Friday, April 30, 2004

The veepstakes

Mathew Gross wants to know who you like for the #2 slot on the Kerry ticket. He remarks that:

Many Democratic strategists consider Gephardt the safest choice — a man whose life and career has been open to scrutiny for years. He is a favorite of organized labor, a disciplined campaigner and his home state, with 11 electoral votes and bellwether reputation, is critical in the White House race.

Pardon me, but this is exactly what’s wrong with our party right now. I can think of no less exciting duo than Kerry and Gephardt. While my bias towards the Dean campaign no doubt colors my own opinion on the subject, I’m not stating this out of latent spite for campaigns that tooks merciless shots at Dean in November and December.

I’ll be clear: Dean lost the race, these guys didn’t beat him. So this isn’t about Dean.

This is about speaking to the energized base — the base that feels disconnected, that has felt leaderless since President Bush’s election. Don’t forget that Gephardt was the minority leader in 2002 — a year in which we got slaughtered in the mid-term elections, thanks in no small part to the lack of opposition articulated by the party leadership. Creating a ticket of Kerry/Gephardt would simply reinforce the “Anybody but Bush” motivation of many voters instead of giving them a ticket to be excited by.

If I had to guess, I’d assume that the political calculus behind a Gephardt run is that the Demcoratic ticket can assume the support of the grassroots — those same people who supported Dean. (I can just hear them asking: “Who else would they vote for?”) This frees them up to focus on a critical swing state (like Missourri). Fair enough, but here’s the problem: if the “supporters” are only motivated to vote against Bush and not for someone, their support is weaker. They don’t feel like a part of the team, they feel like followers.

Give this party someone to be excited about. Give us someone we can look forward to — in 2008 (if, God forbid, Kerry loses) or 2012 (when Kerry’s term expires). Give us someone who can carry the mantle of the party, with a message that resonates at all levels of the party.

Give us John Edwards.

Kennedy Museum in Dallas

Last night’s gala dinner at the Mertias conference was held at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza. I stood on the street the motorcade drove past, then a few minutes later, looked out the same windows Lee Harvey Oswald looked out before he assassinated President Kennedy.

It was overwhelming — standing on historical ground always is. It’s similar to the feeling I had the first time I stepped foot in the White House, the feeling I had when I walked through the U.N., the feeling I had touring the Chartres Cathedral in France.

This was something else: a profound sadness at what could have been. I’m too young to have lived through the Kennedy assassination — but walking through the museum and watching the videos, reading the newsprint made the loss so much more apparent.

Most affecting, interestingly enough, were the photographs on display on the seventh floor (the museum is on the sixth floor, where Oswald’s shots originated). A semi-permanent display of Jacques Lowe’s photographs of JFK — from his day’s running for reelection as a Massachusetts Senator to his days in office — was profound. Many of these photographs (and more) are available in a hardcover book that came out last fall called Remembering Jack: Intimate and Unseen Photographs of the Kennedys. The style of the exhibit was interesting: contact sheets and film strips — so that you saw not just the famous photos (many of which are instantly recognizable, a part of the American DNA) but the moments before and after the shots, when expressions are subtly different, the angle ever so slightly varied.

These pictures made JFK’s energy, enthusiasm and commitment real for me in a way that they hadn’t been before. I just put a copy of Lowe’s book on my wish list, and hopefully will pick it up one of these days — I’d like to spend more time looking through the photos, and reading more about this photographer’s unique view into the Kennedy legacy.

An interesting historical footnote: Lowe’s 40,000 negatives of his years with Kennedy were lost in a vault in the World Trade Center on September 11.


John Palfrey, Revisiting online information sources for lawyers: “I have high hopes yet for the Net’s impact on the practice of law.”

Clay Shirky, in Salon and on Many 2 Many, on Groklaw: “Groklaw may also be affecting the case in the courts, by helping IBM with a distributed discovery effort that they, IBM, could never accomplish on their own, no matter how many lawyers they throw at it.”

[Bag and Baggage]

Must try utilities

Nice pick-up by Dennis Kennedy: provides a great list of the 46 best free utility programs. []

Thursday, April 29, 2004

On my way to Meritas Annual Conference

Leaving for Dallas in a couple hours to attend the Meritas Annual Conference, where I’m speaking tomorrow on how firms can better leverage technology. I will focus primarily on WiFi and collaboration (with an eye towards weblogs and wikis), and will be demoing Socialtext afterwards for firms who are interested.

Here’s an amazing statistic: this is my first time on a plane in over 4 months… this after I flew 400,000 miles in the past 3 years!

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Go see Emily Lord in DC tomorrow night

If you’re in the DC area and are looking for a terrific folk/accoustic performance from an up-and-coming voice, go see Emily Lord at the Staccato in Adams Morgan tomorrow night. Emily went to Notre Dame with my brother, and I’ve listened to her music since before they graduated. After graduation, she fulfilled her obligation to the Army in Saudi Arabia (more on her background here) and is now a full-time musician in the Bay Area, California. (More about her growing coverage and fan-base in the Bay Area.)

Go listen to some MP3s here, and then buy a copy of Rear View Mirror. (No, it’s unfortunately not on iTunes.)

And if you’re in the San Francisco area, what are you waiting for? Lots of upcoming shows to see her in S.F., Berkeley and elsewhere.

Monday, April 26, 2004


I hadn’t seen this before: LawWiki.

Seems pretty spartan right now, and focused mostly on UK law. But this kind of niche application of the Wikipedia concept seems inevitable.

Anyone know of US versions of this?

Sunday, April 25, 2004

It's gotta be... the towels?

I wrote the other night about Mark Cuban’s post on success and motivation. Interestingly, his post was titled “Part 1.” Tonight he followed up with part 2, and shows that his business strategy can be summed up in one word:


That’s right, towels. (If you don’t see the connection, read part 2 again, then read this article from Chris Suellentrop from 2002.)

Way back when, Mars Blackman tried to tell us that “it’s gotta to be the shoes!”

Apparently, Mars was wrong.

Like a bull in a... Pottery Barn?

This made me laugh…

Responding to Colin Powell’s use of the phrase “The Pottery Barn Rule”to refer to the rule “You break it, you own it,” Williams-Sonoma, parent of Pottery Barn, has issued a press release stating that its policy is in fact to write-down breakage. I’m serious.

Update: It has been brought to my attention that the State Department, showing more concern for the breakables in Pottery Barn than the US Government did for the breakables in the Iraqi National Museum, actually issued a statement yesterday indicating that it did not intend to cast aspersions on the Pottery Barn mark. [The Trademark Blog]

eBay has improved

It’s been almost two years since I sold something on eBay — and more than six years since my first sale on eBay. In that time, I’ve sold a stereo, a TV, a lawn mower, a laptop computer, and countless “little” things from around the house. This time I’m cleaning out our DVD collection — if we haven’t watched it in a year or if it’s in heavy rotation on HBO, then it’s heading to eBay. While I was listing stuff, I got to the yard sale pile (our neighborhood does a huge collective yard sale in June) and put up a few of the items most likely to generate some “real” money.

