Monthly Archives: September 2001

PHP script for notifying Weblogs.com of an update.

PHP script for notifying Weblogs.com of an update.. Weblogs.com is changing the way they read updates from blogs. Now you need to notify them, by sending an XML-RPC message, that you've updated and they need to come by and fetch the update.

To that end, I've written a quick and dirty PHP script using the PHP XML-RPC classes from SourceFo [More Like This WebLog]

News.com

News.com (slightly old): G.SHDSL is a new form of DSL that offers symmetric 2.4 Mbs speeds.  It can also reac 18,000 ft (finally something that can reach all your people that are currently out of range of current service).  True to form, the Regional Bells have no intention of offering this service to consumers anytime soon, particularly when they can charge business customers a premium for the service in the interim.&nbsp[John Robb's Radio Weblog]

Customer e-mail.  What's the best thing a company can do to build grass roots support for its product or service?  Answer customer e-mails.  When I was at my last company (an online research company with a focus on financial services), I must have answered 30,000 e-mails sent to us by consumers, business people, and professionals.   I answered them all by hand with specific personalized responses.  It worked.   Our consumer research site grew in popularity until we reached our apex of 30 k unique visitors a day.  That initial active support by e-mail helped us build a business unit around the site that generated $500 k a quarter in profit (which was rare on the Web, particularly at that traffic level and the focus of our content). 

Many of the e-mails were off topic and not something we could make money from.  No problem, if I could provide an answer I did.  If not, I pointed to resources that could provide the answer.  Regardless, this extra effort helped build trust with the person on the other side of the SMTP connection and more often than not generated a relationship that led that person to use our services when they did need something we provided.

So, why do so many popular sites refuse to answer e-mails?  The portals are the best example of this practice.  Try to find an e-mail address on Yahoo, Excite, or Lycos where you can connect to a live employee. [
John Robb's Radio Weblog

Customer e-mail.  What's the best thing a company can do to build grass roots support for its product or service?  Answer customer e-mails.  When I was at my last company (an online research company with a focus on financial services), I must have answered 30,000 e-mails sent to us by consumers, business people, and professionals.   I answered them all by hand with specific personalized responses.  It worked.   Our consumer research site grew in popularity until we reached our apex of 30 k unique visitors a day.  That initial active support by e-mail helped us build a business unit around the site that generated $500 k a quarter in profit (which was rare on the Web, particularly at that traffic level and the focus of our content). 

Many of the e-mails were off topic and not something we could make money from.  No problem, if I could provide an answer I did.  If not, I pointed to resources that could provide the answer.  Regardless, this extra effort helped build trust with the person on the other side of the SMTP connection and more often than not generated a relationship that led that person to use our services when they did need something we provided.

So, why do so many popular sites refuse to answer e-mails?  The portals are the best example of this practice.  Try to find an e-mail address on Yahoo, Excite, or Lycos where you can connect to a live employee. [John Robb's Radio Weblog]

OmniOutliner

Mac OS 10.1 is noticeably faster, especially if you are running classic applications. The DVD player runs much better than the OS 9 DVD player. I can work in a foreground application like Mail or OmniOutliner while a DVD plays smoothly in the background. I'm a bit disappointed with the Microsoft Word test drive. There seems to be 2 ways of displaying text in OS X (someone will send me a note with the 2 different API names). One text display method produces ugly anti-aliased text like that found in OS 9, another produces amazing beautiful, highly legible anti-aliased text. Word displays some rather ugly text. AppleWorks does the same thing. I'm still going to do all my writing in TextEdit, OmniOutliner, Pepper or Mail. Just because I find it more comfortable to look at better rendered text. Otherwise I start concentrating on the letterforms and I get nothing done. Another nice fix in 10.1 is that I can just put my laptop to sleep, plug-in an external monitor and when I wake the machine the monitor is active. This worked in OS 9 and I used it a lot, with 10.0.x a restart was needed. My digital camera is now supported as well. The two things I really want now are new drivers for my HP Deskjet, so I can use the duplexing unit, and USB Overdrive so I can use all the features on my optical trackball.

