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Posted by: Mark Gibbs in Untagged  on

Mark Gibbs

As if the whole John Edwards farce couldn't get any more ridiculous, now one of his ex-aides, Andrew Young, who also happens to be touting his tell-all book about Edwards, has announced that he 'found' a video tape of, shall we say, a highly personal nature featuring Edwards and Rielle Hunter, Edwards' infamous and now presumably ex-mistress and mother of one of his children.

Young, who Edwards at one time persuaded to publicly claim to be the child's father, presents himself as having a high moral stance on the matter of the tape: "I think it's a shame people are focusing on this. I couldn't have told this story without including the sex tape … We've been offered gigantic amounts of money. And we've said no." His wife added "It was disappointing to see the person you had such hopes and dreams for be so careless."

And, of course, the whole mess has gone into meltdown with, of course, Hunter recently filing a court motion against Young seeking the return of a number of items including the aforementioned video.

There's a good chance that this will result in some ugly legal drama and if it does, wouldn't you want to watch what actually happens in court? Move over Judge Judy and Judge Wapner, this will be uber-compelling, real life drama with famous people, not just some shlubs from the boonies arguing over who owns a lawnmower. [more ]


What your browser says about you

Posted by: Mark Gibbs in Untagged  on

Mark Gibbs

Online privacy is a hot topic and the accuracy and detail with which you can be tracked as you bounce from Web site to Web site should be an issue of great concern to both consumers and corporate IT.

Many people say they don't really care about being tracked, arguing that they have nothing to hide about where they browse and with whom they communicate, so nothing needs to be kept private.

But here's the problem: The tracking that can now be done by paying attention to details of your Web browser is akin to the staff of a department store following you around and noting every mole and wrinkle on your body, what you're wearing and everything you pay attention to. Then they attach flags to you so they can identify you on subsequent visits to their stores or any of their affiliates. I think everyone would care about that.

Because mostly we aren't aware of this in-depth examination and cataloging of our browsing, we hardly think about it. Perhaps we tend to operate under the old adage, "what you don't know won't hurt you" or "ignorance is bliss."

As corporations become ever more skilled at following our digital tracks they acquire knowledge that enables them to maximize their messaging and selling abilities by customizing how they present themselves to us. The result? It becomes easier to sell goods, services and information to consumers.

And from the viewpoint of a corporation dealing with other corporations online, how much do you really want your competitors, suppliers and customers to have deep insight into what your staff is paying attention to online?

If you want to learn just how identifiable you are through your browser configuration, go to [more ]


Aliph Jawbone Icon, a new kind of headset

Posted by: Mark Gibbs in Untagged  on

Mark Gibbs

If you had to pick a technology, excluding software, that has caused the biggest transformation of personal productivity, what would you select?

Microsoft Office? Nope, I said not software … come on people!

Laptops? Possibly. Definitely a leading transformer for freeing us from being desk-bound, but the leading one? I think not.

OK, how about GPS? Nope, definitely huge but not the biggest. Pad- or tablet-style computers? Too soon to tell.

It would have to be the cell phone. Sorry, it is kind of prosaic, but given how much we expect to stay in touch wherever we are and how much business we do through and because of cell phones, this is perhaps the one and only truly indispensable high-tech tool.

Now, the one accessory to the cell phone that you need if you are going to make and receive calls while driving (which is definitely not recommended by me or, for that matter, by Oprah ) is a headset. And what is the coolest headset? [more ]


You'll never guess what this week's topic is...

Posted by: Mark Gibbs in Untagged  on

Mark Gibbs

What should I be writing about this week? The death, at 91, of legendary author J.D. Salinger? The continuing assault on net neutrality legislation by the RIAA and the MPAA? What the FCC should be doing about a national broadband strategy? The issue of the FBI's Communications Analysis Unit using sticky notes to replace legal process when they wanted to examine phone records? Google standing up to China's government (at last)? Nope, none of the above.

No, the hottest topic de jour is … yes, I'm sure you saw this coming, Apple's iPad.

[more ]


Annoyed AND Disappointed

Posted by: Mark Gibbs in Untagged  on

Mark Gibbs

A few weeks ago I discussed drawing tools and reviewed SmartDraw 2010 Professional . At the time I wrote that the only significant problems I had with SmartDraw were that it was fussy about where it allowed you to install it, and that to import Visio diagrams, Visio had to be installed. I awarded SmartDraw a rating of 4.5 out of 5 but I hereby reduce that to a rating of 4.

