Friday, December 18, 2009
Hint: the street name and number are perfect for campaigns for election in the year 2010. Whether it's a state legislative race, a Congressional race, or other, what address could be better suited for a Michigan campaign office in the year MMX?
Next to Emil's restaurant, a venerable Lansing purveyor of Italian food and multinational libation.
Across from the Gone Wired Cafe, where your overflow group of volunteers can enjoy plenty of room, free Wi-Fi, and yummy sammiches and sweets.
And across from the Everybody Reads bookstore, well-stocked in political rags and books for the reading pleasure of your staff, volunteers and supporters. And if you're making news, pitch your story to the Lansing City Pulse, just down the block.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Monday, October 05, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Each of the experts we talked to say xxxxxx.
The subject "each" would agree with "says". But people tend to match the noun closest to the verb. When President Obama announced the secret nuclear processing plant in Iran, he said:
But the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program.
Wrong, Mr. President. "Are."
Sadly I'll never be able to ask Mr. Safire to complain about this in his On Language column.
But I was quoted by William Safire back in 1983. He'd asked his Lexicographic Irregulars to help him with the etiquette of salutations in this new-fangled thing called electronic mail. I'd written an experimental mail system that was in use at Michigan State University, so I wrote in with my thoughts on the matter. His article was pretty prescient. It's obvious Safire was new to e-mail; he didn't give an e-mail address for people to answer him. And of course it's witty.
Here's the resulting article with my quotes; the parts where he quotes me are in bold:
November 27, 1983
By WILLIAM SAFIRE
My Dear Computer Ahoy!
That was the word Alexander Graham Bell chose to be the salutation for his telephone calls. That nautical variant of Hey! did not catch on with landlubbers or phonelubbers; most telephonists experimenting with the new device preferred the more conversational Hello ; thus, Ahoy! became A.T. & T.'s first divestiture.
Today we are searching for a salutation that befits a new form of communication. Old- fashioned ''physical'' mail - letters that fold into envelopes, postcards that have to be schlepped on human backs, even messages written on those pink ''While you were out'' pads - is obsolescent. While you were out, the world changed.
Oh, the Postal Service will linger on for a few generations, and absolutely-positively overnight delivery services will arrive breathlessly before noon in offices for years, but they know that the handkerchief fluttering on the horizon belongs to the computerized waver of the future.
The new (why ''high''?) technology of transporting words and ideas has us in thrall; those who hang back, writing ''Dear Whoozit'' on paper, will soon be off the screens of the marketing geniuses who have fashioned the oxymoron ''personal computer.''
Because these machines are in the word-process of revolutionizing mail, language must adapt. We must remember who is in charge: Language comes first; the method of communication comes second. With that firmly understood, we can cave in gracefully to the demands of electronic mail.
This department, ear tuned to the diode dialect, has advertised to Lexicographic Irregulars (Word-Process Corps) for an electronic etiquette. When reaching out across the ether through interminable terminals, how do we sign on to the human recipient? How do ''hackers'' bid each other an affectionate adieu? How do the rest of us affix the stamp of our human identity on our electronic messages?
''Most electronic mail systems automatically provide some sort of heading for you,'' explains Richard Wiggins, a systems analyst at Michigan State University's computer lab. ''If I were to send a message to you over the mail system I wrote, it might begin like this:
7 Message from: Richard Wiggins (Date. Hour. Minute. Second.) Lines- 22 Seen.
Re: Your column on electronic etiquette. Mr. Safire: ''
That's brisk and businesslike, I suppose, but it makes me feel like a cipher, especially since the closing includes a ''prompt'' of reply/ ignore/delete/output telling me to reply to the current message, skip it and feel guilty, delete it from my mailbox, or to out my put, whatever that means.
''Thus, the message is surrounded by a system-supplied header at the beginning,'' writes Mr. Wiggins, ''and a system query at the end. Still, people often do choose to supply their own greetings and 'signatures.' In my example message above, I chose to include Mr. Safire: as a sort of salutation. The type of salutation varies from user to user. Some people begin messages with Hi there , and others may put in the word Greetings .''
Not Dear, My Dear, or Dearest , because electronic mail is - at least in its embryonic stage - less formal than a letter. It is more akin to an interoffice memo or a friendly telephone call, and you do not begin those with Dear unless you want to stimulate gossip at the water cooler.
(Date, hour: minute: second)/ From: Tom McSloy/ To: William Safire/ TL 554- 4062/ Z35TOM at IPODOS/ SAFIRE at NYTIMES/. Beneath that heading, duly printed out by a typist whom I take to be named Daisy Wheel, is this message: ''Bill, this is what a piece of electronic mail sent to you might look like if you were on I.B.M.'s internal telecommunications network, VNET. All the gobbledygook at the top merely identifies sender and receiver, date and time. In my imagination, you are userid 'SAFIRE' at node 'NYTIMES.' ''
We userids get all our mail at this node. ''Since this is in memo format,'' continues Mr. McSloy at I.B.M. in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., ''I don't use the Dear salutation; but I soften the opening line of most memos I write by using the receiver's first name. I use your first name, even though we have not met, because in I.B.M. everyone from the C.E.O. on down is called by his or her first name.'' (Presumably, if both boss and office boy are named ''Bill,'' some process exists to differentiate them.)
