– Calling all slackers is an interesting venture*. They are aimed specifically at the 21-34 year old, male, office worker who hates his job and spends more time surfing the web than working demographic. Did you know that was a demographic? Now I will admit it is not quite like one of those job ads you sometimes read that say “To be considered, the applicant should have between 4.3 and 4.32 years C++ experience, like french fry sandwiches and be named Bob,” but it still seems fairly specific to me.

Of course, in time honoured Web 2.0 style, viral marketing is a big part of the plan. Their hordes of office slackers are, as we speak, supposed to be emailing each other to say “Have you seen the Girls in Bras video? It is hilarious.”

There are a few small problems with the plan though, the video is not hilarious, and the people behind it seem to have only passing familiarity with some standard internet practices. For example, the comment field in their blog looks like this whenever I look at it:


Did you used to think the internet operated 24 hours a day? So did I. I am not even sure what time zone that 9-6 is in, but apparently there is only one.

Some of their stuff is quite good. I liked Half day man, and they have money and a marketing budget behind them so being initially a bit thin on content will presumably be easy to solve, but it is hard to run a major website when you don’t seem to understand the genre conventions and when parts of your technology suck. I hate the Flash video player they are using. It does not cache content, so if your connection struggles you can’t pause and wait for the download to catch up. You just have to watch it stutter.

I also keep seeing [an error occurred while processing this directive]. What is that? A server side include error message, or an early version of ASP error message? How very Web 1.0.

* and I am not only saying that because I own lots of their stock on Alexadex, or because they have a really cool logo

Update: was shut down on September 1 after failing to find an audience. Personally, I only noticed six months later because I had a broken link.

Internet Filtering is Dumb

This is not a new story, but the topic of internet content filtering comes up from time to time, so I wanted to post this picture while I remember where it is.

Dumb Internet Filtering

From time to time, somebody suggests that filtering internet content at various points would be a good idea. Invariably, the argument behind it is “Think of the Children. Who is looking out for our children?”

There are all sorts of reasons why the concept is flawed, but one big gaping problem that most people seem to ignore is that filtering software is dumb. Human classifiers would make errors, but manual classification cannot possibly cope with the volume of existing and new content, so filtering software has to try to classify material based on a set of rules. This is always going to fail, both passing content that will offend and blocking inoffensive, important content.

This is not a very sharp photo, but it is the screen of a public internet terminal. The site I am attempting to view in my own twisted, lascivious way is Now instead of the pictures of train timetables without any clothes on that I was expecting to see, instead I get, “This page has been blocked by the Content Filter because it may contain adult content not suitable for a public environment”.

Who is looking out for our adults? Whether they are (relatively) clean living tourists trying to buy a train ticket from Portland to Seattle, or whether they are anorak wearing, trainspotting weirdos who get a perverse kick from looking at Amtrak fare information does not really matter. Adults should be free to look at this and similar transport related “adult content” without having to apply for permission.

On a related note, because filtering software is so dumb, parents should not allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of security thinking that a machine is doing their job for them. Do you know where your teenager is now? At this very minute, they could be perusing a hard core bus timetable, or even scouring the net for uncensored videos of 747s taking off.

Ning: Wednesday Feb 15 is International Annoy Marc Andreessen Day

From Wired, there is a certain irony in using Ning to annoy one of its founders, but although I really do like annoying people, I don’t think I will be able to make it.

The trigger for the event was Marc telling an anecdote to analysts, that because somebody came to visit once, Ning took their sign off the door. In his opinion, one of the great things about internet businesses is that you never need to meet your customers. It is always good to see the nerd ethos of shunning human contact thrives at all levels of the Internet community.

Update: the “unannounced visit” is on the official Ning Blog. In the same blog, there is a Ning Magic 8 Ball. I am not sure if it is a one off injoke, or a really cool piece of conference schwag.

The IT Crowd Episode 2

The show is heading in the right direction. The second episode is funnier than the first.

Strangely, although the official website still quaintly tells you to “CTRL+ALT+DELETE your TV and watch the IT Crowd online!” the downloads seem to have disappeared.

Atariboy has a list of Torrents.

Update 8/2: Episode 3 is out and pretty good, but it is not available from channel four unless you are in the UK.

Online vs. Traditional Media Speed

I saw something interesting today. For the first time I can recall, I read a nerd news story on the website of a local newspaper before I read it on Slashdot.

In this case, the paper beat them by about 14 hours.

I don’t know if this is a coincidence, or if it is a sign that online news sources are forcing old media to become more responsive. Factors in Slashdot’s defence include timezone and the fact that it happened on Superbowl weekend. (Do nerds watch the Superbowl now the ad breaks are not full of dot-coms).