Spring time!

You would think that under the current circumstances of being home 24/7 and not travelling I would have more time to post here.  But I am probably like many people – the more time I have the busier I am, if that makes any sense. I am not one to sit around. Moss just sits around.

Outside of work, Spring is here and that means housework, lawn care, tackling a long list of projects compliments of my beautiful wife, and of course, more kid’s activities.  In Canada, one hockey season ends, and another begins. So, on top of tennis and baseball, we are now entering Spring hockey. That is what we get for living in a hockey crazy country.  Regardless, the kids and I love it and are fortunate to be living in a region that has managed to keep Covid cases extremely low and offers a relatively normal day-to-day life under this pandemic.

As for work, things are ramping up! Automattic is comprised of many small teams. These teams work independently but all align with the bigger picture and company goals.  It is a great way to maintain high productivity and have accountability. Employees are empowered to make decisions and are measured by results.  However, teams change and grow.  We have a part-time person who splits his time with another team, and we added a new full time person. Our team is small but efficient. I like to say we punch well above our weight class. My new colleague is wonderful to work with and is also results driven. Which is why by adding another business development person we actually are busier. Now, along with running and managing a domain TLD registry we can focus on things that we could never get to, like more and concentrated promotions, selling more premium names, and supporting our channel’s efforts! 

At Autommatic there is no traditional work and life balance. It is all one so I can go from signing a partnership agreement to coaching hockey to jumping on a zoom call to taking my dog for a run, all within a few hours. Whatever it takes!

SuperBowl LV – Who will win?

One of my favourite times of year is just around the corner.  That is right, the Super Bowl (aka Covid Bowl), being played at a semi-filled Raymond James Field in Tampa Bay. 

I have been a Patriots fan before Brady was even drafted by them. I cheered the Bledsoe years and marvelled at the quarterback carousel prior to that. My all-time favourite Pat is Tedy Bruschi….hands down. However, it is difficult not the cheer for the player drafted 199 overall, who lead the team to 6 Super Bowl wins. So, as I cheered my Patriots this season, despite knowing it would not turn out well with Cam Newton at pivot, I could not help but share my encouragement and enthusiasm for numbers 12 and 87 of the Bucs.  Brady will be in his 10th Super Bowl and Gronk his 5th, facing, what might be their last hurrah at the big dance. 

But that is not the only reason I am excited about the Super Bowl. I love the commercials.  Not just that I am befuddled by the fact that companies are be better off burning $5 million dollars in a dumpster, taping it, and putting it on youtube to market their product than run a 30 sec ad during a Super Bowl or the appearance of A-list celebrities recruited to look foolish. But as person in domains, I watch for the promotion of domain names in commercials. I am always shocked how more companies do not promote a call-to-action in a Super Bowl ad using a domain name.  The real winners do.

I kinda have the feeling this creative commercial, which they actually call a marketing stunt, may be the real winner this year!

It is bust or boom time!

Here it comes…

Covid-19 has hit the world like a punch in the mouth, however, as many people know Atlantic Canadians are resourceful and know how to take a punch. While most of the world struggled to cope with the rising tide of Covid-19, we hunkered down, trimmed our sails, and trekked forward, relying on each other in a 4 province Atlantic bubble. This served us very well for many keeping the virus at the door for a long time.

During the initial shutdown in March my wife and I had the mindset that being couped up as a family is not a negative thing. Our goal was to have positive experiences with the kids so when they look back on this time it will be with fond memories and not negative ones.

Having worked from home for many years now, including extended periods in the early 2000’s, has taught me many things, including the importance of time management. But what it didn’t prepare me for was managing my time across a family of four, with kids 6 and 8.  This was challenging – not finding the time to spend with the kids, but being able to mentally shift to ‘Dad mode’ while taking the kids for an hour here and there to give my wife a break, and then shifting right back into ‘work mode’, and vice-versa.  This is not easy but something I worked at to improve.  And just when I felt like I was getting the hang of it Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, the Atlantic bubble secured, and we resumed normal life, relatively speaking.

Well, here we go again. We are again faced with the precipice a Covid-19, this time in the form of a second wave. With the 18-35 year old demographic partying like it’s 1999, foreign students recently returning to school, and more essential workers travelling, it was inevitable that our once safe haven bubble would start to crack, then burst.

This week, two Atlantic provinces have closed their borders and in Nova Scotia, where I live, many new restrictions are back in place. In order to get ahead of this second wave of infections, our leaders are taking action before it is too late including the cancellation of all recreational activities, even hockey (gasp!). For the record, I applaud them for this effort, provided they take care of the people whose livelihoods are most negatively affected Covid-19.

