Friday, December 27, 2002

Editing outlines on your Palm

Back in May I asked for some folks to help me figure out a way to edit outlines on my Palm. One of Radio’s powerful features is its built-in outliner – a simple but effective tool for hierarchically ordering information. It stores all outlines in its own file format, called OPML (more on OPML here). Increasingly, I found that I was putting more information into outline format  because it made it easier to organize my own information. Then I found activeRenderer, a great Radio enhancement developed by Marc Barrot – aR takes your Radio outlines and converts them to very useable HTML pages. (See my CV as one example of a Radio outline converted to HTML.) aR applies templates to the outlines, so that you can maintain the organization of the outline while applying a consistent look and feel to the content. Only downside to this – you need to be in front of the Radio app to edit the outlines – and there was no easy way to extend this functionality to the Palm.



In response to my request, one individual turned me on to Bonsai, an outlining software application for the Palm OS. Now that I’ve got my Treo (an outstanding combination cell phone and Palm PDA), I’ve found the perfect match. What follows is a quick run-down on how to connect Bonsai to Radio so that edits you make on your Palm get synched back to Radio – and, if you’re using activeRenderer, how to then upload (and render) those outlines to the web.



  1. Download Bonsai from Natara’s web site. You can try it for 30 days before you have to register – it’s probably a good idea to do this while you test this out. NOTE: This integration is a Windows-only thing; while you can download Bonsai without its desktop component, the export to Radio requires the Windows destop app. Install it to your desktop and ensure that it installs properly to your Palm.
  2. If you don’t already have a Radio outline you want to have available on your Palm, skip to step 3. Open Radio (right-click on Radio in system tray, select “Open Radio”), open your outline, and select “File | Save as Plain Text”. Save it somewhere you’ll remember (like /My Documents).
  3. Launch Bonsai (Start | Programs | Natara Software | Bonsai) and create a new, blank outline. If importing from an existing outline, click “File | Import” and navigate to the text version of your Radio outline. Set the outline to synchronize with your Palm (“File | Synchronize”), then close.
  4. Sync your Palm. The outline should now show up on your Palm.



  5. Create a Bonsai Export Template to convert the Bonsai outline to OPML. Thanks to David Benjamin, who posted this message to Outliners.com, this is a simple process. Save the resulting text file as opml.oxt in your Bonsai directory.
  6. Verify that the export template works; open the outline in Bonsai’s desktop app, click “File | Export” then select “opml” from the list. Give it a filename, then open the file in Radio and make sure that everything looks good.
  7. The last step is a nice “hack” that is supported by Bonsai: command-line exports of files that can then be automated. Open Notepad. Create a batch file that includes the following line:
    BONSAI /EXPORT [filename].OTL “c:\program files\natara\bonsai\opml.oxt” “c:\program files\radio userland\www\outlines\[filename].opml”
    This will give you a file that you can run whenever you want to take the Bonsai outline and apply the OPML export instructions. The reason I put it in the /www/outlines folder of Radio is that this is the folder that activeRenderer “watches” and automatically converts to HTML for upload. If you have more than one outline to export, simply add a separate line for each outline (and make sure to change the filenames as appropriate). Save the batch file (I called mine outline_export.bat) in your Bonsai directory.
  8. Finally, you can automate this so that every time you sync your Palm, it will run the OPML export. In the Bonsai application, click on “View | Global Settings” then select Synchronization. The last box says “Post synchronization command” – in this box, type in the name of the batch file you created. Now, whenever you sync your Palm, this export will run. And if you’re online, Radio will “see” it, and with aR installed it will render the outline and upload it to your weblog (or, in my case, I have Radio set to upload a sub-directory of /www/outlines to my intranet).

The end result is rather elegant – you can edit outlines on the Palm, and have them automatically uploaded to the web. Couple comments:



  • You shouldn’t edit the outline in Radio anymore – if you do, the changes will be overwritten next time you sync your Palm. (If you choose to edit in Radio, you’ll need to export, then import into Bonsai – this is a manual process!)
  • Bonsai is a much more fully-featured outline application than Radio. This means that you can link outline items to to-dos, track completion status, identify whether items are done, etc. If you want any of that information reflected in your Radio outline, you’ll need to change the OPML export template. See the Bonsai User Manual (starting on p. 61) for more info about how to customize what information is exported from Bonsai.



  • OPML doesn’t really store the node state (expanded or collapsed) in a way that’s easily reproduceable from Bonsai. It looks like Bonsai can export a list of collapsed items, but OPML wants a list of expanded items. This is probably possible to figure out, but it’s not all that important to me (see below about collapsing all nodes).
  • Bonsai has a limit of 140 characters per outline item. (It can also create “notes” that are attahed to the items.) Since Radio doesn’t have a concept of items vs. notes, you will probably want to keep your outline items fairly short so they don’t get truncated in export.

A couple things that I did to make this more functional for me, since the primary purpose of doing this was to distribute these outlines throughout my company.



  • You can include Radio macros in the outline itself – once the outline is exported to a directory that Radio watches, the macro will be executed before the outline is upstreamed. I used the radio.macros.getLastUpdate and authorName macros, so that a line shows up in the top of the outline that tells them when the file was last updated and who edited it.
  • I was annoyed that the default export created an outline with every node expanded. So I use an activeRenderer javascript command to automatically collapse all outline nodes. Just insert onload=“collapseAll(‘active’)” somewhere in the body tag of your #template.txt file. Note: this will collapse the entire outline and show just top-level items.

Editing Radio Outlines on Your Palm

Thanks to my new Treo, info on my PDA is always close by. I’m increasingly reliant on outlines as a way to organize info, collect thoughts, etc. But one limitation was that I couldn’t edit the outlines on my Palm. When the Treo arrived, I put a little effort into trying to fix that.



