Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Spammers go to Hell

I have a liberal philosophy about hell. Or at least an odd one... We can go into it in detail some other day, but it boils down to a loving God that gives people every chance possible to accept the benefits of love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, friendship, sharing, peace and understanding. If you want those things, you get to live forever with Him and with other people who want those things. Obviously, if you don't want those things you don't need to accept them, and you go somewhere else.

Classically, we've called that place, "Hell." There's a "game theory" version of religion that has some invisible monitor counting up sins vs. good deeds, and, in the end, you get a ticket or a pill and you might be surprised with the outcome:

"What? I'm going to Hell? Oh, crap! I didn't realize that poking my brother right near his head and whispering, 'I'm not touching you... I'm not touching you...' was such a big deal! Jeez-o-Pete... WHAT??!! Saying 'Jeez-o-Pete' counts as swearing!!??? Dang. I do belong in Hell..."

I don't believe in the game-theory version of Hell. I believe it's an obvious choice. Same as the choices here on Earth, but more obvious. You know, like Paul said: something about us seeing though a glass darkly, but afterward, all shall be made clear. So -- now, here, today, the benefits of doing good are sometimes... fuzzy. We want conflicting things. And some of them may "seem" good, even though we know they aren't "really" good. We have the choice to do all manner of bad stuff, from wee little piddly Jeez-o-Pete stuff, up to great evil on a momentous scale. I believe that how we live our lives now prepares us for how that choice will seem to us when it is made "more clearly" come the veil be torn assunder.

If we consistently choose to do evil, then good will look like a bad choice. Being in a place full of lovey-dovey, hugs-r-us, earthy-crunchy, tell-me-all-your-problems, everything-is-forgiven types for eternity would look like... what? to someone who has indulged a life of complete self-centeredness and contempt for others. It would look like... Hell!

So. Maybe the place is just one place. Maybe to good people, who have lived a life of love and forgiveness, spending eterninty in a place where that is the norm is called "Heaven" and seems like music on clouds. Maybe to bad people, who have lived a life where love feels like being invaded and forgiveness is a kind of judgement, that feels like pitchforks and fire.

Either way, spammers go to Hell. Period.

I got 24 pieces of comment spam yesterday. So...

I've just installed "Did You Pass Math," a neat little captcha-like utility that will ask you to solve a 2nd grade addition problem (2 + 4 or such) before completing your comment. I like it better than the words-in-pictures, because those utilities require me to install two plugins (one for the captcha, one for the image translation), so this one passes the Occam's Coding Razor tests of "Sweet!" "Lazy!" and "Elegant!" We'll see if it works.

In the meantime... you spammers out there would do well to consider how your souls will fare in the everlasting backwash of eternity.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The message is the

MEGive me a ...neon sign iutaj-M

I'm not going to get all McLuhan tonight. Don't have the time. But I'm increasingly moved, impressed, amused and freaked out by the way in which things are other things.

When I first heard, "The medium is the message" -- McLuhan's seminal aphorism -- I thought, "No it ain't." I was about 16 at the time, and the idea that the message wasn't the message was appalling to me. Sure, the medium was important. But the medium "is" the message? That's just too... too. At about 21, I admitted that, perhaps, the medium is a large part of the message. That the medium pervades the messages. That the statement was meant to be broad for effect. That, that, that... Feh.

By about 30, I was convinced. The medium is the message. Yes, Marshall... you were right.

And I wish you were alive, now, to see the what's going on with Web mash-ups, Web 2.0, the seminal-web, interactive-metadata, call it what you want. But it's just... well, MM would have simply said, "cool."

There's an old math game you play, where one person lists numbers in a sequence, and the other person then has to figure out what the next number is. 2, 4, 6, 8... 10! Right. 1,2,3,5,7...11! Well, here's one for you:

3, 3, 5, 4, 4, 3, 5, 5, 4, 3, 6, 6 ___

What's that next number? Don't scroll down until you give yourself a bit of a chance here.

Give up? It's 8.

Why? Because the numbers in the sequence equal the number of letters in the words for the numbers in the sequence. Hunh? Like this:

one = 3 (o, n, e)
two = 3 (t, w, o)
three = 5 four = 4 five = 4 six = 3 seven = 5 eight = 5 nine = 4 ten = 3 eleven = 6 twelve = 6

thirteen = 8

See? Numbers are words. And words have numbers of letters. That's a double transposition.

