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The Net Takeaway: Page 9


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.






e-Dialog Acquired! · 01/24/2008 12:36 PM, Marketing

In a fantastic recognition of all that the e-Dialog team has accomplished over the past decade, I am pleased to congratulate the entire team on their acquisition by GSI Commerce.

GSI Commerce is the back end e-commerce provider for over 85 large retail and ecommerce stores (from the NFL to Ace Hardware to Toys R Us, etc., etc.) and this is a great marriage of two strong players in the online world. They are publicly traded as GSIC on the Nasdaq with a market cap of $754 million.

And of course, you all know of my love for e-Dialog, as the high-end email marketing service provider with a strong foundation in strategic account services and analytics. I spent some of the most fun years in my career there, helping them grow through boom and bust, through CRM and spam, and working around the world helping clients from the NFL (and I hate football!) through to Tesco, with all sorts of amazing companies in between. Some of the best folks in the interactive industry pass through the doors every day at e-D, and the few who left often came back after trying other jobs. Throughout e-Dialog’s history, they weren’t trying to be celebrities, popping out silly studies with no meaning just to get press. Instead, they delivered solid and innovative work transforming the email space from a “batch and blast” to the relevance world we’ve come to expect from email today.

The details of the buy are in the e-Dialog press release GSI Commerce to Acquire e-Dialog with much more detail in this pdf.

Again, my congrats. It’s been an amazing ride for those guys, and though I left e-D only a few short years ago, I still talk to lots of that team, and I’m ecstatic and overjoyed for them with this fantastic event.

Comments? [1]

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VirtualBox is very impressive · 01/22/2008 12:41 PM, Tech

One of the hassles of installing the free VirtualPC from Microsoft (and the free VMWare Server from VMWare) is that they add all sorts of drivers, virtual network cards, etc.

When I asked a friend about the lowest impact offering, he mentioned QEMU, but that was just too barebones… and slow.

But then he suggested VirtualBox by Innotek, which is now open source and includes some aspects of Qemu, but is far advanced from what Qemu offers. So I installed it on a laptop…

And it’s really phenomenal. Easy to install, easy to use, and very speedy. In fact, it felt faster than VirtualPC to me, though not as fast as VMWare (but by a hair; most people wouldn’t notice the difference). However, it didn’t install tons of junk, no extra drivers lying around, no need to reboot after installation.

And it just works.

Well, for the most part. For some reason, every Linux installer and LiveCD startup assumes 24-bit color instead of 16-bit color or 32-bit color, and VirtualPC (prefers 16-bit) and VirtualBox (prefers 32-bit) both have trouble with. Select F4 at the Ubuntu LiveCD screen and select a X x Y x 32 mode and then let it roll; if you install your Linux into a disk image, you can configure a 32-bit display manually instead of letting the LiveCD pick it incorrectly every time and skip this whole concern.

Other than display issues, things worked pretty well. BTW, this display issue will also prevent modern games from running too well under VirtualBox or VirtualPC, both of which still emulate old VESA VGA cards. VMWare Workstation can run DirectX8 (though not all that quickly).

So, if you want to test Ubuntu or other Linux distros via LiveCD, but don’t want to run the risk of blowing up your PC, VirtualBox is a great option. Especially if you’ve struggled through issues like Ubuntu 7.04 and No Mouse on Virtual PC and Ubuntu 7.10 and No Mouse on Virtual PC, two of the more popular links on this blog.

I’ll update with more info about my experiences soon.

Comments? [1]

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Great Database Blog · 01/21/2008 01:56 AM, Analysis Database

One of the more interesting blogs I’ve read in a while… well, interesting if you like databases and analytic systems. This guy really gets in there to see what’s really different abut the various tools out there, and pull lots of great info about database companies in one compact space.

Highly recommended.

