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All Things Internet™ since 1999


Using Jetpack to Share Blog Posts on Twitter and Facebook

For the longest time I relied on a hodge-podge of web services to post alerts to twitter and Facebook when I updated my blog. Today I made the jump to using Publicize through Jetpack. Jetpack is a set of services provided by Automattic that just make WordPress better. One of those services, Publicize makes it easy to share your site’s posts on several social media networks automatically when you publish a new post.

This post is a bit of a test post to see what gets posted and how.

If you are already using JetPack, setting up Publicize is pretty straightforward. Just sign into your WordPress account and click through to JetPack and select “Configure” in the Publicize card. From there, you can authorize the services you want to post to when you update your WordPress blog. Publicize is nicely integrated with WordPress and notices go out almost immediately. When you write a new post using the WordPress editor, new options appear in your right sidebar that allow you to customer what gets pushed out to your social networks.

Previously I had been using Twitterfeed which works extremely well. Its main drawback is that it relies on parsing the RSS feed for your blog on a scheduled basis, pushing out updates to your social networks according to a schedule. My main challenge with it was that I was always forgetting which service was doing the posting to my blog, making it a challenge to tweak my settings when I got the urge.


My Email Workflow: IMAP & Filters

Screen Shot 2012 12 08 at 3 20 28 PM

I get a lot of email – hundreds per day. I also believe in having an empty inbox and I like to make sure that every message finds its home in my email archive before the end of each day. Over the years I’ve developed a specific approach to making sure that I’m on top of my email and that my email stays organized. Everyone has a different email workflow and I thought it might be helpful to share what works for me.

My first line of defence is IMAP. I primarily use Mail on OS/X and IOS and I have mailboxes configured on at least 3 different devices – my home workstation, my work laptop and my iPhone. IMAP makes its really easy for me to get access to my email from almost anywhere with very little time wasted on replicating a new setup. I use server-side filtering to organize my email into general folders which the email client loads remotely. This has the benefit of showing me my email in exactly the same way no matter which mail client I use.

IMAP also comes with the benefit of storing all of my mail “in the cloud” without forcing me to use webmail. I have gigabytes and gigabytes of email going back to 1999 when I first dropped POP in favor of IMAP based email. I never have to worry about backing up this email, deleting old messages to save on storage space or trying to remember if that important email got downloaded at home or from work. IMAP really is the only option for email in today’s multi-machine, highly mobile email environment.

The structure of the server-side filters is important as well. I filter only on source and I don’t bother filtering email from people, topics or keywords. For example, I receive a small amount of email from mailing lists. Email from each of these lists goes into its own folder. I also receive a number of work-related automated reports and status updates. Each of these gets filtered into their own folder – all the automated balance notices go into one folder, customer feedback into another, account activation and sales reports into yet another. I have dozens of folders as a result – all of which only exist on the server.

Most importantly, I don’t bother filtering people, topics or keywords. If you send me an email, you’ll probably end up in my inbox. I have tried filtering messages based on whether I was cc’ed, bcc’ed or directly addressed and found it was just too much to keep track of. Simpler is better. These filters create a pretty clean inbox for me to work through each day.

The rest of my email “processing” is all manual. I’ll follow this post up describing how I set up my email program to encourage my focus and avoid distractions and another describing how I decide which messages to answer, which to file, which to delete, and so on.



Joe Ely


I don’t count myself as a fan of country music. From time to time I hear something that strikes my fancy which leaves my trying to reconcile my love of the music with  my bias against the genre. I usually justify it by classifying the music as “roots”, “folk” “bluegrass” or some other sub-genre that helps me avoid the possible trust that I might actually like country music.

My most recent brush with my denial came with a listening of Joe Ely’s album “Satisfied at Last”. In this case, I’ve abided by my “No Country” rule because Ely’s career spans a number of genre’s and he sang back-up with The Clash on “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (he’s the guy that yelled “Split!”). I’ve never listened to his stuff before, and I’m glad that I finally took the plunge.

The opening track grabbed me as being faintly reminiscent of Chris Rea mingled with a tinge of Steve Earle. I don’t know if it will make its way into my regular rotation, although I am really enjoying the album. It feels fresh and best of all, real. I’ll see how it feels after a few more listens. 

(Post-script: In fairness, I’m pretty sure that I’m hearing Joe Ely when I listen to Chris Rea and Steve Earle. Music is funny like that – influences are in the ear of the beholder. I heard Steve first, so Joe’s stuff sounds like Steve to me :)


A needed fix in IOS

I want to ask Apple to fix one small thing in IOS. You know that little “backgrounded task” bar that they show at the top of the screen when you’ve got a live Personal Hotspot connection? Yeah – that thing. Similar ones appear if you background Maps while it is doing turn-by-turn or background the Phone app in the middle of a call.


