“You are such an utter geek …”

… so said my daughter, upon discovering me in the kitchen yesterday watching the Deadliest Catch marathon on my son’s Z60 via the newly configured Slingbox service which took the better part of an afternoon to set up and wire into a spare satellite DVR. (some guys watch hours of Bowl games; me, I watch hours of commercial crab fishermen)

Slingbox, for the uninformed, is a $129-or-so dee-vice that connects to one’s television and makes the signal available anywhere on the InterWeb to a PC. In other words, my college student spawn can now control (and fight over as only one can use it at a time) the upstairs television from their dorm rooms in Manhattan and Charlottesville.

The wife’s irrational allergy to blue ethernet cables snaking over doors and across rain gutters forced me to Best Buy to purchase the Sling wireless connection doo-hickey thingy that uses the house’s electrical system as an extension of the LAN. Set up was a pig, some serious manual configuration inside of the router, with UDP and TCP and Port settings abounding.

But four hours later and I was watching men in orange Grunden’s pound the ice off the pilothouse in the Bering Straits on a pee-cee.

For people like me who spend a good amount of time in hotel rooms fighting the urge to spend $15 for a bad movie on LodgeNet (aka, Spank-a-vision; aka “You-Can’t-Expense-It), Slingbox is a good idea for boob-tube on the road. Now, if I only watched television … but I do have a personal programmer in the form of son Eliot, the third-year film major at NYU who spends hours searching for the world’s best movies on Tivo and stores dozens of them on the machine.

The Churbuckian Year in Review

Indulge me for a few minutes. I’ve never done this before, setting pen to paper and taken stock of the year behind me and the one ahead. Big events of the year? Some personal ones – daughter graduating from high school, a great vacation, a good summer in the garden – and professionally a solid one where things started to come together nicely from Olympics to search engine marketing, corporate blogging and proactive customer support. Travel wasn’t too bad. JetBlue saved me from the hell of the previous year with changes in Baltimore and no directs to New England. Only two big oversea expeditions: Beijing and Bangalore. Maybe 26 weeks in North Carolina, six in New York City. So, all in all, more than 50% of my life on the road, the other 50% here in Cotuit.

Here are the blog highlights of 2007:

January: marked the one year anniversary of my tenure at Lenovo, moved to new, far less depressing offices in North Carolina, and made some New Year’s resolutions to recover from the horrible health year experienced in 2006 following the bicycle vs. automobile incident. Spent most of the month on steroids trying to knock down some crippling lower back pain, woke up one morning, looked in mirror, and decided to get back in fighting shape. So far, success can be declared.

Posts of the month

  • My Recipe for an Editorial Infrastructure: here I give unsolicited advice to a publisher seeking a strong web publishing platform. Bullet list format. I can declare success here having seen an explosion in WordPress driven “online magazines.”
  • My advice to a middle-aged reporter: Given the one-year anniversary of my total severance from a 30-year career in journalism, I guess I was in a peevish mood and given to giving unsolicited advice. Anyway, in the same vein as infrastructure I give advice on career choices for old hacks.

February: Having the mildest winter in years in New England did a lot to make this an easy month to survive, especially given that it is part of the terrible duo known as “Farch” – for that monochromatic, sleet filled, dog-poop-surfacing-through-the-snow pair of months between February and March, or “f$%^ing March”. A four-day weekend in Florida to visit my brother did wonders for my mood – catching a wahoo with my son, walks on the beach. It was a good thing to do and I need to do it again this year.

Posts of the month:

  • Ratios and Leading Indicators:
    In which I discuss marketing metrics and ratios for performance marketing and get taken downtown by Ben Lipman who argues for a net present value model. He’s smart. Metrics are a big part of my day job.
  • Extra-mile reputations: Brands that are legendary for going the extra mile for their customers. LL Bean, Craftsman tools, etc.
  • Cotuit in winter: a frozen harbor, a digital camera, and me.

I’d report on where I was travelling, but given that Lotus Notes doesn’t archive its calendar very elegantly (or do much, if anything very elegantly), I don’t remember where I was or what I was doing. Professionally, lot of focus on interactive agency review, marketing plan for the ThinkPad Reserve Edition (leather encased X60), marketing operations, and herding the global cats into a more central approach to online marketing. Personally? Not a ton going on. Daughter received early decision to college, eldest a sophomore at NYU, one left at home. Beginning to think about life in an empty nest. Weird.

Posts of the month:

  • Over-engineering: is it possible to measure too much? To perpetually chase perfection? I think so.
  • Oyster Bags: in the clamming department, the town decides not to allow floating aquaculture project in Osterville, the tony town to the east, aka “Imposterville.” I am beginning to feel militant about water quality in the “act locally” department.
  • Erg Blogging: I start blogging about my indoor rowing. Rowing good. Ergs bad.

