After reading “5 Steps To CSS Heaven” over at pingmag.jp, and disagreeing with some of what was said I thought that writing this would be appropriate. I’ve been writing CSS professionally now for about 2.5 years so here are 5 quick tips that help me out in my day to day work. I wouldn’t call them best practices because everybody has a style that works for them, but these are what work best for me.
Powerset has launched (Powerset.com) and it unveils natural language search capabilities to find answers on Wikipedia, the first dataset that they’ve indexed. Instead of typing things like “Google acquisitions” into, well, Google, you’d type in “who did Google acquire” into Powerset and get back your results.
Wait, what? How is that useful?
Before people get up in arms about my example, it’s on their homepage under the Unlock Meaning section for search queries to try on Powerset. Here’s a list of some other queries they’re hyping as good examples of the technology:
- actors in Pulp Fiction
- what causes diabetes
- who signed the Kyoto Protocol
Perhaps it’s just me and my above-average keyword searching capabilities, but finding these facts on Google would be trivial. When on Google and searching for “pulp fiction actors” the very first result is the IMDB listing with full information and the full answer to my query. When looking on Powerset it gives me a scrollable view of the actors. When I click on an actor, it brings me to another page which is a copy-and-paste job from Wikipedia, but on a Powerset page. The future is here!
If the benefit touted by Powerset is that you don’t have to click to the first result in the list to find your answers — instead, presenting them on the page — and that’s all they’ve got, then they’ve got nothing. The iPhone is killing the cellphone industry not because it’s “everything else that’s out there plus some other features” but because it’s a quantum leap ahead of what’s out there. When Steve Jobs announced it he talked heavily about the “high technology” features and how the technology in the iPhone is at least 5 years ahead of anything else out there. And he was right. Powerset isn’t 5 years ahead of anything, it’s just giving you what Google might have given you if you slightly alter your query.
Danny Sullivan from SearchEngineLand.com had a fantastic quote in the NYTimes article linked previously from which I pulled the title of this blog entry:
“They have a new and interesting technology that most people donâ€™t really need right now,” said Danny Sullivan, a search expert and editor of SearchEngineLand.com. Mr. Sullivan also said that analyzing the meaning of pages, as Powerset does, demands so much computing power that the company is unlikely to be able to index the entire Web any time soon.
Danny his the nail on the head and drives it right into the wood. People are used to keyword searching and they’ve been perfecting their searching skills for years. Powerset gives you the same results in a different format, but it requires a different search syntax. This is like giving professional baseball players a new and improved baseball, but you have to throw it with two hands on the ball at all times. If you throw it with two hands, and do it perfectly, it will go the same speed as you used to be able to throw a normal baseball. What a feature!
Microsoft is rumored to be looking at Powerset as an acquisition target and I truly hope they buy it. If Ballmer thinks that Powerset is the key to taking down Google, then I’d love to see them try and fail over the next 2 years while they ramp up and give it a shot.
When articles like this creep up you know it’s a slow news day. Or maybe that’s just the type of crap the San Jose Mercury News likes to write when no Valley-area companies are getting bought for billions at the moment.
“As managing director of Garage Technology Ventures, Guy Kawasaki funded all the really smart ideas he could find. None hit it big. So earlier this year the guru of Silicon Valley start-ups decided to fund a really dumb idea that cost as little as possible.”
I’ve written about Kawasaki’s venture before it was launched. This post isn’t about my opinion of Truemors, but the damage that this type of article does for the integrity (*cough*) of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in the Valley.
It seems that the crux of this article is that if you continually think you’re doing the right thing but are wrong every time, you shouldn’t readjust your initial assumptions, you should simply throw all reason out the window and do whatever you feel like doing since that’s obviously the answer you’ve been looking for. Kawasaki remarked in the article that although he has considered many of his company’s investments to be sound, few (if any) have panned out in any sort of remarkable way. Unfortunately for venture capital firms and the people who provide them with capital to begin with, investments aren’t judged by the uniqueness of the idea, or the founding team, or the technology, they’re judged with how they perform and if an exit strategy occurs yielding profit. Venture capital firms are companies who need to make money to stay afloat, just like any other company. Now does this mean that Garage isn’t a good venture capital firm? No, it simply means that they’re hurting for an exit like starving lion. All their portfolio companies could be happy as pigs in shit, unfortunately that doesn’t make Garage a successful investment firm it just makes them friendly and helpful business partners.
Perhaps their investments are made in good concepts and not good companies, or perhaps they’re investing in the team instead of the execution, I’m not the person to say, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want my investment firm featured in a newspaper piece where the basis of the article is “we thought all our previous investments were smart but we were wrong, so the hell with smart” because that doesn’t do much to bolster the morale of Garage’s current portfolio companies.
Take a moment to think of all the great people you’ve known. Family. Friends. Teachers. Classmates. Coworkers. Clients. Within moments, you can bring up vivid memories of hundreds, probably thousands of people you’ve met over the years. You can see their face. You can hear their voice. You can remember conversations you’ve shared.
Why then, do so many companies invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in figuring out how to promote themselves with traditional media, and then hire mediocre people to be the face and voice of their company?
When I asked Chipper how to get there, Chipper started off by saying, “You’ve got it bro, ” and then gave me detailed, simple instructions on how to get there. When I told Chipper thanks, he said “Believe it!” It was magical.
