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The Net Takeaway: Page 20


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.






Spss Users are impressive... · 12/21/2005 01:59 AM, Analysis

I know, its been ages. I’ve been busy. Boy, will I have some stories to tell soon… But til then, here’s a chance to read the stories of some other pretty interesting people.

King Douglas, who’s day job is as a senior analyst at American Airlines, has lots of fun as a photographer and artist. And, as part of the SPSS Directions conference this year, he went to five countries on three continents and returned with detailed profiles of six SPSS experts (many of which are well known to readers of the SPSS-X list).

Read all about the variety of these folks who have in common a shared love of SPSS and analysis, but experience every other aspect of life in myriad ways.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am fascinated when I encounter folks who can use both parts of their brain: the rigor of analysis and the creativity to make beauty around it. I tend to be not so hot on the creative stuff, but akin to Chief Justice Warner (or Chief Justice Potter Stewart or Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who can remember who actually said the original line about pornography), I recognize it when I see it.

These folks, and King himself, remind us that we don’t have to be number-heads all the time; get out and try not to use the letters S or P for an entire day. You and your clients/staff/friends/family will all benefit.

Heck, start a blog. You see how frequently I’ve been able to update mine, you know you can do better.

Oh, and just in case it takes me too long to update again, Happy Holidays to you all!


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The Prisoner being remade... · 11/20/2005 04:19 PM, Trivial

I love The Prisoner. When I was last in the UK, I finally got the 1960s novelizations of the story, esp. that amazing first one by Thomas Disch... If you haven’t seen the show on BBC (or BBC America or PBS), some of the links in this entry will tell you what you are missing. But use that Tivo, and record the episodes (there are only 12). If you like paranoia, James Bond, or any aspect of 60s individualisma and pop, you will enjoy everything (except the last episode, but forgive him, I have).

Or, you can wait til its finally remade, thanks to Sky One in the UK. More at Slashdot….

Now, 2 points if anyone can tell me the name of the company which made the wonderful Prisoner game for the Apple ][... but don’t click on the MobyGames The Prisoner listing til you’ve racked your brain. This was a great text (later graphic) adventure. At one point, it kicked you out to the prompt (”]”), and made you think you had left the game. As you tried to get it to reload, like an old protection scheme, the system wanted you to type in some information the game wanted… and if you did, you lost, since you had never really left the game!

Some other sites with Prisoner Info:
The Prisoner Appreciation Society
and those who dislike this group,
The wonderful FAQ
No longer up, but still at
including that wonderful font on

Be seeing you.


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iPod: Just Different · 11/09/2005 11:40 AM, Tech

As you might have heard in the background, Rio, the company which started the whole MP3 player movement way back when, is going under. The company had a gem in the Rio Karma which I loved.

However, with the company going under, the Karma never getting USB “Mass Storage Device” capability, and with my need to store more than 20gb of files, it was time to move up.

Thanks to some gifts and change from under the bed and sofa and the help of the Coinstar people, I recently purchased a black iPod 60gb Video.

Here are my observations, based on using with Windows XP.

Packaging was top notch… for paper. That is, great, semi-gloss paper box… but all just paper. A recent case for my Blackberry came in a gift box with accessories galore. The accessories for the iPod (the few they offer) are in a cheap plastic bag, the device comes with no accessories other than the bare minimum (a “case”, a USB connect-and-charge cable, and the dreadful earpieces… oh, and some stickers), and there are no preview songs or videos on the device. Not even a “welcome to Apple” or “Hi, I’m Steve Jobs. Thanks!”. For this much money, I expect something a bit more… more.

No base is included. No AC charger. Just the minimum. And featurewise, for all the cool stuff (do I really, really need to sync my calendar and contacts with this?), still no FM radio, still no ability to play anything other than AAC and MP3 (no Ogg, no Flac).

And yes, its already scratched. Photons of light touched it and the coating was immediately injured. I suspect that if I blow on it, it will warp. Yes, the coating looks great for the first 3 seconds, but like a new car, it quickly gets “brushed”. And you notice it since you are staring at the screen all the time. Sigh.

A more positive view on packaging at The Unofficial Apple Weblog.

The interface is quirky. You have a horizontally scrolling menu system, yet the left and right arrows on the circle do nothing. Instead, you have the Menu button at North, and a center button at center. Center button goes in, Menu goes out. Except that this is reflected on the screen as left and right. Very strange.

