Divide and Conquer?

How can we expect there to be coordination across the domain industry around life-altering issues like EU’s upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) when major groups cannot even coordinate the timing of conferences?

It is common knowledge that we, industry folk, frequent these conferences to move the industry forward through policy and partnerships. We use them to connect and collaborate with other members of the industry to drive partnerships and forge new ones. They are global events that play an important role in how the industry stays connected.

musician-rockstar-band-music-37862

Cloudfest (formerly World Hosting Days prior to being purchased by GoDaddy) is the biggest hosting conference in the world. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the group responsible for responsible for “coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces of the Internet ensuring the network’s stable and secure operation”* has three meetings a year, often at peculiar locations across the globe — we will save the location of ICANN meetings for another post.

Next week our beloved industry has these two events at the same time. Cloudfest at Europa Park in Rust, Germany, a ‘planes, trains and automobile’ scenario to get to, and ICANN in Puerto Rico, a country dealing with the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, with almost 1 million people still without power.

ICANN meetings (according to ICANN’s website) “offers the best opportunity for face-to-face discussions and airing of opinions among knowledgeable people dedicated to the continued stable and secure operation of the Internet.” I guess ICANN considers having 7000+ global hosting professionals in Germany while their meeting is in Puerto Rico as the best opportunity for face-to-face discussions and does not consider these professionals as knowledgeable or dedicated to the continued stable and secure operation of the Internet.

When we inquired about the timing of Cloudfest we told by one of their executives that “people will desert ICANN to go to Rust”. That will not be the case. Instead, groups like us, are forced to ‘divide and conquer?’ As my friend and colleague rightly pointed out, this means to divide your enemies then conquer them, not divide your resources to meet with more people, which makes you think, who is actually the enemy in this double-booking scenario?

* from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ICANN
 

Travelling Home for the Holidays

After a long and eventful first full year offering .blog with Automattic, I decided to end 2017 with a little time off. Having moved from Toronto to Halifax, Nova Scotia earlier this year, I was eager to relive my university days driving home to Newfoundland, and introduce my wife and young boys to a `rite of passage` for Newfoundlanders — crossing the Cabot Strait at Christmas. I was eager to see how they will do rocking side-to-side for eight hours in swelling seas. (This might be another reason Newfoundland is called The Rock…huh!)

newfoundland-3000042__480

But no matter where I go I can’t help but notice domain names. They stick out to me like the red colouring in The Sixth Sense – you see it and subconsciously know it is important, but you don’t always take the time to appreciate it.

The lineup at the ferry terminal can be quite long and loading the ferry takes a few hours. Passengers typically wait in their vehicles. So, to stretch my legs I ventured inside the terminal. Basically, it is a place to do your business, keep warm, and grab a vending machine delight to curb hunger pains when you run out of options.

The Nova Scotia ferry terminal also has a nice brochure stand for tourists, with plenty of booklets promoting Newfoundland — things to do, areas to visit, and places to stay. With nothing but time, I grabbed a few to show my wife. As we perused through them, two things popped out to me. The first was the beautiful photos of Newfoundland and it’s wonderful residents. It is truly a magical place with amazing people. Second, were the websites being promoted in the pamphlets. Here are a few as they appeared:

  • newfoundlandlabrador.com/trip-ideas/travellers-guide
  • alphabetfleetinn.com
  • http://www.birdseyeviewvacationhome.ca
  • facebook.com/NewfoundlandLabradorTourism
  • doctorshousenewfoundland.com
  • celticrendezvouscottages.com

Seeing this is encouraging because even the smallest businesses in Newfoundland see the importance of a website. These are all wonderful things about Newfoundland, but getting to their websites from promotional pamphlet poses its challenges when they aren’t easy to remember and spell. With hundreds of new domain extensions to choose from I am confident, there are better online signposts than http://www.dreamcatcherlodgenl.ca.

However, there was one exception that stuck out to me — battleharbour.com. And if you ever have the opportunity to visit Battle Harbour, do it! I promise you, you will not be disappointed.

