So Halo 3 was released the other day. While I have an Xbox 360, I’m not a first person shooter fan, as I’ve previously stated in my BioShock review. I just don’t get a thrill out of a game where you are exactly the same at the beginning as you are the end of the game. I enjoy building up a character and making him unique to my experience. Anyways.

Halo 3 did rack up record sales at its release and nerds from around the world waited for midnight to happen so they could be the first to buy the game in their little corner of the planet. That’s a sad commentary on our life, isn’t it? It racked up over $170 million in sales in the first 24 hours, and over 4.9 million multiplayer games were played within 24 hours, accounting for over 500 million virgins dying a painful death.

I really just thought that those numbers were astonishing, seeing as how that beat any movie or book -ever- released, and maybe it’ll help Microsoft pull a profit from their video gaming division for the first time this year. Byran over at Hotair wrote up something about this today too.

Brief followup. I do not think that the dollar comparison is really fair here. Yes, Halo 3 did get a record dollar amount; but it is also priced at $60 each (or more if you buy the collector’s edition). So, let’s take the number of people buying and compare that instead.

The IGN article linked above says that Spiderman 3 took in $59 million opening day. Let’s say that each ticket costs $10, then 5.9 million people went to see it. Harry Potter sold 8.3 million copies in the first day. Way more than Spiderman. At $60 each, Halo only sold 3 million copies. In that perspective, the dollar amount is a little less impressive – even though gaming has come a long way in the past 5 years or so.

So I wouldn’t go crowning Microsoft as the King of all Media right now with the impressive figure. When the number of people buying a game equals or surpasses the number of people going to a movie or buying book in the first 24 hours, then I’ll be impressed. And I don’t doubt that Microsoft will be the company that does it either.

I bet we aren’t overly shocked by this, are we?

Rapeseed and maize (ed. corn) biodiesels were calculated to produce up to 70 per cent and 50 per cent more greenhouse gases respectively than fossil fuels. The concerns were raised over the levels of emissions of nitrous oxide, which is 296 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Scientists found that the use of biofuels released twice as much as nitrous oxide as previously realised.

What, you mean that the “solution” to the problem is far worse than the original problem. I think I’ve heard this record before:

Some of the replacement chemicals whose use has grown because of the Montreal treaty — hydrochloroflourocarbons, or HCFCs, and their byproducts, hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs — decompose faster than CFCs because they contain hydrogen.

But, like CFCs, they are considered potent greenhouse gases that harm the climate — up to 10,000 times worse than carbon dioxide emissions.

Yes. It has happened before. The replacement for CFC’s in refrigerators, air conditioning, etc were replaced with chemicals that are 10,000 times worse. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, indeed.

Add to this that the Kyoto treaty actually rewards countries that cut down forests.

“The countries that haven’t really been the target of deforestation have nothing to sell because they haven’t deforested anything,” says Gustavo Fonseca, one of the study’s authors. “So that creates a perverse incentive for them to actually start deforesting, so that in the future, they might be allowed to actually cap-and-trade, as they call it: you put a cap on your deforestation and you trade that piece that hasn’t been deforested.”

And you have to wonder. Is the environmental movement trying to kill us all?

With friends like this; the earth doesn’t need enemies.

Increasing conversion rates is a huge problem online. Your typical conversion rate is about 2-3% for most online stores. Big retailers (Amazon, Ebay, etal) have a substantially higher conversion rate, but this is because of brand recognition. If you are a smaller retailer, each 1/10th of a point significantly impacts your bottom line.

So let’s examine the possibilities.

You could offer free shipping. Then your question is: on every order? Over $50? Over $75? Over $100?

Or you could offer a percent off each order. What’s a good amount 5% off? 10% off?

The second one is a lot easier to answer as it really depends on your margins and what works for you. The first is a bit more difficult as it depends on several factors – do you ship heavy items? What are you currently charging customers? What is the net effect. Etc.

On one of our sites, our maximum shipping rate is $19.95 (any order over $100). Currently, we run a 10% discount on any order – but the customer must enter the coupon to get it. Since not all of them do (about 60% do it), the total impact is lessened by people who do not read what’s on the page or forget to do it or do not understand how to do it. We’ll come back to this later.

Over a given period of time (picked totally at random – but removing a few extra large sales that would have thrown off averages), we have sales of about $96,000. Total sales over that period are 2,000.  Average order is $48. More interestingly to me, median sale is $29.95 and the most common sale was $16.95.

10% Off Any Order: Assuming 100% of people received the 10% off, we lose $9,600 on the sales.

