How do you recover from this?

Every day the recall of pet food expands:

Another brand of pet food is being recalled amid contamination fears.

Purina says a limited amount of the food contains a wheat gluten from China that was found to be contaminated with a chemical found in plastics and pesticides.

Late yesterday, a dry cat food was added to the list of recalled items for the first time. Hill’s Pet Nutrition said its Prescription Diet m/d Feline dry food also included the tainted wheat gluten.

Menu Foods, the manufacturer of these pet food brands, seems unable to catch a break as the news gets worse every day. And their web page isn’t very helpful. If you don’t know enough to click on the words "RECALL INFORMATION I" – the only words on the page – then you get nothing. No suggestion of any kind that the company is even concerned or sympathetic about the situation, unless you read pretty far into their press releases.

So how does the company recover from this? They can lay blame on suppliers all they want, but they have clearly lost the public’s trust.

The CEO says the product is safe:

“Our products are safe. We continue to engage in the highest levels of monitoring and testing in the pet food industry. These tests will be expanded as a result of this experience,” said Henderson.

At this point would you believe him?


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Blogging rules.

Elisa Camahort, whose posts I never miss, commenting on the cyberbullying that has been happening lately to folks like Kathy Sierra, had this to say:

I don’t believe we can institute an enforceable blogger code of conduct that is applied to all bloggers across all subject matters. I don’t believe we should even try.

I do believe that each blogger and site owner should set policies and practices in place that refuse to accommodate or tolerate cyberabuse. I believe each blog or site owner is entitled to draw their own lines and enforce them. It’s your web site, you can delete crap if you want to.

I agree completely. A code of conduct would never work.People that can’t be bothered to obey actual laws aren’t going to follow some simple code of conduct. And yes, each blog is allowed to set their own rules.

Elisa also suggests what is unacceptable:

I personally believe we should always draw the line at hate speech, sexual harassment and threatening speech. Even if we don’t think the troll will actually act on those threats. The potential for action is not the point.

I agree with her thoughts, however this is part of the joy and the pain of free speech. I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Those who espouse hate speech, or threaten, or harass other, they demean themselves. They are the equivalent of the people on the Jerry Springer show. It is sad that they feel it necessary to act in this way.

The best solution would be to eliminate anonymity from comments so that everyone knows who is actually making these comments, if that is even possible. But every blogger certainly has the write to limit such comments if they choose.

That said, I’ll never understand the kind of people who make these personal attacks.

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A good customer service example.

I never hesitate to complain the poor customer service I get from Rogers, my cell phone provider. So it is only fair that I comment on an example of excellent customer service on their part.

Last month I signed my son up online for a $10 text messaging plan. He sends about 2000 messages per month. When I got my bill I noticed that he was not on a plan, and he had a bill of $118 for text messages.

I called Rogers and got to a customer service representative. I explained the situation and he immediately offered to credit my account for $118. I said that he should go ahead and charge me the $10 I would have paid for the plan, and he thanked me for my honesty.

I only had to spend about five minutes on the phone and would up completely satisfied with a very reasonable solution. The representative asked me if he had resolved the call to my satisfaction, and I said that this had been my most pleasant conversation with Rogers ever.

One simple exchange like this goes a long way toward redeeming my impression of the company.


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Why newspapers matter.

A number of tech bloggers would have you believe that newspapers are dead. Many think that bloggers and citizen journalism will fill the void.

The top stories on Techmeme are about Kathy Sierra or transparency at Microsoft. Important stories to be sure, but not to most Americans.

The top stories at the New York Times are about the war in Iraq and how it affects Americans. Arguably more important stories for the average American.

Newspaper editors make judgements on the basis of what they believe their readers want to know. Bloggers make judgements on the basis of what they themselves want to know, which necessarily limits their audience.

Newspapers provide a wider perspective that is still in high demand.


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Creating fear. Selling newspapers.

The headline two days ago in my local paper, The Record, was:

Region on Nuke Waste List

Yesterday, on page B6 of the Local section, was a article stating that no decision had been made yet.

And today the editorial said that just because the region was on a list didn’t mean anything would actually happen with nuclear waste in the region.

So essentially, even though the paper knew that there was no real issue, they chose to hype a headline to create some fear and reaction, and to sell some newspapers.

Was one headline really worth losing credibility over?


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Parents still matter.

If you read the media in Canada there would seem to be popular support for a universal daycare program. Proponents of such a program frequently point to a Statistics Canada study that indicated that day care was better than parents. Rarely do those people note that the actual study placed conditions on that statement:

A study released yesterday by Statistics Canada claims that "children who are enrolled in early childhood programs and day-care centres appear to get a head start in school over youngsters who stay at home with a parent." The study says that the effect was noted only until the first grade and not thereafter. Improvements of day care over parent care were reported in reading, writing, mathematics and overall achievement. The findings are highly suspect firstly since they coincide perfectly with the current Liberal government push for universal day care.

While the study claims to have controlled for education of the child’s mother and the income of the household, it did not take into account the reading that any stay-at-home parents gave to their children. Moreover the results for the stay-at-home parents are accompanied in the study by the phrase, "These estimates should be used with caution due to small sample sizes."

Today the New York Timespublished the results of a much more comprehensive study:

A much-anticipated report from the largest and longest-running study of American child care has found that keeping a preschooler in a day care center for a year or more increased the likelihood that the child would become disruptive in class — and that the effect persisted through the sixth grade.

