Tuesday, November 15, 2005

On the Unbearable Precision of Language

There is a movie theater near us that we frequent because they show "small" and "art" movies in addition to the swill that Hollywood forces down our collective throats these days.

But this theater inflicts two quirky pre-movie announcements on audiences, and I have to report on them.

The first one, which the theater claims is required by state law, patiently informs listeners that there are two exits at the front of the theater, each marked with a red "Exit" sign. It then reminds us that there is also an exit at the back of the theater and -- Surprise! -- it is also marked with a red "Exit" sign.

In case of emergency, we are told, we should go to the nearest exit and exit the theater immediately.

Seems like the guy who wrote this got extra pay for how many times he could use the word "Exit." And what if someone doesn't know what "exit" means? (Let's not even discuss that the film is addressing a collective audience of "yous" plural, and should instruct "all of you" to "exeunt" the theater...)

But wait, there's more. After warning you that "for your peace of mind" you may not want to put handbags or other personal belongings on the floor (in case the guy behind you kicks over his soda, or just pees on the floor?)...then they invite you to provide comments to the manager of the theater. "He or she wants to be of service to you."

And companies wonder why their workers are dispirited and demoralized? Why should the employees be happy and smiley when the company doesn't even care to find out if the manager of a theater is male or female?

Best for last department: American Airlines "Bistro" flights. They used to put a cooler in the jetway and tell you it was a Bistro flight. That's aviation talk for "We fired all the flight attendants, pick up your own damned lunch!"

Born to Run Turns 30...will it infect your PC with spyware?

In all the swirl of controversy over Sony's boneheaded copy protection scheme that secretly deposits spyware on your computer, no one has asked the critical question:

  1. Bruce Springsteen's 30th Anniversary reissue of "Born to Run" is coming out tomorrow.

  2. Bruce Springsteen records on Sony's Columbia Records label.

  3. The inventory of CDs must have been pressed before the world found out Sony was secretly installing software on everyone's computers.

So the question is: Is the Springsteen CD going to pollute our computers? Should it be avoided until Sony publicly confirms that the CD does not include the egregious copy protection scheme?

This brings up the larger issue that consumers should be screaming about: Being treated like criminals by the companies we support with our dollars.

I tried to install an upgrade of TimeSlips 2006 today. You have to key in an activation code, a serial number, and then call to get a registration number.

But when I tried to open my database, it told me it had an error in it, and I would have to open it with the old version, fix the error, and then convert it to the new software. Only one "minor" problem: I overwrote the old software with the upgrade.

But no big deal, right? I have the CD and installation codes, so I should be able to reinstall the old software. Not so fast. It's an upgrade, so it won't install unless you have the PREVIOUS version installed so it can confirm a legitimate installation. So now I have to install version 8 -- THREE VERSIONS BACK FROM WHERE I AM NOW -- and then try to use the 10.5 upgrade CD to upgrade it. But the upgrade freezes when you try to upgrade, so now I am totally screwed. And they close their tech support at 5pm eastern time. (You only get one call before you have to pay anyway.)

I think the new rule of thumb is to refuse to buy software that assumes you are going to do something illegal with it. Companies should be ashamed of this approach to copy protection. And customers shouldn't put up with it any more.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

PubSub Community Lists: The PR List

PubSub Community Lists: The PR List

Our blog is tied for 73rd place in the newest ranking of PR blogs! If you are blogging about PR or journalism, please consider an in-link to our blog. Thanks!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

South Jersey Courier Post Story on Blogging

Courier Post Photo by Avi Steinhardt

In the November 6 "South Jersey Living" magazine section of the Gannett-owned South Jersey Courier-Post, I was interviewed in the article, "Blog spot: Web blogs offer South Jerseyans a place to express themselves and make a difference," by staff writer Judith W. Winne.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Fair Measures - Employee Blogging Package

Here's a legal solutions firm that has created a checklist package for employee bloggers to make sure they don't get "dooced," or fired for blogging.

One way to keep from getting fired is to refrain from dissing your employer online! When we did a blogging panel together in New York in September, BL Ochman expressed astonishment at the naivete of some bloggers who were surprised when a young woman got fired after candidly blogging about how much she hated her boss and her job in a specific PR firm.

What did she expect?, BL wanted to know. Indeed.

My first mentor in the PR world, Don Campbell, a former Erie-Lackawanna salesman turned PR savvy guru, once told me, "I was never sorry for the things that I DIDN'T say."

How true. How valuable.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Use words right, then you'll be an author

The dust-up over Google's efforts to scan and digitize every book ever printed reminds me of the 1970s Robert Klein comedy routine on the LP "Mind over Matter". It was called "The Final Record Offer," a parody of those late-night commercials offering compilations of hit music, or less-than-hit music, which offered "Every record ever recorded."

But today's Wall Street Journal article (Registration required) about this controversy includes indignant comments by Michael Gorman, president of the American Library Association, and Dean of Library Services at the Henry Madden Library, California State University, Fresno, who the Journal quoted as follows:

FAIR USE EXCERPT FROM Wall Street Journal:

Further, he noted that as a published author, he opposes Google's intention to build an enormous database that includes copyrighted texts. "It's a flaunting of my intellectual property rights," he said. [Emphasis added.]

Mr. Gorman, please note that "flaunting" means (according to Yahoo!'s dictionary) "To exhibit ostentatiously or shamelessly: flaunts his knowledge."

Yahoo! goes on to note, as I would have:

To flout is "to show contempt for": She flouted the proprieties. For some time now flaunt has been used in the sense "to show contempt for," even by educated users of English. This usage is still widely seen as erroneous and is best avoided.

Mr. Gorman is flaunting his understanding of copyright law; Google has not yet been found by a court to be flouting the law, but Google may be flouting Mr. Gorman's understanding of it.

But just to be clear, before we create a noun to accomodate each of these, please remember that a flautist is not one who flouts; it is one who plays a flute.