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.: February 2007 --> February 2007

February 2007

» God and Gorillas. Anthropologist Barbara J. King is studying the social behavior of great apes to try to piece together the roots of religion.

I look at four different kinds of behavior -- meaning-making, imagination, empathy and following the rules. Together, I think they give us a sense of what religion might have started out to be. The apes have bits and pieces of all these four things, but not in a coherent pattern that adds up to religious behavior. To my mind, apes are conscious beings and they do these four things in incredibly fascinating ways.

/ (2) Comments / [ 02.01.07 ]

» Kit Seeborg, commenting on the Bruce Schneier interview: "Many good insights here, from someone already established in his field.... I have passed this on to others who are in full stride with their careers and would benefit from blogging at this level." She's right. If you're interested in using your blog to advance your professional reputation, it's worth studying Bruce's Blend—blogging, writing, and speaking—to guide your own efforts.  [ 02.02.07 ]

» Harold McGee reports on a study that shows watering hydroponic tomatoes with a weak saline solution enhances both their flavor and their nutritional profile.  [ 02.02.07 ]

» So nerdy. / (3) Comments / [ 02.02.07 ]

» How to fix campaign finance forever, for $50: the secret donation booth.  [ 02.05.07 ]

» Not The Onion: A NASA astronaut who drove hundreds of miles to confront a romantic rival, wearing diapers on the journey so that she would not have to stop to use the restroom, appeared in court today after being arrested on attempted kidnapping and other charges. / (7) Comments / [ 02.06.07 ]

» The Onion: Mysterious Congressman Announces Dark Horse Candidacy.  [ 02.06.07 ]

» I often speak to business audiences to help them understand the value of interacting with blogs and other online media. So I was happy to see John Foraker, CEO of Annie’s Homegrown, dive right into the fray in response to a recent Salon article which attacked one of his products.

And then I read what he wrote.

It's not that the letter he reposts in Megnut's comments is so filled with marketese. Sometimes old dogs can learn just one new trick at a time. It's that he appears to think blog readers are stupid:

On our product boxes we recommend using lowfat milk for the healthiest product that, when prepared, contains fewer calories (280), less total fat (4 g) and less sodium (550 mg) than Kraft, which can contain up to 380 calories, 15 grams of fat and 740 milligrams of sodium per serving.

"Can contain up to?" Eventually, one of Meg's commenters noticed that he had pulled a fast one:

John, let's be fair here. You are comparing Annie's made with low-fat milk to Kraft made with whole milk. The "light prep" on Kraft's is only 290 calories, 5g fat and 600mg sodium.

His response? "Shannon, you make some great points. Thanks." And then he goes on to talk about something else.

Sure, John Foraker's statement is accurate. But it's deliberately misleading, comparing a low-fat version of his product to a full-fat version of his competitor's. Falling back on "recommended preparations" doesn't cut it. His statement is designed to give the impression that, all things being equal, Annie's macaroni and cheese is noteably lower in calories, fat, and sodium than Kraft's.

It would have been so easy to say, "We believe our product is superior because it contains no artificial colors and no synthetic chemicals. We don't like to eat that stuff, and we've built our company on the idea that there are other people who don't want to, either. The high quality of our ingredients also makes our macaroni and cheese taste better, or at least we think so."

And that would have been enough.

I came away the Salon article reminded that "natural" doesn't actually mean very much when it comes to food, but also reminded that—for a convenience food— Annie's Mac and Cheese has a slight edge on Kraft because it contains fewer food additives. I came away from John Foraker's remarks knowing that he's willing to deliberately obfuscate the merits of his and his competitor's products in order to deflect criticism of his company. And he's willing to go out of his way to do that in a supposedly "transparent" form, on a blog.

I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth. And a markedly lower opinion of the Annie's brand.

John, whomever is advising you about the blogosphere, it's time to find someone who can do more than point you to the most prominent food bloggers. You need someone who can help you understand the idea of transparency and who can explain to you that on blogs, as in most of life, charm is no substitute for honesty. / (7) Comments / [ 02.06.07 ]

» Action video games might help you see better.  [ 02.08.07 ]

» Not the Onion: A Vietnamese court reduced former British rocker Gary Glitter's child molestation sentence Wednesday, cutting his three-year term by three months as part of a nationwide Lunar New Year prison amnesty, a judge said. This would be funny if it didn't involve child molestation.  [ 02.08.07 ]

» Onigiri (Omusubi) revisited: An easier way to make Japanese rice balls, step by step. / (1) Comments / [ 02.09.07 ]

» More on corporate abuses of trust: Reevaluating our relationship.

