Category: News & Trends

Company Ethics

justice scalesSomething which I rarely see being mentioned in the mainstream media is company ethics and consumers. The Internet news sites do cover some of the borderline unethical behaviors of major companies like Apple and Dell, but in reality these stories are aimed more at tarnishing the image of corporations, than really covering the actual situation and shady policies of the workplace. As a consumer of products and services, this bothers me somewhat because I try to only deal with ethical companies. After all would you really buy something from someone you personally knew was a thief? When it comes to corporations, we really should hold them to the same standards as our personal relationships. Although holding corporations accountable seems almost impossible nowadays, there are some things to look for.

Public traded companies do publish their financial records and occasionally their dirty laundry does come to light. Most of the time the bad news is published in obscure trade publications and so it is sometimes hard to find. Eventually if the dirty laundry is serious, it will eventually lead to an investigation or multiple lawsuits. At this point you can pretty much tell that the company acted contrary to ethical standards. Note that this is not something that you find with top corporations only, but with all companies in general. Just because Global Widgets did some illegal stock manipulation, does not mean that their competitor Small Scale Widgets is any less reputable. Sometimes an entire industry is guilty, like when all the memory makers made a group effort to artificially keep memory prices higher.

Perhaps the most direct way of finding out how ethical a company is to talk to them. When you walk into their store, call their customer service line, or email them, what type of response you get can reveal a lot about the type of training that the company gives their employees. Although this probably cannot tell you everything about a company, it does reveal enough to let you know if the company is worthy of your business. Talking may be a lost art, although we communicate every day, we do not do it effectively, and so remember the following points when you engage a company.

  • Always ask for what you want directly, do not try to hide your intentions. If you want a cheaper price or think that the service or product is not up to your expectations, ask for an explanation.
  • In turn, you should always be fair yourself: do not waste a company rep’s time if you truly are not interested in their services or products.
  • Since companies can have multiple businesses, you cannot always hold accountable the bad ethical practices of one of their divisions to all of their other businesses.
  • Lastly if you are treated rudely without justification, make the company aware of this, and if the response is lacking, never do business with them again.

In general, companies care about their shareholders more than their customers, it is this mentality that has led many companies to lie, steal, and cheat to make their profits ever larger, only to find out much like Starbucks, that you cannot make money without customers, even if you have thousands of locations.

Filed under: News & Trends

Eudora Goes Opensource

This is perhaps the most interesting news I’ve heard all week. According to MacWorld, Qualcomm is opensourcing Eudora. I’ve only been using Eudora since version 3.0, and it has always been my preferred email client on all my Macintosh systems. When OS X came out, I never embraced Apple’s Mail, simply because Eudora had so much of my old email, and by now I can’t seem to match the comfort level with any other mail client. About the only email interface that I feel comfortable with is webmail via Horde and Gmail. Although I use Mozilla Thunderbird daily, it still feels slow and alien to me, every time I use it. In reality, Eudora’s interface is so 90’s. The interface feels out of place in OS X and a little hard to use compared to modern GUI apps. Still I can’t seem to feel very fond of Thunderbird’s huge icons and web browser like interface. On the otherside of the pond, there’s Outlook and I cringe daily at how complicated Outlook really is. It would be great if someone could make an email client that can do everything Outlook can do, but do it in a clean and friendly interface, kind of like what Apple did for the MP3 player with iTunes.

For OS X users, it looks like Eudora 6.2.4 will be the last commercial version. Qualcomm expects the first Mozilla Eudora opensource version to come out in 2007, but who knows how well documented the code is after all these years. Most of all, I wonder what the interface will look like in the future? Eudora needs a good GUI makeover.

Eudora Revisited

  • Qualcomm’s Penelope Project intends to build an extension to Mozilla Thunderbird that will make Thunderbird look similar to Eudora.
  • Correo is an open-source project that aims to use Mozilla code to develop a native mail application for Mac OS X users, doing for email what Camino did for the Web browser.
  • Infinity Data Systems – MailForge is a commercial project that intends to build a new email client that looks and feels similar to Eudora.
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Blogs Killed Forums

I am not sure about the whole Web 2.0 debate, but something which is very noticeable about the Internet in 2006 is that forum based sites are dying a slow death, and the sites that include a forum as part of their main site are doing even worse. Forums on those sites are being posted to less and less. It seems that much of the forum posting community has gravitated to either posting primarily on their own web blogs or commenting only on blogs. This has created a shift away from forums and for sponsored forums, it has meant a loss of ad revenue. It may be possible that this trend may continue and cause some sites to scale back or disappear completely.

Lack of Discussion

The most obvious turn off to forums is the moderator. Keeping the conversation going between multiple members is quite hard to do. Most moderators are faced with either not moderating at all discussions and letting other members get offended while a couple of members go at it and argue pointlessly about which operating system is the best or whether you support The President or not. Eventually moderators do buckle down and impose some civility and this causes hard core members to feel censored. Once they leave, the forum becomes a ghost forum with only old discussions left. A moderator is pretty much a thankless job.

Not Enough Ad Revenue

As for the webmaster, you have to pay for the forum software which is not exactly cheap or risk going with an open source script that will require more technical maintenance. Then you have to pay for the domain and hosting services; all of this is added cost. Most webmasters depend on some sort of steady revenue from sponsers and forums have a reputation for not performing well in this area, unlike blogs.

Ease of Publishing

The irony is that while forums were once the easy way to publish quickly, they are now being outclassed by blog scripts. Today almost anyone can learn to publish on Blogger or in WordPress, but learning to navigate, search, and setup your profile in most forums takes longer than the five minute WordPress install.

Not Trendy

Then there is the obvious: web blogs have adapted the latest technologies like CSS, XHTML, AJAX, and other Internet buzzwords. Forums are just catching up and unlike small blog scripts, forum scripts are quite complicated and large, making even small changes sometimes requires thorough testing.

Internet Evolution

All of this leaves forums on the brink of unpopularity, forcing forum script developers to rethink their audience anf evolve into something else. Perhaps the web blog is the natural cousin to the forum, and the Internet may still have future uses for the once popular online forum.

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