Apr 25 2016

Self-hosting hell

Published by under General

Yes, this blog has been down for a while. The powers that be at my hosting provider — Meganet Communications — turn it off when they see security issues and there have been many. A few weeks ago I cleared out a ton of spam sites that had infested the public_html directory where this blog resides and signed up for Vault Press, went to two-factor authentication, changed passwords and did my best to make sure the WordPress install was patched, current and clean.

All was well until recently when the sysadmins at Meganet turned me off after seeing some more bizarre behavior and strange .php files end up in the root directory.

Insert a big sigh of frustration here.

I’m back in it now — backing up the content I’ve posted over the last 12 years to make sure nothing is loss and moving a copy of this blog onto wordpress.com. I moved the churbuck.com email records over to Google and am getting ready to burn this installation to the ground to try to shake the shitheels who think it’s fun to hijack my baby for their own spammy motives.

I’ve never tried to make a dime from Churbuck.com and have always regarded self-hosting as an important thing to learn and know as part of my career but also in order to walk-the-walk of digital media. It’s a rough time for bloggers — I never liked the term especially, but I think one of the major tenets of the internet was the ability for anyone with the desire and inspiration to express themselves, on their own little patch of digital turf, without the interference or traps of proprietary, closed systems like CompuServe, Prodigy, Facebook (yes, I loathe Facebook) and other systems owned by commercial interests. This is the reason why I don’t try to express myself on Medium, LinkedIn, Forbes.com, or any other so-called publishing platform where my writing and work is at risk of being disabled or trapped by powers other than myself. That some scumbag(s) feel entitled to break into my server and hijack it for their SEO driven nefarious purposes is just one reason why so many old bloggers are throwing in the towel. It’s simply too hard and too discouraging to wonder, with justifiable paranoia, how they are getting in and why.

Anyway, I’m trying to get things fixed and figuring out a good secure solution. The old days of hosting this site on Cape.com will be missed — the ISP was sold to another company and they are doing their best to help me out and keep things up and running, but I also understand they need to protect their other customers and shut me down when they see my site being fucked with.

Security and the web is a constant battle. The breaches of the Panamanian law firm earlier this month underscored the need for sysadmins to be vigilant in keeping up with patches and securing their systems. I love WordPress for its automated updates, but at this point the issue isn’t a WordPress issue, but perhaps a Php or MySQL exploit. Who knows, but the fragility of the digital world is hammered home hard as it comes to roost on my little piece of the Internet.

2 responses so far

Apr 06 2016

The Okie from Muskogee — Merle Haggard

Published by under General

one of my favorite Dead covers is of Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” — this is the classic version  from Fillmore East on the Skull & Roses album:

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Apr 05 2016

Disrupted: 50% of a book review

Published by under Books

I couldn’t wait for Dan Lyon’s book about his year at Hubspot — Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble — so I bought the thing twice, impatiently waiting until 5 am this morning to pull down the Kindle version just so I could start reading on the morning boat from Hingham to Rowes Wharf.  I actually committed two honest-to-god “LOLs” during the 30 minute boat ride — but then again Lyons has been making me laugh since we were in high school together in the late 70s, then at the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune covering little towns in southern Massachusetts, then at PC Week, and Forbes ….. and so on and so forth.

And here I am only half-way through the book and jumping the gun and writing half a review, which is better than most of the hacks who have been riffing off the excerpt Fortune published a couple weeks ago. But, having listened to Dan during his time at Hubspot, comparing notes, and knowing a bit about Hubspot’s “culture” I pretty much know how the story turns out.

Dan is a disciple of some classic newsroom curmudgeons (especially the late Jim Michaels who ruled over Forbes with the best bullshit detector in  the business) and he nails the zeitgeist of a contemporary tech startup with pitch perfection.  Given we’re roughly the same vintage and have followed the same professional career track, there’s a lot in Disrupted that hits painfully close to the truth of my own situation as a 50-something white guy who stopped being a reporter to dive in as a marketer inside of the kind of tech company I used to cover for nearly two decades alongside Dan.