While I was certainly glad to give you all the benefit of the doubt on the whole Flickr account merge issue, it didn’t help when you betrayed that trust by trying to trick me into a premium email service by withholding information at the precise moment I would need it in order to make an informed choice. You were this close to having a customer who was solidly baffled by the group of folks who question their ability to trust Yahoo with their Flickr accounts; instead, you managed to make me question whether it’s reasonable to trust you as a company.

How hard—seriously—is it to look at your corporation's actions from the customer's point of view? / (6) Comments / [ 02.09.07 ]

» The Japanese translator of my book, Yomoyomo, has translated my Bruce Schneier interview into Japanese. By the way, Bruce's (excellent) book Beyond Fear is due to be released in Japan on Thursday.  [ 02.12.07 ]

» Rock and roll really is a young man's game, isn't it? / (11) Comments / [ 02.12.07 ]

» Wow, does Reid get this right.

It's your right to express your political opinions in the harshest manner you can muster, dump ad hominem all over your opponents, and cuss at will. It's your blog, and your right to try and make a difference with how ever many read it in whatever way you please.
This is the price. When you can really make a difference, it will come back to bite you....

Update: Rafe weighs in: Your permanent record. / (2) Comments / [ 02.14.07 ]

» Who did this? Len Grossman wants to give (well deserved) credit where it is due. (via br) / (3) Comments / [ 02.15.07 ]

» In light of the recent resignation of the Edwards bloggers, Garret Vreeland offers a thoughtful perspective on the culture of blogging—both what it was and what has changed as partisans (for whom making a point matters more than being fair) and professional writers (for whom editing is writing) enter the stage. A good read, highly recommended.

A side comment: What are politicians to do? Thoughtful, evenhanded analysis simply doesn't drive traffic as effectively as outrageously stated opinions. It's unlikely that political campaigns will even be able to identify the bloggers who can provide them with good thinking, good writing, and comparatively inoffensive archives, since their more strident brethren will be the ones at the top of everyone's blogrolls.

Some of these standards will inevitably change. Too many people are living online now, and that means a paper trail. No one is always at their best. At the same time, I hope it will start to dawn on some of the newcomers that they are publishing, and lead them to moderate accordingly.

A second comment: Hiring these particular bloggers was the equivalent of hiring Molly Ivins to write for your campaign—except without her years of experience, and without the filter of the editors who taught her how to moderate even brash opinions to appeal to the broadest possible audience. You might have loved Molly Ivin's writing, but she was at her best speaking truth to power, not speaking on behalf of the powerful. / (3) Comments / [ 02.19.07 ]

» Stonehenges all around us. Tracing the patterns of neolithic architecture through our modern cities. (via dm)  [ 02.20.07 ]

» The Camel Bookmobile travels through Kenya to bring semi-nomadic people in Northeastern part of the country books, many of them in English. You can donate a few of your favorite books (remember to sign it!), for only $23 postage (for a 5-pound package).  [ 02.21.07 ]

» National Geographic has a smart new brand extension—a pre-paid travel phone that works in over 100 countries. It's an unlocked Quad band GSM cell phone and battery, a universal wall charger, and international plug adapters.  [ 02.22.07 ]

» My latest Bloggers on Blogging interview is with Trine-Maria Kristensen, a Danish blogger and co-founder (with Reboot's Thomas Madsen-Mygdal) of Social Square. We talk about the importance of blogging for businesses, the impact blogging will have on journalism, and the moment when she "got" weblogs.

People from all over the world, forming an open network right there in front of me, speaking to me—even listening to me if I had something intelligent to say. Wow!

 [ 02.22.07 ]

» I was just clearing my desk of some papers and found a little list I had made one day in preparation for a meeting to help a company think about the considerations for starting a business blog. Since I don't want to keep the scrap of paper, I'm reproducing the list here.

 [ 02.23.07 ]

» Google Books: The Young Lady's Book: A Manual of Amusements, Exercises, Studies, and Pursuits By Matilda Anne Planché Mackarness; 1888.  [ 02.23.07 ]

» Compare: A new study shows that people absorb more nutrients from foods they enjoy eating.  [ 02.26.07 ]

» The Scent of a Calorie: Whiff of Food Cancels Longevity from Caloric Restriction. (via jh)  [ 02.27.07 ]

» Believing that you get ample exercise makes you more fit.  [ 02.28.07 ]



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