Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bite Bite Bite

This may not be for everyone, but wow, did it make me laugh. The New Yorker transcribes the first talking chimp press conference.

Bite bite bite.

Podcasting with the Treo

I recently downloaded FeedStation after Nick Bradbury mentioned it to me at Gnomedex; it originated as the podcasting client for FeedDemon and is now being worked into the NewsGator family of products. It’s a great app, and one of the things I like about it is that it gives you the option of synching the MP3s with iTunes or Windows Media Player, or simply putting the files in a specific folder.

That’s the key for me — because I really want to listen to podcasts on the train in the morning on my way into work, and the ideal place for these files is my Treo (I have a 1 gig SD card, so there’s more than enough storage there for at least a week’s worth of podcasts). But that’s the rub: while I can get the files automatically downloaded into a folder for my Treo (let’s call it \My Music\Treo), I’m not aware of any way to auto-sync that folder with the SD card on my Treo during a hotsync. Am I missing something obvious here? This seems like it should be simple, but so far I’ve yet to figure out that last step.

Any help is much appreciated.

Update: I called PalmOne support, the less-than-helpful support guy didn’t understand what I was asking for, but nevertheless claimed this isn’t possible. I find that hard to believe… surely this isn’t that hard?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Legal KM presentation

Was excited to see a presentation by my friends Ron Friedmann and Tania Daniels over at Ron’s blog. There’s some good stuff in there, though when they got to “Who’s out there?”, I was surprised my former employer, Interface Software (er, that’s LexisNexis Interface Software. Or is it LexisNexisInterfaceSoftware?), wasn’t on the list. When we launched InterAction 5 just about three years ago (in fact, the press tour was ending right about now), a considerable amount of the focus was on internal expertise; in fact, the subsequent release of the Matters module (no idea what it’s called these days) cemented InterAction’s ability to connect lawyers to their work product, reveal (automatically) who had what skills internally, and then use the resulting web of relationships to figure out who was right for the current project (both from a sales and a practice standpoint).

If Ron & Tania are right (and how I hope they are), and the technology is becoming more integrated into the practice of law, then I’d be surprised if InterAction isn’t in the thick of it at some of the big firms who are doing this well. I first met Tania when she was leading the InterAction charge at her firm in L.A., and I know she still works with it in her job at eSentio, so presumably she’s in a position to have a much more current view on this than I…

Anyway, just an observation. Am I off base?

iTunes supports video blogging too

Very interesting: on the podcasters mailing list, Russell Holliman discovered that iTunes will download video enclosures as well as audio enclosures, and because iTunes can render Quicktime movies, it’ll play them too.

Neat. I think demand for displaying show notes will grow pretty quickly — which Apple could easily do — which would make iTunes a killer aggregator for the mass market. (If you think about it, this wouldn’t be that hard… and then one would have to ask: why confine it to enclosure-enabled feeds? Why not any feed?)

Echo Ditto needs a CTO

My friends at Echo Ditto (many of them are Dean campaign veterans) need a CTO, to replace Jim Brayton who’s leaving to join Barack Obama’s senate office as the Internet Director. Details follow:

If you live near DC (or would consider relocating), have strong technology management experience, and would enjoy using your expertise to fight for child hunger, workers’ rights, and other exciting projects, we want to hear from you. Write futures-at-echoditto-dot-com.

Reporting directly to the Chief Operating Officer, and with minimal supervision, the CTO is responsible for all facets of EchoDitto’s technology operations, both internally and on external, client projects. S/he also leads the EchoDitto technical staff and ensures timely and on-budget completion of client deliverables. S/he leads EchoDitto and its client organizations on technology decisions, including: software platforms; third-party vendors; web-based technology and tools; and strategic direction.

The full job description is here (PDF). [EchoDitto blogs]

Give them a call.

Brad Feld on capitalizing a company

Brad Feld (who is an investor in and board member of FeedBurner) has a great post today about capitalization strategies for growing companies. I’ve never been much of a financial whiz (cue punch line: “That’s why he went to law school!”), but having gone through one IPO, a stock split in a privately-held company, and joined two start-ups (one boot-strapped and one venture-backed), this info both rings true and is invaluable for future reference. I’ll quote just a snippet, his post is a response to an e-mail question:

At my company, we’re looking at recapitalizing from 3.5 million shares to 35 million (and contemplating 350 million). … I asked my attorney what his recommendation is, but I’d love a second opinion. Do we stay at 3.5m, do we go to 35m, do we go to 350m?

My general rule of thumb for a venture backed company is to try to establish a share base from the beginning so that you never have to do a forward or reverse stock split (referred to in the question as “recapitalizing from 3.5m shares to 35m shares – or a 10:1 split.)”  A range of 10m to 50m shares – depending on what you think your exit value will be (the more optimistic you are, the more shares you should use) – is a good range to work with.

A really rich discussion of a company’s options ensues; read the whole post for all of it. Brad concludes by writing:

Overall, I believe that increasing the share count in a company to create the perception that an employee is “getting more shares” is a mistake.  I recommend you pick a realistic share count (again – my 10m – 50m range is a decent rule of thumb) so that – unless you have down round financings – you’ll never have to monkey with the share amounts in any scenario. Then – when you grant options to a new employee – explain clearly to them what they are getting. [Feld Thoughts]

Couple take-aways from this: first, the guy who e-mailed Brad out of the blue just got an insanely good amount of free advice. That’s a good lesson for anyone looking for input from a pro: sometimes, asking is all you need to do. Second, if you’re someone like Brad — sharing that info is very helpful to those of us in the trenches who don’t always see the various moving parts of the larger financing picture. Unlike the realtors that Levitt and Dubner write about in Freakonomics, Brad’s perfectly willing to be transparent with this kind of info — and it’s not just that he’s a nice guy: you don’t think other entrepreneurs are out there, looking at the number of financing options they have, and taking into account what kind of VC each individual is?

