Archive for the 'Random' Category

e-books

I don’t currently have an e-book reader of any kind, and I don’t really have any plans to get one. This view has nothing to do with the state of the hardware tech; it’s all about the services behind it. And it could change in an instant.

I’m a hoarder, especially when it comes to books. I can’t stand the idea of throwing away or giving away or selling a book that I might one day want to read again, or that would be good to keep for our hypothetical future kids. Tina is slightly less obsessive, but she still won’t give away a book without a fight. As a result, we have about six bookcases full of material most of which has a small – but, importantly, non-zero – chance of ever being opened again.

We’re moving house this week.

This is the point where the hoarding compulsion becomes a huge drawback. Books are heavy. This is unlikely to be the last time we move, so I’ve found myself sorting books into boxes by the likelihood that we’ll read them again soon, with the idea that we won’t even have to open some of the boxes until the move after this one.

Right now, the ability to have our book collection in electronic form is a service for which I would pay, roughly, infinity dollars.

But there’s no real product on the market that solves this problem, even just for books that I buy from now on. Every electronic publisher that I’m aware of that offers any kind of range of mainstream books (and please let me know if there’s an exception to this) also encrusts them with some kind of DRM that more-or-less guarantees that I won’t be able to come back and read it again in ten or twenty years. If you’ve been following so far, you’ll notice that this completely defeats the purpose of having a collection of books.

I’ve even seriously considered scanning some of our paper books and giving the originals away. The first and most obvious downsides to this are that it’d be (a) ridiculously time-consuming and (b) probably illegal. Scanning the paper books and then destroying the originals would be on slightly more solid ethical ground, but may still technically be against current copyright law, is still time consuming, and feels somehow completely wrong and backward.

It seems like the e-book market is waiting to explode the moment a major publisher offers books with either no DRM or, at the very least, a way to guarantee file format compatibility with future devices (without the device having to connect to their servers, because they probably won’t exist in twenty years). Bonus points if they offer some kind of long-term backup service. Extra bonus points if they can exchange books you already own for electronic versions in a way that’s blessed by copyright law.

Wake me up when this happens.

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No pun intended

From an SMH article:

An insider said: “The 23rd Bond movie has been put back a few months and that has given them the time to prepare to film it in 3D. Everyone involved in the project is really excited because it will take the franchise in a new direction.”

Badum-tish.

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The birthday paradox, as applied to finding a matching pair of socks

Surely I’m not the first person to look at it this way. “Paradox” and “socks” even rhyme.

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Twenty new words generated from the complete works of Shakespeare

Or: Words That Sound Better When Said By Dave

yountery
Marchastly
theresold
Lentlemembless
thangeditated
civinglect
shallege
nothereck
thusbands
neverefor
unkardon
righterings
birtuness
degroach
yourscorrow
gaventle
expersued
belights
courdent
withouldstand

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Very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet

Our lemon tree has finally worked out that photosynthesis is not optional and has started growing new leaves.

Is it weird to think of a tree as being stupid? A couple of months ago, coming into spring, it burst out in flowers, some of which started to turn into tiny fruit (cf. buds, pollination). This would have been great except that, partly due to it being in the exposed corner of our balcony and taking the full force of the bizarre windy weather we’ve had in Sydney over the last year, it had maybe a dozen leaves left, many of which were in pretty bad shape. Supporting young’uns in that situation seemed like it would be a losing battle.

The tree seemed to reach the same conclusion, so it dropped the fruit and most of the flowers, even after I moved it to the other side of the balcony where it’s less likely to be stripped bare in a freak gale (although it’s getting a bit less sun now). And in the last week or so it got around to sprouting some new leaves. I’m happy for it, but I can’t help but look at it and think… why didn’t you just do that in the first place and save yourself all the trouble, not to mention our false hope that we’ll get some early lemons?

Stupid tree.

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On internet exposure

Last week I put three photos on Flickr.

