Monday, May 31, 2004

Giving Feedburner a try

I’m giving FeedBurner a try. FeedBurner addresses the thorny dilemma posed by RSS: while you know that it increases your readership, you have no frickin’ clue who’s reading your RSS feed.

FeedBurner swaps out your own with its version of your RSS feed (more on that in a minute); by running sophisticated tracking software on its end, it can keep track of how many unique readers you have at your RSS feed. Why is this important? In the first five months of 2004, my RSS feeds were hit 330,000 times. My homepage over the same period of time received 45,000 visits. Now the very nature of RSS feeds (that is, that they’re monitored throughout the day by aggregators) means that one person might account for 20, 30 or more of those hits in a day — but who knows?

I created FeedBurner-only copies of my RSS feeds, then pointed FeedBurner to those files. With the FeedBurner URL assigned to my RSS feeds, I then needed to make sure that all of you who subscribe to my RSS feed can still find it — even though, strictly speaking, the file you used to subscribe to is gone. (I deleted it from the server.)

With me? Good.

I updated .htaccess to include the following two lines:

redirect temp /tins/rss.xml

redirect temp /tins/index.rdf

Now any requests for /tins/rss.xml automatically redirect to the FeedBurner site, where FeedBurner does its statistical magic and can tell me how many people are reading my RSS feeds, how many links are clicked through and read, etc.

Amazing: in the time it took to write this post, 30 individual aggregators pinged my RSS feed.

I will provide updates here on how the experiment is going. So far, I’m very impressed.

Memorial Day

This Memorial Day story by Ed Cone is wonderful.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

New season of Coupling (the good one)

Watching BBC America this morning, we saw a promo for Season 4 of Coupling.

It looks like there’s a new Jeff? Can’t wait for the new episodes.

Share your predictions about what will happen in Season 4 here.

Kerry E-Block

Interesting: Washington Whispers notes that a major overhaul is coming to the Kerry campaign website, which will include:

It’s an online capability that allows phone banking from a home computer. Not everyone has the time to travel to a campaign office or union hall and make calls for the candidate. E-block will allow them to do that from home. Get out the vote, but stay in your jammies.

This is exciting. It’s been done before — Dialing for Dean was in place prior to the Wisconsin primaries — but its use on this scale in a presidential campaign is unprecedented.

It’s good to see the Kerry camp taking the lead. (Thanks to PoliticalWire for the link.)

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Now there's an innovative lawyer

Just yesterday, Matt Homann asked, “can lawyers innovate?” I responded with some thoughts of my own, and it turns out we already have an answer: Yes, they can.

Of course, can lawyers legally innovate might have been the more appropriate question.

This lawyer figured out a sure-fire way to drum up business: call into a competitor’s answering service, pretend to be one of the partners, and collect messages from prospective clients.

On a serious note, had the guy figured out how to get the firm’s e-mail messages, the papers would be abuzz with issues of authentication, security, identity, you name it. But because the lawyer figured out a low-tech way to intercept prospective business, the focus is (as it should be) on the criminal actions of the lawyer.

As Tim May (one of the founders of Cypherpunks) said at the 1995 CFP Conference, “my job as a cryptographer isn’t to make your data secure, because I can’t. My job is to make it more likely that you’ll try and bribe the cleaning service.”

Or the answering service, as it turns out.

Take me out... to the Drive In

Took the boys to a drive in theater that’s just a couple miles from the house. Shrek 2 was showing, and this seemed a great way to kick off Memorial Day weekend.

That Ricky enjoyed the movie and the experience wasn’t a surprise — from the moment the Spiderman trailer ran, he was entranced — but Robby (who’s just 2) managed to stay up until the credits rolled at 10:15! Both boys had a blast, and, truth be told, so did the parents.

We’ll be going again, once another kid-friendly movie is playing.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Wikis entering the mainstream

Great coverage today for Socialtext, which was profiled in the newest issue of Business Week:

To capitalize on the opportunity, startups such as Socialtext Inc. are selling wiki software…Like open-source software, wikis may make their biggest mark less as a business than as a potent force for change — in this case, in the way people work.

Nowhere is that potential more apparent than in today’s far-flung, time-pressed corporate teams. Aaron Burcell, director of marketing for e-mail software startup Stata Laboratories Inc., says working on a wiki has cut the daily phone calls he made on a raft of projects to one a week. It also has allowed Stata to outsource more work, such as engineering, to India. Says Burcell: “I could justify the cost of the wiki just from the lower teleconferencing bills.”

Wikis may find their way into more public use. Adam Hertz, vice-president for technology strategy at Eastman Kodak Co.‘s (EK ) online photo unit, Ofoto, is mulling their potential outside corporate walls: Shutterbugs could use them to let relatives and friends contribute stories about photos in their collections. Before long, we may all be hopping a ride on a wiki.

