Winter Bike Rides

Took a nice hour-long, 18 mile spin with the good Dr. Dan yesterday afternoon, overdressing as it turned out for the 55-degree spring temps. The man is on fire after losing 15 pounds over the fall, so it was a hammer-fest the entire ride.

Riding in January is a bit insane — the drivers aren’t used to seeing cyclists on the road so one has to be extra, extra careful not to be taken out by a roaring pickup truck driven by a hungover nailbanger pissed off that someone has the time and wherewithal to get on a $4,000 bike wearing day-glo spandex. But, as the Scandavians say, "There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.’ Dress right, put up with the snot production that comes with rolling along at 20 mph in the winter air, and as they say, the "Tour de France is won in January."

More in later post on the cycling goals of 2006. 

Cape Cod Blogs

Walter Brooks, a Cape Cod publisher, evidently technorati’d my "Dangling Man post" and sent this email:

"I ran into you (I hope it was thee) today reading

…all ending with a sad and final thud as I drove out of Manhattan to Cape Cod with a car filled with mementos and my Herman Miller Aeron chair, a totem of the dot.bomb if there ever was one.
at Do you have a Cape Connection? Am I addressing the correct writer? What is the real meaning of existence… forget the last.
If you do ever have thought about our sand spit held together by package stores" please past them along and I’ll feature that post on
All the best….
Walter Brooks, Editor & Publisher, 
900 Rt 134, South Dennis, MA 02660  ( 


Funny – I hadn’t seen any local blog of blogs before. The concept of regional blogging seems strongest with Jonathan Weber’s community publishing experiment in the west. Good concept whereever it lands.

Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin …

Getting one’s act together for a big move is an utter drag. Long lists of stuff to get done before flying to Raleigh and all of it tedious. Ranging from a screw to replace the paper clip holding my reading glasses together, to taking my bike to the shop to get it broken down and boxed for a UPS ride to North Carolina (I care more about the bike than anything else, truth be told, and don’t want to buy a new "unobtanium" down there, having just dropped big coin to build up the Viktor Rapinski LeMond).

Total sadness on leaving family. Daphne and Fisher are off to China at the end of the month to celebrate Chinese New Year and Fisher’s birthday with Aunt Dede. Me, I’ll stay in Raleigh and poke around for an apartment and some semblance of a lifestyle outside of the office.

Using to find an apartment is hopeless. I’ll just drive around the region and see what looks good and then go from there. In the interim, I’ll be living in some sucky extended-stay suite deal in Cary and driving a micro rental car. Feel sorry for me. I feel sorry for myself. 

The Reading List – 1.14.06

Search Engine Marketing Inc. Bill Hunt & Mike Moran, IBM Press.

Recommended by Mark Cordover at Hunt is the man in SEM/SEO. Working my way through it like homework, so it isn’t a fun read, but it delivers the goods.

Autumn of the Moguls, Michael Wolff

This falls into the category of "why do I bother?" Total gossip, snark, and mastubatory inside-baseball about the media morons of the late 90s. Reading Wolff’s description of glomming onto uber-flak Pam Alexander at a TED conference to try to suck up to Rupert Murdoch made me wince, and then wince some more. If anything, this piece of drivel makes me happy, once again, to be off the media bus.


Mao: The Unknown Story, Jung Chang, Jon Holliday

So far (I’m 200 pages into this opus), the authors’ seem to be grinding an axe that is hard to dodge. I like my history served straight up, and this one has an agenda. I’d recommend a pass, but will probably forge onto the end.



Blue Ocean Strategy: W. Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne

Deepak Advani, CMO of Lenovo and my new boss, recommended this. Good book — comes down to how to open new markets rather than engage in a caged death match with the competition in a fight for the bottom. Best analogy is how Cirque d’Soleil beat the stuffing out of Barnum & Bailey in the Circus market by doing away with three rings, animal acts, and introducing some plot lines into the traditional circus chaos. News note is that Barnum recently reacted and did away with the three-ring format, recognizing that people didn’t want sensory overload in their entertainment.


The Dangling Man – T Minus 3 Days

Yesterday was spent transferring personal files off of my old T-42 Thinkpad just as its little hard disk started to max out (took me eight months to fill 40 gigs), backing up my Outlook .pst, taking pictures off the walls and handing over files to Rob O’Regan, the guy who will take over for me as the GM of Online at CXO. After an exit interview with the head of HR, a quick pass around the office to shake hands and say farewell (keeping it short, for nothing is more awkward than a sentimental goodbye), dumping the Thinkpad on Rob to return to IT and my card key to the building manager, I was out the door and in the parking lot, turning around one last time to snap a picture of the building with my Treo, and telling myself to stop being conscious of every action as "this is the last time I’ll do this."

 There is a strange sense of psychological dislocation when one lands between jobs. The worst separation anxiety for me was in the summer of 2000 when I left to join McKinsey after 13 awesome years at that great publication. A big send-off party, total embarassment as the staff and management roasted me for wearing bowties and pointed out other eccentricities (taking a born-again candidate for online sales to a strip joint; using a napkin stuffed under one lense of my eyeglasses as a makeshift eye patch after going literally cross-eyed during the weeks preceding the launch of ….) all ending with a sad and final thud as I drove out of Manhattan to Cape Cod with a car filled with mementos and my Herman Miller Aeron chair, a totem of the dot.bomb if there ever was one.

