Category Archives: Observations

Visualization techniques

This link is running all over the place in blogs that I follow. I’m sticking it in here so I don’t lose track of it.

Periodic table of visualization techniques

Completely nifty set of different ways to visualize information. I got lost in it for about an hour this morning. I sure wish they would put the graphics out in a list so I didn’t have to hover the mouse over them, but that’s just a nit. A great source of new ideas.

Domain-brokerage RFP

I have a gaggle of premium domain names I got a really long time ago. I keep coming up with ideas for them that are either late/lame or too hard for me to do. I’ve decided that the time is right to sell one and, being a structured RFP type guy, I decided to build an RFP to select the broker.

Here’s a list of the domains — I only want to sell one of them, but I’m going to let the brokers choose which one they want to sell so they can sell it into their strongest market segment. — social networking, beverage industry, legal services — social networking, beverage industry, publishing — social networking, consumer products, humor — social networking, food and dining — travel industry, entertainment, social networking, Internet-destination — social services, social networking, consumer products, industrial products

I’ve prepared a couple of documents. Here’s an introductory letter (in Word format) that describes the process and timing in detail. If you’re thinking about bidding, you fersure want to read that.

There’s also a detailed vendor response document that I will cheerfully email to anybody who’s interested. The reason I’m not posting the response document to the web is to keep track of who’s inquiring so’s to make sure that vendors gets invited to the various events along the way. But if you’re just interested in a copy for any reason, feel free to ping me (everybody: put “RFP response” in the subject to get through the spam filter).

[12 years later: Here’s a link to that response document — it’s still pretty good, although it will make most brokers think you’re crazy for expecting ansers to questions like that.  But hey, they’re still important questions to have answers to.]

Here’s a timeline (see? I am into structure);

1/8/2007 Issue and publicize RFP
1/22/2007 Vendor conference call (at noon, CST)
2/12/2007 Deadline for proposal submission
2/19/2007 Interviews with finalists completed
2/26/2007 Negotiations with finalists completed
3/5/2007 Announce selection


Well dang. Looks like I threw a party and nobody came. Lots to reflect on in that, but the bottom line is that no brokers proposed. This isn’t the first time this has happened to one of my goofy ideas. It usually means I’m a little ahead of the market. So I’ll go figure out some other approach to this problem… I’ve got some good friends in a related field who bring a lot of marketing and sales savvy to the table — maybe it’s time to roll my own.

Further Update:

Ah! Frank Michlick wrote a piece about this little RFP over at his great DomainEditorial site. Here’s a link to his article about the RFP. Thanks Frank!

Muni WiFi — let’s build a model

I just posted a story over at the St Paul Broadband Committee site about my belief that a lot of the municipal WiFi networks don’t seem to be grounded in financial reality.

Here’s a link to the article and here’s a link to the muni-WiFi financial model I built to go with it.

Here’s the deal — let’s get these models out of the hands of the VooDoo consulting expert type people and into the hands of the people. “Open source financial modeling” if you will. Let’s beat on this model — or write a new one if this one is hopeless — and get to the point where we ALL understand the economics that underpin these projects.

That way, we can either rejoice in bridging the digital divide, solving the problems of the world and putting a chicken in every pot (as advocates claim) or we can avoid the mess that comes with yet another technology project that over-promises and under-delivers.

What say you? Let’s have at it.

Get a customer service human being –

Sure, they’ve been around forever. Sure, most of you probably already know about this site. But just in case you don’t, here’s a pointer to — a great site if you’re trying to get to a human-being customer-service type person.

Marcie was trying to find the path through Northwest Airline’s patented “Voice Prompts From Hell” system to book a seat for me on an existing reservation. She finally gave up. I remembered reading about GetHuman somewhere, Googled it, looked up NWA and tried it out. Tarnation! Worked perfectly.

I’m sold. It’s even got the incredibly-secret path to Amazon customer-service reps!

Ralph’s good idea of the month

Sheesh, this one is a slap yourself in the forehead idea.

If you, like me, have a cable connection to the internet and you, like me, haven’t thought about your cable modem since the day you bought it and you, like me, bought the durn thing more than a couple years ago — go buy a new one that’s compliant with DOCSIS 2.0. It’ll be way faster.

Ralph pointed this out at lunch on Thursday. By Thursday afternoon I had me a brand new Motorola SurfBoard (which, with all the rebates from CompUSA, turned out to be free).

