Serial Number Killers

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I’ve been mulling the issue of registering and activating software of late, and while I feel users generally are less averse to the process of having to enter a serial number or activating a program before they can use it than before, I think there’s still a lot of frustration out there.

And I know from clients that it’s a balancing act between upsetting users and not encouraging those who seem unable or unwilling to pay to have a free ride.

It seems to me to boil down to this: Users who have paid for software expect to be able to use it out of the box. It would be like taking a bread maker home and having to call the manufacturer before you can start making bread.

What’s more, customers shouldn’t have to cope with silly technical problems that aren’t their fault. The example above is from my efforts to test Adobe’s latest version of Acrobat. The initial installation failed, and now it’s blocking the legitimate serial number it previously accepted—on the same machine. I still haven’t found a way around this problem, so my ardour for things Adobe has diminished a little.

The problem is that it’s fixable. I can yell at Adobe and hopefully I’ll get another serial number. But that’s not going to happen now—when I need it. It’s going to happen in 24, 48, 72 hours’ time. By which time I may feel like a mug for buying the software in the first place.

Here’s a possible solution: An automated temporary serial number that will work until a proper serial number can be available. This could be delivered online—say, a bot on IM, where you enter the serial number that’s not working and get issued a temporary one that does. Or a product could come with two serial numbers, one a permanent one and one a backup one.

Once customer service comes online and fixes the problem, the emergency serial number can be deactivated. As it lasts only for, say, 48 hours it would be relatively worthless to pirates. It will also push software companies to ensure they get back to frustrated customers within the allotted time or risk further wrath.

Either way, software manufacturers have got to make it easy for users to get around the limitations, and frailties, of the registration and activation process. Users should never be left in the lurch for even an hour if they’re a legitimate customer. It’s up to the software companies to address this issue. Perhaps something like this already exists, but if not I think an emergency serial number might be an answer.

Sleazy Practices Cont.

Fired up by Google’s move into the crapware domain by foisting an “updater” on customers who want to install (otherwise great) programs like Google Earth, I took another look at what was happening in the updater sphere.

Apple drew some heat for its own bit of underhandedness recently, when its own Apple Software Updater automatically included downloading the company’s Safari browser. After a backlash, it dropped the Safari from the “Updates” section to a “New Software” section, but still prechecked it:

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In other words, run the updater and not concentrate, and you’ll find yourself downloading 22 MB of browser you didn’t ask for, and didn’t have before.

So no, I don’t think Apple did the right thing here. Apple fans can protest as much as they like, but there’s a clear move here to get new software to users to install software they didn’t ask for and, if they don’t actively intervene, will have it installed by default. Browsers, like media players, are particularly significant because they will try to make themselves the default browser, and users once again need to act against the default process to avoid this.

Needless to say, Apple’s bid has been modestly successful, apparently at least doubling its modest market share for Safari. Still miniscule, but a start.

Of course, software is one thing, but it has to be used. For that it has to be visible to the user. No point in hiding the program launch icons somewhere they can’t be found. On Windows, there are three places you want to be: the desktop, the system tray, or the start menu. Apple is particularly smart about this, ensuring that all its products sit, not in some side-alley subfolder, but in the ‘root’ menu:

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and

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as well as on the desktop:

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(though not, interestingly, the Updater.)

Of course, Apple isn’t alone. Microsoft has long been doing this, as has Adobe.

Folk argue this is all besides the point, that users retain control over their computer and can remove all this stuff if they want. But to me it’s worrying that Apple, Microsoft, Google, Sun, Adobe et al think that this is OK, and, like their defenders, fail to understand that for the vast majority of users, installing software is not an everyday experience, and that these sleights of hand merely cause extra stress, confusion and uncertainty. That can’t be good.

Babylon? Oh So 1999

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I used to think that small programs that sat in your computer’s memory and could be accessed quickly by a keystroke were the future, but nowadays I’m not sure that’s true. At least, they’ve got to be real careful. If they’re not, they end up looking and behaving dangerously like adware.

An example that steers dangerously close is Babylon. Once a service with great promise, and still used by at least one of my friends, Babylon offers access to all sorts of online content — dictionaries, thesaurii, Wikipedia entries — just by highlighting a word in any application and hitting a couple of keys. A wonderful idea, and, with so much great reference material online, something that should by now have come into its own. But the experience falls short.

