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July 12, 2003
[ Software: Say That Again, Webpage ]

 This blog is fast becoming toolbar central. Here's another one (a toolbar, by the way, is an extra layer of buttons that appears at the top of your program -- in most cases Internet Explorer. Microsoft make it really easy for third party manufacturers to develop them as marketing tools, or often products in their own right. Check out Google's toolbar, reviewed here a week or so back, and ToolButton, which I've talked about at length over privacy issues.):
 
 
A Canadian company called ReadPlease Corp has developed toolbars that read aloud stuff for you -- a process that's not unnaturally called text to speech. ReadPlease PLUS ($50) uses AT&T's Natural Voices software which offers some seriously lifelike characters, while the free version uses the more basic Microsoft voices. Yesterday they announced a version for Internet Explorer called ReadingBar for Internet Explorer ($70) which can can read back web pages and create .mp3 files so you can listen to your web pages while jogging, riding the car or having the in-laws over for dinner.
 
I haven't tried it yet; I'll get back to you when I do.

 
 
 

[ Update: ToolButton and Privacy -- again ]

 For those of you following the discussion about the privacy implications of ToolButton, a browser toolbar that helps store news and other features, here's a reply from ToolButton's Deb Alloway about the matter. First off, my original email to her:
 
As I've said in the blog, I like ToolButton and hope that privacy of its users is respected. Your words go some way to convincing me of that. But while I can see that spam is not going to be a concern for users, I would have thought other factors might be, as I say in the comment below:
 
"The only problem I can see with this is that over time, that information would reveal quite a lot about the individual user. Say you'd searched for medical terms, or cars, or brands of diapers, quite a thorough picture of your family would be available to ToolButton for marketing purposes. Given that each ToolButton would have to have a unique user ID that information would end up being quite specific."
 
What's more, it seems to me that ToolButton would effectively collect the same kind of information as, say, Gator -- what kind of sites the user visits, as well as terms the user enters into Google etc. That would build a complex profile of that user which could then be used for marketing purposes (targeted ads, I should imagine, which would appear in the toolbar.)
 
 
Here's Ms Alloway's reply:
 
From what I know about other "Gator" type software I have to assume you are correct - ToolButton has the ability to collect the same kind of information. The difference  is how the information is used.  Even though I am familiar with the "Gator" type of marketing, I still find myself falling prey to their scams. And, like most, I find their marketing aggressive and intrusive.  ToolButton, on the other hand, was build with the user experience at the top of the priority list. This is a tall order especially when you consider  the unique needs and wants of each user.  The solution: turn the control over to the user.   

Hence the whole ToolButton experience is based on user control and satisfaction.  Let's start at the beginning.
 
1.    To download the ToolButton toolbar the user name, email address and password are required.   This information provides sign-in access to both your personal account on www.ToolButton.com as well as access to the toolbar.  I know of only one other toolbar which requires a user to sign-in to access functionality from within the toolbar.  You might know of others.   We are currently changing the download procedure to facilitate a faster and easier download. 
 
2.    A newly downloaded ToolButton toolbar appears with three or four default web site icons on the bar.  These provide the user with immediate samples of the power behind ToolButton.  The user can delete them at anytime.  No problems, no questions asked. 
 
3.    The user can add, remove, move around, decide how to display and even add sound effects on their ToolButton toolbar.  Most customization can be done right from the ToolButton toolbar itself.  There is no need to go to the web site.
 
4.    Websites who offer ToolButtons have the ability to send messages (Alerts) through their button to the user.  However, third party advertising is strictly prohibited and any site caught abusing this will be removed from the site immediately. No questions - no hesitation.  ToolButton users total control over this. If a website is sending too many Alerts through their ToolButton icon the user can remove icon from their ToolButton toolbar.  The website will no longer have access to that user through ToolButton. 
 
Web site owners of a ToolButton icon are able to receive stats on have access to the number of instances their ToolButton icon has been downloaded and any activity of their ToolButton.  Any personal information they acquire would not be collected by ToolButton but rather by sending the user through the company's own web site. A good example of this would be sites requiring membership or account information.  
 
