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SXSW 2010 Overview

Movies , The Internets • Mar 21, 2010

I just got back from Austin, TX where I attended South by Southwest 2010. I have been wanting to attend SXSW ever since I learned about the festival years ago. Austin and SXSW is like an amalgamation of all the things I love: Films, Internet, Food, Music, Culture, Travel… The list goes on. One of my favorite websites,, is based out of Austin, and it’s partly because of that site that one of my items on my list of things to do before I die was see a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. So if I could pick one film festival to ever go to, this is it. I attended the Film and Interactive parts of the festival, however, Austin is the “live music capital of the world” so you don’t really need to attend the music part to experience it. I’ll post my thoughts on Interactive, Films and Food shortly.

Wolfram Alpha Poised to Kill Search?

The Internets • May 18, 2009

This week a new website launched called Wolfram Alpha. At first glance you may assume it’s another search engine but you’d be wrong, it’s described as a “knowledge engine” and some are saying that it could kill search engines or at least searching as we know it. Here’s a very impressive video of what you can do with it:

Click here (note: Doesn’t seem to work in Firefox)

It’s all very impressive from a computer science point of view, the fact that it is even possible is amazing. This could become the “go-to” tool for online users who want to answer questions or are doing research. If what you’re looking for is knowledge based and you can form it into a question that can be answered, chances are this offers a much better experience than google.

Some website content owners are already calling foul. They, of course, want people to visit their websites for the information and not have some artificial intelligence that scours the internet and compiles all the data. But as you can imagine Wolfram Alpha is very secretive about how it actually all works.

A Lesson in Generational Marketing Missteps

The Internets • Feb 11, 2009

Hey, remember OK Soda? Yeah, me neither. Ironically OK Soda was Coka Cola’s attempt to “market aggresively” to my generation (generation X) in the mid-90’s. You can read a lot more about OK Soda in it’s wikipedia entry. The story of OK Soda reads like a how-not-to case study for generational marketing.

“OK Soda was intentionally marketed at the difficult Generation X and Generation Y markets, and attempted to cash in on the group’s existing disillusionment and disaffection with standard advertising campaigns; the concept was that the youth market was already aware that they were being manipulated by mass-media marketing, so this advertising campaign would just be more transparent about it.”

Coke basically distilled an entire generation down to a series of stereotypes and created a product around that and it fell flat. This got me very curious, what insights did Coke’s marketing team have about Generation X? You can gleam some of it in their product’s “manifesto”:

1. What’s the point of OK? Well, what’s the point of anything?
2. OK Soda emphatically rejects anything that is not OK, and fully supports anything that is.
3. The better you understand something, the more OK it turns out to be.
4. OK Soda says, “Don’t be fooled into thinking there has to be a reason for everything.”
5. OK Soda reveals the surprising truth about people and situations.
6. OK Soda does not subscribe to any religion, or endorse any political party, or do anything other than feel OK.
7. There is no real secret to feeling OK.
8. OK Soda may be the preferred drink of other people such as yourself.
9. Never overestimate the remarkable abilities of “OK” brand soda.
10. Please wake up every morning knowing that things are going to be OK.

Pretty heavy handed I would say. Personally as a gen-x soda drinker I’m pretty underwhelmed by a product called “OK”, why not call it “Mediocre” or just “Meh”. But I think the real reason it failed was its suspicious use of unnecessary quotation marks in the tag line on the can: A carbonated “beverage”. I’m not drinking anything that can only loosely be called a “beverage”.



The Internets • Jan 15, 2009

I had several WordPress sites hacked last month including this one. I first noticed it on one of my other websites when my traffic completely dried up in my analytics. I tried googling some of the terms that the site was number 1 for and it was no where to be found. Then I logged into google webmaster tools and noticed that the first 50 words or so under “what googlebot sees” were all spam. I knew instantly I had been hit with some kind of spam link injection hack but was scratching my head as to where the links actually were. They weren’t obvious from looking at my page, I checked my source code and there was nothing in there out of place.

Then I thought maybe they had been taken off so I checked the cached version of my page in google, nothing there. Finally I looked at the source code of google’s cached page and saw them! Apparently the hackers are using the user agent information to only show them to googlebot and even then what they’re showing is hidden links through CSS using display:none.

I found where they exploited WordPress, deleted the spammy code and updated WordPress to the most recent release. It was really disconcerting to not be able to understand how they injected their spammy code into WordPress though and to not know for sure that it couldn’t happen again. Sure enough, they hit me again today, the bastards!

I again deleted all my files and am running this and a few other websites on fresh WordPress installs. But here’s the most frustrating part: It’s been over a month and google still hasn’t crawled my sites and updated their cache. My traffic and rankings still haven’t returned even though I asked google through webmaster tools for re-inclusion and apparently other websites have had their penalties removed in about that much time.

Really makes you rethink the viability of using open source software for mission critical web development projects. Luckily I’m not loosing any business or money thanks to these jokers, but if I was.. I’d hate to think about that. Sucks that you can build a site, optimize it, promote it, get it ranking with traffic and have some hacker come by and sink all your SEO efforts for who knows how long all to get some hidden backlinks for spam that have NO SEO value for them since they’re hidden!