Undress To De-Stress

or Shed Your Clothes Along With Your Burdens

It’s a surefire way to feel a little better. Just go into your room, lock the door, turn out the lights, and take it all off. Then watch TV or read or surf the web (no, please, not like that) or do something else productive or relaxing or mindless.

Just be.

Naked. Safe. Free.

Breathe deeply. Again.

Relax into yourself. Get used to the lightness. Notice the difference in your step compared to when you are clothed. What is it like to move? How do everyday things become new and interesting when done without pants and a shirt and underwear and socks? Try making a phone call. Try folding your clothes. Making your bed. Organizing your closet. Setting your alarm clock. Sitting. Standing. Walking. Pretend that you know Tai Chi. Crank up some awesome tunes. Sing. Dance. Exercise. Nap. Draw. Write.

Even the simple act of picking up a pen might change your life.

Where Do You Find Inspiration?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on things that inspire you - where you look for it, what you look for, how you use it in your daily life or job or hobbies, and what happens when it’s hard to come by.

Here are a few of my own thoughts on inspiration:
  • I almost never find inspiration in the medium in which I am working. For instance, if I am composing music, I can’t listen to music. If I am directing a play, I don’t look at other plays. For designing a website, I tend to stay away from the Web.

  • I like to ask questions. What would happen if I put this Jack Daniels Burger in a song? How does the sound of the 4-train at Union Square change the design of this website? Why is the sky red?

  • Repetition helps. If I’m starved for ideas, I might grab an interesting piece of paper (I like yellow legal pads at the moment) and an awesome pen or marker - something un-boring, and just start writing/drawing numbers or dots or lines or letters. I’ll fill the page. I’ll count backwards out loud using roman numerals while I write forwards using hexadecimal. I will tap on my desk for half an hour. Type rhythmically and melodically on my computer keyboard into a plain text editor. Copy and paste huge blocks of text. Move my arm in a particular way for a long time. The journey always goes like this: Interest, Boredom, Fatigue, Mindlessness, Inspiration.

  • It is important for me to remember that everything is connected. That nothing I might be doing is in any way - nor can it be - separate from the world around me. What this means, practically, is that I can always go outside, or read a book, or take a nap, and it’s relevant, helpful, and potentially direction-changing. Distractions don’t exist if you pay enough attention.

Stop The HartBeat Ensemble!

So I saw a production of The Pueblo by the HartBeat Ensemble on Saturday evening in Hartford, CT. Though it carried a ticket fee, The Pueblo is a work-in-progress, to be premiered in its final form in February. I can not in good conscience allow this to happen. It is a work that must be stopped at all costs!

Quite simply, frankly, and soberly, The Pueblo is perhaps the worst atrocity to hit the stage since, well, I can’t think of anything that compares to it in terms of sheer bad-ness.

The Pueblo, a dual language, multi-cultural play that explores the changing politics of Latin America and how that affects people in North America. Known for such socialist leaders as Chile’s Salvador Allende and Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Latin America now has a new wave of such socialist leaders as Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Michelle Bachelet of Chile, and Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua., who see themselves as “leaders of the Bolivarian Revolution.”

United States officials have called them “dictators who abuse power and manipulate their citizens.” The Latin American leaders have called the Bush administration, “the devil” and “imperialist.” Set in a fictional South American country, The Pueblo incorporates these themes at its core.
At once insulting, spine-tingling, vomit-inducing, and suicide-provoking, The Pueblo mixes together what HartBeat calls “experimental” elements such as puppetry, movement, text, and music. If text in the theatre qualifies as an experiment, then this just might be kindergarten science class, in which students do experiments to learn what floats and what sinks (guess which this show does). As experiments go, having puppets on stage is on par with sticking drosophila in a jar with no holes for air and starting a stopwatch.

Lest HartBeat be chastised merely for failing to understand what constitutes experimentation, it should be said that these elements add absolutely nothing positive - indeed, they contributed quite a bit to the total, irreparable heap-of-scrap-masquerading-as-play that was presented. Yes, I am including the text in this claim. The entirety of the play was multilingual - a mix of English and Spanish that can not, respectfully, be called Spanglish. When each sentence is a 50/50 mix of both languages (as in “I want to comer el pollo y el arroz”), with certain phrases repeated in both languages (“I am your president. Soy tu présidente.”) might more aptly be called Manglish. I am fairly well-versed in both languages, but the absolute inanity with which the dialogue was constructed rendered much of it completely incomprehensible (particularly that which was speedily, tone-lessly, and far too often rhyme-ish-ly, talk-sung by the guitar-strumming Narrator).

One extreme moment of translation left me with my mouth agape, wishing I could have the last 45 minutes of my life back so I might sit outside staring at a tree and enjoy what was a glorious northeastern summer evening. Read this translated line from a familiar play and tell me if you see anything wrong:
O Romeo, Romeo. Dónde está mi Romeo?
In case you don’t know a spot of Spanish, “Dónde está” is asking where. Hmm, okay, except Shakespeare would shoot you in the face for misinterpreting “wherefore” so grossly. Wherefore means Why.

Regarding The Pueblo, that, after all, is the question.

Except it’s no more of a question than if I had been playing Hamlet in this production. Of course I would choose to end my life. Immediately, and with no reservations. Which brings me to the conclusion of this review - a bit of a request, a plea to the greater greatness of humanity, which is to help me help the world by Stopping The HartBeat Ensemble.

The instructions are simple. Go to this website and take the survey about The Pueblo. Give them some extremely low scores, feel free to copy and paste admonitions from this post in the answer spaces, and if you’re feeling awesome (and you should, after all) toss in a link to this post with the words “I saw your show and agree wholeheartedly with this review. Please consider canning this production and ceasing the making of theatrical work forever. In the interest of humanity and in order to come closer to attaining your company’s mission of enacting positive social change, please stop. Immediately. Thank you.”

That is all. The Pueblo is playing again next weekend if you’re masochistic.

My Cell Phone Is Toying With My Emotions

This was supposed to be a story about Fate.

And how Fate would lead me to buy an iPhone next Friday against my will.

It had all the right elements - tragedy, depression, desperation, serendipity - but then things kinda got screwed up. And now I can’t use Fate as my excuse for standing in line for hours to purchase a device that I don’t even really need and costs more than my first car. Okay, the word first was unnecessary, I admit.

Here’s the story, anyway. No longer about Fate. But about something important enough for blogging, I guess.