The effect was slight, and well within the normal range for healthy children, the researchers found. And as expected, parents’ guidance and their genes had by far the strongest influence on how children behaved.

So parents do still matter.Daycare supporters seem to suggest that only daycare workers are capable of raising children; that parents shouldn’t be trusted with the task. Yet before day care existed people did this every day. I didn’t attend day care and I’m ok. My kids didn’t attend day care and they appear to have turned out fine.

There will always be people who shouldn’t be parents. On the whole though, parents are always the best ones to raise their own children.The suggestion that universal day care will somehow be better than parents in every care is just ridiculous.


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Why are text messages marked up 7314%?

The Consumerist asks why text messages are marked up 7314%:

Verizon and other cellphone companies mark up the cost of text messages by at least 7314% when compared to their rates for data transfer services.


Bytes are bytes. What makes a text-message byte so much more valuable than a straightup data byte?

What is even more interesting is the fact that text messages, or SMS messages, are actually carried as the payload in SS7 switching messages that are being sent anyway as a necessity of the phone service, so there is actually no incremental cost at all to the carriers when text messages are sent.

Yet we still pay 10-15 cents to send a 160 character text message.


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That should hold the spam.

One of the first email accounts I created was my Yahoo! mail account, which I’ve had for as long as the service existed – almost 10 years now. But after a while it just became inundated with spam. So I haven’t used it other than to clear out the spam for a few years now.

Yahoo! is now announcing that starting in May users will have unlimited storage. Unfortunately it’s too late to keep me using Yahoo! Mail and just means more spam for me to delete.


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Save the environment. Buy a Hummer.

Okay, not exactly. But if this article can be believed, the Hummer is more environmentally friendly than the Toyota Prius:

Through a study by CNW Marketing called “Dust to Dust,” the total combined energy is taken from all the electrical, fuel, transportation, materials (metal, plastic, etc) and hundreds of other factors over the expected lifetime of a vehicle. The Prius costs an average of $3.25 per mile driven over a lifetime of 100,000 miles – the expected lifespan of the Hybrid.

The Hummer, on the other hand, costs a more fiscal $1.95 per mile to put on the road over an expected lifetime of 300,000 miles. That means the Hummer will last three times longer than a Prius and use less combined energy doing it.

Wow! With 100,000 miles on my car, I guess I would be buying my secondPrius. That doesn’t sound very friendly. And what would be done to dispose of the used batteries on the old one?

Found via Roger L. Simon.


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Don’t count newspapers out yet.

The hot topic on the net today is, once again, the imminent demise of newspapers, with added hyperbole.

Robert Scoble thinks that they are dead already:

On November 18, 2005, I told San Jose State’s Journalism school that my son would never subscribe to, nor read, a newspaper.

In sincerely hope his son is smarter than he is. He might never subscribe, but to assume that he would never read a newspaper is to ignore a valuable source of information. Does he assume his son would never read a book either?Tim O’Reilly got his start in book publishing after all.

Don Dodge is a bit more insightful:

As hard as it is to build a start-up company from nothing, it is even harder to kill a giant business. IBM, Ford, Goodyear, and many other American business icons are not the giants they once were but they are still players. New leaders will emerge. Music, video, news, and software is not dead, but history tells us the entrenched market leaders will not survive even though there is plenty of time to make the necessary changes. It is just the natural order of life and business.

Mathew Ingram, who writes for a newspaper, notes that people tend to focus on the "print" part rather that the business part:

To me, part of the problem is that everyone focuses on the “paper” part of the word “newspaper,” which to me is the least important part of the term. There’s no question that the paper part of the business is decreasing in importance, and news may no longer be primarily distributed on smashed-up trees. Does that change the nature of the business? Definitely.

But it doesn’t mean newspaper companies have to die — it just means they need to evolve.

Newspapers are experts at gathering and disseminating information, and over the years they have established credentials and credibility that others do not have. And let’s not forget the fact that a lot of the information people distribute and comment on originated with newspapers.

I get my news from the net, but I still subscribe to the local paper for local news. My kids don’t subscribe, but they do occasionally buy and read a newspaper. But there isn’t enough to engage them there, and I think that people don’t understand the value of newspapers until they are raising families and things like local sports become important to them. Everyone saves the first story or photo of their kid on a sports team.

Doc Searls has the best suggestions of all for saving newspapers. The first and best suggestion is this one:

1) Stop giving away the news and charging for the olds. Okay, give away the news, if you have to, on your website. There’s advertising money there. But please, open up the archives. Stop putting tomorrow’s fishwrap behind paywalls. (Dean Landsman was the first to call this a "fishwrap fee".) Writers hate it. Readers hate it. Worst of all, Google and Yahoo and Technorati and Icerocket and all your other search engines ignore it. Today we see the networked world through search engines. Hiding your archives behind a paywall makes your part of the world completely invisilble. If you open the archives, and make them crawlable by search engine spiders, your authority in your commmunity will increase immeasurably.

My local newspaper, The Record, does this.They are giving away today’s news, but I can’t link to an old article (beyond today) because they are behind a pay wall. So I can’t even point potential readers to their website. And believe me, even if you were a paying subscriber the search is so bad you would never find the article anyway. And they don’t get the sharing and linking concept of blogging either; their blogs carry this warning:

Distribution and transmission or republication of any material is stricly (sic) prohibited without the prior written permission of The Record.

Newspapers aren’t dead but they’re going to have to rethink their business if they want to survive. And I expect that many won’t.


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