Tuesday, December 28, 2010

As much as the Wikileaks saga has ended up being one of the biggest stories of the latter part of 2010 - and looks likely to continue well into 2011 - I continue to be surprised at how much of the story seems to be avoiding much media scrutiny.

On the one hand, you have Wikileaks, the website which is dedicated to giving whistleblowers of all stripes a place to turn if they want to "leak" some sensitive documents or point the finger at something they think is wrong. No one seems to be entirely sure how that process works, nor did any of the major media organizations seem to pay much attention until this most recent "leak" of US government diplomatic cables.

On the other hand, there is a well-designed and straightforward campaign to discredit the Wikileaks organization and especially its founder, Julian Assange. You're likely familiar with that part of the story.

But there is a tremendous backstory developing, which is being told by some - even if its not gaining enough traction with the "traditional" media venues.

One of those doing an impressive job of exploring and detailing the entire Wikileaks saga is Glenn Greenwald, a US lawyer, columnist, blogger, and author, He writes a blog at Salon.com and he's also appeared on network TV news shows.

I've linked to a few articles, by Greenwald and others, about the Wikileaks story as it's developed. Recently, Greenwald posted "The worsening journalistic disgrace at Wired," about U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning,  who is alleged to have leaked the Apache helicopter video and the diplomatic cables to Wikileaks.  His column explores some fascinating - and seemingly ignored - issues with  the connections between Wired Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen and Adrian Lamo -  the chief source of the charges against Manning.
For more than six months, Wired's Senior Editor Kevin Poulsen has possessed -- but refuses to publish -- the key evidence in one of the year's most significant political stories:  the arrest of U.S. Army PFC Bradley Manning for allegedly acting as WikiLeaks' source. In late May, Adrian Lamo -- at the same time he was working with the FBI as a government informant against Manning -- gave Poulsen what he purported to be the full chat logs between Manning and Lamo in which the Army Private allegedly confessed to having been the source for the various cables, documents and video that WikiLeaks released throughout this year. In interviews with me in June, both Poulsen and Lamo confirmed that Lamo placed no substantive restrictions on Poulsen with regard to the chat logs:  Wired was and remains free to publish the logs in their entirety.

Despite that, on June 10, Wired published what it said was only "about 25 percent" of those logs, excerpts that it hand-picked. For the last six months, Poulsen has not only steadfastly refused to release any further excerpts, but worse, has refused to answer questions about what those logs do and do not contain. This is easily one of the worst journalistic disgraces of the year:  it is just inconceivable that someone who claims to be a "journalist" -- or who wants to be regarded as one -- would actively conceal from the public, for months on end, the key evidence in a political story that has generated headlines around the world.
There is a lot of stuff to explore in this story. I recommend you take some time to follow the links and look into some of the issues for yourself.

And there's plenty of fodder on the other side of the issue as well, by people who think that Julian Assange is the problem. Salon, to its credit, is giving all sides of the issue the space to make their cases.

You also might want to watch this video of Glenn Greenwald on CNN on Monday, to get a taste of the kind of biased, shoddy journalism that seems to be the norm on TV these days. Watch the video, then read Greenwald's thoughts about it in his latest post, "The merger of journalists and government officials." (UPDATE - I was going to link to the video on YouTube but I can't find it anymore. Strange. However, there is a link to it at the end of Greenwald's blog post.)

As this debate (or non-debate) continues, what is galling for me is that we seem to be losing our ability to debate an issue thoroughly. We all used to laugh at those kids in the debating club in high school, but true debate is a valuable and worthwhile skill. In fact, our democratic system is built on it. But we are rapidly evolving into a polarized society - where there are only two sides on an issue. Period.

That's not a good thing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Out on the Ice

Here's a terrific piece of reporting from Mary Rogan in GQ magazine:

Brian Burke isn't just a legend of the NHL. He's a fists-up, knock-your-teeth-out gladiator. But when his hockey-loving son came out of the closet and died soon after, he was thrust into a strange new role: advocate for gays in a macho sports culture. He's no cheerleader—he looks like he hates every minute of it—but locker-room homophobia may have finally met its match
Link to the full story.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Unevenly Distributed: Chrome, the iPad and the Crossroads of Civilization

Remember the adage - Content is King! (or Queen)?

It's a phrase I've tried to keep front and centre throughout my career as a communicator. While the vehicle of choice to deliver the content keeps evolving - it's the message that matters.

Unfortunately, that's something that many folks are losing site of again these days, as new technology brings us lots of new toys and exciting new ways to create, share and discover our content.

So it was a pleasure to discover this essay about why those who are sceptical about Google's latest toy - the Chrome OS - are missing the point.

While I still love books and my old laptops, I also have an iPad and I can easily imagine myself embracing Google's cloud vision in the future.

The content that we all seek to create and consumer should not be limited or defined by the devices we use.

Settle in for a wonderful read.

Unevenly Distributed: Chrome, the iPad and the Crossroads of Civilization

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Roz Savage - Adventurer of the Year

I've written a number of times during the past year or two about the adventures of Roz Savage, Ocean Rower.

She's been working on her latest book about her Pacific Ocean adventures and hasn't been blogging a lot lately, but she just posted an update about a great honour she's received.

Roz has been named an "Adventurer of the Year" by National Geographic.

Here's a link to her blog post about it. And here's another to the National Geographic announcement. It's a very impressive group of people!

In her post, Roz asks everyone who has followed her adventures this year to vote for her as the People's Choice winner for this current crop of adventurers. Voting runs through to Jan 15 and you can vote every day. If you want to vote, here's the link.

Congratulations Roz! We're all looking forward to the next adventure.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Wikileaks and the Long Haul

Clay Shirky has a very nicely packaged piece on the Wikileaks saga, called Wikileaks and the Long Haul.

While there's been a lot of stuff written about the massive dump of secret cables, Shirky's piece is worth reading if you're looking for a more nuanced view of the issue.

His discussion captures much of what I've been thinking about the way this story is playing out. There's a profound lesson to be learned, but I don't know what it is - yet.

What I do know is that I'm really confused about the fact that newly-elected Congressman Rand Paul is the only US politician who's willing to step up and support Wikileaks. His reasoning, as told to Fox Business last week, is rock-solid and should be supported by all political sides:
In a free society we're supposed to know the truth,” Paul said. “In a society where truth becomes treason, then we're in big trouble. And now, people who are revealing the truth are getting into trouble for it." (quoted here.)

Today, this story continues to take new and interesting turns, as governments around the world appear to be ratcheting up the pressure to haul Assange into custody. But of course, that won't stop what's happening. If anything, it could turn him into a martyr - which is not an effective way to silence your critics - as the Burmese government understands.

Here's the opening of Clay Shirky's article, Wikileaks and the Long Haul:"

Like a lot of people, I am conflicted about Wikileaks.

Citizens of a functioning democracy must be able to know what the state is saying and doing in our name, to engage in what Pierre Rosanvallon calls ‘counter-democracy’*, the democracy of citizens distrusting rather than legitimizing the actions of the state. Wikileaks plainly improves those abilities.

On the other hand, human systems can’t stand pure transparency. For negotiation to work, people’s stated positions have to change, but change is seen, almost universally, as weakness. People trying to come to consensus must be able to privately voice opinions they would publicly abjure, and may later abandon. Wikileaks plainly damages those abilities. (If Aaron Bady’s analysis is correct, it is the damage and not the oversight that Wikileaks is designed to create.*)

And so we have a tension between two requirements for democratic statecraft, one that can’t be resolved, but can be brought to an acceptable equilibrium. Indeed, like the virtues of equality vs. liberty, or popular will vs. fundamental rights, it has to be brought into such an equilibrium for democratic statecraft not to be wrecked either by too much secrecy or too much transparency.