Conclusion: eBay has dramatically improved its service. Listing my DVDs was as simple as identifying the UPC on the back of the DVD:

Through an integration with Muze, eBay automatically pulls the cover art for your DVD, all of the relevant title and cast info, along with a description of the movie, any special features on the disc, etc. Slick.

One of the DVDs already sold — apparently someone out there is a big fan of The Terminator — and that’s when I saw how good the PayPal integration is. Buyers are automatically sent an invoice — that’s not all that different than it was prior to eBay’s acquisition of PayPal. But the ability for buyers to pay immediately upon completion of the auction (along with shipping calculators that let them calculate precise shipping costs), and the option for me to create a shipping label, purchase postage from USPS directly, print the shipping label (with barcodes that indicate that the postage is pre-paid), and print a packing slip — well, it doesn’t get much more seamless than that.

So what are you waiting for? Head on over to eBay and see what’s for sale.

Friday, April 23, 2004


As I’m heading off to bed, this post by Mark Cuban put a smile on my face.

I’m going to try to buy Mark a drink when I’m in Dallas next Thursday night. He’ll be busy, no doubt. And it probably won’t work… but there’s just something about his honesty that makes me want to listen to him share stories like this.

Stopping occupational spam

KC’s Prevent Reply All/Forward in mail to other Outlook users.
Now when the people you sent the mail to open it, the “Reply All” and “Forward” buttons will not be available on the toolbar. Similarly, the keyboard shortcuts like Ctrl+F will not work.
Our corporation often ends up falling into the same email list pit of dispair Joshua describes. This simple change to Outlook sounds like a good one.
[Steven’s Tech Notebook]

Disabling expected functionality is counter-intuitive, and is likely to cause more support headaches in large corporations than it solves. I can just imagine the countless calls to the help desk: “Outlook isn’t working!” “What do you mean, ‘Outlook isn’t working’?” “I can’t reply.” “Why can’t you reply?” And so on… until someone finally figures out that somewhere along the line, someone disabled standard functions within Outlook.

Ross refers to this as occupational spam — and I think as long as e-mail remains the primary medium in which groups attempt to collaborate, it’s with us to stay. Disabling ‘reply all’ will cut off conversations that should be happening (albeit in a medium more suited to the need) — and frustrate users’ efforts at getting work done.

One of the simplest yet most powerful features of a Socialtext Workspace is that you can cc: the Workspace (all Workspaces have a unique e-mail address). All conversations are then archived in the Workspace — and since Workspace participants are notified about new content (via e-mail, RSS or both), conversations can still flourish while ultimately reducing the load on your inbox. Seems a better solution than altering the user’s operating environment.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

You're fired

Tami Silicio, who took the photographs of the flag-draped coffins of U.S. soldiers that The Seattle Times published on Sunday, has been let go from her job, along with her husband. [Mathew Gross]

This is the offending photo:

Photo by Tami Silicio

I understand the firing — there was a policy in place, and she violated that policy. I don’t disagree with the firing, I disagree with the policy.

Welcome... to the "real" world

There is no such thing as a “virtual community.” There are only real communities that meet more or less frequently in person. [BookBlog]

Adina is spot on — this artificial distinction between “real” and “virtual” is increasingly pointless. A community is defined by its affiliations, not by its mode of meeting.

Small Pieces, Loosely Joined (Jr.)

Thanks to Jim McGee for catching this last week — it looks great:

Going to need this.
Small Pieces Loosely Joined for kids.

David Weinberger is one of the most cogent and original thinkers about the meaning of the Net and the impact it has, and can have, on our lives and our society. As one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto, he helped define the impact of the web on how we conduct our business – personal and professional.

In his follow up solo offering, Small Pieces Loosely Joined, he attempts to present a unified theory of the web. It’s a terrific read and a book I have recommended to many friends and co-workers.

Today, while reading through my blog list, John Porcaro pointed out that there is a kid’s edition of Small Pieces. Weinberger originally created this version for his son (11) and it’s a wonderful explanation of the dynamics, the wonder, and the potential dangers of the web.

If there’s a child in your life in the 11-13 year old range (like my son Jason who’s 12), please show them this wonderful work. It can be read online or downloaded in MS Word format for printing. It will change the way they look at the Net and help them to appreciate the potential it has to change our world. [Marc’s Outlook on Productivity]

[McGee’s Musings]

Monday, April 19, 2004

Rosemary Quigley - a tough one to kill

Update 9/9/04: Rosemary Quigley passed away on Monday, 9/6. I wrote about this here. A vigil is being held Friday, 9/10, and funeral and burial are Saturday, 9/11 at 10am at St. Elizabeth’s in Acton. -Rick

I just had the wind knocked out of me, and I feel blessed. (The appropriateness of the metaphor will be obvious in a sec.)

A month ago, while returning from boys only breakfast with my sons, I had NPR on the radio and heard this report about genetic testing. As they recounted the experiences of a couple who decided not to test their baby for evidence of cystic fibrosis, my mind wandered to two people: Andy Winders and Rosemary Quigley.

Andy was a year behind me in high school. A CF patient, Andy was told that daily exercise (without any exceptions) would greatly increase his chances of living a full life (relatively speaking; the expected lifespan for CF patients is 33 years.

So Andy became a basketball player. Every day, often for hours, Andy played hoops. As you would expect, after a dozen years of playing 365 days a year, several hours a day, Andy got good. So good, in fact, that he led his team (a bunch of white kids from the burbs with not a single one over 6’4”) to the state semi-finals. He played his final game on the fabled parquet floor at Boston Garden (the real one, not the imitation Fleet Center), where he scored his team’s final dozen points and came within one possession of beating a superior team. (With a few seconds left, the other team triple-teamed Andy, and he wasn’t able to get the ball to an open man.) Later that year, Andy’s performance was honored at a reception at the Basketball Hall of Fame, where he sat next to none other than Larry Bird.

After the game, Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan was moved by one of Andy’s teammates, Rick Wurster. Rick, standing in front of a locker that had seen greats like Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Julius Earving, said simply, “I wish he could have my lungs. Think of how good he would be then.”

Andy often would be racked with coughs in between trips up the court. Yet he still managed to dominate every game he was in. (His CF was kept secret from all but teammates and friends until the playoffs that year, when the media got hold of the story.)

