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South Florida Sojourn Earns Kudos for T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2007 - Page 2

By Ron Jackson 

After breakfast Thursday (Oct. 11), T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2007 resumed with the first of six seminars on that day's agenda - a session called Meet the Registrars where representatives from four top companies in the space offered advice on finding a registrar that meets your needs as well as tips on how to keep your domains secure. The panel included Nate Curran (GoDaddy.com), Jackson Hopkins (Fabulous.com), Victor Pitts (Moniker.com) and Donny Simonton 

Victor Pitts (Moniker.com) and Donny Simonton (DirectNic.com) field questions during the 
Meet the Registrars
session

(DirectNic.com). Simonton noted that one of the main reasons people lose domains is that they forget to keep their admin email address up to date with their registrar. If you have an address on file that is no longer active you are not going to receive your expiration notice and the domain is going to end up in someone else's hands.

A highly anticipated Meet the Bloggers session followed featuring Frank Schilling, Sahar Sarid, Owen Frager, Jay Westerdal, Michael Gilmour and Rick Schwartz. All of these extremely knowledgeable industry pros has developed a wide following for their blogs and each blog brings a unique and valuable perspective to what is happening in this industry. No need to paraphrase what they had to say as they are all perfectly capable of speaking for themselves and do so on a regular basis. I can do you no greater service than hotlinking their names above to their individual blogs so that you can visit and bookmark their sites for yourselves. 

Meet the Bloggers panel (left to right on the dais): Frank Schilling, Rick Schwartz, Michael Gilmour, moderator Howard Neu, Sahar Sarid, Jay Westerdal and Owen Frager

In making my daily rounds I stop in at each one of these blogs to see what the authors have to say. Having people of this caliber come forward and share their expertise (without compensation) has made learning about and understanding this industry a far easier proposition than it has been in the past. I believe that has benefited everyone in the domain business. Most of them started their blogs just this year, so if you haven't heard about their personal sites or visited yet, do yourself a big favor and check them out. You won't be disappointed.

Above: TrafficZ COO Ammar Kubba
Below: TrafficZ CEO & Founder Kevin Vo 
(Vo photo courtesy of Barbara Neu)

The morning schedule closed with a Meet the Host session presided over by Ammar Kubba, COO of the conference's lead sponsor, TrafficZ.com. TrafficZ has earned a well deserved reputation for innovation in the PPC space and nearly all other companies have followed their lead in rolling out graphics-rich parking pages.

Kubba and company founder Kevin Vo (seen in the photo below getting ready to take a spin in the Lamborghini that Kubba rented for the week in South Florida) also have fascinating personal stories that we explored in depth in our current Cover Story. Both men overcame long odds with hard work and vision to make their company a success. In our article Kubba and Vo credited their participation in past T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conferences for contributing greatly to the meteoric rise of TrafficZ. They have been the lead sponsor for all three T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conferences in 2007.

Thursday's lunch may have been the most entertaining ever at a T.R.A.F.F.I.C. conference. Lunch sponsor NameMedia saw to that by staging a special "Celebrity Edition" of the Taken or Available  game invented by Larry Fischer and Ari Goldberger (who sold their parking company, SmartName.com, to NameMedia). Before the game began NameMedia Senior VP Peter Lamson delivered an interesting fact-filled presentation on aftermarket sales - something he knows as well as anyone as the guy who oversees NameMedia's booming AfternicDLS sales platform.

Lamson then yielded the platform to Fischer and Goldberger who called ten well-known industry figures forward to compete in the Taken or Available game (that can also be played on their DirectNavigation.com website). It involves them calling out a domain name and the players having to guess whether that domain has been taken or is still available for registration. They do a great job of picking confounding names that make that task a lot harder than you might think.

The Final Four in Taken or Available (holding cards left to right): Jay Westerdal
Rick Schwartz
, Sahar Sarid and Ron Jackson. At the podium are game emcees 
Ari Goldberger
and Larry Fischer

The players for the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East "Celebrity Edition" of the game included Jay Westerdal (defending champion from the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. East 2006 game), Rick Schwartz, Michael Berkens, Sahar Sarid, Page Howe, Roland Chemtob, Gerald Gorman, Howard Hoffman, Julie Mahloch and last (and in this case certainly least) your humble servant. The opening group of ten was narrowed down to a final four after an opening round of 10 "taken or available" questions. I bested the nine other competitors in that round by hitting 8 of 10 correctly. That put me in the finals against Westerdal, Schwartz and Sarid.