Bottom line: if you’re an entrepreneur who wants to better understand how investors see your business, a subscription to Brad’s feed should be top on your list.

Quote of the Day

From Taegan Goddard:

“It’s not a pay raise. It’s an adjustment so that they’re not losing their purchasing power.”
— House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), quoted by the AP, on a vote to increase congressional salaries. [Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire]

RibFest is coming! I need some more cowbell!

RibFest is a big deal in Naperville, we regularly get 100,000+ people over 4 days to come, gorge themselves on ribs, and enjoy the music. This year’s assortment of acts — David Lee Roth, Loretta Lynn and Kenny Wayne Sheppard on the “main” stage, with Blue Oyster Cult (”Cowbell! More cowbell!“), Adrian Belew, and Urge Overkill on the “rock” stage — promises to bring a rather diverse group of fans. (Last year we had Lynyrd Skynyrd, and rumors of a near riot when the Hell’s Angels showed up to provide “security” for the band.)

Dave Richardson wonders whether Friday night we’ll see “Fat Elvis” David Lee or “Early, Rockin’ Elvis” David Lee. I’m betting on Fat Elvis.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

FeedBurner supports iTunes RSS extension

Earlier today we announced that we’re implementing support for iTunes “really soon”; the specs behind Apple’s RSS extension are here. Dave notes that it leaves a bit to be desired, and Sam suggests that there’s some inconsistencies between the spec and the examples, which will make it hard to validate.

It’s exciting to see the impact Apple’s entry into the market has had (and I’ll share some specific info tomorrow about iTunes rapid ascent as a podcatching client), but it does seem that the rush to get it out the door has left some rough edges. More to come…

Treating your customers right

I really like this post from Matt Homann. Something tells me it would be wise to start hanging out at a Starbucks near Matt’s office…

Rosa Say passes on a great way to spend your marketing dollars:

This morning Kerwin and I walked into a Prescott Starbucks and both ordered their strong-brew coffee of the day to then find it was free. The barista at the cash register motioned over to a gentleman sitting in an animated discussion with a group of about six others, and said, “Your coffee is on Mr. Perez this morning.”

As Kerwin stirred cream and sugar into his coffee, we read a poster on the wall right above the condiment station with a picture of Mr. Perez’s smiling face explaining that every Wednesday morning from 8:30am-9:30am he buys coffee at that Starbucks for all his customers and anyone else who wants to talk story with him about investment banking and Prescott’s promising future.

Absolutely, frickin’ brilliant. [the [non]billable hour]

Fun moments in parenting

My three year-old crawled into bed this morning at 5:30, and for no particular reason, put his hand against mine. He paused, then said wistfully, “Still small.”

Tonight, eating out for dinner, our five year-old had finished his chocolate milk. Robin had a chocolate shake (remember, she’s eating for two) and while Ricky wasn’t looking, poured some of her shake into his cup. A few minutes later, Ricky figured out that his cup now magically had chocolate shake in it, thought about it for a few minutes, and then asked, “Is this like when the ice cubes turn into water?”

No particular reason for sharing, other than sometimes I really enjoy seeing how their amazing brains work…

FeedBurner's new top secret location

That’s right, we’ve moved. Steve snaps the front of the new building:

As of this morning, we’re at 549 West Randolph, between Canal and Clinton. At the very least, slightly less spartan.

iTunes 4.9 released, includes podcasting support

It’s official, iTunes 4.9 is out and available for download. As widely discussed, it includes podcasting support — it works very easily, though it’s obvious that podcasters will want easier ways to categorize their podcasts. Apple’s podcast specifications are here, which includes specifics on Apple’s RSS extension for adding meta data about your podcast.

Its ease of use is a big plus — this will dramatically increase the listenership of podcasts, which is most definitely a good thing.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Pinging FeedBurner

Someone at Gnomedex (sorry, can’t remember who) asked about pinging FeedBurner, so I dug up the answer. You can automatically ping FeedBurner (details are here) if your weblog application supports it; otherwise you can manually ping us using the “resync” feature in your account.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Talk about bad luck: Chicago police, part II

This is funny, I saw the original post pointing out the Chicago police website, then made the same connection that Steven Levitt did:

In my last post, I talked about how Chicago police have begun posting pictures on the internet of johns caught soliciting prostitutes. Based on the numbers given in a Chicago Tribune article, it seemed the chance of arrest for a john, per solicitation, was 1 in 10,000. … Some guys get lucky and win the lottery against all odds, [Kenyuata] gets his picture on the web twice in a week. [Freakonomics Blog]
One other thing I noticed: the unfortunately named john arrested on June 15: Howard Lovelady.
I just started reading Freakonomics on the flight out; I’ll write up some observations on the plane tomorrow.

Adam Curry's Daily Source Code #200

This is pretty cool… Adam Curry is doing his concluding keynote as his 200th “Daily Source Code” live. Adam’s being very gracious, talking about a lot of the sources of inspiration that got podcasting to where it is today.

Is it news that Apple’s creating a namespace for podcasts? (Update: Not really.)

Great discussion of where this is heading, why it’s important to get there. A fitting way to end a big couple of days.

Legal panel

Buzz, Denise, and Jason are leading the discussion on legal issues relating to blogging and technology. I had lunch with Denise, who mentioned that Buzz was reinstalling Windows prior to the presentation (a bizarre pre-presentation ritual?), but it looks like the machine got its issues straightened out, as they’re leading the presentation using MindManager.

