Deprecated: Function set_magic_quotes_runtime() is deprecated in /home/mwexler/public_html/tp/textpattern/lib/txplib_db.php on line 14
The Net Takeaway: Page 16


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.






Messenger Bags without handles... · 10/08/2006 10:53 PM, Personal

Its a sad thought, but I actually admire a well designed carry bag. Traveling as much as I do, lugging a laptop, Blackberry, iPod, and all the rest of life’s modern gadgets (and cords and dongles and adapters and cetera…), a good bag becomes essential.

I’ve tried lots of them, and they vary in usability, style, and professionalism. You may not believe it, but walking into a CMO’s office with a fat messenger bag is not such a great idea. Even if its comfortable and ergonomically efficient, without some professionalism, your sloppy look might kill a deal before you even get started.

Timbuk2 gives a good history of the growth of the messenger bag into an urban style from a working tool, if you are curious to see who the originators were. One thing they don’t cover is the messenger bag handle. Most of the “authentic” bags do not have one (just a strap across the chest). Well, it may not be authentic, but messenger bags NEED a handle in the modern world of business travel. You need to be able to move the bag out of the way when hopping onto a subway or in a cab, or throwing it into the top of the airplane, or linking it to a suitcase. So don’t get annoyed when I keep harping on messenger bag handles in my below reviews. If no handle, then its not gonna work for long… unless you really are a bike messenger.

Leather vs. Canvas? Leather looks better in the beginning, but it gets ugly over time unless you take care of it. The canvas, though cheaper, will hold up better, and if lined, is waterproof. Of course, you also look like every other workaday guy. And the Halliburton aluminum look is only good for dropping off ransom or detonators.

Laptop Protectors/Sleeves? Well, they can be helpful, but honestly, unless you beat up your bag substantially, your probably don’t need one. That being said, almost every bag these days include the padding.

Tops? Messenger bags have full flapovers. Traditional bags have a partial flap cover, or just a zipper top. Some bags allow expansion, others have lots of pockets. The more widgets in the bag, the more likely one will either break or just go unused.

So, some bags:

Timbuk2 Messenger Bag

Waterfield/SF Bags Cargo Bag

I asked a person on the train about his bag, and he loves it. So, N of 1, and given how great their suitcases are, I suspect the bags are good too… but look for a sale.

So, lots of good bags out there. In NY, you often see Crumpler, Manhattan Portage (but only a few have handles!), and Jack Spade (No handles, husband of Kate Spade, look sleek but ergonomically poor).

Notice that I have avoided talking about Kensington, Samsonite, and the other basic brands. These are all fine options, and tend to be very affordable… The real issue is: do you want to buy a new bag every year, or just spend the money and know that your investment will last? If you like the fashion, or are willing to swap between bags depending on the situation, its probably worth spending the money on the good bag. Any of the ones mentioned here will be safe bets, but there are tons of stylish and hip bags. If you aren’t in NY, eBags is one of the better options.

And, if you happen to be in Europe, look at bags there. Different brands do different things. Look for interesting bags like be.ez, Mandarina Duck, and (surprisingly enough) Samsonite, which is way cooler in Europe than the stodgy cheap stuff you see over here.


* * *


Welcome, StumbleUpon visitors... · 09/21/2006 11:51 AM, MetaBlog

On September 14th, 2006, I got a visit with a referrer from StumbleUpon linking to my somewhat popular article, Firefox 1.5 Eats Memory.

Its actually an old article, but none of these problems have been fixed, and some folks playing with 2.0 imply that the issues are present there as well.

Since that first visit, the StumbleUpon “share with others” system has resulted in 1,384 visitors over the past 6 days, or an additional 250 people per day.

That’s pretty good given that I did nothing to solicit this traffic. Its not digg or slashdot, but hopefully its introduced this blog to some new faces and given them some useful info about how to reduce Firefox’s memory use while learning about tagging, desktop search, and analysis approaches.

Interestingly enough, you can see their attempt at a busines model when you click on the referring link:
StumbleUpon Referrer. They give me a chance to pay for getting the link distributed. Seems strange, since I did nothing and it got distributed already; why would I want to pay for something I got for free?

They must have something, because Mitch Kapor was part of their recent investments, and they moved from Canada to San Fran. Like tagging, they give you a great way to serendipitiously discover things… but also like tagging, is relatively useless for any directed search. As long as you think the web is entertaining, this is a interesting little tool


* * *


You say I'm intolerant? Why, I oughta... · 09/15/2006 02:17 PM, Trivial

From a news story in which the entire govt. of Pakistan basically says how they officially don’t like the pope…

“Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.

This strike anyone else as a bit, well, proving the very point he was trying to argue against?

Pakistan’s parliament condemns Pope.

(For those who don’t get the title,

Comments? [1]

* * *


Yes, it's back... · 09/11/2006 09:08 PM, Personal

Sorry about the down time there… A scumbag hacker broke into the poorly defended and completely not backed up servers at my previous hoster, who I won’t even link to because they don’t deserve the link-goodness, but used to be known as Netbunch. Then, “Web Host Plus” acquired them, and they went down the drain.