Of the two of us, Dan is by far the funnier and better writer, with much bigger balls. His novel Dog Days is a fictional harbinger of Disrupted and the shit he stirred up at Forbes under his own byline was always fun to read; but it was his Secret Diary of Steve Jobs that gave birth to one of the better cat-and-mouse games in the Valley as even Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard started offering a free iPod to whomever would out the first genuinely funny satirist of Valley inanity. That Hubspot would hire him as a “marketing fellow” made sense on the surface. Lots of ex-reporters were taking corporate content gigs, myself included, launching custom publishing operations like Adobe’s CMO.com and Qualcomm’s Spark. Alas, as readers of Disrupted will discover, Dan found himself in the grasp of Lead Gen — aka getting people to share their email or phone number so they can be spammed or called until they either cave in and buy something or vow never again to part with their contact information  in exchange for an “e-book” of some tedious “thought leadership” written by a marketing intern captivated by the emerging industry of marketing “gurus” who have managed to repackage the old sins of 2nd class direct mail and telemarketing into something suspiciously full of benign purpose, or as Hubspot dubbed it “Inbound Marketing.As I wrote last week on “ageism” in tech — sure it sucks to be an out of work reporter in one’s 50s forced into PR or content marketing and find after decades of cutting through corporate-speak and marketing bullshit one is suddenly inflicting the same on the world in the service of growth and the brass ring of a possible IPO. Dan made it through to the IPO and then decamped for Mike Judge’s HBO series Silicon Valley where he’s still  a writer.

Someone needs to make a movie out of Disrupted — especially since Hubspot gave Dan the parting gift of a sordid scandal in which one exec was canned, another fled the scene, and the CEO got a reprimand for trying to either grab a copy of the manuscript or extort the publisher into killing it. Hubspot will be fine, it’s the world of marketing automation that needs to be afraid — very afraid — as Lyons holds up a mirror and calls it like it is. I’m sure an entire subculture of social media consultants,  growth hackers, and  funnel optimization and lead nurturers are going to rise up in outrage and claim he didn’t get the point, but watching them turn to LinkedIn, Medium, and even dear old Forbes.com to try to salvage their reason for existing has been a lot of fun to watch and marvel over.




3 responses so far

Apr 03 2016

Cotuit Crop Circles (not cess pool)

Published by under General

Yes, it is April and it is snowing. But riddle me this Batman: why is there a bright green circle on my lawn miles away from the septic tank? Nocturnal faerie urinal? Mushroom phenomena? Harbinger of the Rapture? Alien landing spot for the invasion?

3 responses so far

Apr 01 2016

Ageism in Tech

Published by under Acquia

A VC friend of mine who isn’t known for candy coating things, told me once that his firm likes investing in startups with young, early-in-their-career employees because “One thing they always make more of is young, cheap people.” This same master of the universe also told me about delaying layoffs at one of his firm’s portfolio companies “until the holiday heroin wore off,” and was full of other carnivorous, bloodless sentiments like “The biggest job of a CEO is to make the next payroll.” So much bottom line tough talk but the fact is that older workers are more expensive, firing them before Christmas is shitty, and we’re all replaceable sooner or later.

From Eskimos shipping their elderly off on a cake of ice, to the grim truth that “nobody gets out of life alive,” there’s a certain awful naked lunch realization we all have to face that at some point the we’re going to get old, the wheels will fall off of the bus, and we’re all going to take the big dirt nap. My old writing teacher Gordon Lish once told another student in a seminar that 20-somethings should never write about sex because they hadn’t had enough of it yet, and no one under 30 really and truly accepts their own mortality.

I was recently asked whether I saw “ageism” in my company. At the doddering age of 58, with sore knees and weak eyes, I guess I should know. Sure, I’ve paid attention to the plight of older workers in the tech sector over the years, and know it must be especially grim for a coder or engineer the further they get away from their graduate studies. I saw the resistance of COBOL and FORTRAN programmers as mainframes were replaced by the PC revolution. I know a lot of talented programmers spent a lot of time off the clock learning the latest framework or language to stay fresh and au courant. Me? I’m a hack, a writer who was lucky enough to move on from journalism and go corporate while the getting was good back in the mid-1990s. Although I can take a little solace that the ability to write a good headline isn’t going away any day soon, I also get more than a little concerned by machine learning systems that can churn out a perfectly good quarterly corporate earnings story and do the work of some poor Bloomberg reporter in half the time. When a headhunter looks at my resume, they invariably say something like “colorful” or “very unique” but that’s code for saying I’ve switched careers a few times over the last three decades (more from boredom, a terrible attention span and curiosity than some master plan).

