More from Nigeria; This time it’s funny

I have previously written about scams originating from Nigeria, and how I’m amazed that these have enough of a success rate to prove to be profitable.

In that post, I also pointed to a This American Life podcast in which a few people who take it upon themselves to fight back were interviewed.  I thought, as usual, that the interview was excellent and I was a little in awe at these people who spent so much of their own effort to throw the scammers off and waste their time.bensmash

Lo and behold, in some random browsing a few months ago I stumbled on this page from a former co-worker Ben.  Ben is a pretty funny guy and this is right in line with his sense of humor.  I absolutely love these.  Way to go Ben.

You really need to click through a few of these to fully appreciate the effort that Ben has gone into.   It’s well worth the time to read through these.  It will be one of the funnier things you do this week, I guarantee.

A shot in the dark from the heart of Silicon Valley

I have a routine when I start up my day, absorbing “news” from around the web.  It basically goes like this: call up Yahoo (for my subscribed-mail (this is the email address I use when buying/registering/sharing); Gmail (I forward all of my personal mail to Gmail); and an RSS newsreader.

My “News” is made up of different sources from different places.  The idea is to learn what’s going on in my world – things relevant and interesting to me.  This is made up of international, national, local, and ‘hyper-local’ information; hyper-local being items concerning my friends and family.

To that end, tools like Twitter and Facebook are helpful but there are those of us that like to manage that information a little differently – we choose to manage (and control and own) our own online presentation.

KPAO is a site run by a few folks, including my friend Dave.  They decided to collaborate on a single site rather than each hosting their own as a way to bring some variety to the content being delivered.  The postings range in topics from product reviews to political thoughts to insights and ponderings about daily life.

Dave tends to be the largest contributor of content, which is good as he’s the only one that I actually know running the site so the posts tend to be a little more relevant.  He’s pretty opinionated and doesn’t hesitate to share his thoughts.  I don’t always agree but when I don’t I still walk away with something to think about.

Lodging in upstate New York

My Brother-in-law’s family has owned this farm in Clinton, New York for generations.

Several years ago, one generation officially handed it down to the next and after figuring out exactly how that should work and who wanted to be involved, my Brother-in-law and his 2 brothers took over primary responsibility of the property.

They decided that they wanted to keep the property in the family, and be able to visit it and use it as a retreat for family get-togethers.  But they wouldn’t be able to use it all too often, so why not let others use it for the same purpose?  Why not allow people to rent out one of the farm properties for reunions, weddings or College-related activities (Hamilton and Colgate colleges are nearby) like Parents’ weekends or Graduations.

Years ago this would have been a complicated matter unless one of them was willing to give up their day job.  But in today’s information age, they’re able to make it work – even with one of the brothers out here in California – all thanks to the web.

They set up a site at and started marketing their property.  They don’t do a lot of active marketing but rather rely mostly on referrals from the colleges or word of mouth.  It would be easy for them to increase their marketing if they wanted to though, using the familiar tools like Google’s Ads, etc,  But they get enough business where this hasn’t been necessary.

The site also houses some tools that they can use to manage the scheduling of the property.  So that each of the brothers has easy access to the property’s calendar and can see whether the property is rented or not.  Add to that online banking with some of the national banks that we see these days and each one of them can access a local branch to manage funds.

What’s most impressive about this is that these guys were able to put together a website completely on their own to manage all of these activities – no outside consultation fees were paid to any company.  The web development toos are just that good – and they’re still using technology that’s several years old.  Now, you might recognize on their site the lack of a graphic designer, but that’s OK for a sight like this.  If anything, it adds to the down-home feel of the farm life that renters are signing up for in renting the property.

There are things that they could do to bring the site up to 2008 standards and they’re considering an overhaul of the site, but the site as is has served them well for the past several years and I’m impressed that they were able to accomplish it on their own.

Celebtiry Gossip

A few friends from StubHub left a while ago to start their own venture; a “Stealth Mode” startup as they’re known around here.  I was recently reminded that this is not all that common a phrase outside of the Silicon Valley world, and it can sound a little rediculous.  But, compeition is fierce around these parts, and it is important for people to play their cards close to the chest until they’re ready to reveal their hand.

My friends have recently announced their idea, along with their site, to friends and family.  It’s a “soft-launch” approach that allows them to test the waters before broadcasting out about the site’s existence.

From their announcement:

Noozler ( is a community website that provides unique views on the celebrity news landscape.