Who cares? See the pictures of the letters at the top of this post? It was created using a Flickr mashup called "Spell with Flickr." You type in a word, the code (pretty simple code, too.. no offense) finds Flickr pics that match for pics of those letters. Voila! You have words made of pictures of letters.

That's the second Flickr mashup I discovered today that treats pictures as something other/more than the sum of their pixels. Krazydad's Colr Pickr lets you choose a color from an RGB wheel and see thumbnails of random Flickr pics with high RGB saturations that meet your selection criteria. There are also buttons on the bottom that let you see Flickr images with various other filters like flowers, graffiti and macro.

Some will see this and say, "Yeah... big deal. Just another way to search. A bit more intuitive and intelligent, but is it really that big a deal?"

I say... it's getting there. It's getting close to a large "McLuhan Moment."

Numbers are words are letters are pictures are colors are flowers are close-ups of graffiti. If the medium is the message, and we are rearranging the medium on-the-fly... if the medium is mashable...

The message has always been open to interpretation.

Now... are we at the point where the medium is, too?

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Spore: primal ooze to prime directive

I'm not going to pimp for specific commercial software products very often. Especially not ones that aren't out yet. And really especially ones that aren't out yet and are getting a ton of press elsewhere. Also, I'm not playing anywhere near as many video/computer games as I used to. See: having a kid and trying to keep up with two blogs and other creative projects that aren't games.

All that being said, Spore looks... well... insanely awesome.

30 minute gameplay video here.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

The Ouroblogos

John Moore, over at Brand Autopsy, has a good post with pointers to a recent blog-off between Robert Scoble and Shel Israel on one side, and Werner Vogel on the other, with color commentary from a bunch of other blogs as well.

Basically, Scoble and Shel went to Vogel's house (Amazon) to talk about corporate blogging. According to Vogel, they weren't prepared to discuss the subject deeply and seriously enough. According to Scoble/Shel, Vogel was rude. Blah blah blah, several million blog pings (including this one) later... we have Battle of the Blogs... etc. etc. etc. ad nauseam. I left the following comment at Brand Autopsy for John:

My favorite writing teacher at school, Dan McCall, liked to say that all great writing is always about two things: whatever it's about, and about writing.

Great marketing is always about two things, too: whatever it's about, and marketing. I look at this back-and-forth about blogging, and think to myself, "Isn't this an example of exactly the kind of discussion that blogging is *supposed* to foment?"

The fact that we're blogging about blogging (and now, with this post of John's, blogging about blogging about blogging... my god, it's the Ouroblogos!!!) makes it difficult to see (the reflexivity paradox; it's hard to think about thinking)... but nonetheless true -- it's the reflection of the thing in the thing itself.

The blog proponents say that blogging increases transparency, promotes communication between/among customers and employees and helps communication happen more naturally. OK. Didn't all those things just occur within this set of "dueling blog-o's?"

The "we're-less-than-convinved" crowd says that blogs will open the kimono too far, expose internal personalities that are better left on the inside, give vent to "non-professional" conversations and unleash all kinds of unproductive chatter that is irrelevant to the actual marketing of products and service. Didn't that happen, too?

Yes. It did. A condradiction? Not at all.

And why is that? Because like any marketing medium, blogging must be judged based on (here I go again) goals. What do you want to accomplish? What, specifically, do you think blogging will do for you? What are the costs and benefits? What are the risks? How do you mitigate them?

Is blogging a great tool? For what? Toasting a cheese sandwich? No. Sucks for that. For building a high-performance, massive, worldwide retail sales empire. Nope again. For bringing many more customers to a specific, "long tail" subject than you could possibly have ever garnered through previous, traditional communication channels? Hell, yeah! For letting narrow, vertical groups of customers, partners and employees know what's going on in areas of interest? Yep again.

So. Did I enjoy this blog-wrastle? Sure did. Why? It was meta in the extreme. "Blogs Gone Wild." I think I'll turn this comment into a post on my own blog just so I can come up with either a pic of the Ouroblogos or Scoble vs. Vogel on the cover of a mud wrestling VHS tape.

Am I adding to the noise? If so, I am clearly admitting it and so that makes it OK. Right? Going into the irony with full and complete knowledge and my cup on...

I don't know about corporate blogging at your company. That's not what this post is about. My point was, and is, that blogging, like any other communications tool, need to be examined within a context of goals. Doing it because it's "fun" is BS. Not doing it because it's "scary" is just as BS.

I just got a huge kick out of all the high-level navel gazing. Going to work on my illustration of Ouroblogos now...