Impressed, perplexed by Howard Johnson

I’m present­ly at a ho­tel, and I’ve found my­self im­pressed with the Wi-Fi here. The sig­nal strength is okay and the speed is ad­e­quate, but that’s not what’s stand­ing out. It’s the brand­ing.

I’ve seen all man­ners of SSIDs since Wi-Fi be­came com­mon­place in ho­tels, from “Free Wifi” to “[ho­tel name here],” but in my ex­pe­ri­ence, this Howard Johnson lo­ca­tion is tru­ly sin­gu­lar… and per­plex­ing to me.

The ho­tel of­fers mul­ti­ple wire­less ac­cess points. I’m guess­ing this is for bet­ter cov­er­age, but they de­cid­ed to give each one a dif­fer­ent name. The names aren’t any­thing pre­dictable, like hojo1, hojo2, ei­ther.

I’m im­pressed that the man­age­ment ac­tu­al­ly took the time to in­te­grate feel-good cor­po­rate mes­sages in­to each ac­cess point’s SSID. Using tech to com­mu­ni­cate thoughts in non­tra­di­tion­al ways is cer­tain­ly rel­e­vant to my in­ter­ests. However, pick­ing a dif­fer­ent slo­gan for each AP not on­ly seems tech­ni­cal­ly slop­py, but makes for an awk­ward mish-mash of old and new com­pa­ny taglines. Also, how am I sup­posed to know the AP I’m con­nect­ing to isn’t an evil twin? It’d be pret­ty triv­ial for some­one to throw to­geth­er some­thing like ho­jolovesy­ou and have its po­ten­tial for mal­ice be im­per­cep­ti­ble next to the oth­er goofy networks.

My con­cerns over the wire­less ameni­ties are most­ly the­o­ret­i­cal, since my teth­ered Android phone has me ad­e­quate­ly cov­ered when it comes to Internet ac­cess. My use of the free Wi-Fi is lim­it­ed to con­sum­ing to high-bandwidth con­tent that would make my currently-EDGE con­nec­tion choke. (What’s more, as a Linux user — va­room! —much of what a the­o­ret­i­cal at­tack­er could do, out­side of MITM, isn’t re­al­ly a con­cern to me.)

The plugins behind the blog

I ap­pre­ci­ate the slick pub­lish­ing plat­form that WordPress pro­vides for my writ­ing. Perhaps even bet­ter is its plu­g­in sys­tem, which lets me make it do just about any­thing I like.

Since you wont find me churn­ing out PHP code of my own any­time soon (I ‘ve ac­tu­al­ly been mean­ing to take an­oth­er stab at to wrap­ping my brain around Python now that ver­sion 3 is out), I re­ly on the WordPress com­mu­ni­ty to do so for me. Fortunately, with near­ly 10,000 plu­g­ins avail­able, they seem up to the task!

When I set up my WordPress in­stal­la­tion ear­li­er this year, I promised my­self that I wouldn’t go over­board the way I usu­al­ly end up cus­tomiz­ing and ex­tend­ing most of the oth­er tech tools/toys in my life. Even while show­ing re­straint, I’ve man­aged to ac­cu­mu­late just over 20 plu­g­ins at this point… whoops! 1 That said, every plu­g­in I’m us­ing has helped make this blog what it is to­day… from one that mir­rors com­ments that peo­ple post on Google Buzz, to one that gives me a per-post space to brain­storm as I compose.

Thus, I’ve cre­at­ed an ‘About Plugins‘ page that prop­er­ly rec­og­nizes each one.

  1. The plu­g­ins ac­tu­al­ly seem to be im­pact­ing the blog’s per­for­mance; I need to take a clos­er look in­to just where the in­ef­fi­cien­cies lie.

Why I don’t worry about blog stats, not even a little bit

I don’t ob­sess over this blog’s traf­fic stats. Doing so would be an ex­am­ple of kick­ing my own ass.

This graph is unimportant.

So while I use both Google Analytics and the WordPress Stats plu­g­in, I don’t care a whit about the num­bers. I don’t even have to check them to know that they are mean­ing­less; they’re close enough to ze­ro that they might as well be. (Words I’ve nev­er spo­ken: “I had 12 pageviews to­day, up from 10. High and to the right, baby!”)

I can’t sep­a­rate bot traf­fic from hu­man traf­fic, and for all I know, I’m prob­a­bly re­spon­si­ble for some in­ci­den­tal pageviews… at least if I hap­pen to load pages when not signed in to WordPress. And why should I care about pageviews, any­way? It’s not like I’m look­ing to sell ads.

So why do I con­tin­ue to use not one, but two so­lu­tions to not give me num­bers? For the qual­i­ta­tive da­ta. I can’t get enough of those.

My two fa­vorites are as fol­lows: re­fer­rers and search terms (which are, them­selves, re­fer­rers, any­way). Both of these give me in­for­ma­tion that is ac­tu­al­ly use­ful, right now. Search terms tell me about a case where some­one was look­ing for some­thing and found my post’s ti­tle and/or sum­ma­ry promis­ing enough to ac­tu­al­ly click through. And re­fer­rers, clear­ly, show me who (if any­one) is dri­ving peo­ple my way.

