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CTD for December 31, 2005

Has it really been a year of my blogging and podcasting?

An end of the year podcast discussing blogging, podcasting, citizen media, the flight of ad dollars from traditional media to internet-centric offerings, and being on the threshold of a new year filled with possibility.

Link to the podcast

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Happy Holidays…

The Polar Express is leaving the station tonight…are you climbing aboard?

(Update 12/27/05: Several people asked me, “So what’s up with THAT post?”  so I thought I’d explain.  If you’ve seen the movie, there is the main character — a little boy who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus — and another seen above who are reluctant to get on the train. The metaphor is: Do you have the faith in yourself — and that which you can not yet know — to climb aboard the train?).

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Another milestone…

Today is another birthday and so I went back and re-read last year’s birthday post (and also found this old picture with my Mom, Dad and older sister).  I was actually surprised that last year’s post was so relevant to where I am today so — instead of rewriting the same thing and because I liked last year’s so well — here it is again:

Today is another milestone on my path in life (my birthday) and I always grow contemplative and melancholy on this day each year. When I was a kid it was all about having my birthday being ‘lost’ due to the impending Christmas holiday (“hey Steve, you’ll get your ‘combo’ bday/xmas present on Christmas!”) and I was more sad than anything else. As I moved in to adulthood, this day was all about thinking through the meaning of the year of my life just passed, what I accomplished, and whether or not I made a difference in the world.

Has mine been a wonderful life?  I often wonder. Today, more than any other, is the time these thoughts swirl around in my head faster than any other day throughout the year. Though some think it’s sappy and is an overused metaphor for contemplating one’s impact on the world, I still watch It’s A Wonderful Life almost every year…and it has the same heart-tugging, introspective effect on me every time.

Most people have reflective thoughts like these on New Year’s Eve. Me?  That evening feels like I’m on the precipice about to leap in to the future — and I always find myself enthusiastic, optimistic and eager for the new year to begin. I consider a new year to be all about renewal, possibilities and being my opportunity to re-engineer myself and focus on making a difference and being a “bright light” once again.

On the next page is content from an email I received from a buddy of mine last night. It is of the type that I almost *always* immediately delete — but I didn’t this time and it sparked thoughts about my “generational place” in the world and the continuing process of renewal.

[Read more…]

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CTD for December 21, 2005

a) Discussing the revelation of how President Bush authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy domestically inside of the United States *and* what is possible with the rumored supersecret Echelon and its technology;

b) Fantastico as an add-on to CPanel at hosting companies;

c) Needs that remain unfulfilled with using open source software ’cause it’s just too hard to make it all work together;

d) Web 2.0 and the dirty little secret post #1 and #2; and some other miscellaneous ramblings.

Link to the podcast

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Microsoft creating FUD with Google Advertisers

Joi Ito today pointed to an eWeek article by Ryan Naraine entitled, “MS Research: Typo-Squatters Are Gaming Google.” Gee…what possible incentive would Microsoft have for uncovering such a travesty?

In the words of an old mentor of mine, “Borsch…discover someone’s incentives and you’ll understand the why behind any move.” To me Microsoft’s incentives are obvious: scare the beejesus out of Google’s advertisers to slow down their advertising cash-cow as one step in a campaign to enter Google’s space.

This is such a laughingly blatant Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) play on the part of Microsoft that a more overt interpretation needs to be articulated by Mr. Naraine vs. this opening sentence: “Researchers at Microsoft Corp. have blown the lid off a large-scale, typo-squatting scheme that uses multi-layer URL redirection to game Google’s AdSense for domains program.” Or maybe it’s just me not realizing that most readers would probably immediately understand the hidden agenda behind this move?

Naraine’s column needs to scream, “OPINION” at the top. I’ve come to expect much, much more from eWeek.

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Global Consciousness, Religion & Blogging

Probably the time of year with the holidays and all…but I had not one, not two, but three conversations today about the world’s religions, global consciousness, and how the internet is rapidly accelerating the propagation of that consciousness. It made me stop and think, examine my memories, and realize why I’m thinking about the holiday season this year on a much more global scale.

There is currently a fair amount of agitation and debate about so-called “politically correct” celebrations in America this season (vs. just Christmas). In my opinion, this angst is a direct result of increasing global consciousness and the growing awareness of other ways to practice faith (and that much of the world practices something other than Christianity). Part of it could be the war in Iraq and the various religious factions at odds there of which we’re learning. Part could be caused by an increasing assertion by people that are non-Christian to celebrate their point of view.

What I am coming to believe, however, is that the blogosphere is a platform for voices to be heard in ways previously not available and are an amazing counterpoint to media that tends to sway people to one common point of view. Questions are public. Counterpoints are public. Opinions are public. They’re searchable and ranked in Technorati and Google Blog Search.

The photos above bring back a lot of memories for me and are illustrative of how my worldview and consciousness around Christmas was shaped. The one where I’m a cowboy was special since I loved that outfit. The other — with my sister and I in front of a painted window — is special since my Mom (who is now deceased) painted those by hand for many, many years on our front picture window. For me as a kid, the season was all about Christmas trees, Santa, presents, painted windows, cookies, Grandpa’s, Grandma’s, Auntie’s, Uncle’s and cousins, snow (and, oh yeah, that Messiah that was born in Bethlehem!). [Read more…]

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Cliff Dwellings and Technology

My son and I are in Arizona for what’s turned out to be our 6th Dad & Son Adventure. Today we were traveling along the Apache Trail, an indigenous pathway used for hundreds of years — and relevant to us today was the use by the Salado indians and then later the Apache.