 Thirteen years at one place and it was time to decide if I was in Forbes for life — the kind of cradle-to-grave loyalty to a company that our grandparents and even parents may have had in their careers — or was I going to start flitting from one challenge to the next? McKinsey lasted barely two years — not abnormal as the average tenure at The Firm is about two years, and following the horror of 9/11, when I arrived in Manhattan that morning on the Delta Shuttle, the same morning the terrorists commandeered other planes leaving Boston, hearing a bike messenger mention a plane had hit the WTC and thinking it was a joke …. and then watching the whole affair unfold on a television set on the 34th floor of McKinsey’s midtown offices … seeing people completely covered in dust walk through a mobbed Grand Central like they had been rolled in flour …. and then riding a MetroNorth train out of town to New Haven just to get the hell away ….

Something changed me that fall in NYC that propelled me to take a twisted job in Switzerland trying to turn around a failed e-banking project for a consortium of private banks, and by January I was sitting in an office in Liechtenstein that smelled of manure from the cow pasture outside, kidding myself that I could learn German, completely freaked out that I was living the nightmare of turning around a bad project as the world was limping into irrelevance back in the states.

When the Swiss gig ended in the fall of 2003 I was, for the first time in my career, "on the beach" as they said at McKinsey, looking for a return to online media in a market that was severely depressed. So I went freelance — ghosted a book on IT sourcing strategies, consulted to a financial PR firm, helped a couple startups with their business plans — but the entire time hoping I could get back on the online bus and return to the kind of chaos and challenge that I thrived on in the mid-90s at, when everyone was a pioneer and you made it up as you went along.

Alas, the online media world had matured and there were no "great" jobs like the one I had in 94, when a single person could attempt to set technology policy, manage the P&L, be editor and publisher all in one messy job. I like chaos and deadlines — its the reporter’s DNA — but by 2004 all the online jobs were now structured and filled with process. The Wild West had been tamed and I felt like some hermit of a mountain man come down from the hills with a load of pelts to find that Deadwood had a Starbucks.

Signs of life in the online job market began to appear by the summer of 2004 and a year ago I was gunning for some interesting gigs — mostly in NYC — when Rob O’Regan gave me a call. The back story on Rob is that we first met at PC Week in 1985 when I left the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune for my first tech journalism job writing about LANs and error correction protocols and the early days of Microsoft and DOS. Rob was on the copy desk, I was in the business news section, and when it came time in 1997 to find a managing editor for I invited Rob in to see if he was interested in moving his life to NYC from New Hampshire. He wasn’t, but when I went looking for someone to help me get the failed McKinsey project off the ground in 2000, he was the guy I called, outlasting me at McK until 2004 when he joined IDG as the founding editor of CMO Magazine.

Rob told me CXO — the IDG unit that published CIO Magazine, CSO and at the time, CMO — needed someone run their online operations. The leadership of IDG, Pat McGovern the chairman and founder, and Pat Kenealy, the CEO, had issued the strategic imperative that the company diversify its publishing revenues and move more aggressively online following a somewhat weak move in the 90s. I started discussions with CXO’s management exactly a year ago, met the online team, and balanced the opportunity against a much more prestigious one with a massive global news organization based in NYC. In the end I went for the CXO job basically because the job was most like the one at in 1995 — lots of cross-function responsibility in tech, sales, operations and edit — and because it was evident that CXO might be building a network of brands aimed at the c-level functions in an organization, focusing on the point where technology affected the job function.

Cool, a network of c-level brands, the chance to reform the infrastructure, and a chance to see if I could rework the magic that put way ahead of its traditional competitors in the 90s (that formula was simple, "tools not text", databases and lists as opposed to stories).

So on May 2 of 2005 I arrived in Framingham (not the most pleasant location on the planet) and dove in. By August we were beginning to fly. Traffic — specifically page views and monthly unique visitors — were up and climbing and by the beginning of the fiscal year in October, we were already hitting the targets I set for the end of the new fiscal year. The sun was shining and the wind was at our back. We executed contracts to install a real content management system and search engine, were fixing the ad insertion operation, and beginning the laborious process of integrating the editorial operation.

Now it is a firm rule of mine not to be retromingent and fire the stern-chaser cannon as I sail away from one job to the next. IDG does indeed deserve its reputation as one of the best companies to work for in the world. Its HR politics, benefits, and decentralized culture are very staff friendly. The team at CXO Online was, in many regards, the equal and superior of the founding team at The individuals there had a lot of hard won experience and perspective earned outside over the past decade and everyone, to apply one of my favorite phrases, "got the joke."

But along came an opportunity in early November that was too intriguing to ignore. Michael Laskoff, principal and founding partner of The Brand Asset Management Group in Manhattan, and a dear friend I first met at McKinsey, phoned to ask if I had a current resume available. Michael, the author of "Ask Your Ass", a delightful guide to unemployment and landing on your feet, screamed at me when I told him I did not have a fresh resume and told me I had an hour to clean one up. So I did and hence was introduced to the team at Lenovo.

So, here I am, in between phases of my career for 72 hours, feeling like Joseph in Saul Bellow’s Dangling Man, waiting for induction into the regimentation of the Lenovo "army", tying up loose ends, and taking stock of where I’ve been and where I am going. This will be as severe a departure from my comfort zone as McKinsey was from Forbes, an emphatic step off of the media bus, which, to be frank, felt like it was beginning to careen a bit on bald tires. Now it’s hard core tech time — building a new brand for a Chinese company across the world and building its reputation in the very amorphous, frighteningly fluid world of the web. I am beside myself with fear, awe, and excitement.