Posts from January 2004

The Weekly Read

My friends at Seed Capital Partners have been publishing a weekly email called The Weekly Read for the past couple years. It’s always been a great digest of technology trends and news and I’ve read it religiously.

And now, they’ve converted it to a blog . Which seems like a great idea to me. Check it out.

Pong

It’s a long speech and was probably better to hear Martin Nisenholtz give it than read it on a web page.

But unless you heard Martin deliver this speech the other day at the SIIA conference, I would highly recommend you read it.

I agree with Jeff that the Martin’s “Pong” is Citizen’s Media. Blogging is a but a form of citizen’s media. So I wouldn’t suggest that blogging itself is the Pong. But the revolution of the ants is upon us and the media business will never be the same.

Soapbox Derby

Last night I was out with a bunch of good friends and after a couple glasses of wine the subject turned to which editorial page each of us read. My conservative friend swears by the Wall Street Journal. My wife swears by the NY Times. Others mentioned The New York Post. Then it was my turn. I said, “I don’t read editorial pages anymore”. “Why not?”, they asked. “Because I read blogs instead” I replied.

The looks I got were telling. How could I not read Krugman, Friedman, Taranto, Podhoretz, and Dowd?

Well it’s simple. Instead I read Reynolds, Sullivan, Kaus, Kos, Marshall, Jarvis, and Cox.

It’s really no contest as far as I am concerned. I figure if anyone spent a week reading both my paper list and blog list and afer that, they had to choose one over the other, blogs would win hands down.

Google On The Brain

I am not sure what to make of this but a lot of my CEOs are thinking about Google these days.

Do they have Google IPO envy? Are they getting caught up in the hype leading up to the biggest IPO in 5 years? Or are they trying to understand the lessons of Google’s success and looking to apply it to their business?

If its the first two, then I am in trouble. You’ve got to keep your eyes on the road if you want to drive the car. If its the latter, then I am OK. Watching, learning, and thinking are great virtues in a CEO.

One of my readers Hugh Macleod posted this comment on my “Why CEOs Fail” post and I loved it, so I’ll repeat it here:

Thanks for the post, Fed. I’m suspecting that the subject of failure is much on your mind because the tech economy is heating up again, things are starting to buzz, and you don’t want the insanity of “Dotcom ’99” to rear its ugly head a second time. All symptoms of well-justified caution etc.

You got that right, Hugh.

Dean’s Boat Anchor

And speaking of correlations, the other chart I want to see is Dean’s numbers correlated with the level of involvement that Al Gore has had in his campaign.

I don’t have the data, but I suspect Dean peaked right around the time that Gore endorsed him and its been downhill since, culminating in the firing of the mastermind of Dean’s brilliant Internet-based strategy Joe Trippi and the replacement of him with Gore’s bore, Roy Neel.

Josh Marshall sums up my feelings about all of this.

Looks Do Matter

I wonder what the correlation between John Kerry’s rise in the polls and his mysterious fountain of youth formula (he denies its Botox). Click on that link to see the pictures. It’s incredible.

I don’t mean to suggest that there is anything wrong with Kerry. He’s a good man and I agree with most of his positions and he’d certainly make a fine president.

But it’s kind of interesting how much looks matter in politics.

Data Integration

This is such an interesting area. Everyone is familiar with the problem. Multiple data sources and no easy way to combine them into an integrated view of what’s going on.

Yesterday, I spent some time with friends of mine who have a company called Snapbridge. You can download their client application for free. Most of you wouldn’t want to do that, but if you develop in XML, XSL, or XML scripts, this thing looks to good to be true.

The client application is just the tip of the iceberg. They have a whole suite of enterprise class tools for doing data integration. They compete with Metamatrix, several other small companies, and big companies like IBM. It’s a very important area in my mind.

However, I do have a fundamental question about this market space. Today, the vendors, including Snapbridge, are selling their technology as “infrastructure”. The IT organizations buy the software to make it easier for them to build applications.

I wonder if this technology is better sold as an application focused on one or more vertical markets. I think every industry has huge data integration issues. I think if a company took this kind of technology and targeted it at one or more of these problems in a specific industry, they might be able to sell a lot more of it and grow much faster.

If any of you know a lot about this market, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Clark Is Toast?