The reason for this is, as with so many products, it's not until you really beat them up that you start to find the warts. In SmartDraw's case the warts are a few bugs that you don't discover until you start making complex diagrams.

[more ]


Customer Service, Get Satisfaction

Posted by: Mark Gibbs in Untagged  on

Mark Gibbs

Last week here in the Network World Web Applications Alert newsletter I discussed some key issues that drive successful customer service and mentioned Get Satisfaction , a Web application that provides an outsourced customer service platform.

Get Satisfaction provides a forum-based service infrastructure for companies or products that is really easy to create and manage; in fact, much easier than almost anything you could do as an in-house project.

[more


First of all, for all of you wrestling with the thorny problem of whether to join the church of Steve and get an iPhone or join Ms. Palin in going rogue by plumping for a Droid, check out the xkcd comic strip on the topic. Brilliant!

Anyway, it seems the problem I posed in a recent column about how to get an Excel spreadsheet to randomize the numbers from 1 to 75 is still generating comments.

In response to the final and most elegant solution that I discussed a couple of weeks ago , one reader noted that should two identical random values be generated the spreadsheet will fail and, indeed, that is correct except it shouldn't happen.

Remember that the random number generator in Excel is actually a pseudo-random generator. The formula it uses creates a sequence of values to 15 decimal places that, according to Microsoft , doesn't repeat for at least 10^13 generated values. Given that we're using 75 values per recalculation of the spreadsheet, if we did a recalc once per second it would take something like 42,280 years before we'd get a repeat. I'd hazard that's good enough for everyday purposes.

[more ]


Clearing out the cobwebs

Posted by: Mark Gibbs in twitter on

Mark Gibbs

This week it's time to start the New Year by clearing out the cobwebs from the corners of the Gibbs Universal Industries Secret Underground Bunker .

Late last year I wrote a four part series about my Twitter topical sentiment tracking project, The Sentimeter . I explained the technologies behind the system which included OpenAmplify, a semantic analysis engine.

OpenAmplify has just been enhanced and re-released as version 2.0 .

This release has some powerful additions and, if you are interested in stuff to do with semantic analysis, this will be fascinating. As Abraham Lincoln once wrote in a book review: "People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like."

[more ]


Eight rules for superlative service

Posted by: Mark Gibbs in Untagged  on

Mark Gibbs

It's one thing to provide technical or customer service but quite a different thing to do so really well. What's really changed the whole concept of outbound service as compared to say 20 years ago is that a company's customers can now find each other and talk. They can discover and publicize your weaknesses with a speed and depth of commentary that, if they are annoyed, can be astounding and result in significant brand damage.

Way back when I was running technical support for the likes of Novell UK our customers had no way to get connected unless it was at a tradeshow or a local user group meeting and even then it wasn't a really "close" connection.

Now it's very different. Users find each other through all sorts of channels and they get connected via e-mail, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Plurk and forums. The result is that your product or service problems are now a public issue and managing your company image and brand requires a lot more effort.

There are several things you absolutely have to do to make sure that you have the greatest opportunity to control this environment rather than have the environment drive you.  


Shift happens and reality doesn't go away

Posted by: Mark Gibbs in Untagged  on

Mark Gibbs

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away. -- Philip K Dick

It seems that many businesses believe that when you've been around for long enough whatever it is you have been successful at can't possibly ever become obsolete. This is despite the fact that there are countless examples of how business models die off as our culture and technologies evolve.

Consider the horse business. Many people thought cars would never supplant horses. In fact, in 1903 Henry Ford's lawyer, Horace Rackham, was advised by George Peck, the president of the Michigan Savings Bank, not to invest in Ford Motor Company. Peck told Rackham, "The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty, a fad." Just 16 years later, Rackham's $5,000 investment in Ford became worth $12,500,000.

What brings this to mind is the New York Times just announced that, starting sometime in 2011, its content will no longer be free for customers who consume a lot. What the paper plans to do is allow people to read a few articles at no charge and, should they then want to delve into the Times archives or read more articles "below the fold", they'll have to put their hands in their pockets.

... it won't work. Here's why. [more ]


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