Cookies and Popups and Ads, Oh My!

Another marketing lament on how cookies and spyware and popups and intrusive ads are ruining it for the good marketers ends up in my inbox. Why, oh why, they cry can’t someone come up with a way to make the Internet a wonderful place for selling, and keep the bad guys from ruining a good thing. Alas. 🙂

It’s a matter of architecture and trade-offs, courtesy of those techie types no one can understand. Simply put, online marketing people have to give up on magic solutions like cookies and popups and sneaky tracking – they’re all easily disintermediated by the same tech folks who programmed them in the first place. Live by the sword, and die by the sword.

To paraphrase a famous campaign slogan, “It’s the content, stupid”! Provide good content on the Internet, tailored for your audience, and they will watch it and the relevent ads – just like TV. Rely on tricks, and in “Internet time” someone will put out a way to block you. Amazing thing, the Internet.

Take it from an Internet expert who actually knows the insides of all this stuff – it really is this simple. And it places online marketing back under the control of the online marketing specialist where it belongs.

Inside the Black Box or Outside the Flim Flam

Reading the article today There Are No Black Boxes in Online Marketing, I had to laugh when Tom Hespos laments “To me, it seems ridiculous that anyone in this industry would want to put blind faith in a piece of technology without understanding fully why it works”. Absolutely! It would be wonderful if marketing and sales really wanted to know how things worked inside the “black box”. This would make the bona fide technologist who labored over a real product very happy.

But the reason we have black boxes is simple – the customers don’t want to know anything about how it works – they just want it to give them the results they want when they want them.

This desperate willful ignorance on the part of “don’t tell me about the technology, just tell me how it works” online marketing crowd is fertile ground for the flim-flam product that spews out worthless “results” in pretty charts. Like what you may ask. Gee, like security that isn’t, spam filters that don’t, and software “accelerators” that slow the processor – I could go on for hours, and I haven’t even hit any hardware yet.

Let’s face it – an ordinary sincere technologist doesn’t have a chance next to those magical solutions. If she says they don’t work, she’s told that her competitor has it and it does work. If she argues with her customer, she’s blamed for “losing the sale”.

So until black box results are tied to an online marketer’s performance (and job security), expect more black box solutions and very few honest answers.

Lunch at the California Grill – Malts and Talk

Rick Bentley, a Berkeley physics alum, has been written up by Mike Cassidy of the Merc in a really great article on Rick’s experiences in Baghdad and running a security startup, Connexed. Not that I’m surprised – I introduced Rick to Mike and got to sit in at the California Cafe as Rick told stories while sipping a chocolate malt. I also enjoy seeing a real journalist at work, and Mike writes some really great stories that blend business with the human element in Silicon Valley. It was a pleasure to watch him work.

So read the article, and tell Mike to keep more like this coming. Oh, and stop by Rick’s company site – security is important these days, and unlike some armchair CEO, Rick knows what it is like to live in a insecure world.

More Online Video – and I’m Still Not Satisfied!

AOL can’t meet the demands of either their advertisers or customers – both want more online video and they want it now!

Advertisers want more online video to, surprise, insert ads. Michael Barrett, VP worldwide sales, AOL Media Networks says “It’s a year-round process; we’re placing assets all the time. While video represents a growing portion of our revenue, it’s nowhere near the lion’s share of our online ad revenue like any area that’s in limited supply and high demand, and we try to organize our approach to the marketplace.”

With more streaming video content loved by their customers, AOL hopes to lure marketers that are increasingly bullish on video ads. “AOL can sell demographics or psychographics depending on what makes the most sense.We already do this across a huge network and wide array of brands and vertical programming categories” (Kevin Conroy, EVP-COO, AOL Media Networks).

Fun Friday: Jimmy Dolittle and the BSD Bomb

BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) has had a long and somewhat checkered history full of avarice and heartbreak. While revered (and still used) by many, BSD releases have been 1) obviated by “better” proprietary systems (e.g. SunOS to Solaris), 2) licensed to death (AT&T / USL / whoever), 3) unlicensed and released to great acclaim and even great expectations (386BSD), and 4) once some flaw is found, dispised, derived, hacked, and then poorly marketed against juggernaut Linux and Microsoft (NetBSD, FreeBSD, YourNameHereBSD,…). Unlike , which stayed focussed on the BSD research goals and writings which are Berkeley’s best quality (see 386BSD Release 1.0 Reference CD-ROM: Essays on Kernel Design), ‘s many “commercial” derivations never achieved the kind of monetary success expected after The Fun with 386BSD we all had.

Why was this? Perhaps William Jolitz chatting with Tom Foremski of SiliconValleyWatcher (see How I learned to love Linux and profit from it — Wind River turns from Linux basher to religious zealot) may provide a bit of insight as to why the Curse of Commercial BSD continues: “Back in 2001, met with Wind River’s co-founder and board member Jerry Fiddler, along with John Fogelin at their office in Alameda, about the BSD purchase. It wasn’t a confident feel in the room, and they had no interest in putting any more “wood behind the arrow”. Just then, several B-25 Liberators flew overhead, commemorating Jimmy Dolittle’s raid on Tokyo. As they rumbled past, I recall thinking that the bomb Jerry bought was going to be bigger than the ones Jimmy dropped. Ironically, I was an executive at a Japanese company at the time. But such has been the BSD karma. You can’t say it doesn’t have its humorous side!”

