Spammers, please adjust your scripts.

To the comment spammers hitting my haiku site: There is something buggy with one of your scripts. I keep getting these comments that contain nothing but a bogus email address and a single word:

Array

Now, come on. You call this comment spam? Not even a link to a phentermine or Cialis site? No keywords touting hotels in Brussels or Miami? The only excuse I can think of for such a weak-ass attempt at comment spam is that one of your scripts is broken. Instead of inserting values selected from an array of potential spam comments and links, your script is just outputting the word “Array.” Most likely your script is missing a quotation mark, or maybe a semicolon somewhere. Maybe you forgot to put in a dollar sign before the name of a variable. Or perhaps you forgot to load the array with data from your paying customers. Whatever. It’s embarrassing to watch, really. You can do better than that.

Spammers, please adjust your scripts.

What happened to iTunes?

iTunes 7 logoGenerally, Apple does software reasonably well. The company understands that the user experience doesn’t end with the plastic and the circuits, but also encompasses the on-screen interface, the dialog boxes, and even the fonts used in its applications.

So what happened to iTunes? Version 7 is, frankly, one of the slowest, most annoyingly designed applications I’ve used in years. It takes more than a minute to launch (previous versions were relatively snappy). When I drag a tune to my Shuffle (or delete a song from it), it takes iTunes a minute or two to do the update, and often this locks up the interface so I can’t do anything else. The library has been subdivided into five categories and I can’t get a total view of all of them — a problem, since some of my podcasts are in the “podcast” category while others, perplexingly, are filed under “music.” The video playback is bizarre and counterintuitive. And the bottom section of the screen is filled with a bright blue ad for the MiniStore. I don’t want the MiniStore! I want it to go away! I just want to listen to my music, and get some podcasts onto my Shuffle, and not have iTunes taking over my computer, churning the hard drive while I’m trying to work on something.

Bottom line: iTunes 7 is a terrible mishmash of poor design decisions and poorly-implemented software architecture. Whoever was in charge of this revision to iTunes desperately needs to be reassigned. And in the meantime, I need to find a lightweight alternative.

What happened to iTunes?

Boxxet: Channel your enthusiasm.

My friend You Mon Tsang is finally taking the covers off of Boxxet, his third startup since I first met him a decade ago. It looks very promising. Boxxet takes aim at one of the problems I targeted in the livable web manifesto: that the World Wide Web as viewed through Google is just too big, too filled with spam and garbage, and too hard for most people to manage.

Or, as You Mon puts it, the web is filled with “rants layered on opinions layered on analysis layered on rumors.” There’s a ton of good information out there, but how do you find the good stuff? One way is by creating sites that collect only high-quality information on narrow topics.

Boxxet uses a “bionic” combination of human intelligence and computer-based textual analysis to create focused fan sites, or “boxxets.” (“Box sets” — get it? Domain names must have been hard to come up with.) Each boxxet contains lots of useful, prefiltered information on a specific topic. For instance, the boxxet for Madonna has news about her ridiculous African adoption, pictures of Madonna, and Madonna forums. There’s a list of the top blogs and top bookmarks about the star. Naturally there’s a tab to buy Madonna-related merchandise.

Similar collections exist for big-league sports teams, TV shows, Disneyland, and even some technology topics like Web 2.0. The textual analysis isn’t perfect, but it’s surprisingly good, and if you’re a fan of one of the topics covered by Boxxet, this could be a very easy way to stay in the loop.

Of course each Boxxet has its own RSS feed, so you can drop it right into your favorite newsreader.

Boxxet’s biggest shortcoming right now is the limited number of topics it covers. You Mon tells me they’re deliberately limiting the topics because of the large amount of processing power it takes to create and maintain a boxxet. But over time, the site will need to expand its topic coverage massively in order to succeed.

I’d also like to see more opportunities for individual tuning of Boxxets, so I could create variants on my favorite topics or even combine boxxets (San Francisco Giants AND Oakland A’s, Johnny Depp OR Keanu Reeves).

Boxxet is superficially similar to About.com or Squidoo, in that it collects a bunch of micro-sites that guide you through the thickets of the web in a (relatively) trustworthy way. But About and Squidoo are highly dependent on the quality of their individual editors, however, and a bad or lazy editor can make a topic useless — with no opportunity for any recourse or second opinions.

With Boxxet, the topic is not in the hands of a single capricious individual, which should help things: Instead, computer algorithms (continually enhanced by occasional human ratings) do the filtering, which may ensure a more consistent quality for Boxxet’s topics. I hope so.

Check it out: I think Boxxet has a lot of potential to make the web easier to navigate on a topic-by-topic basis. It will be interesting to see how it develops. And in the meantime, there’s a killer collection of Scarlett Johanssen news and photos I have to go check out.

Boxxet: Channel your enthusiasm.