Saturday, March 24, 2007

Conference spam

Bruce Allen wrote about the proliferation of conference spam at this year’s Legal Marketing Association confernece; I noticed the same thing ahead of this year’s TechShow. Bruce writes:

If the LMA had asked me (called opt-in folks) I would have been happy to receive information from vendors with products or services specific to my current needs… But instead I have to sit through a three week spam-storm (no thank you, I am not interested in hearing more about how your pens with my logo are better than their pen with my logo).

Amen! I received pitches for litigation management, document retention (and document destruction), legal research, dictation services (I find it hilarious that there’s still a dictation market, but that’s a separate matter), and plenty of others who weren’t even memorable enough for me to recall them to complain about them here.

The sad part? I was a speaker at TechShow, not an attendee. Not one of the products pitched to me (by snail mail!) were anything I was in a position to buy or recommend. What a waste of their money and my time.

And to the company who saw fit to hand-write on a generic envelope bought at Staples? Not bright. Screams “marketing isn’t really all that important to us, but I guess we better have people show up at our booth if we want to justify the amount of money we paid the ABA to go to TechShow.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Think Different

While everyone’s getting all excited about the pro-Obama remake of Apple’s 1984 ad, I thought I’d share another Apple ad, which I think is the absolute best one minute of video I’ve ever seen:

I can still remember the first time I saw the ad, and every time I see it still provokes the same visceral, emotional response: change the world.

"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Headline Animator in Gmail

If you’ve been following the ongoing saga that is Headline Animator (more sequels than Friday the 13th!), you’ll know that it’s been receiving a lot of attention over at FeedBurner world headquarters. For those that don’t know, Headline Animator turns your feed into an animated GIF. We’ve long recommended using Headline Animator as part of an e-mail signature: without any effort, you can share your most recent posts with your e-mail correspondents.

One problem: if you (like me) have switched to Gmail as your mail client, you’ll note that Gmail doesn’t support HTML signatures.

Last month, Garett Rogers posted over at ZDNet a great Greasemonkey extension that makes it easy to overcome this limitation. First, you need to install Greasemonkey, then you need to install the script (note that this is a slightly modified version of the script which includes support for replies; the original script as written by Garett is here). Finally, in Greasemonkey, click on ‘manage user scripts’ and edit the text of the script to replace this string:

<br><b>Edit the script to change this signature</b>

With the code from FeedBurner under “Headline Animator”. Note: By default, the output that FeedBurner gives you good HTML, but it includes quotes and other characters that will cause the Greasemonkey script to fail. So you need to edit out the quotes from the code; for reference purposes, here’s what I used:

<br /><br /><a href=><img src= border=0></a>

End result? When I click on ‘compose message’ or reply to a message, here’s what shows up by default:

FeedBurner Headline Animator in Gmail

Shared items

The pace continues to accelerate here in FeedBurner-land, so I’ve been pretty slack in posting to the blog. I know, I know – you didn’t miss me! – but it still feels odd to be out of the habit of posting and then face the inevitable writer’s block when I sit down to post.

But there’s one thing I’ve been meaning to post about, and that’s my “shared items” from Google Reader. A while back, I was bookmarking pages at, but found that I didn’t really rely on as an archive – that is, I wasn’t going there to search prior bookmarks – and the bookmarking interface itself was just a little too intrusive for my tastes.

When I started using Google Reader, I found the one-click “share” feature to be non-intrusive and quite simple. I subscribe to a lot of feeds – it’s (not surprisingly) where I consume most of my information. As I came across a post that I found interesting, I could just click ‘share’ and move on.

I ran the resulting feed through FeedBurner so I could expose it in the right rail of my blog; now anyone who visits my site can see the last 15 items I’ve shared. About a dozen people have subscribed to my shared items feed, which means that they don’t just get the headlines of the shared items (as visitors to my site do), but they see the full content of the item. And the one downside (from my perspective, at least) is that when they see those items, it’s not immediately apparent where the item was shared from.

FeedFlare to the rescue! With some help from our own XPath guru (!) Eric Lunt, I wrote a FeedFlare unit that now identifies the source of the item I’ve shared. Here’s what that looks like:

FeedFlare for Google Reader

If you’re interested in using this on your own Google Reader Shared Items feed (if you run it through FeedBurner), you can do so by pointing to this FeedFlare unit. Anyone else have a good idea for a good FeedFlare unit?

