Wednesday, December 31, 2003

House party a success!

Last night was a thrill. We ended up with over 50 people at our house, a new record for us. Combined with another house party in DuPage County, we had over 75 people attending fundraisers for Howard Dean. And this is a county that most equate with Orange County, California.

More importantly, we raised nearly $3,000 for the campaign — as of a few hours ago, we’re at $2800 and counting. People were incredibly generous with their contributions — the smallest contribution was $20 and the largest was $311. We had so many new faces, it was exciting to think how far we’ve come since our first MeetUp in April.

The fun’s just getting started. Iowa’s not even three weeks away.

Monday, December 29, 2003


Hi there… in the next few days, I will be combining this weblog with my personal blog. On or before January 1, you will find this site at

TINS is an acronym: There Is No Spoon. It’s a line from the first Matrix, when “spoon boy” tries to help Neo see the world for what it is, and tries to teach him how to bend it ever so slightly.

In any event, I’m no longer interested in separating out my political comments from my comments on other topics (law, technology, marketing, etc.). I will be making changes to my blog that will allow you to view content by category, so if you’re interested in reading only those comments that pertain to Howard Dean, you’ll be able to.

Expect light posts for the next couple days, then drop in at tins and say hi!

Friday, December 26, 2003

Dean House Party in Naperville, IL

For those of you reading this who are local (to me, that is), consider yourself invited to our house party for Howard Dean on Tuesday, December 30.

And for those of you who are not local but who would like to show your support, please feel free to click the link above and donate a few bucks. (And if you were going to contribute before year-end, why not contribute through that link and give our modest house party a nice tip o’ the cap?)

We hosted a house party in April, our first political fundraiser (as attendees or hosts). We’ve since been to several — and found the house party format to be yet another example of how the Dean campaign has made a difference in our lives. Put the politics aside, put the rhetoric aside, and what you’re left with is a movement that has connected us with more people in our community than anything else we’ve done in the three years we’ve lived here.

So — we’re looking forward to Tuesday night. So far, more than 30 are confirmed to attend, and I’ve heard from close to 10 others that they’ll likely be here. My wife said she’d handle up to 50, so that leaves room for you. What are you waiting for? You’ll have a ball. And you’ll meet some cool people. Come visit!

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas!

Life is never dull with two kids under 4 on during Christmas. Some highlights for me:

  • Thanks to my Great Uncle Jim, we had “reindeer food” for the kids to throw outside last night. Ricky (nearly 4) was certain that we needed to spread some in front and in back, so that whichever way the reindeer approached the house they’d see the food. (FYI – reindeer food is some oatmeal with some sparklies mixed in.)

  • Putting Ricky to bed last night, he promised me he’d go to bed right away. I explained he needed to come get us when he woke up so we could go downstairs with him; he thought this was OK. In fact, he laid out his plan: “I’ll knock on your door, then I’ll knock on Grammy & Grampy’s door, then I’ll lie down at the top of the stairs and sleep while you do your shower things you need to do to get ready.”

  • Ricky woke up at 5am. Made a bee-line for our room, then spent the next 45 minutes whispering excitedly in a stream-of-consciousness monologue that nearly had Robin and I in tears.

  • My big toy of the day: the Toshiba combo DVD/TiVo player. It’s a nice win on a couple levels: it replaces my cranky DVD player, it’s a progressive scan DVD player, and it’s a series 2 TiVo (which means I have the option of piggy-backing on my wifi network at home, streaming MP3s to the TV and displaying photos from the home computers on the TV).

  • Other fun gifts: The Two Towers extended edition on DVD, My Fellow Americans (a collection of speeches and personal notes from all of our Presidents, along with audio recordings of every President since Harrison), and A Life in the 20th Century (Arthur Schlesinger’s account of American history from 1917 – 1950).

  • Robby, the not-quite-two-year-old, has started a tradition: sleep through Christmas. He wakes up fine, makes it through a half dozen or so presents, then collapses. He did it last year, he did it again this year.

  • My favorite gift-opening story comes from my brother, whose oldest daughter (just turned 3) received, among other things, some new underwear. She was so excited by the gift that she stripped down and put them on. The men in the family tried in vain to claim it was a house rule for all women from that point forward.

  • The rib roast just went in the oven, everyone (except yours truly) got a nap during the day, and we’re looking at a low-key evening.

Thanks again for the kind words for my son Robby. We’re (mostly) over the trauma of watching him go through the seizure, and he’s as resilient as ever. It looks like we’re through it.

One last note: one year ago today, I wrote about an e-mail I got that put things in perspective for me. Steve is fortunately home, as are a number of other family friends. But well over 100,000 Americans remain in harm’s way. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers as we celebrate the holiday.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Febrile seizures

Stepped out of the shower this morning to hear my wife yelling my name. (Even in the best of circumstances, that’s not a Good Thing.) My youngest son (21 months old) was having a seizure — full-blown, eyes rolled up into his head, rigid body, rhythmic twitching from head to toe.

He was completely unresponsive. It was terrifying.

Thanks to our wonderful emergency response team in Naperville, paramedics, policemen and firemen were at the house within three minutes. After giving him oxygen, they were able to stop the seizure and get him stabilized; a few hours at the hospital and some tests confirmed that we had just experienced a febrile seizure.

For parents of young children, the statistics are shocking: 1 in 25 children experience febrile seizures. Fortunately they are almost always benign, but the parental terror is real.

We have taken it easy today, trying hard to keep everyone relaxed. Robby is doing pretty well; the fever recently broke and he’s getting more responsive with each hour. We’re hoping for an uneventful evening.

Lafayette Basketball on a roll

With wins over Drexel, La Salle, Cornell and now Princeton, Lafayette Basketball is off to its best start in 30 years (8-1 so far).

I got to be at the first round of the NCAA tournament when Lafayette got in in 1998 (their first trip in 50 years, the second longest drought in Division I basketball, behind Harvard). And it looks like Fran O’Hanlon has himself another outstanding team.

Bring on USC!

Monday, December 22, 2003

A two man race

Kos has the link to the latest Newsweek poll (from 12/18-19, numbers in parentheses are from 12/11-12):

Dean 26 (24)
Don’t Know 20 (14)
Clark 15 (12)
Lieberman 7 (12)
Sharpton 7 (5)
Kerry 6 (5)
Gephardt 5 (10)
Edwards 5 (5)
Braun 1 (3)
Kucinich 1 (2)

Others are reporting that Clark may be emerging as the anti-Dean. Clark certainly isn’t pulling punches, pointing out that Dean can’t win.

Dean’s currently slightly ahead in South Carolina; if he takes Iowa and New Hampshire will his bounce be too much for Clark to overcome? If Clark can’t win in South Carolina, will he have a chance to win anywhere else?

Donate your frequent flier miles to the troops

Operation Hero Miles – Official Website

Many soldiers on R&R leave must purchase high-priced last minute airfares to connect to their hometowns once their military flights land at the airports in Baltimore, Dallas or Atlanta. Soldiers on “Emergency Leave” must still pay the full cost of their domestic travel when they are rushed home for the family death, birth, illness or other emergency. The military does not pay the cost of their travel in the United States, so your frequent flyer miles are a huge help.

