Tag - mistakes

MediaTemple GridServer v. 2.0

MediaTemple is updating GridServer … the grid computing architecture that this blog and many other sites are running it.

It’s been a long hard road for MT with plenty of problems. In reverse chronological order:

Hopefully this will address all (or at least most) of the outstanding issues, including MySQL latency and just general slowness.

(And btw, yeah, I know that it’s not v. 2.0. But v. 1.2 doesn’t sound nearly as impressive. A point release? Give me a break!)

Here are the details, straight from the MT announcement email:

Highlights of (GMR v.1.2)

– Core count (800+). After the release of (GMR v.1.2), the combined processor cores in all Clusters will total over 800 and produce massive processing horsepower for customers.

– MySQL GridContainers (in private beta). (mt) Media Temple has completely re-architected the MySQL system on the GRID. This gives each customer their own container server with dedicated resources, an industry first, that’s running an unshared copy of MySQL. Please consult the new “MySQL Container Project Log” to learn more about this new database architecture and to sign up for participation.

Link: http://weblog.mediatemple.net/weblog/category/grid/mysql-container-project/

– Improved Email Functionality. Numerous changes made to the email sub-system including improved email delivery times, resolution of random duplicate emails, virus scanning and improved MailProtect anti-SPAM recognition. An overhaul of the allow-lists envelope sender component, and new sender-verify override feature are also included.

– Improved FTP. Faster FTP connection setups, improved overall transfer rates and large FTP transfers include better connection handling.

– 400% increase in storage performance. The GRID has achieved massive improvements in overall storage performance resulting in faster page load times, script execution, mail delivery, and a plethora of overall system benefits.

– Network Speed Increase. Reconfigured back-end network fabric that utilizes next generation hardware and software to improve speed and reliability of intercommunication between every GRID segment.

– New Clustered DNS. Improves speed of internal name resolution within the GRID which results in overall performance enhancement in applications such as web, email, containers, etc.

– More and more.
– 25% faster control panel access.
– Enhanced CRON system.
– Reworked directory password protection tool.
– New stable kernel releases installed for future enhancements.

We hope you that you enjoy the many improvements of (GMR v.1.2). (mt) Media Temple would like to thank all of the users that contributed feedback that lead to these improvements. Our customer’s direct feedback and experiences has been incredibly helpful and our systems are now more powerful and running better with your help. As always, we encourage users to continue telling us what you like, what you don’t like, and what you’d like to see in the future. GMR (v.1.3) is already in development and its release cycle is expected to be much shorter than (GMR v1.1) to (GMR v1.2).

[tags] mt, mediatemple, gridserver, gs, john koetsier [/tags]

good progress on the infantilization of adults in america project

It would really be horrible to treat adults as responsible human beings who can make their own choices and live with their own consequences, wouldn’t it?

A New York state senator has announced his plan to introduce legislation that would ban the use of electronic devices such as iPods, BlackBerrys and cell phones while crossing streets in major cities.

(From C|Net.)

[tags] ipod, apple, new york, ny, john koetsier [/tags]

In-your-face web nasties

Saw these over the past few days and had to post them in order to cool my blood:

Click or die advertising:
You will see our ad. You will click our ad. And we will monetize your eyeballs whether you like it or not.

Get lost loser subscription policy:
We don’t know you. We don’t like you. We don’t care about you unless you subscribe. Loser!

Great campaigns, Silicon Valley Sleuth and Pocket-lint. Wish you guys lots of success with that.

Political comment spam

Bleh … comment spam is now getting political …

Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective in the Middle East Conflict also scored high in all categories it was nominated. Google earlier banned advertising of that blog for unacceptable content.

Samson Blinded’s author advocates religious state of Judea at the border with Israel and expulsion of Arabs. Obadiah Shoher denies democracy dominated by liberals and Muslims and calls Israelis to oppose police efforts at removing the settlements. His other point is dismanlting economically unbearable Israeli army and relying on nuclear weapons. However, he decried Lebanese and Iraq invasions.

Public opinion seems to strongly shift the the right in Middle East issues. Any thoughts on that?

I don’t understand why spammers of all stripes don’t at least try to make sense or form a coherent statement.

[tags] spam, comments, blogging, john koetsier [/tags]

MAC is not Mac

For all those who languish in the valley of the shadow of Windows, MAC is not Mac.

MAC is something geeky and technical and abstruse. Mac is something simple, elegant, and powerful.


[tags] MAC, mac, apple, ethernet, language, pet peeves, john koetsier [/tags]

Whose convenience, precisely?