And Kos just announced the dKosopedia, an open collaborative wiki that the community edits. (Think of this as the political junkie equivalent of Wikipedia.)

Al Gore in New York

This week, Al Gore unleashed a blistering attack on the Bush Administration. In today’s New York Times, Bob Herbert writes about Gore’s comments, and suggests that while it’s easy to crack jokes at Gore’s expense, Gore raised very serious issues that need to be looked at. For Herbert, the key comment in Gore’s speech was:

“What makes the United States special in the history of nations is our commitment to the rule of law and our carefully constructed system of checks and balances. Our natural distrust of concentrated power and our devotion to openness and democracy are what have led us as a people to consistently choose good over evil in our collective aspirations, more than the people of any other nation.”

Reading these comments reminded me of an e-mail exchange I had with my Dad in December, 2001. I dug up the e-mail, and am reprinting my response below.

(This is from an e-mail I wrote on December 10, 2001. I’m not quoting the original message to which I replied, as this was from personal correspondence.)

Ashcroft isn’t saying that because we’re at war civil liberties will be curtailed. He’s actually saying (and the transcript of his prepared remarks are online here.)

“We need honest, reasoned debate; not fearmongering. To those who pit Americans against immigrants, and citizens against non-citizens; to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty; my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists – for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.”

In other words: we don’t need fearmongering. But while I’m up here, let me raise the specter of aiding and abetting the killing of innocents… by the very people sitting in this room!!

His paragraph was deliberate, of that I’m certain: he starts off with “to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty”, then concludes with “your tactics only aid terrorists.”

In other words, by questioning whether the Bush administration’s actions are in violation of the law is to directly aid the terrorists we’re fighting. This isn’t a question of degree – Ashcroft is denying anyone the right to question the decisions of the administration at all. That’s scary, because it is the same attitude taken by any number of non-democratically-elected regimes that we’ve fought in the past.

For me, the military tribunal issue sends a strong signal that we don’t trust our own system when it is most needed. We force other countries (yes, force) to abandon the military tribunal system because we claim that it isn’t constitutional, doesn’t honor basic human rights. In June of this year, 141 members of Congress (both Democrats and Republicans, by the way) wrote the government of Peru requesting the release of a 31 year-old American woman who was sentenced by a military tribunal because of actions aiding a Marxist guerilla organization. Despite the apparent lack of substantive proof tieing her to the activity in question, she was still found guilty in a closed proceeding. The quote from the State Department in 1996 upon her original sentencing (this is a policy that has not changed with administrations, by the way):

“The United States deeply regrets that Ms. Berenson was not tried in an open civilian court with full rights of legal defense, in accordance with international juridicial norms. Ms. Berenson may appeal her conviction in stages to two higher levels of military appeals tribunals, and we understand that her attorney is filing such an appeal. It is not clear whether a final appeal might be made to the Peruvian Supreme Court, a civilian body.

“The United States remains concerned that Ms. Berenson receive due process. We have repeatedly expressed these concerns to the Government of Peru. We call upon the Peruvian Government to take the necessary steps in the appeals process to accord Ms. Berenson an open judicial proceeding in a civilian court. The United States will continue to follow this case closely.”

In other words, a civilian, who a foreign government felt to be aiding a terrorist organization, was tried by a military tribunal and found guilty. When it concerned an American citizen (one who is very likely innocent of the charges, but that’s honestly beside the point), we got angry. But when we’re the government and some immigrants to the US are the alleged perpetrators, we’re OK with it. I guarantee you that the Marxist threat to the Peruvians is just as real to them as the al Qaeda threat is to us. Yet why are military tribunals OK for us and not for them? (For the record, I agree with the State Department’s statement of policy… it’s consistent with our policy going back two centuries.)

This is a country built on the premise that “all men are created equal” and that they are “endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights”. We have codified those rights over time to include the right to counsel, the right to not be held without being charged with a crime, and the right to a proper judicial proceeding when charged with a crime. What the Bush administration has done is subvert those rights and sidestepped constitutional protections in the interest of expediency.

You spoke of checks and balances. But what Bush has done is to eliminate most, if not all, checks and balances on his authority by unilaterally declaring the tribunals to be in effect. Even while Congress was working with the administration to craft an overwhelming response to the terrorist threat, the administration acted without consultation. The tribunals vest in Bush the sole choice of whether to permit an individual to have access to the constitutional protections we promise or not – with no review possible.

Where are the checks and balances here?

