Tuesday, May 30, 2006

links for 2006-05-30

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Signs You're at a Different Stage of Life

I spent the better part of an hour inflating a swimming pool so that the boys could cool off today (in 90 degree heat, inflating that pool was a ton o’ fun), and separately got to employ the time-tested smell check to see if Becca’s diaper was full. Ernie, on the other hand, is busy seeing Harry Anderson do magic and solving riddles like how do you get a parrot into a Dave Matthews concert. (That sounds like the start to a weird joke, but it isn’t.)

In any event, it just made me laugh. I love my kids dearly, and even 13 hours in the car yesterday coming back from the east coast hasn’t diminished my adoration… but I’d be lying if I said that hanging out at Harry’s, talking parrot importation techniques wasn’t enticing…


What I learned in NYC

Cosby Pudding adWhile in New York for Syndicate, Jason remarked that he learned he couldn’t drive in New York (“God invented horns for a reason people, he intended for you to use them.”), I learned that armed with a chocolate pudding, Jason does a mean Bill Cosby impression.

Friday, May 26, 2006

links for 2006-05-26

Thursday, May 25, 2006

links for 2006-05-25

Philadelphia departures

Click for larger size. Joy.

(For anyone who cares, I actually managed to get on a train to DC, and will get there sometime around 3. Thank God for this Verizon card, or else the entire day would have been a waste. I’m actually getting work done…)

Amtrak update - 11:08am

Arriving into Philadelphia: “Noone has said we’re not going to New York, so the assumption is that we are.”

Um, right. I’m getting off, having lunch with my Mom, then heading back to DC. I’ve already missed half my meetings, and would miss a third before I actually arrived in NYC.

Amtrak service update - 10:45am

We’re pulling into Wilmington, Delaware about 2 and a half hours behind schedule. Conductor just walked the car and told us that power’s restored as far as Philadelphia, not yet north of Philadelphia.

Government's role in the rail system

Susie over at Suburban Guerilla thinks that this is a good example of the government underfunding Amtrak and took advantage of a captive audience in Philadelphia to evangelize a change in control in November.

Yes, President Bush tried to zero out government subsidies for Amtrak last year. At the time, I blogged about Senator Obama’s support for not only maintaining government support but actually upgrading our rail lines; as one who loves train travel for both business and pleasure, I would hope that we take this opportunity to have a serious dialog about the quality of rail travel and the role government can play in ensuring its survival…

Meanwhile, we still haven’t moved.

Amtrak's completely shut down

We haven’t moved in 90 minutes, the last conductor update was that they were trying to get a diesel to pull us into Wilmington. No word on what will happen after that. Meanwhile, Chris Casey reports in my comments that we’re a top developing story on CNN, and we’re a front page story at CNN.com and MSNBC.com.

Update: Conductor reports that power is restored from Perryville on down (wherever that is)… of course it’s not at all clear whether that means we’re continuing on our trip or not…

Later update: Power just came back on, temperature just dropped by 10 degrees (thankfully) and my laptop battery’s recharging… Not moving yet, but lights and AC are progress. :)

Even later update: Greetings to USAToday.com readers; we just started rolling, though the conductor isn’t clear whether we’re stopping in Wilmington or Philadelphia yet. (Shouldn’t he know that?!)

Snakes on a train

WCBS reports that all service between Boston and DC is suspended. Groovy.

Amtrak update

OK, I have to give the Acela conductor credit. He’s hopping on the intercom periodically to give us updates. Five minutes ago: “We haven’t heard anything new, we keep calling but we have no further info on the ETA on a fix for this situation. In the meantime, if anyone can sing, please come to the cafe car.”

Just now (without intro, he just started talking): “In case you’re wondering, this is the first time ever that this is happening.” (You could hear laughter from the cafe car where he was making this statement.)

Non-rhetorical question: will I even get to NYC today?

Verizon broadband update

Was stuck in traffic yesterday en route to Baltimore for a family event (no, I was not driving!) and was able to stay online for 2 full hours. No interruptions in service… while the speed wasn’t super zippy, it was absolutely perfect for email, IM and casual browsing. What would’ve been a huge hole in my day was instead two hours of productive work.

I’m right now on a train from DC to New York (where the “high speed” train, the Acela, is a whole nine minutes faster than the Metroliner over the same distance) that’s not moving (see below), but I’ve again had nearly two hours of uninterrupted access. It’s amazing what a difference it makes… email on the Treo is good for quick messages, but longer replies (or messages with attachments that take some focus) are nearly impossible on the phone. On the laptop, it’s like I’m in the office. Impressive.

