What? Again?

The always insightful Rob Hyndman comments on yesterday’s Microsoft-Nortel partnership announcement, and asks the question I was thinking:

Whenever I see anouncements like the Microsoft-Nortel JV announced yesterday, I pine for an online book that would keep a running tally of the odds that the market places on successful deal execution. Later on, we could all look back and – for purely scientific purposes, of course, and not at all to have a good laugh at the fluff and bluster that these announcements generally trot out – measure success (does anyone keep a tab on PR releases and how often their happy proclamations come to pass?).

Well it didn’t take much searching to find this announcement from 1999:

Microsoft, Nortel, HP and Intel Collaborate on NT Telephony

PBX systems were traditionally developed as proprietary, closed systems by vendors such as Mitel Corp. (www.mitel.com), Nortel Networks (www.nortelnetworks.com) and AT&T Corp. (www.att.com). Only recently have PBX solutions begun to trickle into the open systems arena. With the announcement of a technology partnership between PBX stalwart Nortel Networks and open systems giants Hewlett-Packard Co., Intel Corp. and Microsoft Corp., the era of PBX-type solutions on Windows NT may be close at hand.

In mid-March at the Technology Museum of Innovation in San Jose, Calif., Nortel Networks, Microsoft, Intel and HP detailed an initiative to develop communications solutions for enterprise customers by integrating voice technology into Windows NT-based telephony systems for enterprisewide communications.

It seems that VoIP technology has bypassed the need for integrated voice technology in Windows NT-based – or whatever Windows you’re using now – systems. So I would guess that partnership wasn’t much of a success. We’ll probably have to wait another seven years to determine the success or failure of this new partnership.

The internet provides a conundrum for marketing folks. On one hand the cost of reaching people with your message has been lowered phenomenally. On the other hand, everyone knows every mistake you make, captured for all eternity.

(Disclosure: I was a Bay Networks employee who, because of an acquisition, became a Nortel employee, but only for a short time – not enough to do any damage. I left in 1999.)



When you are shopping for vehicles, aside from color, number of doors, and other options, you can always definitely compare their engine power based on the horsepower specifications. It allows customers to understand how one car stacks up against others.

So why after 25 years of using PCs, is there no similar definitive comparison measurement?

A friend of mine just called me up to ask me if a particular PC he saw for sale was a good value. I looked at the specs and took a guess. Now mine is an educated guess, but what about all those poor folks trying to buy a PC who don’t have that knowledge?

The PC industry is built on constant change, quasi-interchangeable options, and subtle hardware differences that make it impossible to compare anything. Coupled with salespeople who really don’t know any better that their customers, it’s a recipe not only for disaster, but for poor customer value.

There have been measurements in the past like Winstone tests. Why is there not standardized test that determines the "horsepower" of a machine, so that customers can compare the value they are getting for the money?


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Rules to live by.

Bob Parsons, founder of Go Daddy, has listed his 16 rules he tries to live by. My favorite is #15:

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Lighten up. Often, at least half of what we accomplish is due to luck. None of us are in control as much as we like to think we are.

I’m going to have to sit down and think about the rules I try to live by, but two come to mind immediately, in no particular order:

  • Do something every day. Don’t let a day go by without accomplishing some task, no matter how small. And then some days, go wild and accomplish lots of tasks.
  • Learn something every day. It doesn’t have to be work-related. The other day I learned, from Martha Stewart Living, that adding a half cup of vinegar with your towels in the washer will make them more absorbent if you’ve been using fabric softener on them. Every little bit of information can be helpful.

Via Lifehacker.


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Crime and punishment.

From today’s editorial, The real problem with parole for lifers, in The Globe and Mail:

Some crimes are so severe that they merit a life sentence, but it would be inhumane to jail a man or woman forever without hope of release. (Life without parole, a feature of the U.S. justice system, would not pass muster in Canada.)

How is it that someone can permaturely end a life, or in the case of serial killers, several lives, yet it is inhumane for the killer to spend their life in jail?

