March 31, 2004

Spring Break... In the Arctic Circle

Instead of heading for the warm beaches, a group of MIT students headed for Alaska in an effort to learn about drilling for oil in Alaska. The trip's over now, but the blog of the trip is interesting reading. Here's another student's journal of the trip.

Posted by brian at 06:09 PM

Your Research Dollars At Work: UCSD Study on Dogs & Owners

UnionTribune is running story today about a UCSD study that shows that yes, there does seem to be something to the old notion that dog owners often resemble their dogs.

Considering my dog looks like an albino Spock wearing a black eye patch, I'm not so sure the study pertains to me.

Posted by brian at 03:39 PM

March 30, 2004

Back from Bay Area

Whirlwind 2-day trip to SF Bay Area to meet various folks. Amazed that I was able to drive from Sunnyvale to Berkeley in 55 minutes during Monday morning rush hour. (I thought it'd take 2-3hrs)

Managed to sneak in a first-time visit to Amoeba between meetings. Wow. That's the kind of record store you could go broke in!

Posted by brian at 03:52 PM

March 25, 2004

Surfing Fundrace.org

Fundrace.org's Neighbor Search is fascinating and a bit scary: it lists the name, address, occupation, employer, political campaign contribution amount, and campaign contribution recipient in a multi-page list.

I'm intrigued that so many La Jolla realtors, whose names I readily recognize given their prominent advertisements in the weekly local La Jolla newspapers, are Bush supporters:

Matthew W. Kelly
Agent
Burnham Real Estate
George W. Bush
$2,000
Gregory V. Noonan
Real Estate Broker
Prudential
George W. Bush
$2,000
Larame Greene
Real Estate
Self-Employed
George W. Bush
$2,000
James Stephen Quinn
Real Estate Developer
American Property Enterprises
George W. Bush
$2,000
William Davis Ballard
Realtor
Burnham Real Estate Services
George W. Bush
$2,000
Gloria Clark
Real Estate
The Willis Allen Company
George W. Bush
$2,000
Isaac Ferris Clark
Real Estate
The Willis Allen Company
George W. Bush
$2,000
Ralph Di Bianco
Broker
G.W. Realty Company
George W. Bush
$2,000
Richard D. Vann
Real Estate Developer
Sunroad Enterprises
George W. Bush
$1,000
Thomas W. Sudberry
Realtor
Sudberry Properties, Inc.
George W. Bush
$2,000
Gregory Wight Schneider
Real Estate
Self-Employed
George W. Bush
$2,000
Stan Miller
Investment Management
Miller Properties
George W. Bush
$2,000
Harry A. Collins
Real Estate Developer
Collins Development Company
George W. Bush
$2,000

There are a few real estate people listed for non-Bush campaigns, but the vast majority are for Bush. Why?

Meanwhile, over at LA Voice, they're snooping around Fundrace to see who in L.A. is giving to the campaigns. Here's LA Voice's blog entry on Fundrace.

Want to know who the VCs and CEOs of Silicon Valley support? It's all there, just search using a Silicon Valley zip code and start reading page after page of data. Lots of Democratic support, and the occasional surprise (Carol Bartz, CEO of Autodesk, and Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay: both big Bush supporters!? Say it ain't so!)

Posted by brian at 03:13 PM | Comments (1)

March 23, 2004

The World Live Web

Dave Sifry talks about Technorati tracking the "world live web". He also calls it a "search engine for conversations".

Some thoughts:

  • I wonder if the brand will limit its market potential. It's kind of a tongue-twister and hard-to-spell domain. It's also inherently geeky. That'll appeal to the techies and the bloggers -- but will it appeal to the mainstream 'Net user? Can Technorati cross the chasm?