Amazingly enough, Andy wasn’t the only CF patient in my life. Another family who we went to church with — the Quigleys — had a daughter who was a year ahead of me. Rosemary, who would go on to Harvard and then Michigan Law and is now an assistant professor of medical ethics at Baylor College of Medicine, also had CF.

Strange that Rosemary had been in my thoughts lately — and while browsing Slate tonight, I happened to see her name in the Diary section. Two months ago, Rosemary had a double lung transplant. Her diary takes you through the remarkable journey of someone who’s both fortunate (she was on the transplant list just two weeks) and persistent. She’s aware of the challenge ahead, and appreciative of the opportunity she’s received. We’re fortunate that, as one of her doctors said, she’s a “tough one to kill”.

I haven’t spoken to Rosemary in at least five years or more — but after seeing this I’ll be dropping her a line again. I was not only excited to learn that she’s recovering, but that she’ll be getting married next month, and that her sister Anne (who also went to high school with me), just had a baby girl.

Rosemary’s account is harrowing (her condition had worsened to the point that she was hospitalized for weeks, at one point nearly unconscious) and uplifting (while acknowledging her “jampacked” 33 years of life, she writes, “it is not hard to imagine living much longer than a decade with these new lungs. I don’t mean to be greedy, but I think I’ll always want more of life”).

Continued good luck in your recovery, Rosemary, and congrats on the upcoming wedding. I can’t wait to see pictures!

CF is a scary disease that afflicts 30,000 children and adults in the U.S. There are many ways you can help — visiting the CF website for ways to give is a good start.

Journalism is dead...

OK — here’s a little game. Without Googling, without searching through your aggregator, go ahead and try and guess who this article is about:

Her jacket hung loosely and the skirt was long — reaching to the mid-calf as always — and without any fetching details. Her lapels were two uninterrupted plains. … Notice the neckline of the jacket — open, unadorned, practically crying out for a scarf, a strand of pearls, some tasteful Redbook kind of accessory. … All of that nothingness speaks of refusal. She will not pretty things up with a few beads.

On her jacket, there were no seams to emphasize her waistline or bosom.

Feel free to leave your guess in the comments, or just go see for yourself. From The Washington &$!%$@ Post. Sheesh.

Matt Homann's transformation is almost complete

I met Matt at TechShow last year, and we had a brief conversation about using weblogs as part of your practice. He was excited about the possibilities weblogs represented for him — and here he is, just over twelve months later: an active blogger, an entrepreneur making the technology a key piece of his strategy moving forward, and a lawyer who is approaching his practice very much like a business. Read on…

Very cool. Best of luck, Matt!

It’s official. As of May 1, 2004, Homann Law and Mediation officially becomes “The Silver Lake Group.” The biggest news is that another lawyer will be joining me as I officially leave the land of solo practice. My new partner, who is now winding up his present partnership (on good terms), will be formally announced here next week. There are over one hundred things on my “to-do” list, so my blogging may be a bit sporadic, but here are some highlights of our business plan that I’ll flesh out in individual posts on this blog.
1. No client will be billed by the hour. I’ll unveil our Service Pricingsm plan in more detail next week.

2. We will guarantee each client’s satisfaction with our service or refund their money.

3. We will hire a “client concierge” who will be responsible for one thing: keeping our clients happy. The client concierge will contact every client weekly, organize monthly seminars of interest to them, write topical newsletters, send birthday and holiday cards, solicit client feedback, and manage our firm’s master client to-do list.

4. We will set up the “Silver Lake Small Business Foundation” and contribute ten percent of our profits to it. The money in the foundation will be used to teach entrepreneurship in local schools, donate books to public libraries, encourage people to start small businesses (with micro-loans), establish mentoring programs, and fund scholarships and work-study programs for local students.

5. We will share our methods, forms, letters, and experiences with others to encourage all of us in the legal profession to move away from the billable hour and toward a saner, customer-centered way of practicing law.

6. We will have a hell of a good time.

To say that I am excited is a massive understatement. I started this weblog to write about transfoming my practice, and I feel that I am almost there. Look for more details here over the next two weeks. [the [non]billable hour]

Know it when I see it

Thanks to CfA for highlighting this new bastion of free speech, with a terrific quote on its home page banner:

If there is a bedrock principle of the first amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

Justice William J. Brennan
(1906-1997) US Supreme Court Justice
Source: Texas Vs. Johnson, 1989

Even in DuPage...

Well, it’s a secret no longer: today’s Chicago Tribune reports that Democrats are narrowing the gap in DuPage County. (I live in Naperville, the population center in DuPage.) Speaking about the Democratic party’s strong showing in last month’s primary, the Trib says:

[It was] an undeniably strong showing in a place often dubbed the most Republican county in the country.

What does the Republican party think?

“Rather sobering” and “a wakeup call” were the words used by DuPage County Board Chairman Robert Schillerstrom. “The Republican Party has some definite work to do in this county,” he said.

Driving this trend: the population is trending younger and more transient. These people tend not to be politically active, but as evidenced by the polling reports, are voting more progressive than DuPage has voted in the past. Also significant: women make up the majority of voters in the county.

The good news? We have a real candidate for county-wide office: Rob Freedman. Rob had a great fundraiser last night that I wish I could’ve attended. Help Rob out — contribute to his campaign and help him become the county’s next clerk of the county court.

Sunday, April 18, 2004


Remember my cool new TiVo Series 2? Well, late in January it was no longer able to take audio from the satellite tuner — it still was able to send audio (the DVD player still worked). But audio in — that wasn’t working.

I finally got around to sending the unit into Toshiba, and they sent me a new box that arrived yesterday. Just finished hooking it up, and needed to do two things: get my TiVo lifetime subscription transferred to the new box (something TiVo does only if your unit becomes inoperable, which fortunately mine was — otherwise that would’ve been a couple hundred bucks down the drain), and get WiFi working. (This was the problem documented in the link above. If you’re a glutton for tech support nightmares, enjoy. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and just move on.)

Sure enough, step one was simple: took less than two minutes.

When I explained my other objective, the TiVo rep said, “Oh — I’ll give you Toshiba’s number.”

Here’s the thing: it’s not Toshiba’s issue. TiVo is a Linux-based PC, and it needs drivers for any accessories plugged in (which the USB WiFi adapter is). For whatever reason, these boxes don’t ship with the drivers pre-loaded. It’s a TiVo issue.

But if I didn’t know enough to push back on this poor guy at TiVo (who did listen, and dumped me into the support queue, where I’m now languishing), I would’ve waited until tomorrow to call Toshiba support (they’re not open on weekends), only to find out that I needed to call TiVo back.

When your car breaks, does it matter who made the engine, the spark plugs, the brakes, the muffler, the tires, the seatbelt, or the horn? No. You take it to the dealer, and they fix it.

