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The Net Takeaway: Page 14


Danny Flamberg's Blog
Danny has been marketing for a while, and his articles and work reflect great understanding of data driven marketing.

Eric Peterson the Demystifier
Eric gets metrics, analytics, interactive, and the real world. His advice is worth taking...

Geeking with Greg
Greg Linden created Amazon's recommendation system, so imagine what can write about...

Ned Batchelder's Blog
Ned just finds and writes interesting things. I don't know how he does it.

R at LoyaltyMatrix
Jim Porzak tells of his real-life use of R for marketing analysis.






Brits control our youth... · 02/11/2007 06:31 PM, Trivial

In watching “Sprout”, the PBS 24/7 channel for kids programming, I started to see a pattern emerge on the shows they ran and the ones my kid likes… They are all British.

Even ones you’d think are American, like “Bob the Builder” (a claymation rip-off of Tim Allen’s Home Improvement sitcom, except for kids) are actually made in the UK. And my kid would throw me off a bridge for a chance to see Kipper some more. We’ve all heard of Thomas the Tank Engine, but don’t forget about the Teletubbies (or their scary tripped out cousins, the BoohBah, really freaky stuff). And Jakers is an Irish import full of stories and blarney (I heard that word on the show).

And even I find that they are clever and more interesting than the American ones. Trying to replicate Thomas, Americans chose to make “Jay Jay the Jet Plane” which is poor in every way. Besides being boring, its production values are even weaker than the UK shows. Berenstein Bears are inane. Amy Tan aside, Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat neither teaches about Asian cultures nor holds any attention. And Barney goes without saying.

Like Dad, the kid is figuring out that the UK is a pretty cool place. I just hope he gets a good British accent instead of a NJ one. And hey, US: step it up. Since Sesame Street and Electric Company, we’ve only made products we can sell instead of good and educational TV. Don’t even get me started on what Nickelodeon has become. Should we be turning over all children’s television to imports? This is the future of America, right?

PS: gotta give credit to Canada who made Caillou.
PPS: Yes, its clear that both the kid and I watch too much TV, so we’ll be working on reducing that.
PPPS: Except for Kipper, that’s a pretty good one actually.

Comments? [1]

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Things you can't buy... · 02/11/2007 06:16 PM, Trivial

Don’t know why its so hard to buy some of these things… even in Manhattan.

Comments? [1]

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Nice writeup for Andy Estes and Nearby Networks... · 02/08/2007 06:31 PM,

Rafe Needleman has a long history in the tech publication world. He’s now at CNet, and as part of a recent blog focusing on online advances for “regular people”, he gives a nice overview of Andy and Eugene’s work and vision. Congrats to the gang!

Wii-dar: locates game consoles

For those who don’t know, Nearby layers geo on hobby shopping experiences like Craigslist/Ebay/Wii hunting / Ps3 hunting with sites like Good mashup, fun to use.


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PCLinuxOS: Finally a usable Linux... · 01/24/2007 02:31 PM, Tech

There are lots of Linux distros out there, and lots of derivations. First, you pick which “family” you want:

Each distro family has different ways of organizing parts of the operating system, and then each specific distro chooses to include or exclude parts of the GUI, different installers, etc. There is also this KDE vs. Gnome thing for the GUI, but KDE is rapidly becoming the standard in most cases. Don’t worry too much about that.

Then there are offshoots, such as GenToo (which lets you customize as you install, for experts only) and DamnSmallLinux which runs on a memory stick. If you are curious to see how many distros there are, DistroWatch is the main central area for keeping up with new and updated distributions.

