« August 2003 | Main | October 2003 »


As part of my job, the occasional press release crosses my desk for conversion to XML and release on the corporate web site. Today's release had a heading which contained the phrase "(company) helps (customer) reverse shrinking profit margins", while the subhead said "(product) helps increase profit margins". Sorry for being obtuse with the references, but I would prefer to keep specifics out of this blog. In essence, the subhead was not much of an elaboration on the main header, but was in fact just a restatement.

The main header (H1)'s phrasing gives us a lead-in with negative connotations. I'm not sure why we would want to lead with a negatively-biased statement like that, even if we restate it immediately afterward in a positive sense.

Marketing 101 taught us that things should always be phrased positively, but this seems to go beyond breaching that concept. The writing here winds up being awkward and inefficient, thus obscuring the meaning we were trying to convey.

Issues like this should be enforced either with a good editorial process, or through some kind of linguistically-intelligent automated process. While natural language processing has a ways to go before coming into the hands of average business users, Deloitte Consulting has made a great first step with their Bullfighter tool.

Bullfighter is an add-in for MS Word and Powerpoint which generates a composite "bull index" based on the writer's reliance on so-called bull words, combined with an analysis of sentence length and complexity. Bull words are something we are all familiar with: enterprise, leverage, solution, value-added, and many more. They are made-up terms that can obscure meaning and, yes, even mess up search engine optimization. Wonder how that works? Ask yourself when was the last time you Googled for a "digital entertainment solution" as opposed to "mp3 software".

My employer's corporate site is in the midst of a minor cleanup of these terms. "Solution" will be downplayed in favor of "software", according to my plan, but of course there are always compromises to be made. Bull terms are an addiction. People feel intelligent when they use them. As a result, I am approaching the problem from as many angles as possible - changing the culture of the writers producing the content. Of course, a written style guide, along with a loud enough bark and a tough bite to back it up, are necessary to keep everything accessible and easy to understand. Bullfighter is another important tool in my arsenal, because now that the button appears on everyone's Word toolbar they feel compelled to use it and compare scores. Nothing like a little self-competition to improve results.

Bullfighter wouldn't have prevented the head/subhead conflict I mention above, but as these tools gain acceptance it's only a matter of time before such capability comes along.

Now if only Typepad would incorporate Bullfighter for my blogging use .... ;-)

Posted on September 10, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

IBM's Socializer

What a strange title; people probably don't associate Big Blue with socializing. Anyhow, you might have heard about IBM's new Alphaworks technology, Socializer. If you haven't, consider yourself clued in as of right now. According to IBM, "Socializer is a distributed, peer-to-peer platform that connects a person to people and services in the same location. " Sounds kind of like a higher-level version of Apple's Rendezvous technology for device discovery.

They are looking for people to come up with applications. The killer app, I think, would be proximal profile discovery via Bluetooth cellphones. Bluetooth is short range, so maybe GPS-based cellphones could interact with a server to find one another, but that isn't P2P anymore so we'd need something other than Socializer to do the job. But imagine walking down the street and being alerted whenever another Galactic fan comes within range. If a bunch of people running the client on their phone are within range of one another, the network would extend for as far as the chain remains unbroken, kind of like the Cybiko, or even packet radio. Once widespread adoption is sufficient, entire communities or even cities could be bathed in the P2P social grid.

And cellphones would only be part of the vision- IBM intends this to be used on laptops and Palm devices. I imagine that this could be used between wireless base stations as well, or even over cable modem where all users on the street are essentially on a LAN. Community bulletin boards could spring up, giving rise to BBS-like social enclaves (which were often geographically constrained due to long distance bills) where people would meet IRL as a group like way back in the day.

We're already seeing WiFi communities develop - another trend is grid computing over the network - and the explosive popularity of P2P in general. Clearly the Internet is headed for a whole new era of applications, and in the original spirit of innovation, hopefully cooperative communities will drive the development.

Posted on September 8, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Living the Dream

Here's a little vocabulary upgrade lesson. Today I was rapping with a buddy about life in general, and it occured to me that he's "living the dream" as the expression goes. However, imagine that this dream is something I want to achieve for myself... a better thought might be that he's "living my future".

Dream = unreal, future = inevitable. Your unconscious will know the difference and act accordingly.

Posted on September 5, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Danger, Inc. Announces Java Licensee Agreement with Sun

I'm pleased to report that Danger, Inc. has licensed J2ME from Sun Microsystems. As you know, I am a user and a fan of the Hiptop device (aka T-Mobile Sidekick). Although the built-in functionality is limited, I'm pleased overall with the device itself and its capabilities. At present, I am underutilizing it simply because I work during the day and don't get good reception in my cube.

Adding J2ME into the mix will essentially open up the platform to the millions of Java developers around the globe (including myself) Danger has a developer's program, but I am not a member and so far haven't seen any incentive to join up, but this J2ME thing might make me think again. The means by which to update my own device on a whim with cool applications of my own imagining is just too great to resist.

Now, I'm not sure how many Hiptops are deployed and active right now, nor am I sure when the next over-the-air update for the Sidekick will occur (or even if Java will be included) but once the ability is added to download OTA applications to the Sidekick, I suspect a huge revenue stream will open up for T-Mobile and perhaps Danger as well. Rumors on hiptop.com hold that the next update will probably include a Download Manager like many other smart phones out there, where customers can download apps and ringtones for a small charge or even for free. Note: Those forums are full of naysayers (naysayers seem by nature to be more vocal than advocates) and anything said there should be taken with an entire shaker of salt. More apps will translate into more Hiptop sales- leaving me wishing that Danger would IPO - as their future products would only get better from this awesome start.

Sun will also be receiving licensing revenue... hopefully this will be good news for the company. Their user base in terms of mobile devices has been expanding at an explosive pace in recent years, making Java the technology of choice for mobile applications.

Having a such a huge development culture added to the Hiptop will more than make up for the last update's removal of the arcade games. I can't wait to be able to download a plethora of Tetris clones to satisfy my longstanding addiction to that flavor of game. I'm sure hundreds of other apps will be great as well, especially considering that the Hiptop has a full QWERTY keyboard which most mobile phones lack. Think: SSH clients, location-based services, server admin tools, heck even an over-the-air iTunes remote control. Killer app: remotely purchase songs from the iTunes Music Store, and have them waiting for you at home already downloaded.

Don't like the PIM apps from Danger? Download another. Can't sync with your favorite desktop apps? Write your own conduit or, again, download one.

Bottom line: good for Danger, good for Sun, good for the carriers, good for Java, and good for us!

Posted on September 4, 2003 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack