Tales of the Sausage Factory

Comcast Channel Shifts — Looking for info.

I’m getting email about Comcast migrating MSNBC and CNN out of its expanded tier to a higher priced tier while keeping Fox News on expanded tier in a number of markets. If this is actually going on, I’m mightily curious.

Such shifts do not happen casually. They are generally the product of fairly intense negotiations among cable operators and programmers. They also require advance notice to viewers. This makes me extremely reluctant to impute a political motive here. If NBC and Time Warner (the owners of MSNBC and CNN respectively) were being screwed against their will over a political agenda, I would have expected to hear it in DC. What mainstream coverage there is of this suggests it is part of Comcast’s general digital upgrade. So we should expect to see all remaining channels migrated off to the higher priced tier eventually. While that will constitute a significant rate increase, it will put everyone back on equal footing. Besides, as the DC Circuit instructed us all last month, cable operators have no market power and cannot influence the programming market, whatever your personal experience to the contrary may be.

So if anyone has more info on this and would like to either comment below or talk to me, I’d love to hear about it.

I suppose I should add that unless Comcast failed to give proper notice to subscribers before changing their channel line up, their is nothing the FCC can do about it, so don’t bother complaining.

Stay tuned . . .

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My Thoughts Exactly

mail to wetmachine.com addresses

The servers that handle mail to wetmachine.com addresses have been scrod for going on two days now. The ISP estimates that normal email will be restored sometime middle-of-the-day today.

If you’ve sent me mail & it’s bounced, don’t worry, I’m still around. In the meantime, my handle at yahoo.com is jsundmanus.

Posted in General, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , | Comments closed

Inventing the Future

QRLs are not SLurls … but they play that role on the 'Net.

We’ve created ordinary http URLs that teleport you to places in-world in Qwaq Forums, Being programmers, we could not resist the pun of calling them QRLs. The most common uses today are:

  • meet me here – telling someone where to meet, in IM, email, or calendar invite
  • I was here – recording a history of where you were in a bookmark or some sort of audit trail
  • go there – even if working asynchronously, you can tell people where to go to explore more from a Web page, blog, or wiki

Most programs will recognize http://… and turn it into something clickable that starts your Web browser if it is not already started. Our QRLs produce a page that displays instructions, which is nice if you don’t yet have the Forums client installed. But if it is installed, the page can automatically launch the client and place you directly at the designated location.

Read More »

Posted in Inventing the Future, workflow | Also tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

Inventing the Future

Being Seen

I’d been wondering whether anyone on our company’s Board of Directors knew who I was. I know a couple but it turns out most didn’t. But just before the last board meeting I ran into a director that I’m sure I had never been introduced to. He said, “Hi Howard” as we passed.

The only thing I can think of is that he must have recognized me from my avatar. I don’t remember now what I had worn when I had briefly participated in previous meeting. It could have been a photo- or video-faced “Lego man” or it could have been a custom avatar.
<%image(20090530-howard-lego.jpg|227|261|Video-faced Simple Avatar)%><%image(20090530-howard-jake.jpg|227|261|Custom Business)%><%image(20090530-howard-john.jpg|227|261|Custom Casual)%>

I haven’t been very interested in avatar appearance, but I guess there is value in having people build some personal familiarity without physically meeting. I don’t want cold-calls via virtual worlds, but I suppose that a scheduled virtual meeting or happenstance encounter in a virtual reception builds a stronger tie than email or telephone. I wonder how that will play out for sales and relationship-building in the future.

Posted in Inventing the Future, metaphysics | Also tagged , , , | Comments closed

Inventing the Future

A Great Miracle Happened There

One of the really great things about the WWW, as opposed to the Internet in general, is that the Web separates the concept of naming from everything else. A URL is bit of text that names a resource. You can type it. Except for some long URLs used by banks and in ecommerce, you can often even remember it. But most importantly, you can include the text in some other technology such as an email, an instant message, a calendar invite, a Web page, or even in a book or piece of paper. It can be sent and stored. The URL can be transmitted through this separate non-WWW media, and it still works on the other end.

When you name something, you have power over it. Like the dreidel mnemonic of the title, names help you to remember stuff. You can speak clearly about places and objects instead of just using misunderstood pronouns and long descriptions. And best of all, if you know something’s name, you can use it in casting a spell. (We call them programs.)

So a big part being able to work with virtual worlds, talk about them with other people, and use them in programs is to have a name – a URL that corresponds to each interesting thing about a virtual world.

Read More »

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My Thoughts Exactly

Blogroll amnesty day redux

As we did last year, we’ll join blogroll amnesty day again this year.

I will observe a modified limited hangout limit of 72 links in my blogroll, which number is arrived at arbitrarily, but intended to keep the thing manageable. My jubiliee policy is in effect from now until such time as the limit is reached.

If you would like to be added to my blogroll, add me to yours, and send me your listing in the form thus wise:

Wetmachine
http://www.wetmachine.com/

You can either leave your particulars in the comments, or send via email to

mail [at sign][the name of my blog] dot com

Posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Wetmachine site news | Tagged | 7 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Comcast Celebrates Martin's Departure By Pulling Leased Access Channel.

I just got an email from the folks at Family-Life TV, a leased access channel on a bunch of Comcast systems in Pennsylvania, that Comcast just decided to drop their programming. Comcast claims Family-Life TV is in arears and owes 3 months worth of payments. David Croyle, who runs Family Life TV, tells me he has canceled checks to show he paid.