You can read the results here.

Connecting Radio Outlines to Your Palm

Back in May I asked for some folks to help me figure out a way to edit outlines on my Palm. One of Radio’s powerful features is its built-in outliner – a simple but effective tool for hierarchically ordering information. It stores all outlines in its own file format, called OPML (more on OPML here). Increasingly, I found that I was putting more information into outline format  because it made it easier to organize my own information. Then I found activeRenderer, a great Radio enhancement developed by Marc Barrot – aR takes your Radio outlines and converts them to very useable HTML pages. (See my CV as one example of a Radio outline converted to HTML.) aR applies templates to the outlines, so that you can maintain the organization of the outline while applying a consistent look and feel to the content. Only downside to this – you need to be in front of the Radio app to edit the outlines – and there was no easy way to extend this functionality to the Palm.



In response to my request, one individual turned me on to Bonsai, an outlining software application for the Palm OS. Now that I’ve got my Treo (an outstanding combination cell phone and Palm PDA), I’ve found the perfect match. What follows is a quick run-down on how to connect Bonsai to Radio so that edits you make on your Palm get synched back to Radio – and, if you’re using activeRenderer, how to then upload (and render) those outlines to the web.


  1. Download Bonsai from Natara’s web site. You can try it for 30 days before you have to register – it’s probably a good idea to do this while you test this out. NOTE: This integration is a Windows-only thing; while you can download Bonsai without its desktop component, the export to Radio requires the Windows destop app. Install it to your desktop and ensure that it installs properly to your Palm.
  2. If you don’t already have a Radio outline you want to have available on your Palm, skip to step 3. Open Radio (right-click on Radio in system tray, select “Open Radio”), open your outline, and select “File | Save as Plain Text”. Save it somewhere you’ll remember (like /My Documents).
  3. Launch Bonsai (Start | Programs | Natara Software | Bonsai) and create a new, blank outline. If importing from an existing outline, click “File | Import” and navigate to the text version of your Radio outline. Set the outline to synchronize with your Palm (“File | Synchronize”), then close.
  4. Sync your Palm. The outline should now show up on your Palm.
  5. Create a Bonsai Export Template to convert the Bonsai outline to OPML. Thanks to David Benjamin, who posted this message to Outliners.com, this is a simple process. Save the resulting text file as opml.oxt in your Bonsai directory.
  6. Verify that the export template works; open the outline in Bonsai’s desktop app, click “File | Export” then select “opml” from the list. Give it a filename, then open the file in Radio and make sure that everything looks good.
  7. The last step is a nice “hack” that is supported by Bonsai: command-line exports of files that can then be automated. Open Notepad. Create a batch file that includes the following line:
    BONSAI /EXPORT [filename].OTL “c:\program files\natara\bonsai\opml.oxt” “c:\program files\radio userland\www\outlines\[filename].opml”
    This will give you a file that you can run whenever you want to take the Bonsai outline and apply the OPML export instructions. The reason I put it in the /www/outlines folder of Radio is that this is the folder that activeRenderer “watches” and automatically converts to HTML for upload. If you have more than one outline to export, simply add a separate line for each outline (and make sure to change the filenames as appropriate). Save the batch file (I called mine outline_export.bat) in your Bonsai directory.
  8. Finally, you can automate this so that every time you sync your Palm, it will run the OPML export. In the Bonsai application, click on “View | Global Settings” then select Synchronization. The last box says “Post synchronization command” – in this box, type in the name of the batch file you created. Now, whenever you sync your Palm, this export will run. And if you’re online, Radio will “see” it, and with aR installed it will render the outline and upload it to your weblog (or, in my case, I have Radio set to upload a sub-directory of /www/outlines to my intranet).

The end result is rather elegant – you can edit outlines on the Palm, and have them automatically uploaded to the web. Couple comments:

  • You shouldn’t edit the outline in Radio anymore – if you do, the changes will be overwritten next time you sync your Palm. (If you choose to edit in Radio, you’ll need to export, then import into Bonsai – this is a manual process!)
  • Bonsai is a much more fully-featured outline application than Radio. This means that you can link outline items to to-dos, track completion status, identify whether items are done, etc. If you want any of that information reflected in your Radio outline, you’ll need to change the OPML export template. See the Bonsai User Manual (starting on p. 61) for more info about how to customize what information is exported from Bonsai.
  • OPML doesn’t really store the node state (expanded or collapsed) in a way that’s easily reproduceable from Bonsai. It looks like Bonsai can export a list of collapsed items, but OPML wants a list of expanded items. This is probably possible to figure out, but it’s not all that important to me (see below about collapsing all nodes).
  • Bonsai has a limit of 140 characters per outline item. (It can also create “notes” that are attahed to the items.) Since Radio doesn’t have a concept of items vs. notes, you will probably want to keep your outline items fairly short so they don’t get truncated in export.



A couple things that I did to make this more functional for me, since the primary purpose of doing this was to distribute these outlines throughout my company.


  • You can include Radio macros in the outline itself – once the outline is exported to a directory that Radio watches, the macro will be executed before the outline is upstreamed. I used the radio.macros.getLastUpdate and authorName macros, so that a line shows up in the top of the outline that tells them when the file was last updated and who edited it.
  • I was annoyed that the default export created an outline with every node expanded. So I use an activeRenderer javascript command to automatically collapse all outline nodes. Just insert onload=“collapseAll(‘active’)” somewhere in the body tag of your #template.txt file. Note: this will collapse the entire outline and show just top-level items.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Radio as Infrastructure

Ernie’s post the other day about how he’ll be using Radio to update his firm’s News page got me thinking about how flexible Radio really is. Here’s how I use Radio today:




  • As a weblog application. Radio runs on my desktop and uploads new posts to my weblog TINS (just in case you hadn’t figured it out, it’s an acronym: There Is No Spoon, from a certain movie…).

