Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Jared’s wombat??

Just received Jared Spool's latest UIEtips enewsletter: "Determining How Design Affects Branding." Lately Jared has been annoying me with his spam all about attending some conference on the west coast (once is okay. Three times is NOT okay). But aside from that, methinks he should start selecting more substantial stuff for his newsletter if he has any hopes whatsoever of selling my company reports on his research. These examples just won't do it:

"The more shoppers could purchase their desired products, the more their positive attitudes about the site's brand increased."

"The usage of certain design elements correlated very strongly with people's brand attitude changes. For example, shoppers who used size charts while buying apparel were more likely to show brand strength increases on those sites. While shoppers who used Search correlated strongly with decreases in brand strength."
Correlations do not a conclusion make. How strongly correlated? Was it a statistically significant correlation or just a line moving on a chart? What were they searching for? Why were they searching? What's a brand-strength increase, anyway? And the only reason to use a size chart is if you're already committed to buying - otherwise, it's a pain in the ass to figure them out. So if someone IS ALREADY committed to buying, of course his or her brand awareness is going to be higher.

"These two findings tell us that when we create designs that focus on ensuring users accomplish their goals, we are likely having a long-term positive effect on the strength of the brand."
As opposed to what, deliberately designing sites to be user unfriendly and to thwart user goals? How much money was spent on this study? Time?

If you want USEFUL web-building information, go here: Criteria for optimal web design (designing for usability) from the Software Usability Research Laboratory at Wichita State University.
posted by lee on 02/12/02 at 07:01 AM
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states threaten micromerchants with paypal attacks

PayPal Booted Out of State, Under Legal Siege. " ... the state of Louisiana ordered PayPal to stop doing business with its residents without a license.

"Although the company faces the threat of regulation from several other states, Louisiana was the first state to order the company to stop transferring money to and from residents until it obtains a money transmission license.

"If PayPal fails to abide by that order, it could be fined US$1,000 per day by the state.

"PayPal said it will 'comply promptly and suspend the ability of Louisiana residents to make payments through our service,' although it reserves the right to contest the order."

The article in eCommerce Times continues, stating PayPal is facing legal challenges in other states, including New York.

Let's see, PayPal has been around how many years now? And states are only NOW looking at it? Is Amazon.com subject to these same complaints, or any other net-based money-transfer services?

I don't know the legal ins and outs of the way PayPal is supposed to conduct business. I do know that this should've been resolved long ago - before thousands and thousands of small online businesses came to depend on PayPal for ecommerce functions. Including the thousands on eBay alone.

PayPal isn't a cheap service for a micromerchant to use, but it sure is cheaper than most bank merchant accounts and it is absolutely easier to set up than every single other shopping cart program out there. It may not be the best service out there for the microbusiness, but as far as I've seen, it's the only one out there that makes sense. It's flawed, but works well enough to have generated $40 million in revenue in 2001 and more than 2 million business acounts.

What I want to know is what micromerchants are supposed to do if PayPal sinks under the weight of regulatory cinderblocks in 50 states. Are banks going to step in an offer comparable services that are comparably easy to use? I doubt it.

If PayPal falls, it will be the death knell for thousands of micromerchants who cannot afford the expense of merchant accounts or hiring programmers to set up expensive shopping cart programs for their sites. Even sites proclaiming to be easy-to-use and cheap are not - witness Yahoo.

So what's going to happen? I don't know. Is eBay going to step in to the fray? If they want their success to continue, they'll have to.
posted by lee on 02/12/02 at 12:08 PM
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Wednesday, February 13, 2002

WSJ Spent $28 mil on overhaul

From ComputerWorld: WSJ.com Completes Web Site Overhaul

It cost $28 million over two years! Twenty-eight million smackeroos! Revenue is just $36 million/year. They switched to Vignette for content management - planning to spin off customized newsletters. The sites run on IBM's apache-esque servers. The figured personalization is the way to go, so that's why they spent the big bucks. That works out to be about $45 per existing subscriber - seems like a pretty steep retention cost.

One would think a financial newspaper would know what it was doing. We'll see. I've been a subscriber (to the interactive edition - not print) for years - since day one as a matter of fact - and frankly, I didn't have any problems with the old version and see nothing special about the new version - at what, $6 a month, it's not something that's preying on my mind to cancel - I think it's a good deal. It's one of those monthly charges you don't really notice - under-the-radar charges are what content sites should aspire to - so I have a hunch their churn rate isn't particularly high. I dunno - I guess I'm just awestruck that $28 million can even be SPENT building a website (or series of websites, as in the case of WSJ). Least they could've made it PRETTY!
posted by lee on 02/13/02 at 06:43 AM
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More useful usability stuff

developerWorks: Usability : Seven tricks that Web users don't know. This was pretty interesting - as a developer, I really do forget that I had to learn this stuff at one time.
posted by lee on 02/13/02 at 06:54 AM
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Now this is just a total crock of guano

No matter the cost, Afghan hounds pay the price.

Lou Guerrero had no problem spending whatever it cost to show off his champion dog and bring it from California to Westminster this year.

He had more trouble dealing with the backlash caused by the name of its breed: Afghan hound.

"Now that 9-11 happened, I'm very careful where I go with my dog," Guerrero said Tuesday. "When people ask what kind she is, I just say, 'She's a hound dog.'

"The only reason I do this is for fear of possible retaliation."