What ultimately concerns me about Ashcroft’s testimony (moreso than Bush’s actions or the creation of the tribunals themselves) is that he says – quite directly too – that to question us is to aid them. This smacks of the same kind of military regimes we’ve often fought to shut down. I don’t care if we’re at war or not. To suggest that I have no right to question whether what he’s doing is fair, just, or simply American – that is provincial and patronizing to the extreme. I also think it’s dangerous. Indeed, I think that to question those actions is to be patriotic.

The freedoms that I speak of are what we’ve fought for more than 200 years to protect. They are not there only when it’s easy to ensure them. They are there for when they are difficult and challenging to protect. That’s what makes us different – we don’t choose the easy road, the one that’s most expedient. “We hold these truths to be self-evident.” We must not sacrifice what makes us different when we are under attack, for we set the precedent that down the road someone else could declare another threat to justify the same kind of actions. For you to suggest that the Japanese internment was an over-reaction, while the questioning of 5000 arabs, the prolonged detention of any number of immigrants who’ve not been charged with a crime and the suspension of constitutional protections for those detained seems the slipperiest of slopes to me. If we don’t have a formal process in place (i.e., public trials, constitutional protections, congressional oversight), who are you to say that what’s going on now is fair, just, American any more than I am to say it’s not?

Bottom line: we’re at war, and war brings with it necessary actions to protect and enforce our defense. I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the assumption that the system that we’ve worked so hard to create for more than 200 years is incapable of addressing the difficulties we face today.

And don’t worry about me forgetting the horror of 9/11. I’m so angry about what these bastards did that I cannot wait to see them die on the battlefield or tried, convicted and put away. (I think the former is far more likely.) But I’m not letting my anger justify actions that I believe are distinctly un-American. I want to see us react in the same way that pisses these guys off so much: with reasoned, principled, righteous anger. With the passion of a country of 250 million people who so love freedom that they’re willing to grant it to
anyone and die to protect it.

I wrote those words nearly 18 months ago. In that time we’ve witnessed the abandonment of the Geneva Convention in our treatment of prisoners under our control, we’ve watched the government hold American citizens without access to counsel, and we’ve seen the erosion of international support for our cause as a result of the disconnect between our rhetoric and our actions.

Al Gore’s speech nailed it. “George W. Bush promised us a foreign policy with humility. Instead, he has brought us humiliation in the eyes of the world.” We must hold him (and ourselves) accountable.

Can law firms innovate?

Matt Homann asks:

Quick, in the last decade, what has been the most significant positive change in the way lawyers do business? How about over the last twenty years?

Seriously, apart from technology making us available 24-7, I can’t think of one way the legal business model has changed in a positive way for lawyers, their staff, or clients. [the [non]billable hour]

Great post, and one that deserves much discussion. I think the easy answer to this is that law firms haven’t innovated much in the past twenty years, but I also think that’s not true. That said, many of the innovations in use are in the background, and are often transparent to the clients. (Which begs the zen-like question: if a firm innovates in the background, does anybody care?)

In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Christensen talks about organizations that listen to their customers and go out of business. And the irony is that, in the legal profession, I don’t expect change to come from within the firms — I think it has to come from clients who demand their firms change in order for the change to be lasting.

Which presents an interesting dilemma: if Christensen’s to be believed, most innovation comes from not listening to customers. Law firms have perfected that, yet it has served only to reinforce a business model that many find wanting.

Where will the pressure to innovate come from?

Telling Stories - How to Pitch Your Company

At last week’s Red Herring Spring, I got a unique opportunity to sit in on a dozen or so pitches from CEOs about their companies. The concept behind Red Herring Spring is simple: take 100 late-stage private companies with a proven track record, and put them in a room to pitch VCs and investment bankers on what they’re doing. The companies get a great opportunity for wider exposure, and the money guys get a chance to learn more about both the companies and the industries they represent.

And as I listened to these pitches, I recalled a post by Jim McGee a few weeks ago about organizational story-telling. That post points to an interview with Stephen Denning, program director of knowledge management at the World Bank from 1996 to 2000. Denning, who wrote a book on the subject titled The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations, has some great observations about how to tell stories, and how it helps organizations learn.

He explains his book’s title: “A springboard story is a story that can communicate a complex idea and spring people into action. It has an impact not so much through transferring large amounts of information, but through catalyzing understanding.”

Applied to the pitches at Red Herring Spring, it seems that some CEOs just came up woefully short, while others were exceptional in their ability to take their 10 minutes and use it well. Those who succeeded did so by putting themselves in their listeners’ chairs: assuming they knew nothing of the industry or the company’s background, the CEO focused simply on the points of the story that, when woven together, presented the listener with a compelling narrative that encouraged you to want to get involved.

When CEOs failed to tell a story, and instead focused on a laundry list of facts, was when they failed to engage the audience. As Denning says, “People can’t absorb data because they don’t think in data. They think in stories. If you give people a story, then they can absorb the meaning of large amounts of data very rapidly.”

