Name that leader

Reading these quotes tonight:

We are at a turning point in our history. There are two paths to
choose. One is a path I've warned about tonight, the path that leads to
fragmentation and self-interest. Down that road lies a mistaken idea of
freedom, the right to grasp for ourselves some advantage over others.
That path would be one of constant conflict between narrow interests
ending in chaos and immobility. It is a certain route to failure.

[…]

In little more than two decades we've gone from a position of energy
independence to one in which almost half the oil we use comes from
foreign countries, at prices that are going through the roof. Our
excessive dependence on OPEC has already taken a tremendous toll on our
economy and our people.

[…]

This intolerable dependence on foreign oil threatens our economic
independence and the very security of our nation. The energy crisis is
real. It is worldwide. It is a clear and present danger to our nation.

I was surprised to find this speech wasn't given in the past few weeks but almost 30 years ago. Read the whole speech and wonder what the world would be like if we followed half the recommendations he outlined that night.

The unfortunate mainstreaming of internet douchebaggery

Today someone spammed MetaFilter on behalf of Conde Nast publications, and it pissed me off way more than the average occasional spammy self-promoter on MeFi. We have a strict rule at MeFi (since there's no editorial vetting upfront) that you can't post about your own stuff, you have to make posts to interesting random stuff you found on your own. Unfortunately, that doesn't matter to the douchebags intent on ruining the web for everyone else with search engine gaming, as long as they benefit their clients, so we end up having to delete these keyword-laden posts that feature over the top fake testimonials about sites they "found" when they really worked for them.

What pissed me off today was seeing a normally reputable outfit like Conde Nast stooping to hiring a dodgy firm that employs such lame spammy activities. I know the response from Conde Nast or the spammy SEO company will be the same I've heard a thousand times: "It was one rogue employee" or "We didn't know the firm would employ such tactics." I heard the same thing when the Times (UK) was found spamming social sites earlier this year.

The point that seemed to be lost in the Times story was that a cornerstone of journalism that had been publishing for hundreds of years would stoop to such lame-brained antics. You'd think that someone higher up at a place like that would think maybe getting a couple percent more advertising revenue by ethically shady means wasn't worth jeopardizing the reputation or position of a 223 year old newspaper — that institutions with a long-term vision shouldn't be interested in a quick buck by any means possible.

It's a bummer to see Conde Nast hiring someone to "optimize" search engines for them (where "optimize" means spam the web and generally make social sites and tools less useful for everyone in the hopes they do better for certain key search phrases) but given the way the economy is going and where it is headed, I suspect we'll see a lot more big name outfits and longstanding institutions making these same mistakes and resorting to problematic methods of increasing their bottom line, and frankly it sucks for everyone involved. It sucks for anyone using the web and wanting decent honest search results based on real quality of information (not just the information promoted by self-interested parties). It sucks to see industry leaders with dozens or even hundreds of years of successful business think this is a sensible approach to the web. Finally, it sucks to see some chucklehead get paid to spam websites in ways that are becoming so normal that people think this is something every business should do.

Buying good stuff

There have been a lot of posts to Ask MetaFilter recently asking about inexpensive christmas presents and how to make your own presents and where to find the best deals, but I really enjoyed this thread on great things worth splurging on. As I've grown older I've slowly started to look for value in things instead of just the sale price. I agree with a lot of the tips offered in the thread — I love the super soft sheets on my bed, I have a trashcan so fantastic I didn't think that much engineering and clever ideas could go into a trashcan, and since no one mentoined it I wrote about the high-pressure showerhead that changed my life for the better.