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March 28, 2002

And Now, Lili Von Schtup's Number

By Glenn Fleishman

Glenn Davis is tired of the Web, as reported in today’s New York Times. My eponymous colleague is the guy who started Cool Site of the Day at Infi.Net, later taken over by other people when he went to try to inculcate good design standards and practices.

The article notes Glenn’s malaise and talks to some other 1994 veterans who can’t find anything worth looking at or doing. Some relevant statistics are trotted out about how users are spending less time, on average, and finding less oomph than they used to.

Here’s one pioneer, who started coding HTML in May 1994 and has barely passed a single day since without writing some, who isn’t tired of the Web or the Net! Look, I’m a textbook case of a Net guy. I started one of the very first Web development firms in June 1994. I joined for six months in October 1996. I left and started writing articles and books on Web design, marketing, and development. I put together conferences on Internet marketing and advertising and design that attracted thousands of people. I built a site that leverages search engines, data, and bookstores (, and generates a steady cash flow from just sitting there and smiling.

And I still wake up every day, and find new and interesting, thought-provoking ideas, concepts, and sites. Maybe that’s the difference: I’m less interested in form now that everything more or less works most of the time. OS X and Windows XP saved me hundreds of hours in the last six months of rebooting, reinstalling, and system messing. The latest browsers work mostly correctly on most Web sites, so I don’t have to play games to view content. My Web design tools, like GoLive, Photoshop, and LiveMotion, are mature, and work in their very latest releases without futzing.

In other words, I can get my work done with much less concern about the failings of tools than the actual work itself after many long years.

So now I focus on content: I read. I write. I exchange email with fascinating people. I synthesize and produce. The Web has turned back into its roots as tools for writing and collaborating abound, the latest wave of the Web. The Web is now more important again as a textual medium because the graphical stuff is fixed and works and we expect it. We’re now in the next Golden Age.

Malaise? Hardly.

Posted by Glennf at 9:46 PM | TrackBack

March 25, 2002


By Glenn Fleishman

The Oscars last night feature a mercifully brief taped appearance by Roberto Benigni who said that he was so poor as a kid that he had to watch Ben-Hur outside through the back of a large screen, so he grew up thinking it was called Ruh-Neb. (He also called it a “scream” instead of “screen” and then slipped and pronounced “flabbergasted” entirely correctly; he’s not fooling anyone with his Italian accent shtick any more.)

I mention this in passing because a writer in the midwest turned out a brilliant piece on blogging, which takes as its device the chronological mechanism of blogging itself. Nice chunks of interesting ideas in it. It also reveals the weakness of blogging: the sound bite, the random thought, the lack of cohesive analysis that results from spending hours or weeks to produce a few hundred or thousand choice words.

Posted by Glennf at 9:15 AM | TrackBack

March 24, 2002

I Want My DTV

By Glenn Fleishman

Or, radio waves killed video’s star. Michael Powell, the FCC chairman, said at PC Forum today (see Dan Gillmor’s account; scroll to bottom) that the FCC knows that digital television (DTV) won’t be here by 2006, which previous chairman Kennard has been saying for years now.

The problem is one of reallocation: we have no comprehensive spectrum management policy in the U.S., only a sham of one in which Congress and the president can directly affect what radio waves are owned or given to whom.

DTV is a weird case: TV makers are much, much more interested in creating a market for high-definition televisions (HDTV) than anyone else has seemed to be. Broadcasters became interested when they pushed through an arrangement by which they would be loaned extra frequencies for the transition from NTSC (on channels 2 to the upper 70s) until the DTV revolution was over.

Effectively, broadcasters are now sitting on tens of billions of dollars of free bandwidth while consumers show little or no interest in overpriced television sets. Nobody initially bothered to ask cable companies about how they would handle these signals, either, nor whether digital converters would work with NTSC TV sets. A couple of years ago, one firm (with an axe to grind) demonstrated how broadcast DTV signals might not penetrate buildings with enough intensity to provide the benefits of digital clarity.

Part of the plot, not insidious, behind the DTV transition was to focus the spectrum use of television on the sub-channel-50 level, and sell off the unused higher frequencies (UHF) to new services, as well as reallocate bandwidth from other ranges where the sweet spot of penetration (needed for things like Wi-Fi and cell phones) aren’t as important.

Parts of the government and Congress would like to massively reassign military and government use of frequencies in those sweet spots, but the incumbents are fighting for a lot of good reasons (for once), including decreased military preparedness and the massive, multi-double-digit cost of migration.

