July 26, 2009

  • Why Blog?

    One clear result of the rise of Twitter and Facebook is the ever-growing number of abandoned blogs out there.

    Blogs have always had a high abandon rate. It’s “cool” (well it was) to have a blog and it’s dirt simple to start one. Much harder is the task of keeping it fed. Coming up with interesting topics to post about and then adding in images and links to make the “story” feel fleshed out is a lot of work.

    Twitter on the other hand requires less than 140 characters, and if you don’t have time to type 140 characters 3 or 4 times a day, you’ve got bigger problems than your posting schedule.

    For many people blogs are/where a way of pointing at interesting articles. Much of the verbiage beyond the link and maybe some quoted text from the original was just through clearing, filler or “I agree with this” commentary of little value.

    Twitter makes that kind of post seem terribly outdated. If I want to POINT to something now I just post it to Twitter and add a short, (hopefully) pithy reason why I think the link has merit and I’m done.

    That means that “blog posts” now end up feeling like work. They are “longer” and “original”. And that’s a tall order for many of us.

    This blog, my first one, (although it’s lived on Blogger, Movable Type, WordPress and now TypePad) is still what I officially call home online even though I don’t visit very often. My first post was over eight years ago now. In that time I’ve done a fair number of those “long format” posts interspersed with lots of stuff that now seems better suited for other social network channels, particularly Twitter.

    Why blog then?

    I’m not giving up on this blog yet as I figure I WILL have more to say than will fit in 140 characters at some point, but I doubt my close identification with my blog will ever return.

March 29, 2008

  • How To Agree?


    Paul Graham just wrote a wonderful overview of how to disagree. Go read it. I’ll wait.

    My guess is this was spurred by a mildly controversial post he did a few days earlier called You Weren’t Meant To Have A Boss which was widely commented on.

    I don’t disagree with Paul. In fact I whole-heartedly agree with him.

    And that’s my problem. Paul didn’t tell me “How To Agree”. As he points out:

    The web is turning writing into a conversation. Twenty years ago, writers wrote and readers read. The web lets readers respond, and increasingly they do — in comment threads, on forums, and in their own blog posts.

    Many who respond to something disagree with it. That’s to be expected. Agreeing tends to motivate people less than disagreeing. And when you agree there’s less to say. You could expand on something the author said, but he has probably already explored the most interesting implications. When you disagree you’re entering territory he may not have explored.

    This post is an attempt to “agree and say something” but it is, frankly, work.

    What I’d love to have is a way of saying “+1” or “I agree” or “count me in” or “what he said” or what have you.

    I do this right now in subtle and ineffective ways. I bookmark a link on Delicious or Twitter it or send it via email to people who might care that I agree. But it sure would be nice to have a centralized place where we could all saying “I Agree” and just link with (or without comment) to stuff we think is correct and of value.

    My short-term solution to this problem is to create a Delicious tag called “I Agree” that I’ll try to use for stuff I find that I just agree with. I say “try” because it’s damn hard to introduce new behaviours — even self-imposed ones — so no promises.

    (photo credit)

February 24, 2008

  • Crossroads Producers Killed Mary Barclay

    I hadn’t heard of Mary Barclay before stumbling across her obituary by the BBC.

    While I know nothing about her other than what I read today I can’t help thinking she’d get a good laugh from the unfortunate juxtaposition of the headline and caption in her obit:


    I’m sure it wasn’t overzealous Crossroads producers deciding to have a hit put out on the nonagenarian but that was my first thought.

February 14, 2008

February 12, 2008

  • Dick & Syl Cut The Cake

    A while ago I started collecting up all the old photo albums and shoeboxes of pictures and slides that have been stored at the back of closets with the hope of starting a scanning project to share these with family and (to a lesser extent) the world.

    I did a test scan and post to Flickr of my in-laws wedding photo:

    Sylvia and Dick - Wedding Cake

    I’m pretty happy with the scan given I was using an old scanner and didn’t pay that much attention to my settings. I did a bit of cropping and tweaked the contrast.
    And now that this photo is out there for the world to see, maybe someone can explain to me why they have a meadow full of flowers on top of their cake!

February 11, 2008

  • How Often Does Your Calendar Clear?

    I just checked my calendar to see what my week was like and nearly fainted:


    I never have weeks like this.

    We’re not big on “standing meetings” at Tucows but I do like to make time to sit down with all my direct reports at least once a week. And I do the same with the Exec Team and Elliot. After that the rest of the week fills in pretty quickly with project-related meetings, sprint reviews, vendor discussions, customers time, and so on.

    Loads of people are travelling on business or sick this week so my schedule is extremely light. Now, to be clear, this won’t last. By the end of the week much of it will have filled in.

    But still, it makes me realize how little time I often end up with to “do” stuff instead of talking about doing stuff. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting some projects of my own going this week.