5% Off Any Order: Assuming 100% of people received the 10% off, we lose $4,800 on the sales.

Free Shipping over $75: Assuming the same, we lose $6,000 on the sales.

Free Shipping over $100: Assuming the same, we lose $3,500 on the sales.

Surprising, to me, at least is the fact that free shipping over $100 is the best deal (for us) as the fewest people get the discount and it impacts the bottom line the least as well. The most damaging one – the one we currently use – is the 10% off any order.

All these numbers are easy to work out on your own, of course and which you go with really depends on your margins and product line and, of course, what your customers respond to.

But, the real lesson here is: do not automatically apply discounts for the customers. Give them a coupon to use (10savings for 10% off or freeshipping for free shipping) – something they must enter manually. That way, you can expect that only about 60% of people will actually use the coupon so the impact is less, while giving customers the opportunity to use it and giving them that little extra incentive to order.

Other good way to handle a discount is to give the customer store credit instead of actual percentages off. Order $100 worth of stuff, get a $10 gift certificate on a future order. Gift certificates, gift cards, etc have a notoriously low rate of return. I’m not sure how effective this would be – as I think a customer would much more appreciate the immediate gratification of an immediate discount rather than a future reward.

Note: This is a work in progress – feel free to add thoughts in the comments section below.

Preface: Debating with 9/11 truthers is essentially like shooting uninformed fish in a barrel which can get boring and tedious, but the fun (if you can call it that) comes in the squirming as they attempt to reason their way out of impossible problems.  Having argued with truthers over 9/11 for quite a few years now and not letting them see the light on a factual level; I’ve begun discussing 9/11 on a logical level instead. During this effort, I’ve come across a major conundrum that is -essentially- an unanswerable question if you believe in a 9/11 conspiracy.

It works something like this:

Even if a truther believes that the government used demolitions to bring down WTC1 and WTC2, a truther will acknowledge the initial plane hits. So, Given that the government used planes were used on WTC1 and WTC2. Many truthers deny that a plane hit the pentagon (they claim a missile was used). But, the so-called official story has a plane hitting. So, you can easily get a truther to acknowledge that the government, at least, wants the people to believe that a plane was used. So, according to official accounts, a truther will acknowledge planes at WTC1, WTC2, and Pentagon. So, the conundrum comes in at WTC7. Truthers will claim that “controlled demolitions” were used to take down WTC7.

So the question becomes…why would the government break a theme at use demolitions on WTC7 when, clearly, planes were used in every other instance? Why the fundamental flaw in the plan.

At least, you’d expect a missile to have been used – similar to the one at the pentagon, correct? It actually works as a wonderfully impossible logical problem that can lead to wonderfully awful explanations.

This one is a bit long and tedious so I think I’ve found a second one that works in about 5 minutes and, if properly used, would be quite effective in ending the discussion.

Which leads to the next, and possibly, the most devastating logical problem regarding the conspiracy.

Your goal: Get a truther to admit that Osama Bin Laden was, in some way, the hero of 9/11.

What? Yep, you read that right. But honestly, this shouldn’t be difficult to accomplish as I’ve done the work for you. In any online forum, message board, etc that is started by a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. Posit this question (or similar):

Remember after 9/11, Osama Bin Laden initially claimed not to be responsible for the attacks. Why do you think he did that?

To a truther, the only possible retort would be, of course: Because he didn’t do it. (This assumes you can get a straight answer out of them, if you can’t, simply press the issue).

So, the follow-up, of course, is:

Do you think he was trying to warn the world that something wasn’t right about the attacks?

I’d expect a dodge and weave here, if I were you, so here is your next reply in this scenario. Your next follow-up would be, of course:

Isn’t he really the original person who stood up and said, “hey something isn’t right here” In some sense, he’s the person who brought it out into the open that this was a huge conspiracy, right? Alex Jones didn’t start the 9/11 conspiracy talk until 2002, Loose Change didn’t come out until 2005, but Bin Laden denied involvement in Oct of 2001.

As long as the truther responds here (I’d suspect they realize where this is going and vacate the conversation – this is where each of my attempts ended), your next follow-up is, of course:

So, in that sense, Bin Laden is somewhat of the hero of 9/11, isn’t he? For being the first to stand up to the Bush Cabal and not take blame for the conspiracy.

If the truther didn’t vacate the discussion before; he most certainly will here. Who wants to be known on the board/forum as the guy who called Bin Laden his hero?