April: A weird month for a Cape Codder – boat goes into the water, trees haven’t leafed, all sorts of harbingers abound from shad bush to dandelions, tulips to herring. I go to Beijing and kick off the Olympic marketing plan, the program that continues to dominate my life through August of this year. I try, and stop, Twittering and to this day wonder why the hell people care about it.

My favorite posts:

  • Willy and the Herring Run: the tale of Willy, my grandfather’s cat, who decamped for the Santuit herring run every May and stayed there, feral in the woods, until the herring tapered off.
  • Living on a Sandbar: in which I turn into an amateur coastal geologist and talk about the evolution of the Cotuit shoreline and the impact of human engineering on natural processes.
  • Is there still life in the Banner Ad?: yes.

Personally my favorite month. My birth month. Month of graduations. Of spring. Of the return to fishing in and around Cotuit.

Posts of the month:

  • Me and my big mouth: While I could claim amazing predictive powers in calling Second Life a waste of time, a Forbes reporter, denied the opportunity to get me to say out loud what I wrote in my blog in late 2006, goes to that blog post and pulls out the money quote, to wit that the primary activity in SL seems to be the pursuit of virtual nookie. Suddenly blogging feels a lot riskier than it used to.
  • Happy Days: my daughter graduates from my alma mater.

Funny how June rolls around and I my primary instinct is not to blog but to be outdoors doing stuff like …

A low point in the year due to summer influx into my normally quiet little village of angry joggers, expensive automobiles, a harbor clogged with jet skis and clueless people …. Call me cranky. Going to Bangalore for a week did little to improve my mood. I don’t like July. So I go on a ten day fast in some sort of hair-shirt act of atonement.

  • Fasting: normal people doing the Gandhi thing do it in January to get over their holiday overindulgence. Me? I do it in July.
  • Moxie: the hair shirt of soda.

  • Readers Soundoff: the best part about the new/new journalism is the reader comments.

The summer doldrums. I avoid North Carolina and try to be Cape Cod based as much as possible. Major contest for the Olympics with Google make this anything but a quiet month. I do keep my sanity by doing stuff like …

  • Collars and buttons: new oars need new collars. I begin to blog about marlinespike seamanship, aka macramé for salty people.

  • Making the list: I get put on Peter Kim’s Forrester Research list of top client-side marketing blogs and realize the aforementioned stuff about clams and oars require an occasional, obligatory marketing post.

I would have to give this one the award for best month of the year. First off, I go on vacation for a week on Martha’s Vineyard. Second, I get some serious fly fishing in and realize I need to spend more time standing in shallow water throwing chicken feathers and fur at fish.

  • Menemsha: yup. This is the place. I like it here.

  • The Hurricane of 1938: I need to retire and write history for a living.
  • Online advertising not measurable enough?: in which I rant about the bullshit lingering over the impact of online advertising. 2007 goes down as the year the online avalanche really buried the knuckleheads who didn’t pay attention the first time around. I am a lucky person to be in this world and not in the old.

October: a sad month when Cotuit Skiffs come out of the water, baseball season winds down (yay Red Sox), and the garden starts to turn brown. A little travel and the beginning of the fall conference circuit.

Posts of the month:

  • Beachcombing:
    A man, a garbage bag, and a beach. Look at what turns up.
  • Eliot Turns 21: in which your humble blogger takes his son out to dinner in NYC and tries to get him carded by a bartender because he can finally order a legal drink, except no one cards him.

The beginning of the interminable holiday season. I get on the erg with a vengeance. Things start accelerating at the office.

Posts of the month:

  • On Chowder: I need to blog about food and cooking more.
  • ENFP: I take the Myers-Briggs personality indicator and come off in the category of wild-eyed “Champion.”
  • Erging:
    I embark on the 200,000 meter holiday challenge between Thanksgiving and Christmas (and make it).

December: I turn somewhat dour and snarl a lot. Too much going on, typical grinchian reaction to the holidays.

I beef at:

  • The Blog Council: a dimwitted coalition of big corporate bloggers. I’m pissed no one bothered to invite me as I am the dimmest of the wits.
  • Powerpoint:
    I sweat a big presentation to the leading PC industry analysts and wind up winging it when the tablet crashes.

So, all in all, I wrote about 486 posts in 2007. I deleted a bunch of Lenovo related ones in September after feeling this was not an appropriate place to drop the L-word. My drafts folder has about 50 posts that were started and never were finished. Traffic for the year. Pretty strong but declining slightly. About 350 Feedburner subs, Technorati rank declining, influence in the 100s.

In conclusion:

This was a great year and will be a tough one to top. I look back at these blog posts with some awe over the complexity of my life but I wouldn’t have it any other way. 2008? Olympics, lots of room for professional improvement, want to get back into competitive rowing, will probably hang up the desire to get back on a bicycle, would like to build a small wooden boat, need to endure the ultimate year in terms of education expenses, and need to start defining what exactly it is I want to do when I grow up.

