Saturday, August 30, 2003

RSS Rating System - Some thoughts

The questions is: "What is a good RSS feed?" I think part of the answer may be with an RSS Rating System. Here are some thoughts on RSS Ratings

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

John Robb talks about games as learning

John Robb talked about his son and Roller Coaster Tycoon. Civilization is my game of choice for learning. It teaches histroy (Wonders of the Worlds) including ancient civilizations as well as modern. Because of the geometric way a civilization grows, it also teaches math in a real way (or compound interest, if you'd like). The strategic thinking is wonderful. While John disliked the lack of backup material on engineering in Roller Coaster Tycoon, the background material in Civ is extensive. And if you don't like the game, there is always the music.

This is a tale of poor systems treating a customer badly.

Yesterday, Tuesday August 12, I took time off from work to visit your store to buy a computer for my daughter who is going off to college. We brought in the two most recent flyers because we wanted a package.

We talked to a good sales associate who helped us decide between the eMachine, HP and Compaq that you had on display. Several times he had to ask the manager a question. When we got ready to purchase the Compaq system for $519, he informed us that he had none in stock and we could order online. So after about an hour at the store we went home, disappointed we did not have the computer in hand, but confident that we could get it online.

So at home I spend over two hours trying to order the package the sales associate said was available. online. It turns out that the monitor was not available and I could not find all of the rebates. (This is a particularly horrible aspect of your website and how it differs from your flyers.)

So completely frustrated, but still loyal, I dragged my daughter to the Fairfax store. The sales person tells me that they can do the deal because they have the computer and printer in stock and the rebates will bring the price down to the advertised price. So he starts to ring it up, but his shift is over and he asks another associate to complete the sale. So far so good. After some confusion about how the gift card is deducted from each item, we are ready to proceed. I complete the credit card application which takes more time, but I understand. Then the AOL service agreement for by daughter who has no room phone number yet, but the system can not handle it.

Finally, everything is approved and the paper tape is reeling our receipts and rebates. So I go to add everything up. Gift card fine, receipt fine, rebate one fine and rebate two fine. No third rebate. The sales associated get more receipt tape to spit out, but still no third receipt. A more senior person comes over, more paper and no receipt. The senior people now disapper for about 15 minutes. I'm told they are printing out the rebate form in the back room. We have now been trying to buy this computer package, which only two piece are in stock, for about 90 minutes.

The less senior sales person is assigned to tell us that the third rebate, from Circuit City, is no longer valid. The computer system will cost us an addition 30% or $150. Sorry, there is nothing I can do. No manager or senior person shows up.

If three different sales people and one senior sales person did not know that the advertised price, after rebates, was no longer available, how do you expect a consumer to know? Any why do I have to wait 90 plus minutes to find out? Apparently the package in the flyer was for a limited time. This information should have been flagged for the salespeople when they checked inventory! Your systems are failing your business.

So still loyal, I agree to buy the system that is on the front page of the current flyer even though I have to pick up the computer from Tysons Corner, pick up the monitor whenever it may arrive in Fairfax and take the printer tonight. The senior person is now taking care of me. But wait, while backing out the other system the printer is no longer available, but it will have to be shipped to me. So now I'm buying a system and nothing is available at the store! But it gets worse.

We have now been in the store for about 2 hours and it is about 8:00 pm. My daughter, who is diabetic, is going low and needs food or sugar. I grab a soda out of your machine and explain my daughter needs the soda. I pay $1.13. She get better.

And to top the day off, the receipts start printing. More and more paper. The sales associate adds up the rebates and it does not add up. The rebates are $50 short. After some apologies, he gives me an instant $50 credit/rebate on my new Circuit City card.

It is now too late to get dinner, which my daughter disparately needs, and get to Tysons to pick up the computer.

NO COMPUTER SYSTEM SHOULD PUT A CUSTOMER THROUGH THIS. There is no excuse to have four or more sales people look at the sale and not be able to be flagged to tell the customer what the final price after rebates will be. Though I generally think that Circuit City has been a leader in customer service for electronic products, this should not be accepted by management, associates or customers.

RegEx to Remove font tags

Wrote this on my birthday and now here for safe keeping:
Here's a Regular Express for removing all font tags with Dream Weaver;

1) Go to Find and Replace. Paste this into the right Search For box:

2) Leave Replace with blank

3) Click the Option Use Regular Expressions.

This will replace all Font tags and their contents like size="99".

Have fun.

Feed Demon has a great feature of allowing you to read an item and email it. It works great with both Outlook and Netscape as my clients (two different computers). Would also make an interesting way to update your blog.
Here's an RSS Tutorial, meant for a programmer. Even programmers need a style guide to know how to program RSS. I've got to get moving on this style guide after vacation.

Monday, August 11, 2003

enewsletters move to RSS - Part 2

This is True enewsletter has grown to over 117,000 subscribers. Randy Cassingham, the author of this enewsletter was written up by Steve Outing on Poynteronline's E-Media Tidbit. This is True is moving to RSS, according to the article, to fight the clutter of spam. More evidence to come.

