Posts from April 2008

The Lessons of Rev Wright

Like many (but not all) of you, I’ve been attracted to Barack Obama’s message of unity and inclusion.

I didn’t vote for Barack because I was afraid of what has now transpired. I went for the devil we know over the devil we didn’t. But I’ve been rooting for him.

The notion of a post-boomer political realignment around the challenges that face us instead of the issues that divide us is seductive and powerful

Of course, that message has now been tarnished and we (or at least many of us) are asking ‘was it just talk?’

I don’t believe it was just talk and I don’t believe Obama is a snake oil salesman telling us what we want to hear so he’ll get elected. I believe Barack Obama wants to lead this country to a new place and tackle the important problems that our nation is facing in the 21st century.

But the whole Rev Wright fiasco tells me that our country is not yet willing to move behind the racial hate and anger, the religious divisions, and the bitter resentments that cynical politicians play upon to attain and retain power

I am not sure even Shakespeare could have concocted such a potent tragedy. A good and kind man who attempts to unite a divided land is stabbed in the back by the preacher who married him and baptized his children. And then the man of god calls him a “a politician” just to throw some salt in the wounds.

I believe in god but not in relgion organized by man. And I think the men (and women) who have cloaked themselves in the name of god have often done great harm. Religion is not the root of all evil but the people who traffic in it sure can be..

And Rev Wright is just one more in a long line of them

Is “Social Enterprise Software” An Oxymoron?

I’ve been thinking about this since I saw the news on Monday morning that Jeff Dachis, one of the more successful NYC entrepreneurs in the first Internet wave, has partnered with Austin Ventures to "create an industry leading strategic consulting practice and an enterprise class Social Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) suite."

Jeff is a talented entrepreneur who has been working on the web for longer than most so it’s a challenge he is certainly up to. But I still wonder if enterprise software can really be "social". It’s something we have struggled with since we started creating our investment thesis for Union Square Ventures in 2003.

The term "social software" certainly means very different things to different people. I like the way Wikipedia defines it:

Social software is normally defined as a range of web-based software programs. The
programs allow users to interact and share data with other users. This computer-mediated communication has become very popular with social sites like MySpace and Facebook, media sites like Flickr and YouTube, and commercial sites like Amazon and eBay.
Many of these programs share characteristics like open APIs, service
oriented (customizable), and the ability to upload (data, media).

Six web services are mentioned in that paragraph and none of them are enterprise oriented services. That, in and of itself, doesn’t mean much. But when you think of terms like "open APIs", "customizable", and "upload data/media", the enterprise with its need for security and control doesn’t really come to mind.

Certainly there have been some social software successes in the enterprise. Wikis come to mind. We use a wiki from Jot (now Google) to run our business. Other wiki providers like PBWiki and Socialtext have also been successful. And one can make the argument that Salesforce.com is at its heart social software.

And then there are the examples of consumer facing social web apps like delicious, linkedin, AIM, and skype that have been brought into the enterprise because they just simply get the job done better than many enterprise class applications.

But to me, the heart of social software is the community of users that forms around the software/service. The community provides much of, if not all of, the value of social software. What would twitter or facebook be without users? Nothing. Same with blogger, flickr, friendfeed, etc, etc.

And most enterprises don’t want their employees to be active members of a community that it can’t control, monitor, and moderate. So the software that tends to be adopted by the enterprise is usually hobbled by the needs of the enterprise and cannot get that magical lift that an unbounded community provides.

So I will be watching what Jeff builds with interest. He’s always been at the cutting edge and I hope he will push the envelope in thinking about how the enterprise can successfully adopt social software. Because in my mind, the world of enterprise software has been awfully anti-social to date.

UPDATE: Here are some "related links" I found after posting this earlier this morning:

Where The F**ck Is The Enterprise 2.0 Market?

The Problem With Enterprise 2.0

Incrementalism and The New New Thing

Organizations and Scaling

My partner Albert has some good (and brief) thoughts on the relationship between organizational dynamics and scaling issues. He posted them on his tumblog this morning. Here’s the lead in to his post:

There is a lot of information out there on various technical approaches
to scaling.  What most of those leave out is the interaction between
the choice of architecture and organizational scaling.

