15Seconds WebLog

dot-net for or against .NET?

In today's New York Times article, "Vote Drives Gain Avid Attention of Youth in '04", Scott Keeter, director of survey research at the Pew Research Center, refers to those 15-26 years of age as "dot-nets" 'because of their obvious love of technology'. The dot-net group comprises 50 million people.

I wonder how many of those 50 million are dot-net for .NET. Are you dot-net for .NET or are you dot-net against .NET? If you are one of those dot-net against .NET people, do you love and hate technology? How would .NET for dot-net work? Where can I get a t-shirt?

Word Recognition and Editing

Last week Robert Scoble posted an interesting article written by MS researcher Kevin Larson titled "The Science of Word Recognition".

What I found particularly interesting was that when we read, "Fixations never occur between words, and usually occur just to the left of the middle of a word."

This may explain a spelling error I made last night that I did not catch immediately upon proof reading.

I spelled the word "Fairfield" as "Farfield".

When reading, my eye seemed fixated on the "rf" part of the word first, thus eliminating most of what was before it. I also think that because the "i" is relatively close in shape to "r", the "i" appeared hidden, compared to "Faerfield"

It'd be interesting to know how many uncaught misspellings  occur when the letters to the left of the fixation point are incorrect versus to the right of the fixation point. I'm sure that word length also is a factor.

The study also says that "that our perceptual span is roughly 15 letters ... we are using additional information further out to guide our reading."

I finally caught the misspelling only after I focused on the entire word of the text, without reading ahead.

Reading an entire document this way is quite dizzying, but it seems to be an effective way to catch spelling errors.

Expectations When E-Mailing Customer Service

My bank's Web site offers both an e-mail option and phone number for contacting them. I decided to send them an e-mail. Three days later I finally received a reply, which I could have received almost immediately over the phone ( I know I could have called in the meantime).

I was annoyed because I figured if customer service is going to offer e-mail as a contact option, then it should be nearly as quick as a phone call. It seems offering an e-mail option and not replying promptly is worse customer service than not offering an e-mail option at all.

I'm sure there are scenarios that are better suited for e-mail exchanges than for phone calls, but the bank should go the extra step and provide customers with expected e-mail response times or idea usuage guidelines.

Were my expecations unreasonable? Was a same day reply too much to ask?

I have sent plenty of customer service e-mails and have received plenty same-day replies (as well as a few no replies), so I figured my expectations were not unreasonable, especially for a (smaller) financial institution.


Is it Worth Paying a Professional Editor?

A reader who wants to self-publish a book asks me for my thoughts on hiring a professional editor.

I'd have to say generally it's a good idea. It's always good to have extra sets of eye balls validate and criticize text and code. Of course, it depends on who you get. I am not familiar with the freelance editors in the market, so I cannot provide personal recommendations. On more than one occasion, I've seen references to Melanie Spiller's blog and "content consultant" services.

I'd like to ask readers,  fellow bloggers, and book authors to leave their recommendations in the comments section of this post.

Also, it would be helpful to distinguish whether the editors' strengths lie in writing, development, or both.



Did the Editor Receive My Article?

This may seem obvious, but once in a while an editor may not receive an article from an author, and it should be up to the editor to follow up.

While authors are encouraged to follow up with the editor, the editor should send a query if he or she hasn't received the article a week or so after the expected submission date.

As soon as the editor receives an article, he or she should follow up with a reply acknowledging receipt.

If authors do not hear back from the editor within a couple of days of submitting their article, they should not hesitate to follow up with the editor.


CNET Asks "Are blogs worth the hype?"

Responding to CNET's question, "Are blogs worth the hype?," former New York Times editor Howard Raines says, "While their overall journalistic contribution can be debated endlessly, some of the medium's drawbacks cannot be ignored. Studies show that their voluntary nature is a huge detriment, with 25 percent of blogs being abandoned within a year of their inception. And Fark.com's recent declaration that its contributors don't hold themselves 'to the same standards as (The New York Times)' probably didn't do the genre any favors."

I'm not going to critic the very specifics of his comments, mainly because he doesn't really say anything.

Whenever a new medium, technology, product, industry, etc. enters the markets, the same always happens: many players, much hype, many failures, many comparisons, many criticisms, a few survivors, fewer successes.

With blogs, however, the criticism is extra heavy from some because they're seen as competitors to the ones who do the criticizing.