Why should the criminal have more rights than the victim; in this case a choice the victim never had?


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Making shopping more difficult.

My wife was doing some shopping at Victoria’s Secret.com today. She couldn’t remember my account information, so she left her shopping cart until I was available. When we got back to it a couple of hours later her shopping cart had been discarded.

Frustrated at having wasted her time, she set out to reselect the items. Once she had done that, she proceeded to the checkout, receiving the following purchase summary:

Merchandise Subtotal $172.95
Shipping and handling $20.95
Subtotal $193.90
Tax $59.23
Total $253.13

Now I’ve never seen shipping and handling included in the taxable subtotal of a purchase before, but the really strange part is the tax, which at $59.23, is over 30% of the merchandise + shipping subtotal, and over 34% of the merchandise subtotal.

Now taxes are high in Canada, but 14%, not 30%+, and they don’t generally include shipping. What should have been a simple transaction was made inordinately painful by a poor website.

So the website that should have reduced the requirement for higher cost telephone interaction, is forcing me to call to straighten this out. And we get to waste even more of our time. Concern for the customer is clearly not in evidence here, especially given the higher average shopping cart value associated with such premium products.

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The quality of hits.

Seth Godin and Mark Evans are both talking about measurement.

Seth says:

Measurement is always tricky, because people believe what they want to believe and find the numbers to back it up. In both cases, we’re seeing how advertisers and media companies are complicit at weaving a story that doesn’t really hold up. How many "hits" did your web page get last week? And what, exactly, does that mean?

Mark says:

Yahoo’s sites lead the way with 128.6 million unique visitors in the U.S. (out of a total online population of 172.9 million) while MySpace lags with a still very impressive 52.3 million. Google’s sites attracted 102.8 million visitors (fourth) while the New York Times was the leading "media" site with 38.1 million visitors (ninth). So what do the comScore numbers mean? It’s like accounting or polls: you can presents things in a variety of ways if you use different tools, techniques or methodologies.

Hits. Unique visitors.Both measures of quantity. But does quantity really matter?

My wife uses Yahoo! as her primary email address, so she visits Yahoo! a couple of times each day, but I can guarantee that she doesn’t notice the ads at all. However, she uses Google to search and frequently clicks on Google ads related to her search.

So she is counted in the number of unique visitors to each site, but the quality of her visit to Google is clearly much higher than that of her visit to Yahoo!. And given the vast number of properties that Yahoo! owns, with only a 20% lead over Google, Google is clearly more efficient at attracting visitors on a per property basis. And this provides no insight as to how long a typical visit was at either site.

So from that point of view, even if myspace has fewer unique visitors, they clearly spend more time on the site, of a much more interactive nature.Doesn’t that mean that a myspace hit has a much higher quality, and is therefore worth more?


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Ignoring dissent.

I wonder, in today’s climate, would any network dare air a special suggesting that global warming was not entirely caused by humans? Is there any room left at all for the possibility that this theory might not be absolutely true?

The Discovery Channel on Sunday is airing a Tom Brokaw special, “Global Warming: What You Need to Know”, which once again posits that "the majority of scientists agree":

“Now, a vast majority of those scientists believe global warming is real, and it’s having a dangerous impact on the planet we inhabit,” reports Brokaw, the former NBC News anchor.

And if a scientist happens to disagree, they’ve been paid off: Brokaw does ask one of the many scientists interviewed why “a persistent minority” refuses to believe that humans are playing a major role in the warming of the Earth. Some, says the researcher, just find it unbelievable, and “there are some people who have a financial interest in not believing.”

The clearest statement I’ve seen about global warming comes from Molten Thought:

What you need to know is this:

We don’t know what is happening. We don’t know what the weather will be like next week, much less 100 years from now. We don’t know what causes climate change. We don’t know how to control the weather.

The same article points to a dissenting Wall Street Journal op-ed by Richard Lindzen, Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, that lists these conclusions:

So what, then, is one to make of this alleged debate? I would suggest at least three points.