Last night I was talking to my girlfriend on the phone. My Samsung Trace (t519), to be precise. This is typical. She hangs up first and I hear the do-do-do-do arpeggio of disconnection. This is not typical. I usually end the call first, or at least pull the phone away from my ear before hearing that. I press my end key anyway - it’s a reflex - and, well, nothing happens. I don’t mean in the “of course nothing happened because you pressed the end key and it was already ended” kind of way. Pressing the end key always does something - there is feedback. This did nothing. Dread set in. I pressed another key - nothing. Another - nothing. I tried out the key combo to “unlock” the keypad - nothing. I mashed at buttons in disbelief. The screen went black (power-saving function). I freaked out.

Then more things went wrong. I couldn’t find - anywhere - my old phone. My brother’s only spare phone is an unlocked (dammit!) Cingular. I had an idea: why not try to call myself. Luckily we still have a land line, even though it is almost never used, and the call went through. My phone rang. But I couldn’t answer it. Defeated, I ended the call.

I searched online and found one relevant result - a poor soul who experienced the exact problem. He said that he could turn his phone on after removing the battery, but nothing else. I removed the battery, put it back, turned it on (yep, it worked), and then nothing. The buttons still refused to work, and One Missed Call (from “Me”) greeted me like a mean person greets you.

So I did the only sensible thing - I called T-Mobile. Here’s where some magic comes in: I immediately got connected to a real person - a very nice, loud, pleasant, understandable, male voice (who later told me he had friends in the military ages ago who took him to Prospect Park - just down the road from me - how nice!). And he was helpful. I explained to him all the steps I took (making my story seem a little less panicked, of course, and he checked to see if my phone was under warranty. For a second I hoped it wasn’t - an irrational dream of turning this awful experience into something beautiful, an excuse to buy a gorgeous iPhone. But it was covered, and he asked me a few more questions to confirm my eligibility for a replacement (“Is the screen cracked?” “Is there water damage?” etc.), then read some blah blah blah stuff and assured me that by Tuesday I would have my new phone (this is the expedited - $15 shipping option). Good service from T-Mobile. Made a bad night better.

I plugged in my phone to charge overnight for the hell of it.

This morning, it worked. Damn.

New York Newspaper Double Take

Wow. Do the New York Post and New York Daily News share design teams?

Yesterday’s editions of the ubiquitous city tabloids sported covers way too similar to be coincidental. Well, okay, perhaps it was coincidental, but it’s still pretty insane.

What’s The Deal?
The two big stories (apparently) were Mayor Mike Bloomberg leaving the Republican party and Hillary and Bill Clinton making a YouTube video spoof of the much-loathed Sopranos finale. The covers pretty much speak for themselves. Both are laid out with more or less the same grid, and feature the big stories in exactly the same order. Both use pretty much the same still frame from the video (the same stock images being found in both papers happens all the time, but these are just different enough to wonder how they were obtained). Both use the wording “Mike’s Move,” with the News adding the descriptor “Big” for effect. Both, most obviously, create a visual pun with the logo for The Clintons (using the typeface from The Sopranos and flipping the R over to make an L).

Which One Is Better?
Despite the similarities, the News emerges as the clear winner in this battle of the Cover Wars. Reversing the type (white on black) in the Bloomberg section creates a much stronger contrast to what’s above the fold - the Post’s cover just feels weak in comparison. Additionally, the News displays a more subtle and effective treatment of the logo pun, setting the word “The” in smaller type above the more important “Clintons,” rather than keeping it the same weight like the Post (The News’ treatment is also more faithful to the original). The News picked a stronger photo of the Clintons - more tightly cropped and better color - and the Post’s Bloomberg “badge” (which reads, “No really, I swear I’m not running”) is just, well, stupid.

These two papers typically fight bloodily for the hottest cover of the day (as do amNewYork and Metro, the morning freebies) because there’s little else that distinguishes them, so it’s odd to see them run such similar pages. It’d be interesting to know the how and why and when behind their cover decisions, but I imagine they keep such knowledge fairly closely-guarded. One thing I still can’t quite wrap my head around is the decision to lead with the Clinton story, which is about nothing more than Hillary’s campaign making a video, and releasing the winner of her “theme song” contest. That story is such non-news that I’m surprised even these typically-seedy publications found value in it, much less deciding to make it their top item.

But I guess New Yorkers love The Sopranos (or did, before the finale). Maybe that’s all the justification needed.

100 Reasons Not To Buy An iPhone

Yeah, this is painful for me, too.
  1. Price - $499 or $599 with a 2-year who-knows-how-much data plan.
  2. AT&T - Which wireless company sucks the most? Some say it’s these guys.
  3. EDGE - Instead of faster 3G technology. If you don’t have Wi-Fi hotspots, you’re kinda screwed.
  4. No Flash - This means it’s not the “real” make-you-have-a-seizure Web.
  5. No Java - This has something to do with coffee but I don’t really get it.
  6. No iChat - I guess some people still aren’t cool enough to use GMail.
  7. iTunes Lock-in - Oh wait, I forgot you don’t pay for your music.
  8. No Keyboard - This means it’s hard to type.
  9. Screen - It will be hard to see in daylight.
  10. No Office - Lack of MSWord makes me cry.
  11. No Real Apps - Because I, unlike most people, actually know the difference.
  12. Smudges - My fingers are way greasy.
  13. Scratches - I can’t keep my keys away.
  14. No Games - Well there’s that rumor about Nintendo, but otherwise, what am I supposed to do with this thing?
  15. No Song Sharing - You mean the Zune is better than the iPhone?
  16. Ugly - I don’t like shiny.
  17. No Mirror - Can’t really take emo self-portraits now can I?
  18. No Yahoo Maps - Because even though Google Maps is better, where’s the choice? Fascist!
  19. aka Jesus Phone - Uh...discrimination against Jews.
  20. I’m Fat - Okay, I’m not, but what if you are?
  21. Only 4 or 8 GB - My por...ahem...my music collection is much too large.
  22. Viruses - I can browse to a site that could infect my iPhone, and when I sync it to my PC I’ll get a virus. Sure, I could avoid that site like I do on my home computer, but still!
  23. No Wi-Fi Downloads - I absolutely MUST be able to listen to Shakira at a moment’s notice!
  24. I Have A Phone - It was only $30 and works just fine.
  25. I Have An iPod - It’s an 8GB Nano and works just fine.
  26. I Have An Internet - So there.
  27. Touch Screen Sucks - No one has ever made a good touchscreen. No reason to think they’d start now.
  28. Apple’s Never Made A Phone - WTF do they know? Nokia, Samsung, etc have been making phones for years now and they still suck - how could Apple possibly do better?
  29. I Use T-Mobile - Switching to AT&T costs money.
  30. No Internet Underground - Taking the subway to work means no online access when I’d most want to use it.
  31. Lack Of Tactile Feedback - Means I can’t text while driving. Cause that’s a good idea.
  32. Sealed Battery - I can’t change it myself. Lame.
  33. Too Big - I like my itty bitty Nano, thank you very much.
  34. Ajax Sucks - It is the scourge of the Internet
  35. The Zune Is Cooler
  36. The Zune Is Cooler
  37. The Zune Is Cooler
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  100. The Zune Is Cooler
Got any more? I need someone to pull me back. I’m afraid I can’t resist on my own...