As Tom Slee puts it, ‘Your answer to ‘what data should the government make public?’ depends not so much on what you think about data, but what you think about the government.’* My personal view is that there is too much secrecy in the current system, and that a corrective towards transparency is a good idea. I don’t, however, believe in pure transparency, and even more importantly, I don’t think that independent actors who are subject to no checks or balances is a good idea in the long haul.

If the long haul were all there was, Wikileaks would be an obviously bad thing. The practical history of politics, however, suggests that the periodic appearance of such unconstrained actors in the short haul is essential to increased democratization, not just of politics but of thought.

We celebrate the printers of 16th century Amsterdam for making it impossible for the Catholic Church to constrain the output of the printing press to Church-approved books*, a challenge that helped usher in, among other things, the decentralization of scientific inquiry and the spread of politically seditious writings advocating democracy.

This intellectual and political victory didn’t, however, mean that the printing press was then free of all constraints. Over time, a set of legal limitations around printing rose up, including restrictions on libel, the publication of trade secrets, and sedition. I don’t agree with all of these laws, but they were at least produced by some legal process.

Unlike the United States’ current pursuit of Wikileaks.

I am conflicted about the right balance between the visibility required for counter-democracy and the need for private speech among international actors. Here’s what I’m not conflicted about: When authorities can’t get what they want by working within the law, the right answer is not to work outside the law. The right answer is that they can’t get what they want.

Link to the full post.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Mystery Surrounds Cyber Missile That Crippled Iran's Nuclear Weapons Ambitions

Watching an action movie or a TV show that uses technology usually makes me laugh at some of the stuff they pull off with their computers. You know that it really isn't that easy to do things in the real world.

And in a similar vein, there are those who like to read conspiracy elements into almost everything that happens that seems a bit out of the ordinary. The rapid rise of the intelligence of the Internet has given a legitimacy to many of those claims, even if they usually are ridiculous.

But now we have Stuxnet. This is an amazing and fascinating (and worrying) story about how someone created a virus specifically designed to infiltrate and disrupt Iran's nuclear program. It worked amazingly well, and it's only a fluke that the world ever found out about it.

We're entering a whole new era - for better or worse. Just what's ahead is anybody's guess.
In the 20th century, this would have been a job for James Bond.

The mission: Infiltrate the highly advanced, securely guarded enemy headquarters where scientists in the clutches of an evil master are secretly building a weapon that can destroy the world. Then render that weapon harmless and escape undetected.

But in the 21st century, Bond doesn't get the call. Instead, the job is handled by a suave and very sophisticated secret computer worm, a jumble of code called Stuxnet, which in the last year has not only crippled Iran's nuclear program but has caused a major rethinking of computer security around the globe.

Intelligence agencies, computer security companies and the nuclear industry have been trying to analyze the worm since it was discovered in June by a Belarus-based company that was doing business in Iran. And what they've all found, says Sean McGurk, the Homeland Security Department's acting director of national cyber security and communications integration, is a “game changer.”

The construction of the worm was so advanced, it was “like the arrival of an F-35 into a World War I battlefield,” says Ralph Langner, the computer expert who was the first to sound the alarm about Stuxnet. Others have called it the first “weaponized” computer virus.

Simply put, Stuxnet is an incredibly advanced, undetectable computer worm that took years to construct and was designed to jump from computer to computer until it found the specific, protected control system that it aimed to destroy: Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.
Link to the original story

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Airport security should be debated

While the fuss last week about the full-body scanners and the enhanced pat-downs by the TSA was interesting, it only hinted at the real story. And that's the question of whether we are actually safer from the huge increase in security procedures that have been implemented in airports in the wake of 9/11.

For my part, I don't think we are safer. We are vastly more inconvenienced, but not safer. And definitely not when you consider how much money has been spent on the new measures - and continues to be spent. Someone is making a lot of money, but it's not making us safer.

Recently, the New York Times ran a debate about the issue in their opinion pages as part of their Room For Debate series. In the excerpt I've noted below, security technologist Bruce Schneier is one of the panelists in a debate that asks "Do Body Scanners Make Us Safer?"

Here's the link to Schneier's article.

I've referred to Schneier's work in previous posts. I think he brings a common sense approach to the question, backed up by solid research. And I believe that the push back against what's going on is going to continue - even if some are arguing that Americans are going to just suck it up anyway. We'll see.

Here's my favorite quote from the piece:
Exactly two things have made airplane travel safer since 9/11: reinforcing the cockpit door, and convincing passengers they need to fight back. Everything else has been a waste of money. Add screening of checked bags and airport workers and we're done. Take all the rest of the money and spend it on investigation and intelligence.
That point is taken up by another of the panelists, Rafi Sela, an Israeli airport security consultant, who points out that Israel, arguably the country with the best airport security, does not use scanners. In fact, security line-ups in that country are virtually non-existent.

Here's the link to his article in the debate.

There are other articles, with other points of view. It's a debate worth having in public and I hope that more people start looking at this issue with a critical eye.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sometimes more is better - some long stories you should read

A lot of my time on the web is spent zooming through content. Twitter and Facebook encourage that sort of consumption, especially if you're using a new device, like the iPad or something similar.

But while you can pick up a lot of information that way, nothing really replaces, for me, sitting down with a well-written article about an interesting subject. It's why I still buy magazines, although not that often. And weekend newspapers still feature longer in-depth items in their weekend sections.

This past weekend, in between day-long strategy sessions with one of my volunteer groups, sorting through the mess in my office and watching the Riders lose another Grey Cup (arghhh!) I came across a couple of interesting articles. So I thought I'd share them with you. I recommend both of them as long-form pieces that are worth the time to read them.

The Two Most Essential, Abhorrent, Intolerable Lies Of George W. Bush’s Memoir
By Dan Froomkin
The Huffington Post
November 23, 2010

WASHINGTON — These days, when we think of George W. Bush, we think mostly of what a horrible mess he made of the economy. But his even more tragic legacy is the loss of our moral authority, and the transformation of the United States of America from global champion of human rights into an outlaw nation.

History is likely to judge Bush most harshly for two things in particular: Launching a war against a country that had not attacked us, and approving the use of cruel and inhumane interrogation techniques.

And that’s why the two most essential lies — among the many — in his new memoir are that he had a legitimate reason to invade Iraq, and that he had a legitimate reason to torture detainees.

Neither is remotely true. But Bush must figure that if he keeps making the case for himself — particularly if it goes largely unrebutted by the traditional media, as it has thus far — then perhaps he can blunt history’s verdict. -- Read the rest of the article
The second article I'll recommend - this one from the Globe and Mail weekend edition:
The Algorithm method: Programming our lives away
By Ira Basen
The Globe and Mail
November 27, 2010

Here are two stories about love in the age of the algorithm.

The first one is from the hit sitcom The Big Bang Theory, which features a cast of science geeks trying to navigate through the non-geek world.

In one episode, the nerdiest of the nerds, Sheldon Cooper, is trying to score a piece of lab equipment from a colleague. He needs to befriend the colleague, but he has no idea how to make a new friend. So he does what he does best: He draws up an elaborate flow chart, which he calls a “friendship algorithm,” to help guide him through the phone call.

“Perhaps we could share a meal together?” Sheldon asks. If the answer is yes, he moves on to negotiate a time and a place. If the answer is no, he defaults to the next question, “How about a hot beverage?” followed by, “Perhaps we share a recreational interest?”

“I believe I've isolated the algorithm for making friends,” Sheldon gushes to his friend Leonard.

“Sheldon,” Leonard replies, “there is no algorithm for making friends.”

Not so fast, Leonard. Fortune magazine recently featured a story about the 10-year-old matchmaking site eHarmony, which has recently embraced the age of the algorithm. It has developed a formula that looks at hundreds of factors to determine whether two people might be compatible, including the way they use eHarmony: For example, it collects data on how long a user takes to respond to an e-mail about a match, presuming that procrastinators will be attracted to other procrastinators and vice-versa.