So, as a distributed worker for Automattic, I feel lucky to be able to continue my work on .blog with minimal disruption through these unprecedented times, though I am mentally preparing myself for when the kids are once again restricted to home I need to exercise my brain in the form of mental gymnastics.

Virtually Everything!

Why do my kids need $20 haircuts when a good set of clippers cost under $100 and will last for years? For many (if not all) of us, Covid-19 will change our lives forever in some way, shape, or form.  Whether it is how we shop, interact with others, our personal hygiene, or work, the pandemic has altered the way we approach many aspects of our lives by forcing us to question the status quo. 

Covid 19 has ended my streak of work travel.  It has been 21 years that I have been to an airport on average every 6-8 weeks. It has been 31 weeks and counting since I last had to use my passport and our out my water bottle.

This past week NamesCon hosted their first virtual conference called NamesCon Online and it got me thinking about how conferences in this industry are changing due to the pandemic.  This wasn’t the first virtual conference for the domains industry since the Covid-19 shut down in March, ICANN has had several, and it won’t be our last. With all of the technology at our disposal today, like Zoom, why do we need physical conferences anyway?

Well, for me the answer is quite simple. Relationships.  This industry is small and driven by relationships.  Building, growing, maintaining, and developing relationships is important for most companies to thrive because without them this would be just a faceless industry where decisions are made solely by commercial markers when many other great opportunities may be missed by not interacting with the numerous attendees in the hallways, sessions, at breakfast, lunch and dinners, during industry events, or drinks at the hotel bar.

I was eager to take part in NamesCon Online last week out of curiosity more than anything.  Watching pre-recorded sessions or reading panel highlights is easy but we must adopt a new way to help with relationships at a virtual event in order for online conferences to remain relevant for most industry professionals.  I am not sure what that looks like but it also raises a question about how conferences will be affected when there is a vaccine and we must once again take off our shoes and empty our water battles before boarding a plane.  My guess is if the industry can be successful at conducting virtual events then physical events may be that much better when we get back to them. The one major benefit for virtual conferences over physical conferences is that you don’t have to wear a mask during to attend a virtual conference (unless you want to).

Current Events

We are living in unprecedented times. Covid-19 has forced the world to pause, pullback and pivot.  We are still in the middle of this serious pandemic with an unknown outcome of how our lives will be permanently changed.  The United States are in the middle of their own crisis in which they too have paused, pulled back, and will hopefully pivot to make the necessary changes in attitudes and outdated policies developed over 100 of years ago resulting in ongoing social injustices, racism, and discrimination of blacks and other minorities.

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We try to educate our kids on what is happening in the world, teaching them right from wrong, the importance of friends, family, and all people regardless of their culture, race, or beliefs. We encourage them to find ways to help make positive change. But they are young and I can’t help but think how they will look back for these times when they are older. My generation turned to encyclopedias, but these latest generations do not know life without the internet.  We turned a page looking for information. They click a button or say a command!  But this cannot happen without domain names.

When anything significant happens in this world you can be sure domain name registrations quickly follow. Yes, there will always be vultures who pounce on domains and squat on them in hopes that someone who is negatively affected by an environment, activity, or event will pay a premium for the domain. This aside, domains remain as the digital soap box for people to give their voices and stories to the world and I am proud to be part of the industry that makes that happen.

RIght now there are thousands of new digital soap boxes educating us on Covid-19 and fighting for the injustices that sadly ended the life of yet another black person at the hands of those who are supposed to protect us. RIP George Floyd.

Now, if there was only way to search domains with ease and  relevancy to find this information…hmmm!

Dealing With the Unthinkable!

One perk of the jobs of I have had in the domains’ industry is the chance to travel around the world to visit clients attend conferences. However, this has come to an abrupt stop due to the rapid spread of COVID-19. So, far two conferences I had planned to attend, ICANN 68 in Cancun, Mexico and CloudFest in Rust, Germany have been cancelled. I was also planning a trip to Italy to see partners and new potential clients but with Italy quarantined, that is off the table now too. But please do NOT feel bad for me. Missing a few conferences and face-to-face meetings is not a big picture issue. Yes, spending time with clients and promoting .blog at events is important to my work but not as important as the global health concern surrounding COVID-19.

