Friday, December 29, 2006

Today's Portsmouth Herald has a piece from Adam Leech on our wi-fi plans for downtown Portsmouth. Clearly wi-fi is a pet subject of Adam's at this point, which is great -- I love when a single reporter sticks with a story the whole way through! Anyway here it is.

A couple of notes on it. First, it is my personal opinion (not necessarily shared by the EDC, Wi-Fi Subcommittee, or the City Council) that the money should not be an obstacle. It's very short money, actually, when one considers the benefit and the potential positive inpact on economic development for the city. Any of dozens of businesses right here in town could easily pony up for the whole thing (making an unique advertising and goodwill coup in the process), but the city should also be able to find the money in their budget, as well. I shudder to think of all the ways our tax dollars are spent/wasted on far less useful stuff! At what figures to be a two bucks per year per citizen, covering the key downtown areas with wireless Internet is a very doable enterprise, IMO.

Secondly, on the usage statistics. I'm currently working on the survey data, i.e., pounding away in Excel Hell. Ginny Griffith will be presenting the data on Jan. 5th, so I'll have the usership breakdowns done by then.

Finally, if anybody can explain the headline of this article ("More Wi-Fi in city? Weight on businesses"), that'd be great, because, uh, I don't get it!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Just taking a quick time-out from all the Christmas and Boxing Day festivities to remind everyone that it's time again for the NH Internet Awards! The award show is always a fun time, great for networking, and the pretty trophies make great paperweights and door-stoppers, too. Just kidding! The awards are open to NH-based designers, regardless of where your client calls HQ, so get your submissions ready fast. Deadline is Jan. 10, 2007. We now return you to your regularly scheduled leftovers, already in progress.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Blogging from the New Library

Perhaps this is the first blog posting from the new Portsmouth Public Library? I'd be honored if it was.

The first thing I noticed when I walked in is that everybody is smiling. There's a magical feel in the air here. It's like the morning after the Red Sox won the World Series. Everybody is walking around dazed and smiling, shaking their heads in disbelief, and saying things like, "I can't believe it finally happened" and "I'm so glad I got to see this before I died!" It's been a long time coming; this Herald editorial gives the you the basic idea.

I parked easily in the lot between the school and the library (wow, what a concept, free and abundant parking!) and I walked in to see... middle-schoolers swarming all over the place like happy little locusts after grasshopper school. I guess 3PM isn't the best time to come to the new library?!

I said hi to Reference Librarian/City Institution Michael Huxtable, got my map (you'll need it, trust me) and took my self-guided tour. It's bright, airy, open... a little sterile (think hospital, hotel, etc.) but very handsome. After meandering around the place, being in awe of the sheer size and available space, I settled in Fiction, just away from the main desk and around the corner from the cafe. From here I can hear the library staff people offering new patrons the choice of library cards in traditional "credit" style or "keychain" style. I believe people who were turned off by the lack of parking and space in the old library will be coming out of the woodwork to become patrons of this library. Indeed, in the time that I've been sitting here, there's been a steady stream of people signing up.

Perhaps the starkest contrast between the old and new libraries is the space on the shelves. When I was a work-study library page at the old building back in the early 90s, I remember stacks bursting at the seams and when I was reshelving books, I was laying books on top of books because they couldn't squeeze into place. Now, it's like going from an old VW Beetle to a Hummer stretch limo -- plenty of head and leg room!

And you know me... of course I brought in my laptop. I connected to the network right away but needed a password. I'm still not sure how I feel about this -- I think wi-fi networks should be open, for ease of both site hosts and users. Anyway, the front desk person gave me the info (UN - portslib, PW - portslib). We'll have to see if they rotate it. Signal is strong (4 out of 4) and fast (768 Kbps, i.e., DSL speed) -- and according to the log-in welcome page, the networking is still provided by our friends at Single Digits. The whole library is essentially a wi-fi zone, but it seems the best reception will be in the middle of the building (where I sat) by the court yard. (More glass, less steel.)

All in all, the new facility is a triumph. Personally, I've been waiting 20 years for this, and dare I say, it's been worth the wait? Finally, it's a world class library for a city that richly deserves one. And yes, it has that "new library smell." How sweet it is.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Barack. Barock? Barockstar!

[Photo by Marisa. And yes, she got to shake his hand. And yes that was her on MSNBC shaking his hand. And yes she has washed that hand, but she thought about not.]

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Today the buzz is about the weather! An unlikely high of mid-60s is expected today, and I find it interesting that the overwhelming attitude is: "This just ain't right." Normally a balmy day in November would we welcomed with fanfare, confetti, and maybe a parade. But after a persistently warm month, today (and tomorrow's) mild temps are greeted more warily. Everybody thinks it's either an "Inconvient Truth" of Global Warming coming home to roost, or a harbinger of a whopper winter full of snow and nor'easters and other unpleasantries. (Hmmm... I wonder what the Old Farmer's Almanac has to say on the subject of "climate change.")

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I see in the new NH Business Review (Nov 24-Dec 7) that old friend Katie Paine will keynote the inaugural Breakfast Table event of the Women's Business Center. I've long been a fan of the WBC and their work; my ex-wife even launched a business with their help back in the day. Katie's presentation will be called "Got Blog?" Cost is 37 bucks -- a bargain at twice the price -- and will be held at that new monstrosity downtown they call the Hilton Garden Inn. (Nice to see it's getting used.)

From the opposite page, I see congratulations are in order to state democratic mover/shaker Mike Vlacich on his appointment to director of the state's Economic Development Commission. In fact, Mike, drop me a note sometime, I've got some ideas I want to run by you!

