Category Archives: Business

Advice and information about being in business for yourself, because what makes me an “expert” is is having made mistakes you can’t even imagine.

RIP, Facebook Page

Well, it was an interesting experiment. But my Facebook Page was a wonder of how not to do social media. It was little better than a bookmarking service, and I already use several of those.

On the other hand, Twitter is a far better option for communicating about my business and this blog, and is actually resulting in two-way communication. So I’m going to focus my energies there.

My Facebook page is no more. Long live my personal Facebook profile.

‘Behind Every Great Fortune Is A Great Crime’

Federal postal authorities with Vitaly Borker after they arrested him on Monday at his home in Brooklyn.

Federal postal authorities with Vitaly Borker after they arrested him on Monday at his home in Brooklyn. Robert Stolarik for The New York Times

The headline to this post is via Chris Rock, who repeats that line during his “Never Scared” comedy special (link very NSFW!), speaking about the difference between being rich and being wealthy.

It means that significant, lasting wealth is often created by exploiting something new, or using some means to circumvent the kind of behavior most people would consider fair or reasonable. The patron of the exhaulted Kennedy clan made his fortune from bootlegging and insider trading before the 1929 stock market crash. Rockerfeller, Vanderbilt and Morgan were the great robber barons of the U.S. industrial revolution.

I mention this because Vitaly Borker, proprietor of decormyeyes, was arrested today on federal charges of “mail fraud, wire fraud, making interstate threats and cyberstalking.”

Borker, as you will remember from this blog, discovered some time ago that Google’s PageRank algorithm didn’t consider whether the mentioning of an online store was positive or negative. (Google claims this is no longer the case.) Therefore, Borker took a extremely combative approach to customer complaints, intentionally stoking animosity, so that his online store would appear in multiple online complaints, often at very reputable, PageRank-enhancing Web sites, such as Get Satisfaction.

It seemed to work well, and I admired the ingenuity behind it, if not the tactic itself. Seems now, however, that Borker will be a test case as to whether anti-service, and preying upon the gullible / lazy, is at an end. (I might also note that this is further proof that for all the caterwauling, good journalism isn’t dead; if anything, it’s more valuable than ever.)

All links in this post on delicious:

A Completely Awesome 2600 Cover

Check out the cover on the Summer 2010 edition of 2600, The Hacker Quarterly:

Cover, Summer 2010 issue, 2600 magazine

Cover, Summer 2010 issue, 2600 magazine

I saw it at my local Barnes & Noble bookstore and had to buy it for its complete awesomeness. The one thing 2600 has, every issue, is cool cover art.

I don’t know the exact system to which these tape cartridges belong, but I remember seeing very similar ones back in the late 1980s at the University of Maine’s computer lab.

The labels are what make this cover so great:

  • The coordinates on the top cartridge’s white label mark the epicenter of the Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The “KH-5″ label on the side refers, I assume, to a series of early 1960s mapping / spy satellites. There may be a more significant connection between the two labels that I don’t get.
  • I like the implicit message in the third tape’s label, that the Library of Congress is retaining tweets.
  • I love the fifth tape’s label: If only such a tape existed, it would eliminate quite a bit of annoying political sideshow. Then again, no; it probably wouldn’t.
  • The tapes from the seventh down are also quite amusing.

And taken in context with the “DESTROY” label on the box in the background, and the placement of the entire stack atop tabloid personals ads, really adds to the entire presentation.

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Killing Tynt’s “Read More” Clipboard Copy Hijacker With The Adblock Plus Plug-In For Firefox

Update, 20 July 2011: I received an e-mail that notes the correct link to Tynt’s opt-out button is now Its author adds that he believes their opt-out system now works.

I love Firefox. It’s pretty much the only Web browser I use.

I hate Tynt. If you’ve ever copied text from a Web page, then pasted it, only to find a mysterious “Read More:” link inserted at the end of the text you copied, you just ran headfirst into Tynt.

Each time a user pastes content from your website into an email, blog or website, we automatically add a URL link back to your site’s original content. When someone clicks that URL, they are directed back to your site and see the original content. This drives incremental traffic to your site when your content is shared without your knowledge while maintaining a consistent user experience.

It may well be a “consistent user experience” for me to have to hit the backspace key to delete the “Read more” link Tynt adds every time I copy a small block of text, but it’s a consistently annoying experience.

I appreciate the importance of reciprocal links. I understand the challenge to content publishers of having content lifted from their Web sites without attribution.

So before I get into details about this fix, let me be clear: If you copy Web content, attribute it. It’s the right thing to do.

That said, there’s a wrong way of getting people to do the right thing, and Tynt is definitely the wrong way.

I find having my simple act of extracting a quote from a Web page turned into a link-spamming takeover of my local machine to be far more disturbing than a tracking cookie or layer ad.

Don’t be messing with my clipboard. It’s mine, not yours. I will put into it what I want there, not what you want.

Fortunately, I was able to put an immediate end to Tynt’s “Read More” clipboard copy highjacking in Firefox with Adblock Plus, a highly popular add-in that does what its name suggests: Blocks advertisements, and other content, from displaying on a page.

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New England GiveCamp 2010: What A Great Experience

New England GiveCamp 2010The first New England GiveCamp was this weekend at Microsoft’s Northeast Research and Development building in Cambridge, MA, and it was, by far, one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in the 15 years I have been professionally coding.

About 100 technical and non-technical volunteers spent the weekend of June 11-13 writing code for charities. Most projects were Web site upgrades — either installing a content management system, or extending that system to do something it didn’t do before, such as collecting very specific data, integrating with a customer relationship management tool, etc.

Other projects were more complex. For example, my project was data normalization and version control.

I was assigned to the Goshen Land Trust, a charity that protects open and green space in Goshen, CT. My team members were Kriss Aho and Pat Tormey, both from the Boston area; and Chris Craig, the president of GLT.

Prior to last weekend, GLT tracked all its customer relationships in Excel spreadsheets. They do their accounting in Quickbooks.

If someone was a volunteer, his name went into the volunteer spreadsheet. If he owned land, his name was in the landowner spreadsheet. If he was a land or money donor, his name went into another spreadsheet. And so on, and so on; this story has been told a thousand times before, we all know it by heart.

And, of course, there were several versions of each of these spreadsheets out there: They were exchanged back and forth via e-mail, meaning no two copies of the same spreadsheet were alike. Again, stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Finally, donor payments are managed entirely separate from the spreadsheets, via entries into Quickbooks. So there’s a completely different store of around 800 mostly duplicate names in Quickbooks, too, which isn’t easily compared to a spreadsheet of about 2,000 names.

So we had to figure out a way to impose some version control on these sheets; we had to create a master data store, so we could have an authoritative source of customer relationship information; and we had to sync customer information in Quickbooks to match the master data store.

Sounds like fun, I know. It actually was, after it stopped being awful.
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