Just say no.

The subject of Monday’s debate in USA Today was childhood obesity. The opposing view suggests that today’s parents are powerless against junk food marketers advertising to their children:

Junk-food marketers are waging a full-frontal assault on American families and kids’ health. Companies spend about $10 billion annually convincing kids to want sugary cereals, fatty snacks and every manner of high-cal, low-nutrient, factory-spun junk food.

Their marketing is designed to convince toddlers and ‘tweens alike that parents are wrong and that junk-food spokescharacters such as SpongeBob SquarePants are right. Many parents are sick and tired of having the nutritional rug pulled out from under them.

When I was a kid we were bombarded constantly by ads for toys and junk food. My parents had a different way of handling it. They said NO. Yet we survived. Oh we had the odd box of Count Chocula cereal as a treat now and then, but it certainly wasn’t the norm. My wife and I raised our two sons the same way. They didn’t get everything they wanted, but I think they appreciate what they have more.

Yes you can say no to your children. And no they probably won’t wind up in therapy.


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Who’s watching the border.

The Los Angeles Times has a big article on the state of the Canadian border. “North Border’s Guards Who Don’t” mentions the fact that unionized Canadian border guards walk off the job in response to reports of dangerous suspects headed north from the US:

Roughly a dozen times in the last four months, Canadian border guards, who unlike their U.S. counterparts are unarmed, have left their posts in response to reports of dangerous suspects heading north.

The walk-offs, spanning the border at posts from here to New York, have closed the crossings for periods of a few minutes up to several hours. In the most recent incident, Feb. 10, traffic heading from Blaine into British Columbia was backed up for three hours after Canadian guards left their posts in response to a report that a murder suspect from the Seattle area might be headed their way. The alleged killer never materialized.

You can’t really blame them though; Canadian border guards are unarmed. The former Liberal government apparently had a reason for that:

Officials of the Liberal Party, which was in charge until recently, generally opposed the idea. As then-Revenue Minister Martin Cauchon put it a few years ago: “Side arms would not reflect our image.”

Union president Ron Moran had this to say:

“Primarily, this has been an image thing. We’re a peaceful nation, with Canadians being proud of the fact that we don’t greet people at the border crossings with someone who’s armed,” said Ron Moran, the union’s president.

“But the reality is that we don’t live in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood anymore.”


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We’re just not that interested.

I just wandered into a Red Lobster restaurant to get some dinner. There were about 40 people waiting in the foyer for a table. As I spoke to the hostess I noticed that at least half of the tables in the restaurant were empty. When I asked her why there were people waiting when the tables were empty she told me that they only had partial service.

Imagine that. People wanting to come to your restaurant and give you their hard earned money. Only you can’t be bothered to serve them.


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Solving the right problem.

An article in today’s New York Times describes a new campaign to convince advertisers that print isn’t dead yet.

The ads look as if someone has ripped out the regular ad, suggesting that people tear out ads that appeal to them. Honestly though, I can’t recall a single time that I ripped an ad out of a magazine. It isn’t as if there is a shortage of them; that I’d forget if I didn’t take it with me.

It seems to me that before you can sell the advertisers on buying print ads, you’d better convince more people to buy and read print media.


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That wasn’t what I meant.

Since I’ve been having a bit of a misinterpreted mail discussion today I thought this post at Techdirt was quite timely:

A recent study reports that the tone in email is misinterpreted 50 percent of the time. Furthermore, 90 percent of people think they’ve correctly intepreted the tone of emails they receive, making for a dangerous gap in communication. The lack of tonal and non-verbal cues have made email and IM a haven for misinterpreted statements and flame wars.


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Switching teams.

A story in today’s National Post entitled “Microsoft takes aim at BlackBerry” (which doesn’t seem to be online) talks about the introduction of new Windows Mobile email features at the 3GSM World Congress. It contains this interesting line:

RIM co-chief executive Steve Ballmer gives a keynote speech at the show today.

I wasn’t aware that Steve, president and CEO of Microsoft, had gone to work for RIM. Perhaps they meant Mike Lazaridis or Jim Balsillie. Or maybe they know something I don’t.


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Flavor of the week.

puts into words exactly what I’ve been thinking about the fleeting nature of many so called Web 2.0 applications. The geek in me wants to sign up and try every one of these cool toys, but they seldom become part of my day to day array of useful tools. Jeff Sandquist calls it the seven day rule:

I love to try out new software all the time, in fact its sort of an obsession. I’m always on the prowl for cool new applications. After seven days of use though if I’m not totally blowon away or if its not improving my PC life, its straight to add/remove programs I go. (Please, have a good un-installer).

