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All Things Internet™ since 1999


How you could have won the CIRA election

The most obvious way of winning the CIRA election was completely (and arguably, appropriately) overlooked by all of the candidates.

There are some restrictions on who can vote. They have to be Canadian, they have to own a .ca domain name and they have to be a CIRA member. The first is tough to do anything about, but there are a lot of Canadians, so presumably a candidate could find a lot of people to vote for them. Problem is, most people that potential candidates know aren’t .ca domain owners, never mind being CIRA members. Even though it only costs (on average) about $15 to register a .ca domain name and a few minutes to authenticate as a member before the start of the Annual General Meeting in order to make the cut-off, the $$+process+timing issues are probably just enough to make it difficult to launch a general campaign targeted at the general public. Its much more productive to go after existing members and try and win their vote.

Except this year was different. Yola is giving away free .ca domain names at gybo.ca. *Anyone* could have become a CIRA member for free. Sure there were a few hoops to jump through, but I’m sure that candidates could have convinced a few people to sign up for free and vote for them.

Only a few hundred ballots separate winners in this election. A broader campaign bringing new members in could have carried the day. Definitely something for potential candidates to think about next year.

Also something for the CIRA Board to seriously consider in how they structure their governance and policy development activities.

Just saying’.


Amazon coming into its own…

Reading the stories about the Kindle Fire this morning, I think Amazon might have a real shot at capturing some real market share in the tablet segment.

Not because of the hardware configuration – better options exist elsewhere. Not because of the software and features – again, both exist in better form elsewhere.

Distribution and Operations.

Apple has been successful with the iPad not because they invented the iPad, but because they have the right business model. Design + Technology + Manufacture + Distribution + Sales + Marketing. And they are great with each.

Amazon already very nearly does many of these things. They already have awesome Distribution + Sales and their Marketing is quickly coming up the curve. They are weak in the area of Design + Technology + Manufacture, but not nearly as bad as what we’ve seen from RIM, DELL and others. Amazon can definitely improve in these areas, and press reports lead me to believe that they are worried about the right things – learning the lessons they need to learn quickly to be competitive in the right time frame. Amazon’s track record with distribution and operations is nearly as outstanding as Apple’s.

Here’s a crazy thought. Amazon has a market cap double HP and nearly quadruple DELL. If Amazon can make a dent in the tablet market, I wonder what they could do in the mobile market with the assets of either of those two companies. Google buying Motorola might just well set the stage for a round of dizzying mega-consolidations.

Never underestimate the power of distribution.


Handicapping the CIRA Election

Every year around this time, I start to get the question “Who do you think will win the board election?”. Normally I’ll defer answering, or answering candidly in quiet circles after a glass of wine or two but as a sitting director, it was just uncool and not that politically bright to publicly lay odds on the incoming directors. After all, being wrong meant that I’d be upsetting someone that I’d be working with in the coming years.

This year with my departure from the Board, I can pretty safely answer the question – and I love watching the election develop, so I thought it would be fun to layout who I think will be elected to the board this year. Not who did I vote for or who did I support, but just laying down a bet as to who I think has the best chance of winning.

The Nominating Committee slate is always tough to pick. They always have a small number of candidates and a large number of seats. Generally, if you make the Nominating Committee slate, you have a pretty good shot at winning a board seat in the election.

My gut says that we might see some surprises this year. Incumbent Kerry Brown has had a pretty visible campaign on the twitters, but it remains to be seen if he still has the connection to the base of members that got him elected in the first place. He faces some pretty stiff competition – the nomination committee picked a solid slate this year, and the inclusion of a candidate from Quebec could split the ballot up pretty broadly. I’m also hearing good things about the efforts of Bill St. Arnaud, Gary Evans and Bill Gibson to get their seat. My picks?

Kerry Brown, Eric Boehm and Bill St. Arnaud.

The member side of the ballot is a lot tougher to call. 9 candidates, 1 seat up for grabs.

These candidates from the grassroots come from a variety of backgrounds. During the campaign, a few have risen to the top – Kevin Mcarthur, Frank Michlick, Rob Villeneuve, Marita Moll and Tom Williams were all extremely active in and around the Annual General Meeting, and to varying extents, in social media leading up to the election. Rob Villeneuve carries the backing of a substantial portion of the registrar community, while Marita Moll and Kevin McArthur carry endorsements from the public interest and in Kevin’s case, the techno-activism community. Frank Michlick, who carries respectable technical credentials has good standing in the Toronto internet community and the backing of the domain portfolio investor community. Tom Williams, the incumbent, is a bit of a dark horse who carries strong credentials, but may not be able to rise up above the noise in this campaign.