This is a great idea, and is a simple, valuable way to help troops get home to their families. Check it out.

Changes coming to the weblog

I’m making this list as much for my own benefit (as I start implementing all of this), but there are a number of changes coming to tins (what is tins? More on that in a minute):

  • I’ll be folding my Howard Dean blog into this one. My original intent with the separate blog was to create a site that would focus on a long-shot candidate’s quest for the presidency; today, that’s no longer Dean’s position. The more I thought about it, the less it seemed to make sense to keep these two sites separate — I’ve made no secret of my political interests on tins, so this will not be particularly jarring to anyone who reads the site. (This will also dramatically decrease my maintenance time in managing the back end of these sites.)

  • For those who don’t care for my political writings, or think my thoughts on KM are a waste of time (you know who you are!), you’ll be able to brose the site by category. This will also apply to RSS feeds — you’ll be able to pick the feeds you’re interested in (or the full feed, including all those wonderful tangents). This requires adding categories into my 1400+ posts over the past two years — a non-trivial matter!

  • Related reading and browsing. I’ll be toying with a couple different approaches to this, but the idea is to provide links to additional resources based on the content of my post. At the bottom of each entry you’ll have the ability to go away.

  • Retooled blogroll. My blogroll is hopelessly out of date. I thought about taking it down, but Halley’s comments suggest that I just need to find a better way to manage this. (Irony? The most linked post I’ve got is my hack for managing a blogroll in MT.)

  • Setting up a reviews weblog. This will be primarily book related, but I wrote about it a while ago and still think it’s a good idea.

  • Improved UI, navigation. I’m still pretty happy with the look and feel of the site, but I’d like to touch it up a bit. I’m playing with a few ideas, you’ll likely see some work in progress at the site over the next week or so until I decide on an approach I like.

I’m open to other suggestions. Now that this blog is in its third year, I’m trying to find a way to ensure that the site remains useful. And since I’m a hopeless hack when it comes to tweaking things, I like playing with new ideas to see what works, what doesn’t and why. So throw your suggestions this way, I’m happy to use this site as a guinea pig. (Provided, of course, no actual guinea pigs are harmed in any way. Unless it would be funny.)

Movable Type 2.65

I’ve upgraded this site to Movable Type 2.65, which addresses a couple vulnerabilities discovered in Movable Type. If you’re running MT, this is a simple but necessary upgrade. Shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes.

If you notice anything funky, let me know!

Sunday, December 21, 2003

The base vs. the middle

Eric Alterman announces he’s through with politicians, but goes on to highlight a key issue for 2004: whether the election will be won among the party faithful or in a battle for the middle.

In a dinner last month with bloggers Jonas, Phil and Josh, I mentioned that the question of electability boiled down to three things: money, organization, and commitment. If a candidate has more money, stronger organization and more passionate supporters, then I think he is per se electable. I also mentioned that I’m hearing from more insiders that the race isn’t about the “swing” vote this time around, but whether the candidate can motivate their base to show up and vote.

And Alterman’s starting to look at the issue from that perspective — you’ve got the pundits on one side arguing that it’s all about the middle, while folks like Alterman (not to mention campaign insiders from several camps) are suggesting that the middle might be pretty tiny.

In fact, I got a review copy of Stanley Greenberg’s The Two Americas over the weekend, and I can’t wait to dive in. In effect, he posits that the country is every bit as divided as it was in 2000, and if anything the polarization has increased. (Sidenote: I watched The War Room the other night, where Greenberg has a minor role as Clinton’s pollster during the ’92 campaign. It’s fascinating to see how these guys are able to distill the numbers to figure out what it says.)

Most interesting for me are the labels Greengberg creates to describe the Republican partisans and the Democratic partisans, including terms like the “Fuck You Boys” and “Fuck You Old Men” (both of whom vote Republican), with “Black Power” and “Super Educated Women” making up some of the most staunchly Democratic blocs.

(For what now seems to me to be an accurate representation of these pollster-invented demographics, see my review of Neal Stephenson’s Interface. Hysterical.)

There will be more on this subject, no doubt.

Two year anniversary

Hard for me to believe, but this marks the two year anniversary of my first blog post. Starting a blog was a direct result of a phone conversation with John Robb, and in the past two years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some remarkable people.

To those who continue to read, comment and share, thank you.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Howard Dean house party in Naperville

Just occurred to me that I haven’t announced here that my wife and I are hosting a house party for Howard Dean on December 30, in Naperville, Illinois. Details are here.

We’re expecting 40 – 50 people, and have already exceeded our goal (a couple contributions haven’t registered online yet, but we’re over the $1311 goal). Want to help us shatter the bat and go for $2,000?

See you on the 30th.

Test post from w.bloggar

I’m trying out w.bloggar as a posting interface to this blog. It seems to be quite effective. Anyone else have experience using it in lieu of posting directly through your blog’s interface? Any comments to share?

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Did your parents support McGovern?

A political reporter for a major national publication is writing a story about the Dean/McGovern comparison, and is trying to find current Dean supporters whose parents were McGovern supporters in 1972.

If you fit this description and would like to speak with the reporter, e-mail me privately. And be sure to read my take from September about why comparing Dean to McGovern is a fallacy in the first place.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003


I’m very proud to announce DuPage for Dean, a new website for the Dean community in DuPage County, Illinois.

This is a Deanspace site, which is a customized version of Drupal tweaked by dozens of Dean volunteers around the country specifically for Dean volunteer communities at the local, state and national levels.

After just a couple weeks of playing with the system, I am amazed at the sophistication of the system and the speed with which the Dean open source effort is delivering true innovation to the masses.

In short, with this release, every one of our supporters gets a weblog. The site has an aggregator that monitors feeds we input; those posts can then be routed to the front page, or can be blogged individually by the users. It goes beyond blogging, of course, so we can create pages specific to us, poll the community on questions that are important, send postcards, and much more.

What many haven’t apparently realized is that the technology underpinning this entire effort is from the blog world. Every Deanspace site talks to via XML-RPC, content is routed from community sites around the Net via RSS, and modules between community sites will be shared (in the next release) via RSS.

Slick, revolutionary stuff.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Social networking targets the enterprise

InfoWorld: Social networking targets the enterprise: December 15, 2003: By Ephraim Schwartz: Applications

Law firm Honigman, Miller, Schwartz, and Cohn used Interface Software’s InterAction suite to land lucrative accounts, according to Cynthia Reaves, partner at the firm.

“We use InterAction to strategize about how to approach a client and develop teams of people to approach a potential client on a particular matter,” Reaves said.

Interface is unique in that its social networking capability is a single feature in a complete CRM application for the professional services industry. It also uses outside content from companies such as Dun & Bradstreet and Hoover’s to extend and improve the quality of potential contacts.

If you don’t know the name of a company, you can search for companies by region and revenue; you can ask for the names of all the C-level executives at those companies; and you can match those names to people in your own company who know them, said Rick Klau, vice president of vertical markets at Interface.

