Sunday, August 31, 2008

A US Presidential Election Survey...for Immigrants and Visa-Holders

This is a poll designed for those of us who are here legally, but who cannot influence the outcome of this election which will affect us so profoundly. Tell us here at Newest Industry what scares you the most.

[poll id="4"]

Web Performance Concepts Series - Revisited

Two years ago I created a series of five blog articles, aimed at both business and technical readers, with the goal of explaining the basic statistical concepts and methods I use when analyzing Web performance data in my role as a Web performance consultant.

Most of these ideas were core to my thinking when I developed GrabPERF in 2005-2006, as I determined that it was vital that people not only receive Web performance measurement data for their site, but they receive it in a way that allows them to inform and shape the business and technical decisions they make on a daily basis.

While I come from a strong technical background, it is critical to be able to present the data that I work with in a manner that can be useful to all components of an organization, from the IT and technology leaders who shape the infrastructure and design of a site, to the marketing and business leaders who set out the goals for the organization and interact with customers, vendors and investors.

Providing data that helps negotiate the almost religious dichotomy that divides most organizations is crucial to providing a comprehensive Web performance solution to any organization.

These articles form the core of an ongoing series of discussion focused on the the pitfalls of Web performance analysis, and how to learn and avoid the errors others have already discovered.

The series went over like a lead balloon and this left me puzzled. While the basic information in the articles was technical and focused on the role that simple statistics play in affecting Web performance technology and business decisions inside an organization, they formed the core of what I saw as an ongoing discussion that organizations need to have to ensure that an organization moves in a single direction, with a single purpose.

I have decided reintroduce this series, dredging it from the forgotten archives of this blog, to remind business and IT teams of the importance of the Web performance data they use every day. It also serves as a guide to interpreting the numbers that arise from all the measurement methodologies that companies use, a map to extract the most critical information in the raging sea of data.

The five articles are:

  1. Web Performance, Part I: Fundamentals

  2. Web Performance, Part II: What are you calling ‘average’?

  3. Web Performance, Part III: Moving Beyond Average

  4. Web Performance, Part IV: Finding The Frequency

  5. Web Performance, Part V: Baseline Your Data

I look forward to your comments and questions on these topics.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Dichotomy of the Web: Andy King's Website Optimization

Andy King's Website Optimization, O'Reilly 2008The Web is a many-splendored thing, with a very split personality. One side is drive to find ways to make the most money possible, while the other is driven to implement cool technology in an effective and efficient manner (most of the time).

Andy King, in Website Optimization (O'Reilly), tries to address these two competing forces in a way that both can understand. This is important because, as we all know from our own lives, most of the time these two competing parts of the same whole are right; they just don't understand the other side.

I have seen this trend repeated throughout my nine years in the Web performance industry, five years as a consultant. Companies torn asunder, viewing the Business v. Technology interaction as a Cold War, one that occasionally flares up in odd places which serve as proxies between the two.

Website Optimization appears at first glance to be torn asunder by this conflict. With half devoted to optimizing the site for business and the other to performance and design optimization, there will be a cry from the competing factions that half of this book is a useless waste of time.

These are the organizations and individuals who will always be fighting to succeed in this industry. These are the people and companies who don't understand that success in both areas is critical to succeeding in a highly competitive Web world.

The first half of the book is dedicated to the optimization of a Web site, any Web site, to serve a well-defined business purpose. Discussing terms such as SEO, PPC, and CRO can curdle the blood of any hardcore techie, but they are what drive the design and business purpose of a Web site. Without a way to get people to a site, and use the information on the site to do business or complete the tasks that they need to, there is no need to have a technological infrastructure to support it.

Conversely, a business with lofty goals and a strategy that will change the marketplace will not get a chance to succeed if the site is slow, the pages are large, and design makes cat barf look good. Concepts such HTTP compression, file concatenation, caching, and JS/CSS placement drive this side of the personality, as well as a number of application and networking considerations that are just too far down the rat hole to even consider in a book with as broad a scope as this one.

