Technology

Affiliate marketing gone wild

The War To Sell You A Mattress Is An Internet Nightmare

This is an incredible piece by David Zax on affiliate marketing in the online mattress sales world.

For me, the bottom line is, any site that makes money from affiliate links loses objective credibility in reviewing the products its making money linking to.

If I review mattresses and also make money linking you to various mattress companies, I can easily be influenced by one mattress company offering a bigger payout for each sale I send their way.

And, this is not small money: a number of these mattress review sites are making over a $1 million a year in affiliate payouts.

This is an incredible story, read until the end, it will blow your mind.

Tip: if you are doing research online on a product you want to buy and follow a link from a review site to, say, Amazon or the company selling the product, look closely at the URL in your browser and you can see the affiliate link clearly. If you want to support the reviewer (the linker), buy with that link, if not, change the link.

Note: This site does not take part in affiliate marketing. The link below to Jason Kottke’s site does not generate income for me or him, it is simply an acknowledgement that I read about the Fast Company article at his site and followed a link from his site to the actual article. I try to acknowledge sources as I can.

[via Kottke.org]

Primitive Technology: Simplified blower and furnace experiments

Building a crude furnace with a hand-powered blower. The furnace is not only good for firing clay (to higher temperature with the blower) but he’s starting to experiment with glazing with wood ash and iron.

He’s an expert at both coming up with great projects and breaking them down into steps but also video editing to show process without narration or dramatic music.

I’ve been a fan for years.

There are many more of these great videos at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Jessa Jones, master microfixer

Jessa Jones does board-level repairs on iPhones and iPads. Brilliant video, amazing work, and while I get why Apple doesn’t get into this I’m glad she is and hopefully Apple supports her work.

Her company is iPad Rehab.

Jessa has a youTube channel: iPad Rehab with lots of detailed demos on the really nerdy stuff.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Discussing the birth of the iPhone

John Markoff interviews former iPhone engineering team members Hugo Fiennes, Nitin Ganatra and Scott Herz, followed by a second interview with Scott Forstall.

This is a two hour interview, Forstall starts about 1:07 but both hours are well worth listening to. Understand that the technology that these people built changed the world and Forstall had an inkling of the importance of what they were doing but really, none of them had any idea that the iPhone would turn out to be the success it has been.

This isn’t just for Apple fan-people or iPhone geeks, this will be interesting for anyone who wants a behind the scenes look at how these people’s careers took shape and how they ended up on the original iPhone team. The personal anecdotes are fascinating.

I was involved with Apple in the early years of the Macintosh and this felt very much like early interviews with Bill Atkinson, Andy Hertzfeld, and others on the first Macintosh team. Historic.

This event took place at The Computer Museum and regrettably, the sound and video aren’t great, but it is extremely worthwhile.

Note: Scott Forstall left Apple (was let go) in 2012. Wouldn’t it be ironic (and interesting) if Forstall, like Jobs, came back to Apple later as CEO (or in some other capacity) after going through a personal transformation outside of Apple. Sometimes distance makes for a clearer head.

Sound Princess

Many years ago when we were visiting friends in Japan we were leaving a temple and decided to use a public restroom.

I went into the men’s room and used a urinal which looked a bit different from urinals I was used to but no doubt different commercial porcelain casting companies and different cultures make for differences in the shape of things like men’s urinals.

However, I noticed a button on the wall, seemingly independent from the urinal and its plumbing. I had no idea what the button did and I was concerned that pushing it might open a trapdoor in the floor and I’d fall through (joke).

When I met up with my wife and our friend Laurie who, at this point had lived in Japan for over ten years, I asked Laurie what the button was for.

She told me that many years ago Japan underwent a drought and designers had looked for ways to conserve water. One thing they noticed was that, for a variety of reasons, people were flushing before going to the bathroom (not just women which is stated in the video), generally to mask the sound of a fart or other toilet-related sounds. I certainly have noticed people doing this in the US as well: sound masking, men who have trouble peeing hearing running water, cleaning toilet before being near it, etc.

So, clever Japanese designers came up with a solution: digitize the sound of running water and put a button and a speaker at every urinal and toilet, thus saving water and at the same time, allowing people to use the water sound for whatever they needed to.

In the video above, the single button is replaced by a control panel and but the sound button is still there, now called the “privacy button.”

John Oliver on Net Neutrality (again)

Another brilliant commentary by John Oliver on net neutrality

John Oliver first commented on net neutrality in 2014 here and it was one of the first really popular youTube posts he made.

If you’re confused about what Net neutrality is, browse this: Net neutrality on wikipedia.

The Trump administration has appointed a new chairman for the FCC, Ajit Pai, who is considering changing the rules put in place during the Obama administration to prevent unfair competition on the internet.

Here’s the link John talked about to make logging into the FCC to comment on this easier: http://gofccyourself.com.

[via Steve Splonskowski]

Primitive Technology: Water powered hammer

Various techniques used to build a water-powered hammer or “monjolo”.

I like the technique he uses to bore the hole in the log and make the trough: hot coal, blow pipe to make it hot, clay to protect the edges and direct the burning.