It’s nice to see some of the attention being paid to social networking is now focusing inward, where the relationships one has (i.e., co-workers) are financially rewarded for helping you out. It seems that’s an area where social networking is far more likely to thrive, instead of what goes on outside the firewall, where the extended links have less incentive to help out.

Slate says I'm cool

… Well, not exactly anyway. But according to this article, I have all the makings of a cool guy: I get my music on my iPod, I drive a Volkswagen, and I own a Dyson. Who knew?

Don’t know what a Dyson is? Then you just aren’t cool enough. (Oh, OK: just go visit their homepage and take a look.)

(I wish I’d known buying a Dyson would make me cool. It was particularly painful to walk into Best Buy, spend $1,000, and walk out with a microwave and a vacuum cleaner. I point to that as the moment all vestiges of being single evaporated.)

Monday, December 15, 2003

Saddam's capture

Yesterday’s announcement of Saddam Hussein’s capture was indeed a spectacular accomplishment for our military. It’s clear that consistent effort in intelligence-gathering, coupled with discipline and a few lucky breaks led to the capture of the most wanted man in Iraq.

Regardless of your opinion of the merits of the war to begin with, one thing should be said of President Bush: he remained firm in his desire to end Hussein’s rule. Bush persisted in searching for Hussein after major combat operations were over, and now not only has Hussein alive in custody but has also caught or killed more than 70% of the original 52 most wanted Iraqis.

This commitment is laudable, and Bush’s leadership on this issue (not the war, but the pursuit and capture of Hussein) is commendable.

However, (you knew there had to be a however, right?) I don’t see how this materially affects the safety and security of Americans at home, nor do I think this makes our soldiers materially safer in Iraq. By the Bush Administration’s own admissions, Iraq is now a haven for terrorists of all stripes, many of whom (all of whom?) take their direction from individuals other than Saddam Hussein. Whether they’re directly linked to al Qaeda, or they’re Saudi, Syrian or Iranian nationals looking to sow unrest, or some other flavor not yet identified, the fact remains: American soldiers are targets throughout Iraq. And the fanatics laying the mines, aiming the rifles and driving truck bombs into buildings are not under Hussein’s command.

As a result, his capture will not end the terrorism in Iraq. And I believe that the country’s primary mission today should be fighting the war on terror — and Iraq was not a material element of the terrorist threat prior to our invasion and occupation. Consequently, I don’t see Hussein’s capture as dramatically lessening the terrorist threat in America or abroad.

I think we owe it to ourselves and our allies to show the same commitment to winning the war on terror that the Bush Administration showed in winning the war in Iraq. Taking Osama bin Laden out is a necessary step in that war, as is internationalizing the coalition in the war on terror so that the terrorists have fewer places to hide, fewer sources of funds, fewer suppliers of weapons, fewer advocates of hate.

DeanSkeptic asked in my comments how having France or Germany on our side would help: by marginalizing these fanatics and denying them the anonymity they require in order to operate. If every nation were cooperating with us in this war — cooperation that would yield intelligence, arrests, extraditions — we would dramatically increase our ability to flush them out and win the war.

We are stronger when our allies are stronger — and by marginalizing countries who failed to fall in line behind us (bribery does not a true coalition build), we’re weakening the ability of the civilized world to act as one. Working together as one requires compromise and it requires patience. We’ve demonstrated precious little of either commodity on the world stage, and I’m afraid our efforts in the war on terror have suffered as a result.

Once again, congratulations to the men and women of the military who shined this weekend. Saddam Hussein’s capture was indeed a triumph for the Iraqi people, and a necessary accomplishment for the Iraqis to move towards a lasting peace.

Comments on the comments

Wow. Jeff MacMillan, determined to talk sense into us poor saps, attacks me for not posting yesterday or today regarding Saddam’s capture. Sorry to disappoint, Jeff. Didn’t know my opinion meant that much to you.

Since you asked, I spent yesterday (in between hating my country, of course), taking my 3 year-old to see Brother Bear at the movie theater and cleaning the house in anticipation of my in-laws coming to visit for the holidays. (Hating your country is so much easier when the house is clean, you know.)

And today, I woke up early, hated my country, then boarded a 7am flight to Detroit where, in between hating my country and all it represents, I met with several of my customers and discussed their upgrade plans with regards to my company’s software. (If you’re interested in what I do for a living — though hating America is its own full-time job, it doesn’t pay the bills — feel free to read today’s InfoWorld for an idea of what I do.)

My flight was delayed — surely a plot by the evil administration running our evil nation — and I returned to my house around 9:30pm. I’m tired, but figure I can get another two hours or so of good old-fashioned country-hating in if I put my mind to it.

Jeff, you’re more than welcome to post here. And as many of my staunchly Republican friends and family members will tell you, I absolutely adore a spirited debate when we put our cards down, argue issues, and change each other’s point of view. But when you descend to accusing me of hating my country, or of being hypocritical, then I’ve lost interest in chatting. Not because your comments are getting to me but because you clearly have no interest in debating but simply insulting me.

Good luck to you. I’ll post some thoughts on Saddam’s capture shortly, just as soon as I get in some good ol’ country-hatin’…

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Movable Type hacks

This has been on my list for a while, and now that it’s implemented it’s certain to be something I’ll use daily. Note: this requires PHP to implement.

What I’ve done is pretty straightforward: to visitors, nothing has changed. But for me, whenver I visit my weblog, I see an “edit” link next to every post and every comment. If I click on those links, a new window opens up — directly to the edit window in Movable Type for that post or comment. This is a great time saver — whether it’s for a spam comment I see that I’d like to easily delete or a typo I catch in my post that I’d like to clean up.

The original idea for this comes via The Girlie Matters, though I did things a tad differently.

Here’s the details:

From the “Templates” page, create a new index template. Call it “Set cookie” (or whatever you want); name the file cookie.php (or something else — but make sure the file extension is .php.) In the body of the module, enter:

Be sure to set “” to your domain. “www” is not necessary.

Uncheck the box that says “rebuild this template automatically”, click save, then click “rebuild”.

Create a second template, called “remove cookie” with an appropriate filename (again, be sure that the file extension is .php.) In the body of the modle, enter:

Uncheck the box that says “rebuild this template automatically”, click save, then click “rebuild”.

Now go to your main index template. Figure out where you want to add the “edit” link for your posts, and insert the following code:

&amp;blog_id=" target="_new"&gt;[edit]</a>';
if ($HTTP_COOKIE_VARS['edit'] == 'password') {
echo $edit_link;

(Note that I put a break in between &id= and MTEntryID; I did that for spacing but you should put it all on one line.)

Save the main template. Go to your individual index template and add the following code where you want the “edit” link to show up for comments:

&amp;blog_id=" target="_new"&gt;[edit]</a>';
if ($HTTP_COOKIE_VARS['edit'] == 'password') {
echo $edit_link;

(Note the spacing; delete the line break between &id= and MTEntryID.)

Save the template. Rebuild your site. Now go to (or whatever you called that file); the page will be blank but the cookie will be set. Now visit your homepage; next to each post there should be an “edit” link. Visit any of the individual pages and you will see an “edit” link next to each comment.

