Archives for the month of: February, 2011
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John Hansell (pictured above) is the head honcho over at Malt Advocate and What Does John Know? is his very accessible, very well-written blog about what’s going on in the world of whisk(e)y. I’m a big fan of the blog and my favorite feature of the year–the Malt Advocate Whisky Awards–just finished up. It’s a great blog and I really recommend reading it on an ongoing basis but for those of you interested in cutting to the chase and getting to the winners, here are the links:

My favorite thing about the awards is that these are generally pretty affordable whiskies that are available for purchase in the US**. Although Mr. Hansell has no problem writing about the whiskies that will never make it to America or that cost as much as a private island, he’s wise to eliminate those whiskies from contention in the awards. 

Of the winners, the only one I’ve tried is the Eagle Rare 17-year-old bourbon, which was recommended to me by a bartender at Bigfoot West. That bourbon, that bar and that bartender are all awesome, although I didn’t catch the bartender’s name. As for the rest of the winners, I’ve not gotten the chance to try them but I can’t wait to change that!

**Keep in mind that a $90 whisky is equivalent to a $25-$30 bottle of wine when you think about the amount of servings per bottle. A $25-$30 bottle of wine isn’t cheap but it’s a fair purchase to justify once in a while. Same with whisky, only you get to multiply the price by three or four.

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Yesterday morning, Aaron Kronis, Wpromote’s SEO Evangelist, sent me a fascinating article about JCPenney’s rise and fall in the Google organic search results. I really suggest reading it if you have any interest in the dangers of black hat practices in search engine optimization. What struck me as most interesting, though, wasn’t the article itself but the very limited amount of space that the NY Times dedicated to actual news. Check out the image above and refer to the key below to classify the delegation of space on the page:

Red = Ads
Orange = Internal linking
Blue = Social network linking
Purple = Absurdly giant image
Green = Actual news article

Using this image as a guide, it would seem that the NY Times dedicated less than 9% of the real estate on the page above the fold to the actual article that I was trying to read. This estimate is fairly generous, as my monitor is pretty darn big. According to Google’s handy Browser Size tool, less than 10% of users would even be able to see the first line of text in the article without scrolling down.

I have no way of knowing how many people were as put off as I was by this–maybe that number is very small–but I can’t imagine that presenting information in this confusing package is good for the user experience. I’ve been tired of all the junk on content sites for long enough that I’ve downloaded Readability, which presents that same article like this, and does so for free. I highly recommend that anyone interested in getting their news in a more legible, less busy package invest the zero dollars it costs to download Readability right away.

I have nothing against ads or optimizing a site as much to impress Google as the actual user. In fact, my livelihood depends on both. I do object, though, when design focuses solely on these two issues and ignores the user experience altogether. The most valuable asset that the NY Times has is the content generated by its reporters. To dedicate so much real estate to ancillary assets seems counterintuitive to me. Without knowing what the analytics account for the NY Times looks like, though, I can only speculate at whether this strategy is hurting or paying off. I just know that for my experience, I’m going to continue to actively remove all excess content through the use of applications like Readability. If more and more users agree with me, it could lower the page views per visit, decrease the interaction with ads and ultimately harm the NY Times in their ability to brand their content.

After all, everything looks the same on Readability. This writeup which I envisioned being a editorial on the JC Penney story ended up being an endorsement for a third party reading application. The more people who are turned off by the way the NY Times presents its content, the more difficult it will be for the NY Times to leverage that content and stay competitive in the increasingly digital world of reporting the news. 

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This morning, Josh said, “If you dont get these, I will lose respect for your whiskey drinking abilities.” Then, we realized that these glasses don’t appear to be available for purchase just yet. Even if they were, though, it begs the question, “what is a good whisky glass?” 

The Kacper Hamilton glass pictured above is pretty baller. Actually, it’s really baller, but I’m not sure it’s a good whisky glass. The addition of the hole was meant to “create a more engaging experience when drinking whiskey,” according to the designers. I don’t know about that but I do know that if you’re on your fourth pour, that hole isn’t going to help you out unless your goal is to spill all over the table. Still, these glasses are pretty cool looking and I’m sure that they’re no worse than your run-of-the-mill snifter in terms of enjoying the Scotch.

I’m no expert (I’m just a dude who likes Scotch a lot) but, for me, there is no better Scotch glass than the classic Glencairn glass. It’s durable, it’s nice-looking, it’s affordable and it does a great job presenting the Scotch for nosing. I have some Riedel glasses at my house and I really like them, however, they are extremely fragile and they chip around the rim in the dishwasher without fail. If you’ve never been yelled at for leaving a glass out, only to find that the person doing the yelling ended up chipping your favorite glass in the dishwasher, it’s a confusing feeling. You want to get mad back but you know that that will just remind the person of your slovenly habit of leaving glasses lying around.

Like I said, go with the Glencairns. Even if those holey glasses are available for purchase, they just don’t look dishwasher safe to me.   

[Gizmodo via Josh Tauber]
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The talented and debonaire Joe Nguyen of Wpromote did a hilarious job (way funnier than my job) juxtaposing the perfect image with the story or Google and Bing and the case of the stolen search results. Long story short, Google caught Bing with their hand in the cookie jar using Internet Explorer to steal results from Google and paste them into Bing. Pretty embarrassing stuff for Bing but nothing seemingly illegal. Bing responded with a delicious straw man argument pointing out that the "timing" seemed coincidental since "people in the industry are beginning to ask whether Bing is as good or in some cases better than Google." 

First of all, I'm not sure that that's the case. Second of all, if Bing is simply stealing results from Google, then yes, the results probably are "as good" as Google's. Third of all, really, Bing? How stupid do you think we are?

Even though Bing has improved, Google still maintains a stranglehold over the search market in the US and continues to innovate at a faster rate than Bing. Google also has more resources dedicated to search and, for the most part, still sets the trends. I don't know many people who have made the switch to Bing, personally, and Bing is doing about a million times more marketing than Google just to be a distant second.

Needless to say, this is all silly but it's also really, really funny. Us Weekly may need to add a section called "Major Corporations Are Just Like Us!"

[SearchEngineLand and Bing.com via HelloJoeNguyen.com]

Okay, that title is a little misleading. There is probably something about traipsing through the Renaissance streets of Florence on your way to the Uffizi or grabbing a bite to eat in the City of Lights after a day at the Louvre that Google won't be able to duplicate perfectly. Therefore, it's likely that the museums of the world have nothing to worry about, in reality. In fact, Google's Art Project might have the opposite effect; it could lead more young people toward the world of art, inspiring trips to the world's great museums! 

Either way, it's an impressive undertaking and another step toward Google cataloguing all known information on Earth like the giant brains from Futurama. Hopefully, Phillip J. Fry is safely in his cryogenic tube so that he can save us from Google in 989 years. [Engadget]