Denning has a new book (published today) titled Squirrel, Inc.: A Fable of Leadership through Storytelling. Both books sound like worthwhile pick-ups. Perhaps Red Herring should make them required reading before the next batch of pitches?

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Heroism, pure and simple

Jason Dunham is a hero. This story from Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal is a remarkable work of journalism. It’s a story of dedication, duty, honor, courage, and loss. It’s about a man who may be the first Medal of Honor recipient in more than 11 years.

And it’s about the brutal choices that war forces us to make.

This is not a political post. I write it out of gratitude — for all the men and women who are sacrificing every single day. And I write it out of grief — for his fellow soldiers, his parents and three younger siblings.

Thanks to Electablog for the pointer. It’s a remarkable piece.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Just when Handpspring service couldn't get worse

Back in August, my Treo 180 cracked. It turns out the flip cover is quite sensitive. The hinge simply cracked after about 8 months of use — and I was ready to send it back to Handspring for a replacement. But wait! Buzz had a better answer — he knows a guy in PR at Handspring who would be willing to help. And sure enough, Brian Jacquet sent me a replacement. A 270, no less. So I shelved the 180 and started using my upgraded model.

I didn’t make a big deal out of it at the time — I didn’t want Brian deluged with requests from others who wanted free Treos — but I was tremendously grateful. It was a great phone, and he really helped me out of a jam (not to mention he got me a better phone).

But here I am again, 8 months later (coincidental, that!) with another cracked Treo. Since the 270 was only 8 months old, I figured I’d be OK… just call support and get it fixed. Nope – turns out the warranty on the new phone is actually the warranty for the old phone… so it expired in January. To fix it, I’d need to spend $160.

If I’d abused the phone in some way, I’d feel responsible for its condition, and would accept having to pay. But normal wear & tear? $159? (The original Treo 180 cost me just $99.)

Talk about annoying. Anyone know anybody at Palm I can talk to? (Unfortunately, Buzz’s friend Brian was a victim of the merger and is no longer there.)

Congrats to Christine Cegelis

Congrats are in order for Christine Cegelis, who today was endorsed by Governor Dean as part of the “Dean Dozen” program. Every other week, Dean identifies a dozen candidates around the country who represent the progressive, grassroots values championed by his campaign. An endorsement is likely to mean greater national exposure for Christine (she’s running against Henry Hyde!), more contributions, and a larger volunteer base. I first met Christine at our house in December, when she came as an invited guest to our final fundraiser for Governor Dean. Just five months later, she’s emerging as a real threat to Henry Hyde.

I’ve helped the campaign get its sea-legs, so to speak — the home page is maintained in Movable Type, as is the campaign weblog. Eventually the entire site will be maintained in Movable Type — that’ll just make maintenance easier for the campaign staff, who aren’t techies.

Send Christine a few bucks, or volunteer.

IT innovation in the next decade

De-captivating markets is my latest thinking out loud about the subject brought up in the post below. It begins,

I just realized what’s been missing from Clayton Christensen’s rap about “disruptive technologies”: most of his attention is on the customer side of the marketplace. It’s great stuff, but it misses the potentially critical role played by IT in keeping innovators out of dilemmas.

Got some nice help from Phil Windley on the piece. [The Doc Searls Weblog]

Looks worth a read. John Robb wrote about this issue a couple years ago — that the next CEO titans won’t be Gates or Ellison, but will be those who figure out how to apply the technology to their business problems.

This is also consistent with William Janeway’s comments at Red Herring Spring last week (link takes you to the Socialtext Eventspace we set up for Red Herring Spring). He talks about three steps in the IT-as-catalyst trend:

  • Innovators, where IT is the business (like Amazon, eBay, Google)

  • Competitive Innovators, where IT is used to extend a lead (Wal-Mart, Cisco, Dell)

  • Defensive Innovators, where intense competition forces deployment of new, IT-enabled processes

I think what John was pointing to (Peter Drucker observations about 21st century management challenges), what Janeway was discussing, and what Doc and Phil Windley talked about above are all linked: the next decade will be characterized by the Wal-Mart-ization of any and all businesses. Wal-Mart commoditized the logistics, which used to be where the friction and inefficiencies were. It places a premium on their hard-to-build and even more defensible just-in-time inventory management system. (Ditto with Dell.)

The end result: when IT is used well, it commoditizes workers who are there to manage and/or otherwise handle inefficiencies. Those that are left are what Drucker (and others) calls the knowledge workers — and the real IT challenge over the next decade will be finding ways of empowering those knowledge workers to collaborate more effectively. (There’s of course a whole separate discussion worth having about this commoditization and the resulting off-shoring of labor, but that’s not what I’m focused on here.)