Why do I work?  Well, to keep the wolf from the door certainly. But that’s like saying I’m giving up French cooking for a diet of Soylent. Do I wake up at dark o’clock and spend two hours commuting to a downtown office in Boston because I want to wake up early and drive the same highway every morning listening to the NPR Spring beg-a-thon? Do I sit down at my desk out of a sense of obligation to ring the bell and punch the clock? Nah. I like being around my colleagues. I like the energy of a good problem. I like the dysfunction of a start up. But most of all I like being old and realizing as I tackle a problem that I’m drawing on three decades of experience and am able to retrieve from my years something approaching the “wisdom” ascribed to being an older worker; examples I’ve seen before that a colleague in their 20s probably hasn’t been exposed to yet. And I like working with young people and not in the Jane Goodale observing the social habits of chimps either. Sure, there’s a lot of challenges in managing people versus working on a story or project — journalists are terrible team members and pretty much solo practitioners — but it’s the chance to teach and guide that makes me gets up  in the morning and making the long trip to my desk.

Bill Ziff once told me in a profile I wrote about him for Forbes that taking over his father’s publishing company saved him “from a life of abstraction” in academia. My mentor at Forbes, Jim Michaels, worked deep in his 70s as the magazine’s editor, never seeming to lose his sharp mind nor his love for new technology and the impact it had on the business world and society at large.  At McKinsey, every new consultant plucked fresh from Wharton or the Harvard Business School hopes to survive long enough to be elected a Director, but the reality of the Firm’s “up or out” culture is the average consultant lasts little more than two years before being “graduated” (to coin Dan Lyon’s Orwellian term for what HubSpot calls firing people) to another gig. My generation — the Typewriter Generation — we grew up with grandparents who put in 40 years at the same behemoth and retired with a gold watch and a nice pension. I started my career thinking longevity in a job was a good thing, that churning from one job to the next was a negative besmirch on the CV. After 13 years at Forbes, I started to wonder if I was in it for 20 more like Michaels or some of the other senior editors. Eventually, after deciding it was time to leave Forbes — not because I saw some bad times ahead — I started to bounce around. McKinsey for a couple years. Lichtenstein with 21inet for a couple, eight months at IDG, five at Lenovo — moving from reporter to editor to publisher to consultant to managing director, VP — changing my specialties from writing and editing to everything from web analytics and digital marketing to public relations, even engineering, Olympic sponsorships and crisis communications. It’s been fun, but definitely nerve-wracking.

I could get off my ass and research what the HR “thought leaders” say today’s Millenials can expect n terms of the number of jobs they’ll hold over the course of their career. It’s a lot. I feel bad for anyone fresh out of college trying to land a substantial job with benefits. The gig economy. The unpaid internship. The hustle with all that pent up education and vitality and ambition only to be thwarted by a sclerotic economy and a workforce constipated with old Baby Boomers like me — I’d be pissed too. I was pissed. I graduated from an Ivy League college into the “Carter Recession” and was washing dishes, tending bar and selling my precious bodily fluids to science to keep myself in weed and beer. The worst decade of my life has been my 20s — but once I settled down, got hired at the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune and told to cover the selectmen in the town of Salem, NH, I started to find my purpose.


I haven’t read Disrupted yet. The reviews say it has a theme of “ageism” but I think not so much. Dan and I have worked at the same places and had the same career trajectory more or less and we’re good friends and we share war stories. I don’t think his book about his 18 months at Hubspot is so much about being an old guy in a company run by the young and naive as it is sheer glee at the banality of startup culture and offices run on a bread-and-circus mentality with the decor — as he puts it — of a day care center. My other good writer friend, Charles Dubow said to me once about working at a digital publication post-Forbes, “It was definitely a case of children-running-with-scissors and it made me realize the scariest episode of Star Trek was when Kirk and Spock were stranded on that planet run by children.” Reporters are professional cynics, trained to poke at dissembling bullshit — Forbes reporters under Jim Michaels were especially coached not to buy into some company’s bullshit about “corporate culture” and we are conditioned to roll our eyes over the sheer silliness of casual Fridays, “team building exercises,” and Orwellian abuses of the language into meaningless cliches signifying nothing.  Watching a younger colleague discover some ageless truth and decide to rename it — e.g. calling “advertorial” something like “content marketing” or “native advertising” — well, calling them on it is just going to piss them off, so it’s our job as the old, infirm, wise and treacherous to smile, and know inside that their time is going to come and everything old is new again.