I’m talking way faster… Ralph’s getting over a megaBYTE per second sometimes. I haven’t formally tested mine. But it’s…


Good words for Qwest

I’ve been grouchy about Qwest in the past, sometimes even way beyond grouchy into the “troublemaker” category.

But today it was reported that they are the only RBOC holdout in the NSA’s program to build a database of every dang call made in the USA.

Kudos to Qwest for holding those call records back. Stick to your guns, folks. registry

The latest project to keep me away from this blog is bringing up the registry for CORP.COM domain names.

This is a project that Edmon Chung and I started back in 2002 when Edmon was the hotrod young entepreneur in charge of Neteka. He did such a great job that they got acquired by Afilias not long after we started our project.

What with Edmon distracted by the acquisition, and me distracted with a series of really interesting InstantCxO engagements, the Registry sorta went on the back burner for a few years. But the time seemed right to both of us last year and the project is galloping toward an April launch.

2nd level domains like CORP.COM have been steadily gaining favor over the last few years, which is another reason why it seems like the time might be right to kick things off. Afilias is game, Edmon is game, I’m game, we have our first registrar in NamesBeyond. So off we go.

A great blog

Dang I like Guy Kawasaki’s blog. I keep sending snippets from it to people. And I keep finding myself muttering to myself “dang! I’ve said those exact words myself. Why didn’t I think to blog that.” Here’s the link to his Let The Good Times Roll blog.

Business types will like it. Non-business types, you might too — Guy’s a bit more well-rounded in his approach than the typical heads-down business blogger.

RSS as a replacement for databases

Safe Haven's not getting much attention these days because I'm still getting my sea legs with the podcasting stuff. Sex and Podcasting is gonna be getting a new post a day, at least for the next week.

But I ran into a cool thought while listening to The Gilmore Gang yesterday (what happened to them by the way — a great series of podcasts that seem to have trickled off to nothing back in February).

Here's the idea — why not use RSS on a manufacturing shop floor to let machines and work-centers tell each other (and us) what they're up to. Machines could “subscribe” to upstream machines, and “publish” for downstream machines and let each other know what's going on — feeds could talk about what came into (and left) the machine/work-center.

I spoze this could be expanded to anything that has stuff moving through stages — paperwork processes, hospitals, etc. All kinds of real-time applications come to mind.

One thing that would be neat is that we'd get away from the huge central database notion and so adding a workcenter, or rearranging them, would be easy. Simply a matter of changing who subscribed to what. Sortof an object-oriented model that us regular people could understand…

It could be really visual too — lots of cool UI possibilities there. Not to mention fitting in better with the notion of lean manufacturing, and visual management.

Now, back to podcasting.

Question for y'all — should I add conferencing to the site?

Steve and Ralph and I had a little chat in the “comments” section of the video-conferencing post that went up a few weeks back, which got me thinking this morning…

Since I imagine most of the folks who are reading this blog are Beer Gang members-in-good-standing, I was wondering if you'd be interested in having a conferencing area on the site so you could talk to each other directly. It's easy (a couple mouse-clicks) to put up, if you think it's a good idea.

Son Richard was in the paper over the weekend

Here's the link to the article, which ran in the St Paul paper this Sunday – click here for the story.

A great lesson in community organizing and Margaret Mead's famous quote Quote:

Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Marcie and I were a part of that committed group of parents that changed the direction of the school. But it was Richard who stole the show. At both of the big public meetings, he got up and made the comment that people all remembered.

Pretty cool guy, that Rich.

Havenco – the rise and fall of a data haven

I have an admission to make. I was inspired to get the domain (which I use for all my personal stuff on the 'net) after reading some cyber-punk novel or other. Might have been Neuromancer by Bill Gibson or maybe Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.

Whatever. Anyway I was entranced with the idea of “data havens” that was floating around in the fiction of that time, and that's what was on my mind when it came time to get my very first ever domain name. I was tickled to death to find out that was available (for free back in those days).

Some years later, Ryan Lackley contacted me to see if I would be interested in selling him the domain for a new venture he was involved with, which at that time was called HavenCo. Their premise was to set up a secure data haven in this odd little place called Sealand (that’s their official “national” site — also check out the Wikipedia entry about Sealand, which includes the latest developments like the fire in 2006). Sealand is an old WWII gun platform about 10 miles off the coast of England that is owned by a pretty odd character who dubbed himself “Prince Roy”, declared himself a sovereign nation and embarked on all kinds of schemes ranging from ship registry to fishing tours.

