Archive for the ‘General Commentary’ Category

Lighthouses Becoming Obsolete Due To Geolocation Technology

Monday, August 16th, 2010

I was interested to see in the New York Times this weekend that lighthouses and lighthouse keepers are becoming obsolete, in large part due to geolocation technology, such as GPS equipment on ships (probably due to cheaper radars, too).

It’s sort of sad to see an entire, specialized discipline and its iconic structures abruptly made unnecessary in this way, just from technological disruption. (more…)

Oh, Facebook – Why Must You Rehost Wikipedia?!?

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

In a move perhaps inspired by Google Map’s adoption of Wikipedia content and Google’s overall preferential rankings of Wikipedia, Facebook has been testing out articles that are highly similar to Wikipedia’s. In fact, Facebook’s article pages have actually sucked in Wikipedia’s initial article content for topics in a great many cases I’ve seen thus far:

Wikipedia articles on Facebook

From my perspective, this sort of breaks one of the great benefits of hypertext that made the internet great: linking to source content. (more…)

Corporate Psychopaths First Go In & Shank The Strongest

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519), infamous lady of the Borgia family who purportedly poisoned rivals.

Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519), infamous lady of the Borgia family who purportedly poisoned rivals.

I’m periodically reminded of some of the worst people I’ve had the pleasure of working with in corporate America. While everyone’s worked with people who are merely negative or less-intelligent or annoying, the worst-of-the-worst people are downright evil and malicious.

We spend so much time at our workplaces that morale and enjoyment of the people you spend your life with becomes very important. If one of those people is a sociopath, it can really put a strain upon your workdays. Strange that I would still think about these people, but negative incidents stick with you a lot stronger than positive ones, in many cases.

Some of these psychopaths float from company to company, leaving destruction and casualties in the wake of their passing. You can identify them pretty quickly — I remember one woman who introduced herself to me via an email note that was a fairly blistering flame — truly awesome intro for a relative newbie who can’t possibly have the full context of what/how/why things are done at a company. I say that it’s easy to identify corporate psychopaths, because, when they arrive at a company, they often go in seeking to shank the strongest first, like the new alpha-male, entering a prison block! They’ll attempt to sideline and eliminate the high-performers in order to be able to manipulate and control the entire environment.

These people are pretty wheels-off, out-out-of-control in many cases. They are primarily out for personal gain with no regard to anyone else, and/or they are out for inflicting unhappiness upon others for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Oh, the stories I could tell — (more…)

Have Google Logos Jumped The Shark? Father’s Day Logo Illegible

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Google’s special logos (“Doodles“) commemorating holidays and historical events have been successful at conveying a playful nature for the ever-growing corporation. As time has gone by, the special logo treatments have begun veering off from playful quirkiness and have perhaps actually crossed the line of legibility. The Father’s Day Google logo deployed today is perhaps the worst example of all:

Google Father's Day Logo

The neckties, intended to whimsically reference the letters spelling out “Google”, have become so abstracted that I think their resemblance to the letters in the name have utterly disappeared.

Graphic artists can certainly recognize and appreciate the rough symbolic shaping, but this sort of symbolic reference is really too vague for most of the public.

I’ve enjoyed watching Google play with their logo for years while dancing all over traditional corporate intellectual property law for how trademarks should be treated. I’ve long felt that Google was thumbing their nose at frustratingly conservative IP lawyers who anally force major corporate employees to follow logo use style guides mindlessly. After all, the name itself can be a trademark, regardless of graphic treatment, and trademark law certainly is flexible enough to allow some degree of logo variations. Google’s logo treatments have shown that temporary logo variations and nonstandard logo treatments can be effected without incurring risk of “losing control of the mark”.

The problem I see with today’s Father’s Day logo is that the humorous treatment has become way too subtle for its own good — the logo is illegible, and devoid of the website most reasonable individuals would be unable to see the company’s name in the treatment.

Have Google logos finally jumped the shark with this treatment? Has the joke worn thin?

The challenge for the Google logo artists has been continuing the thematic treatments without becoming a cliche. Recently, Google has experimented with enabling individuals to display custom background images on the homepage, and their “doodle” advertising the capability was so roundly criticized that they removed the feature. The background image treatment was so derivative of Bing’s changing homepage background images (which aped Ask.com’s earlier treatment) that many thought Google was trying to immitate the feature.

I think the takeway from this is that Google should stick with what is working for them and avoid straying too far from successful formulas. Today’s doodle logo lost the “Googleness” that made the concept so charming to begin with.

I expect they’ll continue displaying special logos, but they need to make them resemble the standard logo more closely or else the charm will be lost permanently.

The Nazi Google-Bombing In Google Maps

Friday, May 21st, 2010

Barry Schwartz pointed out on SER a Google Places Help thread about a Jewish business owner who is complaining about receiving “Nazi” keyword traffic via Google Maps. Indeed, if you search for something like “nazi” or “swastika building” in Google Maps in San Diego, this man’s Balloon business is oddly listed in the search results:

Balloon Utopia

Now, you might wonder why people would be searching for those keywords in San Diego in the first place, and there’s actually a reason why, as Barry pointed out. In fact, I feel marginally responsible for this, so I delved into the business owner’s question to try to diagnose what might be happening.

Some years back, among all the reporting and documenting I do about what’s going on in Google Maps, I came across a unique building in San Diego — an old military barracks, as it turns out, which is shaped like a Nazi Swastika:

Swastika Shaped Building, Coronado Base, San Diego

I documented that in my Flickr account, and went along without thinking about it much.

Until it went viral.

