Chris Edwards: July 2005 Archives

The new name for...

30 July 2005

Less than a month in, and I've decided to change the name of this blog. When I picked the URL, I was in a hurry and so just went for a bit of word association. I then had to pick a name and decided I'd try something else out. Now, I've decided "For More Information..." was way too bland and some people seem to like the URL more. So, it's time for something a little more...phlegmy. Now, I'm wondering why the MarsEdit spell checker hasn't flagged that one up.

One of the more unseemly sides of the Windows versus Linux war is the use of research to bolster the position of each side. We get releases describing how report X shows up the weaknesses of Windows and report Y that shows how expensive Linux to run even though its core code is ostensibly free to use. Some of the claims even match up to what the original report said. Not the latest claim from Red Hat.

Red Hat claimed yesterday the SANS Institute had published a report that said only two of the top 20 defects listed by the researchers affected its operating system. Because of that, the company claimed: "Linux network security [is] higher than other platforms". I had to check with Red Hat which report the company was using to back up its claims, because I couldn't find anything out of SANS that came close to the claim made in the press release. Even after finding out, making the connection wasn't much easier.

A strange Vista

27 July 2005

When Microsoft announced that it would give the name 'Vista' to its forthcoming version of Windows that had, up to then, been referred to under its codename of Longhorn, it did not take long for people to spot that a nearby company was using the same name.

The Seattle Times reported the comments of Vista's founder John Wall. "We're going to consider our options and talk to them," said Wall.

Wall is better known as the founder of PC-to-mainframe comms company Wall Data. He resigned from the company in 1999, shortly before it was sold to NetManage after Wall Data started to rack up heavy losses. Wall founded Community IQ, which would do business as, in 1999. Vista has kept a low profile since then and the name would not have meant much to a lot of people. But its role in a curious set of dealings with SCO meant that the name Vista rang more than a few bells when I saw the Seattle Times story. SCO is not famed for its generosity but seemed to make an exception in the case of John Wall and Vista during 2002 and 2003.

"Outernet marketing conduit" BL Ochman called the proposal "ridiculous". And it's caused a bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth from others in PR. Jeremy Zawodny's proposal to create a blacklist of flacks who effectively spam bloggers has certainly raised the temperature beyond Tim Bray's death to PR post from last week.

At the risk of repeating some bits from an earlier post, my advice to Zawodny and other people planning on an email blacklist of PRs (other than possibly reporting them under the CAN-SPAM legislation) is that you can go ahead and block them but the chances are they will simply start ringing to see if you got their pitch. And you really, really don't want that.

When I first set up this blog, I decided to pick a new URL for it and rather than sit down and try to come up with a phrase that would fit the blog, just played a bit of word association football: journalist, hack, hacking, cough. Simple. And all over in seconds. Just days later, I've got spam. Nothing to be surprised about even though I've not used the domain for any email addresses. It's simply a consequence of yet another directory harvest attack (DHA) I would imagine. However, it seems that some spammers have got past mailing "info" and "webmaster" and various combinations of first and last names to target domains and started playing word association football themselves.

The sound of the crowd

17 July 2005

Corporations are being told to blog to counter bad publicity. It can't hurt too much as long as it's done right but I can't see corporate blogging on its own defusing situations where the public have got it in for them. It's taken a while to get around to reading through the white paper "Search is brand" published by Market Sentinel and Weboptimiser. A number of people picked up on the advice in the white paper for corporations to get blogging. But I think the advice should come with a health warning.

I would say PR pitches on the whole are a good deal more sanitary than toilet seats but generally a whole lot less useful, although they can be entertaining for all the wrong reasons. The continuing backlash from bloggers complaining about having their email inboxes filled with irrelevant pitches is intriguing as it's at least a year since the first posts I can find appeared on the subject. Anil Dash arguably caught the mood of many when he described what really ticks him off as a blogger having PRs trying to get him to write about some tedious product they are paid to plug. The unfortunate truth about all this is that the situation will be the same next year. Hacks have been on the receiving end of them for many, many years. And hacks have been outing egregious examples in diary and back-page sections for about the same amount of time. And still they come.

Tim Bray's article on The New Public Relations is interesting in a "do you honestly believe what you're writing or did you start before thinking it through?" way. It's drawn some heavy criticism already from the PR side. Tom Murphy does not see himself running beery love-ins and Stuart Bruce among others in the PR world have commented.

Some parts of Bray's piece make sense: I wholeheartedly agree that the trade press as we know it is going to see some big changes, although my personal feeling is that blogs will only play a bit part in that process and the process has already started. But I'm afraid his thinking on why the trade press is in trouble has a little too much of the philosophy that led to the publishing aberration that was the wikitorial.

Experiments with RSS

6 July 2005

One of the reasons for creating this blog was to provide a way of covering changes in the way that the press and the PR industry interact. There are a lot of PR-related blogs talking about the death of the emailed or posted press release now that RSS has arrived on the scene. But not many from the journalist's side of the fence, so this is my two pen'orth on the subject.

I have been experimenting with RSS for a couple of weeks now, so I'm well behind journalists such as Danny Bradbury in that regard, who has been using the syndication system for some time according to his web journal. Bradbury has noted one downside of using RSS: it's apparent one-size-fits-all nature. Most RSS feeds currently come from US-based operations and a common complaint among UK-based hacks is that US releases are well-padded drivel.

There were a couple of first-time things that kicked off July 2005 for me. The first one took place on Sunday when I ran in my first 10K race around central London. The second thing I did for the first time was to set up a blog. The blog is not meant to have much to do with running but I thought I'd add a journal section to see how often I would post this kind of stuff. So, the first entry in this blog is about the curiously shambolic event that was the British 10K.