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All Things Internet™ since 1999



I’ve been on a bit of a digital purge lately. I’m not sure what triggered this, but I’ve been diligently paring back what I do online to a much narrower range of activities. In the past few weeks, I’ve

  • deleted most of the apps on my iPad and iPhone, including G+ and Facebook. Twitter survived the cut.
  • removed all the shortcuts from my browser bar to sites like Hacker News, Techmeme, Facebook, etc.
  • ditched a ton of blogs from Google Reader, mostly the Mac rumour sites. Yeah, I get it. Apple is going to release a new iPhone. What passes for news with some of these blogs is pretty astounding.
  • dumped satellite TV and my 100 channel universe for an over-the-air antenna which gets maybe 15-20 channels on a good day. For free.
  • dropped Boxcar for iOS and Lion. As cool as it was to have all my my notifications show up on all my devices at the same time, boy was it distracting.

The effects are predictable. I’m finding it easier to focus and get tasks done more quickly. I’m also enjoying my leisure a bit more. Less time spent reading RSS feeds translates into more time reading books and writing – both of which I find immensely enjoyable. And of course, time with Rowan and Amanda isn’t interrupted nearly as much by silly things like G+ notifications and the like.


Ciào Facebook

You aren’t reading this on Facebook because I don’t want to play the Facebook game anymore.

I used to think that Facebook was great for sharing stuff with friends. It is, sort of.

Mostly though, Facebook just shares stuff with a small set of people that it wants to show your stuff to. Similarly, Facebook only shows you stuff from a small set of people it wants you to see. In its quest to make certain that its feeds and timelines are relevant, Facebook scores relationships based on how often we like stuff, comment on it, poke it, view it, share it and so on. Then it sort of guesses who your friends are and shows you and them stuff based on how you interact with it.

On paper, this is a really good idea. In practice, it just means that if we don’t want to play the Facebook game of friend, like, poke, view, share and comment, then we don’t really see anything interesting. Our brains recognize these game mechanics at some level, making it incredibly easy to waste way too much time poking and sharing and commenting – the more we do it, the better the Facebook experience is. It takes hours to achieve and maintain a reasonable level of quality in what you read on your wall.

I’m opting out.

I love my friends and family but life is too short wasting it poking and commenting and liking – Facebooking – just so I can see your updates on my wall. I’ll still check in from time to time, but instead of spending all sorts of hours trying to get Facebook to show me your stuff on my wall, I’m just gonna read your wall directly. I’ve created a nice list of bookmarks of the walls for people that I want to keep up with and I’ll just browse through that when I want to get a friend fix.

And in the meantime, I’ll be hanging around here…


Building a legacy: Gates vs. Jobs


(Update: I thought I should note that this was posted at 7:40am and was intended to be tongue-in-cheek – Steve Jobs was still alive.)


From the Vaults: Wherein I predict the demise of Palm


I’ve long thought that RIM, Palm, HTC and countless others are making a serious mistake in making the carriers their primary customers. The handset manufacturers live on the carrier subsidies – make no mistake, RIM sells to carriers, not you and me. Palm blew a unique opportunity to dodge left and sell a carrier-free handset when it introduced it’s Pre. They didn’t, and the rest is history.

From the vaults, June 11, 2009. Summary: Palm had an opportunity to sell a carrier free unlocked handset and didn’t.


Handicapping the CIRA Election: Part II, the results

Last week, I laid out my bets for the CIRA Board of Directors election. To recap, I predicted that the following candidates would be elected;

  • Kerry Brown
  • Eric Boehm
  • Bill St. Arnaud
  • Kevin McArthur

So how did I do? Well, the results are in and my predictions were half right. Kerry and Bill were both elected, but Eric and Kevin lost to Susan Mehinagic and Andrew Escobar.

Susan’s win was a surprise to me – not because she isn’t a worthy director, but because she came out of nowhere. This happens fairly regularly with the Nominating Committee candidates because of their recruiting and selection practices. All in, I’m pretty happy that I managed to pick two of the three successful candidates.

Not so on the members side. It was a really tough pick this year. I really thought that Frank Michlick and Kevin McArthur would do a lot better as a result of the support of their respective constituencies. I really thought the battle would go either way and that Rob Villeneuve or Marita Moll might come up the middle. I was right about Rob given his strong showing but I underestimated the degree to which Marita and Kevin would split the progressive vote while at the same time slightly over-estimating how many ballots Kevin would gain from the support he had from OpenMedia, etc. I also completely blew it when it came to Andrew Escobar, forgetting the fact that he only lost the 2010 election for the member seat by 4 ballots. Not sure if I would have called the results differently, but I would have at least mentioned him in my first post.

