Incubator Overload

This morning's LocalTechWire mentioned the launch of Appubator - the 4th new Triangle-based tech incubator I've heard about in the past few months.  Did someone start an incubator incubator?

Appubator focuses on wireless app development, so at least it is a bit different.  Add it to the following list of old and new technology incubators in the Triangle:


Launching A Business In The Cloud

I started writing this in early July...and just now finished it.  So some of the temporal references are a bit off.


I've built most of the operational plumbing for a small business over the past few weeks...and I've done it all without installing a single piece of software or building a single MS Office document.  (OK - except for an overly-MBA'ed financial model in Excel.) 

Here's the playbook for launching a lightweight company in the cloud:


I showed my friend Tristan an early (and hideous) mock-up of Argyle's website one afternoon in the Kenan-Flagler cafe.  After a quick look, he replied with three very wise questions:

  1. What are you doing?
  2. Don't you know the best time to change directions in an IT implementation is at the beginning of the project?
  3. Will you please let me show you Squarespace?

I was on the cusp of a custom-built disaster...and Tristan intervened just in time to introduce me to the best web app I've used in a long time.

Except for the images I bought from iStockPhoto and a few blurbs of custom CSS and HTML, Squarespace elegantly powers every pixel of  Point and click, drag and drop, save and close - it could not have been easier to put together a polished, professional website.  All for ~$30/month.

I can't say enough good things about the service.

(Note - Tristan works there now.)


Admittedly, is waaaay more than I need at this point.  However, it is very helpful for getting out of spreadsheets, formalizing processes, and taking baby steps towards becoming a data-driven company.

I paid $99 for a year's worth of Group Edition - which includes a handful of users, several helpful Google integrations, and more than enough functionality to keep me going for a long time.

I haven't done it yet - but it is (kinda) easy to integrate a web form to dump contact data directly from my site to my CRM.

Accounting/Billing - Quickbooks Online

While it isn't the prettiest application, Quickbooks gets the job done.  As far as I know, the online edition offers the same functionality as the installed edition. There are some other apps that offer similar services - Freshbooks is probably the most popular - but QB is the most comprehensive.

They also offer a merchant account service that is a little pricey, but integrates nicely with the service.  It is a little clunky billing customers, but I don't really have the volume to warrant an upgrade.

Operations - Google Apps

I run my email, my calendar, and (most of) my documents through Google.  Extremely easy and beautifully functional. 

I can't imagine why any small business would deal with the hassle of hosting their own productivity services when - after some easy DNS changes and a quick set-up - they can run it all through Google for free (in most cases) or cheap. 

The integration makes it an even bigger no-brainer.

Social Streams Are The New Inbox

A surprising amount of activity that I've "traditionally" managed via email and other tools have moved to my social streams - which is a fancy of way of saying my Twitter and Facebook feeds.  For example:

Personal Emails

I can't remember the last time I wrote a lengthy email to any of my close friends/family. (A look at my sent mail from 2001 proves that I used to do a lot of this.) With most of my friends, there usually isn't much "catching up" to do because we all post our activities online.

More and more, interpersonal relationships are becoming a function of tweets, photo comments, and status updates. From a convenience/technology perspective, I admit that I like where this is going. From a cultural and anthropological perspective, this trend may or may not signal the beginning of the end of complex human thought and interaction.

Email Newsletters

I started working in email marketing long before it became an "industry".  Not to give myself too much credit, but I was a very early evangelist of the email newsletter as a sophisticated, technology-driven marketing program.  I suspect that the monthly sales commmission checks may have had something to do with my fervor...

Fast forward to now.  I don't read a single email newsletter.  (Well - maybe a couple that I'm just not remembering because I haven't gotten them in a while.)  My email address is strictly used for personal communications and transactional messaging from my bank, online retailers, etc.  I very very rarely consume information, read newsletters, make purchases, etc. via email.

All of the content I previously consumed through my inbox, I now consume through one-line blurbs on Twitter and - to a much lessor extent - Facebook:

  • The content is more digestible.  I go from "subject line" directly to the content as opposed to subject line to an email message often filled with noise.
  • The content is timlier.  I recall recently unsubscribing from an email newsletter because I had read the entirity of its contents 12 hours previously via links on Twitter.
  • The content is socially-driven.  The social stream makes it very easy to find new sources of interesting content.

