Monday, June 28, 2004

Scandal again, this time in publishing . . .

Today's New York Times includes an article entitledThe Troubling Case of the Phantom Readers , which describes the disclosure of inflated circulation numbers by three publications (Newsday, Hoy, and the Chicago Sun-Times). This comes on the heels of previous announcements about magazines that had inflated circulation numbers, namely Rosie, YM, and Fast Company (all published by Gruner & Jahr).

Seems that in that increasingly wired world we're always hearing about, where things run at faster and faster speeds, TV ratings are available overnight, web stats are updated constantly, and print circulation stats . . . well, they take up to 18 months (for audited results, anyway). No immediate gratification there, and a lot of room for publications to fudge numbers, yet slip through the cracks on the auditing side.

Of course, this presents the biggest problem for advertisers, who actually provide most of the revenues for publications, and now may have serious doubts about whether or not their ads are reaching the number of eyes they had anticipated.

- posted by laurie @ 6/28/2004 07:01:00 AM (0) comments

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Defining Femininty via Maternity Wear

Against maternity clothes by Sarah Madsen Hardy explores the maternity dressing experience, which can be fairly horrendous. This is a subject near and dear to my heart at the moment, considering I am just about to enter month 7 of my pregnancy, and that I spent hours at the Mall of America a few days ago shopping for my second round of maternity gear: they say stuff will fit you through your whole nine months, but from friends and books I have learned this is not true. Five maternity stores or sections under one roof, and I had a hard time finding things that fit right and didn't offend my sense of style, which Masden Hardy notes, is linked with our sense of self. She writes:

Clothes give us our public identity. This is especially true for women, who are more intensely scrutinized by men and women alike. Our clothes have a big job — they moderate between our naked selves and an often hostile public. In the store that day, however, applying my own exhaustively arbitrated principles of style was out of the question. Judging from the racks of clothes in front of me, I was being welcomed into the ranks of the gentle, the sweet, the profoundly uncomplex.

Insulting in principle, this struck me as more egregious because the experience of pregnancy had, in fact, made me less gentle and sweet and certainly more complex.

It's hard to argue with the fact that a pregnant woman is quintessentially feminine. The scary thing is how these clothes defined femininity. They gently communicated a new set of rules: Even though a pregnant woman is uniquely potent, she should not look strong. Even though she is tangibly more than she was before, she should look simple. Even though she is fulfilling a biologically mature function — and a sexual one — she should look childlike.

More contradictions for women. Joy. Just what we need. Of course, the frilly pink fashions of this spring and some of the more girly-girl summer trends are ensuring that, generally, maternity clothing is frothier, frillier, and sillier than before.

- posted by laurie @ 6/26/2004 07:20:00 AM (0) comments

Friday, June 25, 2004

Finding the Hidden Features

Looking for the Eureka! Button, Katie Hafner describes a problem common among users of computers and other gadgets: our technology is becoming increasingly cool, increasingly feature-rich. "That's great," you say, "what's the problem?" Well, as manufacturers jam more and more functionality into products they also provide less and less in the way of documentation, especially the print kind. From a cost-cutting perspective, this makes sense: paper is expensive, and heavy manuals increase shipping costs. Yes, we've got it. And how many people would really wade through an extensive manual anyway? I know I wouldn't have read a phonebook-sized user's guide of one had come with our recently-purchased desktop.

On the other hand, sometimes even the online help won't let users discover all the tips, tricks, tools, and shortcuts loaded onto their gear. The article talks about MS's usability labs and efforts at increasing "discoverability," but there really has to be a better way, doesn't there? Because all the usability testing Microsoft has done hasn't really resulted in a greatly improved interface design, at least not with regard to discoverability of new/improved features. Yes, the GUI for XP is better, and as a recent convert from Windows ME, I really do appreciate this (even though I much prefer Mac interfaces - they present a look, feel, and user experience that are sleek, intuitive, and pleasurable by comparison - but that's me).


All of this, the article notes, has driven people to the help books, which have become a nice source of income for some writers. And so we get the phonebook-sized manual anyway, but we have to go out and pay for it. Or we learn from our friends, who learned from their friends, inspiring an oral tradition centered around our technophilic lifestyles. Which I find appropriately ironic, but still frustrating.

- posted by laurie @ 6/25/2004 11:34:00 AM (0) comments

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Sometimes, there's a quiz . . .

So Amy had the results from this quiz up on her blog, and I decided to take it. Anyone who knows much about me will know that I was thrilled to receive the following results:

I want my rubber ducky!
Volo anaticulum cumminosam meam!

Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Exactly. What a cool quiz!