Algorithms are turning up in the most unlikely places, promising to assert mathematical probability into corners of our lives where intuition, instinct and hunches have long held sway. -- Read the rest of the article
What are your thoughts about either of these pieces? I'd be interested in hearing your opinions in the comments.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Radio fun for a snowy morning

I'm sitting in my kitchen this morning, looking out over a dusting of snow that arrived in Victoria last night. It's a blustery morning and looks like it's going to stay that way. But it's warm in here. Welcome to winter on the West Coast. Like our politics, things are different out here.

But what I wanted to share with you was a little gem I found on the This American Life blog. If you haven't heard of This American Life, or host Ira Glass, then I highly recommend you set aside some time to download the podcast and listen. It's easily one of the best shows on radio and worth setting aside some time this weekend to listen.

What I found this morning was a delightful post featuring several short radio spots recorded by Alec Baldwin, of TV's 30 Rock fame. Alec offered to help out public radio during its pledge drive and worked with some writers to put them together:
This past Summer, Alec Baldwin told producers at WNYC that he'd be willing to do some promos for the upcoming Fall pledge drive, and suggested getting Ira Glass involved. So Ira and David Krasnow and Rex Doane wrote and produced several spots featuring Alec and a bunch of public radio hosts and announcers. Maybe you heard these spots on the radio. And in perhaps the first instance in history of people seeking out the pledge drive, listeners have been asking us if they can hear them again.
So they've put together a nice collection and posted them on their web page. They're funny, and effective. No word on whether they helped with donations but I suspect they might have. They made me send along some money to support public radio. Even though I live in Canada, I benefit a lot from the programming south of the border and I don't mind paying something for it. If you feel the same way, consider a donation. It's that time of year, right?

Here's the link to the radio spots.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web


This page I'm going to send you to is interesting for a lot of reasons. First, it's a nice round-up of stuff about the web and browsers - history, security, how to use, etc. It's a really good read for anyone, but especially if you want to know more about some of those topics.

But what's really cool is the way the information is presented.

I don't read books on my computer much - at least, not for pleasure. I much prefer some of my other ways to read, such as my iPad, or even a real book, which are still around, you know.

But the folks at Google are always coming up with interesting projects and this appears to be one of them. This is a book format that I could see becoming really popular for a lot of things.

I think they're demonstrating some of the benefits of HTML5, an emerging new web standard for handling video on the web, but I could be wrong about that. Note that the URL changes when you flip a page, even though the browser page doesn't actually reload.

There's no doubt that this book is very cool. Just go ahead and click on the photo above or follow the link below to open the page in your browser. Click on "Open Book" and then just use your mouse to explore. It's fun.

20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web

(Via Daring Fireball.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Proofreading is a good thing

I received an email this morning touting the benefits of yet another webinar that is guaranteed to help me in my business, whatever it is.

But to say the least, the execution doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence.

Here's the headline on the flyer:

How to win (and keep!) readers: Writing riveting headlines, leads and quotes

Friday, December 3, 2010 • 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Central
But here's the first sentence:

You have one sentence to impress you readers.

Well, I'm not impressed. And I'm not going to sign up.

So maybe they're right after all.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


094TraynorJC b.jpgIt's coming up on 11 am on Remembrance Day and I find myself thinking about my father, Clair Traynor, and his brothers. They all served in World War II, like so many of their friends. But my Dad never told me much about his time overseas. He arrived in Europe closer to the end of the war. Although he signed up shortly after war was declared, the army told him to finish his Engineering degree, then ship out.

I know that he served in Holland, re-building bridges and roads so that the troops sweeping in could continue liberating that country and continue on to Germany. As he got older, and we became closer, a few stories emerged, but much of what I know I've learned from others over the years.

What I'm remembering now is that Dad didn't have much to do with Remembrance Day. At least, I don't remember it being noted in our household. To be honest, my father was a bit remote from me when I was a kid. He went off to work most days and was home for supper. I remember him reading the paper every night and listening to the news.

But my memories of November 11 are mostly a ceremony at school. We used to gather in the gym for an assembly. I'm sure there were some speeches, and there were poppies, I think. But it was just a ceremony, then we were done. I don't recall my Dad leaving work to attend at the cenotaph. It seems to me that the event was not as celebrated then as it is now. I'm pretty sure my Dad never wanted to celebrate.

I don't think that there's any doubt that Dad's years in the army were some of the best years of his life. For a young man who was orphaned early in life, the army gave a family-like structure that he'd never had as a kid. That's what I suspect anyway. We never really talked about it much.

I know my Dad's experience is not uncommon. Many people say their parents and grandparents never had much to say about their war experiences. That stuff had happened, but it was in the past. And the past was done with. The only thing about the past that was important to my Dad was family. He was passionate about his extended family. He went to all the weddings, most of the reunions and whenever we travelled, we stayed with relatives. Family was important.

Today, as I consider what Remembrance Day means to me, I think I'll keep it quiet. I respect and honour those who served us in the past and those who serve us today. It's an honourable calling and I'm grateful for what we've been given. But I'll respect my Father's wishes too. Let's just leave it at a simple...

Thank you, Dad.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nordstroms Employee Handbook — short and sweet

I was struggling this morning with some corporate communications issues and I stumbled across this post in the Signal vs Noise blog from 37 Signals. What a radical idea - tell the people you hire that you think they're smart and that you expect them to act that way. Period.

"For years, Nordstrom’s Employee Handbook was a single 5×8’ gray card containing these 75 words:

Welcome to Nordstrom

We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.

Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.

Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.

During this time, Nordstrom had the highest sales per square foot performance in the retail industry – by almost double. [thx Ian]

(Via Signal vs. Noise.)

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Jaime in Uganda

My oldest daughter, Jaime, is in Uganda now, working at a maternity centre just outside Kampala. We had fun the past few weeks watching (and helping a little) her get ready for her trip. As you can see by the photo below, she did a great job of tracking down a lot of supplies to take with her. Like most maternity centres in Uganda, and throughout Africa, there is never enough of things that we tend to take for granted here in Canada.


I've always known that Jaime was a great writer. She is a keen observer of everything around here and she sucks up information of all kinds. She's a voracious reader and listener of podcasts (remember her top 5 podcasts list?) It's been great having her living with us again for the last year, after she finished university. We would often talk about the politics, especially US politics, which she has a particular interest in. And of course, we never missed an episode of The Daily Show.

Jaime has also become a pretty intense football fan, especially the NFL - just like her Dad and her brother, Cory, who is a rabid Kansas City Chiefs fan. (Why? No idea.) It's been nice to have someone to watch the games with.

Now she's going to put all those listening, reading and observing skills to good use. She's keeping a blog called Jaime in Uganda of her adventures, and if the first few posts are an example of what's to come, it's going to be a terrific read. She has a great eye for detail and an effortless writing style that's a pleasure to read.

I've set up Jaime in Uganda on her website at www.jaimetraynor.ca. Its a WordPress blog, which I had fun putting together for her. I've just added a subscription link and you can also sign up to have new posts emailed to you, if you prefer that. But I hope you'll check out her blog, subscribe and leave some comments. I know it's going to be fun to follow and I'm sure she'll appreciate the company.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A bit of history surfaces - A Cluetrain talk turns 10

cluetrain.jpegDoc Searls, one of the original authors of The ClueTrain Manifesto, came across this recently and posted it to his blog. The Manifesto was arguably one of the most influential events at the turn of the century, at least for those of us that have made their living during this information revolution we're in the middle of. (You can read the whole thing online or order a new 10th anniversary version from Amazon.)

While much of the detail has changed, this is still an important historical record. And now, as we all become immersed in the social media juggernaut which is sweeping us all along, it's perhaps more interesting than ever. I'll include the opening comments here, then you can click through to Doc's site for the complete post.