The problem with “This Thing” is that while it does a really good job of telling you what tasks are running in the background, it gets in the way of other interactions. I’ve gotten used to “touching the top of the app so the list scrolls back to the top” and when I do that when this notifier bar is active, I get “transported” into the settings screen for the Personal Hotspot. Not what I intended at all. I think this is really broken, and I’d really like Apple to fix it. 


On Mastery

“You can reach, but you can’t grab it.
You can’t hold it, control it
You can’t bag it.”

- U2, “Discotheque”

“Mastery is an asymptote”

I love this insight. It comes from Dan Pink in “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”. Not only does it explains that feeling of the elusive pursuit, it explains why some like to take shortcuts – even though it dooms them to being unfulfilled. Amazingly, the doom is the same if one isn’t a cheat, yet the difference in the state of mind is stark. There is such joy in an honest attempt that the result becomes secondary.


App.net doesn’t need Twitter scale to succeed

Now that I’m on alpha.app.net, I’ve re-read MG Siegler’s piece on why App.net won’t succeed.

I think he’s wrong.

His reasoning assumes that a user supported service would need to reach twitter scale in order to rival twitter. Twitter has a different business model than app.net is promising. Twitter is an advertising supported service and the economics are very different. Twitter can only derive pennies per year in value from its users – app.net can derive tens of dollars per year.

To keep the numbers simple, let’s pretend that Twitter already has $1b in revenue and 500 million users (they are projecting that they’ll hit $1b by 2014 and probably have around 600m users or so already). That implies that each twitter user is worth about $2/year to the company.

On the other hand, App.net is charging $50/year for regular accounts and more for developers, etc. This implies that App.net only needs to scale to 20m users to reach the same business scale as twitter.

This is fundamentally a better business model. Costs will be lower and margins will be higher and more importantly, Twitter can’t follow app.net into this territory – they’ve chosen their fate and its virtually impossible to make the transition without destroying the core value that Twitter has created.

If anything, this has the potential to put Twitter in a really bad place – stuck between Facebook and Google, each trying to corner the advertising game and outflanked by app.net on the other. 

I’ve always found Twitter awkward and hostile. I think its created exactly the type of weaknesses for itself that a strong competitor with a good model can exploit and win against.

Is app.net that competitor? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I’m rooting for app.net.


Security Priorities

I find it amazing that a US citizen can buy thousands of rounds of ammunition, assault rifles, handguns, camouflage clothing for the purpose of mounting an assault on a movie theatre without raising the suspicions of any law enforcement agency. In light of this I’m even more amazed that anyone would claim that stockpiling weaponry in this manner is a right worthy of protection by the US Constitution. 

At the same time, in the same country, travellers can’t take water bottles through airport security and teenagers are subject to criminal prosecution for downloading music from the Internet.


A Step Towards Change on the CIRA Board

CIRA’s Board of Directors Nominating Committee have published their slate of Candidates for the upcoming election. These candidates will stand alongside member nominated Candidates in a ballot later this year.

Understandably, the Nominating Committee doesn’t publish any details of its deliberations so we don’t know who the committee may have turned away. We only know who they selected. That said, I find it telling that of the four current Directors eligible for re-election – John King, Victoria Withers, Barry Shell and Jim Grey, only John King was selected by the Nominating Committee.

Now, that could be because the other three didn’t apply to the Nominating Committee preferring instead to let their term lapse or pursue a spot on the Member’s ballot. Or it could be that they applied and weren’t selected. We can’t know for sure, however for someone who has serious intent to pursue re-election to the Board, apply through the Nominating Committee gives them two chances to be selected – once by the Nominating Committee, and if they are unsuccessful, they can reapply for a nominating through the Members slate.

My gut says that all four directors applied to the Nominating Committee and only one was selected. Having served with John King during my term on the Board, I think the Nominating Committee made a good choice. Did they give Grey, Withers and Shell the thumbs down? We’ll never know for certain and its definitely a question I intend to explore further if any of them decide to run on the Member’s ballot.

The final selections of the Nominating Committee are;

Ward Chapin
Dave Chiswell
Robert Brouillette
Carole Mackaay
Hank Intven
William Gibson (no, the other one)
John King
Bill Sandiford

Please take the time to click through to their submissions to the Nominating Committee and get familiar with their qualifications, views and ideas – you will be voting for them soon.


Change is needed on the CIRA Board – Part II

I received a lot of feedback on my earlier post advocating for change on the CIRA Board. I thought it might be helpful to followup on a few of them.

