get it" (i.e. meaning)
knows object function
Which are you?
Friday, October 05, 2007
Watching the photos go byThe folks at Google have come up with a cool little application to help you spend some time doing not-so-much. It's called Blogger Play.
Here's the way it works. You open a browser and watch a slideshow of all the photos that are being uploaded to Blogger, Google's blogging platform, in real-time. The show just goes on and on. It's very addictive.
Here's the link to Blogger Play. I couldn't get the photo below to link you to the actual page.
Things people said in courtYou need to read some of these for yourself to realize just how funny they can be. It turns out that not everyone is quite as well-scripted as the folks on Law & Order.
Here's an example:
* Lawyer: "How old is your son, the one living with you?"Check out the site. There's some pretty funny clips.
* Witness: "Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can't remember which."
* Lawyer: "How long has he lived with you?"
* Witness: "Forty-five years."
Here's the link.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
PR people might want to take note of some of these. For example:
Merlin suggests creating a filter for your mail that will automatically collect every piece of mail with the string "For immediate release" anywhere in the text.
Zip! There go all those press releases.
Another tip is one he calls the "Bozo filter."
Filter into a “holding” folder every email message for which you are not the sole “TO:” recipient. This filter includes lists, “CC:”s, “BCC:”s, and any number of other bulk-y messages that were never destined for you alone. Then you check that folder once a day, and create compensating rules as needed.He's got a whack of good ideas already and he's soliciting more from his readers.
If you've got some ideas, or just want to see some of the other examples, head on over to 43 Folders. There's plenty there to help you clean up your own problems with the daily (down)load.
Monday, October 01, 2007
The campaign is called Stop Blocking and features a blog and a Wiki where people can start adding to the storehouse of examples and information he wants to create.
Here's a snip from his campaign intro:
For years, I have opposed the business practice of blocking employee access to online content. Any online content. It’s not that I believe employees should spend worktime perusing Web porn. But I don’t believe that blocking access for any and every employee is the best way to address abuse. Additionally, a lot of the content companies are blocking — Facebook is a good example — can actually produce business value.Hear, hear, Shel.
Shel's argument is that employees must be treated with trust:
Trust builds commitment, which leads to engagement. It is nearly impossible to build a highly engaged workforce when the message is clear: “We don’t trust any of you as far as we can throw you.”This seems so much like common sense, it's hard to see how companies get off-track. But boy, do they ever, and I'm sure that Shel's new blog will point out a lot of those examples.
I think this is a terrific idea and Shel deserves a ton of congrats for putting his money where his mouth is. Hats off to him. And I encourage you to visit the site and take part.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
If you want to learn more about that result, you can click on the link above and choose from any of the news stories there. But that's not really why I'm posting this.
I've written before about what a powerful force Wikepedia has become as an information resource. But simply quoting the number of pages it contains or the number of people who contribute or any of the other examples put forward don't really convey what I'm looking for.
The Landis story gives a dramatic example of Wikepedia in action. There is an extensive article on Floyd Landis' situation on the site, which appears to cover nearly every part of the story. There's also a story in Wikinews, which features the decision as one of its current events.
But what really captured my attention, and demonstrates the real power behind Wikipedia, is the Talk Page about the Floyd Landis article.
People that have questions or concerns about the stuff that's on the page can edit the content, of course, just like they can for any article on the site. But if their concerns are more about the nature of the information, or stuff that may be missing, or possible bias, etc., they can post their comments on this page and the editors who are tracking the story will respond.
It's a fascinating back and forth that makes for good reading on its own.
And of course, it's not just for this story. This kind of thing happens every day. To read more about it, check out this post I had about it a few months ago.
It's pretty common to hear that we're in the midst of an information revolution. This is the kind of thing that proves it. The revolution is now.
Here's an interesting snippet from the story:
...[O]verall newspaper readership is relatively stable in Canada, in contrast to the state of the industry in the United States where readership, circulation and advertising revenue have been slumping.And later...
"The industry is actually enjoying a period of relative stability at a time when, in the United States, you're seeing some fairly sizable drops in circulation and ad revenues," said Globe and Mail publisher Phillip Crawley. "Our industry is not in the same kind of trouble." He said many readers are looking at newspaper websites in addition to reading the printed version, but are not replacing one with the other.I fit that profile. I'm definitely a newspaper reader. We get two daily papers delivered to the house and I've also got online subs to both. In addition, I regularly browse newspaper sites online, like the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Washington Post, etc.
