Strong opinions, weakly held

Month: February 2007 (page 2 of 6)

Nice work if you can get it

Bill Clinton has earned over $31 million in speaking fees since he left office. The link is to a tool created by Adrian Holovaty at the Washington Post that shows when and where he spoke and how much he was paid for each appearance.

The ups and downs of OpenID

O’Reilly Radar has a good post on the state of play in the OpenID world. I’m certainly watching closely to see how the number of sites that accept OpenID grows. Becoming an OpenID provider is simple, altering your authentication system to accept OpenID is significantly more complex.

Are .plan files the direct ancestor of blogs?

Rogers Cadenhead asks the question. My answer is yes. They’re one of the direct ancestors, anyway.

Dealing with comments and feeds

Tim Bray has some thoughts on how to make sure comments on his blog posts get the recognition they deserve.

One problem I’ve always had with commenting systems on blogs is that I haven’t yet found an easy way to follow a conversation that interests me. (On my own blog, I subscribe to the comment feed, so it’s easy to keep up.) Sometimes I post in the comments of other blogs, and having a simple way to keep track of what’s been posted since I submitted my comment would be very helpful. Ideally this could be accomplished without subscribing to the comment feeds for every blog I read.

Some weblogs feature comment feeds for each individual posts. What I’d love is a web page to feed reader API that would enable me to either automatically subscribe to the comments for a single post automatically whenever I post a comment, or to do so with a single click. Ideally my feed reader would also unsubscribe from them automatically after a set period of time with no activity.

Update: Sam Ruby has already essentially solved this problem.

Everybody loves cartoons

Japan’s government attributes the fact that none of their trucks in Iraq were attacked by insurgents to their being decorated with cartoons.

Salon had the Walter Reed story two years ago

The Washington Post has gotten a lot of attention for its series on poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, not just because the story was important but also because it achieved immediate results. The military is already addressing the problems the journalists documented. What I didn’t know until today was that Salon had the same story two years ago.

This illustrates the relative power of the Washington Post compared to Salon, but it also makes me wonder whether this is a price Salon is paying for putting its stories behind a pay wall. Salon is still doing great work, but that work just doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it once did.

A pipe from your Netflix queue to your DVR

I’m just linking to this because it’s an extremely cool idea:

I would love to see a Yahoo! Pipe (or program) that set my Windows Media Center to automatically record movies from my Netflix queue, and then remove them after they are successfully recorded (am I asking too much?). For example, the Turner Classic Movie channel is many of the Academy Award winners, so why should I rent them?

This would be brilliant. I don’t think Yahoo Pipes is necessarily the right tool for the job, but something must be. You can program your Tivo from a Web interface, that seems like a start.

Who says you can’t have it all?

Chris Anderson of The Long Tail fame argues today that in the end niche brands are where consumers are headed, and that big is usually equated with bad. The two examples he provides are Converse, which is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Nike, and Scharffen Berger, a small chocolate company that was bought out by Hershey.

Back to candy. Hershey has just launched AllChocolate.com, which is built around the high-end boutique brands of its Artisan Confections subsidiary, such as Dagoba Organic Chocolate, Joseph Schmidt, Cacao Reserve and Scharffen Berger. Hershey is mentioned as a “sponsor” of the site, but the connection isn’t drawn much more explicitly than that.

It is a testament to the inversion of power in the marketplace that for the influentials Hershey is trying to reach, an artisinal Berkeley chocolatier such as John Scharffenberger apparently has more brand power than America’s largest candy company. But that’s exactly the conclusion Anheurser Busch came to when it created Long Tail Libations. Niche brands rule!

Isn’t it the case, though, that these companies aren’t exchanging their mainstream brands in exchange for niche brands, but rather are simply trying to add to their bottom line by branching out into more profitable products? Granted, if Hershey slapped their own brand on Scharffen Berger chocolate, its esteem would drop in the marketplace. At the same time, Hershey almost certainly makes more money on Kit Kat bars than they do on all of their boutique chocolate brands combined.

The same can be said for Nike. Nike is considered one of the strongest corporate brands around. Converse just happens to be popular with people who generally dislike Nike as a brand, so it enables Nike to bring in revenue from an even wider group of people.

Big companies aren’t abandoning their mainstream brands in favor of niche brands, rather they’re buying them or creating them in order to augment the bottom line.

Great customer service

Joel Spolsky has written up an excellent guide to offering great customer service. What he doesn’t say is that the customer service tips he offers are good advice for just about any relationship.

Simple sketching application

Anyone know of a simple Flash application that lets you sketch pictures and save them to show to others? I’m sure there are dozens of applications like this, but I can’t find exactly what I’m looking for. Here’s a use case for the application: you need to sketch your apartment layout and email a link to someone. The ability to include a photo as the background would be cool but is not necessary.

Suggestions appreciated.

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