The Engineer's Brain

I've been reading The Corrections this long weekend. This book came out over ten years ago, but I'd never read it so I pulled it out of our bookshelf and cracked it open after we got off the mountain on Saturday. I hope to finish it on the plane ride home today.

The father figure in the book is Alfred. He's a railroad engineer who also dabbles in metalurgy experiments in his basement. He's a familiar character to me. My dad is an engineer and I have an engineer's brain as well. Apparently so does my friend Brad Feld.

The Gotham Gal tires of this mindset at times. She will say in exasperation "you can't solve every problem Fred." But that's how my mind works. Find problem, solve it, move one to the next one.

My engineer tendencies are reinforced by the work I do. Most entrepreneurs we back are also engineers. They find a problem and they set out to solve it. That journey is often a startup and we are along for the ride. Solving problems creates value in our business. Value creation is success. So the feedback loop is reinforcing and problem solving is the name of my game.

But the Gotham Gal is right. I can't solve every problem as much as I want to. The person or organization that has the problem has to want to solve it too. And when the will is not there, as clear as the solution is, its best to leave it alone.

I've been trying to decide what to do on the subject of online piracy. I think there are good solutions to the problem that involve technical approaches that leverage the work the technology industry has done with domain name registration and spam/virus/malware filtering. I laid them out in a discussion I participated in last week at the Paley Center. But the entertainment industry must want to solve the core problems, not just the symptoms. And it is not clear to me that the entertainment industry wants to solve the problem. So maybe I should move on.

The same is true of the companies we work with. They often have problems that can be solved, and have been solved in many other companies. But if they do not have the will to solve them, then all of our effort to address the issue is wasted. Our desire to solve the problem will simply come across as interference, meddling, or worse.

So as I move from youthful enthusiasm to elderly wisdom, one of my development goals is to supress the desire to solve every problem and focus on the ones where I can make a difference. I'm not there yet, but I'm working on it and making progress.

#Books#Random Posts

Comments (Archived):

  1. Carl Rahn Griffith

    One of the hardest lessons I have learned in life – and it took me far too long! – has been to stop ‘banging my head against the wall’ on certain matters in life/business.As the old saying goes – “Why do you bash your head against the wall?” – “Because it’s nice when it stops.”;-)Safe trip!

  2. andyswan

    Oh man I am so far from the elderly wisdom here. Thanks for putting it so clearly.Just realizing you don’t have to swing at every pitch was big for me.

    1. Jess Bachman

      Indeed, you can get into the hall of fame by getting to first base only a third of the time.

    2. fredwilson

      that was exactly my point andy. i’m glad you got it. i think some readers missed it. probably didnt’ write the post very well.

      1. Rohan

        I’m not able to understand reason behind the confusion actually.Then again, it’s perhaps not the logic of the post..but the emotion some felt it conveyed, haha..

    3. Matt A. Myers

      I stopped swinging though I already took a swing at a number of problems, figured out how to solve them, and decided to keep going for them all. I’m focusing on a primary one to begin and learning how to pace myself. Solving the one will give me what I need to solve the others. Booya!

    4. FlavioGomes

      ¬†I do my best to delegate the swinging (where appropriate) to others….I’m always thinking scale.

  3. awaldstein

    Maybe elderly enthusiasm is what wisdom is Fred. Action tempered by experience.

    1. Roger Ellman

      I agree, I believe this to be the case.Hoping to morph into this realm of wise progress – soon…but not too swiftly!

      1. awaldstein

        Enthusiasm and experience I have plenty of Roger. Wisdom for me is still often aspirational ūüėČ

        1. Roger Ellman

          Wisdom may be on its way “The wine of summer. Slightly chilled. Perfect for hot summer night” your words, your writing upon wine¬† –¬† good!

          1. awaldstein

            You’ve made my day!

  4. William Mougayar

    “And it is not clear to me that the entertainment industry wants to solve the problem. So maybe I should move on.”Are you implying that you’re getting tired of this fight and not wanting to fight it anymore? But I thought this was a very important topic that’s worth fighting for. I realize that one has to pick their fights, but refusing to fight this one is like conceding defeat. Or perhaps you’re seeing others that are picking-up this fight?

    1. Avi Deitcher

      @William, perfect for disruption. Someone will. To some extent, someone already has, the pirates. But there will be those who will create content, too, who will disrupt.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      I personally think fighting the business industry is the wrong place to put energies. This is a societal change and revolution caused by advancements in technology.¬†There’s nothing wrong with making money. However there is something wrong in fining poor people / jailing people who may not have other means of paying for something they’re finding value in, and so much value that it makes them turn off their caring to some degree and go to a state of indifference (which I’m sure has trickle effects into other behaviour in their lives).People pirate things for a reason. Just like people will steal bread to feed their hungry family (or a car, and then can buy many loaves of bread), many won’t see what’s wrong with that. ‘Pirated’ goods in economic terms aren’t ‘on the market,’ they have no value because essentially they’re a public good. Things that are public goods are pretty much considered good, however there is an issue that these big profit business do highlight successfully.Going to the source of the problem really means just fixing society’s gaps in taking care of people. The issue with piracy, and a genuine danger, is that artists who need to be supported, who create great and enjoyable work, are compensated for it — and in many cases, with currently how our systems exist, means having money to just survive.If society supported people learning to be creative (and took care of everyone’s base survival needs)¬†then,a) there’d be a lot more amazing art (music or otherwise),b) more people would attempt to be creative as it could be more of a social-collaborative thing, not adding the pressure of “we need to success to survive”,c) the social aspect alone is a huge positive – of bringing people together, creating tons of micro-communities of sharing and learning (and learning intimacy with others over something common-something missing for most of the population in a healthy, stress-free, fun environment anyway)c) I’m sure there are more — write them here for me! I have to run to meet a friend for breakfast! :)This is what the engineer in me has been trying to fix. Social issues – that I have learned have a foundation to health. You’re either depressed or you’re social, and to be social you must be healthy. My many projects I’ve planned solve different pieces of this, though the one I am focusing on now is the best piece.Now I just need to learn to keep taming these emotions and to pace myself, and that’s how I will be able to successfully make a difference.Edit: This also aligns with Carlota Perez’ theory that the next economic cycle will be wellness-based.

