Operator No. 9: June 4, 2001
Brilliance and Beer
Every few months, I get an e-mail pointing me to one of the many pages claiming to be the "last page of the Internet." If youve never been to one, I wont spoil the surprise. Go to www.shibumi.org/eoti.htm and see for yourself. A Google search reveals there are dozens of "last pages of the Internet," as well as a "second to last page," a "very last page" and even a page that has links to all the pages purporting to be the last page. Youll find that at www.uwec.edu/Academic/Curric/jerzdg/orr/articles/humor/ lastpage.htm. I contacted one of the site creators Dan Hughes at www.shibumi.org and asked him to describe the inspiration for his page, which went up in 1996. Not surprisingly, Hughes tale involves "friends" and a "few beers."
Proving that not all hackers are bent on destroying Web sites and users machines, Adrian Lamo, a self-described hacker, is being praised for alerting Excite@Home in April to a security flaw that would have exposed nearly 3 million support records to the public. Lamo apparently tries to find security holes for the sole purpose of alerting the Web sites about the flaws. Hmm. Sounds too good to be true, but Im not a completely cynical person, so Ill take Lamo at his word. What raised my hackles, though, was the comment by an Excite@Home spokeswoman: "After meeting with Lamo, we took steps to further secure the corporate network by installing firewalls, restricting access to the network, implementing programs to prevent denial-of-service attacks, and adding hardware and software designed to detect and prevent security breaches." You mean the company didnt have all that stuff in place before Lamo found the hole? Maybe its a good thing I cant get Excite@Homes cable modem service here in Silicon Valley.
1 3 6
Number of days as of June 4 that President George W. Bush has been in office and without a technology adviser.
Do the Freddy
In "Ode to Fred," which ran May 21, I noted the popularity of CDW Computer Centers commercials featuring a faceless information technology guy named Fred and CDWs plan to launch the "Freds," an award program for IT managers. But reader Bob Craig writes in with a warning: "Before the CDW award program gets too big, they may want to know that Fred is a long-standing acronym in the electronics business: The last three letters stand for ridiculous electronic device. "
Hoovers Online Europe says that Internet companies are losing customers because theyre using too much jargon. "This is costing U.K. businesses at least £125 million [approximately $177 million] in wasted marketing expenditure, and even more in lost sales." The research firm launched a jargon-busting campaign, called Death by Jargon, at www.deathbyjargon.com. There, youll find a game in which workers are viciously punished for using jargon in business situations. Can anyone relate? "£250 million a year is spent on online advertising, directing customers to Web sites," says Gehan Talwatte, managing director at Hoovers Online Europe. "In the case of more than half these businesses, once customers visit their Web sites, they will click off without spending any money there. Potential customers find the Web sites jargon too baffling to bother carrying on with a transaction."
Dressed for Success?
Boy billionaire Jared Polis, the 25-year-old mind behind Blue Mountain Arts and Proflowers.com, has had some good ideas in his day. Im just not sure wearing judicial robes to meetings of the Colorado Board of Education is one of them. Polis, who dropped a cool mil winning a nonpaying seat on the board by a 90-vote margin, says the robes help the panel separate its judicial role from its policy implementation role. So convinced is he of the robes effectiveness that he has offered to buy gowns for the other six board members, including Clair Orr, the much older, boot-wearin CEO of Agtown.com. Polis told a Denver political columnist that he thinks the robes will "catch on. Well see in a year or two." Bet Excite@Home, which just showed 13 percent of its work force the door, wishes it had been wearing the robes of clarity a year or two ago, when it shelled out $780 million for non-revenue-producing Blue Mountain Arts.
"We Dont Know What Color Microsoft Is Going to Make It for Itanium."
MICHAEL TIEMANN, chief technical officer at RED HAT, wondering whether the infamous "blue screen of death" that appears when MICROSOFT Windows crashes will look different for INTELs new 64-bit Itanium chip.
The Estée Lauder Cos., with $4.4 billion in revenue, sells makeup at 9,000 shops around the world. The idea that the Internet would kill that business is simply ridiculous, said William Lauder, president of Estée Lauders Clinique Laboratories. "The notion we would want to use the Internet solely and throw out our traditional distribution would be folly at best, and suicide at its worst," Lauder said at Jupiter Media Metrixs retail forum in Chicago. The Internet is a great way to enhance brand images with consumers, communicate with customers and collect data on consumers shopping preferences, Lauder said. The Internet as a killer to real-world shopping will never happen, he said. "Whatever the people who thought that up were smoking, they had too much of it and they misunderstood the reason people shop," Lauder said. Still, Estée Lauder makes all of its brands available to people who do want to buy lipstick, blush and powder online. The company is relaunching Gloss.com in September as a one-stop shop for all of its brands, including Bobbi Brown Professional Cosmetics, Clinique, Estée Lauder and Origins Natural Resources.
$10 Million Man
If Core Networks CEO Jeffrey A. Campbell ever has to work up a new résumé, he says it will include a graph of the Nasdaq in the first four months of 2001, with a circle around March and April, when the index was in its deepest funk. "And Im gonna say: I raised $10 million for my company there, " Campbell says. Core Networks is a cable network management software company in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It closed on $10.5 million in second-round financing in March.
Heres Dan Hughes story: "The whole thing started because I wanted visitors to my Web site www.shibumi.org to flip a coin and then choose links for heads, tails or the edge. I already had the content for the heads and tails links, and I needed something silly and pointless and amusing for anyone off-kilter enough to click on the edge link. Originally, I intended the page to be absolutely useless. That idea became a page without links. On the Web, what could be more pointless than a linkless page? Not even a back button. The whole Web is linked together. Everything is a link, so a page without links must be the end . . . The whole idea makes a lot more sense after a few beers. Trust me." And that, my friends, is how folklore is born.