Monday, January 31, 2005

It's a Cinderella Story

Ernie just set up a blog for his friend Steve, diagnosed with cancer. Steve seems to have a great attitude about the diagnosis and treatment.

When my friends Dave & Elise’s daughter was diagnosed with leukemia last year, they set up a blog to let us all know how she was doing. It was great for us, I know at times it was a lifeline for Dave & Elise (and extended family). Robin and I saw Hannah on New Year’s Day and she looked wonderful.

Blogs are a great way to help friends and family stay in the loop; and they have one advantage, thanks to the wonders of Google, over e-mail lists: helping others who just received a diagnosis to find people who’ve gone through it.

Speaking of which, today marks one full year without a febrile seizure. This is the big milestone — while he’s not “cured” (febrile seizures are outgrown, but not cured), getting through a full year without one is the first sign that Robby’s body may be growing out of the condition. It’s just one more sign that he’s coming through the tunnel he was in last year. Life goes on, and maybe this year we can make the chili and watch the Super Bowl without a trip to the E.R. (Here’s hoping Paul McCartney doesn’t have a wardrobe malfunction.)

Anyway, best of luck to Steve. In addition to the smoothie concession clerk, a bunch of us friends of Ernie have got your back too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Paperwork is filed, I'm a candidate

Paperwork is now filed, I’m officially a candidate for Naperville trustee. I’ll keep the campaign stuff over on that site, so feel free to keep tabs on what I’m up to over there. Thanks for all the positive feedback I’ve received so far — and to those who’ve already contributed, thank you!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Yet another Firefox tweak - fixing memory leaks

I noticed in the last week or two that Firefox was often consuming a lot of my laptop’s RAM. Even though I have half a gig of RAM on this machine, Firefox was often grabbing most of the available RAM, causing other applications to occasionally stall, or at least cause the system to slow down a bit. (Will tells me this isn’t actually a slow-down, just the system degrading as it has t swap files to disk; were I on a desktop with a speedy hard drive, I probably wouldn’t notice. But I’m on a laptop with a slower hard drive, so I do.)

After a bit of Googling, I found this thread on MozillaZine, an online support site for Firefox. In another about:config hack, this one helps you force Firefox to behave a bit better when it comes to system memory. I followed the directions to limit Firefox’s available RAM to 16 megs, and this seems to have significantly improved performance. (By significantly, I’m guessing that page loads have decreased by another 30-50%.)

In other words, the improvement is noticeable. Will update if I see any negative impact, but so far this seems to be a great tweak.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Two pearls from Jenny

Loved these gems from Jenny:

An email message I received today from the Head of Adult Services at my local library:

“I recently set up an AIM screen name for the reference desk, with the aim (ha!) of publicizing our IM availability soon. We haven’t told anyone about it yet. Nothing on the website, no cards or fliers, no nothing.

Except our AIM profile, that is. A resident teen looked us up and IM’d me this afternoon, asking if we had a certain book in. I was pretty amazed.

And I realized I need to print a glossary to keep at the desk.”

He shoots, he scores! [The Shifted Librarian]

And this one, which should make my friends at Persuasive Games happy:

‘We’ve got an entire group of people under age 30 who grew up playing video games,’ said Jim Gee, professor in the UW-Madison School of Education. ‘It’s completely changing the way people think about education and the workplace.’

This ‘gamer generation’ includes some 90 million people in the U.S. alone, ages 15 to 35. In fact, sales of video games have now surpassed sales of TVs, DVDs and CDs….

A host of new data is suggesting that video games have created a new generation of employees and executives, bigger than the baby boomers, who will dramatically transform the workplace.

Researchers like John C. Beck and Mitchell Wade, authors of the book ‘Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever’ argue that managers who understand and harness this generation’s distinct attributes will leap far ahead of the competition.

Beck and Wade say these 90 million rising professionals, through sheer numbers, will inevitably dominate business and are already changing the rules. Although many of the changes are positive, such as more open communication and creative problem solving, they have caused a generation gap that frustrates gamers and the boomers who manage them….” The Capital Times, via Library Link of the Day

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Snowed out of Blogwalk

I’m very disappointed, but I won’t be at today’s Blogwalk Chicago after all. It’s still snowing pretty good out here in Naperville — we received 6-8” overnight — and forecasts have it keeping up most of the day. My favorite snippet from the forecast: “Winds will also start to pick up…and will be gusting to 35 mph by noon. This will cause considerable blowing and drifting of the fresh snow…making travel difficult…. especially where the lake effect snow is occurring.”