Funny comment by Jason: “When PT left Weblogs, Inc., we got sued a whole lot less.” (PT, who I wrote about earlier, is the individual responsible for demonstrating how insecure the Kryptonite lock was, among a number of other things that irked corporate lawyers.)

Jason explains his strategy when he’s sued: extend the conversation, force them to file a lawsuit. Buzz just responded that Jason’s a bit delusional on this point, that lawyers are more than happy to talk at $200/hour. The crowd’s certainly enjoying Jason (who’s pointed out how often he hangs up on lawyers). Another threatened lawsuit — the Amby debate over at BloggingBaby, where BloggingBaby reported on the claims of one parent (who alleged some product defects in a crib) and the reaction of the company (who denied the allegations and sent a cease and desist letter to Weblogs, Inc.

Denise points out that the EFF guide for bloggers is a good starting point for outlining the legal implications of blogging.


Steve Rubel and his client, Chris Sloop (CTO at WeatherBug) are talking about WeatherBug’s ongoing struggle to overcome a bad business decision 4 years ago (a distribution deal with Gator, a known spyware distributor).

Jeff’s got CDs of WeatherBug Plus in the back (I just installed it, holy cow — it’s 96 degrees back home right now!) and is essentially representing that the company’s open, willing to engage the community and also willing to listen.

Some of the people in the audience gave Jeff flack for keeping the name, one complaint was that the presentation was an ad for the company. (And?)

Having just installed the app, I’m pretty impressed. They’re creating a community of users (8,000+ weather stations at schools around the country), they’re engaging the community, and listening.

Julie Leung at Gnomedex

Julie Leung is giving a fascinating presentation about the boundaries of personal and professional writing, involving family without exposing them, maintaining balance between what’s hidden and what’s revealed.

I love her technique of using photos to illustrate her points, rather than the standard three bullet slides. It’s powerful, and forces you to listen to what she’s saying.

One thing she’s done is used photographs taken by her children; Ricky (my five year-old) recently received his very own Fisher Price 35mm camera, and the pictures he takes are just wonderful. As Julie points out, they show a perspective (from 3 feet, not from 6 feet) and a focus that we wouldn’t otherwise see. Sometimes the pictures are frivolous, but often they are wonderful representations of what matters to him, moreso than he can often verbalize.

Not sure that it means anything, but Julie showed two pictures that struck a chord with me: one of the sky, and one of a staircase — both are variations of pictures my son has taken. Always looking up.

What a touching, genuine presentation.

Rotary cell phone

I’m two rows behind P.T. of Make Magazine, and his rotary cell phone is on the table next to him. It’s a funny, clever little hack. And it really works.

I hear some people got copies of Make in their swag bag… which makes me wonder why I didn’t get one… I hear it’s a remarkable magazine.

Yesterday's connectivity problems

So it turns out that yesterday’s connectivity problems were due in part to someone sending a live video feed from their laptop.

Good Lord.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Thoughts on Day 1 from Gnomedex

Given the horrendous connectivity problems throughout the day, I chose not to do any real-time note-taking during the sessions. Some random observations:

Dave’s OPML app is cool. I remember when I first “got” the outliner built into Radio a few years ago and getting really excited about it, and I documented how I managed my then blogroll in Radio. That process was a fun little hack, but for me the real epiphany with Radio’s outliner came when it was combined with Marc Barrot’s activeRenderer plugin which rendered OPML outlines on the fly into very nice javascript-enhanced HTML. (Speaking of which, what exactly is the status of the Web Outliner, which uses aR?)

Update: Had lunch with Marc Canter today, who tells me that there will be some news about the WebOutliner concept in fairly short order…

It’s nice to see a renewed focus on building these concepts out — though I suspect for this to really take off it’ll be via polished apps (one suspects Microsoft’s embrace of the format today will ensure such apps will be forthcoming) that integrate tightly with existing groupware apps (like Outlook, Groove or some combination thereof?).

As for Microsoft’s announcement, it’s not quite the “Bill Gates is coming to Gnomedex to announce they’ve bought the Internet” kind of announcement that was rumored… but quite significant nonetheless. As Steve Rubel suggests, with today’s announcement, Microsoft gave RSS the seal of approval that lets RSS “turn pro”. This means that it’ll become accessible to every Windows user; it’ll become a conduit for all kinds of information (not just blogs, but photo albums, calendars, documents) and will be part of the OS, which makes it accessible to every other app in the OS. (For more on this, check out Channel 9.) The cynics point out that Longhorn (the next-generation OS that Microsoft was discussing today) won’t ship for quite a while (two years? longer?) and therefore this announcement is rather forward-looking… but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s clear where Microsoft’s placing its bets — and that will help a number of companies, publishers and users adjust their own commitments accordingly. For those of us who have made similar bets on RSS, that’s a good thing.

I spent the majority of the afternoon talking with a variety of people in the hallways outside the main conference room (for notes on some of the sessions, check out Mike’s notes); my favorite conversation was Jon Husband’s observation that Pleasantville is a perfect metaphor for blogging. (It makes sense, but I’m going to watch it again before elaborating on it.)

An interesting day, and the Microsoft/Audible party at the Seattle Public Library starts in a few minutes. More later…

Is this thing on?

Spotty wifi is conspiring to force all of us in the room to (gasp!) pay attention.

I feel bad for Dave, whose demo requires net access… memo to conference planners: get the speakers a wire. Don’t make them dependent on the stability of the wifi connection.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Gnomedex Theme Song

It’s raining men.