To me, reading a newspaper is not just the gathering of information. I like to feel the paper and scan the stories as I flip through the different sections. I like the pictures. Heck, sometimes I even like to see the ads and the flyers that come with them.
Online, it's a different experience. The news is more targetted. I find I don't read as many stories that catch my eye. I tend to look at the headlines and dismiss a lot of stuff. If it was already on the page, printed right there, I would probably scan the story. But when it's just a headline on a screen, I'll only look if I'm really interested.
I've written before about the future of newsprint (Will global warming speed the rise of digital papers? and What's the future for newsprint?)
Looking back over those articles, I'd say that the issue is far from resolved, nor do I expect that to change any time soon. I still like to grab a coffee and sit down with the paper - the newsprint kind - in the morning. But who knows what's coming? Electronic paper that recreates that experience? An improved online interface, like the kind that the Iphone promises?
What about you? Do you still like paper? Or have you switched over to online only? Let me know what you think. You can leave a comment here (just click on the comments button below) or send me a note. I'd like to hear from you.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
But I do enjoy reading books like Lynn Truss' (or is it Truss's?) Eats, Shoots & Leaves and I'm never without a copy of Strunk & White close by.
So I have no hesitation in recommending a podcast about grammar.
It's called Grammar Girl - Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, and it's a great way to stay sharp. It's a regular 5-minute show that looks at a particular grammar issue in detail. You can find it on Itunes or you can go to the website, where you can listen, download it and also order a copy of her book.
I thought of it today because I found out through Twitter (via Donna Papacosta, host of the Trafcom News Podcast) that Grammar Girl (aka Mignon Fogarty) is featured in a video that's up on YouTube. I've linked to the video below, so you can watch it yourself. And I recommend that you sign up for Grammar Girl. It won't hurt, and you might find it helps your writing too.
Monday, September 17, 2007
They've added some new features to their service and one of them caught my attention. They automatically create an audio version of every blog posting I put out.
It's kind of weird to hear a computer reading your stuff, but it seems to work all right. If you want to listen to the previous blog post about Project Censored, use this link, then click on the "Listen" button.
There's probably a way I could put that listen link here, but I haven't figured that out.
UPDATE: What do you know?
What do you think?
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Each year however, I read the reports from Project Censored, which tracks stories of interest that don't get any play in the US media, and I wonder what is going on.
This year's edition is no different. There are some pretty amazing examples of stories that seem worthy of the media's attention but haven't received any. It makes for interesting reading, no matter what you might think is the reason for why you haven't heard about these stories before.
One caveat worth mentioning. I'd say these stories are usually presented from the "left" side of the political spectrum. On the other side of the ledger, there are plenty of stories coming out of the "right wing" side of the spectrum that are also not being widely reported.
If I learned anything as a reporter it was that is always -- always -- two sides to every story. And sometimes more. That's why reporting is such hard work.
Here's the link to a story from the San Francisco Guardian, about this year's Project Censored report.
In case you're wondering, there was a Canadian equivalent, called News Watch Canada. It's run out of Simon Fraser University. But although the web site is still up, the most recent report is from 2001. If anyone knows more about this, please add a comment about it or drop me a line.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
No? Actually me neither. I can't remember the last time I was even at a party...
But no matter. Imagine for a moment you are - then here's a whole batch of intriguing stories that will keep your fellow revellers enthralled for minutes.
The 20 excerpts on the site are from a new book called Elephants on Acid and Other Bizarre Experiments, by Alex Boese.
Boese says that "I scoured scientific archives searching for the most bizarre experiments of all time — the kind that are mind-twistingly, jaw-droppingly strange... the kind that make you wonder, "How did anyone ever conceive of doing such a thing?"
He's right. There are some real wild ones in this list.
Here's an excerpt:
#2: Obedience-- Imagine that you've volunteered for an experiment, but when you show up at the lab you discover the researcher wants you to murder an innocent person. You protest, but the researcher firmly states, "The experiment requires that you do it." Would you acquiesce and kill the person?