First, about my comments on Board diversity. Specifically;

Canada is diverse, vibrant and progressive – CIRA’s Board should reflect this.

Of primary concern to me is the diversity of thought and experience of the people populating CIRA’s Board of Directors. Different people with different backgrounds can bring different thoughts to the table, and collectively these create a tremendous resource the organization can rely on. I’m less concerned with “quotas” as some thought I was advocating for. My point is simply this – CIRA needs a Board of Directors that can add to the discussion and create value for the organization. One of the ways of fostering this is to pay some attention to diversity of thought and experience. That said, I would personally like to see better regional balance on the Board. 6 people from B.C. is too much, especially given that a number of Canadian provinces have *no* presence on the board.

Second, I want to expand my comment about special interest groups.

The outcome of this election should be a Board representative of Canada’s diversity – not a panel of advocates for special interest groups.

I think it is proper for special interest groups to rally around good candidates and push for their election to the Board. What is not right is when these candidates bring their issues to the table and try to push an agenda on the organization. It is easy for inexperienced Board members to forget that they have a primary obligation to the organization that supersedes the interests of the groups that got them elected. During my tenure on the Board I saw many candidates come to the table in exactly this way and the time and energy wasted on pushing back on these conflicts of interest was terrible. The Board should benefit from focus, and that requires each Board member to bring themselves fully to their work and as unencumbered by special interest agenda as possible.

Last, I want to reiterate my remarks about the difference between having a Board seeking to protect and keep versus one focused on growth, innovation and progress.

We need Directors who are hopeful and curious. Any who are motivated by fear of change should be replaced.

The .CA registry and DNS is a national infrastructure asset and its technical operations need be managed conservatively and competently. That does not mean that CIRA’s programs, initiatives and policies cannot be progressive and growth oriented. I would love to see the Board engaged in a strong dialog with Canada’s Internet community about what our possibilities are, how we can grow the pie and create great opportunities for Canadians. This means putting aside the introspection around governance and bylaws and taking up the mantle of engagement, transparency, accountability and real discussion with the Board’s stakeholders. CIRA’s staff is making excellent progress in these areas and I find it amazing that the Board still finds it so difficult.

So again, in this upcoming election – let’s push for real change on the Board. Let’s look for candidates that have a clue about what loving the Internet, serving the public and participating in the work of a Board really means. Let’s add those people to the existing clueful people on the Board and encourage them all to aspire to greater heights.


Change is needed on the CIRA Board: An Open Letter To CIRA’s Membership

Change is needed on the CIRA Board. To be precise, more change.

In the next Board election, I urge you to look beyond the incumbents and reach deep into the community to find and elect as many experienced, interesting and passionate new candidates as we can.

CIRA has the potential to lead change and support Canada’s vibrant Internet community. Year after year, the Board claims to have abided by “best practices” and engages in endless tweaks to its governance model yet it has failed to make any appreciable progress outside of its original formative efforts. The organization itself continues to gain scale and credibility and the staff and CEO would benefit from the skills, experience and mentorship that a strong Board can provide.

Canadians deserve more from CIRA’s Board of Directors. We need energy, enthusiasm and leadership that can create connections with Canada’s Internet community and foster and promote a truly Canadian Internet agenda.

Canadians deserve a Board populated by professionals that are qualified and enthusiastic about the richness of the Internet and what we can achieve with it. Seeking professionals means looking deeper than middle managers from IBM who have a passing knowledge of the ICD. We need Directors who are hopeful and curious. Any who are motivated by fear of change should be replaced. Canada is diverse, vibrant and progressive – CIRA’s Board should reflect this. The outcome of this election should be a Board representative of Canada’s diversity – not a panel of advocates for special interest groups.  

I’m not saying that CIRA’s Directors are all lacking. They are not. Many are making a strong individual contribution and could be an integral part of a well-functioning Board. The key lies with developing a strong Board and eliminating the apathy, inexperience and lack of vision that populates the periphery.

Furthermore, the current process of Board self-assessment doesn’t generate sufficiently unbiased information to allow the Nominating Committee to do its work effectively. The Nominating Committee can and should take a deeper look at the dynamics of the Board and seek to form its own opinion how each individual Board member contributes to the whole. The Nominating Committee should actively seek to unify the Board around the Directors who are demonstrably making a positive contribution to the work of the organization and reinforce their ranks with new faces who can make a similarly strong contribution.

I write this from a position of concern and care. I have always believed that CIRA has the potential to be a truly special organization – more than just a steward of an important public resource, it could be a cornerstone in a progressive national Internet agenda.

I also now believe that more change is required before this can happen.