If ever there were a need for gender equality, it’s this conference.

In Seattle for Gnomedex

Just arrived at my hotel in Seattle for Gnomedex. On my flight out here, I realized this may be the first conference in at least a half dozen years where I’m here as an attendee, not as a speaker, a vendor or a sponsor. Ordinarily on the afternoon of arrival, I’m realizing how woefully under-prepared I am for whatever presentation it is I’m about to give — instead, I just get to schmooze, listen to the presentations and enjoy the time in Seattle.

I imagine I’ll add some observations about the presentations tomorrow and Saturday, though it appears quite likely that it will be insanely over-blogged. The 300 attendees will no doubt be accused of group navel-gazing (“Look! The bloggers are blogging about bloggers talking about blogging!”) — which, given this photo of our eponymous host on the giveaways page should be plenty of cause for concern.

In all seriousness, I’m excited about meeting a number of the attendees, several of whom I’ve “known” for years but haven’t had an opportunity to meet in person.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Estimated time of arrival, November 20

We’ve known about this latest bit of news since March, but with a number of miscarriages over the last several years, we weren’t going to start announcing Robin’s latest pregnancy until we felt confident that things were progressing well. I’m happy to report that the Klau family is set to get larger by one sometime in mid-November. The little one is a girl (given our history, a level 2 ultrasound was required — and thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, it’s awfully hard not to see what the little one’s plumbing is) — surely making Robin’s day (year?).

So right around Christmas, we’ll have a 5 year-old, a 3 year-old and a newborn.


Wollersheim Winery

Yesterday we took a day trip up to the Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, just under a 3 hour drive from Naperville. Robin read about the area — which sits on the Wisconsin River and is just east of the Mississippi River — in the Tribune last month, and we decided it would be a great day trip. We weren’t disappointed — the drive itself was easy, and the area surrounding the winery is beautiful. Wines were pretty good — and though not all of the grapes are grown locally, the wines are all produced locally and have won a number of awards.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Hottest US Senator

This is hilarious. (Hat tip: So-Called Austin Mayor)

Vote for the hottest U.S. Senator. Note, however:

We decided Barack Obama is so hot that he’d wipe the floor with any of the others, so he’s excluded from this contest.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Local web designer needed

A friend has asked for a recommendation of a local web designer who’s comfortable working with small businesses, reasonably priced, etc. If that sounds like you, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch with my friend (a Chicago business).

Google Page Rank patent application

Caught at /., Google has filed a patent application for its PageRank technology. Nothing necessarily shocking — slow and steady, get inbound links, don’t be evil kind of stuff — but very interesting to see it spelled out.

The musical baton

Ernie passes the baton to me, and asks:

  • what is my total volume of music

  • what is the last CD I bought

  • what song is playing right now

  • what five songs do I listen to a lot because they are special to me

  • five people I’m passing the musical baton to

Like Ernie, music is inextricably woven into my memories; I hear a song and I can instantly recall a significant event when that song was playing, or when I saw the group in concert.

I played a variety of instruments through childhood (first guitar, then piano, later the clarinet and bass clarinet), marched in a band from junior high through sophomore year of high school, and played in a jazz band until my senior year of high school. Later, I was a DJ through college and law school, and often used my broadcasts as a way of playing out my own Nick Hornby-like “best” groups of songs.

The first group I saw in concert was Huey Lewis and the News (cut me some slack, I was 14) at the Worcester Centrum; the next show I’m due to go to is Elvis Costello and EmmyLou Harris at Ravinia. My favorite live performer ever is by far Tina Schlieske (at the time she was fronting for Tina & the B-Sides, she now plays solo, and joy – has a new solo CD coming out this fall) — other favorites were Live, The Samples, Living Colour, and Toad the Wet Sprocket. And last December’s Paul Curreri show was pretty memorable.

Sadly, as I’ve grown a bit older and found my priorities have changed (kids’ clothing tends to come ahead of the latest import CD) I haven’t had as much opportunity to discover new artists or listen to as much music as I’d like. When I listen to the radio, it’s almost always tuned to NPR. And until I can easily sync podcasts to my Treo, I just won’t have an easy way of listening to all the podcast goodness out there on the net.

Nevertheless, I can answer Ernie’s questions, and doing so is a kind of fun snapshot of where I’m at right now. Though the answers haven’t changed much over the past ten years, I expect the memories will deepen, the context may change, and before long my kids will once again start the engine of music acquisition in the Klau household…

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

17 Senators Who Didn't Support Lynching Apology

The list of US Senators who chose not to co-sponsor the lynching apology adopted at the U.S. Senate yesterday:

  • Alexander, Lamar (R – TN)

  • Bennett, Robert (R – UT)

  • Cochran, Thad (R – MS)

  • Cornyn, John (R – TX)

  • Crapo, Michael (R – ID)

  • Enzi, Michael (R – WY)

  • Grassley, Chuck (R – IA)

  • Gregg, Judd (R – NH)

  • Hatch, Orrin (R – UT)

  • Hutchison, Kay (R – TX)

  • Kyl, Jon (R – AZ)

  • Lott, Trent (R – MS)

  • Shelby, Richard (R – AL)

  • Smith, Gordon (R – OR)

  • Sununu, John (R – NH)

  • Thomas, Craig (R – WY)

4,742 recorded lynchings in U.S. history.

(Note: the list originally included Sen. Landrieu in error; her name’s been removed, so it’s actually 16 Senators who failed to add their name to the bill.)