Lockergnome RSS feeds about RSS

Lockegnome has nearly created an RSS Feed of the Day with their RSS Resource. They have several feeds, but just recently added several about RSS itself. If you like following what is happening in the RSS world, this is the feed to follow.

This is a great service. So good it makes me wonder how they can do it for free.

Bloglines is a web based RSS reader. You create an account for free, subscribe to RSS feeds and read them in a framed web page. From work or from home, it is still the same RSS reader.

From a technical/RSS provider, this is a great service because of the reduced bandwidth to hopefully hundreds or thousands or millions of RSS hits to the server everyday. Now the load is carried by bloglines. And given the feedback to RSS providers, there is nothing not to like here.

I particularly like the New Blogs and Top Blogs that are available from the front page. Just a very easy interface to add some new feeds.

I now recommend Bloglines to anyone who I'm trying to convince to start using an RSS reader. This is much easier than trying to install a desktop reader in a work environment.

(Now if Blogger wouls just make Blogger Pro available soon. I want my RSS feeds live.)

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Browser Wars:

Open source tends to win: Apache and Linux. But it rarely goes against shareware.

I think browsers are starting to be commodities, so it is the value-add to browsers that brings on the Second Browser Wars. RSS readers are that value-added. I downloaded for mozilla yesterday. Terrific product that competes head-to-had with Feed Demon which works with IE. This will be an interesting test of open source versus shareware.

But it points out how irrelevant standard browsers are becoming.

50 Year Old Landfills

Thinking that I'd like to upgrade my computer, so I've been looking at these ads. What do people do with yet another printer and yet another set of speakers and .... A lot of stuff must be going into landfills. So I was wondering if any college Anthropology courses go out and dig up landfills that were created 50 years ago. I wonder how well Barbie or Littl' Red Wagons survived. An inventory would be interesting.

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Feedup with Blogger Pro

I want to pay money. I want to pay to use Blogger Pro. But every day for weeks it says: Please check back next week. This is getting intolerable. I keep looking at other software to use and hoping Pro will be available sooner. By September I just won't wait around any longer.


netomat is an application/site generator that should be right up my alley. I tend towards visual thinking and netomat lets you communicate via web or via email visually with added sounds and voice. I even like the example of designing a kitchen. But it just doesn't work for me. Maybe when I'm doing more with my digital camera which is on loan.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Enough finger pointing RSS children!

Everyone is pointing at the RSS article in What a shame. I agree with Dave about personalities.

Get over it folks. The PC software people didn't and Microsoft Office swamped them. This is a repeat of Harvard Busines Graphics, Lotus 1-2-3, etc and those personalities not getting along.

But on the other hand, I hope this finger pointing doesn't matter much. I hope the "network" tidal wave of RSS just keeps moving with products like FeedDemon and others.

Sunday, August 03, 2003

Biking in Rock Creek Park

Went biking in Rock Creek Park again today. This is one of the nicest places to ride during the steamy summers in the DC area. Lots of tall trees keep it cool and shady.

I got in 20 miles riding my old road bike. I bought this bike used in 1983 for about $70. A few years ago I road a metric century on it. I mainly only use 5 of the ten gears, so it takes some thinking to keep it fun. I'll have to take it out on a solo ride soon.

The bike shop called and my newer bike is fixed. On Saturday I crossed a road on the WO&D trail, heard a snap and my rear tire was no longer true. Just like that over an 1/8 bump. Had to take off my brake just to move the thing. (A this point I was as mad as a golfer who misses a simple putt.) So new bike went into the shop and I was only my old, trusty road bike.

Past times are pastimes. (McLuhan)

RSS Feed of the Day

I'm sure somebody is doing one, but I'd love to see the mailing list called "RSS Feed of the Day." Of course it would also be an RSS feed. I'd like to have someone shift through all the new feeds and pick out some good ones.

I've got some ideas on this and might just start it up if I can not find anyone else doing it. But then, where will I find the time?

Are you rich?

The Washington Post reporter was asked "How many of you are rich?" Only a few people raised their hands.

Tonight I was reading the Money article on "How Rich is Rich?" You'll need $7.5 million if you spend $200,000 per year and are in your 40s.

I have ice cream in my ice box. Now that is rich. Maybe too rich. :)

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Men and Clean Bathrooms

I think there is a simple explanation about why, in general, women keep a cleaner bathroom than men. Conventional wisdom is that men are sloppier because we stand. And then there is a chuckle about our aim. But this misses the point. Sure men can stand, but more importantly we can stand anywhere, especially in the woods. So men's point a reference for a clean bathroom is a pile of leaves next to a tree. Throw in some green moss and a little dirt, then men have a perfectly color coordinated bathroom. Who needs porcelain white?


Civilization is still the best computer game. It takes a while to play, so no posts for a few days while I tried to build a civilization and not not get wiped out by the computer.