April Fool’s Day Pranks

Wednesday should be a fun: it’s April Fool’s Day.  Google’s pranks are always elaborate and entertaining. Lifehacker did a “Top 10 Harmless Geek Pranks” the other day…

Install the Blue Screen of Death Screensaver

Make your co-worker think their PC crashed when they get back from lunch. The BSOD (“Blue Screen of Death”) screensaver is a free download from Microsoft (ironically.) For other operating system “support,” check out the Linux BSOD ‘saver with support for Apple, Windows, and Linux crash screens.

Huffington Post did a piece on the History of April Fool’s Day (and a top five list), and the Museum of Hoaxes list top 100 of all time.

Wikipedia has a collection of Google pranks. My favorite is from 2007: the Google TiSP (Toilet Internet Service Provider):

For years, data carriers have confronted the “last hundred yards” problem for delivering data from local networks into individual homes. Now Google has successfully devised a “last hundred smelly yards” solution that takes advantage of preexisting plumbing and sewage systems and their related hydraulic data-transmission capabilities. “There’s actually a thriving little underground community that’s been studying this exact solution for a long time,” says Page. “And today our Toilet ISP team is pleased to be leading the way through the sewers, up out of your toilet and – splat – right onto your PC.”

Users who sign up online for the TiSP system will receive a full home self-installation kit, which includes a spindle of fiber-optic cable, a TiSP wireless router, installation CD and setup guide. Home installation is a simple matter of GFlushing™ the fiber-optic cable down to the nearest TiSP Access Node, then plugging the other end into the network port of your Google-provided TiSP wireless router. Within sixty minutes, the Access Node’s crack team of Plumbing Hardware Dispatchers (PHDs) should have your internet connection up and running.

“I couldn’t be more excited about, and am only slightly grossed out by, this remarkable new product,” said Marissa Mayer, Google’s Vice President of Search Products and User Experience. “I firmly believe TiSP will be a breakthrough product, particularly for those users who, like Larry himself, do much of their best thinking in the bathroom.”

Quality Time

When I was in the magazine business, we always found a way to use research numbers to our advantage against our competitors.  We had a number of syndicated research sources to help us along — and a great research department.  When Simmons made monthlies look bad, we dumped that service in favor of MRI.

It helped to have a good editorial product (Smithsonian Magazine) attract a large, highly educated, upper-income audiences. More data are good for storytelling.

Today, I prefer reading a few select periodicals, but readily admit to getting most of my news via Internet-only media.  Where do I notice the ads more? In print, of course. Naturally, the MPA agrees:

The magazine industry, which has historically opposed time-spent-with-media metrics as fair basis for comparing the involvement consumers have with various media, is warming to the idea, albeit, with a caveat. Instead of looking at all minutes of media usage as equal, the Magazine Publishers of America today is releasing an analysis that assigns a relative value to each minute consumed, and not surprisingly, consumer magazine stack up very well vs. other major consumer media on that basis, including TV, radio, the Internet, and even the other major consumer print medium, newspapers.

“One of the things that is important in understanding how advertising works, is to separate the consumer relationship with the medium from the consumer relationship with advertising in the medium. And very often people look at time spent as a leading indicator of advertising engagement, or advertising wantedness,” Ellen Oppenheim, CMO of the Magazine Publishers of America told MediaDailyNews, explaining why the MPA’s new “Ad Value Per Minute” analysis is a relevant measure for advertisers and agencies to use when planning and buying media.

Raw time spent analyses, she said, are about consumer usage of “the medium, not the advertising” within them. To get at the relative value of time spent with advertising in the major media, the MPA factored a well-regarded analysis conducted by a respected third party, ad impact scores created by consulting firm Deloitte (“State of the Media Democracy” Study, 2008), and incorporated it into a new “Time/Ad Impact Ratio” for the major consumer media.

On that basis, magazines index with more than twice the impact of TV, online or radio, and are actually considerably higher than printed newspapers too.