Soon after we talked, I realized I was going to be early so I called back looking for a friend to borrow a surfboard and get some exercise before my meeting. I called Chipper back and he paged my friend. Unfortunately, my buddy was in a meeting. When Chipper asked what I needed, I told him I wanted to borrow a surfboard. Chipper said, “No worries, come see me and I’ll have a board ready for ya, bro!”
When I arrived, there was Chipper, stoked to see me with a board ready to ride.
If you saw a tremendously expensive ad for Patagonia products in a glossy outdoor sports magazine, you probably wouldn’t remember it for more than a few seconds. John Winsor, however, will probably remember Chipper for the rest of his life, as well as the positive mental associations he brought to the Patagonia brand.
Many years ago, I did most of my banking through a small supermarket branch of Wells Fargo. I usually went after work, when the branch manager wasn’t there. The late-shift tellers were young and notoriously silly. They laughed, exchanged jokes with customers, and had a great time doing their job. I loved going there.
I remember walking in one afternoon and finding them more somber than usual. I asked one of them what was up, and she indicated that they had been “caught” by the branch manager, who had arranged a secret shopper to observe their behavior after he left.
Now my favorite banking experience was reduced to boring sterility. They went back to calling me “Mr. Archer.” Banking was returned to its previous status of being a necessary chore, rather than a pleasant experience.
From a business perspective, that branch manager probably congratulated himself on making his tellers more efficient and professional. He optimized their performance by removing the minutes they spent chatting with each customer.
He also lost at least one customer, as I no longer had any particular attachment to Wells Fargo (and the wonderful human brand those tellers had created), and I eventually switched to Bank of America.
As social animals, our brains are hardwired to understand and appreciate the people around us. We respond to them on a profound level that can’t be approached by mailers, television commercials, or viral ad campaigns.
Who is the voice of your business? Are they imperfect? Are they memorable? Are they lovable?
Or are they merely professional?
Matt Asay just wrote an article about how his Blackberry recently died and he picked up an iPhone after quickly comparing it to the latest RIM offering.
“My reason was simple: I needed something that would sync consistently with my Mac. My Blackberry-to-Mac sync has been hit or miss for the past year (though I’ve been testing a beta of the new PocketMac and it is quite good) and I’m fed up. I just want something that works.”
I’ve had an iPhone since Day One and I think people who don’t like the iPhone may simply change their tune when they handle it, use it, and analyze the overall device when it’s in their hands. Like many others have said, it’s difficult to compare an iPhone against Competitor X by solely looking at a feature comparison chart because the overall experience of the iPhone goes far deeper than just features. It’s lacking some tangible things like a 3G radio, Flash, MMS, but it has many positives like “best UI on any phone”, “simple to figure out how to do things” which are difficult to measure on any kind of chart.
Much has been made of the iPhone SDK and what is and is not allowed, and I believe that it’s just too early to be throwing platitudes around since much will be changing in the next few months leading up to the 2.0 software update. I’ve already found bugs in the SDK and have been in touch with engineers at Apple, and they have assured me that a fix is in the works. The SDK is in beta so Apple may still be figuring out a solution to allow background application processing, who knows. So many people are upset about not being able to run interpreted code but that’s like getting a brand new car and being upset it doesn’t have seat warmers; so much is offered up front and yet the angry voices of the few rise up against the happy developers mainly because those happy developers are under NDA and are busy creating killer applications.
So if you’re in the market for a new phone and need it do more than just make calls, I suggest taking a look at the iPhone. There are refurbished iPhones available for less than the normal cost, so if price is a factor perhaps take a look at those deals. I actually saved about $9 per month when switching from my Blackberry plan to the iPhone’s plan, so for me, getting an iPhone was also an economical decision!
One barometer for being in the web game for too long is when one can remember a blog entry Jason Fried wrote in August 2005 that relates exactly to what one is currently writing about. The entry to which I am referring was an idea the 37s crew had about information and why you should or should not keep certain types handy:
“Why not read an email and then instantly delete it? Why do we save emails? Why do we archive them in folders for safe keeping? We donâ€™t save phone calls. We have a conversation on the phone and then we hang up. If we need to take notes for whatever reason we do, but 99% of phone calls are completely ephemeral. And if we forget something, or we need it again, we just make another call.”
I was in the camp of people who don’t think this is a good idea, at least for me, since I have an absolutely terrible memory. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for technophiles, almost every piece of information that is now transferred between human beings is stored somewhere. For me, the most important pieces are IM conversations and email, and here are my stats for those:
- I have every IM conversation I’ve participated in since December 27, 2004 stored and fully searchable by query, date, or participants.
- I have every email I’ve received/sent since May 2, 2004, which can also be accessed in various ways.
These large data sets may not be as important for normal people, but because my memory is so poor, they’re a necessity in my life. Email search is one of the “killer apps” that I use every single day, and IM conversation search is used at least weekly.
So is memory tied to “being a pack-rat” in regards to technical storage? I’m not sure if it’s a causal relationship but if my computer can store things and keep them out of my brain, then maybe I can use my empty brain cells for other important things. Like Albert Einstein once said:
“Intelligence is not the ability to store information, but to know where to find it.” –Link