Install the software and you immediately get a pop-up suggesting you buy the product. It’s strange how out of sync that sort of behaviour is in today’s more demanding, less patient world. And while the information Babylon retrieves for you is impressively large, it’s probably too large to be useful. Nowadays we need surgical strikes on information, not carpet bombing.

Given it’s supposed to be a writer’s and browser’s tool, the occasional pop-up balloon from the system tray doesn’t help either. I don’t want programs blitzing me with reminders that the program is there, or that I am still using a trial version. This behaviour is, frankly, so 1999 it’s not funny.

Needless to say, I uninstalled the software within ten minutes. Or at least I tried to: Babylon has a few more tricks up its sleeve to make sure that isn’t as painless as installing it.

First off, there’s no uninstall shortcut in the Start menu, only the application that sits proudly alone outside a folder:

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This approach–not putting a shortcut inside a folder along with an uninstall link–always strikes me as the refuge of the pompous and delusional. Microsoft does it; Adobe does it; Real does it. They could just about get away with it. Everyone else is kidding themselves.

So, it’s to the Add or Remove Programs folder, which, under XP, always takes so long to load it gives you time to wonder why you haven’t switched to a Mac already. And there, one finds two more surprises from Babylon:

Firstly, there are two entries, not one in the list:

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Interesting. I don’t recall for a while coming across a program thinking it carried that kind of weight. More pumped up self-importance, I fear.

That’s not the end of the fun. Click on the first of these and instead of the usual confirmation box about uninstalling, you’re given one last chance to cough up:

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I’m pretty sure that breaks all sorts of user design rules. It’s annoying: Why would someone who had gotten this far in uninstalling suddenly say to themselves “Doggone it! What was I thinking? Why don’t I just buy the thing instead?” By now I’m regretting even downloading Babylon to start with. All I wanted, for Chrissakes, was a decent Thesaurus.

The truth is that software has now learnt to fit better to the way we work, and not to intrude in the way that Babylon does. Look at browser widgets or the Mac’s Spotlight, or even Answers.com’s 1-Click Answers. Luckily, perhaps, Babylon’s lack of manners stands out because it’s just not how programs are written these days.

Piracy Helps Some Countries Grow

One can only imagine Bill Gates’ discomfort: Standing silently as the Romanian president told the world that pirated Microsoft software helped his country become what it is:

Pirated Microsoft Corp software helped Romania to build a vibrant technology industry, Romanian President Traian Basescu told the company’s co-founder Bill Gates on Thursday.

“Piracy,” Reuters quoted him as saying during a joint news conference to mark the opening of a Microsoft global technical center in the Romanian capital, “helped the young generation discover computers. It set off the development of the IT industry in Romania.” True, but as Reuters points out, 70 percent of software used in Romania is pirated and salesmen still visit office buildings in central Bucharest to sell pirated CDs and DVDs.

(And to be fair to the prez, he did actually call piracy “a bad thing”, according to another report by the AP, and said that “became in the end an investment in friendship toward Microsoft and Bill Gates, an investment in educating the young generation in Romania which created the Romanians’ friendship with the computer.”)

Actually I’ve long had the sneaking suspicion that (a) this is true. In places like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines etc, the impressive and attractively priced range of pirated software available raises local savvy and interest in computing. When you can buy 100 software titles for the price of a Coke, what’s not to like? And this brings me to (b): the likes Microsoft, I suspect, actually don’t mind this situation too much, or at least may not hate it as much as they say.

I’m not the first to suggest this: Microsoft knows it can’t sell legit copies of Windows or Office to every user in these places. So it gives away what it can, or at least sells at a steep discount, to youngsters. Businesses it tries to wrestle to the ground. The rest it writes off. Sure, it would be great if lots of people bought legit copies, but better that younger people are getting hooked on it, rather than to the opposition (Linux, Ubuntu etc.) One day they’ll pay.

I’ve often wondered, for example, whether folk like Adobe and Microsoft actually aren’t at cross purposes. Sure, they’re both members of the Business Software Alliance, but whereas Microsoft know that it’s better to get a nation hooked on Windows even if it’s on pirate copies than to crack down and plunge it into the hands of the Open Source brigade, for Adobe it’s a different story. No one is really going to buy a copy of Photoshop ($400-$700), so the idea of getting them hooked doesn’t really count. Better to crack down as hard as possible, so those few who really do need it cough up. Better 10 legit copies sold now than 100 possible sales later.

Is that why Bill didn’t say anything?