* * * *
A Cluetrain talk turns 10

Ten years ago this month, I gave the opening keynote for the International Retail Conference of the Gottlieb Duttweiler Instutut, in Lucerne, Switzerland. The venue was the amazing Culture and Congress Centre, which had opened just two years earlier. Designed by the architect Jean Nouvel and esteemed for its acoustics, it was the most flattering jewell box into which the stone of my rough self has ever been placed as a speaker. My warm up act was a symphony orchestra. While they played I whispered to my wife, ‘Not one of those musicians has played a wrong note in years. How many seconds will pass before I flub a line?’

Less than ten, it turned out. But somehow that relaxed me, and the rest of the talk went without a hitch, even though many in the audience were wearing headphones, so they could hear me translated to another language, and their reactions (some nodding, some laughing, some shaking their heads) came several seconds after I said whatever it was they were reacting to. It was weird.

I had mostly forgotten the talk, and wasn’t even sure I had put it up online anywhere. But in fact I had, right here. Since that’s inside a site that’s not indexed by search engines (my choice, so far back that I’ve only recently re-discovered that fact, explaining why nothing there ever shows up), and I don’t plan on fixing it soon (I’ve got other stuff there I really would rather not get indexed), I’ve decided to post the whole thing here in the blog. As one might expect, it was right about some things, wrong about others, set in a context that has long since changed, addressed to an audience that has mostly moved on, and with arcana that may in some cases no longer make sense. Yet I think it still says some worthwhile things that invite probing and discussion. So here goes:

Why Markets Will Once Again Consist of People
(and why this is good news for Retailing)

This speech was given on the Gala Evening/50th Anniversary Celebration of the Gottlieb Dutteiler Institute, in the Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern – Konzertsaal, Lucerne, Switzerland.

The subheads were put there mostly to make it easy for me to keep my extemporizing close to the text, and to make live translation a little bit easier.

25 September, 2000

By Doc Searls


People ask me why The Cluetrain Manifesto has 95 Theses. The reason is that Martin Luther did our market testing for us. It seemed to work for him, so we figured it would work for us.

But lately I’ve been wondering why he chose 95. I think the answer is that he was really a retailer at heart.

I figure he had 100 theses, but then decided more people would buy it if he knocked off 5 theses and offered 95 as a discount. It was kind of a sale price. Worked pretty well.

The priest

Speaking of priests, I have a friend, an Irish priest who for many years did missionary work in East Africa. After he read The Cluetrain Manifesto, he called me up and said ‘I love your book. Especially that first thesis: markets are conversations. It’s brilliant.’

I was the original author of that thesis, so this was fun to hear. But the brilliance he praised was his, not mine.

Village market story

This became clear when he told me the story of a visiting friend he once took to a traditional African village market. His friend wanted to buy a rug displayed in one of the merchant’s stalls. With the priest serving as an interpreter, the customer asked for the price. When merchant responded, the customer said, ‘That’s too much,’ and began to walk away.

The priest then explained to his friend that he had insulted the merchant. So they turned around and went back. The customer then indicated that he wanted to go ahead and buy the rug for the stated price. Now the merchant became upset.

The priest now told to his friend that he had insulted the merchant twice – first by refusing to discuss the value of the rug, and second by offering to pay full price. The customer was completely confused. Clearly he didn’t know how to buy a rug in this town.

Then the priest said to his friend, ‘What do you think the rug is worth?’ The friend responded with a number, and a conversation between the three parties followed.

After a while the customer arrived at both an education about the rug and a price everybody agreed was fair.

The point: markets really are conversations

Now this, the priest told me, is an example of how markets really areconversations. In traditional markets like this one, the only way for a seller and a buyer to discover the true value of the seller’s goods is together – by talking about them and coming to an agreement.

In other words, all value is discovered inside aconversation.

This is why the idea of a fixed price set by a merchant is as silly as talking to oneself. It makes no sense. In traditional markets like this one, conversation starts with the merchant’s asking price. It doesn’t end there.

* * *

To read the rest of Doc's speech, go to The Doc Searls Weblog.)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The case for getting rid of tenure. - By Christopher Beam - Slate Magazine

I have a good friend who is trying to get tenure right now at a Canadian University, so this article was of interest. In principle, I'd say I support tenure - but in practice, I'm not so sure it's the right way to protect and promote academic freedom and discourse. The article does a good job (to my mind) of laying out the various arguments, although with a bias towards doing away with the practice.

Here's an excerpt:
The most common pro-tenure argument is that it protects academic freedom. Once a professor gains tenure, the thinking goes, he or she can say anything without fear of being fired. Academia thrives on the circulation of dangerous ideas. The problem is, for every tenured professor who's liberated at age 40 to speak his mind, there are dozens of junior professors terrified to say anything the least bit controversial, lest they lose their one shot at job security for life. Academia relies on young scholars to shake things up. Yet tenure incentivizes them not to. Instead, it rewards students who follow in the footsteps of the elders whose favor they will require when the day of judgment arrives.
I have a feeling this debate is going to become more vocal, especially as the current "old guard" continue to retire and new talent assumes the senior positions.

The case for getting rid of tenure. - By Christopher Beam - Slate Magazine:

PS - I found this via @dbarefoot on Twitter, who says to be sure to read the comments on the article.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Web Means the End of Forgetting

3348310749_402bf9e97e_m.jpgI am one of those who believe that as a society, we are going to learn to live with the transparency of the Internet. Eventually, we won't hold those crazy things we did as youths against the young men and women who we are hiring for jobs as adults. We'll look at the person they've become and judge accordingly.

Nice sentiment. But as I look around these days, I'm less sure about that position.

The Shirley Sherrod debacle, (not long after the Helen Thomas story) the "holding public figures to higher standards" arguments and the simple "make an accusation even if it doesn't stick" strategy of debate give me pause. Past actions, no matter what they are, are available and ready to be exploited. And it looks like they will be used that way.

If anything, my concerns were amplifed today, with the death of Daniel Schorr. Everyone seems convinced that the integrity and commitment to fairness that he demonstrated died with him. Or so it might seem.

Today, I came across this article, The Web Means the End of Forgetting from the New York Times. It's a well written piece that looks at the impact that our never-to-be-forgotten actions may have down the road, given the nature of our emerging digital age.

It offers a perspective that may influence your view of what's likely to happen.
Four years ago, Stacy Snyder, then a 25-year-old teacher in training at Conestoga Valley High School in Lancaster, Pa., posted a photo on her MySpace page that showed her at a party wearing a pirate hat and drinking from a plastic cup, with the caption “Drunken Pirate.” After discovering the page, her supervisor at the high school told her the photo was “unprofessional,” and the dean of Millersville University School of Education, where Snyder was enrolled, said she was promoting drinking in virtual view of her under-age students. As a result, days before Snyder’s scheduled graduation, the university denied her a teaching degree. Snyder sued, arguing that the university had violated her First Amendment rights by penalizing her for her (perfectly legal) after-hours behavior. But in 2008, a federal district judge rejected the claim, saying that because Snyder was a public employee whose photo didn’t relate to matters of public concern, her “Drunken Pirate” post was not protected speech.
The issue, of course, is that even if we accept that the Internet is going to extract a high price for those pictures being posted on Facebook these days, it does nothing to solve the problem. Kids will be kids, as they say, and I doubt very much that they'll stop doing the things that kids do - nor do I think that we necessarily want them to.

Those "spirited" children, full of endless energy, enthusiasm for life and curious about everything are a handful to deal with when they're young. But they often turn into some of our most interesting people as they age. We want them to explore life, push the boundaries and test their own limits. That's what growing up is all about. If we start warning them about the long-term consequences of their actions and force them to rein in all that natural enthusiasm, we'll pay a larger price as a society.

Now I really don't know what to think about the future. I'd welcome your comments.

