March 6, 2007

User Interface Reductio Ad Absurdum

Posted in Books, Fun, Me at 10:00 pm by mj

What can one do but chuckle when presented with the following?

I could go on about how Amazon.com has the worst cart management interface (except for all the others). And how it’s so incredibly difficult to find old, saved items, and move or delete them, that I just don’t do it. And that the result is a list of items, many of which are 2-4 years old, half of which I already own (received as gifts/bought elsewhere) or decided I didn’t want.

But I know it’s all my fault.

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October 20, 2006

How short will your skirt be on Halloween?

Posted in Fun, Sex at 12:01 am by mj

Here’s a bit of semi-fun, semi-seriousness.

Two interesting–provokative?–articles about women’s Halloween costumes.

The first from the New York Times. I admit just reading the intro paragraph is a bit of a turn-on:

IN her thigh-highs and ruby miniskirt, Little Red Riding Hood does not appear to be en route to her grandmother’s house. And Goldilocks, in a snug bodice and platform heels, gives the impression she has been sleeping in everyone’s bed. There is a witch wearing little more than a Laker Girl uniform, a fairy who appears to shop at Victoria’s Secret and a cowgirl with a skirt the size of a tea towel.

Of course, I am picturing my wife in these outfits. Really.

What I find puzzling is this little observation from one of them “experts” we’re always reading about:

“Decades after the second wave of the women’s movement, you would expect more of a gender-neutral range of costumes,” said Adie Nelson

Because, yeah, girls want to look like men all the time.

Gray, drab dress pants are fine, and I’m hardly an expert, but I see a lot of women being taken seriously without sacrificing their femininity.

Further down, another puzzle:

Deborah Tolman, the director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University and a professor of human sexuality studies there, found that some 30 teenage girls she studied understood being sexy as “being sexy for someone else, not for themselves,” she said.

When the girls were asked what makes them feel sexy, they had difficulty answering, Dr. Tolman said, adding that they heard the question as “What makes you look sexy?”

Yes, it is puzzling how anybody can think the most basic social impulse has anything to do with attracting the attention of other people.

Remember–I’m not saying this because I’m a hot, sexy thing who likes to strut my stuff. I’d be better off if everybody wore paper bags over their heads. I’m just a realist.

Anyhow, the second article from azcentral is a bit more disturbing: Sexy Halloween costumes rile parents:

With names like “Transylvania Temptress,” “Handy Candy,” “Major Flirt,” and “Red Velvet Devil Bride,” there is no doubt that costumes marketed to children and teens have become more suggestive.

If you know me, you probably know I have a hard enough time buying into the whole little-girl-dreams-of-being-a-princess schtick that children are taught. (I mean, politically, you do know princes and princesses exist on the backs of other people for no reason other than their heritage… right? And that dreaming of marrying rich is probably the worst dream you can foist upon your child if you want her to be successful in life? Yes?)

I sympathize very much with the intent to show children–especially girls–that there’s more to life than “looking pretty” for other people, and this article has some good parenting advice. (Where, by “good,” I mean, “seems reasonable,” though I have not tried it myself, so I have no idea how practical and, hence, good the advice actually is.)

Judging from the average gallery of 13, 12, and even 11 year-old girls I see strutting around with their mothers and grandmothers in Victoria’s Secret (and even the outlet malls!!), a lot of parents are ill-equipped to, well, be parents. I mean, these girls have less subtlety than the average crack-addicted prostitute walking the street. But let’s forget that can of worms. Teenagers go through phases.

The biggest challenge I see, the biggest dilemma facing our ever-sexualized culture, is that so much of mainstream sexuality does–to paraphrase the NYT article–“indulge male lolita fantasies.” Is that indulgence warranted?

 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a costume to order for my wife… and I need to shorten my own skirt this year. Need to “keep up with the joneses” and all that.

October 1, 2006

Closing out my tabs: some quickies

Posted in Fun, Links, Search, Software at 12:23 am by mj

Some things that have remained in my open Firefox tabs…some, for weeks…which I’ve realized I’m never going to blog by themselves, but I still want to share.

 

Why Search Sucks
Danny Sullivan on Why Search Sucks & You Won’t Fix It The Way You Think. A nice look at the relatively static history of (web) search UIs and some of the more interesting experiments. All of which give too many options in an unintuitive way.

 

Mad Money: Or Just Mad?
Is the Cramer Effect costing average investors money?

I gave Cramer’s advice on “markup week” a test. There are already good tracking blogs out there: Mad Money Machine, Mad Money Recap, and, for longer-term performance, Booyah Boy Audit has pretty graphs.

My result was mixed. Up 1.1% following his advice to a tee. So, with $10K to invest, and (very) low trading fees, you could be up $100 for the week.

Sounds low, but if all weeks performed just as well, a 50% pre-tax annual return on your discretionary investment income is pretty good. Most of his advice, though, is longer-term than one week.

 

Best rant of the year
Leon Spencer responding to Tim Bray on domain-specific markup languages in Ruby.