And this migration is, of course, predicated on a formula: DTV adoption in geographically assigned areas must exceed a certain amount before the FCC can declare the transition in that area complete. In the interim, they have pushed old UHF stations off the very top of the range over the last few years.

3G is tied up in the same mess: the government can’t free enough frequency in the right place (much less harmonized with Europe’s frequency decisions) and this is frustrating the CTIA (cell industry trade group), the Europeans, and other folks.

Bottom line: it’s already too late.

New technologies like ultra-wideband (UWB) broadcast may, in fact, save us from ourselves by using spectrum in fashions that overlay without (we hope) interferring. The current approach has led us into a indecipherable, untrackable quagmire in which no contiguous ranges are available as we open up in the actual future of wireless digital communication.

Posted by Glennf at 8:56 PM | TrackBack

AdWords Haiku Revisited

By Glenn Fleishman

Dave finally discovered my silly ad. It seemed to me that the word limit and structure of AdWords Select at Google was ideal for the haiku form. I figured that someone who disagreed or agreed would, in turn, buy some AdWords (you pay only for clickthroughs with Select) to rebut or add to my haiku.

Posted by Glennf at 12:58 PM | TrackBack

Dan Gillmor's Line in the Sand

By Glenn Fleishman

Read this. Dan concludes, Here’s my message to the record industry and its allies: I’m not a thief. I’m a customer. When you treat me like a thief, I won’t be your customer. Enough is enough.

Posted by Glennf at 7:03 AM | TrackBack

March 23, 2002

Battle for Eyeballs

By Glenn Fleishman

Let’s say that in a few years, a unique form of telepresence becomes practical in which implants or worn optical devices allow signals from the optical nerve to be transmitted digitally or recorded so that others can watch live or on playback what you see. The auditory nerve would also be tapped. This combination would offer a direct sensory relationship allowing a true sense of being there. It might also cause some nausea.

By simple extension, what happens when the recording person puts on an album, flips on the radio, walks past an advertisement, watches a movie, reads a book, or hums to themselves a Bee Gees song? Their implant seizes up, lights flash, a banner scrolls across your eyeballs, Content Suppressed Due to Compliance with the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA).

This isn’t science fiction. This is near-term reality taken to its logical and necessary extension. Our very fields of vision could be censored - and let’s be clear that this is censorship, as the government is regulating the suppression of media in a venue, regardless of whether this is at the behest of the artist, an industry, or other interests.

Who owns my field of vision? Congress is about to codify that I don’t in more ways than one. Michael Fraase writes a remarkable and thorough analysis. Copyright is too valuable a resource to be held in perpetuity in the hands of corporations.

Michael focuses on both the consumer and producer side of the equation, explaining Europe’s moral rights in creative works. U.S. law is converging on making it very easy for media copyright owners to restrict a creator’s ability to make an honest dollar from their work. Most creative types (include yours truly) don’t make fortunes; they make livings. The current law and upcoming changes simply make that harder and harder.

____ _____ said something today that I’ll be quoting til my deathbed: Knight-Ridder and its inventions are the overhead we tolerate to find out what Dan [Gillmor] thinks. The structure exists to support the talent. Dan is the talent.. When you boil down all the crud about packaging, repackaging, synergy, and overhead, the bottom line is a guy or gal with a pen, a piano or computer keyboard, a brush, an instrument, a chisel, a voice.

Posted by Glennf at 9:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

You've Lost Mail!

By Glenn Fleishman

The Wall Street Journal writes: In a humbling reversal, AOL Time Warner Inc. is retreating from a top-level directive that required the divisions of the old Time Warner to convert to an e-mail system based on AOL software and run by America Online’s giant public server computers in Virginia.

I’d heard this already from folks in the belly of the beast, often after I called to find out why they hadn’t responded to email. The article notes that some executives claim that two percent of their email was being lost, large attachments wouldn’t go through, and sending messages to too many people caused the system to ban them as spammers.

See, there are lessons to learn from eating your own dog food, although the version that staffers were using was slightly different than the standard AOL. But it isn’t POP or IMAP compatible.

I recall back in 1996, Adobe Systems was still using cc:Mail and an Internet gateway. After wrestling several emails back and forth with an editor at Adobe Magazine, I finally managed to get an attachment through the horrible system. Shortly after that, the company switched to Eudora and POP, and probably saved themselves tens of millions of dollars in lost labor and system admin costs (not to mention licensing if they used even-then open-source POP programs).