New Top Level Domains in the Wild?

Man Having Be Happy Sticky Note on Forehead During Office Break

Some the earliest new Top-Level Domains (TLDs) entered the marketplace with a bit of a splash, albeit short-lived. In late 2013, many registrars shuffled around resources in anticipation of on-boarding the new TLDs in early 2014, driven by a fear of missing out on the ‘domain gold rush’ (no snickering). But as each new TLD entered the market their impact dissipated more and more than the previously released TLD, with the exception of a few notable extensions.

So, what happened?

Nothing. A product like new TLDs takes time to mature and develop and find it’s place in a market that has not seen much change in the previous 20 years. While the original TLDs like .com, .info, .org, and .biz are in their respective maturity lifecycle stages with high levels of awareness, new TLDs are in their infancy and just entering a mild growth stage, whereby usage and general awareness is low.

As each day passes more and more new TLDs are being registered all over the world, but ask any regular web user about new TLDs and they have no idea what you are talking about.

Though it has taken a while, it appears the general industry consensus is that usage of new TLDs is the key to growth and awareness. The more we see in the wild the better.

Each new TLD has examples of great use cases for their extension but it will take more than a popular music artist, actor, or online celebrity to help bring new TLDs to the masses. It will take a tech behemoth that’s brand is recognized worldwide and trusted by consumers. Hmmm….

Enter Amazon. Amazon is more than just an online store. Amazon is a tech giant leading the world in secure, affordable, cloud services. Amazon Web Services (AWS) was originally for techies but as the technology has evolved, Amazon has made the wise decision to move downstream and target the tens of millions of online creators, designers, and small business directly, with their “entrepreneurial spirit that views problems as hurdles, not as limitations” tv and online video ads.  And the call to action is none other than buildon.aws. To that, I say, bravo, Amazon, bravo. This might be just the thing we need to help new TLDs get us over the hump.

Teaching co-workers about domains!

“Those who know, do. Those that understand, teach.”
― Aristotle

This past week I was once again at Auttomattic’s annual Grand Meetup (GM). For the second year in a row, it was held in scenic Whistler, British Columbia, Canada – a truly magnanimous experience, cradled in a bowl of nature’s beauty.

The GM is an opportunity for all 600+ Automatticians (what we call ourselves) to make new connections, spend time with work friends, work on projects, learn from one another in classes, and bond as freedom fighters who strive to democratize publishing to the web. Each Automattician has a different experience at the GM. It depends on one’s personality, team, role, interests, and desire to learn and meet others. Truly, I believe like most other things in life, we get out of the GM what we put into it.

Alongside my normal GM and team activities, I was also asked to teach a 15-hour class on domains and emcee our closing party. Both are exciting and challenging. The odd thing is I have extensively more experience working with domains. Having emceed a few events in my lifetime, I have only spoken in front of a few hundred people at one time. Despite this imbalance, as I prepared for both, I felt much more comfortable emceeing than teaching the one subject I can arguably be considered an expert in.

21879615_169613823596057_5520656850955010048_n(1)

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
― William Arthur Ward

Earlier in the week I was asked what I was going to do at the GM – a project, a class or my own job? I said I was teaching a class on domains. A fellow Automattician asked, “is there enough material about domains to teach for 15 hours”? That question confirmed one of my fears about teaching domains. Most people, even in tech, have little idea of the breadth and complexity of domains. My response was a polite, “certainly” but my inner dialogue was screaming, “Are you kidding me? I can speak for weeks on DNS alone?”

There is the multi-layered food chain consisting of ICANN, Registry, Registrar, Reseller, and Registrant. Policy and compliance through ICANN is akin to having a seat at the United Nations. The technical intricacies of domains are, well…have you ever tried explaining how the DNS works? (…..Zzzzzz…). And there are things like WhoIS, domaining, lifecycle, drop catch, auctions just to name a few other topics. The terminology and acronyms alone are enough to make learning Mandarin seem easy.