Lots of little options hidden here and there; lots of little options hidden in iTunes (more below) which have big impact. Cleverly, Apple ignores years of history and splits “Options” from “Preferences” in iTunes, making you have to hunt in two places to find what you want on the PC, and then look on the iPod as well.

Also, little tactile feedback when I move my thumb over the buttons. My rio had little ridges and bumps to make it easy to feel where you were in the dark. The iPod assumes you will turn on a light. Also, the volume is part of the circle, so if your thumb slips while you are pressing an arrow, be prepared to blast your ears.

But audio quality is great. The volume is lower than I want, but I’ll work on that later. Its dense in the hand, but thinner than most other players.

A bit more about the volume. iTunes has all sorts of “volume” adjusters and issues. For example, it can normalize all your files by adding volume information to the files. Other programs muck with the firmware. I did use the individual file volume “upper” to fix the movie file I stuck on there. Like everything else I dislike about iTunes (see below), the volume adjustment for the file is well hidden under the right click menu for the file, Get Info, Volume.

Yes, I could use MP3Gain and do similar volume muckarounds with my files. The real issue, of course, is that these files sounded great and loud with my Rio Karma, and I have to really ramp up the vol to be happy with the supposedly superior iPod.

I am sort of amazed that people like this so much. Its just awkward. Its as if the GUI drove the feature set and decisions instead of the other way around. The left bar lumps together playlists, “the store”, your ipod, everything. Complete lack of organization!

Oh, and the iPod has the same problem: no folders, no grouping, nothing. If your stuff isn’t fully tagged, you are out of luck.
I have heard good things about Musicbrainz for “autotagging”, but my favorite editor continues to be ID3-Tagit.

Lots and lots of things with the phrase “iPod” on them. But when I went to get a new cable (one for home, one for work), guess what I found? No one else makes a data cable. Well, that’s not fair; check out a froogle search for ipod cable. Its not that no one makes them, its that no legit store seems to carry them. Same for the iPod AC adapter. Oh, no shortage of FM tuners and broadcasters, auto adapters, and silly stuff. But useful stuff is a pain to find.

BTW, for my Rio, I used a cheap “camera USB cord” for 4 bucks, and a Radio Shack “all-in-one” ac adapter for $18, so $22 and change. For the iPod, I will likely have to spend $30 for the “iPod USB Power Adapter” and $19 for the “Apple iPod Dock Connector to USB 2.0”. Sure have to be rich to enjoy the iPod.

Radio Shack will now be carrying some accessories, and Best Buy has them as well. But both seem to carry 20 car chargers for every 1 ac adapter, and the ac is always the apple overpriced one. Crazy.

Oh, and I started to look for a case. 45 brands later, I am so confused that I will just leave it in a plastic bag rather than have to make a choice. Amazing post about a guy’s attempt to make yet another case, and how hard it is to be an independent producer in today’s world: Bull5hit’s Shufflicious

I have a whole ‘nother post on this. Suffice it to say, if you can pull the file off of your DVD or camera, Videora’s iPod Converter seems like the free and best way to go. Lots of good support at their forums.

I ripped Buckaroo Banzai last night. It took about 15 minutes to pull off the 01:45:21 movie file; that was a 5.8 gb file which required an NTFS drive, not my older formatted Fat32 drives which have a 4gb file limit. Then, using the free Videora iPod Converter and the guides at the Videora site, I converted the file to the default iPod format, which appears to be Mpeg-4/320×240/768kps Stereo/128kps, with some other numbers I didn’t fully understand. The H.264 format is supposedly smaller with similar quality, but lots of complaints on the forums that even this 0.90 version of Videora doesn’t generate compatible H.264 files. I suspect this will be fixed sooner rather than later so YMMV.

2 HOURS LATER, the file was completed. The mp4 file was about 600megs in length, or about 12% of the original file. This file transferred easily to the iPod by adding to the library in iTunes, and played pretty well. No “chapter jumps’ or other handy things though if you press the center button during playback, you can swirl the wheel to jump to a time point. Holding FF is not the way to go; it takes too long and caused “dropouts” where I found myself somehow back at a menu and had to start the movie from the beginning.

Videora is clearly a work in progress; it crashed multiple times during this process. In addition, it relies on ffmpeg to do its conversion; if there are bugs in that, then Videora will have them as well. Both Videora and ffmpeg fought for CPU during the process, making 100% CPU utilization and making it hard to use the PC for anything else during the process. Also, Videora’s progress meter implied that it was done after 2 minutes, when clearly we had a longer wait ahead of us.