RSS Feeds 

My feed reader is slowly dying the same death as my email newsletters.  RSS-to-social apps enable content providers to easily zip their stuff into my stream, so why shouldn't I centralize my content?

The Bigger Question

Or at least the bigger question(s) that I'm trying to answer.  If social streams are the new inbox:

  • What does this mean for marketers? 
  • How will retailers, salespeople, fundraisers, non-profits, etc. manage this channel?
  • What are the "new" analytics that indicate social stream success?
  • How long before these become big problems?
  • What are the new products/technologies that will solve these problems?

Return On Tweeting

I think I coined my first acronym a few weeks ago and feel compelled to broadcast it to the interwebs so that I can lay claim to it before it becomes the new LOL or ROI or FMFL.

ROT = Return On Tweeting


Joking aside, the acronym spawned from an email exchange with a friend in which we discussed Twitter's emergence as a mainstream social platform, its inevitable emergence as a real deal marketing channel, and some early-stage technologies that enable marketers to measure the impact of their Twittering - their ROT.

Case in point - in addition to my personal stream of consciousness, I tweet off/on as Kenan-Flagler Business School.  Last week, I tweeted (or twote?) Michael Porter's lecture on campus and used my friend Adam Covati's service to shorten the URL to this:

instead of this:

The short URL from idek not only lets me squeeze in enough characters to serve the link, but it also lets me track the response.  Kenan-Flagler has 135 followers as of today.  Per idek, my link to the Porter press release was clicked 29 times.  I didn't post the link anywhere else, so we can safely assume that all of the clicks came from my tweet.

Some quick math yields an astounding click-through rate:

29 / 135 = 21%

For those of you unfamiliar with online/email marketing - that is a ridiculous number.  If I were an ecommerce site and had 135K followers instead of 135, the 21% click-through rate would represent revenue.  Even better - it represents high margin revenue because Twitter is a free least for now.  (I look forward to testing other types of links and Tweet constructs.)

In my opinion, the strong conversion comes from a mix of the following:

15% - Twitter is still largely comprised of early adopters who voraciously consume information from the service.  I probably could have posted a link to just about anything and gotten a similar response from this crowd.  Yes - I'm talking about you @djwaldow...  :-)

15% - Kenan-Flagler's followers are MBA applicants desperate for any crumb of information that will help them improve their app and chances for acceptance.  This is actually a good thing - I'm aggregating these people and building a conversation keeps them engaged with Kenan-Flagler.

70% - Twitter is the real deal.  Marketing is about conversations...and so is Twitter.  The next Google?  Probably not.  The next Facebook?  Umm.  There is a reason that FB tendered an offer to acquire Twitter...and a reason Twitter declined...and a reason that the forthcoming FB homepage rev looks awfully familiar...

As for the measurement piece - it is a little rudimentary for now, but will get better with time.  There are a handful of apps out there now - and more to come for sure - that enable marketers to aggregate their Twitter and other social web activities, measure the effectiveness of their programs, and ultimately tie it all back to an ROT.

Believe me, this post could go on for much longer.  I'm a big fan of Twitter and continue to be amazed by its utility and evolution as an Internet powerhouse.

I wish more of my friends/family would sign up.  (Mom, Dad, Erin, Evan - HINT!)  It is a great way to keep in touch...

PS - If you're still a Twitter skeptic, then you should try following keywords in real time on during the next big event - televised or otherwise.  You'll be hooked immediately.  The commentary from the masses is WAY more entertaining and sometimes more insightful than the blatherings from the mainstream media talking heads.

Time To Buy...I Think?

After getting Kelly's permission via IM, I just bought GOOG at 393 and AAPL at 104.  Yes - I ignored my own advice and used more of my student loan to finance the (laughably small) transactions.  Why?


- Advertising budgets will shrink during a recession, but direct marketing budgets should remain strong.  Companies still have to acquire customers - even if they're treading water - right?  (I think I read that somewhere...or maybe I just made it up.)  PPC advertising is much closer to direct marketing than advertising and should remain relatively strong (compared to other advertising categories) during a downturn.  The ROI is a cinch to calculate and - more importantly - the service works, thus the case for AdWords should remain a no-brainer.