The nice thing about this is that the “edit” link doesn’t show up unless you’ve set the cookie (one way to secure the cookie getting set is to publish it to a password-protected directory), and even if someone were to guess the file to set the cookie on their machine, they’d still need to login to Movable Type to get access to the edit boxes.

This would be a great solution for heavily commented sites where some number of the comments are inflammatory or otherwise inappropriate; with two clicks, you could delete the comment directly from the page on which they’re published. I just like having the edit button available at all times — it makes administration a much simpler task.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Tree shopping

From my three year-old came these two gems while shopping for a Christmas tree…

After spotting a nice 6’ tall tree for the house, I showed it to Ricky and asked what he thought. He took a few seconds, looked it over, then said, “No, I think we should get one with lights.”

After that, we asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Without pausing, he said, “A bot, bubble wrap, and ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’.”

I don’t think they have anything to do with each other. I think those are three separate gifts.

Just to be safe though, we might wrap them together.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Huge shift in Iowa

Taegan Goddard notes that a recent Survey USA poll indicates a major shift towards Dean in Iowa.

I didn’t write about it here — been a bit busy lately, but last weekend I was discussing Iowa with a friend who’s just recently started following the race. And one prediction I made was that Iowa wouldn’t be as close as it’s been made out to be. If things continue as they’ve been the last couple weeks, we’d see a strengthening support for Dean — his supporters are more committed in Iowa, and the momentum was swinging his way. Gephardt’s supposed advantages: the Union support, the long history in the state — would be eclipsed by the volume of new participants in the process Dean’s bringing in and the amount of money Dean can spend to keep the perception that he’s the more committed candidate. (Like it or not, that’s the advantage of all that fundraising Dean’s been doing this year.)

So… it’s easy for me to say this in hindsight. But it looks like this latest poll is an indication of where things are turning. A 19 point lead over Gephardt with five weeks to go. A 20+ lead over Kerry with six weeks to go. Both leads are growing. And don’t forget that the fundraising totals will be announced before the Iowa Caucus: which will be a major news item in the days leading up to the caucus, and if the Dean/Gephardt split in dollars is anything like it was last quarter, that could be enough to push people on the fence to the Dean camp because it’s seen as one indication of how much Dean can put into the general election…

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Send Jonathan K-T to Burlington!

I don’t have a bat for this, but bear with me. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins has put as much time into electing Howard Dean as any volunteer in the country. He signed more people up for DeanLink than anyone else in the country (469 at last count). He’s compiled a master list of every Yahoo group focused on the Dean campaign, so Burlington could better manage their communications with everyone.

The kicker? He can’t even vote in the upcoming election. He’s fourteen years old. (For more on his accomplishments, check out this article.)

What can you do? You can chip in a buck or two to help send him to Burlington. Visit this page and click the PayPal link. Give whatever you can. His parents wisely went ahead and bought the ticket already (locking in a lower fare), but this is definitely something that JKT has earned and something that we as a community should be able to cover.

So — what do you say? Can you help him out? Send this kid to Burlington. I have no doubt that his time will be well spent.

I feel young again!

And no, it’s not a good thing. Thanks to an incompetent orthodontist who took my braces off too early as a kid, I’m now the proud owner of a mouth full of metal again.

Technically speaking the braces aren’t metal but ceramic. That doesn’t change the fact that I feel like I swallowed a a circuit board.

In case you’re wondering, this is the promotional image they use to show what they look like when put on:

Now as for how they feel, well, no image can capture the soreness of spacers in your teeth for 10 days and my front teeth feeling like they’re being pulled apart.

Ah, to be a teenager again…

Social networking: old school

Over at VentureBlog is this great post about Cravath, social networking, and the value of maintaining strong corporate cultures:

Old School Social Networking

As I type this, I am sitting in the Newark airport watching the snow fall and foolishly pretending that I will get on a plane this evening. It is just not going to happen. On the good side, it is giving me the opportunity to reflect on the alumni event from which I am returning.

For a few years of my life I was an associate at the law firm of Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York City. Practicing law at Cravath was a great experience. Not because it was fun. Truth be told, some of the time it was not that much fun at all. But it was a phenomenal education. Cravath represents many of the most powerful companies in the world and as a junior attorney you were given the opportunity to look behind the curtain. Of course, you were given the opportunity to look behind the curtain 100 hours a week. But in exchange for those hundred hour weeks, you got to learn the intimate details of the companies that drive the world’s economies.

The thing that I have always admired about Cravath is that it has an incredibly strong corporate culture. … VentureBlog

I continue to have good experiences with LinkedIn, but I seem to be in the minority among my close friends. Many signed up because I invited them, but of the 65 connections I have at LinkedIn, one third have just one connection (me) and just one quarter have connections in the double-digits.

I’d love to hear from some folks who aren’t fond of social networking or who don’t get it. I see tremendous potential in the model, and with all the money being spent, it’s clear at least a few VCs agree with me. But if my experience at LinkedIn is any indication (and I have no reason to think otherwise), it will end up catering to a small-ish group of highly-motivated networkers and not facilitate the connections among the less motivated that would make the system truly useful.

Winning Back America

I got a complimentary copy of Winning Back America yesterday, courtesy of Simon & Schuster’s Geoff Kloske, Executive Editor of Adult Publishing. First off, thanks to Geoff for sending the book along. I’m going to read through it over the weekend and will post a review of it once I’m done.

In the meantime, be sure to visit the blog they’ve set up for the book, Winning Back America. (I just visited there again, and loved this link to the Borowitz’s report that the Supreme Court has overturned Gore’s endorsement of Dean. I love it.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Book review: Softwar

At last January’s LegalTech, I met Charlie Uniman. It’s always nice when someone who’s read the blog introduces themselves; more refreshing was that Charlie, a lawyer for over twenty years in Manhattan, demonstrates what (in my experience, anyway) is a rare grasp of how technology can (and should) fundamentally change the practice of law. In any event, Charlie and I have kept in touch in the past year, and last night he sent me this reveiew of Softwar, a look at Larry Ellison and Oracle. With Charlie’s permission, I’m sharing his take on the book:

While in LaGuardia, heading to Atlanta bookless last week, I picked up a copy (hard cover, no less) of Matthew Symonds’ Softwar, a book about Larry Ellison and Oracle. Far from being just a gossipy stroll through Ellison’s personal life, women, yachts, airplanes and all, it is a serious discussion of how a software business can succeed (or fail) at sales, marketing, product development and management overall. Symonds, a former technology editor for The Economist, not only writes with verve, but goes on to allow Ellison to comment (by way of footnotes) on the author’s substantive treatment of Oracle’s business (from its founding, to its near-death in the early ’90’s, to its success in the current down turn). Far from being just a gimmick, the sparing use of this footnote-device really works.

My enthusiastic recommendation for this business-book gem that goes beyond catch-phrase business platitudes and reaches for (and many times manages to grab) meaningful business-book content.

Thanks to Charlie for the review!

My experience with Total Choice Hosting

Last month, I asked for help in evaluating a new webhost. I was paying $25/month to Verio for what I felt was sub-par service. Thanks to several recommendations in the comments (and in a few private e-mails), I ended up going with TotalChoiceHosting.

