I tell my SEO (Search Engine Optimization) clients that “Five-star Google reviews are like gold”. One client listened and encouraged customers to write reviews . . . which his customers did. Unfortunately, while they scored my client as a five-star vendor, their reviews included no text. None.
These five-star reviews with no text are, as far as I can tell, worthless. Google places them at the end of review lists, and seems to give them no value. They seem to provide no SEO benefit.
Moral: To receive SEO benefit, ensure that your customers include some text when they create a review of your business. A review of three or four sentences is fine.
With the recent introduction of its Binge On service, T-Mobile US is again mangling the English language. Binge On provides preferential treatment of packets “from Netflix and Hulu (which are T-Mobile partners) but not YouTube (which isn’t) without having those streams count against their data plans.” (Wired article, T-Mobile Confirms It Slows Connections to Video Sites, 7 Jan 2016). Dig a little deeper and you’ll discover that if you have the Binge On “service”, T-Mobile will throttle data from YouTube et al to 1.5 Mbps. Some “service”!
Surprise: Binge On is switched on by default
If, like me, you have a legacy “Simple Choice Plan: Unlimited Talk + Text”, you may be surprised to learn that by default your account now includes the Binge On “service”. (Thank you T-Mobile, I prefer that you not throttle my YouTube videos.) As far as I can see, Binge On provides no advantage for users with truly unlimited data plans. In fact, it slows down their YouTube viewing. Here’s how to turn Binge On off:
Log in to your T-Mobile account
Click on Profile (upper right hand corner)
Click on Media Settings
Click on Binge On to turn it off (as illustrated below):
I’ve been developing a few websites with storefronts. I used Nopcommerce three years ago, and it was impressive in many ways, but its poorly-defined technical support steered me elsewhere.
Two attractive e-commerce offerings with better-defined tech support are Volusion and SquareSpace. Both offer mobile-responsive templates, and both products include hosting with tech support.
The “drag and drop” SquareSpace templates allow a developer to quickly place a rudimentary SquareSpace site into production, but I don’t recommend it for sites of more than about twenty pages or a business with complex product inventory or special payment processing needs. One could quickly roll-out a good-looking modest SquareSpace e-commerce site without writing one line of code. Just don’t expect to easily expand this simple site into a large complex site, and your payment processing options are limited. Unlike Volusion, SquareSpace does not seem to offer 24/7 tech support via telephone — only via email.
One beauty of both Volusion and SquareSpace is that you don’t need to host them. Just pay a modest monthly hosting fee and let them keep your site on-line. An attractive alternative to both is BigCommerce, but I have no personal experience with it.
I hadn’t thought about how poorly most consumer products are documented until last weekend’s experience with the Nextivity Cel-Fi “signal booster”. It’s a complex product, yet its documentation contains no technical detail. If I knew more about its inner workings and hidden mechanisms, I could more intelligently position its components.
Most consumer products lack real documentation
I’ve never worked for a consumer product manufacturer; I’ve worked only for manufacturers of military and commercial electronic equipment. The military requires explicit product documentation of almost every circuit element. Why? Because they usually provide their own product maintenance. Commercial customers may also demand explicit product documentation, but typically they’re content to rely upon third parties for product maintenance, so commercial customers demand less documentation.
There are exceptions to the consumer product scanty documentation rule: detailed shop manuals are available at a price from motor vehicle manufacturers. Also, a healthy aftermarket industry publishes repair manuals: Sams for consumer electronics; Chilton, Haynes, and others for motor vehicles.
Absent shop manuals, schematic diagrams, or printed theories of operation for most consumer products, we’ll just continue to fumble in the dark when they break or just need tweaking.
I’ve recently begun building a client’s e-commerce site using Volusion. It’s my first experience with Volusion. So far, I’m impressed. I’m using a free Volusion template, which I feared would be inflexible. In fact, Volusion provides the templates in editable HTML form, together with the site’s CSS (cascading style sheet), again in editable form. The code looks well-written, and even includes a few helpful comments. The tech support via an 800 phone number was excellent.
By editing the template’s HTML and CSS code, within just a few hours, I was able to customize the site (originally designed strictly for online commerce) to also allow over-the-counter sales in a brick and mortar store.
Since Volusion uses ASP (active server page) files, I surmise that Volusion’s servers run on Microsoft Windows servers.
The next big step will be routinely populating the catalog with XML or CSV (comma separated variables) files from manufacturers and distributors. The import requirements of Volusion look pretty flexible. If the backend is as easy to work with as its front-end, we should be done much sooner than I expected.
As the jumper shouted as he fell past the fifth floor, “So far, so good!”
The FCC plans to meet with broadcasters with a view to recovering some radio frequency (RF) spectrum from them. Recovered spectrum would be auctioned to cellular wireless broadband Internet service providers.