Technically, the iPod plays H.264 video as well as MPEG-4 Part 2. It uses the H.264 Baseline Profile (vs. “High” or “Main”) with support for a bit rate of 768 kbit/s, image resolution of 320×240, and frame rate of 30 frames per second. I presume that if one chooses to do less than these, the files will be smaller but look kind of ok.

Some additional reading hints that perhaps the PSP format is now H.264, and that these files may work on the Video iPod. There is some interaction between MPEG-4 and H.264. One big clue, of course, is that some people are using Videora’s PSP9 instead of the Ipod converter and getting similar results.

After playing more with it, and following their forum religiously, I have successfully ripped and encoded a few of my movies into both H.264 and MP4. Its a pita, but Videora is pretty ok about it if you accept that its donationware.

Two lifesavers are “DVD Decrypter” and “DVDShrink”. (This last is really impressive: it takes a DVD which may be double layer and have more than 4 gigs on it, and figures out the proper compression to get it back under 4 gigs. Yes, you get a lesser quality movie… but you can keep the menus, extras, whatever, while dropping off extra language tracks, etc. This won’t help the iPod, but it is great for making backups of discs to leave in the car for the kids to destroy.). With these and various tutorials and understanding lots more about video digitization than I ever expected to, its getting easier to do cool stuff.

More as I find out more.

I still think this whole podcast thing is a joke. I can read faster than anyone can speak, and the last thing I need are inexperienced broadcasters fumbling on the air and wasting my time. I’ve listened to everyone’s “favorite this” or “you gotta hear that” and each time, its been a disappointment. The only good thing has been exposure to new music, but for the rest, my ears are bleeding.

That being said, using RSS as a link to recently updated files to download which are done by people with talent (note that this excludes 95% of the podcasts I’ve listened to, sorry) is a good idea.

The Yahoo Search Blog shows how to add recent video links to an RSS feed, treat that as a “podcast”, and add it to itunes to start adding publicly shared video.

So, am I happy with it? Well, it does feel all slickery and shiny and pretty, and as I get used to it, I suspect I will appreciate its quirks as cleverness instead of “different for difference’s sake”. But the real test will be my next trip… and I’ll update this post with more info then.

Comments? [3]

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OLAP suites, Head to Head · 11/03/2005 05:55 PM, Analysis Database

Network Computing did another fun comparison, this time the Head-To-Head: Business Intelligence Suites.

They pick a strange winner, they ding the best in the lot (my pick, at least) for some interesting reasons, and they leave out lots of other players (including Oracle OLAP)... but this is a good read to see how people hope to use BI suites for reporting, and how good (or bad) they are currently.


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See NYC your way... · 11/01/2005 03:06 PM, Marketing

There are analysts who like to hide in the back and never see the light of day. And there are analysts who feel they’ve paid their dues in the trenches and want to focus on “being strategic” with the use of analytics.

But few of us ever actually step far enough from our numbers to really create something new and different, something that we can build on our own, which might reflect technology or computation, but really is new and different from analysis.

Brian Teasley has done just that.

I heard about him from mutual friends in Digitas (where I worked when it was still just “SIG”). He is based in NYC, and went independent with his own consulting group Teasley. At e-Dialog, we’ve used him to help out when we get flooded, and he’s been a great help. He’s also done some interesting ad hoc analyses of census and survey data to show, for example, where most eligible bachelors would live and other little tidbits which got him a few 15 minutes here and there.

Now, he’s gone a step further. He’s created CityShow NYC, as he puts it, “the World’s Coolest GPS Tour Guide System!”. When you visit the city, you rent the handheld-GPS device. Then, wherever you are, it tells you cool and useful things. For example, let’s say you are stuck on the Upper East Side (Hey, I lived on e9th x bway, so if you are in the 70s, you are stuck) after seeing a gallery. You could wander around looking for a place to eat, or a bathroom… but with CityShow, you see right on the device some options.

In addition, he has voice talent describing places and life in NY. The actors are experienced, and know the city. Its a great way to not only see the usual stuff, but see the stuff “just around the corner” that normally you would just blow by…

Now, I’m sure he’ll have sponsors for various areas, and I’m sure it will build into a service which one could pay for and receive over the wireless aether in the future… but for now, its one of a kind, and his service is the only way to experience NYC in this way.

Hey, I lived there and I still get lost. A GPS tour guide might be the best thing next to having your own personal resident guide. If you are heading to NYC and want to tour, give CityShow NYC a try. I think its great when analysts remind us that they are more than just number crunchers. Not all of us are brave, but Brian shows us that with some effort, it can be done.