      1. ShanaC

        You can’t fix people into what you want them to be…

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Nope, they have to volunteer to want to change – though you can support them and provide them the tools they need.

    3. fredwilson

      not tired. frustrated would be a better word.

    4. FAKE GRIMLOCK

      BEST WAY TO FIX SOMETHING THAT REFUSE TO CHANGE IS BUILD BETTER ONE. #ITERATEEVERYTHING

      1. panterosa,

        actually, you mean #disrupt, no?

  5. LIAD

    We need the outer world to match our inner one.Disparity causes¬†cognitive¬†dissonance¬†which we try to avoid at all costs.External disarray conflicts with inner harmony – we must fix the external problems.On the other hand, external harmony conflicts with internal disarray – we are driven to destroy the external harmony. It’s no coincidence that wanton¬†vandalism¬†& crime is committed by teenagers.Screw Elderly Wisdom.Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

    1. fredwilson

      i should have dropped the word elderly. the book i’m reading is messing with me.

      1. William Mougayar

        Maybe the problem needs to be approached with a new angle.

    2. panterosa,

      This really strikes a balanced point for me. When I figured out to leave things half messy for my 2-4 year old, she had the option to mess up more or clean up, according to her inner state. To have all organized for her meant her only action was to mess it all up. Fascinating to watch.

      1. LIAD

        great point.thanks for sharing.

    3. Emily Merkle

      Well said.

  6. mike gilfillan

    Reminds me of my favorite quote:¬†¬†The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.¬† — George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) “Maxims for Revolutionists”

    1. Aidan Nulman

      A common (and awesome) theme:”Aut invenium viam aut facium” // “I will either find a way or make one”¬†— Hannibal

  7. Avi Deitcher

    Ha! Made my day! My wife’s favourite line is, “you are being too rational.” Lessons from the psychologist to the engineer…Being a consultant and learning how to sell (for this old engineer) was the biggest lesson. I really believed I could fix most issues in an organization, but as you said, if they don’t want to be fixed, why waste my time? It took me a long time to figure that one out and stop “banging my head against a wall.”I disagree with you about the entertainment industry, though, especially coming from a VC. If an incumbent (business or industry) refuses to change, don’t fix them. Disrupt them!

    1. fredwilson

      working on that

  8. jbcolme

    http://www.filmin.es/There are probably many like these in the US. This on is at Spain. The have series, movies, and nice prices. I think most are independent, so you won’t find “The walking dead”, but if independent artist get to sell what they do, they can get big and create more expensive films.I think creating¬†platforms¬†for new artist to sell their products is the way. It’s a slow one, you have to wait until they create enough capital to disrupt the industry, but I think it’s promising because of the¬†collaborative¬†and more horizontal way of doing things. Which is more in line with the new technologies.

  9. Bala

    Fred,You are not alone. I guess the best part of this is that there are a number of problems that can use your help. Like you coming to Iceland and participating in Startup Iceland, ok had to pitch you one more time. End of May is an awesome time of the year and it would be awesome to have you. The President of Iceland has agreed to open the conference Brad is coming, Rebeca Hwang from younoodle.com is coming, Alexander Osterwalder is coming to conduct a workshop. I know this is one problem that you can solve ūüôā Might as well ask and get a no rather than not ask you. If nothing I am persistent until you tell me to stop.

    1. fredwilson

      brad is way into Iceland right now. he’s the right person from USV to come.

      1. bfeld

        I think Bala means me, not Burnham. But let’s get two Brad’s over there.

        1. fredwilson

          brad burnham is way into icelandi will send you an email about that

  10. bethtemple4u

    It seems so obvious now … my Dad was an engineer and I had a coach tell me I’d ‘walk across a speeding freeway to solve a problem’ and it never clicked until this post that there was a correlation. Thanks and hope you had a nice trip home.¬†

    1. fredwilson

      nature and nurture. powerful stuff

      1. panterosa,

        nature + nurture = form + functiontotal integrationwhen you become parent and mentor (which is what I had as a child, and what I have now with my child)#beyondgroovy

  11. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Sometimes it is better we let go the things that bother our intellectual mind. If theproblem really really bothers anyone any much of wisdom and elderly enthusiasm can stopthat person. So to me the problem is not really really bothering your intellect…A good example is Einstein. He never beleived GOD will play dice ( alas GOD¬†seriously played¬†dice !!!) and worked on an Unified¬†theory for almost a decade which never saw any light.¬†Considering his¬†intelligence¬†if¬†he would put that effort on something else science would have¬†benefited more from his work.On a lighter note … I think you should have titled this post as “The brain of an Old-Engineer.” ūüôā¬†

    1. ShanaC

      what does a young engineer brain look like then

      1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

        That was a sentence with a smile and with a lighter note explicitly spelt out.¬†Anyhow coming to your question.Young brain has no wisdom.Wisdom many a times are barriers to “going after it”.Wisdom many a times plants the seed for “fear of failure”.young engineer brain works with force and without fear and wisdom and may face many failures … fall like a horse and gets back like a horse… but would hit a jackpot when wandering into the unwanted territory. Old-Engineers brain works with wisdom … the wisdom which is packaged with fear of failure, caution¬†consequences¬†etc., etc., when it falls it falls like a elephant and gets back only like an elephant. That makes the old-engineers brain (the man behind it) slower.¬†Slower is not bad….but it is slower.As for the record more than 90% of the Noble price is held by people under 35 or what they invented when they were under 35.

