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 10, 2008

  • Adding Disqus To

    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).

January 26, 2008

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 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.

November 10, 2007

  • Did I Really Say “Good Vibes”?

    Nestor E. Arellano (the “E” is to avoid him getting confused with all the other Nestor Arellanos out there — sorry Nestor I couldn’t resist) interviewed me on Thursday for an article called “Good Vibes Stem The Tide Of Talent Turnover”.

    One of the things I’ve learned as a manager is that my team has to understand why they are doing what they are doing, see challenge in the work, and enjoy the physical act of working (i.e. like the people and environment the work gets done in). If you don’t get those right, it’s very tough to keep anyone engaged. If they’re not engaged, they might stick around if times are tough but given options (as people most definitely are being given right now), they won’t stick around for long.

October 26, 2006

  • Thought

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

July 31, 2004

  • Thought

    I read Tim O’Reilly’s fantastic essay The Open Source Paradigm Shift weeks ago, but failed to post a link to it.

    O’Reilly makes some critical insights that must analysis of the open source and online movements make. He saees open source as an expression of three deep, long-term trends: the commoditization of software, network-enabled collaboration, and software customizability (i.e. software as a service).

    The lengthy article is worth a read and I highly recommend it to anyone trying to look a few years out to see where current online trends are leading us.

April 18, 2004

  • The Third Screen?

    Third Screen: n. A video screen, particularly the screen on a cell phone, that a person uses almost as often as their television and computer screens.

    I hadn’t heard this meme until I read an eweek article earlier today, but I consider it a powerful one. Just like people tend to have a “third place” (work, home, away from home), it makes sense that we’ll have a third screen.

    I find it unlikely that my TV and Computer screen will converge into one screen any time soon. The experience (sitting back, passive, shared vs. leaning in, active, and solo) means that they really aren’t served well by unifying. And while I use a laptop all the time, I don’t want to use one to access quick information on the move. My guess is that the “Third Screen” will be a natural convergence of phone, PDA, and wireless messaging because that is what I need on the road.

    So Third Screen it is.

February 17, 2004

January 29, 2004

  • Furl — My New “Filing Web Page Filing Cabinet”

    I’ve never been great a bookmarking stuff, mainly preferring just to redo the search. But lately I’ve been working on multiple projects all of which require lots of online research and collecting and synthesizing this information over time. After looking at a bunch of different bookmarking, archiving, and web page clipping options, I think I’ve found what I’m looking for in a service called Furl.

    The service is free right now and it allows you to store, annotate, rate and sort pages that you’ve collected to Furl. Collecting links is simple because they have bookmarklets and a toolbar to facilitate this without leaving the page your capturing. And because it is online you don’t have to worry about losing them.

    One suggestion for Furl: Let users add topics (categories) for filing directly in the pop-up for saving pages. Quite a few times I’ve gone to save a page and realized that I had not yet set up a proper topic to add the link under.

    Suggestion for all free sites (Furl included): Make sure you tell people how you plan to make money. It is really disconcerting to find a product you like online without knowing if the company will be around for long, or if the service will start costing you at some point. People will pay for well thought out services like Furl, but you have to give us a chance to figure out what you are up to.

January 13, 2004

  • Thought

    InformationWeek’s Fred Langa has determined that E-Mail is Hideously Unreliable. While I could quibble with some of the methodology here (okay a lot of it) I think his point is well taken. You can’t assume that the mail is going through like you could a year ago. We may be on our way back to that early-days of the Net strategy of phoning people to say “did you get my e-mail?” Ugh.

December 17, 2003

  • Predictions for 2004

    Here, in no particular order are some of the things I expect to see in the coming year:

    1. SEM rises to dominate online marketing: Any marketer looking to sell anything online should be starting (and in many cases ending) their online ad spend with search engine marketing.

    2. Blogs become the best way to find out about most stuff: I regularly read over 100 blogs that provide me with greater depth, better commentary, and faster breaking news than anything other news source. Look for more and more of us to depend on blogs for our industry insights. Smart marketers will incorporate blogging into their overall corporate communications strategy.

    3. Increased focus on meeting user needs instead of corporate goals: I hope for this one every year but I’m now seeing signs that companies are starting to take user experience and user benefit seriously. Let’s hope all sites work on meeting our needs instead of theirs.

    4. A more pragmatic approach to e-mail: In 2004 e-mail marketers will be happy if the message even gets there. Watch for spam filters, increased privacy concerns, and inbox fatigue to reek havoc on response rates.

    5. RSS prepares to take centre stage in 2005: I am a strong believer that RSS will dominate retention-based communication in the future, but I don’t think RSS will be on enough marketers’ radar to hit critical mass in 2004. Watch for leading edge companies to use 2004 to define the future of this amazing new channel.