  • And if it really is "conversations" that Technorati's about, then ultimately it needs to be a search engine not only for just-posted blog entries, but also for just-posted conversations going on in mailing lists, IRC sessions, chat rooms, and open IM sessions. I suspect there are far more "live" conversations going on there at anyone time than the number of people submitting a new blog entry or comment to a blog at any one time. I'd love to see an army of IRC bots go out and monitor open IRC chats, and then you could have technorati alert you to when an interesting chat is going on on a subject you're interested in, in real time. Perhaps not just the subject, but the participants as well: alert me when Mitch Kapor is talking about Chandler in an OSAF chat session in IRC....

  • As high bandwidth continues to expand into the market, prosumer-generated content will begin to take advantage of that higher bandwidth. There are already audio blogs, photo blogs, and nascent video blogs. Eventually there will be lots of video and audio blogs. How will Technorati be able to find content in these formats? Or will technorati be relagated to text only, and miss out on helping users find the very interesting, highly newsworthy (imagine: 5-minutes-old camcorder footage of some major world news event/incident) content?

more later...

Posted by brian at 08:50 AM | Comments (2)

Glaser's Question to Jobs

[PC Forum] Rob Glaser on Steve Jobs, Apple, and the proprietary iPod (where only tunes bought from iTunes Music Store can be loaded onto the iPod): "What the heck is going on? I bought an iPod and I can only shop in one store? What is this, the Soviet Union!??"

Posted by brian at 08:11 AM

March 22, 2004

Metacarta

One of the startups debuting here at PC Forum is Metacarta, which helps you find all documents that mention a certain place.

While they're focusing on enterprise customers (and three-letter agencies no doubt), it occurs to me that one of the interesting potential applications is with Amazon's "Search Inside the Book" capability. With Metacarta's tool, that suggests Amazon could let you do queries such as:

  • Find all novels that take place or have scenes in or have dialogue about some town or place.

  • Find all travel books on Hawaii that have sections on Kapaa or Anini Beach or some other little town or locale that you're interested in. A travel book that has good references to the things I am most interested in visiting, or, say, friends have highly recommended I visit, would be my first choices for books to buy...

  • Find all DVDs whose reviews or descriptions mention a certain place or locale.

  • Find all history books that refer to your home town.

  • Let's say I'm giving a keynote speech in Witchita, KS. I need a great anecdote about Witchita, but I want it to be literary and perhaps one that nobody's used before or at least recently. So I go to Amazon and search all literature for books that mention Witchita, or even a particular street in Witchita, and I find some great examples from Mark Twain or I.F. Stone or Jack London or perhaps from a recent novel or travel book, and I work that reference in to the opening of my lecture.

That's just a sampling of ideas that I think would enhance Amazon as well as give Metacarta a flashship customer.

Jeff Bezos is here at this conference. I suggested to John Frank, Metacarta's CEO, last night at dinner that he hook up with Jeff Bezos and talk...

UPDATE: I'm told that John Frank has indeed hooked up with Bezos. Let's see if something happens!

Posted by brian at 02:28 PM

March 21, 2004

PC Forum 2004

Live, from PC Forum 2004 conference brought to you by Edventure C|Net. Um, it's hot here in Arizona. Too hot. Hit 100 degrees on the drive out from San Diego. (I suppose it helps one better understand why so many Zonies drive out to San Diego in Jan/Feb/Mar...)

Posted by brian at 03:24 PM

March 19, 2004

GarageBand Music

Interesting listening to all the music being created by users of Apple's Garageband software. The MacJams actually has some pretty good indie music.

My favorite recording, amazingly all made in Garageband: Paris H" by Sauerpuss. Sounds like REM!

Then there's a cover version of Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" that sounds incredibly like Neil, but it's actually Matt Knutson, a graphic designer in Juneau, Alaska. (Catch this fast: MacJams prohibits cover versions of tunes, and this one will no doubt be removed at some point).

Posted by brian at 11:47 AM

March 15, 2004

Germs, Germs Everywhere

Over on Slashdot there's a link to a BBC story on germs on desk and work surfaces that's guaranteed to make you squirm.

While it comes as no surprise to me that desktop surfaces, keyboards, mice, and phones are, in the BBC's words, "bacteria cafeterias," I've always wondered more about conference room tables.