Now about that train… Acela has power outlets at every seat, which is great. Except we lost power (apparently the entire rail corridor between NYC and DC is without power), so I’m now running off of the battery. That’ll last another hour or two, but the lack of AC is starting to make the train stuffy. Nothing like a high speed train that doesn’t move.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Outlook 2007 and RSS support

As I mentioned last night, I downloaded the Office 2007 beta 2 and have been using it today to see how it works. Outlook’s support for feeds is pretty interesting, so I thought I’d give a run-down on my initial reactions. More after the jump.

First off, since I’d already installed IE7 previously, Outlook detected that there were some feeds I’d subscribed to and wanted to know whether I wanted them synchronized:


In the preview pane within Outlook, there were some links to feed URLs that would trigger a subscription in Outlook, using a new protocol:


When you go to subscribe to a feed, Outlook pops up a “security” window that makes you confirm you want to subscribe to the feed:


Clicking ‘advanced’ brings up this dialog:


Note the ability to pre-fetch the webpages associated with the click-through links, the ability to download enclosures (though they will definitely need to provide some guidance to “normal” users about what enclosures are and why they should care), and the final check box: “update this feed with the publisher’s recommendation”. The explanation seems to be that publishers can set an update threshold in the feed, and may throttle anyone who exceeds that threshold.

Once configured, the feeds get added to your mail folders much like any other folder for your email:


Guess it doesn’t show a colon (since my feed title is actually “tins ::: Rick Klau’s weblog”). My initial pass through the feeds showed quite a few duplicates getting loaded in – not sure where those are coming from, but I’ll try to debug.

Finally, this is interesting. When I launched FeedDemon (during a customer demo, no less!), I got the following dialog:

Looks like Outlook set itself as a default handler for the feed: protocol (though this wasn’t a configuration option, that may well be an oversight during the beta process).

These are just my first impressions, I’ll keep an eye on this and report back with any other observations that are worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Office 2007 Beta 2 available for download

Seen over at Uneasy Silence, the Office 2007 Beta is now available for download. I’m downloading it overnight, should be ready to play with tomorrow… I’m eager to see what they’ve done with RSS outside of IE7. Download link is here.

Verizon Broadband Wireless card

Filling out an expense report the other day, I was shocked to see how much money I’m spending each month on Internet access: airports routinely get you for $5-10 per day, T-Mobile can add another $20-30/month for periodic access at Starbucks in between meetings while on the road, and hotels are generally $15 or more per night. Add it all up, and I’m costing the company well over $100/month in Internet access.

Wifi is great, but that’s sure a lot of money. As a result, I stopped by a Verizon Wireless store today and picked up the PC 5740 card, which gets me broadband access (around 700-800k speeds, if they’re to be believed) in 170+ metropolitan markets. Steve strongly recommended Verizon’s service over competing services from Cingular, Sprint, and T-Mobile; if you’re interested in doing your own homework, last week’s NY Times did a pretty good overview of how they stack up.

So far, so good. I’ll be on Amtrak for a few hours on Thursday, and I have a few trips coming up in June so I’ll have a chance to test it in hotels and report back.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

links for 2006-05-16

Watching Rocketboom

Or, more precisely, we’re watching Amanda Congdon (host of Rocketboom) watch us watch Rocketboom.

Marshall McLuhan, white courtesy phone…

The Big Picture

Mike Davidson, CEO of Newsvine, suggested that he wants to keep his RSS feeds pure — no ads, no content other than headlines — so that the feed is just an update mechanism to drive content back to his site. That’s the third time today someone’s suggested that the publisher can decide the consumption dynamics around their content… maybe I’m too close to it (and too invested in seeing feeds succeed as a viable content delivery mechanism), but this just rings wrong to me.

I responded during the Q&A period saying that feed subscriptions are up over 100% over the last 4 months for our publishers… that growth far eclipses the corresponding growth in site traffic over the same period of time for those publishers. Mike’s right when he says that the audience size for feeds is smaller than sites — but we’re already at a point where some sites have more feed subscribers than they have daily unique visitors. Publishers are not in control of where their audience consumes the content, though they can certainly measure the consumption itself, and then act on where it’s happening. To think that you can dictate when and where consumers get your content — well, I think that presumes a level of control that publishers don’t have today, if they ever did.

Richard Edelman on PR and Syndication

Richard Edelman is on the stage, talking about PR in the new media landscape. I’ve been listening (and not taking notes) for most of the discussion, but found the last discussion point interesting: when asked about the Wal-Mart brouhaha a couple months ago, Richard suggested that the crux of the problem was that one of the bloggers who’d received info from Edelman simply copied the info into a post, and didn’t attribute the source.

