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All Things Internet™ since 1999


Not comfortable with that…

i treeWhat’s with the trend of leaving out the personal pronoun in written communications?

Noticed a while ago that I do it too. Not sure where I picked it up from. Doing my best to stop.

Is this a recent trend or has this been creeping into our communication for a while?


Home Internet

my_crappy_internet______y_u_no_by_dragon122-d3lhb2oProtip: Don’t buy a house in the country unless you check out the internet connection first.

I didn’t take this advice and I’ve regretted it every day since we moved.

3 years ago, we moved to a  beautiful property in the country, just north of Toronto. Lots of room, lots of fresh air and unbeknownst to me, no internet. That means no DSL and no cable. Until recently, we used a 3G based service from Rogers. Until Rogers decided to uncap our monthly bill and charge us $10/GB over 10GB of usage per month. My monthly Internet bill skyrocketed from $126 per month to a whopping $700 per month.

Needless to say I called them and worked out a slightly better payment for the overage (nothing). Once I got the right people on the line, they were really gracious about it although I still think it was really unfair of them to start charging these rates with no notice. And worse, I had no alternative service I could look to.

I decided to try their 4G/LTE service because it would give me 30GB of transit for just $150/month and I’d only have to pay $5/GB over the first 30GB. I figured that at most I’d be paying $190 per month for home Internet.

That didn’t work either. Their new 4G/LTE devices don’t support an external antenna which I need to catch a signal where we live. Sigh. So I cancelled that today and took my very last option and signed up with Xplornet. Their service looks promising enough. Up to 5mb/s satellite Internet, 60GB of transit for just $90/mos. It all sounds really good on paper, except I’ve heard lots of terrible stories about their service. I hope that it isn’t as bad as people make it out to be. If it is, we may just have to move.

There’s a catch though. The installer won’t be here for another two weeks. That’s two weeks of no Internet at The Bunker. I think I have a solution though. I found that if I perch my iPhone just right on the back of the couch, I can catch a 3G signal. That’s just enough to drive a low-speed “Personal Area Network” using the iPhone’s tethering features. I’m getting about 600KB up and 50KB down. I won’t be doing any massive torrents or anything, and it should be enough for me to grab my email and mess around with Twitter here and there. In any event, I could use a break so if you don’t see much from me in the next week or so, you’ll know why.


Another reason to use Jetpack to post from WordPress to Linkedin

LinkedIn is making some much-needed changes to its timelines and profiles. New features include more ways to connect and build relationships and the ability to showcase presentations, video and documents. It also means that some of the features that you might be using in your old profile or timeline might disappear.

Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 8.14.30 AMOne of these features is the ability to showcase content from your WordPress blog in your profile. The old profile allowed you to add a widget which displayed all your blog posts. This worked just fine, although it was ultimately made redundant by features in the timeline. I stopped using the profile widget ages ago and now exclusively post my blog updates using Jetpack to the LinkedIn Timeline. The benefit of this approach is that everyone who is in my network will receive my update, where the older approach only showed my blog posts to people who visited my profile.

Although this a small step for LinkedIn and I think it’s a step in the right direction and I’m really looking forward to checking out the new timeline and profile features. I’ll post an update with my thoughts when I get a chance to check them out.


Futureshop: 27 questions isn’t a survey, its a penalty

Futureshop needs an intervention. Their idea of a post-purchase survey is to threaten their customers with 27 questions. I hold a world record in long distance cycling so I like to think I know a thing or two about endurance events.

This survey definitely qualifies as an endurance event.

The punchline is pretty good too.

Its been 12 days since my order and my item is lost in transit somewhere. They’ve charged my card and I don’t have any merchandise. The courier knows where it is, and Futureshop doesn’t. Their customer management system assumed that the merchandise had been delivered and automatically asked me about my order experience.

Their system would be a lot more effective if it sent out a “Thanks for your recent order, our records show that you have received your order, did everything go well and according to your satisfaction?” and only when they were sure that the transaction was complete and I have received my order they could send out a survey.

A much shorter and direct survey that is.

Here’s the survey in its entirety. If you plan on reading all the questions, pack a lunch…


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.