Hmmm... While I agree with Mr. Paul Willax's treatise (page 36) on the sorry state of customer service nowadays, I take exception to his attitude that it's largely a training issue. Give me a break Paul. These "vital front-line employees" of which you speak make barely over minimum wage. They are treated with a modicum of respect at best, or more likely, fungible replacement parts. (I've worked retail; believe me, I know from whence I speak. I like to say I'm "recovering retail" -- it's a 12-step program on rebuilding your self-respect.) Retail clerks have almost no incentive to do anything for the customer beyond give the correct change. Mr. Willax admits "creative compensation" is a necessity, but that's not even enough. The minimum wage needs to be raised -- it hasn't budged since gas was like 99 cents a gallon! Then employeers who want more than fungible parts behind the registers will pay a near-living wage, and the employees will repay them with the customer service we all long for and so seldom receive. Oh, and happy holiday shopping everyone! ;-)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sitting here at VIP AutoParts on Lafayette Rd. -- the passenger-side rear tire on my VW persistently goes flat, and nobody has free air anymore -- and happened to spot a Wi-Fi Zone sticker in the window! Aside from the 20 bucks gone for the flat-fix, how happy am I?! I wouldn't have even thought to check for wi-fi here. Very impressed! So impressed that I'll give them a shout-out and a link, here. Of course I tried first; was my second guess. Interesting that the site still uses frames, which is terrible for search engines and bad for some browsers, and it doesn't seem to mention having free wi-fi at their stores anywhere on their site.

And as I sit here, I see on the waiting room TV (tuned into CNBC) that GOOG has topped 500 bucks a share. FIVE HUNDRED. Wow. (Damn, I wish my fantasy portfolio wasn't a fantasy, because I was in on GOOG at 187.) :-p I remember when Google first came out, and I thought to myself, why do we need another search engine when we've got Yahoo? Certainly if Google had failed, the "experts" would have said the same thing in their post-mortems. Entering a market that is already covered and dominated by another is never a great business strategy, but Google didn't listen to conventional wisdom and has now exceeded even their own wild expecations. The elegant simplicity of their site design and their deep-digging search algorithms really set them apart -- it really was a better mouse trap. When you think about it, Google's success follows Apple's in that they both take complex technologies and present the user with the easiest use of those technologies. The click-wheel is to the iPod what the search box is to Google's home page -- plain white and intuitive as all get out.

Speaking of my other favorite stock, AAPL is hitting highs this morning on news that they are working on an "iPhone." Is there any doubt that if anybody can integrate a cell phone with a digital music player, it's Apple?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Thanks to Michael Gurau of CEI Community Ventures in Portland for quoting me in his regular column in Interface Tech News. His piece, "Worth the Investment: PR should be part of every budget," makes a compelling argument for the value of PR to start-ups vs. advertising and other marketing tools. CEI Community Ventures itself is a very interesting organization, a $10m venture capital company targeting small, early-stage businesses in the "under-served" areas of rural New England. Very cool.

Monday, November 06, 2006

This is the time of year that the buzz around town becomes political. Candidates run ads on TV and on the radio, and most of them are obnoxious in their zeal to appeal. But especially in a midterm election, most candidates are relatively unknown; it's an exercise in... let's call it "lightning branding." They're trying to both get name recognition and associate themselves with moms, baseball, apple pies, or some other universally attractive issue. And they've got like, a few weeks, maybe a month, where people are paying attention.

Since politics is the birthplace of "spin," I always find it interesting to see how the candidates position themselves, what they choose to highlight, whether they go negative on the other candidate, etc. I even think it's fascinating to see which colors they use on their signs. Red, white, and blue are obvious; I tend to respect those candidates who use other color combinations or are otherwise graphically creative. In NH, I like the guy who had his name printed on billboards that look like big license plates. And on Rt. 236 in Maine, a local candidate's name is so long, it's impossible to fit it on a billboard. So they broke up the name into like 5 signs, each with 3 letters of the name, then placed the signs along the road in succession at 10 foot intervals. Very clever!

The most obnoxious TV ads seem to be in Massachusetts, where the Deval Patrick candidacy has polarized the constituency. Patrick reminds me of Howard Dean a little -- he's the "different" candidate everyone seems to be buzzing about, one way or the other. He has a very good chance to be the Bay State's first black governor, but does his voice sound like cartoon character, or is it just me? One pro-democrat ad (probably by teacher's lobby?) I thought was particularly effective explained that apparently the commonwealth is now 41st in the country in school spending, behind (gulp) Alabama and (double gulp) Mississippi?! Yow. For all you Mass voters who thought they could safely elect "moderate" republican governors and expect to keep your core democratic values in tact, this is your wake-up call.

Speaking of schools, my daughter is in 4th grade and her teacher is big on civics and government, so they held mock elections the other day in school. Unfortunately, she said she wanted to vote but didn't know any of the candidates. Isn't this what almost everybody says when they don't vote? Isn't there some way around this, like, maybe at the polls there could be a standardized one-page sheet with their positions listed out? Or how about an independent consultant who sits there and asks you questions to determine who you probably should be supporting? I mean, for regular people, i.e., non-policitical-junkies, working a job or two, raising kids, doing laundry, raking leaves, it isn't hard to see how they don't have the time or inclination to learn about the candidates before election day. Then the day comes, and they know they SHOULD vote, but they don't know much if anything about the candidates. It's like sending them into Sears to buy a new fridge -- but there's no salespeople to help, there's no pricing, no features listed anywhere, they're all white and square -- then cricitizing them for not buying one! There's gotta be another way.

In any event, Tuesday could be a very big day. I am VERY excited about the potential for a referendum on the failures of Bush and the corruption of his cronies in congress. I'm heartily endorsing a straight democratic ticket here in NH, and not just for the sake of change -- I've had the pleasure of meeting people like Carol Shea Porter, Jackie Cilley, John Lynch, and I am as impressed with their character as I am confident in their abilities. Please join me in voting a straight ticket on Nov. 7.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

That Red Hot Chili Peppers song, "Give it Away," says "why everybody wanna keep it like a Kaiser? Give it away, give it away, give it away now." He's sure not talking about business strategy, but it's good advice nonetheless. Consider Breaking New Grounds, my favorite coffee shop lo these many years. I'm sitting here using our free eCoast wi-fi and sipping Kona Extra Fancy coffee. For those of you without a personal barista on staff, Kona hails from the fertile ashen slopes of Hawaii, is as smooth as it is complex, and oh yah, costs you a tidy $29.95 per pound. Now, they almost never brew Kona for individual sale -- it's a once in a blue moon thing, maybe twice a year. I was trying to decide between french roast and house blend when I noticed Kona on today's fresh-brews menu. "Hold the phone! It's a Kona Day!" Here's the genius bit -- they don't charge anything extra for the cup o' Kona. I have my own mug, so they charged me the regular medium price of $1.60. So this Rolls-Royce of coffees instantly becomes available to the common man! Now, I've already told another Kona-crazy friend about this red-letter day, she'll probably tell somebody else, and of course I'll be reminded to buy a pound as a Christmas present (and one for myself!). BNG (as we regulars like to call it) gets a little buzz of people talking, gives a little something back to its customers by offering a special product at regular price, but more importantly, it solidifies its reputation as the place to go for the best coffee in town. That's good marketing. [Slurrrrrp!] And damn good coffee.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Portsmouth Wi-Fi Planning Meeting

We met on Tuesday at City Hall. Here are some random notes/musings from the meeting.