DBMS2 — DataBase Management System Services


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Who's data is it, anyway? · 01/05/2008 09:24 PM,

Robert Scoble, famous blogger, was recently locked out of Facebook for a short time because of a program he was using to “scrape” his contacts and now is on a rampage about ‘his’ data, and how he should both have access to it including export, and control over its usage.

All that doesn’t bother me as much as just realizing that a company can totally wipe you off the face of their walled garden without any due process or any real recourse.

Lots of people are jumping on the bandwagon… but let’s think about it. Is it really his data to complain about?

He posits that, because he allowed all these people to “friend” him, that he somehow owns this collection of information, this social graph. He goes on to suggest that the social network sites are a “utility” of sorts, which provide some sort of facilitation or fulfillment of requests.

Ok. Let’s look at some allegories, and see if that makes sense:

The only data I can own is the stuff I’ve created on my own personal drive. 2nd is the stuff I create on a dedicated hosting facility (which will still blow me away if I violate TOS, so I would backup onto my personal drive). After that, I don’t own any of the data I generate via the use of a 3rd party unless they say I do. Even data I enter on my profile becomes theirs. They can allow me to “remove” it (meaning not display it publicly), but they could keep it and analyze it to ascertain “what factors lead to someone removing their profile”.

You may not like that. You may say “I created it, so it’s mine”.... but that’s not true. We just went over lots of cases where it’s not. “But this doesn’t have to be like that!” you cry. You are right. We didn’t all have to jump on Facebook. We could have waited until a more open platform was created, or create one ourselves.

But we didn’t. And now people complain? Here’s something to complain about: Credit cards now require consumers to resolve disputes in binding mediation, and consumers are not allowed to sue in open court. Binding mediation, btw, has been shown over and over again to be biased in favor of the person paying for it: the credit card company. You want to complain about something, here’s a good one. Talk about giving up due process and recourse.

Otherwise, this is silly. You were all lazy. You didn’t want to create a social network which allows import and export of relationships. You didn’t want to create and host your own services to facilitate communication (make your own mailing lists, discussion forums, etc. Make a community site. Hell, make your own Facebook for just your friends). But if you willingly enter your data into a 3rd party, and allow it to mediate your social interactions, why cry foul now? Isn’t the very fact that its an “independent” 3rd party one of the reasons why everyone jumped on?

So, either be extreme (like the open source zealots) and don’t give your data to any org who won’t give you complete control over it (no grey, either full access or no use)... or accept that you don’t own the data generated by your actions, be they social, transactional, or even just reading a blog. And let’s all push to make apps of the future more open… instead of complaining about entering a deal forewarned and then trying to get out b/c you don’t like how it works.

PS: As the story expands, it’s becoming a nice examination of the value of data, for example: Data and the Future of the Web at Publishing 2.0. As more people recognize the value of data (both businesses and consumers), we’ll see higher standards on what consumers expect around “their” data, and we’ll finally see more respect and clever utilization of data by businesses instead of just dumping it all in a warehouse (I hope).

PPS: Ok, as things develop, it turns out that we are continuing to philosophize instead of solve the problem. Here, Dare Obasanjo talks of an implicit social contract as if he were a lawyer. As a commenter mentioned, the only things that count are the TOS if you choose to use a 3rd party to mediate your communications. Here’s Dare: “Taking my data and sharing it with a third party without my permission isn’t cool.”. Sounds like you continue to believe that data that you’ve contributed to Facebook is somehow yours. (Actually, it sounds like data you’ve given directly to Scoble to load into Plaxo is somehow yours, too!). Sounds like anything that describes you that you contributed to you is yours. Is that really logical?

One thing that is coming to light: People believe that they are giving access to other people, and that somehow the mediating party never owns the data. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any situation even remotely like that. If you use a service, the data is clearly theirs. They can choose to have constraints or make it sound like the data is yours “we won’t use it for advertising. We won’t share with a third party”... but you don’t ever see “We can’t share your data, as its not ours”.