And How Many Blogs Can a Blogger Blog if a Blog Could Log Words?

Tom Foremski of SiliconValleyWatcher is one of my favorite “inside SV” reads. Tom pays attention to the action ignored by PR flacks and marketing spinners – the stuff that really makes a difference at the beginning, not the end of the product or deal. Tom addresses the hard nut of credibility – or the lack of such – in Internet postings, blogs, and news items. “We just have to remember that building a media brand is a long process. The New York Times was not built in ten years,” Tom reports Shelby Bonnie, CEO of telling him last summer.

But separating the good from the bad is going to be difficult. “Growing numbers of media professionals within the blogosphere raises the bar for all because the competition for reader attention will be that much fiercer and editorial standards will be that much higher. Building a personal blogging brand and cultivating a key readership within such an increasingly noisy media landscape will become increasingly difficult for individuals.” So how do we tell who’s better?

So I responded to Tom (who posted my reply) as follows, and it depends largely on those search engines: “Actually, the credibility of bloggers, commentators, shills, and journalists may simply be based by the reader on where in the google popularity hierarchy that person appears. In other words, if you don’t have a high google ranking on the first or second page, no one will read you no matter how fair and balanced you are. In an era where people live by “googling”, media “brand building” takes on an entirely new meaning. Perhaps this is why an IDG exec recently said google was a media company, and hence a competitor.

Would You Like Your Disk Drive with Extra Aggregate?

Matt Marshall mentioned an old defunct company that I was rather fond of – Miniscribe. Now, Miniscribe in the 1980’s went from nothing to making and selling quite reliable 85 MByte drives (full size) at what was then a really great price (around $850 in quantity). It was the most common disk drive we shipped in our Symmetric 375 computer running the Symmetrix operating system (Berkeley Unix 4.2 derivative) from Symmetric Computer Systems.

Of course, having bought, installed, and supported so many, I just couldn’t resist putting in my two cents with Matt as well: “Ah, Miniscribe. I recall their 85MB drives well – we shipped many Symmetric 375‘s with those drives. They were quite cheap and quite good. But I also remember how they tried to claim we signed for a pallet never delivered. Turned out the signature was an obvious fake, and Miniscribe dropped the claim. We never did get those bricks…. We did however have one of their drives catch fire in testing – came into the office to the smell of phenols and a “squeek, squeek” sound of a slowly (for a disk drive) turning disk. I bet the engineers at Miniscribe spent a lot of time on that RMA!”

That Miniscribe disk drive failure was about as memorable as the time we tried a new “under the chip” capacitor on several 375 motherboards (I still have a few around if you’d like to see them). The motherboards were very tightly designed, and the majority of boardspace was taken up by DRAM. They were really cool – until one caught fire under the chip! Of course, surface mount technology caused much of this stuff to fade into obsolescence.

Stay Employed in the USA – Get a Cinema Degree and Make Your Own Movies, Sony Wants Content

It looks like a Cinema degree is the new MBA according to Elizabeth Van Ness of the New York Times. “People endowed with social power and prestige are able to use film and media images to reinforce their power – we need to look to film to grant power to those who are marginalized or currently not represented” says Rick Herbst, a student at Yale Law School who majored in film.

The earlier generation of film students, competing for very few director slots, often ended up employed for their technical – not creative – skills, very much like people who majored in Computer Science in the 1980’s. “You sort of have this illusion coming out of film school that you’ll work into this small circle of creatives, but you’re actually more pigeonholed as a technician” said Aaron Bell, a film major who languished until he got a nice job in advertising. Ah, just like very few who become Semiconductor Designers or Operating Systems Architects!

The League of Extraordinary OSes

Every now and then I get handed a paper and asked for feedback. Most of the time, these papers have long boring titles and lots of funny charts with red error bars on them. I’ve even written a few of them myself, so I guess that’s why I get handed more and more. But go ahead – I enjoy another article on clustering (Gordon Bell handed me one a while back) or TOE’s (that was one of the SiliconTCP boys). I’ll even look at the “let’s drop TCP and make it fast” papers, because sometimes the authors are actually pinpointing a real-world problem even if I don’t agree with their proposed solution.

But I was recently referred to a paper “Open Innovation: The Paradox of Firm Investment in Open Source Software” by Gallagher and West precisely because it related to the evolution of open source, and since I’m often referred to as a “Pioneer of Open Source” with , this is another topic on which I get requests for feedback. So I read the paper discussed, and found their discussion of proprietary work quite good. However, I also found that their isolation of time in studies (1998 onwards) actually missed the primary evolution of every single open source model cited in the paper, which misses the point of the exercise, likely due to ignorance of the topic. So perhaps an examination of Berkeley’s influence in this regard would be a valuable addition.

Fun Friday: Is it the OS or is it Web Services?

Well, Matt Marshall thinks the reason Google hired Mark Lucovsky is all that talk about the “Google OS”. But he also was working on web services, and I think that’s what they want out of him. As I told Matt “Web services are just a component of the new Internet OS. Don’t get hung up on implementation – the secret’s in the architecture”. See Issues in Deployment of Wireless Web Services and the corresponding article Web Services and Datacenter Environments in the Web Services issue of Dr. Dobbs Journal (April 1993). I’m sure these guys have already done their homework. Have you?