Until consumer electronics manufacturers make supporting their devices as easy as supporting a car, they’re going to miss the mass market. And therein lies the problem — there are so many points of failure (is it a driver? a cable? a plug in the wrong socket? something else?) and consumers are often so inept at helping the support people diagnose and fix the problem that getting things like this working is far more difficult than it should be.

(Am I a glutton for this stuff? To a degree, yeah. But this was just a welcome reprieve from what was an otherwise eventful day. More on that later. Believe it or not, spending 15 minutes on hold waiting for TiVo tech support was almost pleasurable in comparison. Almost.)

Friday, April 16, 2004

Sharpreader - Threaded RSS

Several people have asked recently about my aggregator — which one do I use, why, etc. I originally used Radio, then, when I switched off of Radio, I started using NewzCrawler, which I liked for a number of reasons (read more here). However, NewzCrawler got to be a CPU hog so I stopped using it. (Disclaimer: several subsequent releases are out, so it’s quite possible that NewzCrawler has improved in this regard.)

I’ve since played with a couple of the Outlook aggregators (NewsGator seems to be everyone’s favorite, but I liked intraVnews, in spite of its name), a web-based aggregator (Feed on Feeds, which was pretty capable for an early build of the product), and a handful of others. After reading Paul Boutin’s article in Slate that mentioned SharpReader favorably, I gave it a try.

I’m very impressed. Put aside the fact that it’s free (I paid for NewzCrawler, so I’m not averse to spending money on apps like this) — it added a feature to the reader that has drastically changed my RSS consumption. It threads entries. Here’s a screenshot:

Sharpreader - Threaded RSS

Here’s what’s going on: Dave Winer posted a quick entry that linked to something Phillip Greenspun wrote. SharpReader looks at links in all other RSS feeds I monitor — if anyone else links to that same Phillip Greenspun entry, then it lets me expand the link to Phillip Greenspun and see who else wrote about it. In this case, John Robb did.

Now SharpReader iterates: what else is linked to in the post that John linked to Phillip? A link to Technorati, which was linked to by other feeds I monitor: Jenny (who, in that post, linked to David, AKMA, and Jon), Doc, Joi

It’s a fascinating way of traversing the conversations that happen in the universe of weblogs you monitor. (I’m not aware of other readers that do this, though they certainly could be out there. Feel free to enlighten me in the comments.)

Some conclusions from this: weblogs that provide full feeds (and not just excerpts) are vastly more interesting and useful to me. I can now see them not just in the context of what they write, but also in the context of who they link to (and who links to them), which helps build up the implicit relationships between information at various weblogs.

Weblogs that not only provide excerpts but who also strip HTML (thereby depriving SharpReader of seeing what you’ve linked to) render themselves invisible in my reader (unless I happen to look at their feed specifically) and are therefore of the least value to me. (That’s not to say that what the weblog authors are writing is less valuable, just that their use of RSS is dramatically less useful.)

This is valuable in the context of weblogs, but think about the business value when your applications start producing RSS by default. (Hint: Socialtext already does.) Now it gets interesting…

Why firms need InterAction

No doubt in my mind, but that this associate needs InterAction.

And, come to think of it, this partner does too.

(Links courtesy of Matt Homann, who thinks this may all be fake. This particular situation may be contrived, but I guarantee you the sentiments are not. Sadly, this sort of thing goes on all the time at big firms.)

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Mike Walt has the worst driving record of anyone he knows

Last month, less than a mile from my house, a 17 year-old girl driving her 15 year-old brother home turned (on a green light). Coming at them was a modified Honda Civic — driving 70 mph in a 30 50 mph zone. (Updated thanks to a commenter who pointed out the error. —Rick) The 15 year-old didn’t make it, nor did the girlfriend of the driver. Details from the days after the accident are here and here.

Now here’s the kicker: In today’s paper, it turns out that the driver, Mike Walt, has bragged about his poor driving record. Bragged? That’s right. Mike is a member at (click here to see all 300+posts by him). And courtesy of his website, we see that in addition to the wonderful stereo he had in his car, he also had installed a PlayStation2 and a 6.4” LCD screen. In a Honda Civic. According to the coroner, one factor in the deaths was the headlights that had been modified to point lower to the ground, potentially making it harder to see him (especially when coupled with his speed).

There’s more. He bought a new car, less than two weeks after the accident that killed two teenagers. So if you see this car careening around Naperville, get out of the way. Fast.

Just to sum up: 26 tickets in four years. From the Naperville Sun: “Seven tickets for speeding, two for failure to slow to avoid an accident, two for driving too fast for conditions and one for leaving the scene of an accident.” His driver’s license had been suspended or revoked at least twice in the past two years.

All of this leads me to wonder: exactly what does it take to revoke someone’s driving privileges for life?

Monday, April 12, 2004

Dean: Technology, campaign strategy and what went wrong

Just got back from guest lecturing at the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago. I was asked to join Pat Quinn and Kevin Conlon to talk about political leadership; Quinn, to talk about his decades of service protecting consumers in Illinois, and Conlon and I to talk about the Dean campaign.

I needed to hear Kevin’s story of how he ended up running the Dean campaign in Illinois — I hadn’t heard it before, and it reaffirmed my original enthusiasm for the campaign. (Recalling that enthusiasm takes some effort these days.) Kevin ultimately signed up not because he was angling for an ambassadorship if Dean won — no, he signed up because he and Governor Dean shared some strong feelings on key issues, and after spending a couple days with Gov. Dean last spring, he concluded that Gov. Dean was a good person who was in the race for the right reasons. As simple as that.

Between hearing Lt. Gov. Quinn’s remarkable list of accomplishments and Kevin’s decades of service to the labor movement and the political establishment, I felt more than a bit out of my league. But it was fun to tell the story to a group of graduate students who seemed unfamiliar with some of the inner workings of the campaign. Here’s a rough sketch of what I talked about:

I first contacted the Dean campaign in August of 2002. Shortly after reading this article, I called Burlington and volunteered to do whatever I could. I even recommended they start a weblog. (I’m sure I wasn’t the first, or by any means, the only one, to be suggesting that back then.)

Fast forward to the Winter. I had a handful of conversations with Bobby Clark, then Mathew Gross. A rough plan emerged, with me being a utility player to plug some holes on the weblog as they needed help. I ended up not doing much until late May, as the transition from Blogger to Movable Type was afoot. We launched the converted site — the first presidential candidate weblog to let supporters (and opponents) talk back — on June 10, 2003.

In the class tonight, I encouraged the students to read The Cluetrain Manifesto (you can buy a copy here — and talked in particular about the fourth chapter by David Weinberger and Doc Searls. David and Doc talk about markets as conversations — and I told these students that what the Dean campaign figured out was that online politics was just as much about the conversation. (That David consulted to the campaign should come as no surprise.)