So — given that this event is more than an hour away (without weather problems), I’m going to instead stay off the roads. Bummer.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


Awe is the only word to describe the Huygens probe landing on Titan this past weekend.

I thought I was impressed when I heard that Huygens had landed. Read the Slate write-up, then imagine you’re the guy pitching this project to his bosses over at the European Space Agency. Just try.

More Cingular AT&T Synergy (ahem)

Remember my complaint last month about the Cingular/AT&T mess? Well, since then, Denise recorded a podcast about her trials and tribulations of getting her new Sony phone to work on the Cingular/AT&T network.

Now this:

The merger has been so complex and convoluted that both websites now have serious problems. The Cingular site lists no stores for my zip code even though three are nearby, that kind of thing. But this is minor. The real problem is, as a tech finally sheepishly explained to me, is that you can’t upgrade or buy a phone by calling them or by website. Why? Because things apparently are so discombobulated they no longer have any phones in stock. Neither do the stores.

So, they are running ad for phones you can not purchase. Go figure. But don’t try to call them unless you want voicemail Hell. I had to enter my cell phone number and the last 4 digits of my social twice as I was shuttled around multiple times through various menus until a human actually answered. Then, you got it, she asked me to repeat those same numbers. And couldn’t answer my question. [Politics in the Zeros]


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

People's Inaugural in Chicago tomorrow

Just in case you didn’t see this:

Dear Friends,

On Thursday, January 20th, while the President is kicking off his $40 Million display of corporate power, we’ll be having a People’s Inaugural. We will be holding a press event at 12:00 Noon, at the Allegro Hotel. We will need help with with turnout. If you or members of your organization or staff could come out and show support, we can make sure to get a good local press hit. Additionally, please let me know if your organization can join the “People’s Inaugural
Committee,” Also, please forward this along to any list or group that would be interested.

Here are the details:

The People’s Inaugural
Thursday, January 20th, 2005
12:00 Noon
The Allegro Hotel, Room #TBD (There will be signs)
171 W. Randolph

You can RSVP here.

One year ago today

Hard to believe the Iowa caucus was one year ago today.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Jury pool from hell, Paris Hilton hacked

This just made me crack up:

Right after jury selection began last week, one man got up and left, announcing, “I’m on morphine and I’m higher than a kite.”

It just gets better from there..

Bonus goofy news item of the week: Paris Hilton’s Blackberry was hacked. Quoth the source for this bombshell:

“It’s one thing to have people looking at your sex tapes, but having people reading your personal e-mails is a real invasion of privacy.”

I won’t even try to make a joke here. Yours will be just as good as mine. (Come to think of it, go ahead and leave them in the comments. This could be fun.)

Update: Mike Masnick tried posting the following comment but was thwarted by MT Blacklist. So here’s Mike’s comment in its entirety:

How geeky am I? Geeky enough to know that (a) Paris Hilton shills for the T-Mobile Sidekick, and not the Blackberry. In fact, she’s said that “the Sidekick is way better than the Blackberry.” and (b) the reason this source knows is because it was written about everywhere last week, starting with Security Focus and eventually ending up plenty of other places. So… news to MSNBC: it’s not quite celebrity gossip any more.

Ray Ratto on the 49ers

Oh, what a hard thing it is to be a 49ers fan these days. Ray Ratto sums it up thusly:

Teams that go 2-14 never get that way with inferior coaching alone. You also need inferior talent, inferior talent recognition, and inferior ownership finding the people to recognize that talent… [A]ny lunkhead can go 6-10. It takes a special kind of train wreck to lose those extra four games, and when the two wins happen to be in overtime against the Arizona Cardinals — well, jeepers, Timmy, you have something truly special.

Best of luck to Mike Nolan. I think he’s going to need it.

Krispy Kreme not so tasty

I’ve talked in the past about boys only breakfast, a Saturday morning tradition with my kids. We do donuts at Krispy Kreme, and have for more than 18 months, with only a handful of missed days (often due to travel). It continues to be a wonderful treat for the three of us.

