Wednesday, March 31, 2004

IRS Announces WYSKster

US Government Announces WYSKster
Social networking space collapses

Washington, DC (Rooters) — Capitalizing on the recent popularity of social networking applications, the Internal Revenue Service today announced its newest service, a social networking site at

Commissioner Mark W. Everdaughter explained the logic behind the site, known as “WYSKster” to site designers. “For the first time, the US government is taking advantage of its tremendous information assets for the benefit of US citizens.” At a press conference this morning, Everdaughter elaborated on those assets:
Site designers demonstrated how WYSKster will work: “You punch in your social security number, and you’re presented with a series of menus: Who You Knew, Who You Know, and Who You Should Know. Who You Knew includes past girlfriends and boyfriends, lost classmates and family members, and anyone you owe money. Who You Know includes your spouse, children, criminal associates, suspected terrorist connections, and professional colleagues. What really makes WYSKster stand apart from the other sites is Who You Should Know. Based on a comprehensive profile we build of each US citizen, we can say with 98% accuracy who any one individual should know.”

When asked how the site would prevent users from punching in someone else’s social security number, Everdaughter said it was impossible. “We’re running Windows Update on all of our servers, so we’re confident that we’re completely secure. Besides — who knows anyone else’s social security number? That’s why the word ‘security’ is in there.”

IRS officials downplayed other, earlier social networking sites. “What do they have? A few thousand friends of friends of some Google programmer? Big deal. We have everybody who’s ever been arrested, paid taxes, bought something with a credit card, or flown on a plane. You think we can’t create a network out of that?! And besides — with those other sites, you have to fill out all that data. With us, we do all the hard work to gather the data — citizens just get to benefit from it!”

Everdaughter announced that WYSKster will be run by former Total Information Awareness Director John M. Poindexter. “Admiral Poindexter brings a unique skillset to this project,” explained Everdaughter. “In his time at DARPA he came to understand how much people want the government to help them manage their personal lives, and when we explained how WYSKster would work, he jumped at the chance to join up.”

In what is believed to be a first, WYSKster was created without a single dollar of taxpayer money. Former Stanford University Provost and current National Security Advisor Candy Rice’s Palo Alto connections came in handy for what is believed to be a first in government: a venture capital funded government enterprise.

Dick Clark, a former senior government official named who asked not to be identified, elaborated on the VC-backed WYSKster. “We modeled WYSKSter’s funding model on the friends and family program that [Vice President Dick] Cheney started with KBR and Halliburton. That guy really pioneered the whole public/private partnership model.”

Once word of WYSKster hit Silicon Valley, IRS officials were overwhelmed by pitches by VC firms who had missed out on the initial social networking frenzy. “I’ll be honest,” said a senior partner at New Synergy Paradigm Ventures who asked to be identified. “I still don’t get the whole business model. But with the kind of data the US government has? These other guys don’t have a chance. WYSKster will be to social networking what the US Government is to Iraq.”

Asked about rumors that Google was in talks to acquire WYSKster, some other guy said it was unlikely. “Google’s founder Sergey Brain has been pretty clear that he sees WYSKster as the most evil thing he’s ever heard of. I think the only way he’d buy it is if he could kill it. Which, given that the US Government is behind it, is pretty unlikely.”

Privacy advocates were concerned about WYSKster’s announcement, but when reached for comment, EPIC President Mark Rottenberg could only be heard weeping softly in the background.

Social Networking Against the Government (SNAG), an industry group represented by the law firm of Russell & Tate, hopes to stop WYSKster before it grows too strong. “The Federal Government can’t possibly understand the complexities of who wants to date whom,” said Friendster investor and Yahoo! co-founder Tim Google. “Don’t they have someone to invade?”

Industry analysts predicted a bright future for WYSKster. “This is a win-win,” said an analyst with JupiterResearch. “You combine the efficiency of the US Government with their record of handling sensitive information, and you can’t lose. A site like this would never have been possible before the Patriot Act, but you have to hand it to the government: they really leveraged their core assets and took the whole medium in a direction nobody else saw coming. This could be worth trillions or more.”

Future versions of WYSKster will incorporate data from President Bush’s Temporary Worker Program, terrorist organizations, and anyone who listens to Air America Radio.

WYSKster is currently in beta and will be available to anyone with a valid social security number shortly after April 15.