  • As an aggregator. I monitor over 80 web sites – Radio downloads new content from them hourly and presents them in my aggregator page, saving me at least a half hour a day and making me aware of countless things that would otherwise never hit my radar.

  • As an outliner. I have become an outline junkie, using Radio’s built-in outliner to organize many of my most critical job-related activities.

  • As a conduit from my Treo to our intranet. An outgrowth of my outlining habit is the need to have quick access to my outlines. I use Natara Bonsai as my Palm-based outliner, and wrote a quick hack to automatically export all Bonsai outlines from my Treo to a directory in Radio. Once in that directory, Radio automatically converts the outline to HTML and uploads it to our intranet – making my information immediately available to the rest of my company. (Note: the conversion to HTML is possible thanks to an outstanding plug-in for Radio called ActiveRenderer.)

  • As a promotional web site for my book. Along with my two co-authors, I manage a group weblog in support of our book about marketing on the Internet. Posts are aggregated by Radio and uploaded to bookblogs.com (a domain I own).

  • As a subject matter backup. I maintain a separate category in Radio for posts relating to Knowledge Management. These posts are then aggregated by David Gurteen in the UK, who maintains a “Knowledge-log” of various contributors on KM topics. (Apology in advance to David – I’ve been a bit slack in contributing lately. I’ll get better, I promise.)

To sum up, Radio currently uploads content from my desktop to four unique web sites on three separate domains. Some content is automatically generated, some is converted and uploaded, other content is simply mirrored from my desktop up to the web. Radio has become a critical piece of my desktop.

File not found - the inside story

Choose Your 404




“Wow! You get a choice. HTTP Error 404 – Your Choice and one is a movie.” [meryl’s notes]

[The Shifted Librarian]



Erik – just for you. Might be the best of all time. Be sure to watch “The Making of 404: The Movie” – very well done.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Perspective

Miraculously, our two year-old (“two and a HALF Daddy!”) let us sleep in this morning. Probably the last time that will happen for a while. While waiting for him to make the trip downstairs, I saw that I had an e-mail waiting. It was from one of my co-workers.



He’s in Kuwait – got called up earlier this month and will be there until at least the end of January. In a lot of ways, hearing from him and remembering his sacrifice helped put today in perspective. We’re lucky for who and what we’ve got. Simple as that.



To Steve, who’s doing his duty – and to all of his fellow soldiers: thank you for your service.

Merry Christmas!

I’m settling in for a wonderful evening of food, toy assembling and a sip or three of wine. I’m sure the two year-old will have us up before daybreak, so I’l likely be out of touch for a few days.



For everyone reading this, I hope you have a relaxing, enjoyable few days. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2002

Geek Time: Movable Type on a Local PC

I played around with Movable Type over the weekend, then went off the deep end and installed Movable Type locally and used Radio to publish it up to the web. This is probably (OK, almost certainly) one of those “because you can” moments that has no practical value, but then again, it might actually make sense. But I don’t know – so I’m just throwing this out there and letting you decide. Have fun. [more…]

The Matrix Sequels - Oh. My. God.

The next five months are going to seem like an eternity. Check out this article on The Matrix in this week’s Newsweek, where we learn:


  • On the climactic car chase in Reloaded (Matrix 2): The ensuing sequence may be the most audaciously conceived, thrillingly executed car chase ever filmed. Sounds like hype, yeah. But you’ve gotta see this thing. The scene features two kung fu battles in speeding vehicles-one in the back seat of a Cadillac, the other on the roof of an 18-wheeler truck. There’s also a heart-stopping motorcycle chase through oncoming traffic and enough wrecked cars to keep a junkyard in business for years. Fans will go particularly bonkers over one shot of an agent leaping from atop a moving car onto the hood of another and, with his feet, crushing the entire thing into a pretzel. Says cinematographer Bill Pope: “It’s going to make ‘The Fast and the Furious’ look like ‘The Slow and the Dimwitted’.”

  • On the climax to Revolutions (Matrix 3): A climactic battle like we’ve never seen before: a 17-minute sequence that alone cost about two thirds of the budget of the first “Matrix.”

  • On building their own freeway: The freeway chase was the first sequence the Wachowskis tackled for the sequels, and they spent months searching for the perfect location. The brothers wanted their freeway to have a sense of doom about it; not surprisingly, most urban planners try to avoid that. So the search came up empty. The brothers’ solution was a tad unconventional: they dumped the idea of shooting on an existing freeway and built their own. In February 2001, they hired a construction crew to erect a two-mile loop – complete with exit signs, dividers, an on ramp and an overpass – on an old U.S. naval base in Alameda, Calif. When they first heard the idea, the construction guys nearly keeled over. “They actually said to us, ‘We’re not doing this’,” recalls executive producer Grant Hill. “They couldn’t believe it was for a movie. They said, ‘Do you realize how much this costs?’” Correct answer: $300,000 per quarter mile. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘OK, we can do that’.”

  • On the special effects in the two films: Gaeta’s visual-effects company, Esc (as in the “escape” button on a keyboard), and six other FX houses will have to deliver more than 2,500 separate shots, many of which will have taken nearly three years to complete. (By comparison, the first “Matrix” had 412 FX shots.) The price tag: a whopping $100 million, a figure that includes a new facility for Esc on the base in Alameda. Gaeta’s previous company, Manix, won a visual-effects Oscar for the first “Matrix” – an upset victory over George Lucas’s “The Phantom Menace.” But Manix was far too small to handle what the Wachowskis wanted for the sequels. “Reloaded” and “Revolutions” required technology that, at the time, hadn’t been invented yet.


