Supporting Equality

This blog entry isn’t about business. It’s more of an opportunity for me to share my views about a topic that has been hotly debated for as long as I can recall, affected friends and colleagues through the years, and at last appears to have been resolved by this nation’s highest court: Marriage equality.

In support of the Supreme Court decision this past week recognizing the right of all people to marry regardless of gender, I’ve changed our company logo to reflect the rainbow colors recognizing equality. It will remain that way for the next week.

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Though a business, Canvas Host is comprised of humans with hearts who care. As a B Corporation and Oregon benefit company, within our State-filed operating agreement is verbiage that requires my business to serve the higher interest of our community and environment, and not profit alone.

Too often, I see businesses make decisions based on motives of profit, greed, or power. Too rarely do I see a business risk taking a stand in support of something that, while true to its values, may alienate customers or potential business opportunities. I suppose there are some who, upon seeing our rainbow logo and reading this post, may turn away from using our services. That’s okay by me. You have every right to choose another host, just as I have the right to openly show that my company’s support for marriage equality.

On a personal note, I applaud the work that has been done at our Nation’s leaders and Supreme Court to bring resolution to this issue, to the hard work done by our State Governor Kate Brown for her part in passing local legislation ensuring rights of all regardless of gender or sexual orientation, and I look forward to continuing changes that we will see in the years to come following this historic decision.

If you have any questions about this or any aspect of our business, I wish to invite you to open a dialogue with us. Simply email us at “feedback [at] canvashost [dot] com”. Our management team and I read every comment that is sent in to our business.

To everyone, I hope you will join us in celebrating the sweeping wave of change that is happening in our country, at a time when unity and peace is needed more than ever.

Thank you,

David Anderson, Owner
Canvas Host, LLC


June PDX Green Drinks: An Evening with B Corporations

This past Tuesday’s PDX Green Drinks was held at the offices of TriLibrium, a Portland-area CPA firm and one of dozens of area B Corporations. The “B” stands for “benefit”, and is an independently certified recognition of a company’s commitment to triple bottom line principles of people, planet, and profit, as well as a higher echelon of ethics that prevent a business from acting on profit motive alone. In several dozen States, including Oregon, additional recognition is available for companies that legally register with the State as a Benefit Company.

The format for the evening was based on our traditional Green Drinks meetups: A two-hour block of time with 30 minutes of networking, 30-45 minutes for the main speaker(s) and audience questions, and the remaining balance on more networking. For this event, we were honored to have several B Corporations in attendance and on a panel: Franklin Jones, of B-Line; Michelle Carver, of gDiapers; and Richard Rosen, of Rosen Convergence Marketing.

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Left to right: Franklin Jones of B-Line; Michelle Carver of gDiapers; Richard Rosen of Rosen Covergence Marketing.

Previous Green Drinks events on B Corps have talked about the how, the cost, and the benefits. At this event, the panel addressed why a company should become a B Corporation? Panelists shared their story and perspectives on the changing economic landscape, their philosophies on ethics and business that are championed at the hearts of their businesses, and how audience members can become involved in the movement.

Michelle chatted briefly about the history of gDiapers and its connection with Australian values of ‘fair dinkum’, a phrase that more or less means truth and fairness in all that you do and with whom you connect. With the average baby rearing resulting in 5,000 used diapers, gDiapers’ flushable, and in some cases compostable diapers could have a considerable, positive impact in landfill reduction. B Corporation certification was the logical step to show their company’s values and commitment to a better way of business.

Franklin shared anecdotes from his company’s founding, and that there’s no coincidence their business starts with the letter ‘B’. Since their start, B-Line’s bicycle delivery service has upheld B Corporations’ values of ethical business and interdependence. The relationships B-Line has forged with area B Corporations has been instrumental in the company’s sustained growth. More to the point, in a city in which delivery vehicles can overwhelm the transportation grid, B-Line’s environmentally friendly and affordable alternative service is a perfect example of how something can be made better, when done as a B Corporation.

