Thursday, April 21, 2005

Justice Doing Research on the Intarweb: An Impeachable Offense?

I'm trying to figure out if Tom Delay thinks that he is right, and the hero of his own little universe, or just terribly misguided: DeLay Slams Supreme Court Justice

Absolutely. We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous," DeLay told Fox News Radio. "And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous.

Yep. Outrageous. I'll skip the international law versus constitutional law debate right now, but it's worth getting into. I really only have time for the other statement at this moment.

There are quite a few tools on the web that enable one to do research there fast and easily, including Lexis/Nexis. Frankly, I would be dismayed to find that a Supreme Court Justice didn't do research online.

And a little more upset over a Senator who appears to not understand the value that the web brings us.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The USA are Online Losers

An eye-opening article from Thomas Bleha at Foreign Affairs, Down to the Wire, tells of the steps that countries like Japan and South Korea have taken to bring high speed internet access to the citizens of their countries, and the missteps that the USA has taken.

Thanks to the government's competitive framework, the speed of the DSL service offered also rose dramatically, from 8 megabits per second in 2001 to 12, 26, and 40 megabits today. (The typical U.S. broadband connection, whether DSL or cable, is still only 1.5 megabits per second or slower.) Meanwhile, the price of monthly subscriptions remained stable, even for 26-megabit access speeds, at about $22 per month -- by far the lowest price in the world.

You might want to send a link for this article to your congressman. I want to send one to mine.

News Online is News Developing a Business Model?

I used to watch the news on TV when I was little.

I used to read two newspapers a day when I was in high school, and even into college.

I tried to make time for at least one newspaper a day after college, and mostly succeeeded.

I get a lot more of my news on the web these days, and I read papers from around the world. I'm better informed, and I read local papers that aren't local to me, instead of papers that are written for national or international consumption.

The Associated Press announced a couple of days ago that they are going to start charging news sources for their online content starting January 1st of next year.

Most of the 15,000 news outlets that buy AP's news, sports, business and entertainment coverage have been allowed to "re-purpose" the same material online at no extra cost since 1995. At that time, graphical Web browsers were just beginning to transform the Internet from an esoteric computer network to a mass medium.

It's difficult to tell what impact that may have on the cost of news online. Will news sites change the way they operate based upon this development? One thing I do know is that I don't see a lot of advertising directed at me when I visit Cincinnati papers to follow Reds stories.

As a long time fan, and East Coast dweller, I feel the chance to read those is wonderful. If they tried to sell me Reds hats or jerseys, I'd probably buy some. Yet I suspect that type of targeted advertising probably won't be the solution they attempt to adopt.

Will more and more newspapers shift to subscription based models? I hope not. If that's the answer they come up with, they may be missing out on some great opportunities.

A rocket in your garage

There's always some wise guy, who in a conversation about the future, refuses to admit that it will live up to expectations until we all have flying cars.

That will be the day.

Imagine the mess trying to keep track of all the traffic. Where would you take off from? Where would you land? Whose house would you damage if you made a mistake with all of those complicated navigational devices?

Picture flying along, and all of a sudden, you have a mechanical failure. You can't just pull over to the side. Chances are you are going to fall like a comet.

Or will you? Maybe the future isn't so far away. Maybe that wise guy was right.

CBS is reporting on a new technology that would make it much safer for people to navigate the airways in their own personal flying machines. Called Highways in the Sky, it would simplify cockpits tremendously, and make the navigational decisions for flyers. Possibly millions of flyers. Imagine being able to go 400 miles an hour, straight as the, er, car, flies.

Monday, April 18, 2005

A Case Against Standards: Take a Pill

Standard Ways of Design?

At work the other day, someone I work with complained about a web site where every external link created a new browser window. She wanted to know why.

My answer was that the site owner lacked confidence, and was afraid that once people clicked on a link to go to a new site, they wouldn't come back.

Someone else in the office stated that doing that was a design standard, and a lot of sites did it.

Am I wrong? Is that just the way things are done? Are am I right, and that's just the way things are done?

I remember putting together a couple of sites where I had all of the links on the site leading outside of the site launching new browser windows. My concern was that people would indeed leave and not be able to find their way back.

The more I thought about it, and the more I added content to the sites, to make them the types of places that people might come back to, the more it bothered me that those links might mean someone wouldn't return if I changed them so that they didn't open in new windows.

Taking a Risk

But I decided to go for it anyway. I also didn't like doing something that might get people upset - taking control of their browser.

There were a couple of links that opened to new pages where a refresh effectively broke the back button, so that people couldn't return. I wrote next to those links "opens in new window" and had those continue to open new browser windows.

The others, I changed. And then I started watching stats. I tried to get an idea of how many people stayed, and how many people left.

Seems I was worried over nothing. People did return to those pages. There was no drop off in visits, and people seemed to stick around.

Standards outside the Web

I do see a lot of discussions on standards around the web. Mostly those are aimed at getting web browsers and html editing programs using valid html and Cascading Style Sheets.

I mostly agree with the discussions I see there, though I do wonder that if browser manufacturers and the makers of those editing programs also don't try some new things out, that we might be stuck with some limited functionality in web design.

After all, the horse and buggy was once the standard for transportation. Automobiles have increased the distance people can travel, and have opened up opportunities that would never have come along if we were limited to only going so far as to not exhaust our horses. (Ok, I'm stretching things a little with that example.)

Take a Pill

All my ranting in this post is leading somewhere. There are other things in our everyday lives that have remained the same for years and years. And, on the surface, they seem to fill the purpose they hold very well.

Yet this article, from the New York Metro takes a close look at a redesign of the prescription pill bottle: The Perfect Prescription
How the pill bottle was remade: sensibly and beautifully.
It includes a lot of good ideas. And the great part is that pills will be rolling out in these new bottles.

I am all for standards. That is, until something better comes along.

UK Catalog Sales Overtaken by Internet Orders

A study in the UK is reporting that more people are now ordering online than through mail order catalogs.

I sort of see that as good news, though it's not as optimistic for businesses as it might appear. While there has been growth on the web, there's been a larger dropoff of purchases from mail order.

Home shopping retailers must admit that the days of the big book are over and that the great hope of the home shopping industry is, or should be, the internet. The trouble with the mail order industry at the moment is that it tends to see the internet as a threat, where it should be seen as an opportunity.

There is something nice about having one of those big books of products in hand, and being able to leaf through the pages, and look at the different products. I used to love to do that with the old Edmonds Scientific catalogs, especially. The Whole Earth Review was a quirky, and interesting way to see offerings from a number of people.

Seems to me that there's room for both, and that using them together is a good approach for many businesses that are enjoying sales online.

Due Diligence for Small Business

Nice article from the Delaware Business Blog: Keep your Small Business Healthy by Improving Due Diligence.

Small businesses need to pay attention to all of the potential legal pitfalls that may face their businesses. The devil is in the details, and the details can be many. Especially make sure that you keep careful track of compliance with all of the small things that come up on a regular basis, such as quarterly estimated taxes, having a business license, etc.

If possible, define processes ahead of time to make these things easy to do. Talk to an accountant whom can help you plan ahead to make what could be chaotic into a matter of just following some simple steps and guidelines.

It's good to see the launch of the Delaware Business Blog. Welcome to the world of Business Blogging, Russell.