I cannot wait.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Creative Commons

I like the idea behind Creative Commons, the license project designed to make the distribution of intellectual property more flexible. Read more about it at their FAQ, or just go ahead and get yourself a license.



I just added a button to this site that permits copying, displaying, or performance (!) of work on this weblog so long as others provide attribution. Commercial redistribution is not permitted (without my approval), nor are derivative works.



This works well.

Treo Customer Service Hell

Well, so much for being excited about my Treo arriving. I ordered the Treo on Monday morning, around 9:30am central. By about 4pm, T-Mobile had approved me for service and I was told:





See that “awaiting shipment” in the right-hand column? Just in case you weren’t sure what it meant (I sure thought I knew what it meant), here’s the helpful explanation in the Status Message key below:





Here’s where it gets interesting. When nothing happened on Tuesday, I didn’t worry – after all, they told me it would be 3-4 business days to ship. But I’d at least have it by Friday, right?



Wednesday came, still no change in status. So I called – and was told that it was shipping that afternoon. When there was no change on the web site “order status” page by 8pm Wednesday night, I called again. That rep told me it would probably ship tomorrow (i.e., Thursday).



Here we are on Thursday, and I called again. This time I get told that in fact the Treo 180 has been back ordered and won’t be shipping until tomorrow, but that once it “ships” it will be 2-3 days and I probably won’t receive it before Christmas. I asked why the web site didn’t tell me it was back ordered. “Don’t know.” I then asked why other reps told me it was shipping yesterday or today. “I would never have told you that,” was her helpful reply.



Whatever the order status, I was also puzzled over her 2-3 day additional shipping time statement. Here’s the explanation of their “express shipping” option:




(You can read the whole policy here.) In their defense, they do include this catch-all caveat:




NOTE: Above dates are suggested latest order times only. Credit check or other issues may cause additional delays. We cannot guarantee the delivery times or services provided by our carriers. If there is a problem with your credit check, additional time may be required to process your order.



So why am I so annoyed? The “other issues” in their caveat in this case are their own delays at shipping the product – because it may or may not be backordered!



At this point, I’d about had it. Either it was shipping or it wasn’t. Either it was overnight delivery or it wasn’t. “Can I speak to a manager?” I asked. “No.” A minute later, I asked again. Apparently I wore her down – this time I got through.



After a few minutes on hold, I spoke with Jerry, a supervisor. Jerry kindly explained that they’ve had a lot of orders for the 180 (did he want me to congratulate them?) and that he was in Utah. That’s relevant because the Treos are all in Indiana – not in Utah, where he would be able to help me. Thinking this was a game, I asked to be transferred to Indiana. “ Nope – can’t do that. Don’t have their phone number.”



I asked him to elaborate. “They don’t give us that information. And even if I had the number, I probably wouldn’t be allowed to give it out.” Uh-huh. What about my shipment? “Well,” he said, “the product might be back ordered.” “Might?” I asked. “Yes. I can’t tell where your order is in the queue, or when it will ship.” He has no idea if my order is back ordered – apparently that’s not something they thought to include in their customer service application. He got a bit defensive at that point, telling me that I was asking for information that was “impossible to track.”



I pointed out that I’ve been ordering items from Amazon.com for six years, and that every order I’ve made has included exactly that kind of information. “Well, that’s Amazon.”



And, I’m sorry to report, Handspring is no Amazon.



sigh

Identity

I’m a huge fan of John Cusack’s (though I’m not sure I’d vote for him for president) and I think Identity – starring Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Alfred Molina, Clea Duvall and Rebecca DeMornay – looks awfully spooky. Scheduled release date is March 21, 2003.



Check out the trailer at Apple.com.

Internet World: Lincoln Banks with Interface Software

Internet World ran a case study this week about Lincoln Partners, a Chicago-based investment bank. They recently purchased InterAction for business development and client service.




Lincoln Partners plans to use InterAction 5 to manage both its strategic and tactical business development initiatives and the processing of transactions. The firm will now be able to execute targeted business development and marketing initiatives aimed at clients and prospects in selected markets with a high level of accuracy and confidence.
Using the system to answer questions such as “Who worked on which deals?” and “What contacts were involved in these specific deals?” the firm will also be able to track deals and more effectively manage its internal experience and expertise. “In terms of CRM, InterAction 5 puts us either ahead of or at parity with any other investment bank — large or small,” comments Lawson.

Blogspot RSS

UPDATE: (10:05pm CST) Not that it much matters, but the directory of RSS files at Blogspot sites is back up. Go to http://blogname.blogspot.com/rss/ where blogname is the name of whatever blog you visit. Using the URL below (http://appellateblog.blogspot.com/rss/) produces an apparent list of all BlogSpot RSS feeds. (And for those that asked: this isn’t a good or bad thing – just an observation. In many ways, it’s kind of nice to have an arbitrary collection of feeds to look at. There’s no security violation per se – it’s just an interesting undocumented feature (bug?) in the way BlogSpot is set up.)



UPDATE: (4:25pm CST) Dave Winer picked up on this post, and it looks like the folks at BlogSpot have redirected any directory browsing of the /rss directories back to a sign-up page for BlogSpot.

Anyone else noticed that if you want to see what RSS feeds are available at BlogSpot, you just add /rss to any blogspot hosted site? For example, I was at Howard Bashman’s site today, and the path to his XML feed is:



http://appellateblog.blogspot.com/rss/appellateblog. xml



But if you remove the filename appellateblog.xml and just go to http:// appellateblog.blogspot.com/rss/ , you get a complete list of all RSS feeds at BlogSpot hosted sites.