First off, the price: $4/month, with a free month if you pre-pay for a year. Just like that, I’d reduced my yearly hosting costs by nearly 90% — to just $44. For a year of hosting.

But it’s not just about price: by moving to TCH, I increased my disk space (from 250 megs to 300 megs), increased my bandwidth allowance, and most importantly, picked up mySQL support and PHP support. At TCH, I was able to convert Movable Type to a mySQL back-end, resulting in performance improvements of (I’m guessing here) 50-70%.

(As a result of the PHP and mySQL support, I’ve also started installing some other applications, which I’ll discuss here shortly.)

And there’s more: TCH includes unlimited mailing lists as part of your $4/month. TCH uses MailMan, a superb open-source mailing list application which includes web-based admin and web-based archives.

TCH also gave me superior control over my domain. TCH uses cPanel, a web-based front end to server administration. In addition to easy administration, it adds the ability to run cron jobs which can automate the periodic execution of programs without any personal intervention.

As if all of this weren’t enough, TCH also includes (at no additional charge) SpamAssassin — which lets me run server-side spam filtering on all e-mail coming into End result? 98% of all spam destined for my mailbox gets caught at the server and stored in a server-based folder that I can then use IMAP to access when I want to periodically review spam to ensure there are no false positives.

To say I’m happy with my transition to TCH would be an understatement.

KM: False positives or False negatives

In a conversation yesterday with a technology analyst, I got into a debate about the desirability of false responses. Which is more desirable (from a KM perspective): a false positive (i.e., a response to your query which turns out to be wrong), or a false negative (the system telling you it has nothing relevant, when in fact it does but it isn’t connecting the dots properly)?

I argued for a false negative, on the assumption that users will eventually stop using a system that leads them down too many dead-ends. The analyst argued for a false positive, using the analogy to a doctor: at least with false positives, you have something to test to see if it’s right or wrong. A false negative, you assume that it’s non-existent and move on… which is when people die.

So I’m kicking it to you guys — which would you prefer? A system that gives you an answer that turns out to be wrong, or an answer saying there is no information related to your search? Why?

ABA Survey

Now, the ABA has been very very good to me (sounds better with a Sammy Sosa accent, but oh well), so I don’t highlight this issue lightly. I’m genuinely fond of the organization.

But this strikes me as more than a bit ridiculous:

What’s wrong with an airport hotel? I mean, I loved my trip to Cancun a few years ago, but honestly — did we get more work done there than we could have in, say, Cleveland?

And now they want to go on a cruise? Let’s be honest: the minute you get on a boat, the last thing you want to do is spend 6-8 hours a day talking about governance, publication schedules, budgets and logistics. You want to be in the pool, on the sun deck, drinking, dancing and eating.

And I’m not even getting into the PR nightmare this could be…

Calvin and Hobbes: Negative Campaigning

This pretty much sums up politics these days, no?

[Calvin and Hobbes]


Check out this page with bios of the many people who post regularly to the official campaign blog.

What a great idea!

It's official

Monday, December 8, 2003

I'm in Newsweek this week

As I noted in the comments last night, I’m in Newsweek this week as a result of last week’s post on the attack ads hitting Dean.

I think the funniest thing to come of this is that my Dad (whose name is also Rick Klau) has been receiving faxes of the article all day from business colleagues asking, in effect, “What the $!*@?” (Dad’s a Bush supporter.)

Anyway, thanks to everyone who reads, contributes comments, and makes this site worthwhile.

Gore to endorse Dean

The Washington Post has the story. No official word from the campaign.


Sunday, December 7, 2003

One year ago today: Run, Howard, Run

What a year it’s been. I first contacted the Dean campaign in August, 2002 (shortly after writing this post). I swapped e-mails periodically (I still have the e-mail correspondence from September 1 when I was telling them they needed a blog!), and then finally started thinking that there was more to his candidacy than the asterisk in the polls indicated .

One year ago today, I asked

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?

When I made the decision to get involved, I had no idea I’d be involved. My transition from the sidelines to the playing field mirrors that of literally thousands of others around the country; when Dean says the campaign’s about us, not him, he means it and we know it.

I’ll tell you this: when I wrote those words last year, I had no idea that in less than twelve months, I’d:

  • Meet him,

  • Spend a weekend at his campaign’s headquarters,

  • Be quoted in numerous national publications regarding my involvement (including this week’s Newsweek), and

  • Develop friendships with neighbors, colleagues, and people I’ve never met that will unquestionably continue for decades.

To those who disagree with my politics, I encourage you to get as involved in the Bush campaign, or with the Greens, or whomever most closely represents your view of the world. But whatever you do, stand up and fight. The most patriotic thing we can do (despite what John Ashcroft might have us believe) is speak up and fight like hell to shape the country in our image.

We get the government we deserve. Let’s earn it.

Run, Howard, Run.

Saturday, December 6, 2003 is aggressive

Check this out: went to this page to read about the “new” Space Invaders video games coming to the U.S. (thanks to TechDirt for the link), when this little guy popped up:

Annoying, to say the least. But what average user actually understands this, or wants to?

Tips for SkyTrain at Newark Airport

This seems like a good tip for traveling through Newark…

Many people have horror stories about riding the SkyTrain at Newark Airport.  It has a tendency to get stuck between stations, or to lock customers in and shuttle them around endlessly like cows in a claustrophobic boxcar.  Here are my tips:

  • The attendants can’t really help you.  They can radio ahead to have the software (Polsoft v1.0) on the trains rebooted, but that doesn’t help.
  • The driver can’t help you.
  • The emergency call buttons don’t work.  Even when the train is operating smoothly, nobody is going to answer when you push that button.  Try it.
  • However, you CAN help yourself.  Each train car has two enclosed brake activators near the bottom of the seats.  Simply break the plastic cover and pull the brake.  When this happens, the train will be unable to move any further, and the doors of the train car can easily be pulled open.  The doors at the station can easily be open by pushing the lever handle and pulling.  Then you can be on your way.
  • When the train is mechanically prevented from moving forward, putting an abrupt end to the driver’s joyride, he will probably run away as fast as possible, like a guilty dog who has just peed on your shoe.  The attendants similarly stay as far away as possible from any human contact.  It won’t matter, though, because you’ll be too busy accepting accolades from your grateful fellow passengers to pay attention to the driver and attendants.

[Better Living Through Software]

John Kerry is too nuanced

Like others, I was intrigued by Eric Alterman’s post on a private meeting between John Kerry and some pundits. Alterman clearly likes Kerry, and says that Kerry’s challenge is to find out how “to break through to Dean voters in the short amount of time he has left when the media has their storyline already and no candidate gets to say anything that lasts more than a few seconds.”

Clearly this is a challenge for Kerry. I just watched him on C-Span at the Florida Democratic Convention, and can’t help but think that he’s going to have an extraordinarily hard time doing it. I’m a loyal Dean supporter, so my reaction is clearly not representative of less committed Dean supporters. But Kerry’s response to the question on the Patriot Act was a good example: instead of saying the government is abusing its power (see here for a good example), he first has to mention what’s good about the Patriot Act.

