15Seconds WebLog

July 2004 - Posts

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.

If Windows Had Legs?

Disgruntled movie critic Mr. Cranky says “ ... What if Microsoft Windows could grow legs and run around your house breaking stuff?”

First, Mr. Cranky obviously didn't read my previous post.

Second, that'd be kind of cool. Anybody working on such a project (without the breaking of stuff)?

The Stuff Things Are Made Of

On the first day of class, my 9th grade social studies teacher, Mr. Litivich, listed on the blackboard certain words we were not allowed to use. They mainly consisted of non-politically correct terms. A few, however, were words that he thought displayed laziness and lack of focus on the part of the speaker.

We were not allowed to use the words “stuff“, “thing“, or “um“.

“Stuff” and “thing” should always be substituted with the actual stuff or thing, he said. And while thinking of the appropriate words to use -- instead of using “stuff” or “thing” -- we better not delay with “um ... um ... um”. He'd prefer we remain completely silent.

To say the least, this on-going exercise definitely improved our speaking and thinking skills. How many good speakers do you know of who use “stuff”or “thing” or utter “um ... um ... um” while searching for the right words to use?

When I arrived at college, professor Samuel Pickering reiterated such sentiments in my Short Story class. This time the focus was on writing.

I've seen “stuff” and “thing” in enough articles to warrant this post. Not using these words is one of the easiest ways to improve the quality of your work, whether written or oral.

I Second That, Raymond!

Raymond Chen says, “When writing documentation, one often has need to come up with a sample URL to illustrate some point or other. When you do, make sure the sample URL is under your control.”

Good advice to all writers, not just those who strictly document. Of course, as an editor I should also be on top of this before publication to make sure it is just an “innocent” mistake by the author.


More Browsers Mean Less Incentive to Attack?

Brian Livingston, in his article titled Run, Don't Walk, from Internet Explorer”, opines:

“If the marketplace supported 10 browsers today, hackers would have much less incentive to generate remote threats, which would require the development of specialized code for each alternative.”

This seems like the classic case for more browser support in the market place, but even with 10 browsers, would it really  provide much less incentive to write “specialized code for each alternative“?

Seems it would just take the determined attacker a bit longer. He still would only need to write the code once.

Pronoun Reference to a Company

Thought I'd address a common (American English) pronoun misusage that I see often in articles.

When using a pronoun to refer back to a company, it is correct to use the singular “it” or “its“ instead of  the plural “they”,  “their” or “them”, especially if the singular form of a verb is used to describe the company's action.


CORRECT: Microsoft has trimmed its employee benefits.

INCORRECT: Microsoft has trimmed their employee benefits.

INCORRECT: Microsoft have trimmed their employee benefits. (Accepted UK English usage).

Spam Has Officially Influenced My Online Decision Making

Tuesday I filled out an online form, requesting more information on residential solar power systems. I've filled out numerous Web forms in the past, but for the first time I left the e-mail field blank and filled in my home address and phone number.

In a million years I never thought I'd leave this field blank (and actually provide my phone number), but as I filled out the form it hit me. The onslaught of spam I've received to my personal e-mail account usually occurs a couple of days after I fill out an online form.

For the first time, I actually decided, rationally or irrationally, that I'd prefer literature in the mail or a phone call; the possibility of a company selling my phone number and mailing address; and a bite from a spider hiding in my mailbox than system infection through a virus hiding in an e-mail.

Boy, how times have changed.

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