So, we lost everything. And of course, it happened during my physical move from Boston to NYC, so everything was packed up. I finally was able to pull out one of my old backups, but its been hard to restore everything. Sorry for any hiccups.

Who did I finally choose for hosting? I had a list of over 30 interesting candidates from the folks at, a great discussion group of opinionated and nasty people, always good to hear all the negatives. My final two choices came down to Dreamhost which I had used before and A Small Orange which is a smaller hoster, but with rave reviews.

I had liked Dreamhost, but they had some gaps recently in service, and their control panel is really strange. So, I chose A Small Orange which has a forum, amazingly fast support, and lots of other nice hosters.

It reminds me of the early days of Mesopia and the other small ISPs, where the owner actually chats on the forum, discusses issues, and helps you solve problems. Nice… but they are very clear about not doing backups. Yes, its still cheap hosting.

So, we’ll see if things are more stable here than at the scumbags. And give A Small Orange a try if you are looking for hosting, they seem pretty good so far.


* * *


Who's Future? · 08/14/2006 11:26 PM, Trivial

First off, domestic violence is nothing to laugh at, whether husband on wife or wife on husband. But I can’t be the only one to see the funny irony in this story, right?

Ohio candidate booked on domestic charge
By DAN SEWELL, Associated Press Writer

CINCINNATI – A Democratic candidate for Congress suspended her campaign Monday after she and her husband were charged with domestic violence.

Stephanie Studebaker and her husband, Sam, were arrested Sunday night after deputies responded to calls about a fight in their home, police said. Each was released on $25,000 bond.

{rest deleted, more details about their fight}

On the Net: Studebaker for Congress:

Ok, now look at her tag line on the right, from the top of her site:

[Note: image removed now. It said, “Fighting for our future”.]

I guess she is.

Comments? [1]

* * *


In-Cell Graphing in Excel · 08/12/2006 06:47 PM, Analysis

The clever guys at JuiceAnalytics in Herndon, VA have been writing about some clever ways to get graphs in a cell in Excel for quick visualizations. This is a really powerful technique, and if you haven’t tried it, look at their screenshots and give it a try.

Lightweight Data Exploration in Excel

More on In-Cell Graphing

Keep reading their blog at


* * *


Stupid things on NY Streets:59Fifty · 08/11/2006 12:30 PM, Trivial

I know NY is supposed to be a fashion mecca, and that street-fashion is the precursor to upcoming trends… but they just look so stupid sometimes.

The latest is the rise of the “flat-brimmed” caps, aka 5950 or 59Fifty.

And, if you aren’t a sports fan, get one designed by Jay-Z himself. Wow. Don’t wait, click here.

What may be the zenith, I hope, are the bling-packed creations of NewEraCap who first created this version of the venerable baseball cap.

Like the recent rise and fall of trucker hats, these designers take something which looked stupid in the late seventies/early eighties and make it stupider.

Look, years ago people actually in the sun figured out that by curving the brim, you actually get better protection and it doesn’t make you look like a dork.

But of course, that’s not what fashion is about: Its about having a unique look… that everyone can easily copy… and is worn by at least one b- or c-list celeb for a few seconds.

Anyway, look for these caps at a local mall, soon next to the stack of Von Dutch unsellables… but it will be cool for a nano-second, so you can say you saw it here first.

Or, don’t even drive to the mall; just go to a street corner or street fair near you… thanks to the Asian manus like “Cali Board Sports Consortium Hk Ltd” via, who says “CBSC has perfected the art of the flat brim cap. Our caps are made similar in every way to the 5950 caps of our major competitor. Except ours are higher in quality. ”

That’s right: tacky and cheap, just like we like ‘em.

Comments? [11]

* * *


USPS now using UPS (and Fedex)? · 08/05/2006 11:53 AM, Trivial

Update: Perhaps none of us should use Fedex or UPS if this link and its comments are accurate.

From Direct magazine, 6/29/2006:

Postal Service Expands Contract With UPS
The U.S. Postal Service has expanded its relationship with United Parcel Service (UPS) to have the private courier transport primarily first class and priority mail to and from 98 U.S. cities, up from a current 16.

This arrangement begins Sat., July 1. According to the USPS, customers will see no change in the way their mail is delivered and post office retail operations will remain the same.

I see. So, the United States Postal Service is now outsourcing their sole and only line of business, delivering mail.


UPDATE: Even Fedex gets in the act… from The Washington Post

FedEx, US Postal Service renew delivery deal
Tuesday, August 1, 2006; 9:37 AM

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Package-delivery company FedEx Corp. (FDX.N) and the U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday said they had renewed through 2013 an agreement for FedEx’s FedEx Express unit to transport domestic mail by air.

The contract, expected to generate about $8 billion in revenue over its seven-year life span, calls for Memphis, Tennessee-based FedEx’s express delivery unit to transport about 4 million pounds (1.814 million kilograms) of mail between U.S. airports each day.

