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Dept. of Bad Ideas

More Ugly Money from the U.S. Treasury

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 4/6/08 (12:26am)


I really think the US Mint (coins) and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (dollar bills) have lost the art of designing money. The fine detail and overall sense of composition that used to distinguish our currency is now no more.

Case in point is the new $5 dollar bill with that big ugly purple '5'. It looks like they just got out a huge rubber stamp and banged away.

Cart before Horse with Aquabrowser in Columbus

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 1/24/08 (9:17am)

They recently installed the Aquabrowser at the Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML). This is how the head of IT over there explained it to the Columbus Dispatch:

"We're accommodating what people are used to seeing -- people who just want to plug in a search term and get their list." [h/t Lorcan Dempsey]

What people are "used to seeing"? That animated tag-cloud doohickey?

Unless they really do things differently in Columbus, I can't imagine anyone (other than library staff) ever seeing one of these things or knowing the least what to do with it.

I mean, you can almost predict that the color-coding of the whirlin', spinnin' topics will be totally lost on the average user. Equally as bewildering is why they bothered to include what suspiciously looks like instructions (instructions?) on the main search page that attempt to explain enigmatic terms such as "Search", "Discover" and "Refine".

Confused yet? The newspaper article quotes one user as calling it "distracting" while another thinks it may not be "as intuitive as they think it is".

Touchée. Like Second Life and the Kindle, we have the implementation of a technology that has yet to receive the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval" from the public. In other words, there's no indication of widespread acceptance or adoption on the part of our users. This is precisely the wrong approach to take.

Lastly, it doesn't help that a keyword search on "Treasure Island" only turns up the book by Robert Louis Stevenson on Page 2 of the search results.

Maybe they were focusing on the wrong thing?

P.S. In contrast, check out the results for Google and Amazon.

New Sony eReader Ad: 'Smarter than a Doofus'

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 1/10/08 (6:44am)

Advertisement near the escalator at the Clark & Lake El Stop in Chicago:

'Smarter than a doofus who bought one of these things (your doofus may vary).'

Larger image here...

Kindle Swindle

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 11/21/07 (12:34pm)

Please stop talking about the demise of the traditional book! To do so in the same breath as the Amazon Kindle gives this contraption way more credibility than it’s due.

The defenders of this device say we shouldn’t rush to judgment while at the same time they make such extraordinary associations.

It’s marketing. That’s all.

UPDATE: Ultimately, we're going to describe all the hype surrounding the Amazon Kindle as "The Little Bandwagon Effect That Couldn't".

I mean, Amazon said to the media, 'jump', and the media responded, 'how high'? (Here's a particularly embarrassing example from Businessweek.)

But the public won't have any of this. The level of resistance is due in large part to how far the claims for this device simply defy common sense.

Kindle Schmindle

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 11/18/07 (9:15pm)


So every time some new 'ebook' device is announced, we're 'sposed to drop everything and proclaim it a paradigm shift? At least that's the routine.

This week's candidate is the Amazon Kindle -- at least as presented in an article in Newsweek extolling its virtues titled "The Future of Reading" by Steven Levy.


Innovation Good and Bad

Submitted by Leo Klein on Thu, 9/13/07 (11:11pm)

Aaron Schmidt rightfully quotes himself with pride from an article in the Chicago Tribune:

"There's a lot of dead wood in libraries, and I think there's a lot of administrations that are kind of just biding their time for retirement and don’t feel like putting forth a lot of effort," he said. "I think there’s a general culture of resistance to change. That needs to go away."

He's right of course but I think the problem is a bit more complicated.

(more after the jump...)

Second Life - Stick a Fork in It

Submitted by Leo Klein on Sun, 8/12/07 (4:59pm)

This isn't a post trashing Second Life. (For that, go here...)

Rather it's about allocating resources in the face of constantly changing technology. It's about which pony to bet on in the race for relevance. We can't bet on all the ponies so what should we look for when choosing a favorite?

(more after the jump...)

American Libraries Direct: Getting Carried Away?

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 5/30/07 (5:21pm)

AL Direct

It's nice getting the American Libraries Direct newsletter but I have to wonder if they're not getting a bit too carried away with things.

This week under the heading "Tech Talk" (of all things), they've got a post on a laptop from Dell, a cell-phone for "Boomers" and a link to a review of "point-and-shoot cameras". The question is, do we need a discussion of consumer products coming from a publication of the American Library Association to its members? Would this be any more appropriate in American Libraries (i.e. the monthly print issue) -- and if not there, why here?

Editorial restraint should be observed whether online or in print. Publication of something like this shouldn't be the moment that you lose it all -- just because the thing's going out via email.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (Not in Illinois)

Submitted by Leo Klein on Wed, 5/16/07 (10:56pm)

Mayor Daley has famously said that the law banning fois gras in Chicago is the "silliest ordinance that was ever passed".

I kind of look at the recent vote by the Illinois State Senate banning horse slaughter in the same light.

The head of the Illinois Department of Agriculture says horse slaughter "is inhumane because our society considers horses to be companion animals or pets".

That's one perspective.

My approach comes from the years I spent in Paris when they served it on a regular basis in the student university restaurants. I was short of money and this meal would literally be my only one of the day. Sometimes they'd serve something really gross like rognons, tripes or cerveaux fouettés which I was unable to eat no matter how hungry I was.

So you can imagine my relief when they'd have something like cheval which kind of resembled boeuf in color if not completely in texture. The truth is, I ate it with relish.

I haven't had the dish since then but it doesn't strike me as the end of Western Civilization to contemplate it being produced here and sent out to the four corners of the world. At least we've got something we can still export.


It's Curtains for Clippy

Submitted by Leo Klein on Mon, 2/12/07 (2:39am)

Few animated characters have raised the ire of so many as Clippy, the erstwhile tech assistant for MS Office starting in 1997. Literally at the drop of a hat, and for no apparent reason, Clippy would jump out and offer his unwanted services.

For ten long years, we have had to live with Clippy. Now he is no more. Read the details of his demise here... (h/t Slashdot)