This is where the real innovation is coming. That’s why the umbrella of “social software” is such an important (and often misunderstood) catalyst to the next stage of economic growth: if used effectively, it will empower groups to work together more effectively. (I’m distinguishing social software from social networking; social networking lets people link up, but doesn’t ultimately affect a group’s ability to work together.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

NSA and Traffic Reports

Damn! In San Francisco last week, I heard this and meant to blog it:

Does anyone else find this weird: The National Security Agency helps sponsor Metro Traffic, which feeds traffic information to one of the two great NPR stations in SF — KQED. Why is the NSA funding (albeit indirectly) NPR? [Lessig Blog]

It was really, really strange to hear the dour voice announcing “Funding for Metro Traffic provided by the National Security Agency, and listeners like you.” I remember zoning out on the 101, heading north, then suddenly snapping to attention. WTF? Did he just say that?

New advertiser -

No surprise to anyone familiar with this blog — I’m quite involved in technology strategy for Democratic campaigns. That said, I enjoy a spirited debate. In that vein, the latest advertiser here is Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross. Thanks to Tom and his office for their support.

If you’re interested in advertising here, click here. It’s cheap. And you’ll reach more than 10,000 visitors a month. (Democrats — you out there? How about a little love?)

Monday, May 24, 2004

Personal Democracy Forum

In his post from the Personal Democracy Forum, David Weinberger writes of panelist Ron Wyden:

Wyden was running for Congress for the first time. My wife called his office with a question about one of his stands, and dang if Wyden himself didn’t call back and talk with my wife for 20 minutes. So, she and I went door to door for him, and have been Wyden fans ever since.

David mentions that Jerry Michalski is moderating; I guarantee you that David’s connection to Ron Wyden is already now in Jerry’s Brain.

This would be an interesting conference to be at — Mathew Gross is there, as are a number of other bigwigs from the Internet/political realm. Realtime blogging and comments are available here.

Interestingly, I just read this post from the conference blog, and can’t help but scratch my head at this meme:

The Dean campaign has actually been heavily critiqued today, not just for losing, but also for mistaking their movement as technology based when it was in fact youth based, and also for overestimating how far the issue of the War in Iraq would take them.

Where is this coming from? Youth based? Sure there were young people involved. But a look at my MeetUps out here in the burbs (at our peak we were 600+ strong), or at any of the other MeetUps for that matter, throws cold water on the conclusion that it was dominated by youth. And “overestimating how far the issue of the War in Iraq would take them”?

My own thoughts on what went wrong. YMMV.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Talk about hanging chads...

AP – Strip club owners are putting a little bada-bing in the presidential campaign by asking patrons to turn their eyes away from the stage for a moment to fill out a voter registration form — and then vote against President Bush. [Yahoo! News – Politics]

There are plenty of other bad puns to make here. I’ll leave it to you.

Jon Stewart 2004 Commencement Address - Best Ever

Absolutely the best commencement address ever. Funny, poignant, and told for the students and not anyone else. Excellent.

Time for a new cell phone

The cover on my Treo cracked again (I had the 270, it replaced a 180 which had a screen crack). I’m not traveling as much these days, so a smart phone with e-mail access isn’t as important. I’m primarily interested in long talk/standby time, and the ability to sync with my PC. Beyond that, anything is gravy. (And though I was a fan of the Treo, I’m not all that interested in another so-called “smart” phone. Those that seem to be decent phones are either too expensive or don’t do well enough as a phone to be on my short list.)

Checking out the cell phones at, there’s certainly quite a few good deals out there. Last time I asked for input from my readers, I ended up cutting my hosting bill by 75%. So I’d love to see you recommend your favorite phone — feel free to drop me an e-mail or just leave a message in the comments so others can chime in.

Thanks in advance for any help. I’ll of course report back on what I end up going with, and how well it works…

Friday, May 21, 2004

The Brain

Had a thoroughly engaging dinner last night with Ross, Jerry Michalski, and Peter Kollock. Peter asked Jerry for a demo of Personal Brain, a personal mind mapping kind of product that is quite interesting. (Jerry advises TheBrain Technologies Corporation, the company behind The Brain.)

I had heard about the product before, but never seen it or used it, and after watching Jerry navigate through his thoughts (he’s been using the product for the past 7 years) it was pretty wild. (For a far more elegant recap of Jerry’s Brain, see Jeremy Wagstaff’s article in last month’s Wall Street Journal.) Needless to say, I’ve downloaded a copy and am going to start playing with it.

Any Brain users out there? Anyone care to share comments, feedback, tips & tricks?

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Iraqi Exit Strategy

Prof. Yabut has divined the Bush Administration’s exit strategy for Iraq.

