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Baby Einstein

A quick non-programming related comment… anyone who’s been blessed with children in the past 10 years surely knows about the Baby Einstein empire. Long story short, they claimed that watching TV could actually help your baby learn. Of course this is not true, and when studies came out proving that it actually hindered childrens’ language skills, Disney got pressured into offering refunds for all Baby Einstein DVDs.

The controversy remains at a simmer, because the original creator of Baby Einstein is trying to redeem his name by challenging the study. It’s a mildly interesting story, but here’s the take-home point:

In fact, I would argue that the Baby Einstein culture has been harmful, contributing to (while feeding off of) the over-parenting that has marked the most recent generation. It can be argued that parents should worry less about trying to force the intellectual development of their very young children, and just relax and give them more quality time and attention.

Turn off the TV and play with your kids! It’s good for them, and gives you an excuse to be childish on a daily basis.

The Microsoft/Yahoo deal and what it means to you

If you haven’t already heard, Yahoo finally gave in to Microsoft’s advances, and Bing will be the new search provider on Yahoo peroperties:

In a deal that presages its departure from a market it helped pioneer, Yahoo will scrap its own efforts to best Google in search and instead rely on Microsoft’s recently debuted Bing search engine. Ads placed next to those search results would be served up not by Yahoo’s ad platform, dubbed Panama, but by a Microsoft technology called AdCenter. Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz “is essentially giving up on search,” says Danny Sullivan, editor of Search Engine Land.

According to Danny’s twitter feed, even though this is “only” a 10 year deal, Yahoo won’t be maintaining its current search engine at all during that time, so it is in effect dead. Once the deaql expires Yahoo won’t be able to “go back” to a Yahoo search algorithm.

How does this affect you? If you run a web site take the tiem today to look at your referer stats. Where are your visitors coming from? Chances are most are from Google, but you may have a sizable chuck of traffic coming from Yahoo search. Do you have any traffic coming from Bing? How is your SEO for Yahoo search vs. Bing? Once all the regulatory red tape is complete Yahoo search is effectively gone, and all of those Yahoo users will be using Bing search instead.

jQuery libraries, blog comments, and funnies

Here are a few quick items found in today’s feeds:

jqDock: a jQuery “Fish Eye” dock. For those who love the Mac interface or develop for those who do.

jQuery-based advanced docking: Interesting implementation. If you have an incredibly complex web interface, and need it to be highly customizable for users, this is worth a look.

Is Commenting on Blogs a Smart Traffic Strategy: Common sense here. Don’t spam, develop relationships.

25 Best Programmer WebComics

To estimate or not to estimate?

I’ve seen this article referenced in several blogs, but the best summary I’ve seen comes from the All About Agile blog:

One of the most hotly debated aspects of this is estimating. It clearly doesn’t contribute to the end product itself, but is estimating really waste? Or does it really add value to the process?

This post on the LitheSpeed blog, ‘To Estimate or Not To Estimate, That is the Question‘, asks exactly that.

The answer? I guess it really is a matter of opinion. My personal answer – Like most things in life, I think it depends!

I think I agree with Sanjiv. If you’re working on high priority bugs, in severity order, and they must be fixed, estimating how long they will take provides little value, except to help manage expectations about when the bugs might be gone, which may or may not be useful depending on your circumstances.

On the other hand, if you need to create a business case in order to secure funding for a special project, or you need to commit to a deadline to fit in with other dependencies like a launch date, estimating is clearly necessary, whether it adds value to the end product or not.

PHP to JavaScript Library

I’ve been putting off one project that involves converting a major server-side calculation to JavaScript. When hearing about this library, I fear I have fewer excuses to put it off.

Developer Kevin van Zonneveld was once working on a project with a lot of client(JS) / server(PHP) interaction, and he found himself coding PHP functions (like base64_decode & urldecode) in JavaScript to smoothen communication between the two languages.

He stored the stored the functions in a file called PHP.JS which was included in the project. But even when the project was done, it remained fun trying to port PHP functions to JavaScript, and so the library grew.

Kevin decided to share the little library on his blog, triggering the enthusiasm of a lot of PHP developers longing for PHP functionality in JavaScript. PHP.JS is an open source project in which they try to port PHP functions to JavaScript. By including the PHP.JS library in your own projects, you can use your favorite PHP functions client-side.

I’ve taken a look at the libary and it is very comprehensive. Many, many php functions are duplicated in JavaScript. However, it is not a generic “port your code from PHP to JavaScript” too. This library lets you use many of PHP’s functions within javascript, such as md5 or php’s many array functions. The best part is most functions are 100% self-contained so you can just copy and paste the functions you need without downloading an entire bulky libary.

The Feds To Push For 'Truth' In Social-Media Marketing

Simply unbelievable:

The FTC is planning to hold marketers liable for false statements published on blogs and social networks—meaning companies or bloggers could get sued for saying a product was good if it really wasn’t.

The FTC is revising its guidelines for endorsements and testimonials for the first time since 1980; since companies are increasingly seeding discussion boards and social networks with comments from paid “brand evangelists,” and bloggers are making money off of pay-per-review blog posts, the FTC contends that these kinds of social-media campaigns should be held to the new standards.

“Word-of-mouth marketing is not exempt from the laws of truthful advertising,” Richard Cleland, the assistant director for the FTC’s division of advertising practices, told the FT.

But in a letter to the FTC, 4A’s vice-president Richard O’Brien argued that the proposed regulations were too harsh—and that “bloggers and other viral marketers will be discouraged from publishing content for fear of being held liable for any potentially misleading claim.”

So now for simply stating an opinion about a product, the FTC wants to investigate you to see if you were paid by that company. If you happen to be an affiliate of that company, or happen to have shown a banner for that company, you can be held liable if your opinion of the product differs from the “typical” opinion. According to the new regime, free speech doesn’t apply to the markets.

How to Publish your Blog on Kindle

Did you know Amazon will sell subscriptions to your blog for you?

If you haven’t heard yet about the Kindle, it’s Amazon’s wireless tablet reading device. You can download books, newspapers, and even blogs to the kindle, and them read them anywhere. Many other companies have tried e-book readers, but the Kindle is the first with much success.

Yes, blogs…. Kindle users can subscribe to a blog using their Kindle (it has built in wifi). This isn’t free – Amazon charges about $2.00 to subscribe to a blog, and they share about 30% of that with the blog owners. In order to add your blog to teh Kindle sture, just fill out a simple form here.

Different Design Ideas from Across the Pond

kebi-lUnlike in New York, here “across the pond” means Asia. Specifically, I’m talking about getting design inspiration from Korea in this post. South Korea is a *very* wired country and as this post says, sometimes it’s good to step out of your own backyard and get some inspiration from a different culture. So here are 35 Korean websites with unique designs, at lease from our vantage point.