I passed — we'd just sold, and I'd sold and and was feeling like I needed a breather.

HavenCo launched about a year later (July 2000), amidst much fanfare and a fabulous piece in Wired Magazine.

Well, almost five years have passed as I write this and as I was updating my web site with a little group of links called “All the Havens this isn't…” I decided to see how HavenCo was doing. Unfortunately, as with lots of schemes that were hatched in 1999, HavenCo isn't doing so well these days.

Here's a link to the official HavenCo web site. Doesn't look too bad does it? The site's still up, and it appears that they're still open for business. Well, not so fast.

Here's an article that ran in 2002 that starts giving you a clue that maybe things are starting to unravel. Check out the pictures of the Sealand platform. Hmm. I'm not sure I'd want to put much of a raised-floor computer/network operations center out there. And I sure wouldn't want to live out there for a couple years the way Ryan eventually did.

Here's Ryan's writeup of where things are at — which is the usual disarray of failed contracts combined with a dash of international sovereignty foolishness. I found this paper that Ryan presented at DefCon to be especially poignant.

So to sum up — it looks like (as of this writing) HavenCo is limping along, milking it's remaining customers for whatever it can. The founders are all gone. Lawsuits abound. Dreams are shattered. Geeks are pissed.

Sigh. So many stories like this… Remember all that baloney in Wired Magazine about The Long Boom that started coming out in 1997 or so? Oh well…


Julio’s been writing about podcasting for (seemingly) ever — and i didn’t read any of the posts until today when he pointed folks at this great 4 Minutes About Podcasting movie.

NOW I get it!

Amazing — all of the “tell your own story” ethic of community radio, combined with all the cool “build your own feed” capability of RSS feeds, which results in “radio” that’s going to show up in Google.. If you’re a community-radio type person who hasn’t messed around with podcasting, go watch that movie — and then let your imagination run wild. I’m sitting here thunderstruck, realizing what the possibilities are…

What an amazing community technology. For example; you’re an organizer of (fill in the blank), laboring away in your local community. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to hear an occasional “show” about your cause, direct from the mouth of your inspirational mentor? If you’re an inspirational-mentor type person, wouldn’t it be great to periodically share your “show” with others?

Or, if you’re more like the typical community-radio programmer, wouldn’t it be great to reach the .0003% of the population of the planet who shares your passion about (fill in the blank)? Conversely, wouldn’t it be great to listen to shows produced by people who exactly share your tastes and views?

Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be broadcasters. Their days of being in any way relevant are numbered.

This one totally nifty technology. Thanks Julio for pointing me at the link that finally turned the light bulb on. I’m going to add useful links “below the fold” as I explore — to see that stuff, hit the “read more” button.

Bandwidth — A puzzler

The community radio movement was all about access to limited bandwidth (in our case, noncommercial FM channels). Podcasting is going to present an interesting bandwidth problem for the person with a really popular podcast — it’s going to slurp up a lot of bandwidth to deliver a 50 mByte file to thousands (millions?) of fans that are hungry for your stuff. Looks to me like we’ll need to marry BitTorrent with podcasting pretty soon now.

I’m really interested in the “how do you do it?” part of podcasting right now, so that’s what this first collection of links reflects.

Engadget provided a great starting point on this page about podcasting.

Creating podcasts is pretty straightforward — make a radio show, but pipe it off to an MP3 file when you’re done. I was Googling for “make a podcast” and got zillions of articles about how to make digital radio shows — lots of talk about mixers, and line-inputs-to-the-computer, and like that.

What I’m interested in right now is the RSS feed part — and the very last part of that Engaget article is what tipped me over to understanding. It all revolves around the notion of an “enclosure” in an RSS feed — something that most blog-creating software doesn’t grok yet, but I bet all off them will soon.

I think for now I’ll try just editing up my own RSS feed by hand rather than trying to force-feed Xoops (the software I’m using to create this blog). I’m going to use the XML file in the Engadget article as a template, build me a little “hello world” podcast and see how I do. But not right away. First I gotta finish helping Marcie lay down flooring in the upstairs room at the farm.

Great eye and ear candy – Arcade Machine Self Test

Way to go Gizmondo — an amazing post here to delight your senses. As long as you're willing to spend a little time outside the box, that is.

Head on through to the site and try the two screens out — I like the animated one the best. Even better with the suggested MP3 tracks playing at the same time. Took me back to my “new music” days in the late '60's these did. Very excellent.