With my confidence boosted from that opening round win I was already envisioning how the grand prize, a pair of Mont Blanc .com cufflinks (a rare prize as they are no longer available from the company), would look on my dress shirt. Unfortunately that vision quickly dissipated as I got smoked in the final round. Sarid got red hot, answering 14 of the 15 final round questions correctly, to edge out Schwartz and Westerdal for the title. They were phenomenally on target as well - each hitting 13 of 15 right. I fell back to 12 of 15 which would have been enough to win against mortal men but not when

Mont Blanc .Com cufflinks 

the chips were down against this crew. It was a lot of fun and Sahar - I hope you enjoy those cufflinks because there is now a target on your back. You are going down next year! (Editor's note: In the end the other three finalists also received cuff links for which I am grateful. I did not want to have to beg Sarid to let me wear his on special occasions).

Taken or Available winner Sahar Sarid (holding card above)  is available ladies. 
Left to right  are Ari Goldberger, NameMedia's Peter Lamson, Sarid and Larry Fischer

After lunch the afternoon session kicked off with a Meet the Chiefs panel discussion featuring CEOs and Presidents from seven companies that operate in various corners of the industry. They included Monte Cahn (Moniker.com), Ammar Kubba (TrafficZ), Jerry Nolte (Domainer's Magazine), Tim Schumacher (Sedo), Sigmund Solares (Parked.com), Divyank Turakhia (Skenzo) and Dan Warner (Fabulous.com)

This was another wide ranging industry discussion that can't be meaningfully boiled down into a paragraph or two, but Kubba made one comment that I think all of the other panelists would echo regarding keeping the industry moving in the right direction. "We need to focus on sustainability. We've had a fun ride but we need to make sure it continues, so we are working together to help everybody. You can't just focus on monetization, you have to make the user experience better to keep the business growing," Kubba said.

Jerry Nolte, Divyank Turakhia, Tim Schumacher and Ammar Kubba 
on the Meet the Chiefs panel

I tend to look at everything from a people first perspective so one thing that stood out for me in listening to this session was what great entrepreneurs these men have proven to be. Monte Cahn said during this seminar that Moniker.com was started in his bedroom. If you read our Sedo Cover Story back in April of 2004 you know that Tim Schumacher was one of three college buddies who started this globally known domain conglomerate while they were still in school. 

Jerry Nolte has successfully shepherded several Internet startups and even went offline last year to launch his print publication Domainer's Magazine that is getting slicker and more impressive with every issue. I've already noted that Kubba's accomplishments put him in our current Cover Story and they don't come any sharper than Dan Warner when it comes to analyzing this business and finding new ways to grow it (his company's Domain Distribution Network being a case in point). Solares and Turakhia have likewise built powerhouses at Parked and Skenzo respectively. It was a real treat to sit in a room with all of these people on stage at once talking about their businesses, their philosophies and where they see this industry headed. 

Rounding out the Chiefs' pow wow (left to right):  Dan Warner, Monte Cahn and Sig Solares 

The next seminar, Meet the Lawyers IP Discussion, featured as strong a group of domain legal talent as you will ever see on a single stage. Those taking part were Jeremiah Johnston (COO & General Counsel at Sedo), Steve Sturgeon (CEO, Sturgeon Law Group), Ari Goldberger (ESQwire.com), Paul Keating (Renova Ltd.), Dr. John Berryhill (JohnBerryhill.com) and Phil Corwin (Partner, Butera & Andrews and Legal Counsel for the Internet Commerce Association). 

