Catching the Spark

This is the week of hobbyhorses. I love sparklines though I’ve been very lazy in actually trying to make more use of them. Sparklines are simple little graphs that can pepper text to illustrate data. I went through a phase of using them a year ago on media coverage of technical stuff, the excessive online habits of Hong Kongers and a rather lame illustration (my first effort) at the rise and fall of Internet cliches.

Anyway, interest seems to be returning for sparklines. Here’s a good piece on Corante on Sparklines: Merging visual data with text  about a new utility that lets you create sparklines for your web page or blog:

Joe Gregorio took the idea and ran with it. He created a web-based utility that lets you input a series of comma-separated values from 1 to 100 in order to generate a sparkline you can add to any online text. To give it a shot, I entered the numbers of repeat visitors to this blog beginning on Monday, March 13 and ending yesterday, March 19.


The Sandwich Board Goes Hi-tech

I thought we had gotten beyond the era of people walking around with advertising hoardings hung around their necks like some medieval punishment, but apparently it ain’t so. Adwalker (motto: ‘You’ve got to find some way of saying it without saying it’, which apparently is something that Duke Ellington said) says that by

wearing the Adwalker i-pack, our personnel engage consumers at premium Out Of Home locations, delivering the highest quality brand experience through Adwalker’s Interactive applications.

Actually, it’s not quite as awful as it sounds, and probably this is the direction that the advertising world is likely to go in: The Adwalker patented media platform is worn as a compact body pack, enabling services and applications that include brand advertising, point of sale, data capture and multi media messaging. Like so:

Adwalker has signed a three year access agreement with British airports under which the folk above will be able to wander around the airports harassing passengers. Now you won’t be sure whether the person coming towards you with some device tied to their chest is a terrorist or a marketing person. In either case, I would advise running.

Non-intrusive Advertising in Your Browser

Here’s a new  idea for non-intrusive advertising: T&S Advertising. It’s basically a way for your website to rent out space in the title bar of your browser and its status bar (the bit at the bottom) to outside advertisers. Like this at the top:


and this at the bottom:


The idea here is that such advertising doesn’t take up any extra space, isn’t intrusive and could be easily configurable. A website would rent out space there in the same way it would rent out space to Google Ads, banner ads, or whatever. It’s the brainchild of a 23–year old Dutch student called Johan Struijk, who according to a press release made available yesterday hopes that

at only $1 per 1000 views this is a low cost but effective form of advertising. “I think this will mainly appeal to modern, forward thinking businesses,” Johan said, “and perhaps some of the larger blue chip companies who have established brand names and slogans.”

I’m not as convinced as he that this would take off big time since those places on a screen are so unobtrusive as to be invisible, but I could be wrong. And it’s good to see folks exploring ideas like this which don’t involve hoodwinking the user. Johan might want to run a spell checker over his website and press release, though, just so the blue chips take him seriously.

A New Paint Shop Pro

Adobe Photoshop’s old challenger, Paint Shop Pro, is back.

Jasc Software yesterday announced the launch of Paint Shop Pro 9 and something called Paint Shop Pro Studio, a “photo editor for consumers who want to do more than novice editing without a steep learning curve”.

Paint Shop Pro 9 takes the photo and graphics editor a bit further, Jasc says, with stuff like digital camera noise removal (I didn’t even know there was something like that), a chromatic aberration removal filter, fill flash and Raw image support, features Jasc says are “often sold individually for hundreds of dollars”. Paint Shop Pro 9 costs $130 while Paint Shop Pro Studio is $80, which includes a free copy of the standard edition of Paint Shop Photo Album 5.

I’ll be test-driving these products in a later column.

Phone Commercials And Sloppy Eaters

Alan Reiter, the camera phone guy, has some interesting stuff to say about how phone companies are shooting themselves in the foot with dumb commercials that only reinforcing perceptions that camera+phone=public menace. He points to a TV commercial of a girl snapping a guy eating pasta like a slob, and then sending it to the guy’s fiancee. (I don’t know how this mini-story ends, but I assume the message is: “Buy a camera phone and avoid foolish mistakes like marrying a guy who doesn’t eat nice”.)

Anyway, Alan asks, “Wouldn’t you think that with all the money the handset vendors and cellular operators can spend on advertising and marketing, they would be able to come up with commercials that not only target the right demographics, but also wouldn’t wave a red flag in front of people who want to ban phones?” I agree. The ads I’ve seen in this part of the world only convince me that marketing folk haven’t got a clue about what users could do with these gadgets and so build their commercials around nonsensical scenarios involving butterflies, ocean-going yachts and beautiful people in tight sweaters. I think municipalities should ban the commercials, not the phones.

Update: Microsoft Deny Bursting

 Here’s Microsoft’s take on the case I mentioned in a previous posting. Would the correct version please stand up? In a nutshell it comes down to the question: did Microsoft deliberately erase weeks of emails from all servers and backups related to the case?
Winnet.mag quotes a Microsoft spokesman as denying that a judge ordered Microsoft to turn over “missing emails” and said that’s account of that part of the trial is inaccurate and groundless. “Their fundamental premise, that there were missing emails from a specific period of time, is simply wrong. [At the hearing, we] discussed a routine discovery issue arising from the fact that not every email sent or received gets saved. [The judge] simply directed us to do a more thorough search of our backup files to search for any emails that, as a matter of business routine, were not saved elsewhere.” This is either spin out of control, or Robert X. Cringely’s version is wrong.