Unless there is some serious vote splitting of the various stakeholder groups, I suspect the real race will be between Frank Michlick and Kevin McArthur. With Kevin’s endorsement by OpenMedia.ca, I suspect he may have the slight edge. This one is really too close to call, but if pressed, my favourite to win would be Kevin McArthur.

With the election just a few hours away from closing, it still might be anyone’s game to take. Who knows – the election always has a few surprises in it. I really do wish all of the candidates the best of luck – it is quite remarkable that our Internet community still cares enough to participate, as voters and candidates, after all of these years. Without this participation, it is almost impossible for CIRA to uphold its mandate as the steward of Canada’s top-level domain. Thanks to all of you for the part you play in this.


Adventures with Customer Service, chapter 23 – Getting VISA to Pay Up

This afternoon I discovered that I was getting double-charged by my bank for my credit cards. $24.50 a month & $170 a year. The $24.50/month fee was supposed to include two credit cards, one for me and one for Amanda which would normally cost $170 per year in fees. Looking closely at my statements, I realized that they were charging both – and guessed that they had been for quite some time. A quick check of my 2010 statements showed that they nicked me last year too.

Guessing about how long I’d had the credit card and chequing account, I figured that they owed me at least $500 in extra charges.

I called the CIBC customer service line and after navigating their voicemail tree, pressing “1″ and “5″ and entering my account number in followed by the pound sign, as instructed, I finally got to talk to a real person. Who promptly informed me that he couldn’t help me and that I should visit my local branch.

And here I thought that my $24.50/month included telephone banking privileges.

Pressing him a little bit further, I managed to get him to transfer me to the CIBC Card Services group (which I later learned is really just a hotline to the VISA call centre).

When the next agent came on the line, I explained my issue to her for the second time. Her response was pretty surprising. In summary, she questioned why I hadn’t noticed sooner and indicated that at best, the most they would be able to refund me was $170 from the most recent statement, but only if I could get them proof in the next few days. And then she threw her colleagues at CIBC under the bus and said that they had neglected to file some important form way back when I first established the account. Somehow she intended that this would all make sense to me and that I would feel responsible for their lack of paperwork and accept the fact that VISA wasn’t going to refund me the fee’s they overcharged me.

My response, if I remember correctly, went something like…


Or maybe I just mumbled something about closing all my accounts…

Hanging up the phone, I realized that my only chance to fix this would be at the local branch. Face-to-face is always easier to get things fixed, and I have the added bonus of being out in the middle of nowhere which increases my chance that whomever I talk to will be small-town friendly.

Walking into the local CIBC branch, my fortune immediately changed. Within minutes, the teller whom I had explained the whole story to was ushering me into the branch manager’s office. I sat and waited while she made a few phone calls to VISA, shared a few puzzled glances with me while they put her on hold, and then politely explained to them why they would be immediately crediting my account $170 per year for each year I’d had the card dating back to 2004! When she finished with her phone call, she handed me her card and told me to call her if my account hadn’t been credited within 30 days, and if not, she would personally credit my account the extra fees!

I left very impressed that I had found someone who knew the difference between following policy and doing the right thing. And pretty impressed that my credit card would soon be the recipient of a nice $1400 credit!


On remembering 9/11 – 9 years ago….

Here’s a link to the decaying archives of byte.org recounting my thoughts on September 11, 2001 on the 1 year anniversary.


Email is hard

Email is hard. We get a lot of it, and if your like me, you might have a tendency to want to use it in ways that just aren’t productive.

Over the years I’ve found that less is more, although I still have a long way to go before I master this. I also try really hard not to broach new subjects via email or attempt to deal with something in its entirety. Email is good for updates, reminders, organizing and small questions. Email is really bad for conversations, debates, collaboration and relationships.

I have a tendency to think I’m a really bad emailer, and once in a while I’m pleasantly surprised to learn that other people are much worse.

Take this email written by Sarah Palin for example. It breaks pretty much all the rules. I would have thought she would be a bit more savvy and avoiding sending something like this.

