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+ - Best Practices For Testing A Site Redesign?

Submitted by Petey_Alchemist
Petey_Alchemist (711672) writes "We recently decided to redesign our website. We hired a skilled designer, and all of our web people like his mockups. But office leadership wants some data as to whether our users will.

What are best practices for finding out what users think of a new website vs and old website? A/B test the entire damn site and hope to make sense of the metrics? Focus groups with photoshop mockups? Something else? How do smart organizations test new designs before / as they roll them out?"
Music

+ - Indie band runs out of DVD; releases vids free->

Submitted by Petey_Alchemist
Petey_Alchemist (711672) writes "I'm not a hipster, but one of my favorite bands is a little indie outfit called Beirut. They play Balkan folk — what I refer to as 'horncore' — with lots of beautiful, anthematic melodies and harmonies. In 2007, Beirut teamed up with a small film group called La Blogotheque to film a series of "Take Away Shows" where the band walked around cities in France playing their music live for people.

A movie and DVD was made of these shows, but the small run sold out years ago, and I couldn't find them anywhere. So I emailed their label, BaDaBing Records, to ask if there was any chance they could send me the original movie files.

To my shock, they not only agreed to do so, they actually sent me one of the remaining two copies of the original DVD and asked me to rip it six ways from Sunday and make it available, for free, to all of the fans who could not longer buy the DVD. As they wrote on their blog, "Consider it Christmas come early or Hanukkah come late. Consider it a gift from one Beirut fan to another."

While this isn't exactly unique — NiN, Radiohead, etc — I was just so touched by the generosity and enthusiasm of a small group of artists genuinely wanting people to experience something beautiful they had made without asking for anything in return, and I wanted to share that story with the Slashdot community. We sometimes get so jaded by corporate media that we forget there is another way for things to be done.

And if you're a Beirut fan, you can download an (authorized!) torrent of the ripped movies (plus images of the original DVD) here or kill my server via HTTP here."

Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:beware of idealists (Score 2, Informative) 702

by Petey_Alchemist (#33220612) Attached to: The Case Against Net Neutrality
To elaborate on that complication -

Certainly the obvious answer to this question is "what competitors?"

However, even if we had a competitive panacea - say, a commonly held, local government managed last mile over which you could connect to dozens of ISPs, all competing for your dollars - we would still not have a truly competitive environment for one reason: price signals, or, rather, the inability to communicate them. Before we conclude that a market can solve a problem, we have to make sure that the structural prerequisites for a functioning, competitive market are in place. One of them is price signals. And I mean this generally.

So, the way this argument usually proceeds is to say: "don't like a tiered Internet? Well, if Company A doesn't follow common carriage principles, and Company B does, consumers who are sensitive to net neutrality will utilize B over A, putting competitive pressure on A to discard a tiered Internet and embrace net neutrality."

But there is a simple reason that this oversimplified model doesn't work. I don't need to run a traceroute for anyone on Slashdot, but most people (especially people who make the argument above) don't realize that when data moves from point X to point Y on the web it also passes through a half-dozen networks besides. And the experience of the consumer is not only affected by their ISP, or the ISP of their content provider, but also by the intermediary networks.

The problem, from a market solution perspective, is that *there is no way for the consumer to communicate their preferences via price signals to the intermediary networks.* Perhaps the consumer opts for (network neutral) ISP B, and their chosen content provider is on (network neutral) ISP D. But if their data have to pass through non-neutral ISP C, then their access may be degraded, and *they will not have a way to choose a different competitor*.

This is emphatically *unlike*, say, contracting FedEx to pick up the package from your house and deliver it to your friend's house, with all of the intermediary travel handled by FedEx (and thus subject to the competitive pressure of your decision to use FedEx rather than DHL or UPS).

Once you begin to screw with the haphazard egalitarianism of the present architecture of the Net, you begin to run into all sorts of problems like this. So beware the arguments that "the market" will solve everything! The market is a powerful machine, but it is a machine, and when parts of it are broken or out of place, it's just as unusable as a car without an engine.

Comment: FYI (Score 2, Informative) 121

by Petey_Alchemist (#28772703) Attached to: Lost In the Cloud
If this is your first exposure to Zittrain's central idea, you should check out his book: http://futureoftheinternet.org/static/ZittrainTheFutureoftheInternet.pdf

Or, if you don't like reading, you can watch his thoroughly engaging book talk here: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/interactive/events/2008/04/zittrain

Zittrain knows his stuff. He was friends with Postel. He's got an AI background from Yale in addition to his Harvard Law degree.

