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Tuesday, April 25, 2006
A Different Kind of RIAA Scare Tactic
RIAA suing people who don't own a computer. Blah, blah, blah. First off, it turns out that these folks did own a computer at point point. Second and more important, after the RIAA's "we sue dead people" incident a year or so ago, I just don't think that there's a suit they could file that would shock me, anyway.

The RIAA does appear to be going for a public humiliation approach on this one, though: maybe future RIAA suits will offer the accused the option of keeping the list of songs they're accused of downloading private if they settle immediately...
"However, the RIAA’s lawsuit maintains that Carma Walls, through the use of a file-sharing program, has infringed on the copyrights for the following songs: Who Will Save Your Soul, Jewel; Far Behind, Candlebox; Still the Same, Bob Seger; I Won’t Forget You, Poison; Open Arms, Journey; Unpretty, TLC; No Scrubs, TLC; and Saving All My Love for You, Whitney Houston."

Monday, April 24, 2006
More like Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla
And an update on Gmail/AOL fun, also via IP:

From: Carl Hutzler [XXX@aol.com]
Sent: Tue 4/25/2006 7:02 AM
To: ip@v2.listbox.com; David Farber
Subject: Update [Re: [IP] AOL blocking Gmail]

As promised, an update.

Late last night around 11pm, we added into our whitelist a number of
Gmail IP addresses for their outbound systems. Evidently gmail had sent
us an email asking for more servers to be added to our whitelist for
protection but had done so at 4:45pm yesterday. The request had not yet
been processed. I esclaated internally and they got it done. So all is
well now.

So now we will have to see if gmail's outbound spam problem is high on
their list to fix or whether they are more interested in adding capacity
to accommodate the increase in outbound spam, umm mail ;-)

Oh, and one other thing, all their spam is domainkeys signed. This
emergency whitelisting combined with the fact that all their spam is
signed is a little ironic if you have been following the dearaol.com
debate. ;-)


This just came through Dave Farber's IP list:

Date: April 24, 2006 5:05:08 PM EDT
To: dave@farber.net
Subject: AOL blocking Gmail

Dave, just had a lively and interesting conversation with an AOL
postmaster phone number. When they get reports from their users of
spam from a given host, they start rate-limiting mail from that
source. When a given source is huge, it's inevitable that there will
be spam-marked mail from within that space, and even if it's just
amateur users who mark as spam mail that comes to them that they don't
want to see, whether it's spam or not: with two larger user bases, it
can easily add up to a number of complaints that triggers aol's

So, net result, if you have a gmail account and try to write to
aol.com addresses now, you will probably not get through immediately.
You will probably get a message from google telling you that your
message has been delayed and giving an aol postmaster address,
http://postmaster.info.aol.com/errors/421rlynw.html, that tells you
that your site (i.e., Gmail) is being rate-limited and delayed inbound
to aol.

AOL's response to a complaint is to tell the Gmail user to tell Google
that there's a problem. Clash of the titans?

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Friday, April 21, 2006
Friday afternoon amusements: hi there, USPTO!
Happy Friday, all. Got back to my desk and there was a message waiting for me, indicating that I'd had a very special visitor to this post on the USPTO's little patent difficulties.

Date: 21 Apr 2006 14:45:03 -0400 (EDT)
From: Sea Monkey Watch
To: seamonkey@absono.us
Subject: Visitor - U.S. Patent and Trademark Office came by for a visit at 21/Apr/2006:14:33:02.

Thought you'd want to know, because...

OrgName: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

...looks like...

patent and trademark

Technorati Tagging:    

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Newsgator back, probably all drunk by now...
Greg Reinacker has the first cut post-mortem on today's Newsgator outage available, so you should head over there and read it if you want the real information.

From my perspective, the timeline ran something like this:

Monday 5:00pm MST
Some ugly stuff starts happening in a dark corner.

Monday 10:00pm MST
Newsgator folks experience that horrifying "hang on, things are supposed to be getting better, not worse...what the fuck?" moment.

Tuesday 2:00am MST
"Tired. So very tired."

Tuesday 2:30am MST
"Fuck. Yes, by definition none of our options are good, but doing nothing isn't all that appealing, either. Let's do it."

Tuesday 10:30am MST
Newsgator back up.

