Archive for November 2006

"Guaranteed in Stock" Debunked

I swear, I was *just* about to write a really positive post about Blockbuster Video’s New “Total Access” program (which I think is totally great and I will definitely try), but upon visiting a Blockbuster location this evening, I ran into another episode of Blockbuster ridiculousness I had to post about.

You see, Blockbuster has this promotion called “Guaranteed In Stock!”, which leads consumers to believe something along the lines of “If you come to a Blockbuster store for a really popular movie, we’ll have it in stock… guaranteed.” They even back it up by proclaiming that if it *isn’t* in stock, you get to rent it for free as soon as copies become available.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw the display below at my local store:

What’s that? Two identical shelves, both 6-wide and 6-tall. On the left is Al Gore’s popular new documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”. On the right is a movie I’ve never even heard of called “John Tucker Must Die”. There are at least 40 copies of the obscure Tucker thing available and exactly ZERO copies of An Inconvenient Truth. And guess which one is “Guaranteed In Stock!”? Tucker, baby!

Seeing this display made me immediately suspicious of Blockbuster so I approached an employee about the situation:

Me: “I noticed that ‘Josh Tucker Will Die’ is guaranteed In stock and ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ is not… and yet, they both have the same amount of shelf space.”

Blockbuster Employee: “Yes, that is correct.”

Me: “So, you guys didn’t just remove the ‘Guaranteed In Stock’ thingie from ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ because it was inconveniently out of stock?”

Blockbuster Employee: “No. The only movies that are ‘Guaranteed In Stock’ are the ones which we order a certain number of. I think it’s 200.”

Me: “Ok… so the ‘Guaranteedness’ of Blockbuster movies has more to do with how many of them you order than how popular they may be?”

Blockbuster Employee: “Yep.”

Me: “Interesting. I’ll take Crash then.”

So the good news is that there’s nothing nefarious going on here. The bad news, however, is that Blockbuster still seems to be out of touch with its customer base. If you want to instill in me the trust that a popular movie *I want to see* is going to be in stock, then just make sure it’s in stock. Hopefully Total Access helps get this company back on track. It’s probably their last chance to crush Netflix.

Results from the Google AdSense Experiment

Well it’s been a week since I threw a Google ad into the header region of this site and the results are in. With just under 50,000 page views, my earnings were just under $100.

It was sort of a low traffic week with not a lot of posting, linkage, or commenting activity, but even so, $400 a month isn’t enough for me show that huge ad to everyone who comes to this site.

But still… it’s more than a few pennies so I wanted to come up with a solution which would let me continue to show the ad in some cases and not show it in other cases. I could frequency-cap it but that would change the design in the middle of a user session (not good). I could only show it a few days a week, but that would be a similarly inconsistent experience.

In the end, I came up with a happy solution: show the ad to everyone except subscribers to this blog. That way, people who come here often and have more than a passing interest in what is written here will get a nice, clean ad-free experience, while those who arrive here via searches for MySpace Layouts, sIFR, or other linkage will see the ad and in some cases help monetize it. This will likely result in a small revenue decline, but that’s of little concern to me.

Currently, I’m achieving this conditional ad serving by setting a three month cookie every time someone clicks on a link from my RSS feed. As long as that cookie is around, you should see no ads. I’m also considering extending the ad-free experience to every visitor who doesn’t come in with a referrer. That way, people who have Mike Industries bookmarked won’t see ads either.

That’s it. Happy Thanksgiving!

The Best Two Blocks You'll Ever See

Chances are you’ve heard about or seen 5′ 7″ Nate Robinson’s block of 7′ 6″ Yao Ming from this Monday night. Nate’s a fellow Washington Husky so everyone in Seattle has seen him perform some crazy aerial stunts on both the basketball court and the football field but for a guy a full TWO FEET SHORTER than the tallest man in the NBA to issue a rejection like the one below is pretty amazing. Here’s the Chinese version, just for kicks:

Now that’s a great block, BUT, last week I think I saw probably the best football block I’ve ever seen in the West Virginia/Pittsburgh game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be on YouTube, but ESPN has it inline with the recap of the game. 100 times more impressive at full TV resolution, but man… those two punt coverage guys go down like dominoes. And not a bad runback either!

Experimenting with Ads (and Legitimate Asbestos Writings!)

Last night, I don’t know what hit me, but I decided to throw a Google Ad on this site. You can see it right up there at the top of your screen. It’s the first ever (and probably last ever) ad on Mike Industries and it’s there as an experiment more than anything else. I know a lot of bloggers who have experimented with ads only to take them down days, weeks, or months later, and I’m sure I will follow suit, but for now, there it is!

So far, I’ve been pretty impressed with Google’s targeting capability, not only applying “real estate specific” ads to posts about condos, but actually geo-specific as well, serving up spots for new condo developments in my home town. Good stuff.

So speaking about ad targeting and experimenting, what better time to write about the high-cost-per-click-topic of asbestos! Seriously!

In preparing to move into the new Mike Industries Global Headquarters, I had to take a sample of the popcorn ceiling down to an asbestos testing lab yesterday. Since my building was built in 1963, I was told there was a greater than 95% chance there would be asbestos in the ceilings. If the test turned out positive, I’d have to call a professional abatement crew in there in order to ensure the place was properly cleared of mesothelioma-causing fibers. The stuff is pretty nasty and is the cause of many ugly lawsuits and cancer diagnoses.

