The Ingram Christmas letter for 2006

Boy, how time flies. Why, it seems like just yesterday that we were running around in T-shirts. Wait… that was just yesterday! At least, it was in Toronto anyway. I know that our friends in Calgary — and other places where they experience normal weather patterns — will mock us, and so they should. Nice as it is, though, it certainly took the fun out of getting our Christmas tree. Going for a haywagon ride with hot chocolate and a campfire just isn’t the same when it’s plus 15 out. Upside: No shovelling.

Our year started as all years should — with a big party, in this case up north at our friends’ farm in the wilds of northern Ontario. Then it was off on a mini ski-trip with Becky’s brother Dave and his family at a hill in Calabogie (also in the wilds of northern Ontario). After a hair-raising, white-knuckle drive home, we rested up for a month or two, and then made our way down south to Becky’s parents’ place near Venice, Florida with her sister Barb and family for some swimming in the ocean, some playing catch and some sunset-watching.

There was also a great trip to Busch Gardens for some rollercoasters and gondola rides and animal-watching, with much fun had by all three girls, then there was time left to feed the horses and we also celebrated Zoe’s 8th birthday. I also wrote a feature for the Globe about teaching Caitlin to drive, and illustrated it with some humorous photos.

After we got back from galivanting around down south, there was some Easter-egg fun at Becky’s cottage up in Muskoka, along with an ad-hoc game of Survivor for all the grandchildren, and not long after that there was time for some croquet-type fun at Mathew’s cottage in the Ottawa Vallley. After we got done with all that merriment, Mathew dove head-first into organizing a Web conference called “Mesh” that was held at the MaRS Centre in downtown Toronto for two days in May, with about 450 people attending and a series of keynote interviews, as well as panels and workshops on blogs, wikis, podcasts and all sorts of other Webby goodness.

Then pretty soon the time had rolled around for Meaghan’s 13th birthday — another teenager in the Ingram household. Hallelujah! And by then it was warm enough for a little bit of pool-type fun and some horseback-riding for Caitlin.

June and July were not great, unfortunately. Becky’s father Bob was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer and went downhill fairly rapidly, and passed away in mid-July. But he was in no pain for the last few weeks, and was surrounded by his loving family. He lived a wonderful life, and we all miss him very much (I set up a tribute website for him here and if that’s down I set up a mirror here). It was difficult to enjoy things much after that, but the kids had fun canoeing around and even kayaking, in Zoe’s case. There was also a trip to camp for Meaghan and Zoe, where the youngest Ingram spent the week sleeping in tents at the outdoor camp and had a terrific time.

And in between there was time to go fishing at the Ingram cottage at Golden Lake, to lie in the sun on the boat reading books, to catch a fish over by the swamp, and to play some cards at the kitchen table (and yes, Zoe beat all of those teenagers at whatever game they were playing). We also made time to go on a hike up a mountain or two, and to get up early and watch the fog roll out in the morning, and then hang around on the beach doing as little as possible. Soon, fall was starting to creep in and it was time for Thanksgiving, at which point we decided to deep-fry a turkey using a marvelous contraption that Mathew’s mum gave him for his birthday. It worked great — although it was a bit nerve-wracking boiling 15 litres of oil.

The fall also saw Zoe dive into playing hockey, the first Ingram ever to do so. She became a member of Team Bubblegum (a name sure to strike fear into the hearts of her tiny opponents) with a bright pink jersey to match, and has played her heart out, including a thrilling game as goalie. Then she dressed up as an angel for Halloween (the older girls were too cool for Halloween this year), and later Becky and Mathew followed her lead by dressing up too — for a murder mystery at Becky’s brother’s place. Pretty soon it was time for making gingerbread houses and Christmas get-togethers of various kinds.

And that’s about it for 2006 so far. A couple of big parties left and that will be all she wrote for another year. If you feel like checking out some more Ingram pictures, you can usually find them either at or at Mathew’s Flickr photo gallery page, which is here. For e-mail purposes, Mathew is at [email protected] or [email protected]and Becky is at [email protected]. Mathew also writes several Web and media-related blogs, which you can find at We here at Ingram and Co. wish you and yours all the best of the season.

Remaking the charity biz, Web 2.0-style

Austin Hill — a smart guy who founded the company that eventually became Radialpoint, and writes a venture-capital oriented blog called Billions With Zero Knowledge — has put together what he hopes will become a Web 2.0-style charity called Gifter, and launched it with a “million-dollar blog post.” For every wish that is submitted, $1 will be donated to charity.