Again, I await for the person to make the Facebook Lite, which is 1/3 of the things Facebook can do, based on Google’s OpenSocial API... but allows complete import and export of the Social Graph. Then we’ll see: if everyone moves over because of this freedom, great. I’m not holding my breath.

Comments? [2]

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eCPM: Why call it this? · 01/04/2008 03:49 PM, Analysis Marketing

We were again asked to calculate “eCPM” for an advertiser, and I had to blow off some steam. Why? Well, how about some definitions:

CPM = Cost per thousand impressions. This is a standard media term, where you pay for 1,000 “views” of an ad. In traditional media, its guestimated from ratings or subscr/sales numbers, but online, its actually impressions served. Note that the ad may run for millions of impressions, but its priced at the “cost per thousand”, just like we sell gasoline in gallons (or liters). M is for “mille”, Latin for 1000, via Wikipedia.

Average CPM = the summed average of the CPMs for the various pieces of the media buy. For example, you may want to buy some impressions in an expensive area of a site, then spend the rest of the budget on some impressions in a cheaper area. The average is a straight average (10,000 imps at $3 CPM + 1,000,000 at $0.50 CPM is the buy, so add the imps, add the costs, divide it up, and average CPM for this one is $0.525) which is implicitly weighted by the size of the lines in the buy.

eCPM = Google has a nice summary at eCPM — What Exactly Is That?. Basically, its the (earnings / impressions) X 1000. Aka “effective” CPM.

The problem? Well, eCPM is a metric for a publisher to understand how well a position might deliver revenue for their site. Google provides this since AdSense doesn’t let you set your cost for a position; its really what the market bids for it. But you may find that certain positions do better for you than others, so you could drop poor performing placement locations and have a cleaner site. You can’t just look at the raw dollars delivered since traffic is a cap on the number of clicks you can get to drive revenue for a CPC ad publisher.

Here’s the problem: advertisers have asked for eCPM calcs for their ads. What the heck is this?

I don’t really know. If we use the conversion data from the advertiser, we can show (conversions/impressions) x 1000… but what the heck is this? It’s like “Value per 1000 impressions “, or “revenue per 1000 impressions”... but its not cost per CPM. And many advertisers have no direct sales metrics, so what do they want for the “earnings”? Some made up number?

Some sites make a valiant effort to define this for advertisers. For example, says “For Advertisers, eCPM is the maximum dollar amount they’re willing to pay per 1000 Ad impressions.” But that’s not really what the advertisers are asking for.

What should they be asking for? Well, we can make it a cost metrics… there are lots of cost per clicks or cost per conversion calcs. We can make it a value metric, and make it profit or revenue, and even make it LTV to account for repeat customer value over time all stimulated by the initial buy…. but asking for “eCPM” because they saw it on a Google dashboard is just a waste of time.

Metrics have meaning and value. Let’s call them what they are, and understand what they mean. Don’t just pick one out of the air and try to force it into a realm. eCPM has really no meaning to advertisers, so ask for what you really want and analysts will find the appropriate metric and deliver it.

Comments? [1]

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Another Useful Utility · 12/18/2007 11:34 AM, Tech

Here’s one I didn’t know about.

The Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 SystemInfo utility

Yes, I (now) know this has been around for ages (at least 2003, and probably earlier). But I didn’t know about it, downloading all sorts of little system profilers and other tools to see how a system was set up.

This one gives a good quick view, including hotfixes, etc. Worth remembering.


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Upgrading Vista to XP · 12/16/2007 01:56 PM, Tech

Very clever take on how bad Vista is compared to XP at this point…

Comments? [1]

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Nero steals file associations · 12/15/2007 01:57 AM, Tech

There are few things I hate more than programs which, when installed, take over all your file associations. That is, they make themselves the default programs when you double click on a file. This was really a mess a few years ago as programs fought over who got to own, say, the streaming video associations (RealPlayer was especially nasty at that time). Then people got better about it, allowing you to choose at install what extensions you wanted associated with the program.