Got CRM?

Missed this one on the first go-around, but just stumbled upon it this morning. It seems that Philadelphia-based firm Pepper Hamilton issued a subpoena to a company in Detroit. The subpoena came from the Philadelphia office – and the lawyers found out after the fact that the company was a client of (you ready for this?) the firm’s Detroit office. Whoops. (The full write-up from the New Jersey Law Journal is here.)



Much of the article focuses on the fact that a conflicts check wasn’t done. But I think that misses the point – conflicts checks are for client engagements and can often take weeks. It’s impractical for a firm to go through a conflicts check for every witness it intends to subpoena. But a simple lookup in a CRM system would have identified the fact that the witness in question had been a client of the firm – for fourteen years!



Results of this gaffe? The firm was admonished by the judge, the NJ Law Journal picked it up and named names, and while the clients may be OK with the mistake, it’s clearly an uncomfortable situation. CRM is about maximizing opportunities to improve client relationships – which clearly would have been nice here. Just in case you’re wondering – no, the firm does not use InterAction, my company’s software.



(Side note: found the article in question after visiting law blog WeirdOfTheNews, a site whose lawyer owner claims owes its existence to the article I wrote for Law.com last month. Cool!)

The Doctor is In

Yesterday’s NY Times had a good profile on Howard Dean and his presidential ambitions.




“The disadvantage is all the other guys in the race on the Democratic side have national fund-raising organizations; I don’t,” Mr. Dean said at the Waldorf-Astoria in Manhattan the other day, between fund-raising meetings and speeches. “The big advantage is I’m a governor. They can say they sponsored a bill, they tried to get something through. I did it.”



He added: “The Democrats can’t win unless we have somebody who’s a) willing to stand up for Democratic Party principles, b) has a track record to show it’s not just talk and c) can directly communicate with the American people about things that are important to them.”

Marriott Deploying WiFi

Marriott to add Wi-Fi in 400 hotels. Service to be available in hotel obbies, meeting, rooms, restaurants [InfoWorld: Top News]



I’ve been in the process of checking out Marriott. I’m a Hilton Diamond member (means I’ve stayed in more than 28 Hilton Hotels each of the past two years) but received an invitation to try out Marriott’s rewards program. This is exactly the thing that will push me to switch.



I’m getting a new laptop with WiFi built in next month, and will likely buy T-Mobile’s HotSpot subscription service as soon as I get started. Couple that with WiFi access when I’m in a hotel at night and I’m in great shape.

Bill of Rights: Now 40% Leaner!

If this weren’t so close to reality, it would be hysterical. Instead, I feel like sobbing uncontrollably. (OK, that might be overstating it a bit. But not by much.) The Onion: Bill of Rights Pared Down to Six:
“We’re not taking away personal rights; we’re increasing personal security,” Ashcroft said. “By allowing for greater government control over the particulars of individual liberties, the Bill of Rights will now offer expanded personal freedoms whenever they are deemed appropriate and unobtrusive to the activities necessary to effective operation of the federal government.”
Sigh. And just in case you think this fake quote is off the mark, here’s Ashcroft’s embarrassing quote before the Senate committee in the wake of September 11:
“To those who pit Americans against immigrants, and citizens against non-citizens; to those who scare peace- loving people with phantoms of lost liberty; my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists – for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.”
Remember – this guy’s the Attorney General. Phantoms of lost liberty indeed.

On a related note, if you want to ruin an otherwise perfectly good mood, be sure to read this excerpt from next month’s Esquire on Karl Rove and the Bush Administration’s domestic “policy” initiatives.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Internal Marketing of Knowledge Management

Internal Marketing of Knowledge Management. In Beyond the Newsletter: Leveraging Technology to Market the Library, Catherine Sanders Reach, a research specialist at the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, writes about internal marketing practices including branding, logos, slogans, and marketing plans for law firm libraries. Although the focus is on the law firm library, the same practices can be used for marketing a KM initiative. Note to self: read this article frequently. (Spotted on LawHawk) [Via excited utterances]

So You Want to Marry My Daughter?

In the “aren’t you glad this isn’t your mother in law” category, check out “Curious Mom Faces Credit Report Trial“ at Law.com:




A Minnesota mother, a private investigation firm and a collection agency may have gone too far in performing a background check on the woman’s prospective son-in-law when they obtained a report on his credit card account and child-support obligations.

You can read the full article for the punch line…



Reminds me of my property class when my property professor, eager to get us to think in analogies, asked us to come up with an analogy for an engagement ring. (The issue: is an engagement ring a gift or a promise?) When called on, one of my buddies didn’t skip a beat:



Prof. Berryhill: “How would you characterize an engagement ring?”
Student: “Like a test drive?”



It took us a good five minutes to stop laughing. (And no, he didn’t get too many dates that year.)

Spinal Tap In the National Film Registry!

I referenced Spinal Tap yesterday in a follow-up to the post about a woman unsuccessfully walking through a metal detector. Well, turns out the reference was timely: National Congressional Librarian James Billington announced today that Spinal Tap will be added to the National Film Registry, ensuring that the film “will be preserved for all time.



Nice.

Voice Over IP Goes Home

From Slate, an article about Vonage, a new entrant in the Internet telephony market. The difference between these guys and the other players? Vonage lets you plug a regular telephone into your broadband connection – and voila – dial tone. Flat rate $40/month for unlimited calling, call waiting, voicemail, caller ID.