When asked what they would do in such a situation, almost everyone replies that of course they would refuse to commit murder. But Stanley Milgram's famous obedience experiment, conducted at Yale University in the early 1960s, revealed that this optimistic belief is wrong. If the request is presented in the right way, almost all of us quite obediently become killers.
Milgram told subjects they were participating in an experiment to determine the effect of punishment on learning. One volunteer (who was, in reality, an actor in cahoots with Milgram) would attempt to memorize a series of word pairs. The other volunteer (the real subject) would read out the word pairs and give the learner an electric shock every time he got an answer wrong. The shocks would increase in intensity by fifteen volts with each wrong answer.
The experiment began. The learner started getting some wrong answers, and pretty soon the shocks had reached 120 volts. At this point the learner started crying out, "Hey, this really hurts." At 150 volts the learner screamed in pain and demanded to be let out. Confused, the volunteers turned around and asked the researcher what they should do. He always calmly replied, "The experiment requires that you continue."
Milgram had no interest in the effect of punishment on learning. What he really wanted to see was how long people would keep pressing the shock button before they refused to participate any further. Would they remain obedient to the authority of the researcher up to the point of killing someone?
To Milgram's surprise, even though volunteers could plainly hear the agonized cries of the learner echoing through the walls of the lab from the neighboring room, two-thirds of them continued to press the shock button all the way up to the end of scale, 450 volts, by which time the learner had fallen into an eerie silence, apparently dead. Milgram's subjects sweated and shook, and some laughed hysterically, but they kept pressing the button. Even more disturbingly, when volunteers could neither see nor hear feedback from the learner, compliance with the order to give ever greater shocks was almost 100%.
Milgram later commented, "I would say, on the basis of having observed a thousand people in the experiment and having my own intuition shaped and informed by these experiments, that if a system of death camps were set up in the United States of the sort we had seen in Nazi Germany, one would be able to find sufficient personnel for those camps in any medium-sized American town."
I ended up without Internet access yesterday, so I neglected to post this. I've got two videos and a weird website for you this week.
Internet PeopleFirst up is a little ditty that runs through a brief mention of most of the high points of Internet news over the past year or two. If you're like me, you'll be amazed at how many of these references you get. And if you don't get them, I think you'll still be impressed by this video. Hey, it's Friday (sort of) after all.
Freaking facesThis site is just plain weird. The challenge is to take two faces and photoshop them into one. The results range from fascinating to bizarre to creepy. No real value whatsoever, but fun to flip through.
Here's the link:
Stop motion gone wildAnd finally, a video that's just fun. Think about the work that went into putting this together. That's one of the things that's so cool about places like YouTube. They give people the opportunity to get videos like this out to a big audience. Thanks guys.
UPDATE - If you're having trouble getting the video above to work properly, here's the link to the original on YouTube.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
And as it turns out, that list even includes Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO and a legendary marketing guru in his own right.
Recently, Job's cred as a marketing genius took a hit with Apple's decision to drop the price of the Iphone by $200, bringing howls of outrage from the early adopters who bought one as soon as it was available. Although Apple quickly tried to mollify folks by offering them a $100 store credit, the furore hurt Apple's reputation (at least in some peoples' opinion) and obscured some of the other things that were announced at the same time, like the new Nano and the iPod Touch.
In a recent blog post, Seth explains how Apple blew it and deftly points to a few ways that they could have easily handled the situation to keep everyone happy. Jobs and Co. would be wise to consider hiring Godin before their next big announcement, just to make sure they're not screwing up again.
Here's an excerpt:
When Steve Jobs gave a $200 discount to the late adopters of the iPhone, the early adopters were incensed. They were being treated differently, but in the wrong way. My guess is that his $100 store credit and personal note helped a great deal, but it also cost about $20 million in profit. If Apple had thought it through, he could have offered any of the following (and done it during the presentation he did of the new products):
- Free exclusive ringtones, commissioned from Bob Dylan and U2, only available to the people who already had a phone. (This is my favorite because it announces to your friends--every time the phone rings--that you got in early).
- Free pass to get to the head of the line next time a new hot product comes out.
- Ability to buy a specially colored iPod, or an iPod with limited edition music that no one else can buy.