You can also sponsor a wish by donating $1 or more to Gifter (props to Austin for keeping all the vowels in the name, unlike most other Web 2.0 outfits). There’s an explanation of how things work here, including a description of how you can use online charity tools such as Tom Williams’ excellent, as well as (another of Austin’s ventures, called Project Ojibwe, has sponsored 2,500 wishes).

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Coincidentally enough, Muhammad Saleem of The Mu Life and a partner just launched a website called Socially Given, where they are also hoping to use Web 2.0-type community tools to bring together people who want to contribute. Their idea stemmed from a post on Digg, in which Valleywag said it would donate $10 every time its “Diggbait” posts made it to the front page — and Muhammad calculated that this would bring in far more in advertising profits than would be given to charity.

Cambrian House, the Calgary-based “crowdsourcing” software-development company (which I wrote about here), also has a socially-driven charity effort of sorts called Robinhood Fund, in which people pay $5 to submit a wish, and then the community votes on who should receive the money collected each month. Past recipients have included a woman who needed medication for her sister’s Parkinson’s disease.

Is Digg getting better, or worse?

If you like things like podcasts, video and a widescreen look to a website, then Digg has just launched a site redesign that will be a nice ChristmaHanuKwanakah present for you, as described by both Om Malik (at NewTeeVee) and Mike Arrington at TechCrunch. But will all of these new additions help to broaden Digg’s appeal, or will they just further dilute that appeal?

If you’ve been following the blogosphere, there has been a fair bit of controversy about Digg — not about it broadening its reach into general news and other areas (in fact, there’s been surprisingly little comment about that) but about it being rigged, about submitters taking money under the table (which I wrote about here), and so on. Jason Clarke has argued that Digg is useless.


It’s obvious that some of this is getting to other people too. Over at TechCrunch, one person says they hardly go to Digg any more because the comments are cluttered with morons, and that “As Digg gains more and more momentum to be mainstream we will see that it no longer becomes a barometer of cool but just another established website beaten by fragmented niche sites.”

There are definitely both risks and rewards to the way Digg is going. On the one hand, video is becoming more popular — and Digg’s crowd-voting system can no doubt bring its value (positive and negative) to that as well. But at the same time, adding podcasts and video streams and other features takes away from the streamlined focus on Web links that made Digg so popular (StumbleUpon, which got its start in Calgary, has also launched a video service).

As Digg-style voting tools get worked into other sites, it’s also possible that people might desert Digg for other, more focused sites in particular areas (the way Digg used to be for technology). Meanwhile, Pete Cashmore over at Mashable says the changes are “ridiculously overhyped as usual.” And Neil Patel at Search Engine Land notes that Digg has also made some changes that will affect submitters in subtle ways.

Yes — but a smaller, less frothy bubble

Bubble-ology has become a more popular topic than ever now that Time magazine has named You as its annual Person of the Year (no, not you specifically, but the collective you — or us; oh never mind). In fact, there’s quite a bubblicious debate going on between my friend Paul Kedrosky and Josh Quittner of Business 2.0.

Josh wrote a piece for Time that boils down to the old “it’s different this time” argument. Yes, it’s kind of bubble-rific out there, but it’s okay because it’s different. As Paul notes, the most ominous words in the investment business are “it’s different this time” — words which are usually a prelude to all the same mistakes being made, but with different names and by different people.


Paul counters that, if anything, this bubble is actually worse than the first one, because “it’s cheaper this time to get yourself in just as deep — and this time there is no IPO market to bail you out.” And he is right — but then Paul is also the one who told our mesh conference back in May that as a venture capitalist, he is a big fan of bubbles because they speed up the pace of development, and that it “takes a lot of dead bodies to fill a swamp.”

In the end, the debate over where we are on the bubble-ometer comes down to a debate over what was wrong with the first bubble. Was it that entrepreneurs got taken advantage of by venture capitalists eager for a big-dollar IPO exit? Or was it that the combination of those two factors wasted billions of dollars of investors’ money? If you think that VCs and Wall Street brokers were to blame (as I do), then the lack of IPOs is probably a good thing.

Then the only ones losing money (assuming they are losing) are big companies like Google and eBay. Does the current bubble make it easier for entrepreneurs to get in over their heads? Sure it does. But I don’t think they can get as far in, because there isn’t as much incentive, and because it’s a whole lot cheaper to scale up to acquisition size than it was before.