(Background: Edelman approached a number of mostly conservative bloggers and offered to get them some info about Wal-Mart that would help counter the anti-Wal-Mart efforts. Several anti-Wal-Mart bloggers highlighted it, the New York Times covered it, and it generated some further negative press for Wal-Mart and Edelman.)

As Andrea explained to me when we talked earlier this year, her issue was not that Edelman was working on behalf of Wal-Mart, or even that they were reaching out to conservative bloggers. I think the issue was that Edelman was promising perks to the bloggers (private warehouse tours, invites to press briefings, etc.) that made the bloggers feel like VIPs. I may be misrepresenting Andrea’s views here (feel free to correct me, Andrea), but if that’s the rub it’s interesting that Edelman doesn’t see it that way. Personally, I don’t find that promise of perks to be too off-putting. Edelman’s outreach in this particular case backfired, but the fact is that they were trying to engage influentials — which is the heart of what PR is all about.

Checking in from Syndicate - Jarvis unkeynote

Jeff Jarvis is giving an un-keynote where he’s leading a group-wide discussion to kick off Syndicate. The audience “voted” by indicating that they want to talk about “Money and syndication” first (shocker! people want to make money on their content!). Some questions:

  • First questioner asked about the repurposing of his feeds, and suggested that he derives a benefit from having other people resyndicate his content (in terms of page views, Google PageRank). Some people are worried about the unwanted resyndication, that’s what we built uncommon uses for.

  • Eric Norlin (the guy who runs Syndicate) just said that marketers don’t like feeds because feed consumption can’t be measured… while he’s right that publishers/marketers don’t capture email addresses of feed subscribers, there’s plenty of other data that is measurable with feeds.

  • David Weinberger threw out some ideas about measurement and networks, which led Jeff into a discussion of how Flickr calculates “interestingness“ of photos.

  • Speaking of “interesting”: a guy in the front row just commented that he’ll not put his posts into RSS, but will put “little stuff” into feeds but wants to force people to come to his site so that he can monetize them on his site. That led Jeff to ask how many people are publishing feeds who are not publishing full-text feeds; USA Today said that while they’re doing mostly headlines today, they are testing various ideas with FeedBurner. (For what it’s worth, I don’t think forcing people to come to your site to read your content will work: people will just find content that delivers the content the way they want it.)

  • Don and I just answered a question directed our way (Jeff didn’t know we were here) about what we can do vis a vis measurement (and I added that we’ve not seen evidence that partial feeds increase click-throughs over full-text feeds). That’s the fourth different context in which FeedBurner’s come up during this presentation. Cool.

  • OK, the guy who just bit Dave Sifry’s head off? (“Tagging sucks! Technorati’s broken!”) Nuts.

Other people blogging this session: Everybuddy, Weblogs work, Josh Hallett.

Friday, May 12, 2006

LinkedIn Outlook Toolbar rocks

I’ve been a LinkedIn user since its early beta days, and while I was initially intrigued by it (at the time, I was working for a CRM company and was mostly looking for competitive info) it took a couple years for LinkedIn to be a useful tool for me: ironically, after leaving said CRM company, I had occasion to use LinkedIn to broaden my network, reach out to old colleagues, and start to try and leverage my connections to find a new position.

For those that don’t know, LinkedIn is a twist on corporate networking: tell LinkedIn who you know, and if they agree to be linked to you, you start to form a network of connections. Basic info about each individual – title, past positions, etc. – is mapped, so that you can search for people by company, role, or name. When I search the network, I can see not only those people in my network, but their connections (and their connections’ connections), so I can figure out a route to get to someone at DEF Corp. When I find the person I want, I initiate a request, which starts with one of my connections, and then (assuming each connection agrees to forward the request along) on through the chain until it gets to its destination. You can see my profile here.

Over the last couple years, I’ve only periodically checked in with LinkedIn. I get the occasional request to forward a request, which I almost always do. More ofthen than not, I’m happy to help a friend out as they try to connect with someone (or help one of their friends do the same). In the four years I’ve been a member, it’s never been intrusive. (And while the occasional invites to link up from people I don’t know can create an awkward situation, I’ve found I’m less and less concerned about being honest: if I don’t know you, I’m not going to make you part of my network.)

It’s after my most recent swing through LinkedIn this week that it’s finally become an indispensable business tool. It’s the Outlook Toolbar that takes LinkedIn from a “nice to have” to a “need to have”. It’s that good.