The key is to not give price protection to early buyers (that's unsustainable as a business model) but to make them feel more exclusive, not less.
(Via Seth's Blog.)
Monday, September 10, 2007
Food for thought. Here's an excerpt:
There as elsewhere in the Appalachian coal country that stretches through Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky, coal is produced by what's self-descriptively known as mountaintop-removal mining.
Mining companies clear forests from mountaintops, dynamite the peaks, excavate buried coal, and dump the waste into nearby valleys. It's cheaper and more efficient than old-fashioned mining, but the effects of mountaintop removal -- or MTR -- are devastating.
In just two decades, hundreds of mountaintops, more than a thousand miles of stream, and hundreds of square miles of forests have been obliterated by the practice. Opponents say the pollution is also dangerous to people who live in the region.
Here's the link to the Wired.com story:
Link to Blowing the Top off Mountaintop Mining
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
That means you can buy a shiny new one and be the coolest cat on the block. Or you can head downtown and pick up one of the previous generations at a significantly reduced price. That's what I did the last time new ones came out.
Now I'm not sure what to do. I'm pretty taken with the new I-Touch version (it's an IPhone without the Phone). But I think I'm still holding out for a real IPhone, which I hope will be available in Canada before too long.
What are you going to do?
Sunday, September 02, 2007
The biggest is simply the face-to-face "hallway meetings" that pop up all the time at the office. The kind that happen when someone pops their head into someone's office and says "Got a minute?"
Those little slices of life are what keeps businesses moving along. They're important but unfortunately, they aren't easy to replicate in a virtual office.
Sure, those of us that work this way all the time are able to compensate. We can get a lot out of a phone call, or an email message. Sometimes we use audio or video conferencing to try to simulate the "you're here with us" sensation, but in truth, it's not the same.
That doesn't mean that teleworking isn't important, or useful. I'm not even saying that there are things that can't be done remotely. What I'm saying is, wouldn't it be great if we could recreate those little opportunities to mingle and be creative in short bursts?
So I was intrigued by the latest post from Robert Cringely, called The Next Killer App. He says it's going to be telepresence.
Here's what Wikipedia says about telepresence and video conferencing:
Rather than traveling great distances, in order to have a face-face meeting, it is now possible to teleconference instead, using a multiway video phone. Each member of the meeting, or each party, can see every other member on a screen or screens, and can talk to them as if they were in the same room. This brings enormous time and cost benefits, as well as a reduced impact on the environment from air travel. A good telepresence strategy puts the human factors first, focusing on visual collaboration solutions that closely replicate the brain's innate preferences for interpersonal communications, separating from the unnatural "talking heads" experience of traditional videoconferencing. These cues include life–size participants, fluid motion, accurate flesh tones and the appearance of true eye contact. This is already a well-established technology, used by many businesses today. The chief executive officer of Cisco Systems, John Chambers in June 2006 at the Networkers Conference compared telepresence to teleporting from Star Trek, and said that he saw the technology as a potential billion dollar market for Cisco.
Cringely makes a compelling case for why these systems could soon move into the home market. And what an intriguing possibility that is.
What's more, he makes a good argument for why Apply might be the first PC maker to turn that dream into a reality.
...Imagine one of the new aluminum and glass iMacs only instead of a 24-inch screen make it 42 inches. The familiar iSight camera will be there in the bezel. but this time the camera will have HD resolution. This hang-it-on-the-wall iMac would establish yet another category of computers, which is what Apple loves to do. They’ll sell a million units to the faithful and all it will take is putting an active telepresence system in every Apple store connected to every other Apple store for prospective users to play with. This gets Apple into the big screen TV business with a system that has higher margins simply because it isn’t just a TV but is also a Mac. Look for all this after Christmas along with refreshed Macs featuring the H.264 encoder chip I pre-announced a number of months ago. Look for Apple to also facilitate telepresence by turning it into a service as it has more and more wanted to do. Then imagine that system connected to a 3G iPhone.
I like his thinking. And I'm looking forward to the next phase of this particular story.
(Via I, Cringely . The Pulpit.)
Monday, August 27, 2007
While I'm doing that, I thought you might be interested in watching this clip from the 1984 Apple Shareholders' meeting. This is the kind of video that was very, very high tech back then. I don't know for sure whether this was a video or a multi-projector slide show, but either way, it's pretty high quality.