Frankly, if you’re embedding enough HTML markup in your code to make it worthwhile to create, use, or even argue over HTML-like DSLs…you’re doing something wrong.

Now, (ir)regular expressions and XPath, on the other hand…

 

Is YouTube Worth Buying?
Mark Cuban says no. True, YouTube is big only because of all the illegal or questionable content. (Odd how they do a good job of policing porn, though.) But don’t forget its name. It is the Napster of its time. It could be burned to the ground by the RIAA, MPAA, SAG, WGA, and NCAA, and still…it will rise again, in some form or another, under one ownership or another. That could be valuable. Hell, even Netscape is still kinda sorta in some weird, scandalous way “recognizable” today.

How much would it take to make a YouTube “killer” in six months? Let’s go all out and hire a team of 100 engineers (overkill). 1000 high-end servers (overkill). SpammingViral Marketing like nobody’s seen since MySpace (overkill). Add in PHB overhead (always overkill). Total cost? Maybe $80M.

So is the name and the (unloyal, but impressionable) audience worth $920+M? I don’t think so.

Which just means we’re looking at a purchase price of about $3B by January. You read it here first.

 

“Jim Mcgreevey” does Letterman’s Top Ten List
I was just thinking how I rarely watch Letterman anymore… and I miss the best Top Ten in probably five years. (Thanks, YouTube!)

Would they have allowed this on the air 10 years ago?

 

That’s enough tabs for tonight…

September 10, 2006

Facebook: Publicity to Die Invade Privacy For

Posted in Business, Community, Fun at 8:09 pm by mj

(Full disclosure: I work for Webshots, which is a sort of competitor to Facebook.)

When the “Facebook Fiasco” started, I felt a little uneasy. Everybody I knew, and most in the blogosphere, were saying what an embarrassment this was for Facebook.

Hot on the heels of the AOL stir-up, I could feel management at every community and social networking site gritting its collective teeth, preparing morning memos decreeing that all new features have to be vetted through legal.

My thought? No publicity is bad publicity.

As if a company who gets 100K+ of its members to protest a new change by using its own services is really going to experience any lasting repercussions.

It now appears that I was right:

This is an excellent example of a company listening to its users and quickly pushing intelligent changes, in a transparent manner, to deal with a problem. Facebook is growing up, in a good way.

Also see their Alexa traffic spike.

Now that’s how to launch a new feature.

Now, Facebook didn’t do this intentionally. And many of these users certainly would have fled–eventually. There are some serious points in here, but it’s all quite funny, too.

Just consider their pitch to their advertisers: Last month, we committed a bit of a faux pas with a small little feature, and over one hundred and fifty thousand people came together on our site in a single day! Thousands of newspapers and blogs linked to us. Imagine if your campaign were running that day…

Backlashes–especially when “unprecedented”–are a better proof of your reach and the vitality of your business than anything else. For better or worse.

Interestingly, Sam Ruby has a different take on what was most disconcerting about Facebook’s feature: information overload.

March 9, 2006

Never Argue with a Doctor

Posted in Fun, Health at 10:10 pm by mj

Scott Adams on, among other things, arguing with doctors:

Now all I had to do was convince my doctor(s) that I wasn’t nuts and that I had a very rare condition. As you might imagine, when you tell a doctor that you think you have a very rare condition, that doctor will tell you that it’s very unlikely. Your first impulse might be to point out that “very rare? is a lot like “very unlikely,? but you don’t do that, because doctors have wide latitude in deciding which of your orifices they will use for various medical apparati. So you go with the protocol which involves systematically eliminating all the things that are more likely.

The next speech doctor had access to better technology than the first and determined that I almost certainly did not have the rare neurological disorder that both I and Google insisted I did. She based her opinion on how I sounded and the fact that it was very unlikely that I would have a very unlikely condition. But she did notice a facial tick that might indicate a brain tumor as the culprit.

I think I’ve noticed a pattern with doctors: when they’re stumped, they’ll suggest a brain tumor or some other vague brain thingy going on.

An optimist would say this is to fill you with relief and utter joy at eliminating the tumor, … or to scare you away if you’re a hypochondriac.

Me? I think it has something to do with the expensive MRI and CT equipment laying about waiting to be used. There’s nothing like a stumped doctor and a worried patient to stir up some business.

“Mister Jones, I’m afraid I don’t know exactly why your leg is turning dark blue. We could cut it off now, or… I know, how about an MRI? I’d just like to rule out a tumor.”

February 25, 2006

Web 2.0 2.0

Posted in Fun, Software at 9:16 am by mj

The best thing I’ve read so far this year: Bob DuCharme on Web 2.0 2.0.

Web 2.0 2.0 technologies like HWAJAX (Hand Waving + Asynchronous JavaScript + XML) are transforming the value exchange paradigm as we know it. While Web 2.0 (or, as the French call it, “web deux point eaux”) was about two-way communication between providers and consumers, Web 2.0 2.0 is about three-way communication, between providers, consumers, and self-styled pundits like myself, all centered around “value” as a “meme.”

HWAJAX – now that’s my kind of technology.