- My recent liberation from MS Office to Google Docs has been a complete success.  I've opened Excel only a few times over the past month - and each time was to work in a very complex financial model.  Otherwise, I've worked exclusively with Docs.  The formatting isn't as slick as it could be and I can't do page numbers - both of which are fixable problems for Google, by the way -  but the content is exactly the same and my work-flow is much cleaner.  The way I see it - businesses are going to look for ways to cut corners, MS Office is expensive, Google Docs is free/cheap, most people don't build buyout models every day, and I'll turn a profit with my piddly Google investment.


- This one isn't as clear cut for me - instead it is more a depedent argument based on my Google hypothesis.  As companies/individuals move to Google (or the web in general) for their productivity applications, platform becomes much less of an issue, thus more people will be comfortable switching to Macs.

- Unlike iPods, iPhones aren't a luxury purchase.  They offer true productivity advantages and stand to change computing game going forward...that is if they haven't already.  They might not sell like hotcakes this Christmas, but they're still going to a hot ticket item and should find their way into the enterprise sooner rather than later.

- The Jerry Seinfeld and "I'm a PC" commercials are horrible.

2 posts in one day.  Wondering why I haven't been doing this more often of late...

Google Chrome

My obligatory chime on Google Chrome will be brief because it isn't available for Mac OS yet.

Thus far, my insight comes from my bevy of super-internet-friends on Twitter (those that I follow, but don't actually know personally) who assure me that it is REALLY fast and can handle heavy web-apps with ease.

I can't imagine that it will be anything less that successful...eventually.  Considering its success with web apps - and its steaming piles of cash - it makes perfect sense that Google forward integrate its business to include the delivery mechanism.  Will be interesting to see if/how this pays off in the long run considering the price Google has paid to get into the browser game.

I suspect that I'll be hesitant to make the switch for a while, at least until I can replicate the browsing experience I'm able to create with my assortment of Firefox extensions.

On a related note, check out the search phrase in one of the Chrome tutorials:


Too bad they misspelled "Tar Heel".

Shacking Up With Google

After careful consideration, I've decided to move my entire "work" life - my email, calendar, to-do list, and documents - into Google.

I've tip-toed around the commitment for awhile and decided to take the plunge last week.  I'm still waiting on the Kenan-Flagler IT people to resolve a mail forwarding issue - otherwise I'm already settled in and getting comfortable...and wondering why I didn't do this a long time ago.

Truth be told, inspiration for the move came from the good people at Shoeboxed.  They run their entire office (mostly) through Google apps and seem to do pretty well.  For the 4 weeks I was there on a regular basis this summer, I only used MS Office for a couple complicated spreadsheets - everything else went through Docs.  Couldn't believe how easy and productive it was...

For now, I foresee two problems with the changeover.  One - the "to-do list" add-on I plugged into iGoogle is much weaker than iCal's feature. (Wonder why Google Calendar doesn't have a built-in to-do list feature?  Am I missing something?)  Two - I'll need to work out the attachment issue.  Invariably, I'll have to share a document with a classmate or professor that doesn't use Docs and/or will prefer to use MS Office.  I'll figure it out as I go...

So it is "so long" to the Thunderbird/iCal/MS Office combo I've used for the past few years - at least "mostly so long" to MS Office, I hope.  The juggling act was a little clunky at times, but I grew to love it.  I guess I'll miss the flying bluebird icon that has so cheerfully and dutifully delivered my mail for the past couple years, but I sure as heck won't miss opening and managing so many attachments locally.

Plus, I'll retain the smug satisfaction of not using Outlook in a school addicted to Microsoft's productivity soma.

What Makes A Good Facebook App?

Here's a fairly fascinating article from Inc about ChipIn, the makers of the incredibly popular - and incredibly irritating and pointless - "Pirates vs. Ninjas" and "Werewolves vs. Vampires" Facebook apps.

Props to them for having the courage and focus to junk the apps to instead focus on their core business, which seems like it has legs.