Compare that video, which probably cost tens of thousands of dollars to what's available today right on your computer. Just go to the Apple website, for example, and check out this demo for the new iLife software (which comes with every Mac.)
It's been a fascinating evolution. It's changed the way we entertain ourselves and how we do business. And it's certainly not over yet.
Friday, August 10, 2007
My idea of fun
As you can see above, I'm enjoying some time away from it all at the cottage in Buena Vista, Saskatchewan. This is the view out my front window. It's been awhile since I posted anything to The Daily Upload so I thought I should let you know what I've been up to.
I've enjoyed a solid couple of weeks of family reunions and getting together with friends. My family had a large family reunion at the end of July on Vancouver Island, then Heather and I piled into her (small) car with our two large dogs and headed out here to Saskatchewan.
Since we arrived, I've hosted a few dozen friends at a party to celebrate my reaching the half-century mark as well as connecting with more old friends and enjoying the relaxed pace of cottage life.
I've got a couple more weeks out here before I head back to the Island, so you can expect my postings to be intermittent for awhile yet.
I hope your summer is going as well as mine.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
It's a balanced piece that asks some hard questions about what's going on in Cuba without taking sides. But it's a disturbing story and one that can't help be leave you wondering what's happening. And as with so many of these stories, it seems that the families are the ones who really end up struggling to cope.
On December 15, 2001, early in the morning on the last day of Ramadan, a reporter and a cameraman from Al Jazeera arrived at the Pakistani town of Charman on the Afghanistan border, on their way to cover the American military operation. The reporter, Abdelhaq Sadah, was replacing a colleague, but the cameraman, a Sudanese national named Sami al-Haj, had been on such an assignment before, and had crossed the border without incident. This time, however, an immigration official stopped him. He seemed angry. The official told Sadah that he could go, but "your friend is a wanted man and will stay here."He hasn't been seen since.
In Sadah’s recollection, the official produced a letter from Pakistani intelligence—written, curiously, in English. It said that al-Haj had Al Qaeda ties and should be apprehended. Al-Haj noticed that the passport number in the letter didn’t correspond to the one in his current passport, but instead to an old passport he had lost several years ago in Sudan and had reported missing. Despite his protests, the official insisted on detaining him overnight. The next morning, Sadah returned to the border post just in time to see a Pakistani military officer lead al-Haj to a car and drive him away.
Here's the link.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Of course, some meddlings muggles have spoiled things by posting spoilers on the Internet and in some American newspapers, but the true believers won't be put off by that kind of nonsense.
Actually, I'm not really that excited about the release of the last book in this series, but I'm enjoying watching the way it's all playing out. My daughter Kelly (who is living with us this summer) is beside herself with anticipation.
"You know, I think I just might throw up," she told me this morning, listening to a local bookseller talking on the radio about the upcoming launch. Then it got worse, as she sat down to read a review about the book in the local paper, and learned that up to half a dozen characters get killed off in the final book. "I'm going to start crying right now!"
Tomorrow, it will all be past. Kelly's copy of the book will be arriving via a special Canada Post delivery first thing in the morning thanks to a deal that Chapters offered. Once she's finished, then I get to read it, which I'm looking forward to.
So in the spirit of enjoying the Potter mania sweeping around the world today, I present the latest installment of the Potter Puppet Pals in The Mysterious Ticking Noise. Just click on the video below to watch.
And if you like that one, there's a bunch more on YouTube. Just search under Potter Puppet Pals.
Wonderful use of storytelling in a videoDan York at Disruptive Conversations points us to a great video, which won a gold medal at the Cannes Lions event.
Click here to see Dan's original post, or watch the video below.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
But as with so many films based on the sixties, there's an interesting back story that revolves around racial issues that the film doesn't talk about.
MediaChannel.org has an article called Hairspray's Revolting History that is worth reading if you're planning to see the show. Heck, even if you aren't, it's worth reading. But if you take a look at the trailer, I suspect you're going to want to see the show yourself.
Here's the intro to the article:
The Hollywood version of Hairspray opens this week as a big screen and big star version of John Waters original film celebrating 1960’s youth culture. Yet there is a “back story” that Hollywood ignores and News Dissector Danny Schechter remembers as recounted by Polar Levine.