The Confusion

Neal Stephenson has a new novel coming out in two weeks: The Confusion: Volume Two of the Baroque Cycle. I still haven’t read Quicksilver: Volume One of the Baroque Cycle, so I guess I better get busy.

And Volume Two is just 823 pages — that’s darn near svelte compared to Quicksilver.

Perfect Corporate Weblogging Elevator Pitch

Judith Meskill has set up a corporate weblogging elevator pitch contest. We are hosting the collaborative space for the judges to evaluate the pitches; it should be interesting.

I look forward to seeing the entrants: from pitching a former employer on the concept to presenting on the subject at conferences, I’ve discovered that actually getting the concise value proposition expressed to people who have no frame of reference is a surprisingly difficult task.

Good luck to the contestants.

Air America Radio is live

Air America is now live, with the “O’Franken Factor” playing live (requires Real Player).

A thank you note

Back in December, Joe Rospars posted to the Dean blog about sending care packages to the troops. The post linked to — a clearinghouse for how to send care packages to soldiers serving in Iraq.

That afternooon my wife put three large care packages together of toilettries, books and other assorted items and we sent them on their way.

Yesterday, we got a thank you note from one of the soldiers, who had just returned home to his wife and two daughters after serving in Kirkuk.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Candace Parker

Unreal. Candace Parker, the two-time Naismith Player of the Year, won the dunk contest at the McDonald’s All American Boys and Girls Games.

The catch? This wasn’t the girls’ competition. She beat the guys.

Last year’s winner? A guy you might have heard of: Lebron James.

Candace played her high school ball less than a mile from my house, and is headed to Tennessee next year. She first dunked in a game as a sophomore.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Scott Turow on Barack Obama

Great cover story at by Scott Turow on Barack Obama

[Obama] may become the first black Democrat able to rise above race in the fashion of Powell and Rice, and in doing so become the embodiment of one of America’s most enduring dreams.

Talk about push(y) technology...

Why chase ambulances, when the ambulances come to you online? It turns out that ambulance chasing lawyers have found a much more effective method of going after clients: they have local sheriffs email them a daily list of who’s been arrested – including their home addresses. Some services even promise to send out letters based on the list within hours of receiving it. People who are arrested are likely to find a stack of letters from lawyers wanting their business – often targeted directly to their alleged crime – within days. In one case described in the article, lawyers were informed (and had mailed out solicitations) two days before a young man’s parents were notified he’d been arrested. Of course, the information on arrest records are public, but some are wondering if the direct mailing of such info to lawyers really makes sense. The lawyers, of course, respond that they’re only trying to get those arrested the best possible help. [Techdirt]


50 Ways to Love Your Country has a new book out: 50 Ways to Love Your Country. It’s currently #2 at; help make it #1!

From the book description:

With more than 2 million members, MoveOn is at the cutting edge of a new model for political activism. In their first-ever book, they take their message offline with MoveOn’s 50 Ways to Love Your Country: How to Find Your Political Voice and Become a Catalyst for Change, in an effort to jumpstart an even broader civic dialogue and inspire all to become involved in our political process. With introductions by Al Gore, Nancy Pelosi, Gail Sheehy, David Fenton, and the MoveOn staff, MoveOn’s 50 Ways to Love Your Country is a political call-to-action guide that includes 50 essays from MoveOn members across the country. Each essay is a compelling personal story with action items and resources. Simple ideas are illuminated, such as “Vote, No Matter What,” about a dying man’s wish to cast a ballot, as are more dynamic actions, such as “Start a Petition,” which chronicles a couple’s quest to protect endangered wolves in Alaska.” For those who feel powerless or overwhelmed, angry or apathetic – or just want to do something, but don’t know how – MoveOn’s 50 Ways to Love Your Country answers the question so many people are asking, “What can I do?”

Civic activity on either side of the aisle is to be appreciated and encouraged. Get involved.

Congrats to Roland Tanglao!

Healthy baby boy delivered at 1:50 a.m.Saturday! More at soon. I will be off until April 12th. Email, blogging, etc. will take a back seat until then! [Roland Tanglao’s Weblog]

Nothing like those first few days with a little one in your life. Congrats to Roland and his wife Barb.

And start checking the time stamps on Roland’s posts — I’ll be they start coming in around 3, 4 in the morning…

Saturday, March 27, 2004

City of New Orleans

Just booked our tickets on the City of New Orleans train down to Nawlins. I’m best man in my best friend’s wedding in May, and Robin and I decided that a trip with the kids on the train would be a blast. (No, really!)