I detest the theatres that want you to order your tickets online … and then charge you a “convenience fee.”


Whose convenience are we talking about? Obviously, not the theatre’s. Whose convenience should matter to the the theatre? Obviously, ours!

If offering online tickets really was convenient for the theater as well as being convenient for us the convenience “fee” would be a convenience “discount.” And yet we stand in long lines at the theater, waiting to pay, waiting to enter. Rather inconvenient, wouldn’t you say?

Tell me again why I shouldn’t wait for the DVD to come out.

. . .
. . .

As an afterthough, let’s not even talk about the miserable usability of a form that, although every price class is the same price class, still has three price classes. Intelligence abounds.

[tags] theater, convenience, fee, john koetsier [/tags]

penisland: pen island

No, this site has not been hacked, and no, I have not decided to change my sexual orientation. Rather, this is a cautionary tale on the foolish choosing of domain names.

There exists, unfortunately, a company called Pen Island. Said company wished, unfortunately, to have an eponymous domain name: penisland.com. Said domain name, unfortunately, is easily misread by those with dirty minds. (That’s you, gentle reader.)

The problem is that not only is the domain name suseptible to conflation with rather more prurient proclivities, the content of the website is too.

Not only can you get them custom-made:


They’re also guaranteed real, not imitation. No pumps here.


Whatever your taste, Pen Island has something for you:


Even the advertising fits the theme. After all, this is a pen lover’s paradise:


Not sure what you prefer? Take a free sample for a test drive:


(OK, I know I’m going to regret this post. Probably just as soon as I hit the Publish button. Ah well – what’s life without a little pushing the envelope?

Last note: yes, I know the site is a fabrication. Check the category links … this is not a real company’s website.)

[tags] pens, island, funny, john koetsier [/tags]

The best captcha is no captcha

modern-captcha.jpgNicolas Koenig recently posted ModernCaptcha, a comment spam protection technology inspired by Seth Godin that is far easier to use than most captchas.

On the one hand, this is great because captchas suck. Hard. They’re difficult to read, annoying, slow down the user experience, and make people feel stupid when they can’t get them right.

In Koenig’s implementation, all you have to do is match a well-known logo to a web address. Simple – right? Probably – if you’re a reasonably savvy web user. Maybe not, however, if you’re not an English speaker or familiar with major tech companies.

But the biggest issue I have with any form of captcha is that they slow down the read-write web. They’re web 2.0 friction. And there’s a better way.

Crowdsource your comment spam problem
Akismet is a simple idea implemented amazingly well: use collective intelligence from all over the web to identify comment spam on blogs and other social spaces online.

It works amazingly well – capturing well over 99% of the comment spam on this blog. That’s about 30,000 comment spams in the past year or so.

What this allows you to do is outsource your comment-spam-control problem. Or, to be even more buzzword-compliant, crowd-source it.

The best captcha is no captcha at all.

[tags] captcha, seth godin, Nicolas Koenig, modern captcha, comment spam, john koetsier [/tags]

MediaTemple: starting to rock again

MediaTemple (my hosting company) is really starting to do all the right things and is regaining my confidence rapidly.

While having had quite a few problems over the past month, they’ve compensated affected people and are aggresively communicating about system upgrades, enhancements, and status.

The bare facts are that GridServer is starting to deliver on the promise that made me pull up stakes and move my sites. The warm fuzzy emotional appeal is that MT is being completely open and aboveboard during what will probably still be some “interesting” weeks ahead.

Kudos and congrats!

[tags] mediatemple, mt, hosting, communication, crisis, john koetsier [/tags]

MySpace: buggier than Windows ME?

It’s official – the most commented-on post at bizhack is GottaLoveMySpaceErrorMessages.

(If you’ve been on MySpace at all, you’ll grok the reason for the intercaps in that blog post title.)

One post, almost 4 months ago, and almost 40 comments. That’s a lot for a medium-to-low traffic blog. But the most interesting thing is that comments are still being added.

I wrote the post after noticing serious bugginess around creating a MySpace account – specifically around entering a Canadian postal code – and people are still noticing the errors today. However, check out Laura’s solution:

Ok this was really weird, I actually typed in 6 random numbers instead of my real postal code and it worked.


This is the site that a hundred million people belong to. This is the site that was sold for the better part of a billion dollars.

If anyone ever tells you that success doesn’t contain an absolutely huge portion of blind helpless luck and mostly meaningless happenstance, refer them to MySpace.