Last comment on shared items. If you’re not that into subscribing to feeds (what’s wrong with you?), I created a page in WordPress that just takes the BuzzBoost code from my shared items feed to display the feed on the page. That page is here.

Travel woes

Friday afternoon, heading into a 2:30 meeting in Manhattan, my cell phone rang. “This is American, your flight’s been cancelled.” I had assumed this would happen, the weather in NYC on Friday was a mess: strong winds, driving sleet and snow, overall just ugly conditions. “OK, what do you have that’s later?” “Sunday, 9pm.”

Wow. (And I’m Platinum on Amerian Airlines, so the fact that they couldn’t get me on anything sooner was saying something.)

I ended up spending the night with friends in Brooklyn, and made the best of a bad situation by going to Blue Ribbon Sushi (who knew they had a Brooklyn location?) for dinner. I got to see their daughter (now 7 months old) and it was fun to catch up. American still couldn’t accommodate me on Saturday, and there was no way I was sticking Robin with the kids for the entire weekend, so I tried to get creative. The solution? Amtrak to Baltimore, and a 2:30pm flight on Southwest to Midway. Micraculously, it worked. I got home in time to spend a little bit of time with the kids, and Robin and I still had our night out.

I felt OK about getting home, until I saw the news Sunday night that US Airways had more than 100,000 passengers who were still stranded. Wow. I can’t imagine being delayed more than 48 hours without certainty as to when I’d actually be getting home. The announcements on the intercom at BWI on Saturday were enough to send people into murderous rages:

“If you were booked on a US Airways flight on Friday which was cancelled and you live nearby, go home. Call a US Airways reservation specialist to help in rebooking your flight – the counter agents cannot help you here.” Similar announcements were made for Southwest.

I’m still not quite sure how I was able to buy a ticket on Friday afternoon for Saturday – but I wasn’t complaining.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

At Politics Online in DC for the day

I’m an attendee at Politics Online today (can’t stay for tomorrow, I need to be in NYC for a day of meetings); if you’re around, find me (brown jacket, jeans, black hair, FeedBurner logo on my laptop) and say hi. If we can rally enough people, we’ll do drinks on me this afternoon… (how’s that for an enticement?)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The shortfallings of the Bush Administration

Let’s sum up, shall we? New Mexico GOP Party chairman Allen Weh has a chat with Karl Rove in 2005. Specifically, he tells Turd Blossom himself that US State’s Attorney David Iglesias should be fired. According to the AP, “the GOP party leader made clear his dissatisfaction with Iglesias stemmed in part from his failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation.” Tonight, the White House confirmed that Rove personally delivered these concerns (and others) to the Department of Justice, and “may” have mentioned complaints about Iglesias personally to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Yeah. And I “may” have voted for John Kerry in 2004. It was so many years ago, I can’t quite recall. But maybe.

By the way, this same US Attorney received a call at his house – the only time in his career he’d ever received a call from a member of Congress at homes – from Congressman Pete Domenici. Domenici was asking about the same investigation:

Domenici: “Are these going to be filed before November?”
Iglesias: “I don’t think so.”
Domenici: “I’m very sorry to hear that.” [Line goes dead]

Domenici wasn’t the only Congressman calling Igelsias. From ThinkProgress:

Iglesias also detailed his call from Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM), which occurred roughly two weeks prior to Domenici’s call. Iglesias said that after some light chit-chat, Wilson said “she’d been hearing about sealed indictments” and asked Iglesias for details. “The second she said any question about sealed indictments, red flags went up in my head,” Iglesias said. “We specifically cannot talk about a sealed indictment.” Iglesias likened it to calling up a nuclear scientist and saying, “let’s talk about those secret codes, those launch codes.”

Iglesias, along with 7 other US Attorneys, were fired last winter. The allegations – and all evidence produced to date certainly seems to back up the allegations – are that each firing was politically motivated. A law school professor of mine e-mailed me last week; he was a classmate of Carol Lam, the US Attorney in California who was fired. His comments: “Even in law school you could see her as a prosecutor – honest, straight-forward, earnest, smart. Her firing is repugnant.”

