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The Net Takeaway: Page 21


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.







Hope glistens... · 09/06/2005 11:20 AM,

I’ve spent the past few days working the phones and wires to track down relatives and be a center-point for information for my family, now spread across the South from Texas to Florida. Most of the news is good, some not so good. But in general, my relatives are very lucky. They are in ok health (when they can get medicine)... and they have nothing more than what they are wearing and whatever was in the car at the time. Everything else is either flooded, or not working, or just not there.

What to do in the next 6-9 months while the city dries out? What to do in the next 6-9 days while waiting for a chance to see just how bad the damage is? Try to imagine yourself unsure of what your plans are tommorrow, because when you try to think about your plans next month, there is just a grey spot in your mind. Try to imagine that while you are at work, someone comes to your desk and says “None of you can go home. Your family will try to meet you at the local sports arena”. Watch the traffic appear from nowhere as everyone rushes to their cars to jam pack the one way out… and suddenly your cell phone no longer works. Scary, isn’t it…

My family has tried to help me understand what they are going through, but its something beyond my ken, and truly beyond anyone who hasn’t lived through a disaster. I just try to sympathize and help however I can.

I try not to be political here. But George Bush has again demonstrated that he was the wrong man for the job from day one. People may applaud him for 9/11 handling… but that was really the state and local officials; he just took credit for their work (a very, very consistent pattern in his life). People may applaud him for getting us into a war that we shouldn’t be in, though I’m not sure why that gets any clapping; it didn’t when it was called Vietnam. People may applaud him for turning our country into our own version of a theocracy which rivals Islamic fundamentalist nations in its short-sighted foolish dependence on selected aspects of religion… but I don’t think anyone can really cheer for the simplest of decisions which escaped him.

When he had the chance to provide air support to facilitate resource dispersal, he sat on his hands. Why? Well, that would mean using military resources which might, just might, be needed for Iraq. So, he let more US citizens die here so he could let more US citizens also die there. Efficient, if nothing more.

Sure, I am not in the government. Sure, I don’t know the full story. But if everyone from the BBC to CNN could get people in and distributed, and if the number one complaint was that ground transport of already present supplies was not possible due to flooding, then it seems a simple decision to release some Chinooks and Blackhawks.

And, when we look back, it was a really simple decision. Well, for everyone except President Bush. When it was made, that was the turning point. Air-drops of supplies, air-rescue of trapped citizens, and air-drops of sandbags all started to pull people back from the brink… at least, the ones who weren’t already dead, or who didn’t commit suicide, or join bands of looters.

Yes, I know New Orleans was a bit different from the rest of the union. Sure, La. has parishes instead of counties, a legal system derived from the Napoleonic code, and a constant refrain of “well, that’s not haw we do iht heah in N’Awlins” drowining out external critics. Admittedly, even some of New Orleans’ most famous (or infamous) native sons have called the state a banana republic. But none of that excuses the insane ignorance of what needed to be done to save lives which didn’t need to be lost.

You may not know that an old motto of the city of New Orleans is “the city that Care forgot”. Its refers to the Mardi Gras (or, later on, every day), when people sort of stop caring for a while and just let themselves be free and laissez le bon temp roule (let the good times roll).

But I don’t think it will never have that happy meaning for me, or anyone in New Orleans, ever again.

The old joke was that Texas was going to secede from the Union b/c it was big and independent and liked to do things its own way. Well, thanks, Mr. President. You made that decision for all of us: clearly, La. was the place you thought wasn’t really part of the Union after all.

Ok, enough diatribe. Please remember to give anything, $5, any amount at all to the American Red Cross. Thank you all for your kind emails and thoughts in support of my family and friends.

Comments? [2]

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My home no longer exists. · 09/01/2005 03:49 AM, Personal

I grew up in New Orleans, in Metairie right by Lake Pontchartrain. Thanks to Katrina, everything I knew from my childhood has been swept underwater, and my family is impossible to contact. I know some are safe, and others… Well, we’ll find out when we can. Up here in Boston, it’s hard to fully understand what they are going through down there, but words like “armageddon”, “disaster”, and “absolute desolation” come to mind.

Please, if you can, consider donating some money to the Red Cross at

Live news updates at WWL TV now broadcasting out of Houston.

I hope that every reader with family in the South has their families safely away. My prayers are with us all.

Update: Katrina Bloggers Fund Raising. Hugh Hewitt suggested that bloggers pick a day and raise funds for the Katrina Relief Effort. So, today is the day. Take a second and give a little bit. You’ll feel better… and so will the people still in New Orleans.