But after playing with a few via the beauty of a LiveCD (you boot from the CD, and it gives you a ready to run Linux on your PC; your hard drive is not touched. Most major distros have a LiveCD version now for testing), I’ve found that the best distro for windows users who want an easy experience is…


Freespire was a close second; there’s a lot to like there as well with corporate support via a paid version called Linspire, but they take FOREVER to release updates. Mepis had lots of good comments, but I haven’t tried it yet. (UPDATE: I tried it. Its pretty good, but it doesn’t look like windows, so its a new learning curve. Lots of “cutesy” touches show that someone put some effort into this one. ) Ubuntu is the darling of the moment among Linuxes, and is pretty nice, but it still felt too techie to me as a Linux novice (but they are making huge improvements with every release, so keep an eye on it.) So, PCLinuxOS is the winner for the moment, but in the world of Open Source Linux, a front runner can collapse and a trailer can become the best in a matter of months, so any of these will be a good choice. Also, Freespire, which was originally building directly from the Debian foundation, recently announced that it would be building its distribution based on Ubuntu’s improvements, which makes these more similar than different.

Now, don’t feel you have to give up Windows. You can use the LiveCD version of almost any distro and a memory stick to store settings or even allow the LiveCD to store data on your HD; just remove the CD and reboot and there is Windows, safe and sound. You can also do what I do, which is to download the free VirtualPC from Microsoft (or the faster but harder to use VMWare Server, also free) and use that for testing.

There is the issue of many Linux versions thinking that everyone has 24 bits per pixel for color (lots of colors) while VirtualPC only emulates 16 bpp, so you may need to play with how the LiveCDs load up… but most give you some options to play with this (-xbpp=16 for PCLinuxOS, for example; the Ubuntu Wiki gives some good hints around this). Also, sound doesn’t always work well because VirtualPC emulates a SoundBlaster 16, such an old sound card that you have to manually configure this inside Linux.

PCLinuxOS is based on Mandrake/Mandriva, so it shares some things with RedHat/Fedora, but has some of its own extensions either custom written or adopted from other families.

You may want to go with a distro which has a larger popularity (meaning it is more likely to stay around) such as Freespire or Ubuntu… but if you aren’t looking to replace your day-to-day operating system and just want to dabble, the less commercial offerings like PCLinuxOS may be just what you need. Besides the forums, they actually put out a not-so-bad magazine monthly or so at

So, Windows XP is not going anywhere on my box (except when I go to Vista), but the ability to experiment with a clean and well thought out Linux system (even running in an emulator) is a great opportunity. If you have the urge to try Linux, download and burn the LiveCD version of PCLinuxOS and I think you will be surprised at how easy Linux can be.

PS: If you still can’t get ubuntu to work in Virtual PC, try this:
Here is a different way to do it that ensures you only modify one thing:
1. Choose Start or Install Ubuntu
2. Once in the messed up screen enter ctrl + alt + F1 to get in the shell
3. type: “sudo nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf”
4. find the line that says “default depth: 24” and change it to 16
5. press ctrl o (letter not number) and then ctrl x
6. ctrl alt F7, then ctrl alt backspace


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First Grader for President? · 01/16/2007 12:40 PM, Trivial

Can someone tell me why we would be so excited about Barack Obama for president? He has no experience and clearly wants the job, 2 big strikes against him.

Last time we handed the office to someone who wants the job and has no experience in it, we landed the country in two wars and became one of the most hated nations on earth.

I am a Democrat through and through, but can we really be so stupid? Its not like every president has had major experience in public office (Tangent Sunset gives a good list) but come on, he hasn’t done anything yet. Shouldn’t we look past the facade to see if he can really do anything before getting excited about having him as a leader?

I am sure he’s smart and talented… but he has to prove it. If we had required Dubya to prove it, perhaps the world wouldn’t hate us so much. And yes, I expect the same “show me” from Hillary Clinton or anyone else who wants to run.

Comments? [1]

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New Orleans, Brass Bands, and Rebuilding · 01/15/2007 01:45 AM, Personal

I recently (December) took the family to New Orleans to see my dad, brother, and other family. My dad and brother both live Uptown, in the “Isle of Denial”, where things are pretty much back to normal… or at least, back to the economic decline NoLa was in before Katrina.

Galleries and other art-oriented commerce (antique shops, etc.) are disappearing. Tourism is so down that major landmarks felt deserted.