Thanks to all for reading and commenting, especial thanks to (and in total random order):

My wife Daphne, sons Eliot and Fisher, daughter “B”, Jim Forbes, Tom and Kate Churbuck, Jim and Julie Cincotta, Marta Downing, Ben Lipman, Joe Nickerson, Peter Field, Henry and Jenny Churbuck, Mark Hopkins, Rob O’Regan, Dan Lyons, Esteban Panzeri, Krista Summitt, Tim Supples, Peter Kim, John Bell, David Berney, Charles Dubow, Om Malik, DeWayne Martin, Erik Vanderkolk, Michael Noer, Bill Baldwin, the late Jim Michaels, Mark Cahill, Gary Milner, David Barbara, Jim Hazen, Matt Kohut, David Hill, Deepak Advani, Ajit Sivadasan, Kelly Skaggs, Sheji Ho, Greg Moore, Tom Lowry, Mitch Spolan, Lincoln Jackson, Glen Gilbert, Parker Ransom, Jeffrey S. Young, Richard Lusk, Rick Klau, Thorne Sparkman, Mitch Ratcliffe, Esther Dyson, Craig Merrigan, Steve Starkey, Chris Kobran, Stephen O’Grady, Tom Kennett, Sam Barrett, Tim Abbott …

I am a rich man when it comes to friends.

Bye-bye to Netscape

End of Support for Netscape web browsers – The Netscape Blog

CNET’s Stephen Shankland reports on the end of an era, the Netscape browser. I remember downloading the earliest version in 1994, prior to an interview with Jim Clark, the founder of Netscape, and laughing at his suggestion I leave Forbes and go to work for an internet company. Stupid me.

Netscape put the fear into Microsoft like no other company because of the immense popularity of the browser, its head start over Internet Explorer, and the simple fact that most early users left the Netscape homepage as their default, making that page the most heavily trafficked piece of virtual property in the world. The question was how would Netscape monetize that traffic. For a great insight into those early browser wars and the first stirring of the Microsoft giant and the big antitrust browser wars of the mid-90s, read Charles Ferguson’s High Stakes, No Prisoners (major congratulations to Charles for winning the New York Film Critic’s award for best documentary for No End In Sight)

Netscape  brought aboard James Barksdale to bring the company to the next level, and eventually was acquired by AOL which was in the middle of its own identity crisis as it moved from essentially a rack of 56K modems to an internet service provider. I never quite figured out the play for AOL, which made some astonishingly stupid acquisitions including the infamous Time-Warner deal. There were noises about making Netscape a content play under Jason Calacanis, but when he left AOL after selling his blog network to them, the patient went onto the do-not-revive list.

Does anyone care about browsers anymore? Firefox has won my heart, now I am more interested in the application on the other side of the glass.

From the Netscape blog:

AOL’s focus on transitioning to an ad-supported web business leaves little room for the size of investment needed to get the Netscape browser to a point many of its fans expect it to be. Given AOL’s current business focus and the success the Mozilla Foundation has had in developing critically-acclaimed products, we feel it’s the right time to end development of Netscape branded browsers, hand the reins fully to Mozilla and encourage Netscape users to adopt Firefox.”

The Authentic Enterprise

2007AuthenticEnterprise.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Thanks to Paul Gillin for the Facebook alert that the Arthur W. Page Society (an organization of corporate communications leaders, aka head flaks) has published a PDF manifesto entitled the Authentic Enterprise.

Punchline: the era of shaping the message, of spinning the news, of gilding the lily is dead and gone and the new mission of corporate communications is to be … authentic. I think Rob O’Regan, Tom Hayes, and I can declare some sort of victory for the Corporate Journalism meme.
August group of Fortune 500 PR people, invitation only, including access to its blog (which is authentically closed to non-members). Named after the head of PR at AT&T.

Anyway, Gillin, took the time to excerpt from the PDF. He concludes:

“While the report is short on quantitative research (though there is a survey of 31 CEOs discussed at the end), it’s hard to argue with its overarching conclusions: businesses no longer control their messages; constituencies are expanding and diversifying; and corporations must be more transparent and open about nearly everything they do.”

From his excerpts, the money quote:

“Values are the fundamental basis for enterprise communications. “To be an effective communications function in the authentic enterprise:

  • “We must not only position our companies, but also help define them. While expertise and authenticity are essential, communicators’ counsel to the corporation must now encompass its fundamental business model, brand, culture, policies and, most importantly, values.
  • “We must not only develop channels for messaging but also networks of relationships. In a business ecosystem of proliferating constituencies, communicators must lead the development of social networks and the tools and skills of relationship building and collaborative influence – both to seize new opportunities and to respond to new threats.
  • “We must shift from changing perceptions to changing realities. In a world of radical transparency, 21st century communications functions must lead in shaping behavior – inside and out – to make the company’s values a reality.”

