Joho the BlogApril 2006 - Page 3 of 11 - Joho the Blog

April 23, 2006

Cingular lies

The Boston Globe reports today that Cingular is entirely unable to back up its heavily-advertised claim that it has the fewest dropped calls. Cingular referred the reporter, Bruce Mohl, to a research company called Telephia, and Telephia refused to provide any information about the study. So, it seems to be based on a statistically significant steaming pile of horse crap.

My own study certainly backs up the horse crap hypothesis. My Cingular phone only works if I actually climb a Cingular antenna tower, of which there seem to be a total of nine in the continental United States. Fortunately, the towers are only 11 inches tall.

I exaggerate. My Cingular phone also works if my phone is within shouting distance of yours. In fact, I’d like a rebate for the total minutes I spend yelling “Can you hear me now?” into my phone. If the terrorists were smart they’d use variations of “Can you hear me now? How about now?” as code, thus slipping by any covert government eavesdropping programs.

Plus, how about pain and suffering damages for the hours of sleep I’ve lost because my stupid !#@$%-ing phone — which has an automatically-set, atomic-quality clock in it — insists on beep-booping in the middle of the night to tell me that it’s lower on power.

And I shouldn’t pick on Cingular. Yesterday I went to the local Sprint store to check on how much they charge to use one of their phones as a modem. The brochure the clerk showed me contradicted itself in every line: The $39.99 “unlimited data” plan actually gives you 40MB before it starts charging on top of the $39.99. But, you can get a “special offer” of unlimited data for $59.99, except in the fine print it turns out to be unlimited up until 40MB. When I asked the clerk about it, he claimed to be entering a tunnel, and made static-y noises.

Is there a single person in the US who does not HATE her cellular company? [Tags: ]


April 22, 2006

Microsoft Money’s word magic

I’m pretty happen with my switch from Quicken to Microsoft Money. I’m not sure it’s any better, but the switch enabled me to clean up lots of crud that had accreted over the past 15-20 yrs of Quickening. And Money’s phone support has been tremendous.


Money’s UI designers should invest in a dictionary. When the menu choice says “Change account details > Close or reopen accounts,” what it actually means is “Show or hide accounts.” Closing an account is a big deal. Hiding the display of an account is not.

And when it forces you to say that the amount of a bill you’re paying is either a “fixed” amount or an “estimate,” what it really means by “estimate” is that you’ve entered in precisely the amount you want to pay as stated on your paper bill.

Jeez. Don’t they do usability testing? [Tags: ]


Wkipedia’s reliance on the media

danah boyd posts brilliantly (of course) about how Wikipedia’s guidelines and reliance on mainstream verification kept the entry about her wrong. Ack! Wikipedia’s processes generally result in reliable entries, but not this time. Modify the process and guidelines? Enable better exception handling? (Burningbird picks up the thread.) [Tags: ]

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Why Net neutrality matters

Net neutrality (formerly known as the end-to-end principle) means that the people who provide connections to the Internet don’t get to favor some bits over others. This principle is not only under attack, it’s about to be regulated out of existence. Here’s why it matters:

Innovation. Innovation on the Internet happens in Internet time because bits flow freely. A good idea can compete even if it comes from a kid in a garage because the kid doesn’t have to ask permission and doesn’t have to raise enough capital to make sure his bits are moving as quickly and reliably as everyone else’s. If the carriers are allowed to charge for speedy and reliable delivery, the people most affected will be the beginners and the garage shops.

Open markets. In a non-neutral environment, carriers can provide incentives for using one service and disincentives for using others. For example, Shaw (a major Canadian cableco) offers its own Internet telephone service, but charges users $10/month to use anyone else’s. The dominant — and frequently monopolistic — market positions held by carriers therefore gets extended into the market for online services.

Free speech. AOL recently “accidentally” blocked email critical of it. Canada’s version of AT&T, Telus, blocked access to a site supporting workers with whom it was negotiating. How long before providers routinely block access to sites they deem inappropriate for their customers, for their customers’ own good, of course?

Creativity. Net neutrality is being legislated away in part to make the Internet safe for Hollywood content. Carriers already block users from being full-fledged creators on the Internet by providing paltry upload capacity. Why allow the carriers to give fast-lane preference to Hollywood’s content? And why give them the power to restrict content they think may rile the copyright totalitarians?

Democracy. Remember when democracy had something to do with all people being equal? With ensuring that our institutions don’t get too powerful? Net neutrality has made the Internet a great equalizer, not just for Americans but for voices around the world. The end of Net neutrality puts control over the flow of bits in the hands of powers that are literally entrenched.

Net neutrality counts. Check to see how you can help. [Tags: ]


Save our Internet is a coalition site about preserving Net neutrality, which we are on the verge of losing.

The end of Net neutrality means that you will see the Internet as the company that sells you a connection cares to show it to you. It could make a little difference where you live. It could make a big difference. But it shouldn’t be allowed to make any difference. [Tags: ]


April 21, 2006

Raytheon’s moderated tagging

At the Taxocop wiki you can read a fascinating discussion of how tagging systems can and are being used internally by corporations. Christine Connors explains, for example, that at Raytheon, librarians moderate user suggestions for sites and keywords. “We only rarely disapprove of a user-submitted term; overly general, vague or completely off-base terms are those that get deleted. We occasionally call to clarify a submission,” Christine says. [Tags: ]


Re-elect Gore

I pine for Al. He’s grown. He’s learned from his unfair defeat. He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s experienced, he’s honest (and always was), he’s fiery on the topics that need fire, he understands the connected world better than any other plausible presidential candidate, he has become, yes, likable. The race would be better with him in it.

Does he get into the race if Hillary falters? If Hillary doesn’t falter but looks like she’s going to run a campaign as strangulated and phony as Kerry’s? If we all get together and ask him politely? [Tags: ]


Jerry Michalski on us-generated content

The Economist has a terrific article by Andreas Kluth on the rise of “user-generated content” (which I prefer to think of as “us-generated”) that quotes Jerry Michalski on “media mogul” Barry Diller’s attitude:

“What an ignoramus!” says Jerry Michalski, with some exasperation. He advises companies on the uses of new media tools. “Look around and there’s tons of great stuff from rank amateurs,” he says. “Diller is assuming that there’s a finite amount of talent and that he can corner it. He’s completely wrong.” Not everything in the “blogosphere” is poetry, not every audio “podcast” is a symphony, not every video “vlog” would do well at Sundance, and not every entry on Wikipedia, the free and collaborative online encyclopedia, is 100% correct, concedes Mr Michalski. But exactly the same could be said about newspapers, radio, television and the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Testify, Jerry!

(I hesitate to link to the article because it quotes me, too, so linking feels like boasting. But I’d decided to blog Jerry’s quote before I did a double-take when I saw my name there, too. Sorry.) [Tags: ]


This metadata brought to you by…

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, Philips Electronics has signed an agreement with Time Inc. that requires four magazines (Time, Fortune, People, Business 2.0) to put their tables of contents on the first page. A front-cover flap will announce that Philips is behind this “innovation.”

That Time has to be bribed into not hiding their way-faring page shows how little magazines respect their readers.

Meta-idea: Philips should sell space on their flap, announcing that the flap is being brought to you by… [Tags: ]

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April 20, 2006

Policy and politics

Know what’s a really bad idea for democracy? Have the President’s chief political advisor also be his chief policy advisor. One predictable consequence:

“There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus,” says DiIulio. “What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.”

In short: Karl Rove’s resignation of his policy role is waaaaay overdue. [Tags: ]


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