Shockingly, however, everything came back negative! No asbestos. So now it’s just a question of taking down the popcorn ceiling as fast as possible and repainting the concrete slab ceiling above it. Does anybody have any experience with painting and resurfacing concrete slab ceilings? Is it a day job? Two days? Three days? A week? Any good recommendations for contractors in Seattle?

Condo Kismet

I generally don’t write much about real estate, but those who have visited Mike Industries over the last couple of months may have noticed a few posts about the housing market; the cause of which being, I’ve been looking for a new place.

Well happy, happy day. I just bought a place! I wouldn’t call the back story miraculous or anything, but I do find it extremely satisfying that after months of going through the standard channels of condo shopping (an agent, e-mail alerts, RSS, etc etc etc), it was a simple post on this very blog that set into motion the chain of events that led to a happy purchase.

Here’s what happened:

A week after writing this entry, I got a call from a friend of mine, Jason Grove (Thanks Jason!), who had read the post and said he knew a friend who was about to put her place on the market. I was skeptical because without seeing pictures first, chances are I wouldn’t be into it. I arranged to head over there the following evening not expecting much. Turns out the place was really great and the sellers were very nice people as well.

The place was scheduled to go on the market in three days so I made one more visit the next day to check it out under brighter conditions. I ended up making an informal offer that day, and long story short, we were able to come to an agreement about a week later which cut out the 6% realtor fees and let us both quit worrying about the Seattle real estate market for the foreseeable future. Everybody’s happy.

A few details on the place: 2 bedrooms. 2 baths. 1188 square feet. Lower Queen Anne neighborhood. Four blocks from Newsvine. Walls of windows to the north and the west overlooking Puget Sound and Magnolia… so yes, the Mike Industries Live Cam will return to its functional state in a couple of weeks. The only downside to the place that needs immediate remedying is the popcorn ceiling. Any advice on how best to remove this stuff (cost, time, safety, contractor recs, etc)?

It’s weird that a simple 15-minute blog post can have such a dramatic impact on your life sometimes. It’s even weirder that I’m going in for the inspection tomorrow and the seller sent — in her absence — a friend to let me in. That friend’s name? Mike Davidson.

Drag N' Validate

Ever find yourself debugging XHTML via your browser’s View Source command? I do it all the time. You know the routine:

  1. You add a module somewhere on the page and it’s borking your layout.
  2. You hit View Source.
  3. You drag-select the module in question, paste it into a Stickie Note, manually indent your tag tree with tabs, and then find out where your tags are unbalanced.

It’s a pain in the ass and maybe there’s a better way to do it, but here’s a tool I’d love to see:

Drag N’ Validate (or Dragon Validate) — Drag select a block of XHTML in any application, right click to pull up a contextual “Validate” menu, and the application will autotab the block for you and point out any validation errors.

That would be money.

Shared
Why I Just Asked My Students To Put Their Laptops Away:

A great essay about how toxic everyday distractions can be.

Humanity's deep future:

A group of researchers at the Future of Humanity Institute talk about where our race may be going and how artificial intelligence could save or kill us all.

Steve Jobs speaks about the future at the International Design Conference in 1983:

31 years later, it’s safe to say this is one of the most prescient speeches about technology ever delivered. Jobs covers wireless networking, tablets, Google StreetView, Siri, and the App Store (among other things) many years before their proliferation. A fantastic listen.

How to travel around the world for a year:

Great advice for when you finally find the time.

LiveSurface:

A fantastic app for prototyping your design work onto real world objects like billboards, book covers, and coffee cups. This seems like just as great of a tool for people learning design as it does for experts.

50 problems in 50 days:

One man’s attempt to solve 50 problems in 50 days using only great design. Some good startup ideas in here…

How to Do Philosophy:

If you’ve ever suspected that most classical philosophy is a colossal waste of time, Paul Graham tells you why you’re probably right.

TIME: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us:

Stephen Brill follows the money to uncover the pinnacle of corruption that is the U.S. Health Care system. A must-read article if there ever was one.

DIY Dot Org:

A beautifully designed site full of fun and challenging DIY projects. I could spend months on here.

The Steve Jobs Video Archive:

A collection of over 250 Steve Jobs videos in biographical order

Self-portraits from an artist under the influence of 48 different psychoactive drug combos.

Water Wigs are pretty amazing.

David Pogue proposes to his girlfriend by creating a fake movie trailer about them and then getting a theater to play it before a real movie. Beautiful and totally awesome.

Jonah Peretti's letter to BuzzFeed’s employees:

If you’re wondering what a excellent blueprint for a modern media company looks like, look no further than Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti’s latest email to his employees. In it, Peretti explains a lot of his company’s virtues, the most important being a relentless focus on always providing what’s best for the user. Vox Media (operators of The Verge) is the only other company I can think of which approaches this level of reform and execution.

The Covers Project:

I love this so much: a cross-referenceable database of cover songs, searchable by song or artist. Slowed down, acoustic covers — no matter the song — are so enjoyable to me that I wish it was a requirement to play one at every show. If you like them as much as I do, make sure to check out M. Ward’s Let’s Dance or Sun Kil Moon’s entire album of Modest Mouse covers.