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I hear people complain about cancelled events, pointing fingers at over-cautious health officials, event organizers, and governments. Are these trips really so important to their jobs that they would risk their own health and the health of others or do these people just need the frequent flyer points they covet so much just to maintain their status for one more year? Seriously, we need to put things in perspective and get off of our privileged high-chairs…people are dying and the virus is spreading. Heck, even the most beloved sport in the world, football (aka soccer) are holding professional matches in empty stadiums across Europe.

With the technology we have at our disposal, having remote sessions and meetings should be a welcomed alternative until the COVID-19 situation is contained and safe for large gatherings.

And let’s not forget the thousands of healthcare experts and government officials around the world who are working tirelessly on trying to contain COVID-19 and find ways to deal with this dreadful virus. They should be commended often for their tremendous efforts!

Proudly Canadian, Eh?

After launching a series of Canadian commercials to promote .ca domains, CIRA, the domain registry behind .ca, are offering free stock photos to help get people started with their new websites. But CIRA, being CIRA, aren’t offering the vanilla Sear’s catalogue models fake laughing. Nope. Instead, they are all about every Canadian cliche – moose, hockey, ketchup chips, poutine, maple syrup and even the good ol’ Canadian tuxedo.

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While some people may be offended by this, I am not. Why would I be since part of our identity is our ability to not takes ourselves too seriously.  Though being Canadian goes far beyond lumberjacks, maple leafs, or eh​(s), I am proud that we have a unique culture recognized worldwide of some iconic representations as silly as a skateboarding moose might be be some people.

.P.S. You can also call me a Newfie…I wear that one as a badge of honour too and here is why:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-VBVr9Rk9U, thank you Mark Critch!

London, With Love!

Just last month I made a last-minute trip to London, England to have tea with the Queen meet with our new registry, back-end partner.  It was an important day of meetings to get the relationship heading in the right direction after an eventful migration from our previous backend provider (that is for another post).

This is not about that. This post is about London. Maybe it is seeing the Queen on our Canadian money, or our British parliamentary system, or similar social systems, or varying accents, but there is just something extremely comforting about being in London for me. I have had the privilege of covering the UK when I worked at Tucows Inc, requiring me to make frequent visits. We had clients all over the UK, so I would drive or take a train north to south or vice versa, to see all of our clients, and whenever I did I always managed to spend a little extra time in London. Why wouldn’t you, right? I’d say I have been there 20+ times and each one was better than the previous visit.

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I am not one for taking many pictures so my experiences there are filed away in my noggin and I visit them whenever I want. These are both stills and moving pictures of the city. I have experienced the hustle of morning rush hour near Canary Wharf, happy hours in Notting Hill, dinners in Soho, curries from Brick Lane, being crammed in the Tube (which is much more comfortable than being crammed on a NYC subway), runs around Hyde park, visits to the royal residences, football matches, drinking beer from crafts, seen a full concert from my hotel room (the Killers in Hyde Park)…and I loved it all.

This time, something was different. There was a dark cloud, both literally and figuratively, hanging over this great city. This was a brief trip for me, just two nights. I decided to stay near Paddington Station so I can catch an early Heathrow Express train for my flight on my way back. My meetings were in London City centre which was one hour and twenty minutes on foot from my hotel, according to Google.  I woke up too late for a run around Hyde Park but just early enough, if I walked fast enough, to trounce a straight shot across the city while sipping coffee and enjoying the sights and sounds of the morning rush in London.

The weather was typical for a fall day in London, cloudy with intermittent precipitation, which felt more like I was at a party talking too close to a `spitter `with nowhere to escape, than it did rain. But this did not deter me from walking. Not here. Not in London.

As I embarked I found a Pret a Manger (they are everywhere in London) and grabbed a cappuccino for my stroll.  Almost immediately, what stuck out to me was that everybody was dressed in black – black hats, coats, pants, skirts, boots, sneakers, scarfs if the had them.  Nowadays you’d see colourful umbrellas, but eerily all the umbrellas were black too. It felt like I was in a movie, walking through a sea of people dressed in black, while I had on the only green coat.  I thought to myself, ‘well, I guess black is in this fall,’ and left it at that.

But something else was strange.  The people, normally lively and cheery, were much more subdued. Returning from previous trips, I often commented on how friendly Londoners are. But I didn’t get that warm feeling this time. Could it have been the weather? Maybe, but surely they are used to it by now since it has been this way for, well…thousands of years!  Or maybe Chelsea lost last night? Or Arsenal, West Ham, Crystal Palace.  Nope, Google said there were no matches. Hmmm.