Finally, PayPerPost changes its tune

Anyone who has been following the debate in the blogosphere over “blog payola” — under-the-table compensation for a positive review of something — knows the name The company emerged earlier this year and was instantly vilified for paying bloggers to write about clients, but not requiring them to disclose that compensation. Pete Cashmore of Mashable said that PayPerPost was unethical, and Shel Israel called founder Ted Murphy “the devil.”

Now, the company has decided to change its approach, and — according to a press release Mike Arrington has reproduced on TechCrunch — will require bloggers who take part in the program to disclose that they are being compensated. As Mike notes, it isn’t a perfect solution, since bloggers can choose to have a site-wide disclosure policy rather than disclosing which specific posts are paid for, but it is a whole lot better than nothing (Scott Karp doesn’t think it goes far enough).


It’s not clear whether this change has come about because PayPerPost decided its initial policy was wrong, or because it wasn’t getting enough uptake among bloggers or advertisers, or because of the recent FTC ruling on word-of-mouth marketing and the requirement to disclose, which I wrote about here. It’s possible that it was a combination of all the above.

In any case, I think the move is a good one, and would like to believe that PayPerPost finally saw the error of its ways (although I would much rather that each post involving compensation was disclosed as such). Allowing bloggers to write positively about clients without disclosure amounts to deception, and that isn’t a proper basis for any kind of relationship, financial or otherwise.

Facebook to Yahoo: Please (don’t) buy us

Did Peter Thiel have to practice in a mirror saying that Facebook is worth $8-billion, so that he didn’t smirk at the wrong time, or worse yet, burst out laughing? I wonder. The venture capitalist and former PayPal founder certainly seems to have pulled it off, since he got Bloomberg to publish that number with a straight face. Rupert Murdoch is going to kick himself for only saying MySpace is worth $6-billion.

As Mike Arrington has noted at TechCrunch, and Carlo has likewise pointed out over at Techdirt, this is exactly the kind of thing that companies say when they are looking to be acquired. Call it a combination of playing hard to get and fluffing up your feathers so that you become more attractive to the other birds. A kind of mating ritual.


Could Facebook actually be worth $8-billion? It all depends on your math. There’s no way in a million years that Yahoo (or anyone else, for that matter) is going to pay $8-billion in cash money for it — but will they pay a billion or $2-billion and then claim that they got $8-billion in value from it, as Rupert and his minions continually claim about MySpace? That’s got a better chance of happening.

As for the talk of Facebook doing an IPO, that is likely also posturing. If they actually try to do one, it will only prove — as Vonage’s IPO did — that their backers are nervous and want to get out as soon as possible.

Steve Rubel throws a softball to Gates

Bill Gates, co-founder and chairman of Microsoft and the world’s richest man, met with a bunch of technology bloggers yesterday, including Chris Pirillo of Lockergnome, Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, Liz Gannes of and several others. Everyone got to ask one question and there was some general discussion for about an hour with what some described as a very relaxed Gates.

Some of the questions — like Mike’s question about DRM, which I wrote about here, and Liz Gannes’ excellent question about the future of web-based applications — were fairly hard-hitting, but others… well, not so much. Like Steve Rubel’s question: “What’s on your Zune?” (This wasn’t the only softball, of course; there was also a question about what Bill has on his Christmas list).


Trevor Cook, who writes at a blog called Corporate Engagement, takes Steve to task for this question in a recent post. He notes that Edelman, the PR firm where Steve works, represents Microsoft (which he freely admits in the post) but that he says he was there “as a blogger.” So if Rubel had a month to plan for it, why didn’t he ask a better question? Cook’s post is entitled “Rubel inadvertently demonstrates the value of traditional journalism.” Cook says:

I’d hate to see blogging just become a way of the powerful giving the appearance of being open and accessible by using these carefully orchestrated events with people who seem to be overcome by their audience with the great monopolist. There is not going to be much ‘speaking truth to power’ in these situations.

This is a fair point (Todd at Geek News Central asks the same thing). Yes, Steve admitted he works for Edelman, but says he was invited as a blogger (and therefore was supposedly independent). So why such a lame question? I realize that Steve is not — nor has he ever claimed to be — a journalist, but still. That kind of thing makes Barbara Walters’ Oscar special seem hard-hitting.

Hurray, it’s the “five things” meme!