About eight months later, I get email from the editor dated eight months earlier! I forward it to him and the system folks look at it; they can’t figure out where it got lodged in the system, but it was finally coughed up. (You know, like those routine newspaper stories: Man Gets Letter from Dead Brother Mailed in 1956. They clean up the old P.O. mail sorter and gott knows what shakes loose.)

Posted by Glennf at 9:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

LOC Units

By Glenn Fleishman

From Reuters in the NY Times: Bell Labs said that, in a demonstration, it sent a massive 2.56 terabits of data per second over a distance of 2,500 miles, the equivalent of sending the contents of 2,560,000 novels every second across the United States.

Which novel? Berlin Alexanderplatz or Pale Fire? There are only a few novels I would like to read 2,560,000 times per second.

C’mon troubled journalists, how about something real instead of these increasingly specious examples? 2.56 terabits is about 25 terabytes or 25,000 Gb. A DVD movie fits on a 5 Gb format disk. So saying 5,000 feature-length DVD quality movies per second has more of an impact, and you can visualize it. (Also the 2.56 Tb figure doesn’t discuss framing and error-correction, only raw bandwidth, so I’d be curious what the real throughput is.)

Posted by Glennf at 6:56 AM | TrackBack

March 21, 2002

Will You Still Love Me When I'm 34?

By Glenn Fleishman

I stopped being a pup today: I am 34. Can I still be the youngster as I approach what was formerly known as middle-aged? I don’t feel any older than 15 years ago, although I’m somewhat more mature. I still giggle, laugh, tell jokes, do strange things. But I also get interviewed for Time magazine supplements and write for the New York Times as a freelancer. And I think 20 years olds Way Too Young For Their Own Good. And their music Sounds Like Noise to Me. Bring out that good old band, R.E.M.!

Posted by Glennf at 12:22 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 19, 2002


By Glenn Fleishman

World’s stupidest defendant or lunatic? You decide. An eBay hacker in court yesterday, self-defended himself into the ground: Heckenkamp challenged the indictment against him on the grounds that it spells his name, Jerome T. Heckenkamp, in all capital letters, while he spells it with the first letter capitalized, and subsequent letters in lower case. This sounds ridiculous, but is apparently one of those wacky legal offshoots from people who believe that reality is malleable to their wishes.

Just as with some recent tax avoiders, these legal theologians believe that things they assert can be true just by wishing. The tax dodgers, with the help of some former IRS agents, state that tax law is actually a fake, and that only money paid by foreign corporations is taxable. What makes this funny is that they accept the jurisdiction of U.S. law in one area (tax law is invalid so can’t be enforced) but reject it in another (the courts interpretation of tax law along with the actual law states you have to pay taxes). The courts have started fining and jailing people for even mentioning this tax scheme when they’ve been told not to.

The whole notion of tax avoidance makes me crazy. I see all these people who don’t want to pay taxes as the least patriotic, least American folks out there. I am happy to pay taxes. I’d rather pay less, of course, but I know that at least a substantial portion of my tax money pays for the police, fire department, national defense, roads, medical support, etc. I don’t like how all my tax money is spent, which means that as a voting American, I can use my vote, and as someone subject and beneficiary of the First Amendment, I can use my voice to change policies.

I’m not so naive as to believe that a single voice and vote can change the world, but I have felt more strongly after September 11 that my opinions aren’t just my own. I look at the savvy college kids today using the market’s own power to throw their weight behind better working conditions for folks around the world and think, the world may be slowly becoming a better place in spite of itself. September 11 reaffirmed my faith in mankind in the aftermath, and seemed just one more death throe of ego-driven terrorism divorced from true faith, and repudiated by folks of all ideologies.

Posted by Glennf at 10:31 AM | TrackBack

March 15, 2002

Rules 11 and 51

By Glenn Fleishman

In reading the honorable and esteemed David Weinberger’s latest Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization, I encountered a snippet about Jakob Nielsen’s latest book, E-Commerce User Experience (order via Mr. W. cites a few of the rules that Nielsen enumerates, two of which are:

11. Don’t show products that customers can’t buy.

51. Show total cost, including taxes, shipping and

handling, as soon as possible.

Without articulating it, I have done both of those things (if not others) at in the refresh I gave to the programming in September 2001. The old site displayed results even when the book was unavailable that a user was trying to find prices on, and couldn’t show details like sales tax and shipping. The new version only displays entries from stores that claim they can ship the book, and users can select their shipping state (in the US), country, and even exchange rate to get the full price for a single book.