In the past day, here’s what LinkedIn has done for me:

  • Scrubbed my contacts. Unlike spam-enabling tools like Plaxo (which send emails to all of your contacts asking them to update your contact info), LinkedIn centralizes the process. If any of my contacts are using LinkedIn, LinkedIn will compare the info it has on file with my contacts folder. If there’s a discrepancy (perhaps someone got a promotion? Changed jobs?), LinkedIn flags it and gives me a one-click option to update the contact record. Of the 1,000 contacts in my folder, over 200 had updates to apply.

  • Collected new contacts. LinkedIn looked at the tens of thousands of emails in my inbox, outbox and archived Outlook files to determine who I correspond with most frequently, and then matched that list against its own list of known individuals. Where there are matches, I’m given the option to create contacts based on the LinkedIn data, and also invited to link to that individual in LinkedIn, establishing a relationship for purposes of building my network through LinkedIn.

  • Added a profile button to all messages. Now every email I receive has a button that will give me that individual’s LinkedIn profile (displayed in Outlook, I don’t even have to go to a browser to see it). In my role in business development at FeedBurner, I get a ton of messages from people I don’t know – and this makes it much easier to figure out who I’m talking to.

  • Created a “keep in touch” feature in Outlook. As I correspond with people who are VIPs, LinkedIn gives me an ability to flag the contact as someone I should periodically touch base with. If more than 60 days go by without a contact, LinkedIn adds a reminder to drop that person a note. For relationship management, that’s a great feature.

  • Determined which emails need a response. I haven’t looked at this in much detail, but it appears to be watching my inbox looking for messages that haven’t been responded to; this morning it flagged an email that came in Tuesday morning (the day after my laptop died) that I’d missed… again, when you’re trying to juggle a lot of relationships, this is a great way to ensure you don’t drop a ball.

This is all presented in a convenient LinkedIn Dashboard, which gives you a window into your relationships, suggesting relationships you have but that aren’t mapped by LinkedIn, identifying people who need contact, flagging messages that require a reply, and highlighting contact info that’s changed since you last updated your contacts.

I’ve had this installed for just a day, and I can already tell that it will dramatically enhance my use of Outlook, make me more effective at managing relationships, and help me get more value out of LinkedIn. What a remarkable update to an already useful service.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Props to Lenovo

Less than two hours after my post on Tuesday about my laptop dying, I had a phone call from David Churbuck, who’s the global head of web marketing for Lenovo. I’m always amazed when I hear that people read my blog — I suppose I shouldn’t be, given the business I’m in — and when he was so quick to respond with genuine concern about the failed drive, I was really impressed.

Thanks to Joe in my office taking care of me, I’d already received a replacement hard drive and much of the last two days was sacrificed to get the machine back up and running. But David graciously offered to help figure out what happened, gave me contact info should I have any future issues, and was really proactive in helping solve my problem. In contrast with other certain computer manufacturers, it speaks volumes about the kind of commitment David’s helping to bring to Lenovo. Makes me happy to own a ThinkPad, and excited to think that there’s a group over there paying attention to us customers.

Thanks, David!

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

iPod backup (not what you think)

I haven’t written about this before, but judging by the number of people who react with “wow! never thought of that.” I figured it was worth noting. Despite my earlier admiration for the Mirra, it stopped working on my laptop a couple months ago. I finally stopped trying to get it to work, and let it serve as a home backup device only (still valuable, just not quite as useful for me).

I knew I needed to have a good backup strategy, and the Mirra wasn’t helping… and at some point I realized that I was carrying the answer: my iPod. I have the 60 gig video iPod… and my music, TVs and movies take up about 12 gigs. That left plenty of space to fill — and by enabling the “disk mode” on my iPod, I was able to periodically drag “My Documents” over to the iPod as a backup.

CDW just sent my replacement hard drive via courier, so as soon as I’m done creating the recovery disks (thanks, Jake, for letting me borrow your computer for that process!), I’ll be able to start the slow process of rebuilding the laptop… and once I connect the iPod, I’ll have a relatively recent copy of all of my data. Not perfect, but not nearly as bad as a hard drive failure could have been.

Monday, May 8, 2006

Like clockwork...

My last ThinkPad gave up the ghost at about 13 months old. And here I am, another ThinkPad, another “unmountable boot volume” blue screen of death. Almost 13 months to the day.

Even I can see the irony in the fact that my blog is the #1 search for thinkpad unmountable boot volume. :)

Sunday, May 7, 2006

links for 2006-05-07

Saturday, May 6, 2006

Naperville library scraps fingerprint scanning plans

Very interesting. Last year, Naperville’s announcement that it would require fingerprint scans in order to get Internet access landed our fair city on the front pages of Slashdot, not to mention a host of newspapers around the country. Now, a year later, it appears that the plan’s dead.

