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This is how ideas spread

A “Sneezer” quote in the Wall Street Journal, not from me…WSJ.com – Network Ad Campaigns For New Fall Shows Are Falling Flat

Unrelated web news

Take a look at this collection of actually intelligent celebrity interviews.

You’ll spend a few hours, but most of it won’t be wasted. Okay, most of it WILL be wasted, but it’ll be fun. Harris Online: Radio Show RealAudio

I don’t usually point to websites I like…

But my friend Ingrid just sent me the site she’s been working on for a while. I’m delighted that she and her colleagues came to a seminar in my office… I think they did a fantastic job with Windham Mountain. Check it out if you want to see a relatively flash-free, effective, nicely designed site. Go Ingrid!

My friend Miller

…is going trick or treating as a telemarketer.

She says that since they’re not allowed to call anyone at home any more, she’s got no choice but to go door to door.

Miller is 12.

#

A.Word.A.Day–Today’s Word (In case the link has changed, here’s their definition, which I LOVED):

octothorpe (OK-tuh-thorp) noun

The symbol #.

[The symbol # is derived from a shorthand way of writing lb, the abbreviation for the Latin libra (balance), just as $ is a shorthand way of writing US. Octothorpe is an alteration, influenced by octo-, of earlier octalthorpe, probably a humorous blend of octal (an eight-point pin used in electronic connections) and someone whose last name was or ended in “thorpe”, and whose identity is subject to speculation. It may be James Edward Oglethorpe, an eighteenth century English philanthropist, but more likely it is an Olympic athlete, Jim Thorpe. In the early 1960s, Bell Labs introduced two special keys in its innovative touch-tone telephone keypads, “#” and “*”, for which it needed fresh names. Having eight points, “octo-” was an obvious first element. Since the engineer involved in introducing this innovation was active in a group seeking the return of Jim Thorpe’s medals from Sweden, he whimsically added “-thorpe”, creating octothorpe. (Jim Thorpe was disqualified because of his professional status, but his medals were restored posthumously.) The “#” is also known as a pound sign, crosshatch, number sign, sharp, hash, crunch, mesh, hex, flash, grid, pig-pen, gate, hak, oof, rake, fence, gate, grid, gridlet, square, and widget mark.]

Some other eight-based words, other than the obvious octagon, octave, and octopus, are octamerous, having eight parts or organs; octane, a type of hydrocarbon in fuel and solvents; octant, the eighth part of a circle; octonare and octapody, a verse of eight feet; and octonary, pertaining to the number eight.

“In Boise, Idaho, US West is testing a system it calls Voice Interactive Phone, or VIP. By dialing the octothorpe (#) and 44, then saying ‘Messages,’ a subscriber can retrieve voice mail.” Gene Bylinsky and Alicia Hills Moore; Fortune (New York); At Last! Computers You Can Talk to; May 3, 1993.

White Collar Spam

Nick Usborne coins a useful new phrase. nick usborne’s excess voice: White Collar Spam. I would adjust it slightly, to include stuff from “real” companies that is certainly spam but the sender is so clueless that she doesn’t realize what damage she’s doing to the brand… until the fan gets hit. I’ve gotten this sort of spam from Citibank, for example.

What would happen…

If there were a way, in less than five seconds, that you could pay for online content (10 cents, a quarter, a dollar at a time) with no fees, no hassles.

Would the quality of online stuff increase?

Does the existence of a market increase the supply?

Scott McCloud (brilliant, blow you away cartoon theorist, who’s also a cartoonist) has a rant about BitPass. Rather than sending you to the company’s site, start with the rant, because it’s easier to understand the point of view when you see it in opposition to a critic: Misunderstanding Micropayments – Scott McCloud.

Well, I joined BitPass, and I bought Scott’s first online for money comic (it’s really good, and totally worth a quarter.)

As most of you know, I’ve been at (okay, near) the forefront of the “attention equals cash” argument, pointing out that getting someone’s permission is worth far more than getting their quarter. But now that things are settling down online, I wonder if there’s a chance for BOTH to happen.

Take a look.

PS I think BitPass may have a good solution, but I’m sure they’ve got competition. I also know that an aggressive affiliate arrangement would change the entire dynamic of the business for them…

Traffic doesn’t matter

Alexa.com does a neat trick. They track all the traffic to just about every site on the web. (Here’s the Related Info for: sethgodin.com/sg/blog/sethgodin.html).

So, it appears that sethgodin.com is about 47,000 on the hit list, but we peaked at about 12,000 (out of a billion sites!) last May.

Conventional wisdom would tell you that if I did search engine optimization and had the blog open daughter windows instead of changing your basic window, and, and, and, I could increase my traffic.

My guess is that for most sites, it doesn’t really matter that much.

Heresy!

Here’s why:
1. The single best thing you can do is change the YIELD of your site, not its raw traffic. That means changing the site to increase the number of people who do what you want them to do, not dumping more people on a broken site.

2. The next best thing you can do is encourage visitors (subtly or not) to get like-minded folks to visit. Meetup.com, for example, has got that just right.

3. You can make the most of the visitors you have by getting permission, by giving visitors the ability to sign up for more info later.

I’ve never tracked my traffic, but I track all of three of these things quite closely. Maybe once I get them all right, I’ll bother to worry about raw numbers. In the meantime, I can’t help but notice that Tom Peters is about 50,000 behind me on the Alexa list, though he has a better reputation, sells more books, changes more lives and writes better than I do.

No matter what the folklore says, traffic doesn’t matter that much if the rest is broken.

Not just for formal testing

Mark Hurst has a great column about Four Words to Improve User Research. He’s writing from the point of view of a rigorous UI/design tester. I think the mantra needs to go much further though–looking at the world through a different lens.

I got a call from a hospital, pestering me about a bill I’d gotten a week earlier. The caller then said, “I need to know your birthdate.” Why, I asked. “So I can prove I spoke to you.”

Of course, I don’t care at all about their systems or their management tools or their productivity. I don’t care that someone thought this was a clever way to manage their many callers. I just know that telling this guy my birthdate wasn’t going to help me at all, so I said no.

When people interact with your site, your product, or your company, you don’t have the luxury of telling them a story first. You don’t get to give a speech about WHY it is the way it is. It just is. So the experience must stand on its own.

Note to my Italian readers…

If you find this in a local store, Pizza Scented Bubble Bath, please send me a bottle.

thank you.

Important point: if it’s remarkable to the manufacturer, it doesn’t matter. If it’s important to the user, then it has a chance of being remarkable. In other words, ” no one cares about you.”

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