Media Consumption Contradictions

A brief look at my inconsistent, contradictory, amazing, (and typical?) patterns of media consumption:
  1. I have not purchased a CD or DVD for myself in years
  2. I buy books for myself all the time from Amazon
  3. The only magazine I buy in print is The New Yorker (though I read Wired, The Nation, and Food & Wine because we get subscriptions to them at my apartment)
  4. I read the free, trash- and ad- filled amNewYork newspaper in print most weekday mornings
  5. I buy the Sunday New York Times about every other week in order to read the Magazine, though it is available in its entirety online
  6. I sometimes “borrow” my neighbor’s copy of The Wall Street Journal
  7. I read hundreds of articles from over 200 sites in Google Reader daily and skim even more
  8. I subscribe to blog feeds readily when linked to from a site I already read - but almost never when a site hits the front page of Digg
  9. I use Del.icio.us to keep track of what I’ve read rather than to find new things to read
  10. I can’t, for the life of me, get into StumbleUpon, though the concept is awesome to me
  11. I watch pirated movies on occasion, but have never pirated one myself
  12. I have a $10-a-month subscription to EMusic
  13. I only watch non-infringing content on YouTube, but I viewed the first 45 minutes of Michael Moore’s Sicko on Google Video yesterday
  14. I pay to go to concerts every so often, but only see theatre that is free
  15. I have yet to read one of my 700+ PDF books all the way through
  16. I finish perhaps 1/3 of the books I buy from Amazon
  17. I am eagerly awaiting the release of the final book in the Harry Potter series
  18. I go to the movies about three times a year
  19. I watch an average of two movies a week
  20. The TV channel most frequently watched in my apartment is NY1, a 24-hour local news channel that
  21. I never listen to the radio
  22. I haven’t listened to music on my iPod for the last three weeks
  23. Anytime I watch TV, I am also surfing the Web
  24. The only television shows I actually pay attention to are reality shows
  25. I haven’t purchased a video game since the days of the Sega Genesis
  26. I do visit promotional, product, and corporate websites mentioned in television commercials
What the heck does this all mean? What about you?

Die Web 2.0, Die.

Web 2.0 is dead and I have killed it. Right here, right now. Do not pass go, do not collect $200 million from a wussy-Valley-V.C. The beast lie slain in a digital heap of bits and bytes and asynchronous server calls. This is no phoenix - there will be no rebirth, no emergence from its own ashes. For the future to come, there must be a revolution. There must be a drastic departure - a sharp turn away from the sins of the past.

The hype, the beta, the usability errors in the guise of a “release early, release often” mantra, the rounded corners, the shiny tables, the nonsensical “Our original name was taken so we re-spelled it” domain names, the social networking site for xxxxxx, the social bookmarking xxxxxx, the video sharing xxxxxx, the it might not be quite legal but sign up anyway we care about your privacy xxxxxx, the business model? hah!, the Ajaxified, Flashified, Scriptified, Ruby-on-Railsified, Adsense-supported, made possible by your generous donations, content-lacking, MySpace ripoff (could you not find a better site to base yours on?!), start pages, tagging schmagging, long tail, pseudo-wannabe-innovation, Googlebait, oh please oh please Google buy my product please oh please I love and worship you and somehow think I have made something better than your engineers and how could you pass up buying this product that doesn’t even work but don’t blame me it’s just in beta and we couldn’t afford to do usability testing so we’re pretending to let some serial-joining geeks have some super-exclusive private access so they’ll do all the bug-testing for us and blog about it all for free and then our servers will explode because everybody on the world wide net was conned into thinking that private and exclusive meant awesome and so tried to sign up on the first day and we couldn’t do anything about it because we were busy drinking beer and watching Diggnation rather than coding and buying servers and paying attention and actually learning from the mistakes that everyone else has made a dozen hundred thousand million times.

It’s over for me. Dead. Gone. I’m done. I’m ready for a Web that actually works as advertised. A Web that lets people actually communicate with one another. A Web that lets you own what you post and read what you want to where you want to. A Web that lets you decide when you want to see an advertisement, and when you want to hear sound, and when you want to sign up, and when you want to destroy all traces of your account. A Web that departs from the metaphor of pages - that understands it is not print - that a web page is not like a newspaper page or a magazine page or a book page. A Web that is not so full of bugs and holes and 500, 501, 503, 404 errors. A Web that I can use and find value in without giving away my email address and remembering a password and whether your stupid site disallows special characters or requires numbers or is case sensitive. A Web where A-listers don’t bitch and moan about hierarchy in the publishing world in one breath and in the next uphold that same hierarchy by being stingy with links in order to protect their “authority.” A Web less intent on replacing things, and more on making things better. A Web that is non-restrictive, that doesn’t lock me in, one made by and for people, not machines. A Web that remembers when I ask it to, and forgets - really forgets - unless I tell it not to. A Web that is accessible, standards-compliant, usable, but not afraid to take risks. A Web intent on offending, alienating, polarizing, politicizing, persuading, teaching, inciting. A Web with a point to make, however contradictory. A Web with a story to tell, not just news to report. A Web where people aren’t afraid to comment or participate - where the geeks and early adopters aren’t self-righteous assholes ready to scream NOOB the minute someone asks a question. A Web of people and ideas and art and culture and poetry and connection and love and desire and experimentation and guessing and trial-and-error rather than corporations and greed and money and Truth and property. A Web kinda sorta maybe a little bit more like this. A Web less like a cloud and more like the rays of the sun. A Web that feels more friendly because it’s made up of my friends. A Web I can believe in. A Web I can trust. A Web that is fun. A Web in which it’s okay - even awesome - that Everything is Miscellaneous, because it is, and it should be, and it’s better that way.

It’s coming - I can tell. Something insanely awesome is just now peeking over the horizon. I can’t wait.

Die, Web 2.0, die.

Question For iPhone Naysayers

Will an iPhone naysayer explain to me how this device won’t completely change the face of the mobile market when a model is released next year (or the year after) that:
  • Is pink
  • Is $200

Web Development For iPhone Is Fucking Brilliant

Excuse the profanity - I had a revelation.