The library’s saying it’s a software compatibility issue, not a civil liberties issue.

links for 2006-05-06

Friday, May 5, 2006

links for 2006-05-05

Thursday, May 4, 2006

links for 2006-05-04

Smart Bet Chicago Poker Tournament

I’m looking forward to this charity poker tournament being held in a couple weeks in Chicago. Looks like it’ll be great networking, a lot of fun, and even a chance for a few prizes. It’s also in support of a great cause — the Chicago Entrepreneurial Center’s business education center for under-privileged Chicago high school students.

Anyone else going?

Wednesday, May 3, 2006

links for 2006-05-03

FeedBurner.com redesign

My favorite part of the redesigned corporate site? The 404 page:


Don’t know that Matt & JZ intended the hat-tip to my blog’s name, but either way, this made me grin.

Family doctor visit

We took the boys to the pediatrician last night for their annual check-ups. Each needed a blood test to check iron levels, and Robby needed a couple shots (he just turned 4). Robin mentioned in passing to the pediatrician when he came in that she’d be back tomorrow morning with Becca for Becca’s six month check-up, because the receptionist wouldn’t let her book all three kids at once.

“That’s because it’s easy for the nurses to get confused,” he explained. “But tonight’s a slow night, let’s save you the hassle and take care of her now.”

Thrilled to save the time, we agreed.

Guess what happened? The nurse got confused, and gave Becca’s shots to Robby. Thank God it’s only an annoyance and not something that could cause a problem for Robby, but now we have to go back in a couple weeks so Robby can get the shots he needs… and because the nurse panicked and had to wait until the pediatrician was free to confirm that no damage had been done, the whole visit took over two and a half hours. Unreal.

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

links for 2006-05-02

Web presentation software

Looking for recommendations for web presentation/meeting software. It must be Mac-friendly and needs to allow for collaborative web-browsing (or at the very least allow for me to lead a web browsing session). Suggestions?

Monday, May 1, 2006

YouTube - A contrarian view

Paul Boutin wrote today that YouTube succeded because they “made it head-slappingly easy to publish and play video clips by handling the tricky parts automatically. Umm, not quite.

I agree with Paul that they got uploading right. And they got public videos right. What they didn’t get right was sharing to a limited group. By this, I mean that we’ve been taking a bunch of short videos of the kids lately with our new camera — perfect for YouTube, which limits uploads to 100 megs. While uploading a 100 meg file can take a bit of time on a DSL connection, it’s not an eternity. The catch is when you choose whether to make your video public — which YouTube says is “recommended.”

I can only assume that they recommend it because they know the alternative is ugly. Because the videos were of my kids and we didn’t think the rest of the world should be watching voyeuristically, I chose to make the video private to my “family” and “friends” group. Bad idea.

Turns out, people you share with must already be a member of the group you share to; you can’t add them in after the fact. On this approach, I think Shutterfly has it right: once you upload content, just email invitations to people who you want to see the files. Is it absolutely secure? I suppose someone could “guess” the unique 32 digit code that would allow them in to see our pictures, but somehow I doubt it. YouTube, on the other hand, requires viewers of private videos be members — resulting in everyone we shared with having to sign up for an account (something none of them wanted).

So rather than a head-slappingly easy process, to borrow Paul’s phrase, we had a head-poundingly maddening process. And I ended up fielding more than a dozen confused emails from family and friends who couldn’t figure out why they couldn’t see our videos.

It may be that I did something wrong. I’ve gone back through the upload process, and while I think I’ve done it right, it’s certainly not outside the realm of possibility that I screwed up. But as someone who’s been online for 17 years, used photo sharing sites like Shutterfly for seven years, and who knows a thing or two about web services, I tend to think that the user interface is the culprit. Either they’ll get it right by making it easier to share with a select group, or someone else will step in and do so.

FreeConference.com - great service

Since most bloggers often use their blogs to complain when things don’t work, I thought it only fair to do the opposite. I’ve been a long-time user of FreeConference, a free phone conference service that lets you schedule group phone calls. Until today, I’d never had an issue using the service. It just worked.

This morning I went to log in, and it was doing some funky character conversion when I entered my password, which resulted in failed logins. At FeedBurner we do support for our free service by email, and people regularly praise us for our quick responses. But I think we’re the exception to the rule – many free services respond to support requests by saying (some more politely than others), “You get what you pay for.”

Which is why I was shocked to see a reply less than five minutes after submitting my error; and not just a reply, but a helpful reply. And two more emails followed, which isolated the issue and concluded with Mark resetting the password on the account in question so that I could get in again. Nice.