ChipIn's decision to unload indirectly answers (or poses?) two fairly difficult questions I recently tried to answer:
What makes a good Facebook app?

How can developers monetize their Facebook apps?

Regarding "good" Facebook apps, I don't think that there are very many yet. However, my favorite by far is the FriendFeed app. It aggregates my activity from other sites/services - NetFlix, LastFM, WordPress, etc. - and displays it in my FB news feed, along with all of the other FB news feed activity. I like the app because it helps me represent the "me" that extends beyond FB.

I had a thought about synchronizing offline activity through a Facebook application, but that seems a little complicated. For example, I really like old school Nike basketball shoes. Through some nifty web services integration with FB, Nike could build an app that shows my shoe collection - or at least the shoes I purchased from Something like this is at least tied to reality, plus it facilitates the "look at me" conspicuous consumption that characterizes social network users...or just about anyone that is passionate about something - shoes, artists, apparel brands, etc.

Another thought is a light weight "ticker" application that users could install on their computer that shows their news feed. Such an app would enable FB users to see their friends' activity even when they're not logged in and also provides them a mechanism to "stealthily" use the site while at work. Facebook could serve social ads through the feed, as well as embedded ads within the app. In addition to extending Facebook's reach beyond the site and mobile platforms, the concept would drive more page views and enhance the overall stickiness/addictiveness of the site. I imagine that this type of application would have to come directly from Facebook and would work best as a part of an IM platform.

Presently, it seems that "show more about yourself and your individuality" and "have a lame excuse to contact your friends" are the largest/only "problems" that FB apps are trying to solve, neither of which I find very pressing. I'm not exactly sure what the "real" problems - at least not yet - but I'm sure they're out there.

Re: $$$, the fact that the developer of one of the most popular apps in the platform dumped the application side of their business illustrates the monetization challenges facing FB app developers. These guys had a large, fairly captive audience and could only sell banner ads embedded in their applications. (Not that I have a better idea.) You gotta think there is something else there, though I guess at least the buyer does...

In my opinion, the company that figures out how to conduct commerce through Facebook stands to do quite well. For example, Facebook already has my credit card and other purchase information from the ad campaigns that I've recently run, so it seems to make sense that I should be able to use the same information to buy from a 3rd party through an app. If it works, online retailers are happy because they have a new channel and Facebook is happy because they can skim a little off the top of each transaction.

(Note - I have no idea if the application platform supports e-commerce transactions. If it doesn't, it should.)

Otherwise, ads or some sort of ad revenue share with Facebook are pretty obvious ideas.

OK - this is way longer and way more fragmented than I intended. I'm going to bed. Perhaps I'll finish my thoughts tomorrow.

Lenovo Case Competition

Lenovo recently sponsored a business plan competition for Kenan-Flagler students. The company charged the teams with writing a go-to-market plan for a pretty cool technology gadget. (I think I can say that without breaking the NDA I had to sign...)

Unlike the Innovation Challenge, the objective and course of action for this competition were both reasonably clear - which made for a nice change of pace and a much more realistic simulation of a corporate marketing project.

I was fortunate to join a stacked team:

Danvers - case competition legend, amazing public speaker, taskmaster.
Chanel - technology marketing powerhouse, mind-boggling productivity.
Chris - idea man, pitch artist, jack-of-all-trades.
Me - happy to help. happy to be there.

Truth be told, Danvers and Chanel - both 2nd years - did the lion's share of the work. Chris and I - both 1st years - spent much of the previous week cranking through various homework assignments and thus had to play more of a supportive role.

The teams gave pitches to several Lenovo executives last night at their RTP headquarters. In a strategic risk, we decided to deliver a somewhat unorthodox presentation. Essentially, Danvers led the charge by moderating a conversation among Chris, Chanel, and myself - with each of us playing the role of a market segment.

I wore a t-shirt and Chuck Taylors (everyone else was in a suit) and played the role of the "technology nerd", our chasm-crossing target segment. Chris played the "middle manager family man" and Chanel played the "on-the-go professional". In a very conversational style, we talked about how the product appealed to us and how Lenovo's marketing strategy captured our attention. The presentation was both fun and effective.