I remember at places like MP3.com and eBay, where conference rooms would be booked from 8am to 8pm some days, one meeting after another, and by the end of the day the surfaces would be downright sticky. Think about all the working lunches you've had in a conference room. If a desktop has 29,000 germs per squre inch, imagine how many germs live on the typical office conference room table, that's been used by dozens of groups of people, some with colds, some with less-than-perfect hygeine habits, all day long.

It's no wonder people come down with colds and worse when they work in office environments...

Posted by brian at 09:38 PM

March 14, 2004

What Happens When You Get Chris Rock's Old Cellphone Number

Amusing story from someone named Laura (who runs the Laura's NYC Tales site), on what happened when her new cellphone was assigned to Chris Rock's old number...

Posted by brian at 09:18 PM

March 13, 2004

Photo

There's an almost Escher-esque quality to this photo at the Antipixel blog. I love these kinds of photos: messes with your sense of perspective. And notice the stick figure!

Posted by brian at 10:40 PM

March 10, 2004

What The Market Will Bear: The NASCARization of Movies

mo•vie the•a•ter (MOO-vee THEE-a-tur) n. A specialized fast-food restaurant having two distinguishing traits: 1) charges prices much higher than competing fast-food restaurants, and 2) provides, instead of tables and chairs at which customers can eat and drink, darkened auditorums showing filmed entertainment that customers must also pay a fee for before they can buy their food and drinks

For years that's been my definition of the typical movie theater in the United States. Looks like the time has come to change that definition, but not for the better.

Twelve years ago, my wife and I went to Paris on a business trip. We were very jetlagged from the long flight and after a long walk around parts of the city, we decided to catch a movie. We found a huge cinema on the Champs d'Elysees that must've had 2500 seats. The lights dimmed. The commercials began. These were major productions, some lasting several minutes. And at the end, the ad revealed what product (Shell gas, Coca-Cola, whatever) you were supposed to buy. We marveled at how many ads there were. The movie didn't start for nearly thirty minutes after the lights dimmed. It was a first for us: we'd never had this kind of movie experience before back in the States, despite the fact that we were frequent moviegoers.

Just recently on CBS's 60 Minutes TV program, Andy Rooney had a segment on what he called Those Maddening Movie Ads. From his essay:

There ought to be a law that a movie theater has to say exactly what time the show starts. If we want advertising, we'll stay home and watch it for free on television.

(I can sympathize with Andy. However I'm not sure such a law would work, since there'd be no seats left if you showed up 24 minutes past "show time".)

The AMC Experience
I generally loathe the AMC Theatres chain of megaplexes. They're by far, in my experience, the most crassly commercial theatres. While from a business perspective I am able to marvel at how well they are able to monetize every second of the moviegoing experience (from the moment you approach the exterior of one of their megaplexes, Movie Tunes urban contemporary country and western music blaring from outdoor speakers, to the concessions, gift certificates, pre-show ads, post-show games) for that very reason I make a point of avoiding AMC at all costs.

I made the mistake of going last night to the local AMC to see Starsky & Hutch (awful movie, imho: Aykroyd & Hanks' Dragnet -- even Police Academy -- is brilliant filmmaking in comparison). But the thing I marveled at the most in this AMC filmgoing experience was the ads.

Not one. Not two. Not three. Not four. Not five. Not six. But seven commercial advertisements after the lights dimmed. Or was it eight . . .

  • An ad announcing the availability of a new DVD of the film comedy Duplex. Own it today!

  • An ad that mimics typical thriller/horror flicks but turns out to be a spot for Colgate toothpaste

  • Tiger Woods in the same Caddyshack spoof shown during the recent Oscars TV show. Turns out to be an American Express ad.

  • An ad for large Hersheys chocolate bars.

  • An ad for the Scion SUV.

  • An ad for Eclipse breath mints

  • An ad for Coca-Cola featuring NASCAR drivers racing radio-controlled toy NASCAR cars.

