Santa Clause Online

I realized today I have been so busy I have forgotten to send Santa my list this year. Sad really, too busy to be selfish. In an open letter to Santa I would like to ask for the following items:

1. Protect our troops
2. Slow inflation
3. Open credit markets back up
4. Stop the failing car company 'bailout' money pit from passing
5. End hunger
7. I'll take an Audi A6

Not much to ask.

Apparently Santa has a pretty good SEO strategy worked out because it is not very difficult to find him online. Santa gets great natural search results through Google, the only search engine as far as I am concerned.

What I found was interesting is this: although Santa has quite a few registered domains it appears as though his web developer elves have yet to conceive the most basic feature, a way for me to submit my wish list online.

The following sites, though cute, do not seem to have any way to contact Santa directly!


However, Macy's does offer some branded 'Santa Letter' stationary you can download, print and bring to Macy's. They'll handle mailing it for you.

If I owned one of these sites, which must receive great traffic, I would probably want to build a little application that allows kids to build their list and then submit it to mommy and daddy via email. By forming an affiliate marketing partnership with one of the major retailers the email to the parents could also contain links to the products online for purchase. Just a thought...

Happy Holidays,



Puzzling indeed...

In a classic example of what is at times both my greatest strength and most glaring weakness, I picked up a Rubik's cube recently and did not stop until I had solved it. Within 24 hours I had memorized all the necessary ways to manipulate the cube in order to move blocks around in a deliberate, controlled fashion and the process for solving. Then it was just a matter of perfecting it. Within 3 days I was able to solve the cube in < 3 minutes.

Now, I am completely bored with it. But, I have learned a useless but neat party trick. It is interesting to see the response it invokes in people. Most are either awe stricken for about .025 seconds and then on to more interesting topics or completely suspicious. I like it when I solve it in front of the latter type in less time then they spent trying to mess it up and they invariably ask: "What's the trick?"

Well, the trick is to spend an entire weekend ignoring everything in life except a web site containing videos of some kid with really fat fingers manipulating this damn block of colors in a dozen different ways. If you are lucky enough to understand they cryptic language used to describe the moves (Up, Left, Up Inverted, Left Inverted, Bottom, Top, Left, Up) and keen enough to recognize when each combination of carpel tunnel inducing joy should be applied...you too can share in the sense of satisfaction knowing you can solve a puzzle you haven't touched since you threw it out your window in disgust in 1985. Provided anybody will still be your friend after you ignored them for 3 - 5 days memorizing every algorithm...you can show them the trick.

Anyhow, I did take away one very positive detail from the experience. Like most things in life which are difficult to achieve...there is a process. And therein lies the trick...trusting the process. With Rubik's cube it becomes most difficult to trust the process on the last group of moves where the it truly appears as though you have ruined everything you spent the previous time building...and then it suddenly all falls into place.


In love with NIN all over again...

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the Nine Inch Nails show in Manchester NH last weekend. It was an amazing show...The music is, in a word, amazing and the lighting and effects were visually stunning. On stage there were three of these screens that were up or down at different points. They seemed to be flexible, semi-transparent LED screens. The effect was incredibly powerful.

The music was a solid combination of NIN hits from across the entire body of work. I don't think there was a single song I didn't love to hear.

A really nice surprise was how enjoyable the Manchester Verizon Center was for the show. I felt safe and comfortable throughout the event...which is becoming important in my old age. ;) Although it was a long drive the venue was great and I will go back again for my favorite acts. So far I have seen NIN and Tool there and both shows were great.


Welcome to the major leagues...

So, it has been virtually impossible for me to do any blogging lately because I have been working a lot of hours on my newest project. The discovery phase with this particular client was incredibly lengthy and laborious...they are government agency which operates a major international airport, two regional airports, a bridge and a commercial seaport. Each business unit will have newly designed web sites fed content by a new, central Sharepoint CMS.

The dollar value on this project is roughly 4 times the size of the largest project I had managed up to this point and every detail is...quite simply...bigger. There are 130 individual design templates handling content from two dozen uniquely structured content objects.

Although the work has been incredibly challenging the project is very cool. We are getting the opportunity to design and develop some very innovative online tools for travelers. Because of the project's size we have the opportunity to create a breadth and variety of project deliverables not usually included in smaller web projects. and this has allowed us to develop our internal capabilities immensely.