5.    Third party advertising is only be allowed through the InfoButton.  Here the user subscribes to categories of interest. The button will only appear on their toolbar if a message has been received.  Again, the user chooses the categories and has the ability to change them at any time.  This is where stats collected would be used. For example:  A neighborhood pizza place has a 2 for 1 special tonight.  With ToolButton, they can send their message to a targeted group of people who have indicated they are interested in receiving information about fast foods and where our stats show they live within a 1 mile radius of the restaurant.  In order to receive this message a user would have to 1) live within the area selected 2) indicated they want third party information about fast food.  If either of these criteria are not present, the user will not receive the message.  Again - the user has control. 
 
6.   Over the next few months several new features will be offered by ToolButton. The idea behind each and every feature or plug-in is to enhance the ToolButton toolbar user experience.  Again, the user controls whether or not they want to display or use these applications. A click of a button and the application can be added or removed.  No problems, no questions.

Thoughts, anyone?

July 10, 2003
[ Q&A: X1 and The Future of Finding Stuff ]

  Full text of email interview with Mark Goodstein of X1 (see my column in WSJE and FEER this week)
 
-- Who are you aiming at with this product?
 
Not to be too simplistic, we're aiming at two groups: consumers and professionals, specifically those who have a lot of email and files and who spend more time than they want searching for information on the Internet or intranet. The free version offers a substantial set of features that we hope will entice legions of users to use the product at
home and work, for all their information finding needs. The pro version has features that power users will demand, like indexing network drives and viewing files in their native formats, regardless of whether they have the native application installed. Both versions will continue to get richer over the coming weeks and months, as we add more consumer features, like media-specific tabs (pictures, music, etc.) and more powerful web searching and eCommerce-related features. The pro version will get support for indexing attachments, contacts, events, PDFs, and archives. We think these two prongs will encourage great numbers of people to use the product and will eventually allow us to crack the enterprise market, which is straining for simple interfaces to complex data: X1's specialty.
 
 
-- I've always thought this kind of product was really basic, and when Enfish came out in 1999, I assumed it would be massive. But it wasn't, and nothing since has really caught on. Why is this? Does it have to do with new paradigms, or just the product wasn't right, or people aren't ready for it, or what?
 
Our approach isn't that much different than others, but we're staying focused on simplicity and speed. X1's interface is visceral and innovative: allowing the user to winnow the searches down from all to just a few, instantly, as opposed to the normal none to many (sometimes with a coffee break) of today's search engines and desktop search utilities. This interface gives the user the feeling of control over chaos, which is hard to underestimate. Many people have built up complicated directory structures for storing their files and email, all in an effort to just keep track. X1 allows the user to stop caring about the organization and more about the work!
 
This is a difficult question to answer because it seems like Enfish and others have done many of the things we've done, but several years in advance. I'm not sure why they failed to catch on like you assumed, but I don't think the fundamentals have changed. The amount of data we're responsible for is large and always growing; it's in disparate formats and locations; the tools that help users wade into this sea of information are, maybe justifiably, difficult to understand and use; and there's no incentive for market leaders, like Microsoft, to innovate. It doesn't help that the dotcom bubble excited expectations and the companies responsible never followed through.
 
That said, we really do think we've created a beautiful interface to complicated data sets. We think of it as something between a spreadsheet and a database. So, like you said, Enfish should have caught on big, and didn't. Just like databases were supposed to catch on big at the end-user level, and didn't. Spreadsheets have tried to fill the gap,
becoming more database-y over time. But that's a little ridiculous, as many people have come to realize.
 
-- What's under the hood? Presumably these programs have different technologies underpinning them? Could you explain a little of the challenges to minimize the downside of such programs -- index size, performance loss, ease of use, success ratio of finding what you're looking for, etc?
 
I assume most indexing technologies are actually pretty close cousins, separated by clever coding and intelligent choices. We all deal with the same limitations of compression, physical memory, disk space, etc., and all have to make trade-offs to deliver a product to market. X1 has an inverted index with all sorts of clever tricks to manage memory and
processor use to keep the indexing as invisible and painless as possible. Our goal, from the beginning, was to make a product that was as simple to use as possible, as fast as a machine would allow, and as invisible as possible. We've had success on all fronts and we'll continue to improve and innovate as time goes by. We think the bottom line here is speed and simplicity. Speed allows us to skip all those complicated, frankly under-used, search features, while allowing the user to iteratively search (quickly) through their data. They may search twice before success, but certainly it'll be faster and more satisfying. This is compounded by our innovative multi-field search interface. That's it.
 
-- Where do you see this going? Is searching a hard drive going to get more sophisticated a la data mining? Or is this a rough and ready product that will always fit the brute force approach?
 