Tuesday 10:31am MST (estimated)
Newsgator tech support goes down the long, painful list of bloggers who have been bitching about the absence of NG (such as yours truly), giving updates to each and every one.

Tuesday 2:21pm MST (estimated)
Greg Reinacker finishes up his post-mortem blog post and once again starts going down the long, painful list of bloggers who have been bitching about the absence of NG, giving another update to each and every one.

So...did you notice how the timeline didn't end when NG came back online, but rather continued on with the communication (when drinking heavily and/or sleeping might have seemed like more attractive options)?

Sure, I'll agree that it would have been ideal for NG to push out more information out earlier on, but in return I'll ask that we all agree that they had a bunch of other kind of important stuff on their hands. As I've gotten two real-human pings from NG in the last eight hours, it's a little hard for me to accuse them of henious under-communication.

The situation sucked hard, Newsgator came though.

Technorati Tagging:    

RSS Withdrawal: Minute 49
my thoughts are with you, Newsgator guys

NetNewsWire wasn't syncing when I got up this morning. "Eh, it's a beta, I'll dig around a little this evening and see if I can figure out what's going on." Got to the office. FeedDemon wasn't syncing. "Hmmm...this isn't good. This isn't good at all." So okay, the Web is my something-or-other, I shall not want: head over to http://www.newsgator.com...and get a "maintenance" page. No feeds for me. "Ouch."

Technorati confirmed the outage, and I just now received an email from Newsgator Enterprise Server support, estimating that NG will be back online mid/late morning.

So I guess I can live without my input for a few hours...whatever withdrawal I'm going through, it's far less painful that what the Newsgator folks are enjoying right now. Sorry, guys, and good luck.

Update: here.

Technorati Tagging:    

Friday, April 14, 2006
On Design: MS' Own Worst Enemy
The "Microsoft redesigns the iPod packaging" video got a huge amount of well-deserved attention a little while ago, and I was extremely pleased to learn that the video actually originated inside MS. One very big point for Microsoft.

On the down side, however, this video exists because something in Microsoft's corporate culture breeds a whole lot of utterly godawful design decisions. Like, really bad. The self-awareness suggested by the existence of the iPod video is promising, but there's a lot of work to be done.

An Example
For reasons too boring to explain here, I ended up on the Microsoft Office Online site a little while ago. After spending some time scanning the main page -- trying to figure out which of the 110 visible links* might lead to the information that I was looking for -- I decided to just go with the link that exhorted me to Evolve to today's Microsoft Office. Get more done.

You really have to follow the "evolve" link above and click around yourself to understand, but I'll give you the basics here: it's a flash-based extravaganza in which you navigate around an office that is populated by people with dinosaur heads. As you mouse over people and objects, they increase or shrink in size, move around in an erratic and irritating fashion, or sometimes do nothing at all. When you click on certain of these objects, a little text layer appears in the middle of the screen, providing you with a couple of bullet points about some Microsoft Office product.

Happily, during some stage of the creative review/testing process, somebody noticed that it was virtually impossible to tell where you're supposed to click in order to get more information, so there are red (or sometimes orange, for some reason) dots on the objects that you're supposed to click. This also has the happy side effect of making it look like somebody in this office has just run amok with a paintball gun, which was enough to keep me entertained for most of my visit.

But there's more. The bottom part of the page is made up of little frames (changing based on which room of the office you're currently in), each of which is its own little mini-page linking out to another source of information. Take a look:

The screenshot above is from the "Managing Information" section of this site. Stop laughing. Yes, it appears that the only approach that the MS design committee could agree on for "managing the information" that they wanted to present on this topic was to have eight different iframes of information, each of which is only partially displayed. And I particularly like the cases where we've got iframes within iframes so that you end up with two nested sets of ugly scroll bars cluttering up the view of a single, small piece of information.

What's really sad about this is that it's intended to promote software like Outlook 2003, which is actually well designed, powerful, and pretty easy to use. Almost as sad is that I expect that I'd like the original proposal for this monstrosity, and possibly even like some very early iteration of it. Be that as it may, when you take a look at this site, it becomes clear how important it is -- essential, even -- that Microsoft takes the message of that MS iPod video seriously.