For an administration that scores points wherever it can railing against “activist judges”, this active meddling in the judiciary is reprehensible.

I am appalled at the behavior of those elected to serve us. Worse, I’m embarrassed that I’m so exhausted after six years of this bullshit that I’m not energized enough to actively work to ensure that these charlatans are swept out of office. Just under a year ago, I wrote:

Josh calls this the Bush administration’s creeping monarchism. It just seems like simple disdain to me. Disdain for the law, disdain for the Constitution, disdain for the people. Everything I thought I knew about what made our country great: limited government, checks and balances to prevent unmitigated exercise of power, freedom of speech, basic Constitutional guarantees of due process… it’s hard to see where any of that fits in the Bush view of the USA today. Forget about policies — funding for programs can be restored. Tax cuts can be reversed (or not). Military priorities can be altered. But the credibility of an entire political system is on thinner ice than I think many realize. And without the courage of our convictions to back us up, our ability to lead by example in the rest of the world is criminally compromised.

With Bush and his team, the hits just keep coming. Whether it’s firing prosecutors you don’t like because they’re not indicting enough Democrats (damn the facts, we need a Democratic indictment on the front page ahead of election day!), or my favorite Bushism of late, FBI shortfallings (be honest, that new word is pretty much the one-word motto for the Bush Administration) by abusing the Patriot Act (itself an abuse of the Constitution, but who am I to judge), to Condoleeza Rice’s ludicrous claims two weeks ago, to outing a covert CIA operative because they didn’t like her husband, to developing new (illegal) clandestine programs in the Pentagon (without any Congressional oversight) because you don’t like the intel the pros are producing, to, well, I think you get the point.

As Keith Olbermann sarcastically wrapped up that most recent rant on Condoleeza Rice by channelling none other than Edward R. Murrow, Good Night, and Good Luck. We’ll need it.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


OK, OK. I give up. I’m on Twitter. When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it was just a way to render SMS as useful as e-mail (which is to say, not very). But as with many tools that are now an indispensable part of my online life (RSS, Flickr, Youtube, Gmail, Facebook, Google Desktop, for starters), I’m finally coming around to see what all the fuss is about. Ross’s post helped clarify things for me; recognizing that Twitter isn’t solely an SMS thing, or solely an IM thing for that matter, helped.

What’s funny is that I can recall at least a half dozen different explanations from people I respect who all explain Twitter in fundamentally different ways. And that, I now see, is part of its strength. It’s different things to different people: for some, it’s a way to “microblog” (i.e., say even more mundane things about even more discrete things in their day). For others, a way to send text messages to a group. Others see it as a way to carry on a group conversation. And still others see it as a way to keep tabs on what their friends are up to.

For me, I think it will become an easy “status” service. In other words, via IM, web or phone, I can post a quick update message that will immediately show up on my blog. For anyone who’s using Twitter (I’m ‘rklau’ if you want to add me), my status updates will be pushed out to them however they’ve chosen to be notified. I know many people use their IM status message as a way of communicating status, but that’s always seemed wrong to me. It’s too passive: unless I actually look at my friend list, I won’t see your message. Facebook has a version of this – whenever you edit your “My status” section, your update is automatically added to your newsfeed, which your friends then see. Twitter takes that idea and opens it up: updates are easily made via whatever medium is convenient (, instant message, SMS), and notifications are delivered in the same manners.

It sure is simple to get started. If you’re already using Twitter and want to keep in touch, add me. If you’ve used Twitter and have some tips, I’d love to hear them.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Curt Schilling is blogging

I don’t care which baseball team you root for, if you have any interest in professional sports, you should take a look at Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s blog. His first posts are remarkable. My favorites so far:

  • On baseball’s recent deal with DirecTV: “I don’t think there’s any doubt that we are still trying to pull ourselves out of the steroid scandal morass, only to have this latest legal situation crop up. Even with that scandal baseball has found a way to prosper, and at a point when fans were once again saying ‘Hey, you guys screwed up again, but we’re still here’, fans are given the shaft.”