Although on the surface, the concepts discussed in this book will see many people put it down as it isn't business or techie enough, those who do buy the book will show that they have a grasp of the wider perspective, the one that drives all successful sites to stand tall in a sea of similarity.

See the Website Optimization book companion site for more information, chapter summaries and two sample chapters.

In praise of found technology and the waste we treat it

The title is a deliberate misspelling. An event in the last two weeks has got me thinking about EWaste, and the way it is treated in the US, and likely the entire developed world.

About two weeks ago, #1 son told my wife to "STOP THE CAR!" as they were driving down the road near our house. Thinking he was mad, she did. #1 son leaped out and returned to the car with an HP Pavilion Desktop, in the vain hope that it could replace his current dinosaur computer.

This morning, I completed the configuration process by adding a wireless network card to this machine and they are now up and running with a computer from 2006-07, rather than the one they had been on up until then, which was from 1999 (seriously).

This leaves me to wonder why someone would dispose of a machine that is still perfectly functional. A machine that could have been donated to anyone of a number of causes to help those far less fortunate than we are.

I may complain incessantly about my lack of a MacBook ($|Pro|Air), but in the area of technology, I am well off. I have an excellent pair of servers that host my sites. Have a number of older machines in my basement to serve a variety of purposes, including development. I have my personal laptop and a very powerful work-provided laptop. And my wife has the most powerful machine in the house, to get e-mail and cruise Craigslist.

We are not computer-challenged. Yet, I do not take the disposal of any of this technology lightly. If I do dispose of technology, it goes into the city garbage ONLY on hazardous waste days. If I can, I give the machines to organizations who can use even a very old machine.

The processing of EWaste is a shameful burden that the wealthy of the world impose and throw down to the down-trodden. We pass along the poisons to those who are least able to say no, without a second thought.

To find and reincarnate a computer on the street is the act of a truly geeky family. To have thrown the computer to the curb in the first place is a sign of the shameful ignorance in our society for what is done with EWaste.

Are you being a responsible computer owner, as a person or a corporation?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Streaming v. Torrent - The true promise of on-demand

Steve Gillmor comments on TechCrunch today that Comcast's caps on bandwidth may finally drive people from the land of torrents, and to the land of streaming. [here]

While I agree that the promise of streaming is long overdue, there is the one area that streaming still can't fill: The mobile viewer. I don't mean folks on mobile phones, although with the growth of 3G in the Americas (Europe and Asia laugh at us in the area), the mobile market will become more important.

No, I am referring to the mobile, laptop-using traveller, mainly the business traveller, although leisure travellers are starting to take their laptops with them more often. Streaming doesn't work on the road, in a hotel with a crappy connection, in an airport, or somewhere were the 3G isn't 3G enough.

While streaming will become more prevalent, it won't unseat the culture of Torrents for a few years yet. It will happen. But affordable, reliable connectivity saturation across the Americas has to occur first. And, in some ways, Comcast and the other providers are the ones hampering this process.

The focus of the connectivity providers on their dinosaur cage-match with the FCC has left them ignorant of the asteroid screaming toward them. In order to create a streaming market that they can profit from, they have to open the pipes, lower the costs, and increase the options for the consumer of their Internet/bandwidth services. If the connectivity they provide to the consumers can't support the desire for the streaming economy, the Torrent reality will not fade away.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Streaming and the Beijing Olympics - Is it live? Or is it NBC?

Over at NewTeeVee, there is a detailed look at the way that the streams were served and who served them. They also have a great discussion of the P2P and Torrent downloads, serving as an alternate method of getting the high quality streams out to a larger audience.

But John Furrier poses an interesting question, just before he quotes the entire NewTeeVee post: What's the largest audience for a live stream?

Most of the streams that were viewed by people at NBC and other media providers were delayed. And while the concept of streaming is still valid, it doesn't fulfill the promise of an "as it happens" delivery of streaming media.

So folks, what is the largest live video stream audience?

