Tag Archives: Boing Boing

The Slashdot Report Part I

This week’s column is about The Slashdot Effect, (subscription only, I’m afraid) which I’ll mention in more detail in subsequent postings. This first supplement is about the commercial potential of blogs, and a case study those of you reading blogs will probably already know about:

Is it possible to harness this new kind of information flow for business ends? You bet. But it’s not easy. Here’s one success story, and it has as much to with patience and luck as budgets. DL Byron, principal of Seattle-based of website designer Textura Design Inc, came up with an idea for a better way to seal plastic bags – the Clip-n-Seal. He used Clip-n-Seal’s own blog to talk about the product, and told one or two of his blogging friends, who blogged and told their friends, until one day they hit the mother lode: Boing Boing, and two similar other big directory sites. Retail sales went through the roof, but that was just the beginning. “Great for traffic,” Byron recalls, ” but what really happened was a new market found us that we never anticipated.” As Clip-n-Seal climbed the Google search page ranks, industrial customers discovered them and suddenly organizations from crime scene policemen to biomedical companies were placing orders. Byron’s conclusion: Better to spend time on getting noticed in the blogosphere than spend money on traditional advertising. “I can say from our experience that a blog post will outsell a ad. Guaranteed.”

Valentine’s Day – A Humbug Approach

It’s that time of year, and the marketing folk are back with lame Valentine’s promotions.

My first is from Audible.com, where I must have registered at some point, because I got an email with the subject field ‘Someone has sent you a Valentine!’ along with the following message: ‘Get a special Valentine’s day wish (and a little gift) from Audible.’

The link turns out to be a pretty dull flash presentation, some annoying music that doesn’t stop when the flash animation does, and the ‘gift’ turns out to be a 20% discount at audible.com. Thanks, guys. No, really.

What is perhaps reassuring is a survey from Avantgo, which reports that the majority of folk prefer social introductions to finding true love. Actually I think they’re missed the point; although the survey focuses on preference for traditional dating methods –  only 4% ranked online dating as the best way to meet their Valentine — the fact that 14% of correspondents ‘claimed to be dating, married or engaged to someone they met through an online dating service or social networking site’ is an extraordinary statistic.

Think about it. Most folk don’t like to admit they use dating services, let alone online ones. So the fact that so many people have ‘fessed up is a surprising shift in attitudes. Second, assume the figure is much higher, because of the lingering stigma attached. So it could be as high as 20%. Now, of course, these surveys tend to revolve around early adopters (it was a PDA-based survey, whatever that is) so it’s skewed, but it’s still a significant proportion. The survey tells us that online dating has become normal.

It also, sadly, tells us that folk are using Valentine’s Day as an excuse to exchange presents:  ‘While men plan to give their loved ones traditional gifts such as flowers, dinner out and chocolates, they are secretly hoping to receive an electronic gadget or CD/DVD. A third of respondents plan to spend more than $100 on their Valentine this year.’ Jeez! Do we really need another commercially exploited occasion to prod us guiltily into buying presents? Heaven help us all.

If you do insist on buying stuff, here are some Valentine Panties with built in Internet error codes: “Our HTTPanties Valentine’s Gift Box comes with one pair of white “403 Forbidden” panties and one pair of black “200 OK” panties, packaged in our lovely “Hearts and Stars” heart shaped box. Makes a great gift!” OhmyGod.

I am beginning to see what folk like Joi Ito are talking about when they talk about corrupting holidays. Talking of Japan, the whole Valentine’s thing has gotten way out of hand, primarily because of the confectionary industry. Joi wrote a few weeks back: ‘in Japan only men receive chocolates on Valentine’s Day and that women receive their chocolates on “White Day” one month later. (This notion was introduced by the confectionary industry in Japan.) People are encouraged to give chocolates widely and these chocolates are called giri choko (obligatory indebtedness chocolates) in Japanese.’ Now it’s the handphone industry getting in on the act: Nokia are promoting their handphones in Japan by selling them in a Valentine’s box, along with some chocolates (Thanks Gizmodo and Boing Boing):

I’m never going to celebrate Valentine’s Day again. Ever. After I’ve bought the panties and phone chocs.

The Virtual World Gets Surprisingly Lifelike

The Sims Online – an Internet-only world where ordinary folk can take on another persona and interact with other folk virtually — seems to be exhibiting all the signs of the real world, with a twist. Salon carries an article about a Sims community called Alphaville, and some of its citizens, including an academic called Urizenus (in real life, Michigan philosophy professor Peter Ludlow), a young man (or, possibly, a boy) called Evangeline, allegations of extortion, and the possible existence of a virtual brothel.

The story is well worth a read (subscription or day pass only), if only for the moral responsibilities a corporation running a community may have. If someone opens a virtual brothel for online folk to indulge in a little cyber-sex, is the company managing that world — in this case Electronic Arts — guilty of prostitution? And what happens if there’s evidence the ‘madam’ of that brothel, and some of its employees, are underage? And then, exploring the matter further, is Electronic Arts guilty of censorship by terminating the account of the academic who chronicled such allegations in his online newspaper, Alphaville Herald? And if there’s (ultimately) real money involved, should the police be called in to this virtual world?

I’m not surprised a philosophy professor is interested in these kind of issues. Going back to the early days of the Internet, the virtual world has a habit of impinging on the real. In that sense there’s nothing different between real estate and virtual estate. If humans interact on it, it’s turf and it needs to be policed. It will be interesting to see how EA handle this case, and whether they start patrolling their creation more thoroughly. And if they do, will it cease to be economically viable?

More discussion on this on Slashdot. Here’s an ‘interview’ by Ludlow with Evangeline (parental discretion advised, via Boing Boing Blog)