If you are thinking about scaling issues, I think it’s worth the minute or less it will take to read.

Aggregation Wins – Not So Fast

I was thinking about the twin techs tonight while I was doing the dishes. That being Techcrunch and Techmeme. I was thinking about the chart that shows how Techmeme has overtaken Techcrunch because it’s better to read a link heavy page that aggregates all the important tech blogs than read a single, albeit highly popular, tech blog.

So after dinner, I went and did a search on the traffic patterns of the twin techs on Comscore, Compete, Alexa, and Quantcast. And guess what? The chart I was imagining doesn’t exist. Because my premise is false.

The Internet audience still vastly prefers Techcrunch to Techmeme.

This is interesting because it’s completely counter to my experience. I have moved away from reading individual blogs. I want to read aggregation services like techmeme, hacker news, reddit, twitter, delicious popular, digg, etc, etc. I find that they give me a much better view of the top stories of the day than reading individual blogs does.

But once again, what I do doesn’t map very well to what the average audience member does. I think I need to remind myself of that fact on a daily basis.

Design And The Elastic Mind

If you love design and technology and either live in NYC or nearby or plan to visit in the next three weeks, you should go see this exhibit at the MOMA.  We went today and loved it.

Here are some photos I took with my blackberry.

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This is the "PainStation" you get shocked when you or the person you are playing against makes a mistake.

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I loved these planters. Seems like they belong on the Jetsons.

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This was a cool dating visualization. Your randomly pick a dot on the touch screen and it comes out like a cloud with the person’s info in it.

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But this was our favorite. It shows a real time map of the IP traffic into NYC from everywhere in the world. Amazing visualization.

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Cleaning House – Step One

I’ve cut out most of the widgets on this blog. There may be a few more to go, but I’ve tried to limit to the ones people mentioned as worthy of keeping.

But the page is still slow as hell. So the next step is to cut out most of the javascript I have on the page. I’ll work on that next.

And after that I think I’ll need to to a page redesign to complete the cleaning house process.

Cleaning House

I’ve decided to take off many, if not most, of the widgets on the left and right rails of this blog. I’ll probably keep the banner ad and one music player for sure. Everything else is up for deletion.

I’d like to know if there are any of them that provide real and frequent value to you all.

So let me know in the comments if there is anything on the left or right sidebar of this blog that I should absolutely keep.

Anatomy Of A Twitter Bot

I’ve come up with two ideas for Twitter bots, Lyric of the Day (@lotd), and Shake Shack Flash Mob (@shakeshack). They both work the same way. People follow the twitter account (click on the links to do that) and then people post messages to the account with the @ sign.  Examples are:

@lotd "I’ve been walking Central Park singing after dark people think I’m crazy" Miss you, The Rolling Stones

or

@shakeshack andrew and I are going to the shake shack today. we’ll try to get there around noon. will twitter the line length then

both of these messages were sent today, one by me and one by this guy

when you post a message like one of the examples to the twitter account with the @ sign, it gets sent to everyone who is following the account

Whitney McNamara wrote some Perl code that does the one thing that Twitter doesn’t do for you – repost the message sent in to the account’s timeline.  He’s had a number of requests for that code in the couple weeks since he built it and he posted it on his blog this week.

I hope this means there will be more Twitter bots in the coming months. They are a great way to run a group on twitter.

South Park Over Logging

Ethan sent me this short clip of a South Park episode that ran recently. He thinks it might be funnier than Guitar Queer-O which Ethan also turned me onto. Here’s the teaser clip. See for yourself.

The entire episode is not available yet at South Park Studios but apparently it will be on May 17th. I tried YouTube but somebody spammed up the YouTube search results page for South Park Over Logging so that’s not particularly helpful. If anyone knows where the entire episode is, please leave a link in the comments and I’ll bring it up to this post as an update.

UPDATE: Here’s a link to the full show