My sidenote to Iraq, if the good Professor is on to something: Be careful what you wish for. The Devil you know, and all that jazz.

Just sayin.

Richmond Journal of Law & Technology

Don’t know how I missed it, but the Richmond Journal of Law & Technology published its fifth and final issue last month. (I founded JOLT while a law student at the University of Richmond.) The site is now as attractive as it is substantive. (The same couldn’t be said of our first issue, which was substantive, but little else… How about a make-over guys?!)

JOLT has now entered its tenth year of publication, something I am immensely proud of. To all JOLT alumni and to the incoming staff for the 2004-2005 publication year, keep up the great work. We should start planning a reception of some kind in April of 2005 – the tenth anniversary of JOLT’s first issue.

When CEOs blog

I’m thoroughly enjoying the Red Herring Spring conference. I’ve often been the guy expected to pitch my company’s story (more on that later) — and the opportunity to watch dozens of companies pitch themselves is like a peek through the looking glass.

And I’m also enjoying the experiment of setting up 100 conversations for the Red Herring 100; while usage isn’t heavy (not as many wifi-enabled laptops in use here, more Blackberries) it is being used. And Mitch and I are doing what we can to blog as much as possible. (Mitch does a much better job than I do.)

In any event, Marc Canter and Reid Hoffman have picked up the FOAF argument in the conference Eventspace, with an honest-to-God debate.

This isn’t new (in fact, Marc has admitted he asks Reid about this every chance he gets) — but it’s nevertheless exciting to see these conversations taking place.

I love it.

From Red Herring - William Janeway, Warburg Pincus

Just sat in on William Janeway’s keynote presentation at Red Herring Spring. I blogged my observations on the Socialtext Eventspace here.

Two book recommendations from Janeway, that will be wort reading: Technology Paradise Lost: Why Companies Will Spend Less to Get More from Information Technology by Erik Keller, and Understanding the Digital Economy: Data, Tools, and Research by Erik Brynjolfsson. Both reinforce some of the statements and conclusions Janeway made that I covered in the blog post; both sound like worthwhile reads for anyone wanting a better understanding of how technology is changing the traditional business environment.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Notes from Red Herring Spring

Ross has some great notes from the Red Herring Spring conference.

Funny – I’ve worked at Socialtext for more than 2 months, this was the first time I’ve been in the same room with a co-worker. And it lasted 15 minutes, before Ross had to head back to SF for the Institute for the Future conference, where he’ll be speaking (and we have a separate Eventspace set up).

There's more to the Da Vinci Code?

Hey AKMA — what do you make of this?

Turns out Dan Brown left out the most controversial part of The Da Vinci Code was that Jesus may have survived the crucifixion? Whoa.

(Brown claims he has plenty of supporting theories as to how this may have been, but ultimately decided it would have been too sensational for the book.)

Wonder if we’ll see an “author’s cut” of the book at some point, similar to Stephen King’s unedited The Stand that came out a decade after the original?

Blogging from Monterey

I’m in Monterey, at the Red Herring Spring conference, and am blogging from the RH100 presentations. This is great stuff — CEOs from some remarkable companies are presenting about their company strategy. I only wish I understood half of what was being discussed.

If you go to Recent changes you can see my recent posts, as well as any comments, discussions from others attending the event.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

100 Conversations at Red Herring Spring Conference

I’m headed off to Monterey, California tomorrow to attend the Red Herring Spring Conference. (It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.) As a sponsor, we’ve set up a Socialtext Eventspace for the event, and look to encourage quite a bit of conversation amongst the Red Herring 100 winners and various attendees. As Ross asked:

Who is going to take the DRM company to task, talk privacy with Plaxo, scribble on Motion’s tablet, spam MailFrontier, service Grand Central, sforce EchoPass, open with Scalix, snipe Vonage, gaurd against Forum Systems, reason with IM Logic, subscribe to KnowNow or yodle with Yodlee?

You get the idea. The train is leaving the station, so drop them a clue.

Drop on by the Event Space and ask your questions…

The Obama Blog

I’m very pleased to announce the Obama blog, the weblog for Senator Barack Obama. Barack is running for U.S. Senate for the seat that Peter Fitzgerald is vacating. You may notice a familiar name attached to some of the posts — I’m working with the campaign to help develop the blog. (Several veterans from the Dean Internet team are also working on this project, which makes it doubly enjoyable.)

For more on Barack’s position on the issues, see here. You should always feel free to contribute of course. And be sure to sign up for e-mail updates — there’s quite a bit of exciting news coming.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Getting Things Done - finally

This is more than a bit ironic, and just a tad embarassing. But it’s a good story, so I’ll share it. Last year, I posted about the ABCs of personal knowledge management, in which I linked to thought?horizon’s review of David Allen’s Getting Things Done. But here’s the thing: I completely forgot about this post.