  12. Dave Pinsen

    If memory serves, that engineer character was described as carrying a hammer in his brief case, so he could whack the steel girders of bridges and such. The Corrections is a great book — better than Franzen’s more recent one, Freedom, in my opinion. Let us know what you think of it after you’ve finished reading it.

    1. Carl Rahn Griffith

      I must get a copy of this book for my father-in-law – he is a retired engineer; forced into early retirement after being knocked-off his then newly restored BSA 650 – he can barely walk nowadays but spends all day in his workshop at home.¬†His skills are extraordinary – he can make/repair just about anything – it’s a well-equipped workshop ;-)Ironically, he still loves to restore old motorcycles even though he will never again ride one.Here’s an example of his workmanship…http://www.flickr.com/photos/egobo… even makes his own nuts and bolts from billets – over-the-counter ones aren’t good enough for him(!).¬†Fascinating to talk to – OK, I am also a ‘biker (sans one at the moment, though), but it’s lovely seeing how his mind works re: problem solving, generically.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        You may want to read it first.

        1. Carl Rahn Griffith

          It has been known with books I have bought him – but I suspect he does the same, also… ūüėČ

          1. Dave Pinsen

            What I meant was, without spoiling anything, the engineer’s story isn’t a happy one.¬†

          2. Carl Rahn Griffith

            Ah ha – ta, Dave – noted – shall do. We need to be careful with him in this respect – the frustration of disability can take him to ‘black dog’ days, understandably… ūüôĀ

        2. fredwilson

          i agree. alfred is a disturbing character. i had to put the book down just now and take a break.

      2. panterosa,

        The only thing machine geeks seem to revere as much as a bike is a sewing machine.I’m not a biker, but a sewer.¬†A different kind of high from “speeding”.

  13. JimHirshfield

    I hope you’re (we’re?) not giving up the fight on this one.Nonetheless, reminds me of this sage advice from Jeffrey Gitmor¬†http://www.gitomer.com/¬† ¬† ++++Principle #12.5 ‚Äď Resign Your Position as General Manager¬†of the UniverseYou now know all the principles necessary for your own success. But there ismore. You need to understand how to make each of these principles your own.You have to master these principles.And the first part is to master yourself. Keep your focus on these principles.Don‚Äôt get sidetracked with other people‚Äôs problems.The less time you spend in other people‚Äôs business, other people‚Äôs problems andother people‚Äôs drama, the more time you‚Äôll have for your own success.¬† ¬† ++++

  14. Jason

    Solve less problems better? Take that wisdom to the bank!

  15. Gotham Gal

    Not surprising thay Brads brain works in a similar way. You both went to MIT, the ultimate engineering school that teaches you to take anything, break it down to the basics and then rebuild If you can break anything down then you can find the solution at it’s core

    1. JamesHRH

      Thanks for this insight!

    2. testtest

      not always true, GG. take for example conway’s game of life. from simple rules come unexpected complexity. whilst we can understand the rules, the result becomes unpredictable.each layer of the system then has emergent properties that are greater than the sum of its parts. each layer then has emergent behaviour.¬†there’s also the factor of¬†interdependence. when individual parts are interdependent, a change in one can then effect a change in another — or the entire system — causing¬†volatility. an example of that is in the stock market.

      1. Gotham Gal

        agree but you still have to start at the very core to understand those complexities as they begin to take room. that is why i love being an angel investor. it begins with an idea and over time it evolves into something else but it is always important to remember where these concepts came from.

    3. panterosa,

      GG, I love your take here. Quite relevant to how I think. I will post more on this in full, below.Not sure if I have an engineer’s mind since I am an artist, but I’m also a designer and those two fields are complimentary, but different processes. My mother has always lamented me being “such a deconstructivist”, which makes me feel I have an engineer’s disposition in this light. My mother’s description shows how exhausting this was for her, sadly………. though happily I managed to turn her “negative” into a positive (#ditchbaggage, and #moveon). I am silk purse from sow’s ear to the core. I realize how many people chuck out sow’s ears as useless, when I find them to be a form of gold if I can get my scissors into them. I am happiest with scissors in hand.I ALWAYS wanted to go to MIT Media Lab from RISD. I never had the right project until now. MIT is like catnip for me. I have acknowledged my inner nerd and embraced her!

  16. Rohan

    Logic leads to conclusions more often than not while emotions lead to action..¬†I guess that’s why you can only lead a horse to water……..¬†

    1. Matt A. Myers

      You’re so wise Yoda, I mean, Rohan!

      1. Rohan

        The Master does take possession of me at times…..

  17. Helena Bouchez

    This post really resonated with me for two reasons. 1) I’m the daughter of a Ford development engineer and also have an engineer’s mind (as does my sister). My lens, however, is manufacturing. 2) The engineering approach applies to marketing companies as well. To solve the problem (in this case, obscurity) leadership has to provide you with the parts you need and then be willing to stomp on the gas pedal when the vehicle is finally built. I see a business consultant annually and I end up paying him handsomely for essentially the same advice again and again, which is “Helena, you can’t care more than your clients do about the outcome.” The problem is, I just do. The only answer for me right now is to vet new clients carefully. I look for a strong CEO with a clear vision and mission, passionate about both, and a reputation for action, meaning is accessible and does what’s suggested, or pushes back until we come to a new, and usually better, solution. There are still days, though, when you just have to “let it go.”