February 10, 2008

  • Adding Disqus To Schafer.com

    Earlier this week I was reading a post on Fred Wilson’s blog and clued in to the fact that he’s been using Disqus as a substitute for the TypePad commenting system he used in the past.

    I really liked the Disqus approach to commenting and, given that this blog runs on TypePad as well, I thought I’d give it a try.

    If I did my template manipulation correctly based on Disqus’ very easy-to-grok walkthrough, we should now have a new and improved commenting system here. I’d love it if you could try it out and let me know what you think.

    The experience is really enhanced if you add your pic to your Disqus account as it will automatically pop up beside your comment — here and on other Disqus enabled sites.

    Feel free to experiment in the comment thread below.

  • I Go On The Record About Microhoo

    Earlier this week I was quoted in an IT Business article about the possible acquisition of Yahoo! by Microsoft.

    Here’s what I had to say:

    The two main things going for Yahoo is brand and massive audience, said Ken Schafer, vice-president of product management and marketing for Tucows Inc.

    Tucows began as a domain name registrar in the early 1990s but quickly transformed itself into a service and software vendor for Web hosting firms and Internet service providers.

    “Yahoo’s problem is it has had a hard time in finding out how to leverage its main assets,” Schafer said. “Yahoo was not able to execute as quickly as people had been hoping it would.”

    Schafer said Microsoft’s bid for Yahoo did not come as a surprise, as people in the online marketing industry had been talking about its possibility for years.

    “Personally, I hope they manage to pull it off. Competition means innovation, and the more competition, the better.”

    I’m not sure that history will prove me out. Right now it looks like Yahoo!’s board is prepared to put up a fight to keep the company out of Steve Balmer’s hands (or at least to make him pay dearly for the honour).

  • Apple Mail Makes Email More Personal

    One of the things I love about Apple Mail is the way it integrates with Address Book to pull out a picture of the sender. Another is that I have installed a Plaxo plug-in that pulls up additional data and reminders from Plaxo’s social network.

    To see this in action, I submit a recent message from Zoe:


    This pic was taken on my iPhone which synced it to Address Book. Here birthday was two days away when I took this capture and Plaxo was nice enough to remind me of this (not that I needed reminding about my daughter’s birthday but you get the point).

    The only problem I’ve had is that there is something, lord knows what, in David Crow’s Plaxo data that crashes the Plaxo Plug-in and Apple Mail along with it every time I try to open a message from him. The weird thing is that I have this incredible urge to contact David to get him to fix it instead of Plaxo and Apple. 🙂

February 7, 2008

  • Who Cut The Cables?


    The same people who pitted Seattle-area windshields in the spring of 1954.

    Right now Techmeme is littered with people spinning wild theories on why “five undersea cables have been cut” in a short period of time.

    Of course there have been some voices of reason as well.

    It’s really worth spending some time reading the links above — particularly the comments — to see how people react when they receive a small piece of information that doesn’t fit into our every-day world-view.

    Check out this digg thread for example:


    This is fairly typical. A few people crying this must be a conspiracy and others wise cracking about “frickin’ sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their frickin’ heads” being the culprit.

    Back in 2003 when SARS hit Toronto (in particular) causing mass hysteria, I posted a link to a great article about a bizarre rash of windshield pitting incidents in Seattle in 1954. For anyone getting caught up in the “cable cutting conspiracy”, this is a must read.

February 4, 2008

  • My Favourite Superbowl Ad

    I actually watched the Superbowl today, even though we don’t get many of the Superbowl ads up here in Canada. Luckily all the ads are online at myspace.com/superbowlads.

    I think this “twofer” was my favourite:

    I love Will Ferrell despite an incredibly erratic track track record when it comes to film quality.

February 1, 2008

  • Thought

    Mitch Joel pointed me to this YouTube video of Sarah Silverman on Jimmy Kimmel:


    I don’t watch Kimmel but apparently this is the culmination of several running gags on the show.

January 27, 2008

  • Goodnight Emily

    When I was young, one of my favourite shows was The Bob Newhart Show. And I had a major crush on Suzanne Pleshette. Actually, I guess it’s more accurate to say that I had a crush on Emily her character on the show.

    I was very sad to hear that she died last week. I think the news hit me a little harder than it might have because I’m currently re-watching the series on DVD. Somehow in my mind she was still in her 30s — a school teacher in Chicago.

January 26, 2008

  • McWrap = McCrap


    The wonderful Presentation Zen pointed out that McWrap is pronounced “McCrap”. I can’t believe I didn’t notice that before.

    Now, for the win, what the heck is in that wrap? Lettuce, melon and bacon?

January 24, 2008

  • Testing “Post To The Future”

    I’m not sure if TypePad allows you to “post to the future” (by that I mean set a time and date before which a post should not be visible, but once the time comes, the post publishes as if you hit “publish” right then).

