Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, March 22, 2021

mix 'er up
This was inevitable, given that I just outfitted myself with a spankin’ new video-enabled iPod. Plus it’s been months since the last go-round.

So here are the last ten tracks that my iPod spit out at me, on random shuffle play:

1. Talking Heads - “Sugar on My Tongue”

2. Squeeze - “Tempted”

3. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - “Upon This Tidal Wave of Young Blood”

4. Nirvana - “Oh, Me (unplugged live)”

5. DJ Kentaro - “Introduction”

6. Camper Van Beethoven - “Pictures of Matchstick Men”

7. Madonna - “Bedtime Story”

8. Stereo MCs - “Connected (remix)”

9. The Police - “Man in a Suitcase”

10. Cirrus - “Back on a Mission (Cirrus’ Funky Joint Remix)”

Not really representative — where’s the rap music? I’ve got a couple of hundred loaded up at any given time. But not a bad list, otherwise.

Hit me with your own random runs in the comments, if you care to.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/22/2006 10:00:57 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech
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super genius
It wasn’t exactly of Twelve Monkeys magnitude, but the adventures of Hal the coyote as he led his human pursuers through New York’s Central Park was a rare wildlife romp in the heart of the big city.

I still have a hard time thinking of coyotes in these parts. I always think of them as Western beasts, not to be found east of Mountain Standard Time. There’s nothing to that, as the species has been living in the Northeast since the ’30s.

Still, I don’t recall ever hearing about them in New York while growing up. There were plenty of other wild animals in the woods adjacent to my boyhood home, including the occasional deer; you’d think coyotes would be attracted to that, if nothing else. The first time I became cognizant of them here was when a friend in Florida, who hailed from Connecticut, mentioned that they’d been causing problems at his mother’s house.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/22/2006 09:34:01 PM
Category: New Yorkin', Science
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Any other Yahoo! Mail users out there noticing more spam getting through the filters lately?

For the past week or two, two or three spam messages per day have been winding up in my Inbox. And these are obvious spams — the usual penis pill/low mortgage rate/free computer crap that routinely fills up my Bulk folder all day and night. I can’t see anything that distinguishes these particular missives from the rest of their ilk, but for some reason, they’re getting past the goalie.

I haven’t had a serious problem with Y! Mail in the years I’ve been using it. I continue to keep it as my “official” email address, despite having a couple of other accounts (including Gmail). It’d be a shame if it started buckling under the spam deluge now.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/22/2006 04:22:08 PM
Category: Internet
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Yesterday, I noted the un-design similiarities between eBay and MySpace, suggesting that it was a key to both their successes.

John pointed me toward a loose discussion of the topic that contained this kernel of insight:

As some of you may know, thefacebook.com just got a subtle redesign. It’s a nice CSS-based design. Nothing flashy, but definitely clean and professional looking.

Well, the other day, in the daily student newspaper for the University I work at, there was a commentary about how now that “the facebook is all-professional and stuff,” how long before they start selling our private information, add a bunch of advertisements, etc.

I just thought it was interesting that in this case, the professional design actually scared someone, rather than pleasing them…

I guess this is the heart of it for a lot of Web users. The more polished a site is, the more suspect it is. The amateur look is a sign of street cred: It implies there’s no money behind it, so it can be trusted. The funny thing is that this simple-is-good cosmetic factor extends to well-known blockbuster companies, like Google and eBay. I guess it functions as a mental sign/countersign, but it’s so easy for “real” companies to emulate and exploit it.

It also speaks to how much a site’s looks says about its ultimate audience: Users or advertisers. If a site gets to the point where its owners feel the need to “pretty up”, the message to many users is that it’s getting ready to do some serious business with the moneymen. That can be interpreted as threatening by a segment of the population, as that thefacebook.com example showed; or it can be a welcoming sign to those who prefer to interact with a more finished operation.

There must be some sort of meme going around on this. Site Reference’s Mark Daoust expands on the theme that the gobbledygook approach conveys mainstream trustworthiness:

The idea of an ugly website could present a positive message never crossed my mind. Yet the fact is, ugly websites do have the ability to present the perfect marketing message. What is that message?

You can trust us. We are a family run business and do not employ a marketing team. Our website is simple, but functional. Most importantly, our goal is to serve our customers, not necessarily learn HTML.

As Internet professionals, we often forget that a large part of our society is actually afraid of the Internet. Although online shopping is growing, most people still have concerns about online security and the impersonal nature of the web. Most people do not know how to surf efficiently and use only the default tools that are given to them when they take their computer out of the box.

And this is one reason that ugly websites can sell. The lack of professionalism and a polished look leads one to believe that they are dealing with an individual. Websites cannot be trusted, but individuals can be trusted.

He also cites Plenty of Fish, the bare-bones dating startup that raked in $10,000 in AdSense revenue in a single day. Further proof that the more comfortable a user is with an unfancy interface, the more willing they are to accept a sales pitch.

In fact, the key is comfort. If you’re not at ease with whatever the Web might throw at you, you might appreciate a low-tech-looking presentation. Conversely, more experienced and intensive Web users (like me) look at it just the opposite.

The other big factor, for me: Accountability. A shoddy-looking site tells me, more than anything else, that I can’t really count on whoever’s on the other end of the connection. It’s either a hobby or a scam, and if I give them any information or money, I have little guarantee that it won’t be going down the toilet. With a dedicated business, you assume there’s a stake in maintaining a good reputation, along with a fixed target for getting satisfaction. Sometimes, the desire for comfort overrides common sense. Witness the recurring issue of people making ecommerce purchases through unsecured sites, and wind up having their credit card numbers exposed on the Web; in those cases, reliance on a mom-and-pop setup gets them burned.

Does this effectively extend beyond just the Web? Word of mouth and homemade flyers are often considered more reliable marketing avenues than traditional commercial messages. Of course, they’re also eminently exploitable by big companies, via guerilla marketing techniques and such. But this can also be extended toward other services: Restaurants, repair shops, etc.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 03/22/2006 03:20:54 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Internet
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