In any event, I think all the candidates did a great job, and I really appreciate everyone investing so strongly in this important process. And of course, my best wishes to all of the successful candidates.

The results broke down like this;

Nomination Committee Slate

  • Brown, Kerry 433 Elected *
  • St.Arnaud, Bill 352 Elected *
  • Mehinagic, Susan 312 Elected *
  • Gibson, Bill 294
  • Boehm, Eric 254
  • Evans, Gary 228
  • Vidal, François 210

Members’ Slate

  • Escobar, Andrew 215 Elected *
  • McArthur, Kevin 154
  • Villeneuve, Rob 112
  • Moll, Marita 111
  • Walton, Catherine 97
  • Williams, Tom 95
  • Michlick, Frank 62
  • Makuch, Greg 51
  • Aguiar, Reinaldo 43



The CIRA Board: Election results & Board diversity

The results from the CIRA Board of Directors election are in and I am officially no longer a member of its Board of Directors, having chosen not to stand for a 4th term. Congratulations to all of the successful candidates, and my thanks* to everyone that invested their time and effort running for this important position.

Here’s a look at the new board.

  • Paul Andersen, (ON) (exp. 2013)
  • Rick Anderson, (AB**)  (exp. 2013)
  • Kerry Brown, (BC) (exp. 2014)
  • John Demco (ex-officio)
  • Heather Dryden (ex-officio)
  • Andrew Escobar, (ON) (exp. 2014)
  • Jim Grey, (BC) (exp. 2012)
  • Byron Holland (ex-officio)
  • John King, Nfld (exp. 2012)
  • Rowena Liang (BC) (exp. 2013)
  • Louise Macdonald (PQ) (exp. 2013)
  • Susan Mehinagic (BC) (exp. 2014)
  • Barry Shell (BC) (exp. 2012)
  • Bill St. Arnaud (ON) (exp. 2014)
  • Victoria Withers (BC) (exp. 2012)

John Demco, Heather Dryden and Byron Holland are un-elected, ex-officio directors and live slightly outside the process that seats the rest of the directors. John holds his seat by virtue of his role as founder of the .CA registry, Heather is a representative of Industry Canada and Byron Holland is CIRA’s CEO.

From that list, here are some basic stats concerning board diversity. I excluded the ex-officio directors from the counts, because they are essentially appointed and generally remain unchanged and I show the province of residence of the director at the time they were elected.

  • 4 women, 8 men
  • 3 from Ontario, 6 from British Columbia, 1 from Newfoundland, 1 from Alberta**, 1 from Quebec.
  • Leaving the board are 1 director from Ontario, 1 from Manitoba and 1 from B.C – 2 were men, 1 woman.
  • 3 4 directors terms expire in 2012, 4 expire in 2013 and 4 in 2014.
  • 2 directors have served for more than two terms, 2 directors are entering or in their 2nd term, 8 directors are in or entering their first term (3 having been just elected)

I’d be really interested to hear whether or not the composition of the Board meets your expectations for the organization. Does the balance look right? What about the mix of skills? As the steward of an important public asset, I think we *should* have an opinion on such things – please weigh in with your thoughts!


*Some people might find it weird that I’d personally thank candidates in this way – it is important to me that Canada’s Internet community maintain a strong influence over this organization. The two most obvious ways for them to achieve that are to a) run for the board and b) vote in the elections. As a result, I always like to thank everyone who puts themselves out in front of the election and endures the ups and downs of the election process. I only really thank the voters when they are voting for me :-)

**Rick Anderson has relocated from Alberta to Ontario since his election, lessening regional involvement outside of Ontario and British Columbia.

Updated 10/4/2011 to correct John King’s term. He was elected in 2010 for a two year term to replace Margaret Gilmour who was elected, but not seated in 2009.


Amazon to hammer Home Depot in Canada?

B7155D34-A340-4756-B9E1-7744963F2728.jpgI was pleased to learn this morning that Amazon.ca is now carrying building tools and supplies. Not so much because I’m a huge buyer of tools or an Amazon fan, but rather, because Canada needs this sort of competition. With Amazon continuing to expand its Canadian offerings, retailers that were only half serious about their online offerings will have to step up their game or get out of the way. Home Depot online has always been a bit of a hassle and their prices really aren’t that great. A quick comparison of their prices and service with what Amazon is offering bears that out.