  • An ad for MovieTickets.com

  • And finally a house ad for AMC Theatres Gift Certificiates

And then about six previews for upcoming films were shown, followed by . . . another ad:

  • A fake submarine movie scene that turns out to be a plea from AMC to turn off your cell phones so others can enjoy the movie. AMC even has the cojones at this point to show "Silence Is Golden" with a registered trademark symbol after it. But then they show you that this public service announcement was brought to you by Best Buy, Sprint, and a third company whose logo I don't remember.

I thought about Andy Rooney's essay while I dealt with the commercials shown on the screen, and thought, "what the market will bear...". Theory goes that in a free-market economy, merchants try all kinds of things to make money and if they're successful, they discover what the market's willing to put up with and what they're not willing to put up with, and the merchants then pursue profit strategies focused on what the market will put up with.

Question: why do we, the market, put up with these ads? Like Rooney says, "At least on television, you get to watch network shows free in exchange for being advertised at. None of us like it, but it's a deal we accept. You get 60 Minutes for nothing, but you have to watch 15 minutes of advertising."

I paid $9 to see Starsky & Hutch. I didn't pay $9 to see Starsky & Hutch and over a half-dozen commercials.

Rooney asks, "Don't they understand that's what we go to a movie to get away from - commercials?"

I don't think most people go to movies to get away from commercials. I fear that most people don't know the difference anymore between what's a commercial and what isn't. (Have you noticed how ads are popping up during television shows?)

Next time you go to a movie theatre, look around and study what people are wearing. Study what you are wearing. How many items of clothing do you see that have corporate logos and slogans on them? From our Nike shoes to our Major League Baseball hat: we are walking commercials already, just less brazen than the logo-saturated uniforms NASCAR drivers wear. At least for now.

Oh yeah: I just remembered. The very first thing they showed when the lights dimmed down was one of those respectcopyrights.org propoganda pieces run by the MPAA. Got me thinking: when are the copyright holders going to start respecting consumers? It's no wonder people are copying music and movies for free. At least they don't have to watch the ads!

One more thing. This blog was brought to you by Google AdSense.

UPDATE 2pm PST 10 March 2004:

Surfing through AMC Theatres' corporate pages is enlightening. Some items:

  • The company's mission statement: AMC’s Mission — to provide the best possible moviegoing experience — has driven AMC to set the high standards for performance that others attempt to follow.

  • On their trademarked "Silence is Golden" campaign: AMC's Silence Is Golden® “Silence is Golden” is AMC’s proactive national program aimed at providing a distraction-free moviegoing experience. A pre-feature trailer asks our guests to please not “spoil the movie by adding your own soundtrack.” AMC has created other entertaining trailers to express this important message. The program has received overwhelmingly positive response from guests.

AMC's NCN subsidiary is the firm responsible for the commercials one sees before the movies. Be sure to read this page. Hell, here it is in full:

Advertising with NCN
Whether launching a new product or promotion or increasing brand awareness consistently in the marketplace, national, regional and local clients come back to NCN over and over again for the results they're looking for. This section highlights NCN's client list, as well as its top advertising categories.

Auto branding at its best.
Spinning your wheels with traditional ad vehicles? Steer your brand toward cinema media - there's no better place to build brand loyalties for life. At the movies, you'll reach first time car buyers, parents buying their first "family car", and older adults who are high-end, luxury consumers.

One-Stop shopping for captive moviegoers.
Fashion. Music. Language. Movies shape our culture. Teens and young adults are influenced by the images on the big screen - your brand can be there too!

Get a return on your media investment - at the movies.
People go to movies throughout all phases of their lives. From the time they open their first bank account, apply for their first college loan or mortgage, or set-up their retirement fund, people are influenced by the images they see at the movies.

When you talk to our audience, they listen.
Moviegoers are captivated by the images they see at the movies. There's no better place to build brand loyalty or support your brand's promotions than at the movies. Where else can you reach friends who are together, boyfriends and girlfriends, parents and grandparents - all in one place?