Flickr photo via Rafael Robayna

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

When good TV shows go bad - its criminal


I don't know why but I've always been interested in criminal profiling, like the types developed as a speciality by the FBI. Lately, the genre has been turned into entertainment by shows like Criminal Minds, which feature the antics of a group of FBI profilers.

I suspect I am attracted to the genre because I like logic and I like to see it used in action. I like things to fit together and its fun when someone figures out how things work. And let's face it, there's a bit of the "carny" aspect to profilers. They look at a bunch of things and then start drawing a portrait of what the serial killer looks like and how he thinks and what he might be thinking. And sometimes they seem to be right.

When Criminal Minds first began, I was impressed. The writing was good and the characters were a lot of fun to get to know. But something bad has happened to the series - to the point where I can't even watch it now. When it began, we didn't know any more about the killers than the team did. We watched as they gathered clues and put together the story, while we followed along. There was the usual license taken with space and time and technology, but in general, the episodes were character driven and smartly done.

But now, the show has degenerated into a silly parody of itself. We are usually shown the killer right off the bat and watch while the team makes improbable connections to come up with the answer that we knew about all along. And the characters are caricatures of themselves. It's hard to believe they can take seriously the lines they're forced to repeat. It must be frustrating as an actor to see your character turned into a cartoon-like dummy.

That little rant on Criminal Minds is my way of backing into an article I came across on FBI profiling in The New Yorker, posted on writer Malcolm Gladwell's website. (By the way, the New Yorker Archive of articles he's done for the magazine over the last 14 years is a real treasure-trove of interesting stuff.)

The article is called Dangerous Minds and it delves into the history of criminal profiling. It was written back in 2007 but I haven't come across it before. It starts off with a look at some famous profiling success stories and the people who were a part of them. But as it moves along, you begin to realize that those successes are not all they appear to be.

As Gladwell develops his theme, you realize how much of what is going on can be likened to the type of thing that an accomplished "psychic" can do by asking questions and refining their probing based on the answers they receive. When its done well, just about anyone can start to believe that the person is coming up with genuine insights.
Astrologers and psychics have known these tricks for years. The magician Ian Rowland, in his classic "The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading," itemizes them one by one, in what could easily serve as a manual for the beginner profiler. First is the Rainbow Ruse—the "statement which credits the client with both a personality trait and its opposite." ("I would say that on the whole you can be rather a quiet, self effacing type, but when the circumstances are right, you can be quite the life and soul of the party if the mood strikes you.") The Jacques Statement, named for the character in "As You Like It" who gives the Seven Ages of Man speech, tailors the prediction to the age of the subject. To someone in his late thirties or early forties, for example, the psychic says, "If you are honest about it, you often get to wondering what happened to all those dreams you had when you were younger." There is the Barnum Statement, the assertion so general that anyone would agree, and the Fuzzy Fact, the seemingly factual statement couched in a way that "leaves plenty of scope to be developed into something more specific." ("I can see a connection with Europe, possibly Britain, or it could be the warmer, Mediterranean part?") And that's only the start: there is the Greener Grass technique, the Diverted Question, the Russian Doll, Sugar Lumps, not to mention Forking and the Good Chance Guess—all of which, when put together in skillful combination, can convince even the most skeptical observer that he or she is in the presence of real insight.
The article got me thinking about the nature of profiling and certainly raised some interesting questions. In many ways, it mirrors the evolution of the TV show spawned by it. What starts off as a convincing demonstration of some clever insights turn start to look tired and less convincing the more you know about it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The changing face of TV News

Global became the second national TV network in Canada to announce that a woman will be taking over the anchor chair in the coming months.

Veteran journalist Dawna Friesen will become the new anchor, taking over from Kevin Newman.

That comes on the heels of the news that Lloyd Robertson is retiring next year and will be turning over his anchor desk at CTV to Lisa LaFlamme.

It's a change that seems obvious enough but it took awhile. Personally, I'm looking forward to the new faces. I don't watch TV news that often but I think the changes will only benefit the programs.

The next question is what's going to happen at CBC? Peter Mansbridge has been there a long time. Sooner or later, they're going to need a new anchor as well.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Millions of starlings swarm over Rome

Sometimes you come across something that makes you say, "Hey - this is pretty cool!"

This video is like that.

I came across it on the 37signals blog.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Alan Traynor 1912 - 2010

Tomorrow I'm heading off to Parksville to celebrate the end of an amazing era. My Dad's 98-year-old brother - my Uncle Alan - died awhile ago. This Saturday the Traynor clan is gathering for his memorial service.

Alan was the last remaining of the five Traynor brothers. They were orphaned in 1917 and raised by a remarkable young woman who kept them all together.

Alan was a gentleman and a grand patriarch. I was lucky to have gotten to know him well in recent years and I treasure the visits we had.

And to die at 98, in your own bed, with all your faculties and surrounded by loved ones is a pretty good way to go.

Farewell Uncle Alan.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oil in the Gulf - 2 months later

The Big Picture has some amazing photos of the disaster in the Gulf. After two months, it seems worse than ever. Here's the link: http://r2.ly/zkb3.

Tonight, on the longest day of the year, I sat and watched Venus in the Western sky, shining impossibly bright after sunset. It will do that long after we're gone. And the sun will rise and set. And perhaps, down the road, we'll forget about this disaster. But at the moment, it's hard to believe we ever will.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

IABC 2010 in Toronto

I've arrived at the IABC 2010 International Convention in Toronto. Things actually got underway for many earlier today, but I was up north over the weekend with my brother's family, so I didn't arrive until later this afternoon.

For me, the conference is off to a great start. The opening session featured The Drum Cafe, an enthusiastic group that uses drumming to get everybody into the corporate sharing mood. It's a lot more fun than it sounds and if you've got a corporate gig coming up and you need a way to motivate your team and get them all marching to the same drumbeat, these guys are a natural.

The opening session this evening was at the Royal Ontario Museum. What a gorgeous museum. I haven't seen it since the renovations. We were able to see the Chinese exhibit, but most of the galleries were off limits. I think I'm going to make some time this week to go back and spend a few hours wandering around. Who knows when I'll get another chance.

What was wonderful about the reception was meeting all my old work buddies and good friends from IABC Toronto. I haven't seem most of them since I left - which is now four years ago. It's hard to believe that I haven't been back since, but that's they way life flies by, I guess. We all still look great of course.

The conference is going to be a lot of fun for me this week. I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Stephen Fry is a wise man

I'm a busy guy. You are too. We all are, right?

We don't have a lot of time to just sit around. I understand. I get antsy when I try to carve out any time for myself these days.

But I really recommend that you try to find 30 minutes to watch this interview with Stephen Fry.

If you don't know who Stephen Fry is, don't worry about it. Just watch the video. If you want to know more later, go ahead and Google him. There's lots of stuff out there.

But for now, sit back and just watch the video. You'll like it.

STEPHEN FRY: WHAT I WISH I'D KNOWN WHEN I WAS 18 from Peter Samuelson on Vimeo.

Monday, April 19, 2010

More from Eyjafjallajokull - The Big Picture - Boston.com


Just in case you haven't remembered to check out The Big Picture for some amazing shots of the volcano activity in Iceland, here's the link.

What are we going to do if it turns out that we're just at the beginning of a lengthy period of volcanoes spewing ash? Yeah, you're right. We're screwed, as far as air travel goes.

Still, there is something really, really cool about an event like this, isn't there?

More from Eyjafjallajokull - The Big Picture - Boston.com: ""

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?

Can there be anything more horrifying than being responsible for your child's death?

This story by Gene Weingarten of the Washington Post won a Pullitzer Prize. It's a terribly sad topic but an important one. Consider this:
"Death by hyperthermia" is the official designation. When it happens to young children, the facts are often the same: An otherwise loving and attentive parent one day gets busy, or distracted, or upset, or confused by a change in his or her daily routine, and just... forgets a child is in the car. It happens that way somewhere in the United States 15 to 25 times a year, parceled out through the spring, summer and early fall. The season is almost upon us.
These are wrenching stories. But they're told by a good writer who shows us why we should care.