One of the new deliverables we developed was a 150 page comparative study and gap analysis. Normally when I do something new I will look for examples of the finished product to help guide my thinking while I develop a plan for the work package. In this case, it was very difficult to find any good examples. It seemed as though very few people write comparatives on web sites. My theory is that this type of study is difficult to execute across a body of web sites, even in vertical markets, because they are so rarely 'like objects'.

My basic approach to the benchmarking study and comparative analysis was to first go out and create an inventory of every web site I could find in each of the client's business categories. In my current client's case this ended up being a list of 85 web sites. I then devised a method for a large group of people to run through all the sites and give them a rating in each of the following categories: Design, Features, Information Architecture, SEO, Code Compliance and Overall Execution.

The groups were instructed to go through the entire group as quickly as possible...spending no more than 2 minutes on each site. The goal here was to get some averages, to narrow the field and not do a final analysis in this early step. After getting through 20 individual reviewers we were able to see some definite patterns and so we selected the top 4 web sites in each category.

The next step was to confirm our assumptions so far with the client. They agreed with our selections and selection process but asked us to add a handful of their known favorites, which we did.

Next we conducted a detailed, analysis of each of the leading web sites on our list. This ended up being a dozen web sites across 3 business categories. The detailed analysis had two main components. First, we designed a much more detailed method for conducting a survey to assign ratings to the sites in a number of new categories. Second we broke out all the individual features in our comparative matrix and analyzed them.

Finally, we conducted an editorial review of each site, the clients current site and planned site.

In the end our document was approximately 150 pages which the client was very happy with. The document included detailed descriptions of our methodology, rational, assumptions and parameters. The document also featured a lot of screen shots, images, charts and diagrams to augment the lengthy language required.

OK, Q-Tip is on Dave Letterman right now so I need to stop working and zone out...


Moving on up...

Fuseideas executed a highly anticipated move into our new home office in Davis Square last week. Although at times difficult to balance with servicing our new clients this was a great week. The new office is roughly four times the size of the previous. We now have two conference rooms, a kitchen, private bathrooms, a reception area, windows and everything inside the space is freshly painted with new flooring! Our CEO even purchased us all new desks, cabinets and chairs so the beautiful new facility wouldn't be all messed up with ugly, old furniture!!

My personal space includes an almost floor to ceiling, wall to wall window overlooking a small side street off Davis. The building is a converted industrial...Brick and beam construction with 15' ceilings. It's all pretty amazing.

I'll try to post up some pictures soon.



I arrived in Des Moines today, where I will be working until Sunday. My client got me a really nice room and the weather is beautiful.

It seems perfect...my rental is a Chevy Malibu. Everything feels really American out here. The roads are all perfectly straight like Phoenix. The sky is huge...there is literally a corn field across the street from my hotel which is brand new.

I am representing one of our clients at the Iowa State Fair. I was told it was the biggest in the country but nothing could actually prepare me for the size of this operation. The fair grounds have their own police force...

The building I will be working in seems like it is surrounded by a square mile of junk food...Fried anything & everything, Bunt Cakes, Cotton Candy, Hot Dogs, ice cream...You name it. It's going to be difficult to stay aligned with my new ideals on food consumption come lunch time tomorrow!


What to say?

Life is good.


Big plans

There is a plan for my life and it is so big...but it is not my plan. Good thing...because I don't know what's good for me.

Next week I am headed to Oklahoma to spend 4th of July in the heartland with a bunch of my buddies. I will post pictures...

Cloud Out Loud

Check out my friend Michelle's new blog.


Warming up...

I am so excited the warm weather is setting in. Is it weird to enjoy walking around with no shoes on and sand in everything from spending every weekend at the beach??? BBQ's...the Cape...

It is looking to be an incredibly exciting season!!


This blog is 100% DRM free...

I just downloaded the new album from NIN album "Slip". This is a privilege afforded to me as a registered member of NIN.com. Great, I say, I registered to have the opportunity to buy tickets to future nails tickets.

