October 28, 2005

Best Marketing Since the Pet Rock

Design Within Reach's new kids store, DWRjax, sells this nifty Cardboard Activity House. For $110 + FedEx Ground.

Photo of DWRjax Cardboard House

Now, I know big cardboard boxes can, with the right dose of Imagination, be transformed into forts, castles, hideouts, or even a machine that spans the space-time continuum:

Classic C&H

But $110?

This just might be a sly commentary on the overpriced housing market in DWR's hometown, San Francisco--when you think about it, that actually is the going rate for a cardboard house in the City By the Bay.

But not in one of the best neighborhoods, mind you. You'd have to pay a lot more for one of those Pacific Heights cardboard houses.

But seriously, I think it's the best marketing genius since the Pet Rock. Someone at DWR said, "you know, my kid just loved playing with the packaging for our new SubZero fridge/Viking range/other overpriced yuppie appliance. What if we made a designer cardboard box?"

What worries me is the likelihood that your kid will enjoy playing with the box this thing comes shipped in, rather than the overpriced toy inside.

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October 27, 2005

DITA in DocBook?

Norm Walsh, King of All That Is DocBook, posted his experiment to do DITA-like things in DocBook.

Most telling, to my weary eyes, are the comments, which Norm graciously leaves in. (Unlike this blog, where I get so much spam that comments are turned off).

It reminds me of the whole Browser Wars thing all over again. Back then proselytizing a particular Web technology (remember the MARQUEE tag? JavaScript Style Sheets?) meant increasing share and thus increased revenue.

But DocBook and DITA are open standards now. Even the people who stand to make money from the use of either standard, the authoring tool and CMS vendors, support both standards, so they shouldn't really care which one people choose, right? (Ok, with the exception of marketing hype, and resource allocation for function development, but fundamentally, you know what I mean).

So the people who would truly lose out if DocBook "loses share" are the folks who do just DocBook--consultants and so forth. But as we've seen in other technologies, those folks usually just gravitate to where the money is--from WinHelp to HTMLHelp to MAMLHelp, from Pivotal to Siebel to OracleCRM, and so on.

In that case the approach Erik Hennum describes in his comments to Norm's experiment post make the most sense. Let both standards thrive to the extent the "market" lets them. Let people move stuff back and forth. Because I can see writing a Cisco Press-like book in DocBook, but wanting to pull in a bunch of DITA tasks written by the tech doc folks so I don't have to rewrite them.

And fo' shizzle, DITA is smack-dead-on for Help development. We were going to try to do a similar typed topic scheme in NetHelp, using the aforementioned JavaScript Style Sheets and what was then considered "DHTML", but never got a chance to implement.

DocBook, DITA, DITA, DocBook: Can't we all just get along?

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October 20, 2005

Noahs Ark Expandable Cabinet Shelter

Now when are those reality home improvement shows going to tackle the whole Homeland Security angle?

You know, "Queer Eye for the Survivalist Guy".

Knitted cozies for your AR15 mags, accessorizing from the Galco and Blackhawk catalogs, etc. What matches best with your eyes: digital or gray urban camo?

They could use one of these expando shelters, for example:

Wood cabinet with pullout plastic NBC-rated tent

Is it just me or is this just kind of hokey?

Kids inside fallout shelter.

Like these kids are so calm and everything. I'd be freaking out--"Oh no! I must have gotten that funky immune disorder that John Travolta had in that Boy in the Plastic Bubble movie!!!".

And why are they wearing clothes out of the 1950s? I guess that was the Golden Age of the Fallout Shelter, so maybe these promo photos are to rekindle that paranoid spirit.

But I'm more inclined to do my preparedness the old-fashioned way. What's wrong with burying a bunker in your backyard?

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October 17, 2005

Life Hackers

NYT covers GTD:

Life Hackers.

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October 04, 2005

Reading List Thus Far

Haven't kept up with the blogposts for a while, but at least I'm keeping up with my reading. Just finished: The Mustang Herder by Max Brand. Fantastic as an audiobook--the reading by Will Osborne was right out of a 50's TV western show.

Currently reading, as an audiobook (like always--who has time to "just" read these days?): The Archers Tale, by Bernard Cornwell. I haven't read much historical fiction, but Crichton's Timeline got me interested in the Middle Ages, so I thought I'd give it a try. Cornwell handles the martial aspects of the age quite well. This book really makes a point about how the superior missile weaponry of the English gave them an advantage over their lesser-trained, but easily hired, crossbow-wielding mercenary opponents.
In some respects, this is a question of maai, or engagement distance, and the relative shock power of a long-distance kill. Think Marine snipers in Iraq with a Barrett .50. I covered maai in an article a long time ago, and it always seems like one of those universal factors of combat. Whether you're sticking knights with arrows or taking out infantry with a fifty cal, it's still of paramount importantce.

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