Is stupid a gene or is it something in the water?
posted by lee on 02/13/02 at 10:02 AM
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Thursday, February 14, 2002

well, so what’s wrong here?

Man convicted of shooting girlfriend who he thought was about to say `New Jersey'
posted by lee on 02/14/02 at 09:56 AM
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Friday, February 15, 2002

more internet archives: movies

The Internet Archives has an amazing collection of ephemral movies donated by the Prelinger Archives. Nearly 1,000 of them. A collection of stills as well (though I'm not sure yet how they're organized). Ephemeral films are those like those old science movies you saw in grade school, or films made by company PR departments, government safety films, stuff like that.


posted by lee on 02/15/02 at 11:04 AM
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Saturday, February 16, 2002

After ELF - FBI/Congressional castrati hunt environmentalists

The Earth Liberation Front has been branded the top terrorist group in the nation. Now that political conservatives and corporations are making steady inroads into our inconvenient civil liberties with nary a slap on the hand in sight, they're broadening their scope and taking aim at any group that even remotely threatens the short-term corporate bottom line.

The Christian Science Monitor has an article about this: "Eco-terrorists, too, may soon be on the run" (written by Brad Knickerbocker). (I first heard about it on NPR the other night.) He writes:

It may be the wartime mood, but lawmakers and law-enforcement agencies around the country are hot on the trail of terrorists.

Not the kind who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last September, but those who - in the name of animal rights and environmental protection - attack logging trucks, slaughterhouses, fur farms, and university research facilities.

Congress is working on legislation that would stiffen penalties and bring such crimes under federal racketeering laws. The FBI is deploying more agents to fight "ecoterrorists." Government land managers are stepping up security.

Concluding with:
"How best to deal with this home-grown brand of Al Qaeda? I propose that we use the model that has worked so well in Afghanistan," says Rep. George Nethercutt (R) of Washington. "Cut off their funding. Give them no rest and no quarter."

But Rep. Nick Rahall (D) of West Virginia takes a different view. "Robbing future generations of Americans of the splendor and grandeur of publicly held natural resources is, in my book, a form of terrorism," Rahall says, referring to timber theft.

The Associated Press reported:
FBI expert James F. Jarboe said that since 1996, the ALF and ELF have caused $43 million in damage in more than 600 attacks, ranging from spray-painting buildings and breaking windows to firebombing fur farms, research centers and a ski resort.

``They're the most active. They cause the most damage,'' Jarboe said, although white supremacist groups are still considered more dangerous because their attacks are often aimed at people.

Nobody has been killed in an ELF or ALF attack, but McInnis said it is wrong to think of the ecoterrorists as ``nature-loving hippies'' or misguided youths.

So there ya go - our government's official policy: "We'll go after groups that cause property damage, but we won't worry about those groups that kill people. No siree - we gotta protect those bulldozers and chain saws ... "

Makes one wonder if there would've been such a response to terrorism if 3,000 people were killed with no property damage. What's the gubmint doing about the anthrax deaths lately?

The FBI says:
Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States (or its territories) without foreign direction, committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.

Under this definition, our country was founded by terrorists.

"Currently, more than 26 FBI field offices have pending investigations associated with ALF/ELF activities. Despite all of our efforts (increased resources allocated, JTTFs, successful arrests and prosecutions), law enforcement has a long way to go to adequately address the problem of eco-terrorism. Groups such as the ALF and the ELF present unique challenges. There is little if any hierarchal structure to such entities. Eco-terrorists are unlike traditional criminal enterprises which are often structured and organized."

They can't find them to prosecute them because eco-activists successfully operate in exactly the same way the men and women who founded our country operated - the strategy book is right there in a United States history book for anyone who cares to read. (Ohmigod - terrorist tactics laid out in our history books - burn 'em! Both - the terrorists AND the books!) And/or the FBI is its usual competent self.

The problem with a witchhunt is no one knows who's going to get swept up in the hysteria. It could be you. Recommended reading:

If an Agent Knocks on the ELF site:
Excerpt: Do I have to talk to the FBI?
No. The FBI does not have the authority to make anyone answer questions (other than name and address) to permit a search without a warrant, or to otherwise cooperate with an investigation. Agents are usually lawyers, and they are always trained as investigators; they have learned the power of persuasion, the ability to make a person feel scared, guilty, or impolite for refusing their requests for information. So remember, they have no legal authority to force people to do anything -- unless they have obtained an arrest or search warrant. Even when agents do have warrants, you still don't have to answer their question.

A law enforcement official can only obtain your name and address if he or she has a reasonable suspicion to believe that you have committed or are about to commit a crime. Thus, if an FBI agent knocks at your door you do not have to identify yourself to him; you can simply say "I don't want to talk to you," or "You'll have to speak to my lawyer," and then close the door. An FBI agent, unlike a local police officer, does not have jurisdiction to investigate violations of state statute.
posted by lee on 02/16/02 at 09:40 AM
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Tuesday, February 19, 2002

catholic mythology revealed ...

Vatican bishop diagnoses sin as cause of sickness.
posted by lee on 02/19/02 at 09:26 AM
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WTC memorial or navigation hazard?

See Proposal for 9/11 Memorial and A Novel Idea For A WTC Memorial (CBS News).

My initial reaction is this is a silly concept. I have to think about it some more. Mainly, I think it's silly because it's even uglier than the WTC was.
posted by lee on 02/19/02 at 02:37 PM
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