O’Reilly Network: Stewart Butterfield on Flickr

I just placed an order with jr.com via phone (don’t ask) and it felt so strange. I had to spell out my address and credit card number. Then, no “Order Confirmed” page, no email, nothing. It felt so… unsecure. Which makes me laugh because I had to browbeat my mom to order photos of my son on ofoto.com because she was scared of them setting something called a ‘cookie’.

Even the spam is cuter in Japan:

Amazon’s support phone number is nowhere to be found on their site. However, if you send them an email through their feedback form and then click the “This didn’t answer my question” link in the reply, you get a modified version of the form which mentions the support number (1-800-201-7575). This is a perfect example of business needs being at odds with customer needs.

So, I’ve been increasingly amused by the alternate spellings in spam subject lines. Like this one: “Shoot cu.rn like a por.n star with these pills!” It’s brilliant to substitute “rn” for “m,” and that’s why people are cooler than computers and email is screwed forever.

So, I’ve just bought and downloaded my first album online via Apples new music store. I’m sure it ain’t perfect, but it’s the closest I’ve seen to a model that might actually work. First of all it was freakishly easy to use. I opened iTunes, clicked the “Music Store” item, typed in a search query, previewed a song (all songs have high-quality 30-second previews), and clicked “Buy Album.” Maybe 10 minutes later the album was on my computer. But the important part is that I can burn copies onto CD (to take in my car, to backup, etc), and the price is more or less reasonable (I think $0.99 is a bit steep for one song, but they discount the album price, so most albums are $10-12, i.e. less than you’d pay at Tower Records who must be fairly terrified these days). In short, it’s easy and cheap enough, and the restrictions on use are mellow enough, that I’d rather get my music this way than by hunting for pirated copies on LimeWire. My biggest worry now is self-control.

Froogle is very much still in Beta.

Amazon’s new “Look Inside” feature is just plain smart. This is the largest barrier to impulse-buying books online for me.

A pal pointed out this silliness: go visit this page on IMDB where they’re selling posters. Right-click on one of the images (as if you were gonna download it). Feh!

Of course, it’s easy to work around if you really want the gif of Ben Affleck, but yuck! Makes me want to write a nasty letter.

I really like the discussion that boo.com has provoked. Plenty has been written about the site’s usability problems, but the reality is a lot more complex. My take (once I got over my initial horror on seeing the site) has always been that it’s a crying shame that boo was so poorly implemented because the impulse to push a bit at what a commerce site can be is absolutely right on. Not that all sites should include animated agents (or full-screen flash interfaces or whatever), but goddammit everything doesn’t have to look like amazon/yahoo/useit.com. And holding up boo as the example (bad website! bad!) is just disingenuous.

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