When I told my four year-old that we’d be taking a train trip in a month, the look of joy that crossed his face was worth the price of the ticket (a rather reasonable $900 for a family of four, round-trip – within $10 of the cost of airfare for the same trip). When I showed him the virtual tour of the sleeper cabin we’ll be in, he nearly fell over. “COOL!” he proclaimed.

About a half hour later, in a very serious tone, he came back to me. “Dad! You better make sure they have a snack car, just in case I get hungry.”


Friday, March 26, 2004

Legal porn?

So…anyone know why, on the new Google Local search, when you do a search for “porn” and your zip code, you get a “bunch of results for lawyers”: [eclecticism]

This is a riot. And I just showed it to Jason Krause, the tech reporter for the ABA Journal.

We might be seeing more about this…

Update: Jim Calloway, during 60 sites in 60 minutes, showed this link yesterday and apparently got the biggest laugh of the day…

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


Jonas Luster riffs on jazzroots. I like this:

But grassroots, doesn’t quite cut it for me. What we really have at our hands are Jazzroots. Combining the power of technologies with the dynamics of Jazz. Often unscripted, often just jamming along, and sometimes not very refined, small flares of activism. “Small pieces, loosely joined”, to bastardize David Weinberger’s latest work of genius, achieve great things, not by cohesion or through a unified leadership, but through persistence and improvisation.

Like Jazz, jazzroots efforts are sometimes rather unpolished, yet appealing.

Good stuff.

Dean campaign debrief

Carl with a K has an advance copy of what is probably the best post mortem on the Dean campaign. For those who would like to pin the campaign’s demise on the software, or the Internet, or the new supporters… this is well worth a read. The answer is both more straightforward and more depressing than any of those indictments.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Get Bloomba

Check this out: the good folks at Bloomba get it. They recognize that one of the barriers to adoption is inertia: most people out there are using Outlook, and they don’t even realize that there’s a better answer. So Bloomba is reaching out to execs at small to mid-sized businesses. Tell them what you do, what line of work you’re in — and they’ll send you a copy.

They’ve taken a page from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point: if you’re a connector, they want you. If you haven’t given Bloomba a look yet, this is a great chance to do so.

(For more on why Bloomba is worth a look, you can read my earlier post on the subject.)

Monday, March 22, 2004

Footprints of God

Just finished reading Footprints of God, the latest book from Greg Iles. I’ve written about Iles before — and I can’t think of an author I’d rather read right now.

Footprints of God is outstanding, and yet again proves that Iles defies any particular genre. This time it’s science (artificial intelligence, evolution) combined with religion (the nature of God, consciousness) and politics. A pet peeve of mine is whenever an author tries to stretch and gets easy details wrong… and authors writing about technology are often way out of their league. Not Iles — he’s careful not to go too far into the specifics of how the technology works, but what he writes is authentic. So rather than focus on the “that could never happen” distractions, you can get immersed in the story. (More to his credit: Mortal Fear, written in ’97, was equally clueful in writing about a killer using the Net to stalk his prey.)

And what a story Footprints of God is.

How does a guy who’s written historical fiction, spy thrillers, legal dramas, and serial killer thrillers, now turn around and do this?

And I like Iles’ style: he even gives you a list of authors who have influenced him. This will be a great reading wish list…

My iPod is dead, long live the iPod

Finally got around to trying to sync my iPod to the new laptop. The iPod was working, mind you.

About a third of the way through the sync, iTunes stopped making progress. That lasted a good ten minutes, at which point I decided that something was wrong. So I rebooted the iPod (held down the menu and play buttons).

That’s when the chunk-chunk noise started.

An endless cycle of seemingly random iPod error messages appeared on the device, and each time I tried to launch the iPod Updater software I got an error on my PC saying “Can’t mount iPod”. OK — this isn’t fatal, as I have a copy of iPod — the Missing Manual and it told me how to go through the disk diagnostic app on the iPod.

At which point I got to the point that the Missing Manual described as “Bad. Really bad.” The iPod diagnostic was reporting a serious failure with the iPod disk drive.

OK — I’m still in the warranty period (not for phone support, but for mail-in support). So I went to the iPod support site, and followed the steps to initiate a support request.

When I got to the form that asked for mailing info, I was fine. Until I got here:

The field is asking me who owns the iPod. Except that every option in the drop-down was empty. (I got the same behavior in IE as I got in Mozilla, by the way.) And I couldn’t ignore it — trying to click “continue” just produced an equally helpful blank javascript error message.

