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We work on the Internet and are constantly consuming information. There's a lot of it out there. We'd forget it if we didn't write it down someplace…

Visual Lizard's blog covers everything from web standards to the muppets, from php to comic books to music, just about anything we find interesting

How Not to Build a Viral Marketing System

Stopglobalwarming.com - go. Sign up. Follow the tips they provide and start to reduce your carbon footprint. Then encourage others to do the same. However, don't do it with their viral marketing form on the site. Why you ask?

Well, let's take a look at an email that comes from their site if you refer a friend to join up.

This was the headers of the email:

From: 485273

Subject: Join the Virtual March!

Then, in the body of the email, we have the following:

485273 has joined the Virtual March on Washington to Stop Global Warming and hopes you will, too!

Click here to Join Now!

485273 says: Join the Virtual March!

The Stop Global Warming Virtual March is a non-partisan online effort to bring all Americans together to acknowledge that global warming is here now... and it is time to take action to stop it. It is urgent that we get involved now.

It affects everyone. Young, old, rich, poor, urban, rural, right wing, left wing, those in the middle. Global warming is a national security problem, an economic problem, and a public health problem. And it's not going to get better unless we act now.

...[clipped out boring, long winded famous people quotes]...

Our mission is to use the strength of our numbers to urge:
1) Our government to join the rest of the world in solving global warming, and
2) American business to start a new industrial revolution and develop clean energy products that will reduce our dependence on oil and other pollutants that contribute to global warming.
www.stopglobalwarming.org

Alright, for you savvy web users out there, you can already see a problem here. I have signed up and joined the march. I have added my details to their system. My name is clearly there. So why does the email go out with my number - 485273 - splashed throughout?

Not only is this sure to get picked off and filtered out by almost everyones spam filter, the email itself it utterly meaningless to anyone. It provides no information about who sent this and it appears as if it is spam. Even the subject sucks, because unless you have heard of the Virtual March, you have no idea where this email is going. It could be a pharmaceutical ad for marching to bed with viagra.

If I could make a suggestion to the folks over at Stopglobalwarming.com, it would be the following:

  1. Use the senders name, not their registraiton number.
  2. Rewrite the subject to something like - "Join the Virtual March at stopglobalwarming.com" - which would be both empowering and informative, as the recipient could see the stop global warming elements right in the subject.
  3. Remove the overly wordy body copy of the email (again, name - not number in there as well) and rewrite it to be clear. Put a little fear into it. The stat on the web site about the last 15 years containing the world's 9 hottest average planetary temperatures in recorded history is scary. Use it. Quick information scare followed by the mission and link to sign up. Short and sweet.

The web site itself is a great resource. The concept is perfect for the Internet. Starting grassroots movements like this and spreading them with viral marketing (encouraged marketing if you like) is easy to do, costs very little, is easy on the environment (not printing 2,000,000 flyers and sending 5,000,000 emails instead) and it can make a difference. So please fix your email system.

If you are having trouble, I am sure there are 25,000+ web professionals already signed up to the march that would be more than willing to donate a few hours to fix your email system. Heck, we would be more than happy to help you. Call us.

More on the Hybrid Vehicle Front

In a follow up post to Ross' pervious hybrid vehicle post, there are some interesting hybrid vehicles coming down the pipe from various car manufacturers.

Toyota is set to release a new Prius, that reportedly gets 113 mpg.

Ford is rumored to be working on a revolutionary "hydraulic hybrid" which would make a huge difference in the current mileage of hybrid cars at 3x the current battery powered fuel efficiency. Wow!

If you want to do some comparisons on hybrid vehicles (or just look at the fuel economy of current makes of cars you might be thinking of) the US Government has put together a nice resource at http://www.fueleconomy.gov. If you want to directly compare the current crop of hybrid vehicles, you can do that too.

Parallels - virtualization in MAC OS X

In case you live in a cave, Apple has announced the release of software called Boot Camp. This software allows any Intel Chip based MAC to run Windows XP (and likely Vista whenever it comes out) as a secondary OS on the machine. You would install Boot Camp and then when you want to shift from OS to OS, you would reboot while holding the option key (alt key for windows people) and then choose the OS you wanted to initialize.