Nielsen trafficks in hard-won truths, many of which are counter-intuitive but are based on direct observation of individuals. Most of us work anecdotally not empirically, and thus substitute personal preference for research. (Look at Steve Jobs and the color white.)

Posted by Glennf at 10:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack


By Glenn Fleishman

My fiancee used our breadmaker yesterday to make a mixed white/wheat loaf (half white flour, half wheat), and the loaf came out pumpernickel. It’s delicious, but how did that happen?

Posted by Glennf at 8:01 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 14, 2002

Answering the Question

By Glenn Fleishman

My friend and colleague Paul Boutin and a friend of his dissect the ‘Hunt the Boeing’ site. This site, which I complained about a few days ago, maintains that there was no plane that hit the Pentagon on Sept. 11 because the site’s authors were too stupid to consider all the evidence, or so venal in their pursuit of money or fame that they purposely distorted and ignored substantial photographic, air traffic, and eyewitness evidence. Either way, Paul and Patrick di Justo bury the argument deeply.

Posted by Glennf at 3:40 PM | TrackBack

March 12, 2002

Google Solution

By Glenn Fleishman

I meant to update my Google situation (read for context). I’m definitely being restored to the database, but it takes time to get back in. My Google colleagues were eager to deal with this problem once notified, as it wasn’t their intent to remove me.

It’s not quite the tragedy of the commons, but it’s definitely a problem of ethics. A very small number of people who use techniques designed to fool search engines mean that search engine engineers spend a disproportionate amount of time working to make sure they filter those demons (and daemons) out. My site suddenly triggered this response, maybe due to tweaks in their algorithm, because I had so many outbound links to bookstores: 5 to 10 per page!

Meanwhile, I’ve learned a lot about my customers. My traffic is down substantially - as much as 60 percent off its regular pace - but revenue is down just 30 to 40 percent. I’m also seeing that much of that decline comes from, unique among the bookstores, pays a $5 per-new-customer bounty. Return customers generate bupkis in revenue for me. But that’s ok: the unseen hand of the market churns new users into my service all the time.

The Google drought, though, revealed that most of the new chum entered the water (sorry for that image) come from Google! My regular customers find me through lots of links on different sites, their own bookmarks, recommendations, etc. My new customers find me through Google. New customers must have a high tendency to buy from, which often has the far cheapest price on a book since they sell (or facilitate the sales of) used and new items. Many of their items are barely used, and thus discounted heavily but in good shape. I’m a addict myself.

Was it worth losing lots of money to find this out? You bet. It’ll help me focus on the future in a way that was impossible to determine the right direction for without having this insight. There was no way to filter out Google sales before, and now I have the exact numbers.

Posted by Glennf at 2:22 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 9, 2002

Cartoonists Who Blog

By Glenn Fleishman

My friend, Chris Baldwin, blogs in his voice about himself and his cartoon, Bruno

Michael Jantze’s The Norm, in which he blogs in his character’s voice.

Posted by Glennf at 5:11 PM | TrackBack

New RSS Feed

By Glenn Fleishman

A colleague, Julian Bond, pointed me to a Greymatter resource that would allow a simple template to automatically create an RSS every time a new post was entered. It works! My new RSS feed is now linked at right:

Posted by Glennf at 8:40 AM | TrackBack

March 8, 2002

Virtual PC 5.0.2: Vroom Sputter Sputter Vroooooogasp!

By Glenn Fleishman

Dan Gillmor has eloquently condemned Virtual PC 5 for OS X as betaware masquerading as a commercial product. I’m not quite as harsh, because I needed Virtual PC for OS X, and this was at least something that worked, if not well. A public beta, such as that being run by Dantz for Retrospect for OS X, would have been more appropriate.

For those of you who have come in late, Virtual PC is an emulator that allows the Mac to pretend its got an Intel processor beating inside a software application that uses disk images to create operating system installations. It works great under OS 9, but Connectix said (and I believe them) that OS X had engineering hurdles for them to steal enough processing power to get VPC to run as well. OS X is so even-handed, the product manager told me at Macworld in January, that they have to play a lot of games to get more cycles without disrupting the OS.

This is all well and good, and sounds true from all accounts. But this doesn’t explain why they shipped a product that ran at such a slow speed that you could hear pixels being redrawn. On my 450 MHz G4 Cube with 1.5 Gb of RAM, Windows 98 ran so slow that I could double click and could to 60 before a My Computer window would open. Connectix traded revenue for hostility.