[tags] myspace, buggy, login, john koetsier [/tags]

MediaTemple does the right thing

I’ve posted a few critical stories regarding MediaTemple’s new grid server product lately.

But I’m happy to be able to post good news: now MT is doing the right thing. I just got this email:

Dear John,

Our records indicate that you recently opened up a support request related to an open incident, wide-spread problem, or known issue relating to (mt) Media Temple’s new (gs) Grid-Server system. We want to apologize for the inconveniences this may have caused you.

We are compensating you 3 months of service as a concession for the troubles we may have caused you and your site. No action is required on your part. In the next 24 hours this will appear in your account in the form of a credit.

We will be announcing GRID MASTER RELEASE (v.1.1), and version upgrade which fixed hundreds of bugs and will dramatically improve your overall experience with this system.

(mt) Media Temple wishes to thank you sincerely for your patience during the course of these incidents. We believe the (gs) Grid-Server is an amazing system with new technology that has only begun to reach its real potential. Please look forward to announcements in the next few days relating to our new master release.

Thank you again.

Best Regards,

(mt) Media Temple
Hosting Operations

Good move, Mediatemple. Stuff happens, errors occur: that’s reality. I’m looking forward to good continued service from MT.

[tags] MT, mediatemple, customer, service, john koetsier [/tags]

MediaTemple GridServer is a disaster

I moved to MediaTemple a few months ago on the promise of great service and an upcoming grid server product that was supposed to blow everything else out of the water.

Instead, it just blows.

It’s had multiple outages, some ephemeral, some lasting for significant fractions of an hour – like today’s. See also this almost comical account: we found a bug. Another bug! Yet another bug!

Now my control panel is down for “maintenance:”


Even now, this afternoon (4:20 PST), access to my blog, email, associated sites, and services is intermittent and slow. Not impressive. Not impressive at all.

I feel for the techs behind the service – I’ve been there, in that nasty, awful place where things just keep horribly going wrong. But the bottom line is: it needs to work, and it needs to work now.

MT better fix this soon or there will soon be many recent ex-MT clients.

. . .
. . .

Perhaps only a language geek like me appreciates it, but I love the idiocy of the error message above.

First of all, is there an actual error, or is maintenance being conducted? We all know the answer, but the error message is attempting to suggest the opposite. Secondly, is the control panel unavailable for use due to maintenance … or unavailable to be maintained? Again, the answer is obvious, but the wording is ridiculous.

[tags] MT, mediatemple, grid, gridserver, bizhack, john koetsier, buggy [/tags]

MediaTemple GridServer is buggy

[ update Nov. 22 12:05 ] Now my site was down for a minute or two. Odd and annoying!

A month or so ago I moved my server from a shared-hosting account at MediaTemple to their new grid server platform. Unfortunately, it’s buggy.

Here’s my buddy Rastin’s site, about 2 minutes ago:


I’ve never had so many interruptions, database connection issues, and other niggling little problems like completely flat-out missing stats. The problem is that when the grid hiccups, it’s not just one site that goes down … it’s all of them.

So when you see Rastin’s site down, mine is too.

The one good thing is that the sites never seem to go down for long. They’re always down for just a minute or two … which is interesting when you put in a Support request and they say there’s no problem.

MediaTemple needs to address this quickly. They have a reputation for excellent technology and service – a lot of high-profile sites and bloggers use MediaTemple.

Dropping off the grid for random minutes on a daily basis will not enhance that reputation.

. . .
. . .

Also see Ellis Web – similar experiences.

[tags] mediatemple, grid, computing, server, john koetsier, rastin mehr [/tags]

Dangerous lawyers: YouTube & TechCrunch

Lawyers working for web companies are like Dick Cheney out hunting: liable to shoot their best friends in the face.

For a perfect example, see this TechCrunch cease & desist, sent by that paragon of intellectual property rights protection, YouTube:

Buried in my email this evening I found a cease and desist letter from an attorney at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, representing their client YouTube. We’ve been accused of a number of things: violating YouTube’s Terms of Use, of “tortious interference of a business relationship, and in fact, many business relationships,” of committing an “unfair business practice,” and “false advertising.” The attorney goes on to demand that we cease and desist in from engaging in these various actions or face legal remedies.

The offense we committed was creating a small tool that lets people download YouTube videos to their hard drives. We referenced the tool in a recent post that walked people through the process of moving YouTube Videos to their iPod.

The dangerous part is not in sending the cease & desist notice per se. It’s not even in sending it wrongfully, as Micheal Arrington goes on to point out in the rest of the post.

