What if the internet just stops?

Undersea Cables - http://www.flickr.com/photos/angusf/423828944/

A few weeks ago a conversation floated back and forth around my office about how reliant we all are on our technology and what would the reprecussions be if anything would ever happen to affect our symbiotic relationships.

Then, last week, undersea cables carrying massive amounts of Internet bandwidth (as well as telephone service) started getting severed.

The first cables to go, off the coast of Egypt, caused huge outages from Egypt to India. Then later in the week, another cable was severed off the coast of Dubai. And yet another was damaged between the UAE and Qatar over the weekend.

And no one knows how or why this is happening but apparently there were no ships in the area.

And while there are some great theories spreading this week around why this happened or who could have done it, it really sheds a different colour light on that office meme I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

What would you do if you were suddenly disconnected?

Picture the poor sap on the Rogers commercials who’s always dropping cell connection everywhere he goes. Now picture that being you. Now picture that being you ALL THE TIME.

The thought probably sucks. And if you’re someone like me… the thought REALLY sucks :)

I can’t live in an unconnected world for very long anymore. As much as I don’t want the Internet to morph into a cloud, I’m submitting to the concept more and more all the time. I twitter and upload photos from my phone. I use Google docs so I can easily share, collaborate, and access my work. My address book, years worth of email communications and blog posts are all online. I have ultimate trust in the internet to protect my data for me.

So what happens if it just stops one day?

There are people who claim the Internet is reaching it’s maximum capacity or even an end of life and we shouldn’t rely on it. There are others who claim the Internet is one of the more reliable of modern ammenities. I think (fortunately) this event proves the latter. Despite losing more than half of it’s internet capacity initially, India had managed to rerout its bandwidth and had regained most of its capacity within 3 or 4 days.

But what if the infrastructure is aging… and what if the bad guys fly their planes into a couple of major datacenters next time? What if an act of nature takes it all out?

Earthquake takes out internet - http://www.flickr.com/photos/pshaw/351306634/

I don’t know, but I think I’m going to go export my Google spreadsheets. ;)

#1 Mistake in Product Management

Hi I’m Michael Valiant. You may recognize me as a Product Manager staring in such corporations as 1ShoppingCart… (sorry, I just watched the simpsons)

A new quarter has started, we’re looking at product road maps, and I’ve been thinking a little about Product Management; just in general.

It’s amazing how easy it is for employees inside a company to become institutionalized. I don’t mean that negatively, a good employee SHOULD become institutionalized to some degree and live the dream so to speak. It’s important, it benefits the company in a number of ways…

But, if you’re not careful, it can also lead to the number 1 (this may be a bit subjective of course, but it’s definitely up there!) mistake in Product Management (after Not HAVING a Product Manager :) )

Confusing Yourself with Your Customer.

Think about it. You, and your fellow employees show up to work every day, you live and breath your product. You know how to use it inside and out. You know where the all the strengths lie. You know exactly how you would use it every single day if you were the end-user.

But you aren’t.

And being institutionalized, we all wear our rose-coloured glasses as we go about our jobs supporting, enhancing, or improving our products.

The problem of course is that your customers and prospects don’t have your glasses on. They’re not immersed in your world and in all likelyhood, when they pick up your product for the first time they’re going to be overwhelmed, frustrated and bewildered. And depending on the complexity of your product, this ‘stage’ may last days, weeks or longer.

…Oh, and did I mention that to your prospects, your weaknesses jump out long before your strengths?

And while you may be eagerly anticipating the next release to take advantage of the new added widget, most of your customers dread the thought of having to spend time to learn something new; even if it IS going to totally revolutionize their world!

But Wait…

There is hope!

And it all comes down to talking and listening to your end-user and taking their thoughts into serious consideration when planning your product roadmap or specifications. Each end-user is going to have a different opinion on what needs to happen within your product, and you’ll get plenty of suggestions that border on the unthinkable; but they help keep us on track and honest!

(and with all the social networking tools available for free online today, it’s easier than ever to accomplish… but that’s another post!)