Apparently my post made an impact on Ernie, who not only bought a copy of Getting Things Done, but also implemented the system to great success. And he’s repeatedly thanked me for tipping him off to the GTD system. Except that I had no idea what he was talking about.

So back in March, I sheepishly admitted (finally!) to Ernie that while I was thrilled he thought I’d helped him revolutionize the way he manages his day, I really couldn’t take any credit for it. (If a tree falls in the forest, can you accept credit if you don’t remember cutting it down?)

But at his urging, I bought myself a copy of Getting Things Done, and am nearly done reading it and am just about ready to dive in. (My Brother P-Touch labeler is on order, by the way.)

So thanks to Ernie for wholeheartedly recommending Getting Things Done, and to Buzz, Ed, and others who have also strongly endorsed the rocess. I can already sense a change in the way I look at my inbox (both digital and analog) and am eager to start changing the way I manage my day. I can’t speak for results yet — I’ll post updates occasionally as I have anything to report — but the book itself makes a lot of sense. Well worth the $11 it’ll set you back at

What's better than Gmail? Bloomba.

If you own a PC and are all excited about Gmail, here’s a little tip: Bloomba.

  • Fast searching of all messages? Check. (I can search 20,000+ messages and all attachments in my datastore in less than one second.)

  • Unlimited storage? Check. (Gmail only (!) gives you a gigabyte.)

  • Searches attachments? Check. (Gmail doesn’t.)

  • Clean UI? Check.

What are you waiting for? Download a 30 day trial of Bloomba and see what every other e-mail client should have done years ago.

David Weinberger is verklempt

Be sure to read David Weinberger’s reports from Massachusetts. Of the legalization of gay marriage in his home state of Massachusetts, he writes:

What other freedoms might we grant? What other ways might we find to accept love? [Joho the Blog]

The whole post is worth reading. For me, it was listening to the NPR reports from San Francisco a couple months ago. I heard one guy who talked of receiving flowers from people he didn’t know (netizens were calling SF florists and asking them to take them to City Hall and give them to anyone they saw) and how overcome he was by this simple statement of acceptance.

We’ve shunned this community for so long, made them ashamed of who and what they are, that this seems the most basic of dignities to afford them.

Love one another.

Amen to that.

iPod - the next Blackberry in Congress?

Remember how addicted to their Blackberries Congress became? Now it seems as if iPods may be the next “It” gadget on The Hill:

Testifying at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the legislation he and Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., introduced last year, Doolittle gave a vigorous pitch for changes opposed by the two industry powerhouses — the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America.

“I paid for this,” Doolittle said, waving the iPod before the packed hearing room. “I bought the material I want to record on it. But I may be prevented from taking advantage of this handy device.”

That’s according to the SacBee. I don’t know which freaked the present RIAA observers out more — the presence of an iPod or a Republican voice against the DMCA. I’d love to know, though :) [a preponderance of evidence]

Rock the vote. Heh.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

Cockfighting in the Senate

Here I was, thinking this story in this week’s The Onion was a parody.

Turns out it was just prescient.

Of course, it’s not the first time The Onion has predicted the future when it comes to politics. (Note: that link takes you to an actual article in the The Onion, authored the week of Bush’s inaugural; someone recently took several of the “jokes” from that article and linked to those things actually coming true. Worth a read.)

Friday, May 14, 2004

Notes on Movable Type 3.0, Drupal and Word Press

Well, I don’t really care about the massive licensing debate that’s raging in the blogosphere. This is sophisticated software, and it’s worth paying for. End of story. If you want free software, try Blogger. If you want low-cost blogging software, TypePad is fine. Movable Type is a robust content management system that rivals sophisticated CMS software that used to cost enterprises 5 or 6 figures (at least).

But I’m surprised that the purported performance gains aren’t more substantial. I have around 1500 entries in this weblog, with a dozen or more categories, and rebuilding the site (Movable Type generates every entry into a static file on the webserver) is still a considerable process. On my server, rebuilding all individual entries still takes four and a half minutes. And that’s on a mySQL-backed MT install, on a shared webhost with four 2.4 ghz processors (each with 512k cache), 1 gig of RAM and a 1 gig swap file. Seems like 4.5 minutes to rebuild the system is a long time.

Note that if you use MTBlacklist, it doesn’t currently support Movable Type 3.0 (Jay Allen is nice enough to note that it’s not the other way around). I haven’t found other integrations that break (I use quite a few) so far, but will keep looking.

The comment management seems nice, but I’m not certain whether I want prescriptive comment blocking or whether the MTBlacklist approach is enough.