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We’re all full of shit, and spout delusional cliches at some point or another. It’s predictable for one generation to write off the one ahead of them as being out-of-touch,senile Matlock-watching fuddy-duddies or the one behind them as brash, clueless upstarts with their new-fangled toys and execrable music. I’m not looking for some special treatment or veneration just because I have a lot of numbers on my odometer, but I also know this has all happened before and is going to happen again. It’s on me to stay relevant, and send the elevator back down at some point.  Should I be looking over my shoulder? Hell yes I should, as the late Andy Grove entitled one of his books, only the paranoid survive. I’ve got a lot of peers who didn’t get out of daily newpapers in time; who hung around newsrooms for too long; who didn’t see the sucker punch of digital coming to mess up their Typewriter-defined careers.  A lot of us adapted. Some went freelance and are writing great books and others have hit hard times, done in by bad health or too much trust that the good times would last forever.  I don’t want to be a skydiving grandpa, and god knows I don’t want to be like a former boss who suddenly hit the Grecian formula and started going around with an untucked shirt and designer jeans like some corporate version of Whatever Became of Baby Jane.

Best I can hope for is to pass along some hard-earned life lesson, like “Never turn down an offered Tic Tac. You might need it and resist the temptation to write rambling geezer screeds.




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Mar 29 2016

Favorite things: cooking in steel drums

Published by under cooking

I don’t know what got into me one night a couple weeks ago but I suddenly had one of those primal caveman urges to eat Texas BBQ beef brisket. Spring fever? Some food show on television that had me yearning for something to eat? One thing led to another and I went on an obsessive hunt for how to move beyond merely cooking outside in the March rain to a whole new level of OCD cooking. In the past it was smoking bluefish or trying to make some impossible French sausage thing called a “galatine,” now I need to get back to my Houston roots and figure out barbecue.

I kept hitting two names — Franklins of Austin and the Pit Barrel Cooker — Franklin is the savant of brisket and the PBC is like the most highly rated, recommended backyard barbecue pit on the market consisting of basically an oil drum, a couple pieces of rebar, a charcoal basket, lid and stand. Franklin has a cookbook, so that went on the Kindle. The man is into the best beef so I ordered a pair of black angus brisket flats from Creekstone Farms (forget about finding decent brisket on Cape Cod, especially around St. Patrick’s Day when everything is corned beef brisket for the odious traditional boiled cabbage dinner that makes the house smell like a diaper pail).

The barrel arrived, required zero assembly and went out behind the boat shop. Couple bags of regular Kingsford charcoal, a “chimney starter” and a pair of big cheap roaster chickens and I was ready to season the thing. Split the two birds down the middle, cut out their backbones for stock, rubbed them with the usual mixture of stuff to turn them red and hung them on hooks from the rebar, put on the lid, and went away for 90 minutes. When the digital thermometer read 165 I fished them out, brought them inside and made the house smell like the real deal. Total success. Like best chicken ever.

For Easter I sucked it up and hung a beef rib roast in the barrel — two hours later with a temp of 135 I had the best hunk of cowboy ribeyes ever. This was too easy. I mean you light the charcoal, give the coals 15 minutes to get going, hang the meat (there is a grill option, but hanging lets one cram a lot of meat into the barrel at once), slap on the lid, pay heed to the rule “if you’re lookin’ you’re not cookin'”, set a timer and walk away. There’s one adjustable vent at the bottom, you crack it about 25% if you’re at sea level, and that’s that.

Now brisket is a different deal. The things take a long time to cook. Pull too soon and they are tough as sneakers. Too long and they turn into expensive pot roast. So Franklin is the prophet and I am getting ready by reading his OCD instructions of trimming and rubbing and phenomena such as the “Texas Crutch” (wrapping with foil or butcher paper after six hours), the “Stall” (the point where the internal temperature levels off and doesn’t move while some meat science involving evaporation, cooling, collagens and the Maillard Reaction happens. This coming weekend is the test when the daughter comes home with her Austin-born boyfriend and I try to impress them.

