If you want my thoughts on venture, tech, and occasionally music and
politics and NYC, then this blog is for you. If you are looking for
more variety, then check out fredwilson.vc.
Posts from November 2007
If you want my thoughts on venture, tech, and occasionally music and
It’s been so long that I posted about politics that I forgot how many comments a post like that will generate. I think I’ll do more of it.
In the comments to my post yesterday, ST suggested that the whole concept of "peak oil" is nonsense. Here is the comment that got things really going:
neither do the Brazilians, who just discovered a huge offshore oil
field. Some reports indicate that in 5yrs the field may be able to pump
about 80% of what Saudi Arabia pumps today.
‘peak oil’ is funny
to me b/c about a year ago the Saudi Oil Minister said that we’ve only
tapped about 18% of the world’s KNOWN proven oil reserves. Of course,
that was before the big find in the Gulf of Mexico this spring; &
before this HUGE SCORE by Brazil.
This topic is important for a whole host of reasons, but a small one is that my covestor portfolio is long oil related assets. My friend Mark has a macro view that oil is going up not down and he’s made a lot of money with that view in recent years. This chart shows pretty clearly that Mark’s view has become the conventional view in the past year.
But what if ST is right? What if there is a ton more oil in the ground and we aren’t close to tapping it out? Well that might be good news for those countries like Brazil and Mexico that may have a lot more oil reserves. Not to mention Russia and the middle east that are raking in money right now with oil at close to $100/barrel.
But it isn’t good news for the US who is a net consumer of oil to the tune of almost 14mm barrels a day. At $100/barrel, that’s $1.4bn a day going out of the US economy to other countries coffers.
So even if we aren’t looking at a peak oil scenario (and I honestly don’t have a clue about that), here in the US we had better get busy finding an alternative to oil because we are sending our money elsewhere at an unsustainable rate.
A couple years ago I wrote a post asserting that technology and markets are more powerful than government and politics. I cited the government’s case against microsoft and the emergence of the morning after pill and other remedies like it to give women the right to choose even if the government decides to take it away.
The whole stem cell debate is another example of this. For the past nine years, our country has been debating the morality of using embryonic stem cells to do research and develop new drugs and possibly save lives and dramatically improve quality of life for some. Our current administration has made it hard to do stem cell research on embryonic stem cells.
But this week comes the news that researchers have figured out how to make stem cells from human skin cells. So the debate over doing stem cell research should die down once this new technique is understood and disseminated to the various labs that are working in this field. And it will likely speed up the development of stem cell based therapies.
So once again, technology is the solution to a problem that government can’t seem to figure out how to solve. I am not particularly optimistic about our government in this country, or frankly in in our world. Politics is subject to corruption, short term thinking over long term planning, and the will of vocal and powerful minorities over the silent majorities.
But technology on the other hand is solving problems right and left. It’s creating problems too (like the stem cell debate). But the great thing about technology is it always tries to solve the problems it creates. And has a track record of doing so.
Next up – our reliance on carbon-based energy and the pollution, climate change, and wealth and power effects it creates.
My favorite word is thanks.
When I sign an email or letter, I don’t use sincerely or best regards, I simply sign it:
A wife who loves me even though at times she threatens to kill me.
I’ve got three awesome kids who never cease to amaze me and never will.
And a work life that is stimulating. Sometimes too stimulating.
And I am very thankful that there are people out there who read this blog, care about me, what I think, and what I do.
This week I exchanged some comments on this blog with michael. He said this blog had gotten boring. He suggested I take some time off, go on a hike, get some perspective, and then start blogging again.
I am taking michael’s advice this weekend. Just got back from a 2 hour bike ride. And I am headed out the door to Central Park for a game of football with the kids and their friends.
On Monday night, we saw Conor Oberst and his band Bright Eyes at Radio City. That’s such a great venue for a show.
Here’s a link to Conor’s song Lua which he played with James Felice on Monday night.
I posted about the show on Newcritics.
Ben’s new record, Ripe, is terrific, and here’s a song from that record called What Would Jay-Z Do?
Bug Labs is continuing to take its show on the road and this time it’s to San Francisco on Thursday, November 29th. I just happen to be in SF that day so I may be able to attend in person, which would be great.
