Thursday, 30 November 2006

Old World Smells

The first breath of air as I stepped off the plane brought a big smile to my face. The air here is a little mustier. A little earthier. A little more natural. The increased intensity of the smell are one of my favorite things about Belgium (and the Netherlands and Germany). The onions chopped for dinner – smell even more delicious.

We went for a long walk around Brussels’ city center last night on the way to dinner. A walk I’ve made a few times before. The first being a decade ago. Of course, the architecture that’s stood for hundreds of years is still here, but so is “Pita Street” – a small side street off the main plaza lined with gyro and falafel shops. Pita to pita. The smell of greasy lamb kabob followed us a couple more streets further to Babeko on Sint Katelijnplein. A tiny, African/French fusion restaurant where I discovered Ostrich steak with plantin banana in a cranberry and sweet onion sauce. Wow. Red, like a beef steak, with lighter, subtler flavors.

The service was impeccably French – with the expected Belgian lack of pretense .

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Brussel Me

We landed in Brussels a couple hours ago. Smoothest trip we could have imagined.

I let out a jet-lagged giggle at the ‘inspected by the TSA’ sticker on the car seat we checked.

Monday, 27 November 2006


“The US copyright office will permit mobile phone subscribers to unlock their phones, allowing them to be used by rival network providers.” – Andrew Orlowski, The Register

“The exemptions become effective on 27 November 2006 and will only remain in effect for three years.” – Tim Finn

“This is really only applicable to Cingular and T-Mobile customers” – Alex Zaltsman

This is really good news for handset makers and the geek set. Opens up a new world of higher-end handset options (the choices today are pretty bad).

If any of you Apple-geeks missed it, the rumored iPhone is rumored to be unlocked. Just as you supplied the keyboard, mouse, and monitor with the Mac Mini, this means you’ll bring your own mobile phone service provider for the iPhone.

Seems like a smart, customer-centric decision. Since not all providers have decent coverage where there are Apple Stores (US or worldwide) not tying the handset to a provider means Apple (or any other handset maker) can sell to the greatest number of customers.


“An Apple phone wouldn’t do more than a Treo or a BlackBerry or a Razr — it would do less, and what it would do, it would do really well.” – John Gruber

Exactly. Today those are the options for decent voice + internet handset. As I wrote last April – we don’t need more of the same – we need the opposite. While my previous write up is pretty geeky – the underlying principle is valid – phone as peripheral. Not stand-alone device.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Conversion Rate on Joy

We caught the “Heretics” episode of the This American Life last week on the drive back from Wisconsin. A superb listen – about Reverend Carlton Pearson and his New Dimensions church – best I’ve heard from public radio in quite a while (not that I’ve been able to stand listening that much). Pearson’s philosophy of inclusion is the closest I’ve heard something sounding like a Post-Scarcity Christianity.

I don’t remember a church service where the offering plate wasn’t passed around. Donations – dare I say – commerce – is baked into religious gatherings. Same goes for street performers and hat passing.

Outside of those two contexts, I’m drawing a blank on where same gather-entertain-donate model has been successful – especially not in the online realm. Hmmm – what would a successful model look like?

While commerce is baked into religion – the inverse can also be true:

“You see, the customers (and I am one) who make Apple what it is don’t purchase products. They (we) accept and enter a myth — a cult.” – Rex Hammock

Reminds me of my favorite L Ron Hubbard quote:

“I’d like to start a religion. That’s where the money is.”

Keep on eye Pearson – he’s out to prove joy can be as financially lucrative as fear.

Oh, and I think there is a distinction between building a religion and building a cathedral.

Saturday, 25 November 2006

Friday, 24 November 2006

First Crack 92. – The Home Improvement Social Network

Curbly - The DIY Design Community

Bruno Bornsztein, Ben Moore, and I talk about their recently launched project – – a social networking site for sharing DIY projects, tips, and finding help.

After we run through the site, we talk about;

  • Using agile web development processes and what Ben calls WWIBAN (What Would I Bitch About Next) to be “one day behind the future”.
  • The Ruby on Rails framework and the Ruby.MN developer group.

The follows my original profile of at

Listen to – The Home Improvement Social Network [23 min]

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Don’t Hold Your Breath

While Darren’s post is specific the challenges of high-profile, pro-bike racing, the messed up relationship he describes is evident in so many other industries, the major entertainment publishers come to mind immediately (music, books, etc).

While I admittedly don’t know the specifics of the issues within bike racing (Darren’s the expert here, and I could scare up a couple more if you’d like) – seems to me walking into the sport there’s some degree of acceptance that’s ‘this is the way the game is played’.

Of course, “The Man” has more incentive to keep things status quo than do the “the little guys”. All around me, I’m seeing similar hierarchies bypassed. RSS, podcasting, Tivo, YouTube, email, BarCamps, open-source software, and weblogs – all bypass existing gatekeepers, syndicators, and publishing structures, and organizational structures.

“You’ve got to build bypasses” – Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

These bypasses changes the game at a fundamental, un-ignorable way. The best bypasses promise sustainability without threat of holding your breath underwater.

What would it look like if the same thing that happened to stock brokers and real estate agents happened to professional sports leagues?


“Meanwhile, top reporters and columnists at major newspapers are realizing (or will realize soon) that their fates are not necessarily tied to those of their employers.” – Michael Hirschorn

Crazed Small World

Just found out the very cool (persistent Craigslist searching) is run by the same Andrew Payne I’ve been working somewhat indirectly with for about a year now.

Proving again:

  1. The world actually is pretty small.
  2. Every good web developer/designer has a really cool side project.

If Not Traffic and Page Views, What Do We Measure?

Over lunch with a local start up, the conversation moved towards Digg, encouraging ‘Digg’ing, and generally putting more guarantees around getting ‘Dugg’. While it’s great for exposure, it akin to unloading a bus fleet of tourists into your house. Sure, some of them may stick around and have a beer but, is the line to the bathroom worth it?

I’m not confident traffic and page views are actually the metrics worth tracking. Digg or otherwise. MySpace has lots of page views – because it’s such a poorly designed site. Conversely, Digg, MySpace, Flickr, YouTube all have a strong level of engagement.

Engagement. How do we measure engagement?
Number of posts, comments, “friendships”, a given member contributes? Maybe. Feels closer.

Experience has shown me it’s easier to sell to the same customer with each consecutive sale. With that in mind, the idea is to create a structure that supports multiple sales/transactions (subscriptions are the easy answer). If overhead is low enough, it’s conceivable that sustainable success could be attained with a fairly small number of paying customers.

Oh, on a related note – I predict 6 months before Digg is replaced by something else, if only because it will be over run by spammers.

Related Elsewhere:
Deep Jive Interests: Digg’s Failure: When “No Moderation” Doesn’t Work
Deep Jive Interests: Digg’s Editors Show Their Invisible Hand (Again)

Micro Persuasion: Fake News Story Games Thousands of Digg Users

UPDATE 11 Dec 2006

“…digg users are not valuable for a site that relies on advertising clicks to generate revenue, since they drop by for a cursory look, then head off looking for another distraction.” – Jason Clarke

Jason continues:

“But digg users tend to be those that will sign up for almost any beta product or service, then bore of it quickly and abandon it for the next big thing.”