On its own, that’s pretty revolutionary. (It would cut my monthly calling by about half.) But the more exciting prospects are that as this technology takes hold in the house, home telephones will actually get smarter. Think about telephone technology today – all of the innovation (if you can call it that) has gone into clearer signals without wires. The focus has been on the signal – not on the data. The only real evolution with home telephones has been Caller ID – and that’s been around for nearly 10 years.



Once your phone calls are coming in over the Internet, phone handsets could simultaneously match an incoming call with the Google reverse lookup of the caller’s name and address. Or let’s say you call a pizza delivery service – at the same time you’re calling, you could see an interactive menu on your screen. A few taps and you’re done.



This kind of innovation already exists in the corporate market. One of my customers in the UK uses our software to provide a real-time feed to their VOIP handsets displaying the caller’s name, profile, all activities the firm has had with the caller in the past 90 days, and other relevant data that makes the recipient of the call informed about who they’re talking to. It’s possible because the VOIP handset can send data via XML to our application server. (They match the incoming caller’s number to our database, then use the search result match to send XML data back to the handset, which the handset then translates to presentable text. Very cool.)



Just think about what will happen when you can do the same from a home phone.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Silicon Valley vs. K Street

Another item from the archives – this one from late November in Slate. Paul Boutin, a technology writer for Wired, Salon, Slate, etc., suggests that the last thing that should happen is for the geeks to play politics – they should continue to play the game on their own terms. Titled Silicon Valley vs. K Street, for me the key graf is:




It’s a losing ploy to try to beat government on its own turf. The geeks have already proved they’re great not at mastering bureaucracy but at end-running it. Disruptive technologies such as the Web, Linux, and Napster were rolled out by hackers who turned a deaf ear to the sputtering protests of authority figures. Take a Unix system administrator drinking, and he’ll tell you how he put the whole company on the Web back in 1995 before the suits could schedule a meeting to stop him.

I’m not so sure, but I like his thinking. Back in ’94, I was clerking at EFF and working on the Bernstein case. The EFF eventually split – the rock-star types (think John Gilmore, John Perry Barlow) stayed with EFF, trumpeting causes celebre and getting the lion’s share of the publicity. The then-director of EFF, Jerry Berman (former chief legislative counsel for the ACLU) took a few others with him (Daniel Weitzner and Jonah Seiger, both of whom have gone on to other efforts) to do the quieter, but arguably harder, job of working within the government to effect real and lasting change. They founded the Center for Democracy and Techology (CDT), an organization that has close ties both to government and corporate America. (See their list of supporters for more.)



In the end, both approaches are needed. But suggesting that an end-run around the government is a sure way to end up with laws that will ignore real progress and instead impose the will of those who’ve got the cash and the vested interests.



On a side note, I found Paul Boutin’s excellent weblog (RSS feed is here) – which I’m eager to start reading with regularity.

Please Remove Any Metal Objects Before Walking Through...

As bad as my travel has been lately, I must confess that I’ve never come close to having a day go this badly while on the road:




WINNIPEG, Canada (Reuters) — It took an airport metal detector to give a Canadian woman a clue to why she was suffering from persistent stomach aches four months after having abdominal surgery.



Despite the detector’s beep, airport security guards in Regina, Saskatchewan, were unable to find any metal on her body before the woman’s October flight to Calgary, Alberta.



Several days later the woman had an X-ray.



It showed a 30-centimeter (11.7-inch) long, 5 cm wide surgical retractor, used to hold incisions open, had been left in her abdomen after surgery four months earlier at the Regina General Hospital. [CNN.com]


That’s one foot long by two inches wide. In her abdomen. For four months.



Paging Derek Smalls

Monday, December 16, 2002

Treo On Its Way

Finally broke down and bought a Treo (the 180) to replace my current cell phone and PDA. Thanks to Ernie’s rave reviews, I felt pretty confident that this was the right move. Bonus: it’s a GSM phone (so it’ll work in London, which I visit about every six weeks) and T-Mobile has the GPRS service enabled, which allows an always-on Internet service (about 28.8 download, 14.4 upload).



It should be here by mid-week. Stay tuned…

Total Information Awareness

I’ve been meaning to write something on the Total Information Awareness (TIA) inititive underway at that bulwark of civil liberties, the Bush Administration. But my travel schedule the past few weeks has been more than a bit hectic, and I haven’t gotten around to it.



Declan McCullagh (DC correspondent for News.com) has an interesting little piece today about the possibilities of scrambling database data to prevent its misuse. While the details are a bit presumptive, I like the idea that the storage of data doesn’t necessarily equate to a potential for abuse. Let’s face it – the more data that’s captured somewhere, the more likely that someone who wants to snoop around will get access to it goes up. Sharply.



Trivia answer: McCullagh refers to a “femtosecond”, proving that life is getting faster. Turns out that a nanosecond is so last century. A femtosecond is a thousandth of a nanosecond.



Use it in a sentence? Sure: “Trent Lott went from Republican Majority Leader to late night punch line in a femtosecond.”

Friday, December 13, 2002

Congrats to Josh Marshall

My long-time friend Josh Marshall is getting credit for much of the attention paid to Trent Lott’s offensive remarks last week. As well he should – nice work Josh!

Help from the Crowd I

Help from the Crowd

I love this story. A ripoff artist gets caught because the network worked. A human network, in this case, augmenting the virtual one.

[Dan Gillmor’s eJournal]

Very Cool Windows Hack

Want to change your Windows NT or Windows 2000 boot-up screen? Take a visit over to this site to follow some pretty straightforward instructions on how to do it. (Not for the faint of heart – you’re changing a Windows system file.)



In about 20 minutes, I was able to add my company’s logo to the standard Windows boot-up screen – nice little trick. Another tip lets you change the background color and wallpaper for the logon screen. Both are nice tricks for adding a little corporate branding to an otherwise Microsoft-centric setup.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

I'm Not Dead Yet!