Interesting study (download the PDF). The MPA confronts doubters, too:

For any skeptics who question how magazines could enjoy such a commanding lead, other recent research provides supplementary evidence of consumer involvement with magazines and magazine ads relative to other media:

  • When consumers read magazines they are much less likely to use other media or participate in non-media activities while reading, giving them more opportunity to engage with the advertising or the editorial content (BIGresearch, December 2008)
  • Magazines consistently get higher scores on the engagement dimension of “ad receptivity” than TV or the internet (Simmons Multi-Media Engagement Study, 2008)
  • Magazines yield the lowest ROI for purchase influence (Marketing Evolution, 2008) and the greatest imact on purchase intent (Dynamic Logic/Millward Brown, 2007)
  • Magazines are the medium most likely to generate web search (BIGresearch, December 2008)
  • Magazines are the medium most likely to complement the web in reaching social networkers (Mediamark Research & Intelligence, Fall 2008)

Miss Your Old OS?

Nice piece in Computerworld on ten operating systems the world left behind:

10 OSs: Gone but not forgotten

Mac OS
Amiga OS
Windows 95
Forgotten but not gone: The X Window System

I wonder which modern OS will disappear before the others? Windows? Unlikely.  The one I think will continue to grow is Mac OSX (both regular and iPhone versions).

Skiing Colorado

Our trip to Colorado is fun and we got lots of powder to ski on. First at Loveland, then at Arapahoe Basin.  Great ski areas.

Today, we’re in the midst of the Denver area’s biggest storm of the season. Roads are closed and we’re not venturing out — at least not after two of us tried and were turned back in Boulder.

Your Papers, Please?

We heard about the Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceasing publications of a paper-based newspaper, opting to go online only. That’s too bad, but if the business doesn’t make sense, why not?

Now the Ann Arbor News is going away, after 170+ years:

The Ann Arbor News will close in July after publishing as the city’s daily newspaper since 1835, publisher Laurel Champion announced today.

Heavy losses in revenue drove the decision. Champion said the current “business model is not sustainable.” Advertising revenue slumped more than 20 percent in January compared to the same month last year.

“This isn’t about abandoning local journalism, it’s about serving it up in a very different way,” Champion told employees, as she visibly fought back tears.

A new Web-based media company called AnnArbor.com LLC will be launched later this year. In addition to publishing continuously online, AnnArbor.com will publish a print edition twice a week.

Champion, who will be executive vice president of AnnArbor.com, told News employees they can apply for positions with the new company, although job losses are inevitable. A total of 272 people work for the newspaper at both its main downtown Ann Arbor office and its Pittsfield Township printing plant. The newspaper has a daily circulation of nearly 45,000.

What does this trend do to the power of the press?

This Blows

So we flew to Colorado to stay with friends and do some skiing. Weather forecasters are telling us to expect 10 to 20 inches of new snow in the mountains today.  This should be awesome.

The Eisenhower Tunnel is getting the snow already, so it may be a bit too dangerous for travel. And the wind is expected to be very strong, especially Loveland. We decide to go to Eldora instead, which is much closer.

Upon arrival, we see the lifts are not running and the wind is blowing at 30 m.p.h., gusting to 50. Will the lifts run again? Probably not — they recorded gusts of 75+ near the top.

This blows. No skiing today, but tomorrow should be excellent.

Coke in China

Great submission line on Fark. “China to Coca-Cola: Bite our wax tadpoles.” The story, via AJC:

Chinese authorities rejected Wednesday Coca-Cola Co.’s. $2.4 billion bid for Huiyuan Juice Group, a setback for the Atlanta beverage giant’s expansion plans in a fast-growing Chinese market.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said the deal would have concentrated too much power in one company, hurting competition and raising prices for consumers.

“We are disappointed, but we also respect the MOC’s decision,” Coca-Cola President and CEO Muhtar Kent said in a statement.