Now, he’s clearly right: there are some good provisions of the Patriot Act. But anyone who’s passionate about the Patriot Act would rather see the government try again and narrowly tailor a law aimed at fighting terrorism instead of trying to fix a very broken law. And if they heard Kerry’s response, their only conclusion would be that he supports the Patriot Act.

Which boils down to what I see as the major difference between Dean and Kerry: Dean seeks to empathize with the voter’s issues. Kerry seeks to show his deep understanding of those issues.

Kerry’s a smart guy, and Alterman’s discussion of Kerry’s conversation impressed me more than I’ve been in a while about Kerry as an individual. But his need to show that he sees both sides of the debate won’t win him any traction among the legions of Dean supporters who have found a home in the Dean camp.

Friday, December 5, 2003

Dean preparing a response ad

The campaign brought the bat back, this time to respond to yesterday’s Club for Growth ad. The response ad will begin airing this weekend in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Here’s the text of the ad

Title: “Club for Truth”

Length: 30 seconds

Video / Audio

Image of George Bush over a closed factory. / “George Bush. His economic policies created the largest deficit in our county’s history.”

Footage from Club for Growth ad. / “Now he’s hiding behind negative ads that falsely attack Howard Dean.”

Text appears: The Truth: / “The Truth?”

Footage of HD on the campaign trail. / “Howard Dean balanced budgets 11 years in a row. He’s a fiscal conservative who cut state income taxes—twice. Raised the minimum wage. And provided health care coverage for nearly every child in his state.”

HD voice over under footage. / “I’m Howard Dean. I approved this message because they’re not trying to stop me, they’re trying to stop you.”

Here’s how the bat’s doing so far:

New polls: Dean takes slight lead in SC, Florida

From a source:

Dean “has taken a slight lead” over John Edwards in a new Zogby poll that found “no clear favorite” — Dean had 11%; Lieberman and Clark 9%; Edwards, Al Sharpton, Dick Gephardt 7%; John Kerry 4%; Carol Moseley Braun 3%; and Dennis Kucinich .3%.

Dean now “leads” in FL, with 16%, compared to 15% for Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman. The polling company poll for Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times also found that Pres. Bush would beat the five leading Dems in head-to-head matchups by 8-18%.

I’ll update later with links if/when they’re available.

Thursday, December 4, 2003

How I use ActiveWords

Dave Stratton asks in my comments for some examples of how to get the most out of ActiveWords. I don’t have all the answers (be sure to ping Buzz if you want the whole tour) but here are some good starts:

  • Manage multiple sig files. I use a couple of e-mail programs, and was surprised to find out how many times I used web forms for sending messages (either in the comments boxes at weblogs, in response forms, etc.). In other words, my sig file was inaccessible in a number of places. Since I manage multiple sigs (one for work, one for personal stuff, and one for the volunteer work I’m doing for the Dean campiagn), I can use ActiveWords to insert whichever sig I want in whatever app I’m in.

  • Launch key applications. Navigating the Start | Programs | … hierarchy now that I’ve got at least 60 or 70 applications installed has grown cumbersome. Not only is hard to remember how Windows categorized the app (is PowerPoint under “Office”, “Microsoft Office”, or its own icon under “Programs”?), but it’s difficult now that my Programs list spans three columns (and that’s on a 1480×1050 display!). So I just assign keywords to the apps I use most; when I want to launch my ftp client, I just type “ftp” and a double-space. Ditto for Word, WordPad, Outlook, OutlookExpress, and so on.

  • Frequent text replacements. I get requests for directions to my house and office at least a few times a week. So now rather than recreate the directions, or store them on a file on my hard drive that I have to remember where they’re located, I just created a couple of ActiveWords both with the same ActiveWord. Now, whenever I get a request for directions, I type “directions”. An ActiveWord dialog box pops up — and I get to pick “home” directions or “office” directions. A double-click and ActiveWords inserts the appropriate text.

  • Navigate to frequently used web sites. I’ve set up ActiveWords for frequently-used sites: my MovableType installation, Yahoo Maps, MSNBC, CNN, etc. Now whenever I want to go there (no matter where I am in Wndows), I just type the word associated with that site. Since I’m running Firebird as my default browser, it doesn’t even open a new window — just a new tab within the existing window.

I’ve not even begun to scratch the surface — I keep meaning to spend some time exploring the scripting power of ActiveWords (that’s a function of AW Plus, not AW SE), but that’s a later-on thing. But just in the very simple things I’ve described above, I’ve saved a full working day of time (I know this because AW includes a convenient “productivity report” that tells you how much time it’s saved you).

Hope this helps.

Now who's flip-flopping?

Check this out: The Club for Growth announced yesterday that beginning today, it would be airing ads showing “Democratic presidential contender Howard Dean’s abysmal record on taxes.” “Handing over the economy to Howard Dean,” says Stephen Moore, “would give him a license to pick our pockets.” The ads, which will run in Des Moines, Iowa and Manchester, New Hampshire, are budgeted at $100,000. (Watch the ad: RealVideo | Windows Media)

They sure don’t like Howard Dean.

Or don’t they? Stephen Moore is the president at The Club for Growth. In addition to his duties at TCG, he is a fellow at the Cato Institute.

Wait a minute — didn’t Howard Dean speak to the Cato Institute several years ago? Sure enough — as this article points out, he sure did:

Dean charmed nearly everyone in the boardroom. He came across as erudite, policy savvy, and, believe it or not, a friend of free markets—at least by the standards of the Tom Daschle-Dick Gephardt axis of the Democratic party. Even when challenged on issues like environmentalism, where he favored a large centralized mass of intrusive regulations, Dean remained affable.

“You folks at Cato,” he told us, “should really like my views because I’m economically conservative and socially laissez-faire.” Then he continued: “Believe me, I’m no big-government liberal. I believe in balanced budgets, markets, and deregulation. Look at my record in Vermont.” He was scathing in his indictment of the “hyper-enthusiasm for taxes” among Democrats in Washington.

He left—and I will never forget the nearly hypnotic reaction. The charismatic doctor had made believers of several hardened cynics. Nearly everyone agreed that we had finally found a Democrat we could work with. Since then, I’ve watched Dean’s career with more than a little interest and we chat from time to time on the phone.

The writer ended his article by concluding, “Howard Dean could be George W. Bush’s worst nightmare.” Who wrote about this hypnotic Democrat who could give the Republicans nightmares? None other than Stephen Moore, president of The Club for Growth.

In fact, in a 1998 Cato report co-authored by Moore, titled A Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors, you see Howard Dean getting a B, higher than Republicans Pete Wilson, Terry Branstad, Arne Carlson, Marc Racicot, Jim Edgar, and George Voinovich. (To be fair, Dean scored better than a score of Democrats, too.) From the report: “The governors tied with the best budget restraint record were Weld (Massachusetts), Engler (Michigan), and Dean (Vermont).”

But actually admitting that this debate isn’t just about taxes wouldn’t be sporting, would it? Much easier to take this goofy ad and throw up a few pictures of past losers (Mondale, Dukakis), scream TAXES in all caps, and ask sarcastically at the end of the ad “Will Howard Dean ever learn?”