- posted by laurie @ 6/22/2004 10:04:00 PM (0) comments

Friday, June 18, 2004


not any great revelation to share, but . . . there is an ice cream truck apparently driving circles around my building while playing Christmas carols. Aside from the sheer annoying factor of the tinny music and the general twitchiness that Christmas carols induce (in me anyway), how exactly should "Jingle Bells" help sell more ice cream? Yes, make me think of snow-covered roads, frigid sub-zero Minnesota winters, shivering, and wearing five layers at a time. Personally, that'd put me in the mood for a fireplace and some fifteen-bean soup with wholegrain bread, not a creamsicle (especially not this one - but how cool is that?).

- posted by laurie @ 6/18/2004 10:53:00 AM (0) comments

sleuthing the blogosphere

As is usual these days, I'm working on 5 million (roughly) things right now, and don't have the time to write thigns up properly, but has anyone else out there gotten hooked on the Plain Layne thing? I want someone to give me the definitive answer, already!

Related links:

Strip Mining for Whimsy
Shot in the Dark
The MeFi Thread

there's also an Orkut "Plain Layne Comment Box" which I haven't checked out, mainly for lack of Orkut registration.

And now, in the interest of achieving something today, I am going to hit post and slowly back away from the computer . . .

- posted by laurie @ 6/18/2004 09:03:00 AM (0) comments

Monday, June 14, 2004

Saved!, (in)tolerance, and the IMDb discussion boards

I have been intrigued by the media coverage of Saved!, and so decided to see if it happened to be playing anywhere near me (and it is, through tomorrow). I looked up movie times via the IMDb, and out of curiosity, checked out the user reviews. Not a lot there, but a thread on the message board caught my attention. There's some trolling going on (and the thread title itself may be seen as baiting other members), and a deleted comment makes me think perhaps there was some flaming, but in general, this was a kind of interesting thread - in part because the participants weren't simply like-minded individuals who achieved ego-stroking consensus and mutual agreement. There's not a ton of hostility, either. And that makes me feel better about online spaces like this. At a time when it seems that our society seems to be more and more divided into clumps of like-minded people who very infrequently engage with those who may perceive the world differently, a thread such as this one is a happy random find, indeed.

- posted by laurie @ 6/14/2004 04:29:00 PM (0) comments

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Back from LA - New Orleans, LA, that is!

Well, after a very nice four days in New Orleans, I am back to life-as-usual in the Twin Cities. The ICA conference, overall, was good: I saw some wonderful panels, and I saw some terrible panels, and I saw some that made me shrug and say, "so what?" But for the most part, the panel presentations I went to were pretty solid. I managed to attend a number of sessions on internet studies, including a few methodology panels and some that featured specifically blog-oriented papers. I saw or met a few people that I have to this point only heard of, and it is always nice to put faces and names together! I also attended a wonderful panel on feminism, law, and ethics. I need to download or request about a million papers sometime soon. I also need to email my own paper to a few people. My presentation went fairly well, I think. I am always the worst judge of my own performance, because I am my own worst critic. I do know I was nervous and having lower back spasms (thanks, baby!) during the presentation, as well as during the two hours preceding my own panel.

Of course, I did more than attend the conference, and that included a lot of strolling (more accurately: pregnant-with-back-pain limp-waddling) around the French Quarter, especially Bourbon and Royal Streets. Some sampling of New Orleans cuisine, but not a lot, as my budget was tight and because of baby I am severely limiting seafood (basis of much of the cuisine!) right now, but I certainly did have coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde (twice). Mmmm, deep-fried dough, powdered sugar, coffee, and people-watching. What a great combination! I also wandered around watching other people sip a variety of beverages of an alcoholic nature. I think it was Saturday evening that we wandered for hours, and by the time we were heading back to the hotel for some shuteye (keeping in mind that conference sessions began at 8:15), things were beginning to get going on Bourbon. Lots of drunken frat-boy types hanging off upper balconies yelling at women and dangling beads. I only saw one woman who actually flashed her breasts, though. (Along those lines, the most disturbing bit of the trip was seeing the number of parents wandering around the French Quarter with their young daughters, who were proudly draped in beads. Now really, Mom and Dad, is it appropriate to give your child such trinkets, which are usually awarded to young women who expose their bodies before the gaze of strange, lascivious men? I wouldn't want my seven-year-old tromping around with twenty strands of Mardi Gras beads dangling from her neck, but hey, that's me.)

Anyway, a good time was had by all. I've got an editorial meeting later today that I have to get geared up for, and I need to get ready to take off on another trip Friday - this time for a friend's wedding - but I hope to write a bit more about the conference soon!

- posted by laurie @ 6/02/2004 07:39:00 AM (0) comments