Obama Commencement Address: MP3

Knox College has the audio up in Windows Media format, but I figured that might be a bit tricky for any non-PC users out there. (And they’ve buried the audio file in a pop-up window that makes it hard to actually find and download the file.)

So I grabbed the WMA file and converted it to MP3 so that it would be more easily available for people to listen to. Here is Senator Barack Obama’s commencement address in MP3 format:

Obama Commencement address

(For those who care, I took So-Called Austin Mayor’s advice and just burned the WMA file to a CD, then ripped that to an MP3. Low-tech, but effective.)

Monday, June 13, 2005

Spammers, how do I hate thee?

Just had my domain shut down by my webhost for about 15 minutes. I checked it out, turns out it was due to “CPU Abuse”. Translated, that means that the deluge of hits to my mt-tb.cgi and mt-comments.cgi files (the two scripts that Movable Type uses to handle trackbacks and comments) were getting hammered so badly that CPU usage on my server pegged 100% and showed no signs of letting up.

While I search for a better answer, for now, I’ve:

  • disabled trackbacks on all posts

  • renamed the trackback file so any further requests to the file will result in a 404 “file not found” error

  • rebuilt all files

I’m hoping I don’t have to turn comments off; ironically, I’ve succeeded in eliminating any spam from actually reaching the pages of the blog — but that hasn’t stopped the spammers from consuming every CPU cycle of the server my blog is hosted on (and I’m just one of many who share that particular machine).


Jim Keane - RIP

I learned of Jim Keane’s passing from Monica Bay’s blog last week, and today received an e-mail from Andy Adkins which included a link to the guestbook provided by the funeral home where Jim’s funeral will be.

For those that didn’t know Jim, he was an early evangelist for the transforming role technology would play in the legal profession, someone who never wavered in his belief that the profession would improve dramatically as better tools and services evolved. Jim was one of the first guys I met in my early days in the industry, and his passing (after a fight with lung cancer) is indeed sad news. You can see how many lives he touched, personally and professionally, after looking at the guest book.

Convert a Windows Media file to MP3?

I have a Windows Media audio file (.wma) that I’d like to convert to MP3. Anyone have a simple way to do it? Once I have the conversion done, I’ll share the audio — it’s of a recent event that I think people will want to hear.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Fish & Richardson advertising on Captivate Network

Saw this in our elevator the other day, and was intrigued:

Fish & Richardson is advertising on the Captivate Network. Wonder if any other law firms are doing this?

Certainly seems like a great idea: quick ads, captive audience, and almost guaranteed repeat viewings by your audience. (I’ve seen it at least a dozen times this week.) Smart.

Fish’s early ad campaigns targeted techies, with a good riff on the old Far Side cartoons:

What you say: “In a preferred embodiment, the user directs the Internet browser to a Internet clinical services provider web site computer and logs in to the site using an identifier and a secure password and optionally makes a selection of the type of servicing desired, wherein an automatically-executing software package…”

What your lawyers hear: “Blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah Internet blah blah blah blah blah computer blah blah blah…”

Wish they had copies of those ads online…

First T-ball game

Last week we had our first t-ball practice:

That’s Ricky looking at me instead of the batter…

Yesterday was the first game (I’m an assistant coach), and the kids did really well. Of course, I nearly screamed myself hoarse as I implored the kids to “THROW IT TO FIRST!” which works fairly well, until you realize that you may as well tell the kids that last month’s jobs report was anemic. In other words, they don’t really grasp all the fundamentals of the game yet, so they don’t have much context for helpfully yelled directions.

So we relaxed, and were thrilled to see the kids actually get three outs on the other team (the other team managed no outs). It’s a start!

Most analysts

In response to a quote that begins, “Most analysts believe…”, Will Cox responds, “Most analysts are idiots.”


Adieu, FeedBurner

No, I’m not leaving FeedBurner… just some exciting news from the FeedBurner lair: now publishers can take their feeds with them. What does this mean? It means that if you publish a feed through FeedBurner and decide that we’re not the nice, fun-loving bunch you thought we were, we will not only let you go, we’ll let you redirect your FeedBurner feed back to your site.

But seriously, don’t go. We’d miss you.

Thursday, June 9, 2005

First date

Ten years ago tonight, I had my first date with my wife. Ten years later, I remember the evening vividly. The evening, while wonderful, was not without a hiccup or two…

I started planning the day before; I had invited Robin to my apartment for dinner where I would cook. I lived in France for a year in college, and in my travels I picked up a Paul Bocuse cookbook, which just happened to be in French. Since I was fluent, I didn’t think that would be much of an issue… so I pulled it out, eager to impress Robin on our first date. The recipe for chocolate mousse sounded great — espresso, rich chocolate — what a way to impress, right?

One problem: when the recipe got the part with eggwhites where it talked about “blancs de neige”, I had no idea what the hell that meant. Snow? WTF?

So I mixed the eggwhites (knowing nothing of what happens to eggwhites when they’re beaten long enough — specifically, they turn into a foamy substance that resembles snow peaks! Aha!) and got nowhere near where I was supposed to, but then, I didn’t know any better.

Finished the recipe, put it in the fridge (where it’s supposed to chill for 24 hours) and the following night, continued with prep. Made spaghetti carbonara, a salad, opened a nice bottle of wine.

Robin showed up with flowers (talk about role-reversal!), and we proceeded to have a wonderful night. Great conversation, interesting stories, and none of the first-date jitters that I remember having on so many other occasions.

When it came time for dessert, I could not have been more proud of myself: I had made dessert ahead of time. I pulled the dishes out of the fridge, placed them on the table, and explained the back story (I may have bragged, just a little). One swipe of the spoon through the “mousse” and it became obvious that what I’d made was more like Yoohoo… having not beaten the eggwhites anywhere near long enough, the mousse settled into a gelatinous chocolatey goo that was not at all edible.

