Monday, January 29, 2007


Media Job Cuts Distorted, In Search of Stupidity (good book!), It's 1998 Again, Oil Prices, Mises and the $100 Laptop, I'm a Locksmith...

An outrageously misleading headline came out last week. It was about media industry layoffs.
"Planned media job cuts up 88 pct in 2006" it said, and the first two paragraphs were
The number of planned job cuts in the U.S. media sector surged 88 percent last year and that trend will likely continue as readers shift from print to online services, a study on Thursday showed.
For all of last year, the media industry announced 17,809 job cuts, up sizably from the 9,453 cuts announced the prior year, according to the job outplacement tracking firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

It is horribly out of context. First of all, CG&C is a famous outplacement firm that handles top executives, and all they track is announced corporate layoffs. It brings them great publicity, and they use it very well. Occasionally, however, some context is needed, which is why Dr. Joe is sometimes so sorely needed.
Non-newspaper publishing employment is up by 12,000, according to the BLS. Publishing overall, including newspapers is flat, only up 500-800 employees. Seems like lots of these people are finding jobs in their own industry. One company's layoff is someone else's new hire. Remember, these employees either exit the workforce, change industries, but usually work for a smaller and more nimble company in the same or related industry. Ad agency employment, for example, is up by more than 10,000. Why is it that Dr. Doom is the optimist for once?

I just finished reading the second edition of In Search of Stupidity, which is subtitled "Over 20 Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters." The author is Merill Chapman, an expert in software marketing. The book is well-done and has some of the best software anecdotes... and discussions of marketing... that I have read in quite some time. I'm only including some quotes here because people may have heard me chuckling about them when I was on the plane reading this... I recommend it highly for both entertainment and for marketing insights.

"Please to remove the solid drive to check to the connection orifice for proper adherence." (p8 footnote, this is the advice that was spoken to him over the phone by Dell tech support; his call had been transferred to an overseas call center... makes you wonder if they were using Google's translator! You kind of know what they are saying: take out the hard drive and see if it's connected properly. One can only wonder what kind of document they were working from)

p267 had an interesting writeup about the WGA-- Windows Genuine Advantage -- program that verifies your MSFT software, similar to something I've already posted.
WGA was misidentifying hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of legitimate installs as “non-genuine.” Exactly how many was somewhat mysterious, since Microsoft was not very forthcoming on the issue. The company did say that of the 60 million checks it had run, 80 percent of the machines tattled on by WGA were using invalid keys. That left about 12 million “others.” High levels of complaints were coming from a wide spectrum of users, particularly people who'd had Windows preinstalled on their laptops.

On p269-270 there was a quote from a Microsoft employee that is actually good advice
I recommend to my friends that they always keep a copy of OpenOffice on their systems in the event that MSOffice's activation system locks up the software when they're not expecting it and they can't reach a phone or the Internet to reactivate it. Interoperability is excellent and you can usually get something done. It's good protection against our copy protection.
It's not just copy protection -- ANY software can stop working properly for any reason, such as corrupt files anywhere in the OS or in the program itself. OpenOffice has bailed me out on a number of occasions, but admittedly MSOffice has too... and also WordPerfect Office. Since I'm relatively fluent in all of these, I know which software to grab when I need something done quickly or what to do when I encounter a problem file.

The Boston Print Buyers newsletter had a report about the printing economy, in 2 parts.
Funny... the title is "What Lies Ahead for the US Print Market?" may actually be a warning... emphasis on the word "lies" and perhaps making it an exclamation "What Lies!... for the US Print Market"
"...while so much printed material has migrated to the Web, [interviewee... name withheld] does not consider the WWW [worldwide web] a major threat to the industry. Indeed, the Internet has created additional need for print materials, if only to support e-firms."
I had some other people read it to make sure that I was not living 1998 all over again. I'll never forget the paper distributors meeting I spoke at around that time when I was hit by that comment. I refuted it and lost the entire audience's friendship in a matter of a couple of minutes. Nonetheless, here we are almost 10 yeasr later with $30 billion less in annual print volume, and 150,000 fewer employees in the industry and this kind of sentiment isn't dead yet? The Internet is a baby. There's lots more Internet effect to come.

Margie Dana, who runs the print buyers group has a marvelous "Margie's Print Tips" newsletter, and everyone should get it. The site is at and you can sign up on the home page... in the upper right hand corner. I just sent her some notes based on some questions she sent me a week or so ago that will appear as an article sometime soon. It's an excellent organization, and its reach is beyond Boston.

Speaking of the Internet, the # of PDFs online using my Google search keeps jumping around. It's now at 266 million. Google supposedly has been tweaking their search engine, and you don't always get the same number of hits even within the same day. gets 87 million. gets 400,ooo. gets 86 million. gets 197 million. Adobe claims 200 million. I have gotten counts as high as 400+ million.

The next computer screen technology... about 5-7 years away, perhaps... but I want one now :)
The company is "Perceptive Pixel" and it has a touch screen like you have never seen before.

Great chart about oil prices from brokerage firm Raymond James
It's amazing to see what happens when prices are inflation adjusted, and how the prices we are seeing are nothing new at all.

The free market economists at the Mises Institute have taken on the $100 laptop.
Just so people are clear... as the article says, the countries that these are going to have far bigger problems than any nearly-free laptop could hope to cure. My only interest in it is that as these countries grow, items like the $100 laptop mean that they have the opportunity to grow without print. In any of these countries, if the choice is sanitation or immunization or a $100 laptop.... the laptop doesn't even make the list. Give me sanitation first. Good article.

Windows Vista is out today.
PC World article explains why you should not buy it,128645/article.html
PC World reports that the first service pack is in the works... already,128645/article.html
In some ways it's unfair to fault them for preparing for the eventual service pack because you cannot always use what happens in alphas, betas, or early users until a product is in the full marketplace. I'm not running out to get it... my next computer will be Linux from the ground up. But the best way to get Vista is to not upgrade at all, and that's to get a new computer with it preloaded.

Finally, after all these years, the six episodes of Police Squad! are on DVD.
Wikipedia entries
Show background:!
Running gags:!
The DVD has the shows and some additional features that are pretty unremarkable. They have some shows with "commentary" and all that commentary consists of is the directors and producers or writers sitting around a table watching the episode and making comments. You get to learn silly and trivial things like the number of garbage cans or other items Lt. Drebin drives into is the same as the episode number in the series. There's a rambling interview with Leslie Nielsen that is not all that satisfying, and the same goes for the outtakes. The series hit its stride in the Naked Gun movies, that were outrageously successful, and benefitted from the big-screen treatment. The shows and its sight gags and double entendres of the original series are what really matter, and they're all there in the DVD as we remembered them, the few of us, who saw them when they were first aired back in 1982.
Drebin, posing as a locksmith, enters a man's office and is greeted by the resident with "Who are you and how did you get in here?" to which Drebin replies, "I'm a locksmith ... and I'm a locksmith."

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