Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for May 18th, 2004

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Micro-budget film wows Cannes

Posted by shannonclark on May 18, 2004

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Micro-budget film wows Cannes

A film that gets shown in prestigious categories at Cannes, made for hundreds of dollars (now about $400,000 when all the rights have been cleared).

This is of interest to me for a number of reasons.

One, I like the idea of truly independent, homemade film being able to be brought to this level.

Two, I have ideas for taking something like this and moving it to another level, I think that this will not be unusual very much more, that there is an opportunity to take truly independent film and find a way to show it and distribute it profitably.

Three, the rights issues are one that I think will be increasingly important. Not just for music, but with the rise in “pay for placement” it is possible that in the not too distant future to use a brand name product you will have to have the rights to it to show it. Already it is clear if you watch “reality” TV that only those products and services that pay for placement are allowed to be shown on screen.

In a way it is not unlike the 555.5555 numbers in films, a small, but telling, note of unreality in “reality”.

Another is language, “reality” shows are bound by the same restrictions on language (and sexual content and violence) that the rest of TV here in the US are bound by.

I wonder if it is possible to leverage this and technology to create new forms and modes of content. Is it possible to find new ways to merge TV and Web content, is it possible to use Semantic Web type approaches to manage the data streams around content.

Then via managing them, a well as leveraging the most advanced audio and video editing technologies, will it be possible to create content on your personal laptop that rivals anything seen previously today.


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Finding a post office

Posted by shannonclark on May 18, 2004

or why design matters

So, last night I went looking on the USPS website for the address and location of the main post office in Chicago, the one that is open 24hrs.

I challenge you to find it.

Really – by the tools provided on the USPS website, it is essentially an impossible task.

Find a post office somewhere near your particular zipcode, perhaps, though no matter what you do they seem to assume you only want to find a post office because you want to purchase stamps (ignoring that you might, say, want to send a birthday package that needs to be weighed).

Try finding a post office not in your zipcode, in say an unknown zipcode.

Yes, they do let you put in a city. Sure, that helps if you live in the middle of Kansas, but I live in the middle of Chicago, we have hundreds of post offices, a search by Chicago, IL (no zip) returns ones mostly on the south side, but in no particular order. As well, when you look at the results, they show a grand total of 5 at a time, with not even an indication of how many more are available, or any way to sort/further search them.

You can’t for example, search for a post office “still open” or “open 24hrs” or “which can take packages” etc, etc, etc.

Highly annoying.

In fact, I may go so far as to say that the USPS website is one of the single worst designed sites I have seen. Primarily because like everything else from the USPS (more on this in a moment) it assumes that either you are looking for a very small handful of tasks they assume you might want (buy stamps) OR you know exactly what you want and just need it (for some reason) i.e. you know the address already, you know the strange codes and names they use etc.

Offline they are not much better, in fact I might say they are, if possible, even worse. In order to find it I then looked in the Yellow Pages (well technically the blue pages where government offices are listed).

They list the 50+ some post offices in Chicago with nothing to note about any of them other than a very obscure name (Fort Dearborn, Haymarket, etc). All have the SAME phone number listed, an 800 number.

When you call it, you are then given a very long list of 7 options (not one of which appears to be “talk with a human”), then selecting the one that appears to be potentially “I want to find a post office” you are asked “please put in your zipcode”.

I refused.

It then demanded again.

I refused.

Finally it let me talk to a human, after first having a chance to select whether I wanted to hear the USPS privacy policy.

Then what is the first question the woman who answered the phone wanted? Yup, what is my zipcode.

Why this is so important I really don’t know. But it is highly irritating and annoying – I seriously thought about lying completely, because I did NOT care one whit about finding a post office near my zipcode. Rather, I had a very, very specific post office I wanted to find – one that would be open 24hr, which I knew was in Chicago, I just didn’t know the address – which since I was getting this information for someone else was what I wanted to know.

After a lot of effort, she finally did find it, apparently she has a way of searching for a 24hr post office, but why mere customers aren’t allowed to do this, I really don’t know.

So, take a look and see why the site is so user unfriendly.


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