I knew this charade couldn't last forever. Like lonelygirl15 and fake Steve Jobs before me, I went to great efforts to create a compelling illusion: not only an Alexandra Samuel blog, but a consistent profile on every online community site from del.icio.us to Facebook. Even a complete fake company with me as the fake CEO.
But today, the illusion is at an end. Darrell Houle has unmasked me as…..Suzanna Cavatrio, copywriter for Enormicom.
That's right, Darrell came across my alter ego on the tour page for Highrise, a CRM product from 37Signals, the makers of Basecamp. Check it out:
I'm happy to take this re-purposing as a sign that someone at 37Signals saw my obsessive blog post about Basecamp workflow. Or maybe it's a tribute to the talented man behind the camera — Kris Krug, who took the original photo. Maybe this is kk+'s chance to become official photographer for 37Signals?
How do you create a site that keeps people on your pages? By creating a site that's easy to leave.
If only I’d known I needed to cut TWENTY things so I’d have time for Twitter, too.
Last month's "how the hell didn't I know that" moment was the discovery that Avent bottles, which both of my children have been drinking from daily for just about their entire lives, contain a suspected carcinogen.
I came across this info not through a consumer alert — that went out in 1999, before I was a parent and paid attention to these things — but because I set out to investigate the rumour I'd heard that plastic wasn't safe for food storage.
Edward Groth, the Consumers Union scientist behind the 1999 story leading to the alert, wrote that
There could hardly be more contrast in these two perspectives. One, based on firm conviction but no data, asserts that there is no effect of bisphenol-A in baby bottles, because none has been observed scientifically and because one part per billion of BPA is "too low" an exposure level to have biological effects. The other, based on simple, undisputed scientific facts, notes that polycarbonate bottles can expose babies to unimaginably large numbers of molecules of an estrogen-like chemical, several times a day. We must ask, on what basis can we presume that such exposure has no biological effects? What if "low-level" exposure is not intrinsically "safe;" what if, instead, our inability to measure effects has created an illusion of safety? In short, a precautionary risk assessment in this case would emphasize not the lack of concrete data showing harm in babies exposed to 1 ppb of BPA in their formula, but rather would recognize that 1 ppb is not necessarily a "low" exposure. It would assess the difficulties of knowing whether or not the quadrillions of molecules a baby ingests daily have any harmful effects on the tiny consumer's developing systems.
The dispassionate observers at plasticsinfo.org note that:
Polycarbonate has been studied and tested for nearly 50 years, and its use in products that come in contact with food is regulated for safety by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as governmental bodies worldwide.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a key building block in polycarbonate plastic. In recent years, a number of researchers from governmental agencies, academia and industry have studied the potential for trace levels of BPA to migrate from polycarbonate products into food and beverages under conditions of typical use. Extensive safety data on BPA show that polycarbonate plastic can be used safely in consumer products.
As a result, the use of polycarbonate plastic for food-contact applications continues to be recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the European Commission Scientific Committee on Food, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment, the Japan Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and other regulatory authorities worldwide.
By dispassionate, of course, I mean that plasticsinfo.org is the web site for the American Chemistry Councils' Plastics Division, which "represents leading manufacturers of plastic resins".
While I'm sure that the American Chemical Council wants nothing more for my baby than a long life full of plastic-purchasing opportunities, I'm afraid I can't take their "don't worry, be happy" message on this one. I've just gone out and purchased a supply of Gerber GentleFlow bottles at ToysRUs, which are made from polypropylene. If money were no object I'd go to Crocodile Baby on Fourth and buy the BornFree glass bottles.
And please note that BPA in baby bottles is by no means the only source of concern about kids and plastics. Check out the Smart Plastics Guide: Healthier Food Uses of Plastics for Parents and Children from the Instittue for Agriculture and Trade Policy. I've collected more resources on this topic and bookmarked them on del.icio.us.
This week's tagging project: a MacBook cover that displays my del.icio.us tag cloud, thanks to the folks at Pimp My Laptop.
Here's how I did it:
- I used the del.icio.us tagroll feature to customize the look of my tag cloud and make sure it included all my tags ("size" controls how many tags display; max/min font controls the size of the individual tags).
- I hooked my laptop up to a huge external monitor so I could make the tagroll display big enough to create a screen capture that was high enough resolution to print out clearly.
- We took screen captures in chunks (Rob figured out the necessary size to display by working backwards from the Pimp My Laptop specs) so that they'd be even higher res.
- We stitched it back together in PhotoShop until we had an image of the size specified by Pimp My Laptop.
Ta da! I'm now wearing my tag cloud on my (laptop) sleeve.
Tags can help you drive traffic to your website and build engagement in your online community. Here are my secrets to tagging success.
I’m just back from SXSW, where I was reminded that there are still a few people out there who are thinking about the Internet as a potential business opportunity rather than as a chance to reinvent democracy.
At the panel I was on — Remixing Business for a Convergent World — it seemed that what is really converging is how both business folks and political hacks are looking at the Net. Let’s take, for example, the question of how to make strategic use of blogs — a question that my fellow-panelist, Robert Scoble, addresses in his recent book Naked Conversations.
Thanks to blogs, businesses can no longer afford to ignore even their smallest customers. Traditional blue-chips are starting to recognize that their next p.r. crisis could be precipitated by a cranky shareholder or dissatisfied customer who blogs about the company. As for the latest generation of web start-ups — sites like Squidoo, Frappr, or LinkedIn — they’re not only sensitive to customer perceptions: their entire business models are based on user (i.e. customer) contributed value.
Once you start to see customers are value creators, rather than value consumers, a lot of business truths get turned upside-down. Take, for example, the idea that businesses are primarily accountable to their boards or shareholders. Does anyone out there think that the success of del.icio.us or Flickr depends more on Yahoo shareholders than on the users who are contributing bookmarks, photos, and software plug-ins?
If businesses find themselves suddenly accountable to their users, that kind of accountability is old news to both government and civil society organizations. Governments have always been primarily (if imperfectly) accountable to citizen-voters, and civil society organizations (whether community service groups or political advocacy organizations) have always been primarily accountable to their members and donors.
The net result is that it’s business that now needs to learn from civic and public organizations about how to enage at the grassroots level. It’s not like public and nonprofit organizations have all the answers — great examples of effective two-way member/voter engagement online are still rarer than the many examples of organizations that are still in “broadcast” mode — but at least there’s a decade of effort to look at.
For those of us who’ve been thinking about online democracy and grassroots engagement for something like that long, the rise in business interest should come as (mostly) good news. Sure, there’s more competition for public attention: efforts at getting voters to participate in policy discussion now have to compete with businesses offering free ipods in return for customer feedback.
But there’s also a rapidly expanding toolkit for grassroots community-building. Tools like Squidoo, Flickr, and del.icio.us offer entirely new ways of involving members and encouraging members to interact with one another. Just as important, the private sector’s growing embrace of customer “community” may help to build a broader culture of pervasive engagement.