Left to right: Jeremiah Johnston, John Berryhill and Paul Keating on the Lawyers panel

As you would expect just from the roster of participants, this 90-minute session was one of the best of the week. Moderator Howard Neu, who is also an attorney, said he was especially concerned about overreaching by trademark interests who are trying to have laws changed to criminalize trademark infringement (a development that would give them a powerful weapon for trying to bully domain owners into relinquishing domain names they may have every right to hold). Corwin pointed out that preventing this is why it is so important for domain owners to be represented on Capitol Hill (a role he can only continue filling for the ICA if that organization is supported by domain owners). "If you are not in the game, there will be no one there to speak for you and you will lose by default," Corwin said. 

Johnston said he was troubled by some of the ridiculous rhetoric, literally name calling, from groups seeking to gain control of domain names they are not entitled to. "People just don't understand trademark laws that are very complex," Johnston said. "Whether something is infringement depends on a lot of different factors that lay people do not understand. It is not a black and white issue. Trying to criminalize something on the Internet that occurs offline every day without being given a second thought is one of the most ridiculous things I can imagine." Johnston predicted that if these groups continue trying to smear everyone in this industry as a way to advance their agenda it will wind up blowing up in their faces.

Left to right: Steve Sturgeon, Ari Goldberger and Phil Corwin on the Lawyers panel

The subject of domain parking returned to center stage in the final seminar on the Thursday schedule called Parking Under Attack. It focused on how the PPC companies are dealing with increasing attacks from outside the industry (with some critics questioning the legitimacy of parking pages) as well as concerns within the industry, particularly with  respect to transparency. This panel included Divyank Turakhia (Skenzo), Donny Simonton (Parked.com), John Lyotier (HitFarm.com), Ryan Berryman (Oversee.net), Dan Warner (Fabulous.com), Ammar Kubba (TrafficZ.com) and Brian Carr (NameMedia - a company that operates three parking services).

Berryman said that, despite some critics, the evidence his company (which operates DomainSponsor.com) has seen is that the domain channel is, to the contrary, growing more attractive to both advertisers and the giant upstream PPC providers Google and Yahoo. He said Google and Yahoo do want to make changes to keep advertisers and end users happy though. "I think that presents us with an opportunity, as challenging as it may be, to elevate the status of the industry - one that is getting close to being a $1 billion business according to some estimates and one that could grow to $5 billion. Because of that the market is going to hold us to a different standard than it has in the past," Berryman said. 

With respect to transparency, several participants, including Kubba, said they would take steps to allay their clients concerns about that issue, with outside auditing  one way that could be accomplished.

Ryan Berryman
VP, Oversee.net

The Thursday night social calendar was purposely left open by T.R.A.F.F.I.C. organizers so companies would have an evening open where they could host their own private parties without running into any conflicts with the show agenda. However, T.R.A.F.F.I.C. did host an open Pool Party at the Westin Diplomat from 7:30-11:30pm for those who wanted to party nearby and those who wanted a place to go when their private dinners or parties ended. 

As a long time member of DNForum.com, I accepted forum owner Adam Dicker's generous invitation to all forum members who were at the show to join him for dinner across the

DNForum.com owner Adam Dicker (center) with forum 
members Bob Connor (left) and Howard Hoffman

street at Nikki Marina. Dicker wound up picking up the tab for several dozen members who were treated to a terrific four-course gourmet dinner and an open bar, not to mention the great camaraderie. It is always a treat to meet someone in person that you have conversed with online for years but have never seen face to face.

DNForum was started by a Virginia teenager who soon sold it to Greg Ricks (who was also at the dinner). Ricks built the site into an extremely popular destination for domainers, prompting Dicker to make him an offer he couldn't refuse. Adam in turn brought improvements of his own and the forum continues to flourish and provide a great industry resource. 

After Dicker's dinner party we headed back over to the Westin pool party where things were in full swing, partly due to the fun-loving trio below (left to right); Christopher Robinette, Daniel Dryzek and Agnieszka Jankowska.

Also seen at poolside in the photo below, old pals Garry Chernoff and 
Frank Schilling (Garry helped Frank get into the business)

(Pool party photos courtesy of Barbara Neu)

Coming Up Next on Page 3

  • Moniker's Multi-Million Dollar Live Domain Auction

  • T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Award Winners: The Envelope Please

  • 2008 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Schedule Including the First Show Down Under!

NEXT PAGE


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