Millions of children (yes children) are learning, working with, and experimenting with the exact technologies used for development on iPhone - HTML and JavaScript - every single day.

They know all about embedding code for widgets and videos, and many of them are teaching themselves to edit and customize the code on sites like MySpace. Sure, most of their efforts amount to slice-my-eyes-50-ways-with-a-razor-blade levels of awful, but that’s not the point. What matters is that this group of youngsters - a group who, you’ll recall, hasn’t breathed a single breath in a world without Internet - is not afraid. They’re not afraid of code, of RSS feeds, of uploading, downloading, syncing, embedding, linking, SMS-ing, clicking, dragging, poking, or any of the other myriad methods of interaction developers have spent years trying to teach reluctant users. This group is not reluctant. They’ve spent their entire lives in front of screens and they just get it, and more and more they are dirtying their hands playing with all the gooey stuff that exists beneath the interface - like tags and elements and variables and feeds.

This is the first generation in the history of mankind that knows how to program a VCR.

Think about that. It’s true, even though many of them probably have no clue what a VCR is.

The reason that making the web the main development platform for iPhone is brilliant is because every one of these millions of children can develop for it. Sure, their apps will never be Google-level, or even Adobe-level, but they’ll still be apps. There is a huge business in widget-making right now - companies that make it easier for the kids to customize and embed - and iPhone will literally explode that ecosystem. Therein lies the ultimate value: hyperpersonalization.

With a pretty much infinite number of available URLs - every single user can control a multitude of ultra-customized widget-type applications, pulling and sharing data from Facebook, MySpace, news sites, blogs - even music and video from the web. Each app/widget gets its own page. Everything talks to everything else. Complete personalization is only a synchronized Safari bookmark away. And it won’t matter if their web is ugly - I can just as easily make mine non-ugly.

iPhone has the potential to go viral (as they say) in a huge way. The power to develop - previously in the hands of the few - is now, quite literally, at the fingertips of millions.

Postscript: Price, schmice. Trust me on this. I’ve got my pixel ruler out and ready.

More iPhone here.

Apple WWDC07, Safari For Windows, iPhone Dreams

Steve Jobs’ keynote address this morning at WWDC2007 either delighted or disappointed, depending on one’s expectations. Jobs announced several major changes to the OSX user interface, including updates to the Finder, which has many Mac fans saying, “finally.”

You can see all the cool stuff (and believe me, it looks cool) on Apple’s redesigned site, but there’s one thing I want to comment on:

Apple released a version (still very much Beta) of its Safari web browser for Windows.

While ostensibly about extending its market-share, this release is huge for one reason: cross-platform iPhone development. While traditional desktop application developers will no doubt be furious at the insistence that anything running in a web browser is an application, and they will fiercely deny the possibility of web-based apps being the future - well, they are and it is and the announcement today that folks will be able to code full-fledged programs to run in Safari for iPhone just as they do for the regular old web is a major catalyst for this future.

Think of what Google and 37 Signals and all of the great web developers will be able to do with the iPhone. Think about what it would mean to run real GMail, real Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Basecamp, Campfire, Facebook, Twitter, internet video and TV. While local, downloaded (or installed) apps would be a swell addition - I won’t deny that - there is really precious little they can do that can’t be done with the tools we’ve been given. And not having to install programs leaves more space for data - like photos, movies, music, and...well, this is where my personal wishful thinking comes in...stuff you download from the web using Google Gears.

It hasn’t been mentioned, but Google Gears could be the thing that bridges the gap and ushers in a new age of programming, in which it won’t matter what’s in the cloud and what’s on the device, or when or where or how you are or are not connected to the Internet.

Think of the possibilities that iPhone opens up. Think of the things that this device could do with no more than an innocuous software update.

Think of the future. Indeed, it has already begun.

5 Simple Steps To Privacy Online

I will go very slowly for those of you who might be new to this.
  1. Buy a computer.

  2. Don’t sign up for Internet service.

  3. Oh, I guess there are just two steps.

FOOA: Tying Up Loose Ends

Since I never got around to giving a proper writeup of the second day of the Future of Online Advertising conference, I wanted to take this chance to give a very quick reflection on the whole experience (especially after having written this post).

Day two was better. The food was more substantial, the speakers more varied, there was seemingly less Powerpoint, and I heard fewer people engaging in Web 2.0 back-patting. I talked to the really interesting, and really nice Maryrose Lyons from Brightspark Consulting, Ireland - which was also my very first time meeting another blogger because of blogging. A few of the presentations were great, some good, and Ryan Carson’s candid (and unscheduled) presentation about the advertising that the conference organizers did themselves was really cool. He admitted that they had a really tough time figuring out the right way to do things, and it was obvious that they learned a heck of a lot doing their first conference in the United States.

I spoke briefly with Lisa of Carson Systems, and she was extremely nice - apologetic regarding my concerns, but also refreshingly upfront about the many difficulties they ran into in the process of planning and executing the conference. They didn’t find my notes, after all (though they found somebody’s!), but I don’t particularly care about that. Lisa also extended an invitation to the next Future of Web Design conference (to be held in Florida this fall), and if there’s any way I could get down there, I would love to go. In spite of the issues I had with this conference, and the various moments of letdown, I got a strong sense that the organizers are really focused on learning and on growing these events, and I think they provide great value to the various industries they deal with. Carson Systems strikes me as a group that is intent on moving into the future, fully aware that they aren’t going to have all the right answers the first time.

Plus, well, Web Design is more my “thing” than advertising.

Anyone want to pay for me to fly down there and take a few days off work?

Pretty please?

Two Perspectives On The Future Of Advertising

Go to them.
Let them come to you.

Two very different philosophies of online advertising. Both have benefits. Both have issues. What’s the solution? I have no clue.

The first is admirable. Go To Them. CBS recently touted its new policy to go where the viewers are with their video content, rather than restrict it to their own little network ghetto. They saw value in YouTube, MySpace, and all the many video sharing and file hosting sites on the web and have decided to put their content there - where the users already are. Great idea, no question. Consumers are going to watch what they want to watch where they want to watch it, and if your content happens to be there for them to choose from - great! If not, what are the chances you can get them to come to your site every day, with so much competing for their attention? Not good, that’s what your chances are. Very few companies can establish themselves as a destination on the web, and CBS has realized that achieving this end isn’t worth their time, money, and effort. They understand the incredible value in allowing users to control the environment in which they view content. So Go To Them seems like a good thing.