Today, they shipped the 5.0.2 update for Virtual PC, and it makes a huge difference. I’m seeing a factor of 2 to about 100 (literally) depending on the activity. It is now usable, although still slow. I was able to install Windows XP Home Edition without a hitch, although I had a few odd crashes after configuring it.

The new version of VPC uses a kind of roll-back technique in which changes to the hard disk are written as difference records and the emulator’s volume bitmap points to these fragments. It’s clever as it doesn’t increase the size of the partition much. VPC already only uses as much storage for a hard disk as it needs: create a 10 Gb drive with 2 Gb on it, and VPC only uses 2 Gb but expands it automatically as the system requires it. You can then commit changes or roll back as you save or close out sessions.

Virtual PC is a critical component of OS X’s dominance. I wrote a column recently about the three-headed monster that OS X had become: it allows you to run native Unix programs, Classic and native Mac OS program (9 and X, and some programs dating back 10 years!), and with VPC, any Windows or Intel-based OS’s and programs. Why get a PC with one OS when you could get several with OS X?

Posted by Glennf at 10:03 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 7, 2002

Covered in Snow

By Glenn Fleishman

It’s impossible to believe, but Seattle is blanketed in snow! How beautiful and unexpected this late in the year. Hooray! Snow day!

Posted by Glennf at 10:27 PM | TrackBack

March 6, 2002

Too Stupid to Understand It

By Glenn Fleishman

David Weinberger blogs about the latest in denial theology: the Pentagon wasn’t hit by an airplane because the author of the pages he points to (I refuse to point to these pages) is too stupid to understand how the Pentagon was hardened to withstand impact and how the plane practically vaporized. It’s disgusting that anyone would try to establish a conspiracy theory given the number of deaths involved and the number of eyewitnesses. You can read accounts all over the Net by individuals who saw the plane in question, knew people on it, or heard the sound of the plane hitting the Pentagon. There is no question whatsoever what happened. Mr. Weinberger knows someone who saw it happen. Conspiracy theory is rarely amusing, but never has it so clearly demonstrated total ignorance of basic physics.

Posted by Glennf at 10:15 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What Do You When You're Branded? You Fight for Your Name

By Glenn Fleishman

Update! Good news. It looks like the dropping of may be related to Google’s inability to reach it during a crawl (although I can’t see any sustained interruptions in our service in the last few months that affected’s DNS or our network connection). Which makes sense as Brian’s first part of his article didn’t mention my techniques for being indexed. More news as it develops.

Another update: More good news. Google uncovered that their algorithms for stopping spammers seemed to have branded my site as such because of the massive numbers of redirects from my pages. Every book price results page has from 0 to 9 redirects (via an internal script) to the bookstores referenced. I should see a return of my content to Google in a few days, starting with the root pages.

Original Item

My site has been branded, and not in the marketing sense. Google has dropped the 135,000 or so listings from my site from their index on Feb. 22, the day after Brian Livingston of Infoworld published part 1 of 2 articles about my site’s indexing and commercial strategy (part 1, part 2).

What’s ironic here, of course, is that I’m not a search engine spammer. The site uses a licensed data dump of over 2 million titles, which I transform into an index that can be traversed like a tree from page to page. Because I create static URLs that index to dynamic content, but each page is unique (i.e., the author page for Brian Livingston always lists the current set of books by Brian Livingston), I’m adhering to the highest principles of making a site accessible, traversible, and unique.

Not only have I discussed the site with Larry Page, who thought it was a great thing, but I’ve talked to several other Googlers who are well aware of me, and like the site and my approach. So I’m assuming it was an overzealous employee scanning the press for any mention of Google and lots of pages in the index. I’m going through a friendly channel at the moment to track down why I was dropped, but the concidence of Feb. 22 and the day after Livingston’s article are way too high.

Posted by Glennf at 7:27 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 4, 2002

Working Like a Dog, Woof

By Glenn Fleishman

My absence from this location has to do with lots of writing. I’m working on the revision to the vast, oceanic tome Real World Adobe GoLive for version 6 of the program, which Adobe shipped last week. We hope to be done in just a few weeks, and I’ve conservatively written over 50,000 words in the last eight weeks for the book, mostly in the last five. I’m nearing the end, as is my co-author, and then we enter Layout Hell, as we are producing the book as well.

Meanwhile, I’m filing article after article for the Seattle Times, NY Times (briefs), Smart HomeOwner, SBS Electronic Design, Macworld, O’Reilly Networks, and so on. Many words flow forth.

Posted by Glennf at 10:26 PM | TrackBack


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