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The Net Takeaway: Page 32


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.






The "ladder" has many rungs... to fall off of. · 04/19/2004 10:46 PM, Marketing

Paul Soltoff, a very smart fellow, writes some good columns for ClickZ, but this most recent one was emblematic of the “wave your hands” approach to database marketing.

He posits a hypothetical relevancy chain (which he calls a ladder, same thing) and starts to talk about how email can help push users up the ladder. Now, I know he has a word limits in his article, but take this one for example:

“Through surveys and e-mail messages, I know Allen takes two trips a year, brings three buddies, and travels in June and October.”

Wow, he has an unbelievably responsive and open audience. Through the magic of “surveys”, an anonymous response vehicle, and an uncounted number of undescribed emails, he has created an incredibly detailed profile of a single user.

Its just not that easy. Even with incentives, its difficult to get detailed data such as this from a user. And if its really a survey, it shouldn’t be linked to “Allen” at all. He could say “Allen is in a segment which, on average, goes on 2 trips a year, etc…” but if its linked to Allen, its a profile… and its rare to have this level of detail on any profiles.

In addition, Mr. Soltoff provides these “branching” emails, which provide the equivalent of a forced-choice option. A sample:

“If you’re ready to plan your June trip, I’d love to whip together something exciting for you and your friends. Are you planning to go fishing this June? [Yes] [No]”

Now, this seems all hunky-dory… except that the average click rate on mails is declining… and more importantly, our research shows that users tend to click on far less than 15% of the mails they receive (as a broad, huge average). This means that you would have to send lots of mail to get some of these data points. Mr. Soltoff provides no direction on what to do
a) to get users to have a good reason to respond to the question, and
b) when no one responds.

Again, Mr. Soltoff is no dummy, and all these online marketing sites have word limits (unclear why, its all electronic) so he can’t go into the detail he would want to.

But just once, I would love to see someone reflect the realities behind the ideas, and explain that “these things are great when they work, but the real experts spend much of their time having fallback plans for the people who don’t respond to these tactics… and here are some of our tricks…”

That being said, I read my ClickZ mails every day. As much as I dislike the glossing over of the hard stuff, they intro ideas very nicely…

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Turducken, anyone? · 04/18/2004 01:11 AM, Personal

Food is an important part of life in New Orleans. As one friend of the family said at dinner tonight, “New Orleans is the only place where people will sit around after a fulfilling and satisfying meal… and talk about food for 2 more hours”.

One of the foods that we talked about was turducken. Now, there are lots and lots of crazy foods down here. We eat alligator, turtles (not so much anymore), and even nutria. But turducken was a new one, and even now I snigger as I write this.

As it turns out, turducken is a food popular with the Cajuns for many years, but now becoming a hot item around the country. Basically, its a mix of turkey + duck + chicken, hence turducken. You spread out the turkey, skin down, stuff some andouille dressing into the legs/thighs/wings, then put the duck (skin down) on top of all that. Cover the duck with cornbread dressing, and then put the chicken on top of all that. Cover the chicken with oyster dressing. Then, you fold closed the turkey (and all that poultry inside) and sew it closed. Bake for 12 hours or so.

The Cajun Stuff Store shows it as its current bestseller, and gives some more info about ordering it here. And if you don’t want to mail order it (total cost of about $115-130 including dry ice shipping), you can learn more about how to make it yourself at the GumboPages.

Bon appetit, et laissez le bon temps rouler…


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Back in New Orleans for a bit... · 04/17/2004 07:10 PM, Personal

I grew up here in New Orleans, La. Its very similar to Boston with its emphasis on history and its own way of seeing things.

I came back for my mother’s headstone dedication, not a happy reason to come back. But it provides some closure, and a chance for family to gather, and reflect.

The city is celebrating (well, its always celebrating, but this week…) the opening, or re-opening, of the Canal St. Streetcar Line (more here). Most people are used to the streetcars on St. Charles Ave.,

But in 1925, streetcars were everywhere. You could get from one end of New Orleans to the other, out to the lake (Lake Pontchartrain), and all the places in between. The advent of buses started to kill that off, and by 1970, most of the streetcar lines were destroyed, replaced by buses and roads. St. Charles was one of the only ones left, and was added to the National Register to protect it.

But what do you know… tourists love the streetcars. And the opening of a line down by the old 1984 World’s Fair area off the Mississippi has been very popular (linking the French Quarter, the Casino (Harrah’s), and the Riverwalk (formerly the World’s Fair)).

Notice the red color, vs. the green of the traditional old cars…

So, this new expansion of the streetcars along Canal St., links City Park and the New Orleans Museum of Art (holding one of the finest collection of Faberge eggs and jewelry in the world) with the rest of the city, a huge step for tourists. It was impossible to get out there without a car when you were staying Uptown or in the Quarter.