Adobe Falls Behind the Blogging Curve

Amit Agarwal at Digital Inspiration points to Adobe’s new version of Contribute 4.0, which now lets you compose blog posts from within Microsoft Office. As Amit points out, who is going to shell out $150 for something which Windows Live Writer and a host of other tools let you do for free?

(These tools allow people with blogs to write their posts while they’re not online. I use them because I don’t like working inside a browser for reasons I haven’t really explored. Mainly, I think it’s because keyboard shortcuts don’t work very well in the browser-based software that players like Typepad offer. I have other grumbles: The silly restrictions on window size in which one can type, the dearth of options for inserting images, and perhaps most importantly the difficulty of moving between web pages and editor when they’re in the same browser.)

That said, Contribute is primarily web publishing software, and while blogging is now well supported with a range of good tools, updating non-blog pages is still a major nuisance. Might be worth trying out just for that.

Confessions of a PDF Hater

There’s a lot of discussion about the ongoing spat between Microsoft and Adobe over whether Microsoft will be able to install PDF/Acrobat support in its next version of Office. This should be as straightforward as PDF support in OpenOffice — where you can choose to save (well, print, technically speaking) a file as an Acrobat PDF. But it’s not. Allowing a niche, free, office suite like OpenOffice to add this for free is one thing, but for the market giant Microsoft — who are preparing a PDF rival, XPS — to do it is another. So as things stand at the moment, Office users will be abe to have PDF support, but not out-of-the-box: They’ll have to install it as a download plug-in. Not too arduous, but as comments on the blog of Brian Jones, Microsoft’s Program Manager, suggest, a lot of folk won’t do that.

Everyone’s talking about this issue, blaming Microsoft, blaming Adobe, but no one seems to be asking a question I’ve been mulling for years: Why are Adobe Acrobat files so hard to use, and the Adobe programs to make and maniuplate them so darned user unfriendly? I’ve been using Acrobat reader and Acrobat for years, and each version I hope is going to be a little more intuitive and easier to understand. And yet every time I try to do something a little bit different or more complicated than simply saving a file or extracting a line of text I run into problems.

I’ve found no straightforward, wizard-type way to tweak a saved file to balance reduced file size with reduced quality of images. This means that I — and I’m sure lots of other folk, including a friend of mine who yesterday received a PDF file from a major international organisation that was 7 MB in size, had Chinese characters that appeared as gibberish on her screen — can’t easily use what should be the most powerful features in what should be a great program.

And don’t get me started on the naff way that the Adobe Reader includes a promo for the Yahoo! Toolbar — how low do you have to stoop? — and, next to it, a helpful search box. How many people have entered text in that box thinking it’s to search the active PDF document, only to find that it’s actually a Yahoo! search box?

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Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that it looks remarkably similar to the Adobe “find” box that appears if you hit Control+f:

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It’s telling that most of the best PDF tools are not actually Adobe’s at all, but simple PDF makers that bypass the whole Acrobat maker process. (My list of these programs is here, although it needs some updating. Here’s a free PDFCreator which will allow you to print to PDF from any Windows program.)

Sure, PDFs are great for the security measures they build in, and they have definitely changed the way people exchange and collaborate over documents. But usability has not improved. So if Microsoft or anyone can come up with a better format that’s easier to work with, I’m all for it.

The Tilted Software Piracy Debate

Software piracy is a tricky topic, that requires some skepticism on the part of the reporter, though the media rarely show signs of that in their coverage. Here’s another example from last week’s Microsoft press conference in Indonesia, one of the prime culprits when it comes to counterfeit software:

JAKARTA (AFP) – Software piracy is costing the Indonesian economy billions of dollars each year and is stymieing the creation of a local information technology industry, a Microsoft representative said.

There is some truth to these statements, but it’s not really what Microsoft is interested in. First off, is it really the Indonesian economy that’s suffering because of piracy? One could argue the Indonesian economy is largely built on pirated software, as a kind of subsidy (like gasoline, which was until recently heavily subsidized.)

Secondly, when did Microsoft ever support the creation of a “local information technology industry”? That’s not their job — and I don’t blame them — but why hide behind this kind of argument? (Interestingly, there’s a lively Linux development community in Indonesia, but I’m not sure that’s what Microsoft is talking about here).

Some 87 percent of computer software on the market in Indonesia in 2005 was pirated, Microsoft Indonesia’s Irwan Tirtariyadi said citing a study from the Business Software Alliance, an organisation representing manufacturers.