Turns out that our gambit paid off. We won the competition and took home the cash prize. As a result, I think that all of the gifts that Kelly and I give this Christmas will carry the text:

Merry Christmas! (Brought to you by Lenovo)

3 Game Changers

Three game-changers hit the street over the past week or so. I can't sleep, so I figured I'd drop a few thoughts on each.

OpenSocial doesn't pose any threat to Facebook, but it does pose a threat to users, such as myself, that have a low tolerance for stupid, pointless online apps. (Does this mean that I'll be able to play Pirates vs. Ninjas in LinkedIn?)

It might pose a threat if someone develops a seriously innovative app outside of the Facebook ecosystem...but I simply don't see that happening.

Also - it's interesting to see - the original SAAS platform player - on the list and funny to see MySpace adopt the idea shortly after they announced plans to launch their own platform initiative. Those guys (MyS) were really lucky to be first to the party...

Google's Android is positively genius...and a cool product name. Assuming the platform gets traction with phone providers - which it seems to already be happening - Google will have simultaneously opened and optimized a new market for their ads and, more importantly, found LOTS more eyes to see them.

I suspect that Durham-darling Motricity is less-than-thrilled by the announcement.

Facebook Ads officially launched. Per a previous post, I've already given this a look - I guess during a beta launch period when it was "Flyers Pro". As far as I can tell, Facebook Ads looks like Flyers Pro with a new UI, contextual placements with user photos, and WAY better analytics and campaign mgmt. Which I guess is to say that it really isn't anything like Flyers Pro at all.

It's funny that the whole concept is simply an inversion of Yahoo's old school directory. Instead of users browsing a content directory, marketers can target content to a directory of users.

The next big opportunity here will be an application that pulls ad campaign data out of Facebook and into Google Analytics or other online marketing automation tools.

Bob Young at UNC

Bert and I are at ibilio's Bob Young lecture at the Stone Center at UNC.  I've never blogged a live event and only have about 20 minutes of battery left - so this should be an enjoyable experiment. All quotes are paraphrased.

Here goes...

Oh yeah, just in case you don't know - Bob Young is the co-founder of Red Hat, founder and CEO of LuLu, and owner of the Canadian Football League's Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

I knew we were in the right place when I saw the guy with long hair wearing an ill-fitting suit and white socks. Most of the people here are engineers or computer science students. It's great to be in a room full of nerds again...

"If you work in technology, you have to spend 8 hours working and then another 8 hours working at home just so that you'll remain relevant when you go back to work tomorrow. If that 2nd 8 hours is a burden - then you should look into selling life insurance."

Bob and Mark Ewing started the Center for Public Domain because all of the money thrown at open source projects in the early '90s. In their opinion, it didn't make sense to "thank" the open source community with more money. Instead, they founded a non-profit to help influence intellectual property laws, which they saw as the most likely demise of the open source movement.

"Google wants to own the world just as badly as Microsoft does. They are the fastest company on the planet to go from a company that says "Do no evil." to a company that implies just the opposite. I love Google, they just have no idea about the evil things that do or might have to do."

The hardest part about turning his first ideas into real businesses:

- "Lulu has been the hardest."
- "Raising funds as a young entrepreneur. 'He's 26. He has no idea what the hell he's doing.'"
- "It takes time, vision, commitment to build a technology before you actually have the customers. It takes 6 months before you realized that you just wasted the last 6 months."
- "The be a successful entrepreneur - to be a successful anything - you have to be a good learner."

Bob's good-humored cracks at professors and university administration have been hilarious:

- "If these teachers knew so much about their field, then they'd be Bill Gates! Who are they to tell you what you need to know?"

- "If I wasn't such a terrible student and therefore constantly motivated to work hard to prove my teachers and classmates wrong, who knows, I might be the director of ibiblio."

"Love relates to other people; not to what you do. I love Linux and open source because of what it enables me to do."

"Patents should be limited to inventions, not ideas. One-click shopping is the worst patent ever. It's stupid no matter how you look at it - there are an infinite number of ways to code one-click shopping."

"Had there been Ritalin when I was a kid, I too could have gone to UNC Chapel-Hill."