Bylined Article up at

My bylined article Industry Perspectives: Best Practices for Flawless Web Multimedia Streams is up! Go check it out!

The discussion centers around how to approach monitoring and measuring the performance of Streaming Media, an area that is far more challenging than traditional Web page and site performance measurement.

There are a number of challenges an organization faces when deciding to adopt some type of streaming media strategy. The main one is "Do we go it alone?".

The article addresses a number of these areas.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Immigration: Thoughts on the Green Card Process - A Personal Story

green_card_mazeBeing a Canadian in the United States for the last nine years has been an interesting adventure, to say the least. Although our nations are neighbours, there can be two more different approaches to the same problem so close to each other.

I can't claim to be an expert on how Canada processes new immigrants, but I can say that it has to be better than what has happened in the US.

Nine years ago, I started out on the NAFTA Free-Trade visa, the TN-1. This is a non-immigration visa, which is restrictive in the occupations that you can work in, but essentially allows highly-skilled Canadians, Americans, and Mexicans to work in the free trade zone, a term I use very loosely in this context.

In 2001, my status was migrated by my previous employer to an H1-B. This is a much more formal visa and is used for skilled workers from around the world. It is also infamous for its quota system, and is the bane of most (if not all) high-tech firms who insist on recruiting the best talent from around the world to work in the Unuted States.

In some respects, while the off-shoring trend that was so big a concern a few years back (still?) is founded on a number of different economic realities, the driving force was the restrictive nature of the H1-B visa. I encountered a version of this when I changed employers and transferred my H1-B from employer A to employer B. When I did this, I could not leave the US, for any reason, until I had my new H1-B without forfeiting the entire process.

One of the conditions I had for switching employers was that employer B would start the Green Card process for me and my family. This process alone has taken 3.5 years, and from what I can tell, being an employment-based application from a Canadian means that I haven't had to wait nearly as long as some of the people who apply under other circumstances or from "less friendly" nations.

This process is approaching (we hope) its final phase, as there is talk from the people assisting us that there is a chance that we may be processed through the final stages in late 2008 or early 2009. But, as with all things related to this process, this is still very much speculative.


So, as a citizen of the United States reading this, you are likely saying "So what?", or "How does this affect me?". Frankly, it doesn't. But, in a fundamental way, it does.

As a nation built almost completely on immigration, the United States has become increasing isolationist, especially in its immigration policies. Mostly at a political level. Where the conflict appears to be developing is between the political agenda and the economic needs of the US economy. US firms are reliant on importing the best and the brightest from around the world. These same firms are now finding increasing resistance from these highly-skilled employees who are looking at the current state of the US economy and the incredibly restrictive immigration criteria, and choosing to walk away, or choose other more lucrative and less restrictive opportunities.

As a person involved in this process, I can say that up until late last year, when I recieved my EAD, I was in effect an indentured serf, beholden to the company for which I worked, which none of the options or flexibility that my US colleagues had available to them.

I own a house. My children go to school in the town where I own my house. I pay US, not Canadian, taxes. I pay property tax.

However, in the eyes of the United States government, I am considered "three-fifths of a person". A person bound to this country but not of this country.

The truly American among you may say "Shut up and become a citizen". I chose not to. I have chosen to retain my personal Canadian Identity, those things that I hold dear that separate Canadian and Americans. I retain my Canadian passport. My youngest son holds dual-citizenship.

I have chosen to make a life in the United States. However, the process that I have been involved in does not allow me to recommend this path to any other Canadians.

To other Canadians, I say: Stay home. Make Canada the best it can be. Make it a truly integrated player in the Global Economy.

To the United States, I say: Wake up. Your destiny has come, and gone. And the way you treat your immigrants is a clear demonstration of that.

Some have said that the United States is a fading empire, most-often compared to the Roman Empire. However, as this piece in the LA Times states, even an ancient empire, in its fading glory, understood how you become great: You become more than the sum of your parts.

