Archives » July 22nd, 2003

July 22, 2003

You’ve Got Blogs!

In order to bring the highest level of quality reporting to you, the gentle reader, I am constantly pushing the edge so you don’t have to. And to that end, today I started up an AOL Journal. AOL Journals are the queer little beasts that are really weblogs, but AOL’s not calling them blogs because “many users found the word ‘blog’ confusing”. Oh well, whatever. They still use the word blog in several places, so they’re probably just trying to ease people into using it.

Anyway, we have an AOL account that we use for dial-up on our laptop, and that my mother-in-law uses as her primary internet connection. Mostly the account just gathers dust and draws money out of my bank account, but every now and then I get to use it to keep up with what AOL is offering to the world. I sat down with it today to go through the process of starting an AOL Journal and giving the service a quick test drive. I think it’s fair to say that I was more impressed than dismayed. It runs about as smoothly as you’d expect from AOL. Very basic, very easy-to-use, very lean on features. You can change a couple of the items on the screen, including a blog description, a paragraph about yourself, and links to other blogs and sites. You also get to choose a color for your site and whether you want one, two or three columns. And you can choose from three templates how you want your posts laid out. Aside from that, the look and feel of your page is dictated by AOL, resulting in all the blogs looking about the same. I don’t fault them for that, though. They know that anyone who has the least bit of advanced knowledge about blogs is going to be using Movable Type, or even Blogger, where you have full control over your templates. AOL Journals is for people who just want to write, and not have to get mired in any of the technical details. Which is fine. That’s a huge audience, that’s the constiuency they’ve gone after for over ten years now, so more power to them.

Dave Winer tried to create a Journal, and he made the shocking(!) discovery that you need to be an AOL member to create an AOL Journal. Well, yeah. You have to buy Radio to start a Radio weblog, too, so what’s the point? Then he bemoans the $24 per month price tag. “That’s pretty hefty considering that all I want to do is run a weblog.” Well, how many people are going to sign up to AOL just so they can create a Journal? I’d estimate that number to be exactly zero. AOL is targeting its existing customers here, and aside from AIM, they haven’t been in the business of opening their services up to non-members. This is basically what Michael Gartenberg says, far more eloquently than I could put it.

I’ll have more soon, including an in-depth report on the dirty details for those who aren’t AOL subscribers. At least, that is, if I ever get around to it. I have at least a dozen unfinished “in-depth” projects floating around in my head.

For now you can see the new journal at http://journals.aol.com/yinandyangtwins/AOLComputerVet/. But I don’t think I’ll ever ditch this weblog for AOL.

Fooey to FUI

I think this will be a good lawsuit to follow. We’ve all seen those banner ads on websites that are mocked up to look like Windows dialog boxes. You know, it says, “Your Internet connection is not optimized”, or “Your PC may be infected!” And they usually have the red X or yellow exclamation point, and a button that says OK. Most of us are able to tell they’re just images in the web browser, and if we click them we’ll be taken to some site trying to sell us “Internet Boost” software or some other such snake oil. But a lot of people are being tricked, novice computer users that might not realize the difference between a real dialog box and a faked picture of one. These people are the intended targets of this deceptive advertising, and apparently they’ve been clicking through those ads in the millions.

And now they’re fighting back.

The class action complaint alleges that DoubleClick deceptively and fraudulently commandeered millions of Internet users to the commercial websites of DoubleClick’s customers through dissemination of tens-of-millions of fraudulent Internet advertising banners that impersonated computer error messages. The Complaint states that through use of such Fake User Interface (“FUI”) dialogs that gave the false appearance of being computer error messages, DoubleClick tricked millions of Internet users into interrupting the work they were performing to respond to the fraudulent error message, only to unexpectedly find both computer and computer user thus hijacked to the commercial websites of DoubleClick’s customers.

Blammo! Not only are they striking back against the worst of the online advertisers, they’ve also brought to light a nifty TLA (three-letter acronym). FUI! Pronounced, of course, “Fooey”. Which is exactly what we’ve wanted to say to these advertisers all along.

Now if only an epilepsy association could get together and sue the makers of those flashing and “vibrating” ad banners, we’d have something going.