Best line of the talk - very facetiously - "My failures? I haven't had any. Next question."

Great talk.

NetFlix Gets it

I loved reading about NetFlix's drive to improve customer service. I think that their efforts will turn out to be yet another illustration of how it's always right to do the right thing for the customer...and another nail in BlockBuster's coffin.

The quick access code seems particularly friendly:
To lessen any wait time, Netflix has developed a system where customers can get a unique identification number off the Web site. Customers punch in the code after reaching the call center so an employee can access a subscriber's billing information and rental activity.

The company announces Q3 earnings this afternoon. I invested a portion of my student loan in NFLX shares at $18, so I look forward to the call. :-)

FriendFeed, Madden, Etc.

So Fall Break is almost over and here's what I have to show for it:

- I've gotten extremely/pathetically good at Madden '08 on PlayStation 2.

I like to reward myself for doing something well, in this case finishing finals, by un-boxing my PS2 and regressing back to the "13 year-old Eric playing Tecmo Bowl for 6 straight hours" days. It usually goes like this:

  1. I buy a video game at Target, usually a basketball or football game.

  2. I play it every spare minute of the day for ~2/3 days.

  3. I become an absolutely unstoppable force in the game.

  4. I realize that it is pathetic that I've played so much that I've gotten so good.

  5. I never play the game again.

I've realized my supremacy (Step 3) and the incredible amounts of time I've wasted to achieve it (Step 4), I'm just not quite ready for Step 5. Perhaps after a few more games...

- I finally got my invitation to beta test FriendFeed. The service is quite handy and more or less exactly what I thought/hoped it would be. Essentially, its a "here's what I'm doing" app that aggregates my activity across numerous web applications (Flickr, LastFM, NetFlix, etc.) and spits it out as a webpage and RSS feed. (Think Facebook news feed for activites beyond Facebook...)

The company was started by a handful of ex-Googlers and will probably pick up some (more) buzz fairly soon.

If you're interested, here's my feed.

- I rediscovered my love for making music with friends. My family was in town this past weekend, so my brother and I rocked out like we usually do. We played "Foxy Lady" so loud that everyone else in the house went outside.

Charlie came over yesterday and we sang a number of tunes together. It's such fun to sing along with a good singer and to unexpectedly discover that you have so much in common with someone you've only recently met.

- I watched the Heels nearly eek out a big win over the Lamecocks with Kelly, my dad, my brother, Andrew, Dave and my numerous other tailgating dudes. The Heels are so close to becoming a relevant football team again...

- I watched "Thank You For Smoking".  Easily the funniest movie I've seen in months...

- I made inroads on the summer internship search. (No details that I can publicly divulge.)

- I realized that having nothing to do gets boring fast.

A Billion Dollar Write-Off

We've been talking asset impairment in Prof. Mark Lang's accounting class, so the news of EBay's $1.4 billion write-off related to its Skype acquisition is pretty timely.

(Thanks to the class discussions and Prof. Lang's habit of beginning every class with a video, I actually know how a write-off works and how I would explain it to Kramer.)

The NYT post makes some insightful observations regarding the situation, particularly by couching the EBay/Skype fiasco as a warning sign for the pending Microsoft/Facebook transaction.

37Signals Grows Responsibly

In a world of Constant Contact IPOs, this is refreshing to read:

Will you ever hire more people?

Absolutely. We could use another person or two right now, but we also like feeling the stretch. The edge is where you are forced to be creative. It’s where your decisions are sharper and more informed. You make calls because you have to, not because they are convenient. “We can’t do this right now because that is more important.” Being at the limit forces you to think about value and we think that’s a great place to be.

Read the full post at Signal Vs. Noise.

Minty Fresh!

Mint won the TechCrunch (something or other) Award, so I gave it a look.

Wowzers! It's good now, but has a chance to be great very soon.

Simply put, the service allows you to link your online bank accounts to your Mint account through web services. Mint then automatically works its magic by categorizing, graphing, pie-charting, trending, etc. your financials 15 ways 'til Tuesday. For example, grocery expenses this month as compared to last month, as compared to total expenses, as compared to the GDP of Guatemala, etc.

