A call to action on RSS

OK, I’ve done my complaining and moaning over the universal RSS icon that Microsoft and Mozilla have agreed upon.  I’ve stated my belief that what’s needed is not a shiny package but better education on the whats, whys and wherefores of RSS.  So instead of just being a 30-year old internet version of Andy Rooney on the subject let’s figure out what we can do better.

I’m going to start an open-source project with the goal of making RSS simple and easy to understand and use by the masses.  Anyone want in?  The thought behind it is to make it so simple that a stay-at-home mom could get it and be using RSS within a day.

(By the way, there’s no assumption of intelligence behind that statment.  I simply use it because stay-at-home moms have pressures and distractions that don’t make for a lot of time to sit down and spend 20 hours figuring out what something is.  They want the equivalant of plug-and-play.)

I’m willing to setup and maintain a Writeboard for the community to write this.  We need a document that can present to the world as the single most succinct and useful reference on RSS usability that can be found.  Email me (cthilk-at-bacons-dot-com) if you would be interested in contributing to this.  I’ll admit I’m not the smartest guy in the world but a lot of you out there come awfully close so I think we can do this.

Why the word blog no longer matters

I just visited the website for The Food Channel.  The outlet originated as a mailed newsletter to foodies and eventually branched out to the web, as did most publications in some form or another.  Well now they’ve switched what was a standard website to one driven off a blogging platform (not sure which one but it kind of looks like TypePad or MoveableType).

What has changed about the content?  Nothing, really.  They’re still putting out the same material only doing it dynamically instead of on static pages.  And that’s why I think the term blog is no longer relevant, at least not to anyone looking for or contributing good information to the internet world.  Blogging used to be something the elite few did for any of a variety of reasons.  But if you’re creating a website that, for all intents and purposes, looks and feels just like those sites of olden years (1998) but you’re doing so via a blogging platform, what do you call it?

Calling it a blog isn’t quite right since it’s just a new publishing vehicle for the same website.  But mainstream media, mostly because they don’t dive any deeper into definitions, will likely refer to anything that shares any traits with a blog as a blog.  But it’s not.  But it uses blogging software.  But it’s not a blog.

Do you see why we need a new term for this?  Actually that’s not quite right.  We need an old term.  We need the term “website.”  Calling something a “blog” automatically devalues it in the eyes of some people.  So I propose we stop using the term “blog” when referring to internet media that is driven off a blogging platform.  Since the line is so dotted and faded to begin with I don’t think we’ll lose much by dropping it from our vocabulary.  We may even open some people’s eyes to outlets they might have ignored in the past.

Of course I realize that this very site is called “Bacon’s Blog” and that I just created a ton of work for myself, but that’s what I do: make my own life harder.

More on that darn icon

Both Neville Hobson and Steve Rubel jump on the RSS icon bandwagon, saying that it’s incumbent on blog and website publishers to get the icon that Mozille and Microsoft teams agreed upon on their blogs.  I’ll think I’ll just stay right I am and not jump into action right now, thank you.

As Tom Biro and I both said icons are all well and good and having a standard icon for RSS could certainly help with mass-adoption of the technology, but the main factor that will influence usage is education.  If people have time they devote to creating standards, how about creating a standard “how-to” guide for visitors to your site to read that will explain to them in simple, easy to understand terms, how to subscribe to the feed.

When someone asks me how to use RSS here’s what usually follows:

ME: “When you see that orange chicklet – or text that says ‘subscribe to this feed’ – then right click and copy the link…”

THEM: “What do you mean copy the link?”

ME: You should have the option when you right-click to ‘copy link location.’ Select that.  Then go to your aggregator…”

THEM: Could you explain the aggregator again?”

ME: (ponders public suicide)

The company that takes the lead on this public education program could very well be seen as the Jonas Salk of the information age.  Allowing everyone to choose a technology that lets them select content that can be viewed on their schedule in an easy to skim and read format would be a huge step forward.

The two ideas actually need to be combined.  Everyone sign on to a standard icon but have that icon point to a standard definition/usage guide.  Within that the publication can list their RSS feeds.  That way both goals are accomplished.