This year's usership numbers are looking exceptionally strong. I'll report on them once we've had a chance to de-dupe and verify the numbers, but we're looking at another year of serious if not exponential growth, which certainly seems to validate our efforts.

We've now got a plan for how and where to install a mesh network with a handful of access points that would cover the key downtown areas. We're looking at phased implementation in that we need to install the "head" of the network first; that's the most difficult and expensive part of the process. Then, like hangman, we can add arms and legs to expand the wi-fi reach around town.

So the technical part is fleshing out nicely. As for the funding and "model," it looks like it'll be a hydrid of a few different ones. It appears there will be private sponsorship opportunities, perhaps as modest as $2500 (or the cost of one color print ad in a magazine, for example). These will fund our initial rollout. Our goal is to get the head in place about the same time that the kiosk hotspot shuts down for the winter. More details of course will be released when this becomes more official.

Monday, September 18, 2006

If Boston is "The Hub," then is Portsmouth a spoke in the wheel? Portsmouth certainly seemed at the center of things over the weekend as two significant cultural events converged on downtown, and I was happy to participate in both of them.

Portsmouth Criterium
Speaking of spokes, wheels were turning fast (exclusive video footage!) (warning - big file!) on Saturday. My troupe and I rode our bikes downtown, partly for some much-needed exercise and partly in homage to Criterium that we were going to attend. The event organizers hit a homerun by instituting a kids race -- they had 45 kids last year and anticipated 120 kids this year, but at the predetermined registration closing time, there was still a long line of hopeful youngsters. They ended up running double heats for all three age groups just to accommodate them all! The helmet fitting/adjustment booth and bicycle saftey check, both staffed by volunteers, was a really nice touch. In fact, my old friend Billy from Exeter Cycles filled my tires as well as my daughter's. Thanks Billy! Our 10-12 year olds loved that they could do the same lap that the pros did.

Anyway, the day was a smashing success from a spectator standpoint. As for the business side, I was pleased to see in this Portsmouth Herald article that only a few downtown shop owners were lamenting the closed streets, lack of parking, and distracted crowds. Some businesses may indeed suffer a one-day hit on Market Square Day and other annual events, but I've always thought this is short-sighted, and this year, it's great to see that they were the exception as more businesses reported more cash in their registers than on an average weekend day.

Indeed, after the women's race, we grabbed grub at Gilly's and Popovers and BagelWorks (different strokes for different spokes?), and between the start of the semi-pro mens and the finish of the pro mens race, we ate and drank at the Coat of Arms. This all on a day when we wouldn't have otherwise been downtown. I recall there was resistance to another event that closed downtown when the Crit idea was first floated a few years back; perhaps the naysaying business-owners spoke too soon?

Telluride by the Sea

Then in the evening, we attended the showing of The US vs John Lennon at The Music Hall. It'll be coming to mainstream theaters, but part of the experience was the crowd at the Music Hall. People were hissing (who hisses anymore?!) at G. Gordon Liddy, J. Edgar Hoover, and Richard Nixon and singing along (pretty well, thanks to good acoustics) to "Give Peace a Chance." You might say it was WILD, man.

The documentary itself, from a film-making perspective, was excellent. But I was blown away by the content, i.e., what it was like in the late 60s and early 70s. My first and overarching reaction was -- with the FBI involved in illegal wiretapping; the administration stubbornly remaining embroilled in an unpopular, pointless, and unwinnable war, and the encumbent president winning re-election despite his questionable character and performance in office -- ummm, what year IS this anyway?! The more things change, the more they stay the same, apparently.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mr. Softy is Comin' to Town

The E-Coast Insider Reports... As I noted in this space a few months ago, a local software firm has indeed been bought out by a large -- OK, *the* large -- software firm, yes, Microsoft itself. The local entity is/was DesktopStandard, a 30-something person outfit up Islington St. The deal is signed (but not finalized, hence no official announcement yet) and a dozen or so programmer/developer types are already relocated to Redmond. According to my source, the remainder of the company will reform into a smaller firm, selling the one product in their suite that Microsoft didn't buy. I note this as the 2nd time in the past few months that a whale-sized tech company has snapped up a tiny fish from our eCoast -- recall Cisco bought Meetinghouse for $30 million a while back. It's a ringing endorsement for the eCoast as a whole when world-class companies put up the cash for enterprising local firms. Redmond's gain is Portsmouth's loss; congratulations to the founders and the employees of DesktopStandard!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Did anybody else notice that today, on the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the covers of the three major news magazines? Time and US News & World Report both had 9/11-themed covers, as you might expect. Newsweek, OTOH, chose to cover the story of today's overworked elementary schoolers "Today's First Grade; Too Much, Too Soon" Did anybody else notice this? Does this strike anybody else as weird? I mean, it's a valid and worthy news story, but what makes them put it on the cover on the 5th anniversary of 9/11? I'd love to have been a fly on the wall in Newsweek's editorial offices at that meeting!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

One of the unofficial buzzwords lately has to be Ceres, as in the Greek God of Growing Plants, daughter of Saturn, and wife-slash-sister to Jupiter. At the same time that the biggest asteroid in the belt was to be designated an actual full-fledged planet, our favorite local wine purveyor -- Ceres Street Wine Merchants -- was featured in our local paper. So far as we know, there's no truth to the rumor that Mr. Campbell will hold an Interplanetary Wine Sale, with heavenly deals on out-of-this-world wines. But the old man still takes a decent picture, eh?

