Posts from March 2008

A Better Way To Print This Blog

Jason Schultz pointed me to this cool blog widget this morning.

It’s called the ECO-SAFE merit badge. But I call it my blog printing widget. From it, you can email this page, email a pdf of this page, or download a pdf of this page. It’s goal is to reduce the amount of paper that is wasted printing blogs.

But as anyone who has printed blog pages knows, they often don’t print right. So this will help you make a copy of this blog’s front page however you choose. Let’s hope it does reduce paper waste too.

It’s now on my left rail in the tools section, right below search, and right above subscribe via email.

#VC & Technology

Is McCain In The Pocket Of The Telecomm Industry?

I saw a story on techmeme this morning that says McCain and Obama are favored by information technology workers.  That makes sense to me.

But who is favored by the telecomm industry? For that we don’t have to look farther than today’s USA Today which reports that:

Of the 66 current or former lobbyists working for the Arizona senator
or raising money for his presidential campaign, 23 have lobbied for
telecommunications companies in the past decade, Senate lobbying
disclosures show.


McCain is a senior member of the Senate Commerce
Committee, which oversees the telecom industry and the Federal
Communications Commission. He has repeatedly pushed industry-backed
legislation since 2000, particularly during a second stint as committee
chairman from 2003 through 2005. His efforts to eliminate taxes and
regulations on telecommunications services won him praise from industry

People who lobbied for telecom companies on
those issues include McCain’s campaign manager, his deputy manager, his
finance chief, his top unpaid political adviser and his Senate chief of
staff. Telecom companies have paid the lobbying firms that employed
those top five McCain advisersmore than $4.4 million since 1999,
lobbying records show.

So it should not surprise anyone that McCain’s response to a question at last year’s D conference on net neutrality generated this response:

Sen. McCain says we should let the market and technology solve the
Net-neutrality issue: “When you control the pipe you should be able to
get profit from your investment.”

I actually agree with that last part, but controlling the pipe is regulated in this country, particularly the wireless pipe. It’s not nearly as simple as McCain makes it out to be in his quote from the D conference.

My suspicion is we won’t get the kind of telecomm reform we need out of a republican administration, certainly not a McCain administration. That’s unfortunate.

#VC & Technology

The Audience Prompter

  What’s next on CFH 
  Originally uploaded by andywalker.

I just read Steven Johnson’s post about the Lacy/Zuckerberg interview. It’s an old post, he wrote it the day after the now infamous interview.

Steven does a lot of public speaking, he says fifty public appearances a year in the post. In the post he talks about how he has devised tricks to determine the "room tone" – if the room is with you, against you, or just bored of you. It’s so important when you are up on the stage. I don’t do it nearly as much as Steven or many others. But I do it enough. And I spent a lot of time on stage in business school where I taught some lecture classes in front of 200 to 300 people. I’ve always viewed the number one job when you are on stage is to entertain and keep people interested. If you can do that, you have a chance of making an impact. If you can’t you are toast.

Many professional speakers, politicians, etc use teleprompters to give them their talking points or the actual speech they are delivering. I hate that idea because I always want to be speaking impromptu. I suppose that’s a bad idea if you are a politician who has to choose his/her words carefully, but for me, working off a prepared speech is death.

However, if I could have an "audience prompter" that would be a big help. I remember being on a Pseudo show back in the late 90s. It was a talk show kind of thing but in front of us was a screen with a live chat room where all the listeners were talking about what we were talking about. It was a great experience because we could literally guage in real time the reaction to what we were discussing.

As Steven points out in his post, Twitter can do the same thing. If Sarah and Mark had a teleprompter up on stage that was showing the live twitter discussion of the interview, at least they’d have known what the audience was thinking. It may not have changed anything, but the idea interests me. I’d love to see a conference, maybe the web 2.0 conference that is coming up in NYC, try it out.

I think it might produce some interesting discussions.

#VC & Technology

Moving The Goalposts

I love Billy Bragg, his attitude, his on the sleeves politics, his music, everything about him. So I read his op-ed in today’s Times with interest.

In it he argues that Bebo, which may or may not have built it’s audience on the backs of artists who uploaded their music for free consumption, should have shared some of their $850mm payday with those artists.