When I read Jeff Jarvis say this once, I thought, “he’s going a bit overboard with that one”. But when I read it a second time, I realized that he’s serious.

Well I think that if Clark and Edwards come in a relative tie for third with between 10% and 15% of the vote, or even if Clark comes in fourth with a double digit percentage, he’s far from toast. I think anything Clark achieves north of single digits in New Hampshire, a place very far from his base in the south, will be impressive.

To bastardize an Al Sharpton quote, “If I got 18% of the vote, I’d still be in Iowa hooting and hollering”. If you look at the total vote count and not on the expectations that the spin masters focus on, you see a different picture.

For one thing, this guy just started his campaign four months ago and had to skip Iowa because he couldn’t mount an effective campaign in both Iowa and New Hampshire. And he’s missed out on the post Iowa bounce that Edwards got that could have been his.

And, this guy is still a rookie. He hasn’t been able to spend years developing a nuanced position on abortion or gun control or whether Bush indeed was AWOL or not. He just jumped into the race and became easy fodder for guys like Tim Russerts and Peter Jennings who love to take apart these guys every chance they get. I point to Dave Winer for more on this thought.

So if the Democrats want to send their talented rookie back to the minors just because he gave up some homers to Tim and Peter last week, that is their perogative. But I think sending out the old guys with tired arms may be a mistake too. Let’s at least let the rookie pitch a few more games before we start calling him “toast”.

Bill Gates’ Promise

He’s going to end spam within 2 years. While he’s at it, could he please end viruses too? And by the way, Bill should also plug all the security holes in Windows within that same 2 year period.

I mean what kind of crap is that? In an open, interconnected medium like the Internet, there are always going to be people who want to do bad stuff. Just last week, my wife had to turn off the comments on her blog because of the crazy stuff people were writing in her comments section. So Bill Gates may want to stop all these nutjobs from spamming us, but I doubt he’s up to the task all by himself.

On top of my disbelief in his timetable, I also think that Gates’ is taking a lame approach to the problem. He’s apparently identified two approaches:

Challenge and Response – A total pain in the rear for legitimate senders.
Bonded Sender – A payment scheme that will penalize spammers with fines paid out of a bond.

Both of these are kind of wacky and out of the mainstream of spam filtering techniques. I have my doubts that either of them will get the job done.

But that doesn’t mean that spam is going to continue to be a problem of the scale it is today.

First, there are some really interesting new technologies coming of age that can be incorporated into existing spam filters without changing the established system for anyone, sender or recipient. There was a conference at MIT a couple weeks ago where most of these approaches were discussed. Here’s a list of them.

And as the New York Times pointed out this weekend, there are signs that the spammers are starting to throw in the towel.

And then’s there is the shared white list/black list (called the community based filter) which has been popularized by Cloudmark. If you think about it, the most powerful solution to spam may well be turning spam filters into community policing systems. After all, people are still smarter than machines. And large groups of people are possibly the most intelligent system of all.

So intead of promising to end spam in 2 years, Bill should pay some attention to another open source idea or else risk letting open source cut into his email franchise like Linux is doing to his operating system business.

For What It’s Worth

“There’s something happening here, What it is ain’t exactly clear” – Stephen Stills, For What It’s Worth, 1966

I was reading Moneyball this morning which is a really great book about baseball statistics and how so many “known facts” about them are dead wrong. There’s this part in the book where a collection of regular fans got so disgusted with the way that statistics were collected, reported, and analyzed by the professionals that they started to go to games and collect thier own statistics, and eventually some of them started a company called Stats, Inc that tried to sell these new and better stats to the teams to no avail, and then finally with the advent of rotisserie baseball a market developed for these better stats. It’s a long story and if you are interested in it, go get the book.

But it started me thinking about the “revolution of the ants” as my friend Mark Pincus likes to call it.

Conventional wisdom is that this “bottoms up” revolution was created by the Internet. But I don’t think so. Clearly it was happening back in the 1970s when Bill James and Dick Cramer and others decided to take control of baseball stats. As David Kirkpatrick points out, it’s happening on American Idol and all the other reality TV shows.

It’s clearly happening with blogging and open source software and Internet-driven political fundraising.

So, for what it’s worth, i think something is happening here and what it is isn’t exactly clear. But it’s big and its important.