But there is a negative side to it, a potential to take this concept too far. Go To Them is also the philosophy used by marketers who tout the power of brand ubiquity, who encourage large, invasive banner ads and roadblocks and Flashy, loud, screaming commercials. These folks also push the benefits of Google AdWords - of showing ads for your content in “non-intrusive” (yeah, right) ways to increase brand recognition and favorability. Go To Them is the mantra of what I am calling Forced Opt-In ads. There’s probably a real name for ads of this type, but they’re basically of the “Resistance is Futile” family. There’s no way to avoid them (well, there are some Firefox extensions that help, but generally you’re stuck.) and they just get in the way if you’re not looking for what they have to offer.

But then we have Let Them Come To You which offers some benefits as well. The positive aspects of this approach include a responsibility to create extremely compelling content that generates buzz - driving traffic to your site, raising interest in your product, and creating a community around your brand that takes your product elsewhere and evangelizes for you practically free. Advertising this way encourages holistic solutions - web, print, interactive, video, contest, giveaways - anything and everything to get others excited about your stuff. A lot of really innovative campaigns use this approach (case in point: Burger King’s Subservient Chicken website, which was a major viral hit despite never being advertised in conventional media outlets.), and a lot of risks are taken.

Negatives? This approach is risky, resource-intensive, often harder to manage and a measure, and can be majorly frustrating and lead to quitting when the people don’t end up coming to you. It’s hard to be authentic. And even harder to trick users - try this and you’re in for something awful. One bad experience with this approach can create a very bitter taste in the mouths of those who paid for the campaign, and these people (sadly, I know) are very important. But a success can completely transform a brand into more than a composite of its products. A brand can become a lifestyle, an event, a destination, an environment. Your product can be your advertising.

I’d be dishonest if I pretended to know which way things were headed. What I personally would like to see is a bit of a combination of both approaches, which could be problematic. My vision might completely contradict itself, and what I just said above, but I’m okay with that and hope you’ll point it out.

I imagine a future in which companies provide valuable content - advertising as product, and product as advertising - and offer it all over, in communities and networks that I already frequent. But it should be there only if I choose to see it. I only want to see ads for a store if I’m looking for a store. I only want to see a video about Wart-Covered Brides From Hell if that’s what I search for. If what your brand has to offer me is engaging, entertaining, innovative, and most of all, relevant, I will love you and tell all of my friends. And an endorsement from a friend is far, far more valuable than anything else you could possibly stick in front of a face.

If Google or some other social networks use the data I readily provide them to target ads when I ask for ads, I will be happy and I will buy stuff. And I will come back. And I will want to become part of your brand ecosystem. I will sign up for updates and ask for a personalized RSS feed of product offers I’m interested in. I will create a profile on your site and invite my friends and add your widget to my blog and be loyal. But only if everything remains on my terms. The minute this trust and respect is betrayed is the minute you lose a customer - 100 customers - for life.

Be nice. Don’t yell at me. I will call you when I’m ready. Until then, make some cool ads that I will decide to watch in my free time.

10 Things That Suck About FOOA: Day One

Day one of the Future of Online Advertising conference has ended, and now that I am at home in my cushioned rocking chair, I have had some time to sit and reflect about the events of the day. Here, uncensored, unedited, and unsponsored, are 10 things that really sucked about the Future of Online Advertising (FOOA) conference. Just ten. Any more, and I’d be seen as ungrateful. My ticket was free, after all.

Okay, the list:
  1. Free Wi-Fi connection - Powered by Urban Hotspots, the Wi-Fi was absolutely atrocious. It worked during breakfast, stopped functioning right as the conference began, and was annoyingly spotty the rest of the day. For a $1000 conference, this is pretty much inexcusable. And seriously - this is freakin’ New York City for crying out loud!

  2. Lunch - One could hardly call this hour-and-a-half long “hor d'oeuvres and glorified potty break” a meal. A handful of busboy/girl-types made their way through the crowd offering scraps of food. A tiny piece of turkey wrap here, a few (really, just three!) veggie sticks there, a portion of Caesar salad in a takeout container fit for an anorexic king. It all tasted just fine. Quite a disappointment. The several snack times were also loath-able, as they consisted of little more than leftovers of the breakfast pastries (For the final break they had Kashi GoLean bars. I tried the peanut butter and chocolate one. It tasted...healthy.).

  3. Web 2.0 - The number of people I overheard pitching their startups to each other was frankly disappointing. “Yeah, we basically started it with no outside funds, just our own money.” seemed to be the sentence of the day. What are these wonderful startups-to-be? “Basically it’s, like, a social network for xxxxx. I can’t believe no one else has already done something in this space!” It’s official - I’m over Web 2.0. Check back in a week or so for my eulogy. I’m serious.

  4. CPC, CPA, CPM, CPI, CPU, CPMMORPGORLYROFLLOLWTF - There is no way that the presenters and audience members who spewed these inane metric acronyms at a rate of 10 per second have any idea which ones they were using. “Are we allowed to skip straight to CPA instead of starting with CPM for brand awareness and moving to CPC for educating and refining or can I just jump straight to monetizing my mechanical bull by selling it on eBay at a loss?” Yeah, no thanks. I think I’ll focus on the ROI of my LMNOP.

  5. Overeager Conference Staff - During the final break, conference staff went through the rows of chairs collecting all of the “unclaimed” magazines that had been placed on seats for attendees. They also took anything else (like program booklets) that added to the clutter. Nice idea - to get a jump start on cleaning the auditorium - but one thing: no one was in his/her seats, so everything looked unclaimed. Including my schedule of events booklet in which I was taking notes. Yeah. At least they left my 12-inch-long PayPerPost pen that I intended to give to my roommate.

  6. Powerpoint - I don’t think I need to explain why this is awful. Just take my word for it - some of the worst Powerpoint presentations I’ve seen in my life. Not across the board, but enough for me to seriously consider “forgetting” my glasses tomorrow morning.

  7. Teenage Executives - Sorry, but if you are still in high school, you do not deserve to be wearing an “Executive” nametag. I don’t care if you just got funded by some clueless V.C. - you are still lame and you are not the next Mark Zuckerberg. Not fooling anyone, dudes. Get a diploma.

  8. Creatives - First, I hate this name. Creative is an adjective, not a noun. Second, why does everyone with a Creative name tag have to wear jeans and an edgy t-shirt and carry a shabby-chic mail bag slash laptop case? I had a Creative tag myself, mostly because there wasn’t anything else on the list of possibilities that sounded good either: Developer? Publisher? Marketer? Media Buyer? Advertiser? SEO & SEM? Executive? So many great choices! I hate reductive labels like these - part of the problem with advertising (and business) today is that things are so segmented like this. Marketing in the future is not about “ad units,” it’s about an entire experience that can only be created by passionate people stretching across and blurring traditional boundaries of discipline, media, and demographic. You are your company’s own best brand manager. The medium is no longer the message. The message is whatever your audience decides they want it to be.