I hate these blog-tag things. But I don’t want to be a poor sport, so here are the “Five Things You Don’t Know About Me” (thanks a lot, Vanessa):

  • One of my legs is shorter than the other. I had a car accident when I was in university and broke my right leg (I also dislocated my left hip and cracked eight ribs) and after I got out of the hospital it was about half an inch shorter.
  • I used to play the guitar and sing folk songs in coffee houses and bars. And very much wanted to be a folk-rock star like my hero and fellow Canadian Neil Young. But the siren song of journalism called.
  • My mother once dated Paul Martin, the former Prime Minister. She went to the University of Western Ontario and met him at a social event or something like that. She said he was a good dancer.
  • I went to the same high school as Allan Legere, a serial killer from New Brunswick known as the Monster of the Miramichi. We both went to James M. Hill High in the tiny pulp-mill town of Chatham.
  • While visiting the quantum super-collider at Los Alamos, I discovered a new particle that was named after me, the Ingramoson (I made that one up just to see if anyone got this far).

And now, it is my duty to nominate five other people, so here they are: Rob Hyndman, Stuart MacDonald, Mark Evans, Mike McDerment and Richard Bloom.

Bill Gates told me to just rip it

Next time someone gives you grief for ripping music from CDs to put on your iPod (or Zune, or whatever your player of choice might be), just tell them that the world’s richest man told you to do it. According to Mike Arrington of TechCrunch, that’s what Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates said when he was asked about DRM (digital rights management).

Gates said that no one is satisfied with the current state of DRM, which “causes too much pain for legitmate buyers” while trying to distinguish between legal and illegal uses. He says no one has done it right, yet.

There are “huge problems” with DRM, he says, and “we need more flexible models, such as the ability to “buy an artist out for life” (not sure what he means). He also criticized DRM schemes that try to install intelligence in each copy so that it is device specific.

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And now the money quote: “His short term advice: ‘People should just buy a cd and rip it. You are legal then.'” Of course, you aren’t really — at least not in every jurisdiction. Canada has a private copying levy that allows you to make copies for personal use (and Britain is considering one) but other countries don’t. In any case, Bill’s point about DRM being too complicated and not easy enough to use is a good one.

In many cases, of course, it is also an attempt to turn back the clock and prevent you from using music you have purchased in ways you could before digital music existed, and that is probably my biggest beef with it. (Incidentally, the theme music for this post, if I had such a thing, would be a modified version of the famous Devo song Whip It called — of course — Rip It)

Okay, that was a little weird

Let me just say that I have a lot of respect for Virginia Heffernan, the TV writer for the New York Times. I think she’s a good writer, and I like her blog Screens as well — but the piece she just wrote about Amanda Congdon’s debut on ABC News is, well… really out there. I watched Amanda’s first show, and I found it sort of grating in the same way Rocketboom was — she overdid the perkiness just a tad, and the hair-flipping and the wide-eyed innocence thing.

And the items she did were, well, underwhelming. For a debut, I would think she could have done a little better than a bit about Tori Spelling’s garage sale and a company that makes fake blood — although she did take a shot at ABC for having a pop-up video player instead of embedded video (you can’t fast forward or rewind either, which is dumb). But it was pretty gee whiz, and kind of, well… dumb.


But that’s not what Virginia saw. She says:

Like a teenager, she seems exaggeratedly puzzled by whatever’s at hand; she’s too cool for almost everything, and good for her. To achieve this effect, she often appeals to the camera — the audience? God? — to find out what’s going on.

Slim, swan-necked, with the upright bearing of a dancer or cadet, she doesn’t exactly lean in for intimacy with the viewer. She’s not relatable. She seems a touch abstemious.

In case you’re wondering, “abstemious” means to use temperance or moderation. In any case, Virginia then goes on to compare Amanda’s engagement — which she indicates by saying things like “That was weird” — with Walter Cronkite of all people. She even says that a shrug by Amanda during a report on New Orleans was “an editorial in itself.” I’m not making this up.

To tell you the honest truth, I thought for a second that maybe Virginia’s piece was an elaborate Onion-style parody. But I don’t think it was. My friend Joey deVilla from Global Nerdy appears to be similarly nonplussed. And TDavid doesn’t think much of it either (great line about Amanda’s departure being “like Suzanne Somers leaving Three’s Company in season three).


Andrew Baron says on his blog that Amanda Across America and the ABC and HBO deals were either completely or in large part a result of work he did at Rocketboom before Amanda left (hat tip to Cory Bergman at Lost Remote for the link). Oh yes, and the inimitable Loren Feldman weighs in on Amanda’s debut — he was so underwhelmed he couldn’t even be bothered to get out of bed to tape his video review.