Friday, August 18, 2006

This is one of my favorite times of the year -- the Little League World Series is here again! And this year, the whole city... state... in fact all of New England... is buzzing about our own Portsmouth Little Leaguers as they take on the world (literally) in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

I love how these kids wear their emotions on their sleeves and on their faces. I love how the games are free of charge. I love how kids slide down the hill beyond center field on homemade cardboard sleds. Most of all, I love how whole communities rally behind their teams.

"Go Portsmouth!" signs are popping up at businesses all over town. Businesses that support local our Little League team at this point may smack of bandwagon-jumping to some, but I think there's significant marketing value in it. Just putting up a sign demonstrates that your business is not only here but paying attention and involved in the community. Our kids' success is also a positive boon to Portsmouth's branding as a destination; in addition to the countless media mentions it generates, the TV broadcast of the last game (the New England championship win over Connecticut) featured a little "intro to the community" complete with footage and demographics. This is the kind of advertising a tourism-based town just can't buy!

People really get into it these days, especially since ESPN. I remember following and being crushed when Saugus, Mass., was eliminated a few years ago. And I vividly remember my own days as a Little Leaguer. Pint-sized as I was, I was relegated to right field and the bottom of the order, but my Babe Ruth team was excellent, and were it not for a pop fly that went into some tree branches overhanging right field (the ball was lost in the leaves for a moment before it landed a few yards in front of me, resulting in the only run of the game), we might have taken the Cape Cod championship and gone to where these kids are now. But I get depressed as I digress.

Sometimes these kids look like big leaguers with the fielding plays they make and the curveballs they snap off. And others they remind us that they're 12 years old and make like the Bad News Bears. They openly cry when they lose and they absolutely lose their little minds when they win. The joy of the game demonstrated by these kids -- and the devotion of their parents, coaches, and communities -- continues to inspire me year after year, even if my hometown kids aren't in the hunt. But since they are, I have 2 words for you: "GO PORTSMOUTH!"

Update: We won today, 6-1 over Oregon, in the first round! Follow the schedule and the results on ESPN or on the Little League's own web site, which is not half-bad.

Friday, July 28, 2006

People are all a-buzz about the old North Church tonight. The original reports were that during tonight's severe, fast-moving thunderstorm, the steeple had toppled into the street toward Breaking New Grounds; these reports were later ammended when out-of-town media realized that the steeple had already been disassmebled a few weeks ago. In fact, it was only the scaffolding that had fallen. No injuries are reported at this time. Still, it's hard to believe your eyes when you see it... With the scaffolding gone, all you see is a big nothing at the top of the clocktower. Well, that, and a wild scene consisting of police and other flashing-lighted vehicles all over... Streets closed to traffic both foot and wheeled... Spotlights shining... Debris scattered in the streets... Unhappy cars with smashed windshields... And TV trucks. (I saw Channel 7 there when I drove by around 9PM.) I expect we'll see a lot more of this action tomorrow. If it had been the steeple itself, it would've been a story just beneath the Old Man of the Mountain collapsing; this church is nearly as iconic as that old stoneface had been! Many people are upset at the very idea that this downtown landmark could have been in jeopardy at all. Apparently it was just the high winds that caused the damage, rather than the lightning that was hitting all over town, so I guess there's no truth to the rumor that a DeLorean was spotted doing 88MPH down Market Street just seconds before. The question now is: Did the kiosk (and our wi-fi base station) survive the crash?! I'll check it out ASAP tomorrow and report back.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Turns out the Portsmouth Herald picked up the Meetinghouse-Cisco deal on Saturday, a day after I was wondering (see last posting, below) where the local story was. Meanwhile, I have it on unimpeachable information that another small local tech firm (yes, this is serious scoopage here, listen up!) will be bought by a multi-billion-dollar multinational. I can't divulge names but my sources say you'll soon see the official announcement from a shall-we-say well-known software company in the Pacific Northwest. Congratulations in advance to those locals who will benefit directly; the only downside is that several talented techies will reportedly be leaving the eCoast as part of the deal.

Speaking of eCoast news, I was disappointed to hear (on account of the fact that I couldn't make it this year) that the eCruise turned out more of an eDock, as thick fog kept the MV Thomas Laighton at its moorings for most of the evening. Looking at the bright side -- at least it didn't hail.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The buzz-about-town today is about the sudden demise of Jack Quigley's Irish Pub. I guess there's an important lesson in this for all you would-be-restaurantuers: Having both a food license and a liquor license is important. With Molly's going to hell in a handbasket under new ownership and Quigley's now gone, Portsmouth's Irish bar situation has gone from abundant to abysmal.

Interestingly, the local buzz is not about Pease-based Meetinghouse Data getting bought by Cisco for over $43 million. The press release definitely went out -- from Cisco, mind you -- because it's been
picked up in the national technical pubs (that's how I saw it), but the closest local news outlet to cover the story is this brief in the Boston Globe. Maybe the local papers will run it as a larger Sunday piece...

In other news, it's the English major in me converging with the tech-geek in me -- Google is now officially a verb, and I'm very excited about it! I note that the brand managers at Google are "OK with it" -- I'd think they'd be ecstatic. Becoming a generic noun (Coke, Kleenex, etc.) can be a pisser, but to become a verb ("FedEx this"... "Google that")? That's the holy grail of branding!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Been meaning to blog about the new local business rag on the streets these days. The new product is Seacoast Ventures, a tabloid-style local business-focussed paper produced by Seacoast Media Group (i.e., The Portsmouth Herald). Editor Michael McCord really took the ball and ran with it... I have to say, I'm impressed. I've long thought that the local dailies could and should do more telling the stories of the many successful local businesses, and I've been disappointed to see the trend of filling our local paper's column inches with generic AP-generated stories. Ventures is chock-full of locals being featured, quoted, and pictured; it's a veritable who's-who of the local business scene! As I told my Dad the Wine Guy as we were reviewing it in his store, the only important locals not in this publication are him and me! (Snort!) Also, I was pleased to see that my friends at Savvy Software were featured; they've got a great story, they're going gangbusters, and they deserve the recognition. They even got a nice color picture.
So a hearty "Bravo!" to all involved in the Seacoast Ventures, um, venture. I'm looking forward to the next issue already! Check it out: Seacoast Ventures. (Note that it's a .net site. Oh well, can't win 'em all.)