  9. No Future - Until the final (and great) panel discussion, the closest anyone got to discussing the future of online advertising was when Kim Malone of Google mentioned that her company would be adding Cost Per Action (CPA) ads sometime soon. I realize that many in the audience might have found some of the previous talks incredibly enlightening and on-the-edge, but as a semi-outside observer of the industry, I can’t wrap my head around how prehistoric-sounding much of the discussion was. Maybe I just read too many forward-looking feeds to have an accurate perception of the industry.

  10. One Woman - Yeah, only one woman spoke today - the above-mentioned Kim Malone of Google, who did a decent job, but wasn’t given anything terribly interesting to talk about. Two are slated to speak tomorrow, it seems. Two. That makes three. Out of about 25. This is just stupid for a ton of reasons I won’t get into here, but especially since the copy of Advertising Age they gave attendees had its annual feature on 25 Women to Watch, which showcased some pretty hardcore chicks who would’ve been awesome to hear speak. At the very least, any one of those women would have been far better than a couple of the male speakers today (I won’t name names unless you ask), whose talks were just painful and pointless and short-sighted.
So that’s 10. In spite of all that, I am looking forward to the second day. I’ll cross my fingers about lunch, charge my laptop a ton tonight, reach deep inside for some courage to strike up an interesting conversation with someone (not just hopeless networking b.s.) and hope for the best.

Finally, if you’re at the conference and on Twitter, why not Follow me?

Future Of Online Advertising: Day One

This morning I am sitting in Gotham Hall waiting for the first day of the Future of Online Advertising conference to begin. I admit I feel slightly like a fish out of water, given that I’m not really in the advertising business. I mean, sure I kinda do that for my day job (well, part of it), but look at this blog - no ads. I’m not just doing that because I think they’re annoying, or because they’re too hard to install (they’re definitely not), but it’s on principle, actually. I believe that if you’re reading this site, you deserve to see the content, and deserve to feel like I’m not trying to sell you something (except maybe Twitter). I believe in offering this content out of the goodness of my heart and I expect nothing in return (though if you ever feel like sending brownies, let me know, I’ll give you my address).

I think that the future of online advertising will see a tendency towards separation of ads from content - not the other way around. At least, this is what I’d like to see. I think advertisers might finally start understanding that they can’t force us to watch/read/click their ads - that we do not want to be interrupted, that we don’t want to be pitched to. We will go looking for ads when we want to, we will click sponsored links when they are exactly what we are trying to find, we will watch your videos if they are awesome. And most importantly, we will advertise for you if we like your brand enough. We will evangelize to our friends and family if we can trust you to treat them well. Focus on providing value, spend your money on your product, not on disgusting, annoying, sound-playing, Flash-y banner ads. Let us like you. No, let us love you.

That is what it’s all about, after all: love. In the future, everyone will be an advertiser for those products that enhance their lives the most. Traditional marketing tactics will be increasingly viewed with contempt, and companies attempting to hawk their wares using them will be excommunicated, ignored, ridiculed, and destroyed.

We’re seeing the seeds of this now. Sites like Facebook and MySpace are full of regular people promoting the stuff they think is cool. “Check out this video!” is all I need to hear from a friend, and I will check it out. But I could see dozens of banner ads and AdSense skyscrapers and sponsored links for the exact same video, and I would deliberately choose to ignore it.

When’s the last time you clicked a sponsored link? An animated Flash ad on a website? I’m interested to hear how you interact with ads on the Web, because I don’t, at all, personally. I’ve never clicked an ad on the web. No thanks, I know how to find what I’m looking for.

But perhaps I’m wrong about this, and you do like ads and think differently. I suspect you’ll tell me in the comments if I am, and if you do.

Twitter Insights

Here’s a taste of some of the interesting conversations, insights, and debates I’ve had on Twitter lately (yes, naysayers, that does happen). I’m just putting the messages I sent, partly because I think it reads clearly, partly so I don’t accidentally misrepresent a fellow Tweeter, partly to bias things in my favor (clearly), and partly to entice you to check out and explore the site.

On The War (with PeoriaPundit, whose side you can read here - you might have to go back a couple pages to find the relevant Tweets, which will read “@frivmo”)
Pardon my saying so, but "voted against supporting the troops" is a pretty far-from-balanced way of putting things.

The other side would say "Voted to support a bad war and allow a dictator President to have his way." Both are posturing. Both spin.

As consumers of filtered news and media we need to learn how to peel away hidden biases and examine our own sub-unconscious shading of truth

Strongly disagree with you there. The troops are being killed. More money is not gonna stop that.

We need real solutions. Continually throwing money at a sinking ship doesn't solve a thing. Someone has to say enough.

Congress gets to determine war policy. They've let Bush take control, and that's where there's a problem.

It's incorrect to assert that those who don't want to keep paying are against the troops. Not true. Please - that's absurd.

Agreed on supplies. Don't think signing any and all spending bills is answer. Congress needs to do more-make better bills.

Just because Bush threatens to veto doesn't mean Congress can't stop being lazy and come up with a solution to override him.

I'd like to see compromise for the sake of our troops. Rather than fight about funding/not - fight about how to bring home.

One more before bed - Obama et al voting against (when it clearly would pass) is a symbolic gesture we need to start changin'
On Web Design (with Vaspers, here)
Candid admission from a web designer: Not one of my past clients' sites has received the traffic my blog gets in a week. In their lifetime.

They want a site, but think it will work without any effort. No consistent updates, no evangelism. None have used blogs I made for them.

No links in, no links out, no SEO, no community involvement, no email signatures, badges. Any wonder why none of them sell their products?

If you're making a website because "everybody needs one," and don't plan to use it daily (at least weekly), you're wasting money and time.

Would you spend hundreds/thousands on a print campaign and then keep all the postcards in your dresser? Buy a banner and never hang it?

"Build it and they will come" only works when there's something to see, something to do. Something that loudly says, "Yes, we still exist!

Too many companies/artists/craftsmakers looking for the magic solution to their failing products/career. The Web != Lord & Savior.

Question for web pros: Is it unethical to take work if you know the client will be wasting her money? What if you try to persuade otherwise?
On Facebook, MySpace, and the future of the Web (with Christian Burns here)
FB/MS are the flavor of the month/year/generation. Users tire, grow older. New kids find cooler stuff. The circle of life.

These sites have value in terms of entertainment and adverts to youth market, but aren't for "grown-up" networking, pro functions.