So I have an iPod that doesn’t work. And I can’t get it fixed because the Apple support site doesn’t work.


Friday, March 19, 2004

Illinois Senate Race Post Mortem

One Man has some great post mortems on the Illinois Senate race from the right side of the aisle. His advice for Kathuria seems to be about right; of course, he might have added to the list, oh, Don’t pad your resume.

But who am I to quibble. I’m sure the other post mortems will be equally insightful.

Multi-generational blogging

I look forward to the day when my son will have his own blog — but for the time being, I’ll just read Michael O’Connor-Clarke’s son’s blog (he’s 6 1/2). Even cooler — Michael’s dad is capturing the family memories in his own blog.

Marc Canter wants to know...

Marc Canter wants to know who has the most active workspaces. He has three.

Can you beat him?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Blogger dinner update

Lots of RSVPs coming in through comments and e-mail, so here’s an update. We have a few options. If you think you can make it next week (reminder: Wednesday night, 7:30pm 7:15pm) to the blogger dinner in Chicago, cast a vote for your preference for dinner. We’ll go with the group majority on this one.

Our choices:

Update: Ben Pao it is!

  • Ben Pao. Chinese. 6 blocks from TechShow hotel. Entrees are between $12 and $20.

  • Volare. Italian. 3 blocks from TechShow hotel. Entrees are between $12 and $20.

  • 437 Rush. Italian steakhouse. 3 blocks from TechShow hotel. Steaks are $25+, pasta is $15-$25.

Confirmed attending: me, AKMA, Buzz Bruggeman, Albert Delgado, Jim McGee, Fred Faulkner, Mike Fioritto, Ernie Svenson, Dennis Kennedy, Jeff Beard, Matt Homann, Jenny Levine, Tom Mighell, Shannon Clark, Barry Bayer, Erik Heels, Jack Vinson. I’ll update as others confirm.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Stern and obscenity

Jeff Jarvis is providing marvelous daily summaries of the growing feud between the Bush administration and Howard Stern.

JetBlue's CEO - another CEO who gets it

JetBlue’s CEO inspires me — works as steward in flights’s Norm Brodsky writes about meeting JetBlue’s CEO on a flight from New York to Oakland. But, he wasn’t sitting down. He was working the flight.

That’s an inspiring person to work for. Now I know why so many people I know rave about JetBlue.

Thanks to John at Inluminent for linking to that. [Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger]

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Hannah's in remission

Best news of the day.

Continued love and good wishes to the Cutler family; we had dinner with them this weekend and got to share stories about how they’re doing. They’re so strong during this ordeal — and to hear such good news is a tremendous relief!

Election results

You can monitor the results of our county election here to see if, by some miracle, I get enough votes to be a delegate to the Democratic convention in Boston. (Scroll down to where it says “DEM D13 CONG DEM DELEG” for my race.)

In the meantime, I’m off to dinner with the other exec members of DuPage for Dean to reminisce about a hell of a year.

Will check in tomorrow.

Illinois voting update


Check it out

4pm UPDATE: Very preliminary mid-30s turnout projection for Chicago. Official projection at 6 pm. That’s not bad at all. Still trouble with GOP turnout and downstate turnout. Word is DuPage County is experiencing a small spike in Democratic voters.

I like Mark Cuban

I’ve written about Mark Cuban before (be sure to visit that link for some good examples of what a maverick he really is) — but reading his weblog clinches it for me. He embodies some of the ideal characteristics of a leader:

  • Transparency. You don’t have to guess what he’s thinking; he’ll tell you.

  • Candor. He doesn’t pull any punches.

  • Decisiveness. He has conviction — and the wherewithal to follow through on it — that others will count on.

  • A sense of humor. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and he likes poking fun.

Most of all, what you get from reading about him is a sense that he likes who he is, what he does, and the positive effect he can have on other people.

And how can you not like a guy who writes this post?

Monday, March 15, 2004


I first met Hiram Wurf a little over a year ago; I had just written my first few posts about the Dean campaign, and he was a local looking for info. He found my blog, and shortly thereafter he was helping me plan events in the county.

Hiram’s contributions to the Dean effort here in DuPage County are legendary: much of the group’s success is directly attributable to his passion. Now that he has a little free time on his hands (thanks, Howard), he’s channeling some of that passion into a blog, WurfWhile. Be sure to swing by and give him a read.