Here are the details:
BUG+SF is at Swig, a cool bar near Union Square
(we call it the TenderNob, but that’s not too official or anything), on
Thursday, November 29th. The event starts at 6:00pm and goes until
9:00pm. As always, all are welcome, and there’s no special VIP/l33t
passes – all you have to do is show up. We are using Upcoming to try to track RSVPs, which is always helpful, but again, not
required. Drinks are on us, and Peter (Bug’s founder and CEO) is
flying out to hang with us West Coasters. And he’s bringing a working
unit, so this time we can truly get our geek on.
The main post on techmeme for the past 24 hours is the news that Amazon has a new ebook reader called Kindle. I was going to completely ignore this meme. eBook readers are stupid. The iPhone and Blackberry and services like DailyLit that deliver books via email and RSS to any device are the way to go.
But then this morning I saw this twitter post by Hugh:
$0.99 for a month subscription to a blog on an Amazon Kindle. Losers. Assholes.
And it reminded me of an email conversation I had early this year, in February. It started with this email:
FM recently signed a deal with a large e-commerce company (one you’ve definitely heard of) that is planning to launch a portable eBook reader & content service in the next few months. This company has designed the device to offer great screen readability, to be lightweight and to have a long battery life — in part because the company hopes it will be used for reading online content. The e-commerce company has asked us to see if you are interested in providing your site’s RSS content for distribution on the eBook reader in exchange for a revenue share.
If you’re interested in hearing more about this and agree to be bound by the non-disclosure agreement that FM has already signed, which would prevent you from blogging about the device until news about it is officially released, drop me an e-mail and we can tell you more. We can also arrange for you to talk to the e-commerce company about the device, and coordinate your getting an in-person demonstration in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or at CES in Las Vegas.
But I won’t charge for the feed
They can have it for free
Let me know what I need to do
The reply came back:
It seems like the company is planning to charge the reader for the subscription whether you charge them or not, because, in part, they have to cover the costs of distributing the content wirelessly. Are you cool with them charging enough to just cover their costs? In other words, is your desire to have your readers be able to subscribe for free… or are you just offering it for free because you don’t care about the dough yourself?
To which I replied:
Ideally I’d like my content to be free for everyone
I don’t need the money and want my feed to be as broadly available as possible
So I don’t want to charge anyone for it
If they feel the need to charge, so be it. Maybe they can charge a little bit less 😉
The next thing I got back was a contract, which I think I ignored but honestly I can’t be sure. There are no other emails to jog my memory.
So you probably can’t get this blog on the Kindle. But it’s easily readable on an iPhone or a Blackberry and that’s where mobile content is headed, not to some big, heavy, proprietary device that charges to subscribe to content. Losers is right Hugh.
I took a non-intended swipe at Om, Mike, and Rafat yesterday when I said:
The other thing that has changed is that many of the blogs I “grew up”
with are not individual blogs anymore. Rafat has a team, Arrington has
a team, Om has a team. They are much better at putting out a stream of
blog posts all day long, but they aren’t the same thing as Mike and Om
blogging along with me.
Om responded on his blog, writing:
Like Fred, most people presume that because I have a team, I don’t
personally blog as much. Take this month, for example. So far, we have
published 82 posts on GigaOM.com, of which 60 were written by me.
That’s roughly 74 percent of the total posts published on my blog. It
works out to about four posts a day.
Unfortunately, a blog where Om is the only person who posts is fundamentally different from a blog where Om posts 74% of the time.
I have always thought of this blog as "me". I started fredwilson.vc so it could be even more "me". It’s like my facebook profile the way I want it to be instead of the way facebook wants it to be. The great thing about tumblr, where fredwilson.vc is hosted, is you can follow people. I follow 11 people on tumblr right now and 84 people are following me.
You can take a blog and make it a business, like Mike, Om, Rafat and others have done. That’s a fine strategy and it’s working well for them. But it stops being personal and when that happens, something is lost. We have a blog at unionsquareventures.com where I blog frequently. That’s a corporate blog. I would never do all my blogging on a corporate blog. I think facebook got it right that there are personal pages and corporate pages. Like it or not, TechCrunch, GigaOm, and PaidContent are corporate pages in the facebook vernacular.
When I read Scoble, Winer, Calacanis, Jarvis, etc, etc, I am reading them. It’s personal. I try to spice up my blog with posts about the concerts I go to, the vacations I go on, etc because I want this blog to be personal.