From a spectral efficiency viewpoint, this could make sense. Today’s modulation methods conserve spectrum (compared to traditional AM and FM broadcast signals) and the cellular model allows many geographically separated users to independently share one frequency. The packet model leaves each channel available for others whenever data isn’t flowing. From a consumer’s point of view, it allows program content on demand, rather than only when the broadcaster airs the content.
I wonder how much longer the RF broadcast model will make sense?
The pillaging of Sony Pictures Entertainment by someone has revealed shocking incompetence at the top of Sony’s organization chart. Aside from the childish banality of their email conversations, the poor security practices within Sony should require that its CEO, COO, and CIO be removed ASAP.
Reportedly, close to 100 Terabytes(!) of data were downloaded from Sony Pictures Entertainment. Sony’s data security has been laughably bad for years. I heard about hassonybeenhackedthisweek.com in 2011.
Too many chiefs, not enough Indians
Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) reportedly has eleven people in its I.T. department. Eight are “managers”, leaving just three poor souls to actually work. You’d think that with all of those “managers”, their practices would be near perfect. You’d be wrong.
This catastrophy demonstrates a breach of fiduciary responsibility by top management. I’ll bet that the company could be bankrupted by years of resulting litigation. This Christmas, Sony’s insurers will be checking their policies twice to see who at Sony has been naughty and negligent.
When I’m asked about creating a website for a business, I recommend that the owner first “buy” (it’s actually a lease) a domain from a domain registrar such as Network Solutions or Godaddy. If the domain name is longer than ten characters, buy an abbreviated domain name as well. You can point it to the full length domain; it will be easier for visitors to type.
Think of your website as the hub of a hub-and-spoke system for your business. Links on the spokes should point inward to your website. The more spokes, the stronger your website’s web presence will be. These spokes are called backlinks.
Your website should describe what you do and provide a phone number and alternative ways of reaching you. Each page should contain your phone number.
Unlike the movies, if you build it they will not come. You have to drive visitors to your website. Create a big footprint on the web by ensuring that each web document that you create contains an inbound link to your website.
Install Google Analytics or Statcounter on your website so that you can count visitors and analyze their on-site behavior.
Where can I create “footprint” documents with inbound links?
Fadell, who before founding Nest led the development of the iPod and iPhone at Apple, says Page and Jobs approached innovation in radically different ways. “Steve was a marketer who really loved product and got the user-experience details right,” Fadell says. “Larry is a serious technologist and someone who is really steeped in science and in theory, and he has a real love of product.”
I relate to Page’s approach, but Jobs’ obsession with user interface certainly also led to revolutionary products. Note that neither leader was an MBA or lawyer. Jeff Bezos, an ace programmer (not an MBA), is taking Amazon where no retailer has gone before.
In contrast, Microsoft was led into near irrelevance by Steve Ballmer, a sales manager with an MBA. The entity that calls itself AT&T is busy making enemies of its customerseveryone under the leadership of MBA Randall Stephenson. (This genius caused his employer to lose six billion dollars, yet took home 21 million dollars that year.) General Motors’ CEO Roger Smith (MBA) drove GM to produce millions of lemons which nobody wanted, leading to their chapter 11 bankruptcy.
For the moment, Google is in good hands. The jury’s still out (see Apple’s Software Quality Problems) on Apple’s Tim Cook (MBA). Even Microsoft may be headed in the right direction, now that Satya Nadella is CEO. True, he has an MBA degree, but he’s reputed to be a product guy — not a numbers guy.
I’ve worked with integrated circuits (I.C.s) since the 1960s, but haven’t been involved in their manufacture — only their application.
Today’s integrated circuit manufacture is a high stakes capital intensive business whose players use trade secrets to maintain their market advantage. I’ve never been inside an I.C. “fab” (factory), so it was a treat to find an hour-long presentation by an industry manufacturing engineer on YouTube. The technologies used at nano dimensions are mind-boggling.
Here’s the excellent presentation, in full:
The speaker mentions that lithographic imaging of the mask is now being done at 193 nanometer (nm). As you can see, we’re well above visible light and on our way to x-rays(!). Here’s the electromagnetic spectrum in that region:
The presentation is aimed at the layperson and is filled with surprises. For instance, one gigabyte of semiconductor memory can be produced on a flat substrate within the diameter of a human hair. I give it two (gloved) thumbs up.
Did you watch last Sunday’s 60 Minutes piece about the “front running” by miiliseconds of large stock market shares purchases? The New York Times published a detailed article based on Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys book. The book describes how differences in data transport times — measured in microseconds — to multiple exchanges were used to profit a small amount on every large buy and sell order placed by legitimate stock trading firms.
Thanks to my sister for the NYT link. It’s a juicy article.