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Sony DRM: Rootkit? · 11/01/2005 02:44 PM, Tech

I think Sony needs to rethink its “protection” policies. If they want me to buy music, they had better not force me to bend over while I listen to it.

Techie and horrifying (from a “stay out of my system” pov).

BTW, the artists tend to have little or no control over this. The artists own the rights to songs they have written, but labels control most of the album and “recorded performance” profits until tons have been sold. Artists make money on non-recording stuff (t-shirts, etc.) and, to some extent, concerts and song rights licensing.

So, Sony is punishing their artists in this process. Nice job.

Comments are also a good read; they mention additional coverage at the blog.


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In Conference... · 09/30/2005 08:39 AM, MetaBlog

I’m at my company’s user conference for 2 days, but I’ve received a flood of comments on my various “dislike tagging” articles (3 so far, search on tagging in the search box for:

I Hate Tags
I still hate tagging….
I continue to despise tagging…
Tag-Hater at Yahoo, home of tagging?


The comments are well thought out and organized, and deserve a response… but it will have to wait, for which I apologize.

But don’t let that stop you; do see what these folks have said. Its a good snapshot of some of the places tagging may be valuable, as opposed to some of the articles postulating that tagging will replace breathing as the center of our lives. (Ok, I exaggerate… but only a bit)

Finally, here is a link which… well, I leave it to you. She’s a smart one, but I find her attempt to ascribe cognitive advantages to tagging a bit… well, it belittles her other smart work. But its a good quick read. A cognitive analysis of tagging. In addition, I was pointed to a slight rebuttal here.

(For those who care, my background is in Social Psych with a focus on Quant and Cognitive, so I examine it as a person in the field, not the average reader. But YMMV.)


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Modern Cartoons... · 09/25/2005 12:44 PM, Trivial

I haven’t had as much time to watch TV as I wish, but in flipping between news channels, I stumbled on a gem of a cartoon. Craig McCracken’s Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends is a stunning collection of nods to late 19th century visuals mixed with quick wit, a flat design ala his Powerpuff Girls, and a great attraction to both young and adult. Episodes are quick, self-contained, and play with the premise in a variety of clever ways.

The premise, btw, is that imaginary friends get cast off over time, so they wind up at a “foster home” to be adopted. 2 normal kids hang out there: one works there, one just plays there.

If this is where modern cartoons are going, things will be fun. Along with Anime and computer graphics, we are seeing more clever stuff than ever before. And more garbage too, but when I become king, cartoons derived from toys will be illegal (ala everything Hasbro touches).

BTW, while you are on Cartoon Network, make sure to watch all of Mo Willems’s work such as Kids Next Door and Sheep in the Big City. I knew him before he was famous (well, he was always somewhat famous, but that’s the way talent works) and his work from Sesame Street to Cartoon Network to children’s books always make me smile… and my kid likes them too!


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Getting Smaller All The Time... · 09/17/2005 11:50 PM, Tech

(With apologies to the Beatles)
I am confused over the direction of the MP3 player market. Maybe I missed something, but why is everyone continually getting excited over the fact that MP3 players are now shrinking in capacity? I mean, sure, the physical size is ever smaller, fine, but small tech is only cool when its small… but still capable. Shrinking the size and capacity doesn’t seem like a win-win to me.

A few years ago, it was easy to find 30gb and even higher players. Now, hunting around, only Apple’s Ipod is at 60gb, and the rest hang out at 30 or less.

(For those interested, Cowon has a 30gb, the old Creative Zen Touch is still in a 40gb where available, the Creative Nomad Zen Extra is a 60gb (from 2003)... and that’s it. Even the video portables are in small HD sizes… insane. A few nonames like the Toshiba Gigabeat, the Jobo Giga Vu Pro, the NHJ, VOSONIC, and the LG Mediagate pop up with varying sizes, but these have so little support and presence that they are hard to even find to pick up and hold.)

I agree, the Nano is cool, the flash and microdrive players are fascinating… but I have lots more than 20gb of files now. As I’ve ripped new CDs the day I get them, as I’ve gone back through the archives to rip old stuff, and yes, as I’ve gotten a few tracks handed to me, I’ve gotten enough that my 20 gb Rio Karma is full (well, and discontinued). So now what? I have the option to get the most expensive thing available ($400 Ipod 60GB) or an old model Creative or the Cowon (popular in Korea, lots of patches added over time… but not the most friendly of systems) or some of the nonames… but why do I have such a limited selection in what should be the sweet spot of the market?