The idiocy of almost Biblical proportions is sending out a C&D to TechCrunch as if it’s just some blog written by just some guy. The idiocy is not knowing that TechCrunch is one of the biggest and most influential blogs on the planet – particularly in terms of web start-ups and technology.

And the danger is in not putting 2 and 2 together and coming up with the knowledge that your ridiculous C&D, and your name, and your firm’s name … are all going to be splashed across the computers of the most knowedgeable and influential people in the industry.

At the very least you need to have a smarter, more subtle, and more targeted approach. Leave the bullhorn at home. Then, you ensure that you don’t target people who are among your biggest fans. If you’re absolutely forced to, you do it in as nice a way as possible.

And, finally, being sure that what you’re issuing the C&D for is actually a violation of the terms and conditions of your site would be a very good idea.

[tags] techcrunch, youtube, C&D, lawyer, law, legal, web, john koetsier [/tags]

Start-up goals: traffic, traffic, and more traffic?

start-up.pngFollowing the leaders is a great way to be a follower. But the fifty-first YouTube is nobody, and the sixty-third MySpace is nothing.

What does that mean in terms of a start-up’s goals?

Question: traffic & monetization
You start a wonderful new web start-up. Is traffic what it’s all about? Will everything magically work if you get traffic? And if you get traffic, will it automatically be monetizable?

Question: usefulness & critical mass
You start a wonderful new web start-up. But is it wonderful when you’re the only one there, or is it only wonderful if thousands of people are using it? Of course, you eventually want millions. And you know it’ll be great if only you can get over that hump – the first few thousand users. But what about at the beginning?

Thinking out loud: a start-up cheat sheet
What are you going to focus on when building the start-up so that you solve the traffic issue, the monetization issue, and the critical mass of users issue?

This is a personal question for me as I’m doing my own start-up right now, and here are some of my personal thoughts. I’m almost certainly missing some, and would appreciate any tips/hints/additions/suggestions that any readers might have.

  1. Remarkable
    Start with a remarkable idea. If it’s not whoa-that’s-cool (to at least someone, or some group of someones) forget it. Find another idea. Why? Your success depends on attracting attention (a necessary but insufficient condition). If it won’t, you’re sunk.

  2. Simple
    Start with an explainable-in-15-seconds idea. You need to grab attention, as just mentioned, but if you can’t maintain attention, you’re also sunk. Complexity is the enemy of attention.

  3. Real, tangible value
    Promise and deliver real value right away for user #1. User #1 is not going to join your social-network-web-2.0-music-sharing-video-trading-revolutionary-unique blahblahblah if it’s only cool when millions of people are doing it. Some people/stars/companies can start something like that and because of their cachet/history/brilliance make it an instant success. You’re not like that.

  4. Network effects
    Build in network effects so that your site/tool/service delivers more and more value as more and more people use it. Social bookmarking sites are a prime example … anything where you can aggregate, analyze, and report on user behavior that is interesting and significant to each individual user.

  5. Viral
    The word “viral” is over-used and under-delivered on, but the key point is: make your product easy to spread. More importantly, make people want to spread it. This is related to but not the same as Network effects.

  6. Focus on the user
    Assuming all the stars aligned and the angels sang and you did the right thing … don’t stop doing the right things when you do start to grow or get big.

I think the biggest problem with web start-ups is wanting the fruit without understanding how to plant, water, and weed.

In other words, people build things that would be great if a million others were using them, but forget that before a million comes a thousand. If it doesn’t work for the first thousand, you’re either never going to grow to a million, or you’re going to have to spend money like water to incentivize people to do what they naturally would not.

In the first case you’ll die, and in the second you’ll burn through much more money than you want to, probably still die, and only possibly, potentially, hopefully make it to the promised land of critical mass and catalyzed reactions and … success.

My best guesstimation right now is that by following these cheat sheet guidelines I’ll maximize my chance for success … and so will you!

[tags] start-up, entrepreneur, web, business, goals, traffic, monetization, john koetsier [/tags]

16,777,216 comments on Slashdot

Amazing – and funny:

Last night we crossed over 16,777,216 comments in the database. The wise amongst you might note that this number is 2^24, or in MySQLese an unsigned mediumint. Unfortunately, like 5 years ago we changed our primary keys in the comment table to unsigned int (32 bits, or 4.1 billion) but neglected to change the index that handles parents. We’re awesome! Fixing is a simple ALTER TABLE statement… but on a table that is 16 million rows long, our system will take 3+ hours to do it, during which time there can be no posting. So today, we’re disabling threading and will enable it again later tonight. Sorry for the inconvenience. We shall flog ourselves appropriately.