I've only spent 20 or so minutes on the site, but have particularly enjoyed a couple of the helpful features. One, I got an email reminding me that my credit card payment is coming due next week. (Nevermind that I'd already paid it. That's an easy one for them to figure out.) I would LOVE it if the company could aggregate other online payments and provide similar reminders/payment help. Quicken already does this at some level with BillPay.

Two, the service makes suggestions for saving money. For example, it links me to credit cards with a lower interest rate and a cheaper phone provider. There's an interesting opportunity here, both for AI generated results and sponsored recommendations.

The categorization algorithm needs a little work, though. All of my credit card transactions that include the word "Chapel" from Chapel Hill are categorized as "church". I'm sure there is (or will be) some way that I can re-tune this to correctly ID my transactions.

Also - why don't financial institutions do this already?  My credit card company has several years of my spending data, yet all they provide is some lame EOY report mailed to me at the end of the year.  The data is there, they just need to build the reporting.  On the contrary, Mint has the pretty pictures, but doesn't have the wealth of data.  I suspect that this will be a challenge for the firm going forward.

I use a grotesquely unmanageable spreadsheet to track Boggs Family, Inc's finances.  I look forward to giving Mint a try in hopes of dumping my spreadsheet.

Update on the Discrimination

Surprisingly, I hit a 6 week traffic high with my post about life as a Mac user in Kenan-Flagler's Microsoft polluted driven computing environment. I suspect that the scandalous title enticed the Facebook profile lurkers and RSS feed ignorers to take a look. Speaks to the power of headlines and subject lines...

Jeff left a great comment. He's right - Macs are for ballers:
We look at it this way - Macs are for people who know almost nothing about computers and are getting started, or are for people who know a LOT about computers and need the heavy lifting that a properly pimped Macbook Pro can give you.

I emailed the IT office (again) about an LDAP connection and got the juice. I can now search the global directory from my email client.

I'll learn to live with the calendering issue, partially because there isn't a simple solution, but more so because I have qualms about people adding - or "suggesting" - things to my calendar - regardless of my ability to accept or reject the request. That is another post for another time...

Discrimination at Kenan-Flagler

What a shame. Such a titillating title for what you will find to be a whiny, self-righteous post.

Plus, I should be studying, not whining, especially not whining self-righteously.

At Kenan-Flagler, Mac users have to walk to school barefooted, in the snow, uphill both ways. The whole email/calendaring system is entrenched in Exchange and that isn't going to change any time soon. I can't access the school's address book. The program office distributes documents that inexplicably don't open in Office for Mac.  You get the idea...

(I guess this really isn't that bad or much different that anywhere else. You see? Whiny.)

To be fair, I don't really mind it - I actually enjoy it. I have what works for me and I'd rather stick with it than follow the herd. Plus, the feeling that I'm having to scrape out my interactive existence keeps it interesting for me. (Here comes the self-righteousness...) Most of all, 4 years spent working at a company driven by and built on open source technologies galvanized my belief in open standards. I'm perfectly happy trading convenience for conviction.

That said, I don't like it when the following happens:

1.) I email someone about getting 30 minutes of their time and they reply asking that I add it to their calendar. I reply saying that I can't. I get the meeting, the first 2 minutes of which is spent questioning my ability to be productive without Outlook and suggesting that I migrate to Outlook for the web. (The full version of which doesn't work in Firefox and/or Mac OS, by the way.)

2.) I schedule a resume critique through an online system only the receive a calendar invitation that I can't act on. I had to access web Outlook to confirm the meeting and add it to a calendar that I don't use.

3.) One of my classmates describes my iBook as "cute".

The IT department, though aware of our needs and reasonably accommodating, constantly reminds us that they don't support Macs. In fact, they set up a discussion board so the 25 or so Mac users can help support each other. How nice! (Too bad it was after we had already set up an email list...)

Instead of a discussion board, I'd prefer a migration away from the Microsoft death grip to an IT world in which we are all created equal. The following simple things would make me happy:

- Calendars distributed via the CalDAV standard.
- Some sort of LDAP access to the global address book. Thunderbird appears to support it.
- The disappearance of the assumption that we all use Outlook.