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Today at the Redhook Brewery in Portsmouth, over two dozen local and nationally renowned musicians will come together for Seacoast Concert for a Cure to support breast cancer research. Last year's event raised over $21,000 in support of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and two local charities. This year's event will also feature a silent auction and raffle, including a Lyle Lovett autographed guitar on eBay! My friend Marisa is the Web Mistress of the site, and my friends at Dynamic Internet are proud to provide free web hosting for this and other great causes. As always, I encourage businesses to support businesses that support non-profits! (Could I say that in a more convoluted way?) I'd be at the show myself, but it's my precious daughter's 10th birthday today. (Happy Birthday Erin! I'm so proud of you!) Anyway, I hope the show is a big success, i.e., makes lots of money. ;-)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It's a beautiful day in downtown Portsmouth -- 75 and sunny with a nice breeze -- what better way to celebrate the coming of summer than by logging onto our free wi-fi hotspot? Miracle of miracles, it was up and running today (we've had some connectivity issues -- signal is strong, but no circuit behind it). But yep, today I'm clipping along at 410kbps.

In other wi-fi news, last night the recommendation of our EDC subcommittee to expand the wi-fi was accepted by the City Council. Here's the official word as recorded in the official council minutes: "Report Back from Economic Development Commission Re: WiFi Referral – Voted to authorize the City Manager to work with the staff and the Chamber of Commerce to implement the plan and to provide a progress report back to the City Council and Economic Development Commission." So now apparently we'll work with City Manager John Bohenko from here... I'm very excited!

Another Rite of Summer -- woo-hoo! The eCruise is back! I'll be on-board... Will you?

Friday, June 16, 2006

I was surprised to read in the Portsmouth Herald this morning that the core wi-fi group -- Dave Gibson of Bay Ring, Steve Singlar of Single Digits, Erik Crago of Port City Web, and I -- had been named Volunteers of the Year by the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce. So we've got that going for us, which is nice. ;-) Now I know why Ginny Griffith of the Chamber was so insistent that we attend their Annual Awards Dinner! Unfortunately I could not attend due to my persistent Bolivian/Bavarian/Brazilian Flu. (Somebody please put me out of my misery!) BTW, I know Ginny's job description covers a lot of territory, but I believe she's gone way above and beyond on the wi-fi project and even though she's not eligible for recognition from her employer, she deserves a slice of that recognition, too. Thanks for everything Ginny!

Addendum: The Foster's also picked up the story on the Chamber Annual Dinner and ran a great picture (see left) of my wi-fi partners in crime, Dave Gibson of BayRing and Steve Singlar of Single Digits.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Foster's Portsmouth Bureau Chief Michael Goot files this story on our wi-fi project following the EDC presentation to the City Council. (Site registration req'd.) Thanks Michael! The most interesting thing in this story is this bit here: "Commission member Everett Eaton wondered if downtown wi-fi areas would compete with companies that provide residential wi-fi services for a fee, creating a potential conflict with paying and non-paying service. Councilor Tom Ferrini, who is also on the commission, said there is nothing wrong with competition." Here, here Mr. Ferrini!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

The wind outside is whipping across the e-Coast as we now enter the "blow-dry" phase of the Floods of '06. Absolutely everybody had at least a couple inches of water in their basements, but so far as I know, most eCoast tech businesses survived the week-long washout. From a PR perspective, I believe the local and regional news media became preoccupied with the floods, and rightly so; however, as with any crisis, we all long for a return to normalcy.

With that in mind, here are a few of the local stories I'm still following, albeit with aquatic puns thrown in.

Savvy Software continues its powerful surge. They've got new clients seemingly every day, plus a newly redesigned web site, which looks fabulous, a new iteration of the Savvy CM (3.0), which includes a very cool image manipulator, and even a new blog, authored by ColdFusion Guru Josh Cyr. Perhaps most interesting, however, is how their web content management solution was put to good use by the Town of Exeter during the floods. One of the towns hardest hit by the flooding, Exeter town officials used the Savvy CM to post immediate news about which streets were washed out, updates on the town water supply situation, school closings, and other flood-related news. It's always great to see technology being put to good use and helping people, rather than just being technology for technology's sake. And given the media's misreporting of the "breached" dam in Milton, it speaks to the value of getting your information directly from the source, doesn't it?!

Also making waves are our old friends at Hatchling Studios, who have spoofed the DaVinci Code with "The Rockwell Code." Producer Marc Dole is quoted saying, "We researched real things about Rockwell's paintings that mean nothing and then slanted them." It's all in good fun; see for yourself here. It's a lot shorter than DaVinci Code, and it's a lot cheaper than Hoyts.

Meanwhile, plans to reluanch the free wi-fi hotspot in the downtown kiosk last week were doused due to technical difficulties. I haven't had a chance to get downtown to check it out but rumor has it June 1 will be the new launch date. I'm also looking forward to floating the idea of expanding the wi-fi to the City Council. Stay tuned. And stay dry.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

There continues to be a buzz around town about my favorite pet subject, wi-fi. Obviously wi-fi is a huge story nationally as well, with so many towns, cities, and even regions (Silicon Valley and the state of Rhode Island) contemplating or planning large-scale wireless Internet initiatives.

I've noticed that in the face of the overwhelmingly positive enthusiasm for free and available Internet access, stories are now inevitably surfacing about "failed" projects -- Orlando's frequently mentioned, but its failure is also being debunked in other outlets and on wi-fi blogs. Meanwhile, privacy advocates and the ACLU, with whom I agree 95% of the time, are airing their concerns, which is fine with me as long as they do their job of protecting individual's rights without being obstructionist to wi-fi's progress in general. And while ISPs and their lobbyists continue to grumble about "unfair competition" from cities offering wi-fi, I believe their issues are more about protecting the overpriced Big Cable/Baby Bell duopoly and the status quo in general. (But hey, maybe that's just me!)