    6. Social Networks will have a make or break year in 2004: Social Networks were named THE hot technology of 2003 by Business 2.0 and I expect that 2004 will see the sites go mainstream and at the same time, work out privacy and business model issues. There will be an inevitable shake-out and many will fade away in the coming year. Watch for LinkedIn to gain momentum as the most privacy and value focussed network for professionals.

December 4, 2003

November 12, 2003

  • Thought

    Good article on nano-publishing by Om Malik with some added commentary by Glenn Fleishman. The Dawn of the MicroPubs

    I particularly liked Glenn’s comments on “Google Flow” — the fact that Google brings much of the traffic TO niche content sites (this site get’s 75% of its traffic from Google searches) and then reaps the rewards of that traffic through clickbacks on AdSense ads.

November 10, 2003

  • Internet Littered With Dead Web Sites

    Yes, the Internet Is Littered With Dead Web Sites. In general it’s a good idea to keep all links on your site live so that bookmarks, external links, and search engine databases can find the content or be redirected to newer information. But what to do if the entire site is going to be adandoned?

    Or you could leave it up for archival purposes. This is probably the best solution as there is a long-term issue with information that may have historic information disappearing. In “olden times” we could refer to people’s letters, diaries, and books to see what people in the past thought. With ephemeral electronic records much of what we rely on to decode the past will be gone. Archiving your site is less of an issue if the Internet Archive has already cached a copy of your site. In that case they are effectively hosting the archive of the site for you.

    If maintaining the site as an archive is not an option, you may consider pointing all pages on the deceased site to one page that explains what happened and offers the reader suggestions on where to go for current information. If you have a site you can’t afford to host anymore, you could still maintain the domain for a few dollars a year and point the entire domain to a free/cheap page hosted elsewhere that explains the fate of the site.

    If a site it to remain live after it is outdated, it is important to identify the new purpose of the site (historic archive) and to ensure that people know that your information may no longer be relevant. A “last updated” reference is particularly useful in this case.

    (Thanks to Gerard Dolan for the link)

October 17, 2003

  • Thought

    Dan Bricklin Reviews “The Innovator’s Dilemma”:

    “Like many others, I have been recommending Clayton Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma for many years. Clayton, along with Michael Raynor, has just come out with a follow-on book, The Innovator’s Solution. I wholeheartedly recommend the new book to anybody dealing with innovation or corporate strategy. It looks like it will become a classic, eclipsing the previous book. Starting a new venture or a potentially disruptive product without understanding the concepts in this book is a much more risky endeavor.”

September 10, 2003

  • No More Blogger Pro

    I just got an e-mail from Evan Williams:

    Hi there. Evan Williams here, co-founder of Pyra/Blogger.

    I wanted to give you a heads-up about something we’re announcing shortly: We’re no longer offering Blogger Pro as a separate product and we’re folding most of the features into regular (free) Blogger.

    It’s sad but true. (Except it’s not really that sad.)

    Don’t worry — nothing you paid for is going away. And while you won’t be charged, your subscription is still valid. You will continue to have access to features like RSS and post-via-email that are still not in the free version. You’ll also have priority support from our expanded team and new support system: .

    More importantly, I want to stress that we couldn’t have gotten to where we are today without you. Pro subscribers helped keep us going as a struggling start-up, when servers and bandwidth were at an extreme premium. We wanted to keep basic Blogger free, but we needed to start charging in order to keep the lights on. So we built new things that would appeal to some Blogger users (namely, you).

    Thanks to supportive people like yourself, this plan allowed us to grow and build a better service — and, eventually, get us to much more stable ground. We’re eternally grateful, and I hope you were happy with the relationship, as well.

    Today, as you may know, Blogger’s situation is much different.

    For one thing, we’re part of Google. (If you missed that announcement, check the FAQ).

    Google has lots of computers and bandwidth. And Google believes blogs are important and good for the web.

    This is a good thing.

    So we’re in the fortunate position of being able to give back to our users. Specifically, we want give all of you who paid for Pro, a Blogger hoodie as a way of saying thanks. Just go to [url] by October 1, 2003 to claim yours.

    We feel this move will be good for all Blogger users, and we’re excited about the many new things we have in the pipeline. Stay tuned.

    Thanks again,


    That’s got to be one of the nicest e-mail messages I’ve received. In fact, when I started using blogger, I loved it so much I felt compelled to sign up for the Pro version specifically so that those guys would get a bit of cash to keep the thing going. Being thanked felt really good.