Fatal Distraction: Forgetting a Child in the Backseat of a Car Is a Horrifying Mistake. Is It a Crime?: ""

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Books aren't going to disappear soon

It seems that each new release of the latest, greatest tech gadget is quickly followed by people talking about the death of the paper-bound book. So with the release of the iPad last week, we're now seeing stories about how the conventional book business has got to be over.

Dire predictions aside, books are still around, despite the various new ways for people to express themselves. Fortunately, not everyone has jumped on the "end of the book" bandwagon.

Shel Holtz is a social media advocate, a podcaster and also an author and book lover. Today, in "iPad apps won’t replace the narrative art form known as a “book”" he presents a wonderful argument to support his thesis that the book, far from being at death's door, will continue to enjoy an esteemed place in our culture.

It's a great piece and I recommend you head over to his blog to read the whole thing.

Here's a short excerpt:
The notion that reading will wither with the onslaught of new technologies isn’t exactly a new one. The same fears were voiced when television gained popularity. But those unaware of history are doomed to repeat it, so we’re hearing the same old predictions today that were articulated 50 years ago. It didn’t happen then and it won’t happen now. The media landscape is expanding. There are more choices, not replacements, for expression.

What the doomsayers fail to recognize is that writing is, in fact, a form of artistic expression. Photography didn’t kill painting. Movies didn’t kill live theater. Artists continue to find an outlet in these art forms and their work continues to find audiences that love it.

Authors and books are no different.
Here's the link to his post.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The grandfather's perspective

Grandfather.pngI never knew either of my grandfathers. My Dad's father died when he was just a year old. Mom's Dad died many years before I was born.

For most of my life, it wasn't an issue. But now, as I move into the years when I am looking forward to becoming a grandparent, I am more aware of stories of grandparents and their relationships with their children's children. I wonder whether my lack of experience with a grandfather will affect how I act as one.

It's funny how perspective changes everything. It wasn't that long ago that we were warning our kids to be careful. We didn't want any "accidents" to upset the order of their lives. Now, with all of them safely moving past their teens, we're suggesting that this would be a good time to start producing progeny, even if they're not settled down. No wonder kids complain about mixed messages.

I've always heard about how the grand role is different from a parent. Grands I know joke that the good thing is that you get to hand the crying baby back to the parents to handle. But there's obviously more to the relationship.

To be honest, I don't know what sort of grandfather I'm going to be. My own father enjoyed the role but he was not the type to gush about his feelings or let things get too emotional. You weren't always sure how much fun he was having. I suspect that he would have become close to his grandchildren as they got older. Unfortunately, that never happened.

I expect that when it happens, I'll be stunned by what happens. The birth of our son was like that. I was intimately involved in Heather's pregnancy and the preparations for the birth, especially because we were going to be at home. But when Cory arrived, the joy and wonder was unlike anything I'd ever felt before. Then it happened twice more, with the birth of Jaime and then Kelly.

Parenting in all its forms is always life-changing. You are constantly shaped and transformed by what you do and the results. I hope being a grandparent brings that same delight to my life.

Today I came across a moving article by a Victoria writer, Christine Shaw Roome, who wrote about the death of her grandfather at the age of 99. She writes about how her relationship with him evolved as she grew into her own life and learned more about his. They had a special relationship. That's what I'm looking forward to.

By the way, the blog that published Christine's story is called Life as a Human. It describes itself as "a lifezine that explores, celebrates and discusses the weird, wonderful, challenging, funny and poignant experience of being human." I recommend it.

I Don’t Buy the Argument: On Losing a Grandparent : Life As A Human

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Yes We Can - the update

The debate over the health care package in the US was hard to watch. As it devolved into a hate and blame match, it seemed pretty obvious that the lofty hopes and aspirations of Barack Obama's ascent to the presidency had crashed and burned.

But when the bill finally passed, by the narrowest of margins, I couldn't help but hope that maybe Obama's promise of social change hadn't been entirely wiped out. Perhaps there was a spark left that might be fanned back into life.

This morning, I came across this re-mix of wil.i.am's original Yes We Can video. (link to the original) It's a brilliant piece of work and vividly contrasts Obama's original message of hope with the Republican's single-minded argument of anger and denial. Maybe we can.

You can watch it below, or click here to see it on YouTube.

And one more thing. You might want to skip the comments on the video if you'd rather not get dragged into the muck.

- via Rob Cottingham

Monday, March 29, 2010

Audit: NASA paid $66 per person for 'light refreshments'

This just in from the "You can't make stuff like this up," department.

Audit: NASA paid $66 per person for 'light refreshments' at procurement confab | person, audit, procurement - News - Northwest Florida Daily News

Here's the gist of it:
WASHINGTON -- The nation's space agency paid the out-of-this-world price of $66 a person a day for bagels, cookies and juice at a conference, a new report found.

The subject of the NASA conference? It was a training session for its procurement officials -- the people who do the buying with taxpayer funds.

During the three-day conference, the 317 attendees snacked on ``light refreshments'' of soda, coffee, fruit, bagels and cookies at a cost of $62,611, according to a NASA Inspector General report. That's $66 a day per person.

And that wasn't the only problem. The NASA financial watchdog criticized the financially strapped space agency's spending on conferences in general. The inspector general said NASA didn't price shop to get cheaper locations for conferences and that NASA's spending on food and drinks was ``excessive.''

The agency needs to come up with firm rules and conference costs, like the Justice Department, the inspector general recommended in the report released late Wednesday.

NASA promised it would come up with better conference spending rules.
via AP

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Are you a human?

If you want to leave a comment on this blog, you'll notice that there's an extra step involved.

I've been getting a lot of Comment spam lately and most of it appears to be generated by robots. It's not a huge hassle to moderate but it does take time. So I'm going to ask commenters to show me they're human.

I know that you're human so I hope you don't take offence. But those others - I'm not so sure.

So feel free to comment as long as you're really a person. And if you run into problems, leave me a comment.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Reality is not an easy thing to establish

If you're a photographer - or just a viewer - you'll know that the ability of someone to "Photoshop" an image to have it display something different from what was visible through the camera lens has come a long way. So far, in fact, that most of us realize that the "photographic record" is probably an oxymoron.

Of course, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. You can do wonderful things with your photos by manipulating them. What you end up with in a photograph is often not what you were seeing - at least not the scene that you remember. Playing with the light and shadows, colours, etc. can often recreate something closer to what you were hoping to capture.

If you're the type that likes that sort of thing, prepare yourself for the next "really cool" step. Photoshop is readying a new tool called Content Aware that brings the ability to fine tune images to a whole new level. To see what I mean, watch this video on YouTube.

(Note that I haven't verified whether this is really a post from the Photoshop team. It might be someone's idea of a prank. But it does look convincing.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Design - Why @ Is Held in Such High Design Esteem - NYTimes.com

Here's a good example of how Twitter fits into my daily routine - and why I like it so much.

While browsing through my Twitter feed this morning, I came across this note from Dave Winer:
Design - Why @ Is Held in Such High Design Esteem. http://r2.ly/yaf6
I see the @ sign every day but I've never thought of it as a design element. So I followed the link in his Tweet.

And lo and behold, there's a lot of story there - something I probably wouldn't have come across any other way.

I like that.

Design - Why @ Is Held in Such High Design Esteem - NYTimes.com

(Via @davewiner)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Why the world still needs the serial comma

I admit that I had fallen into the camp that says we don't need to use serial commas. But a recent editing job made me realize that I was on the wrong side of this argument.