Finally, Richard shared his experiences covering dozens of years in marketing and communications. Rosen Convergence Marketing does much more than assist companies with branding and positioning. Richard has seen first-hand how economic factors are changing. Whereas from previous generations’ attitudes about price and quality, today’s Millenials are placing greater emphasis on how their dollars are spent, the businesses they will support, and whether those businesses support the values of an increasingly progressive, socially responsible, and environmentally-concerned audience. Richard’s company helps businesses understand and adapt to these changing attitudes, and one of the simplest ways his clients can achieve that is by joining the B Corporation movement.

The audience asked excellent questions, including the differences in certification (by B Lab, or an independent agency), whether non-profits can be certified (they cannot but they can still work by B Corp principles), if a company has to certify or whether they can first take the B Impact quick assessment (they can, and at no cost), and if a company can certify as a B as part of its official business launch (not really, as it takes an active business to certify, but you can certify soon after and should).

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The B Corps present included: Green Mountain Energy, Canvas Host, TriLibrium CPAs, Rosen Convergence Marketing, and B-Line

Beyond my role as PDX Green Drinks’ main organizer, my own company is a B Corporation, and I serve on a B Corporation recruiting committee that formed several months ago. There are currently 50 B Corporations in Oregon. The committee’s goal is to double that figure by the end of 2015, so there are 100 certified B Corps in Oregon. Whether we get to that level or not, the amount of enthusiasm at last Tuesday’s event was inspiring. It tells me that, as I and other B Corporations have seen, the times are changing and our customers expect a higher level of ethics if they are to work with us. What better way to show the good we’re doing by not only being a B Corporation, but by acting on those values and helping our community embrace them.

If you’d like to learn more about B Corporations, email sales [at] canvashost [dot] com and we can put you in touch with some of the area B Corps. We love to talk about why we’re B’s and hope to inspire you to join our growing community. Or, you can visit B Lab’s main website, www.bcorporation.net, for complete information on certifications, a browse-able directory of B Corporations, and information on upcoming events in your community.

Finally: If you missed out on this event, we’re thinking of holding a July Westside Green Drinks focused on B Corporations, so stay tuned for details!

Thank you,

David Anderson


On incremental overage fees for hosting services

Dear Customers,

This week, I had the opportunity to chat with a customer who wanted to know why we limit our plans with quotas on both space and bandwidth but do not offer “overage fees”.

If you’re unsure of what an overage fee is, consider if you’ve ever used up your mobile phone plan minutes and been charged an exorbitant fee for the extra use. That’s an overage fee. It sounds like an odd request — asking to be billed extra — but once we heard the explanation, it made complete sense.

At Canvas Host, we do not offer “unlimited” hosting plans. Accounts are allotted a certain quota of disk storage space and bandwidth. Historically, we have automatically notified customers as they approach account limits. When bandwidth quotas have been reached, the account has been temporarily suspended. The reasons for this came from a point of concern that a customer should not be able to use up resources without being checked, as it may permit them to use up resources already allotted to other customers.

Having researched the issue of overage use, we found a solution. It involves incremental billing for customers whose plan usage go past their current bandwidth quota, and does not suspend their accounts. We’ve figured out both the billing and service delivery end of things, so we now have the ability to incrementally bill you for that extra usage, without impeding your service. Overage rates of $0.20 per Gigabyte used will be a bit higher than what your current plans would break down to, but it won’t be a huge charge like you may have been billed by your phone company. For security reasons, we’re still going to place hard limits on disk storage space — however, we’re making some changes to better and more proactively inform all customers if they approach the limit.