    1. JamesHRH

      Qualifying is king.

  18. Carl J. Mistlebauer

    Since I am 3 years older than you let me give you a little advice:Some people go through life never achieving and others go through life never satisfied….your bed is made so lie on it!Another point, the older the industry the more likely certain mindsets are entrenched. ¬†Since I come from a real old industry I hear the same chatter everyday and it just drives me nuts because the reality is the solution is right there in front of their noses but none of them want to really solve the problem.I have been battling the dinosaurs for 20 plus years and in all honesty its time to let them continue down their path and move on to something less frustrating; they are comfortable with 4 to 6% margins knowing when the going gets tough they will just find another labor force in another country to exploit. ¬†Doing what it takes to create 12 to 15% margins is just not a possibility for folks who paid their dues to the industry and now want to ride the waves of their seniority.

    1. ShanaC

      That because paying dues creates a mindset of “I deserve it” afterwards. ¬†We need to kill the dues paying part of job/life and help people be the best they can be.

    2. fredwilson

      i’m trying to be more satisfied. i came out of the womb screaming and have been agitating non-stop for 50 years. but you are right about where my bed is made.

      1. Carl J. Mistlebauer

        Fred, off subject…Here is some info about a new Cafe Press project (call it B2C returning to brick and mortar or “back to the future”) that I think might be ideal for Shapeways…https://www.facebook.com/me

  19. Chris Phenner

    If artists upload their work to SoundCloud — or similar services for non-audio content — doesn’t ‘solving for piracy’ happen with each song upload? ¬†That may sound overly-simplistic, but my sense is that when a born-on-SoundCloud artist breaks through and other artists see that SoundCloud was an enabler, ‘piracy’ will be a term that sounds like ‘8-track’ or ‘vacuum tube’ or ‘file download’ someday :)Flashback: ¬†I recall AVC being where I first read about that first record from Arctic Monkeys, and I think we cited Arctic Monkeys as among the first ‘Myspace Breakthrough’ artists. ¬†And it certainly has become academic since then to post music for streamed access.So just keep funding SoundCloud(s) of the world; I think you are solving for this.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree. soundcloud is a piece of the puzzle. an important one.

  20. baba12

    For many solving the problem at hand would mean having a lot of energy and free time available to do something else, that is a major roadblock for many, as that would mean they can’t sustain status quo.They thrive in the bitching and moaning that goes along with the problem they face and resolving it would take that core capacity they have built over time that is their business operandi.In the real world the Palestinian Israeli conflict is one of the problems at hand has a simple ( deep complexities) clean solution a “United States of Israel and Palestine”.¬†But for a good number of Palestinians and a some Israeli’s that solution would take away what they have identified ¬†with for the entire lives. You would end up creating a¬†vacuum¬†when the¬†problem¬†at hand there is solved for the many who thrive on sustaining the status quo.As a scientist we tend to see many possibilities and multiple shades of grey. As engineers we tend to not see shades of grey, we see that if a problem exists it has to have a solution and it cannot be a shade of grey, just Black or White. Unfortunately many folks like to live in the confines of the grey’s.

  21. Dan Epstein

    I’m hopeful and optimistic the growth of smartphones, tablets, and streaming video will push the entertainment industry (and here I mean film/TV) to offer more of their catalogs a la carte and on demand.Yesterday’s Oatmeal was apropos, in case you missed it.http://theoatmeal.com/comic

  22. mikenolan99

    So how does the Engineer’s Brain differ from the Entrepreneur’s Brain?¬† How are they similar?They both see problems and seek solutions.¬†It occurs to me that an Entrepreneur builds a team to achieve a solution. The Engineer builds the process.¬† Together, they make things happen.

    1. JamesHRH

      Many entrepreneurs do not solve problems.They want things better or have a vision of what should be – someone else solves the problem!Heck, 80% just want to be independent or independently wealthy – their problem is internal.

      1. Carl Rahn Griffith

        Last paragraph – very true.

      2. Jess Bachman

        Right, there is a big difference between solving a problem, and filling a role in the market, which a lot of entrepreneurs aim to do.  Sometimes the hole is there for a reason.

    2. Richard

      Invention vs innovation

  23. Sharon

    I am frequently brought in to a company to “bring about change..” Change a leader’s mindset; a succession plan; increase sales; increase performance etc. No matter what the objective, at some point I inevitably find myself in the situation where I may feel more invested in the change than the client/company. ¬†Without understanding that RESISTANCE is part and parcel of any change, and understanding why the resistance exits, (for example, fear of exposure, loss of identity; protectionism;hidden agendas, limits of potential) and providing the scaffolding so that change has the right support– the desired change may not happen. ¬†And, then everyone feels bad.¬†Also, when you are an “outsider” to an organization, and you invest in the organization (whether its $ or insight/advice–all with very good intentions) you become invested in the outcome. ¬†The need to be effective can ¬†blind you to what is really needed to bring about change– or it can blind you (as it has me) to ¬†seeing other people’s/organizations’ real limits. Not everyone can be a superstar. ¬†Not everyone has the endurance to run the marathon of a start-up—not everyone does the right thing for a company/industry. ¬†Grappling with all this–and sorting out what is your ego -and what does the company/person really need to scale, grow, evolve, and can they do it??– is, I believe, the “work” of an advisor.¬†

  24. Bruce Warila

    Outside of what you refer to as the “core problems”, the piracy solution has to be 80% education, 20% technology or it will not work.¬† You will run into the whacamole problem trying to solve the problem with just technology.A technological problem to preventing online piracy will involve the timely injection of education / information upon upload / download.¬† Simply letting users know that potential infringements are being tacked to their logins is a good place to start.I would rather see behavior badges coupled to authentic rewards versus some sort of elaborate DNS / malware solution, as anything can / will be circumvented.¬† Moreover in many cases, online ‘sharing’ is a good behavior when it’s condoned by the rightsholder.The challenge here is letting kids know when sharing is good (for the artist/rightsholder) or wrong/bad.¬† We do not need a “STOP” solution, we need a behavior modification solution.