Why weren’t people saying hello, or looking me in the eye? I passed hundreds, if not thousands of people on my walk and only one person said hello or even looked at me at all. He was a nice, what appeared to be homeless man, selling a local paper. His name was Bruce. I asked Bruce what was on his mind and he said, “what else? Damn Brexit.”

PM Boris Johnson previously exclaimed the UK will leave the EU by October 31st “do or die.” This was October 9th with yet another vote looming. This time under a new PM. British citizens had other things on their mind than being the jovial bunch they usually are. They had real life issues to contend with. Their future and the future of their country and families weighed heavily on them, and so who could blame them for not giving me the ol’ “Cheerio, Mate!”

But one thing for certain, Londoners are resilient and will bounce back stronger and better than ever regardless of the January 31st, 2020 Brexit outcome…and I already look forward to my next trip to see how it turns out.

P.S. I did the walk in 1 hour and 8 minutes flat….take that Google!

“I am in a marathon, not a sprint…”

I recently returned from Automattic’s annual Grand Meet up (GM). This was my 4th GM.

Part of our creed says “I am in a marathon, not a sprint…”so I decided to reactivate my mapmyrun app, hit the warm pavement, and I cut through the morning humidity of Florida’s September, on my quest to run a marathon during the GM.  Now that doesn’t seem too difficult, right? It is 6 days, so essentially 7km/day. But with late nights, early breakfast meetings, and getting out before the mercury hits 90+ isn’t that easy. Compounded by the fact that the most running I do these days is 15km/week…max. In addition, I also decided I was going to weight train during the GM, at least once per major body part.

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So, here is what I did it:

Wednesday, Sept 11th:

  • Feeling tired from the previous day of travel and opening party (I stayed up a little longer than I planned and only went to bed at 12:30 am).
  • Alarm sounds at 6:15 am. I open the run-GM2019 Slack channel only to see the group leaves at 6:15 am, which means I was on my own. I mapped out a quick 5 km, threw on my gear, scrubbed my fangs, and made my way outside.  Of course, on day 1, I did manage to forget my earphones in my room, so I had to go back and get them.
  • I opened the door from our comfortable cryotherapy chamber and bam!!! I get smacked in the face with a wall of humidity. At that moment I second guessed the 42.195 km for the week.
  • I laboured through but still managed to kick off the first 5 km in a time of 26:15.
  • I ended my run at the typically-tiny, hotel gym, jammed with sweating colleagues, eager and excited to have their GM start off right.
  • I grab my weights, found a corner and pounded out a chest and back workout.
  • Feeling pretty good after day 1!

Thursday, Sept 12th

  • Woke up with sore legs so I knew I needed some motivation. Before hitting the sheets at midnight, I remembered to set my alarm earlier at 5:45 am to give me time to join the running group. I made it.
  • Outside, as my body acclimated to the humidity, I hooked up with a colleague who I ran with at previous GMs. We had a slightly slower but steady pace and through all of our chatting I hardly noticed banging off another 8 km in a time of 43:54.
  • No weights.

Friday, Sept 13th

  • The truncated sleep since Monday (I had to be at the airport at 5:00 am for my departing flight from Halifax) was starting to catch up but I knew I couldn’t skip a day.
  • I hit snooze one too many times and again missed the group by about 5 mins. Regardless I pushed passed the mental barrier and fought through a solo 7 km at 38:25.
  • After going back to my room, the guilt of not doing weights set in so I made my way to the gym and slugged out a decent leg workout. My legs were already sore, so I figured `what the hell`.

Saturday, Sept 14th

  • It was the morning after our outing at Marvel Island. Despite getting back to the hotel around 10:45 pm, I didn’t get to sleep until after 1:00 am. I was bagged!
  • I woke up with stiff legs, but I knew I just needed to get them moving and I would be alright. I was wrong. It took me about 3 km before the pounding of the pavement didn’t feel like I was getting slammed in the legs by a raging bull. I aimed to do 5 km but choked out and extra 3 km, 8 km total in a time of 44:36. Over halfway done my GM marathon, I was relieved and motivated anticipating my last 2 runs.
  • Back in my room I did 150 push-ups and 200 sit ups.

Sunday, Sept 15th

  • Saturday night was more leisurely with a silent disco scheduled. I had planned to check it out since it was the talk of last year’s GM, but my body was shutting down. Despite this I still only managed to get to sleep by 11:30 pm so I knew the morning run would not be easy.
  • I decided to once again do this one solo for fear of slowing down the group. The body is a strange and wonderful instrument and I was surprised at how much energy I had. I glided through 7 km in 37:42 and was pleased with the slightly reduced mental battle of the run.
  • Last day in the gym. It was quiet there. Only a few other colleagues sweating it out. That is what happens at conferences. Every day the gym has less visitors despite all the good intentions.
  • I worked through a solid 30 minute of arms and shoulders.