Anyway — if you’re getting ready to drag the grill out for the spring and are thinking about yet another Weber, get the Pit Barrel cooker. So simple a caveman could do it.

2 responses so far

Mar 23 2016

Andy Grove

Published by under Technology

I was first exposed to Andy Grove in 1985 at PC Week when Intel was riding high after its 8086/8088 microprocessor was ensconced by IBM as the standard in its first PC — giving rise to the so called Wintel oligopoly that kicked off the PC Revolution that followed.

Grove had an amazing life story — surviving World War II, the Soviet occupation of his native Hungary, emigrating to New York City in the late 50s and heading straight to City College for a free education that he turned into one of the most illustrious careers in the entire PC industry.

Walter Issacson, in his book “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution” details the vital role played in the Intel “Holy Trinity” of Gordon Moore (he of Moore’s Law) and Bob Noyce. It was Grove who pushed Intel out of memory and into microprocessors,  transforming the chip maker into one of the biggest forces in tech.

Issacson wrote:

“Grove nurtured Noyce’s egalitarian approach – he worked in an exposed cubicle his entire career, and loved it – but he added an overlay of what he called ‘constructive confrontation.’ He never put on airs, but he never let down his guard. In contrast to Noyce’s sweet gentility, Grove had a blunt, no-bullshit style. It was the same approach Steve Jobs would later use: brutal honesty, clear focus, and a demanding drive for excellence. ‘Andy was the guy who made sure the trains all ran on time,’ recalled Ann Bowers. ‘He was a taskmaster. He had very strong views about what you should do and what you shouldn’t do and he was very direct about that.'”

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Jan 06 2016

Richard Sapper, Designer of Sleek Housewares, Dies at 83 – The New York Times

Published by under General

Mr. Sapper was especially revered by coffee connoisseurs for his lustrous stovetop Coban 9090 espresso maker, sold by Alessi, the Italian housewares manufacturer.

Source: Richard Sapper, Designer of Sleek Housewares, Dies at 83 – The New York Times

Sorry to learn the sad news that Richard Sapper passed away. I worked with him on an amazing prototype of a “cloud” PC called the Skylight which he carved from wood in Gloucester and mailed to the design team at Lenovo wrapped in bubble wrap. My Tizio lamp on my desk is lit today in homage. A very talented, influential designer who did amazing things to simple devices from pens to lamps to Thinkpads. He also was a fellow fan of Cynar, the Italian apertif concocted from artichokes.

And David Hill delivers the goods with this beautiful reflection on Richard on the Lenovo blog.

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Jul 13 2015

Acquia announces it is ready for Drupal 8 | Dries Buytaert

Acquia — (Ah-kwee-ah, from the Navajo word for locate, or spot) — is where I do my thing and have been doing that thing for the past year. We’re about the next big thing in web site development — “digital experiences — and built on top of Drupal, the open source content management framework that was invented by Acquia’s co-founder Dries Buytaert in 2001.

I first built with Drupal in 2005 at IDG — driven to open source out of desperation with a customer of CIO.com needed a microsite with a community in less than two weeks time. The commercial content management solutions were too expensive and unwieldy, so with a sense of piratical naughtiness a few of us downloaded the source code and had a Drupal site up and running in a few days.

I remember the whole experience was a little brutal — but hey, fast-forward to 2011, I’m doing web consulting in NYC for big brands and musicians, and I start recommending Drupal again because this Boston-area company — Acquia — is offering it on a platform-as-a-service model from the cloud and kind of blowing up past points of webmaster hell like the dreaded “slashdot” effect coined at Forbes.com when a stiff wind would knock down our anemic home-made infrastructure.

Drupal has been on version 7 since 2011. Some massive sites run on the system (best described as a framework for building custom content management systems), including big brands, government agencies, big media and more. In the spring of 2011 the Drupal community — the largest open source community in the world with more than 1 million registered users — kicked off the process of building Drupal 8.

I’ve been around content management way too long but D8 is one of the more  impressive advances because of its architecture approach to what Dries is calling the post-browser web. The reality for modern site builders and digital types today is that the concept of the “site” is being replaced by a far more complicated set of different distribution channels ranging from different devices to aggregators such as Facebook, Apple News, Flipboard and online merchants like Amazon and eBay. In short — the art and science of making stuff and publishing it on the Internet has gone far beyond the days when I started out in 1994 writing HTML with a text editor and worrying about launching Forbes.com or this blog in the days of the command-line driven Internet.