NCN's menu delivers the right audience at the right price.
If you're craving teens and young adult consumers, take your message to the movies. There's no better place to build lifetime brand loyalty. At the movies you'll reach kids who are developing their tastes and brand preferences, parents looking for "meals-on-the-run" and older adults looking for a night out.

And be sure read their Annual Reports, where you'll learn such goodies as:

"The AMC BRAND is the embodiment of our commitment to guest satisfaction."

"The AMC brand is a single and uniform retail brand. The AMC brand is recognized by consumers in the marketplace as the embodiment of our commitment to guest satisfaction and our continuing invitation for moviegoers to 'Experience the Difference' at AMC."

There's only one problem: it is this very difference (commercial ads, brazen monetization, overpriced concessions) that one must endure at AMC that makes AMC stand out. Where is the value? Is this "difference" something the company really wants to be proud of?

Posted by brian at 10:43 AM | Comments (2)

March 08, 2004

Stewart Brand Future Unclear

Poor Stewart Brand. If you glanced at today's Washington Post, you might think his future was unclear . . . Stewart, may your future be long!

(Thanks to ernie and tnf for the idea)

Mike Godwin notes that Google News searches for "Stewart Brand" yield numerous headlines with the double meaning. For instance:

Posted by brian at 10:13 AM

March 05, 2004

Media Spin

Interesting media spin going on right now.

MARTHA STEWART CONVINCTED ON ALL COUNTS, the headlines are blaring across the world.

But, it's not all counts.

Just the other day, the most severe "count", the securities-fraud charge, was dropped by U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum. Had Stewart been convincted of that charge, she faced up to ten years in prison.

What remains is, what, a relative slap on the wrist?

Now, about Kenneth Lay of Enron . . .

Posted by brian at 06:23 PM | Comments (2)

Audiobooks

I'm either getting older or wiser.

It used to be that when I heard folks praise the wonders of audiobooks, I thought, eh, old foagies, driving their Winnebago through the hills of Wyoming to the accompaniment of a narrated Danielle Steele novel, the hiss of the cassette tape and the flatness of the audio recording making it sound like an AM radio station playing an archived 1940s radio show.

What's worse, audiobooks are expensive. The one I'm listening to now costs $97 from Amazon (see below). Thankfully, I didn't have to buy it. I checked it out from the library. Amazing what one finds in a library if you snoop around enough.

But I've found audiobooks aren't at all what I thought they were: something only for old foagies. I've discovered over the past year that there is a reason why people rave about audiobooks, especially listening to audiobooks while driving the crowded freeways. A well-narrated audiobook magically transports the driver away into other times, distant lands, different circumstances.

Freeways in Southern California are binary: you either speed as fast as you can, or you barely move. There doesn't seem to be an in-between. But when listening to an audiobook, the experience of concrete sameness flying by (or crawling by, enabling one to study the skidmarks, the bits of radiator, fender, grille, antenna, seat cushion, wiper blade, exploded tires, and hubcaps that adorn the edge of the fast lane) is transformed. Driving to and from L.A. is normally an annoyance, an exasperating experience, like the pain of a dental drill or waiting in a long queue with sore feet and nothing to do. It requires intense alertness lest one drive right into the back of the car or truck in front. And yet it is stupefyingly dull and time-wasting.

A great audiobook changes everything. I find I no longer care about the traffic, the hassle of stop and go. While I'm physically in the car on the freeway, at the same time I am physically in the other place, awaiting the next sentence, my imagination replenished with new ideas and vistas every minute.

That's the experience I get with Paul Theroux travel books. I'm in the middle of the twelve-cassette, unabridged audiobook edition of Theroux's The Old Patagonian Express, vividly brought to life by narrator Norman Dietz, who after only a short listen makes you convinced he is indeed the curmudgeonly Theroux, sneering at one backwater town after another. Dietz inhabits each character Theroux encounters so fully, you forget you're listening to one narrator: it's like an old-time radio show. Hmm.