These applications rarely gain traction with me because they are just that – cool toys – but they don’t solve a problem for me. One pleasant exception is a tool called Filangy that caches every page I view in Firefox and allows me to search them later from any machine. It has allowed me to take all of my history with me as I go from machine to machine anywhere in the world. Unfortunately my Filangy use is suffering because of issues with Firefox on Mac OS X that have forced me to use Safari more, and Filangy doesn’t work with Safari.

3bubbles is a perfect example. Adding chat to a web page, even an ajaxy chat, isn’t new. And if I don’t have chat on my web page already then I probably don’t perceive it as a problem I need to solve. Mathew Ingram isn’t that impressed either.

The proliferation of search engines is similar. Until I find that Google isn’t finding what I want to find, then none of these other search engines is going to stick with me.

Of course all of these services will probably be seeking valuations based on how many users they have, but it seems that churn may be a factor here just as it is in the telecom business. Maybe we should be asking how many current active users they have on an ongoing basis.

Mark compares this to an endless buffet, but I prefer to think of it as a toy store. There are lots of toys to choose from, and people will buy pretty much any toy once, but there are only a few Cabbage Patch Doll, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Furby, or Harry Potter kind of successes. The toys that people don’t but just end up in the clearance bins. And the web 2.0 applications that people don’t continue to use just fade into last week.


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The new new media.

Congratulations! We’ve taken the blogosphere and turned it into a replica of the traditional news media – the domain of a few editors who decide what people will be reading about or seeing today.

Doc Searls responds to Seth Finkelstein’s post about the New Gatekeepers:

I have this idea that the blogosphere is the one place in the world; or perhaps an entirely new world, or a part of a new world, created on the Net; where there is no need for class, for caste, for gates or keepers of anything.

To me this is a world where the only success that fully counts is in helping move good ideas along, in helping make this new world a bigger, better and more open place. And in helping others enjoy the privilege of participating in it.

And it’s Doc’s post that makes it on memeorandum. In fact, on any given day I can pretty much guess with uncanny certainty who is going to be on memeorandum. And rather than tracking new ideas, memeorandum reinforces those existing bloggers comments.

Robert Scoble complained about the fact that bloggers had ignored news from Microsoft but were fawning over similar news from Google. Imagine, a Microsoft marketing guy complaining about press Google was getting. What are the odds? And that topped memeorandum.

Yet as Shelley notes, and I’ve seen myself, having these folks link to you doesn’t really generate much traffic for you:

Along similar lines, Phil Sims writes The Piss-Ant Blogosphere. In the post, the Squash Man notices that the A-Listers don’t send him the traffic to go with their ranks, and this tends to cast doubt on the power of webloggers in influencing the success of startups.

I can agree to this: other than blitz of traffic for my Parable of the Languages, and the flurry of links to my Men Don’t Link writing, the most traffic I’ve ever had was for a blonde joke; I still get close to 4000 unique visits a day for this. Perhaps I can get Clairol to advertise on my site in the future.

But people do carry on excellent discussions in their comment sections.

So what we have is a model similar to that of the news media. The editors select the stories to print, and then people are allowed to comment on them (just like letters to the editor) in most cases, unless the blogger – like Doc – doesn’t allow comments. Of course memeorandum does provide a mechanism for my related post to be found.

So in essence memeorandum is equivalent to the New York Times. Here are the stories we’re following right now by our approved writers, and here is what people are saying about them.

Maybe that’s why citizen journalism projects like Bayoshere aren’t working out as expected. The average citizen can’t get a word in edgewise. 



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No CoComment.

Pete Cashmore may think that CoCommentis the best Web 2.0 service launched this year, but frankly it doesn’t matter to me.

Why not? Because I don’t have a personal invitation code or an invite to try the service. Whether they want to build up hype by only giving selected people the right to try it, or their servers just can’t handle the load doesn’t matter to me. Either way it just says that they either don’t want, or aren’t ready for, me as a user.

But for every service like this, another one will pop up soon enough, like MyComments (via Scoble). So I’m not too worried.

Google did the same thing when they released Gmail. Now they have about 5 million users while Hotmail has about 200 million.

Simply put, if they don’t want me use their service, that’s fine with me. There are other places to shop. And new ones every day.


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