From: Sarah 

To: Scott Heyworth Cc: Todd Palin 

Sent: Friday, January 06, 2006 10:19 AM 

Subject: Todd’s son 


Todd just told me you had spoken with him awhile back and reported that some law enforcement friends of yours claimed some dumbass lie about Track not being Todd’s son? This really, really disgusts me and ticks me off. 

I want to know right now who said it, who would ever lie about such a thing this is the type of bullshit lie about family that WILL keep me from running for Governor. I hate this kind of crap. I thought it was bad enough that my kids have been lied about recently regarding illegal activities that they had NO part in whatsoever. But a stupid claim like one of our kids isn’t fathered by Todd? 

I want to know NOW what this latest b.s. is all about because I want to get to the bottom of this garbage rumor mill. People who lie like this may know me well enough to KNOW THAT I WILL ALWAYS PUT FAMILY FIRST, AND IF UGLY LIES LIKE THIS ARE BELIEVED BY ANYONE AND ADVERSELY AFFECT MY HUSBAND AND KIDS I WILL PULL OUT OF THE RACE BECAUSE IT’S NOT WORTH IT—AT ALL—TO LET MY FAMILY BE VICTIMS OF DARK, UGLY POLITICS LIKE THIS. 


If you ever find yourself writing something like this, do yourself a favour and never send it.


A tie is a tie…

Reading an interview with Noel Gallagher, formerly of Oasis, I’m reminded of a very important (and obvious) and difficult to practice, lesson.

State of mind is so important.

Noel uses the example of a tie game in football…

“Let’s say you’re behind with two minutes to go and you come back to tie the game. It almost feels like you’ve won. Right? But let’s say you’ve been ahead the whole game and you allow the opponent to tie things up in the final two minutes. Then it feels like you’ve lost. But the fact of the matter is it’s still a fucking tie. The only difference is perception.”

- Noel Gallagher, Oasis

In practice, this means knowing the difference between the past and the future. In the past, you may have been leading the game, or losing the game. Now, all that matters is that the score is tied. The only thing you can change is what happens in the future.

Whether you win or lose is very much up to you.


High Tech or Hustle? Getting ahead of the pack

Last week I went on a demo binge in an attempt to find some social media management software.

Over a period of 4 hours, I checked out some 30 services, signing up for online demo’s for as many as I could. I even gave my credit card number to a few that didn’t have demo’s so I could make an informed decision. The services I looked at are priced at between $500 and $5000 per year. Real money.

In marketing terms, I was “a high value prospect demonstrating purchase intent”.

Within 24 hours exactly one sales person had followed up with me. Guess which company got $1200 worth of business from us?

A week later, I’m noticing an awful lot of advertisements for another company we checked out. That’s typically called “retargeting” – an advertising tactic that online marketers use to reach out to people that visited their websites but didn’t end up buying.

Retargeting is clever. Phone calls and building relationships are effective.

Hustle trumps high tech.


2 Yrs 3 Mos 3 Wks 6 Days 18 Hrs 34 Mins 59 Secs*

(For some reason, this entry, originally dated December 16, 2003 is missing from the archives. Its an important part of my story, so I thought I should repost it.)

Spring, 1986. I was 14 going on 15. I had just moved to a new school and had made new friends. Like most kids that age, I was starting to figure out that the world was full of all sorts of things that I hadn’t yet experienced. I tried to take in as much as I could. And in the process, I did something really stupid.

I took up smoking.

Of course, it started out almost innocently. A puff here, a puff there, but before the school year was out, I was very much a smoker and there was no looking back.

Fast forward to fall of 2002. By my reckoning, I had smoked 6.23 miles of cigarettes over a 16 year period. I had been a smoker longer than I’d been a non-smoker. I’d spent over $52,000 feeding my habit.

In mid-September, I decided to make a change for the better. I quit four times on September 12 and just as many times every day for the next ten days or so. Going cold turkey was becoming my new habit but I realized quickly that this was the only way that I was going to make my quit stick. Soon enough, where I had been slipping every few hours, I was slipping every few days.

Until December 16, 2002.

I will never forget walking up to the office that morning. I had just come from the airport, “fresh” off a red-eye from Amsterdam and I was dying for a cigarette – or so I thought. I hadn’t had one for two days at that point, so the urge to have one was pretty high. The patch had evened out the cravings, but seeing Chuck Daminato hanging around the front door of the office with a butt hanging out of his mouth was too much for me to bear. I asked him for one, he obliged and I didn’t disappoint him.

