Dead Letter Office Collects Mis-addressed Bush Emails

What we need now is a good email scandal to complement the Ashlee Simpson lip-sync bust. Misdirected emails are more common than lip-sync busts because the elements are easier to satisfy: (1) an incriminating or embarrassing email, (2) accidentally sent to exactly the person or group of people that the sender would most want to avoid showing the message. The Dead Letter Office at (anti-Bush site) receives several of these each day. Another .com .org fiasco.

Ashlee Simpson: Out of Sync

For some reason, busted lip-syncers and accidental emails are my two favorite social disasters. For a good lip-sync bust, you need the following elements: (1) a popular singer, (2) a performance for a large audience, preferably televised and recorded, and (3) a blatant mistake that exposes the lip-sync. The infamous Milli Vanilli (“girl you know it’s – girl you know it’s – girl you know it’s”) incident had all of these elements, as did Saturday’s Ashlee Simpson performance on SNL. (clip available here [wmv])
The Milli Vanilli incident was actually a little better than Ashlee Simpson’s because Milli Vanilli’s was the result of mechanical, rather than human error, but I could appreciate an argument the other way around.
I’m not a fan of this kind of music (which I call “grocery store music” because I only ever hear it in the grocery store), but I do, of course, have an opinion on the Simpson sisters: just because a close family member is good at something doesn’t mean you will be too. My older sister is in medical school, but I’m smart enough to realize that I would make a horrible doctor.
The family-business scenario that annoys me most is politics. In an ideal country, a president should be among the most intelligent, most dedicated, and most convincing of its citizens – a one in ten million type of person. Electing a family member of a former leader admits that the country is never going to find the truly qualified, and that it’s willing to settle for someone familiar.
Anyway, there are some articles today about Ashlee Simpson that try to explain the mishap. Here’s a forgiving one, and here’s a skeptic.

Ad Removal Tool Makes Ad Bigger

I’ve been putting a lot of work into Law School Discussion lately to fix minor user problems. Last night I noticed that a computer I don’t usually use was showing a huge advertisement on the top of the page. The advertisement pushed all the useable content off the screen (“below the fold” as they say). I kept checking my code and everything looked just fine. I went to sleep frustrated over not knowing why this was happening or how many users might be affected.
It turns out that Norton Internet Security was trying to block a small ad on the top of the page. As the page is downloaded to the user’s computer, Norton takes part of the code out. The problem was that Norton only took the part of the code that controls the shape and size of the ad, leaving a giant default ad in its place.
Until now I haven’t had a strong position on ad removal tools. To the extent that Norton actually modifies my code so that the viewer sees a different version of the page than the one I spent hours perfecting, this software makes me really mad.

Blawg Republic Launches

Their description:
Blawg Republic is a real-time search engine that monitors the legal blogging community every hour.”
My technical description:
Blawg Republic gathers RSS feeds from legal-related blogs, aggregates them, and renders them as html for your reading enjoyment.
My business description:
It takes content from lots of people and compiles it on one website. People come to read all the content in one place, and occasionally click ads that make money for the site.
The idea of aggregating content is nothing new. Moreover was doing this with news sources at the same time blogs were being invented. Now aggregators are everywhere. Even I’ve made one. By creating a destination where all the content comes together (with advertisements) the web marketer benefits from the all-important great content, but avoids the nasty work of having to create it. It works like a radio station: the station plays music to get people to listen to the ads, and the musicians don’t mind because it promotes awareness (and thus sales) of their music.
So why not make a whole bunch of these aggregators and brand them for each industry? I suspect that’s exactly what Condensa has planned. Their website reveals nothing about law but focuses on web marketing. Kinja could do the same thing by picking up some additional domain names and changing the style sheets (the code that controls the looks of a webpage) to look completely new.
In the end though, if you don’t have original content, you better make a very useful tool. Think of all the failed search engines and link pages. Actually, think of the successful search engines. Yahoo is all about games, news, stocks, discussion boards. Google is fast developing all kinds of ways to keep you looking at their pages.

tortfeasor Competition Heats Up

The market for law school novelty t-shirts (whaaaat?) is getting more players. I started tortfeasor in the summer of 2003, and since then I’ve seen at least two sites focusing on the law school market. I can’t seem to find the first one, but I just discovered Law School Stuff last night. Even has its own t-shirt (“free” but with $8 shipping).
I’m not impressed with the competition. The designs usually aren’t that good. Law School Stuff is an exception, but their originality comes at a price. They want $22 for a shirt with shipping (compared to tortfeasor’s $15), and I suspect their shirts use heat transfers rather than silk screening (the latter is much better quality, but harder to produce – the reason tortfeasor doesn’t have 20 shirts to choose from). Their shirts can take 3-5 weeks to ship (maybe they are doing screen printing) compared to tortfeasor’s next day shipping. I admit that the selection is better, but it’s one thing to draw up a bunch of shirts – another to actually make them and sell them for a reasonable price. This is the reason I dislike cafepress.
Nevertheless, as I said the other day, I am glad that technology is enabling this kind of start up.

Computers Aren’t Teddy Bears

The Trademark Blog reports on the September 13 Gateway v. Companion products 8th Circuit decision [pdf] in which Gateway prevailed in protecting their cow-theme trade dress from infringement by Companion’s product: a cow stuffed animal that stretches around one’s computer monitor. These look even more ridiculous than they sound.
The case reminded me of my first year contracts class. The professor asked someone what the box of a gateway computer looked like. He liked to ask things that weren’t actually in the case. The student kept describing the location of the license inside the box, the legally relevant fact, but the professor finally blurted out the answer he was looking for: “It looked like a cow!” (example) Gateway’s brand image wasn’t the topic that day, but that professor didn’t tend to ask about things that weren’t important. He was three years ahead on that issue.
Trade dress aside, is there no end to tacky computer accessories? First there were mouse covers (shaped like mice). Then stuffed animal dust rags. Now these stretch animals. Computers just aren’t fuzzy soft objects.

Red Sox Region

It’s Red Sox nation here in the, um, city known as Boston – in the region known as New England. The local news tonight is invoking death star imagery in their report from New York. “Some fans have gone behind enemy lines to the evil empire tonight – watching the game in New York.” I suppose it is the Empire State, but evil is going a little far.
I’m not a baseball fan, but as a Boston resident (okay Cambridge) I’m well aware of the fact that the Red Sox haven’t won a world series since 1918. Many folks attribute this to the curse of The Bambino. There’s a sign on Storrow Drive that is supposed to say “Reverse Curve” but that someone has modified to read “Reverse the Curse”. Last year they put up a new sign, but it didn’t take long for someone to make the change. The modified version of the sign nicely draws one’s attention away from an otherwise confusing question: what the hell is a reverse curve?
In effort to reverse the curse, there is a project underway to find and restore an upright piano at the bottom of a pond. Tonight’s local news mentioned another effort to reverse the curse by demolishing the house of Babe Ruth’s ex-wife. In actuality, they’re demolishing the house to build condos, but Red Sox fans are happy.