Not to harp on this too much, but we honestly believe that our mission will be fulfilled and we'll achieve big success if we stick to our dual goals of speed and simplicity. We can let Oracle do the OLAP while we do away with the DBA...
 

[ Column: Finding The Holy Grail of Finding Things ]

 I have lost count of the number of times I have written about finding text in files on your computer.  It's such a basic idea that you would think it would come as a standard function on most operating systems.  In fact, if you're a Mac user, it does.  For the rest of us, finding stuff is a lot harder than finding something on the Internet.  This has to be the dumbest thing that future generations will laugh at us for, except perhaps for considering white plastic garden chairs a charming lawn ornament and acceptable seating option.
 
But it's not through lack of trying.  I remember a program from the late 1980s called askSam (www.asksam.com) which did a very passable job of allowing users to search through large chunks of text quickly and efficiently.  But it was quirky and required a lot of patience on the part of the user: In fact, it's still going (and still quirky).  In the late 1990s, a company called Enfish Corp (www.enfish.com) launched a great product called Tracker Pro which indexed your hard drive and allowed you to search for text or chunks of text, and not only find them instantaneously, but also to view them inside Tracker itself.  Tracker Pro was ahead of its time, and like all things ahead of its time now is sitting in the corner mumbling to itself, ignored, dribbling out of the corner of one toolbar menu. Enfish continues to push something called Find that it is a shadow of its former self, and seems aimed more at the commercial customer than the individual.  There's also a product called dtSearch (www.dtsearch.com) which also does text searches and does it very well, if a little brusquely.  But now, the Holy Grail may have arrived.  It's called X1 and it will be officially launched later this month.
 
Read the full column at FEER.com (subscription required)
 

[ News: XP Has Made Everything Better. No, Really ]

 From the I Must Be Living in a Parallel Universe Dept,  I read with interest of PC Magazine announcement today that it has issued its "Annual Report Card on Service & Reliability Of Major Technology Companies" in which it says that "consumers are more satisfied with the computer products and peripherals they're using and the companies behind them this year than in 2002". That seems unlikely, based on my experience and mailbag, but I did splutter some serious coffee when I read lower down their press release that "Overall, service and reliability has improved, due in large part to the effect of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP". The release went on to say that "Windows XP has brought computer users the stability of Microsoft's corporate operating systems - Windows NT and 2000." Editor in chief of the magazine, Michael Miller, is quoted as saying: "If an OS performs better, so does the hardware it controls."
 
 
Well, yes, that's true. But why do I keep having to reboot my XP preloaded notebook because it goes slower than my grandpa's Vespa? And why do some minimized programs just flash away when I try to switch programs, as if it's a Dirty Old Man's convention? And why does the computer spontaneously reboot of its own accord, usually on Monday afternoons or when there's a half moon? I may be in a minority around here, but my impression with XP is that it's somewhat better than Windows 98, but it still gives me the shivers. The idea that somehow things are much, much better is just silly.

[ News: Bothered By Mosquitoes? Use Your Cellphone ]

 From the Why Use Bugspray When You Can Use Your Cellphone Dept, a report from the Korea Times on a new service by SK Telecom. Its seems South Korea's top mobile operator is offering downloadable ring tones which, er, generate anti-mosquito sound waves that deter mosquitoes within a range of one metre.
 
 
The mosquito repelling service uses a particular spectrum of sound waves, which are undetectable by human ears. But the frequencies annoy mosquitoes, SK Telecom said. And presumably you, when you get the bill, at 3,000 won a download. One of the other downsides pointed out by the correspondent is that "the service takes up more battery power, but customers can effectively use the service with rechargeable equipment." Or you could just throw your cellphone at the mosquitoes when the battery runs out.
 
Who said technology isn't making our lives easier?

July 9, 2003
[ News: The Spam Top Ten ]

  From the We Already Knew That But It's Still Interesting Dept,  FrontBridge Technologies Inc, which calls itself "a trusted provider of email protection and secure
messaging services" (as opposed, presumably, to those Distrusted Providers of Email Protection, or the Somewhat Trusted Except When They've Had A Beer Or Two Providers of Email Protection) have, after evaluating hundreds of millions of messages (no really, they say this, I'm not making it up), "today revealed the top ten deceptive subject lines that spammers use to entice their target recipients into opening spam emails".
 