Monday, August 25, 2008

WGBH - TV: Wasting airspace, again

WBGH, again you win the contest as the most clueless PBS station in the world.

There is this small news event occurring this week, called the Democratic National Convention.

And what are you showing tonight?

John Denver, a man and his music.

Are you completely clueless?

Another year, another lack of donations from me.

When will you start showing the programs we want to see, and stop with the crap you think raises you the most money?

This is an ongoing rant.

IP Addresses by Country and Registrar -- August 2008

The five top-level IP Registrars (ARIN, RIPE, APNIC, LACNIC, AFRINIC) manage tens of million IPV4 and IPV6 addresses, assigning them to networks around the world. These addresses are key to accessing the Internet for all end-users.

About once a year, I generate the statistics out of the IP address database I maintain. The last one was published back in August 2007,  and, as can be imagined, there have been substantial changes that have occurred in the last 12 months.

At the country level, there has been a substantial change in the top five as China has superseded Japan in the total number of IPV4 addresses. In fact, in the last 12 months, Japan has seen a net loss in the total number of allocated IPV4 addresses.

UNITED STATES337581441234432
EUROPEAN UNION4766120292412
UNITED KINGDOM346085509464
SOUTH AFRICA79013828352
HONG KONG6337537408
NEW ZEALAND11875560064
SAUDI ARABIA1542194176
COSTA RICA241332224

The adjustment in China is completely expected, as China has substantial room to expand its IPV4 population, compared to a country such as Japan which is likely approaching saturation in this area.

In the total number of IPV4 addresses assigned by registrar, ARIN (US, Canada, and parts of the Caribbean) still has a substantially larger population than the other regions. However, this region only grew by 3 million IPV4 addresses in the last 12 months, compared to 42 million for RIPE (Europe and the Middle East), and 74 million for APNIC (Asia-Pacific). LACNIC (Mexico, Latin and South America) grew by 13 million IPV4 addresses and AFRINIC (Africa) by 4 million.


Some of this growth in APNIC, AFRINIC, and LACNIC can be attributed to adjustments in the Registry structure itself. Now that there are five registrars with responsibility for a clearly defined set of nations, a number of adjustments have had to occur in the registrar of record for IPV4 ranges.

In the past, for nations that were not explicitly covered by a regional registrar, the IPV4 range may have been assigned by the registrar now responsible for the region, most likely ARIN or RIPE.

Now that there are registrars specifically designated to cover these formerly grey areas, these historical artifacts are being corrected as registry information is renewed.

However, this cannot directly account for the noticeable growth in AFRINIC, APNIC, and LACNIC relative to the two older registrars. This is yet another indication of the strong growth of the Internet outside of its established base of the United States, Canada, Western Europe, and a small number of industrialized nations in the Asia-Pacific region.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I-94s - Wii haz um

After 12 hours on the road, 20 minutes in Canada (well, Quebec), and a night in a really crappy hotel room, we are back home, with freshly minted I-94s.

In the immigration office, they were hesitant to hand us the I-94s because we still have valid H1-Bs. I had to insist that they give us them to support our Advanced Parole renewal. This is way too complicated (and expensive) and I just want my Green

So, a tip for all you travellers out there: Regardless of your status, and the insistence that you don't need I-94s, never let them take them away, and try to get the border agents to issue them for EVERY crossing. I know it's a pain in the ass, but it's more of a pain in the ass to have to go back and get them.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rant the Second: Gutter Helmet, Again

So, in my second rant of the day, I am falling back to my favourite target of tension: Gutter Helmet. This long-running saga in one that I wish I had never been involved in, and in 20/20 hindsight, I wish that I had just chosen to go with standard gutters, rather than some gadgety gimmick that is installed by a company that seems to value customer service about 14th on their Top Ten list.

The latest installment has come about because one, if not more, of our downspouts is now blocked with ... something. The thing is that these top-of-the-line gadgets should never become clogged. And if they do, we have a lifetime maintenance guarantee.

Well, they guarantee that maintenance will occur sometime in my lifetime.