I’m not inclined to switch — MT is elegant, it does exactly what I want, and I know it inside and out. On the other hand, I would much prefer a system that not only stored its information in a database but which published from the database (instead of rendering static files). Both Drupal and WordPress appear to be good PHP-based systems along those lines.

On that front, Jonas is quite fond of Drupal, and I admit to liking it too — just not enough to give it a whirl as my weblog home. It strikes me as not enough of a weblog app while being too much other stuff that I don’t need… its templating system requires a lot of understanding of the Drupal core, and that’s not what I want to be doing these days.

WordPress, on the other hand, looks decent. A full import of my Movable Type system took WordPress about 20 seconds; because it doesn’t render static pages, the entire site was instantly “published”. For a variety of reasons, however, my site isn’t yet ready for primetime in WordPress, nor do I expect to convert. But it was an interesting validation of WordPress’s abilities. The main reason I’d need to some serious tweaking: I use Textile from Brad Choate, a plugin that makes drafting in the browser much easier. But it means that the underlying source for my posts in Movable Type is not converted to “normal” HTML, but is a kind of short-hand. Consequently, my exported weblog (using MT’s built-in exporter) shows the short-hand. In order to be able to use something like WordPress (or any other blogging system, for that matter), I’d need to first get Textile to handle the export — something I’m not sure how to do…

In any event, this is a necessary process for Six Apart and one that will likely yield benefits for users — either as Movable Type gets better, or as the user communities for other systems grow.

Testing Movable Type 3.0

Just a quick test of Movable Type 3.0. If anything looks funky, let me know.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Voter registration, one trey at a time

Zephyr Teachout (formerly of the Dean campaign) is running the Blog for Victory, part of “Americans Coming Together”, a massive voter registration effort.

I liked this story, about a challenge to register more voters. Whatever it takes.

Of course, getting people registered is only the first step. Getting them to the polls is the big challenge.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Back home, getting caught up

Trip back on the City of New Orleans was just as pleasant as the trip down to New Orleans — really a fantastic way to travel. Cell coverage (especially GSM) and WiFi (is there such a thing as “war railing”?!) were non-existent, so the train ride really was a relaxing, disconnected adventure.

Interestingly, just outside of Jackson, Mississippi, we passed the American Orient Express — not run by Amtrak, but hauled by an Amtrak locomotive. It was beautiful, and the dining cars (china, crystal, roses on every table) looked phenomenal. (They better: fares aren’t cheap!)

Will share more later. Even though Amtrak is a bit rough around the edges, I would still highly recommend the experience.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Train update

Just a quick update — the train trip was a blast. 19 hours door to door, and we even got some sleep! More news later…

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Good Morning America, How Are You...

We leave tonight on the City of New Orleans bound for — you guessed it — New Orleans. Going to a wedding Sunday night, and planning on enjoying the city with the family over the next few days. My wife and I are doing dinner with Ernie and his wife Saturday night, which should be a lot of fun.

Getting ready, I bought Arlo Guthrie’s City of New Orleans at iTunes this morning. I picked up a copy of Quicksilver too, so I’ll have plenty to read.

Now here’s hoping the kids sleep tonight…

Will plug in once we get to the hotel in New Orleans.

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Stick it to Bush

Well, opportunity knocked, then kept walking. Some of you may recall when Kos asked for bumper sticker slogans for the Bush/Cheney reelection effort last summer (lesson learned for Kos: never host your comments on an external site, lest they be lost forever). I responded in the comments, and my slogan (“Compassionate Colonialism”) made the top 15 or so. These slogans made it into an e-mail chain that got circulated widely.

Then late last year, Kos dropped me an e-mail to confirm that the slogan was in fact my submission. I replied that it was (though as it turns out I’m witty but not necessarily original — there are other instances of the phrase “Compassionate Colonialism” that predate mine), and was surprised to find out that it would be included in an upcoming bumper sticker book, Stick it to Bush.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. They ended up going with 10, not 15, and I missed the cut. Ah well. Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in any event. Pick up your copy today!

Monday, May 3, 2004

Google IPO - Irrational exuberance?

Much has been made of Google’s S-1 filing last week in which Google will raise $2.7 billion in an IPO auction.

It turns out that if you read the entire S-1, you’ll note that the amount they plan on raising is actually $2,718,281,828.

Why? Pete has the answer.

I love it. The number is almost definitely a numerical play on words (play on numbers?) tip ‘o the hat to Mr. Greenspan and his famous speech.

Sunday, May 2, 2004

Patterrico and the 9th Circuit smack-down

As the author notes, this isn’t the first time a blogger has caused judges to correct a federal opinion. (That honor belongs to Howard.) But it’s yet another example of the influence of blogs in the legal profession, a Good Thing.

Patterico is a contributor to Oh, that liberal media!, a great right-wing blog. Keeps us honest.