That’s probably about right. It’s huge. It’s hard to find a company that doesn’t use pirated software. You can buy pretty much every program ever written, and I don’t know of a single person who uses a computer and who doesn’t buy pirated software. This is not to condone it, but I also only know of about half a dozen shops in a city of 12 million people which actually sell legal software. And forget buying online: Most companies won’t ship to Indonesia.

Lax law enforcement and widespread corruption contributed to Indonesia clocking in with the fifth highest rate of software counterfeiting in the world, he said, after Vietnam, Ukraine, China and Zimbabwe. “I’ve heard when police come to a shop (selling pirated software) it is closed. Basically information is leaking and this is an indication of the quality of law enforcement in action,” Tirtariyadi said.

This is part of the problem, it’s true. The malls are full of shops openly selling pirated software, often on the ground floor near the entrance, with policemen patrolling by. When a raid is planned, everyone knows about it, the shops quietly shut, cover their wares in tarpaulins and keep their heads down for a day or two. (Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether the imminent raid is from the police or some Islamic group cracking down on the counterfeit DVD stores, which often sell software too.)

Tirtariyadi told a gathering of foreign reporters that if piracy dropped by just 10 percent, it would add 3.4 billion dollars to the economy, according to figures cited by the International Data Corporation.

Could someone please explain to me how that figure came about? To me it sounds suspiciously as if the argument is based on a false premise: That everyone who buys pirate software would pay full price for legitimate software if there was no alternative. Let me think about that: $3 for brand new software — often a collection of software — against $50–500 for the same thing, in a country where half the population earn less than $2 a day. I don’t think so.

Counterfeiting also inhibited an “inventive culture” and the development of a strong local information technology (IT) industry here, he said. “Some students like to create new software but three months later they find it’s pirated,” he said.

True, there is definitely an inhibiting factor. I wrote a year or so ago about a guy developing a machine translation program which wasn’t bad, but which required him to spend at least half his time developing anti-piracy features in the software. But I still think this is a disingenuous argument. Let’s face it: Microsoft (and Adobe, and all the other BSA big boys) are mainly interested in quashing piracy of their products and building up their market share; I don’t see much sign of Microsoft actually nurturing this “local IT industry”.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, has less than 100 IT companies, whereas neighboring Singapore, with a far lower rate of piracy, has between 400 to 800 such companies, he added.

This is not a useful comparison. Singapore is a highly developed country and one of the world’s technology hub. Though, interestingly, it’s not really a locally creative industry, with the exception of a couple of big names.

All this makes me realise that Microsoft et al still don’t get it. Piracy is massive; they’re right. But you don’t deal with it by sponsoring misleading press conferences and well-telegraphed police raids.

Interview With The Guy Behind The Klips

In today’s Asian Wall Street Journal and in WSJ.com (subscription only, I’m afraid) I talk about widgets — sometimes called dashboards — as an alternative, or addition, to RSS.

Here is the transcript of an email/IM interview I did with Allan Wille, president and CEO of Serence, the company behind Klips:

The new Folio looks good. what’s the main new feature in this version?

Based on customer feedback, mostly from Content Providers, images and a richer content experience were very key. Much of that had to do with increased branding capabilities as well. So images are likely the BIG feature in KlipFolio 3.0. Enterprise to a lesser extent were also asking for images – charts, graphs that can tie into CRM or other enterprise applications

 

why would someone go for Klips over an RSS reader or similar device?

We are positioning KlipFolio as a dashboard – a personal dashboard for consumers or an digital/business dashboard for enterprise. We are not an RSS reader, and I see our paths moving appart, such that the two products –KlipFolio and an RSS reader– can exist in parallel. Klips are intelligent agents, where the value lies in their ability to inform and alert users of complex data. Klips are very good at allowing personalization of content, and persenting users with alerts to critical data. Of-course Klips can do news feeds, but the differentiation there is less apparent, and in some cases, an RSS reader will do a better job.

 

You seem to have a lot of European users. is that right, and if so, any reason for that?

KlipFolio started to have sucess with a number of key German news outlets – Tagesschau, Heise, Spiegel Online etc … this started back in 2002, when RSS was not quite as hyped as it is today. I believe this gave us significant visibility among other content providers in Germany and Europe, and has led to a very large European userbase, and subsequently a good source of leads and customers. North America was hesitant to try new technologies and as RSS was adopted by more and more content providers in NA, Klips were caught in a difficult differentiation battle. With the features present in 3.0, wer are looking to overcome these challenges in NA.

