For those who need to understand how the Web is transforming the way businesses work, yada yada yada
Issue: August 25, 1999
Author/Editor: David Weinberger
Home page: http://www.hyperorg.com
Contact information: Click here.
Consuming Donuts: Consumers link up and find out more than they want to know about what really happens when it's time to make the donuts.
Why Search Engines Suck: Add inadvertent racism to the list of charges...
Links I Like: Finally, a Y2K disclaimer that tells it like it is ... and it's pretty darn funny.
There's been a little delay in getting the August 21 issue out. I could blame it on those pesky clients who actually expect me to turn in work (isn't it enough that we've had such a good time together?) but the real culprit is The Cluetrain Manifesto book which is due into the publisher in surprisingly few days.
So, it may be another 10-14 days before I get the next issue of JOHO out. In the meantime, here are some tidbits of various caloric worth.
As the Internet shifts the power from merchants to customers you can hear the timbers creaking. For instance...
David Felton was mightily perhaps a tad irrationally cheesed when a Dunkin Donuts refused to put skim milk into his coffee even though the sign in the window said you can get it "your way" there.
So he did what any red-blooded Internet denizen would do: he made fun of Dunkin Donuts on his web site. And then he grabbed www.dunkindonuts.org and turned it into a public comment board.
The comments poured in. Most were critical of DD, but some were complimentary. (For example, I'd have to say that the French Cruller I ate today was the best use of 1,235 grams of fat since the Allies greased the landing gear of its entire fleet of Flying Tigers just before Normandy.)
Of course negative comments predominate. Some seem not worth the calories it took to type them ("I would like to know why the DD on the Fellsway in Medford requires that I buy at least 5 munchkins... If I wanted 5 munchkins I would get a donut.") and others are a bit more biting: "I live quite close to [a particular store] and only smell donuts being baked about once a week. This is consistent with my few experiences buying donuts there - they've been everything from stale and slightly off-tasting though still *fairly* soft, to literally almost too hard to bite into."
Then there's the employee who warned people to stay away with anything filled with jelly since the employees "toss it around, play with it." (And about the kreme filling you just don't want to know.)
The 5,000 franchise owners jumped into the fray. Says Felton in a press release: "Customers, franchise owners, and even competitors had something to say on the web site. As a matter of fact, it was a common occurrence to see a comment about a particular franchise submitted in the morning, and by the same afternoon, the owner of the franchise already contacted the author and submitted a follow-up on the web site."
But that wasn't enough for the Corporate Big Boys with their big swingin' jelly sticks. They sued the little guy, even though he was getting only 50-70 visitors a day. (But after the front page story in the Boston Globe, I bet the rate goes up a tad.)
The story has one of those ambiguous endings so favored by French auteurs and second-rate novelists who write themselves into corners. Felton sold the site to DD for an undisclosed site. He says he couldn't face the legal bills and harassment. One of the terms is that DD host a public comment area on its own site. But it's not clear that they will post the comments or just suck them into the "customer service department" where they will be processed into a crusty new fudge topping prepared by employees who don't wash their hands.
But, if DD lacks the munchkins to let the public speak, the public will find another site to do it. For example, www.dunkindonutssucks.com is already registered.
I've drawn upon an article by Joanna Weiss in the Boston Globe (Aug. 25): http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/237/metro/Big_business_clout_gets_a_dunking+.shtml
Why Search Engines Suck, Part Whatever
If you search for "monkey" in the clip art section of the "Teaching and Learning with Microsoft" CD, it finds several pictures of monkeys ... and an image of an African-American couple. The couple happens to be standing in front of some monkey bars. Microsoft has sent a letter of apology to educators.
Clearly this is just embarrassing, not racist. But perhaps it's part of an argument for more meta-data tagging and XML searching. And it's definitely evidence that search engines are stupid.
Links I Like
Chris Worth alerted RageBoy and me to the best Y2K disclaimer I've seen:
Unfortunately, RageBoy published this to his little 'zine, EGR, (http://www.rageboy.com/index2.html) before I was able to tell y'all about it. (JOHO goes through a far more extensive fact-checking and peer review process than EGR which is in fact created in offshore sweatshops and is published as soon as it's gone through the spellchecker. We think quality is worth the wait.)
Anyway, you might consider taking Hart Scientific's approach as a model of how to speak to Web site visitors whom you assume aren't humor-less, belligerent morons.
The following information was found trapped at the top of my washing machine when I ran some issues of JOHO through it.
JOHO is a free, independent newsletter written and produced by David Weinberger. He denies responsibility for any errors or problems. If you write him with corrections or criticisms, it will probably turn out to have been your fault.
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