I think that specific suggestion is not workable for a host of reasons, but his basic point – that creative artists  (whether they be musicians, filmmakers, screenwriters, painters, poets, etc, etc) need a way to make money online and they don’t have one – is directionally correct.

Some of my favorite bloggers have already weighed in on the discussion. Arrington in his classic in your face fashion feels no sympathy and argues that online is the best promotion that an artist can find in today’s world. Mike is right, but the problem is "promoting what?" Merch and touring hardly cuts it and the loss of music sales hurts everyone, including the artist.

Nick Carr, predictably, takes the opposing view and says:

arguments to the contrary are ultimately specious and self-serving.
Exploitation is exploitation, no matter how lovingly it’s wrapped in
neo-hippie technobabble about virtual communities, social production,
and the gift economy.

I am tired of the arguments, no matter who is making them. It’s time to help these artists get paid. There is a royalty structure in place for streaming music. It’s a penny per listen for on demand and about a tenth of that for something less than "on demand".

These rates aren’t right and need some tweaking, but I am firmly in the camp that royalties can and should be paid to artists for the streaming of their music on the Internet. I’d pay them if it were easy to do so. I stream artist’s music all the time on this blog and my tumblog. But I don’t know how many streams are played, I don’t know how much I owe, there’s no easy way for me to pay it, there’s no easy way for me to share my ad revenue with them, etc, etc. As far as I know, if I wanted to pay $1000 right now to the artists, there isn’t even anyone to take my money and send it to the artists.

Who is going to build the infrastructure the artists and the web services need? Who is going to deploy it at the micro-scale that most mp3 blogging happens?

The music industry is all about demanding to get paid, but I don’t see them building the systems to make it happen easily and within the constraints of what an online business model can pay.

I know one thing for sure. Artists, particularly musicians, are entertaining people more and more every day because of the Internet. Entrepreneurs are building a host of great ways to discover and listen online. And if there were an easy and affordable way to cut the artists in for a piece of the action, most would do it in a heartbeat. It shouldn’t be necessary to wait for the $850mm payday to get paid.

#My Music#VC & Technology

My Facebook Kids Finally Get Twitter

We are headed to Honolulu today. I twittered that fact and within minutes Joshua was back to me (via text message) with a recommendation for a ramen place called tenkaippin. I didn’t ask for it, but he offered it and we are now headed there for lunch

My kids are foodies and Jess said ‘wow, that’s cool dad’

Earlier this week she had gotten a text from her friends who were in boston visiting colleges. They wanted a recommendation for a sushi place. Jess asked me and I twittered the question

We got back a half dozen messages, and quickly determined the best place which she texted back. Her friends were thrilled

They used to think twitter was a stalker service. They still do, but they also think its awesome (‘at least for you dad’)

Facebook is their service and I don’t see them leaving it anytime soon. But for the first time, this week, they have twitter envy. That’s a small victory and I’ll take it


The Big Island

  Awesome rainbow 
  Originally uploaded by fredwilson.

We’ve spent the past week on the big island, Hawaii.

It was my first time in Hawaii. My dad lived here on an army base growing up but I’ve never made it here until now.

To be honest, I didn’t love it. We are headed for a day in Honolulu and then back to the states.

While I can’t say Hawaii is my favorite place on earth, we did have some great moments.

The Merriman’s Farm Trip

Deep Sea Fishing On Shogun

Surfing Lessons

Kona Coffee at Java On The Rocks and more surfing


Ten Things I'd Like FriendFeed To Do

1) I want to reply to a comment, like I can in disqus, and not have to use an @ sign
2) if the post is an mp3, put a play button like the yahoo or delicious player does
3) if the post a photo, put a thumbnail of the photo right in the feed. i realize it does that for flickr, but not for tumblr.
4) Allow me to do an @reply right from FriendFeed into Twitter
5) Let me explode the link into the first paragraph of the post right in FriendFeed
6) When i post a comment on FriendFeed, let me also post it to Flickr, or the blog through the blog’s or comment system’s API
7) When someone comments on my feed, send me an email that I can reply to and post a reply back (like Disqus does)
8) Let me view my friend’s posts ordered by friend as another option in addition to reverse chronological order
9) Let me bookmark a delcious link from someone else by just clicking an icon right on the page and not leaving FriendFeed
10) Let me see the number of people following me

For those not familiar with FriendFeed, here’s my feed

#VC & Technology

Working On Vacation

The title of this post sounds like an oxymoron. But it is a fact of life for me and probably many of the people who read this blog.