Today Acquia sucked it up and declared it’s ready for its customers to start planning and building with Drupal 8 on the Acquia Platform right now, even though the code is still in beta and declared to “be ready when it’s ready.” I admire the grit it took for Acquia’s CEO Tom Erickson and CTO Dries Buytaert to go out on the diving board and tell their customers and the digital agencies that serve them that now is the time to take the plunge and make the move to the next big thing in delivering amazing digital experiences to a world that has declared in a very big way that online is the first place they go.


Source: Acquia announces it is ready for Drupal 8 | Dries Buytaert

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Jul 10 2015

When Algorithms Discriminate – The New York Times

Published by under General

Recent research has shown how some websites can produce results that perpetuate bias.

Source: When Algorithms Discriminate – The New York Times

I’ve been obsessing about machine learning for some reason — probably due to reading the Project VRM mailing list assiduously and looking at the massive flaws in so-called marketing automation systems.  The idea that algorithms can reliably target and personalize media and messages is showing some signs of collapse as the technology does more to expose the ignorance of the sender than true understanding of the recipient.

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Jul 07 2015

Watch our startup recklessly blow through $500,000 | The Hustle

Published by under Journalism

“We’re about to publicly blow our wad launching our media company and we want you to watch.”

Source: Watch our startup recklessly blow through $500,000 | The Hustle

Full disclosure: I know these guys and I love what they’re doing. I spoke to Sam Parr the co-founder a couple weeks ago about the shitty state of online “content” (the fact we call it “content” is indicative of how grey-goo it has become) and he’s got the swagger.

And that is not my daughter on the swing…..

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Jul 06 2015

The Wall of Sound

Published by under General

The Grateful Dead’s Original Wall of Sound: I stood in front of this beast many a time in the mid-70s which explains my selective deafness today.

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Jun 26 2015

ThinkPad Time Machine? | Lenovo

Published by under General

Step with me now into the ThinkPad design time machine. Fasten your seat belt, settle in and share your thinking.

Source: ThinkPad Time Machine? | Lenovo

David Hill, Lenovo’s original and greatest blogger and the bearer of the ThinkPad design torch has lit up the  Faithful with a tease of bringing back the best of the original Richard Sapper bento-box inspired design. I’ve been ThinkPad free for a couple years, suffering on a MacAir and buggy Microsoft Surface — and missing the hell out of the Thinkpad keyboard before island keys and fuzzy magnetic clip on keyboard covers took over my typing-obsessed fingers.

This is the machine I’d hit my personal funds to buy. I mean the current crop of ThinkPads are “nice” but not the power-boxes that just scream out professional writer, astronaut, carnivorous captain of industry. Give the frat boys and sorority girls their Apple toys.  Give the suffering masses their Dulls. I want this Thinkpad.

One response so far

Jun 23 2015

Dries Buytaert: Winning Back the Open Web

Published by under General

Dries Buytaert is the inventor of Drupal — the open source content management framework — and co-founder of Acquia, the Boston based provider of services, support and tools to build, deliver and optimize websites and other digital brand experiences built on top of Drupal. I work at Acquia as the vp of corporate marketing, but offer this link to a post published on his personal blog because it resonates with my view and concerns over the direction of the open web

Dries invented Drupal as a student in Antwerp and was inspired to put it into the open source world because of his admiration for such legends as Linus Torvalds and other pioneers. Today Drupal is the basis for some of the world’s most crucial and well-known sites, powering countries, cities, Fortune 500 brands and yes, even blogs.

Coming the day after this chapter from a forthcoming book — Follow the Geeks (chronicling the career of my friend Om Malik, another Open Web visionary) I sense something in the wind, a questioning reflection as the web moves into its third decade and takes on a new meaning as it shifts from browsers and desktops to apps and phones and tablets.



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May 27 2015

Be Here Now

Published by under General

Richard Alpert was the Boston born son a railroad executive who tuned in,  and then dropped out at Harvard in the 1960s under the siren song of Timothy Leary and LSD. He was reinvented as  Ram Dass and began to preach a transcendental mantra of “Be Here Now.” There were copies of that book in many a college dorm room in the 1970s as I experienced the sunset of the hippies and the rise of the Grim Professionals.