More participants and info here and learn more about the variety of relief efforts and donation info at Instapundit.


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Search Engine Spam... · 08/11/2005 11:43 AM, Marketing

Nice article in the Wash. Post, reprinted here, about fake sites designed just to have pay-per-click search and affiliate links on them. (PPC is defined here, and I chose this site because it exemplifies the very type of crummy site this post is all about).

The whole article is a good read. She examined one scumbag, Marchex (who went IPO (people will pay for anything!)) in some detail. They create sites either designed to rank high in search engines, or as typosquatters.

This week, Marchex rolled out more than 50 Web sites based on Zip codes, such as for Washington D.C., each featuring local weather, maps and sponsored links to local businesses. It announced plans to generate similar sites for almost all 42,500 Zip codes in the United States.

So, if you accidentally type a zip code in the address bar instead of the search bar you might be using, you get this scumbag page. It does nothing to help you, just sends to you a site which may attempt to install spyware, change your home page, and other nasties. Their entire business model is based on abusing both web surfers and the targeted-search-ad models.

Other companies try other games: Some copy DMOZ listings, some copy Wikipedia entries, and some blatantly steal content from other high profile sites, such as this case where MarketingSherpa discovered content theft

I worry for a couple of reasons:

1) No easy way to tell Google or Yahoo that a site is a scumbag. We have to wait til they figure it out. Google has a dissatisfied link but who knows what happens to that info.

2) Screws over the rest of us. Like any kind of spam, these scumbags make it harder for legit stuff to be appreciated. If someone clicks on 3 links and each is more spammy than the next, then they will give up instead of visiting the 4th… which would have solved their problem

3) Its just another example of the long history of abuse connected with affiliate linking, unmoderated search ads, and other ppc programs. I’ve been in this space for a long time, and for every person who says that they’ve been successful with ppc marketing, I find 10 who have lost tons of money to fraud, get poor results, and find “optimizers” who do either nothing or provide “edge of legal” tactics like these scumbags. Good brands like Gevalia have been tainted by spammers using affiliate links. The greed for volume over quality continually hurts the total market and the individuals who pay into these pyramid schemes.

Now, I could go on an on about Tragedy of the Commons and other abuses of shared resources, but I bet you’ve heard it all.

So, what to do?

We have really screwed the pooch on some of the marketing things we are forced to accept in the real world. Let’s not do the same thing online. If you market, try to be better than the “easy money” approach. Yes, its harder. Yes, its longer term revenue, no quick hits, no immediate return. And yes, when you look back , not only will you have made more money over time, but you will have made marketing part of your service, instead of being part of the abuse.

Comments? [1]

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Open Source BI? · 08/07/2005 07:42 PM, Analysis Database

Yes, there still is no really cohesive OLAP/BI solution in Open Source, but there are lots of interesting things happening that you should keep an eye on.

Nicholas Goodman and the Bayon Blog has one of the best entries on this trend, including lots of links to the various subpieces and some good POVs on which might be a winner… OPEN SOURCE BI – I LIKE PENTAHO.

Actually, Nicholas’ blog has a great bunch of entries and updates recently, so I suggest you read the whole thing…

Comments? [3]

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I continue to despise tagging... · 08/01/2005 02:14 PM, MetaBlog

Update: Lots of traffic to this link from some very nice blogs and users… so, note that it rests in context with my complete series (so far) on why I dislike tagging, including:

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

Now, back to your regularly scheduled reading…


Clay Shirky is a smart guy… but its like he’s never actually used his ideas in practice. Each time he tries to defend them, he opens himself up for more criticism. But because he’s cool, and pretty darn nice, its hard to hold it against him. However, tagging is one place where we very much diverge.

For example, read this email interview with him and Jon Lebkowsky by Adam Weinroth, founder of EasyJournal. Its a good read, whether you like tags or not.

For example, here’s a quote:

“Tags put post-industrial strength tools in the hands of ordinary users, allowing them to manage the increasingly large corpus of things they’ve already found once, allowing them to re-find them easily.”

Ok… but that’s not how things work in reality. In reality, our understanding of things changes and so do the terms we use to describe them. How do I solve that in this open system? Do I have to go back and change all my tags? What about other people’s tags? Do I have to keep in mind all the variations on tags that reflect people’s different understanding of the topics?

The social connected model implies that the connections are the important part, so that all you need is one tag, one key, to flow from place to place and discover all you need to know. But the only people who appear to have time to do that are folks like Clay Shirky. The rest of us need to have information sorted and organized since we actually have better things to do than re-digest it. This “flow” is one way to access the information, but why do Clay and the rest think it should be the only way?