This, of course, is all an effort to promote something called the FrontBridge TrueProtect(TM) Spam Analyzer, which "filters and analyzes message characteristics for more than 1,200 enterprise email domains" but sounds much more like something out of Monty Python and the Holy Email or an old Woody Allen flick. Anyway, in case you're still interested, FrontBridge's spam analysts "assessed deceptive subject lines in spam received by the company's large base of business customers, and then ranked the subject lines based on frequency". Here's what they found (they even tell you the deception strategy, just in case you've had a lunchtime beer or two yourself and couldn't figure out the spammers' devilish ways on your own):
 
The Top 10 Trickiest Spammer Subject Lines:
 
Subject Line:                                    Deception Strategy:
 
1. RE: Information you asked for           1. Implies you've requested something
2. hey                                               2. Most common friendly intro
3. Check this out!                               3. Common intro to friendly forward
4. Is this your email?                           4. Poses as old friend or colleague
5. Please resend the email                   5. Implies you've sent an email first
6. RE: Your order                               6. Implies you've bought something
7. Past due account                           7. Worries recipient re: financial debt
8. Please verify your                           8. Implies a sign-up or order placed information
9. Version update                              9. Fake software update via email
10. RE: 4th of July                           10. Guesses at holiday plans
 
So now you know. Actually, buried in all this glaring obviousness is an interesting point. The use of these kind of tactics has increased, FrontBridge say, more than 50% in the first six months of the year. That's quite a trend.
 
The moral of the tale? If you send someone an email, try to think of a subject header that doesn't sound like it could be this new kind of spam. Oh, and pity the FrontBridge spam analysts having to trawl through all this dross to compile their top ten. Let's hope they aren't planning to update it every week.
 
 
 
 

 

[ News: Big Brother's Net ]

 For those of you interested in how the Internet is not an unrestricted place for everyone, Reporters Sans Frontieres/Reporters Without Borders last month published their second annual report on censorship in cyberspace, "The Internet under Surveillance - Obstacles to the free flow of information online" which details "attitudes to the Internet by the powerful in 60 countries, between spring 2001 and spring 2003".
 
 
The report looks at quite a few countries, although it leaves some obvious ones out: It looks at Australia, for example, but leaves out Indonesia and Brunei. Looking at China, for example: "Population : 1,284,972,000; Internet users : 59,100,000; Privately-owned ISPs : no; Internet Users and cyber-dissidents in prison : 42. The number of Internet users doubles nearly every six months and the number of websites every year. But this dizzying growth is matched by the authorities' energetic attempts to monitor, censor and repress Internet activity, with tough laws, jailing cyber-dissidents, blocking access to websites, monitoring online forums and shutting down cybercafes."
 
Download the full report as a PDF file here (2.5 MB).

[ News: Another Thai crackdown ]

 
  After terrorists and drug dealers, Thailand is launching another crackdown, this time on online gamers. According to a report by the BBC, Thailand will impose a night curfew on online gaming, because of concerns about rising addiction rates among young players. The curfew will block game servers between 2200 and 0600 daily from 15 July, on the instructions of technology minister Surapong Suebwonglee. Particularly popular is the Korean game Ragnarok.
 
Needless to say, Khun Surapong has become the object of scorn in Thailand's chatrooms.

[ News: Copy the customer, get a bigger tip ]

  A report in Nature confirms what we all knew: the waitress (or waiter, presumably) who imitates the customers gets a bigger tip. Huh?
 
 
Turns out, according to some Dutch psychologist Rick van Baaren of the University of Nijmegen, that "Mimicry creates bonds between people - it induces a sense of 'we-ness.  You know that what you're doing is ok, and you become more generous." Van Baaren's team studied staff in an American-style restaurant in southern Holland: In half of the tests, they primed a waitress to repeat customers' orders back to them. In the other half, she said something else positive, such as "Coming right up!"
 
When copycatting, the waitresses' average tip almost doubled, to nearly 3 guilders (US$1.20). 

[ News: The Law and Blogging Revisited ]

 Further to my earlier posting about a court ruling last week that Web loggers, website operators and e-mail list editors can't be held responsible for libel for information they republish, Mark Glaser of the University of Southern California's Online Journalism Review takes a more nuanced view, saying "What really happened in this ruling is much more complex than that and only protects third-party content that's being passed along to an e-mail listserv, a forum or perhaps a Weblog's comments section. When a blogger starts making original commentary, he/she is liable for these comments."