Failure to Launch trailer

God, this looks awful. Matthew McConahaeyeetyee plays a 35-year old who still lives with his parents (the one inspired part of the movie is casting Terry Bradshaw as his father. That’s perfect). Sarah Jessica Parker is the “Professional Motivator” who, while she’s simulating a relationship with him, actually does fall in love with him. Just awful.

You, Me & Dupree trailer

Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson star in You, Me & Dupree. Dillon and Hudson play newlyweds who wind up taking in Wilson, the best man at their wedding, after he has some difficulties. Seems to be the latest in the recent trend of adult-oriented comedies and looks pretty funny, especially when Wilson explains that he’s going to need some matches. Nothing too overly original but that’s alright sometimes, as you can see in the trailer.

Date Movie trailers

In the tradition of, and from some of the writers of, Scary Movie and others comes Date Movie starring Alyson Hannigan. As you can see from the teaser and full theatrical trailers it’s one of these that feels the more references and situations from other movies you throw in the funnier it will be. Poor Alyson, she really should know better.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest official website

Disney has put up the official website for Pirates of the Caribbean: Deadman’s Chest. So far there’s just the trailer, some downloads and a photo gallery containing a mix of stills and production art.

(Hat tip to ComingSoon)

Movie Marketing Madness: 2005 Wrap-Up

(FilmThreat – 12/25/05)

And so, my friends, we come to the end of 2005. What was the biggest movie story of 2005? Was it Tom Cruise obviously going off the meds he’s been on for 20 years just prior to going on Oprah? Was it the return of the true adult oriented R-rated comedy? No, I don’t think either of those fit the bill. I think the biggest story of the year was the firing of Geoffrey Ammar from his position as the head of marketing at Sony Pictures. Now many of you might be thinking, “Are you high?” Others might be thinking, “Why does FilmThreat continue to publish this guy’s column?” Good questions, both of those. Allow me to explain.

2005 saw a dramatic slump occurring in box-office receipts. Inflated ticket prices had kept grosses artificially high for years and high energy prices combined with lousy movies caused many (many) people to simply shrug their shoulders and decide to stay home. Ammar’s firing was the equivalent of the Waponis sending Tom Hanks’ Joe to jump into the volcano. It was largely symbolic but meant by the villagers (in this case other Sony executives) to appease the gods and hold off their displeasure.

Poor marketing became the scapegoat for the failure of such movies as “Bewitched,” “Stealth,” XxX: State of Union, Into the Blue and countless others. Was marketing really to blame for the underperformance of “Stealth”? No, it was the fact that the story revolved around pilots trying to stop a super-intelligent plane that basically was Johnny 5, only armed with nuclear missiles. Ammar was shown the door as a way to show stockholders that the company was doing something and holding someone to blame, even if that man had failed in his task to turn cow shit into platinum.

So now that I’ve ranted for a bit, let’s take a look at some of the movies that whose campaigns I reviewed and see how what I said about them compared to how they did at the box-office.

Elektra

WHAT I WROTE: Everything about this campaign reeks of a studio toss-off in the post-Christmas wasteland.

WHAT PETE VONDER HAAR THOUGHT: “Elektra” represents all the problems that go along with making movies out of lesser known comic book characters

BOX OFFICE: $24 million

THE LESSON: If you’re going to put Jennifer Garner in tight leather, at least make sure that’s not the only thing you’re hanging the success of your movie on.


Sin City

WHAT I WROTE: Have I mentioned Jessica Alba plays a stripper?

WHAT KJ DOUGHTON THOUGHT: Sin City” has the visual kick of a roman candle. Abandoned factories, Oceanside docks, and sleazy strip clubs come to vibrant life, colors blooming like tulips in a garden of black and white. However, roller-coasters are only fun with a build-up and a wind-down. Otherwise, even the most jaded thrill-seekers will eventually want off. “Sin City” is like that. It doesn’t know when to take a break.

BOX OFFICE: $74 million

THE LESSON: A bold, creative movie that doesn’t get bogged down in trying to cater to the lowest common denominator can be a hit, especially if it’s got a fun and striking marketing campaign.


Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

WHAT I WROTE: Between the unfunny posters, unfunny trailers and unfunny website Disney isn’t doing a very good job of marketing this as a movie. The campaign had such potential that has been pissed away.