This past weekend, I told my wife that donut production at the local Krispy Kreme (opened in late 2003) was down about half. The donut assembly line at our Krispy Kreme used to look just like this:

Image is from this Newsweek story from 2003, which is an interesting counterpoint to the news below.

But now it’s less than half of that. A year or more ago, we sometimes had to wait for a table, and one Saturday even had to come home because there were no high chairs available (thankfully both boys sit in the booth or chairs by themselves now!). But now seating is plentiful, with rarely more than one or two other families in the restaurant (around 8:30am when we’re usually there).

So I wasn’t surprised to see this news about Krispy Kreme inching closer to bankruptcy. Tom Kirkendall has been blogging about KK’s pending legal troubles for nearly 6 months.

Wonder whether we’ll have to scout a new location for boys only breakfast.

Do you know where their money is?

12 year-old Naperville resident Andrew Gieseler found a sack of cash sitting outside the Target where my family shops. Specifically, there was $9,000 sitting on the walk-way outside the store. He picked it up, and making his Mom (and the town) proud, promptly handed it over to the Target customer service desk, who was able to identify the money as belonging to United Armored Services.

In a delicious irony, this is United Armored Services’ home page:

Do you know where your money is? Our customers do!


Anyway, Daily Herald reporter Marni Pyke called United Armored Services to ask if they’d provide a reward or somehow recognize this responsible twelve year-old for his good deed.

Their answer?

“No comment.”

Then they hung up.

The Principles Project

Received an announcement this morning about The Principles Project, a new coalition of individuals and groups looking to articulate a core group of Democratic principles. There’s an about page that describes the group’s goals in a bit more detail.

One of the group’s chairs is David Wilhelm, former DNC Chair. (Other chairs are Jan Schakowsky, Nancy Pelosi, and Harold Ford, Jr.) I was invited to attend a reception at David’s home tomorrow night, where I expect the discussion to cover this project as well as some related territory. I’ll report back on what I hear.

(Note to CivicSpace users: you can log into the Principles Project website with any existing CivicSpace login.)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Aurora mayoral race - the Google poll

This is totally unscientific. But it caught my eye, and this is, aftr all, my blog. So there you go.

Here’s a rundown on which search terms concerning the Aurora mayoral race are bringing people to this blog so far this month. Note: each of these search terms list this blog in the top 10 results at Google, though it should be noted (thanks in large part to the ongoing discussion in the comments from this post) that searches for Richard Irvin tend to appear in the top 2 or 3.

  • richard irvin for mayor: 12

  • richard irvin: 11

  • tom weisner for mayor: 6

  • richard c. irvin: 4

  • richard irvin aurora: 3

  • tom weisner aurora: 3

  • mayoral race for city of aurora: 2

  • richard irvin gang members: 2

  • aurora il mayor weisner: 2

  • richard irvin law: 2

  • jack cunningham aurora mayor: 1

  • mayoral race in aurora illinois: 1

  • richard irvin mayor aurora: 1

  • angel hernandez aurora illinois mayor web: 1

  • aurora il mayor candidates: 1

  • cunningham mayor aurora: 1

  • aurora bill wyatt party affiliation: 1


  • Irvin: 35

  • Weisner: 11

  • Cunningham: 2

  • Hernandez: 1

  • Wyatt: 1

Friday, January 14, 2005

Vice chairman of GM on his blog: We're playing for keeps

Love the new Fast Lane blog by GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz:

Given the industry’s somewhat spotty record of taking concept cars to production intact, your concerns are understandable. … [T]he Sky, of course, isn’t a concept car at all. That is the full, no-excuses, what-you-see-is-what-you-get production vehicle. We’re playing for keeps.

Now that’s an authentic voice. Kudos to GM.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Phone call with Howard Dean

I got invited to participate in a conference call hosted by BlogPAC with Howard Dean today; the call was on the record, and was focused on his run for DNC chair. Markos, Jerome, Aldon, Zephyr, and Anna were a few of the attendees, I’m sure they’ll have reports up shortly as well.

Update: Anna’s live blogging of the call is here, Bob Brigham’s notes from the call are here.

Some quick comments:

  • Governor Dean: “We need to build a farm team. We can’t just run for President, we need to run at all levels, in every race.”