It will be nearly 8 weeks since I called before the service person can come out and clean out a downspout. They said that it would happen this week (week of August 17th), but then changed their minds and moved the date out to the week of (maybe the day of?) September 3rd.

It's not a hard fix. It shouldn't take that long. And I know that the weather hasn't been that great. But 8 weeks is a little long, especially for someone whose installation experience is already so far past acceptable.

So, below, I have created a little poll to get a feeling for how other folks with Gutter Helmet installs feel about their decision. Let us know!

[poll id="3"]

Rant the First: US Immigration and the Confusion of the Process

On July 20, the family crossed over the border back into the US after attending Samantha's grandmother's funeral in Toronto. It had been a great weekend, a chance to get reacquainted with Samantha's extended family and introduce the boys to some of these folks.

We crossed the border at the Peace Bridge, and got an Immigration officer who obviously did not know what she was doing.

To describe our current status: We are in the US on EADs with Advanced Parole documents which allow us to travel in and out of the country. The sheer complexity of our status (which is not an unusual one) perplexed this Immigration officer, and she processed us under our old status (H1-B/H4) and then did not issue us I-94s!

For the American readers among you, an I-94 is a little slip of paper stating when and where you last entered the US. Every person in an Immigration process (and many foreign nationals) are required to get either the white form (Immigrant) or the green form (visitor).

We are now in the process of renewing our AP documents and EADs, and one of the items they need is a copy of our most recent I-94s, which this Immigration official at Peace Bridge kindly removed from our passports without issuing new ones.

So, tomorrow, we have to drive up to the Derby Border Crossing in Vermont (the closest to our home) and get new ones issued so that we can renew our APs and EADs.

The main gripe I have with this is that the US Immigration service appears to be hideously inconsistent in when and where they enforce their own rules. As well, with the AP, it is now harder to get into the US than it was with the H1-B.

To sum up, this process frustrates me, and it is no wonder that between this sort of confusion and hearing that Green Card applicants can get thrown in jail and ignored until they die that makes me wonder if it is all worthwhile.

For those of you with Green Cards: Is it all worthwhile?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Another thumbs up for CBC Olympic Coverage

Philip Michaels writes a great review of why the CBC Olympic Coverage makes NBC seem like the pathetic old has-been it is. [here]

The US is ready for more NBC. Think you can actually deliver by 2010? When the Canadian broadcasters -- even CTV! -- will make you look really pathetic?

Didn't think so.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Upgrade to WP 2.6.1 - Complete

Ok, all I have to say is: If you do not have the Wordpress Automatic Upgrade plugin, go get it. The update took all of 30 seconds.

Thanks to the authors of that extremely useful piece of code.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Google Searches Always Bring Surprises

Since November 5 2004 (Geez! Have I been blogging that long?), I have written 1,744 posts (this is 1,745). So, as you can well imagine, I can't remember whats in most of them. I know which ones are the most popular and what's in those, but on the whole, I couldn't tell you what's in most of the posts I have put up in nearly four years.

So it always astounds me when someone goes to one the more obscure posts. Astounds me to the point that I have to go to the site and find out what I said.

The long tail meets the absent-minded.

Green Card: Man Allegedly Dies as a Result Of DHS Negligence

Ok, as someone who is waiting for his Green Card, the story of the treatment allegedly received by Hiu Lui Ng frightens me. [BoingBoing link here. NY Times here ]

My Green Card has been in process for more than three years. We are supposedly approaching the end of the long road. But how do I know I won't be thrown in jail and deported because of some silly clerical error?

We are all enemy aliens until proven otherwise. No wonder US corporations are finding it harder and harder to sell the idea of emigration to the US to potential employees from outside their boundaries.

"Yes, it is possible that you will be thrown in jail and mistreated because of some silly clerical error. It's more likely that we will just keep you in fear and treat you like second-class indentured servants for 3-4 years until we're done with you. Now, about our medical plan..."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Attitude Adjustment: And I thought I was too poor for a Mac...