Ultimately, the Dean campaign needed three things at the beginning of 2003. It needed money, people, and name recognition. You can’t have one without the other two, although you really want a balance of all three to be a successful candidate. Dean had none of the three in January. By any traditional playbook, there was really no way to emerge from the back of the pack and capture the nomination — so Joe Trippi and Governor Dean figured out that they needed to do something different.

That “something” was to decentralize the campaign — and much of the technology that emerged followed the same pattern: shift the responsibility outward to the fringes. Get the grassroots involved. Fundraising? They can raise their own money. Events? Plan their own. Posters? Print their own. Meetings? And so on. Never had a campaign given up so much control at the outset — and yet it started working. When we led all candidates in Q2 with $7.6m, it was clear the strategy was working.

Recall the three goals: people, money, name recognition. By the end of the year, the campaign had raised over $40m, had 600,000 plus names on its list (its own record for a non-incumbent) and became the first non-world leader to grace the covers of all three newsweeklies in more than 30 years.

By all accounts, the campaign addressed its three goals. How? By creating an environment in which the volunteers were activated, passionate, and committed. It wasn’t just that the technology let the volunteers participate. It was that the technology put the supporters in control, recognized their contributions, encouraged healthy competition (both within the campaign and with other campaigns) and personalized the campaign.

  • Control. Already covered: if you wanted to hold a “Cat lovers for Dean” party, nothing was stopping you. And a search at the Dean website would lead other feline fans to your door.

  • Recognition. At every opportunity, the campaign went to great lengths to highlight who did what. If someone said something in the comments to the blog that the campaign liked, the campaign highlighted it. (Here’s one example.) DeanLink, the campaign’s first stab at a social networking service, actually posted the pictures of the top DeanLink members (i.e., those who had recruited the most new people). Jontathan K-T, the 14 year-old wunderkind from Alaska, received enormous national press for his role in the campaign. He brought more than 500 people into the campaign.

  • Competition. When the campaign put up its first bat — to challenge the $250,000 fundraiser Vice President Cheney was hosting the following Monday — Gov. Dean ate a $3 turkey sandwich and challenged his supporters to outraise Bush. The result? They more than doubled Cheney’s take, proving that the Q2 fundraising haul was no fluke. Supporters were encouraged to hold house parties — and those whose parties were raising the most would get highlighted — leading to hosts working doubly hard to get onto the “leader board”.

  • Personalization. This campaign had not one face, but thousands. But it’s the faces and names that emerged from Burlington that cemented the grassroots’ connection to the campaign. We got to know Mathew, and Zephyr, and Nicco, and Clay, Joe, Zack, Garrett, Michael, and so many others. Knowing who was there — not just some nameless, faceless campaign staffers — made contributing to the campaign so much easier. The technology — in particular, the weblog — simply made this simpler and more powerful.

Final lessons for a campaign:

  1. Give up control. Kevin Conlon challenged me on this, as he doesn’t think that giving up all control is a good thing. Kevin has far more experience on this than I — but I think there’s a difference between discipline and control. In Iowa, Kerry (and Edwards, for that matter), had far more discipline. Dean’s campaign had spun wildly out of control by this point: rather than stay on message, Dean’s campaign had gone negative in the final week (against Kerry and Edwards), viciously fought with the Gephardt campaign, and had 3500 volunteers who were overwhelming Iowans with phone calls they’d long since grown tired of. Nevertheless, the notion of going from January, 2003 to December, 2003, for me is that they never would have been in the position to lose had it not been for the decision to cede much of the control of the campaign to the grassroots on Day 1.

  2. Be transparent. Let people in, let them see how the process works. The minute we understood how to get involved — by simply posting comments — many people were hooked for good. Many had never felt that connected to a political process at any level.

  3. Encourage creativity. While you always risk one of these, you more than make up for that with genuine, passionate contributions. Once people feel like their contributions are valuable, they are no longer vulnerable to other campaigns or other messages. At that point their contribution ceases to be about the candidate, it’s about them and their input.

  1. Listen. After you’ve given up control and encouraged the creative juices of your supporters, you damned well better listen. When the campaign updated posters to reflect regions that weren’t included (What about Ex-Pats for Dean?!), it demonstrated that this campaign was a conversation, not a broadcast. That was not only refreshing, it was unprecedented in modern presidential politics.

So… what went wrong? I don’t think the technology was much of a factor either way. I stand by what I said right after the loss in Iowa. I think there are a few key items that will ultimately prove to have been the end of the campaign:

  • Mismanagement of the Gore endorsement. Trippi was kept out of the loop on this — still not clear to me why. That’s not to say that Trippi would have handled it any different, though the fact that the campaign manager isn’t in on the biggest political endorsement in the last several elections speaks about much larger issues (see below). The point is that at this moment, the campaign tried to bridge the insurgent campaign with the front-runner campaign. And it failed. Miserably. If, as Trippi has claimed, the campaign knew that they were in trouble by December, this endorsement had to be put off or managed more closely. So what if Gore wanted back in the game? Let him into the decision-making process and help him find the right answer.

  • Campaign factions. That at least two major factions developed within the Dean campaign speaks to a fundamental failure in Dean’s role as a manager to fix the systemic problem that ended up contributing to his downfall. If he’d wanted to win, Dean had to nip this thing in the bud — whether that meant easing Trippi out of his operational role much earlier (probably in November), or having a cage match between the interested parties to find a solution. Either way, this was Dean’s problem to fix, and he punted.

  • Isolation. Dean’s authenticity stemmed from his lack of poll-tested bromides. He said what he felt, and it resonated with people. Yet as he got later and later into the race, he demonstrated a propensity for saying not only the wrong thing (which could be excused as a gaffe) but as saying the thing that reinforced others’ opinions of him, and made it that much easier to define him. For me, it wasn’t the Saddam Hussein “but we’re no safer” statement that killed him (though the polling numbers sure do seem to indicate that was fatal. For me, it was the moment he told the older guy in the audience to sit down and listen to him. There’s self-confident and aggressive (good qualities in a President) and then there’s annoyed self-important (neither is good in a President). He didn’t have people around him coaching him through what was expected of him by the casual voter — the passionate ones were either hooked or not — and as a result his delivery struck many as tone-deaf.

On the balance, I finally have a little bit of distance from the experience to say without reservation how proud I am of what we did. We gave the Party a voice, we showed legions of voters that they can make a big difference, and we showed the other candidates how to stand up for Democratic ideals. It remains to be seen what role Howard Dean will play down the road — but he seems committed to changing the party for the better, and that’s important. He showed thousands of people how to take responsibility for being a citizen again. He let us know that Democracy and Freedom require Action.