Here’s the story …

topix: $15 mill to fix their URLs

OK, OK, I know Topix got $15 million in additional funding today. And I know it’s for marketing and VPs of this and eVPs of that.

But could maybe just a teeny little portion of that go towards fixing them most stomach-turning mind-blasting eye-killing brain-shatteringly ugly URLs in recorded history?

I mean, are they transmitting the Library of Congress in there?


[tags] topix, investment, URL, URI, ugly, john koetsier [/tags]

Usability: the cost of getting it wrong

I would bet a lot more money than is in my pocket right now that 50-75% of electronics returned are not, in fact, defective by damage or second law of thermodynamics.

Rather, I suspect they are defective by design.

Today my wife and I fought with our cordless phone system (tip: if it’s a system, it automatically sucks). It’s been phantom-ringing, not connecting, connecting only if you waited three rings, connecting if it felt like it, connecting if the moon was in the right phase and you had thrown a skunk over your left shoulder the previous night.

In other words, haunted.

Does anything suck more than phone usability? I’m talking about cell phones, about home cordless phones … anything but the old-fashioned rotary brick that never died.

We have three phones hooked up on one network, which we futzed with for about half an hour. In the end, we de-registered all the phones (i.e., told the main base station to forget about their existence) and then re-registered all the phones (i.e., told the main base station that they existed).

And now there is domestic bliss in the Koetsier household again, our fifth-grade daughter can phone her friends with impunity, and my wife’s sister can tie up the phone all night. (I, of course, regard phones as instruments of the devil and never use them unless poked with almost-molten cattle prods. After all, mothers might be calling. Or people who – ugh – might want me to do something. Cell phones, on the other hand, I will relunctantly answer, if no other alternatives exist. But that’s business, and I get usually paid for it, so I have no choice.)

But the point – and yes, there is a point – is that a couple times throughout the whole process we felt like chucking it all in, boxing up all the phones, and returning them. Obviously, they were broken. Obviously, they were not working. Obviously, we should be given a full refund.

I wonder how often that happens. How often does perfectly fine gadgetry (read: functioning with specs as designed) get returned simply because people can’t figure out how to make it work?

I would not be shocked if the answer is more than half.

And that’s got to cost somebody a whole lot of money. In comparison to which designing in usability starts to look cheap.


Selling with 9/11: disgusting free Xbox 360 offer

2towersad.jpgFew things are more revolting than trying to cash in on death and disaster. So I wasn’t too impressed when I saw a Flash banner ad based on the 9/11 terrorist attacks for freeplay.com.

I took a screenpic – you can see it to the right. The twin towers are in the distance; there’s a jet plane aiming at them, and the ad invites you to take it out by click your mouse and firing at the airplane.

When you do, of course, you go here. (Note: some affiliate gets credit when you click that link – you can also just choose this link to see the same thing without benefiting someone who’s running these kinds of ads.)

It’s an opportunity to get a “free” Xbox 360, and like all these sleazy come-ons, you have to complete one “offer” (e.g., sign up for a credit card) and suck up to 10 of your friends to do the same thing in order to get the free product.

Is it appropriate, however, to use a depiction of an event that killed thousands of people to promote a two-bit MLM-ish scammy marketing offer?


[tags] 9/11, new york, 911, xbox360, advertising, sleazy, john koetsier [/tags]

U-Tube, YouTube: potential pot of gold

I’m sure you’ve heard about U-Tube suing YouTube by now. Not intelligent. Not intelligent at all.

U-Tube has been handed a check for millions of dollars and they’re not smart enough to cash it.

Here’s the problem:

They complained a few weeks back that the site was being downed by heavy traffic as users looking for YouTube landed on their site instead, presumably by typing the wrong domain name. This downtime cost them a great deal of money in lost customers, they said. How big was the traffic spike? They claim unique visitors went from 1,500 to over 2 million per month. UTube has had to move hosts 5 times to cope with the traffic, with bandwidth bills increasing by a factor of 100, they claim. They registered the domain way back in 1996, so they have every claim to it – what’s more, they also argue that the UTube name is strongly tied to their identity.

Here’s what I would do:

  1. Change company URL. Inform all clients about 10 times.
  2. Put u-Tube.com on Google’s AdSense for Domains
  3. Watch the money roll in

Side benefit: Google will even host it for you.