  • His tribute to former pitching coach John Vukovich is incredible. For me, it’s a combination of Schilling’s acknowledgement of Vuk’s role in his career, his position as a father figure, and his commitment to the game: in an era of so may athletes who are all about themselves, Schilling’s tribute is not just touching, it’s inspiring. While the entire piece is worth-while, a paragraph near the end is particularly striking: “There is no doubt in my mind that my career would have been over ten or more years ago without John Vukovich. I often tried to but there was no way I could ever repay him for his commitment to me and the devotion and love he showed me throughout our 15+ years together. John Vukovich was the very person my dad was referring to when he called someone, ‘good people.’ It was the highest compliment my dad could give. John was good people every day of his life, and the game and I will miss him greatly.” Wow. (Make sure to read his tribute for two great stories about Vuk. Priceless.)

  • On how he feels in spring training: “Overall I felt great physically. The change up got results but I felt like crap throwing it. I threw 14 of them today, out of 60 pitches. Right now My split is in between horrific and terrible, so that’s something else to work on.”

My Mom had a chance to meet Curt Schilling while doing some charity work in Philadelphia. She talked about what a great guy he was, and after the 2004 season, it was hard not to admire the work ethic and commitment to his team. Seeing this side of him, though, it’s hard not to admire him as a man, an entrepreneur, a parent, and a writer. He’s the real deal.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Paul Curreri at the Glee Club, part 2

Here’s part 2 of the film made of Paul Curreri at the Glee Club last summer:

[youtube 0qtzfBB-aTA]

More later.

Waiting for The Velvet Rut

Don’t know why it didn’t occur to me earlier, but I just checked YouTube out for any videos of Paul Curreri. You may recall that we were fortunate enough to have Paul perform at our house last summer; he’s got a new album coming out later this month (“The Velvet Rut”) – you really need to go listen to “Mantra” at his MySpace page. Incredibly, he plays every note of every instrument on the new album. And if Mantra is any indication, he’s going in a totally different direction from prior albums… and I love it.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Paul perform before, I’ll post a few videos over the next few days. Here’s one from an appearance at the Glee Club in Birmingham, England last summer:

[youtube XwtRBv15PxM]

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Ask the wizard

One of the gifts of working in a small company is the opportunity to interact with every aspect of the business. Not only is it rare for someone to look at a different part of the company and remark “That’s not my job”, but if the culture’s right, it’s actually frowned upon. I like that my team can diagnose feed validity errors, that Justin from the AdOps team is filling in for me on a panel next week at SXSW, and that the engineering team periodically lobs publisher leads over the fence. We’ve all got one eye on what the other guys are doing, because it keeps us engaged, and we all learn about the business we’re building in real time.

But a paradox of this is that when you catch the wave just right, you realize pretty quickly that there’s little (if any) time for reflection. Casual chats with the founders (who’ve built several companies prior to FeedBurner) are unusual, not because they are above such things, but because what time we have together is focused on growing the business.

Which is why I’ve been so thrilled to watch Dick’s new blog develop, Ask the Wizard. As you read the rest of this, you may be tempted to ask whether I’m not just sucking up by praising the boss’s new blog. To which I’d respond, “Why are you interrupting me? And why are you so cynical?”

The FeedBurner office environment is great – and by “great”, I mean “it’s really open and try as you might to be quiet, Dick hears everything and will tell you what he thinks right away.” If you happen to still be on the phone while he’s overhearing your conversation, he’ll even IM you to share his thoughts. I think that’s what they call “hands-on” management.

See? It’s not all sucking up.

Where was I? The blog. Right. If you aren’t reading Dick’s blog and you have any interest in a from-the-trenches view of how to start and grow a tech business, you should head over immediately. I can’t really single out any one post – in just the first couple weeks, he’s already tackled subjects like raising capital, attracting the right team, cultivating a culture, scoping the business, working with your board, and several others. Ordinarily, you’d need to work closely with someone like Dick to get this kind of insight – but now, thanks to these wonderful tubes we call the Internet – you can just read about him. (Bonus: by reading his blog, he won’t hear your phone calls.)

Chances are several of you reading my all-over-the-place blog are interested in tech strategy, FeedBurner specifically, or start-ups. If so, Dick’s site should be on your reading list.