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!

Standardization in Domains?

Will standardization stymie innovation?  Maybe not… if it is done right!

I was recently in Bangkok for ICANN’s GDD summit. During the event, we (KKWT) announced .blog will be moving the backend from Nominet to CentralNic. Though almost all registrars were ok with this pending change, several registrars voiced concerns regarding the work involved and cited a lack of standardization in the industry for this.

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This led me to think, ‘can standardization work in a global industry, with a high number of stakeholders, over a thousand products (top-level domains), guided by complex technical pieces like DNS, and legal frameworks like GDPR?’

Typically, standardization delivers services with a high degree of predictability resulting in sound products through consolidated business practices.

Standardization:

  • Familiarity
  • Stability
  • Predictability
  • Operational efficiency
  • Cost Effective
  • Less end-user confusion

This makes sense for domains, right? Hold on.

Flexibility, mostly associated with non-standards, allows for unique and customizable services for clients or end users. Flexibility is most beneficial for rapidly growing industries that may frequently need to adjust operational processes to accommodate changing market requirements, or drive innovation.

Non-standardization:

  • Flexibility
  • More robust offerings
  • A higher level of creativity
  • Increased innovation

Many of the 1000+ TLDs (new TLDs) today only came into existence since 2014. The market and appetite for the new TLDs were certainly overstated and thus far new TLDs sales have been below expectations. Therefore, TLD operators are trying to find creative ways to sell domains, and drive value for their shareholders through innovation and cost savings measures, which has not been easy for most TLDs.

This also makes sense for domains, right?

So, there is no easy answer to standardization for domains. We want the benefits of standardization along with innovation to move forward.

Therefore, as difficult as it is sometimes is to work within ICANN’S multi-stakeholder group format, a practical approach might just be to work together to find common ground on the high-level core processes to form a platform from which variations can be considered against.

From Vegas to Kobe!

Recently, I was in Las Vegas for NamesCon and then Kobe, Japan for ICANN 64. Yes, this industry will take you across the globe – a small price to pay for working in this industry :).

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I have been to Vegas many times, but this was my first time in Japan. As you might guess, they could not be more different. Yes, both are crowded. Yes, both have good food. Yes, both places have countless sights to see. And yes, both places have Eiffel tower replicas…but that is pretty much where the similarities end.

Any given day on the ‘Strip’ you will find all walks of life wandering the streets, many hustling you for a greenback. The streets and accompanying casinos are busy, while the shows have lineups longer than at any bullet train in Japan. Vegas feels like orchestrated chaos with the backdrop of bright city lights. Not a place you go to find yourself but rather lose yourself while placing all responsibilities on the back burner.

Unlike Japan, which has ‘ikigai’. It literally translates to life value and is best described as the reason somebody gets up in the morning—our reason for living. This is present in all aspects of Japanese life, from the morning sun cresting over the mountains, the delicious and nutritious cuisine fresh from the sea, the hospitable and polite people, organized and timely transportation, to the cleanliness of cities – you can’t help but notice how clean the streets are. So much so, that I everywhere I went I searched for garbage and in 8 days only found a small cigarette butt lying in a small crevasse between a sidewalk and a street.

But for me, the most noticeable difference between Japan and Vegas is my ability to use public washrooms. Yup, that’s right. Unlike in Vegas where your feet often stick to the floors, the urines reek, and the toilets aren’t fit to sit on, the bathrooms in Japan are exceptionally clean and all equipped with heated toilets that seem to have more tech than my Pixel 3!  They take this sh%t seriously (pun intended).  They even have an annual exhibition for toilets.

Can’t wait to see what Bangkok has in store!

 

TMA!

​​​​’Too Many Acronyms!’

Even after all these years in the industry, reading ICANN related documents/email still hurts my brain. They are littered with acronyms like Twitter on steroids.

“When the GAC asked the ICANN GSNO about the NOM, the IGO in the PDP who filed a UDRP, found some members of the BC violated the RRA changes proposed by the RySG and supported by the RrSG.”

See what I mean?

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It is so bad that ICANN itself has a large alphabetized section on their site dedicated to acronyms. Not for the uninitiated: https://www.icann.org/icann-acronyms-and-terms/icann-acronyms-and-terms/en/nav/A

Given that domains are technical and part if the internet infrastructure, the use of acronyms is compounded with techie code (API, IoT, LDAP, DoS, SEO, SQL…).

I get that most industries have their own shortened language, which can make communicating within the industry a little easier at certain times – by the way, pharmaceuticals is also another group guilty over using acronyms. At least for us mixing up an acronym doesn’t carry the weight of accidentally causing death.

When you get to a point where industry veterans can’t even keep up then there is a big problem. It is as if people ‘get off’ throwing acronyms around in a feeble attempt to either sound smarter than the poor recipients of this verbal diarrhea or flash a badge of a secret society. Both are idiotic.

Instead, let’s try to sound human again. Here are some common sense rules of thumb for using acronyms.

– Use abbreviations or acronyms sparingly. This means more words than acronyms!

– Only use abbreviations if they are widely known across the broad readership. In other words, know your audience!

– Use an abbreviation only if the term has three or more words. Don’t be lazy!

– To use an abbreviation, write the full name in the first instance and follow it immediately by the abbreviated version in brackets. Duh!

– Only the most common abbreviations that do not need to be defined may be used in titles and headings without the full name written first. How about only `ICANN’ in titles or headings?!

I am heading to NamesCon next week, hopefully, I won’t need cotton balls to stop my ears from bleeding listening to the alphabet soup game for 3 days.

What do you do for work?

I really detest that question. Why do we care? Does it really matter what anybody does for a living?

When that question comes from your young child, it does matter…to them.

I don’t often write about personal things but this is too good not to share. First, I have two children, six and four years old. Yesterday, my oldest son asked me,

“TaTa, what do you do for work?”

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(Side note: My kids both call me ‘Tata’ despite being an English-speaking Canadian family. It means ‘father’ or ‘dad’ in many languages and their first daycare was in Toronto run by a lovely Serbian woman.)

My initial reaction was to go into the tedious loquacity I spiel out whenever I get that question – people are often intrigued by those of us fortunate enough to work from home. I stopped. Thought about it for a few seconds and turned it back to him.

“What do you think I do for work?”

He paused for a moment.

“Well, I know you work on your computer.”

I encouraged him to go on.

“And you work in your office downstairs. You write stuff on your computer and you are on your phone a lot.”

“Am I a lawyer?”

“No.”

“A carpenter?”

“No, but you do build stuff.”

“A doctor?”

“No.”

“Well, what do I do?”

He looked me dead in the eye and said, “You help run the internet.  More specifically, you help run the new top-level domain extension for .blog, launched in 2016 and governed by a set of rules and regulations under the watchful eye of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers!”

Of course, he didn’t say that! He is only six…though that would have been amazing.

What he actually said was, “it doesn’t matter what you do for work as long as you are my Tata. I think I’ll just tell my class that!”

I smiled, soaking it all in, shook my head ‘no’ and went into my spiel.