The question of who should pay for it continues to pop-up, as well; you know "taxpayer associations" are going to be up in arms over even the minimal costs of municipal wi-fi. The charge of the subcommittee I sit on was to determine if an expanded wi-fi program would be beneficial to economic development, and it didn't take long to determine that it has, can, and will be a customer lure for downtown businesses struggling to compete with national chains and malls. We then bandied about ideas for exactly how to expand the wi-fi in a way that would be most beneficial to local business without being a budgetary burden on the city. Based on our discussions, my guess is that we could expand our wi-fi project to reach strategic areas (i.e., a larger swatch of downtown, public parks and recreation areas, tourist centers, etc.) for about 2 bucks a citizen. To me, that's a no-brainer, especially when you consider the 3 years of value the city has already gotten from the donated time, equipment, an services of the Portsmouth/eCoast Wi-Fi Project sponsor companies, and the valuable demographic data we have collected and compiled for them over that time (see below). I understand there is some considerable support and enthusiasm at City Hall and on the City Council for this, so we shall see how it plays out. Clearly it's got all the ingredients for a big story, and I expect the media attention to continue through the summer.

In fact, we'll make a little splash of our own here in Portsmouth on the 18th of May when we relight the wi-fi flame in the Chamber's kiosk (at right) for another season. Let the games begin!

Also, I've been working with a nice young man named Matt at a favorite alternative local rag called "The Wire" on a large piece about wi-fi. He's put a lot of work into it, and I think it came out great. As a bonsu, they also presented my synopsis of the demo data in a sidebar; this may help to make our case to the general public. See it for yourself here. Or even better, pick up a copy almost anywhere downtown. It's the cover story; look for the tabloid-style paper with the green vertical "signal strength bars" on it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I discovered today that Inc. Magazine has released its annual "Best Cities for Entreprenuers" list, and that our own little Portsmouth has been named as one of the top entreprenuerial cities in the country. In its 2006 Hot (obviously not talking about the weather!) Cities rankings, Portsmouth came in at #68 -- that's ahead of Portland/South Portland/Biddeford (97), Dover-Rochester (101), Manchester (105), and Nashua (135). When filted by "small cities" (employment bases of less than 150,000), Portsmouth is ranked at #44.

In fact, the magazine notes the business surge last year was centered outside of the traditional centers, which continue to "lag" behind smaller cities; they're calling the effect "The Revenge of the Boondocks." Read all about it for yourself here. Of course, I dutifully feed the story to P-Herald business editor Michael McCord, who then ran it as the #2 business story of the week here.

I also note that my mom's still-hurricane-ravaged city of Punta Gorda, Florida, came in at #22. Will New Orleans be a boomtown next year?

Monday, April 17, 2006

I think it's very cool that our local daily is following our efforts toward an expanded downtown wi-fi network so closely. The P-Herald's Adam Leech filed this update on April 10th. In related news (from the same article), I'm pleased that the Portsmouth Economic Development Council has recommended that the City re-up its partnership with the Chamber. The $35,000 is a relative pittance and could easily be doubled, IMO, but at least this is city money I know is being well-spent.

Earlier in the month (April 2nd), an intro to wi-fi piece by the Other Adam (Dolge)... (Or is Leech the Other Adam?!) finally got inked. I get a mention and a quote, which is always cool. As a point of clarification, in my quote, I was referring specifically to a relatively new phenomenon, wherein so many home users are setting up wi-fi that neighbors are getting knocked off theirs by the interference. I found recently that my trusty old graphite AirPort was simply getting muscled out by the half-dozen other networks I'm privy to here at DSC&A World Headquarters. I finally gave up and went out and got a Belkin (on a great online-only deal from Circuit City) and that seemed to fix my up-again, down-again problems here. To be safe, I also changed the default channel from 11 to 7, and upped the power (minimizing the range) of my new router.

Also in this piece is a mention of the "bill passed in the N.H. House of Representatives would allow municipalities, where Internet connections are not available, to bond money for infrastructure related to the connection." Needless to say, I'm all in favor of such legislation; although it won't really help us here in Portsmouth, there still exists a serious Digital Divide in wide swaths of the Granite State.

Also, for the record, there is no business or organization called "eCoast Technology"; the writer meant to reference the eCoast Technology Roundtable, which I helped to establish in 1999.

And a final clarification, in the list of local hotspots, the Portsmouth Public Library was inadvertently left off. The library's connection has been up and running for well over a year now, thanks in no small part to Exeter-based Single Digits, a value-added/managed hotspot solution provider working on wi-fi in such exotic locales as Mount Washington, Nantucket, Bermuda, Dubai, and, of course, the most exotic of all, Portsmouth, NH.

In my next wi-fi related entry, I hope to give an update on progress we make in the EDC/wi-fi subcommitte meetings. (We're only at the information-gathering stage right now, which doesn't make particularly interesting blog reading!) More soon...

Friday, April 07, 2006

"A Night at the e-Brew"

I went into the eBrew last night (upstairs at the Press Room, first Thursday of every month) with my digital camera. The eBrew is basically a high-tech happy hour, for those not in the know. On my name tag, I wrote "Scott Campbell, Blogging the eBrew." I thought it would be fun to show a representative example of what an eBrew is like to the uninitiated, and give my readers a peak into some news and scoopage they might have missed if they didn't attend.

Christopher Smith, advertising sales rep for Mass High Tech, long-time eCoast cheerleader, and all-around great guy, was up again from the North Shore. The eBrew still attracts a handful of folks from this side of Boston, which we think is pretty neat.

There's Jeremy Clough (Hatchling) and Mark Samber (Meetinghouse). After co-inventing the eBrew with yours truly some 7 years ago, Mark's become a staple at the events once again, and we're awful glad to have him back. Jeremy and Hatching founder Marc Dole never miss the opportunity to quaff an ale and mingle with the Portsmouth Digerati. Hatchling may be the shining example of eCoast success these days, with potential deals pending that could make Hatchling the Pixar of the Northeast. (No kidding. Scott Kirsner just name-dropped them in this Boston Globe article.)

eCoast Grand Poohbah George McQuilken (eCoast Angels), professor Jeff Sohl (UNH-WSBE), and Bob Sheesley, whom I didn't get a chance to meet, were also in attendance. Word to the wise: That stool at the end of the bar, just before it turns the corner to the wall? That's George's seat. Don't sit there if you know what's good for you! Seriously, George is a tremendous guy with a keen sense for politics, travel, cars, and fine wine. (Yes, it's OK to have wine at the eBrew, although George prefers a cold pint in this setting.)