Socialtext praise

With my first week at Socialtext under my belt, I am happy to report that it’s as exciting as I’d hoped it would be. As with any growing company, there is a lot that needs to be done (and done yesterday) — but that’s part of what keeps the juices flowing. I’m continuing to get up to speed on the product itself, and now that I’m monitoring changes to my workspaces in my RSS aggregator (now using Sharp Reader), I’m amazed at how well distributed groups can work together.

But I’m biased — so don’t take my word for it. Last week’s Economist had this to say:

[Socialtext] offer[s] a middle ground between e-mail and a conventional web page, which makes them useful for collaborative projects, particularly those involving far-flung teams. Rather than maintaining multiple copies of a document and sharing ideas by e-mail, [Socialtext] allows members of a team to pool their thoughts more easily.

And just to show that’s not PR fluff, Pierre Omidyar (eBay founder) shared his experience to his nascent Socialtext trial in a post to his blog yesterday:

We’ve had incredibly rapid adoption of this new tool, especially for group brainstorming and sharing learnings. This has been especially gratifying since most of the team are pretty agnostic when it comes to technology.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Dean on March 18: "Democracy, Freedom, Action."

I’d say this indicates what the name of the new Dean organization will be…

(Thanks to Eric Davis for the find.)

Dean fans will recall these three words were the cornerstone of his September 23, 2003 speech in Copley Square, Boston.

“Democracy and freedom, forged through action. That is the story of America.

“It is also our hope for the future.”

There’s a certain symmetry. Dean for America. Democracy, Freedom, Action. DFA.

Stay tuned…

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Caption contest

Been a while since I’ve done one of these, so here goes:

Come up with your own caption in the comments. Have fun.

And remember: no wagering.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Obama pulls ahead

AP – No one doubted that state Sen. Barack Obama had the credentials to run for the U.S. Senate, but many questioned his chances against a field that includes a multimillionaire political newcomer and a son of a Democratic power broker. [Yahoo! News – Politics]

It’s great to see Obama get the national attention ahead of Tuesday’s primary here in Illinois. My wife and I put an Obama sign in our yard a couple weeks ago, and I feel he’s the best candidate we have going into the general election. While there are other strong candidates in the field (and Blair Hull is not one of them; see here), only Obama has the potential to be a superstar on the national stage. He’s a committed lawmaker (the only one in the race who’s actually passed a law), an insanely smart individual, and brings a life story to the race that will earn him instant credibility on a range of issues.

The race will be close. Be sure to get out and vote on Tuesday, regardless of who you want to win.

Big Fish

Just got back from watching Big Fish. The only review I recall reading when it came out last year was Dave Winer’s one-word review (“wonderful”). (I also remember reading Dave’s subsequent longer comments.)

Turns out the reviews by the pros were less enthusiastic.

I loved the film. Didn’t just like it, loved it. Towards the end, I watched as a son tried to reconcile conclusions about his Dad he’d drawn long ago with seemingly incontrovertible evidence that what he believed to be true was not. (Or maybe it was — but it’s his uncertainty that’s so poignant.) I thought about my relationship with my father (a very good one, thankfully) and my relationship with my two sons (still early, but so far so good!) and how dynamic the relationships are, and how important they are to me.

There are a few memories of time with my Dad that are frozen for me — I can recall every detail about them. There’s the time he showed me how he could write three pages about the sun rising in response to my complaints that I couldn’t write three pages about the Civil War. (Cut me some slack, I was in seventh grade. Three pages seemed like a lot at the time.) I was awed by the skill I didn’t know he had — and not just by the ease with which he did it, but the enjoyment he took in doing it. That’s the day I decided I liked writing.

Or the time in high school when I discovered that I’d get my driver’s license a whole week after I was eligible. I was pissed. (For those reading this in the UK, that’s pissed as in angry, not pissed as in drunk.) That night over dinner, he defused my anger with one question: “Five years from now, will it matter that you got your license a week late?” He was right, of course. (That I’ve since used that same rationale to explain my relaxed approach towards life has caused him no end of grief…)

I remember the weekend he spent with me while I was studying in France. It was the first time he and I interacted not as father and son but as friends. I’m fortunate that I realized at the time just how significant it was — I enjoyed the weekend all the more, and twelve years later, can still tell you what we had to drink for lunch before heading off to the caves for a wine tasting.