For example, take the Milwaukee 18 volt Hammer Drill. Home Depot lists it at $419. Add HST and shipping, and this drill will set you back $483.97.

4C7420A2-B989-4BE1-8867-CE72BDBBB891.jpgBy contrast, Amazon is selling it at just $398 and includes free shipping. The final price tag at Amazon is just $456.75 – a tidy savings of $27.22 over Home Depot.

E725D817-40B4-4609-9955-5E63DA9B5E38.jpgHome Depot has the advantage of its retail locations that give customers the opportunity to do some hands-on shopping and comparison. However I’m certain that for many items, the savings will be enough to compel many customers to do their browsing in Home Depot’s big box stores and place their order online after they’ve made up their mind to make sure they capture the savings that Amazon is passing along.


Phishing for better URLs

I was surprised to notice the URL that CIBC is using for their online banking – it seems like great bait for a phishing attack.

Screen Shot 2011 10 01 at 11 59 17 AM

Using a fourth-level domain www.cibconline.cibc.com instead of the simpler for, cibc.com or www.cibc.com makes it really easy for the bad guys to fool people into clicking links that look like this:

Screen Shot 2011 10 01 at 11 57 52 AM

Note that I changed the root domain in the URL from cibconline.cibc.com to cibccom.co – a fairly innocuous domain that is available for registration today, and therefore fair game for a bad guy to start using tomorrow.

It is trivial nowadays to show users friendly URLs, no matter how complicated your backend is. I’d really love to see CIBC use something like this:

Screen Shot 2011 10 01 at 12 01 01 PM

While it won’t completely solve the phishing problem, it will make their banking app a little more friendly and easier for an average user to understand the difference between a fake URL coming from a bad guy and the real one coming from their bank.


Check your work

“We have no art, we do everything as well as possible.”

- Balinese saying, /ht David H.

I’ve never understood why perfectly smart people getting paid a good wage don’t check their work before putting it online.

I see it all the time. Last week I read a letter from a high-priced lawyer at Rogers Communication addressed to the CRTC. Purposeful obfuscation aside, it contained at least one silly problem with its construction that someone should have caught before it was released to the public. When I was writing policy documents, I would have died of embarrassment if someone found an error like that *after* I published.

I’m sure my blog and tweets are full of small errors (as David has gleefully pointed out :) ), but those things are just for fun – in other words, the stakes are low enough that I don’t feel like I have to obsess over those details.

Its bad enough when obvious flaws in supposedly professional copy get out in the wild, but even worse when those errors are hard-coded into the user experience.

Costco sent out this promo email this morning -

Screen Shot 2011 10 01 at 1 04 28 PM


Interested, I clicked the hearty “Click Here to Learn More”  in the middle of the page and landed on this page on the Ford website;


Screen Shot 2011 10 01 at 11 24 19 AM


Wanting a bit more info, I again clicked on the handy “Learn More” link and this is what came up;


Screen Shot 2011 10 01 at 11 24 29 AM


The fine print.

Sigh. Utter fail.

Yes, those are details, but certainly a lot more detailed than I’ve come to expect from using the Web for the past 15 years. Learn more isn’t an invitation to read a contract, its the foreplay you engage in if you want someone’s money.

I didn’t bother hunting around for the correct link – a totally lost opportunity for the marketer that sent this offer to me. Sloppy, expensive and totally avoidable.

Publishing to the web is cheap and efficient. Take some of the extra time you get back from not having to drive down to the printers and check spec sheets and comps prior to the print run and use it to your advantage by double and triple checking what you are sending out there. People notice – your customers notice, your prospects notice and when you do make a mistake, its going to kill your conversions.


Oracle & Autonomy: Fiddling while Rome burns

Don’t these people have anything better to do? (details here and here)

Screen Shot 2011-09-29 at 8.05.36 AM.png


Marc Andreesen thinks so, “”Ten years ago, it was a joke: you’d raise $20 million in venture capital and write a $4 or $5 million check to Oracle, Sun, BEA, and EMC….When it started, Salesforce looked like a toy compared with Siebel. Look ahead five years later, it’s obviously better. Not a single one of our startups uses Oracle.”