I can’t say precisely when this change will go into effect. It will most likely be rolled out slowly, in portions of our service lines and servers, one at a time. The end result will be:

1) Prevention of customer websites or services ever being suspended for going past bandwidth quotas. This, I believe, is the greatest hindrance customers’ businesses as well as our own — we are after all here to keep our customers online, and not offline;

2) Fewer notification email sent to customers who approach bandwidth quotas;

3) A change in our billing structure that would include modest overage fees, billed incrementally at the end of the month for whatever a customer’s usage was that went over the limit of their plan; and

4) A change to our Terms of Service to explain the incremental overage billing that would be automatically calculated for each hosting plan.

Will this change help your business or improve your hosting experience? What would you wish to see in terms of notification levels as your account approaches quota limits? Your input is important and we appreciate your time. Let us know your thoughts by emailing sales [at] canvashost [dot] com.

Thank you,

David Anderson


35 Years of Mt. St. Helens

This one is a bit of a rambling reflection on a volcano with which I’ve always felt a strong connection.

tetonsThe little kid crouching down in that photograph to the right is me, not quite four years old, on a trip with my family to the Grand Tetons. I was more interested in the rocks and minerals of the gravel road the rest of my brothers and father stood on while posing for the picture. I’m still captivated by the treasures that sit beneath our feet.

It was May 18, 1980, 8:32am on an otherwise quiet Sunday morning, when David Johnston, a geologist stationed on a hillside facing Mt. St. Helens, excitedly radioed in to the geological headquarters 100 miles away, “Vancouver, Vancouver, this is it!” Moments later, Johnston lost his life doing what he loved most: Following the events of this giant mountain, once dormant, and which had roared back to life before his eyes. He was one of 57 who perished that day.

oregonian1At the time, I was not yet five years old, living some 200 miles south in Oregon. I remember the excitement surrounding its murmurings as it slowly awakened.

Over the months, it had belched bits of steam and ash. Earthquakes had increased. The news covered its unfolding events with each passing day. It was almost surreal when, that Sunday morning, I learned of the news that it had erupted. I watched my brother place a large, plastic lid on the hood of the family station wagon, and hours later note that ash had collected on it.

After a few hours, the ash was falling everywhere. In three days, it would circle the planet. The eastern portion of Washington state was placed into a near apocalyptic nuclear winter. The sun blotched from the sky, pitch black in the middle of the day, ash everywhere, surgical masks the only way to safely breathe in the ash-filled air.

Following the eruption, the local newspaper published a special section on St. Helens. I still have the crinkly old pages.

In 1988, while visiting my grandmother’s house in McMinnville, my family helped clean her house and outdoor garage. We were surprised to find plenty of ash still in the gutters.

ashI still have an old, glass Bayer aspirin jar that we filled with the ash from that day. It sits in a cabinet of my living room, next to a small jar of ash my son acquired on a recent trip up to the volcano.

Volcanoes have always been a part of my life. Growing up in the valleys of the Pacific Northwest, it’s something we accept as normal. No matter where you live, there’s a dormant volcano at most, an hour or two away. They serve as a powerful reminder, most often quiet, sometimes ferocious and terrifying, of the power of nature and the fact we are interconnected with a planet that keeps its own time and agenda.

The quiet resolve and strength of these monuments are in part why I settled on mountains as a naming convention for Canvas Host’s web servers. We never use a mountain name twice, partly for security but also out of respect for the identity of the name itself. At one time, installed in our cabinets was a server named Loowit, a Native American name for a maiden whose spirit was believed to have been transformed into what the Western worlds calls Mount St. Helens. It’s a typical love triangle, really — Loowit was sought after by competing suitors. The gods had had it, and turned them into what we know as Mount Hood and Mount Adams. No matter what you believe, the stories of these majestic peaks are pervasive throughout Northwest culture. Each time we install a new web server, we pay tribute to our culture and history.