Censorship

+ - OpenNet Initiative: Green Dam Leaky & Dangerou->

Submitted by Petey_Alchemist
Petey_Alchemist (711672) writes "Much has been made of China's Green Dam Youth Escort, a new software filter that must be installed on all Chinese computers by July 1st. Though ostensibly a "porn is bad" blcoking device, Rebecca MacKinnon has reported that the filter blocks all sorts of fun political/religious/etc speech (who could have known) and that the image search actually filters out any images with a certain percentage of "flesh-colored tones", which interestingly seems to sometimes block pictures of pigs while leaving porn with black people curiously intact.

Today, the OpenNet Initiative released an initial report on Green Dam. It's a great read. For instance, it turns out that when you enter in certain words (like drugs or Falun Gong) to IE, or Notepad, or Word, or Excel, or anything else, Green Dam will automatically shut down the program immediately. Of course, this can lead to interesting loops, as ONI discovered when they found out that autocomplete triggers the shutdown function too, so if you ever pause after the first letter of a URL and a forbidden URL from your history pops up it shuts down before you can even type anything else.

Green Dam is unbelievably poorly designed, so much so that anyone running Green Dam can have their computer zombified almost immediately. This has the potential to be a serious clusterfuck for China."

Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (Score 1) 459

by Petey_Alchemist (#26694337) Attached to: A Gates Foundation Education Initiative Fizzles
Again, you've missed my point. I was speaking rhetorically in order to disprove his premise that money is not necessary for a good education. I do, of course, agree that money is not everything. Parents are essential as well. But what we cannot do is fall into the easy trap of saying "throwing money at the problem won't fix it." That's true. However, what we should be doing is throwing money AND throwing good parenting at the problem. That's all I'm saying.

Comment: Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (Score 1) 459

by Petey_Alchemist (#26694311) Attached to: A Gates Foundation Education Initiative Fizzles
You're missing my point. I'm not arguing that we SHOULD redistribute wealth between schools (although I happen to believe that). What I'm arguing is that the premise that money doesn't matter, or that money doesn't mean anything to a good education, is utterly without merit, because it presumes money is merely ornamental and not an essential component of successful education.

Comment: Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (Score 1) 459

by Petey_Alchemist (#26693967) Attached to: A Gates Foundation Education Initiative Fizzles
It's not the technology, man. The technology isn't the point. The point is, what amount of funding do you need to provide an education commensurate with what is sufficient to produce success. The "money has nothing to do with education" argument rings hollow because no one, as I said, would be willing to have their rich suburban school ransacked in order to pay for a urban school. If money makes no functional difference to education--if it's simply a fungible ornament, like tinsel on a tree--then it shouldn't matter.

Comment: Re:Maybe, just... maybe... (Score 1) 459

by Petey_Alchemist (#26693391) Attached to: A Gates Foundation Education Initiative Fizzles
This is ridiculous. If you don't need good money, then I have a great idea for educational reform. Take all the money from the rich, suburban, white flight schools, and redistribute it to the poor inner city and rural schools. After all, if money is totally fungible and unnecessary for a good educational experience, than it shouldn't matter whether one school can afford computer labs and the other can't afford coloring books, right?

Comment: On the other hand (Score 4, Informative) 459

by Petey_Alchemist (#26693161) Attached to: A Gates Foundation Education Initiative Fizzles
Schools like Bronx Lab, which are primarily funded by the Gates foundation, have been unbelievably successful. The SSI split a massive NYPS apart and chopped the building into sections, including this one, run by Mark Sternberg of Harvard Business.

The first high school class is graduating this year. Their high school graduation rate has gone from less than 10% under the old school to 96% in the new school, with all graduates going to college.

There are a lot of factors here of course. But that's what I'm saying. It's far, far too premature (and simplistic, and utterly reductionist) to say "well, small schools work" and "small schools don't work." Some small schools work well. Some don't. Some are more or less educationally sustainable than others.

But some Gates foundation schools have had dramatic success, and we should keep that in mind before we universally condemn that mode of education. Tagging OP as misleading here.

Comment: From a legal perspective (Score 1) 298

by Petey_Alchemist (#23596043) Attached to: FCC Pitches Free, Bowdlerized Wireless Internet Access
This doesn't make any sense. Pornography =! obscene content. Obscene content is, in theory, not allowed on the Internet as is.

You know, if this deal were taken up, it would likely have a good effect on Internet porn since the Court is unlikely to apply the Miller standard to the Internet for a variety of reasons. Huuuge risk though.

You will lose an important disk file.

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