Fed up with the ephemera of cyberspace, I've decided to take up a hobby that's more tangible than the bits and bytes of the digital world: gardening. This may sound a little New Agey--and it is--but Grandma DuBaud assures me I'll be happier with some dirt under my fingernails. "You need to really feel the fruits of your labor," she proclaimed. "You can't touch or smell your precious computer code. Plant some arugula."
Speaking of fruits and vegetables, I hear Radish Communications Systems has a lemon. Although the company's data-voice modem technology has become a virtual standard through distribution deals with Microsoft, Packard Bell, and others, another Radish effort, the VoiceView Marketplace, has turned out to be a bust with consumers.
According to my informants, Radish may soon abandon VoiceView Marketplace, which was designed as an interactive cybermall that would exploit the simultaneous voice and data capabilities of VoiceView modems and feature the wares of Blockbuster Music and 1-800-Flowers. The company's marketing department is in turmoil over the debacle and significant layoffs (as much as 20 percent of the company) may not be far away.
Marketing debacles are easy to find these days. Last week, Digital won the marketing-gaffe-of-the-week trophy, introducing what surely is one of the worst new product-service names in history: AltaVista ForumForum.
The Digital Web site was founded with a respectable goal in mind--to provide a discussion forum for a wide range of technical and professional topics--but its name has all the eloquence of a hiccup. Maybe, for the sake of consistency, Digital should play a Duran Duran tune when users visit the Web site. The ForumForum could also feature Boutros Boutros Ghali leading a culinary discussion about mahi-mahi.
I hope Digital is a better sport than Wired Ventures. The company and its mercurial cofounder Louis Rossetto apparently don't take kindly to criticism from the magazine's writers. Fuming over trenchant comments made by a Wired magazine contributor, Paulina Borsook, in an online zine, Wired canceled Borsook's book contract with its fledgling publishing division, HardWired. Wired may not be able to take a dig or two, but my garden can. That's why I'm going back to feeling the dirt in my vegetable patch. Send me a tip; it may grow into something.