    I set this post to publish one hour AFTER I actually finished it.

    Let’s see what happens.

January 18, 2008

  • Hey Clown! Even Kids Don’t Like You


    I’ve hated — no loathed — clowns since I was very young. I could share several traumatic pre-school encounters with these, uh, clowns — but I won’t bore you. Besides, you probably hate clowns too!

    It’s a fact — kids hate clowns!

    LONDON — Bad news for Coco and Blinko — children don’t like clowns and even older kids are scared of them.
    The news that will no doubt have clowns shedding tears was revealed in a poll of youngsters by researchers from the University of Sheffield who were examining how to improve the decor of hospital children’s wards.
    The study, reported in the Nursing Standard magazine, found all the 250 patients aged between four and 16 they quizzed disliked the use of clowns, with even the older ones finding them scary.
    “As adults we make assumptions about what works for children,” said Penny Curtis, a senior lecturer in research at the university.
    “We found that clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening and unknowable.”

January 15, 2008

  • Trying Out Ecto


    I’ve generally just done my blog posts in directly in the web interface of whatever application I’m using at the moment, but I’ve always been interested in using an offline editor. I’m trying Ecto right now to see if I can make it work. If not, it’s back to the web for me.

January 4, 2008

  • My Super-Clean Inbox

    Over the holidays I took some time to rethink my inbox strategy and I thought I’d share my current approach with you.

    For reference, that’s my brand-spankin’-new inbox you’re seein’ here.


    I’m now using IMAP for work and home accounts. Up until now I’ve been a POP-guy — more out of habit than anything else. With POP you check your mail server and download anything new since the last time you checked. Typically the server then deletes its copy and what you downloaded becomes the only version you’ve got.

    IMAP is wonderful as it allows you to keep all your messages on the server (“in the cloud”) and pull down synchronized copies on as many machines as you’d like (as well as checking messages via webmail). Essentially you’re doing everything on the server and just keeping local copies for back-up and offline use. This is much safer and much more convenient.


    My “Work” account is (naturally) my Tucows email account running on the Tucows Email Service (yes we “eat our own dog food”). For my “Personal” mail I’m trying Google Hosted Apps for comparison purposes. I also have a separate Tucows Email Service-based address via Domain Direct for a domain I host there but haven’t actively started using.

    Folder Strategy

    As you can see from the screenshot, I’m going for extreme simplicity. Besides the default Inbox, Draft, Sent, Trash, and Junk folders that come with both accounts, I have only added three folders to manage my messages — Actionable, Archived, and Waiting For Reply.

    Zero Inbox

    I use (and have for many years now) used a “Zero Inbox” approach as recommended by Merlin Mann.

    I process email through-out the day, dealing with each message in turn.

    1. Things I don’t need to act on and can’t imagine ever needing to reference again, I delete.

    2. Things I don’t need to act on that might (even remotely) be of use someday gets dragged to the “Archived” folder associated with the account.

    3. Messages that require action but will only take a few minutes to resolve get dealt with immediately. The original message gets Archived.

    4. Messages that will take more effort than I have time for are marked Unread and moved to the Actionable folder associated with the account. That means that I have a clean inbox and two folders that show the count of things I need to work on related to each role in life. In my example here you can see I’ve got 16 work-related messages and 2 personal messages I need to deal with. I tackle these as quickly as I can but within the context of other daily priorities so I don’t let my inbox drive me.

    5. Any time I send a message that I expect a reply to, I drag the sent message to my Waiting For Reply folder. I check this every few days and follow-up with the recipient if they didn’t get back to me in a reasonable amount of time.

    “Read The Feed”

    One of the best things about moving to OS X Leopard is getting my RSS feeds directly in Apple Mail.

    As you can see here, I subscribe to a bunch of feeds and group them in folders by theme so that I can check feeds in context as I have time.

    “On My Mac”

    One compromise on my system is this small group of folders (closed in this screenshot as they usually are in real life) that contain messages I downloaded via POP but haven’t bothered to re-upload to the new IMAP Archived folders. I have about 30,000 non-IMAP message that I can search via Apple Mail if I need to reference them, but otherwise they’re out of sight and mind in this closed folder list.

    That’s it. I’d be interested in how others are dealing with their inboxes these days or in answering any questions folks have about my system. It works for me but (as always) your mileage may vary.