Nick Bilton wrote a essay in the New York Times about seeing the world through an iPhone as he snapped a shot of a Pacific sunset and realized he was staring at devices and not the world around him.

“Then, I stopped. Here I was, watching this magnificent sunset, and all I could do is peer at it through a tiny four-­inch screen. “What’s wrong with me?” I thought. “I can’t seem to enjoy anything without trying to digitally capture it or spew it onto the Internet.”

There used to be plastic laundry baskets outside of the conference rooms at the Googleplex for people to park their phones and laptops so they could focus on the agenda and the meeting and not use the time to catch up on email and IM back and forth. I’ve been in meetings where CEOs have demanded PCs be closed and unless I am expected to present, I try to attend a meeting with nothing but a notebook and a pen.

Yet more and more I find myself in meetings, sitting attentively, watching people on their PCs, tapping away, half there, half not, enduring long pregnant pauses as the meeting turns into a strange communal exercise in “bowling alone together.”

Hang up people. Put down the fucking phone. Look up and watch what’s going on around you. You might pick up some important cues you’re missing. Be here now.

2 responses so far

Apr 20 2015

Published by under General


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Mar 19 2015

Squirrels Eating Pizza

Published by under Weird,WTF?

3 responses so far

Feb 12 2015

Adventures in Robotics

Published by under General

I can’t embed this in the post for some reason, but for some reason this video fascinates me. Why the spinning Popeye Arms?


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Feb 12 2015

Another day, another annoyance

Published by under Rants

So two new types of spam to hate.

First are the LinkedIn abusers who send the guilt inducing emails asking me to buy their super-duper marketing automation systems; and then a week later act all butt-hurt and demand a yes or no answer. Those dickheads get to meet the Man in the Chair.


LinkedIn has turned into a shallow money trench of desperate lead generators and sleeve-tuggers. As a so-called “thought leadership” platform it is where good ideas go to die on the altar of buzzword bingo. Once a resume network, it’s now a bazooka of spam. At least About.me leaves me alone.

Second inbox trend are the morons who think it’s okay to sign up for an app that spams people asking them to confirm their contact details. Brewster is the big villain. For example I get a few of these ever week.


Jamie — whoever he is — is “so close” but in reality is so deleted. Do your own legwork people. Figure it out. If you don’t know who the right person at my company is who is going to buy your amazing social analytics Big Data customer delight solution, then you’re not looking hard enough. If you can’t be bothered to managed your own contact list, please don’t ask some drone service to bug your contacts for it.

One response so far

Feb 11 2015

Inn Keeper’s Disease

Published by under General

The blizzard's moving in
Looks like you're wrong again
When cabin fever hits
It sends us into fits
Of innkeeper's disease
And screaming in the trees
The blizzard never ends
The blizzard buries them

Blizzards, Buzzards, Bastards -- Scissorfight

I haven’t been outside for more than five minutes at a time over the last three weeks of this wretched winter. My skin feels like I’ve been belt-sanded while I sleep. Vitamin D levels are at all-time lows. The cars have slush udders and are rusting out before my eyes. The driveway is where hips go to break. Yesterday I staggered to the shower, turned it on, stepped in and shrank my head in water piped down from the taiga thanks to an empty oil tank (who knew the oil guy can’t get his hose from the street over a eight-foot tall cornice of grey plow drifts to the pipe around the back of the house?). The dog defecates freely inside the house, having long ago called bullshit on any of my attempts to drive it out into the drifts to do its business. Strange birds desperate for food and water hang around the feeders and fight among themselves. The 180 miles of daily driving on the wonderful highways of eastern Massachusetts each and every morning are doing evil things to my soul.

People my age who live in this wretched snow globe all have a Blizzard of ’78 story and every single one has the following structure:

  1.  It begins in a frat or dorm in Allston, Brighton, or the Back Bay
  2. It involves a “packy run”
  3. on x-country skis or a sled
  4. A guy named Sully
  5. An arctic expedition through snowdrifts
  6. Fruit-flavored brandy or schnapps
  7. Massive intoxication
  8. The police

This winter seems to be more about lynching the new governor, Charlie “The Darkness” Baker, the decrepit MBTA, and sucking it up. In the words of the Norwegians, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

But I love it here. For this makes us Spartans.

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