Green-purple-redWestpac's Batteries Are LowWithout a leg to stand on

All three were uploaded at the same time (within a minute or so). All three are tagged with “Sydney”, two to four descriptive words, the lens I used, and a location. I didn’t add any of them to any groups. All three were linked from my Facebook feed and were visible in the sidebar of this page, but as far as I can tell (from the referrer list on the Flickr stats page) that didn’t contribute more than a couple of hits.

In the three or four days since I put them up, the first and third have been viewed 6 and 3 times respectively, which is about average for me. But the one in the middle (the Westpac building) has been viewed 38 times.

38 isn’t a huge number by any standards, but it’s a very clear outlier.

No one has commented on it, or added it as a favourite, or, as far as I can tell, linked to it from anywhere else. It’s not obviously a better photo than the other two or any others that I’ve uploaded recently.

There are a few possible explanations… Maybe one or both of the “westpac” and “low battery” tags are interesting enough that thirty-odd people have searched for them, but not interesting enough for other people to have used the same tag and pushed mine off the top of the search results. (The latter part of this theory seems to be true, at least.) Another is that I’ve hit some note with the inscrutable whims of Flickr’s “interestingness” measure.

Whatever. The point is that somehow something I did got caught in a local eddy of the chaotic system of internet popularity, and attracted more attention than everything else I’ve done in the last month put together. That doesn’t count the dust storm photo, which in about two days was viewed more times (900-ish) than any of my other photos.

Of course, DMM had a photo of the dust storm that got 8605 views. But then, that made the Flickr Explore page. Of his six photos of the dust storm, it was the only one with more than 2000 views.

Where I’m going is this… Exposure on the internet seems to have a sort of exponential growth behaviour. Getting bumped from “complete obscurity” up one rung to “noticed for a brief moment” is at least an order of magnitude. And the same thing happens at every level above that – there’s no such thing as slightly more exposure, only lots more exposure. Regardless of how well-known any person is, a very small percentage of the work they’ve done will make up a very large percentage of what people have seen.

When I spell it out like this, it’s actually pretty obvious. And not at all restricted to the internet.

Hurm.

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iSnack2.0 SP1

Right. So they dropped the name. Some would claim that this proves that Kraft didn’t plan any of this.

I’m not giving up on the conspiracy theory just yet though. It just needs some adaptation.

The articles I’ve read so far all mysteriously contain some comment like this:

The half-million jars bearing the new name are destined to become collectors’ items to be traded on eBay.

The new hypothesis is that this was the core of the plan. Kraft sends out a limited number of jars with the crappy name before deciding on a new one. When making the announcement, a spokesman casually mentions that the existing iSnack2.0 jars will probably become collectors’ items. The media obediently pass this comment along.

Everyone rushes out and buys one, planning to use it up, clean it, and sell the empty jar or keep it as a memento. For 24 hours, iSnack2.0 is the best-selling spread in history. Many of the customers decide that they like it, and buy it again under the new name. Kraft are credited with admitting their mistake and reacting quickly to customer feedback, while raking in the profits.

Look, it’s possible. And I still think it’ll happen, even if they didn’t plan it that way.

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Further iSnack2.0 thoughts

Continuing on from my previous post

Has anyone actually seen an advertisement for iSnack2.0? The “name this product” campaign got a fair amount of air time, so it seems odd that they’d announce the actual name and not have it accompanied by a storm of ads that started at exactly the same minute.

Unless, that is, they intended people to talk about the name for a while before they started advertising it.

Here’s my hypothesis. It’s largely a post hoc attribution of cleverness to marketing people so it may or may not be accurate, but this is what it looks like to me.

Kraft’s plan all along was to give the new product a daggy name that would cause a storm for a week or so after it was announced. But they would carefully distance Kraft itself from the name during that time, to keep the emotional association to a minimum.