And I remember when he held my son for the first time: his first grandson, and the sixth generation in our family in which the first born was male and named Richard. I remember the pride I felt for bringing a new man into the world, the joy I felt at being able to share it with my Dad, and the connection I felt to the generations before us who had played out this exact scene so many times before.

Last December, I took my son to see Brother Bear. The movie was OK — not great, but enjoyable. My then-3 year-old loved it, more because it was a chance to go to the movies with Dad than anything else. He still talks about it. “Dad, remember when we went to see Brother Bear?” he’ll ask. “I liked the scene where the bears fell into the mud.” Or he’ll ask about the popcorn we ate. Or the big seats we got to sit in. The other day, as I worked in the basement, he hung out on the newly-installed carpet for over an hour, playing with the same twelve Legos. He didn’t say much, just occasionally looked up to show me what he’d built. He finished as I took a break. We laid down in the empty room and gave each other a hug, then stared at the as-yet-unfinished ceiling. It was a perfect, simple moment. I’ll cherish it for a long, long time. (Update: the ceiling grid is in. Lights are installed, ceiling panels go in tomorrow!)

Most of all, after seeing Big Fish, I’m thankful that I have a pretty good idea of who my Dad is. Perhaps what hit me so hard in the movie was when Billy Crudup’s character (the son) tells his Dad, “I’m about to bring a son into this world, and it would kill me to think he’d grow up not knowing who I was.”

Stories about us are what will keep us around long after we leave. On my last day of sophomore history in high school, Winslow Smith told us that all men search for immortality. Teaching, he said, is the closest a man can come to immortality — because long after the teachers go, with any luck their students will still talk about them. I’ve never forgotten that lesson from Winslow.

That, in a nutshell, is what Big Fish is all about. It’s not the story that matters. It’s what the story says about us — why we tell it, how we tell it — that matters. Some people listen to the stories themselves; hopefully more will hear the storyteller. With any luck, those that love us will keep the stories (and the storyteller) alive.

Dean's web team goes commercial

There are some interesting developments afoot from the former members of the Dean web team. Some from the team are involved in Change for America (Joe Trippi’s umbrella organization of grassroots activists). Here’s another new entrant: Blue State Digital, a for-profit consulting firm that will apply the lessons learned from the Dean campaign to communications, fundraising, tech support, etc. It probably goes without saying, but I had the pleasure of doing some work with these guys and would highly recommend them for any project. Give ‘em a call.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

Blogger dinner in Chicago

Care to join a group of smart, attractive, witty, well-connected bloggers for dinner in Chicago? (I’m not saying those traits apply to all of us. We each get to pick two.)

Details: Wednesday, March 24. So far, confirmed to attend: me, Ernie, Buzz, Jenny, Jim, Dennis, AKMA, and Jeff. I spoke with Buzz today and I think others are coming — but I lost track of the others he named.

So — if you’re going to be in the Chicago area on March 24 and would like to join us (Buzz counted close to 20), use the comments to RSVP. Look forward to seeing you! (We’ll pick a spot soon.)

Monday, March 8, 2004

IBM T40 update

My T40 showed up last week, but in the midst of bruising, nicking or otherwise torturing my body in an attempt to finish the basement I didn’t have much time to play with it. Now that I’ve had a few days to get to know it, here’s my initial response: it’s spectacular. Easily the best laptop I’ve ever owned. (And that’s not idle praise: this is my ninth laptop in the past 11 years.)

It’s surprisingly thin, given that the T30 I had until a few weeks ago was almost identical in specs. The screen is as bright as I’ve had, the keyboard is very responsive (the keys are far more firm, and bouncy, than any other I’ve used) and the battery life so far seems terrific.

And for the first time since my Apple ][+ days, I’m leading a completely non-Microsoft application life (still using Windows — XP Professional — as my OS though). Here’s what I’m using and why:

  • Office suite: Open Office 1.1. Can read MS Office files and even save directly in that format (though the native XML-based file format is smaller and more extensible). Most casual users wouldn’t notice the difference, and there’s nothing in MS Office I’ve yet found that I can’t do in OO. (Cost savings: $400.)

  • E-mail: Bloomba. You may recall that I tried Bloomba a few months ago and decided to stop well, I’ve tried it again and decided it’s a keeper. Part of my problem before was that I continued to use Outlook as my calendar and contact manager (it’s what my prior employer used throughout the company); and it didn’t seem to make any sense to keep two apps when one could do. Well, the upside of having instantaneous searching of all your messages, coupled with powerful filtering and message management make Bloomba a far superior e-mail app. And coming with Version 2.0 — Palm sync support, calendar and better contact management. (In the meantime, I’ll get by with the Palm desktop that shipped with my Treo.) I’m sold.