I’m terribly disappointed that we didn’t finish what we started. I still feel that as late as December it was ours to lose. Could it have turned out differently? Hard to say. Kerry ran a hell of a campaign. But to think of the assets we had at our disposal — and that we squandered the lead — it’s sad.

Dean accomplisehd what he accomplished while incubating a campaign that learned to use technology in ways it hadn’t been used before. For that, I’m grateful. I think we will see candidates replicate his model. It will start at the local levels — and may be another 4 or 8 years before we see another presidential candidate try and replicate Dean’s model. (If only to avoid the tag of being the “next Dean” which would be code for, “Will scream his way into oblivion.”) But I think the decentralized model — risks and all — will become a model for future campaigns. I sure hope so, because if I’m right, it means we all get a larger say in how our country is run. And that’s what it’s all about.

Rebecca Romijn

So I saw this announcement that Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is about to drop the -Stamos, and my first thought was: Man, Oliver Willis will be stoked.


Saturday, April 10, 2004

Historical document

Well there you have it:

Nevertheless, FBI information since that time indicates patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York. “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in US”, Presidential Daily Briefing, August 6, 2001.

Read the full text here.


Friday, April 9, 2004

Supporting Kerry

In the comments to an unrelated post, Jeff is dying to know why I want people to give to Kerry’s campaign, even though I “have not shown any support for John Kerry.”

Let me clarify: I support the Democratic nominee for President. That man is John Kerry. Not all that difficult to parse, actually.

I worked extraordinarily hard to get Howard Dean the nomination. Dean lost (badly) to Kerry, so Kerry’s now the one my party will present to challenge President Bush in November. Just so that there’s no confusion:

Given the choice between an arrogant foreign policy and one that engages our counterparts around the globe, an economic policy that mortgages our future and one that makes hard decisions today about where to spend money, a domestic policy that discriminates against Americans and one that accords all citizens equal protection under the law, an anti-intellectual scientific policy with one that understands that politics and science should not mix — given all those choices, there’s only one candidate in the race who I support: John Kerry.

Was he my first choice during the primaries? No. Is he my candidate now? No question.

As for “banning” Jeff, I never suggested anything of the sort. My e-mail to him read:

Jeff —

With your permission, I’d like to delete the comment. Not because I want to censor anything, but because it’s unrelated to the post in question.

Let me know.

Will I be focusing as much of my attention on this blog on John Kerry as I did on Howard Dean? Most certainly not. There are others who are far more passionate about Senator Kerry’s campaign than I am — and I would expect you to read their stuff.

Just so there’s no confusion whatsoever: I don’t delete or edit topical comments, nor have I banned anyone from posting comments. I ask that comments stay on topic so that there’s some semblance of coherence to the site. Beyond that, it’s your name attached to the comment, not mine.

Support tins

I’m experimenting with BlogAds over on the right sidebar; if you’re interested in advertising on this site, you can click here to find out more. Some specs on the site:

  • 110,000+ visits in the first three months of 2004

  • 150,000+ page views in the same time period (not including RSS traffic)

  • More than 300 inbound links from over 250 sources (source: Technorati)

  • More than 1,000 inbound links at Google

  • Primary audience: people in the legal profession, political junkies (mostly Democrats, but Jeff, Henry and a few others ably represent the Right), technologists of all stripes.

Rates are posted at the BlogAds site. The Kerry ad is a placeholder, just to test the system. I’ll rotate others through shortly.

(Why not Google AdSense? I wrote about that back in July.)

Another way you can support this site: click here to start shopping at Amazon. You don’t pay any more, and I get a small (very small!) piece of each purchase.

And if anyone just wants to donate, well, you can do that too:

(No, for the record, I don’t expect anyone to follow that link.)

None of this is required, of course… but if there’s a way to cover hosting and software costs in a fairly unobtrusive manner, it seemed like a good idea to try.

As always, thanks for all the comments and feedback.

Microsoft Culture

Scoble writes of a recent interview he did for Channel 9, Microsoft’s latest effort at connecting with the developer community. (Give it a look; even the most jaded Microsoft critic would be hard-pressed to find fault with the transparency Channel 9 represents.) He says:

There were no PR people around. No lawyers. No execs making sure we’re “on message.”

We were joking about this about Microsoft’s culture (I can’t imagine being able to do this kind of work at any other company — most seem to want to control their messages too much to let five guys put videos out on the Web without much, if any, official oversight). It was one of the things that most blew Sells away when he came here. Before he worked here he thought everything ran top-down and was controlled. Instead, he found, people are expected to do their jobs and do them right with very little oversight. It’s chaotic inside the beast, and not controlled at all. But, we communicate rapidly and share tons of stories internally in our networks. That’s why to the outside world it looks very controlling and synchronized.

[Scobleizer: Microsoft Geek Blogger]

I remember my first visit to Redmond. I was working for a Microsoft development partner, one of their “managed partners” (which just meant we got somewhat special attention over the thousands of partners Microsoft has). Twice a year, Microsoft invited reps from these partners for a three day summit to tell us what they were up to, discuss business strategy, and invite feedback.

Being on campus was fun — getting to shop at the Microsoft company store (at employee rates) didn’t suck either. But what I recall most vividly about being on campus was how consistently on message the group was. Everyone — from the big-time GMs who presented, down to the individual product managers who were closest to the development teams — knew who their competition was (Sun), knew why they were winning the battle, knew what their short- and long-term plans were and how their job fit into the bigger picture.

That’s a hard enough thing to accomplish when you’re a company of 100, or even 10. But for a company of over 30,000 employees? Pretty remarkable. (Also notable: people loved their jobs.)

It reminds me of a book by Charles Ferguson called High Stakes, No Prisoners about how he founded Vermeer Technologies, the company that created FrontPage and got bought by Microsoft. I remember how Ferguson and several co-workers spoke admiringly (even if it was grudging admiration) of how the smartest person in the company was running the company, and that they all knew where they were going. (If you’ve read the book, you also know that Ferguson isn’t entirely appreciative of all things Microsoft, so note that the admiration comes with a large asterisk attached.)

In any event, if you want to read a great book about a company that launched during the beginning of the bubble, High Stakes is an underrated book that pulls no punches. I can’t imagine Ferguson has too many friends left. From a “Business Week review”: written at the time the book came out:

This is one odd, strongly opinionated man’s view of the world. He has such a big ego that he thinks his little software-tools company was a linchpin for Microsoft’s Internet strategy—and he argues so logically and passionately that you’re half-convinced he’s right. At the same time, Ferguson is harshly self-critical, in his own words a ‘‘tough, impatient, angry, suspicious guy.’‘ Match that against a world where a lot of other people exhibit the same characteristics, and fur flies.

There are a few threads to connect here: companies who exhibit strong leadership, empower the ground troops and communicate transparently (internally and externally) are far more likely to excel. Following on the comments I made earlier in the week about decentralized organizations, I’m starting to see some common elements that are worth exploring in more detail.

