Posts from August 2006

MP3 of the Week/Song of The Day


  light touch 
  Originally uploaded by Mr. Mark.

This post is inspired by an amazing film that the whole family saw on Saturday night called The Illusionist. The film is about magic – the art of illusion – and its simply fantastic. I am not going to say more because you just have to go see it.

But magic has been on my mind in the past day or so and so have the new records from M Ward and Ben Kweller which are both in serious heavy rotation in our house right now.

And both records have songs about magic on them.

M Ward’s is about a girl who disappears. It’s a very short song, less than 2 minutes in total that seems like it was recorded live (on a studio record?), but it’s a great song and classic M Ward.

Magic Trick – M Ward

Ben Kweller’s song is longer and features a really excellent guitar/drum beat throughout the whole song. I love the way Ben sings this song. Again it’s the girl that is magic.

Magic – Ben Kweller

#My Music

Animal Collective - Thanks Andrew

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He hasn’t even started yet, but our new analyst Andrew Parker is proving to be a valuable resource already.

I was reading his blog the other day and came upon this post on Animal Collective.

I went to the Hype Machine and played a few songs. I recall hearing and liking their song Grass (which Andrew blogged about) on last.fm neighbor radio so I went to eMusic and downloaded the entire Feels record.

I’ve listened to it three or four times this weekend and it’s terrific.

Can’t wait for Hollinndagain which is coming out in late October.

#My Music

M Ward on Letterman Last Thursday Night

I love M Ward and this song, Chinese Translation, is one of the many great tunes on his new record, Post-War, which comes out next week.  You can pre-order it on Amazon and you should absolutely do that.

How about that guy sitting on the bass drum playing the cool looking cymbal? I love stuff like that!

My friend Raj sent me this email last week:

Heads up:  M.Ward is on Letterman on Aug. 24.  Tivo or just wait for YouTube. 

I thought about taping the show, but figured it would eventually show up on YouTube and thanks to Calvin, it did. To my mind, YouTube is better than Tivo because it’s easier to share the stuff I love on YouTube.

#My Music

Buzztracker

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For all of you who like to use buzztrackers like Techmeme and Tailrank comes a new service that may blow out the category to a much wider audience.

Buzztracker.com launched quietly on Friday afternoon. I know this because my friend Al Warms, who convinced me to commit to a feedreader, is the entrepreneur behind Buzztracker.

There’s a lot to like and lot to criticize about Buzztracker. Hopefully they”ll continue to refine the service and address the shortcomings. I always encourage people to launch early and take the criticism as free product feedback.

The things I like about the service is the breadth of content that it addresses. You can see buzztrackers on topics as diverse as food, Boston Red Sox (and every major sports team), videogames, diet and fitnessstocks, and of course, music. I counted 41 topics plus every major sports team. The breadth of the service is very ambitious and Al told me that they are eventually going to let their users create their own topics which will be available to everyone.

I also love the fact that you can subscribe to each and every buzztracker as an rss feed, the inclusion of topic specific most buzzed Flickr photos and YouTube videos, and email and digg integration.

But there are some shortcomings to the buzztracker service. First, I think it lacks the feed density it needs. if you compare the techmeme front page and the buzztracker tech front page, you’ll see that techmeme does a better job with that category. Of course, you’d expect that to be the case since techmeme has been around for a while and buzztracker is just launching. But it’s even true on the music page where buzztracker music is missing almost all of the top hypemachine music blogs. I spent some time trying to find a place to suggest a new feed and categorize it for them and it wasn’t anywhere I could see it.

I also find the design jarring. Way too many google ads and way too much stuff happening on the page for my taste. Both can be solved with a good UI design which Al tells me is coming.

Bottom line – Buzztracker takes buzztracking to a whole new level in terms of content covered and has the potential to become a very interesting service to a much wider audience. I’ve subscribed to the front page and a few of the topic pages in MyYahoo and plan to monitor it closely in the coming months.

#VC & Technology

Technology Wins One Over Politics

Even one of our most reactionary administrations is reluctantly embracing technology. Faced down by overwhelming cries of dereliction of duty, including mine, last week the administration finally relented and allowed the FDA to approve over the counter sales of Plan B, commonly called "the morning after pill".

Plan B was pretty worthless as a prescription only product. As it’s name suggests, it’s likely to be bought the morning after, not the week before.

I’m not a fan of the restriction to 18 year olds and older, but at least we’ve got a compromise that accepts the fact that this product is effective and is not dangerous, which was the only reason that the FDA could have kept if off the market.

Now maybe we can get some common sense on stem cell research too please.

#Politics

Application Specific Search

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A number of people commented to me the other day that Yahoo! had begun to integrate Flickr into their core image search service. So now you do an image search in Yahoo! and you’ll get some Flickr photos.

Thomas Hawk, the king of Flickr in my mind, pointed it out to me first and he blogged about it as well. He says that there are only five search terms that result in Flickr photos and you only get four Flickr photos returned for any phrase.

I honestly couldn’t care less because I have Flickr as one of the search options in my Firefox search field. I blogged about this a couple months ago in my "fragmentation of search" post.

Whenever I need an image from the web (and I need one at least once a day for this blog), I simply search Flickr. I never search the web for images at Google or Yahoo! anymore. I get better photos and a better experience at Flickr.

So while it’s nice to see Yahoo! finally integrating Flickr photos into search, they are doing it in a really lame way in my opinion, and it’s already way too late to be of interest to me.

#VC & Technology

Looking For Failures


  Catastrophic 2 
  Originally uploaded by ern.

John Battelle follows on Paul Kedrosky’s post Techcrunch party post on bubble 2.0 with a post about the lack of web 2.0 failures.

To all this discussion, I’ll just simply add "just wait, they”ll come". They already are coming in fact. Kiko put itself up for sale on eBay and Tribe just went through a mass exodus of the management team and  investors and the founder, my friend Mark Pincus, is trying to restructure the company.

It takes time for companies to fail (thank goodness!). We like to fund them for 12-18 months although we’ll do less for real early stage seed deals. And as John discusses in his post (which you should read if you care about this stuff), web 2.0 companies can operate at burn rates of less than $1mm per year.

So while I agree that there is a bubble in web 2.0 company creation (driven by entprepreneurs) and web 2.0 company funding (driven by VCs), there may not be much of a bubble in the VC markets in general because the financing sizes are still mostly small rounds. Sure there are troubling signs like the ~$20mm financing for Jobster and $50+mm funding for Zillow to date, but I believe they are still the exception rather than the rule.

I think if we all keep our heads screwed on straight and keep the funding amounts to reasonable levels, keep the burn rates down until we have demonstrated viable business models, and focus on building sustainable businesses instead of companies than can be flipped, we’ll all be fine.

As Tom Evslin likes to say, "nothing great has ever been accomplished without irrational exuberance".

#VC & Technology