Not sure what I'm talking about? Well, here's a definition from Wikipedia:
The serial comma or series comma (also known as the Oxford comma or Harvard comma) is the comma used immediately before a grammatical conjunction (usually and or or, sometimes nor) preceding the final item in a list of three or more items. For example, a list of three countries can be punctuated as either “Portugal, Spain, and France” (with the serial comma) or as “Portugal, Spain and France” (without the serial comma).

Opinions vary among writers and editors on the usage or avoidance of the serial comma. In American English the serial comma is standard in most non-journalistic writing, which typically follows the Chicago Manual of Style. Journalists, however, usually follow the Associated Press Style Guide, which advises against it. It is less often used in British English. In many languages (e.g. French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish) the serial comma is not the norm – it may even go against punctuation rules – but it may be recommended in some cases to avoid ambiguity or to aid prosody.
As for why we still need it, consider this little gem, from a review in The Times of a documentary by Peter Ustinov:
“Highlights of his global tour include encounters with Nelson Mandela, an 800-year-old demigod and a dildo collector."
If you like this sort of thing, you really should read the whole Wikipedia article.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Apple’s Spat With Google Is Getting Personal - NYTimes.com

There's nothing I like better than a process story. And this one from the New York Times about the behind the scenes story of the developing feud between Apple and Google is a doozy.

Apple’s Spat With Google Is Getting Personal - NYTimes.com
While the discord between Apple and Google is in part philosophical and involves enormous financial stakes, the battle also has deeply personal overtones and echoes the ego-fueled fisticuffs that have long characterized technology industry feuds. (Think Intel vs. A.M.D., Microsoft vs. everybody, and so on.)

Yet according to interviews with two dozen industry watchers, Silicon Valley investors and current and former employees at both companies — most of whom requested anonymity to protect their jobs or business relationships — the clash between Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Jobs offers an unusually vivid display of enmity and ambition.

At the heart of their dispute is a sense of betrayal: Mr. Jobs believes that Google violated the alliance between the companies by producing cellphones that physically, technologically and spiritually resembled the iPhone. In short, he feels that his former friends at Google picked his pocket.

“We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business,” Mr. Jobs told Apple employees during an all-hands meeting shortly after the public introduction of the iPad in January, according to two employees who were there and heard the presentation. “Make no mistake: Google wants to kill the iPhone. We won’t let them.”

One of these employees said Mr. Jobs returned to the topic of Google several times in the session and even disparaged its slogan “Don’t be evil” with an expletive, which drew thunderous applause from his underlings.
Read the whole article

Saturday, March 06, 2010

YouTube - Pedigree Dogs ad shot 1000 FPS using the Phantom camera

I'm not sure whether I've ever posted a link to a dog food commercial before, but this one is really too good to pass up.

Thanks to my friend Eric Eggertson for passing along the link.

If you want to see it in a larger format, use this link: YouTube
- Pedigree Dogs ad shot 1000 FPS using the Phantom camera
: ""

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Proud Papa - Values Update

I used to tell people that as your kids grow older you learn a lot about yourself - because the values they grew up observing start showing up in some obvious ways.

Now I know I'm going to sound self-serving here, but I can't help it. By that standard, I'd say that Heather and I have done a pretty good job of instilling something right in all three of our kids.

Specifically, they all put a lot of stock in helping others. And I think that's a pretty good trait. I don't post about these guys that often but I am a Proud Papa (you can Google it!) so I figured this post was long overdue.

And this is after all, "Salute your Children" week here in Victoria.

(Actually, I just made that up, but it should be)

For proof of what good values these guys have inherited from their parents - consider these examples:

Blog_Photos-2.jpgCory, the eldest, lives in Regina now and is a chef at a local steak house. He's having a great time working in the food business, after stints as a bricklayer's apprentice and landscaping. What I didn't know until recently is that he's also the proud supporter of two foster children - one in Haiti and another in Brazil. Fortunately, the one in Haiti was not hurt during the earthquake a few weeks ago. Cory never says much about his good works - but we hear about them from others. We're very proud.

Blog_Photos-3.jpgJaime, the middle kid, just completed university and had planned to head overseas last fall. But she postponed her trip to spend most of February working as a volunteer at the Olympics - a pretty cool activity, needless to say. Now she's back at our place for a few weeks while she's scouring the planet looking for a volunteer position in Africa or the far East. She'll likely be heading out in April or May for who knows how long? But some part of the world will become a better place when she arrives there.

Blog_Photos-4.jpgAnd finally, Kelly, our youngest, who is a senior at the University of Louisville, is just nine days away from cutting off all her hair (and she has a lot of it!) to help raise money to fight cancer in kids. She's doing it on St. Baldrick's day (you'll have to look that up) as part of a fundraising effort with three of her rowing teammates in a bid to raise $10,000. It's a worthy goal. So far, she's up to about $1,500. If you'd like to help her get to her target of $2,500, feel free to visit her site and make a donation.

That's my Proud Papa update for this month. I'll let you know how things are going for all of them down the road.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Big Picture does the Olympics

If you still haven't got enough of the Olympics, you might want to check out the photos at The Big Picture blog. Absolutely stunning.

And on a more sobering note, The Big Picture also has a section on the Chilean earthquake and its aftermath. It's hard to appreciate the scope of the damage until you see some of the pictures.

Olympic reflections

It's fair to say that Canada's Olympic party could not have ended with a better script than the one delivered by the Men's Hockey team yesterday. An overtime goal to win the gold medal, scored by Sidney Crosby. It would be hard to believe if I hadn't watched it myself.

I'm still buzzing from the last 17 days. To be honest, I wasn't sure what to expect from the Vancouver Olympic Games. I knew they would be good - they always are. The highs and lows are always profound and shared by everyone. But I wasn't sure how the actual event was going to compare to the expectations. As it turned out, there was no need to worry.

We exceeded all expectations. Canada proved it is a competitive powerhouse but it also showed the world a unique identity. We are a country that embraces diversity yet shares a passion. We have a fierce determination but we don't conquer. We welcome all. We're good hosts. And we have amazing scenery.

The long march of the Olympic Flame across the country was a master stroke of organization, bringing communities everywhere into the Olympic family and making us all hosts to the world. That shared enthusiasm and excitement was contagious and best of all, it didn't depend on gaining the attention of the media to be successful. It worked at the local level and the buzz it created spread organically. The media was a part of it but it wasn't responsible for it.

One feature of the Games coverage that wasn't around last time was Twitter, which brought a new perspective to the entire Olympic event. When the flame relay began here in Victoria, I shared the excitement with a whole whack of followers, who were posting their instant comments and updates in real time. It was a new way of experiencing what was happening.

The opening ceremonies were great to watch on TV but the comments, back chatter and excitement from the Twitterverse was even more fun. My favourite moment came after the fourth arm of the Olympic cauldron failed to rise out of the stage. "Don't fault us for not getting the torch up in time, Canadians invented insulin not viagra," wrote Joseph Uranowki, in a tweet that was instantly picked up and retweeted by hundreds.

Throughout the Games, I watched the TV coverage while keeping an eye on the Twitter feed, which was often a lot more entertaining - especially when the commentators got a little distracted. It was like sharing the show with a room full of sometimes witty, highly opinionated but ultimately enjoyable friends. I like it.

Who knows if we'll see another Olympic Games here in Canada anytime soon. I doubt it, given the massive investment it requires. But today, in the afterglow of the event, it does seem worth it. And maybe that's enough reflection for now. Let's enjoy the feeling.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Jaime's five favourite podcasts

It wasn't that long ago that I introduced my daughter Jaime to podcasting. I figured she would like the fact that she could really get into a show and listen to every episode on her own terms.

As it happens, I was right. Boy, was I ever right. Jaime is now the podcast queen. I have no idea how many she keeps up with, but there is seldom a time when she isn't listening to something or other.