The key is finding out where the balance point of a log is (might not be the center, logs taper) after gouging out the water-catching trough on the back side.

As the trough fills with water it tips the log and spills the water all at once and the log’s other end falls.

Many different technologies and ideas involved in this brilliant machine. No doubt it took quite a bit of trial and error to get it right.

I’ve seen similar pieces of technology in Japanese gardens (in Japan and in Los Angeles) called Shishi-odoshi.

There are many more of these great videos at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via The Kid Should See This]

Robert Pirsig and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert Pirsig, the author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values has died.

The New York times has an excellent remembrance as does the New York Post. It’s worth reading both and no doubt others that will come out in the days ahead, each will have different takes on this fascinating man and his surprisingly popular book.

Robert Pirsig’s writing had a profound affect on my life and while I read this book in 1976, many of its ideas have stuck with me.

Here’s an anecdote that I remember from the book although my memory is no doubt burnished. And, I was and remain a weak reader (dyslexia) so I’m slow and tend to miss things.

Surface appearance vs. underlying form

Pirsig is riding cross country (Minnesota to San Francisco) with his son Chris and a friend (John) and his wife. Pirsig is on an old Honda (or something like that) and John and wife are on a new BMW (a much more expensive bike).

They’re somewhere in the middle of their trip, camping out and sitting around the campfire one night drinking beer. John has been complaining about the handlebars on his BMW being loose and is wondering if they’ll pass near a BMW place so he can have them fixed.

Understand that the handlebars on these motorcycles are attached to the post they sit on with a clamp (just like a bicycle) and the adjustment bolt/nut could be tightened all the way and there might still be play between the clamp and the handlebars. Unless one can fill that space, it’s a serious problem.

Pirsig is thinking that he could cut up an aluminum beer can with the tin snips he has in his saddlebag and make perfect shim stock (soft aluminum) to take the play out of John’s handlebars. But John, no doubt, would have none of it because to use a beer can on his fancy BMW would be just plain wrong. Pirsig knows that the BMW repair guy will probably use the same type of thing and charge John a fortune for it. Then Pirsig goes deep into the idea of underlying form (the way things actually work) vs. surface appearance (the BMW brand cache), and also the fact that he has no way to talk about this stuff with John and he goes around and around on this in his head, driving himself crazy.

These deep mind trips Pirsig calls “chautauquas” and he has many in this book. They’re laced with a bit of paranoia and mania (Pirsig was in real life, schizophrenic) and for me, that made them even more real.

This loose handlebar scene and resulting chautauqua becomes a metaphor for other scenes in the book and for those of us who read it, for many things in our lives.

For example, some people buy iPhones because they’re the cool phone to have, others buy them because they understand and appreciate Apple’s design of both the hardware and the iOS software underneath. Geek (underlying form) vs cool hunter (surface appearance).

If you’re into the technical stuff it might be frustrating to have some teenager who wants a pink iPhone to look cool to her friends have the same phone as you and have no clue how it works. Or, the teenager can use the phone amazingly well but doesn’t appreciate the stacks of software underneath the surface appearance.

Substitute anything for iPhone, it’s not about Apple vs Samsung, it’s about surface appearance vs underlying form. Android geeks might have the same frustration with people who buy Android phones simply because they’re cheaper.

Understand that Pirsig’s description of this frustration was the first I’d ever read of it and it hit home to me and has continued to hit home with me for over 30 years.

When I read this book I was not a big reader, this was one of the first “big” books I read that had an affect on me. And, it was scenes like the one I describe above that did it. I was struggling to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life and I experienced Pirsig’s struggle. And, Pirsig wasn’t just struggling with ideas, he was struggling with mental illness which affected his ability to relate his ideas to other people.

Phaedrus

Ten years after I’d read this book I found myself running both the Macintosh and HyperCard groups on AOL (America Online). One of the thousands of user/participants in the group had an interesting screen name: “Phaedrus47.” I remembered that Pirsig had used the name “Phaedrus” to describe his past self as a struggling creative writing teacher.

I sent a message to Phaedrus47 asking if he’d read the book. Indeed he had and this started an amazing, multi-year email discussion/chautauqua between me and Phaedrus47 / Alex Forbes who I met years later at Macworld in San Francisco and am friends with to this day.

Less is more

I’m not a big reader of books, not because I don’t want to, but because I’m so slow it might take me many months to finish one and reading is exhausting for me. For every one book I’ve read my wife has read a thousand (seriously).

But, for me, this means that the books I actually stuck with and read have been worth the trouble and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, while in many ways a slog of a read, connected with me and had a big effect.

I will never forget Robert Pirsig’s personal struggle and his articulation of it in this book.

Primitive Technology: termite clay kiln & pottery

Digging clay out of a termite mound, using straw to reinforce it, and making a crude but very effective kiln to fire clay pieces to be used as roof tiles, a water jug, a blower and more. Brilliant.

There are many more of these great videos at the Primitive Technology site and for those who prefer, he has a Primitive Technology YouTube Channel.

[via The Kid Should See This]