July 8, 2003
[ News: Baffled by tech terms? You're not alone ]

 
  A new study from the Global Consumer Advisory Board of chip maker AMD says many people are delaying buying new technologies because they don't understand the language of the technology industry. The Technology Terminology and Complexity Study found, among other things that only 3% of correspondents "aced" their quiz, correctly identifying 11 of 11 multiple-choice definitions for various technology terms.
  • Most respondents got only 7 or fewer correct
  • Less than one quarter (22%) got 5 or fewer
  • Less than one tenth (9%) got 3 or fewer
Needless to say, I'm not surprised. If everyone adopted my own suggested terms, I think we'd all be happier.
 
Download the summary in PDF format.

[ News: Have you been brand spoofed yet? ]

 SurfControl, an anti-spam company, says that "brand spoofing spam" -- where a spammer sends fraudulent email that pretends to be from a well-known and trusted company -- is getting worse, after only a few months of its existence.
 
 
The spammer, posing as a customer service or security official, directs the unsuspecting recipient of the spam to a phony Web site. The site then requests confidential financial information or a Social Security number that allows the spammer to commit fraud or identity theft. Over the last few months, SurfControl said in a press release, Best Buy, UPS,
 
Bank of America, PayPal and First Union Bank have been brand spoofed. Four large Australian banks also have been brand spoofed, including the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. Last Thursday, Sony Electronics reported that it had become aware of a deceptive spam e-mail that had been sent to consumers, requesting personal information such as password and e-mail address, claiming to come from "SonyStyle Customer Service."
 
SurfControl says brand spoofing spam was first seen in March and has been growing steadily since then. Brand spoofing spam has grown from zero before March to more than five a month. The increase in such dangerous spam is linked to the growth in the availability of open proxy servers, which allow spammers to send anonymous, nearly untraceable e-mail. According to a researcher at the University of Oregon Computing Center, the number of identified open proxies grew from 1,000 in October 2002, to 100,000 in April 2003.

[ News: Camera phone manufacturers ban camera phones ]

The limits to camera phones
 
 CNET Asia reports that some Korean manufacturers like Samsung and LG Electronics "may be fiercely promoting camera-equipped phones to consumers, but are wary about allowing their use on their own company grounds." Both companies have barred employees from using the gadgets in some of their factories to prevent "industrial espionage and intellectual property theft", the report says, quoting Korean daily Chosun Ilbo (here's the original report).
 
This is another chapter in the fast moving saga of camera phones. They've been banned in some public areas -- changing rooms and the like -- and CNET says bookstore owners in Japan "are also mulling measures to stop female shoppers from snapping pictures of magazines with their camera-phones". Korea, CNET says, is considering a law which makes it mandatory for phone makers to install a "noise emitter" in their camera-equipped handsets.
 
Hmm. It's not all bad, though: I've read other stories about folk snapping shoplifters, hold-ups and other criminal activities. The debate is bound to go on, probably until it's overtaken by miniature cameras that no one can see, built into ties, sun-glasses, or whatever. And of course, with wristwatches and PDAs sporting cameras, where exactly do you draw the line?

[ Software: Another way to view those feeds ]

 
  For those of you getting into the excellent RSS feed concept, here's another way to read the feeds. I haven't tried it yet, and it carries a Beta health warning, but looks interesting.
 
FeedDemon, just into its second beta version, is written by Nick Bradbury. It runs on Windows 98, ME, 2000 or XP.

[ Update: Cracking the code ]

Microsoft Reader: a clarification
 
 
 Further to my note about successful efforts to crack the new code protecting the copyright of Microsoft Reader ebooks, here's a clarification from Dan Jackson, who keeps a copy of the software which can circumvent the code on his website:
 
I noticed you have an article concerning the new version of Convert LIT 1.4. Just thought I'd straighten a few things out. Due to a miscommunication between myself and the author, a few copies were indeed sent out anonymously, but the program and its source code are now freely available from the Dan Jackson Software website at http://members.lycos.co.uk/hostintheshell/ - this is the official site for Convert LIT and all binaries residing on there have been fully tested and virus scanned.

Like yourself, I do not condone the use of this tool for copyright violation, and the technical limits of the program help to curb that to some extent (owner-exclusive DRM5 eBooks can still only be converted on the machine on which the activated copy of Reader which was used to purchase them is installed). The primary intention of the program is to allow other platforms or devices to be able to access Microsoft Reader format files. Hope this information is of use, Dan Jackson.
 
