Starting January 10, 2000
Snow at last, A researched web posting takes much longer, I'm a judge again, Stowaway keyboard wins CES awards, Modern times, Survey of web shoppers, Rising telecom hotels
Thursday, January 13, 2000
Snow at last
After over 300 days of no snow, the Boston area finally got some snow today (just a few inches). Here's the view out my office window:

White snow on the ground and bare trees
The good part: Very pretty

Person cleaning off a car
The "challenge": Automobiles

Wednesday, January 12, 2000
A researched web posting takes much longer
In his latest monthly column Reflections of a ModemJunkie, Leonard Grossman reacts to a posting on Robot Wisdom. Leonard was disturbed by some quotes that Jorn Barger chose since they didn't match what Leonard understood about the Talmud and Jewish law. Doing research on the web, Leonard found out about some apparent biases in Jorn's source that might put the comments in context and change how many people would judge them.

Leonard brings up the question of a web logger's responsibility for checking sources and validation. To me, this brings up another issue:

When writing for the web there are many levels of research you can do. Doing the research takes time -- often lots of time. If it takes too much time, you can't keep up the pace of posting. Understanding this cost is important. This isn't much different than with normal journalism, but still needs to be said for this more "private" type of communication.

Let me give you some examples:

Off the top of your head: Like a conversation at a cocktail party, you just type what comes to your mind, no checking. This takes up no more time than a quick email. Hopefully you spell check but usually don't.

Basic checking and linking: Like a paper for distribution at a meeting, you check spelling, especially of people's names, their titles, give URLs for their web sites, etc. This can easily double the time it takes to write something. I find that even for family sites, like pictures of a wedding, I need help identifying people whose names I've "forgotten", otherwise I'll just say "here are some pictures". You don't want to identify Aunt Jean (Jeane?) and neglect to name her husband (Joe? Joel? Jim?) smiling next to her.

"Reasonable" due diligence: Like a paper for distribution to strangers, you follow the URLs to check that your assertions are correct, do extra research to make sure, look for related links perhaps, maybe get permission for using someone's picture or linking to their site as a courtesy. This can more than double or triple the time. When I did my report December 2nd about Howard Anderson's talk I used a tape recorder to check quotes, etc. A lot different than just quickly typing what I remember.

Full checking: Like a major publication, you not only do all the checking and more research, you have another person review it, call/email others to talk about it, etc. This is a full-time job.

Some of the intimacy of personal web sites can only come being off the top of your head because of the time constraint. With this log, I try to be somewhere between basic checking and "reasonable" due diligence, but the time-to-create issue often gets in the way (usually with sleep being the loser). Eventually it may make writing this style log too expensive for me.

When you create a web site, it is important to understand your audience and what they expect, and be aware of the costs in time, accuracy, and information when choosing your style of checking. I find, for example, that without checking I will invariably misspell the name of someone important in the industry or misstate their affiliation. Not wanting to embarrass myself results in a major cost. At a cocktail party with words that are never remembered nor repeated I may not worry as much.

I'm a judge again
I've been asked to judge another "Tall" pageant this weekend: the Boston Beanstalk's King and Queen of 2000. (I discussed my last time judging the Miss Tall International Pageant November 9 and 10.) I'll take some pictures so you can see it from the judges' perspective. I understand that there are only 5 contestants (2 women and 3 men) so this is more for fun and a chance to be the shortest person on the dance floor (and an excuse to go dancing). Sorry this week has been so light on pictures. I miss the pictures in this log.

Tuesday, January 11, 2000
Stowaway keyboard wins CES awards
I've been covering the Stowaway keyboard for the Palm and Handspring PDAs for a while. It seems others like it, too. The product won the CES Best of Show Computer Hardware award and the CES Workstyle award. Congratulations!

Keyboard unfolded with Pilot stuck in it
Stowaway keyboard
Modern times
I heard these modern tales at a Bat-Mitzvah I attended this past weekend:

The father finds that his daughter "steals" his Palm V PDA at night and leaves messages for him in the calendar and memo pad. He'll find things like "[her name]'s Bat-Mitzvah" replaced with "Oh, No!", or "Hi, Daddy!" in the middle of the day on a trip.

When the Rabbi blessed a student going to study abroad for a year, he said "...and may she be successful in her endeavors, have a safe journey, and email her parents every day."

Announcement at the conclusion of the prayer service: "A workshop on Jewish Computing will be held January 12 to explore the basics of Jewish resources on the Internet...and Hebrew word processing. Cookies will be served." Each week this is read, but sometimes as "refreshments will be served", not getting the purposeful browser pun.

I observed the Bat-Mitzvah girl later that night "introducing" her cousin to her AOL Instant Messaging friends. (Anybody who hasn't seen a Gen-Y'er chatting away with a few separate people simultaneously does not understand that generation of users.)

Survey of web shoppers
The New York Times reported Monday a survey from Andersen Consulting about Internet shopping this past Q4. They found that, among the Internet shoppers surveyed, books were purchased more frequently online than via stores (47% online, 34% stores, 15% catalogs -- multiple answers allowed). You can see a fuller list, including toys, music, food/wine, etc., by reading the press release: "9 out of 10 Online Holiday Shoppers Experienced Problems, But Still Rated Web Better than Stores and Catalogs for Purchases, According to Andersen Consulting Study".

Monday, January 10, 2000
Rising telecom hotels
Following up on my report about telecom hotels (buildings housing racks of telecommunications gear) January 3rd and about the fiber cables along the Massachusetts Turnpike November 12th, the Boston Globe reported January 7th that two new telecom buildings are being developed along the turnpike. One, to be housed in an old Wonder Bread factory, is in Natick, and the other is in a moving company warehouse in Brighton. Both are old buildings hitting the jackpot because they are near the new "information superhighway". The Globe adds that the developer of the Wonder Bread site includes a member of the family that owns the world's largest matzo factory.

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