Monthly Archives: October 2005

Lucky: How the Seattle Art Scene Kicked Tobacco With the Patch

Lucky Strike vs. Artpatch What the heck does tobacco have to do with the Seattle arts scene? Almost exactly two years ago, Lucky Strike (Brown & Williamson/ R.J. Reynolds Tobacco) waltzed into Seattle brandishing a giant checkbook, and a curious interest in art. A number of organizations gladly accepted the dollars thrown their way, and even a popular weekly newspaper took advantage of the handouts…

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Eminem + iPod = Trouble

Seems that Apple’s iPod advertising and Eminem just aren’t a good mix. I don’t know if any of you remember the original problem with Eminem suing Apple over a commercial featuring a little kid listening to his iPod, and singing the words to “Lose Yourself.” Well, it had the potential to be a great little ad spot but Eminem (and/or his lawyers) decided to ruin the fun. I can’t find the original pulled commercial anywhere, but I’m sure it’s out there.

Second time around, Apple got Eminem’s cooperation with the same song in their new Lose Yourself iPod ad featuring Eminem performing. It’s a great looking ad, and I caught it on TV earlier, and was fairly impressed. It seems like Apple and Eminem have resolved their differences. But wait… what’s this? For once, Apple’s creative advertising team seems fallible. The ad has been done before in the form of a classic Lugz commercial from 2002. Apparently it was a rather impressive, even groundbreaking motion graphics achievement at the time, at the very least pushing some cool stylistic boundaries. In addition to (or maybe because of?) this inconvenient creative “coincidence,” Apple had briefly pulled the new commercial from their site before bringing it back.

It’s almost reminiscent of another recent advertising homage/theft.

The Fog

No, not the silly horror movie that came out recently. This morning was one of those eerie, real-life mornings where the fog downtown was so thick, you couldn’t see the tops of most buildings. Looking out from the 16th floor here, you could barely make out the surrounding buildings, and sometimes if the fog rolled around just right, you couldn’t see further than a hundred feet. Of course it’s the one day I didn’t bring my camera with me.

My favorite thing to do on days like this is to try to take as deep a breath as possible when I’m walking outside. For once the stale, fishy downtown stench is gone in favor of the cool, refreshing, moist fog flavor. Even though the West Coast is more known for it’s fog, there’s something about the smell that always reminds me of New England.

At noon the sun finally started breaking through the haze, but looking down Pike or Pine you still couldn’t make out the water. Is Puget Sound still there?

Over or Under Debate

At the end of the work day on Friday, a few coworkers and I were lingering in the office and for one reason or another, we ended up on the eternal debate of “over or under.” Yes, in reference to how you hang toilet paper. Doing a Google search yields tons of sites that have put together surveys and informal polls. This debate has certainly been around for years, and the two sides are equally zealous.

Amongst coworkers I was in the minority with my answer of “under.” It’s my preference, and while it isn’t necessarily standard hotel-practice, it makes more sense to me. Plus, if you’ve ever lived with curious, energetic pets, there is another strong argument for the safer “under” method.

How do you hang your toilet paper rolls? New sheet hanging over the roll or new sheet hanging under? Do you feel strongly enough to actually change a roll’s orientation in someone else’s house? Or do you not really care either way?

Note: There is also the “I don’t want to change the roll right now, so I’ll set it on it’s side on top of the toilet” option, which I’m discounting because that’s just lazy.

On the Road to Platinum

Almost exactly 2 years ago, I posted an MP3 of The Admiral, singing a version of Snow – Informer. Believe it or not, it is still being downloaded regularly. You can see the numbers from the past year on the chart below.

There’s an understandable dip in the summer months, but the numbers have picked up again. I also extrapolated for October, based on the downloads so far. I only have (easily accessible) stats going back for the past year, so who knows how many additional times it was downloaded in that first year. In total, it was downloaded at least 5500 times. That’s a whopping 7 1/2 gigabytes worth. If we continue at a rate of about 5000 downloads a year, The Admiral’s single will go platinum in another 199 years!

Two Dollar Homepage is Sold!

It’s official, the $$ Two Dollar Homepage is sold.

In this challenging market space, pioneered by the Million Dollar Homepage, I was able to swoop in and stake my claim. Not only was I undercut by the competition, but I was even up against a completely free site. How did my offering survive in this crowded arena? I went with a unique business model focussing on a single $2 commitment with the promise of exclusivity. No sharing of the space, no rotating, and no 10×10 pixel squares. The Two Dollar Homepage was a resounding success. Now to figure out why it wasn’t profitable…

No turkey for you!

Working in downtown Seattle means there’s never a shortage of lunch options, but it also means it’s hard to find options that aren’t $10 sandwiches. My regular lunch crowd typically rates things on a “price per pound” scale. Quality often takes back seat to quantity in this case, but there are a few places that truly shine on both fronts. This week, the Stranger serves up a great review of one of our favorites, Bakeman’s.

It is almost an initiation ritual now, bringing the newest members of the team to Bakeman’s. On our walk down, about a block away, we give “the rules.” As described in the Stranger review, the ordering process is fast and strict, and if you’re not prepared you’ll end up not only with the wrong sandwich, but also a lot of angry looks. Two kinds of turkey, white and dark, and two kinds of bread, white and dark. One after another you hear people’s orders, “White on white,” “White on dark,” and the occasional “mixed” on something, or an order for the day’s special.