Instead, I am supposed to settle for how things were in the bad ol’ days, when we only had 32 or 64 megs, when I had my first Rio 500:

(Courtesy of

I basically put on the music for the day the night before, maybe 10 or so songs, and kept rotating them.

Now, a 4gb box has the same issue. I can randomly pick a selection of albums to hear, but when I get bored, I have to re-dock, re-shuffle, re-up and download. Aren’t machines supposed to make life easier? Why can’t I just have all my tracks on one drive?

The future will be easier: all my devices will be on the WAN/cell/whatever network, and I will just stream my tracks to whatever device I choose to use. But til then, the question is a clear one: why won’t America buy large hard drives? We do for our home machines. All the large HD players are the same size as the small ones (except for the Nano and other flash players, of course). But one by one, all the large HD models are no longer available in the US. The only reason is that they don’t sell, which is disappointing.

Perhaps most people don’t have lots of tracks; if they buy copy-protected CDs or buy the tracks online, then yes, they can’t afford many tracks. And maybe people want the “portioning” approach. But I don’t think so. I think that 2 years from now, we will laugh and kick ourselves that we bought such small sizes, just like we throw away 16mb USB drives that we thought were so cool just a year or so ago.

So, keep demanding larger drives. Every store you go to, ask where the large ones are. Send letters to vendors. Sooner or later, they’ll see the errors of their ways. In the meantime, please click on every ad on my site. I need every penny I can scrape from under the couch to get that 60gb Ipod…


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Analyze by Domain? · 09/13/2005 05:23 AM, Marketing

David Baker of writes the “Email Insider” column at Mediapost, and he has continually demonstrated a very smart approach to using email. But everyone has a bad day, and his most recent article (well, recent as of Sept 13, 2005) Are All Clicks Created Equal? (free registration required, or try, while sounding promising, starts to go down the “myth” path. I point this out mostly because it stands out from the quality of his other articles.

His whole focus in this one is on analyzing by domain. He starts to get a bit off the wall with the belief that email domains reflect “personas”, but then gets back on a track… right into the whole deliverability bugaboo again.

I can’t argue with the basic point: if you want to examine deliverability issues, that happens by domain (well, really, by ISP/MSP, since many 2nd tier freemails use the same back end mail system Outblaze, and domains can share an ISP), at least for the big guys (Hotmail/Yahoo/AOL etc.)

But is there really an “AOL User” to target? Its not the grandmother anymore, or the teenager, or the newbie. People in domains are different. So even if you see some sort of pattern where AOL is different from Hotmail, well, so what? How can one react to that? Are there really any strategic, not technical or delivery oriented or simple web creative, reasons or ways to take advantage of this info?

In general, no. It continues to come back to the real problem. When people want your mail, they will do whatever it takes to get it: check junk folders, turn on images, click multiple times, whatever. Instead of worrying about the minutiae of “wow, users chose to show images in Gmail so they must like us”, I tend to focus on the larger issue: Am I delivering relevant content which meets the needs and desires of each person I am mailing to?

Suddenly, the domain-based weighting is revealed as nothing more than a distraction for anything other than deliverability. Get over it… if users aren’t complaining, if you send quality content, if you custom publish based on whatever data is of value (hint: it won’t usually be domain, for the most part, though B2B is a different story). Yes, creative and technical requirements vary from email client to client (outlook vs. webmails vs. eudora etc) and the various ISPs/MSPs have different requirements for mail sending speed, etc… so don’t ignore them… but strategically, focus on targeting the person, not trying to throw lots of little tactics at the problem.

So, look past this rather weak current article (well, current as of Sept. 13, 2005). Read his others (listed below this week’s entry on the Mediapost site or go directly to the archive which includes articles by Baker as well as Bill McCloskey of EmailAnalyst fame). So many agencies do a poor job of trying to understand email (which is why companies like e-Dialog and Responsys have been so successful) but David Baker shows that there is still hope.

(BTW, there is a whole school of social research on the original use of persona online, that is, the creation of a social identity, which is how Mr. Baker intends to use it here. The word has been co-opted by the usablity/info arch folks who use it to describe use case originators (stereotypical users for thinking about how to design a site). Anyway, in the early days, domain was part of the research where AOL really did mean newbie, and hotmail was more often used outside of the US than in it. Nowadays, domain is ignored in such research other than the pov that people who are concerned about their identity construction now get vanity domain names. And it would be nice if the IA/Usab folks would bet a new word instead of co-opting an older one. But I digress.)


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