    1. fredwilson

      part of my proposal is related to teaching our kids not to download content that isn’t licensed. i agree about the need to educate. but we need to educate in situ. the medium is the message after all.

      1. LE

        What’s interesting about that is making an analogy to cigarette smoking.It used to be thought (I believe) that kids smoked cigarettes because of references in the media as well as it was the things that they watched adults do. And watching older kids as another example.But references to tobacco don’t really exist in films that much at all but kids still smoke.¬†Sure smoking has decreased but not as much as you would think.http://www.parentingteens.c…While the decline in teen smoking is encouraging news, experts and parents remain concerned that a substantial number of teens are still smoking. According to the 2005 Monitoring the Future Survey, nearly a quarter of teenagers are smoking by the time they leave high school and that presently approximately one in eleven¬† 8th graders (9.3 percent) indicate smoking in the prior 30 days as well as one in every seven 10th graders, and nearly one in four 12th graders.Getting free content is a really juicy proposition and from a youngsters point of view (after all these are the people that ski through the trees that’s not something an adult would do, right?) there isn’t much downside to the behavior.So I think it’s going to take much more than education to get the required change in behavior.

      2. LE

        “but we need to educate in situ”Oh sorry I missed that. You mean educate within the home. Exactly.Also it will take many years until it becomes the accepted social norm to not steal content.¬†After all people tip the bellhop and at restaurants even though they don’t have to. And even if they never see the person who cleans their room most will leave a tip. It’s become so ubiquitous in society to do this that someone not doing it will feel bad and will leave a tip to avoid that bad feeling.If you can find a way to make people feel bad about stealing content (say though an advertising message) that would be a step in the right directly. It’s really the reverse of positive branding the same reason you buy a luxury product.

  25. JamesHRH

    A post on maturity, inside a comment on the enigma that is an established industry, wrapped in the riddle that is Personality. Franzen has competition – powder does wonders for your writing.My engineer wife – whose Dad was an engineer – always says that the are 3 types. And that I could have been one ( usually a dig that I chose a lower road! ).

    1. fredwilson

      i think it was Franzen more than the powder that inspired this post. but the powder has had a great soothing effect. i feel refreshed.

      1. JamesHRH

        Franzen is one of those authors who, when I am reading his stuff (Corrections was the last I covered), I think to myself ‘this guy is a serious writer’ while I also think ‘I am not getting much out of this book’.Richard Ford is another author that falls into that category.That kind of writing makes me think of synchronized swimming and atonal jazz – I know that it takes hard work & talent to be that good, but I just don’t like it.

    2. testtest

      get on this, james:¬†https://www.coursera.org/sa…totally solid material.

      1. JamesHRH

        I rather proudly do not hold any of the pre-requisites listed in the first line of the prerequisite paragraph!I regularly tell people that I do not want to know how it works – I want to know what it can do for me and then I just want it to work (thank you very much!).

        1. testtest

          i’ve done the first two video chapters and there hasn’t been a line of code yet. just high-level stuff.good to know enough, imho. otherwise, you get fucked by the market for lemons and information¬†asymmetry

  26. Axavier

    Hi Fred,First time posting. ¬†Just wanted to say Great Job in regard to the Paley Center for Media discussion. I thought you put forward some really practical and positive solutions. ¬†I also congratulate you for keeping your cool in what appeared to initially be a somewhat frustrating exchange.http://fora.tv/2012/02/14/P…¬†

    1. fredwilson

      that was not keeping my cool. i lost my cool bigtime.

  27. Jess Bachman

    There is certainly a difference between coming up with a solution, and actually implementing the solution to solve the problem.  The former comes easily to some people, and fortunately they are millions of other people who are more comfortable with doing the latter.

  28. anon

    Sorry Fred, engineers brain kicked in while I was trying to watch the Paley Center video. Their player doesn’t have the ability to move around in the stream (or at least it’s badly broken in Chrome). Bailed before the lady stopped doing intros. It’s a real bummer, because I wanted to hear what you had to say. Perhaps they should consider Vimeo for hosting their video?

    1. tyronerubin

      Worked fine for me. Watched, left then came back refreshed and scrolled fine.

    2. fredwilson

      i will write up my proposals and post them. might be a few days before i get around to that.

      1. John Prinner

        Compromise is often¬†a small detour to¬†problem solving. Take solace in the fact that if¬†it weren’t for¬†“incumbents” (MSOs, RBOCs and ISPs) protecting their turf, there would be far¬†fewer rich entrepeneurs. I am a lifetime “anti-cable/telecom” guy who recently poked around the natual foods industry only to find it IMPOSSIBLE to eliminate the distributors/aggregators. Digital content will find a “direct to consumer” path that is legal, reliable and more economic; and the current hyperbole and exaggeration put forth by “gate-keepers” will be overcome by the economic reality that creators don’t need distributors like manufacturers do.