  • He cited a Florida ballot initiative ($6+ wages, didn’t catch details) as a good example of what the Democratic party can do nationwide. (“Why should Republicans be the only ones who effectively use ballot initiatives?”)

  • (Note: If you support Howard Dean’s candidacy for DNC chair, consider writing to DNC delegates in your state, but try and avoid writing to anyone outside your state.)

  • “Democrats know we have to change. The question is whether we’re willing to change now?” Governor Dean highlighted a need to reform electoral processes, health care, foreign policy, fiscal policy and a host of other areas.

  • Zephyr and I asked about the DNC’s ability to improve state operations; I’ve indicated in the past that we seem to be missing an opportunity to build a robust operation here in Illinois. Governor Dean sees his job as getting candidates all over the country elected; and that job is possible only if the state parties are as strong as possible. He would like to push some of the DNC operations out to the state level, and would like to incubate stronger, grassroots state parties. Where the state parties don’t warm to that, Democracy for America can operate as a grassroots operation in support of progressive candidates. Eventually, state parties will have to embrace the energy and progress made by those groups (assuming they’re successful).

  • Governor Dean pledged to have the senior management of the DNC reflect “all parts” of the Democratic party, noting that one area where his campaign for President was weak was in the area of diversity.

He was candid, had good things to say about some of the other candidates for DNC chair, and sounded relaxed and confident.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

I'm running for Naperville Trustee

We had our caucus tonight, and I decided that if I ask my members to run for office, I should lead by example. Naperville Township is a township that comprises part of Naperville and part of Aurora; Trustees meet two nights a month. For more on township government in Illinois, the Townships of Illinois website has good info:

Townships in Illinois are charged with three (3) basic functions: (1) general assistance for the indigent; (2) the assessment of real property for the basis of taxation; and (3) maintenance of all roads and bridges outside the federal, state and other jurisdictions (that have been accepted into the township road district system).

Most interesting to me:

Question: What sets township government apart from other forms of government?

Answer: In Illinois, township government is the only form of government that provides the citizens a direct vote. This occurs during a township’s annual township meeting where any registered voter within the township has the right to vote on issues before the body or electors. This is as close to a “pure democracy” as it gets. Voters actually have direct input to their government. No other form of government affords its citizens this opportunity.

I like the idea of direct democracy at the local level; growing up in New England, it appeals to me. Unfortunately, I think citizens generally have a very poor idea of what the township does (versus the city, county and state), and consequently rarely are well-informed when it comes to decisions they have a say in. Readers of this blog will not be at all surprised that one of my focuses will be improving communications between the Township and the citizens, and providing more meaningful feedback mechanisms for citizens. (This includes technology, but isn’t exclusively about technology.)

My candidacy will be certified next week, at which point I’m sure I’ll have more details up. This is a low profile race, and turnout at these local elections is historically low. But my wife and I have grown to love our community, and this felt like a wonderful way to get more actively involved. I’m looking forward to the process.

Update: My website is here.

Stand Up Democrats

Interesting — the latest group to advertise on this site is “Stand Up Democrats”, a group that is “determined to do everything within our power to fix the Democratic Party.”

They explain:

As a first step, we are collecting ideas from December 14th through January 14th. We will take the best 100 ideas and submit it to the new Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman and to every Democratic U.S. Senator, Member of Congress and Governor.

After another disappointing performance by Democrats, it’s time to act. It’s time for us to stand up and fix this party. Stand up and give us your ideas to fix the Democratic Party.

You have 3 days left if you’d like to speak up.

Need a webcam

I need to pick up a webcam, would prefer not to spend too much. Anyone have any suggestions? (I’m on a PC, so no need to recommend the iSight…)

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Long Tail

You ever see a phrase pop up overnight — suddenly it’s everywhere, you have no idea what it means? For me it was last week and it was “the long tail”. I saw it in blogs, I saw it in at least one news item, and someone even referenced it on a phone call.