April 25, 2014 – Mr. Lewis has been making the rounds of radio and TV talk shows. I’ve enjoyed listening to several of his radio interviews. Apparently the CNBC TV roundtable was heated: the CEO of the BATS exchange lied about his firm’s operations, which drew the attention of state and federal investigators.
Colin Berkshire just published an excellent article about the fat profits that are enjoyed by U.S. cellular phone service providers. His cost estimates seem reasonable, yet they amount to only two percent of revenue. He asks,
So where does all of the money go?
The only answer I can come up with as I pour through their financials is that the cell phone business is so poorly managed that there may as well not be any management. Large bureaucracy, corporate palace headquarters buildings, lots and lots and lots of executives, and a broken business model are what you are really paying for.
Because Verizon and AT&T are essentially an oligopoly (often matching each others’ prices and structures nearly perfectly) there is little competition, no need for efficiency, and no need to build lots of pesky towers.
I’ve never been interested in computer games. (I’d rather program computers than be played by them.) However, a new virtual reality body suit now being funded on Kickstarter is intriguing. Watch this YouTube video to see it in action.
Virtual reality systems can train police, first responder, rescue, assault, and exploration personnel for high risk missions at low risk. Soon they can be trained at low cost, too. The PrioVR will start at less than 400 dollars.
What do these two ads have in common? Each ad claims that their gadget allows its owners to break free of a dumb society. Each paints an unflattering picture of the herd. Each appeals to vanity and a desire to break away from that herd.
The Mac ad was directed by Ridley Scott (Bladerunner, Alien). When previewed, Apple’s board of directors hated it and wanted to axe its airing during the Super Bowl. Steves Woz and Jobs loved it and together with John Sculley they managed to get it aired during the Super Bowl.
Jeff Bezos’ Amazon continues to disrupt traditional commerce models.
Recently I was in the market for a bright LED (light emitting diode) bicycle headlight. Top shelf LED headlights by Niterider and Baja Designs with outputs in the 2000 lumens range sell for $300 to $450. I searched Amazon and found a much cheaper alternative.
The headlight that I bought is made by China-based Securitying, a company that I’d never heard of. It claimed to produce 2800 lumens, its reviews were favorable, and Amazon sells it for a mere $40. It’s tiny, good and bright, but not perfect. It arrived with no instructions or o-ring mounts, and its low-medium-high-off pushbutton switch isn’t ideal for vehicles. Its output is probably closer to 1200 lumens — not the claimed 2800 lumens. Still, it’s very bright with a nice broad beam.
The interesting part of this is that the Chinese manufacturer seems to have no US-based presence. They’re using Amazon as their importer, American warehouse, distributor, and warranty claims center. I wonder how many other off-shore manufacturers are doing the same?
P.S. I’m so happy with this light that I bought two more: a second to use together with the first one, plus a spare.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the Bell telephone system’s regulated monopoly.
Until December 1913, the Bell system, under the leadership of Theodore Vail, had aggressively absorbed smaller independent telephone companies. It refused to grant competing phone companies access to its growing network, which crushed small would-be competitors. It had also acquired Western Union, which controlled the telegraph industry. Bell dominated both the domestic telegraph and the domestic telephone markets.
In 1913, the U.S. federal government was considering nationalizing the growing Bell phone system (Britain had nationalized its phone system in 1912) or breaking up Bell’s monopoly. Clearly, the government would take antitrust action of some sort, so AT&T negotiated with the Justice Department. On December 19, 1913, AT&T Vice President Nathan Kingsbury sent a letter to the Attorney General in which AT&T agreed “to divest itself of Western Union, to provide long distance services to independent exchanges under certain conditions, and to refrain from acquisitions if the Interstate Commerce Commission objected.” (Wikipedia)
The US House of Representatives has passed “The Innovation Act of 2013” (H.R. 3309) by a vote of 325 to 91. It’s expected to be passed by the Senate.
The bill, introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is aimed at stopping the abuse of patents by “patent trolls”. The bill
allows 3rd party companies to step into a patent infringement lawsuit
allows discovery in a patent infringement case only after the judge examines the patent claim
requires that a patent infringement lawsuit plaintiff pay the legal costs of a successful defendant
The Innovation Act is an improvement, but the Patent Office needs to overhaul the patent system. It must stop granting stupid weak patents for pre-existing art and somehow the federal courts of Eastern Texas need to quit being a haven for patent troll lawsuits. Maybe the average East Texas juror isn’t smart enough to understand the issues in tech patent cases?
Marshall, TX; Online computer retailer Newegg has lost Round 1 of its fight with patent troll TQP Development. The east Texas judge awarded a $2.3 million judgment to TQP Development after the jury decided that Newegg had infringed on a 1995 encryption patent that’s owned by TQP Development.