Update: Sounds like U-tube wants a LOT of money:

On Monday, Girkins told Reuters an intermediary who said he was acting on behalf of YouTube had offered $1 million to buy the Internet address, but he turned down the offer and was holding out for $2.5 million to $3 million.

[tags] u-tube, youtube, legal, money, AdSense, google, john koetsier [/tags]

The problem(s) with Shutterfly

Shutterfly is a well-funded, well-run, well-executed company in the online photo printing space. Why then is it just barely breaking even?

This post in the Tabblo blog got me thinking. Tabblo’s saying that Shutterfly is competing against nonconsumption … i.e., not printing your photos. And they’re right.

The other reason Shutterfly having a tough time is they’re in the bloody printing industry, which traditionally has margins of around 6% when things are good, and massive capital costs in the form of printing presses.

What a depressing industry to be in. Sure, there’s a ton of printing going on right now, and will be for the foreseeable future. But, printing is a commodity business, there are lots of printers, and printers compete on price and turnaround speed. Quality is assumed – you ante up quality to get in the game.

Shutterfly probably looked like a great technology start-up at the beginning. It must have seemed that way to the founders and investors. However, Wall Street seems to know better and is valuing it as a manufacturing company.

Shutterfly’s shares had a brief run-up after their market debut on Sept. 29, but since then they have dropped to $13.35, or 11 percent below the offering price of $15.

Realistically, the only technology piece to Shutterfly is how the photos come in, and how the products are created by clients online. Everything else is traditional manufacturing/printing/shipping … even if they are using the most modern PDF-x1A to paper printing workflow.

What’s worse, its competitors are similar companies who are owned by major, well-heeled giants.

Shutterfly’s two main competitors in online photo printing, Ofoto and Snapfish, have been acquired by Kodak and Hewlett-Packard, respectively.

But even that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that those parent companies, HP and Kodak, both build digital presses that are used by all three companies, Shutterfly, Ofoto, and Snapfish to print photos and assorted photo products.

HP builds Indigo presses – which Shutterfly has 20-30 of – and Kodak builds several lines of digital presses. In other words, Shutterfly’s competitors own the very machines that Shutterfly runs on.

Who do you think can buy them cheaper? Don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question. And it explains this:

Early last year, the standard price of a 4-by-6 print was around 29 cents. Today, they cost 19 cents at Shutterfly, 15 cents at Kodak and 12 cents at Snapfish, though volume discounts are available.

Sucks to be in a commodity industry. ‘Specially when you’re competing against the people who built the playing field.

[tags] shutterfly, ofoto, snapfish, photo, printing, commoditization, john koetsier [/tags]

Please, no more “user-generated content”

Stowe Boyd said it just about as succinctly as it can be said:

Nielsen is holding a conference on User Generated Content. Arggg!!! We aren’t “users”, it’s not “content”, and it isn’t “generated” — can’t we get rid of this stupid term? It’s the edglings, the people formerly known as the audience, the participants in participatory media, it’s a spectrum of involvement, not a dichotomy.

While we’re tilting at windmills, let’s also burn “consumer-generated media” at the stake.

[tags] cgm, ugm, social media, web2.0, stowe boyde, john koetsier [/tags]

Kontera: creating in-text irrelevance

Checking the score on the big game? You must be looking to buy a football. Reading a review of a new movie? You must be interested in picking up a new flat-screen TV. Getting the news of a heavyweight boxer’s murder in Jamaica?

kontera.jpgYou must be interested in buying crayons for your restaurant.

You’ve run across Kontera – a contextual text-link pay-per-click network focused on “creating in-text relevance.” There’s only one problem: irrelevance.

When you focus on individual words as the unit of relevance, you generate irrelevance, as seen above. Only by focusing on the entire post, story, or page can you have a hope of generating anything but the most accidental form of relevance.

Such as an advertising network assuming that if you see the words “Don King” on a webpage, you must be interested in locating this individual.

kontera2.jpgPerhaps he’s a long-lost classmate. And it’ll only cost you $9.95.

. . .
. . .

Note: Kontera competitor Vibrant Media can probably be put in the same category.

[tags] kontera, advertising, PPC, adsense, adwords, john koetsier [/tags]

The internet doesn’t suck as hard as Steve Maich

Sometimes you see a story so mind-blowingly moronic you just have to flame it. Today, that’s Steve Maich’s Pornography, gambling, lies, theft and terrorism: The Internet sucks.