At some point, some radio DJs glommed onto the story and also the Anti-Defamation League came across the picture and made the public more widely aware of the offensive shape. Even though the shape could only be seen from flying overhead or via online aerial photos, public outrage was sufficient to persuade the military to agree to renovate the exterior of the building in order to change the shape in birds-eye profile.

So, there’s reason why a lot of people are searching for “nazis” and “swastika buildings” in San Diego. But, to a lay person it may not be clear why a balloon business might come up as relevant to those searches within Google Maps.

After delving into this, I believe there’s an explanation, and a solution (more…)

New Law Makes Florists Happy, But Has Wider Implications For Yellow Pages & Search Engine Ads

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010

A story in the Rochester, Minnesota Post-Bulletin describes a new state law that florists apparently campaigned-for which bans non-local companies from advertising local business services (in “New law removes thorn from side of local florists“). The story reports that this new law prohibits “deceptive” advertising by companies that misrepresent their location by using a false address and “local” phone number, and it would bar “any business from advertising on the Internet or in the Yellow Pages unless they also list a physical address.”

Florists in the Yellow Pages

I’ve heard florists complain about the wire services companies for many years over this very same issue. Companies such as FTD, Teleflora, Proflowers and 1-800-Flowers have long provided florists with broker services — they market themselves through many channels, both local and nationwide.

My family actually used to own a wholesale floristry service in West Texas, so I have some degree of direct understanding of how these florists feel. Many yellow pages companies, both online and print, have allowed these large, influential florist services to advertise with seemingly-local area listings. Consumers grabbing a yellow pages book or searching online for floral shops rarely can discern between the independent local florists and the ads of the brokers. Once the consumer orders flowers from the broker, they end up paying various service charges — the broker subtracts their cut and sends the order on to a local flower shop to fulfill, based upon standardized catalogs of products. Florists have long gnashed their teeth that consumers pay extra for less product, needlessly passing on money to these referral services.

I’ll confess: I’ve been a floristry industry insider, and I’ve ordered flowers both ways. I can tell the difference between good-quality flowers and bad ones, too.

You might think I’d side with the independent florists on this issue, but I don’t think it’s that cut-and-dried. (more…)

Local Search’s Lacuna

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Tyler Bell wrote a very interesting post today, over at O’Reilly Radar: “Why check-ins and like buttons will change the local landscape“. In it, he talks about how a lack of common locality conventions is perhaps the main stumbling block of advancing local search technology, and he points to Gary Gale’s Geo Tower of Babel concept wherein different systems refer to places and placenames in different ways, meaning different things. Essentially, every different local info system out there refers to common places with variations on names and differing geocoordinates, and this lack of accurate specificity across systems causes many problems.

Local Business Profile

Tyler states that “developers are left holding the buck” in this issue, and he cites three top reasons for it. His top three reasons are the most interesting part of the piece, because I think he really describes many of the basic challenges of the local search industry beautifully. His first reason, “Focus on listings data as end rather than means” is described like this:

“Local search as we know it today is the parthenogenous child of the Yellow Pages industry. Many local search sites, and the data vendors they rely on, remain grounded in YP-era thinking, where the value was found in owning the listing data, making them discoverable in alphabetical order, and advertising against these listings. Local search for ages focused on being an electronic version of the Yellow Pages. Few organizations have looked above the horizon and considered carefully what value could be realized if listings were viewed as a means to connect users to businesses, rather than only advertise against their search.”

His other two reasons, “Attempts at distinction with common data” and “Over-fascination with pins on maps” are good, too.

However, I think his ideas on resolving the issues are unrealistic. (more…)

AU Yellow Pages Campaign Provokes Incredulity

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Hidden Pizza - Yellow Pages Marketing Campaign

YPA’s Stephanie Hobbs wrote an article for this week’s Locals Only column at Search Engine Land, and in it she used the recent Hidden Pizza marketing campaign for the Australian Yellow Pages as an example of why local businesses need to take a multi-platform approach to modern advertising. However, Ed Kohler, outspoken critic of yellow pages advertising, took exception to the article in both the comments and on his blog, calling it a “rigged study”.

I earlier critiqued the Hidden Pizza yellow pages campaign myself, (more…)

Invasion of the Pod People: Google Zurich

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I really don’t know how I missed this UFO sighting, but Google’s offices in Zurich are surrealistic and look almost hallucinogenic. This one looks like a scene out of the SciFi film, Invasion of the Pod People“:

Google Zurich: Alien Pod Cubicles

Google Zurich: Alien Pod Cubicles

I’m well aware of Google’s penchant for whimsical office environments — not only have I seen some of the offices at Google Headquarters a few times, but I also covertly photographed the Google Radio offices here in Dallas-Fort Worth, back when they opened next to my office at Superpages:

Google Playroom in Dallas, Texas

Google loves to make their offices playful, giving them a happy, enjoyable atmosphere. They often incorporate bright, primary colors of red, blue, and yellow, which calls to mind their logo colors.

Some have referred to Google’s Headquarters in Mountain View disparagingly as (more…)

Texas Stadium Implosion – Huge Demolition Event

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

I got up excruciatingly early today (4:30 am) in order to drive down and document the demolition of the gigantic Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas, about 5 mile south of where I live. Texas Stadium was the home field to the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys football team, and had hosted many other events as well ever since it was built in 1971.

It took me relatively little time to get up and get ready. I went prepared, taking my camera, leftover danishes to breakfast upon, milk, tea, bottled water, jacket, dust mask, goggles, a folding-chair, and my Nikon Coolpix camera. (more…)