It’s clear that Moore is capable of taking principled arguments on taxes and applying them to both parties; he’s a fan of low taxes and is suspicious of any liberal-leaning policies that rely on tax revenue.

Fair enough. But there’s a big difference between principled arguments and carrying the water for the party who’s showing increasing signs of realizing a nightmare’s a comin’…

Roll your own TiVo on Linux

If I had a lot of free time and a decent budget, I would do this in a heartbeat.

The Democratic Convention just got a whole lot more exciting

Turns out the Yankees are in town that weekend, and the DNC is in negotiations to buy blocs of tickets for delegates.

Predictably, Red Sox Nation aren’t all that thrilled.

Come to think of it, it offers a nice metaphor. The Yankees, who’ve dominated the Red Sox in the past several offseasons, are the presumptive favorite. But the Red Sox, who’ve just signed Curt Schilling, may actually win it all next year.

Could Howard Dean be the Democrats’ Curt Schilling?

Let the flame war begin. It’s bad enough to focus on politics, but now to throw the Red Sox/Yankees war on top of it? This could be fun.

Coat tails, pure and simple

Is there any question that the Dean campaign’s efforts at courting “traditional” party support is becoming much, much easier as a result of this? (Questions: How many incumbents would love to see a two day infusion of $50,000? How many others in the Democratic Party are in a position to make it happen?)

30 point leads in New Hampshire and endorsements from major pundits don’t hurt either, I’m sure…

It’s not all positive, of course. I’m quite underwhelmed by Dean’s handling of the records sealing flap, and want to see a quick response. But on the whole, I’d say that the campaign’s right where Joe Trippi wants it to be.

Replacing my aggregator

I’m looking to replace my current aggregator, NewzCrawler. It’s become a CPU hog, often consuming every CPU cycle to the point that my XP system becomes unstable. Here’s my list of requirements:

  • Stability. I’m not looking to become a beta tester for another app. I want something that works.

  • Movable Type integration. If I see something in my aggregator, I want to be able to automatically post it to my weblog.

  • Feed sorting. I like being able to see posts by feed, but I will also occasionally (especially after a long period of not reading my aggregator) want a “newspaper” view where I can just focus on items arranged chronologically, independent of source. Whatever aggregator I choose, I’d like it to handle both.

  • Web-based. Ideally, I’d like to just install something on my webserver and access it through a browser.

In doing a little digging, I found Feed on Feeds, a PHP/mySQL RSS reader that lives on a server. It doesn’t appear to allow me to automatically post to Movable Type, but this looks to be on the right track.

Which aggregator are you using? Which would you recommend?

Molly Ivins endorses Dean

Molly Ivins: Picking a Winner

No one has been waiting with bated breath for me to make up my mind about the Democratic presidential candidates, but I have, and you might be interested in how I got there. I’m for Howard Dean — because he’s going to win.

Molly Ivins is one of the most respected liberal columnists and authors in the country. Her latest book, Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America is a great demonstration of the individual effects of what she sees as damaging domestic policy.

In today’s column, she outlines her take on the rest of the democratic field, and why she ultimately sees Dean as the party’s best hope of sending President Bush back to Texas.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Dean stretches lead to 30 points in NH -- Zogby

Zogby notes that Dean has grown his lead at “exponential rates” since late summer. In a poll conducted Monday to Wednesday this week of likely voters in New Hampshire, Dean has opened up a 30 point lead in New Hampshire.

Here’s the real story to come out of this: not that Dean will win, but that Clark could beat Kerry in New Hampshire. As I see it, that’s the only silver lining to the stop-Dean movement. If Clark pulls off the near-impossible in New Hampshire, the story competing for attention with Dean’s win will be that Clark has emerged and could present a real challenge on February 3.

This thing ain’t over yet, not by a long shot.

Social networking idea

Here’s a suggestion for the various social networking sites out there: give me a way to introduce someone to someone else. Here’s the idea: I have two people in my network. Today, any of the social networking sites waits until a user initiates a request; that request comes to me, then I decide to approve it or reject it.

But what about a connection I want to initiate, instead of simply facilitate?

I’ve really come to like LinkedIn for its ability to grow and manage a professional network (it’s more explicitly business focused than more sites like Ryze, Tribe, and others). And this idea would change LinkedIn’s model (since I don’t have any other way to conclusively establish that two users are connected directly to each other), but it seems that the function would be sufficiently useful that it’s worth exploring…

Get ActiveWords - FREE!

Check this out — ActiveWords is doing a promotion of sorts with Chris Pirillo, and it turns out that for a period of time you can get ActiveWords for free.

This isn’t a demo version of the product, time limited version, etc. It’s the real deal. As an AW user, I can absolutely vouch for its utility — it will make everything you do on your computer easier, faster, more effective. And it’s got to be the easiest application in the world to demo: show someone what it does once, and they immediately have the “ah ha!” moment.

Implemented MT-RefSearch

Now that I’ve moved my Movable Type installation to mySQL, I have some pretty powerful options at my disposal for making the blog more user-friendly. Highest on my list was implementing MT-RefSearch, a PHP/mySQL hack that helps all those Googling monkeys find what they need.

Here’s how it works: when a user executes a search at Google, Google steers them your way. Passed in the click-through are the keywords used at Google to get them to you; MT-RefSearch takes advantage of this by executing a search against your blog using that same search phrase. When you arrive at the blog from one of the search engines (MT-RefSearch supports over 200), it will create a message at the top of the page that says, in effect, “I see you came here from Google. Here are the top 5 matches for that phrase at this blog to help you find what you’re looking for.” To see this in action, go to Google and then click the first link.

This is a fantastically user-oriented enhancement. In order to make it work, I needed to change my default file extension for all files (home page, individual pages) from .html to .php. This (again) breaks inbound links to this blog (something that has become a ver unfortunate reality of late), but one that I think makes sense for the long haul. (And since Google will update its cache within a month or so, this doesn’t really have any long-term negative effects for inbound traffic from Google.)

No longer a Bloomba user

Last month I downloaded a copy of Bloomba and used it as my primary e-mail client (for non-corporate e-mail). I was very impressed with the functionality overall: the searching mechanism really is how e-mail clients should work. But I decided not to buy it, for a couple reasons:

  • Price point. I haven’t paid $60 for personal software in a while. Though I grant that Bloomba is useful, I couldn’t justify throwing $60 at a problem that I’m not feeling enough pain on. Where the problem is significant — at work, where I get hundreds of messages a day and get countless attachments — there’s no way I’m giving up Outlook (unless Bloomba can handle my calendar and contacts, that’s a non-starter). So Bloomba would exist as my personal e-mail client. And right now the options are free (Outlook Express, Eudora) or $60 (Bloomba). And it’s not worth $60 to me to solve this problem.