January 2, 2008

  • Twas The Night Before Tucows

    (I got a poem from Lucy for Christmas and — with her permission — I’m sharing it here)

    Twas the night before Tucows, launched their domains,
    Ken Schafer was stirring, simply going insane;
    The plans were all there, displayed on his macable,
    In hopes that domains, will soon be unhackable;

    The macs were all snoozing, with screen savers in sight,
    While visions of starbursts, were haunting him all night;
    With Ken in his office, and Elliot abroad,
    He was checking the URLs that seamed slightly odd,

    When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
    Ken sprang from his desk to see what was the matter.
    Away to the window he flew like a flash,
    Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

    The moon on the slush, that covered Mowat,
    Gave a dinghy appearance to objects below it,
    When, what to his wondering eyes should appear,
    But a miniature sleigh, and eight cows, instead of reindeer,

    With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
    Ken knew in a moment it must be St. Click.

    More rapid than elephants his coursers they came,
    And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
    “Now, Betsy! now, Martha! now, Ilsa and Daisy!
    On, Patches! on Ellie! on, Moo Moo and Lazy!

    To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
    Now clop away! clop away! clop away all!”
    As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
    When they meet with an awkward, mount to the sky,

    So up to the office roof the coursers they flew,
    With the sleigh full of hard drives, and St. Click too.

    And then, in a twinkling, he heard on the roof

    The stomping and Clacking of each little hoof.
    As Ken drew in his hand, and was turning around,
    Down the heating vent St. Click came with a bound.

    He was dressed all in red, from his head to his foot,
    And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
    A bundle of hard drives he had flung on his back,
    And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

    His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
    His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
    His droll little mouth was drawn up like a truffle,
    And the beard of his chin was as white as his shuffle;

    The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
    And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
    He had a broad face and a little round belly,
    That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

    He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
    And Ken laughed when he saw him, in spite of himself;
    A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
    Soon gave Ken to know he had nothing to dread;

    He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
    And filled all the offices; then turned with a jerk,
    And laying his finger aside of his nose,
    And giving a nod, up the heating vent he rose;

    He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
    And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

    But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,


    This is the second Internet/Ken-related poem I’ve been fortunate enough to receive, following my mom’s poem a few years ago.

December 31, 2007

  • Move Complete

    It looks like everything is moving smoothly post migration to Typepad. DNS propagation took longer than I expected but my goals was to have everything in place for the end of the year and it looks like that is the case.

    I’m sure I’ll be fiddling more with the look of the site and with tweaking the content, but I’m pretty happy with the results even as they are now.

    Let me know if anything looks funny or is broken from your end!

December 26, 2007

  • Back To TypePad!

    I took a few hours this morning to move all the posts I did on the WordPress version of my blog over the last six months to this TypePad version of the blog.

    I’m pretty happy with the move (back) to Typepad and I’m looking forward to playing with the site again (something I couldn’t do with WordPress because it really needs to you to understand basic coding to get things looking the way you want).

    Next step is to update DNS to point here to make it all official.

December 20, 2007

  • Back To TypePad?

    I’m thinking about it. I like my WordPress blog well enough but it’s probably more horsepower than I need. 2008 will be (once again) a year where I focus on simplifying and going with what I care about rather than what I “ought to do”.

October 26, 2006

  • Thought

    I’m showing my class how to blog. Once I post this they will TOTALLY get it.

March 31, 2006

  • Thought

    If you look to your right, and down the page a bit you’ll notice something called “sidebar”. That’s all the links I find around the web that I want to share with you. I’m doing this by posting a sub-feed from my del.icio.us account so that the whole thing is seemless seamless. Ooh, seemless seamless. Sweet.

  • Thought

    I’m totally excited about the eventual release of Will Wright’s Spore. This is going to be SO cool. The kids and I have had great fun with open ended video games and this looks like it will top everything else we’ve tried to date.

    I’m also loving the way YouTube and Google Video allow you to embed their video on my site!

  • Here vs. There

    I’ve been blogging for a long time (well a long time for a new communication tool, not long time as in “the long now” long). My first “hello world post” was on July 4th, 2001.

    Between then and last year about now I blogged on a semi-regular basis and managed to get about 430 posts online during that time.

    Then I started One Degree and for all intents and purposes stopped my personal blog. Slowly the old schafer.com was falling apart as more of my attention went to One Degree. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I ripped the site down and replaced it with some minimalistic pages about me and what I do. But because my blog still used Blogger software for the back end it was just too much to contemplate a total overhaul given my infrequent posting.

    Now that I’ve joined Tucows I really want to move schafer.com away from being a business site towards being my personal site.

    So, here’s how I’m hoping it will work out:

    • Here — Stuff about me, personal observations, asides, family and life stuff, capturing ideas, working through problems in public, etc.
    • There — One Degree is a group effort focussed entirely on Internet marketing, particularly in Canada, so most of my writing on that topic will be done over there.

    My guess is I’ll also be running a Tucows blog of some sort — I can’t imagine I wouldn’t — but you’ll have to wait to find out more about that.

    Any thoughts on the mix of “official” and “personal” blogging?

  • Thought

    The folks at 37signals posted this to their Flickr photostream a while ago and I wanted to capture it: