You're wrecking the web…

Open letter to pop-up advertisers.

You’re the people who think that pop-up (or pop-under) ads on the web are the Next Big Thing. You like the fact that they involve more “creative” than regular old banner ads. And you like the fact that clickthru rates are higher than banner ads. And you like the fact that, like television commercials, your home pasture, they are intrusive.

But stop!

You’re wrecking the web, and, in the end, biting the hand that feeds you. By sticking these invasive, non-requested insanities on my screen, you are ruining the web as an easy to navigate information medium. This will only lead to user frustration, and that will lead to fewer web users.

Besides, everyone hates this type of advertising. Hatred leads to negative branding. I sit behind a lot of people, watching them browse the web. They curse and swear when they see this stuff popping up on their screen.

You are creative people. I know you are creative because I see you producing creative work, interesting work, witty work. So it’s time to put on your industry-wide thinking cap, and come up with a way of paying for your part of the web without wrecking the rest of it.

Krispy Kreme

Much is made of the wonders of Krispy Kreme donuts, so, despite a lifelong aversion to patronizing establishments that improperly abuse the letter “K,” Mom and I decided to seek out their first Canadian outlet in Mississauga this week.

Conclusion: if the Mississauga store is a good example of the breed, they have one of the best run service operations on the planet. The store is well designed, staff are friendly, service is jaw-droppingly fast. And they offer free samples of their hot donuts while you’re in line, which is always a way to win my heart.

Their donuts are very very good. The first one — the free one you get in line — is especially good, and a great incentive to buy far more donuts than you might have originally planned to (we bought 2 dozen, for example).

However they are very, very rich, and I think everyone in the family who participated in the testing once we got our home reported feeling a little ill about 1/2 and hour after eating them. In some ways it might be more efficient to simply inject sugar and lard directly into ones veins.

And so my recommendation is: visit once, get a sample, drink in the atmosphere, but then go home and try and forget you were ever there.

Taxi

We’ve been through 9 airports in the last month, and I can say without a doubt that Toronto’s is the worst.

Case in point: on Sunday we flew in from Charlottetown. The plane was 1/2 hour late leaving, and about an hour late by the time we landed. We took about 20 minutes to taxi from the place we landed to where we were to park.

Our parking space turned out to be at the veritable end of the airport,and we had to get off the plane and get into a bus, which then took about another 1/2 hour to drive all the way to the other end of Terminal 2, where we disembarked and then walked what seemed like 1/2 way back the way we’d come to pick up our luggage.

Many times I land at Boston’s Logan airport — reputed to be so crowded and horrible — and am downtown 45 minutes after the plane touches down. Our Sunday flight was supposed to land at 4:10 and we emerged from the luggage area around 5:30.

Makes WestJet to Hamilton appear very attractive.

Island Tel still doesn't get it…

Let me preface these remarks with a brief comment about my Island Tel High Speed DSL service: it works. It has worked solidly for the past 9 months. I have no complaints. This is a Good Thing.

However, there is new evidence to suggest that Island Tel still doesn’t “get” the Internet. Witness the following screen shot:

Island Tel's Self Serving Certificate

Digital certificates are the means by which web clients (like you and I) can have some certainty that secure websites are, in fact, secure. A digital certificate serves both to offer some assurance that the site on the other end of the connection is who they say they are, and also that the information that you exchange with this site is kept private.

Central to the notion of the digital certificate system is that of the certificate authority, defined as:

A trusted third-party organization or company that issues digital certificates used to create digital signatures and public-private key pairs. The role of the CA in this process is to guarantee that the individual granted the unique certificate is, in fact, who he or she claims to be.

Note that it says third-party organization. This is important. The certificate authority has to be someone that both you (the client) and the people running the website you’re connecting to (the server) trust. Trust both in a spiritual sense, and in a technical one.

Now look at the screen shot above: it’s an error message that popped up in my browser when I tried to go to the Island Tel website to administer my dial-up account. The error message message says, in effect “warning, the certificate authority that issued this certificate isn’t installed in your browser as one of the standard ones.”

And who is this certificate authority — this trusted third party that is supposed to vouch for Island Tel’s veracity?

Why look, it’s Island Tel!

The “issued to” and “issued by” are the same on this certificate. Island Tel, in other words, wants us (and our browsers) to trust that Island Tel is who they say they are.

Now that is crazy and absurd on the surface. But it’s also crazy and absurd deeper down: how do I know that the Island Tel that’s telling me that they’re Island Tel is actually Island Tel? I don’t. Any old person could set up their server with a certificate authority and claim that they’re Island Tel. I could do it. So could you.

It’s only through the intermediation of a trusted third party that I can rest easy (or at least easier) that the Island Tel website I’m connecting to is bona fide.

I first told Island Tel about this in an email two years ago. I explained it all to them in very careful language. I received no response.

Province House is a product?

Kim Green of the Capital Commission is quoted in today’s Guardian as saying of Founder’s Hall:  “We’ll orientate (tourists) in terms of what (to see) and then send them out to touch the real products like Province House.”

This is what’s wrong with tourism: it forces us to look at everything through a set of commodification glasses.  No longer can something be an historic building, the centre of our democracy, the heart of our community.  Nope, it’s a product.  Like Kleenex or Chevy Impalas.

Don’t get me wrong: there are a lot of wonderful things about tourism, and, indeed, I derive a good portion of my livelihood from the tourism industry.  At its very root the notion of sharing our home with visitors is a Good Idea.

But we have to be careful of where this takes our thinking, and how it affects the way we look at our home.  Province House is my neighbour.  If I start looking at it as a “product,” then I start to conceive of my neighbourhood as a product too, and eventually I succumb to the notion that my neighbourhood cum product must be improved as a product.  The result?  My neighbourhood ceases to be a neighbourhood, loses the qualities that make it interesting to live in, and, ironically, ceases to be of interest to tourists because it becomes generic.