  29. Joseph Burros

    The awareness that people and organizations must have the will to solve the problem is a profound lesson that continually comes up in life. ¬†Just as important is a person’s/organization’s ability to truly see that there is a problem that needs solving. ¬†How many of us have spoken with people who just never seem to really get that there truly is a problem that needs to be solved. ¬†Over the years I have witnessed that even when people seem to agree that there is a problem that needs solving, many times this is simply a superficial acknowledgement on their part that perhaps there is a problem, and maybe they will take a look at it and maybe they will not. ¬†Over time I have learned to tell the difference between those people who come to understand a problem like a revelation, or an obvious realization that somehow they had not seen before, as opposed to the people who continue to quietly listen to advice, trying to understand what you are saying, or defending themselves and their actions, or agreeing with you, only later coming back to the same conversation with the same issues, showing you that they still don’t really get there is a problem. ¬†So, ask yourself, does this person really, and truly see that there is a problem? ¬†And then comes the question of whether they have the will to do something about it. ¬†What an interesting world we live in.

  30. Elia Freedman

    I can’t help but wonder about this the other way around. You seem to invest in a number of companies that solve a problem that others didn’t think existed or thought were already fixed. Twitter is one of them. Facebook (although I don’t think you invested in it) also seemed to be a problem solved already. What does that mean in lieu of your post?

    1. fredwilson

      haven’t considered that. i will.

  31. Tom Labus

    That’s a great read.Family, generations. hidden truths, the quest for money, America.

    1. fredwilson

      i think Alfred just fell off a cruise ship. i had to put the book down and take a break from it.

  32. Alan Warms

    Great post.¬† It’s always surprising when portfolio companies aren’t eager to take advantage of one’s knowledge especially when you made the original mistake yourself.¬† You start spending a lot more time self-editing and trying to figure out how to present the solution and communicate it so it actually gets solved.¬†In other words, sometimes it’s not that they have the will or not, it’s that for whatever reason they need to make the mistake themselves first.¬† As my kids get into teen years I have a feeling I am getting a preview.

    1. fredwilson

      yes you are. just stay close to them. be there for them when they want you there.

  33. Jess Bachman

    Good fiery “discussion” in that Paley Center vid. ¬†I love seeing old people talk about “hits” to a website. ¬†No one wants to be disrupted, or go through disruption. ¬†Even if you tell them the future will be a beautiful Hawaiian island of awesome, Wall St and short term investors simply do not want to lose money in the bubbling pile of magma period.Technology entrepreneurs think “better world”, established companies think “better quarter”. ¬†It’s hard to reconcile that.

    1. fredwilson

      i was foaming at the mouth. not my best day.

      1. John Revay

        Just watched the 45min talkRe: Foaming at the mouth – I think after the moderator who let the lawyer from NBC start the discussion and make his point for over 5 mins while you sat there..had to be frustrating especially since he kept on pointing to “Legislation” as the answer. ¬†It was very powerful when you took out your glasses and studied the listing of movies > you even got the¬†attorney¬†from NBC agreeing that none of the movies were¬†available¬†legally. ¬†Did someone say¬†“Scarcity Is A Shitty Business Model”I very much liked your clenched wrist motion at the end of talk – I played it back 3X times and could not understand what was said.’Not your best day” – disagree – I think you did a great job representing tech and your customers. ¬†Not sure what the room was like – looked like a lot of suits.

    2. Cynthia Schames

      Better world vs. Better quarter.  Fantastic insight. 

  34. vniven

    As a 25 year system integrator/software developer who worked for a gaming/media company once and served briefly on the board of a TV network, I am certain that media industry will continue to seek answers in our courts and in Washington DC… until they fail at both. ¬†At the same time, most media execs I’ve known are intelligent business people who understand and accept that technology is defining their future right now. ¬† The ones I’ve worked with definitely want a better consumer-friendly distribution system – but with better (survivable?) business terms attached. ¬†Until the media industry craps out in DC and the courts, I believe it is extremely important that the tech industry continue to work to build compelling and efficient media solutions that also provide for the protection of copyrighted IP. ¬†We are the ones with the engineering skills, after all. ¬†Does anyone expect companies led by lawyers and agents to solve this problem on their own?I may sound like an apologist for the media industry (I’m not, and my congressman knows it), but I really think we could try harder to “compromise” by using our big engineering brains to help solve the media industry’s business problems, too. ¬†Of course, some tech companies are doing this right now. ¬†For example, one of my angel investments, Flipboard, is a company who clearly knows how to deliver a compelling consumer¬†experience¬†AND provide a more efficient¬†distribution platform AND work with big media, not against it. ¬†That said, if we believe that internet-based technology will eliminate the need for any media intermediaries/distributors in the future, then there’s probably no “technology solution possible”. ¬†But I don’t think technology companies will ever meet all of the real-world business needs of artists & content creators. ¬†For example, artists often cannot afford nor do they know how to manage the legal, manpower and technical resources involved with getting their product to market efficiently and at an acceptable risk. ¬†Agents, directors, producers and publishers do that stuff today. ¬†How and when will technology companies resolve those issues? ¬†Until we have those answers in hand, I think it’s irresponsible (and lazy) for technology executives and investors to simply “be against” laws like SOPA/PIPA, without offering a viable technology-based alternative. ¬†You know, as a “compromise”.

    1. ShanaC

      what if they don’t want the problem solved?