It’s a long – very long – tirade against the web. It’s full of inaccuracies. It’s loaded with hyperbole. It’s jammed with bombastic nonsense. And it doesn’t even have the lovable stylistic cantankerousness of a Nick Carr to make it halfways bearable.

In short, it sucks. Here’s why:

Dark fibre sitting idle
According to Maich, the soils of the earth are just bursting with dark fibre:

They’re all still down there, out of sight and all but out of mind — hundreds of millions of miles of hair-thin strands of glass … And almost all of it sits empty, dark and idle — an unseen monument to every unfulfilled promise of the Internet.

Wrong: dark fibre is being lit up all over the place.

Internet not changing anything
According to Maich, the experts who predicted the internet would change many of our modes of communication have been proven wrong:

Billions would flood into cyberspace, changing everything about the way we communicate, educate and entertain.

They’re still selling the same old line.

Wrong. Over a billion have flooded onto the net. More are coming. And all of them are communicating, educating and being educated, and entertaining and being entertained in ways too numerous to count.

YouTube is just pirated media and assorted garbage
According to Maich, Google’s purchase of YouTube was stupid, and YouTube has absolutely no value whatsoever:

On Oct. 9, Google bought YouTube — an Internet site used primarily for the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material and minute-long clips of people singing karaoke in their basements. This titan of new media, we’re told, is worth US$1.65 billion. It’s just the latest step in our long descent into cyber-madness.

Wrong. Content owners are starting to see that keeping their content locked in digital barns is just letting it age poorly, making no money. They’re starting to do deals that will see returns with viewing.

And on Google’s “cyber-madness?” It was more than paid for the very next day.

The web is the seedy, wrong-side-of-the-tracks part of town
According to Maich, you wouldn’t want to go anywhere on the web at night, or without a bunch of friends to protect you:

The idealists who conceived and pioneered the Web described a kind of enlightened utopia built on mutual understanding, a world in which knowledge is limited only by one’s curiosity. Instead, we have constructed a virtual Wild West, where the masses indulge their darkest vices, pirates of all kinds troll for victims, and the rest of us have come to accept that cyberspace isn’t the kind of place you’d want to raise your kids. The great multinational exchange of ideas and goodwill has devolved into a food fight. And the virtual marketplace is a great place to get robbed.

Yup – it’s just like the real world: good, bad, and ugly. Get used to it. But be aware that while there’s bad areas, they are far outweighed by all the good neighborhoods.

(And by the way, if you use a Mac, you’re less likely to get hijacked.)

You can’t find any answers online
Maich says that good information is impossible to filter out online:

The answers to the great questions of our world may be out there somewhere, but finding them will require you to first wade through an ocean of misinformation, trivia and sludge.

How does he manage to tie his shoelaces? Is he able to chew gum and walk at the same time? Has he never heard of Google? Wikipedia?

Where there’s a lot of information we need good filters. Thanks to Google and others, we do – and they’re getting better all the time.

Web users are crude and stupid. So’s the web itself
Maich has very little respect for the billion or so people who are online:

Let’s put this in terms crude enough for all cyber-dwellers to grasp. The Internet sucks.

We’re crude? Can’t grasp complex topics? Friend, read a few blogs. There are more intelligent things being written online than virtually any other media today.

Experts who say the internet is a massive force for change are naive
Maich doesn’t believe the “hype:”

… Experts competed with one another to see who could attach the most outrageous superlative to the nascent technology … Bill Gates, in a famous editorial for the New York Times, called the Internet a “tidal wave” that “will wash over the computer industry and many others, drowning those who don’t learn to swim in its waves.”

Indeed it has, Steve. Indeed it has. Perhaps you haven’t noticed iTunes. Or the fact that investment in desktop software has been moving to online applications. Or Salesforce.com. Or .Net. Software-as-a-service. Regular security updates over the web. The multi-billion-dollar instant giant that is Google! The innovation and service we see in 37signals. The rise of a nothing like MySpace to a challenger of traditional media. The examples are too many to list.

The internet is not a significant invention
According to Maich, the internet is less significant than household appliances:

This year, the National Academy of Engineering released its list of the 20 greatest engineering accomplishments of the past 100 years. The Internet ranked 13th, but even that ranking seems laughably generous. For instance, it came in just ahead of imaging technologies like the X-ray, MRI and radar — breakthroughs that have allowed us to look inside the human body without breaking the skin, to predict the weather, and to see things invisible to the human eye. Has the Internet achieved anything remotely comparable? Next on the list are household appliances. Try going back to doing the family’s laundry by hand for one week, and then see if you’d gladly trade your Internet connection to get your washing machine back.