“In learning, you will teach, and in teaching, you will learn.”
― Phil Collins

So how do you teach a subject like domains that is wide, deep, and dare I say, dry?

It is like building a house. You focus on building a solid foundation from which everything else is anchored, keep the design interesting and challenging, while the actual work fun. For domains, you must be passionate about the industry, have engaging stories that are interesting and relatable, and create an interactive space that bridges abstract concepts with physical and tangible activities.

Oh, and plenty of patience!

How much should you pay for a website?

Well, that depends. But for small business owners who provide services and not products to sell online, it shouldn’t be $6,084/yr. That is exactly how much my brother, a physiotherapist, was recently quoted by a very well-known listing company and all he wants is a simple brochure site. Here is what they tried to sell him.website

Online Products

  • Website – Management fee – $110 / mo
  • Sponsored Placement – Online Positioning with Logo, with Call Tracking – $159 / mo
  • Mobile Sponsored Placement – Prestige, with Call Tracking – $72 / mo

Print Products

  • White page listing – $0.00 / mo
  • Service regular listing (heading 1)- $0.00 / mo

Advertising Contact

  • Service regular listing (regular) – $0.00 / mo
  • White page listing (town) – $0.00 / mo
  • Service regular listing (heading 2) – $0.00 / mo
  • Illustrated Ad, 2 Columns, ½ page (heading 3) – $166 / mo

My brother lives in a small town in Eastern Canada with a population of 3,000 where he has a physiotherapy clinic. He also has another small part-time clinic in a nearby town with a population of 9,000.  He provides a service and does not require anything more than a simple brochure site. He is very good at what he does and so almost all his business comes from referrals and word-of-mouth. We discussed having an online appointment book and health questionnaire but he feels his clientele are much more small-town-personal and less technically capable, so it isn’t required at this time.

When he first approached me for advice on this I instinctively laughed at the quotation.  My brother did not. It was at that very moment I realized there are still some web development and hosting companies out there preying on honest, hard-working, small business owners who aren’t overly web-savvy.

I advised my brother to pass on this and I offered to build him a nice shiny new WordPress site, complete with email, SEO, backup, etc…all for a bottle of scotch.

When he informed the listing company of his decision not to renew his service (yes, he was with them for years…did I forget to mention that?) and have me build and manage his site, the salesperson took one last shot at keeping his business. She used an old-school sales tactic, ‘confusion and fear’ as if their quote with ‘free’ services wasn’t confusing enough – aren’t most of the print and advertising services they listed free anyway? She asked, “Will your new site be responsive? Will it keep up with Google’s algorithm changes? How will people find you?”

My brother knows every single muscle, tendon, and bone in the human body, including what they are used for but things like responsive websites and Google’s algorithm is nothing he needs to know. As for how will people find him?  Well, it isn’t in a paper book of company listings, that’s for sure.

When the sales person finally gave up she promptly took down his site, weeks before his current contract was to expire.

Well done, listing company!  How to run a company into the ground 101: Overcharge your clients and when they want to leave, kick them on the way out the door.

How Mom Taught Me The Importance Of A Good Domain Name

My Mom turned 77 this past January and she isn’t showing any signs of slowing down.  She is vibrant, strong, independent and quite honestly the nicest person I know, always willing to lend a hand. I am not even sure ‘no’ is in her vocabulary. Family means everything to Mom but unfortunately several of my siblings and I had to move away from Newfoundland for school and eventually work. For Mom, Newfoundland is home. It is not only where much of our family still lives, but where she grew up and was lucky enough to live her entire life.  I say ‘lucky’ because Newfoundland never had the bustling economy of some of Canada’s other provinces but for us Newfies it is the best place in the world.

So, with 5 children and 11 grandkids spread out from Newfoundland to Texas, Mom has turned to technology to keep in touch. It started with a home computer and skype about 10 years ago. It was amazing to watch her find her way around technology and how much I learned from observing and supporting her – encouragement too, but more like this:

Mom: How do I use this thing?
Me: What thing?
Mom: This thingamajig in my hand.
Me: A mouse?
Mom: Where? (frantically lifting her feet off the ground)

Downloading and installing software? That was unheard of for Mom back then. Now she talks to her ISP and helps troubleshoot basic issues with them. She has even graduated to a smart phone. It is an ongoing and often frustrating journey but she is getting there!