And here's Scott Zinkevicz of ZASoftware. Scott came to the eCoast by way of Virginia a couple years ago. Deeply experienced in the financial vertical, his enterprise-level solutions are geared toward not only banks, mutual funds, etc., but also have application to law firms, development shops, and other businesses with billable hours.

Bob Beliveau is another nice guy you'll meet at the eBrew each month. By day he's a member of the GeekSquad -- a Technology Specialist for BestBuy for Business. He's also got a bunch of irons in the fire; he'll be glad to tell you all about them.
His quote of the day, which he made me promise to post here, was... Ummm... Arrogance equals ignorance times... Oh hell, now I've forgotten it. Must be my ignorance showing. Or is it my arrogance for thinking I'd remember? ;-) Anyway, it was real deep, trust me! Maybe he'll comment this and set the record straight on his brilliant quote.

Lastly, here's Robert Dowling, standing with Bob. Bob lives in Portsmouth and works on the 128 Belt for Comverse ("the technology company, not the sneaker company"). He found our little shindig after digging around the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce web site. He's the prototypical example of the reason we did the eBrew in the first place. With an hour+ commute, he wanted to explore the local tech biz scene for options down the road and just hang out with peers a little closer to home. We talked about VOIP, whether or not GOOG is overvalued, the pros and cons of the local post-Cabletron companies, what's happening at Pease... I told him I could make an introduction that might benefit him... By now, he wanted to buy me a beer, but my babysittermeter had expired. Next month Bob!

And speaking of introductions, Ginny Griffith, our eCoast liaison from the Chamber, is the person to see if you're new to the eBrew. She knows everybody (yes, everybody) and will be happy to point you in the right direction. The eBrew is all about networking, after all. (Well, that, and the Bass Ales.)

I hope you've enjoyed this small sip of eBrew. Til next time!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Congratulations to Savvy Software for achieving some much-deserved recognition from the NH Internet Awards earlier this month; two web sites ( and powered by the Savvy CMS took home the hardware. For the more info on the awards, a full list of winners, and a weird pirate, click here.

Continuing the positive momentum, Savvy and I are pleased to announce the acquisition of several new clients. Here's the press release:

For Immediate Release: March 21, 2006

Municipalities Flocking to Savvy Software

Savvy’s Web Site Content Management Tools are the Talk of the Towns

Portsmouth, NH—Savvy Software, a provider of web content management solutions, is proud to announce the acquisition of the following municipal clients in the first quarter of 2006:

City of Kenyon, MN
City of Moscow, ID
City of Scottsdale, AZ
City of Shakopee, MN
Town of East Hampton, NY
Town of Exeter, NH
Town of Dover, NY
Village of Pawling, NY

Savvy Software President Bill Savoie noted, "Since the advent of the Internet, organizations of all kinds have struggled with the problem of keeping their web sites up to date. Our solution is so easy to use, it’s finally allowing non-technical managers to maintain control of their own areas of information responsibility, without having to go through the IT department. As we’ve seen in just this quarter alone, municipalities in particular have found our solution to be perfectly suited to their needs."

Andy Swanson, IT Director for the Town of Exeter added, "I'm impressed by how easy it is to work with the staff at Savvy and even more impressed by how easy it's been to roll out to my staff. We're on our way to building the finest town web site in New Hampshire."

About Savvy Software

Savvy Software, Inc., is a privately held provider of web content management tools. Strategically located in historic Portsmouth, New Hampshire, one hour north of Boston, Savvy specializes in the business, education, nonprofit, hospitality, and municipal markets. For more information, visit

Press Contact: D. Scott Campbell, DSC&A Public Relations

Savvy Software, 40 Bridge Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801
Phone: (866) 870-6358; Fax: (603) 427-0938


Sunday, March 26, 2006

More good news comes for downtown Portsmouth this past week. Due to expansion, DesktopStandard (nee Autoprof) is moving from upper Islington Street and NOT to Pease as had been previously expected. Instead, they will be setting up shop downtown in the old Bottomline building.

Not that I have anything against Pease per se, but it does my soul good to see that downtown is repopulating with technology companies. Back in the day (the e-Coast hey-day donchaknow), a friend of mine often said upon parting that he'd "see me around campus." He meant downtown Portsmouth, and Downtown really was like a campus. You'd pound away on your keyboard for a while, then you'd pop out to have a coffee and a cheese danish (mmmmm... marscapone!) on a bench in the sun, then later out for lunch at any of a dozen delicious eateries, then maybe head down to decks after work for a couple cold ones by the river. And all the while, you'd be bumping into your peers, colleagues, clients, and buddies. It was a real community of like-minded folks, interacting and sharing... cross-pollenating, if you will, like students and professors and hanging out on campus between classes. Good times, good stuff.

Interestingly, P-Herald reporter Adam Leech's hook for this story was that the Portsmouth Economic Development Council (EDC) has proposed a discount in the parking garage for companies leasing 25 spots or more. Apparently, this proposal was spurred entirely on DesktopStandard's interest in moving downtown. As you can tell from the above reminscing, I agree wholeheartedly with Portsmouth City Manager John Bohenko when he says, "That’s 40 people downtown that at lunch time go out and spend money in the downtown and after work, stay downtown to do some shopping." So any of you City Councilors reading, take note... This is an excellent example of a good local goverment doing good for business.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Well, wi-fi continues to be a super-hot story in newspapers both near and far. The Boston Sunday Globe ran this good but basic article (the front page, top of the fold) in the Globe North regional subsection.

Great quotes from my partner in wi-fi crime Erik Crago and Chamber/eCoast liaison Ginny Griffith. The The dead-tree version of the story featured a giant color photo of a wi-fi'd cafe, and there was another photo on the jump.

The reporter did a nice job with it as a sort of "Intro to Wi-Fi" piece, and I note that as per usual, the tone is overwhelmingly positive -- focusing on the coolness and usefulness of free public wireless Internet -- until the last word, which is almost always a negative or cautionary note about security concerns.

The Sunday Portsmouth Herald story, did not run yesterday as scheduled... Apparently it was pushed off until next weekend, so stay tuned for that.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The other day, The Portsmouth Herald ran a story (on the front page, top of the fold no less) on our little eCoast Wi-Fi Project.