MySpace/FB are not like Google/MS/Yahoo - they are niche (giant niche) sites. Biggest value is users, who'll migrate to new & better things.

We'll see them awhile longer, bc their communities are so large, but newer, more open & professional sites will replace 'em.

Exactly right. But are kids still using Geocities, though everybody did? Nope. The Next Gen already thinks MyS is lame.

Time will tell if MyS and FB will change/grow/remain relevant to the next wave of users, or if they'll die at the hand of the New/Cooler.
You might be able to tell from the above (even without reading what came between) that Vaspers agreed with me, and PeoriaPundit and Christian Burns didn’t. In spite of the disagreement (and the fact that I had never “spoken” to either of them), the conversations never turned nasty - not even coming close - and both ended quite amicably. In fact, if scheduling works out, the Burns, Vaspers, and I might have a conference call in the coming weeks (recorded and published in podcast form by Burns) to further discuss and debate the Facebook/MySpace issue, which would be pretty cool, and my first experience with something like that (not counting the couple times I deejayed for a local radio station while in high school).

I’m looking forward to it, and to more great stuff to come out of Twitter in the weeks and months to come. Slowly but surely, a growing community of users are building Twitter’s reputation as a great new platform for varied, deep, and civil conversation, debate, insight, and link-sharing - in stark contrast to the Twitter that’s so often mentioned and denigrated in the media these days. It’s better than they’d have you believe. Much, much more than frivolous cat-blogging.

I’d love for you to join us.

How To Improve Package Tracking

Something that ought to exist:

Real-time package tracking.

I don’t mean real-time like UPS/FedEx claim to have now, in which your package status gets updated whenever it is “checked-in” somewhere. I don’t care where my package is at the end of the day - I’d like to know where it is now. Okay, so it’s on the truck for delivery as of 5:24 A.M. - how does that give me the slightest clue about when it might be showing up at my door? How can I plan for that?

Get some GPS - or better yet, use the GPS you most likely already have for navigation to send information back to a mapping service that I can subscribe to using my tracking number. You already know which truck my package is on - so I ought to be able to see its location updated constantly or “watch” it drive down the highway if I feel like it (like you can “watch” your plane fly on most flights nowadays).

Maybe I also want to set a preference to send me an SMS or IM or Email or Twitter notification when the truck reaches a certain street so I know I have approximately X amount of time to get home, and maybe, if I know where it is and know I won’t be able to make it home to sign for my package, I can send a message to the “driver” letting her know to leave it at my door, or leave it with a neighbor, or not worry about trying to drop it off that day. Save her the hassle of lugging a huge box up to the third (or tenth!) floor just to have to lug it right back down again.

The first company to do this will explode with growth. I guarantee it.

At the very least - please let me easily subscribe to a feed to track my package. Don’t make me have to Google some sketchy service to do what you should already be doing.

Movie Ratings And Market Conversations At Work, However Ungrammatical They May Be

My good friend Ben Johnson has a blog. It’s got a very low readership (not a judgment - just a comment for which the relevance will become clear below). Very low readership. Like fewer than five people. His blog has four blogs linking to it. Two are mine, and one is another of his - a site called Cultural Authority that will be extremely interesting if he ever decides to pick it up regularly. Read this blurb:
Deconstructing the contemporaneity of neo-dominant paradigmatic vocalities re: hyperhegemonic, phallogocentric, postcolonial consumerativity, including the aggressive disassociation of signifier and signified, via a gynocritical, reconstructionalist, antitextual/contextual/"textual" lens. Also...Foucauldian.
See, that sounds cool.

In any case, his blog, like most, is personal, and that is way awesome. Like I said, I read it regularly. That’s also why what happened to him this morning is so interesting.

Rewind just a little. Ben (who, while going to graduate school just so happens to work at a video store and is a major movie buff/geek) wrote a nice post about his desire for portability of movie ratings he’s provided to Netflix (1500 ratings!), Amazon (400) and Flixster (60). He’s right on regarding this, and it’d be great to see companies open up their data more. However, the best part of his post was his candid admission that Flixter’s site “is largely a disappointment” and that their Facebook widget is “about as disappointing as the regular Flixter website.” At this point I wondered what the heck Flixter might be, but was given several reasons for not caring to check: he didn’t link to it, and he (a trusted friend) said bad things about it. So, even though I’m savvy enough to have guessed its URL, I didn’t. Bleh - why in Zeus’ name would I?

But Ben contacted me this morning via GMail chat to tell me something crazy had happened: a founder of Flixster had actually commented on his post. I immediately clicked through from Google Reader to check it out. Here’s what “Joe from Flixster” said:
hey ben,

i am one of the founders of flixster - stumbled on your post.

1. Very curious to know why you found both our site and our facebook app a disappointment. What were/are you looking for?

2. FYI - we're happy to allow you to take your flixster ratings with you anywhere you go. Such is the value of being a free service - we think your ratings are yours and are happy to let you export them whther you want to subscribe to netflix for while, switch to BB, buy from amazon or iTunes or whatever else. Unfortunately, given their business model, those other services are probably less likely to see things that way...

You'll probably here more from us about this topic in the next year or two.

Never mind his barely-veiled swipe at some of the leading video services on the web - what’s notable is that Joe took the time to address the specific issues raised on Ben’s humble little web log. A quick Technorati search would have shown that Ben’s site might not be worth the time given its (relative lack of) authority, but he commented anyway. Why? Why would the founder of a site with (allegedly) 16,195,908 accounts write such a specific answer on such a tiny blog?

Because, it seems, he kinda gets it.

What’s it?

is the fact that every last one of your users is sacred. It is the fact that word of mouth is not a tree falling in a forest. It is the fact that when it comes to internet, a single voice can start a tidal wave of noise. It is the fact that users and customers are real people who talk to one another and take each other’s words as gospel. It is a belief in the power of the web to make or break your business - for the viral to either be supremely beneficial, or supremely destructive. It is an understanding that just because Ben’s blog might not reach millions doesn’t mean that one of his readers’ blogs doesn’t (or that his readers’ blogs’ readers blogs won’t, or that his reade...you get the point).

So I checked out Flixster, after all. Here’s the deal:
Flixster is a community for movie fans of all shapes and sizes. Whether you are a die-hard horror fan or lover of romantic comedies (or both), Flixster is a place where you can find others who share your taste and through them discover new movies that you will love.

Only a year old, Flixster is already one of the largest movie sites on the web with over 10 million registered users and over 300 million movie ratings.
I didn’t sign up because it doesn’t seem like my thing. Social Network Overload, perhaps. But the point of all this is I looked. Joe took a chance - a tiny, risk-free, minute-long chance. Good for him - we need some more businesses to follow his lead. Eight years after The Cluetrain Manifesto, markets are still conversations. Don’t forget.