I got about half way through the smoke and realized that I really didn’t want it – but I finished it anyways. Thankfully, that was the last cigarette that I had. Today marks one year as a newly reformed smoker. I’m not past the addiction yet – I think its a lot like alcoholism. There is no such thing as an ex-smoker any more than there are ex-drunks.

My name is Ross and I’m a smoker. I had my last cigarette 365 days ago…

The last year has been good to me. Once I quit smoking it began to dawn on me that my health was my problem and I was the only one that could do something about it. In late April when I had this epiphany, I weighed 240+ pounds. I started with biking. By the end of May I had made enough progress that I knew that I needed a new bike in order to keep making gains with my health. So I bought one – and managed to put over 1200 kilometres on it between June and the end of September.

This is a far sight better than my last attempt at getting in shape – before I quit smoking. Sometime during the winter of 2001/2002 I decided that I was going to start jogging. I got suited up, headed outside and made it less than 100 yards down the street before I realized that there was strong likelihood I was going to die before I got to the end of the block. I crawled back home and didn’t talk about it to anyone.

But not this time. Quitting smoking made all the difference in the world. I bike throughout the summer and into the fall putting on anywhere between 15 and 40 km per day, five days out of seven. With the colder weather, I just moved my exercise indoors with a gym membership. I started off simply enough – just keeping up with the cycling that I had started out with. The single activity workouts didn’t last long as I started exploring new equipment. Soon enough I was lifting weights, cycling, rowing and a whole slew of other exercises.

I also adopted a new diet. Nothing faddish or anything, just good common sense courtesy of the Mayo Clinic. Lots of fruits and vegetables and not a lot of meat and empty carbs. The new menu gave me the energy I needed to do more at the gym and also got me on the track of dropping pounds.

This morning, I got up at 5am, had a banana yogurt shake and was at the gym by 6:00. After my warmup, I did 15 miles on the stationary bike and then got right into a 5 mile run. After my run, I worked through my weight routine and was back home by 8:00. When I got back, I hopped on the scale and weighed in at 189 pounds.

I’ve been a reformed smoker for roughly 6% of the time I was a smoker. I’ve saved over $3,300. I’ve probably added at least ten years to my lifespan. I no longer feel dragged out all the time, need less sleep and have a much clearer head.

Living is much more interesting than dying. I just wish that more people would clue into this.

If you want to quit and need someone to lean on, be sure to drop me a note.

Cigarette Smoking-Related Mortality (United States)

  • Cigarette smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Each year, more than 400,000 Americans die from cigarette smoking. In fact, one in every five deaths in the United States is smoking related. Every year, smoking kills more than 276,000 men and 142,000 women.
  • About 10 million people in the United States have died from causes attributed to smoking (including heart disease, emphysema, and other respiratory diseases) since the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health in 1964–2 million of these deaths were the result of lung cancer alone.
  • Between 1960 and 1990, deaths from lung cancer among women have increased by more than 400%–exceeding breast cancer deaths in the mid-1980s. The American Cancer Society estimated that in 1994, 64,300 women died from lung cancer and 44,300 died from breast cancer.
  • Men who smoke increase their risk of death from lung cancer by more than 22 times and from bronchitis and emphysema by nearly 10 times. Women who smoke increase their risk of dying from lung cancer by nearly 12 times and the risk of dying from bronchitis and emphysema by more than 10 times. Smoking triples the risk of dying from heart disease among middle-aged men and women.
  • Every year in the United States, premature deaths from smoking rob more than five million years from the potential lifespan of those who have died.
  • On average, smokers die nearly seven years earlier than nonsmokers.
  • Annually, exposure to secondhand smoke (or environmental tobacco smoke) causes an estimated 3,000 deaths from lung cancer among American adults.
  • Scientific studies also link secondhand smoke with heart disease.

* 2 Yrs 3 Mos 3 Wks 6 Days 18 Hrs 34 Mins 59 Secs is the estimated amount of time that I actually spent puffing on the weed to the exclusion of other activities during the 16 years I smoked. In other words, “cumulative time spent smoking”.


Dumb Terminal

I can’t believe it…

One of the most promising product releases in years and they blew it.

…it lacks a camera,
…doesn’t have a widescreen aspect ratio,
…have you seen that ugly thick bezel?
…doesn’t have a proper USB interface. I hate proprietary connectors.

Stupid Kindle.