Time Warner Cable canceling Noggin?

I have a full day’s work to do, but I’m home watching my four-year-old. Thus, this morning, Noggin was on.

“Daddy, what’s that black?” my daughter asked, pointing to the TV.

A black crawl eating 20% of the screen announced that Time Warner Cable, New York City’s virtual monopoly cable provider, will stop broadcasting Noggin at midnight tonight.

Comedy Central (home of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show), MTV, and other Viacom-owned channels will also be lost, the crawl said. But as the parent of a child under five, you’re asleep before The Daily Show comes on, and you haven’t cared about MTV since Run DMC walked this way with Aerosmith.

Time Warner Cable can do what it likes where your personal entertainment needs are concerned. But if they stop broadcasting Noggin, your four-year-old won’t shrug it off. It will be like when great grandma died.

Your mission is clear. You have to save Noggin.

The crawl and the websites of the soon-to-be-cancelled channels list a toll-free 800 number where customers can demand that Time Warner Cable keep Noggin on.

When you call the number, Time Warner announces that it cannot take your call due to “technical difficulties” and hangs up on you.

In its way, it’s kind of brilliant. By not answering their customer feedback number, Time Warner can claim not to have heard from their customers.

Although I subscribe to their overpriced service, I’m no fan. Since I described my frustrations with their fast, high-speed access, Time Warner Cable’s RoadRunner Turbo has continued to pile on the incompetence. This month they sent me a new modem and told me I needed to manually replace my old one. Beside the fact that nothing’s wrong with my old one, the new one isn’t compatible with my set-up, which is wireless.

Time Warner set up the wireless network using their wireless modem, and charges a monthly surcharge for the wireless activity they provide. But they sent me a non-wireless modem as a replacement. A two-man shop in Kazakhstan’s smallest town would not send a non-wireless modem to replace a wireless one. But Time Warner Cable does, because they are a monopoly and under no pressure to offer competent service.

And yet, although Time Warner Cable’s uncountable levels of existential suckage could induce vomiting in a giraffe, reality is never as clear-cut as a crawl on Noggin.

It is obvious that Time Warner Cable and Viacom are playing hardball in a price negotiation. Time Warner wants the Viacom channels cheaper than Viacom wants to sell them. Instead of working out a deal like mensches, the companies are taking their impasse to the public, and playing on the anxieties of parents with young children. Indeed, Viacom appears the guiltier company, since it is Viacom that is running crawls on its channels and popups on its websites, using the kind of language and typography more properly reserved for fake terror threat alerts.

Although Time Warner doesn’t answer its customer feedback number, some of the company’s phone numbers still work, and if you loop your way through a sufficient number of audio menus, you soon hear the company’s claim to be negotiating with Viacom.

If it were only about me, both companies could stuff it.

Will no one think of the children?

[tags]Viacom, Time Warner Cable, Noggin, high-speed access[/tags]

Recession tips for web designers

Now in the coveted 23 December spot at 24 ways: Recession Tips for Web Designers:

Jeffrey Zeldman rounds off our 2008 season with some hard-earned advice for web designers and developers to take into 2009. As the economic climate gets tougher and budgets get cut, our skills need to extend to staying in work, not just completing work won.

[tags]recession, webdesign, business, survival[/tags]

It’s a gift! Desktop for your pleasure.

Download this wallpaper.

I have a confession. I don’t send holiday cards. Or fruit baskets. Or, really, much of anything.

I know. It’s sad. But to try to make up for it, here’s a nice little desktop from the zeldman.com design archives.

Download the appropriate size, install in your Desktop preference pane, and enjoy hours of eye-bleeding fun, care of your old pal, Jeffrey. Happy Holidays!

[tags]download, desktop, 1280×800, 1920×1200[/tags]

Understanding web design, live on video

Now available on streaming video, Jeffrey Zeldman: Understanding Web Design — is a good quality 42:40 capture of my October 25, 2008 presentation at Gain: AIGA Business and Design Conference.

Author and Happy Cog founder Jeffrey Zeldman answers the question: what does a web designer need most? Skills and knowledge of software, of course, but empathy—the ability to think about and empathize with your user—is by far the most important. Good useful education is hard to find, and within companies there is often no departmental standardization. Good graphic design is not the same as good user experience design, he explains. In fact, “good web design is invisible”—it feels simple and authentic because it’s about the character of the content, not the character of the designer.