That said, I wish Joe all the best with Flixster - I’m just not sure how well they’re gonna do with a founder who misuses the word “here” when he means “hear.” Yeah, it’s the internet. But that doesn’t excuse sloppiness. Not if you want people to take you seriously.

Web 2.0 Really Sucks Sometimes

Fellow blogger and Twitterer and leading warrior in the field of blogocombat Steven E. Streight (Vaspers the Grate) has been on a tirade (I use this in a positive sense) lately against the insidious usability errors prevalent in far too many of the sites and web applications that are being called Web 2.0. If you thumb through his Twitter archives (beware: it’s addictive, once you find some folks who actually make quality updates), you’ll see a lot of great insights about what’s missing, what’s broken, and what just sucks.

He has also come up with a list of 20 of the top problems with Web 2.0 and written it up (long-form, like the good ol’ pre-Twitter days) on his blog. Here’s a taste of one of his points, relevant because I tend to talk about Facebook rather often on this site, even though I use it extremely rarely:
(7) insufficient input choices

Example: on Facebook, when you add a Contact or Friend or whatever the hell they call it, a panel appears, asking you "how do you know this person?"

But there possible answers provided are leaning toward casual friendships, school, and romantic entanglements, making it like the MySpace toilet. There is no "met via blogging" or "on another social networking site". So you have to select "met randomly", then a text entry box pops up, so you can explain what you mean.
I’ve run into this issue often as well, and think it’s just plain stupid not to give more choices. It’s trivial coding-wise to add more, and now that the site is open to more than just college students, it’d be nice to have some more “adult” choices.

He calls me out for using the handle Frivmo on Twitter, instead of my real name (Kevin M. Keating because there’s too many wellish-known Kevin Keating’s to fight against in Google - though I’m currently ruling Spock) or company name (Which one? The one that’s just my name that gets used when I do taxes? Frivolous Motion, Deliberate Motion, cakeeating, The Vino Tinto Love Song Band? I admit I haven’t done the best job branding up to this point, because I’m still working out how each of my different businesses/services/portfolios need to interact. I have reserved the Frivmo domain name, which just so happened to be available, even at a time when seemingly every pronounceable 5 and 6 letter “word” has been scooped up for use by some “jumping on the bandwagon” startup, and I do plan on building this brand in one way or another. Just haven’t gotten there yet, unfortunately.), but I’m not sure he’s doing it just as an example of a nickname, or because he really thinks it’s a bad choice. I could see either being true.

In any event, he is right about that point - that companies need to make it easy for users to find them all over the Web - though another of his points (about the failure of many web services to provide short, readable, guessable URLs) gets in the way of that on occasion.

The important thing running through all his points is an assertion that things just need to freakin’ work properly. Not a single request is unreasonable. Not a single point adds cost to a project. These are all things that ought to be a given. The Web has been around over 10 years now - there is no excuse to fail to do these things.

His conclusion is perfect:
All these problems, annoyances, and headaches could be avoided by running user observation tests on 4 to 8 typical users.

Instead, they slap the crappy "Beta" label on it. Beta means screw the users. Beta means mediocre, "don't worry, be crappy" garbage. Beta means they're too lazy, stupid, or cheap to do code testing and usability analysis on their products.
Seriously. If your site works less well than MySpace, you are in really bad shape.

Link, in case you missed it up there.

Oh No! Google Can See Your Cat!

Robert Scoble has been battling some wackos in his comments this week. Lots of his readers (and indeed, much of the World Wide Web) is in a tizzy about the fact that some woman’s cat was photographed in the window of her apartment by the awesome 11-lensed camera used to take pictures for Google’s supremely awesome new Street View addition to Google Maps.

The feature, introduced earlier this week, gives you the ability to view buildings on city streets in cities like New York and San Francisco (just a handful right now, but more will be added). You can even simulate driving down the street. It is incredible, and the perfect thing for city-dwellers like myself who more often than not navigate by sight rather than street sign. It’s also a great way to get a sense of neighborhood without trekking up there - great if you’re apartment hunting, which face it, if you live in NYC, you probably are or will be soon.

The blogosphere is screaming PRIVACY VIOLATION which to me is more than bogus, more than disingenuous, more than hypocritical. It’s also does true disservice to the entire concept of privacy and threatens to reduce it to a non-enforcable absurdity. There are real violations happening every single day. There are things being done with our sensitive personal information that I don’t even want to think about - much less know about. Privacy is an important concept in America, particularly as it exists legally only as an interpretation by the Supreme Court of a few Amendments to The Constitution. Other than in those court decisions (yeah, like Roe v. Wade - gold star for you!), privacy isn’t written down or explained - but it is something we all understand anyway. All of us, it seems, but the people crying their heads off because a kitty was photographed in a window in plain view of anyone walking down the street. Please don’t reduce privacy to meaninglessness and conspiracy theories. We need it. Cats or anything or anyone seen and photographed by a reasonable person with a reasonable camera walking or driving down the street do not a privacy violation make.

Here’s my (long) comment from Scoble’s post, because any minute now there will be a “scheduled” Blogger outage:

I am also suprised and a little more than peeved about the idiocy and hypocrisy surrounding this issue. Dozens of other companies know so much more about us, and do much more insidious things with our data (think ISPs, credit card companies, banks, etc).

And all this uproar about a Picture. Of. A. Cat.

Are you serious? As Robert mentioned the other day, not one of these photographs is illegal. The idea that a picture of a cat in a window (or anything seen by a reasonable person walking down a street) is an invasion of our privacy is insulting to those who care about some of the very real ways that our personal lives might be compromised. Believe me, I’ve seen way worse and more personal (”private”) things go down walking around NYC. I have a pretty good cell phone camera - watch out!

The one good thing I see coming out of this furor is that in yesterday’s witch hunt to find the most awesomely sensitive photos in Street View, the “winning photos” of this hunt have revealed to any reasonable person just how non-critical and trivial this is. Lord almighty - a man standing outside of a strip club! How about the fact that at any given moment in Manhattan there are a dozen people standing in front of a strip club? Sheesh.

You don’t have privacy in public. Simple as that. And you don’t have privacy if you dance nude in front of a window with the light on. Or if it’s your cat doing the nude dance.

There are real issues in the world. This is not one of them. As much as the blogosphere would LOVE to believe that a picture of a cat is *big news* - it’s not.

I hope I’m nude in my window in Brooklyn when the Googlemobile drives by. I’ll “wave.”

More on Google and privacy.