Archive for the ‘Failure’ Category

Fri 23 Jul 2010 6:35 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Media, Technology

Is Yahoo News proud of its comments feature?

“It’s as though when you order a sirloin steak, it comes with a side of maggots.”
Gene Weingarten, writing about web comments in the Washington Post.

* * * *

Yahoo News is one of the most popular news web sites in the world. It has a problem, though. Every major story comes with a generous helping of the most vile hate speech you’ve ever seen.


Fri 31 Jul 2009 9:00 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Stray data, Transit

You’d be there by now on the Air-Shuttle

The last time I took the Amtrak to D.C., in May, I shot some pictures of urban decay seen from the train. There was one particular sign I wanted to photograph—on the side of a warehouse between Trenton and Philadelphia—but it always goes by so fast I’ve never been able to get a shot of it. Until a recent trip to Maryland this past Saturday.


This is a poster for the long-defunct Eastern Airlines Air Shuttle. Note the classic Eastern logo in the lower-left part of the sign. How old is this sign?


Wed 22 Jul 2009 8:00 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Transit

If so inclined


Once, this scar on the side of North Beacon Mountain, New York, was an inclined railway. Built in 1902 (toward the end of America’s short-lived funicular railroad craze) it shuttled tourists to a hotel and casino at the top of the hill.


Sun 28 Jun 2009 1:00 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Food & drink

Wow, this looks terrible!


Spotted in a window display: Strawberry and peanut butter M&Ms. Yeech! Did somebody actually sign off on this?

Fri 8 May 2009 7:09 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Hard times

R.I.P. Duke Nukem

In the early 1990s, a software company called Apogee released a series of totally addictive side-scroller games for MS-DOS. (See my good friend Commander Keen above.) Since my parents thought a PC was more educational than a Nintendo, DOS was the gaming platform of choice for my brother and me. We played and beat many of these games. Great fun.

One of the best was called Duke Nukem. Duke was some kind of commando with a huge arsenal of bulky, cartoonish weapons. The game was set, as Wikipedia notes, in the “near future” of 1997. A vastly refined and more violent sequel called Duke Nukem 3D came out a few years later. Then, in April 1997, the developer behind Duke Nukem 3D, 3D Realms, announced another sequel: Duke Nukem Forever. It was going to be the best video game of all time.

They’ve been working on it ever since.

This week, various tech blogs including this one at the Wall Street Journal report that development of Duke Nukem Forever is finally over and the game may never be released. 3D Realms has been shut down. The greatest setup in video game history has ended with no payoff.

What happened here? Were they really even serious about this game? Can you imagine working on the same project for 12 years, only to have it be scrapped?

Tue 24 Mar 2009 12:00 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Typography

Bad logo alert

Would you rent a home from a company who’s logo appears to be a home on fire?

Wed 11 Mar 2009 2:00 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, In the news, The suburbs

They’re calling it Xanadu? Seriously?

Everyone’s favorite feature story right now is Meadowlands Xanadu.

Here’s the outline: During the worst economic environment in half a century, a developer is about to open a $2.2 billion shopping mall in northern New Jersey. Insert quotes from area residents who think the building looks silly and retail economists who are sure it will be a business failure. For color, mention the chocolate waterfall, ferris wheel, indoor ski slope and proximity to the New Jersey Turnpike.

For examples, see Time, Business Week, The New York Times, etc.

I agree with the conventional wisdom on this: Wrong idea, wrong location, wrong year. Even if they finish the rail link connecting Xanadu to Manhattan, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which New Yorkers would flock to a shopping mall. That leaves people from Jersey, who already have more malls than they need, or tourists, who will gaze down on Xanadu as their planes land at Newark Airport, and then go somewhere cooler.

This place does hold promise for one group of people, however: Urban explorers, who some day in the future may delight in traipsing across the ruins of this abandoned complex.

Tue 10 Mar 2009 6:29 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Hard times, Technology

Embrace the fail whale

As I write this, Digg is down. Two weeks ago, chaos ensued when Gmail went offline. On Saturday and Sunday, at least 12 hours passed when I couldn’t log into Facebook. TinyURL had a service outage yesterday. Twitter gets overloaded so often that it’s error page has it own fan club.

As they say in the news business, five items make a trend. (Or is it three? Do we still say that? Who knows any more.)

Any computer system is bound to have some unannounced downtime. But these free Web 2.0 services have become such a part of our daily communication that even a little bit of downtime becomes a frustration.

One thing Digg, Facebook, Twitter, TinyURL and Gmail have in common is that there is no conceivable way they generate enough revenue to cover their costs. (We know Digg loses money, Facebook almost certainly does, Twitter generates no revenue, TinyURL might make a trickle of paid advertising, and Gmail is probably a loss leader for Google given the awesome amount of computing power and memory it requires.)

Money is running out. Get used to outages!

Fri 6 Mar 2009 7:26 am   //   Posted in: Failure, Technology

Friendster 2.0

Facebook is a huge property right now, beloved by millions, worth a fortune, fending off all sorts of acquisition offers, and winning the respect of businesses everywhere. To anyone who buys this hype, I have one word:


The year was 2003. A handful of us hopped onto Friendster and “Friended” each other. We posted our favorite books and movies. We sent each other messages. We self-identified as “Single,” “In a Relationship” or “It’s Complicated.” We posted flattering “Testimonials” of one another. I even used Friendster to find a few dates.

Those were good times. Us and Friendster had a lot of fun. Then, one day quite suddenly, we all got sick of it and moved on. Friendster didn’t. It’s still up there. This morning I logged on and was mortified to see Friendster is still serving up pictures of me and my friends from five or six years ago:

Visiting Friendster is like looking at your high school yearbook. One day, Facebook will be the same way.

But wait, you say. Facebook is way better than Friendster! It has better technology and is a more satisfying social experience.

True. But something will come along that’s better than Facebook. Or, more likely, our computing habits will change in some way we can’t yet predict that will render Facebook less important. We know from watching the Internet develop that nothing stays big forever. When everything is free, users can afford to be fickle.

The only real value of Facebook (and, as part of this same conversation, Twitter) is that lots of people use it, and you can sell advertising to those people. (Even that’s an arguable point – see my post on impressions and revenue).

We the customers should enjoy Facebook and get the most out of it we possibly can. (I use it every day.) But we’re not spending any money on Facebook, or because of Facebook, and that’s a little scary. When the people get bored with Facebook, and we probably will, the company will become as worthless as Friendster. And nobody will miss it.

Wed 25 Feb 2009 11:03 pm   //   Posted in: Failure, Videos

The Pontiac Stinger

I’m doing all right, getting good grades. The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades.

(Direct link to video.)