I’m still alive. Quiet and exhausted, but alive. Yesterday was fairly typical of days on the road lately:



5am: alarm goes off. In a fog, I stumble out of bed. “Where am I?” Phone says Marriott Courtyard, Crystal City. “Right. DC.” “Why am I in DC?” “Why’s the alarm going off?” Shower clears the fog. I have a 7am flight to NYC. Get to New York, that’s when the fun starts. All meetings were with investment banks (not naming names – I’m superstitious that way). (We’re selling them software, not trying to line up financing, just in case you were curious.)



First meeting is at 1 NY Plaza – basically Battery Park. Wrap up, get in cab, and clear voicemail in the cab to midtown to find out our 2 o’clock had been moved up to “as soon as you can get here”. Thank God I had that soggy bagel with cheese and egg product at National Airport or else I’d be really hungry now… lunch would have seemed so extravagant anyway.



The two o’clock-now-one-something meeting turned out to be two meetings: one for 30 minutes with the co-managing directors at the investment banking group, the second for an hour with their overly aggressive “we know what we need to know and will needlessly kick tires and waste time for an hour” minions. After one particularly bizarre question that I tried to deflect with a polite “are you insane?” response, they replied “Oh. well, we’re not saying we’d want to do that… just wanted to know what you’d do if we did.” Huh?



Wrap up there only to head back downtown to One Financial Plaza – which our car service driver hadn’t heard of. (“You know, right next to ground zero? Maybe you’ve heard of it?”) Finally get there, to meet with the CTO at our third investment bank of the day. Spend most of the meeting trying to figure out if any of us in the room know what the other is talking about – think four dogs circling each other, sniffing each other trying to decide if they want to play or fight. ( I’m not kidding – a very odd way to spend an hour.)



That meeting runs long, so now I’m resigned to missing my 6pm flight to Boston. At least it’s pouring – because otherwise the 8 block walk to find a cab would be pleasant… We spend the next hour getting to Laguardia. I get there, get booked on the 7pm, get to the food court, and order my meal. As I’m walking to the table, juggling my luggage, my tray of food, and my cell phone, I promptly dumped drink and food all over the floor. (Fortunately not all of it hit the floor – some of it found its way onto my suitcase.)



Glancing at the line at the food counter, I figure that I now don’t have time to re-order and eat – my plane boards in 5 minutes. I get through security, get to the gate – and would you look at that! My flight’s delayed.



At least now I can eat… except that this terminal doesn’t have any friggin restaurants. I have to go back outside of security to eat. At least I had time – so I opted for the sit-down food where they bring the food to you. Seemed safer that way.



So there I was, two dinners (but no lunches) and two hours delayed, waiting for my plane to take off. The rain’s getting harder, I see I’m on an AA “Regional Jet”. Five minutes into the flight, I figure from now on they should have a “you must be this tall to ride the plane” sign next to the boarding gate, since it was much more like a roller coaster than a jet…  At one point it was so eerily quiet (“Did the engines just cut out?”) that I thought I could hear the rain hitting the side of the plane.



Got to my hotel around 11pm, just three hours late.



Yup – travel sure is glamorous!

Sunday, December 8, 2002

NYT on WiFi: Low Profit Potential?

The New York Times runs an article by Barnaby Feder announcing that WiFi is “hot” but that profit potential is “tepid”. (Always nice to see the Times doing its part for vocabulary appreciation.) A couple quotes:




Many of the early leaders in Wi-Fi are obscure companies like Proxim, Buffalo, Linksys and Dlink.





[T]he communications giants that operate wide-area networks may very likely become controlling partners, if not the outright owners, of localized Wi-Fi networks in order to manage their broadband business efficiently.



“The more attention it gets, the more the big players get involved,” said Andrew Seybold, an analyst whose company, Outlook 4Mobility, follows wireless communications. “It’s not an industry that is going to create the next Netscape or the next Microsoft.”


Huh. In other words, this may be such an important telecom breakthrough that the communications giants may decide that their only option is to become an outright owner of the networks. (And nevermind that “obscure” Linksys is nearing a half billion dollars in revenue and has products in 8400 retail outlets in the U.S. alone.)



As far as statistics go, it’s not clear to me why the author fails to mention the fact that 90% of all laptops sold by 2006 will have WiFi built in – certainly that would be an interesting stat to support the growing ubiquity of the technology, or the longer-term profit potential? Here’s another good one: in 2007, there will be 21 million WiFi hotspot users. At just $20/month for access, you’re looking at a $400m/month industry. Think you might see a few dollars of profit in there?



I guess these statistics must be why AT&T, IBM and Intel announced a joint venture that will create 20,000 (yes, twenty thousand) hotspots before the end of 2004. Named Cometa, it’s expected to be the largest WiFi provider.



And let’s not let facts get in the way of a good ol’ skeptical story. Why not mention that one of the major corporations to commit to WiFi early on was T-Mobile, who has inked deals with “ obscure” companies like Borders, American Airlines and Starbucks to provide WiFi subscription-based access in more than 2500 unique locations around the country in 2003?



And to wrap up this rant, why in an article that purports to identify the limited profit potential of an industry still in its infancy are there no financial figures to identify the market opportunity?



The closest the journalist gets to analysis is this comment, which misses the mark on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start:




As with other forms of high-speed, or broadband, communications, consumers may embrace Wi-Fi only to the extent that they can figure out how to pay little or nothing for it.