If You MUST Date WordPress

Target Date Keeper

photo by j.reed

Further thoughts on Dates within your blog (original post)

I’m no developer, but fortunately I can read php well enough to munge together what I need most of the time if I have enough examples of what I want.

And, in order to add the dates back here the other day, I had to go and figure out how to do it first which got me to thinking about different ways to incorporate a date within your blog…

How Do You Display the Post Date in WordPress?

Here’s the code:

<?php the_time(‘F j, Y’); ?>

You could mix up the variables of course, (this info was all dug up in the WordPress codex) depending on how you want it to appear:

  • l, F j, Y – Thursday, January 31, 2008
  • F j, Y – January 28, 2008
  • m/j/y g:i A – 01/31/08 4:38 PM
  • 1, j F Y – Thursday, 31 January 2008
  • etc.

How Do You Display the Last Modified Date?

While I’ve never used it, apparently WordPress has a built in merge code for displaying the date and time your post was last modified but only works within the WordPress Loop (the post generation code). So:

Published on: <?php the_date(‘F j, Y’); ?> | Last Updated on: <?php the_modified_date(); ?>

Would look like:

Published on: January 14, 2008 | Last Updated on: January 28, 2008

Adding to Your Blogs Byline:

In the end I decided to add the dates back where I had removed them from in the first place, in the post meta data.

In wordpress, I simply edited my template (Presentation >> Theme Editor), opened up the Main Index Template file and added this:

| <?php the_time(‘F j, Y’); ?>

Mixing it Up Within the Text:

While a little more work, you could also intermingle your posts date information right within your content:

CES was incredible this year, it started on the <?php the_time(‘jS’); ?> of <?php the_time(‘F’); ?>. What a great start to <?php the_time(‘Y’); ?>!

Which would look something like:

CES was incredible this year, it started on the 14th of January. What a great start to 2008!

Adding the Date To Your Ending Byline:

Byline basically just refers to your posts identifying information and depending on your template may appear (as is the case with this blog) below the post title, or at the end of the post content.

Same code, different location!

| <?php the_date(‘F j, Y’); ?>

And while we’re talking about it… stick this code into the copyright (*sidenote – I just tried to write that as ‘copywright’ and it took me a minute to figure out why it just didn’t look right!) that probably appears in the bottom of your template (in the footer!)

Copyright Date

Generally, if you have a copyright built into your blog template, it’s probably hardcoded. Now, I prefer to do everything online under a creative commons license, so I don’t have any copyright info on this blog, but if YOU do, save yourself the trouble of having to worry about updating dates every new year and stick to the following code:

Copyright & copy; <?php the_time(‘Y’) ?> <?php bloginfo(‘name’); ?>

Which would look like:

Copyright © 2008 Michael Valiant

I think that pretty much covers it! Can you think of any other GOOD uses for dates within wordpress?

** update: arg! I hate that wordpress tries to ‘Help’ with code sometimes… Just leave what I put in damn it! I’ve had to edit this post 20 times because wordpress seems to randomly change some of my html! I think I’ve got it now…

Building – or is that growing!? – Sprouts

I love what the team at sproutbuilder.com has put together. They’ve barely launched and have been struggling with server-load issues but the product is incredible (or remarkable as Seth Godin may say)

Basically, if you know what you’re doing (and I don’t!) you can jump in and create great flash widgets for your site in just minutes… it took me an hour to do the widget below!


There are a few things I really wanted to do, and the functionality simply isn’t there yet, but OMG! I am amazed at what these guys have accomplished with this…

It’s times like this that make me sit back and spend a couple minutes thinking about how I likely would have reacted if I could go back and tell myself (around 1980-85) about this product…

A time when I was using a Tandy 1000TX with 24 meg hard drive (I’d convinced my dad to upgrade from the 12 meg hd despite the salesman insisting we’d never need more than 12 megs of space!) and struggling to get my first 1200bd modem working so I could access a local BBS that had great .gif based games :)I never would have believed myself…

Go check out sproutbuilder today! (or take a look at their blog)

** update – having issues displaying the flash within wordpress… wondering if it’s just me :)