First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists–especially those outside the area of climate dynamics. Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a "moral" crusade.

Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition. An earlier attempt at this was accompanied by tragedy. Perhaps Marx was right. This time around we may have farce–if we’re lucky.

Much is made of the fact that recent years have been warmer than those that preceded them. I just heard on my local news that the temperature was cooler this year than last. If warmer years prove global warming, then do cooler years prove that the danger has passed? Well, only an idiot would predict 100 years into the future with only one or two data points, now wouldn’t they?

It is clear that the earth’s climate is changing. I would certainly welcome some serious debate about what is happening. Claiming that the majority of scientists agree and skeptics are "on the take" does nothing to foster any understanding about the situation, and frankly assumes that average person is just too dumb to understand what politicians, anchormen, and celebrities do.


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The new destination.

Yesterday I saw an ad for a new movie – John Tucker Must Die. From the ad the movie didn’t strike me as that remarkable, but it was interesting to see that it pointed not to the usual dotcom domain, but to a myspace user – johntucker.

I quickly googled (hey, it’s in the dictionary) ‘john tucker’ to find the movie and the myspace space as the top two hits. In fact, if your name is John Tucker you’re going to have a hard time breaking the top ten.

The myspace site is clear better designed than the average for myspace, with clips and downloads, but you can become John Tucker’s friend and post in the forums. It’s obvious that this is a far better way to build some buzz and community around a movie than by having a one way website.

I’m not sure how successful it will be though, as most of the posters get the fact that it is just advertising:

Thus why the movie production company most likely hired a couple people to coordinate this. Hiring someone wouldn’t possibly be a loss of money to them. The revenue from this advertising scheme will most likely be phenomenal considering the traffic that pours through MySpace.

Why would the actors/actresses waste there time with this.


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That’ll be $5 please.

Here are the lyrics for Beverly Hills by Weezer:

Where I come from isn’t all that great My automobile is a piece of crap My fashion sense is a little whack And my friends are just as screwy as me

I didn’t go to boarding schools Preppie girls never looked at me Why should they? I ain’t nobody Got nothing in my pocket

Beverly Hills That’s where I want to be Livin’ in Beverly Hills Beverly Hills Rolling like a celebrity Livin’ in Beverly Hills

That’ll be $5 please.

Gracenote, the company that provides listings of CD contents (and charge outrageous license fees for the privilege), has now obtained licenses to distribute song lyrics as well:

"When we first approached the publishers with this, they were excited. They thought lyrics had been an untapped resource for them and there’s quite a bit of lyrics being taken for free on the Web," Ross Blanchard, Gracenote’s vice president of business development, told Reuters in an interview.

Yes, the fans who paid for a CD, or downloaded a digital music file, will now have to pony up cash if they want to know the lyrics to the songs they’ve already paid for.

I also foresee a round of Cease and Desist letters going out to those silly fan sites that post the lyrics of songs from the bands they love. You know, the fans who buy the music and pay ridiculous prices for concert tickets. I’m sure they won’t mind. After all, the publishers and the songwriters must receive compensation for their work.

Wait a second though. Shouldn’t the City of Beverly Hills receive compensation as well? After all, the song wouldn’t exist without them. So aren’t they entitled to a share of the royalties?

Via Furdlog.


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Being happy with what you have.

No less a publication than Information Week is suggesting that you don’t really need Vista; you can be perfectly happy with Windows XP:

When Windows Vista is released, the computing world will change forever, leading to a PC-based Nirvana in which system crashes are a thing of the past, productivity magically skyrockets, and a new era of world peace is ushered in.

Bah, humbug!

The curmudgeons of this world know that every new operating system brings with it at least much hype as benefits, and more often than not means spending lots of money in pursuit of the ever-elusive goal of making life at the keyboard perfect. And so they’d rather fight than switch.

Of course, you may have already switched to OS X or Linux. Personally I’m about to but a MacBook, my third Mac laptop purchase this year. So I won’t be switching to Vista.

Via Lifehacker.

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