My ego shattered, I rescued Robin from having to eat any of it, and we instead sipped the wine and continued to talk. It was, in spite of my culinary incompetence, a wonderful evening.

After we said goodnight, I remember lying on the couch listening to my CD player, certain that the night would change my life. Don’t ask me how, but I knew. Less than ten minutes after Robin left, the last song on the last disc on my 6 disc player played, and the room went silent. The next morning I was scheduled to leave to visit a former girlfriend — I called that morning and told her something came up, I couldn’t make it. I knew.

Robin and I dated for the next 18 months, and were married a year later. But it all started ten years ago tonight. I’m a very lucky guy.

(Thank God that in addition to putting up with me, she’s been able to teach me everything I know in the kitchen — I hear egg whites can be dangerous if not handled properly…)

Reality-based government

Too funny: David Weinberger discovers what reality-based really means.


Update: Adding insult to inujury, David’s post shows up in my aggregator as being published six hours in the future:


Anyone laying bets on how long before someone points out in his comments that he should get a Mac?

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

Dean on the Republican Party

This is just getting out of hand.

Please, Howard, I beg you: build the party, let the Republican party marginalize itself. You’re doing us no favors with these repeated insults of our fellow Americans.

A wise philosopher once said (or was it Ice-T?) “don’t hate the playa, hate the game.” In other words, focus on the impact of the Republican policies, not the Republicans (and if you’re going to target Republicans, focus on the elected officials, not the voters).

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

John Edwards addresses Dean comments

John Edwards responds to the “flap” over his weekend critique of Dean’s comments regarding Republicans (which I talked about here). The key quotes:

We are both talking about the Republicans and their failure to address the needs of working people. We both agree with this basic truth: This Republican president and this Republican majority are not doing what they should be doing for working people in this country. That’s a core belief we need to fight for. And what’s more, we agree that we – all Democrats and all working people – should be complaining, criticizing, and generally speaking out about this critical failure of the Republican party and offering our positive vision for America. And we have.

Howard and I have been saying the same thing about this for years. Hear that? The same thing. For years. Have I ever put it some way that Howard wouldn’t agree with? Probably. And he put it in a way, once, just the other day, that I can’t agree with, since I come from a place where hard-working people, who are better served by the agenda and passion of the Democrats, somehow still vote Republican.

Nice. He goes on to do exactly what I had hoped someone would do, which is to articulate what Democrats are for, instead of simply demonizing the opposition. Well done.

Worst Ad Song Ever

Seth Stevenson’s wrap-up of reader responses to his request for worst ad song ever used in a TV spot is priceless. There are too many great examples to list them all out, just drop by and enjoy the many examples he’s collected.

Did he miss any?

Monday, June 6, 2005

Barack Obama keynote

Be sure to read Barack Obama’s keynote address at Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois on Saturday (link via Zorn via DJWinfo). What a speech.

Zorn asks: “Remind me again why Democrats should be getting behind Hillary Clinton for president in 2008 instead of this guy?”

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Spamalot wins a few Tonys

I’m thrilled to read that Sara Ramirez won a Tony award this evening for her performance in Spamalot. As I said when I saw Spamalot during its pre-Broadway run here in Chicago, she was (and presumably still is) the highlight of the show. She has a phenomenal future in front of her, but the Lady of the Lake is the role she was born to play.

2008 Presidential Race

Interesting: Patrick Ruffini recently announced he has a 2008 Presidential Wire aggregator of sorts. It tracks a number of blogs and mainstream news sites, looking for mentions of likely presidential candidates in 2008. (I found it after seeing several clickthroughs from there to my post earlier today on partisanship. Apparently my mention of both Biden and Edwards are what triggered it.)

Worth keeping an eye on.

Blogs and politics

Not sure how I missed this nugget from ArchPundit a couple weeks back, but I wanted to respond to Vasyl’s comments. Vasyl said:

Well, reporters read blogs. So do opposition researchers. In an era of online access to a lot of information about candidates, a stray comment by a candidate or political party on a blog can form the core of a pretty devastating 30-second television ad.

Fundamentally, there is a conflict between what makes for a good blog and what makes for smart campaigning. … I’m in complete agreement that there is a segment of the voting population that can be reached through the web. The DPI does a poor job in this area. Just put me in the cautious category when it comes to free-wheeling blogging.

Vasyl’s right, though I’m not sure we’re in as much disagreement as he thinks. Larry (ArchPundit) and Tim have both done a pretty good job outlining what’s wrong with the state party site, but I’m not sure Vasyl’s main concern (that of a “free-wheeling blog”) is really much to be concerned about. A state party website that just made it simple for local party leaders to feel connected to the state machinery would be a huge step up; a set of headlines about what the party’s up to that could be syndicated out to local party websites would be even better; a private site that lets local leaders network with each other and share best practices would be ideal. (I like the IL GOP’s speakers Bureau idea, by the way.)

The problem isn’t that this isn’t happening online, it’s that it’s not happening at all. The Illinois party isn’t doing this infrastructure-building offline either — I haven’t received a single piece of information from the state party, and I’ve been the chair of the local party for a year now. (In fairness, I received one phone call, after I called to ask about the sorry state of the website last summer.) Without that kind of operation, our ability to build a farm system of candidates from the most local of positions up to state-wide races is significantly hampered.