On that note, next week I’m going to pick up those threads and look back at what went wrong with the Dean campaign, and why I think those three characteristics are an appropriate measure of what worked and what didn’t. (Hint: it had nothing to do with the Internet.)

Paul Allen the Lesser

Utah has our very own Paul Allen. Not the Paul Allen of Microsoft fame, but a Paul Allen who’s made a name for himself in the high tech community by starting ventures such as Infobases, Folio, and Paul knows a lot about starting companies and willingly shares his knowledge with anyone willing to come to his class at UVSC on Wednesday evenings. Paul, who recently started blogging, is trying to move past being a serial entrepreneur and become a parallel entrepreneur. Here’s a list of the companies that Paul’s involved in right now. [Windley’s Enterprise Computing Weblog]

Looks like a great blog to start monitoring. Anytime a sharp, accomplished individual shares their experiences and advice (for free, even!), it’s worth paying attention. Thanks to Phil for the catch.

Thursday, April 8, 2004


Thanks to a tip from Buzz today, I checked out Anagram. Anagram is a slick little application — highlight some text, trigger Anagram, and it intelligently recognizes whether the text is a new contact, a todo, a calendar entry, or a memo. It then adds it to your PIM (currently supports Outlook and Palm Desktop).

Between Anagram and Activewords, the mindless, repetitive tasks that used to occupy my computing time are quickly evaporating.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Cluetrain Manifesto in practice

There’s an interesting thread going on at the [non]billable hour right now, between Matt Homann, a lawyer, and the CEO of LegalMatch, a company that used fairly aggressive tactics in pitching their services to Matt. Read Matt’s original post here, and his follow-up (excerpted below) here.

The other day, I titled a post, Why I’ll Never Use LegalMatch. Today, I got this e-mail from Randy Wells at LegalMatch:… [the [non]billable hour]

Reminds me of my own Cluetrain-y conversation back and forth with Chris Smith when I was trying to sell him CRM software (more from Chris here and here, and my follow-up here). When conversations happen, both sides benefit. Transparency is critical to decentralization and relationship-building.

It’ll be interesting to see if, as a result of Matt’s post, LegalMatch changes their tactics or engages Matt in a meaningful way.

(And if you’re interested, you can pick up a copy of The Cluetrain Manifesto from Amazon. Well worth a read if you haven’t read it before.)

Decentralized organizations

From Phil Wolff comes this spectacular assessment of what it takes for volunteer groups to be effective in political campaigns:

I’ve been rationalizing the 30-50 hours a week of grassroots campaigning I’ve been investing in the local Kerry campaign since last summer. Changing the world is great, and we’re doing that. My takeaway is what I learn from it, how the work itself changes me. Here are a few lessons learned. [a klog apart]

This is required reading for anyone looking to run a campaign, get involved at a senior level, or even just volunteer.

There are some interesting threads to tie together here: most importantly is that of the shift from centralized, structured organizations to flexible, decentralized organizations. Ray Ozzie wrote about the future of work a couple weeks back, and in it he noted that businesses are transitioning from “centralized structures toward networked, decentralized organizational relationships.”

Clearly one aspect of the Dean campaign that worked well was its ability to embrace the bottom-up mentality. (For the record: when I say “worked”, I’m speaking in terms of the goal of that organization: fund-raising. By any objective measure, Dean’s bottom-up model worked wonders.)

Nearly every call I’ve been on while at Socialtext has involved a company that is struggling with this transition. Executives who’ve been at the helm for a while grew up understanding the command and control mentality. Those of us who are just coming into middle-age understand “peer to peer” as not just a technology but an organizational model. This is at the heart of what Warren Bennis and Robert Thomas wrote about in Geeks and Geezers. (I wrote more about Geeks and Geezers last year here.)

Organizations that find themselves in a centralized mode will survive and thrive if they can embrace what Bennis and Thomas refer to as “adaptive capacity.” Leaders and their organizations who want to learn, are curious, and who empower those in the trenches will succeed. This is as true of businesses as it is of campaigns. To that end, Phil’s observations about his involvement at East Bay for Kerry are appropriate regardless of what business you’re in.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Reason proves WYSKster was only sort of a joke

From today’s New York Times, an article on how the print version of the monthly Reason is using personal data on readers in coordination with satellite technology to create magazine covers that picture the neighborhoods of respective subscribers. [beSpacific]

Imagine that — every subscriber is getting a magazine with a picture their neighborhood on the cover and their home circled. Ads in the magazine are tailored to their interests, and Nick Gillespie’s letter from the editor includes three separate chunks of text that are personalized to the reader’s geographic location.

We wouldn’t think much of this if it were a website. But paper? Ironic that paper seems more sophisticated (and potentially more spooky) than the CRT.


Will Cox points out a terrific new (?) news aggregation service:

ResearchBuzz points to for local news. It’s the BOMB!

[Cox Crow]

No kidding. It’s even got a page for Naperville, my home town. Best of all, it’s got RSS — so I can read this stuff in my aggregator. Wow.

Mmmmm... USB memory sticks

Catching a spammer at an Internet Cafe:

A sysadmin for an Internet cafe in Dublin describes in nice technical detail how he caught an alleged "419" spammer in flagrante delicto. (“419” refers to a Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud.) Evidently, a 419er is that stupid. [Peter Kaminski]

Funny — with all that money these relatives of wealthy Nigerians have, you’d think they could afford their own Internet access at home, and not have to hang out an Internet cafe with a “bulky laptop”. Great stuff. (You’ll have to read the entire article to understand the post title.)

Skype is much better

Just spent over an hour on a Skype call with Matt this morning. Wow. The first time around, I had several significant complaints about Skype — I was in the minority at the time, but the sound quality for me was terrible. I had several drops, a couple cases where it would go several seconds between any sound, and more often than not it sounded like I was talking to someone through a garbage pail.

Not anymore. The sound quality was excellent — not quite telephone quality (there were occasional metallic clips to the audio) but often quite close. Matt and I were on the line for well over an hour, and never once did the connection feel choppy or inconsistent.

Now, there’s plenty of debate over the business model and whether Skype can make money. But Michael Powell (embattled FCC chair) clearly gets it when he says:

“I knew it was over when I downloaded Skype,” Michael Powell, chairman, Federal Communications Commission, explained. “When the inventors of KaZaA are distributing for free a little program that you can use to talk to anybody else, and the quality is fantastic, and it’s free – it’s over. The world will change now inevitably.” Fortune Magazine, 16th February 2004

They’ve got $18.8m in the bank, and today they just announced a mobile version that will work on your wifi-enabled PocketPC PDA. (Link via John Robb.)