“The Long Tail” refers to a phenomenal article by Chris Anderson in October’s Wired Magazine. The entire article is worth a read, (and re-read, for that matter), but here’s the key assertion that Anderson fleshes out in the article:

[The Long Tail] is an example of an entirely new economic model for the media and entertainment industries, one that is just beginning to show its power. Unlimited selection is revealing truths about what consumers want and how they want to get it in service after service, from DVDs at Netflix to music videos on Yahoo! Launch to songs in the iTunes Music Store and Rhapsody. People are going deep into the catalog, down the long, long list of available titles, far past what’s available at Blockbuster Video, Tower Records, and Barnes & Noble. And the more they find, the more they like. As they wander further from the beaten path, they discover their taste is not as mainstream as they thought (or as they had been led to believe by marketing, a lack of alternatives, and a hit-driven culture).

The Long Tail is counterintuitive, but fascinating for its consequences. Remember the Pareto principle (aka the 80-20 rule)? The Long Tail suggests that’s almost comically wrong when it comes to the services Anderson looked at (iTunes, Rhapsody, Netflix,

With no shelf space to pay for and, in the case of purely digital services like iTunes, no manufacturing costs and hardly any distribution fees, a miss sold is just another sale, with the same margins as a hit. A hit and a miss are on equal economic footing, both just entries in a database called up on demand, both equally worthy of being carried. Suddenly, popularity no longer has a monopoly on profitability.

The second reason for the wrong answer is that the industry has a poor sense of what people want. Indeed, we have a poor sense of what we want. We assume, for instance, that there is little demand for the stuff that isn’t carried by Wal-Mart and other major retailers; if people wanted it, surely it would be sold. The rest, the bottom 80 percent, must be subcommercial at best. (emphasis mine)

The implication of all of this? Look at bookstores:

The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon’s book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are.

There’s more:

The average Blockbuster carries fewer than 3,000 DVDs. Yet a fifth of Netflix rentals are outside its top 3,000 titles. Rhapsody streams more songs each month beyond its top 10,000 than it does its top 10,000. In each case, the market that lies outside the reach of the physical retailer is big and getting bigger.

Now, there are implications for this way of thinking well outside of the media/entertainment empires Anderson looked at. If I understand Anderson, the premise of The Long Tail is that traditional market analysis is built around the premise that it is hard to get products to market, therefore you invest more resources in getting fewer items to market. (The 80-20 rule; 20% of the market’s products accounts for 80% of the market’s revenues.)

The reason companies like, Netflix, etc. can excel is that IT has revolutionized their ability to streamline the delivery of products to market. (For more on this, see my notes from William Janeway’s presentation at last year’s Red Herring Spring conference.)

I’ve had fun over the past week (since reading the article in Wired) thinking through how this line of analysis can be applied in different scenarios. As it applies to my job, I think the traditional approach to technology (top-down, centralized) yields a traditional 80-20 breakdown: 20% of the users (power users) get 80% (or more) of the benefit.

With Socialtext, we reduce the barriers to contributing and finding information, much as reduces the barriers to finding and buying products. By decentralizing the system, we eliminate the 80-20 barrier, ensuring more people can take advantage of the information within.

Anderson has a blog focused on the concept, and is working towards making this all into a book. I particularly like this observation made a few days ago:

In all these instances, data and metadata can structure a flat hierarchy and bring order out of chaos. The variety boom may have created the Long Tail, but it takes information about that variety to entice people down it.

More required reading on that concept (of flat hierarchies and order out of chaos): Meta Filter thread on hierarchies, del.ici.ous, flickr, and Wikipedia on folksonomy. More to come…

Father Tim in Afghanistan

Father Tim Butler was the priest in my diocese (St. Elizabeth’s) growing up in Acton, Massachusetts. He was also in the Air Force Reserves, and sometime after I graduated from high school, he went active duty and started traveling the world as a chaplain in the Air Force.

When my wife and I got married in 1997, Father Tim was stationed at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland — just around the corner from where we married (Alexandria, Virginia). I dropped Father Tim an e-mail and asked if he would participate in the wedding, and fortunately he was available. It was fun to see him (at that point, it had been 8 years since the last time I’d seen him), and over the years we’ve kept in touch.

The last I spoke with him was right after my youngest son was born, nearly three years ago. I was excited to find this article about him from last month — he figured out a way to make the tents troops worship in appear a bit more sacred. He’s currently at Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, and from the sounds of it, doing a wonderful job.