  • Instant messaging: Trillian Pro 2.0. I’ve been a long-time Trillian user (it’s a universal IM client), but finally decided to go with the pro version because SocialText is heavily reliant on IM(Instant Messaging) and IRC for communications among employees. Trillian Pro offers better alias management, connectivity preferences, and stability than the free version. For $25, it’s a bargain.

  • Browser: Mozilla Firefox. The current version is .8, and it’s just a wonderful browser. Tabbed browsing is far superior to multiple windows, and the extensions are really dramatic usability improvements over anything IE can throw at you.

What am I missing? What are your killer apps?


I’m happy to announce that as of today, I’ve joined Socialtext to head up business development. Those that have read this weblog for a while know that early on I was particularly excited about the potential that weblogs represent for business use. Nearly two years ago, I wrote the following as I started to recognize the benefits of business blogging:

Just like a few years ago I would go out of my way to reward companies who had web sites, I am pre-disposed to work with people who have recognized the value of contributing to the weblog community – and as the blog model gains momentum, that will only get easier.

Indeed. Just over a year ago, I was fortunate enough to have lunch with Socialtext CEO Ross Mayfield, who talked to me about his plans for Socialtext: combine the weblog concept with easily editable web pages (aka “wikis”) and you’ll have a platform for lightweight and powerful group collaboration.

I’ve been a user of Socialtext for several months — and part of the reason I’m so excited about this opportunity is that I’ve seen the dramatic increase in group productivity that results from using such a powerful tool. The other reason I’m excited is that I’m joining a talented, smart and passionate group of people. I feel very fortunate to join them so early in this journey, and can’t wait to see where the ride takes us.

For those that don’t know Socialtext, it’s a very flexible application (for some customer stories visit here). Groups who need to ensure everyone is on the same page can derive tremendous benefits from using Socialtext. If you want to learn more, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll follow up with you shortly (that’ll give me enough time to work on my elevator pitch!).

I won’t be moving anytime soon — part of the reason for the flurry of activity in the basement last week was to get an office area ready for me to use (alas, it will be ready on Wednesday. But we’re close!).

I want to thank so many of you who contacted me privately during my job search process. Not only do I have my blog to thank for my new position, I have it to thank for the dozens of remarkable people who are most definitely part of my circle of friends — most of whom I’ve never even met. To all of you who wrote with suggestions, names, and wishes of good luck, thank you!

Get better soon, Hannah

A very close friend of mine found out last week that his two year-old daughter has A.L.L. (acute lymphoblastic leukemia). In the span of a couple hours, they went from having a fussy girl with a nagging cold to a fussy girl with leukemia. She started chemo that afternoon, and was released from the hospital five days later.

Dave (with his wife Elise) started a blog to track Hannah’s progress through this ordeal. They’re a strong family, with tremendous family support. Good luck, guys. You have our love and our prayers.

For anyone who’s interested, you can donate to the Leukemia Foundation online. If you donate online, add in my info to notify me of the gift, and I’ll let the Cutlers know about your contribution. (FYI: Rick Klau, 1416 Oswego Road, Naperville, IL 60540.)

Saturday, March 6, 2004

Lessons from Leaders

On April 24, tfpl will host a seminar called Knowledge Management: Lessons from Leaders. Among the panelists is Ros Jones, Knowledge Manager at the Financial Services Authority.

See Jones’ Measuring the Benefits of Knowledge Management at the FSA. [excited utterances]

Presidential ads going back 50 years

The American Museum of the Moving Image has an online exhibition of TV ads from Presidential races since 1952. [The Blogging of the President: 2004]

This is a great site.

DVD magazines

I’m not doing as much travel as I used to (and that’s a wonderful thing), but it occurred to me today that magazines are nearly ideal for the 1-2 hour flight. You pick them up in the boarding area, and if you read the whole thing cover to cover, you probably finish around the time you’re taxiing to your gate.

Many business travelers these days carry laptops with built-in DVD drives. Seems to me there would be a business opportunity for someone to distribute nationwide DVDs on a weekly basis. They could run 1-2 hours and would be a cross between Headline News and 60 Minutes. (Come to think of it, the existing networks would be the right model for building this kind of thing out.)

