I’m possibly not the right person to be writing e-mail marketing copy tutorials, but here goes:

1) Your promotional e-mail is an intrusion into someone else’s day. All other rules proceed from this one.

2) You get the subject line for free. Make it a summary, like a newspaper headline. If you resort to a clever trick to get someone to open your message AND THERE IS NO PAYOFF, they will resent you and not bother to open anything else from you, ever.

3) Yes, they actually clicked, but that doesn’t give you free reign. You now get MAYBE THREE TERSELY-WRITTEN PARAGRAPHS to get your point across. People are busy, mouse already hovering over the close box. If your point is below the scroll point — and many people are on phones and netbooks these days — consider it missed. If you have more to say, consider your e-mail an article abstract and link to the rest of your message elsewhere.

4) Marketing lingo and managerial buzzwords officially offend. Like bad breath or body odor. Just don’t. If you waste half a sentence with a meaningless phrase that is supposed to raise excitement and positive associations and contains no meaning, you have not only wasted time and space but goodwill from your reader. This communication technology is as dead as punched cards and paper tape. WRITE IN CLEAR, PLAIN ENGLISH.

5) Spurious font changes stop people’s brains from being able to interpret text. Seriously. It turns a stream of text into meaningless shapes. Pick a readable font, a readable color, and stick with it. Bold and italics are awesome if used sparingly. If you’ve used more than three fonts in a page’s worth of text, please shoot yourself so that someone effective can have your job. Also please stop using Comic Sans. Comic Sans gives the impression that anything written in it was actually a supposed joke that was faxed from office to office back in the seventies by automatons for whom ketchup is exciting.

6) Stop it with the inline graphics and attachments. You have no control over how your recipient’s e-mail client is going to handle them and you’re just making your message slow to load. And probably it will look crappy. And shove the meat of your message off the screen. If you must have an attachment, make sure it is small and NECESSARY. If you must present a graphical message, make it a web page and provide a link. If you must have a HUGE attachment, host it on a web site and let people download it at their leisure. The mail client on my phone will TRY ITS BEST to download your attached 23MB Powerpoint presentation with embedded video, but it will fail, and I will hate you.

7) Please include a signature block. For every piece of promotional copy, there should be a HUMAN BEING who is willing to take responsibility for having written and distributed it. More than four lines of contact info is obnoxious, so make it count.

8) MY BIGGEST POINTS WERE MADE IN ITEMS 1-3 because by now you have certainly stopped reading. Get it?


February 25, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

I understand Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion show on NPR isn’t exactly everyone’s favorite way to blow an hour or two of their weekend. While I can usually get a smile out of it, I will typically leave it up to chance as to whether I catch it.


Embedded in this week’s (usually harmless) Powdermilk Biscuit Break is an extra-special, jaw-dropping message to our friends at Goldman Sachs that just has to be heard to be believed. Feel free to record it off the radio (just like old times!) and help me leave it on the voicemail for as many randomly selected extensions at Goldman Sachs as we can.

Listening info is here, including the link that will be available Monday to listen to it from the archives.

Share and enjoy.


February 20, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

When you lead off with a link, and that link goes to a couple thousand words of financial system diatribe, you can pretty much guarantee either people aren’t going to click it or, if they do, they aren’t going to come back. I’m taking a gamble, but I believe there’s a good reason to do so:

Matt Taibbi explains via Rolling Stone the scams that will keep our economy — and the world’s — from recovering as long as these people are loose on Wall Street.

If you read that, you really can skip the rest of this post. If you didn’t, here’s the upshot:

Economic recovery has not arrived. At best we are reinflating the bubble despite the huge leak in the balloon. That huge leak is described in the number of scams Wall Street is using to siphon off TARP/bailout funds into individual tailored pockets in very expensive suits.

For instance, the Fed lowers interbank lending rates to 0% to reload banks with liquid money for the purposes of loaning it to small businesses and new mortgages. You’re a bank. You borrow $100 billion. You look around for a good investment worth loaning $100 billion to. You decide to buy Treasury bonds, which pay back at 3.75% interest. Hooray! You borrowed $100 billion from the US Government at 0% interest, loaned it back to them at 3.75% interest, and for a year of doing NOTHING USEFUL with $100 billion, you have earned $3.75 billion in PROFITS, which you may now split between shareholders and distributing as bonuses and blow on coke and whores.