I know ignorance is invincible, but the fact is that the internet ties together many of those weather stations that help us predict the weather. Here’s a trivial, personal example – that power has even hit the average joe.

What’s more important – clean clothes or knowledge? Knowledge, after all, is a life-saver. And not just in one situation, either. I’ll take knowledge, thank you very much, and there has never been a better invention for sharing and communicating knowledge than the internet.

The internet is nothing new
Maich sees no new technology in the networking of computers and servers:

The trouble with the Net, he says, is that it has produced precious little that is really new. Just about everything that’s accessible through the Web was available through other means before. Email is fine, for instance, but it pales next to the achievement of the telegraph, which shortened the time required to communicate over vast distances from weeks to minutes. The internal combustion engine, refrigeration, even air conditioning, had profound impacts on our lives, making the impossible practical. The Web does nothing of the sort. Emails replace faxes and phone calls. Online shopping replaces sales that used to be made through a catalogue. And for all but the most socially isolated, every hour spent trolling through chat rooms replaces an hour that might otherwise have been spent in real, live conversation.

I’m sorry, but here’s where you lose ALL credibility and betray yourself as just a lonely crank with an axe to grind.

I mean, comparing email to the telegraph – where you had to walk to some office, pay some money, enter some funky code, and send messages letter by letter (each costing you more) to someone else who would have to get a paper representation of your message delivered from the telegraph office in their town – is just beyond stupid. I could make similar arguments regarding faxes and phone calls and shopping, but I’m just too tired.

Nothing new under the sun
We’re not actually doing anything new, says Maich:

Even in the research and academic communities, which always had the most to gain from the Internet, Gordon says, the advantages should be kept in perspective. “It has made collaboration and communication faster and more efficient, but we’re still doing the same things,” he says.

No, of course not. We’ve always been able to videoconference with people a globe away. We’ve always been able to write a document with someone 500 kilometres away at the same time in the same application on the same document. We’ve always been able to send the plumber a picture of the pieces left over when we finished “assembling” the dishwasher in about 30 seconds. And average individuals with almost no income have always been able to publish to an audience of thousands with no more effort than writing a letter.

It’s the end of paid content
These guys all go to the same sources and get fed the same tripe:

In 1995, the U.S. government’s top copyright officer, Marybeth Peters, called the Internet “the world’s biggest copying machine.” She didn’t know the half of it. At the time, slow connection speeds and weak processing power meant the Web was still essentially a print medium. Within a couple of years, however, the full force of the Web’s assault on intellectual property rights would come into focus.

There is more content being produced now than ever. Every new technology means content industries have to adapt to new ways of doing business. The VCR was going to rape the movie industry. The reality is we’re entering an attention economy and content providers have to catch up – and they’re starting to.

There are inaccuracies online
Unbelievable as it may seem, Maich says that there is some stuff that is wrong online:

On Wednesday, July 5, Ken Lay, the former chairman and CEO of Enron Corp. died in Colorado. The news first hit the wires around 10 a.m., and at 10:06 Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that allows users to update and modify entries, proclaimed that Lay had died “of an apparent suicide.” Two minutes later, somebody changed the entry to say Lay had died “of an apparent heart attack or suicide.” Less than a minute later, some cooler head intervened and corrected the entry to say the cause of death was “yet to be determined.” At 10:11 the entry was changed again, this time asserting that “The guilt of ruining so many lives finally led him to suicide.”

Yes, it’s true. But sir, as we’ve seen in your lousy error-ridden article, that also happens offline. And, as Nature showed, Wikipedia accuracy actually rivals that of Encyclopedia Britannica.

The internet is full of rank amateurism
It’s distasteful, really. Those plebes, why won’t they learn their place?

In the place of hard information, the Net has ushered in the era of the amateur commentator. Rather than reporting the news, the Internet actually excels at allowing millions to analyze the news of the day on their blogs and message boards … Sounds spectacular, but what’s the great value of a participatory marketplace of mass speech if so few have anything to say that’s worth buying?

Bloggers broke the Sony DRM issue. Bloggers broke the Foley scandal. And bloggers are breaking more and more stories all the time, as well as providing the most insightful analysis you can find.

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What’s the point?
I could go on and on, knocking down Maich’s points one by one. But what’s the point? It’s fairly obvious, I think, that he’s not being intellectually honest.

Instead, he’s picked a position and is sticking to it, ignoring all evidence to the contrary.


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[tags] steve maich, macleans, internet, blogging, web, john koetsier [/tags]