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A photo I took of a simmering Mt. St. Helens during an August 5, 2005 visit to the Johnston Ridge Observatory

In recent years, Mt. St. Helens has shown signs of returning to life once more. From 2004 to 2008, it rumbled, spewed ash, and built up several new lava domes within its crater. At one time, they were growing by three dump trucks full of magma each second. Small quakes persist, and it appears magma levels are beginning to rise once more within the volcano’s depths. From the Johnston Ridge Observatory, built on the site where David Johnston once stood, visitors can see straight into the mouth of the volcano. If you’ve never visited the area, I highly recommend it. The journey is worth it, with more than a dozen excellent parks, visitor centers, trail heads, and primitive camping sites where adventurers and families of all types can learn and enjoy the raw beauty of nature.

– David Anderson


“DomainGate”: On Carly Fiorina and Domain Squatting

Has Carly Fiorina’s campaign secured all the good domains? If you arrived here by typing www.CarlyFiorina.FAIL into your web browser, I guess you have your answer.

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO whose campaign earlier this month announced her bid for Republican Party Presidential Candidate, was briefly distracted when it was brought to light they had failed to secure the domain, carlyfiorina.org. That domain redirects to a one-page website with a simple message:

Carly Fiorina failed to register this domain. So I’m using it to tell you how many people she laid off at Hewlett-Packard. It was this many:

That message was followed by 30,000 :( emoticons.

In her time at HP, Fiorina certainly made many difficult decisions, as do all company owners, and she oversaw up a merger that resulted in the layoffs of 30,000 HP employees. That type of sweeping decision has the power to cripple one’s future political aspirations, especially when so carefully deconstructed with a simple page full of frowny faces. If that’s how Fiorina treats loyal employees, what does she really think about those potential, loyal voters?

When asked by interviewers about the carlyfiorina.org website, Fiorina responded by registering sethmeyers.org and chucktodd.org, which now redirect to her campaign’s website. This tactic is known as cybersquatting, or domain squatting. For company names and trademarks, the practice can lead to trademark infringement lawsuits. In the political arena, however, where one’s privacy is thrown out the window as soon as they jump into the public arena, it’s more of a free-for-all. Oh, so you wanted that domain? Maybe you should have registered it before I did. By registering sethmeyers.org and chucktodd.org, Fiorina demonstrated for about $25 what can happen in the online political landscape.

And thus began #DomainGate — the latest tactic by campaigns to use domain names for political advantage. Just as ad space, radio time, and TV spots were in the 80’s and 90’s, today’s political space is more about domain names with brand quality and high SEO rank (search engine optimization), the relative ease by which to promote a domain in search engines.

Unlike the domain scape of previous decades with .COM, .NET, and .ORG, today’s market offers hundreds of top-level domains, such as .PARTY, .ROCKS, and .SOCIAL. It’s easier than ever to secure a quality domain, like CarlyFiorina.Republican, as the campaign registered. This adds to the complexity of DomainGate. No longer is it about securing a handful of domains. Now it’s more than 300 potential domains per phrase. If you add CarlyForPresident.___, VoteCarly.___, and Fiorina2016.___, you’ve just added an additional 900 possible domain names you might need register to pre-empt your critics.

If you’re running a political campaign and employ tactics like domain squatting, it can be a risky game. Does Fiorina really need the domain sethmeyers.org to bolster her run for President? Is she going to register domains in mockery of every person who questions her? Is that what she wants the online world to think about her?

A sample of the 200+ domains still available using just the candidate’s name, include carlyfiorina.video, carlyfiorina.sale, carlyfiorina.social, and carlyfiorina.reviews. You can search for a complete list on our website, at http://www.canvas.domains.

When I look at the details surrounding DomainGate, I’m reminded it’s nothing more than a simple exercise in registering as many domains as one can and potentially hijacking another person’s online identity for your own gain. At best, it’s a temporary distraction from the fact that this all started because a single domain was used to share a detail from Fiorina’s past.

Domain squatting can work against you. Don’t forget, out there are 30,000 workers, many with families, who lost their jobs with Fiorina as HP’s leader. I wonder what might happen if even a handful of them took to blogging using those hundreds of available carlyfiorina.___ domains. Now wouldn’t that be a spin on DomainGate?

– David Anderson