September 9, 2003

  • Thought

    AlwaysOn: Broadband Behavior: I Want My Info Now!:

    “Tenure online has a profound impact on behavior. The longer you’re online, the more your behavior changes, the more you adapt, the more likely you are to be in an always-on environment and the more likely that will accelerate the change in your behavior. According to a UCLA study that AOL participated in, 50% of online users in the United States have been online for four years or more; 27% six years or more. That is a line of demarcation. Behavior starts to really change after four years. Our research says that tenure and an always-on environment go hand in hand. The environment mirrors the tenure effect, and they both affect user behavior.

  • Thought

    Not exactly a response, but PaidContent is watching response to Shirky’s article:

    “Clay Shirky writes another article on micropayments which is bound to create huge ripples in the industry…the last one he wrote practically killed the industry in its infancy.”

    Instead of detailed analysis, Rafat points to other people’s analysis.

September 6, 2003

  • Thought

    The Seattle Times (Dan Gillmor): Latest wave of newsreader software beats e-mail:

    “Every morning I learn the latest from a variety of news organizations, Weblogs, newsletters and other online information sources. But I don’t use my e-mail program or go surfing from Web site to Web site.”

  • Thought

    Clay Shirky: Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content:

    “Free content is thus what biologists call an evolutionarily stable strategy. It is a strategy that works well when no one else is using it — it’s good to be the only person offering free content. It’s also a strategy that continues to work if everyone is using it, because in such an environment, anyone who begins charging for their work will be at a disadvantage. In a world of free content, even the moderate hassle of micropayments greatly damages user preference, and increases their willingness to accept free material as a substitute.

    Furthermore, the competitive edge of free content is increasing. In the 90s, as the threat the Web posed to traditional publishers became obvious, it was widely believed that people would still pay for filtering. As the sheer volume of free content increased, the thinking went, finding the good stuff, even if it was free, would be worth paying for because it would be so hard to find.

    In fact, the good stuff is becoming easier to find as the size of the system grows, not harder, because collaborative filters like Google and Technorati rely on rich link structure to sort through links. So offering free content is not just an evolutionary stable strategy, it is a strategy that improves with time, because the more free content there is the greater the advantage it has over for-fee content.”

    It will be interesting to see if Rafat Ali has a response.

August 25, 2003

  • Thought

    Respectfully, the people profiled in the NYT article “Former Dot-Commers Are Adjusting, Painfully” were part of the problem. Most of the folks in the article where senior executives of large corporations who jumped to wacky dotcoms right before the bust. Of course they jumped right back when dreams of options turning to gold vanished.

  • Thought

    The BBC announcing that they are going to post their entire archive online is big news.

    Danny O’Brien’s Oblomovka provides some good insight:

    “Now, ask yourself: why is it called the Creative Archive? Could it be something to do with a series of talks Larry Lessig gave to the BBC earlier this year? Conversations that continued in San Francisco with Brewster Kahle of the Internet Archive?

    I hope so. If it is, the public domain (or at least, the domain of the freely distributed, freely available content) is about to get a very sizeable grant. Eighty years worth of radio, televisual and film content, from the General Strike to World War II to the era of Benny Hill and the world of the Hitchhiker’s Guide . From Richard Dimbleby and the Coronation to David Dimbleby and Donald Rumsfeld.”

    (via Boing Boing)

    I wonder if the CBC is watching and planning. Has Lessig been invited to the Great White North?

August 12, 2003

  • Thought

    BusinessWeek has a huge feature called “The Future Of Technology”.

    The online edition has extended Q&A’s and commentary from the usual suspects: Andy Grove, Nicholas Negroponte, Bob Metcalfe, Jim Clark, Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Carly Fiorina, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Sam Palmisano, John Chambers, Marc Andreessen, Joe Kraus, Paul Saffo, Masayoshi Son, Scott McNealy and Bill Joy, Tim Koogle, and Mark Cuban.

August 8, 2003

  • Thought

    notlong is a great little micro-service created by Eric Hammond.

    This site is a fine example of minimalist design and emphasis of functionality over flash.

    Pay particular attention to the competition link on the site. How many sites can you name that provide links and an A/B comparison of all their major competitors.

    Well done.

August 1, 2003

  • Thought End of the road for SMTP?:

    “Some of those tackling the problem are looking at amending protocols other than SMTP. Microsoft, for example, advocates a change to the domain name system (DNS) that would make it harder for spammers to disguise their identity.

    The DNS is a distributed database, maintained by a number of different companies that provide domain names for Web site and e-mail addresses. The problem with the system, spam-fighters say, is that like SMTP, it provides no system for authentication.

    ‘One of the things we want to do is attack this issue of spoofing,’ said Harry Katz, program manager of Microsoft’s Exchange server group. ‘That’s job one, in terms of putting a curb on spam, and we think we can do that (by) making a minor enhancement to the DNS.’

    The ‘minor enhancement’ Microsoft is preparing to release would let individuals, companies and other organizations publish the identification numbers of their mail servers in the DNS database.”

July 14, 2003