What this does is point out the dishonesty of their argument. If the truther cannot admit that Bin Laden is somewhat heroic for denying involvement and standing up to Bush, then, at least they have it in the back of their mind that Bin Laden is behind the attacks. If they do come out and say that Bin Laden was a hero for standing up to Bush; well that kind of speaks for itself doesn’t it?

If you do get an agreement here; please send me a screenshot or link to the discussion. I think it’d be an immediate object lesson to anyone toying with the “truth”. I’m working on it, but I’m a bit too well known as a debunker on forums I visit, so it’s a tough road to hoe unless I happen to find a truther who is a newbie - and they are already fun enough to mess with.

Update: So, do the Truthers have the courage to nominate their hero for President in 2008?

Ever since the story of Kyla Ebbert came out; something smelled rotten in Danmark. As you know, Kyla was removed from an SWA flight because her outfit was too skimpy and revealing. The outfit, actually, was really nothing more than you’d see any girl wearing in a mall. What was the big deal?

What made this more strange, is that on Southwest’s own site, they have all the commercials they have run over the years – some featuring stewardesses in skimpier outfits than Kyla was wearing. See commercial above.

She immediately was all over the news – appearing on the Today Show, Fox News, Dr Phil’s show, etc. How did this minor incident become so widespread so quickly? After the furor seemed to die down, the same thing happened to another woman. This second incident helped push the news cycle on this a little bit further and keep it going for another few days.

Then, yesterday, Southwest Airlines backs off and offers her two free round-trip tickets and also offers everyone sales fares for 10 days. The tone of their press release to announce the sale didn’t come across as a company looking to avoid a lawsuit either, more like someone springing the joke on everyone:

“Some have said we’ve gone from loving hot pants to having hot flashes but nothing could be farther from the truth, “said Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly. “The publicity caught us with our pants down, quite frankly. The story has such great legs, but we have an even better sense of humor, so we’re going to jump out there and lower our fares to match the mini skirts we’ve all been hearing so much about.”

Coincidentally (or not), this all occurs at one of the slowest times of the year for air travel.

The week after Labor Day, in particular, is another back-to-work week, when people tend to travel less. In fact, the fall can be a slow time for many parts of the travel industry, because leisure travelers stay home and either work or go to school.

I’m not convinced this is so much a coincidence as it is a prolonged series of free advertising for Southwest Airlines. Given the advertising industry’s desire to come up with new and creative ways to keep their brand in the public’s eye, it is certainly conceivable this was plotted from the beginning. How else can you get free commercials on every major network for two weeks and get people talking about your airline? Then followup with discounted travel for a short period of time immediately afterwards? Using women to sell products by turning them into objects is a well known tactic and done to sell everything from cars to hamburgers, so finding some willing young woman to pull this off would be easy – she came across as vacant enough to play the part too.

Looked at it that way, it’s hard to argue this hasn’t been a long advertising campaign, isn’t it?

It’s the storyline that matters; not reality. The AP shows their true colors once again. Much like Reuters did a few months ago.

 Under the administration of U.S. President Bill Clinton, the United States joined a U.N. meeting in Kyoto and agreed to the protocol. But the United States rejected it under the administration of President George W. Bush, Clinton’s successor.

Actually. No. That is not what happened.

Opening Wikipedia (again):

On July 25, 1997, before the Kyoto Protocol was finalized (although it had been fully negotiated, and a penultimate draft was finished), the U.S. Senate unanimously passed by a 95–0 vote the Byrd-Hagel Resolution (S. Res. 98), which stated the sense of the Senate was that the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol that did not include binding targets and timetables for developing as well as industrialized nations or “would result in serious harm to the economy of the United States”. On November 12, 1998, Vice President Al Gore symbolically signed the protocol. Both Gore and Senator Joseph Lieberman indicated that the protocol would not be acted upon in the Senate until there was participation by the developing nations. The Clinton Administration never submitted the protocol to the Senate for ratification.

Basic research on a basic issue. It’s beyond the AP. And its beyond Reuters. Why am I not surprised?

If you have a blog, you must sit around wondering – man, how do I get more blog spam comments? My blog simply does not link to enough porn sites! I love moderating porn comments! Or, the ever popular – My only readers are visitors who want me to look at porn!

Here’s a wonderful solution to your problem!

Make a blog entry; optimal title would include the words: sex, women and <random animal> . For instance, this post has all the important elements and, so far this week (about 3 months after its written) now gets 20-30 spam comments a day. Sweet deal.

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Your online life is now complete. Say thank you.