Thanks, Dan. Of course none of this detracts from the fact that the code has been broken, and quickly too. Microsoft, your move.
 
 
 

July 7, 2003
[ News: Court says Gator-style ads are legal ]

  Good news for Gator, the adware company I wrote about a few weeks back. According to CNET News.com a federal court has ruled that pop-up ads for rivals of U-Haul International, placed atop the moving company's own site by a third-party software application from WhenU.com, are legal.
 
 
Although the case doesn't involve Gator Corp, it may well have an impact on them. Gator, like WhenU.com, peddles an Internet "helper" application that dishes ads up to people while they are surfing the Web or visiting specific sites -- usually over the top of, or near, those of rivals. The judge granted WhenU's motion to dismiss charges of trademark infringement, unfair competition and copyright infringement.

CNET says: "The early decision could influence lawsuits involving a more well-known ad-software, or "adware," company, Gator Corporation." In February, Gator settled a case brought by among other media companies, Dow Jones, which publish the newspaper, website and magazine I write for. Other lawsuits, CNET says, have been consolidated and will be decided by the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Washington, D.C.

 

[ News: Protecting the Unprotectable ]

 However much they spend, Microsoft don't seem to be able to fend off the hackers. A new version of its Reader -- designed to allow users of the handheld device to read copyright protected versions of ebooks, while ensuring they don't copy the ebooks or do thing with them they're not supposed to -- has been hacked within days of its release, according to my friend Jerry Justianto, who runs a blog on the subject.
 
 
He says the digital rights management scheme (DRM for short) was a major upgrade, but has gone the way of its predecessors, courtesy of an updated version of Convert Lit, a very small program (32K), which was sent to him anonymously. The program, he says, will either remove the DRM encryption or it will explode the ebook into an unprotected version or an HTML file that can be read in a normal browser, complete with pictures.
 
Jerry is scathing about the update. He points out that Microsoft are effectively forcing users to get the upgrade even though it includes no major new features -- except the security ones -- and will require many users to re-register their hardware in order to keep using it. Check out what Microsoft itself says of the upgrade. Neither Jerry or I condone breaking the law, but this tug of war between producer and hacker has got to stop. It's a waste of time for everybody, and the money could be better spent not trying to limit what we users do with our possessions. Your views, as ever, are welcome.
 

[ Software: Calypso becomes Courier ]

 
 I've been a huge fan of Calypso, an email program that's simple, highly fiddle-able, and small. Unfortunately its producers, MCS of Dallas, dropped it a few years back leaving a lot of users in the lurch. I'm still using it, however, despite its quirks under Windows XP, and am very glad to see that another company, Rose City Software, has reintroduced it as Courier 3.5. They promise new features -- like "Color Markers" to help organize messages -- and a cheap upgrade for Calypso users ($20 against $30 for the full thing.)
 
I've yet to try it out yet, but I'm glad to see that software as good as Calypso doesn't always just die off. I'll review Courier in a future posting.
 

July 6, 2003
[ News: The Next Big Thing: Mobs ]

 Wired reports on the arrival of flash mobs -- "performance art projects involving large groups of people. Mobilized by e-mail, a mob suddenly materializes in a public place, acts out according to some loose instructions, and then melts away as quickly as it formed".
 
 
Last Wednesday a mob turned up at the Grand Hyatt in New York, "walked quietly upstairs to the hotel's mezzanine and gathered shoulder-to-shoulder around the balcony," according to Wired. It then burst into thunderous, screaming applause for 15 seconds and dispersed, just as the police turned up in force.
 
Hmm. Sounds a great idea, depending on what the mobs actually do once they gather, although I would have thought SMS might be a better way to spread the word. Where I come from a mob gathers at the drop of a hat -- or cry of 'thief' -- and usually doesn't disperse until summary justice has been dispensed. E-mail doesn't have anything to do with it. Nor does art, come to think of it.
 

about loose wire
musings, snippets, grievances and links on personal technology by dow jones columnist jeremy wagstaff. I want to hear from users -- technology-related stories, complaints, thoughts, ideas, brickbats -- so please email me

my columns appear in
The Far Eastern Economic Review and
The Wall Street Journal Online.
both are owned by Dow Jones.

see below for subscription links -- sorry, but the columns are only available to subscribers.

companies, PR agencies etc, please send relevant news, pitches, product review requests here. happy to hear from you, but I stress the word 'relevant'.

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