What tagging does is attempt to recreate the flow of discovery. That’s fine… but what taxonomy does is recreate the structure of knowledge that you’ve already discovered. Sometimes, I like flowing around and stumbling on things. And sometimes, that’s a real pita. More often than not, the tag approach involves lots of stumbling around and sidetracks.

We’ve all laughed at people in the dark, fumbling aroudn for things, knowing that if they turn left, they trip, and if they turn right, they fall on the old couch. That darkness is what I feel everytime I try to use a tagging approach to learn something. It requires me to not only try to understand what words I should use, but also what terms others would use.

Its like the Family Feud (game show in the US in the 70s, still kicking around here). You have to think not of what you might say to a question, you have to guess what the survey of US citizens might say in answer to a question. And that’s really a distraction… if you are trying to just answer the damn question. Why should I have to figure out what terms someone else would use to describe this stuff to find it?

Deep breath.

Or, his mention of the DMS IV-R and its coding schemes. Funny enough, the reason it was invented (4 versions ago) was to solve this problem: everyone used their own term to describe things, and so no-one knew what anyone else was talking about. Then, groups formed to try to use the same terms, but then they didn’t want to use the terms of the other groups, so divisions in knowledge formed. Finally, a group of smart folks suggested that the way out of this random mix of terms and divides was to formally lay out a vocabulary.

Clay feels that it is difficult to enforce a shared vocab. Yes, it is. Many valuable things are hard to do. Otherwise, you wind up with a bunch of random tags, walled gardens, and the state of psychiatry in 1951: a mess.

Lots more to complain about, but the big issue appears to be this: Clay and the taggers don’t like the enforced scheme of a single path, an imposed hierarchy, the idea that knowledge has a location in whatever dimensions. They would rather a scheme which has information being used in whatever way someone thinks it should be, via tags which reflect the different dimensions that information could be used.

And that’s all fine and good, but its good only for certain ways of using the information. That is, if I am interested in seeing, for example, lots of different ways information can be linked, tags make sense. But to assume that this is the best way to the exclusion of all others, to believe that tagging subsumes other access methods, is blind.

Again, Clay Shirky is a smart guy… He was smart when I met him 10 years ago, and he’s even smarter now… but I wonder how often he re-accesses knowledge the way he describes in the interview. I suspect he enjoys using tags as a way to see new angles on knowledge he is holding forefront, but tagging will turn out to flop at knoweldge re-access… Well, until someone formalizes the tag set for that aspect of information and it turns out to look a whole lot like a taxonomy. Watch and see.

Comments? [5]

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Interconnected, or more on Bookmark Managers · 07/26/2005 11:16 AM, Reference Search

So, looking over my referrers, I found some links from the site Well, if you ask me… where the author, among other things, was looking at lists of social bookmark managers. Besides linking back to my Furl and where to stick your Bookmarks post, he mentions some other lists, a bit more social-oriented (over quick search, etc.) than I like, but still good to look at for additional options… and some of you out there really seem to like the social bookmark world, so more power to you, glad to help.

So, I am reposting some links he found… but you should really go to his blog and read more about them.

Clay Shirky has this list from 2004, and Kossatsch has been making a chart (and updating continuously). More about v3 here and includes links to his PDF chart.

Comments? [1]

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Blackberry Adventures · 07/22/2005 11:44 PM, Tech

UPDATE 2/3/2006: Actually, with the new downloadable OS from Verizon, and a bit of account work with Verizon, the BB 7250 now does “tether” or act like a modem. A slow modem, but a modem nonetheless.

As part of my recent travels, I’ve been wondering about increased access while in airports for me and other folks at my company. Some options included using cards in our laptops to access the Verizon high-speed data network. Others included “smartphones”. I’ve been testing a Blackbery 7250. Like all Verizon phones, it is CDMA meaning great coverage around NY/Boston (and much of the US), but useless in UK. I’ve also played with a Palm Treo 650, and I’ve been a PocketPC (WinCE/MicrosoftMobile/etc.) user for many years, so keep that in mind. Also, I’m not a phone guy: I don’t SMS very often, couldn’t care less about ringtones or customization, but I do love my internet.

Summary: Great device if you are willing to live with limitations. Without server software, there are some annoying extra steps to take full advantage of the device. But the ability to be alerted to problem emails and respond, from anywhere, is a nice thing for a service oriented company or an email addict. Up to a point, it can replace use of laptops while on the road (or at least, in airports and cars) for many users. It can decrease response time for emergency issues for multiple types of staffers. But the data costs can kill you unless you are getting your company to pay for it. In addition, the server costs are pretty bad unless you have your email hosted with a company who already offers such a thing. There is no real “server” option for the average user to throw on their own machine, just a “desktop client” which I describe below.