If you have been developing for the web on a MAC over the last 10 years, then you know you need to view all of your work in a Windows environment several times before it goes live. Virtual PC has long been the standard for single computer developers with a MAC up until a few years ago when the price of PCs came down to the point that it was better to own a cheap PC than slow your system down with Virtual PC.

Well, here is something that all MAC users have been dreaming of ever since the Intel chip switch - Parallels.

EDIT: As always, John Gruber of daringfireball.net sums up the Apple move on Boot Camp in much more eloquent and in-depth way than I can.

Google Talk Update

Not too big a change, but nice none the less. Google Talk has been updated, and now has a couple new features. The biggest are the support for user images (avatars, as some in the know might call them), and themes. I haven’t got into it yet, but I’m interested in finding out if the themes are customizable beyond the set they give you... like simple CSS-ing? That would be neat!

Another addition is that you can now get Google Talk for your Blackberry... useful when your carrying your PDA/cellphone and you want to contact someone... wait a minute...

Google Search Operators

Google is a good search engine. Good search engines allow you to refine how you want to search for things. Here is a link directly to their Google Operators. Refine you search. Get better results. Use operators.

A neat little app for my Windows friends

Netjaxer is a neat little app that lets you load any web page and run it as a tray icon. Normally, this sounds like a bad idea, but for things like Gmail, Analytics, Mint, Backpack, Campfire and other applications you reference multiple times in a day, this could be a really nice time saver for you.

Apple Releases Boot Camp Beta

Apple has released a public beta of Boot Camp for OSX 10.4, with the full intention of including it with 10.5 Leopard by default. What does this mean? It means that your shiny new Intel chip Macs can boot into either OSX or Windows XP!

I always wanted a Mac laptop, but I held off because I heard the Intel chip versions were around the corner. Not really that big a deal, other than the expected jump in speed, but what really got my wheels turning was the possibility of having both OSX and Windows on a single laptop. I can have the sleek wonderfulness that is Apple’s operating system, and the workhorse and support of Microsoft’s operating system on the same machine. Joy!

I skipped the first Macbook releases. Hard core Mac-ers I know warned me to never get the first release of any new hardware, as Apple usually needs a couple months to work out some kinks. Since I was waiting anyway, I decided to hold out for OSX 10.5. Might as well get the latest version with the machine, save myself the $150 or whatever upgrade.

New Planner Section Launches

We are proud to announce the launch of the new Meeting & Convention and Sports & Special Event Planners section for Destination Winnipeg. The Planner system was built with Meeting and Event Planners in mind. These rebuilt sections of the site will give Planners more information on what they need in order to plan a Meeting, Convention or Event in our fair city.

We have been working with Lori and the crew over at Destination Winnpeg for the last five months in order to build a system that allows DW to show their well rounded information base to potential Event Planners. A system that showcases Winnipeg as the place for Conventions and Events.

This web application system is now working efficiently as per the requested specification. However we are always looking to improve our web apps, so please feel free to comment here on what you have seen. Also if you like what how the system functions, please send us a note. We hope you like it.

King Kong on DVD

After the success of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, director Peter Jackson could pretty much write his own ticket. Any movie studio in Hollywood would let him make any movie he wanted. They were willing to throw money at him. So what did he want to do?

He wanted to remake King Kong!

I can almost imagine the conversation...