Therefore, I find it ironic (and expected) that many of the more popular bloggers have turned to criticizing the media.

Only time will tell, but I wonder if the independent spirit of bloggers will be able to resist possible acquisition attempts by large media companies and withstand potential lawsuits from the same monolithic entities?


Linux World Expo Site Powered by Windows 2003

A colleague of mine just pointed out the latest story on netcraft.com -- “LinuxWorld Expo Site Powered by Windows Server 2003” on IIS 6.0.

It appears other IDG sites run on some version of Windows as well. IDG.com runs on Windows 2000 using Lotus Domino.

Larger media companies that cover a wide range of technologies often standardize on one core set of technologies. While I can certainly see the financial value of such decisions, some discretion should be used to determine how far is too far.

Yes. 15Seconds.com runs on Windows and IIS.

It's Published Elsewhere; Should I Still Write the Article?

Chris Sells's post about What Makes A Book Successful? prompted me to create this separate entry about authors who debate writing an article on a topic that has been covered many times already.

My advice to the author is at least pitch it to the publication, especially if it's an online publication. If the topic is hot or the publication predicts it could be hot, they will buy the article.

Tutorials and How Tos aren't as timely as daily news items, so there is still value in being slightly late to the game. I can't tell you how many times I see articles on sites that have been published elsewhere up to a year earlier. An ASP.NET 2.0 article now could still be relevant a year from now.

Many readers visit their favorite sites before they search for articles, so having a fresh one on the home page while other sites have theirs buried in the archives will still get you readers. Conversely, many reader hit the search engines first so having the article archived somewhere in the site may also drive readers.

I'd even argue that always being first to the game actually may hurt a publication because the article will only be read by early adopters and the code could become somewhat stale. Entering later may prove to be better timing.

Replacement - A Case for Adoption?

It bothers me a little that technology advocates tend to promote their products as replacements. For instance, MP3 was touted as eventually replacing CDs. An article on internetnews.com titled “Diebold for Democracy” quotes Jim Adler, founder and CEO of VoteHere, an e-voting company, as saying paper receipts is moving in the wrong direction. Bill Gates recently said that DVDs will be obsolete in 10 years.

There are countless other examples of these predictions. Why is this? Obviously technology companies want their newer technologies to replace older technologies because it creates the largest market for their products. Replacement also portrays a lack of any weakness in the newer product. And advocates also know that predicting a product as a replacement causes a controversy that receives more media attention.

However, the “replacement case“ also hinders adoption because it offers an extreme position that implies lack of choice.

I think a more responsible and less polarizing approach would be to advocate new technology and products as providing more options that have particular strengths over older technologies.

For instance, I have not adopted MP3s as quickly as others because I find just as much value in a CD's cover art as I do in the music (a lot of jazz music cover art kicks butt). Many people pride themselves on their music collection and even prominately display it in their homes. MP3 do not offer this. However, storing multiple albums on a pocket-sized machine also has its benefits, but if I own the song on CD can I potentially be prosecuted for downloading its MP3 for free?

Electronic voting machines can offer a clean and straight-forward user interface that cannot possibly be achieved with paper ballots, but they do not provide the level of proof and evidence of a casted vote that paper receipts can.

Don't advocate .NET as a replacement for Java, just show how the strengths of each can work together to create a better application (ok. Kind of a stretch. I know.).

Just show how the new and old can work together to make anything better and provide options that cater to a wide and diverse user group.

Marconi, Tesla, and My Vacation

Just got back from a relaxing vacation on Cape Cod, where I made time for a visit to the Marconi Station at Wellfleet.

The first transatlantic wireless telegraph between the US and England was sent from Guglielmo Marconi's transmission station in 1903. The actual station is no longer there, and for that matter, neither is most of the land it sat on (erosion).

According to the model at the Wellfleet landmark, the station consisted of four 210-feet wooden towers, some wires, and a Tesla transmitter. Wait. Tesla? What about Tesla?

Well, it seems while Nikola Tesla may have been the first to patent radio technology components, Marconi was quicker at building a practical working model, securing funding, and commercializing his product at a cheaper cost. Some have even argued that Tesla's design was superior to Marconi's.

In any case, there is a long and complicated history between the two men, their technology, and their companies, but it's interesting to see how [communication] technology issues of yesterday seem to be the exact same as today:

wireless and peer-to-peer.

Oh. Wait. I mean  ... well, you know what I mean.

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