Compared to alternatives (larger MS PocketPC devices, Treo 650 which requires some configuration to work as smoothly as BBerry), this is a very well designed device, and with the BES (Blackberry Enterprise Server) software, can really empower employees to react to email anywhere at any time.

(And, if the size annoys you, Verizon is rumoured to release a 71xx form factor (like a phone) called either the 7130 or 7150 which is more pocket sized, late fall (ie end of 3rd or mid 4th qtr).

Additionally, there are other server gateways as in this NetworkComputing review which push to Palm and other devices. Finally, MS says that it will give a free patch to Exchange 2003 which will push email to MS Mobile 5.0 devices and eliminate the need for BB or Palms. I’m not holding my breath, but good to keep an eye on these things.

Places for more info:

Along with the obvious, like RIM, and the carriers, which include T-Mobile, Verizon, Cingular, and others…

PS: So, how does it send all that great email and stuff? Well, my research implies that its basically sending coded SMS messages. That’s why it downloads emails in “chunks” and makes you select “more” from the menu to get the rest. Clever idea, but a bit of a hack. Still, they make it work pretty well…


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CDMA Sucks? Or not? · 07/22/2005 05:01 PM, Tech

Every person I’ve talked to who appears to know has said that CDMA is defective for a variety of reasons, from single owner (Qualcomm) to how it benefits the carriers for than the users.

(BTW, some complaints were received like “What the heck is CDMA anyway?” CDMA is one of the standards for cell phones in the US (and a few other places). GSM is the standard practically everywhere else. Some US carriers use GSM (Cingular, TMobile) allowing their phones to be used in Europe. Verizon, the largest of the US wireless companies, uses this CDMA so their phones are useless in Europe. So, the largest carrier has chosen a standard which appears to lock the user into a US-only network. I am not a fan of that, but recent data may moderate my opinion… read on.)

But Andrew Kantor makes a compelling case in USAToday that not only is CDMA great, its better than GSM (even though GSM is the European standard).

Since I’ve never heard anyone state this clearly, I thought I’d link to it and let the reader decide.

Andrew Kantor: Rocky beginning led to today’s high-speed cell networks

More detail here and at the USS Clueless.

Funny enough, lots of tech talk around why CDMA doesn’t suck, so maybe its a given that it does? A ” The lady doth protest too much, methinks” issue? Keep tuned for the Verizon multiband phone which will be CDMA here in the US, GSM overseas, and the size of a small bus (just kidding on that last part, it will only be as big as a suitcase).


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Worlddata very confused... · 07/07/2005 10:52 AM, Marketing

The very personable Jay Schwedelson and his team of FUDmeisters at Worlddata have been pumping out lots of aggressive press about their misunderstanding of how email works. This is somewhat strange, because they advertise themselves as “The leader in postal and email marketing.”

What kinds of things are they getting wrong? Well, let’s see. Here’s a recent press release entitled Move to text hurts email marketers. Take a moment, read it, then come back.

Ok, sounds scary! Oooh! Except that most legitimate mailers aren’t sending just an image; they are smart enough to use a mix of text and imagery to work around a variety of issues, including slow connections, variety of resolutions, some users are readers while others are “viewers”, some products require more than just images to sell, some mail is newsletter focused, etc., ad nauseum.

In addition, they confound “delivery” with “display”. As far as they are concerned, if your message didn’t get displayed, it didn’t get delivered. And for the mail they send (mostly image laden ads), that might be somewhat true. It is, of course, not true for most of the rest of market.

Here’s a quote:

Consumers increasingly cannot view part or all of their messages because images will not display. In the case of Google’s GMail, only relevant text ads from advertisers in its AdSense program will display. So graphics and information within e-mails — even if the recipient has opted in for the message — may not display.

Ok, what’s wrong here? The message is that nothing will display. But of course, the text portions will display, along with the option for users to choose to show images. And if your message is (say it with me) relevant, provides value or entertainment, and is permission based, users will choose to show those images in many cases. And if you’ve missed any of these 3, then you shouldn’t be sending the mail, so worrying about whether it’s viewed is somewhat cart-before-the-horse thinking.