There’s clearly a role for an online component of this strategy. Like Larry said, it’s neither the most prominent part of that strategy nor the most critical. But it is important, and could provide the foundation on which a more engaging, energizing state party could be built. Let’s hope.


I got an e-mail the other day from a local Democrat, asking for my help in spreading the word about a movement to ask Rep. Judy Biggert to remove herself from the House ethics committee.

Rep. Biggert is my representative (IL-13), and she’s a Republican. She serves on the Ethics committee (the same one that is responsible for what to do with Tom DeLay). As it turns out, Rep. Biggert took some money (about $1800) from DeLay’s PAC 7 years ago.

In other words, this group expects Biggert to step aside because of a one-time contribution of less than $2,000 — this for a candidate who’s raised nearly $2m over the past six years. Keep in mind that the committee she sits on did in fact censure DeLay three times last cycle… they didn’t go far enough, of course, but isn’t it stretching credibility more than a little bit to think that $1800 has any influence for a candidate who regularly raises over a half million dollars per cycle?

In case it wasn’t obvious, I passed on the opportunity to help this individual spread the word.

In somewhat related news, DNC chair Howard Dean is in the headlines, and it’s not pretty. After recently telling a group that Tom DeLay should go back to Texas where he can serve out a jail term (nevermind that he’s not been indicted, let alone convicted of anything), this week he suggested that “a lot of [Republicans] have never made an honest living in their lives.”

Quite rightly, several Democrats (including Joe Biden and John Edwards) criticized Dean’s remarks, suggesting that his remarks don’t speak for a majority of Democrats. Back in November when I indicated I was excited about the prospects of Dean as chair (and agaain in February when he was elected), I indicated that I was most interested in the fact that he realized we had to build the party from the ground up, even in the areas where that would be a long-term commitment without any likelihood of short-term gains. The early fundraising indicators aren’t positive, with the DNC fundraising lagging behind the RNC — and this was an area where Dean was supposed to excel!

Helping the party articulate what it’s for — something Dean did so well early in his presidential race — is what is desperately needed. Spreading fliers about a trivial political contribution from seven years ago is no more likely to grow the Democratic base out here in DuPage County than vilifying Republicans for simply being Republicans will do nationally.


I’m really enjoying Flickr — like, it took me a while to figure out exactly why I should care about it. Since I was never much of a bookmark user (no, I’m not sure why either), the whole notion of sharing bookmarks didn’t seem that useful to me. But after playing with it a bit, and especially after figuring out how to easily display my bookmarks on my blog, I got the hang of it. Really a fun tool, something that has lots of interesting directions to go.

When I first got a camera phone last year, I tried using TextAmerica, but both because AT&T’s rate plan disincented the use of the camera phone and because sending messages with the keypad was incredibly frustrating, I never really got into it. Once I got the Treo, that took care of both issues: Cingular has an unlimited data plan, and having a full keyboard (albeit a bit small) makes sending messages a snap.

Since so many of my friends were playing with Flickr, I checked it out again. Unlike services like Shutterfly (private online photo storage, printing and sharing), Flickr is public by default. Like, it supports tagging — which makes browsing across related photos pretty easy. It’s somewhat voyeuristic to look at what others are taking pictures of, but when the tag is a place (like Naperville) you see what’s going on in and around that place. You see pictures from our walk downtown yesterday (we’re not the only one checking out the street exhibits that just went out, like Ashton’s House — here’s another), a recent wedding, last week’s Memorial Day Parade, etc. Lots of fun.

As I discovered other friends who are using the service, I added them as friends (let me know if you’re using Flickr!) and now have an RSS feed of their pictures… so as friends upload their pictures to Flickr, they get delivered to me automatically. It’s a lot of fun to watch.

Sure wish there was a way to get my Flickr pictures into my grandparents’ Ceiva

Saturday, June 4, 2005

Geez, Dave

Your post today asks when FeedBurner will address the concerns you voiced here last month. As noted here (on FeedBurner’s public forums), and here on my blog more than a year ago (and here on my blog just a few days ago), this has always been how we encourage users to operate. It takes just a few minutes (as noted in the comments to my post) and protects the user entirely. If they’re ever not satisfied with FeedBurner’s service, they turn the redirect off. No problem whatsoever, we have no lock-in.

In fact, you and I swapped e-mails about this back in August, when you replied (after I described my use of .htaccess), “That’s the right way to do it, spread the word.”

Just trying to do exactly that. Let me know what else I can do to put this to bed.

Update: Thanks to Dave for pointing to this post. Sorry if I communicated our intent poorly — I think our intent is pretty clear from our public forums where we document how to retain control over your feed. Ultimately, that’s up to the readers to decide.

Friday, June 3, 2005

Kinaxis gets burned

An old boss of mine, Randy Littleson, is part of the management team at manufacturing performance management company Kinaxis. They just relaunched the company (including a name change), their corporate website, and best of all, just started publishing new content in RSS.

This is just the beginning of what they’ll do with RSS, but it’s a great example of what every company should be doing. By publishing website content via RSS, they’ve made it easy for journalists, customers and partners to stay in the loop about what Kinaxis is up to. (Those feeds should include more than headlines, but that’s an easy addition.)

By running those feeds through FeedBurner, of course, Randy also gets metrics on how many people are subscribed to his feeds, reading his content, clicking through to the website — all important pieces of data that will help make the case internally that this is an important part of their web strategy.


Thursday, June 2, 2005

Ender's Game

A while back (at least a year, probably more), Marty sent me a quick e-mail. “Have you read Ender’s Game?”