      1. vniven

        Shana, that wasn’t my experience with executives in the TV industry. ¬†Most of the execs I met definitely understood that the tide was against them and understood they need a realistic solution to free streaming video. ¬†Movie industry is different in terms of how their product is distributed but the same threat, basically. ¬†So you know where I’m coming from: while serving as President/founder of Twinspires.com (Churchill Downs igaming unit), in 2007-08 my team developed a live streaming video platform (Twinspires TV) that worked on the web and protected IP rights for live streams and controlled/tracked the distribution of copyrighted video. We even applied for a patent. While I was doing that, I served on the board of a TV network and assisted in the due diligence of acquiring a TV network (which did not happen).What I learned is that most media executives are either agents (negotiators) or lawyers (negotiators). ¬†They aren’t necessarily skilled as creators, managers or engineers (to Fred’s points). ¬†All of this regulation is merely a practical response by lawyers to the very real threat of being dis-intermediated. ¬†¬†Now that both sides have been threatened, maybe we can finally sit down and talk about joint technical and regulatory solutions that meet the most important criteria – what consumers want (and they want it NOW). ¬† ¬†To address your question: ¬†I believe strongly that tech needs to define the solution so we can wrap the regulation around it, not just fight the regulation and wait for the other side to be “enlightened”. ¬†I think it’s arrogant, ignorant and dumb for the technology industry to lose this opportunity to come up with a reasonable technology solution for price window-based distribution of copyrighted content that allows for watermarking/tracking of downstream consumption (so enforcement is possible). ¬†Yes, there are privacy concerns to deal with – but that’s the only sticky issue and media+tech are probably on the same side of that issue. ¬†I think everyone wins if do our half of the job first.Does anyone know of a tech company actively working to solve this problem?

        1. ShanaC

          You know, I’m a creator. Yet I have lots of lawyer/agent type friends. Scaring them through disintermediation doesn’t work, they end up confrontational. Which in turn makes the tech people even more arrogant in response, out of fear of being wrong (sorry all)All of this is frustrating to me. I have yet to hear of a good solution from either side (kickstarter is a start, not a solution). I also never hear of anyone seriously sitting down and listening to the problem (guy who needs long tail revenue from the Paley center discussion) in order to get to a solution. Why is that? If everyone knows there is a problem, why don’t people want to attack the problem instead of each other….

    2. fredwilson

      what do you think of the proposals i made at Paley?

      1. vniven

        I think you are definitely on the right track… ¬†your points were really sound.As you suggested, I strongly agree that the media industry needs to very quickly move away from time windows to pay windows (most intelligent people agree on this point I think). ¬†That would help a LOT in my opinion. ¬†It would motivate profit-seeking media companies to finally compete with pirate sites via content marketing, SEM/SEO and social media in a way that many of them have been avoiding. ¬† This single change would line ’em up with the direction consumer behavior and many startups are headed. ¬†Your “99% are pirates” metric will start declining once that happens. ¬†That’s media’s challenge – learning to compete for eyeballs in new media (and accepting whatever price points work in the market). ¬†By the way, I think affiliate marketers will flock to old media to help them with this transition, and that would help defend old media from pirate sites who tend to market like affiliates today (that is, extremely well).re. legislation vs. self-regulation: ¬†I don’t think the tech industry and media industry are organized in such a way that there are two people in place who can negotiate this settlement (not without a lot of dissent/fallout). ¬†So… I think tech companies must get formally engaged in the lobbying/regulatory discussions in a way that many of them haven’t been, to date. ¬†Simply because copyright law already exists. ¬†That’s our challenge – to hold our noses as we do the dirty political work required to get the system regulated in an acceptable & enlightened way.Honestly, I thought your Paley discussion – with the crashing/burning of SOPA/PIPA as its catalyst – was the first time I’ve seen both sides motivated to resolve this problem… ie, I saw light at the end of this tunnel. ¬†So, thank you for that.

  35. Emmanuel Makris

    It’s becoming clear that the major corporations don’t want to solve online piracy. They want to supress it and use the same business model that is a century old. $10 a ticket for movies which are usually terrbile, $60 bucks a month for cable with the luxury of watching tv shows that are so bad they will be on netflix in 6 months (dont forget 1/3 of the programming is commercial). If you want to solve online piracy Fred, KEEP invest in those companies which are going to usher in the era of media disruption, whose tracks have been laid by napster and youtube. To be honest you already have done possibly been a part of ¬†the biggest contribution of the 21st century so far, Kickstarter.com. By putting the funding for the content to the people, instead of hollywood execs, ¬†you have reestablished the order of power. We tell them what we want, by voting with our money, which is ¬†the last form of Democracy that means a damn, because our political votes don’t.¬†

    1. fredwilson

      thanks!

    2. Otto

      Fred undermines his own anti-SOPA position each time he says, “piracy is a problem.” It’s clear from SOPA and PIPA that Hollywood and their gang are not interested in any compromise. They certainly do not have your best interests in mind. You’re either for the Internet or you’re for “all rights reserved” enforcement.

  36. Ela Madej

    +1 for “Problem solving is the name of my game”, good line for a hip hop song ūüėČ

  37. leigh

    Where i like to focus is trying to find ways to decode these types of situations that are in process/progress. ¬†The challenge is that the “problem” doesn’t often have enough context or understand the underlying reasons behind the situation. ¬†Not to get all Mcluhan on you (but I”ve been playing around with his Laws of Media for the past two days on a project so…..) but read up on ” figure and ground” and the “Tetrads” — it might give you some new perspectives and get you re-excited about evolving entertainment (vs. solving piracy).

    1. fredwilson

      thanks Leigh. will read McLuhan after The Corrections

  38. FAKE GRIMLOCK

    SOLVE OWN PROBLEMS BEFORE SOMEONE ELSE SOLVE YOU OUT OF BUSINESS.