In other news of friends in the military, Capt. Kevin Kuwik arrived in Iraq last night. I swapped e-mails with him this morning, he’s trying to settle in and get the job done. Read his journal for some remarkable first-hand accounts of what the troops are going through to outfit their equipment. I don’t know why it surprises me that two soldiers need to drive an hour to Kuwait City to a True Value to get a bolt that they can’t find anywhere else, but it does.

Keep up the great work, Father Tim and Kevin; thanks to both of you for doing your duty (and then some).

Sunday, January 9, 2005


Went downtown last night to see Spamalot with a group of friends. For those that don’t know, Spamalot is the musical Eric Idle adapted (or, as he says, lovingly ripped off) from The Holy Grail. It stars David Hyde Pierce, Tim Curry, and Hank Azaria in various lead roles, but for me the highlight of the show has to be Sara Ramirez as The Lady of the Lake.

The musical is really a hybrid — with major plot elements from the Holy Grail, it blends in countless inside references that any Python fan will love (too many to catch on the first viewing, I already want to see it again to catch more), tons of jokes at Hollywood’s and Broadway’s expense (with Andrew Lloyd Weber and Mel Brooks the most obvious targets). Don’t miss the Liza Minnelli, Barbara Streisand, and Madeline Kahn jokes, either — they’re all priceless.

The show is riotously funny, almost certain to have a long run on Broadway (it premieres on Valentine’s Day). I highly recommend it.

Saturday, January 8, 2005

Engadget at CES

I’ve really been enjoying Engadget’s CES coverage this week, and this post made me laugh out loud:

Of course that means that once you get an HD-DVD player and the accompanying receiver, you’ll need enough cable to wrap around the earth’s circumference just to wire a single room. Buy stock in Monster Cable.

They’re referring to the new Dolby Digital Plus, which can go as high as 13.1 (yes, thirteen channels plus a sub-woofer) for surround sound. Considering I just installed the Bose cubes in my basement (for a paltry 5.1 channels, I’m already passe!) two weeks ago, I won’t be changing anytime soon. And something tells me my wife would not look kindly on thirteen pairs of speakers in the room. But a guy can dream…

Thursday, January 6, 2005

So-Called Required Reading

If you haven’t stopped by The So-Called “Austin Mayor” Blog lately, you’re missing some great writing. Just today, there was the pointer to what may be the most remarkable “We regret the omission” in the history of journalism, a link to the Democratic Underground (further proof that we have just as many nuts on the left as they do on the right), and a couple posts about Gary Webb’s suicide.

Oh — and be sure to read his comments on the so-called judicial hell-hole that was the site of President Bush’s photo op in Madison County on Wednesday… Extreme claims of imminent failure? Outlandish tales of people getting abused? President Bush riding to town on a white horse to save Iraq Social Security medical malpractice? At least he’s consistent, gotta give him that.

Cisco, legal services and offshoring

Couple years back, I wrote about Marc Chandler’s presentation at the CIO Forum, where he talked about how firms had to adopt technology quickly if they expected to compete for Cisco’s business; more recently, Ernie and Dennis (among others) pointed out that Laura Owen, Cisco’s director of worldwide legal services, wrote at this week that firms must “change or die.” (For those interested in legal technology, Owen’s article is an excellent one.)

Turns out Cisco’s not the only one thinking differently about legal services; though not mentioned in Owen’s article, a recent San Jose Mercury News article pointed out that Cisco has experimented with offshoring legal services to India, and G.E. and Microsoft have had similar experiments. (Note: Ernie would like firms to consider “off-shoring” to New Orleans.)

Back in late 2003, I commented on a Chicago Tribune article that predicted an increase in the offshoring of legal services, and felt that the article’s conclusion — that it could well lead to an evaporation of the legal profession — seemed a bit much.

Thanks to the Merc’s article, I’m happy to report that it’s not just corporate clients doing the offshoring — it’s law firms too:

Steven Lundberg, a Minneapolis lawyer specializing in intellectual-property issues, said his firm first turned to India when it couldn’t find enough qualified local talent to proofread patent applications.

“Since all our records are online, it was easy to send them over there,” Lundberg said. “The quality has been great, and the prices are great.” He expanded the offshore work to searches of public-records data, but drew the line at confidential client information.

