Time Forward

Wednesday’s meeting has been moved forward two days. Mini poll:

Has the meeting been rescheduled for:

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There is a (minor) point to this poll, but I want to collect some data first. And no, this doesn’t mean I missed a meeting (it’s not even work related).

HTML Email: The Poll

Reader Kiernan recently contacted me about my old (and apparently much-linked-to) Why HTML in E-Mail A Bad Idea document, saying:

I do not believe HTML email is going to disappear any time now. In fact, I expect we will see an increase in HTML email which suggests we need guidelines, not proscription. I think in the interests of furthering discussion on this subject, a poll would be useful.

Personally, I care a lot less about this subject than I used to. I’m still no fan of HTML email, but it doesn’t bug me the way it once did. Formatting in email can be useful and attractive. The security concerns it raises aren’t very relevant to me since I use a Mac (though I’m still concerned for all the Outlook users out there). Even command-line pine displays the plain-text alternate properly for most HTML emails these days.

At its best, HTML email highlights the strong points in a message. At its worst (for me), HTML email is a minor annoyance, sometimes resulting in tiny font displays — but nothing I can’t get around by punching Cmd-+ on the keyboard. There are a thousand things under heaven and earth more worthy of getting het up about. What about you? Have your feelings about HTML-formatted email changed over the years?

Have your feelings about HTML email changed since 2000?

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Stale Mail

In the eternal quest to clear the inbox (aka The Impossible Dream), I responded to a message today dated June 2003, with something like “Let’s face reality – I’m never going to give this the thoughtful response it deserves, but thanks for the energy you put into this thread.” It’s a cop-out I know, but also necessary/pragmatic. This got me thinking – is there, like, a statute of limitations on the age of email messages? After what point is it just pointless to bother responding? Can you delete unanswered messages after a year without having to apologize for it? I know I’m not alone in this dilemma. How old is your oldest unanswered message? The one you keep around because you just know one night you’ll get around to responding (I actually have some older than June 2003 and would love an excuse to just can them).

How old is the oldest unanswered message in your inbox?

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~? What ~?

In a conversation the other day with a colleague, I came to the crashing realization that not everyone knows what the ~ (tilde) character is on their keyboards — what it is, how to pronounce it, where to find it, or what it means when used in a shell or URL. I had thought that after ten years of web prominence it had been more or less assimilated into the common consciousness. Now I wonder. Straw poll:

Do you know what the ~ (tilde) character is and does?

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Music: Modest Mouse :: Gravity Rides Everything

Privacy Matters

Having an interesting discussion with a friend about issues surrounding online privacy and corporate tracking of customers. At issue is whether some forms of customer tracking are acceptable, or none. If a company you like and have done business with in the past sends you an email, do you expect that clicking links in that email will report that you, Jane Doe, responded to an email campaign, visited the such and such pages, and bought such and such products? (Keep in mind that this is not spam, but an email newsletter you really did sign up for). If you didn’t know you were being tracked, would it bother you to find out that you were? What about non-personal, generic stats tracking, which just gathers average results to see what people do and don’t like? What if you found out that the company’s services could become much more valuable to you if they could gather personal usage data on your surfing and buying habits? How valuable is your personal privacy? For which kinds of rewards would you be willing to give it up? How clear should a company be that they’re tracking you? Is the fine print in the EULA or TOS sufficient, or should tracking notices be posted in boldface on the page where you sign up? Can privacy lost ever be regained?

How do you feel about companies tracking your personal surfing/purchasing habits?

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Music: Neil Young :: Loose Change

Which Media Player Sucks Least?

Currently involved in a mondo thread regarding the question of whether QuickTime sucks or not, which by necessity also asks whether Real Media and/or Windows Media suck, and if so, how much? As with operating systems, I think all of them have strengths and weakness, but there are no secrets about my leanings: I think QuickTime is more flexible, has better (or at least equal) quality per bitrate, has a cleaner UI, is less big-brother-ish, and is less invasive (is less brash about stealing associations). QuickTime is also, unfortunately, the only one that nags the user till they cough up $30 — something I’m more than willing to do, though I know many/most people are not.

Not everyone shares my opinion. Thought I’d take a straw poll here on birdhouse, where the air is slightly less rarified than on the mailing list. What do you think? If all audio/video media on the web had to be in a single format, which should it be?

Which media player/platform gives the best overall user experience?

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Gorgeous example of QuickTime in action.

Music: Janis Joplin :: To Love Somebody

Codified Homophobia

A recent poll of 1,028 adults shows more than half favoring a possible law banning gay marriage. What “land of the free” were we talking about again?

I consider our codified, institutionalized intolerance of gay marriage to be an abuse of human rights. Not in the same league as torture or imprisonment for political beliefs perhaps, but we as a nation do punish people for loving whom they wish to love. Imposed morality for its own sake is imposed abuse. We rob others of their pursuit of happiness. Opposition to gay marriage is un-American.

Often in political or religious disputes, I can see the other side of the issue while defending my own, but try as I might, I cannot understand why anyone would oppose gay marriage. It’s just baffling to me. I also have trouble understanding how people can embrace religions that oppose homosexuality. It’s so plainly inhumane. If I ever choose to believe in a god, you can bet it won’t be such a blatantly inhumane god.

The AP had their poll. Here’s my own.

Is opposition to gay marriage an abuse of basic human rights?

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Music: Ernest and Hattie Stoneman :: The Mountaineer’s Courtship

Sanding. Microwave.

Spent all day behind the wheel of a Bona ProSand 8, a highly efficient, surprisingly graceful, 115-lb floor-sanding beast. Almost zero dust – the built-in vacuum is voracious. The work is tedious, meditative, exhausting. Coarse grades today and tomorrow, finer grades Sunday. We have not yet upgraded the electrical system, but the sander draws a heap of juice. Every time I strain the motor on a bump, a 15 amp fuse blows. Learning to finesse it, but going through fuses like no tomorrow. Better than burning down the house.

Amy painting shelves and cupboards with Miles on her back. It’s a family thing.

The new place has a cubby in the kitchen clearly designed to house a microwave oven. I’ve never lived with a microwave (astonishing but true!), though my grandmother had one of the first — the Amana Radarange — in the early 70s (my mother always insisted we play in another room when it was running, lest we become sterile from the radiation). Amy grew up with one but hasn’t had one since high school. No real reason for either of us, other than habit and stubborn-ness. I think a part of us likes resisting all the mod cons. But now I’m sort of interested in getting one, though it would be tantamount to an act of resignation at this point in life. Amy remains staunchly opposed.

Do you have a microwave?

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Music: Cab Calloway :: Foo A Little Bally-Hoo

The Anti-Car

Great parody of the original anti-drug site. In this version, cars and driving are cast as dangerous drugs threatening the emotional and physical health of modern teens.

I’ve been driving for 20 years. I wish I never started. It destroys your body little by little. If you’re a kid and reading this, start learning how to live car-free now, you’ll thank me later.

I work with some very pro-car people, which makes for some… interesting lunch conversations. One of my coworkers is so adamantly anti-bike that he feels they should be confined to sidewalks. I feel society should bend over backwards at every opportunity to accommodate bicycles. You can imagine how that discussion went. Let’s find out who’s right for once and for all by conducting a rigorous scientific poll, shall we?

Regarding Bicycles

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Music: Freakwater :: Binding Twine