In addition to the streaming video, a surprisingly accurate PDF transcription is available, along with a downloadable copy of my slides. (The typeface is Joshua Darden’s Jubilat.)

[tags]AIGA, GAIN, Gain:AIGA, Zeldman, design, presentation, video, webdesign[/tags]

The gift of carbon neutrality

I’d like to give everyone reading this page a special holiday gift this year: free carbon neutrality for a day. As a bonus, after claiming your One Day gift, you can pass it on to your friends, family, and colleagues.

To claim the gift, visit my One Day Carbon Neutral page, created by Brighter Planet.

So far, Brighter Planet has given away over 3,300 gifts and offset more than 440,000 pounds of CO2. That’s like everyone in America turning off their lights for a minute. The goal is to give away 5,000 One Day gifts and offset 680,000 pounds of CO2.

The average American emits 136 pounds of carbon dioxide each day. About 36 pounds come from driving, flying, and other travel. Another 22 pounds come from heating, cooling, and powering our homes. The final 78 pounds come from producing, transporting, and disposing of all the stuff we buy, and from shared services like schools and street lights. 136 pounds would fill 5,000 balloons—imagine releasing that every day.

Brighter Planet supports renewable energy projects in communities across the U.S.

[tags]climate change, offsets, gift, holiday[/tags]

ALA 274: The emerging content strategist

In Issue No. 274 of A List Apart, for people who make websites: a website without a content strategy is like a speeding vehicle without a driver. Learn why content matters and how to do it right.

Content-tious Strategy

by JEFFREY MACINTYRE

Every website faces two key questions: 1. What content do we have at hand? 2. What content should we produce? Answering those questions is the domain of the content strategist. Alas, real content strategy gets as little respect today as information architecture did in 1995. MacIntyre defines the roles, tools, and value of this emerging user experience specialist.

The Discipline of Content Strategy

by KRISTINA HALVORSON

It’s time to stop pretending content is somebody else’s problem. If content strategy is all that stands between us and the next fix-it-later copy draft or beautifully polished but meaningless site launch, it’s time to take up the torch—time to make content matter. Halvorson tells how to understand, learn, practice, and plan for content strategy.

And, in EDITOR’S CHOICE, from July 31, 2007:

Better Writing Through Design

by BRONWYN JONES

How is it that the very foundation of the web, written text, has taken a strategic back seat to design? Bronwyn Jones argues that great web design is not possible without the design of words.

[tags]contentstrategy, content, strategy, content strategy, web, webcontent, webdesign, userexperience, writing, editorial, Kristina Halvorson, Jeffrey Macintyre, Bronwyn Jones, alistapart[/tags]

Workers of the web!

Evolt.org, the amazing resource for web developers, turned 10 on Sunday, 14 December. Well done!

Editor Erika Meyer and her staff want to know how they can better serve their community. To find out, they’ve created a survey. Reader responses will help shape the road map for Evolt’s future development. Take the survey and help shape the next decade of Evolt.

[tags]evolt, webdesign, development, 10years[/tags]

Get The Pains

Almost everyone I know who is serious about the internet and has spent more than a few years working on web stuff has read John R. Sundman’s novel, Acts of the Apostles, your everyday story of bioengineering, Gulf War Syndrome, Trojan Horses, and millennium cultists. (If you haven’t yet read this classic underground thriller cum paranoid fantasy, do yourself a favor; it’s pretty great.)

Now Sundman has come out with a new book, The Pains, with illustrations by Cheeseburger Brown. Sundman’s third novel owes its genesis to a single sentence written in his online diary: “I woke up this morning with a pain in my body that felt like it might be a soul gone bad.” Through a process that makes sense to writers, that sentence turned into this book:

The Pains is a story of faith in a world that appears to be falling apart. It tells the story of Norman Lux, a 24-year-old novitiate in a religious order, who becomes afflicted with something akin to stigmata.

The complete text and illustrations are on wetmachine.com, freely available for download under a creative commons license. Sundman is now taking orders for the soon-to-be-printed book. You can order by PayPal/credit card or by check.

[tags]sundman, johnsundman, thepains, actsoftheapostles, cheapcomplexdevices, publishing, writing[/tags]