The idea of a ‘get away from it all’ vacation is a romantic notion that I cannot seem to achieve as much as the Gotham Gal and my kids would like me to.

This week, for example, I am in the middle of assisting two of our portfolio companies close on very senior hires. I am helping with the negotiations and trying to keep the rest of the board in the loop. And we are closing a deal which requires some attention on my part. And we are working with all of our portfolio companies to ensure they have their cash invested wisely. None of these efforts will or should wait for next week

I do have partners and a very capable associate to back me up and I rely on them a lot more when I am on vacation.

But the reality of venture capital is that its a relationship intensive business. You can’t just disengage from a complicated negotiation and say ‘my partner is taking over for me for the next week’. We all wish it was so, but its not.

So what do I do to manage? First, I block out 90 minutes in the morning when my family is asleep for emails and phone calls. Hawaii makes that easy because at 6am in hawaii, its 9am in the bay area and noon in NYC. I schedule all my calls for this time slot.

And I keep my blackberry with me but try to keep it off unless we have some down time like waiting for a tour to begin. I have gotten very good at quickly scanning email to see if there is anything urgent.

I also find time to do stuff, like post on the eliptical trainer, where I am not taking time from the family and the vacation

Most of all, when there’s a question between family and work, family wins. That has to be asbolute

I’ve heard of some amazing tricks. A friend of mine listened in to a board call where he is an observer while skiing with his wife. He had the call on mute and the headphones under his helmet. We’ll have to ask his wife what kind of company he was on the hill that morning but that’s the kind of mutli-tasking we have resorted to at times

My friend Brad Feld does ‘go off the grid’ for one week a quarter every quarter. I’ve asked him how he does it and I honestly can’t see myself pulling it off. I wish I could.

But one things for sure. We all need vacations and we shouldn’t let the need to work ruin them for ourselves and our families.

Posted from the eliptical trainer


Thoughts On FriendFeed

I know I am late to this discussion and that many bloggers have already weighed in on this topic already.

Back a few months ago, the New York Times covered FriendFeed and after reading the story I set up my FriendFeed. I have always been a fan of aggregation and life streaming. I do a bit of that at my tumblog. But Tumblr is not a lifestreaming service and FriendFeed is.

I’ve watched FriendFeed grow over the past three or four months since I set mine up and although I rarely used it personally, I have assembled a large number of followers on FriendFeed. In the past week, I had to turn off email notifications of new followers because they were taking over my inbox. FriendFeed doesn’t tell you how many followers you have but I suspect it might be as large as the number of people who read my blog’s feed with Google Reader. FriendFeed has serious traction.

Now, to the most discussed point – the fact that people are commenting on my posts at FriendFeed not on my blog, my tumblog, my flickr account, or sending me an @ message on Twitter. I think it’s great that discussions are happening around things I’ve said or done and I can’t complain too much that they are happening elsewhere. But it means I have to log into FriendFeed every day now and check out what people are saying and weigh in. Which I’ve been doing in the past couple weeks. And that increases the chances that I’ll comment on someone else’s posts at FriendFeed.

So now, in addition to this blog, my tumblog, and twitter, I have to pay attention to whats’ going on in FriendFeed. So it’s gone from being an aggregator of attention to a demander of attention. Good for them. That’s the way to play the game on the web.

But I would like to see them get those comments portable in some way. Or I’d like to see someone aggregate those comments. Maybe that’s something that Disqus, an investment we announced yesterday, can help them with. Or maybe RSS is all that is needed to get the job done. Or both.

Umair, who is so right so often, said:

The real point is: Friendfeed is a next-gen, open version of Facebook’s social feed.

That’s how I think of Twitter too. But the problem with open is that it’s messy. It’s not neat and clean like Facebook. It requires work. And so I’ll be doing more work now. But most importantly, open also means a platform for innovation. FriendFeed was a great innovation. And so someone is going to innovate again on top of FriendFeed to bring some focus to all the conversations we are having.

And that’s a good thing.

#VC & Technology