Social media allows you to have a relationship with thousands of people. Something that was not possible before it came along. Many of the relationships that have started on this blog have morphed into the real world and that is fantastic. Without this blog, that would never have happened.
My post yesterday was not a complaint that the "old guard" had been kicked off Techmeme, it was that the person centric blog was not well represented. Gabe left a comment on my blog yesterday highlighting that you can look at the techmeme leaderboard on any date you want by using the "history" drop down box on the right sidebar. Maybe somebody will do an analysis of the trends on the leaderboard. I don’t have the energy to do that right now.
But regardless of whether techmeme is to blame or not, the tech blogging world has seen a move to the corporate blog. It’s happened two ways. Personal blogs like Mike, Rafat, and Om have become businesses. And businesses like CNET, NYT, and many others have developed tech blogs that are now in the midst of the conversation.
The result is the tech blog world feels a lot less like Facebook than it used to. Blogging with my friends is what I want to do and maybe that’s why new platforms that are inherently more social, more personal, like twitter and tumblr are exciting to me.
My tumblog at fredwilson.vc has a new look and comments!.
I’ve been thinking about writing this post for the past several weeks as I watched this blog drop from high 40s on the techmeme leaderboard to the 50s, to the 60s, to the 70s, and now as of this weekend, off of it completely. Yes, my ego hurts when this blog no longer ranks as one of the most important tech blogs. And I am trying to keep that in check as I write this because I think there is something important going on at techmeme that we need to think about as we look forward to emergence of the "curated web".
I’ll take full responsibility for not writing stuff that the top tech blogs think is interesting enough to link to. I realize that what gets on techmeme is the stuff bloggers are writing about and linking to. If this blog has become boring, then that’s my fault.
But there is something else going on. When the techmeme leaderboard was first launched about 45 days ago, there were about twenty blogs written by one person on it. The top "individual blog" was Dave Winer’s scripting news in the mid 40s, Scoble was in the mid 50s. Matthew Ingram was in the 40s or 50s too.
Today, Nick Carr is the top individual blogger at 22, Scoble‘s in the mid 40s along with Matthew Ingram. But after that, there’s maybe five or six individual bloggers on the leaderboard. It’s filling up with the likes of CNET, USA Today, Bloomberg, PR Newswire, and so on.
Not that that is a bad thing mind you. But the site has changed. I still go to it every day to take the temperature of the tech blog scene, but I don’t see my friends on it so much anymore. No Jarvis, no Calacanis, no Rex, no Feld, no Doc, no Ash. And I certainly don’t see their posts anchoring memes anymore.
So what happened? I think it’s pretty simple. Everyone knows that you can write to techmeme if you want to be part of the conversation. Can’t think of what to write about? Go to techmeme, grab one of the memes, write a post that links to it, and your post will get picked up on it. Dave Winer predicted this would happen four days after the leaderboard launched.
Mainstream media wants to be part of the conversation as they should. It’s not surprising that they are using the same tricks the bloggers have been using for years. And they are using them effectively. The links on techmeme are getting more mainstream every day.
The other thing that has changed is that many of the blogs I "grew up" with are not individual blogs anymore. Rafat has a team, Arrington has a team, Om has a team. ARS, RRW, SAI, Valleywag are all group blogs. They are much better at putting out a stream of blog posts all day long, but they aren’t the same thing as Mike and Om blogging along with me. And you can’t compete with an army of bloggers on the techmeme leaderboard.
For years, I’ve been using curators to filter my web experience. I can’t and won’t subscribe to the hundreds (maybe thousands) of blogs I want to stay on top of. I realize that everything I write here, or on fredwilson.vc, unionsquareventures, or at newcritics, won’t be read by every reader/subscriber. I know that all of you are doing the same thing as I am. We are relying on the world of social media curators to surface up the things that are interesting and we read that.
Techmeme has been the killer social media curator for my world of tech blogs. Lore has it that it was created using Scoble’s OPML file. It doesn’t matter to me if that’s true or not, I love that story. Because my OPML file was unusable until I found Techeme and after that I stopped reading feeds and started reading curated feeds.
But curated systems will be gamed. Everything on the Interent will be gamed. And user generated content won’t stay "user" generated forever. The pros will crash any party that’s worth crashing and make it their
I don’t think this is a bad thing, it’s just worth noting.