It would have been better for the Fed to have just written a check for $3.75 billion, handed it to Goldman Sachs for coke and whores, and done ANYTHING ELSE with that $100 billion.

And this is the LEAST scammy trick described in the above article.

NOW please go click. Forward the link to your Senators and Representatives. Ask them whether they will be standing between you and Wall Street when things go down or beside you with a pitchfork in their own hands.


February 18, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

The browser.

There, I’ve said it.

I don’t have  good mobile browser. I have a T-Mobile Wing. It gets the job done — right up until it’s supposed to ring when I get an incoming call, and I kind of consider this failure a bit of a feature. But most of my interaction with the outside world is, I kid you not, filtered through SMS. Both incoming and outgoing. I hit a hardware button or two, and there’s the list of everything that’s happened recently: news headlines (via RSS pipes sent to a Twitter account I follow), select Facebook and Twitter updates, and, of course, actual SMS messages from people who have my number. If the bluetooth headset is in my ear, then a robotified voice of Terry Gross (from NPR’s “Fresh Air”) on too much thorazine (not REALLY Terry Gross, but that’s REALLY what it sounds like) vocally transcribes the incoming messages in real-time into my ear. I also get the sender and subject lines of incoming e-mail on any of several accounts.

I also can’t really think of a way to replace this audio ticker service with anything browser-based until mobile internet accommodations for the visually impaired become more widely implemented and available.

I understand Google’s love of the browser-based application. BIOS + HAL + your selection of OS + your selection of browser + HTML/Javascript/Flash/Air/Silverlight application environment = an eventual platform-independent application space (and prepares the way for cutting out a couple of those really inefficient layers for the mobile market: BIOS/HAL/Browser-based application environment, for instance) that’s based upon agreed-on app-implementation standards. Kinda.

Whatever. It doesn’t bug me in the slightest that they REALLY want to filter all the messaging on earth (now including video/audio streams in chat and Google Voice) through their servers, weight the importance of each nugget by seeing who is paying attention to it and for how long, and finish summoning The Demon That Knows What Is Current And Relevant and will be able to insert context-relevant bilboards into the video chat streams, accompanied by catchy jingles. Really doesn’t bug me, sorry. I have personal uses for that demon and I can’t wait for it to get here.

It’s just the browser thing. And that audio-ticker service thing I depend on. That’s all. Other than that I would probably actually use G-Mail and Google Docs and Wave and Buzz. But their API (what API?) doesn’t really lend itself to I/O via SMS. Because how could they show me ads if it did?

So there.


February 11, 2010 · Posted in reviews  

Sidewalk in suburbia. An actual neighborhood — fifty, sixty years old — instead of a housing development/subdivision. Nine out of ten streetlights shedding a sulphurous mist just post sunset. New sidewalk. New cracks. Brick bungalows maybe ten yards back from the roadway. Mailboxes a lesson in suburban diversity.

A crow followed me from lightpost to lightpost. I didn’t notice until just after the third one — when he swooped by at arm’s length and waited for me at the next one.

I slowed to a halt and stuck out a raincoated arm. He fluffed up on the post, considering, then dropped down in a less-than dramatic swoop, ending up on my forearm.

Even though I’d been acting like I expected it, I was caught off guard. I couldn’t tell you whether he weighed more like a grapefruit or a bowling ball. Adrenaline surged while I thought of what to do next.

I thought about the neighborhood I was in. I hazarded, “What up, my nigga?”

He cocked an eye at me the way birds do, where everything you say or do requires them to look at you in a funny way. “Hello,” it said.

Of course. “So this is where I get the lecture about political correctness in my greetings?”

“Hello,” it said. I sighed.

“Hello,” I replied.

He bounced up and down, the way a bird will when it’s testing a branch to see if it’s springy enough to help with take-off.

“Gum?” it asked. “Hello.”

I was, in fact, chewing gum. I rolled it to the tip of my tongue and presented it.

The crow bounced gently up to my shoulder and pecked the gum expertly off the tip of my tongue.

“Hello,” it said, unmuffled by its beakful, and flew off into the trees behind a nearby house.

“Aloha,” I replied. “Don’t let it drag the ground unless the streets are clean,” I called out after it.

I have no idea what I meant. My own special version of Tourette’s Syndrome. It sounded like good advice regardless.

The footsteps that had been shadowing me for the past quarter mile kept their distance. Hell, I would have, too.

February 9, 2010 · Posted in fiction