July 17, 2000-- Newsletter #89

By Joe Burns

July 17, 2000--Newsletter #89
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Greetings, Weekend Silicon Warriors,

Do you have plans for December 6th through the 10th? I know it's good piece off, but those are the dates for the C|Net Live session in New Orleans. It's a conference for both Internet professionals and amateurs. I ask because I am going to be one of the speakers. I go December 9th at 1:15PM. My topic will be The Five Questions You Must Answer Before Starting Your Web Site. The conference should be a lot of fun, plus it's in New Orleans. It's a great city. I'll let you know a Web site and other information as the date approaches.

Did you hear

Have you heard of Checkfree? It's a credit company out of Atlanta that has devised a way to ID people using credit cards on the Web. Here's the deal, you enter your name, address and Social Security number. Checkfree takes that information and creates some multiple-choice questions from your credit rating. Questions would be something like, Who financed your car loan? I guess that would work, but I don't know that I would offer up my Social Security number. If you get my credit card number, the best you can do is max out my tiny card. I keep very low limits on purpose. If you get my Social Security number, you can do a whole lot more harm.

OK football fans, would you like 20 million bucks and a trip to the Super Bowl? Simply go to and correctly predict the season final standings, conference playoff games, Super Bowl teams and winner. Don't get your hopes up just yet. The odds of doing it correctly are equal to crashing in a commercial jet airliner after being struck by a meteor. No sweat. is in trouble and will probably go under pretty soon. Disney has asked to purchase the list of clients in order to protect their privacy. Uh-huh. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has stepped in to take a good hard look.

Now onto today's topic

I'm 36. I think that makes me old enough to start making curmudgeon-style statement about the kids of today. I was teaching a class one day and a student asked if I had a pen. This was a well-prepared young man. Of course I did. I'm a bit of a nerd and nerds need writing utensils by the bushel. I tossed him the pen and missed by a mile. I actually hit the kid sitting next two seats away.

In a pretty vague attempt to be cool, I said, my bad. The youth lingo for, I'm sorry. The preceding mistake was on my part and I accept full responsibility for what I have done.

A young lady gave out a harrumph loud enough for the people in the next room to hear. I asked what she found so silly about my seemingly cool statement and she informed me that my bad was so last week.

The students giggled and I went on this the lecture.

And so it goes, in the world of language, terms and emphasis and what was cool today changes by tomorrow. There are a series of communication theories that attempt to describe how language evolves and disseminates throughout small groups, like my students. One of the more popular theories states that there is what are known as opinion leaders that basically set the standard for speech acceptance. As long as these opinion leaders feel something is cool, it is. Once they have had enough using the terms can get you kicked out of the club.

People who study these theories can come up with some of the most impressive charts you can imagine explaining who opinion leads for whom and how the leaders affect ripples down the line. Someone, somewhere at my university decided my bad was no longer cool thus, it wasn't. I just hadn't heard about it yet.

The same thing happens with terms on the Web. I remember when saying W-W-W went out of vogue. It is now hip to say Tri-W. What? You haven't heard that one yet? Just wait, it's coming. I also remember a short period of time when people decided the start pronouncing .edu as if it was a word. It came out something like eh-deu. I guess it sounded French so people liked it.

The one that is driving me up a tree is hacker/cracker. No one can agree on what these terms means. No matter how I use one or the other, someone thinks I have used it incorrectly. I was of the opinion hackers break in but do not cause damage while crackers break in and cause damage. If I go with that thinking, the letters come letting me know I'm wrong. I change the meanings around. The letters come telling me I'm wrong again. Ugh. I give.

Well, now it's happening on the Web's business side. With the sudden reality blast from the stock market, many online businesses are starting to play with the language of the Web to give them an edge.

It used to be that if you stuck e in front of any word, it immediately became Web oriented and hip. E-commerce. E-business. E-trading. One analyst said that peppering your business reports with Es was once like sprinkling fairy dust. It was good.

Not anymore. In fact, many businesses are trying to drop their Web presence altogether, even if they are only one the Web. One of the biggest is InfoSpace. They use to call themselves Not anymore. They are now just InfoSpace to you, bub. This past month a company called Epylon opened up on the Web only. They have no brick and mortar stores to speak of. Shouldn't they use the .com at least? Nope. They went live as just Epylon. is now One Media Place. How's that for a name change?

Neil Cohen advises companies on choosing and managing Internet names and marketing. He believes that using .com and E before words will seem so last week even a couple years from now. He believes businesses can actually harm themselves by using the .com in their marketing.

The thinking is this, if you use the Web keywords, you will be seen as a Web-only business instead of a business that has a well-rounded offering of product both on and off the Web. Yes, you may be on the Web, but your business practices that take place off the Web are more important.

Seth Siegel of The Beanstalk Group states that it is time to get back to good branding rather than throwing around e-words to make a company appear Web-savvy. That was a good thing three years ago not now says Siegel.

I wonder if this is really good business or if this is just a big person's version of the opinion leaders proclaiming something is no longer cool. We've all seen the clicks that love something until is starts to become mainstream. Once everyone else likes it, they don't. There was a time when the Bee Gees were the biggest thing around. Now we're all too cool to admit we liked them. We did.

Is this dropping of the Web identities just that? Someone somewhere decided that now that everyone is getting a .com that it's no longer cool and dropping the .com is now cool?

I'll bet there's a hint of truth to that, especially when a company opening only on the Web decides to not give the .com. That, to me, is like opening a store and being too cool to give out the full address.

We'll see what happens. I like the concept of dropping all the Es in front of words, but dropping part of the Web address just seems a little silly to me. I guess I'm just not part of the group that's on the cutting edge. I'm going to keep the .com when I tell people to visit HTML Goodies.



That's that. I'm back into the swing of things and I can see my summer break coming to a close. A little over a month and I'll once again have to put a tie on every day. I hope I remember how to tie it.

Joe Burns, Ph.D.

And Remember: Do you know someone who can do the Tarzan yell? It never does sound correct, does it? That's because Johnny Weissmuller alone did not do the original yell. The yell was actually the creation of a Foley, or sound-effect, artist. The yell we all have come to know and attempt was actually a combination of Wiessmuller, a high C sung by a woman, and the howl of a hyena played backwards. Let's hear your friend do that!

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