The post says it all

[vimeo w=400&h=225]
Burmese Refugee Children Love Macs from Joyce Kim on Vimeo.

Which Multi-Protocol IM Client do you use?

[poll id="2"]

Strategic Reading: Managing FriendFeed My Way

For FriendFeed has become my replacement for Google Reader, which I only visit occasionally now to see if there are blogs I need to add to my feed.

But, if you are going to replace a reader with FriendFeed, how do you manage the flow of content. While tools will likely improve over time, I have adopted a simple strategy.

1) Scan for items with obvious links

As I power through the front page of my feed, I look for items that are obviously links to longer articles. I can then decide if I want click through to that article. But rather than opening it in a new tab right in front of me, I use the wheel-click option in Firefox and open these articles in a background tab. This allows me to scan through the fees and read the articles when I want.

2) Read Twitter/ last

Personal conversations come second for me. If there is a thread I am interested in, I will wheel click the Twitter page for the person and pick it up that way...or use Twitter Search. Being the kind of person who processes personal communications last makes this easier.

3) Use the FriendFeed interface as much as I can

If there was a way to open posts in a frame such as the way that video and images are embedded in FriendFeed, I would never go to anyone's actual site. While that may be a feature of the future, the storage implementation for the FriendFeed team is potentially enormous - unless they choose to retrieve the content on the fly.

And finally...

4) Gripe about TinyURL, etc. links and how I don't know where they lead

A great feature of the future for FriendFeed would be to translate obfuscated URLs to their base URLs in a rollover

And there you have it. Not the world's most intense primer on using FriendFeed, but it works for me!

Embeds, content attribution, and success in the New Media

Jeremiah Owyang has a great think piece on the idea of embedded content. [here]

The piece sums up the foundational idea that has been driving the debate I dropped my self into with regards to the NBC (or any old-tyme media network's) coverage of the Olympics. The concept of content-management by the leaders online has moved beyond the idea of control, and towards attributed sharing.

It should no longer be a world where national media entries control what you see, but rather the best media gets the highest rating. Would people in the US like to see how other nations treasure their athletes? Maybe another network will focus on Football, Swimming, Diving, etc. more than your network does, so you will chose that content, and share that with your friends/followers/groupies.

If NBC allowed people to embed the content on their own site, they still get the eyeballs (How 1999! But I heard someone use it on NPR yesterday), and the cred that goes with "Joe/Susie says this is the best content and has decided to put it up on their site".

Embedded content goes to the idea that the best content/presentation will always be the most successful. Controlling the content, as the NBC monopoly on the Olympics has pointed out, just motivates people to find ways to get other perspectives.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympic Broadcasting: One Feed Does Not Serve Them All

In the community of voices I follow online, one of the continuing themes is the narrowness and antiquated coverage provided by NBC(I launched into a screed on the topic this weekend).

I have also heard that many people are using the tools at their disposal (open proxy servers being the most notable) to circumvent the geo-location tools of the providers to view coverage from other national providers. I thought I would share some of my experiences with two of the providers, BBC and CBC.


Finding proxy servers in the UK turned out to be relatively simple, and I was able to get to the BBC site and view, with substantial performance penalties, some of the video on the site. This was a tactic I have used before, as I am a fan of English Football, and need to use this method to gain access to highlights and match-day broadcasts.


I am, well, disappointed with the lack of success I have had with the CBC. I hear from people in the homeland that the coverage makes NBC looks like the US is the only country in the Olympics, where the CBC provides a true global perspective. However, finding a proxy server that can fool the CBC video servers has been impossible. Therefore, I continue to not watch any Olympics at all.

I am sure that there are other means (P2P, Torrents, etc.), but I am finding that, well, I don't care that much. It is the events in South Ossetia / Georgia, Zimbabwe, and other hot-spots that I am finding far more relevant to my day-to-day life.

So while I appreciate some of the challenges posed by circumventing the monopoly of the mind that NBC wants to claim, once that was achieved with the BBC, I found that I was in a So what? position.