And Nero 8 does this, at install. There are over 30 file types it thinks it should own, and it makes you click, one by one, on each of the ones you don’t want it to clobber. And if, by patience, you de-select all these, Nero will respect your wishes…

Til you update. Yep, that magic autoupdating feature, which downloads all the upgraded and updated versions of their different programs, basically re-runs the installer script in the background, only it completely ignores any settings from the first time. All file extensions from the first list get clobbered by Nero, and even if you didn’t install some features, well, too bad, because Nero downloads and installs them anyway.

I’ve included the list below of the ones that got taken over on my box, and put what I think was the original default in Windows XP. With this list and about 15-20 minutes, I was able to reset most of the options. Some I have no idea about, so they stay with Nero’s viewer (which, btw, takes a full (count it) 15-20 seconds to load every time on a P3D running at 3gigahertz on 2gb of ram, WinXP).

Nero is constantly held up as a gold standard for burning, basic video editing, etc. Yet it doesn’t include an ISO editor like Iso Commander, MagicIso, or WinISO. It is slow and appears to just hang at various times. If this is the best out there, we are all in trouble. And if you touch my file extensions again, you will lose yet another customer. Companies making software which is often pirated shouldn’t piss off those who are willing to pay for it. gives a good list of simple registry fixes to reset many extensions, though not all on the below list. Also, I actually don’t have a favorite picture viewer or editor (though I tend to use Irfanview at times, and for editing, either the free or the free older but still great Serif Photoplus) so I put them all back to the Windows Pic and Fax Viewer, til I settle on a favorite.

Associations to fix:
3gp = Quicktime
aac = Quicktime
ac3 = ? (depending on codec, WMP, Quicktime, Winamp):
aif = WMP
aiff = WMP
avi = WMP
avs = avisynth files,
bmp = Windows Pic and Fax Viewer
divx = Divx Player
flv = ? (Per comments below thisis the Flash Video format, but need a dedicated Flash Player for this (or IE))
gif = Windows Pic and Fax Viewer
ico = ? (Per comments below, this is a Windows Icon format, so your favorite bitmap/photoviewer will work)
jpe = Windows Pic and Fax Viewer
jpeg = Windows Pic and Fax Viewer
jpg = Windows Pic and Fax Viewer
m3u = WMP (Playlist)
mid = wmp
midi = wmp
mov = quicktime
mp3 = wmp
mp4 (should be quicktime)?
mpe = wmp
mpeg = wmp
mpg = wmp
nrg= ? (Per comments below, this is a Nero proprietary, so it probably stays with Nero and shouldn’t be in this list)
ogg (winamp?)
pcx (mspaint?) quicktime picture viewer?
pls (Realplayer)? Winamp Playlist files?
png = Windows pic and fax viewers
rmi (realplayer) or WMP
tif = This can be an MS Office Viewer, or just Windows Pic and Fax Viewer
tiff = This can be an MS Office Viewer, or just Windows Pic and Fax Viewer
vob = PowerDVD, or whatever instead of Nero Showtime
wav = WMP
wave = WMP
wbm ?
wma = WMP
wmf = windows picture and fax viewr
wmv = wmp

BTW, in making my DVD with Nero Vision 5 (part of Nero Ultimate 8), I was surprised to see only 3 total DVD menu templates, while the screenshot in the manual (yes, I RTFM) shows lots more. Turns out that the install somehow only loads a few defaults (Orbit, Lemon, and 1 Smart 3D). Instead, go to the Nero 8 Template Packs for additional menus, some designed for HD and the rest for regular DVDs. None of them are great, but at least now you have some variety in the DVD menus you can use.

Nero 7 owners can go to

Comments? [3]

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A project to replace Project · 12/13/2007 11:28 AM, Tech

As part of a project I was working on, the partner sent over a Microsoft Project file of the schedule, timeline, and dependencies for me to review. Everyone on any large project has seen these Ganntt charts which basically are designed to obfuscate that things are going over budget, over time, or both.