(Even in my past life on Multiply, I hooked my ac­count up with Site Meter‘s free ser­vice to see if they could show me any in­sight­ful stats. I took a look through what they of­fered and found that all I re­al­ly cared about were the re­fer­rers… which were, more of­ten than not, hi­lar­i­ous. Web brows­er, OS and screen res­o­lu­tion can be in­ter­est­ing for see­ing how my vis­i­tors stack up against Web users as a whole, but what am I go­ing to do with that sort of in­sight? Fix IE6 CSS is­sues? Ha.)

The qual­i­ta­tive da­ta that these ser­vices col­lect from my blog have shown me that peo­ple have found my post about the crap­py Vivitar Clipshot, some even won­der­ing if it’s OS X-compatible. (Hint: it isn’t.) A bunch of dif­fer­ent search terms brought peo­ple to my logo/visual puns post. And one search that didn’t even log­i­cal­ly match up with con­tent I’ve post­ed, re­cent­ly learned words reap­pear­ing, gives me a great idea for a fu­ture post!

Should I be wor­ry­ing more about ap­peal­ing to the mass­es, or about cre­at­ing the sort of con­tent that peo­ple who ac­tu­al­ly do vis­it are in­ter­est­ed in? That’s easy. The search­es and re­fer­rers have shown me that (please cue the schmaltzy mu­sic) I’ve touched people’s lives… even if I didn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly give them any­thing of val­ue, and per­haps even wast­ed their time with con­tent that wasn’t rel­e­vant to their in­ter­ests. I made a difference!

Pocket paper perplexity

I don’t like shop­ping for cloth­ing very much, and it shows: my wardrobe over­whelm­ing­ly con­sists of solid-color shirts, jeans and the same kind of sneak­ers in a few dif­fer­ent col­ors. Sticking to ba­sics keeps things sim­ple. Hmm, does this plain t-shirt come in black? I’ll take it!

So yes­ter­day, while at a lo­cal out­let mall, I did some­thing I didn’t re­al­ly en­joy: I bought a new pair of jeans. I had to dig through a few clear­ance racks be­fore com­ing across a pair I didn’t dis­like that much, one that ac­tu­al­ly fit me with­out suf­fer­ing from the in­ten­tion­al dis­tress­ing that the cool kids seem to fa­vor these days. I would have ini­tial­ly liked my cho­sen pair even more if they didn’t suf­fer from this funky (that means “bad”) col­or pat­tern sewn in­to the back pock­ets. The pants are made by Mecca, and ac­cord­ing to an at­tached tag, fea­ture a “rock­er fit.” (Oblig: \m/) I sup­pose this is to dif­fer­en­ti­ate from most of their clothes, which fea­ture a hip-hop fit.

I de­cid­ed to try them on for size (a phrase no­body us­es lit­er­al­ly these days!) re­gard­less, and per­haps hav­ing caught a look at them in the fit­ting room mir­ror, found my­self… ac­tu­al­ly lik­ing them, even sort of ap­pre­ci­at­ing the funky (that means “good”) col­or pattern!

So I bought them. Arriving home, I put them on and no­ticed the fa­mil­iar rus­tle of pa­per in the pock­ets… ex­cept I couldn’t imag­ine why that would hap­pen, un­less the re­ceipt had some­how slipped in. I reached in­to the rear pock­et to re­move the pa­per and found that it didn’t eas­i­ly slide out on its own. I pulled hard­er, heard a soft ‘tear’ sound and found my­self hold­ing some­thing that looked like newsprint.

I kept pulling and, as you can see, pro­duced a good amount of pa­per scraps from the pock­ets. Perhaps not sur­pris­ing is that many of them in­clude clothing-related in­for­ma­tion, but what of the “fork­lift pock­ets,” which seem to dif­fer from pants pock­ets? Or the seem­ing­ly ran­dom phone num­ber scrap?

I could still feel a lit­tle bit of pa­per in the pock­ets; I changed in­to an­oth­er pair of pants so I could have a clos­er look at these. I turned the pock­ets inside-out, and this is what I found:

To state the ob­vi­ous, it looks like the process used to cre­ate those col­or­ful pat­terns on the pock­ets in­volves sewing newsprint on­to the re­verse side of the pants. Not be­ing a big tex­tile en­thu­si­ast, I can’t imag­ine what pur­pose that the pa­per serves, but I’m guess­ing it should have been re­moved be­fore leav­ing the fac­to­ry in Pakistan.

With English be­ing the of­fi­cial lan­guage of Pakistan, and wide­ly used in com­merce, I sup­pose it’s not much of a sur­prise to find pa­per from there with English writ­ing on it.

I just wasn’t ex­pect­ing to find any­thing of the sort, you know, in my pants.