Jumping the gun.

A couple of weeks ago, well before the start of spring, there was a release about 2005-2006 being Canada’s warmest winter on record. Of course the release said that global warming was being investigated as the cause.

Given that this happened a full week before spring actually started I wondered how a government bureaucracy, not known for any kind of speed, could possibly decide something so quickly, even before the period of note had ended. I also felt that this would be tempting fate.

Indeed this morning, a few days into spring, I awoke to a blanket of pure white snow covering everything. So I fullly expect an announcement in a couple of weeks that this is the coldest, snowiest, spring on record.

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Forget what I said before.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin says that the FCC has the power to enforce network neutrality, and will do so if necessary:

In a question-and-answer period in front of the keynote audience, Martin said that "I do think the commission has the authority necessary" to enforce network neutrality violations, noting that the FCC had in fact done so in the case last year involving Madison River’s blocking of Vonage’s VoIP service.

Or maybe they won’t:

However, Martin also added that he supports network operators’ desires to offer different levels of broadband service at different speeds, and at different pricing — a so-called "tiered" Internet service structure that opponents say could give a market advantage to deep-pocket companies who can afford to pay service providers for preferential treatment.

And how will the FCC ensure that customers get what they pay for?

When asked how consumers could measure service performance levels, Martin said that public Web sites already exist that let users measure their connection speeds.

Yes such web sites exist, but they typically measure speed by determining how long it takes to download a file of known size, which is really no test at all. For example, right now a speed test (the only network access my machine is currently doing) shows I’m getting 4640 kbps download speed and 381 kbps upload speed. But in the past hour I’ve also waited as long as 30 seconds for a simple domain name resolution.

Now if I were using Bittorrent my performance would be substantially lower. Why? Because Rogers – my ISP – throttles Bittorrent traffic. If you ask them if they do this they won’t tell you – but they do. Bittorrent is not illegal, and clearly you are paying for service you are not getting, but they cut your bandwidth anyway. And so do several other ISPs. The same is probably true of MP3 downloads. And Shaw charges a $10 fee if you a VoIP solution that isn’t theirs. So the result of a speed test tells you nothing.

And I’ll reserve judgement on Ed Whitacre’s sudden reversal on charging companies more for access:

Reversing his rhetorical field a bit, AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre on Tuesday declared that his company won’t try to block or degrade customers’ access to Internet applications or content, a marked change of tone from his previous statements on the issue of network neutrality.

After all, he never said he would block or degrade customer access; he said he would better access for customers that paid for it. That just has the unfortunate side effect of leaving less bandwidth for everyone else. The term "weasel words" comes to mind here. After all, if he has his way, there simply won’t be any competition to go to.

Tip of the hat to Furdlog.

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Paperless.

I noticed an item today on how Continental Airlines had implemented a paperless recruiting system. They were trumpeting this as a huge accomplishment, even though web-based "paperless" systems are common these days.

Fifteen years ago I was marketing and selling the concept of the "paperless office" to large enterprises, primarily focused on records management. Back then it was all about document management, and scanning paper in and storing it electronically.

Funny thing is that in all these paperless years, I’ve never actually noticed a decrease in paper.

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The Loop.

I’m just watching the new TV show The Loop and a character said this:

There’s even a guy with a list named Craig.

And then the went on to talk about their new youth-oriented airline concept – Jack. The tagline for their tie in with AOL?

Jack it with your entire buddy list for one low price.

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Any investment is a risk.

Mark Evans brought up an interesting point on net neutrality the other day:

Just to be clear, I don’t believe the net neutrality argument is cut and dry because the network operators need ways to get a return on their investment so they can innovate and make the "pipes" bigger and faster. The question is how do they do it in a way that still encourages innovation and competition.

Yes they need to be able to get a return on investment, but that doesn’t have to be there on day one. Any investment is a risk. When the internet was new these companies were slow to invest in infrastructure until there was a market, and they have been relatively slow to provide broadband access, even though customers are willing to pay for it. But they haven’t exactly provided exceptional service, and if a customer has a problem the operators are slow to admit fault.