Movie Bigwig: So, Petey baby! That fantasy flick did good. Did really good. You did real good.
Jackson: Thanks.
Movie Bigwig: But that’s the past. We need to think of the future. That’s where money is, Petey baby, the future!
Jackson: Of course, sir.
Movie Bigwig: So, what’s next? What do you want to do next? Anything you want, Petey-baby, anything you want! You did good!
Jackson: Well, I want to remake...
Movie Bigwig: Remake? Good thinking, Petey baby! Remakes make money. The suckers are eating up this nostaglic fad. Good thinking!
Jackson: ...remake King Kong.
Movie Bigwig: ...
Jackson: See, it’s a classic story, full of adventure, romance...
Movie Bigwig: Uh, Petey baby, are you sure? I mean, King Kong?
Jackson: Yeah! I’ll get Weta working on it again, it’ll look fantastic. We’ll have a sweeping story, great views of 1933 New York...
Movie Bigwig: Maybe you want to do a sequel instead? A Lord Of The Rings 4 - The Return Of Sauron? Or that Habit...
Jackson: Hobbit, sir
Movie Bigwig: Yeah, that Hobbit story.
Jackson: No, I’d like to do King Kong.
Movie Bigwig: ...errm...hruph...well... okay, but only cause you did good. You best know what you’re doing, Jackson!

So, about the DVD: one thing people should be aware of is that the film is over three hours long. Three hours, which is about one hour longer than your pals are willing to stick around watching a movie at your place, cause they have to work the next day. I’ve seen the first two-thirds of this movie more often than the rest of the DVD. Also, there’s a big buildup, setting the time period and locale, setting up New York, taking time to introduce characters and love interests... for those of us who want to see giant monkeys fight T-Rexs, we have to wait over an hour before Kong is revealed.

Is this bad? No, the movie is beautifully shot. The casting is great. I even like Jack Black in this flick, and I’ve always detested Jack Black’s low brow comedy movies. All I’m saying is that you need to schedule a significant portion of your free time to watch this flick in one sitting.

If, like myself, you got the two disc DVD set, you’ve probably gone through the special features, and don’t need me to go over them. :) But for those of you who haven’t, the second disc has three bits. One is a long series of production documentary sorts, many of which appeared on the promo website. These things are great, as you get the behind the scenes look and see how much work goes into these films.

The other two are so-so at best. A bit on New York in the early 1930s is educational, but short, and is only about the history and research. The bit on Skull island is better, but again, rather short. It’s set up as a history film reel, the kind you see in elementary school. It talks about some of the thinking and back history in setting up Skull island, stuff that justifies dinosaurs and savages and crumbling ruins. All cool stuff. Unfortunately, it ends way too early, and, annoyingly enough, plugs an art book at the end.

If I had to choose again, I wouldn’t have bothered with the two disc version, I’d have gotten the cheaper, one disc, widescreen version (does anyone still buy fullscreen?).

Album cover artwork is still cool

Speaking as a kid who has always bought his music with the album cover art playing at least a 25% role in the decision making process, the new iPod ad blew me away.

Tell me I am not the only one that downloaded the clip so I could play it frame by frame and look at the all the album art?

May the Force be With your ... Wiki?

Ever since I was 5 years old, the first time I saw Darth Vader come through the smoke on the Rebel cruiser after boarding it, I've been a Star Wars fan. Not a dress up like Boba Fett / C3P0 / Darth Vader and hang out at conventions / movie premiers / around Skywalker Ranch kind of fan. But a fan of the story. A fan in the small under funded, under resourced group in the fight against the unlimited resource, unlimited reach, ultimate rule empire. A fan of the thought that somewhere else, things are just as bad as here. But maybe, just maybe, with a little dedication, sacrifice and effort, things can change.

Well if you have been around the Internet for any length of time, you are aware of Wiki's. The most famous wiki is wikipedia which is a massive online encyclopedia, updated and corrected by users and available to anyone with internet access in almost a every language on the globe now.

Of course, if you search Wikipedia for Star Wars, you get a great page of information. It covers everything from George Lucas all the way down to TV episodes that I have never heard of. As you scroll through screens of Star Wars information, you begin to realize that there is a ton of stuff to know. On Wikipedia's entry however, the real gem is at the very bottom. Way, way down there. There is actually a Star Wars wiki that contains 28,000+ articles on the Star Wars universe. So for all you Star Wars fans, enjoy Wookieepedia.

And for my wife, "Honey, see. I'm relatively normal!