Canal St. is not the nicest of places. Its really gone downhill since the 50s, when it was a nice place to shop. While some attempts have been made to revitalize it (most notably the opening of the Ritz), its still full of tacky souvenir shops, athletic gear discounters, and unsavory characters as evening draws near. If you visit New Orleans, you will probably drive along this street as you come into the Quarter or the convention area… but you won’t have spent any time on it. So, this streetcar move is a good way to start giving commercial interests a reason to clean up a bit for the tourists.

What’s most interesting to me is that they put back the lines they had spent years removing, pulling out bus lanes and putting back the old tracks. Years of “technological advances in transportation” have been summarily ripped out. They’ve modernized things a bit (air conditioning and handicapped accessibility in the new streetcars), but for the most part, its really a step backwards.

And that’s just the way New Orleans likes it.


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GIMP Scripting Options · 04/15/2004 02:17 PM, Tech

It turns out, not everyone likes LISP/Scheme, so plugins have been made to allow GIMP scripting in Python, as well as Perl, Tcl (which appears to not have been updated in a long time, CVS here) and C.

I am a Python novice, so this helps somewhat….

(Oh, and that clipboard issue? Its a bit more complicated, mostly because the windows clipboard support is supplied by a plugin by Hans Breuer,, at the bottom. Not much docs there, but this explains why its so non-documented in so many places: B/c its not part of the Linux GIMP, its just a Windows plug-in extension… but a hugely important one.)


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More on the Subservient Chicken · 04/14/2004 07:41 PM, Marketing

Wired mentions that CP&B think that the site is a success b/c of the 20 million “hits”. Ok, so it got lots of attention.

But does it do what its supposed to do? Does it give BK any cachet? Or sales? Or is it simply just so goofy that people like poking it, like the fascination ten year olds have with an old garbage bag humming with flies?

I still think it will go down as yet another example of attempting to create cool instead of being cool.


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Copy and Paste with the GIMP · 04/14/2004 07:26 PM, Tech

I mentioned that the GIMP image editing program hit 2.0.0, and I’ve been playing with it.

Thanks to the Yahoo GIMPWin Group, I have finally been able to do something that should have been simple.

All I wanted to do was to slice a logo off a client page for a presentation. Though I had a myriad of select tools, I could only copy and paste to the GIMP’s internal clipboard. It turns out that you need to use a choice farther down in the menu, the “Copy to Clipboard” option, which then does use the Windows clipboard.

... but every time I did this, it would ignore my selection and copy the entire image!

A series of posts to the GIMPWin group revealed that the image is in one layer, and “copy to clipboard” copies the current layer. So, take a select tool, and box your selection (you’ll see the crawling ant army around it). Then, under the Edit menu, you select Float (or Shift-Ctrl-L). This makes a new temporary layer as the “focus”... And then, the Edit|Copy to Clipboard works perfectly! And click anywhere to undo your float and put everything back the way it was.

You can also make new layers manually, copy things over to it, etc., but for quick and dirty image editing by a novice, this was great.

Now, if only there was a “Float and then Copy to Clipboard” command… but I guess that’s what scripting is for.

(BTW: GIMP’s scripting, Script-Fu, uses a somewhat less popular language for scripting known as Scheme, which is similar to Lisp. Lisp, the “AI” language, is also used in Emacs. I haven’t done stuff in Lisp for years, so let’s see how long it takes me to make this minor fix…)

Comments? [1]

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Linux on Windows... · 04/13/2004 03:47 PM, Tech

In one of those “is this cool, helpful, or just silly” moments, news hits Slashdot and Linux World Desk about “CoLinux” or Cooperative Linux, an open source project at Sourceforge.

Basically, its a port of the Linux kernel that allows it to run cooperatively with other OSs, specifically Win XP/2K. It doesn’t need VMware or Virtual PC (now owned by Microsoft), and it also doesn’t use Bochs (the open source attempt at VMware).

On one hand, this is no cost savings. You would still need to pay for the Windows license. Also, are there truly any apps on Linux that do not have an analog on Windows?

For developers, this has some nice touches. One can make sure an app runs properly on Linux and Windows, or in Linux-based browsers. VMware is handy for setting up a machine as a server, and another as a client, and seeing how they communicate; perhaps CoLinux could do this as well (Accd to the Wiki FAQ, this should be possible)

So, its mostly an exercise in intellectual curiousity: Can it be done?

A few other notes:


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Excel tips... · 04/13/2004 10:14 AM, Analysis

PC Magazine, during the boom, was a phone-book sized magazine full of ads, reviews, and great book-length guides to optimizing windows.

Now, under Michael Miller, they’ve forgotten that they are a “PC” magazine and spend way too much time on digital cameras and home theater. But, every once in a while, smarter heads prevail and useful stuff comes out.