First off, no, that guy with the long hair and glasses isn't me! Secondly, it's fairly hilarious that the story is illlustrated by photos of happy wi-fi'ers tap-tap-tapping away on laptops connected to wi-fi that isn't ours; we disconnected our seasonal hotspot several months ago! Finally, it's also funny in that we haven't even met to discuss this with the city yet, so this is all pretty premature.

Then they ran an editorial in support of our efforts (whatever they may be).

Now I've been contacted by another reporter from the Herald about the wi-fi thing, and apparently the Boston Globe has contacted us, as well. Pretty exciting... We certainly appreciate the support and the interest... I just wish we had something to announce!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

What’s the buzz after the Not-So-SuperBowl, which in case you missed it, the Pittsburgh “Stealers” won, courtesy of apparently paid-off referees? Watercooler loiterers across the country were discussing the commercials, of course, and the artistic and comedic merits therein (or lack thereof). But some of us are more interested in, or addicted to criticizing, said advertisements than others. So here’s my SuperBowl Advertising Report Card for SuperBowl XL, which apparently stood for 40 and not Extra Lame as most people now assume.

A+ = none
A = FedEx “Dino Delivery”; MasterCard “MacGyver”; Dove “Self-Esteem”
A- = Hummer “Little Monster”; Ford “Easy Being Green”

Honorable mention:
B+ = Bud “Streaker”; Ameriquest “Bug Zapper”; BurgerKing “Whopperettes”; Ameriquest “Airplane”; Nationwide “Fabio”; Bud “Young Clydesdale”

Like Seattle, BudLight dominated the first quarter with 4 different ads -- but didn’t score with any of them.

GoDaddy had no new ideas, instead picking up on last year’s successful “wardrobe malfunction” theme. It was fine, and it did once again encourage viewers to become active by driving them to the site for “more” of the buxom bombshell spokeswoman and her unravelling camisole.

Diet Pepsi, another heavy investor in SuperBowls past and present, had 2 on early, but neither of these hit the mark either. The Jackie Chan ad probably seemed like a good idea on paper, but the final product wasn’t interesting or entertaining, and that’s being generous. The Puff Daddy ad (“Brown & Bubbly”) was just plain embarrassing. Hard to say which one was worse.

I believe FedEx won the day with its prehistoric delivery skit. And it doesn’t pain me to say so even though I my day job is with DHL; FedEx’s ad was the best of the day in my opinion. It had great production values, surprises, laughs, and it was on-message. As an aside, I have to say I was a little surprised DHL didn’t take the opportunity to build on its great success with TV advertising this past year. DHL’s ad campaign seemed perfectly suited for the SuperBowl stage; perhaps they decided their investment with Major League Baseball and the World Series was enough sports exposure.

I am always a little surprised and dismayed when some companies shell out the millions for the SuperBowl time, then trot out their same old advertisements they’ve been running for months. Automakers seemed particularly timid; see Cadillac (Escalade), Mercedes, Honda (Hybrid).

Hummer, on the other hand, placed a tremendous ad with its “Little Monster.” Big production values + a big robot + a big monster = a big hit. My only disclaimer to my praise is that some people said they've seen this ad before during other games leading up to the SuperBowl. I hadn't seen it myself, so I counted it as a SuperBowl ad.

Ford’s Hybrid Escape was also a notable exception to the fraidy-cat carmakers' ads. Employing world-famous and much-beloved Kermit the Frog as a biking, whitewaterrafting, rockclimbing spokesreptile, the message -- it *is* easy being green with a hybrid SUV — was well delivered.

Of course, no SuperBowl would be complete without ads featuring chimps and donkeys. CareerBuilder played both ends to the middle and used both. Neither was particularly good or funny, though.

So how many professional comedians does it take to make an unfunny ad about soda and airport security? If you ask Sierra Mist, who’s commercial featured Jim Gaffigan, Kathy Griffin, and Michael Ian Black, the answer is the same number as the licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop: “a-ttttthhreee.”

Perhaps nicking themselves on Super Sunday was Gillette, who tried to generate excitement for its new Fusion shaver, which features a ridiculously redundant 5th razor. They tried to justify the new product by pointing out that the blades are closer together than its other razors. Big deal. I still use the GoodNews disposable twin blades and can’t imagine where the blade count will ever end... Is six enough? Seven? Can they fit a dozen on a razor someday? It all seems very silly, and the ad was similarly silly with its macho space age special effects. Yawn.

In fact, this year's ads overall have to be considered the least edgy and most timid bunch in years. But there was at least one exception. Crashing the wings and beers with serious messages can be dicey, if not disasterous, but Unilever's Dove came up big with its "Self-esteem" spot, featuring little girls struggling with their self-images in an increasingly superficial and beauty-industry-driven society. The result was powerful and touching. And using Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" as a soundtrack was a genius stroke.

I notice that Bud Light's "Magic Fridge" took top honors in the USA Today poll. This should come as no surprise, given that Bud Light a.) bought the most ads, and b.) has won this "contest" 8 years running. I guess there's no accounting for taste, but in this case I can taste the accounting.

And lastly... Ummm... "Might as well face it, you're addicted to Lost "? WTF? Did Robert Palmer approve this message from beyond the grave? Or is he just rolling over in it?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

"Tech leaders identify issues"--Ports. Herald

Interesting takes on the state of the eCoast economy from some of our best and brightest!  Check it out and best of luck in 2006!  Thanks to Tom Cocchiaro, Josh Cyr, Steve Wrenn, Marc Dole, Bob Good, Jeff Sohl, and the editors at the Portsmouth Herald.  

I like Marc Dole's answer in particular: 
"The biggest issue for the high-tech community in New Hampshire is finding the right people for a really growing market. We have some very good, talented people here, but there seems to be a ceiling on the numbers available who have the experience to meet our needs, to the point where we find ourselves having to attract people from other states. It's not that hard to do because this is a great place to live, and the cost of living is relatively low compared to some of the other high-tech centers around the country, but it's still hard to find people with just the right skills and who will fit in with the rest of our team."
This of course is and has been a main goal of the eCoast movement all along.  Getting the word out about what a great place to live and work will make our area attractive to the talent that our local companies need to grow.