So long as firms are willing to innovate (and, where necessary, commoditize parts of their offerings), they’ll remain competitive. And that will be a win for the firms as well as the clients.

Year of the Enterprise Wiki

Jon Udell posted to his blog about trends in enterprise wiki use, and had this to say about 2005:

As the Wiki phenomenon enters its second decade, it’s hard to predict just how the technology will evolve. Two things seem certain: Wiki culture will continue to thrive, and enterprise users will continue to seek lighter, easier collaboration tools.

His column at Infoworld included more detail about how organizations are increasingly looking to light-weight collaboration tools like Socialtext to improve their groups’ ability to work together.

What’s most exciting to me is that our growing customer list is not simply a list of early adopters; we have a great mix of tech-savvy users alongside groups who are simply looking for an easier way to work together. They know e-mail isn’t cutting it, they realize that some of the heavier tools aren’t practical (especially for smaller organizations) and they need something simple.

As Ross says, we had a great year, but we have a long way to go. Thanks to all who continue to make it a rewarding journey.

Illinois Democrats rule... in Washington

Superstar Senator on the cover of Newsweek and an upcoming appearance on Oprah. Minority Whip who’s willing to knock heads. Incoming head of the DCCC.

The fact that Illinois Democrats have cornered the market on some of the most visible (and substantial) roles in DC and yet this isn’t translating into a robust state organization is really starting to trouble me. I’ve been chair of the local party now for seven months. Our (Democratic) Governor passed through town last month with not so much as a mention to us (consequently not one member from our group had a chance to meet with him). I’ve seen nothing from the state party — not a flier, an e-mail, a phone call, nothing.

Just called the State Party HQ, and got voicemail. “We’re unable to take your call at this time.” Here’s hoping I get a call back.

Openline covers the Aurora mayor race

From OneMan, caught a new local blog that will cover the Aurora mayoral race: Openline. Anyone who calls me famous is alright by me.

Speaking of the Aurora mayoral race, I noted here a while back that I had drinks with Richard Irvin, one of the Republicans running in the race. That thread led to an incredible 78 comments (so far, they’re still trickling in) from supporters of the various campaigns. OneMan asked at the time whether anyone else in the race would reach out.

Several weeks back, I heard from Gerry Galloway, formerly Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn’s political director and someone I got to know while volunteering on the Dean campaign. Gerry is managing Tom Weisner’s campaign, and set up a lunch for the three of us just before the holidays.

Tom’s commitment to the city of Aurora is impressive — he worked for the city for 18 years, created or worked closely with a number of local charities, and has lived in Aurora for more than 30 years. He’s outlined his plan here, and has a pretty broad cross-section of the Aurora political establishment (Republican and Democrat) behind him.

For those who are interested, yesterday’s Tribune has a wrap-up on the first mayoral forum. OneMan caught the most interesting comment from the Trib’s article; the race is certainly going to be interesting to watch.

(For those who aren’t local wondering why I’m writing about this: Aurora neighbors my city, Naperville, and it’s the second-largest city in the state. Combined with Naperville, the two cities have a combined population of nearly 300,000.)

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Staples pulls ads from Sinclair

I’d like to think that the blogs (see here for more info) had more than a little bit to do with this development. As of next week, Staples will be pulling all advertising from Sinclair Broadcasting Group.

Tuesday, January 4, 2005

Firefox Speed Trick

WOW — talk about a great tweak…

ForeverGeek live up to their name with these easy instructions for speeding up the Firefox browser, but only (as explained in the comments) if you have a fast computer and a broadband connection. Thanks to David Terrell for the link.

Family tech support

Ross wrote the other day:

If you are reading this, you are probably an early adopter. So when the holidays come around you spend time with your family doing In-law IT.

Yes, and yes. None of my immediate family owns a Mac (Ross’s suggestion to make life easier for us tech supporters was to get everyone to buy a Mac), so I ended up working on my father-in-law’s laptop over the weekend. Since they live in Virginia, most tech support calls are of the “when I click on this it does that” variety, but actually getting the error to reproduce can be tricky. Many users don’t know where they clicked, or don’t recognize that hitting enter can dismiss a dialog box (“It just went away!”), so “fixing” things can be quite frustrating for both of us.