There’s certainly a subscription model opportunity here — but I think the more likely play (at least initially) is the business traveler who is rarely in the same place each week (and might therefore miss a subscribed-to disc in the mail). For $5, don’t you think tens of thousands of travelers would pick this up to watch in flight?

Is there anything like this out there?

Friday, March 5, 2004

George Bush - conservative?

Interesting catch from Britt Blaser:

Meanwhile, here’s a quote from the cover story of the current issue of American Conservative magazine:

The tendency to hate, really hate, opposing politicians surely is not good for American democracy. It is not rational to hate George W. Bush, just as it was not rational to hate Bill Clinton. But after spending eight years hating Clinton, conservatives who complain about the Bush-haters appear to be hypocrites.

George W. Bush enjoys neither royal nor religious status that would place him beyond criticism. Whether or not he is a real conservative, he is no friend of limited, constitutional government. And for that the American people should be very, very angry.

[Escapable Logic]

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Gay marriage

I’ve wanted to write about the whole gay marriage flap lately, but haven’t had time nor have I found anything particularly new to say on the subject. Then I stumbled on ambivalent imbroglio, a weblog by law student at George Washington University. I have that site to thank for the link to 12 reasons Gay Marriage Will Ruin Society.

It’s good for a chuckle. And perhaps my favorite quip on the subject comes from Jon Stewart, from several months ago:

“I don’t want to marry another man.”

(he pauses, as he pretends to be hearing a voice in the ear-piece)

“What? You mean… it’s not mandatory?”

“Oh. So then what’s the worry?”

CNN Presents - Inside the Dean Campaign

Interesting: Sunday night, CNN is doing a one-hour inside the Dean campaign special. Included at the link are some pop-ups about campaign staff, a timeline, and other items. Not sure how revealing this will be, but might make for some interesting watching.

Me? I’ll be cleaning the house after my 3 4 year-old’s birthday party. Maybe I’ll TiVo it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

Kerry is the man

I’m impressed with Kerry’s showing. I’m the last guy to offer up an opinion about how he pulled it off, but like many in this election, I’ve indicated that I want a guy who would beat Bush. I felt Howard Dean was the right guy for that fight — and that the campaign’s strategy was the ideal playbook to take head-to-head. Turns out I was wrong — and Kerry’s strong campaign is evidence that he’s capable of getting the votes needed to get elected.

My admiration for Kerry’s campaign is matched by sadness looking back at the last year. I got involved in the Dean campaign by sending an e-mail more than 18 months ago. I never thought I’d get involved as I did, nor did I think my involvement would garner me any attention — so it was more than a bit surreal to listen to Illinois’s Governor Blagojevich repeatedly thank me by name on Monday for my work on the Dean campaign and for the impact it had in our county.

But most of all, the reason I’m sad is that I’m disappointed in Dean. He inspired such hope and optimism in me that I’m frustrated at how things turned out. (No, this has nothing to do with the scream.)

It’s only fair to assess the campaign through the same lens I looked at others. And when John Kerry fired his campaign manager, I remarked at the time that candidates who couldn’t run strong campaigns didn’t deserve our vote. Kerry had let his campaign corrode from the inside out.

But to his credit, he fixed it.

Dean, on the other hand, didn’t. Two factions grew in Vermont, to the point that they became counter-productive. Dean failed to fix the situation. It became a tense environment, where valuable energy was wasted trying to negotiate competing loyalties and agendas.

That’s no way to run a campaign. And it’s no way to win office.

(More later on what I think the lessons of the Dean campaign are in light of the technological success… but since I can barely lift my fingers anymore, I’m turning in for the night.)

Hats off to John Kerry. He’s the party’s nominee, which means he’s my nominee.

Bring it on.


To look at my basement right now, you’d conclude that I actually know what I’m doing. There’s the table/miter saw (it’s even got a cool laser, though I can’t figure out why), the drill, the cordless screwdriver, the levels, hunks of drywall on the ground… and the more than 600 linear feet of lumber I’ve secured to the ceiling joists to frame out the heating vents so we can hang the ceiling tomorrow. The soffits are almost done (thanks for the link, Allison!) and the drop ceiling should go in pretty smoothly (at least, that’s what I’m telling myself). In the meantime, my wife is painting the walls and cabinets; we’ll install the cabinets tomorrow and get the countertop in over the weekend.

If ever I needed confirmation that my calling was software, this project has provided it.

In spades.