Now, the rest of the family is just now moving back from devastation. You all heard about the 9th ward and other poor areas, but no one talked much about Lakewood South, the upscale area on the border of New Orleans and Metairie. This area, like Lakeview, is not far from a canal and got devastated. I didn’t take any pictures of my great-aunt’s house or of any of the others I saw, but here is an example of the kind of houses which got devastated… From, from a collection by Danielle Heuer.

Photo 1
Photo 2
Photo 3

So, some of my family from this area is now farther out in Metairie (closer to the airport) and all living in one house which was redone after the flood.

As for the rest? Either they are Uptown, or they are gone. With a population down to 1/3 of the original, there’s far less need for doctors, lawyers, IT professionals, you name it. Conferences are barely trickling in. Tourists still think everything is destroyed. Murder rates are back up to historic highs.

What can be done? Well, here’s a thought. Let’s say Google, or Yahoo!, or one of the biggies took the risk: they relo 100 top programmers down to NoLa. They can do their jobs anywhere there is a connection, and the cost of living is probably 60% less than in the Sili Valley. Then, those folks (and their families) pitch in to help schools and communities develop an information based economy.

Look, NoLa is dead if it expects to live based on tourism and the ports. Every major corporation formerly headquartered there (well, Oreck Vacuum cleaners and Freeport-McMoRan (of Bre-X scandal fame)) is looking to get out, and the economy has no fall back. They need something not reliant on physical products, so no factories, no industry, and no import/export. Instead, bring the experience of living in NoLa back to life by having people want to live there again, by basing the economy on technology, and by letting tourism rise up on the swell of optimism.

Yes, its a tall order. La. is 3rd behind Miss. and Ala. as having the worst school system in the nation. And asking 100 families to move there in the bad times is not entirely kind. But its not like I’m asking them to go to Antarctica. And maybe my idea is crazy… but I think its the basis for the only thing which can save that area. They can’t build a knowledge economy on their own, but with the right push, I think it could rise up…

And in the meantime, if you are trying to get a feel for what make New Orleans so different from the rest of the world, pick up some Modern Brass Bands. Modern Brass mixes the classic tight horns of Dixieland jazz with the modern rhythms of R&B (or hip-hop). These newer generations of Brass players pick up where the old guard left off. If your only exposure to a brass band is from “Live or Let Die”, its time to open your ears.

The Louisiana Music Factory is the best place in the world to keep up with the modern brass world. I recently picked up the following, all of which are highly recommended:

No, I’m not leaving my old school rap or electronic big beat or 70s one hit wonders behind… and I ignored this stuff when I lived in New Orleans. But now, maybe because so much was destroyed, I want to collect and spread what may never come back again in quite the same way. Go to the Music Factory, listen to a few tracks, and let that unique New Orleans feel remind you of days when hurricanes were just big drinks in the Quarter.

Comments? [1]

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Findory sunsetting... · 01/15/2007 01:03 AM, Tech

Greg Linden has one of the best blogs out there if you are interested in recommendation systems. Geeking with Greg is full of info about starting companies like Amazon, how advanced data mining can lead to personalization and recommendation systems, and how to think about these technologies in light of actual user needs.

After he left Amazon (he wrote the recommendation engine used by, he bounced around and then created Findory which is a click-by-click news and blog recommendation engine. It works really well, and I’ve enjoyed it over the years.

However, as is often the case, what works well is not always financially rewarding. Though Greg tried Google ads and now Amazon affiliate links, it just wasn’t enough to keep growing.

He writes here about the future of Findory:

Development on Findory now will slow to a crawl. There may be new features, but they will be rare. I no longer will spend time exploring funding, biz dev deals, or recruiting. Findory appears to have sufficient resources to run on autopilot through most of 2007.

So, better late than never: check it out at, see how it works, and realize what you are missing in other news and blog systems…


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Digitas to be acquired by Publicis · 12/20/2006 08:26 PM, Marketing

Congrats to the Digitas folks. I was employee 38 of Strategic Interactive Group (SIG), the forerunner of Digitas. Other friends were emps 1 through 10. No, none of us got stock; the company was all private back then.