The downloads are offered as MP3, CD Quality, loss less Waves...great options for everyone from the casual listener who can operate iTunes to the audiophile with a home studio. Then, right there at the bottom was the tag:

"All files are 100% DRM free"

We have certainly come a long way in a short time...haven't we? I remember attending a conference 5 years ago where this was all they were talking about. A close friend and colleague actually co-wrote the book on this topic which is still quite relevant.

DRM, for the uninitiated reader, stands for Digital Rights Management. Originally this technology was supposed to protect and serve the interests of artists who wanted to control the rights and distribution of their original content.

Now that iTunes, Microsoft and any number of other music sharing programs have sufficiently irritated the public with their own application of the technology the artists leading the charge to turn the recording industry on its head seem to be faced with an interesting decision...swear off the technology and just...share?

As a rabid consumer of music I say great. But I am also not known for thinking it through carefully when I am faced with the option to immediately gratify myself in some way...like with free music. While this will be great PR for a wildly successful and established artist like Trent Reznor...what does it mean for the little guys? Will the recording and distribution industries catch up?

In any case, I applaud Radiohead and NIN for breaking new ground. Unlike the ridiculous battle between Pearl Jam and ticket master years ago...these artists are willing to take significant financial hits in order to restore the balance of rights to the artists. How this will all look in 5 years is anybodies guess...but that is the excitement of living in the 21st century!!


Palms open...

I am sending this post from the new Treo. Old news to many...Exciting beyond imagination for me.


In our nation's capitol...

I am on a pretty fun assignment this week filming interviews with various members of the cable TV industry in Washington D.C. My room is on the 9th floor of the Sheraton National and from my window I can clearly see the Capitol, Washington Monument, Air Force memorial, Pentagon and part of Arlington Cemetery.

Interestingly, directly outside my hotel seems to literally be a small neighborhood with inhabitants of very limited means, tucked between the cemetery, Route 395 and the Pentagon. I guess what they say is true, you need not travel very far in D.C. to find poverty.

I was able to visit a good old friend last night, he is stationed here in the Capitol with the US Army. He grilled us up some steaks last night and we caught up. I have one more day of work here and then I am back to Boston for a couple weeks without travel.



What to say, what to say?

I am in the middle of an incredibly challening but rewarding project at work. Another once in a lifetime opportunity...I am having a lot of those lately. Although my decision to rejoin and old coworker at his new business has meant a life of long hours and high stress...it has some very big rewards.

We learned today we are advancing to the next round on potential project which will change our lives if we land it. It was incredibly well received news at the office. There is a party tomorrow to recognize us for our hard work on the project I am handling right now. Should be a nice day...

When I was in High School, if someone told me I was going to have a succesful career in sports advertising and marketing...I am sure I would have laughed pretty damn hard.


Some days are cooler than others...

Today was one of them. I had the pleasant opportunity to go to a Bruins game with a client tonight. The client is the International Paralympic Committee. My company has been hired to help them produce the World Sledge Hockey championships next week in Marlborough.

Sledge Hockey, for those who don't know, is an incredibly fast paced league for people with physical disabilities which force them to sit down in a 'sledge', which to me just looks like a sled. I am really proud to be part of this. Given my history of growing up with a severely disabled mother...it makes me feel good to work with this organization and go above and beyond wherever possible.

Tonight we were there to cover the opening ceremonies. I had an all access media pass at the Garden. At one point my boss took me up to the control room. A 60 second commercial my team produced was presented on the big screens during the opening ceremonies...Right there in front of 10's of thousands of Bruins fans!! I was beaming with pride for my crew.

Anyhow...Now I have to sleep. The coming 10 days are going to be madness. Each day the videos we produce will be broadcast on TV networks around the globe. We have to tape and edit 3 games every 24 hours for a week...



I have been working on a lot of large scale RFP's lately. I find the work interesting because it allows me to really think through the project life cycle and imagine how my team will best respond to the potential client's needs. My approach is to read the RFP two or three times and then basically plan the entire project in a pretty detailed way. Once I have the entire project plan established I then write an approach document which adapts my process to the specific requirements as defined in the RFP.

When an organization has gone through the process of developing an RFP they will often have well thought out ideas about how to approach the project. This does not always align with my own theories. For instance, the discovery process may already be mostly complete. If an RFP has detailed requirements this means I do not have to tease them out later on.