But the ultimate problem with this assertion is that the real market for WiFi is with business users, not consumers. Of course, one of the biggest obstacles to broadband adoption has been ease-of-use (how many of you would tell your parents to try to set up a DSL modem?), not cost (though cost is also an issue). Ever try setting up a WiFi access point? No? Try this: slide the PCMCIA card into the slot. Slide the CD in the CD-ROM drive. Click next a few times. Now open your browser. (It’ll get even easier next year, when Intel’s new Banias chip will ship with integrated WiFi capabilities.)



Come on – this is just a hack piece all around.

Saturday, December 7, 2002

Run, Howard, Run

The more I read about Howard Dean, the more I am convinced that he will be a serious candidate that will frighten the Republicans during primary season. Check out this article from a couple weeks ago in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. While some hint that he’s really just running for Vice President or Secretary of Health & Human Services, I think he’s legit.



What other Democrats (a) are confident of their own image, (b) think quickly on their feet, (c) have the support of the press, and (d) can articulate a message sufficiently different from that of the Bush administration?



Trust me – keep an eye on him.

Thursday, December 5, 2002

An Informed Electorate

From Jennifer Klyse, exactly the kind of project that would generate a tremendous amount of attention and awareness of how weblog technology can produce tangible benefits:




What I’ve been working on when I haven’t been at work..



I had an idea for a newsfeed. Since I’ve become completely hooked on my aggregator in Radio, I find myself frustrated with any news that I cannot have delivered to me once an hour at my desk. Information about the activities of my Congressional Representative and Senators was at the top of this list, so I went looking for that elusive little “XML” button on their sites, on a variety of congressional information sites, on Google…I couldn’t find what I wanted.
Now, in my brain, I have it mapped out. To be an informed citizen, part of an Informed Electorate, I need to know what the elected officials who represent me are doing. And this is how I’d like it to work. Please, if you read it…let me know what you think. [klyjen.blog]

Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Will Ferrell is a "switcher"

Will Ferrell as Santa Claus in a couple parodies of Apple’s Switch campaign



On Santa’s run-in with the law: “Merry Christmas! … or Happy Holidays! I could go either way.



On Santa’s iPod: “980 Christmas songs. And 20 Doobie Brothers. And 1 Sheryl Crow.



Yes, the Ellen Feiss ad is funny. But there’s something about Will Ferrell’s weary, resigned Santa that’s just priceless.



(Note: this isn’t Will’s first take at a Switch parody. Check out Will comparing the merits of an iMac to a parfait.)

Anatomy of a Conversation

Ernie nails it :



“[E]ven more important is the conversation that is taking place amongst lawyers in San Fransicso, Chicago, Maine, New Orleans, Philadelphia and Brussels.  Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web precisely so that such conversations could take place.  And people like Ev Williams and Dave Winer created simple tools to facilitate such conversations. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty damn impressed.”

What's up with Enoch Root?

That’s it, I’ve got to read Cryptonomicon again –




From CafeauLait.org:



How did Enoch Root come back from the dead? He dies in Sweden in 1944 on on p. 541 when “the only other people in the room are Rudolf von Hackelheber, Bobby Shaftoe, and the Swedish doctor.” Then, 55 years later, Enoch Root shows up again on p. 784 in a Philippine jail. Now this could be a different person using the same name, but on p. 850 back in 1945, Rudolf von Hackelheber (who saw Root die) is informed that Root is alive and well in the Philippines and doesn’t seem to be at all surprised. Others such as as Otto and Bischoff, who didn’t see Root die but who were informed of his death, are equally unsurprised. Then on p. 860 Root shows up again, alive and well in 1945 at Shaftoe’s funeral. On p. 878 et seq., we find out that Rudolf von Hackelheber is at that funeral too, and has been in communication with Root. If this is an imposter Root, this makes no impression on Hackelheber.



Does anyone want to take a stab at explaining this? How did Root come back from the dead? Was someone else killed in his place? Does he have a twin brother? Has he magically risen from the dead? Is there any clue what’s going on here? Or did Stephenson just screw up and forget he’d killed Root off back on p. 541? None of the explanations I’ve come up with make any sense at all.


Thanks to Evan Williams for the pointer.

Choosing Domain Names

My good buddy Erik Heels has published a fantastic primer on how to choose domain names. In a former life, Erik and I wrote a book togeter (the well-written but terribly-titled Law Law Law on the Internet) and we continue to co-author nothing.but.net for the American Bar Association. Today, Erik’s an IP lawyer based outside of Boston.



His article is a well-written overview of trademark law and domain name protection. And it’s funny. Really.



(My prediction: only two of the six “cool” domain names he mentions will still be available at the end of the month.)

Monday, December 2, 2002

Vendor bias

Guess this is as good a place as any to vent. I was invited to speak at a conference next week in DC. Attendees will be c-level marketing executives from the nation’s top law firms. While there are plenty of qualified possible speakers out there, the conference organizer invited me because we’ve known each other for six years and he considers me to be something of an authority when it comes to certain uses of technology within the legal profession.



When I called to confirm details for the event a few weeks ago, I found out that I’d been removed from the panel. I was surprised, as noone had bothered to notify me before. I asked why. Was told that since my company wasn’t sponsoring the event, they didn’t want to give me a speaking opportunity which could benefit my company. (Interestingly, the conference company didn’t bother to inform the conference organizer – which infuriated the organizer. But that’s a separate topic.)



Nevermind that I’ve written books on the subject, have spoken at dozens of conferences over the past five years, and write a monthly column on the subject of law and technology. Nope – it’s all about the money. In one conference I speak at regularly, my speaking slot is secured only after my company agrees to pony up well over $20,000 to sponsor the event.



While I appreciate that conferences must make money, and that frequently they make money by way of vendor sponsorships, is it too much to ask that a line be drawn between editorial and ad sales? Or am I missing something?