It is very nice to see the Applescript improvements in Mac OS 10.1. I'm looking forward to using them. (and the new Applescript Studio could be very nice!). [DesignWeenie]

only facility in the U.S. with FDA approval to manufacture Anthrax Vaccine

Anthraxination – A friend of mine worked for the only facility in the U.S. with FDA approval to manufacture Anthrax Vaccine. After he left, the company went through a good deal of turbulence and was eventually privatized (they were originally run by the government). This testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives shows that the government has been aware of a deficiency in our ability to produce Anthrax vaccine for some time. In fact, just two month ago the Department of Defense announced yet another slowdown in Anthrax vaccine production with no estimate of when more would be available. We dropped the ball by letting free media die out in Central Asia; apparently our government has done a crap job of keeping around the antidote for biological agents as well. This is what happens when we skimp on national defense spending. [Better Living Through Software]

JY

JY takes on yield management at the airlines. 

Do you know Yield Management ? I didn't. Qantas states that “Airlines adopted yield management systems, also called revenue management systems, to maximise seat sales at the optimal (not necessarily highest) price – to maximise revenue return from each flight”. Here is another piece that explains Yield Management In The Airline Industry : “Last month on a trip to Brussels from Chicago, I almost had my 8-hour neighbor have a heart attack when I told him that I bought my ticket for $380. In fact, the gentleman, a business traveler, had to pay $1,500 for the same tourist-class round-trip ticket…”. Finally I have an explanation for one of the consequences of Yield Management : Overbooking. We can read an explanation of my trip experience with Air France on the site of Air France Consulting: ” In the last five years, the company has gone through important changes as […] implementation of new Revenue Management techniques and systems.”

Yield management makes the price of airline tickets overly complicated and impossible to understand.  It is anti-customer. 

That is one of the reasons that the airline industry got into trouble earlier this year.  The delta in the price between business travelers and economy fares reached its highest level in January.  This would be like Walmart charging a person five times as much for a toothbrush because they are wearing a business suit.  Business travelers, tired of being squeezed into middle seats at five times the price of the people on either side of them and facing a squeeze on expense accounts, decided not to travel.   If they did travel, they booked 3 weeks in advance (the airlines moved that advance booking time to 3 instead of 2 weeks to put more pressure on business travelers). 

Business travelers were generating 2/3rds of the profits at most major airlines before this year.  The rapid loss of these customers drove the industry into deep losses in Q1.  In effect, business travelers were wrongly subsidizing economy fares and getting nothing in return for their higher cost tickets.  I think the airlines are in for a difficult future due to the rise in the use of video conferences and collaboration tools as a substitute for overly expensive tickets. [John Robb's Radio Weblog]

John Robb's Radio Weblog

Another problem with the airlines before 9-11:  ineffectual anti-terrorist proceedures.  The only check the airlines made of passengers before boarding (outside of the security check point) was to check IDs at the gate.  Why did they check IDs?  Certainly not to find out if you were a terrorist, it checked to make sure a market for low cost tickets didn't develop.  IF they didn't check, people would buy the low cost ticket, mark them up a bit and resell them to business travelers faced with high prices.  Who would do this?  Travel agents.  The airlines have been on a campaign against travel agents over the last two years.  They slashed the fee paid to travel agents from $20 to $10 in the hope that they could put them out of business.  [John Robb's Radio Weblog]

“'If somebody wants to do it, you can't stop them,' says [Kathleen C. Bailey, a former assistant director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.] 'If it is a terrorist group, you may be able to infiltrate them. But if it is a single individual, it is going to be extraordinarily hard to know in advance what that individual is doing in their garage, closet, or basement… There are no emissions. With current technology, we have no way of sniffing out who is making anthrax in their basement.'… Even if Congress burned the Constitution and turned the U.S. into a police state, it could not eliminate the bioterrorism threat. 'Do you really think that you could catch the individual who wants to terrorize the population by making biological weapons? How are you going to know?'” [via A Boy and His Basement

“'If somebody wants to do it, you can't stop them,' says [Kathleen C. Bailey, a former assistant director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.] 'If it is a terrorist group, you may be able to infiltrate them. But if it is a single individual, it is going to be extraordinarily hard to know in advance what that individual is doing in their garage, closet, or basement… There are no emissions. With current technology, we have no way of sniffing out who is making anthrax in their basement.'… Even if Congress burned the Constitution and turned the U.S. into a police state, it could not eliminate the bioterrorism threat. 'Do you really think that you could catch the individual who wants to terrorize the population by making biological weapons? How are you going to know?'” [via A Boy and His Basement][Jake's Brainpan]