“We were looking forward to working with the excellent Huiyuan team to stimulate new growth for the Huiyuan brand.”

The Huiyuan bid, announced in September, was a high-profile test for a new Chinese anti-monopoly law that took effect last August. It would have been the biggest foreign acquisition of a Chinese company.

But why “bite the wax tadpole?” That’s an old marketing story from Coca-Cola history:

When Coca-Cola was first sold in China in 1927, it was obvious to the Coke employees in China that the Coca-Cola trademark must be transliterated into Chinese characters. To find the nearest phonetic equivalent to “Coca-Cola” required a separate Chinese character for each of the four syllables. Out of the 40,000 or so characters, there were only about 200 that were pronounced with the sounds the Company needed, and many of these had to be avoided because of their meaning.

While doing the research for four suitable characters, the employees found that a number of shopkeepers had also been looking for Chinese equivalents for Coca-Cola, but with strange results. Some had made signs that were absurd, adopting any group of characters that sounded remotely like “Coca-Cola” — without giving a thought to the meaning of the characters used. One of these homemade signs sounded like “Coca-Cola” when pronounced, but the meaning of the characters came out something like “female horse fastened with wax” and another meant “bite the wax tadpole.” That’s where the myth comes in! So the strange translation was in China, but not because of The Coca-Cola Company!

The character for “wax,” pronounced “La,” appeared in both signs because that was the sound the sign makers were looking for. Anyone who knew Chinese would recognize the signs as a crude attempt to make up an arbitrary phonetic combination – and get a laugh from the meaning!

Although the Company was primarily concerned with the phonetic equivalent of Coca-Cola, the employees could not ignore the meaning of the characters, individually and collectively – even if the shopkeepers had done so. They chose Mandarin because this dialect was spoken by the great majority of Chinese. The closest Mandarin equivalent to Coca-Cola was “K’o K’ou K’o Lê.” The aspirates (designated by ‘) were necessary to approximate the English sounds. There was no suitable character pronounced “La” in Chinese, so they compromised on Lê (joy), which was approximately pronounced “ler.”

All Chinese characters had more than one meaning, but K’o K’ou K’o Lê (depending on context) commonly meant what is seen here:


This combination for the Chinese trademark meant “to permit mouth to be able to rejoice” – showing the pleasure that could come from drinking Coke. That definition was a stroke of luck!

Coke_in_china2 When this trademark was registered in 1928, most Chinese writing was vertical and was read down from right to left. The two characters at the right mean drink, then the Chinese trademark, and then Delicious and Refreshing.

And just for some background: Coca-Cola was originally sold in China in 1927. Our sales on the mainland ceased in 1949, but in January 1979 the first shipment of Coke returned to China.

Periodic Table of Typefaces

What’s your favorite typeface?

I’d ask that question when interviewing prospective employees. The correct answer is any typeface that’s not one included in Microsoft Word. My reasoning was if you had an opinion about typefaces, then you must be capable of getting into the details; you saw personality and character in certain fonts. Or you worked with somebody who was just crazy about typography and their opinions rubbed off on you. Good enough for me.

Oh, yeah. I threw people for a loop with that question.

Years ago, when we did things with pencils, boards and rubber cement, we all had our favorites and typeface opinions. Our layout man, George di Girolamo, liked Mistral. I’ve always liked Baskerville and Helvetica.

Naturally, I was fascinated to come across this Periodic Table of Typefaces (click here for the large size; you’ll want to print it big).

The Periodic Table of Typefaces is obviously in the style of all the thousands of over-sized Periodic Table of Elements posters hanging in schools and homes around the world.  This particular table lists 100 of the most popular, influential and notorious typefaces today.

As with traditional periodic tables, this table presents the subject matter grouped categorically.  The Table of Typefaces groups by families and classes of typefaces:  sans-serif, serif, script, blackletter, glyphic, display, grotesque, realist, didone, garalde, geometric, humanist, slab-serif and mixed.