* Yes, I counted the links. It breaks out as:
  • 4 in the header
  • 42 in the left navigation
  • 40 in the page center
  • 16 in the right navigation
  • 8 in the footer

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Lunchtime Musings: toread, perchance 2.0...
"'toread' is an email-based free bookmark service."

It's a "beta?" Check.
Gentle colors, rounded corners, big fonts, drop shadows? Check.
Mmmmmm...javascript. Check.
Not entirely clear what problem it solves for me? Check.

Yep. Web 2.0 is alive and well in Japan, too.

Technorati Tagging:   

Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Jigsaw: Even Opt Out Would be a Step Up
I'm with Michael Arrington on this one. As much as I've railed against Jigsaw, I could deal with the existence of this company if they gave me even a token amount of respect...and oddly enough, granting that respect could make their business a lot better. Consider this radical idea:

Joe Salesperson uploads his contacts into Jigsaw. Each of those contacts then gets an email saying "Joe Salesperson would like to make your contact information available to others via Jigsaw. Click here to confirm that the contact information listed below is correct, and to make your information public." [If you like, you can also imagine that the information will automatically become public after X days, though I'd prefer not.]

Ideally there's also a link right there in the email that allows me to reject the request (and all other similar requests forever and ever, amen), but that's probably asking too much, isn't it?

In any case, think about what this does for Jigsaw and GIGO, which has to be a huge issue for them. If that email bounces, they immediately know that the information is garbage in, and that the source of the contact may be sketchy. Don't post the contact, and flag the provider for review. On the other hand, if all of Joe Salesperson's contacts actively confirm their information, then all that contact info can be listed as "confirmed," and Joe can get extra-special Jigsaw points for being a good citizen.

So Jigsaw gets to immediately and automagically reduce the garbage out of their system, as well as getting some useful metadata on which of their users are genuinely putting something useful into the system. I also get a couple of things out of this: I become a participant in the process, rather than a piece of meat. I know who wants to put my information into this system, and I have the ability to remove myself from that system if I so choose.

Putting all of these things together, you end up with a Jigsaw that contains contact information that is accurate and represents people who will likely be more receptive to sales calls, because those people already know that they're listed in Jigsaw.

Not that I think that'll happen, or anything.
Monday, April 10, 2006
Lunchtime Musings: Smart Guy Deathmatch
Disney/ABC decides to offer some popular programming online, for free.

Techdirt's Carlo says good first step, in that they're finally doing something. Umair "Bubblegeneration" Haque says bad, bad idea, in that this first step is strategically the wrong place to start.

With two of my key sources for stealing good ideas disagreeing with one another, I'm pretty much screwed for coming up with my own opinion. My suggestion is that you all read both posts and the associated links, and give it some thought.

I'll be doing that this evening...mostly as an exercise to clear my head of the image of Carlo and Umair fighting it out like Captain Kirk and Spock on that old episode of Star Trek. [Admit it, you know the one I'm talking about -- the one with the excellent fight music.]

Technorati Tagging:    

Monday, April 03, 2006
The New York Times Redesign: Keep Watching
Khoi Vinh says that the redesign of The New York Times site isn't (for the most part) his doing, and as much as I respect his work I can believe it. Hiring an excellent acchitect/designer was a key step for the NYT, but it feels like that was just one step in a much larger online plan.

If you take a look at the hiring that the NYT has been working on recently for their online arm, rather than "Code Monkey, Grade II" and "Reporter who Knows Some HTML," you see titles like "Creative Technologist" and "Futurist."

While funky job titles are one of the things that I don't miss much about Boom 1.0, in this case the titles point to some interesting thinking happening at the Grey Lady. The NYT seems to have made the leap to thinking about what they can do if they consider themselves as a company that uses technology (including printing presses, of course) to accumulate and distribute information, rather than as a newspaper that needs to have a Web site on Teh Internet.

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens.

Update: Even faster than Microsoft...the NYT seems to be keeping an eye on what people have to say about their redesign. This post went live at 09:21 AM, and the NYT came by for a looksee at 10:14 AM.

Date: 3 Apr 2006 10:15:02 -0400 (EDT)
From: Sea Monkey Watch
To: seamonkey@absono.us
Subject: Visitor - The New York Times came by for a visit at 03/Apr/2006:10:14:11.

Thought you'd want to know, because...

OrgName: The New York Times

...looks like...

new york times

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