As for bigger and faster pipes, the operators may be putting the infrastructure in place, but they haven’t shown any particular application that would make a customer want to pay more. If as in Verizon’s case, they want to put infrastructure in place so that they can provide IPTV, customers and companies shouldn’t be on the hook to pay for that infrastructure because it doesn’t benefit them the way they currently use the net.

If operators want to provide better infrastucture then they should be willing to take the risk based on their own revenue projections, not on the ability to charge customers lots more for exactly the same service as they already receive – and pay for.

And by the way, I see plenty of whining from the operators about their need to make a profit (beyond the estimated $200 billion in cash and guarantees from the government for improved broadband service that never happened), I NEVER see any comments about providing customers guaranteed service levels. We would never tolerate the lack of a dialtone on our phones, but we tolerate spotty service, arbitrary bandwidth throttling, and inconsistent bandwidth with no recourse.

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Is MySpace just a fad?

danah boyd attempts to answer the question " Friendster lost steam. Is MySpace just a fad?" and ends up writing a whole essay about it.

She makes some excllent points about the problems of growth that MySpace is experiencing, and details the potential moral issues that might cause problems for MySpace and other services by association. But she only briefly touches on the possibility that MySpace might cease to be "cool".

Now having raised two sons through their teenage years, knowing their friends, and having been a teenager myself, I understand that teens operate in a different moral zone, even if adults seem to think themselves always moral. I think we actually operate on a moral continuum, so I hate to see some frightened adults resort to the same ridiculous actions that their parents might have taken when Elvis gyrated his hips. Folks need to calm down and realize that this is what entertains the next generation. The problems that may exist on MySpace also exist in the real world; they aren’t unique to the internet. So stop being helicopter parents and cut your kids some slack. Otherwise they’ll never learn to think for themselves.

I do think that MySpace is just a fad though, for the simple reason that where teens are concerned, pretty much everything is a fad. Something new and different and cooler will come along and kids with move to that. It’s just a fact of life.

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Sorry Mom.

When I was six or seven years old my parents bought me my first record (yes kids, I’m that old). It was a sountrack of songs from the first Batman movie back in 1966. The one with Adam West. Not too long after that they bought me the Fifth Dimension album with The Age of Aquarius on it. I still have both records.

As a teenager I started to buy a lot of records. While may favorite band was The Beach Boys, I also listened to everything from the Beatles to Genesis, from the Who to Black Sabbath, from Kiss to Heart, and so much more. I had thousands of records, which I have faithfully moved from house to house as I got older.

My mom used to say that I would grow out of my fascination with music, and eventually get rid of those records. Now my mom isn’t wrong very often. Except when she told me that if I didn’t put on a sweater I would get a cold anyway. As an aside, I’ve raised two sons who wear shorts year round even in sub-zero temperatures. But she was wrong about the music thing. Sorry Mom, but I never got over the music thing.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve switched from records to CDs, and then again to digital music and iPods. My kids have also accumulated their own collections, and they’ve exposed me to lots of new music which I now enjoy as well. For years I’ve tried to figure out a way that I could make music part of my career as well; some way to connect music and technology. And I’ve been successful.

I’m working with a company called MusicIP; I’ve mentioned them before. I’m working on tools that let you look at your music collection in new ways, and help you find new music that you might like. I love the tools and I use them everyday, and they’ve helped me to find music I didn’t even remember I had. I’m just starting to use the discovery stuff.

The cool thing is that I get to work with music and technology everyday. How many people can sit in their office with tunes pounding out, because that’s their job? I get to do that every day. And I get paid for it. And if we do a good job, millions of people will be able to enjoy their music more. And they’ll get to listen to thousands of artists they might never have heard of otherwise.

So sorry Mom. You might have been wrong on this one, but think of all the people that will be happier because I just couldn’t give up that record collection.

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Saving GM.