Some correspondents see the mail of the future unadorned by any humanizing frivolity: (Date, time) safire 5556666 NYT neibauer 70365,770 Saw EMAIL article. I don't see any problem. off (time). The author of that chilling missive, Alan Neibauer of Philadelphia, envisions a marriage proposal similarly addressed and concluding Happiest person in the world if you ***DATA CARRIER LOST***ALL PORTS BUSY.
Do computer manufacturers and software creators feel the need for social graces in messages? Evidently so; user-friendliness is the jargon for the way to take the hard, mechanical edge off communication between and among people and machines. ''I tend to say Hello ,'' writes Peter McWilliams, author of ''The Word Processing Book.'' Herbert Cooper of Queens Village, N.Y., goes further: ''I feel electronic mail should be treated just like 'analogue mail,' '' he writes, using a new retronym. ''I always start my messages Dear So-and-so and end them Love, Herb . If my message is short (two sentences or less), I may write something like So-and-So - The system is down. - Herb. I feel there is no reason to develop special rules for electronic mail. Love, Herb.''
Barry Fellman of Miami disagrees: ''Since electronic mail is different from the stuff we've had before, I don't see why we should stick with the old rules of etiquette. Electronic mail should open with a greetbyte and close with a goodbyte .'' That's only the beginning: ''Since the computer uses one byte of memory to represent an alphameric character, the only logical choice for the opening greetbyte is O . The closing goodbyte should be C . Such brief openings and closings,'' argues Mr. Fellman, ''will eliminate the needless typing of extraneous words and the inevitable headscratching that comes when you can't figure out how to address your boss or how to choose between best regards and electronically yours .''
All right, everybody, here's a chance to flame like mad was a message sent out over ''usenet'' by Ellen Walker at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, alerting users, or usenetters, to my search. He didn't give an electronic address to send opinions to, so you'll have to use (yech) U.S. mail.
Perusing all this old-fashioned mail about the newfangled mail, I can conclude:
(1) Dear will not make the transition from paper to screen. (Sorry, Herb.)
(2) Ahoy! is not a suitable substitute.
(3) Neglect of any personal salutation makes people feel uncomfortable, and a salutation will emerge.
(4) Hi there! will not do for a rising tycoon, though it may suffice for a kid breaking into our early-warning radar system.
(5) Hello is nice, especially if connected to a first name, but is probably too closely identified with telephone communication.
(6) The leading salutation at the moment is the use of a first name at the start of the body of the message, following the formal name at the top of the address. Wise parents will stop naming children Bill or Mary and will choose Ebenezer or Abigail, setting them apart from all the other potential recipients of their mail.
How to conclude? Thirty , writes the old newshand. Love , writes Herb. Off , snorts Neibauer. Nothing, writes the man from I.B.M.
My own preference: REPLY/IGNORE/DESTROY.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
So it was a surprise to see a red warning strip atop my Gmail home page, alerting me that Google can't load my contacts.
The issue becomes increasingly important as Google seeks to convince organizations as well as individuals to trust them not only with mail, but with documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Google now goes so far as to advertise its service offerings on the Red Cedar Message Board, a place where fans of Michigan State University sports gather. Their pitch: it's expensive to run servers, so let us run servers for you.
A bold, aggressive proposition. But be careful what you ask for, Google; people get really upset when vital pieces of their lives vanish.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Let's consider their predictions:
- Borrow a book from thousands of miles away
- Cross the country without stopping for directions
- Send a fax from the beach
- Pay a toll without slowing down
- Bought concert tickets from an ATM
- Touch your baby from a phone booth
- Open doors with your voice
- Carry your medical history in your wallet
- Attend a meeting in your bare feet
- Watch a movie on demand
- Take a class at a distance
Monday, August 10, 2009
Click photo for full-size image
Note the charring of the first log. I think that log was struck with a direct lightning blow, and on the way down it took the other tree with it.
Several joggers came by the scene and all were impressed.
This tree is only 100 yards from my house. The funny thing is, a few years ago, while staying at a place called Lake Shore Resort in Saugatuck, a tremendous boom went off in the middle of the night. I nearly hit the motel room ceiling. The next day I saw that a huge old tree had been felled on the property -- less than 100 yards from my room.
If Mother Nature is triangulating, I figure I've got 2 strikes left.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Click for full-size screen shot
You can tell they're a UK publication with terms like "duff man juice" and a section entitled "odds and sods".
Kind of hard to see the IT connection, but there you have it.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year (1910), and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don't go out with Halley's Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: "Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together."
Walter Cronkite died today, in the midst of the 40th anniversary of the first trip to the moon.
Some scientists say that it's common for even gravely ill people to hang onto life just to make it to a birthday, an anniversary, or a holiday. It seems only fitting for Cronkite to pass on the anniversary of a news story that made him most happy. Even the Google News robot places Cronkite and Apollo 11 next to each other In The News.
