brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell

19Feb/05Off

A cool set of tutorials on creating stencils

Check out Stencil Revolution for some cool tutorials on how you can create your own stencils and use them to make art, either in the form of graffiti or just T-shirts.

19Feb/05Off

Enclosures in the new WordPress 1.5

Well, there is some support for enclosures right out of the box in the new release of WordPress, but it could still handle a bit of help. The way I hacked this into the old version was to insert two special custom fields and then wire the templates to scan for these and output the right bits of HTML and RSS when each post was printed.

WordPress 1.5 handles things a bit differently: it will scan the post for links to urls which appear to be audio files, and then inserts a custom enclosure field in the database with the url, size and type included as a string. But since it already thinks that the URL is linked in the post, it does nothing to make the link stand out in any way.

When I updated from 1.2, I converted each of my custom fields into a format which was compatible with the new scheme, but I was then left with a dilemma: go back and patch the text of all 52 entries so that it included a link (ugly) or go ahead and modify the templates to include a customized link. I chose the latter. I found out with a bit of work that code that looks like the following works. I include it just after any template emits the_content for a post.

$encs = get_enclosed($post_ID) ;
if ($encs) {
    echo '<div class="podcast">' ;
    foreach ($encs as $enc) {
        echo '<a href="'.$enc.'">Click here</a> to listen to the podcast.' ;
    }
    echo '</div>';
}

Nothing too exciting, but might prove useful to you in your work.

19Feb/05Off

On Blogging and Marketing…

Ah, another rant about Scoble. He's got a fresh "rant" (rant is in parenthesis because it's pretty mild by my standards) about a group in Microsoft that created a website to market a product, but (to Scoble's way of thinking) missed the boat as to how to go about it.

He's got a point.

I use the Web in two quite different ways that might result in me spending money on our products. The first is just to find information. What are you selling? What does it do? Where can I buy it? How muh will it cost? As long as I can do a simple websearch and your information page pops to the front, I'm probably happy.

The second kind of marketing is a bit subtler. Microsoft's Channel 9 pages are a good example. They are more informal, less structured pitches, presented in a conversational style, and often as a result of actual discussions with developers and to some extent, consumers. Currently in the Channel 9 Video Forum, I see tours of Microsoft facilities guides to developing on bluetooth and CLR programming, and descriptions of new technologies like Avalon 3D. These aren't so much to get me to buy products, but to understand and buy into the Microsoft Brand.

And they are effective. There is little doubt that I have a more positive view of Microsoft and their products by actually watching this stuff.

So, what's my beef?

To my mind, it's the intermixing of marketing and conversation. I guess that you could say I'm a bit of a skeptic about the whole Cluetrain idea. It's not that it's wrong or bad, it is just one of those seductive ideas that goes from keen insight to useless cliché in a very short time.

But I think there is something slightly more disturbing about companies who are trying to apply the Cluetrain ideas. Take, for example the Microsoft Presspass site that Scoble recommends as an example of "the right way to do it". The thing that I find disturbing is just how much it looks like a real news site, with real journalists asking real questions. But it's not. It's just the Microsoft marketing department, asking their own company softball questions. Look carefully at the Q&A articles. Look carefully at the formatting. The fact that you can get an RSS feed to have these scarefully sculpted press releases delivered into your mailbox.

Color me skeptical, but I see this site as perhaps more effective than the site which angered Scoble, but no better for me. I should be skeptical of virtually every claim made on such a website, because it is so obviously the work of strong, vested interests. Their products might indeed be just what I need, but to really evaluate the needs I need access to unbiased information, and this ain't it. It is really just the same old marketing recast into the guise of the new trendy "conversation".

Having an RSS feed and making your press release look like news doesn't establish a conversation.

Sometime soon: companies don't converse. At best two individuals do. Using the term "conversation" to describe an interaction between a company and an individual is a demeaning use of the word "conversation".

Filed under: Blogging Comments Off