For the type and scale of projects which I typically respond there is usually a team of people involved. This is another interesting dimension I like to explore. I have found it very useful to treat the response like any other project, with a timeline and deliverables which address pre-defined requirements and expectations.

Something as simple as defining the styles used in the documents which are authored by different contributors before they are written and then assembled into the final 'book' will save the team a great deal of time. For this I use a tool I call a content deck template. I also share this with clients who will be delivering content for integration with their new CMS during real development projects.

The further I get the more appealing planning and good communication becomes...


Kevin Smith sighting...

I met Kevin Smith last night while eating dinner with coworkers and clients in Pittsburgh. Read all about it on Peter Wilt's blog!



Ah well...unlike 1984 I am not choking back tears with a half-eaten english muffin pizza on my lap while I watched 'Fridge' Perry roll across the defensive line and into the end zone. I am also not experiencing that sinking feeling of complete and utter failure like when Bill Buckner hammered the last nail into the coffin of 1986...a moment I will always refer to as the 'play heard round the league'.

There was, very likely, a moment of complete and utter silence across the entire metro Boston area tonight...at least the 30 people in my house fell completely silent for a good 30 seconds while they tried to understand how this was happening late in the fourth quarter...how could this be?

This kind of disapointment is like an old, well worn article of clothing...when you slip it back on after a couple of years in the closet it feels just right. No matter what...it was an amazing season. My friends and I watched 18 of the 19 games in my living room this year...only interrupting the flow once because I was stuck in Baltimore on business. I woke up at 5 AM that day to drive back to Boston just in time for kick off at Eric's house.

Sure, this is probably now the biggest choke in football history...but I wouldn't trade this season for any sports series in my lifetime. My friends and I are tighter than ever. Thank you 2007 NE Patriots!!


Honestly, I love technology...

I was fortunate to visit the offices of Attivio this week for a reception party where they announced the launch of their search platform. They had many interesting applications of the underlying technology to demonstrate their capabilities which you can explore in their web site (which my company built!)

The boy in me was most fascinated by the RFID located in my name tag. While they singed us into the party they asked some simple questions. In my case, where I had lived, went to school and worked in the past. As I wondered around the office space the RFID in my name tag was tracked by receivers strategically placed near large, flat monitors mounted on the wall. If I wandered within 10-15' of a monitor it would register my presence and the presence of those around me. Using their underlying database technology it generated tag clouds weighting items I had in common with the people around me more heavily.

Very interesting.


Google Groups for Collaboration

I have used Google's group application as a collaboration site on three very large scale software projects in the last 6 months. It works really well!! There is a simple file sharing repository, page creation and user administration with varying levels of access and update.

The coolest feature is the messaging component. When users reply to notes through the system it tracks responses and keeps a record of the dialog. Giving stakeholders the ability to communicate this way is very beneficial. One feature which seems very obvious but is missing is integration with Google documents, another favorite application.

Using the file sharing application makes it so incredibly easy to keep the client on track with the project deliverables and milestones. All the revisions and notes are stored in a central, accessible location which greatly serves to reduce time wasted on explaining why things happen the way they happen. When the progression of the project is right there for everyone to see everyone benefits.

Setting up a Group is about as easy as setting up a Google email account. Once you have Gmail check out the groups here!


Time to make the donuts...

The professional sports league and teams CMS web portal I am working on is coming together on a time line so accelerated and rigid I am being forced to rethink everything I know about managing projects. Although this pace would not be possible to sustain year round there are definitely some things to be learned from being able to focus all of ones attention on a single project for 4 weeks of 14 hour days. Hopefully soon I will be able to write a proper blog entry which discusses some of the things I have learned...but for now...time to make the donuts.

January 15 is the 1.0 release date.


My Brother is amazing...

My brother Max is back in the news again...

This time for the #1 best new restaurant of 2007 in the San Francisco/Bay Area!!!

Consider: Max and his business partners; Rich and Rebekah Wood opened the Wood Tavern in one of the most popular food markets in the entire world...check out the articles!!

SF Examiner Article

Two weeks ago they were named in the top 10 best overall in the Bay Area:

SF Gate Article