For the past couple of weeks she's been in Vancouver, volunteering at Cyprus for the Vancouver Olympic games. She's having a blast, from what I hear. She's seen some of the gold medal performances - especially the first gold Canada won in the men's moguls. "The curse is over" she shouted at me through her cell phone the night he won.

I was thinking about Jaime tonight because I just finished writing a short item about podcasting for the Mac user's group that I belong to here in Victoria. I remembered that I asked Jaime quite awhile ago to give me her top 5 favourite podcasts.

I've been bugging Jaime to start her own blog just to tell us all about the stuff she's been finding out about. But she hasn't risen to that challenge yet. So I'll present her choices here in my blog. Enjoy.

Jaime's Top 5 Favourite Podcasts

1 - Hamish and Andy

The Australian comedy duo's drive home radio show. Their podcast compiles the segments between songs into 40 minutes of hilarity, five times a week.

2 - The National: At Issue Panel Audio Podcast

This podcast updates once a week and is the full version of the At Issue Panel segment from CBC's The National. Usually no longer than 15 minutes, the panel is a refreshing change from the shouting matches on cable channels. Andrew Coyne, Chantal Hebert, and Allan Gregg provide their take on Canadian politics and the week's news, and the banter between the panelists and Peter Mansbridge is always enjoyable.

3 - It's All Politics

This is a weekly NPR podcast covering all things political (in the US). Hosts Ron Elving and Ken Rudin discuss everything from senate races to mayoral contests from the 1960s, and are constantly trying to stump one another with obscure political trivia. Very punny and thoroughly entertaining, even if you're not as much of a political junkie as these two are.

4 - Wait Wait Don't Tell Me

Another weekly NPR show. Each episode is taped in front of a live studio audience, and features questions about the week's news. The host and announcer are always the same, and there is a rotating group of panelists featured, who provide witty commentary and answer quiz questions. Listeners also take part in some of the games, in hopes of winning the grant prize of Carl Kasell's voice on their home answering machine.

5 - Slate podcasts

All Slate podcasts follow a similar format, with three (and occasionally more) hosts discussing three topics related to whatever area that particular podcast focuses on. There's separate political, culture, sports, women's and money gabfests, as well as monthly audio bookclubs and a spoiler special podcast that discusses recently released movies. All are quite addictive and most end with a segment where each person recommends something that piqued their interest that week, which has led me to discover many interesting articles/books/artists etc.

Thanks Jaime. Great list.

Anyone got any favourites to add? Comments are always open.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Roger Ebert profile in Esquire

Back in 1996, I went through a rough time, health-wise. I hadn't heard the term "a perfect storm" at that point. The book by that name wasn't published until the following year, but looking back at what happened, I'd say that calling my illness "a perfect storm" seems about right.

One of these days I'm going to write about those months of my life. It's an interesting story 14 years later - especially because I've been more or less healthy ever since. But my brush with death did change the way I look at things.

Probably because of my own experience, I'm always interested in other people's stories about significant events in their lives.

ebertx-inset-community.jpgThis month, Esquire Magazine published a profile of Roger Ebert, the famous film critic for the Chicago Sun Times, who has survived cancer but is no longer able to talk, eat or drink. It's a gripping, poignant and inspiring story and well written to boot by Esquire's Chris Jones, who apparently lives in Ottawa. I recommend you go ahead and read it for yourself.

What I am most fascinated by is how Ebert's writing has become so powerful, since he lost the ability to talk. He has an online journal that he writes in constantly. He's one of the most prolific Twitterers in the world with over 70,000 followers. He's funny and entertaining. And sometimes he's over-the-top and sometimes he misses the mark - just like his film reviews.

You might have noticed that I haven't posted anything since I wrote about Blue. So you might not be surprised to hear that I've been moping around a bit and haven't been able to pull together a new post. But today I saw a link to the Esquire piece and I took the time to read it. I also read Ebert's response to the article on his blog. Something about the story struck a chord with me. It brought back a lot of my own recollections about coping with a body that wasn't working right and wondering what the future looked like.

It's late now and I'm too tired to wrap this thought up properly. But fortunately, part-way through the article, Roger Ebert nails the way I felt once I realized that I had been given a second chance to make the most of my life:
I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this, and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
Thank you, Roger Ebert.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Farewell Old Friend



1995 - 2010

Is there anything more wonderful than a puppy? Their enthusiasm for life, their unbridled joy at just being alive is so infectious. No one can resist them. They’re cute, cuddly and even if they do pee on your leg, somehow it seems OK.

I’ve always had dogs. Puppies grow into dogs and burrow into your heart and become part of your life. You walk them, feed them, take care of them. And in return, they give you their unconditional love and affection. They’re always happy to see you - never too busy to drop whatever they’re doing to get their ears scratched and head out for a walk.

Dogs are great companions. But just as puppies grow into dogs, young dogs become old dogs. And all too soon, old dogs get tired and sore and aren’t as interested in playing as they used to be. They start to hang out in quiet places and sleep more than they used to. They’re still a big part of your life. But they’re withdrawing a bit too.

A couple of weeks ago, our old dog, Blue, stopped going out for walks. We were about a block away from our house, heading out to the park we go to every day. But suddenly she stopped and wouldn’t walk any further. So we turned around and headed back home and I put her up on the back deck. Then Roxy (our younger dog) and I headed out for our walk.

Each day, I asked Blue if she wanted to come for a walk. She’d come out to the front yard with us and nose around the neighbour’s lawn. But then she’d head back to her spot on the back deck and go to sleep.

She was having trouble settling down. Her hips were locking up. She struggled to lay down and get up. She was whining more so you knew she was starting to ache a lot. She lost her appetite and started to lose weight.

I knew what was coming. I’ve had dogs get old and there is no way to put off the inevitable. But it’s so hard to actually make the call. When she needed me to help her get up and go down and up the stairs, I knew the time had come. Our dogs depend on us to give them a good life. We shelter them and feed them and nurse them when they’re sick. But when their time comes, we don’t let them suffer. When their quality of life declines, it’s our responsibility to comfort them until the end.

Last Wednesday, I booked a house call from our vet for Friday morning. Knowing what was coming was difficult - there was that nagging voice that said maybe I didn’t need to follow through. Perhaps Blue just needed a bit more time and she’d get her strength back and we could carry on a bit longer.

But about 2 am Friday morning, Blue’s whining woke us. When I went outside, she was struggling to stand, with her feet sliding off in all directions. She wanted to get up but couldn’t get her footing. So I supported her and we went down the stairs into the back yard, where she did her business with as much doggie dignity as she could muster. Then I carried her back up the stairs and put her on her blanket, where she’d been sleeping for the last two weeks.

She wouldn’t drink any water from her bowl, but if I dipped my hand, she’d lick it dry. We did that for five minutes until the dish was empty. She wasn’t whining any more. I watched while she fell asleep.
In the morning, she was awake but she hadn’t moved when the vet arrived. Heather, Jaime and I were on the back deck, along with Roxy. The vet’s name was Dr. Helen Rae and she was professional and respectful. Blue drifted off without a whimper.

I miss Blue terribly. Much more than with our other dogs. I’m not quite sure why. Perhaps it’s because I’m older myself and more aware of my own mortality. If so, I hope I carry myself into my old age with as much dignity as Blue did.

It’s taken me a couple of days to write this. As I do so, Roxy is lying outside my office door. She’s been very subdued since Blue left. She’s lost her constant companion and she’s struggling with that - just as I am. But as the days pass, we’ll both think a little less about what we’ve lost and remember how much we enjoyed our life with Blue.

The puppy that we found abandoned 15 years ago, with cut-up feet and covered with ticks, remained a faithful member of our family, much-loved by all of us and keenly missed now. We will always remember her.

Farewell, my old friend.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I really want a Spondulix machine

I've had quite a lot of Spam comments to The Daily Upload lately. Most are pretty straight forward. But some are so strange they're kind of entertaining. Like this one.

(I've edited it to remove the malicious links.)

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