They bounced around, always working people to the bone, and always having those people come back for more.

And I guess it paid off. 27% over last trading price is nice. But keeping the talent will be iffy; I think lots stayed around because they thought of it as a McKinsey light, and now that they have a chance to cash in, I bet lots will move.

Portion reprinted from without any permission whatsoever.

Publicis to Buy Digitas for $1.3 Billion, Grow Online (Update3)

By Rudy Ruitenberg

Dec. 20 (Bloomberg) — Publicis Groupe SA, the world’s fourth-biggest advertising firm, agreed to buy Digitas Inc. for $1.3 billion in cash to sell more Internet advertising. Digitas shares rose the most in five years.

Digitas holders will receive $13.50 for each share held, Paris-based Publicis said today in a statement. The offer is 27 percent higher than the last price for Digitas shares today before trading in the Boston-based company’s stock was halted.

The Digitas deal is at least the 11th takeover announced by Paris-based Publicis this year as Chief Executive Officer Maurice Levy implements his expansion plan. Levy said this month that he is also seeking acquisitions in China, India and Russia. The company walked away from takeovers recently because prices were too high, he said.

``We know this is the market of the future,’‘ Levy said on a conference call today. ``The combination of Publicis and Digitas will make a world leader in digital marketing services.’‘

Digital and interactive publicity will make up more than 10 percent of communications spending in 2010, Publicis said. The market for digital advertising will rise 28 percent in 2006, compared with 5 percent growth for the overall advertising market, Levy said.

Digitas will provide technical expertise that Publicis can’t offer clients on its own, said Aaron Kessler, an analyst with Piper Jaffray & Co. in Menlo Park, California.

``They have some pretty good technologies in terms of analytics,’‘ Kessler said in an interview. ``It really brings expertise in digital marketing to Publicis, which has more traditional agency assets.’‘

To contact the reporter on this story: Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris at .
Last Updated: December 20, 2006 18:11 EST


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Friends get news... · 12/16/2006 02:45 PM, Personal

Update: I’ve been asked by one of the people previously mentioned in this post to remove all mention of the person, so I have edited this post.


One of the founders of e-Dialog and employee #1 of Digitas (back then, Strategic Interactive Group), Anthony “Andy” Estes, roared back with one of e-Dialog’s first developers (Eugene Abovsky, still in high school at the time, now finishing college) to create the “NearbyNetworks” group. He hit a gusher, as their sites were in both USA Today and CNBC...

USAToday: Game day for PS3, Wii

CNBC:Finding a PS3 — After this weekend, it could get even tougher to find a PS3 or Nintendo WII. Andy Estes, Founder, and CNBC’s Becky Quick discuss how you can improve your chances.

OK, CNBC is now behind a gateway… try Andy Estes Video

The sites are a mashup of Google maps (I’m working on getting them to switch to Yahoo!‘s maps), store listings, Craigslist and auction listings to let you find where PS3 and Wii might be available, and also skip shipping costs by getting them nearby.

On one hand, a pretty basic mashup. On the other hand, a masterful way to ride all the promotion around the PS3 and Wii.

For link goodness, here are the sites.

And the original idea, of basically “find auction stuff nearby”, is the BidNearby site.

So, lots of action in the news for people who usually aren’t in it.

Comments? [1]

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Thomas the Tank Engine: Funny POV · 11/27/2006 05:31 PM, Trivial

My son is starting to enjoy the Thomas the Tank Engine show on PBS and Comcast On Demand (cable companies suck, but this On Demand stuff has promise).

Its a bit strange to watch all these trains with their pained expressions… but Glenn Fleishman really nailed it with his “reprinting” of a recent letter to Sir Topham Hatt, head of the Sodor Railway, from the Board of Directors.

Add this one to your blogroll; Glenn is always worth reading.


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