The deal comes just over a month after FedEx’s main rival, United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS.N), announced it had a deal with the U.S. Postal Service increasing the amount of packages it would deliver to more than $100 million annually. UPS, the world’s largest package delivery company, said at the time that it would seek to gain more business from the postal service over time.

FedEx has been far ahead of its rival in hauling packages for the postal service, carrying 1 billion pounds of mail in 2005 and generating revenue of around $1.3 billion.

Comments? [3]

* * *


No Confirm from Equifax? · 07/27/2006 11:35 AM, Marketing Personal

Equifax, the big credit database, has made a deal with Paypal to offer basic “credit alerts” for free to give an early warning if someone is snagging your identity. As this usually costs some bucks a month, I signed up.

(An aside: it was mentioned in a mail from Paypal. As its one of the few Paypal mails that didn’t get junked as a phishing scam, I read it. I admit, its getting harder and harder to tell the legit ones, but its worth reading them when you get them. After all, it is your money in a completly non-regulated account, so its worth seeing what they will do to you next. Oh, you didn’t know Paypal wasn’t regulated like your bank? Check out Digg at PayPal: Not as safe as you think!).

Anyway, signing up is a multistep process. They ask you to multiply verify password, a couple of ways of identifying you (SS#, birth date, etc.), and also ask for a security question with the usual responses (favorite pet, high school, whatever).

Then, they pull some stuff from your credit record and ask you to verify it: You recently opened a credit card with which bank from the list below, or whatever. Then, when you complete that verification, you are done. Not a bad process; you verify data only you could know (assuming someone hasn’t already grabbed your bills from your mailbox, a federal crime).

So what’s missing? They don’t confirm the email address. They have one box to type it in (they don’t ask for it to be typed twice to catch typos), and there is no double-opt-in confirmation sent. They send the usual “you are signed up” with no need to read or click on anything… but what if I had mistyped my address?

What if the very alerts I need to know that someone is snagging my credit are going to the wrong address? Where have they verified that I actually own the address I typed in? I know, the techies never make mistakes, but honestly, the rest of America has been known to flub a letter or two.

For most cases, double-opt-in is a waste of the user’s time. (Every anti-spammer in the room gasps… but its true. Confirmation requirements should vary with the importance of the information requested. A lack of recognition of this basic fact continues to hold back confirmed-opt-in progress.) If a consumer really can’t live without mails about ketchup, then they’ll sign up again if they don’t get them; its not life threatening. No need to make them jump through hoops just to learn that ketchup now comes in 1 gallon sizes.

(BTW: Hey form designers: Learn how to use the tab order feature so the tab button works correctly. Make your input boxes larger than 3 characters, and make them 12 points or more. If I have to squint to see if I typed info in, its going to be wrong. If you make state a dropdown, put it before the zip code. Don’t require a 2nd address line, just offer it. Jeez.)

But Equifax is a different story. Every angle, every opening should be shuttered. Any user data should be verified to make sure the person is who they say they are. And in a service designed to refute identity theft, not verifying the email to which reports will be sent is a crime.

Its sloppy, its dangerous, and most of all, it shows an extreme lack of caring. It implies that they threw up this service to shut people up. Why should they care if the emails never get to me alerting me about problems; that’s one less case they have to deal with, and after my ID is stolen, the can say “we sent alerts to the address you typed in, its not our fault.”

So, this is one case where Equifax should be confirming email addresses of everyone who signs up. Its easy to do, just do what pretty much any open-source list-manager program does (include the hash, make the user click on the button on the landing page as well, etc.). Treat it seriously and so will your customers.

But laugh it off like you do with this form, and you demonstrate the continued callous nature of so many database aggregation companies.

To you, I guess we really are just a bunch of numbers, now with some text fields thrown on the end.

(PS Gratuitous and obvious quote from The Prisoner left off intentionally.)

Comments? [1]

* * *


Why are there so many scumbags? · 07/21/2006 11:12 AM, Tech

Beyond the usual spammers, phishers, affiliate mailers, etc. ad nauseum, now the light is being shone on Domain Stealers.

I am embarrassed at how much money is made from “domain match” services offered by various search ad companies which reinforce the desire to set up bogus sites full of ads. I am embarrassed at how well these sites rank in search listings. The better the domain name, the more relevant the auto-ads will be and the more likely it will show up well in organic search.

But where do they come up with such clever names for these sites? If they aren’t typosquatting, then they wind up taking them from you.

Yes, according to a variety of links in this Digg posting entitled Whois Hijacking My Domain Research?, simply the act of searching for your new name will get someone else to buy it before you do.

I lost 3 good domain names to a company in the Caymans til I decided to just quit waiting and buy whatever I came up with next. It seemed fishy, but I was new to this domain stuff. So this has been going on for at least 5 years.

The article focuses on this collection of jerks, Chesterton Holdings in LA. Feel free to pour your wrath on them and any others who play similar games.

I encourage others to link to these stories and blog about them. We can’t kill all the scumbag practices out there, but we can make it embarrassing to be associated with them. Hey, its a start…


* * *


On a previous episode...

powered by Textpattern 4.0.4 (r1956)