Design Matters launches

Last Friday Lenovo launched its first “official” corporate blog (there are countless Lenovo employees who blog, some of whom can be found in my blog roll). This one is called “Design Matters” and its blogged by David Hill, Yao Ying Jia and Tom Takahashi — the three global leaders of Lenovo’s design group. I’m the cheerleader in the background.
We’re taking a slightly different approach to corporate blogs, eschewing the notion of a single monolith because we believe we need to segment the conversation down various niches — leading with design because design is what distinguishes us from the market. In the future we’ll roll out more on everything from promotions and coupons to philanthrophy and evangelism.

This is only phase one. Phase two gets very interesting. Stay tuned.
Design Matters

Design Matters

One Hundred Years of Cotuit Skiffs

This weekend the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club is celebrating its Centennial, kicking off a week of sailboat racing, square dances, dinners, and parades in honor of its being the oldest junior yacht club in the United States. Junior? Voting members must be under the age of 25 and can’t be married.

The “Mosquito” is the original name of the boat sailed in the CMYC (and nowhere else), aka the Cotuit Skiff, one of the first one-design, or standardized racing boats in the country. My grandfather built about a dozen Cotuit Skiffs in the late 1940s, and I am proud to own two of them, both restored, numbers 19 and 36.

Henry Chatfield Churbuck

Henry Chatfield Churbuck
This coming Sunday we’re having the Biggest Skiff Race Ever, an attempt to get more than 50 Skiffs over the same starting line. When I started sailing Skiffs at the age of 11, there were maybe a dozen still afloat, the rest trashed by hurricanes and benign neglect. In the early 80s a Fiberglas model was introduced, failed, but was followed by a remarkable renaissance of interest, with old boats dragged out of barns and sent to the restorers, and others built new to the original specifications.

Today it’s pretty common to see two dozen skiffs out on the waters of Cotuit Bay, racing around the buoys, old men and little kids alike.

I’d say most of my happiest times were spent at the tiller of #36 — the Snafu II — which was the only skiff to be painted yellow because my grandfather was colorblind but could pick out yellow from the beach. I don’t race very much anymore, gave it up ten years ago, I don’t need competitive stress on my weekends and the fleet is very competitive. Now I’m introducing my 12 year old to the boats and crewing for him. That makes me very glad to sail with him in a boat my grandfather built in a shop attached to the house we live in today.

So, here’s to the Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club, long may it sail, it has already outlived two attempts to introduce plastic boat alternatives, the kids still run it and tell their parents to butt out of the club’s operations, and every year some would-be Thurston Howell wishes the club had a clubhouse, with a bar. All it has it a beach and a dock and a lot of fanatic sailors.

Here is me sailing #36 with my best friend, Dr. Dan Del Vecchio. This was the last summer I was active in the fleet, the last time I won the coveted Club Championships.

Snafu II

Carr on the economics of selling (and supporting) PCs direct

Rough Type: Nicholas Carr’s Blog: When “direct” becomes a disadvantage

Smart post by Nicholas Carr on Dell’s financial woes. He nails the economics of customer support — while selling direct cuts out the middleman and reduce the hang time of inventory, it doesn’t cut out support costs, indeed, it assumes them rather than passes them on to a distributor or into the channel. Result: Ouch.

“So there, perhaps, is the flaw in the direct sales model, particularly when it’s applied to a commodity product like the PC: You have a cost disadvantage in customer support, which is hidden as long as support represents a fairly small portion of the each product’s overall cost. But as the price of your product falls, due to savings on the production side, support begins to represent an ever larger percentage of its cost. At some point, you cross the line: The direct model’s cost advantage disappears.”

Confused Of Calcutta » About me

Confused Of Calcutta » About me

Thanks to Chris Locke for pointing me in the direction of JP Rangaswami’s blog. It’s nice to see a kindred spirit when it comes to one’s inspiration for Open Source. In my case it wasn’t the wild day I spent with Richard Stallman in 1991, at the dawn of the Free Software Foundation, nor is it my attachment to Tux the Penguin, but goes back well before to my first online community experience, The Brokedown Palace, a simple BBS for swapping Grateful Dead bootlegs. The Dead’s former approach to their music — encouraging tapers in their audience, permitting swapping as long as there was no profiteering — this is the inspiration behind my approach to intellectual property rights.

“Which naturally makes me passionate about opensource as well. In democratised innovation. In emergence theories a la Steven Johnson. None of which should surprise the reader, given that my thoughts on opensource were probably more driven by Jerry Garcia than by Raymond or Stallman or Torvalds et al.”

Spying on your children

Hey, the government does it, why not you? Sitting at a dinner party this weekend, I was amused and felt a bit of empathy listening to other parents talk about their teenagers’ MySpace and Facebook pages. There’s a tattletale in every crowd, and apparently one child had described, in lurid detail, the content of these pages which are ostensibly closed off to parental eyes.

“X has a picture of herself drinking a beer.”

“Y says his sport is “”Partying”””

Etc. First, I love how my generation, quite possibly one of the most substance-abusing, hell-raising generations in modern memory, has so solidly turned to the right to decry anything resembling their own adolescent excesses. I guess it’s the takes-one-to-know-one theory of parenting. I grew up at the tail of the hippies, right at the dawn of the grim professionals, and when I was a teenager the drinking age was 18, drunk driving laws were still relatively lax, drugs were rife, and if you could get it, the notion of premarital sex was just enthralling.

Skip ahead 30 years and some of the more extreme people I have ever known are sitting around a dinner table waxing sanctimoniously about Facebook and how frustrated they are that they can’t peer in to see what their kids are doing.

Eventually the conversation turned to me, resident Internet geek, to ask me what I do when it comes to playing Net Nanny. This is what I told them:

1. Don’t install filters. Filters are bad and a pain in the neck to manage. Kids will always come running to you looking for a password so they can see a site that they will always argue is harmless.

2. Always set yourself as the admin account on their PCs. Hey, if they insist on gunking it up with spyware, and come to you to fix it, then you have to be the admin. Right?

3. Insist on knowing their Windows password. See above. Admin’s need access. Right?

4. Look at the browser history. Use it to back track into the closed sites. Look around. Use your judgment. A photo of junior with a crack pipe posting a recipe for how to cook crystal meth from Sudafed is worth talking about.

5. Look at the search history. Amazing what you can learn about someone from what they look for.

6. Google their names.

7. Figure out what communities they belong to.

8. Give them a blog and help them administer it.

9.  Don’t give them IM until they are at least 12. Any principal or teacher will tell you, instant messaging causes a huge amount of school discipline issues. Cliques, online bullies, all this stuff runs wild thanks to IM.

10. Expect them to check on what you’re looking at.

Now, the tough part is letting them know whether or not you’re looking. It’s like Churchill after his intelligence boffins cracked the Enigma code and figured out the German battle plans. Do you let Coventry get bombed and preserve your ability to eavesdrop or do you evacuate the city and burn your conduit?

The best thing you can do for your kid is tear out clips of recent articles exploring the phenomenon of employers and schools looking at what candidates and applicants say online before making hiring or admission decisions. Letting a kid know that their internet presence can follow them forever is the best favor you can do for them.

I have a huge amount of trust in my kids and the last thing I want to do is squelch their curiosity or their access. I am definitely a liberal when it comes to information access and tend to be a more permissive parent than my peers, but I do look, I do discuss and I engage with them all the time about computers. My only disappointment is none of them have displayed the slightest interest in what makes a PC tick, how the Internet works, or how to self-maintain their machines.