Anyway, I didn’t have MS Project on my box, so I went to the Microsoft Downloads page to pull down a viewer. I was surprised to discover that, unlike Visio (and the rest of the Office Suite), they don’t provide a standalone viewer for Project.

So, I went hunting, and found 3 pretty impressive MS Project replacements, all open source, and all read and write MS Project files.

Business model for these is either “charge for integrated database version for resource allocation and planning” or just “donations accepted” for GanttProject.

All of these are poorly documented, and assume you are both a project person as well as familiar with MS Project. GanttProject gives some links to learn about project management, but you really are on your own in most of these tools.

I wound up with OpenProj for the moment, but unless you spend your life managing really complex stuff, you may find that any of these tools do what you need without having to shell out for MS Project.

PS: for those who asked: Neither OpenOffice nor StarOffice nor IBM’s Lotus Symphony has any type of project manager, though you could fake some stuff up with a combination of Calc, Impress, and Base. It wouldn’t read MS Project files, but you could manage a small project this way.


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Places to Shop · 12/07/2007 03:38 PM, Trivial

Sometimes, people ask for interesting things or places to look. Here are some of my favs:

Tech and Electronics
NewEgg continues to have the best prices, and fast shipping has a great selection, great pricing, and often free shipping.
Amazon is ok, but I keep finding things cheaper elsewhere.

Odd Stuff
Intl Spy Museum has lots of oddball stuff if you like the spy genre
ThinkGeek Home of every geek’s favorite toys
Duluth Trading is for upscale “work around the house” stuff. Some really interesting stuff hidden away in there
Ducti your home for all the useful stuff one can make out of duct tape Good games and puzzles are hard to find locally; this is one of a few sites with a nice collection, esp. of German and UK offerings.
AudioCubes is full of import gadgets and gizmos, mostly from Asia
Dynamism is hand held paradise for high end small computers ala OQO, etc.
HeadRoom is the place for high end headphones, including great reviews. Goodcans, HeadWize, and Head-Fi are also good for this.
Police Auctions Online Don’t know how legit it is, but fun to look at this stuff…
UnclaimedBaggage has stuff leftover in airports, again as interesting as the Police stuff…
MadeByHumans has cool handmade stuff, not crafts but the stuff you never expected to see. UncommonGoods also has stuff like this.
Moss is one of the top modern design stores in the world, in Soho NYC.
Mxyplyzyk is also a nice design shop. Chiasso used to be a mall store, but they’ve tried to go more upscale.
RetroModern has high end design furniture and stuff. DesignWithinReach used to be more affordable, but now, its kind of a misnomer; still, nice things to see.
Via BoingBoing; Core77 has an amazing list of 77 under 77.
CountyComm Govt. Products Group has all kinds of interesting “Govt. Issue” tools and gear.

Lucky to find deals
Overstock has great deals on lots of stuff, esp. watches.
Sierra Trading Post for clothing, outdoors gears, and even nice bags, they have a little bit of everything. Start here first.
Smartbargains is not as nice as Overstock these days, but constantly beats them for any “housewares” like sheets and curtains.

Carry your stuff
BumBumPaks the first new bag concept I’ve seen in a while; I hope they continue to grow

Used to be interesting, don’t waste your time
Sharper Image In order to make money, they had to start making their own products. Coincidentally, at the same time, quality of products and innovation all left the store.
Levenger I used to love this store… but just like Sharper Image, as they started to self-source their items, their quality went down the drain. When I realized I was returning every order, I stopped ordering.
Brookstone Similar to the rest, but they got stuck in massage chair land and never came out. Herrington is actually more like what Brookstone was in the early days, and is worth checking out if you like the idea of Brookstone more than the actual junk they now sell.

Save me some money
There are others, but these usually get you the best and most legit deals. Avoid simple “coupon” or other affiliate marketing sites. Often, these are deals you could get on your own just by going to the site, but when you click on the “coupon” link, you are actually just giving a commission to an aggregator.

Comments? [1]

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