Theroux's not everyone's cup of tea. He suits me just fine: his travel tales are engaging, witty (if sometimes acidic), and thoroughly fascinating. What a contrast to the scatterbrained, ADD-ridden blogosphere. Sometimes I think bloggers (myself included) are like crows, gathering and hording into heaps all things shiny.

Audiobooks on iTunes
Apple's iTunes Music Store offers thousands of audiobooks, but the economics don't make any sense. Audiobooks as huge MP3 files (or AAC, whatever) for $50 or whatever they cost just doesn't have any value to me. But there is a solution: do an audiobook as a temporary file that self-destructs in say 30 days, and can only be copied 2 or 3 times, and only costs $5 to $10, I'd buy an iPod and do audiobooks a lot more. But until the digital downloadable versions are more economical, I'll stick with the limited collection at the library.

Posted by brian at 06:22 PM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2004

Gimme Cookies, Not Kooks

A month or so ago, our next-door neighbors rang the doorbell. A mother and her daughter were there to see if we wanted to buy Girl Scout cookies. Well, of course! One lorna doons box and one of the new double-chocolate chip boxes (regret: didn't buy a thin mints box -- should've! should've!)

Last Friday, the cookies arrived. :-)

By Monday, the cookies were gone. :-(

Which got me thinking: if the goal of the Girl Scout cookies program is to raise money for the Girl Scouts organization, then how come they don't sell them more than once annually?

I would think they would more than double their sales if all they did was, about a week or two after delivering the cookies to customers, go back to the same customers and ask 'em if they want more. In fact, have some boxes handy when you ring the doorbell.

I know that if I could get another box or two or three, I would. It's the only time I buy cookies, and while I realize they're perfectly bad for you health-wise, dammit, they're yummy! And who cares what the kooks say.

Posted by brian at 05:58 PM | Comments (1)

Cork

From the "hmm, never knew that" department . . . some interesting tidbits about cork.

Posted by brian at 01:08 PM

Radio Vox Populi

Learned about this over at waxy.org:

Radio Vox Populi --- a text-to-speech server that "reads" entries from blogs all over the world. It's very eerie! Check it out.

Posted by brian at 10:44 AM

March 02, 2004

Gas Prices Rising

This isn't the first time I've blogged about rising gas prices. Eleven months ago I was ranting about how bad things were here in San Diego. Now, they're worse:

Noticed the Union 76 station I occasionally go to was charging $2.60/gal for gas. So I went out of my way to find a cheaper station. Found one for $2.49 and filled up there. It's now costing me over $35 to pay for a tank of gas for my 4-dr 1995-model car (that requires 91-octane). (I tell ya, a Prius is looking awfully tempting right about now. If only HyperCar would get their act together....)

There's an interesting website that's collecting gas prices around the country. It's called GasPriceWatch.com. Check it out.

Not surprisingly, it says the most expensive (87 octane) fuel is in the San Diego area (Chula Vista to be exact): $2.32/gal. Actually I think they're wrong about that. It's more expensive here in La Jolla.

It's amazing to see how "cheap" it is elsewhere in the country.

One more thing the media do not report accurately on. All I hear is an average price, or the highest price being something much much lower than $2.60.

Posted by brian at 10:31 PM | Comments (3)

Did I Vote?

I went to the polling place. I used a Diebold machine.

But I have no idea if I actually voted nor do I know if my vote actually was counted.

The happy-go-lucky local San Diego TV news reported tonight very nonchalantly that roughly 25% of the voting machines DIDN'T WORK when the polls opened this morning. Why? DIEBOLD and MICROSOFT WINDOWS SOFTWARE PROBLEMS.

Me? Scream? Yes!

The county of San Diego paid $30-some-odd million to Diebold for the voting machine contract. 25% of them didn't work this morning. Lots of disruptions in people being able to vote.

I was not happy when they gave me a sticker that didn't just say "I VOTED", but it said "I VOTED TOUCH SCREEN". I did not "vote touch screen." I never voted for it, and I didn't want it. I used it, but I resented the implication that I was supporting it.