Yes, technology has evolved to make our lives easier and software simplified to be more intuitive…though there is still a long, long way to go. That is for a future post.

(back to Mom)

The one thing Mom still hasn’t mastered is using Google to search for a particular website. If she is looking for information or an item to buy, Google works fine for her.  But trying to find a specific website through search is a challenge.  She is certainly not alone.  Unless you understand what keywords you need to enter to find it, searching Google can be ineffective and downright frustrating.  That is why there are thousands upon thousands of articles about how to use search engines.

pexels-photo-340012

Mom loves to quilt. She is amazing at it too. She had made one for each family member and many more for friends. Her designs can be simple or elaborate and everything in between. Before the internet, she relied on patterns at drapery stores. Now she can find ideas and even patterns online. When Mom and her Quilties (that is what I call her quilting friends) get together they chat about everything under the sun, including a little small town gossip. But the topic of quilting always makes its way back into the conversation. They like to share information on it. And when a Quilty talks about a quilting website, the others in the group grab a pen and paper and that Quilty reads the web address off of a piece of paper she had tucked in her overstuffed purse. I chuckled at the idea of writing down a web address…until I analyzed the domains.  They were filled with obscure names, words, dashes, slashes and long enough to make you forget what you were doing in the first place.

Mom’s memory is fine and when I said to her “check out my new blog at don.blog”, she knew exactly what to do and it didn’t involve a pen.

P.S. Hi Mom!

A Letter to ICANN

Dear ICANN,

I have been attending your meetings for a few years. Up until now, my attendance was primarily for commercial purposes but ICANN 58 was my first as an active participant into policy. Thank you for welcoming me and my colleagues to Copenhagen. We met wonderful people, ate incredible food, and enjoyed the beautiful city, when not sitting in your meetings. Though having us race between sessions due to scheduling overlap was a nice touch to keep us active and prevent us from nodding off. Good job!

pexels-photo

Your hospitality was wonderful. It is always nice to see the hundreds of millions of our revenue dollars at work. I particularly liked the fact that your staff looked so rested and comfortable. It is important to take care of your staff. Having them all stay at the venue hotel, filling it up first, while many attendees taxied or illegally Ubered kilometers away must have helped your staff out tremendously. But probably not as much as the comfy ‘ICANN Staff Only’ lounge in the conference center. I especially liked where it was situated, in a glass room overlooking the main area where attendees congregated and could glance up or walk by and get a firsthand experience into your transparency policy. It truly looked amazing inside, especially the all-day pile of fresh snacks and refreshments. The three snack tables you provided at timed intervals for the thousands of other attendees must have been delicious because the snacks certainly didn’t last long and the staff dismantled the stations efficiently and effectively precisely when snack time adjourned.

While I was there I did hear a few negative things about you that concerned me. One was your overuse of acronyms. To be honest, I am not sure where this was coming from. When I heard, “…the GAC asked the ICANN GSNO about the NOM-COMM while the IGO in the PDP who filed an UDRP/URS, found that groups in the BC violated the RRA changes proposed by the RySG and supported by the RrSG…” I wasn’t confused but gravely concerned. I am sure I was not alone.

I also overheard an attendee compare you to another non-profit organization, FIFA (I love football!). But don’t worry, I had your back. I told that person it was totally unfair because not only has FIFA been corrupted, but you only have $400,000,000 in assets and made $200,000,000 in revenue last year, both of which are reasonable for a non-profit, right? And as for diversity, I think the person who said you are not diverse obviously did not see the 4 women on your Board of Director’s web page of 20 people.

Thanks again, ICANN.  If you would like some feedback on what I think can be improved for ICANN59 in Johannesburg please let me know and I will put some thought behind it for you.

Yours truly,

ICANN Attendee