Solution? I installed a dynamic DNS client on his laptop, signed him up for and installed RealVNC on his laptop. Dynamic DNS gives his laptop an addressable “name” — so instead of needing to know his laptop’s IP address (go ahead and try to get your father-in-law to give you his IP address), I can just go to (no, I was tempted, but that’s not the name I used). The client app on his PC periodically logs its IP address with, so that always points to his laptop.

RealVNC is a remote desktop app that includes clients for all platforms. I installed the server on his machine and put an icon on his desktop to start and stop the server. Now, whenever he’s having problems, the first step is to start the VNC server; then I type in his address on my laptop, and within a few seconds I see his desktop. I’ll have complete control, so I can bounce around his laptop, check settings, diagnose problems directly — and he can watch the whole process, so he can learn what it is I’m looking for.

Also upgraded him from Firebird preview release to the full release and upgraded him to Thunderbird 1.0 for his e-mail. Ran into an interesting hiccup with Thunderbird’s address book: it choked on the lengthy text in the “notes” field of the csv file I exported from his old copy of Outlook contacts. Turns out Thunderbird’s text mapping for csv files isn’t so good… but it’s mapping of Outlook Express fields is great. So we had to do a two-step import: first from csv to Outlook Express address book, then from OE to Thunderbird. Bingo.

Playing with Newsgator

After being a big fan of Sharpreader (for reasons noted here), I’ve gone in search of a new aggregator to read my RSS feeds. Sharpreader’s performance had degraded recently, causing my computer to slow down while it processed my list of subscriptions. I tried contacting the author, but as Jack noted recently, development for Sharpreader seems to have slowed down precipitously.

Since I made the switch to Outlook late last year, I decided to give Newsgator another look. So far this morning, I’m really impressed. I liked that I could set up an account with Newsgator Online Services in advance of installing Newsgator Outlook Edition, then simply sync up Outlook to have all of my subscriptions. (Thankfully, Sharpreader can export its subscriptions in OPML so Newsgator was able to easily import them.)

The plugin for Movable Type is great (I’m actually writing this post in Outlook, the plugin handles the back-end process of adding it to the blog), though I’d like it to have a way of grabbing the list of categories from Movable Type rather than handing off a category entered in the “categories” box of the Outlook item (the former would ensure consistency, the latter invites typographical errors). It’s a minor issue though — in all, I’m set up and reading my subscriptions again in less than a half hour of configuration time.

What’s cool about all of this is that I can view my subscriptions in Outlook when I’m at my desk, or from a browser by simply going to Newsgator Online, which is similar in approach to Bloglines. Newsgator also offers premium editions — for mobile (PDA, phone), e-mail (any POP3-compliant mail client can be a news aggregator) and Media Center (I’m sticking with my TiVo setup at home, but I can see how this would be cool, especially for feeds that use enclosures to deliver media). In all, very, very slick.

Jim Calloway's Blog Goes Live!

Dennis Kennedy announces Jim Calloway’s new blog, definitely one worth watching:

I learned today that Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips blog has made its official debut. What a great way to launch the year of 2005 in legal blogging.

As you may know, Jim, among other things, is the chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2005, the practice management advisor for the Oklahoma Bar and one of the best-hearted people you’ll ever find. I’m pleased that he mentioned his excellent article, “Technology, Stress and the Lawyer’s Quality of Life,” in one of his early posts. It’s one of my favorite articles on legal technology and I recommend it highly. It’ll give you some inspiration to start the new year.


Merger Metaphor Madness

Denise on the AT&T/Cingular merger:

My AT&T/Cingular “Reception to Follow Immediately” “invitation“ was waiting in my office mail this morning. The Seattle PI Insider: “MAY THEY LIVE AND BE WELL, but better they should have spent the money on spectrum.”

[Bag and Baggage]

I shared my thoughts on this merger a few weeks ago; so far, I’m underwhelmed.


Today's Moment of Zen Branding

Interesting take on branding:

Craigslist has an unconventional approach to investing in its ‘brand’: it doesn’t do anything.  “We never even use that word internally,” Mr. Buckmaster [Craigslist’s CEO] said.  “We do zero advertising.  We don’t have a logo.  Now we’re told that we have the strongest brand ever for a company our size.”

from “Rebels With A Cause, and a Business Plan,” NY Times.

[The Trademark Blog]