 

You’ve been doing Klip for a while, and while as you know I’m a fan, it doesn’t seem to have caught on as I might have expected. I don’t see that many Klip buttons on websites. any thoughts on that?

When you compare the visibilty of Klips to RSS, you are quite right – it seems to be taking a back seat. It is important for us to continue to get the Klip buttons out there, as this is a major marketing program for us. Again, it is a question of differentiation, of added value over RSS. 3.0 will be addressing much of this, and we need to aggressively make sure we educate key content providers of the value – a trend we are seeing though is that the major content providers are contacting us not for simple Klip publishing, but more so for the development of branded desktop clients …

 

Related to the last one, where do you see the market for this? it seems to be different fields you’re playing to, from the RSS on a stick audience, to the secure corporate feeds…

Interesting question – our markets are (a) Content Providers (ie: CNET, Kluwer, Penton, Spiegel) for branded versions of KlipFolio (branded KlipFolio, downloadable from their sites, with their Klips bundled), (b) Enterprise (Wells Fargo, Advanded Telcom, Curtiss-Wright, NDR) who license KlipFolio Enterprise as an internal dashboard, and, (c) Application Vendors (Connotate, BizActions) who wish to OEM distribute KlipFolio as their own product, sublicensed to their customers (in other words a channel play). End users are not a market for us – they are a source of leads.

 

Critics might say that because its proprietary software, Klips are a step backwards, locking users and providers into something that’s Old Economy.. any thoughts on that?

It’s not proprietary. Anyone can build and publish Klips. We publish our APIs, and a full SDK free of charge, and with no need to register. We use XML and Javascript. Konfabulator, Apple dashboard, and Macromedia Central (or Adobe now …) are more like Flash (as a mini-application environment). I must say it’s very cool, and I have tried it a number of times, but the inconistency of the interfaces have ultimately gotten in the way. I do think it will attract a number of Content Providers due to it’s brandability.

 

Where do you see this space (Klips, but also RSS, Konfabulator etc) going? Do they at some point move off the desktop?

I see a clear short-term trend where RSS readers are going to be melded into browsers and email-clients. I see them as becoming more capable of rendering html (and soon video, and audio), where their value as an “alerting” tool become less apparent. I also would consider this a very dangerous time to be an RSS reader client company – even for the forerunners, I don’t see competitive advantage, or amongst themselves, competitive differentiation. Longer term, I believe RSS will become an important background technololgy — and enabler — much the same way html is today to the web. RSS will not be a house-hold name among the early majority and on. There will be readers and alerting tools on various platforms and form-factors (and likely powered by xml/rss/whatever), but people won’t be calling it rss.

 

What are the most exciting uses you’ve seen of Klips? How do you use them yourself?

On the consumer front, I find the email watchers (the hotmail, yahoo, gmail and pop3 mail) Klips to be very exciting – they are secure, access complex data and present users with dynamically generated setup options. One the enterprise front, two very interesting ones are a company that is using a Klip to alert their call-center agents of key data from their CRM system, and a bank who uses Klips as part of their work-flow system to increase productivity and review speed. Where the Bank’s internal processes saw documents, policies, forms, and client applications being worked on by many employees and managers, the current work-flow system put the onus of moving forward on the employees and manager’s shoulders and relied on email to notify them when a document was edited, or in need of approval. We improved on this process by working with their work-flow application where each individual user is now alerted to pending documents, policies and applications via KlipFolio – it’s relevant to what the manager or employee is responsible for, and a popup alert ensures they take action, and of-course with a single click from the Klip, they can jump right into the familiar work-flow system.

 

So far there are only a few 3.0 feeds. what else is in the pipeline, feed-wise?

We will be updating all of the email Klips, the stock tracker, eBay monitor Klips and as with Betanews, we are working with a handful of key content providers globally to update their Klips. In general we will be focusing our efforts on more service oriented Klips, and encouraging our community of developers to do the same – part of our efforts to differentiate.

 

How do you make your money from this? And how would you characterise the journey so far? I first wrote about Klips more than 3 years ago, and a lot has happened on the internet since then. Are Klips struggling to keep up with these changes?

The hype of RSS has both helped and distracted our progress. On the one hand, RSS has educated the markets, and generated interest in desktop alerting. On the other, RSS has made our position more difficult to define – educating the market that we are not an RSS reader, but rather an alerting dashboard targeted for commercial purposes. The markets are more conductive – more educated, more financially willing, and more competitively driven. Also, I truly believe that in our space – alerting dashboards – we are positioned as one of the best players.