Festivus break resolutions

1. Get really good at Guitar Hero III — highly unlikely given my children seem to have majored in it at college and I have finger cramps and the sense of rhythm associated with lower life forms, like coral and moss.
2. Read a book a day.  Simple Courage. Decent drama-at-sea tale spoiled by authorial interjections and pedantic etymology digressions. The Enduring Shore lightweight history of Cape Cod and the Island, too early to tell. Blood Meridian, Cormac McCarthy, on deck for tomorrow. After that …. who knows.

3. Erg every day. Except for Xmas and Xmas eve. Not easy with Holiday Challenge incentive past but UBC still before me.

4. Putter. I personify the verb. Move aimlessly but with great industry from one room to another fiddling and fixing stuff.

5. Procrastinate over end-of-year finances.

6. Don’t dwell on the tidal wave of work stuff looming over my head.

7. Make blog lists until New Year’s Eve.

8. Finish off clams dug on Saturday while they are still alive.

9. Go ride car to Rhode Island to sight-see, buy bronze skeg strip for dinghy, eat lunch

10. finish transferring life to new tablet

Last clamming expedition of 2007

Nice day for the first day of winter with temperatures in the mid-40s. A snotty storm is supposed to blow in tonight with gusts up to 40 knots out of the south, so, with no other boats in the cove, I thought it was time to pull the boat to save it from ice season which is coming, as it always comes.

I bought a new pair of waders yesterday at the chandlery in Sandwich — a set of 3.5 mm neoprene Stearns — sausage casing waders for cold water clamming, a new Grunden hat, a pair of wool mittens like grandma used to knit, and some rubber work gloves with cotton liners. I’ll give it all to the kids to wrap as my Christmas presents, one can make me a happy person just by shopping at Sandwich Ship Supply.

Tide was low at 5 — past dark at this latitude — so we went out early, my two sons and I — they in their waders, me in mine, and with the engine turning over on the first try, we ran across the harbor to Dead Neck in about three minutes, the Grunden Nerf Herder hat keeping me very warm and happy but looking exceptionally geeky.

45 minutes of raking and we filled the basket with cherrystones and little necks for tomorrow’s Christmas Eve party.  I pulled the boat out on the trailer and will launch it only as needed until March, no use in tempting fate by letting her ride out the winter storms on the mooring — a frozen bilge pump is a useless bilge pump.

Ergblogging – over one finish line

I crossed the 200,000 meter mark this morning, making this the second “Holiday Challenge” I’ve completed in 30 years of indoor rowing. It started on Thanksgiving, Nov. 25 and ends Monday night, Christmas Eve. I get a pin for my trouble and the right to buy a t-shirt.

But this isn’t the end, actually it is the beginning of the indoor rowing season. Tom Bohrer, the coach at my rowing club, the Union Boat Club, is running a UBC challenge from Dec. 7 to Dec. 31 and I’m standing third at present against some very committed competition. Then there is the CRASH-B sprints — the world championship of indoor rowing over President’s Day Weekend in February. This is my last year in the 40-49 heavyweight men category, so I am thinking of embarrassing myself one last time before moving into the old fart division next year.

I just want to point out that the leader in the Concept 2 holiday challenge has rowed 1.6 million meters to date. That’s well over 50,000 meters a day. That is insane.

FTC Clears Google-DoubleClick Deal – WSJ.com

FTC Clears Google-DoubleClick Deal – WSJ.com

“The Federal Trade Commission has cleared Google Inc.’s proposed $3.1 billion takeover of DoubleClick Inc., saying the deal is “unlikely to substantially lessen competition.”

“Regulators voted 4-1 vote to end the eight-month investigation.

This is good news for interactive marketers who need third-party ad serving into Google’s universe of advertising impressions. Doubleclick was in danger of looking like tired technology two years ago (when I actually figured out how to use their flagship product, Dart, while rebuilding ad ops at CXO Media) and still remains the default for most ad serving in the old page-view/banner world.

However, Dart can be taught new tricks and Google is the company to teach them. I don’t see the antitrust objections from Microsoft — the Aquantive acquisition and Atlas gives them a big of a leg up in terms of targeting capabilities.

The effects of a Google-Doubleclick combination should be profound and especially reverb strongest within the interactive ad agencies trafficking teams.

A new toy to keep my mind expanding

Thanks to Google for the neat gadget gift, a Flip Video camera — a $150 palm-sized device with a switchblade-USB jack that ports right into the old ThinkPad and wizards up a little video clip to YouTube in about 30 seconds flat. Dang. This baby gets a place of honor in the Churbuck backpack, gonna make me the next LonelyGirl.

Example of my cinematography (360 panorama of the NC office) is here. Thanks Google.