A recent issue, another “countless tips recycled from past publications”, reminded me that there are some Excel functions which make life worth living. Actually, most of these weren’t in that article… but they should have been.


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Online, did you see Innovative? He was around here somewhere... · 04/12/2004 10:12 AM, Marketing

There have been 3 recent attempts at being clever online, most of which I think will backfire. I’ll tell you about them first, and see if we can figure out at the end why some work better than others.

The first is the Amex Seinfeld and Superman ad (requires Flash). Overall work by Ogilvy, web work by Digitas, it is a vanity project by Jerry Seinfeld to finally live his dream of being part of a Superman project. (Background info in the NY Times)

It includes a dreary set room where you can look at the short film, the making of the film, and a few other little widgets (and no easter eggs that I’m aware of, but there must be one somewhere). The movie itself? A snarky version of Superman hangs out with Jerry, arbitrarily forgetting some superpowers while using others for silliness. Oh, and a minor plug for Amex, so badly slipped in that it seems more sarcastic than earnest.

After watching it, I felt disappointed. My version of Superman has him more as a hero and less as a whiner. The Amex plug was just silly (though, to be fair, there are subtle Amex visuals throughout). And at the end, I didn’t find myself feeling better about Seinfeld, Superman, or Amex. I don’t think lowering my perception of the brand was the goal of this campaign.

Ok, then came news of the Burger King Chicken. Following the “have it your way” campaign revival, the desperate BK is trying anything to get people back into their restaurants. Besides lots of changes at the corporate level, they have hired Crispin Porter + Bogusky to fix things on a marketing level. The result? The Subservient Chicken with more info at BoingBoing here and here

In this Shockwave/Flash thingy, you see a man dressed in a chicken suit. You type phrases, and one of 300 or so clips is chosen based on your words. Some earnest web-folks have figured out the full list of phrases and clips here (Note the Crispin easter eggs)

This has all the hallmarks of being viral, except that its just… not. That is, all the links I see to it are less than complimentary. Most of them get the BK connection, and aren’t overly negative about that, as much as they all seem to feel that its a much ado about not much done (yes, Mr. Shakespeare would not have said it this way).

It also stinks of the men who dress as their favorite Anime (As an aside, if you dig this, known as kigurumi, more info about this here).

Like so many Crispin projects, it has all the hallmarks of being cool without actually pulling it off. They did a similar thing with the Mini Cooper campaigns. Part one included paper-fold versions of the car in major magazines and that was fun. But then they got stuck on the Big Daddy Roth style of stickers, and these were less attractive to the audience buying the car. If anyone really cared about them, they would be on eBay… only, of course, they aren’t. The stickers were not virally placed on binders, they didn’t hallmark a resurgence in Big Daddy Roth clothing, and though Mini spokespeople say that they are popular “collector items”, a bit of Google hunting shows that no one seems very desperate to have them.

CP+B have also helped work on Ikea, and so Ikea has gone from being the cheap modern furniture store to… well, I can’t tell you, they’ve dropped off the face of the marketing planet except for having their owner crowned owner of the world. Their ads before won awards, but nowadays, they’ve gone dark. Maybe their next campaign is launching soon; I hope its better than the recent work.

Ok, a third one. Atari Games has made a new one called Driv3r. (Already, the 3l33t speak is a problem) But as a promotion, they hired Ridley Scott Associates (yes, that Ridley Scott) to make a movie for them. So, another BMW thing.

But think of this… it could have been done in the game itself! The engine (no pun intended) is great for graphics, and it would have been incredible to see the work that RS+A could do… in a virtual studio. Halo and Red Vs. Blue showed just how much fun this could be, and there are tons of 3D shooter movies (machinima), but Driv3r could have been special.

Instead, they focus on taking a mainstream media, and “linking” it to the game.

And now we see why all of these will fail. They have the common failing of most online advertising. They are trying to slap traditional forms of media onto the computer screen, instead of making something new and interactive. “But wait”, you cry, “the chicken is interactive!”. Yes, but its not innovative. There are lots of hip cool flash artworks out there which have a twist, something news, something clever. The Handwriting Clock is simple, but clever on many levels (use of the traditional form of writing on a screen, etc.). The chicken is just… dumb.

Kids will enjoy it for a short time. It may win an award. But if this is the best we can do, then its no wonder advertising is losing.

“Ok, big mouth, what would you do differently?” I would put my money where my mouth is. If I were BK and I was trying to be innovative online, I would appeal to the primary online segments.

Anyway, don’t just listen to me. Kill a few minutes, play with all three. But I don’t see any innovative here, I just see more of the same. And that’s so disappointing.


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Memespread · 04/11/2004 05:11 PM, MetaBlog

While I continue to think that meme is one of the most meaningless words in the language today (tautologically, its a victim of its own success in spreading its meaning), I like to help out.

So, click here to continue the spread:

BTW, I got this from Rick Bruner’s blog


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