It’s a pretty interesting idea.  There are all sorts of sites out there with not a lot of aggregation.  And this is (coments about our civilization’s decline aside) a topic area that is showing a ton of growth.  There are all sorts of new faces in this scene, some are just individuals who have made a name for themselves, some are media companies, but the problem with most of these sites is that the sites themselves take on celebrity personalities and celebrity status, and nowhere is there a real community where no single entity is taking center stage.

This is where Noozler can really excel.  By providing an up-to-date aggregation of information from disparate sources, providing context around the latest announcements, along with a community experience not lorded over by some larger-than-life celebrity, it can succeed as a place where people come to get their celebrity fix.

I have to give Kudos to the team as well for launching the site.  Picture someone walking through a modern art museum with their murmurs of “I coud do that.”  Yeah, but the point is, you didn’t.  And there’s something to be said for the guy who did.  Which is not to say that I think what they’ve done is easy – there’s a lot of underlying technology that makes the site tick that’s pretty impressive – it’s more to give credit to the execution.  It’s one thing to come up with the idea (“I could do that”  … (with generous assumptions you could come up with the idea in the first place…)), it’s a whole other thing to buckle up and get ‘er done.

That these guys gave up their paying jobs, got motivated day-by-day not to sit around and watch tv, and built this site from just a rough idea, is really an achievement.  And to think; this is just where it begins.

cracked ribs and spider bites

I’ve mentioned several sites from folks that I’ve worked with over the past years but I’ve also managed to meet some others (some of whom are actually outside of the computer development world <gasp> ) who have created or maintain websites.

Geoff is one of those guys.  I first met Geoff in Joshua Tree on a rock climbing trip and while Geoff didn’t work in the computer field he was still quite the geek.  You see, the reason we met up with Geoff was because of a rock climbing online group rec.climbing (for the record, I was not a member of this group but other friends of mine were).

We soon had several climbing trips together and Geoff, as such an easy going guy, fit in easily with our group (and just about every other climbing group out there).   But as my climbing started to wane, I saw less and less of Geoff.  But he was an early adopter of the internet and had early on created a site not unlike mine to allow people to keep up with his adventures.

These adventures included finding the right woman and getting married, which triggered a name change and design change for his site (sadly, gone was his use of his nickname Texas Kilonewton – a funny climbing/physics reference).  I’ve enjoyed keeping up with Geoff’s experiences although recently they seem to be taking a turn for the more gnarly with some broken ribs and a nasty sounding spider bite.

I think this site is a good example of a personal site, which does a good job of keeping friends and family up-to-date with what they’re up to.  In addition there’s always some cool photos and stories and I think the layout is done pretty well..  This is something that I appreciate as I too have fooled around over the years with how to maintain my own site (or sites… which are starting to feel a bit of a mess..)

I recognize that this site may not be particurlarly exciting to those who don’t know Geoff, but on the other hand, if you’re looking for some information and stories from international traveling or kayaking around California, then this site does provide a fun diversion on those lazy Friday afternoons.

Is it Veg?

When I think about it, I’m pretty amazed by the number of people from Intuit that I worked with that have gone on to do other things.  I’ve already mentioned my friend Ed who left to start his own business.  I had dinner with him the other night and he’s doing really well – the site continues to grow and he continues to improve its content and functionality.

I also have friends who have left the computer world altogether to persue other avenues.  One focuses a lot of her time volunteering and trying to enact change in her community, another is making a go of a new career helping others figure out their life’s path.

Another ex-Intuit friend of mine, Jim, is about to start his second life as an architect – he starts school in the fall – as a Sophmore – with an MBA.  I bet he’s the only one in his class with one – including the professors – some of whom just may be younger than him.

Before Jim left the computer world, he decided he wanted to know a little more about it.  So he re-architected his personal site using a completely home-grown publishing system, not all too dissimilar from the one I use to publish this site (though mine I just had to download and install..).  After he figured that out, he decided to build another site – one which I think is a good idea, but one which he is no longer maintaining.

The site is called VegiVeg and it’s a place where vegetarians could research their favorite foods and make sure that they’re not accidentally ingesting anything which they’re trying to avoid.  It’s a site that relies on user-generated content, making it a perfect “web 2.0” interactive space.  Unfortunately, it also requires some number of dedicated users to get the ball rolling and Jim lost interest before they did.

Still, I admire the idea, the follow-through, and the ability of someone to take an idea from inception through all the way to a launch, whether it be a web site, an art project, a career move, or other life-change.  So many people can come up with an idea – but it’s those that have the ability to follow through that I really admire.