Monday, Sept 14th

  • Sunday evening was the live Townhall (Q&A), something I look forward to at every GM because people are more engaged and the questions for Matt are surprisingly tougher in person, though he always handles them all with an unprecedented level of professionalism and grace. The Townhall finished at 11:00 pm and I was in my room by 11:02 pm, looking forward to a good night sleep. Not so fast. The Townhall had free booze which many colleagues took advantage of.  This led to uncharacteristically loud hallway chatter several times before I managed to block it out at around 2:00 am. But before I did, I set my alarm to 6:45 am to maximize my sleep.
  • I woke up dragging butt! But I knew I had to do the last 7.195 km.  My heart said, `let’s do this` but my mind and body were in la-la land.  I needed some help. Enter cold shower! Yup, I took a freezing cold shower to wake up.  I didn’t plan this act of torture, but it worked, remarkably well.
  • I was on my way by 7:05 am and determined to gut it out. I used my phone to precisely tell me when I was halfway.  I felt good at this point but on my way back fatigue caught up to me. My legs felt heavier and heavier with every stride. I knew I couldn’t stop and had to somehow trick my brain and body into completing my run to reach my goal. I remembered a keynote speaker form a previous GM who talked about achieving goals by breaking larger goals into smaller ones. I broke the last 3.7 km up into light poles. I focused on one light pole, then the next, then the next, and so on until before I knew it I was on my last turn and about 250 meters from the hotel.  My heart quickened and I sprinted.  I felt like Usain Bolt going lightning speed but I was more like the tired middle-aged-outta-shape dude looking like he is about to pass out. Regardless, I finished the 7.2 km strong in a time of 40:09.

Mission accomplished!  I ran a marathon distance during the GM and worked out every major body part at least once. I also did not have a sip of alcohol and to be completely honest that was the only reason I was able to complete these GM fitness goals. If I was boozing it up, like I tend to do from time to time (clears throat), then there is no way I would have made my morning runs and workouts!

Bonus, I lost almost 2 lbs during the week, despite the amazing food and plentiful snacks available to us.

Unrelated, I met over 40 new Automatticians. In less than 4 years of working remotely, I know 250 of 951 at this ever growing company.

Simplifying My Life With Domains

Prior to 1995, .com domain names were free (hello!). Then through Network Solutions (NetSol), the only place you could register a domain name, they were sold for $100 for a 2-year registration. $30 of this fee went to the National Science Foundation to create an ‘Internet Intellectual Infrastructure Fund’. This fee only lasted about 2 years and in 1997 domains were reduced to $70 for a 2-year registration. You also had to fax in the order and wait for about 2 -3 weeks for processing.

I registered my first domain name in 1997. It was route102.com for a web development and hosting company a few university friends and I gave a go at…just around the same time Dreamweaver was launched. We had some success in this, our first venture, but eventually, we rolled it into another business and it systematically dried up. With no real use for the domain, we let it expire. Today, I see it is resurrected as a boast, camper, and storage business on Route102 in Illinois.

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Fast forward to now and there are over 1000 top-level domain (TLD) extensions available from two-character country codes to niche verticals. And though some new top-level domain (nTLDs) extensions can be expensive, like .inc at $2500/yr, many are sub $10 or even near free.

Over the years I have built a small portfolio of domain names, not to be bought and sold, but domains that interest me either as a potential project like statistics.hockey, for a business, like my wife’s lawncards.ca, are personal, like my kids names, or domains I registered and manage for friends.  Being in the industry, I used the opportunity to register domains at different resellers so I could evaluate them – their processes, flows, user interfaces, control panels, and support. As you might imagine there are varying degrees of how resellers, offer, manage and support domains.

As I get older I am striving to simply my life any way I can. This includes purging the things I really do not need, even some domains, and automating anything I can (Alexa and Google Home are great tools for that). But domains can be a pain sometimes and I have been finding it increasingly difficult to manage my portfolio across many resellers. Therefore, despite the onerous steps required to transfer a domain, I decided to consolidate my portfolio under a single reseller. I picked one that gives me the best value for what I need while checking the boxes on ease of use, good support, and cost-effectiveness. One domain reseller is not right for everybody but finding one that is will not only reduce the work of managing domains but save you money in the process. I will end up saving hundreds of dollars on renewals each year just by taking the time to consolidate!