Friday, July 10, 2009
Comparing search engines is sometimes like the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Do you test popular searches, or do you test obscure ones? How carefully do you examine the results pages? How do you compare special results, such as when Google suggests relevant news articles?
But compare we will, and one Web site makes it a little easier. You enter your test search once, and the Bing-vs-Google tool searches both engines, then offers the SERP from each side-by-side (or, if you prefer, above-and-below).
Click for full size screen shot
In this screen shot, I did a search related to a problem I've got with the touchpad on my HP DV3500 laptop. I accidentally misspelled "touchpad" and Google, as always, offers the correct spelling; Bing says they've got nothing on "tourchpad" and I should try to spell things the right way.
It's a helpful shortcut for folks who want to do lots of test searches. See http://bing-vs-google.com/ .
Sunday, June 14, 2009
And one of the famous sets of lines is:
Well, Im a standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
And such a fine sight to see
It's a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed Ford
Slowin' down to take a look at me
Come on, baby, don't say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love
Is gonna save me
Well I just learned that these words had a huge effect on college students and tourists for decades. They went to Winslow Arizona and looked for the streeet corner.
That got me to think about a friend and entrepreneur in East Lansing who put up his own historical marker. It looks like some officially sanctioned thing. Nope, it's just his own marker, next to a building he part owns. The building has historical significance but the marker is not official.
So that got me to thinking that someone in Winslow Arizona should do the same thing.
Guess what! Too late. Apparently someone in town did that years ago.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
So I forwarded the note to a friend, and was amazed when Gmail warned me:
Always display images from email@example.com
But I am firstname.lastname@example.org!!!
Yup, that's right: Gmail is protecting me from images that I sent myself.
Hmmm.... I suppose I can see the logic.
Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As 'Fun, Watchable'
Watch it carefully a few times looking at details in the B roll.
Monday, April 27, 2009
But today they've taken it beyond anything you'd have imagined:
Yup, that's right, you don't even see the word Google... Wait a minute, yes you do: spelled out in Morse code!
This is actually pretty brave. Google will probably scare a lot of people with this move. People will land on the page and either think that Google has been defaced or they've landed on a phishing site. It'll be interesting to see if they stick with it for a full 24 hours.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Pittsburgh, PA USA
Writing for the Web has its own special rules, most importantly that you must be concise. Writing headlines for the Web can be even trickier. I was a little surprised to find that ABC News televised the death of Bea Arthur. But it said so right on the screen: "Watch: Bea Arthur Dies..." Sounds kind of creepy!
Amazingly, the topic of today's Alertbox by Jakob Nielsen is how hard it is to write headlines for the Web, and how the BBC excels at it:
World's Best Headlines: BBC News
Summary: Precise communication in a handful of words? The editors at BBC News achieve it every day, offering remarkable headline usability.
It's hard enough to write for the Web and meet the guidelines for concise, scannable, and objective content. It's even harder to write Web headlines, which must be: short (because people don't read much online); rich in information scent, clearly summarizing the target article; front-loaded with the most important keywords (because users often scan only the beginning of list items); understandable out of context (because headlines often appear without articles, as in search engine results); and predictable, so users know whether they'll like the full article before they click (because people don't return to sites that promise more than they deliver). For several years, I've been very impressed with BBC News headlines, both on the main BBC homepage and on its dedicated news page. Most sites routinely violate headline guidelines, but BBC editors consistently do an awesome job.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
They ended up breaking that limit, but not by much.
At the end of the interview, Dowd asked:
ME: I would rather be tied up to stakes in the Kalahari Desert, have honey
poured over me and red ants eat out my eyes than open a Twitter account. Is
there anything you can say to change my mind?
On a hunch, I looked Maureen Dowd up on Twitter. Guess what I found...
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Wednesday, April 01, 2009
For some reason his post fired up the Google ad machine like nothing you've ever seen. That was surprising enough, but I was astonished to see a Google Adwords ad for: Internet Explorer 8!
Is this a sign that Redmond really is losing to Mountain View? IE has been losing market share to Firefox, and more recently to Google Chrome. Is Microsoft so desperate that they have to buy eyeballs from their arch-rival? This is akin to, say, CBS buying commercial time on ABC to advertise CSI.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Chicago Tribune - United StatesMichigan State University's American Studies program is preparing the material for online use. The oral histories will be posted alongside transcriptions ...
Friday, March 06, 2009
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Coverage of the airplane tragedy near Buffalo NY included imagery from Google Earth and from the street view of Google Maps, making me wonder if they had discernible views of my own house. So I checked and found a satellite view of my house on Google Earth.
Friday, January 30, 2009
Google News reports prominently that a university isn't supporting Windows 7. The headline screams Windows 7 Beta Flunks Out Of Georgetown.
This of course is not news. No IT organization supports beta software; they can't, because the definition of a beta product is that the vendor itself doesn't support it. Windows 7 is the next version of Microsoft Windows, an attempt to patch the many design flaws in Vista. It's available to the masses as a beta download. The university's IT department is merely warning the campus not to use an unsupported product.