But before I give up, has anyone had any success with getting the CBC feeds to work outside Canada?

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Olympics and the Concept of "Live" TV

Robert Scoble has launched a thread over on FriendFeed [here] discussing the NBC Olympics broadcast schedule and how the reality of the Internet and Social Media is changing how things are broadcast.

People are recommending the CBC feed. I would likely say the people in the UK would recommend the BBC feed. But I can tell you one thing: Samantha and I have boycotted this year's Olympics.

If there is an interesting event, or final, I will search out the video. But the idea of watching the jingoistic, materialist, flag-waving, US-centric view of the Olympics makes me ill. I don't like the Chinese regime for a variety of reasons; but the idea of having the US Olympic team shoved down my throat by NBC while McDonalds and Coke sell me a new world is enough to make anyone give up tv forever.

Rant Off.

UPDATE: Seems Henry Blodget has a similar opinion, with less rant. [here]

Thinking About the Effects and Reform of Higher (Cost) Education

In Massachusetts, the latest user-generated crisis has centered around the evaporation of low-cost student loans due to the credit crunch. Families are scrambling to find ways to pay for their children's university and college education, surprised by this sudden disappearance of what had been seen as a very deep well.

I am not here to comment on the causes of the credit crunch. My thoughts turn, instead, to the revenue foundations that the US higher education system built on. The primary question is: Have institutions priced themselves out of relevance?

Other thoughts also come to mind. Is it time to move away from teaching certain skills/fields in universities and colleges, and consider moving to specialized apprenticeships. This idea is one that conjures up images of the guild system, and it is not a dissimilar idea. Certain areas would benefit from a system led by leaders and experts in the field, teaching real-world practices and implementations, rather than theoretical concepts.

In today's society, the cost of higher education makes people indentured serfs, chained to a bank loan that they thought would afford them the opportunity to get ahead, to make a difference. If we are going to make people indentured serfs (harsh imagery, but how long have you been paying off your student loans?), then why not put them through an apprenticeship, where they can work their way through their education while learning the skill they have entered into.

Work-study and co-op programs have made a stab at that. But I am thinking of learning and working simultaneously. Developing skills, and paying your way in the same place.

Before you classify me as some Luddite or elitist, you have to understand my perspective. I have a liberal Arts degree (History) and found my place in the business world by learning my primary skills on the job. I have played both sides of the fence, and I would say that many others have as well.

And where a theoretical foundation is good in some fields, it needs to be heavily supplemented by real-world practice.

To circle back to the idea of cost, how much of what we require of people in a higher education is directed at the skills that they are most interested in learning? Does a university or college provide the skills needed to support our economy? How do we most effectively and economically ensure that we have an educated and knowledgeable workforce?

These are not for reasons of nationalism or core political beliefs. Every reader here should know I am a Canadian by now. The idea of rationalizing higher education to deliver what people want/need in a way that is effective, efficient, and economic without compromising the fundamental need for a free and open society to have centers of higher learning that foster debate and new idea is one that should be part of the debate in the current election cycle.

How do you deliver an education system that is open to all, and serves the needs of all, without bankrupting the people in the process is one that needs to be addressed.

Gutter Helmet and the Hangovers of Customer Experience

Nearly three years ago, I launched into a tirade on my experience with the installation of the Gutter Helmet system (no link; no link is deserved).

The initial post in this thread is still the single most visited post I have ever written. Years of Web performance, social commentary, political debate, and personal debacles in my blog, and Gutter Helmet is what calls to the broadest spectrum of people searching on the Web.

The fact that so many people continue to visit the post also tells me that people continue to be interested in this system and my experience with it. So here is the latest update.

In the next 10 days, a Gutter Helmet technician will come out and clean out the downspouts that are full of debris that has accumulated from the gutters over the past three years. Hopefully, they will not claim some technicality and try to charge the $150 maintenance fee that I was warned about.

I am also hopeful that the person who comes out and does the work is more friendly than the last one.