But more specifically, It's Not The Touch-Screen That Is the Problem. I didn't mind the touch-screen terminal. Kinda reminded me of PLATO. Only took 'em 31 years, but who's counting.

The problem is that the San Diego Elections people have been very carefully spinning (and the local media has been happily repeating the spin) that this is all about "touch screens" and that "some people aren't happy with the touch screens" and that "for the most part people found them easy to use".

THIS IS NOT ABOUT TOUCH SCREENS.

It's very much about what happens to your vote *after* it is processed by the touch screen terminal. Where does it go? What machines does it pass through? What evidence is there that my vote was even counted? I took my little card out of the Diebold machine when I was done voting, stood in the center of the neighbor's garage polling place, waved the card around to all the polling people, none of whom seemed to care. Finally got someone's attention, and she took the card. I have no idea what she did with it. I did not see her run the card through a reader or other machine, and she gave me nothing but the sticker.

Also, I was never asked to show ID today. I could've been anybody. I found that surprising.

When I was about to leave, I asked the lady who gave me the sticker, "So, there's no physical proof that I actually voted today. All there is is this digital card. No paper trail. Nothing in case a recall is needed."

She looked at me, tired, no energy to deal with the issue.

"You've probably heard this comment all day today," I said.

She smiled and shook her head yes. Then she said, "Supposedly in 2006 they'll be introducing a paper hardcopy to the system so that there will be a record of the ballots."

"Conveniently two years after the 2004 presidential election."

"Yes," she said, shaking her head in resignation, "very conveniently."

Posted by brian at 09:50 PM | Comments (1)

From Haircuts to Orkuts

Anil Dash presents his Hair Theory of organizing groups of people.

The things one comes across in blogs...

Posted by brian at 01:32 PM

March 01, 2004

Aplus Gets an F

Wow, got my first unsolicited telemarketing call (not counting the local political calls) in ages earlier today, from a woman who identified herself as being with "A Plus dot net" (www.aplus.net). She said she noticed I'd registered a domain (and she told me the domain name I'd registered) and then told me that her company offers all kinds of web services and would I be interested and what plans did I have for my domain.

This got me thinking:

One, the number she called is on the Federal "Do-Not-Call" list. Wasn't this a violation of that law? I'm pretty sure it was. Perhaps Ivan Vachovsky, president of Aplus.net, can explain why it wasn't. (I've emailed him to find out.)

Two, it struck me as odd that Aplus.net would know that I had registered a domain less than 48 hours ago -- on Saturday in fact. I mean, I'm sure the data gets into the WHOIS database pretty fast, but doesn't ICANN and/or Verisign have strict rules about companies selling to contacts listed in the WHOIS database? I coulda sworn I read that somewhere. Oh yeah. Here it is (just run a WHOIS command):

TERMS OF USE: You are not authorized to access or query our Whois database through the use of electronic processes that are high-volume and automated except as reasonably necessary to register domain names or modify existing registrations; the Data in VeriSign Global Registry Services' ("VeriSign") Whois database is provided by VeriSign for information purposes only, and to assist persons in obtaining information about or related to a domain name registration record. VeriSign does not guarantee its accuracy. By submitting a Whois query, you agree to abide by the following terms of use: You agree that you may use this Data only for lawful purposes and that under no circumstances will you use this Data to: (1) allow, enable, or otherwise support the transmission of mass unsolicited, commercial advertising or solicitations via e-mail, telephone, or facsimile; or (2) enable high volume, automated, electronic processes that apply to VeriSign (or its computer systems). The compilation, repackaging, dissemination or other use of this Data is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of VeriSign. You agree not to use electronic processes that are automated and high-volume to access or query the Whois database except as reasonably necessary to register domain names or modify existing registrations. VeriSign reserves the right to restrict your access to the Whois database in its sole discretion to ensure operational stability. VeriSign may restrict or terminate your access to the Whois database for failure to abide by these terms of use. VeriSign reserves the right to modify these terms at any time.

Ivan, care to explain?

Posted by brian at 01:42 PM | Comments (3)
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