I just saw an ad for OnStar that has your car sending email to you to let you know its status. I’m not sure what the value of sending an email to me is, but I think it would be really useful if the car could notify the dealership of a problem and book an appointment for service, and then just email you the details of the appointment.

And then GM could generate some much needed revenue by selling targeted advertising delivered to you via email from your car. Imagine if your car let you know that there was a special on oil changes or car detailing, especially if it knew it needed it.

If cars are smart enough to email you, they should be smart enough to do more than just that.

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Relaxation killers.

When I was a kid I remember hearing about how in the future we would work less and have a lot more time to relax. Of course that didn’t actually come to pass. The world now moves much faster and we have less time to relax. In fact it has become a badge of honor to tell people how hard you work, how many emails you get a day, how many hours you spend at the office, and how you never take a vacation.

I also remember reading Talking Straight by Lee Iacocca when I was younger, and he said how could you call yourself a good manager if you couldn’t manage to take two weeks off. So I do my best to balance my life. I work hard when I need to, but I also relax when I need to. But I get the feeling that I am among the minority.

It was interesting to read a comment by Sand Hill Slave about her disdain for the BlackBerry:

I cannot stand executive assistants that think they are cool because they have a Blackberry supplied to them. What better fucking way to have a ball and chain tied to you? You might as well have one of those electronic bracelets on to track your movements. I make it a point to avoid Blackberries. Bosses in the past have asked me if I wanted a Blackberry to help “enhance” my work. They might as well have asked me “Hey Wendy, can I give you gonorrhea so it can ‘enhance’ the burning sensation when you pee?” Of course, I’d kindly decline the Blackberry by saying, “I tend to lose everything so it’s best not to have the firm spend that kind of money on me.” I come out looking fabulous because I’m so concerned about the firm. I’m far more concerned about interruptions to my weekend nights. I’d rather have my mother catch me getting off than my Blackberry going off. Besides, if I’m gonna have something vibrating in my purse or pocket, it better be discreetly shaped like my luscious Chanel lipstick and have multiple speeds…

While I do recognize the value of the BlackBerry and Treo devices for some people where time is critical, I also believe that on the whole these devices have been the biggest killers of relaxation even invented. Of course they do allow you to answer email from the golf course, but what ever happened to that four day work week?

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Driving customers away.

I made a comment a few days ago about having switched to a Mac, but still using Microsoft Office. My friend Andrew Anderson (of the brilliant Bound By Gravity) immediately asked my why I wasn’t using Open Office. I didn’t really have a good answer, because I had used Microsoft Office for quite some time and I was used to it.

The other day I bought a new Sony Vaio PC. Since my company has an MSDN subscription I figured it would be no problem to install a working set of software including XP Professional and MS Office. I got a product key for each item, and set out to install them.

I went about doing an upgrade from the XP Home that the Vaio came with. The Vaio, right out of the box, had insisted that I activate my copy of Windows with Microsoft, something I’d never had to do before, and couldn’t understand why I would have to do for a PC I had just purchased. When the upgrade was complete, it still insisted that I had to activate the product, so I gave up and just did it. I was under the impression that purchasing an MSDN subscription freed me from that kind of crap, but I guess Microsoft just assumes that all customers are criminals.

I wasn’t so lucky with Office though. I tried to install it twice, but both times it insisted that my product key was invalid. Now I only use this PC for development, and frankly I don’t have time for this stupidity. So I decided that if Microsoft wanted to make it that hard for me to install Office, then maybe it just wasn’t worth my time. So at that moment I decided to switch to Open Office, and I downloaded the product.

So not only has the pain of dealing with Microsoft Windows driven me to use the Mac as my primary computer, the pain of trying to install Office had now driven me to Open Office.

And it looks like the pain of using Visual Studio 2005 may drive me back to Visual Studio 6.0, a much older tool that works much better. And I hear that Netbeans is working on a C++ version, so who knows.

Of course I’m just one customer. Maybe nobody else in the world is experiencing the problems I am. But I doubt it.

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