I’m not sure it’s a matter of keeping up with RSS – we support RSS among other standards. One thing we have found is that real-customer deals are hard to find the closer you get to RSS – it’s a very early adopter marketplace – lots of hype, not much real value or money yet. As we distance ourselves from RSS we find the client conversation is more focused on solving real business needs.

As mentioned in an earlier answer, we target content providers, online retailers and premium content providers as our KlipFolio Branded customers; application vendors, service providers, ISPs as our OEM customers; and corporations as our KlipFolio enterprise customers. We have a solid base of customers in all three areas and (with out venture funding I might add) are profitable.

You are right – lots has happened, but I think the interesting stuff is yet to happen. Same goes for Serence …

 

 

Thanks, Allan.

Cutting Through The PR Dross

A hilarious Translation From PR-Speak to English of Selected Portions of Adobe’s ‘FAQ’ Regarding Their Acquisition of Macromedia by Daring Fireball, which blows a hole a mile wide in this — and all such — verbiage-laden press releases. This for example:

Do you anticipate a reduction in force as a result of this transaction?

When two successful growing companies join together, the result is a combined organization that creates new and exciting opportunities. The combination will lead to powerful new areas of innovation, new products and solutions, and an acceleration of our respective growth agendas. At the same time, there will be some duplication of employee functions between the two companies, and upon the close of the transaction, we anticipate some level of reduction in force. While we anticipate the integration team will identify opportunities for cost savings, the primary motivation for this acquisition is to continue to expand and grow our businesses into new markets.

[Translation] Yes.

Very good stuff. Unless of course you’re an employee of Macromedia or Adobe. We need more of these translations. In fact, why not set up a ‘press release translation service’ for everyone sick of reading PR dross? I’d sign up.

via Joi Ito, via Dvorak

The rise and fall of the Internet cliche

I thought I would try out Edward Tufte’s sparklines idea as a way of presenting some research I have been doing into how the mainstream media has been covering technology over the last decade or two. I went through Factiva (part-owned by Dow Jones, publisher of The Wall Street Journal, and my paymaster), noting down the number of references each term got in a year (not as swift an exercise as one might hope. There must be an easier way of doing this.) Some of the results are in a column due out tomorrow in the Asian and online WSJs (Friday).

Anyway, here’s some material there wasn’t room for, along with a stab at a sparkline or two:

Who calls the Internet ‘the information superhighway’ anymore? Sadly, some still do – mentions have been static the past four years at about 1,000 per annum – but that’s a distinct improvement over 1994, when it was cited on Factiva a record 16,447 times. Since then editors must have started issuing edicts, because usage more or less halved in subsequent years. ‘Electronic mail’ started getting mentions as early as 1972 but took a quarter century to fall out of editors’ favor for the snappier sounding ‘e-mail’. From a high of 13,637 mentions in 1996 it has been falling steadily: Last year it was mentioned only 4,552 times against 1,577,582 for e-mail. Some terms, unfortunately, are more resilient. ‘Cyberspace’, for example, took longer than ‘information superhighway’ to hit the mainstream (in 1994 it received a third the number of mentions) but continued to enjoy journalistic approval right up to 2000, when a staggering 26,226 editors failed to spot its cringe-making quality and allowed it to enter copy. Since then, it’s gradually fallen from grace, but not fast or far enough: Last year it popped up nearly 9,000 times. Ugh.

Then here’s the same data in sparklines format (thanks to Mathew Lodge’s excellent Adobe Photoshop script for making it possible for a design doofus for me to be able to get something like this out. My fault it’s not a very good example of the genre. Suggestions very welcome for making better ones). Still, I think it shows up some interesting features of how, at least in the case of the first two, one cliche has given way to another over the past decade.

Mentions in Factiva, 1986–2004:

Sparkline for SuperhighwayInformation Superhighway
Sparkline for Cyberspace3Cyberspace 
Sparkline for Electronic mailElectronic Mail

What the data doesn’t show is that this was the first reference to ‘electronic mail’, back in January 1972:

Pres Nixon proposes development and demonstration of electronic mail system…
21 January 1972, New York Times Abstracts – Pres Nixon proposes development and demonstration of electronic mail system to provide routine overnight mail delivery between stations and 1-hr priority delivery

Whatever happened to that?