Microsoft, Amazon, and other companies have settled similar lawsuits brought against them by TQP Development. Microsoft coughed up $900,000. TQP Development priced each lawsuit so that it was cheaper for the defendant to settle than to fight the case. One by one, the defendants settled. Newegg fought.
Newegg mounted an impressive defense but lost. Its witnesses included public-key encryption inventor Whitfield Diffie and RSA encryption designer Ron Rivest, whose encryption products predate TQP’s. Sounds like a strong defense to me, but, amazingly, it didn’t convince the jury. (East Texas juries are famous for ruling in favor of “the little guy”.)
Newegg will appeal the decision, which will move venue outside of East Texas.
I was surprised to read this headline recently: IBM PC pioneer William C Lowe dies, aged 72. I well remember when IBM introduced its first PC in 1981. It was not especially remarkable, aside from its IBM nametag and the momentum, capital, and resources behind that name.
Until the IBM PC, the microcomputer industry (if you could call it that) was a disorganized rag-tag collection of under-capitalized dreamers — including a little hippie outfit called Apple Computer. Messrs Lowe and (Don) Estridge in just one year designed and placed in production a personal computer that would light a fire under the microcomputer industry. IBM brought credibility to the market, along with a deluge of peripheral, add-on, and software developers. Lowe, Estridge, and their crew deserve gold stars for quickly producing a product that would revolutionize the microcomputer world, if not the business world.
I like the philosophy expressed by http://www.ifixit.com: stuff should be repairable, and users should have free access to repair information for their stuff. The site’s goal is ambitious. It provides illustrated maintenance and repair information for everything from automobiles to cell phones.
Some modern handheld devices, including Microsoft’s Surface and Apple’s iPad tablets, aren’t designed for ease of repair. Quite the opposite. By gluing in their batteries, their manufacturers exhibit disdain for society and environment. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries in such devices might have a lifetime of 1.5 to 2 years, so it makes sense to allow the owner to change the battery in a device that might enjoy a 4 or 5 year useful lifetime. Otherwise, when their batteries die, these devices are likely to become landfill.
The iPad Air and Surface Pro 2 teardowns show just how service unfriendly these designs are. The ifixit people rate these tablets a 1 or 2 on a repairability scale of 0 to 10. In my opinion, this makes them poor designs, despite their other virtues.
While watching PBS Newshour Weekend, I was surprised to learn that the retail price for one bottle of a common prescription drug may vary from $14 to $400, depending upon retailer. Prices at well-known major retailers varied from low to high. Supposedly the #1 reason Americans don’t take their medications as prescribed is cost. The program suggested that http://goodrx.com may have a solution to drug price gouging by providing competitive price information to consumers.
I’ve used the Goodrx.com Android app to compare prices. (An iPhone app is available as well.) Its results are impressive but I’ve not yet used it to buy anything. Caveat Emptor.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has been working on a system that will return the launch missile intact to its launch pad, ready for the next launch. This video clip was taken two days ago at their Texas launch facility. They moved the rocket horizontally 100 meters, hovered, and tilted it 30 degrees from vertical.
This is a step toward the goal of using Grasshopper to boost succeeding stages to a high altitude before it returns to its launch pad.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s reasoning: This booster, while “cheap”, costs 50 to 60 million dollars. The fuel costs about two hundred thousand dollars. If we can re-use the booster a thousand times and amortize its capital cost over a thousand launches, the cost per launch will be low.
This is a triumph of servo system design and high-pressure high-flow rate fluid control. The trick is to make the rocket’s engine respond quickly while keeping the servo loop stable. I imagine that the signals from many sensors of all types are monitored by the guidance computer. The resultant control of thrust is impressive.
I ran text samples through three on-line writing analysis tools that are recommended by Doris & Bertie’s Good Copy, Bad Copy blog. The WritersDiet Test returns the most useful results, together with customized suggestions to improve your writing. The other two tests report details such as sentence length and readability.
The tests confirmed my opinion: many corporate and academic documents are horrible! The tests judged my writing to be surprisingly good and at the reading level of a US high school senior. Still, there’s always room for improvement. I’d like to make my writing easier to read. I’ll begin submitting my prose to these tests. We’ll see if it improves.
I think that Doris and Bertie’s summary of these tests is spot-on. They’re on-line so there’s nothing to install. I thank Doris & Bertie for the links. The three tests are:
A low-profile Arkansas company named Acxiom probably knows more about you than any other entity, including the FBI, IRS, Facebook, and Google — and that’s saying something. Chances are, you’ve never heard of them. I’ve run into them while doing SEO (Search Engine Optimization): they store (and presumably sell) lots of information about my corporate clients.
Acxiom is an information broker. For over forty years, it has quietly collected consumer data and organized them so that marketers can target particular demographics. If you receive commercial offers that seem spooky because they so closely conform to your interests or needs, chances are Acxiom is pulling the levers behind the curtain.