Then there’s the man at the register, the owner, as pictured in the review. And, of course, the up-sell. Soda, dessert, pickles, etc… He shoots the questions at you so fast, you really need to be on top of things to keep up. Make a mistake and he’ll snap at you. I once made the mistake of repeating a cup of soup request twice (because I still hadn’t gotten it) and he exclaimed, “I heard you the first time, do you want anything else!?” He just wanted to hear “no” so he could cash out my order, shut the register and then grab my bowl of soup. Is it the best customer service? No, but it’s the character and efficiency that makes the place. I’ve never seen a line of 30 customers handled faster than at Bakeman’s. With delicious sandwiches at $3-$4 a pop, with a giant slice of pie thrown in for another $1 it’s hard to beat the price-per-pound ratio.

The Lamest Generation

A while ago, riding the bus up from downtown I heard a male voice in a conversation from the back of the bus say, “I thought my generation was going to change the world. It turns out we were just a bunch of slackers.”

I’m not sure why it struck such a chord, but it seemed like an incredibly sad thing to say, no matter what age you are. I next wondered what generation this person might belong to, which would elicit such a claim. The voice was a pretty non-descript male sound, and as I turned around, I half-expected (with my bus-riding stereotypes in full-effect) to see a younger, disheveled, bitter, homeless guy mumbling to himself. I then heard someone else ask, “How old are you?”
“I’m 55.”
The older gentleman looked perfectly normal, clean-cut, and nicely dressed. It looked like a younger guy in his mid-20’s had asked his age. I couldn’t tell if the conversation continued after that, but I’m sure it would have been interesting.

I’m sure most of it was frustration with his own life and what he’s accomplished, which is too bad. I’m sure there are a few Vietnam veterans who would have smacked this guy right away for the “slackers” comment. And there are plenty of other Baby Boomers who have definitely changed the world as we know it. You gotta have a little respect.

On Tagging

I’ve been talking with a few people recently about the phenomenon of tagging (not the grafitti kind), or “folksonomies,” if you will. The common opinion seems to be that of skepticism. That organization by user-created “tags” or keywords is inherently flawed because multiple users will tag something differently. What happens when one person tags a photo of a VW bug with “automobile” and another tags it with “car”? To me that seems like the beauty of the system, the diversity of classification. Chances are you’ll get another person, or better yet, multiple people, who end up tagging it with both “automobile” and “car”. The system now has enough information to know that in some ways “automobile” and “car” are related and should maybe be placed in the same group.

Flickr has figured this out with their clusters. Here’s a good example of Flickr’s clusters doing their thing, with the word “beetle.” We get one cluster for Volkswagens and one for insects. But there’s also a third cluster thrown in there with the word “macro” similar to the insects cluster. Is it perfect? No, but it’s not bad.

How does handle things? When you add a new bookmark or link to your account, they provide a brief list of suggested tags based on tags that other users’ have entered. This helps with some of the ambiguity, but again it isn’t foolproof. When you’re adding a new site that has never been bookmarked before in, well, you’re on your own. Or head to Tagyu to get some recommendations.

Despite the trouble of relying on imperfect people to classify information on their own, I still think that tagging is where we’re headed in the next big search revolution. In fact, if you think about what Google did with their search and Pagerank, it’s basically a “folksonomy.” Website A links to Website B with the word “automobiles.” Website B now scores a higher pagerank for the word. Who would ever have thought that would make for a good way to search the Internet? For better, or worse, but mostly better, Google has treated hyperlinks as a kind of tag, or descriptor. The flaws in this system are obvious. I mean, look, I just linked to a Wikipedia entry about Google-bombing, using the word “worse.” Does that entry have anything to do with “worse”? It’s a stretch, but not really.

Whichever big internet player grabs an established system like next (I’m rooting for Yahoo!), will have a whole heck of a lot of classified, and categorized websites, ripe for integration with the next generation search. We’ll start to see more blogging software with tags built-in, and photos, links and music all tagged interconnectedly. I can’t wait to see the results. Not to mention the dawn of tag-spam. Spag?


Some of the better search strings from the past two months…

html code for you oughta know by alanis morissette – Wait, you’re coding a song? Huh?
licky – boom boom
list of black – a blacklist?
pubic crabs jumping in peoples eyes – worst. visual. ever.
silly little kid – I sure am
baudrillard paintball – in a virtual disneyworld
dry off – towels
last night i dreamt i was pregnant
mayors buddy icons
microscopic expressionism – amoeba kandinsky

One of Those Days

Nalgene Bottle You wake up extra groggy because you stayed up later than you should have the night before. You head in to work an hour and a half early to get some important stuff done. You cut the roof of your mouth biting into an over-toasted english muffin. You learn that two more people you work with have come down with the same awful flu/cough/throat thing that everyone has had except you. The day is nearly over and some unexpected frustrating stuff goes on, leaving lots of people a bit confused. Said unexpected frustrating stuff will definitely delay the project you came in early to finish, by at least 2-3 months. You realize that the 5 o’clock chimes downtown went off 20 minutes ago, and it’s too late to leave early. You walk out of the building just as the day’s depressing gray sky decides to turn into a pseudo rain. You find standing room only on the bus ride home.

But as always the Summit was open and the drinks were strong.