Mike Masnick is right: the business model may be tricky, but that doesn’t mean that the product offerings won’t get better during the bubble.

Moving to Manhattan?

One of my best friends is getting married next month. As a result, he’s leaving his apartment in Chelsea and moving to Brooklyn. (My New York friends tell me this is a big deal. They’re not that far away, right?!)

In any event, if you’re looking for a great “alcove studio” apartment in mid-town, you could do a lot worse than Jim’s place. Full information is here.

Monday, April 5, 2004

iPod Update

A couple weeks back, I wrote about my iPod’s unceremonious death. I’m a huge fan of the iPod, so I was dreading losing it.

Thanks to a commenter who recommended stopping in an Apple store, I swung by the Apple store in Oak Brook, and less than 5 minutes later had a replacement iPod, free of charge.


Now I just need to pick up a few accessories I’ve had my eye on for a while: the iTrip (for broadcasting the iPod to any FM radio — I’ve currently got a battery-powered equivalent which chews through batteries and isn’t too good) and the Monster Cable for iPod to connect to my home stereo.

Sunday, April 4, 2004

Happy birthday

Just sent the grandparents on their way, and the house is quiet again: not two hours ago, we had eight very busy 2 year-olds (and a handful of younger and older siblings) helping celebrate my youngest’s second birthday.

My favorite moment of the night: we open presents after people go home. Less stress for all involved, and lets us keep tabs on who gave what. Robby was playing with his toys, and in a moment of frustration with his brother, hit him. I told Robby he was done playing with his toys for the night — that it was a bad job to hit his brother.

Robby’s reaction? Without hesitation, made a bee-line for my dad where he babbled his case in an attempt to overrule me.

Gotta give the kid credit for trying.

Friday, April 2, 2004

dKos on the Fallujah attack

Four mercenaries dead. Makes it sound like four murderous ex-soldiers with something to hide got killed. Maybe they deserved it, maybe not.

Four American civilians killed, their limbs ripped from their torsos, bodies charred beyond recognition, and hung from a bridge while men jump up and down and cheer. Certainly gives you a different mental picture, doesn’t it?

Well it turns out that the four Americans killed yesterday in Fallujah were former Special Forces soldiers providing security for food deliveries. That doesn’t make the tragedy any less poignant, their deaths any less shocking. (The New York Times has the grisly content here if you’re up to it. Caution: it’s quite graphic.)

But the fact that the four dead were soldiers for hire infuriated Markos Zuniga, who took occasion to say of the dead, “They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.” He later clarified (if you can call it that) his statement by differentiating between soldiers who are there on orders and mercenaries who are there to make a buck. (What of the soldiers who join to make a buck? What of the trigger-happy soldier who joins up because he likes to shoot things? Where do you draw the line?)

Markos is a former soldier. And he grew up in a war zone, so he can speak far more authoritatively than I about the horrors of war and the particulars of soldiers vs. private contractors doing work ordinarily reserved for soldiers.

But his comments are beyond the pale. He’s feeling the effects — apparently several of his larger advertisers have already withdrawn their ads, and I have no doubt that this story will continue (James Taranto picked up on it today for the Wall Street Journal Online, and Instapundit has links galore to much of the Right’s righteous rage here) over the next few days. (The original post, along with extended comments from dozens of individuals, can be found here.)

Indifference to human life is the very thing that Kos and others have accused the Bush Administration of. Demonstrating that same indifference when fellow Americans die while doing their job is inexcusable.

Kos has established himself as a young up-and-coming voice in the Democratic party, with the ear of Terry McAuliffe and frequent interactions with the party elite. With that role comes responsibility, and in insulting the men who died doing what they were trained to do he abused that responsibility. Kos seems to resent that these men were well paid, though it’s questionable whether even $150,000 to $200,000 is enough for what they were asked to do. (Do our soldiers deserve better pay? Undoubtedly. But why conflate the issue of low combat pay with these contractors doing their job?)

Kos owes his readers and the party an apology. A real apology, not the relativist rant that tried to attach proportional value to certain people’s deaths.

(For more on the work these contractors are doing in Iraq, see today’s New York Times for a good overview.)

ThinkPad security

Last month I bought a ThinkPad T40. I didn’t pay much attention to the item listing at eBay that talked about the embedded security system, but last night had a few minutes to kill and checked it out.

The chip is a “security subsystem” — it can replace your Windows login so that if you don’t authenticate to the chip, you don’t get access to the OS. It will also integrate with biometric devices (like a fingerprint scanner) or a smart card reader — so that, when combined with a passkey, it creates a far more secure system.

So far, nothing really revolutionary. It’s the one-click file encryption system that really blew me away: I can right-click on a folder on my hard drive, select “Protect”, and IBM’s “File and Folder Encryption” app will encrypt the folder and its contents. If you’re not authenticated to the chip, you can’t view the files. Result? I don’t care how public a network you’re on — if that chip don’t want you seeing the files, you don’t see the files.

There are other apps that do this, of course. Years ago I used PGPDisk to do this. But as a hardware-based system that’s fully integrated with the OS and the laptop itself, this is a far more secure system. And it couldn’t be easier to use.

IBM was the first laptop manufacturer to produce a fully Trusted Computer Group compliant machine. And I’m impressed — this is impressive for end-user security. (One note: the Password Manager that’s part of this security package is a nice idea — it’ll store all your passwords on the chip, letting you simply activate the chip and it’ll fill in any password for you. It’ll even generate random passwords for enhanced security. Sadly, the Password Manager doesn’t work with Mozilla, my browser of choice. And I had some issues with it working in IE. So I’m holding off on investing any time on that for right now.)

Just one more reason to like the ThinkPad, super model or no.

Thursday, April 1, 2004

Google's GMail

Those who are taking Google’s announcement of GMail today at face value would do well to remember that April Fool’s pranks are a time-honored tradition at Google.

Anyone remember Pigeon Rank?

Update: Doc tells us it’s not a joke, and points to the actual Google joke of the year.

April Foolery

Erik Heels has launched Parody Law as an archive of his favorite April Fools jokes, and will be documenting the many fake news items of the day. He also includes a recap of our many collaborations on this fine day from the past eight years.

A piece of trivia: when we put out the Visa buys the Internet press release, we distributed it on Internet Wire (appears to be dufunct now), a company chosen in part because they had no prohibitions on distributing fake news. (Apparently we weren’t the only ones to notice this. Perhaps that’s why Internet Wire appears to be kaput.)

That year, our fake press release was the most read press release of all of Internet Wire’s releases. They even gave us an award which today sits on Erik’s desk at home.

More on WYSKster

Chris Smith has more on WYSKster, including as-yet-unreported details about their integration and forthcoming SOAP API.

Has anyone else been able to unearth details about WYSKster?