On a scale of 1-10, Gutter Helmet rates:

Installation 3
Installation Fixing 3
Ongoing Operation 6

Consider all your options before going with Gutter Helmet.

GrabPERF Outage - August 08-09 2008

Between August 08 2008 18:00GMT and August 09 2008 03:00GMT, GrabPERF had a network-related outage at the hosting facility.

Many thanks to the Technorati team for working hard to resolve this complex issue, which eventually turned out to be a loose fiber-cable.

Data from the time period has been cut, so no one's stats should be affected.

I apologize for the incovenience.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Followers, hit-counts, and the Attention Economy

Since I migrated the blog back to my own servers a few days ago, I have realized something: I have fallen back to my old habit of watching the hit count.

This is weird, considering the lack of interest I had in my blog and its stats over the last year or so. But having my baby back home where I am in charge gives a sense that I should pay attention. That I need to know what's happening.

In 2005, when I started doing this, I used to watch my hit count religiously, maniacally. Sort of goes with the bipolar, but I digress. In 2008, we are obsessed with followers, and the Slashdot like addiction to being the first to report some breaking (planted?) news item.

So, after three years of blogging, I see that the online communities haven't progressed much beyond hit counters, page views, or followers. And online cred is a insular and self-perpetuating thing. You draw attention to yourself, you get comments, more people follow you, and more people feed you, you have more to say, more people follow you...and on, and on.

I am not saying that this is good, or ill. I am as much a traffic whore as the rest of the world. I just realize that we are all after the same goal - attention. That was the whole idea behind the Attention Economy, a term I don't hear as much as I did 2 years ago.

With FriendFeed and Twitter, we live in the Attention Economy. With 200 channels in my basic cable package, TV is a passive Attention Economy, controlled by the PVR and the TorrentSphere. Satellite Radio forces us to make choices.

Be it hit-counts or PVRs, we all crave attention, knowing full well how limited the attention-span is. We don't want be to waste our time, but we want to attract that of others.

Attention produces an unbalanced online economy. We can do many things to control the incoming flow. We can also work very hard to expand the outgoing flow. But for most of us, the outgoing flow remains a trickle, maybe even a fine mist.

So where does the power in the Attention Economy lie? With the off-switch.

And we all have one.

How do you use yours?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Welcome to Newest Industry...

Or should I say, welcome back.

Three years ago when I started blogging on a regular basis, the blog was name The Newest Industry after the Husker Du song of the same name. Then I migrated the content to, and relinquished hosting it myself.

Well, I have decided to resurrect Newest Industry, but with all the same shiny content you would find at the Crazy Canuck Chronicles.

So, if it's been a while, welcome back. Otherwise, a simple hello.

Wordpress Install - Installer FAIL!

So, the last post I put up simply stated that I had failed in installing Worpress 2.6 on my own server. The permalinks were messed up and it looked a lot like an issue that a lot of people were having.

But, the catch was: the problem persisted when I tried to use Wordpress 2.5.1. Hmmm...wonder what's up.

So today, I started thinking that it might be an Apache issue, rather than a Wordpress issue. So, taking a break from a massive project I'm doing (only so much performance data you can process before brain freeze), I started to poke around.

AllowOverride All

That did it. I was not letting Apache read the damn .htaccess file that Wordpress installed.

Excuse the thudding of my head on the desk.

Many apologies to the Automattic team. This user haz th dumb.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Wordpress Install: Fail

I decided over the weekend to have a go at running my own install of Wordpress 2.6, with an aim to perhaps hosting my own blog again, with the obvious gains in flexibility and monetization.

Let's just say that it was frustrating.

The most frustrating part was the permalink issue. All known and posted fixes failed to resolve the issue of getting the permalinks to match those seen in this blog, which is the content I would be migrating. There is no clear and simple fix for those of us who just want the software to work, without having to spend two hours hacking.

I will try again when 2.6.1 is released, but it strikes me as odd that this made it out the door. However, I have seen worse unintended features appear in released software.