Things change.

Last week I wrote about my one year anniversary at a company called Redknee. But things change, and as a result of restructuring I now find myself no longer at Redknee. I shouldn’t be surprised; when they hired me a year ago they were also going through restructuring.

So now I’m looking for a new opportunity. To that end, your help is graciously requested and appreciated. Tomorrow I’ll post some background on me and what I’m looking for. I’m going to try an experiment in finding a job via blogs. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Will a Mac make me smarter?

I’m in the process of buying a new laptop, and I’m waffling between a Mac 12″ Powerbook and a 14″ widescreen PC laptop. A report from Nielsen/NetRatings found that those who use Macs tend to be better educated and make more money than those using PCs.

Now does that mean that smarter, richer people buy Macs? Or does it mean that if I buy a Mac I’ll suddenly get smarter and make more money? Here’s hoping for the latter.

Tip of the hat to Kathy Sierra at Creating Passionate Users.

The icon doesn’t matter.

James Robertson comments on Robert Scoble’s discovery that RSS usability sucks, based primarily on the fact that people use different icons and words to indicate how to subscribe. James suggest that shouldn’t really matter:

The icons are for the minority of the audience that knows what they are. Most people are going to interact with RSS in one of two ways:

  • Their favorite browser will do auto-discovery for them, and offer to subscribe for them
  • They’ll try to subscribe (in their aggregator) to the main page, and the aggregator will do auto-discovery for them. BottomFeeder does the latter already; is there an aggregator out there that doesn’t?

Supporting this comment, Alex Barnett mentions an RSS study that suggest the vast majority of those that use RSS don’t even know it:

27% of Internet users consume RSS syndicated content on personalized start pages (e.g., My Yahoo!, My MSN) without knowing that RSS is the enabling technology.

My father was talking to my youngest son tonight and asked him if his email program read .eml files. Of course my son uses web-based email and never really thinks about file types because they really don’t matter to him, so he wasn’t sure how to answer.

Then it occurred to me that these days the format shouldn’t even matter. The software should just know what to do. Just as Microsoft Word opens word processing files, my newsreader should just know to subscribe when faced with an RSS or Atom file. Why do I need to know what to do with a particular type of file or feed? That’s the job of software.

Usability isn’t about the right icons or words. It’s about software that does what it is expected to do, without depending on a human to interpret something the software should already know how to deal with.

Just leave my bullets alone.

For anyone who has ever wondered why Microsoft Word randomly changes your bullet points or fonts, or adjusts your tabs anyway it pleases, Smalltalk Tidbits, Industry Rants has this to say:

I have a simpler solution for MS – how about you whack the Office team with a clue by four (especially the morons who dreamed up that gosh awful ribbon), and get the team to start from scratch – with the simple mission of creating something that doesn’t make users pound their heads against the wall with every usage?

ma.gnanimous.

The other day I commented about ma.gnolia, a new search tool, and I tool them to task about the fact that their signup page asked for a VIP code. Not having a VIP code, I commented that this gave me the first impression that I wasn’t important to them.

Todd Sieling, product manager for ma.gnlolia responded first in the comments, and then personally via email, to apologize for giving that impression. The VIP code idea was really a tongue in cheek salute to early friends and family users, and Todd said that they realized that the label did sound a bit elitist, apologizing for the perceived snub.

It’s always nice to discover a company that listens to what customers are saying, even the average ones, understands the problem, and then takes action to ensure that those customers are satisfied. It doesn’t mean that the customer is always right, but it does mean that the company is willing to admit they might not be.

ma.gnolia scores points from me for listening and reacting.

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Canada has a stripper shortage.

A while ago it turned out that the Canadian minister of immigration had a special fast-track program to give preferential treatment to strippers coming to Canada because clubs were having a hard time finding staff. When this became public, an embarrassed government said that the program would be cancelled immediately.

That seems to be just another broken promise:

Canada’s welcome mat is still rolled out for foreign strippers and lap dancers who can get quick visas to fill a domestic “labour shortage.”

Last December, the Liberal government announced it was cancelling a controversial program that allowed exotic dancers to gain temporary work permits based on a national labour market opinion.

But it was quietly replaced by a process that permits strip club owners to bring in foreign dancers just by filling out the proper paper work.

NDP MP Pat Martin called the stripper visa policy “deplorable.”

61 things.

Both of my sons collected hundreds of AOL CDs when they were being given out so freely a few years ago. We even got them with snacks on airlines. In fact, I still find them in piles around the house, which makes me realize – sadly – that I actually paid a moving company to move them.

If you have the same problem, you might find this list of 61 things to do with an AOL CD useful. My oldest son has actually tried this one:

Target for your BB gun! Tape a piece of paper over the hole in the middle, so you know if you got a bull’s eye.

They shatter impressively by the way. Just don’t walk barefoot on the deck afterward. And yes, I do know from experience.

Via digg.

Sphere.

sphere shotblogsearch shot

I’m playing around with the Sphere beta. Sphere is a blog search engine with a difference – they seem to aim for relevance at all costs. I’ve shown a screenshot of a Sphere search next to the identical Google blog search, for the term “web 2.0″.

While Google Blogsearch seems to bring back items from online magazines and other media, Sphere ruthlessly eliminates anything that I wouldn’t consider to be a blog. And while Google just provides a list of search results, Sphere breaks out a list of related blogs (though I’m not sure what the relation criteria are) and a list of relevant news articles, keeping them out of the purified list. Pleasantly, Sphere appears to be completely free of spam and splogs.

Clicking on the profile icon beside each blog gives a little synopsis of the blog, with posting metrics and recent links, as seen below:

sphere profile shot

Sphere also offers the ability to search within a particular blog or site, which would often be useful for me when I know I’ve seen a post but can’t find it in a particulat blog.

All in all a pretty nice first impression. Sphere promises, and delivers, a relevant list limited to blogs only. My only negative comment is that I don’t see an RSS feed anywhere. Given the recent problems with splogs, a clean list of relevant information would be excellent as an RSS feed.

We’re in the money.

According to SiliconValley.com, Digg has gotten some funding:

Digg, a new San Francisco Internet start-up, seeks to rank news items by letting people choose which stories they like anywhere on the Web.

And it just received $2.8 million in venture capital from some big-name investors, including Omidyar Network, the outfit led by eBay co-founder Pierre Omidyar, Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, and Greylock partners.

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Just speculating.

According to the Business 2.0 blog, oil companies are reporting record profits this quarter:

Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest oil company, said yesterday that its third-quarter net income jumped 75 percent, to $9.92 billion. Its profit in the first nine months of this year – $25.42 billion – already equals its full-year earnings for 2004. This year’s sales, which topped $100 billion in the last quarter, are expected to exceed those of Wal-Mart.

It’s hard to fault them though when they are merely the beneficiaries of rampant oil speculation. After all, the real costs associated with extracting and refining oil haven’t changed. It is the commodity speculation that has pushed the price per barrel, the price per gallon at the pump, and ultimately the profit, up. Oil companies are only doing what they must do by law – increase shareholder value.

That said, I still don’t understand why the change in gasoline pump prices is nearly double that in the US.