Ignoring the name of this blog for a moment (if you didn’t know, “tins” is an acronym for “There Is No Spoon”, a pivotal scene in the Matrix when Neo realizes that he’s in more control than he realizes, that rules are made to be broken), I’m actually not that much of a sci-fi fan. I hadn’t read Ender’s Game (had never heard of it, actually), and asked why he e-mailed me about it. “Seemed like you’d like it.” We left it at that, and haven’t revisited it since.

When Audible turned on their RSS feeds (powered by FeedBurner, thank you very much), one of the titles that caught my eye was Ender’s Game. No idea why I remembered it from our brief e-mail exchange… but I did. Apparently there was a 20th anniversary edition, and after reading a bit about it, I was intrigued. Picked up a copy at the library a few days later, and dove in.

Wow, was Marty ever right. Ender’s Game is the first book of a seven book series, The Ender Series. I’ve since read Ender’s Shadow (not a sequel, more of a companion to the first book, even though it was published fifth), and both are spectacular, riveting reads. I won’t give anything away — if you’re fortunate enough to not know anything about the story going in, you’ll thoroughly enjoy the ride that Orson Scott Card takes you on.

The titles are listed as ‘young adult’ titles, which is surprising to me. I have no doubt that teens would love these stories, but they are equally fulfilling for adults. My wife is now racing me to see who can get through the books first (we’re now back on track in the order they were published: next up, Speaker for the Dead).

Considering that Card first conceived of Ender’s Game in 1977 (when his short story was first published), his notions of the role of video games, networked information, and opinions expressed online are uncanny. Nearly 30 years ago he first wrote of the things that today we take for granted (but that even five years ago seemed novel): the Google library, blogs as opinion leaders, video games as military tutorials — he saw it all, and wove them together into a compelling combination of military strategy, politics, and the coming-of-age of a gifted and tragic leader.

I’m hooked. Can’t wait to go deeper into Card’s world.

Oh — and they’re working on the film.

For Mike: Redirecting feed subscribers in Movable Type to FeedBurner

Last night, Mike asked how to redirect his existing feed subscribers to his FeedBurner feed. While directions for the generic process are here, here’s a simplified version for Movable Type users:

  • Login to Movable Type, find your RSS template, change the “output file” to another filename, like index-feedburner.xml

  • Click on “templates”, then “create new index template”

  • Give the template a name (“htaccess” would make sense, since we’re creating an .htaccess file), and in the “output file” field, type in “.htaccess” (no quotes, but the period before the h is required)

  • Type in “Redirect temp [path to your current feed] [url of your FeedBurner feed]” (again, no quotes). By way of example, my redirect reads: “Redirect temp /tins/rss.xml”.

  • Click save, then rebuild (you can rebuild just this template)

  • Go to FeedBurner, login, and make sure that you’ve got the source feed URL set to your new feed file (in the above example, index-feedburner.xml)

After that, your webserver will redirect all incoming requests for your feed to FeedBurner. If you’re ever dissatisfied with FeedBurner (which we’ll take quite personally, I assure you), you just delete this file and go back to publishing your RSS feed at your public feed URL. As long as the redirect’s in place, you’ll now see aggregated stats on your feed — people who are subscribed to the feed at your domain as well as any who’ve subscribed to the FeedBurner feed directly.

Hope this helps, let me know if you need any tips.

NOTE: The above steps will overwrite any existing .htaccess file you have in place; it would be wise to verify that there’s not an .htaccess file already in your blog’s root directory. (If there is, you can copy its contents into the template you create in Movable Type.) If this sounds unfamiliar to you, better to let someone who understands this. Otherwise you risk breaking some stuff, which wouldn’t be fun. Proceed with caution. Take with food. Don’t operate heavy machinery while following these instructions. No animals were harmed in the construction of this post. Objects in browser may be larger than they appear. Yadda yadda yadda…

More on .htaccess here. It’s an incredibly powerful tool (careful, with great power comes great responsibility…).

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

If you're available...

Over at the Huffington Post, Harry Shearer posts this gem:

Tuesday night, Larry King interviewed Bush 41 and Barbara Sr. And you know, tough as you might want to be during an interview, you still gotta take the opportunity to see if the interviewee might want to speak at a charity dinner you’re emceeing. That’s why God made commercial breaks.

Gotta love the Bushes (and no, I’m not being sarcastic, I’ve always liked 41 and his wife): she’s all over their calendar, and he’s throwing out names while Larry struggles to get the point across about who gets the money. Classic.

Drinks tonight at Red Door in Naperville

If you’re interested in meeting a group of local bloggers tonight in Naperville, swing by the Red Door Tavern tonight after 8pm.

Hope to see you there!

Update: Mike reports on the excitement for the night. As always, was a lot of fun catching up with the group. Mike also mentions a planned family get-together over the fourth of July weekend. Let me know if you’re interested…

Difference between an entrepreneur and a businessman

Ross Mayfield: “My grandpa taught me the difference between an entrepreneur and a businessman is the entrepreneur is in it for the quick flip, while a businessman makes a lasting contribution to the community.”

Things we used to print

Eric Zorn: “The entire industry is no doubt watching this move closely and when it succeeds, look for stock tables to join ocean-liner schedules in the things-we-used-to-print file.”

Milbank: law firm outsourcing

Interesting article from Bruce MacEwen in Law Technology News about Milbank’s decision to outsource their word processing to Chennai, India.

Milbank chose to work with OTH (a joint venture of Office Tiger, a 2500 employee company specializing in outsourced word processing and proofreading, and Hildebrandt, a well-known U.S. management consulting firm focused on the legal profession). Some good info in Bruce’s article about how Milbank went about the decision, and their early assessment of how it’s going.

More on legal outsourcing here and here.