Here's the link to the whole article..
Friday, July 13, 2007
To tell the truth, I'm getting kind of confused about what I'm supposed to be doing with all this stuff. I've started playing around with applications that pull a lot of it together, like Adium, which groups all my IM clients into one beautiful interface. So far, I haven't found anything similar for all these social media sites, with the need to add friends (I don't really seem to have that many) to all of them and follow along with what everyone is doing.
Which of these new tools are you using? Have you found they're helping you be productive? Or do they just give us another excuse to avoid getting to some of the tasks that are filling up our to-do lists? Maybe we should start a group somewhere to talk about this...
One app that's had a lot of press recently is Twitter, which I've signed on to without really understanding what it does. But a couple of weeks ago, Wired Magazine had a story by Clive Thompson that did a good job of explaining some of the complexities. I missed it when it first ran, but a blog post by Neville Hobson pointed me to it. Ironically, Neville heard about it through a "Tweet" from one of his friends.
Here's the link. Let me know what you think.
So perhaps it's the heat that's put me in a lazy mood. Or it could be that I'm just lazy, or that I'm procrastinating. Whatever the reason, I've found a couple of websites that are a nice diversion on a hot day, assuming that you're stuck in the office and don't have access to a back deck with a pool.
Let your inner artist freeIf you like to doodle, you'll have fun with Mr. Picassohead. You can choose from a variety of facial features, like eyes, lips, hair, etc. and play with them to create your own caricature. You can re-size items, colour them, discard and pick new ones, all with just a few mouse clicks. I like playing with eyebrows to completely change the expression.
Here's the link.
The seventies will never dieI've mentioned before that I'm a bit of a sucker for the music from the seventies. It was my formative decade, after all. (Click on the photo of the Average White Band for more info.) So coming across this site was a nice surprise. It's got the background information on all the hit songs form each year of the decade. There's a lot of really interesting (if somewhat shallow) information here. And if you get interested, it's a good starting point for a more detailed research piece into whatever song or artist you're interested in.
Take a look and start poking around. If you're at all like me, you'll be clicking through to more sites and links for the next while and before you know it, the heat wave will be over!
Here's the link.
Friday, July 06, 2007
But this week, in a grudging acknowledgment that the iPhone is a big deal, I present a musical tribute, put together by NY Times technology writer David Pogue.
Here's the link.
UPDATE - Just came across a really cool illusion site, via Boing, Boing. Check it out here.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
You'll meet Jimmy Wales, the founder, as well as a lot of the folks who make it all work.
Here's an example:
Natalie Martin, a 23-year-old history major at Antioch College in Ohio, was granted admin status last winter after contributing to the site for about nine months. She thought at one point in her life that she wanted to be a journalist, she said, “but then I decided that my only real interest in newspapers is fixing all the comma mistakes.” Martin works at the circulation desk of a local library — a job that often leaves her attention less than fully engaged, in which case she logs onto Wikipedia and looks for errors. Her usual M.O. is to check the “recent changes” page, a running log of the most recent edits made anywhere on the site, no matter how large or small. It gives you some sense of the project’s scale to learn that the roughly 250 most recent changes to the English-language Wikipedia were made in the last 60 seconds.If you want to know a lot more about Wikipedia and how it works, give it a read.
Here's the link.
Saturday, June 30, 2007
Here's the post from Wired.com
1888: The earliest known musical recording is made. The piece, Georg Friedrich Handel's Israel in Egypt, is recorded on a paraffin cylinder.
Israel in Egypt, assigned the catalog number HWV 54, is an oratorio, a form in which Handel excelled. Like his more famous Messiah, Israel in Egypt is composed using biblical passages, mainly from Exodus and the Psalms.
Unlike the Messiah, however, it didn't enjoy much of a reception when it premiered in 1739. As a result, Handel shortened the work and inserted a few Italian arias to lighten the mood a bit.
Nevertheless, it was selected by Col. George Gourand, Thomas Edison's foreign sales agent, for the first musical recording. Gourand made his recording in London's Crystal Palace, using Edison's yellow paraffin cylinder -- candle wax, essentially.
(Source: Stanford University, National Park Service)