The name came from a competition in which customers named the product. And the announcement was made with pictures of the winner of the competition. Over time, people will subconsciously blame him for the stupid name instead of Kraft. Obviously Kraft chose the winner from a large pool of entries, so logically the blame is all on them, but brand recognition has very little to do with logic. The image of the daggy guy holding the jar of daggy spread is what people will remember, especially if they don’t do any other advertising to associate it with Kraft – which, from what I’ve seen so far, they haven’t. They’ve even noncommittally acknowledged that the name didn’t go down very well.

So here’s my prediction. In a week or two, after most of the hatred has died down, they’ll start a lighthearted and self-deprecating ad campaign, that acknowledges that the name is silly, but it’s still tasty so you should buy it anyway.

Bonus points if they use the line “iSnack2.0 – It’s cheesy!” or a variant thereof.

The result will be that people will give Kraft credit for being good sports about the whole thing. People – Aussies especially – love a company that can laugh at itself. That, combined with the fact that they didn’t strongly support or associate themselves with the name when it was announced, will lead people to forgive them – it could almost paint them as victims, having to live with the poor judgment of that dork who won that competition, but making the best of it.

Updates to come when I’m proven right. (If I’m wrong I’ll probably stay quiet.)

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iMeme2.0

So. iSnack2.0.

I’d provide a link, but odds are that you already know what I’m talking about. Which is why it’s marketing brilliance.

Don’t get me wrong. I hate the name. It’s awful. It straddles the line between ignorant and patronising, from the youth pastor school of trying to “relate” to a culture that they have no intention of knowing anything about. It follows the management-speak trend of stripping a term of its techical meaning (which is an achievement for “i” and “2.0″ which have very little to begin with) by using it as a wildcard buzzword in contexts chosen at random. In summary, it’s a collection of things that rub me up the wrong way.

But if they’d called it Cheesymite, I wouldn’t be blogging about it, Facebook wouldn’t be filled with status updates about it, and it wouldn’t have become a running segment on The 7pm Project.

In any discussion of any length about iSnack2.0, someone will bring up the “all publicity is good publicity” adage. Mostly this is an attempt to give Kraft the benefit of the doubt, usually met with a chorus of “maybe… but no.” Sometimes it’s even (smugly, or otherwise) suggested that they’re about to discover just how bad publicity can be. (Because we all hate marketers, right?)

I’m not entirely sure whether the uproar was a conscious part of the marketing plan, but I think there’s a good chance that it was. And regardless of whether it was planned or not, the instant viral memesplosion (yes that is now a word) that has happened over the last few days will be all upside for the new product.

Everyone’s annoyed about the name now. That will last maybe a week. People simply don’t hold a grudge against a spread – there are too many more important things to save your vitriol for. Okay, a few die-hard outragees will boycott Kraft, maybe. For a couple of months. After that even they’ll start feeling petty for not buying Vegemite because of a name.

In the next few weeks, people will start buying iSnack2.0 for the novelty value. It’ll become an in-joke. Some – or many – of them will discover that they like it. The stupid name will not stop them from buying it again. All of these people are customers they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

After a couple of months, the word (and number) will lose its silliness because it’s been heard so often, like a word that you say over and over and over until you forget what it means. At that point, everyone will know the brand; most people will still say it’s silly if specifically asked about it, but they won’t generally be annoyed by it. This is what happened to the Nintendo Wii – at first no one could say it with a straight face, now it’s just part of the vocabulary, and along the way it’s become the best-selling piece of white plastic in the universe.

So whether the Kraft marketing team are geniuses or just lucky, I think they got this one right.

But I still hate the name.

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Best. Spam. Ever.

Good morning. Realize that true happiness lies within you. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside. Remember that there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving. Reach out. Share. Smile. Hug. Happiness is a perfume you cannot pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.

I am from Samoa and learning to read in English, please tell me right I wrote the following sentence: “Infrastructure is a nordic holding member financing reflected by mastercard.”

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