Show me the money

We just got our absentee ballots from New Jersey today. We didn’t think we really should register to vote as we didn’t have a fixed address yet and now I hear that the race is going to be real close in NJ so I’m more than happy to throw my vote down where it might make an impact. I’m also kind of relieved. With all the various California propositions going on, I’m ok with sitting this one out and not having to study them all.

As we head into the final stretch, you can check out who’s donating to which party on the following site which places donors onto a map of your neighborhood. Kind of voyeuristic but, hey, it’s politics and it’s nice to see some transparency in the system.

Boxes and Bubble Wrap

It’s been a whirlwind few days with the movers, unpacking, transferring license plates to California, getting a CA driver’s license, switching Tyler over to the local school, hooking up cable & internet, and meeting the new neighbors in between. We’re still digging ourselves out from boxes and bubble wrap so I haven’t had a chance to post.

We did find someone that can take all the packing material off our hands because she is moving to Texas. When we told her that we had “wardrobe boxes” (tall boxes with a hanger rod in them so you can hang your suits and dresses) she squealed with delight. One man’s trash. . .

One great thing about having a blogger sister is that she’s good at documenting things that, at the moment seem too overwhelming to even think about documenting. She was there on our first day of unpacking and squeezed off a few choice shots of the occasion.

Sad is a rainbow

mazda.JPG

We traded in “Flash,” our 4 year old Honda Odyssey, for a new Mazda MPV which is smaller and easier to drive around and park in our new urban home. Tyler was heartbroken to say goodbye to the Honda which has been our faithful chariot on drives from NJ to Tennessee and Boston. It’s a great van, comfortable for the long haul but just too wide to zip around the streets of San Francisco and Oakland.

This morning we doused it’s wheels with a bit of Sake from a bottle (photo) we bought to sprinkle on the four corners of our house when we move in (Tuesday!) and celebrated with a drive over to Berkeley.

Tyler later made a comment that “Sad is a rainbow” in which he was describing the shape of a sad face. I took a deeper meaning away from it, there are many shades of sadness and there’s always a brighter side of looking at every sad occasion.

State of the blogosphere: Big Media vs. Blogs

I would be remiss if I did not mention that David Sifry recently published an analysis of the influence of blogs versus the big media sites. Influence on the online world is measured by the number of inbound links which is a core strength of Technorati.

Not only is it interesting that 6 of the top 15 sites are blog sites, Kotokke notes that only 16 of the top 100 are without advertising.

Conclusions? That blogs are holding more sway over online opinions and that almost all of the most popular sites are ad supported.

WinFS as a GUI to Search

Microsoft blogger Dare Obasanjo digs at Google’s Desktop Search and points to data visualization as the key to the success of Microsoft’s delayed WinFS. While Google and other “command line” search tools are useful for finding that one file that lays somewhere on the internet or on your hard drive, there is clearly a need for an easier way to browse through results visually. If it’s a picture, display the thumbnail – I don’t care if it’s a jpeg, gif, or Photoshop file.

The promise of WinFS is that it aims to turn every application [including file navigation applications like Windows explorer] into the equivalent of Outlook and iTunes when it comes to data visualization and navigation by baking such functionality into the file system APIs and data model. Trying to reduce that to “full text search plus indexing” is missing the forest for the trees. Sure that may get you part of the way but in the end it’s like driving a car with your feet. There is a better way and it is much closer than most people think.

Craigslist vs. Newspaper Classifieds

More clouds on the horizon for papers that don’t change their ways. Steve Outing writes in Editor & Publisher that the traditional newspaper classified is under attack with free, online alternatives such as Craigslist (which I’m using extensively as I settle into my new home in the Bay Area) and eBay.

Of course, the merchandise/other category — which at its core includes private-party sales, garage sales and the like — accounts for only 17% of the total U.S. classifieds pie of $15.8 billion (2003 figures). Says Newspaper Association of America vice president for advertising Mort Goldstrom, the segment may be small compared to the traditional classified cash cows of jobs, real estate and autos, but it’s important because it’s a “readership thing.”

17% seems too much to write off in a world of declining subscriptions and ad revenue. The suggestion is that newspapers add value to their printed classifieds by bundling in a newsprint purchase with an online entry. I would take that a step further and offer photos, maps (to yard sales), and other online tools to make commerce easier for the one-time seller. If there is one thing that newspapers have that the online sites don’t is a foot in both the online and print world.

When I was selling subscriptions to wsj.com in Japan, I had a funny exchange with a private investor who was quite enamored at being able to print out closing stock quotes that he looked up online. He then went on to enquire if wsj.com had a page that would allow him to print out the closing prices of all the stocks on the NASDAQ, he liked to have this so he could scan through them in one go. I had to think about it a bit but the answer came to me as I looked over to the fellow next to me who was selling subscriptions to The Asian Wall Street Journal. Not only did Dow Jones have just the service he was looking for, we could get this printout to him delivered on his doorstep each morning using the most advanced offset printing technology!

In much the same way, a newspaper’s classified is a wonderfully efficient way to browse through and see how many people in your neighborhood have an old, beat up car for sale that you might use for commuting. Once you narrow the list down, a weblink for each entry that allowed you to look at details like the Carfax report or a picture would help close the deal. This initial scan is something that the online listings are struggling to replicate.

Shopping Cart Lady

One thing about moving from a small, rural town to a semi-urban community is that you run across those with other lifestyles more often. Today Izumi was at the shopping center with Tyler and there was a homeless women shuffling by with all her belongings in a shopping cart. Tyler, not being shy, kindly informed the woman that the shopping cart actually belonged to a store and wasn’t her’s to take.

Fearing a a nasty rebuke, Izumi called Tyler over to the car so they could get on their way. Instead, there was a short conversation and Tyler came back smiling. The woman had complimented his boots.

Using Web 2.0 for an instant storefront

Richard Soderberg writes on a quick and easy way to tie together a number of web services to build an e-commerce site.

  1. Using Blogger, get a blog (and configure it to use your FTP server, if so desired).
  2. Using Picasa, create a new Hello account and configure it for the blog.
  3. Using PayPal, get a merchant account.
  4. Using Picasa and Hello, send a merchandise photo with a short description to BloggerBot.
  5. Using PayPal’s merchant tools, generate an “add to cart” button for the item.
  6. Using Blogger, edit the new post to include a title, a description, and “add to cart” and “view cart” buttons.

Guarantee that this will be an a-ha moment for many. Let one thousand business models bloom!

Somtimes a bumpersticker is better than a blog

Chris Shipley writes on her experience trying to use blogs to move opinions and gain awareness on a local political issue. Conclusion? For local politics, the old methods do work better, for now.

And in the last week, my No On Q blog has had 178 hits, six comments, zero trackbacks. In that same time, I’ve received no fewer than eight pieces of mail in support of Measure Q and four postcards from the No headquarters. More yard signs on both sides of the issue are going up around my neighborhood. I’ve reached more people leaving No On Q pamphlets at Starbucks in the morning.

Paperwork

We signed our loan papers for the new house today. The stack of forms we needed to sign was at least and inch thick! All sorts of forms including one we had to sign that was proof that our signature was our signature. (Lack of a signature means. . . I guess. . . it’s not your signature?) Two hours later and we were that much closer to moving in!