Each cell of the table lists the typeface and a one or two character “symbol” (made up by me simply based on logic), the designer, year designed and a ranking of 1 through 100.

Ranking was determined by statistically sorting and combining lists and opinions from the the sites listed below.  The final overall ranking was achieved depending on how many lists the particular typeface was presented on and it’s ranking on the lists (if the particular source list used a ranking system; some did not, in which case just the typeface’s presence on the list boosted it’s overall score.)  After averaging the typefaces appearances and rankings a composite score was given and the list was sorted on a spreadsheet then finally given an overall score of 1 through 100 based on its final resting position.

Unfortunately, the typefaces could not be sorted exactly numerically on the table while at the same time keeping them in groups of families and classes.  It had to be one or the other.  Of course it COULD have been done but I would have had to seriously sacrifice aesthetics of the overall design (i.e. it wouldn’t have come out looking AT ALL like a traditional periodic table.)  However, upon close inspection, you find that at least the typefaces are ordered within their family/class groupings.

My wife is a chemist, so this will go well with our periodic table refrigerator magnet.

Location-based Social Networking

What’s getting real  attention at SXSW 2009? Foursquare — this year’s breakout mobile app. TechCrunch, via WaPo:

Before this year’s SXSW event kicked off, a number of bloggers suggested that this year’s breakout hit might be foursquare, a new location-based social application with a gaming twist that was created by the guys behind the now-defunct Dodgeball service. As the ‘interactive’ section of the festival winds down, I think it’s safe to say that foursquare was not the must-have app of SXSW the way Twitter was two years ago. But it had a strong showing, and once I actually figured out which of my friends were using the service (which is more difficult than it sounds), I found foursquare to be an indispensable app during my time here.

foursquare’s primary function is to help you figure out where your friends are. Users frequently ‘check-in’ with the app to update their current location, which is then broadcast to their friends. At this point the service primarily operates from its recently-released iPhone application, though users can also check-in from the foursquare website .

More detail, via Mashable:

Foursquare is essentially a re-envisioning of Dodgeball, Twitter’s precursor and a cult phenomenon until GoogleG left it for dead, and actually hails from one of the guys that worked to build that app. Foursquare, which offers an iPhone app or mobile browser experience, works by letting you tell the app where you are and then lets your friends know where to find you. All you need to do is check-in via SMS (text to 50500) or mobile app.

Using the Foursquare iPhone app, you can automatically check-in and post shouts based on where you are and what you’re doing. You can also find your friends, search venues, earn badges, and add friends.

Since you can add your favorite Twitter friends and auto-post your checkins to Twitter, Foursquare provides a convenient way to connect your Twitter network with your every on-the move activity. You can even allow Foursquare to send your friends DMs when you check-in.

Foursquare is also a game, so each check-in earns you points, with interesting check-ins earning you badges (awards), and the more you check-in the more Foursquare features you can unlock.

We really like Foursquare’s fresh approach to location-based social networking, and definitely hope to see them have more staying power than their Dodgeball predecessor.

Executive Habits

As many as 1 of 5 senior executives are clueless, according to a new study released by the Financial Times and Doremus, the B-to-B agency.

Conducted in the fourth quarter of last year, the study was based on an online survey of 338 global senior executives.

It found that 55% of senior execs are “tech-savvy,” 15% are “technophiles” and 20% are “Luddites.” (The remainder did not answer all the questions and therefore could not be classified.)

Technophiles own an average of 8.7 electronics devices (such as cell phones, PDAs and MP3 players); tech-savvy execs own an average of 5.3 devices, while Luddites own an average 2.5 devices.

“While technophiles skew a little younger, there are still a lot in the 45-to-55 [age group],” said Hope Picker, director of strategic research at Doremus.

Interesting study — especially the conclusion that print still matters (click here for the PDF). Then there’s the age thing…

The older they are, the less likely to … Use of streaming video, RSS feeds, social networking sites, community sites and social book-marking sites decreases with the age of the respondent.