  • Spam filtering. When I switched webhosts last month as well, one of the things I picked up I didn’t even know about was spam filtering. TotalChoiceHosting includes, among other things, SpamAssassin for spam blocking. Having the spam filtered at the server as opposed to at the client is much, much more effective. If you’re always on a broadband connection, this isn’t as big of a deal. But the first time you try to check your e-mail on your Treo and SnapperMail tells you there are 248 messages new since this morning, and 232 of them are spam, you don’t really want to spend the 20 minutes downloading all the junk just to see that Mom wrote to say hi. Bloomba requires SAProxy to run, which is a client-side implementation of SpamAssassin. Nice, but it’s another app running on my PC, and it requires me to download all e-mail. (I suppose I could’ve just continued to use the server-side spam blocking, but then I’ve got Bloomba needlessly running through a proxy — it can’t function without SAProxy.)

  • Fit & finish. I’ll freely admit I’m a demanding user, but there were some rough edges on Bloomba that ultimately frustrated me to the point that I decided not to stick with it. Some easy fixes that would dramatically increase the usability of the product:

– Replies automatically set the “From” to the account which received the e-mail. Right now, regardless of which account received the e-mail, the reply is set to the default account. When you manage e-mail from multiple accounts (as I do), this gets confusing for your correspondents. – Ability to delete threads. Bloomba does a nice job of grouping e-mails by thread, but when you delete the top-level item in a thread, I think it should delete the thread (or at least ask if that’s what you want). Instead, you just delete that message, requiring you to either individuall delete messages or expand the thread, shift-select all messages in the thread, then delete. That’s just too many steps, and slightly counter-intuitive. – Bayesian learning. Though SAProxy claims that it gets better at filtering spam as you train it (you can either delete a message or “delete as spam”, which is supposed to give SAProxy additional context for what is likely to be spam), in my experience of 4 weeks of heavy use, it didn’t get any smarter at detecting obvious spam. No matter how many e-mails I got from “Wotch” advertising some worthless product, they all got through. This has to improve, or else users will get frustrated (as I did) that you were deleting the same messages as spam over and over.

Bottom line — I really liked the application. But I think it has some rough edges that need to be polished, and I’m doubtful that they’ll find a lot of casual buyers at $60.

Interestingly, Rafe Needleman at AlwaysOn looked at Bloomba last week and concluded that the business model is questionable. Looks like they have their work cut out for them. I wish them luck, as I’d like to see this model mature to the point where it’s an acceptable alternative to Outlook; the concept of instant searching of all e-mail (and attachments) is awfully seductive.

Bungling the records issue

Howard Fineman questions whether Dean is ready for the Big House over Dean’s handling of the sealed gubernatorial reocrds issue.

I can’t say I disagree with Fineman (on the mishandline of the issue), though I don’t think it’s so serious as to call Dean’s fitness for office into question.

We’ve had a couple situations over the past few months where tiny issues (the confederate flag flap, the public financing switch, now the records issue) where the campaign has appeared surprised by the opposition’s attacks on minor issues. Dean’s propensity for ad-libbing is refreshing — but Fineman’s right in saying that the “I sealed the records to protect AIDS patients” line was inexcusable. That is no way to end this discussion.

I think I’m going to get me a copy of War Room (the documentary about Clinton’s ’92 run) and watch it. A friend of a friend was involved in Clinton’s war room in Little Rock, and tells some amazing stories about the rapid response team they set up.

With a little tweaking to the Dean rapid response effort, I think we’ll be in fine shape. We’ve seen what happens when the team focuses its energies on thinking ahead; the entire success of the campaign to date has been evidence of their ability to out-strategize everyone else. So far that strategizing hasn’t been as evident on the rapid response side. Here’s hoping it gets fixed.

Data protection laws

Wondering if anyone has any ideas on this: the UK has had its Data Protection Act for quite some time, and Canada’s Act is due to take effect on January 1, 2004. Both acts require a business that maintains contact information about an individual to have that individual’s consent.

So, hypothetically let’s say that ACME has Bob’s contact information. To comply with the acts, ACME asks Bob for his consent to store the info. Bob, being the curmudgeon that he is, says no. Reading the acts, it seems that the only thing ACME can do is remove Bob’s data from their system.

But let’s say that ACME hires a new salesperson (“Charlie”), and that person has Bob’s contact information in their Outlook contacts folder. Charlie syncs Outlook with ACME’s CRM system. Now Bob’s data is back in ACME’s database.

Isn’t the best way to comply with the law to maintain a database of contacts that don’t want to be in the database? And doesn’t that seem, uh, impossible?

It seems to me that both acts are designed with a consumer focus — namely, that they’re seeking to limit abuses of personal information among marketing organizations. It doesn’t appear that they anticipate the use of contact information in the normal course of business (in a business-to-business context)… which makes it problematic (at best) to know how one should attempt to comply with the laws. Anyone with more info on these topics than I care to comment?

Tuesday, December 2, 2003

I'm back!

Apologies for the lengthy delay; lots of driving over Thanksgiving (put over 2,000 miles on the family minivan!) and then a ton of work waiting for me when the holiday ended conspired to keep me buried until earlier tonight. I’m still not dug out completely (there’s tomorrow’s MeetUp to plan!) but wanted to make sure people knew I hadn’t vanished.

And for those of you following the tight race in Iowa, check out Zogby’s hot-off-the-presses poll showing that Dean has picked up 5 points since November, and has retaken a slim lead over Gephardt. This squares with last month’s SurveyUSA poll that had Dean on top by 5 points among “likely caucus goers.”

Where have I been?

I’m back. You know it’s bad when several of your co-workers stop you in the hall and ask why you haven’t been updating your blog. On the one hand, I guess it’s good that they read. (Hi guys.) But on the other hand, where are their blogs? Do they think this is easy?

(Actually, it is easy. Nevermind.)

Just been a bit busy is all, trying to dig out from being away from home for a week, getting the house ready for Christmas, and prepping for a busy several weeks at work. So I’m probably a day away from being completely caught up and back to a normal posting schedule here… in the meantime, here are a few gems I caught while being blog-less:

  • Like David Weinberger, I bought my first Dixie Chicks album simply to reward Natalie Maines for speaking up. Like David, to my utter shock, I found I liked the music. Their new album is excellent, well worth a pick-up.

  • Denise had a baby! Congrats Denise. In no particular order, a few suggestions: when they’re sick, clear Pedialyte is waaaaay better than anything with colors. (Think about it.) Start driving places with the little guy in the car. Should you ever get the urge to drive or fly outrageous distances, the comfort of hanging in the carseat will repay you in spades. Just for the hell of it, start out with small trips. Like Palm Springs, for example. You’ve earned it, right? And never, ever let the house get quiet. Otherwise you’ll feel the need to soundproof the entire place while they sleep. Better they get used to the din now. (My youngest fell asleep in the middle of a circus. Literally, a three-ring circus. Slept for over an hour. Go figure!)

  • This is old, but still worth a read: Child’s Play. Any fans of classic video games (Pong, Donkey Kong, Tetris, etc.) will scream with laughter over the transcripts of reactions from today’s 10-13 year-olds who try to play these gems of electronic gaming. My favorite quote: “My line is so beating the heck out of your stupid line. Fear my pink line. You have no chance. I am the undisputed lord of virtual tennis.”

Be back soon. One last thing — I just converted the blog from the default Berkeley DB to mySQL — you shouldn’t notice any difference (except hopefully snappier performance), but if anything looks broken just let me know.