WHAT PETE VONDER HAAR THOUGHT: Devotees of the original stories are going to be frustrated that their favorite bits have been truncated or excised outright, while newbies will likely wonder what all the fuss has been about these last few decades. I’m going to go ahead and recommend it, if only because I’m happy to finally see a big budget version of Douglas Adams’ magnum opus on the silver screen

BOX OFFICE: $51 million

THE LESSON: Quirky, funny books that feature very dry humor should not be made by Americans who specialize in over-the-top whiz-bang mindless crap. Something will, and did, get lost.


Revenge of the Sith

WHAT I WROTE: Does it really matter how good the campaign actually is? No. The trailer could have featured Lucas taking a dump on a Millennium Falcon toy and it still would have registered millions of views in the first few hours.

WHAT PETE VONDER HAAR THOUGHT: “Episode III” manages, in the end, to almost redeem the franchise. I’m not going to lie and say every single continuity problem is addressed, or that “Revenge of the Sith” is the best movie of the year, but it is without a doubt the film we’ve been waiting for Lucas to make since 1998.”

BOX OFFICE: $380 million

THE LESSON: Maybe Lucas just needed to shake the dust off after taking 16 years off from directing. Unfortunately he did that by making the first two prequels. Whatever the case, Revenge of the Sith was the most emotionally satisfying entry, even if Christensen did look like he was brought to the set just he was about to go take a dump every time.


Wedding Crashers

WHAT I WROTE: Vaughn and Wilson look like they’re having fun, and that’s to be expected.

WHAT RICK KISONAK THOUGHT: Will a better comedy come along this summer? I seriously doubt it. This is a major blast of fast-talking, loopily plotted, politically incorrect film fun.

BOX OFFICE: $209 million

THE LESSON: You can make an adult comedy that is both hilarious and intelligent that does well at the box-office. If this one hadn’t done well The 40-Year Old Virgin would have been put into turn around so fast Steve Carrel’s head would have been spinning.


Pretty Persuasion

WHAT I WROTE: It’s clear from the trailer that many of the laughs are going to come at the expense of what could be called political correctness. Many of the jokes are racist, sexist or otherwise completely inappropriate. For that I have a whole new level of respect for the filmmakers.

WHAT HEIDI MARTINUZZI THOUGHT: The lack of focus on the direction of the story leaves the course a little skewed, and the funny scenes are never really THAT funny, and the dramatic scenes are never really THAT sad. This movie doesn’t bite. It doesn’t create anything. It’s not a masterpiece. But it is funny.

BOX OFFICE: $305,000. Yeah, you read that right.

THE LESSON: A well put together marketing campaign can mask the smell of a half-assed movie. As if we needed to be told this.


Elizabethtown

WHAT I WROTE: While Crowe’s existing fan base will probably be enticed by the campaign I’m not sure it goes far enough in trying to reach out to a general audience. I don’t know if the formal campaign can overcome the bad word-of-mouth the early screenings let loose.

WHAT PETE VONDER HAAR THOUGHT: Unfortunately, with “Elizabethtown,” Crowe finally has his first genuine dog since 1984’s “The Wild Life.”

BOX OFFICE: $26 million.

THE LESSON: Sometimes even the greats can misfire. Hopefully he can get it back in the same way that Tim Burton has been doing the last few years.


The Weather Man

WHAT I WROTE: Bland and uninspired for a movie that looks bland and uninspired. How many times are we going to have to watch someone be sad in their sucky life until they discover that the spouse and kids they’ve been ignoring hold the key to their redemption?

WHAT PETE VONDER HAAR THOUGHT: If you’re going to see this based on Paramount’s marketing spiel that it’s a comedy, be warned. “The Weather Man” is definitely a darker film than you’ve been led to believe. “The Weather Man” misfires occasionally, but Cage is quite believable as the man watching his life slip out of control.

BOX OFFICE: $12 million

THE LESSON: The movie probably didn’t even know what it was supposed to be, a comedy or drama. Considering people didn’t even want to go to movies that were marketed well I’m not surprised they skipped this one.

As usual there were awful campaigns for good movies and good campaigns for bad movies in 2005. 2006 will of course have the same mix and I’ll be here (unless someone wises up) to shout “bullshit!” when the situation warrants. See you then.