Another one in DMNews today (meaning it won’t be available past 7/7/2005, but try the link anyway) makes this astonishing leap in illogic:

Worldata Predicts E-Mail List Price Plunge
July 07, 2005
By: Scott Hovanyetz, Senior Reporter, scotth at
E-mail list pricing could drop as much as 25 percent in the next three to six months because of changes in the way service providers handle HTML e-mails that will cut into deliverability rates, Worldata Inc. said yesterday.
Consumer Internet service providers already have begun filtering out graphics associated with HTML e-mails, creating a situation in which users must affirmatively decide whether they wish to view graphics in an e-mail, said Ray Tesi, senior vice president at Worldata. In the next 12 months, Microsoft will release a new version of Outlook that filters out HTML graphics by default, cutting into delivery rates to corporate addresses.
Worldata, Boca Raton, FL, made the prediction in its Summer 2005 Worldata Price Index. Switching to text e-mails may provide relief, but consumers soon could associate commercial text e-mails they receive with spam that evaded filtering, Tesi said.
“We’ve got to look at more text messaging, at least in the short term, to make sure our mail is deliverable and read,” he said.

Let’s see if I have this. More and more people blocking images by default. Therefore, advertisers will switch to text only messages? How about giving people reasons and value to actually display the images? Ok, sorry, back on track. Now, the text messages will look like spam and they will be blocked. Why, because they are text? My company sends text messages out and they perform quite well. Their deliverablity is no higher nor lower than the HTML version (i.e., real deliv meaning inbox tracking at major ISPs across the US and Europe, not just mail transfer deliverability). In fact, it sounds like users could be confused because so many believe that 3rd party list rental is spam. I can see how they might come to that conclusion, if the mails are not (again, all together now) relevant, providing value or entertainment, and are permission based. Again, if users don’t see value in what they are receiving, they will call it spam.

So, what to make of this? Well, Jay and his team thrive on press, as do many list rental companies. And the mail they send is probably different than the mail you send for your organization, or the mail high end email marketing agencies send for their clients.

So, as I always say, don’t just blindly believe the junk others (or even I!) put out… but let it guide you to test. If you think that you should try text, but are are scared… pull a sample and try text. If you think that image blocking is a problem for a segment of your list, try to be creative about giving users reasons to show images… or design your mail so that users don’t need to show images, by repeating image based info in copy. Don’t rely on Alt tags; they don’t get shown by image blocking email clients.

Focus on relevant and interesting content, and whether its text or images, if its good, users will find it, read it, and react to it. And if its not relevant, providing value or entertainment, and permission based, then no matter how cheap it seems to be, don’t waste your or your recipient’s time. It really is that easy… well, and it really is that hard, which is why full service email marketing companies are doing so well these days.

Short version: don’t believe what you read, ask around and then test on your own data to see if what appears to be true for one is really true for you. If you aren’t sure how to do this, there are a collection of really good email houses which can help.


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What happened to CRM? · 07/05/2005 08:02 PM, Marketing

You know, I remember when CRM stood for Customer Relationship Management. In the beginning, it subsumed all the aspects of customer interaction which mattered:

And so on. Of course, CRM got destroyed by somewhat dreamy companies who believed that technology alone can make human interaction work. As it turns out, technology is a huge enabler, but you still need people to customize how to interact with other people. Sounds obvious to you and me, but back in the boom years, CRM meant “computerized relationship management” as companies tried to automate everything, and failed.

The problem now is that things have swung too far the other way. Almost every CRM article I read is about call centers. Forget the other channels, forget the impact of analytics, forget the power of dynamic and customized messaging and web sites… no, nowadays CRM is about how to reduce the service costs of people who call to complain. Its about sending people to a self-service website, its about complicated phone trees, its about measuring satisfaction with the call center… Its as if people forgot all the power of the tech and rolled back to the 70s.

I loved the original ideas of CRM. I love the ideas of MRM, and I love Analytics. I think that we should quit thinking of CRM as just “customer service” and get back to the good ol’ days when CRM was about how to love your customer, and give them some reasons to love you back. Not everyone can be Harley or Prada… but when you are an honest company which deals fairly and provides value for money spent (or even value for no money), you can actually start to have that type of relationship with your customer, even if you are a b2b company selling ball bearings.

And yes, it will probably take some tech. And some people. Its why I work with one of the few true “full-service” email and database marketing companies in the world. And its this combination that makes modern relationship management work.

So when you see CRM, try to hearken back to the days before it was all tech, or all “service centers”, and think about what it might be like to provide service to people who might like it so much that they pay for it. Those days aren’t so far away, so don’t get stuck in the “CRM” trap, and instead focus on the relationship. You’ll be happier, and so will your customers. And, of course, those people who need ball bearings.


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