All I can say is “wow, that sure didn’t take long.” I wonder what other celebrations the cable boys have planned. Roasting a PEG programmer on a spit? Killing PEG in Los Angeles? Or perhaps just the ever popular “rate increase because we feel like it.”

I remain hopeful that the cable reform agenda will not die with Martin’s departure. At the least, it would be nice to see that the FCC will entertain complaints from leased access programmers when they get kicked off the air. Hopefully, it will take less than 3 years to resolve the complaint.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Cable, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Something Nice About Comcast for a Change

Lest it be said that I refuse to acknowledge a virtue when I see it, allow me to voice my agreement with Mehan Jayasuriya over at Public Knowledge on Comcast’s efforts to track down problems on Twitter and elsewhere.

Mehan refers to this NYTimes piece, which discusses how Comcast customer service folks are looking for complaints about Comcast or its services on open blogs or social network sites and trying to reach out to disaffected customers. Frankly, I see nothing “creepy” about it. I actually think this is a pretty good idea for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, if I am complaining about the service I am getting, I would actually like someone to fix the problem. Most companies have laid off workers and have you go through endless phone trees before you can confirm for someone that yes, I’ve already tried the obvious and would like to get someone who can move past the script and help me with my actual problem. Even sending an email can take a few days for response. I had one incident where I was having difficulty with my cell phone service, sent an email, then resolved the problem, and got a call back two days later (at my work number as requested — they were not completely stupid, just way too slow). This is not useful response time for a service on which I rely pretty heavily.

So I think it’s actually a smart idea to have people monitoring publicly available info to see if you can reach out and solve problems. It may save the company major publicity headaches and help users get their problems resolved.

The other thing is I think it’s a good thing to remind users that what they write on social networking sites or blogs is open to everyone unless they take action to make it private. In this case, the reminder is harmless, perhaps even beneficial. But if you find it “creepy” that a Comcast customer care agent found your complaint about a billing glitch on your personal blog, consider what happens if your boss or coworker discovers your post about what you think of your current assignment and team workers. Heck, even a sophisticated Federal judge can sometimes be surprised with what goes public on the web.

My one caveat is that this works great as long as Comcast, or any other company, identifies itself honestly when making contact just as they do one the phone. For example, if I get a follow up call from my Saturn dealer after my nth gajillionth mile check up, the person identifies himself or herself as calling from Saturn and wanting to know how my service appointment went. From the article provided, it would appear that Comcast staff are identifying themselves as Comcast staff and generally offering help as Comcast customer service staff. Go them.

But it doesn’t take a genius to guess that folks may well begin to wonder whether they can start to use this for direct marketing. Perhaps when you gripe about Comcast on your blog the person that responds won’t be from Comcast but will be from AT&T, offering you a better deal. No problem with that, as long as you remember to change your defaults if you don’t want to be relentlessly market to in this manner. But the real problem is when folks selling products will disguise themselves or their identities. If the helpful commentor that points you to a promotional on DISH is actually working for DISH, but doesn’t identify himself or herself as working for DISH, it starts to get into some very dicey territory.

But again, Comcast actually seems to have a bright idea here. Good for them.

Stay tuned . . .

Posted in Cable, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Inventing the Future

I predict a mini-rapture

For $40/year, this service will send an email to your loved ones after believers disappear in the coming rapture. There’s a deadman switch that will send the messages automatically if three of the five owners don’t log in every three days.

I guess I’m a believer, because I’ll bet those guys are going to disappear mysteriously. The site doesn’t say what happens to the money.

It might be kind of interesting to do this properly: let the designees of each individual account be notified if the account-holder doesn’t log in. Might be useful for journalists, abused wives, bloggers, and other folks in fear for their lives from governments and wackos.

Posted in Inventing the Future, Memology | Also tagged , , | Comments closed

My Thoughts Exactly

Atrios dogbark blogging

In March, I went to a gathering of people who read Eschaton, a blog by “Atrios”. This guy Atrios has a pithy blogging style that I like a lot. Basically he puts out short observations about this and that (or thus and such)–much as my late dog Rosa used to just bark at random times. People then leave hundreds of comments on Eschaton in response to the Atrios dog-barks.

Among other things, Atrios likes to bark at his readers. From time to time he barks at readers who want him to give them or their blogs publicity. He barks that it is not his job to give people publicity. When he blogs on this topic he gets riled up like a proper chihuahua.

One time Atrios put up on his blog a photo taken inside his apartment. I saw on his bookshelf books by Douglas Hofstadter. So I sent him a note asking if he would like a copy of my Hofstadterian book, “Cheap Complex Devices”. Atrios did not write back.

At Eschacon, I spoke with him for a little bit. He was drinking red wine & think he was a little tipsy. I gave him a copy of my book, which he graciously accepted, and I saw him carrying it around hours later, so I know that, at the least, he did not immediately throw it in the garbage.

However, he still has not replied to my email or given me free publicity on his blog. Also, hardly anybody ever leaves comments here on Wetmachine. Finally, although Doug Hofstadter and I are now friends, he had not read my homage a Hofstadter yet either. And none of you people leave comments!

Also, this entry is much too long for an Atrios-style blog entry. Maybe that’s why I’m a minor blogger and he’s a superstar. It’s harder than it looks.

Posted in My Thoughts Exactly, Writing | Also tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments (Comments closed)
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