The thing that struck me while we were on this adventure today was the marked contrast between life about 150-700 years ago with the Apache and the Salado before them, and life today as we drove along in our nice rental car with me thinking about Web 2.0 from time-to-time (don’t ask how *that* connection was made!).

We stopped at cliff dwellings occupied by the Salado of Tonto Basin around 1250 AD (click on the four-picture to see my photos). No one knows why (and like the Anasazi and other native peoples of the desert Southwest) the Salado vanished and abandoned these cliff dwellings. When you’re actually standing in this dwelling and it hits you how difficult it must’ve been to survive and eke out a living, it’s no wonder that the Salado vanished.

Conjecture amongst scientists as to why they left run the gamut from using up sparse resources (like the Mesquite tree) to a shift in the climate to warfare. But it’s all conjecture. What makes me think and draw parallels to today is global warming and the shifts it’s causing; to our use (and overuse) of resources like the precious water that is being consumed at frighteningly fast rates in the southwest; and the fragility and precariousness of our existence.

Will technology continue to pull rabbits out of a hat and stay ahead of resource consumption by humans, increased demand for energy, drug resistant strains of microbes, and the scalability of Typepad? (Sorry…just had to throw that in since the outage affected me on this adventure). Or will some of us vanish?

Arizona is projected to grow from 5.1 million people in 2000 to 10.7 million by 2030, bringing it from the 20th most populous state to the 10th. With Lake Mead dropping and signs pointing to a drought in Arizona, can the state handle this growth or will the infrastructure collapse? Read more in one of my earlier posts “Could Water be the Oil of the 21st Century?” if you care to learn more about one depleting resource…water.

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Why didn’t Typepad blog during the outage?

UPDATE: Interview with Typepad’s Anil Dash here

As I’ve said several times in the past on my blog, scalability with Web 2.0 applications matters. The last couple of days of Typepad system failure has made me question whether or not I can continue blogging with this service. At least using Movable Type or WordPress on my own hosted site (with hoster Blue Host) would allow me to completely backup my posts vs. relying upon the blogging host, in this case Typepad.

The effort, energy and investment of enthusiasm in nearly every post makes the continuation of my posts something I care about! When they announced the failure on December 16th, they "rolled back" to their last backup….several days earlier. Did this mean they don’t perform daily backups? If so, they’ve violated "Information Technology 101" rules. As of this writing, images are missing from the last few days of posts.

For many months I’ve been experiencing ongoing slowness and performance issues with the Typepad service. Ironically, I’d emailed SixApart (Typepad’s parent company) CEO, Barak Berkowitz, November 24th from a hotel on my Thanksgiving holiday articulating my experience with this unacceptable performance. He stated in part,

While I understand that you feel that this has to be a TypePad problem I believe it is not.  We constantly measure actual performance from all over the world and as well as at the datacenter on our servers and network devices.  For the last 10 days performance has been very good and it is excellent today.  I was actually checking performance around the time you sent this and it was first rate.

Now I understand that when we have let you down a number of times and even pointed out our flaws it becomes easy to assume it is us again, it is only natural that it will take some time for us to earn your trust back.   But I believe that we will.  Please realize that there are very many things that could cause an experience like yours including temporary access problems like you describe, particularly through a hotel network which use complex gateways.

Besides feeling a bit chastised by Mr. Berkowitz, it’s clear to me now that either the measurement of Typepad performance was flawed or that my experience was a precursor to Typepad’s future failure which has occurred. I also submit that I’m a bit taken aback since I’ve been at an executive level at two enterprise software companies, have used a myriad of enterprise-class web applications, and know when it’s my issue or a network issue. It’s now very apparent that it’s not my issue. I would hope in the future Typepad listens more intently to their customers.

Oh yeah…I tried emailing Mr. Berkowitz again this evening but, "The following addresses had permanent fatal errors –<Barakb@sixapart.com>". Guess their email servers are down too.

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Domestic Surveillance

First I read this article in November in several newspapers about how the White House may expand the power of a Pentagon agency: “The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel, and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 expressly prohibited military intervention and supplation of domestic policing forces (or did it?).

Then MSNBC comes out yesterday with proof that there is military intelligence gathering being performed by the Pentagon. “A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn’t know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.

A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.

What the heck is going on? What is the White House up to now? I’ve considered myself a staunch patriot my entire life. Though leaning politically left from time-to-time (yet am mostly right of center), I’ve become increasingly agitated by the decimation of our civil liberties, the cowtowing to oil and media companies, the obvious issues with the justification for the war in Iraq, and the systemic setup of command-and-control measures like the one mentioned above.

Don’t just chalk this up to the government protecting us against the boogeyman Al Qaeda and go about your daily business. If you care at all about the future of the United States and the domestic climate your children will inherit, be mindful and speak out.

Update: Pentagon says “oops” and expunges database. Reuters article here.

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Death of Distance

Are we getting closer to the death of distance? Or are the technical challenges for truly meaningful human communication still too difficult?

In her book, The Death of Distance, Frances Cairncross makes a cogent argument that distance is becoming irrelevant as the communications revolution unfolds (and as bandwidth and connectivity accelerates over the internet). Written in 2001 and updated last year, it’s an excellent read — if you at all enjoyed Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat — since it is communications technologies (and the reduction in cost of their use) that is accelerating the flattening of the earth and our ability to communicate with others regardless of where they are physically.

But how close are we in connecting us in ways that are human?

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