  39. andyidsinga

    re: “And when the will is not there, as clear as the solution is, its best to leave it alone.”I found this post by Paul Graham helpful with the will part : http://www.paulgraham.com/s…Specifically: “A company is defined by the schleps it will undertake. And schleps should be dealt with the same way you’d deal with a cold swimming pool: just jump in. Which is not to say you should seek out unpleasant work per se, but that you should never shrink from it if it’s on the path to something great.”

  40. sigmaalgebra

    Several posts on this thread have given only qualified agreement with Fred’s remark about leaving the media piracy problem alone.I believe that here Fred is right or nearly so: In the PIPA/SOPA debate, he offered to work with the media industry to find a solution, likely mostly technical and voluntary instead of legislative or legal, to the piracy concerns. So, he went ahead and tried. Then there is the video, to which he posted a link, of him debating at a breakfast of media big wigs.Watching the video, he was trying hard to find a solution and did propose some directions.He was arguing with what appeared to be a legal pit bull who knew only how to bark and bite but not think or solve anything.The audience seemed to like having a pit bull fighting for them but too well off to care about details as fine as Fred was proposing.So, it is fair to say that the audience just wanted simplistic solutions, (A) hire a legal pit bull to push through a law that so “over reached” it would threaten all of the Internet (that they might regard as beneficial collateral damage) or (B) just f’get about the piracy issue at least for now.So, after the PIPA/SOPA debate had big media and Congress back into an Internet buzz saw, the big wigs went for (B) and so far don’t really care enough to consider a serious solution.Information technology entrepreneurs might be interested in a solution to the piracy problem if there was a promise of a valuable ‘disruptive’ solution, but such value may not be visible now.Net, for now the media big wigs are just too well off to consider details of a real solution.So, for now it is appropriate to quit trying to help people who don’t care enough to participate in being helped.Yes, the media big wigs are on a golden mountain built on formula fiction where the medium is the message and are ripe for disruption, especially via the Internet. Or, a little more room in a smart phone case filled with the new 1 TB flash chips should permit a cell phone to have within it essentially all the movies and music ever recorded: Assume 4 GB per movie, one movie a week for 100 years for 5200 movies or 20,800 GB or 21 TB or 21 chips (for the music, everything from Vivaldi through Stravinsky still isn’t so much in comparison!).It was good to see the media big wigs in (what for them passes for) action: They still have big bucks that they sometimes pay for relevant, innovative companies. So, such a company should (1) be fairly sure that the big wigs just will NOT do the ‘detail work’ of innovation in-house, (2) know that the big wigs have deep pockets, don’t like working with details, don’t sweat the small stuff, and are ready to write checks for big bucks, and (3) hold out for the big bucks.Back to it! I need to tweak my schema in my SQL Server database. E.g., for an anonymous user, still want under the covers to give them a user name, a globally unique identifier (GUID) which as a string is 36 characters (bytes) long. But I had a maximum length for user name of only 32 characters so need to increase that length. Looked at using a T-SQL ALTER COLUMN command (can’t since the column is a primary key), SQL Server Management Studio, SQL Server Integration Services, Business Intelligence Studio, and SQL Server Management Objects but at Stack Overflow found a super easy, rock solid solution in just a few lines of old T-SQL! Thanks Joel; NICE work! I REALLY like old T-SQL!A little typing with INSERT * and SELECT * for each of my only dozen or so tables and it should work! With so few tables, my use of SQL Server is SIMPLE (some transactions but no joins, foreign keys, or stored procedures).This approach with just a little T-SQL should be important for future system administration issues. There’s a lot of good functionality in SQL! Will be fun to see the solution work, and then can have the Web pages write GUIDs to the user name column and get on with the rest! Yes, I’m a founder, CEO, CTO, CIO, software architect, chief programmer, and on-demand, learn as needed DBA!

    1. fredwilson

      so you watched the video? it was not my best performance. i got a little hot.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Well, each of the stiffs and stuffed suits was wearing a tie and you were not, and maybe with a tie the heat would have increased!Tie or not, it’s a good chance you were the most powerful person in the room.”Hot”?¬† Given the other side and the audience, let’s, see:¬† You didn’t shoot the guy with Mace, zap him with a Taser, put him on his back with your thumbs on his windpipe, or rope him to a rack.¬† So, you were relatively gracious, diplomatic, professional, and reserved under the circumstances.Basically they tried to shut down the Internet and failed.¬† And their buddy Lamar is continuing and trying to give us the best Congress money can buy.Hmm, let’s see:¬† Studio quality digital movie cameras are now relatively cheap.¬† So is the computing for digital editing.¬† CG?¬† A bottleneck has been processor cycles, but Intel is not joking about being able to put 1000 cores, that can work together, on one chip.¬† Main memory is down to $10 for 4 GB, $2500 per TB; hard disk is up to 4 TB per disk; SSDs are up to 1 TB and increasing quickly.¬† The volume of a 3.5″ hard drive should be able to store a few hundred TB with transfer rate at full main memory speed and very low latency.¬† Net, movie making is going to two guys in a garage with distribution on the Internet with Internet payment, maybe pay per view, and piracy solved with standard public key encryption, authentication, and access control lists.¬† The world can have 100 new movies a week!Music?¬† I put down my violin — 400 year old technology.¬† When I return to music, I will use a computer for composition, performance, and listening.¬† Symphony orchestra in a mid-tower case!¬† I want to work through the harmonies and orchestration of the Strauss ‘Ein Heldenleben’!¬† Yes, the violin part for the girl is relatively easy, but the orchestra part for the man and the adversary are something else!Technology and the Internet are making old media an offer they can’t refuse, and when this point sinks in they will start to cooperate for mutual benefit.¬†

        1. fredwilson

          you crack me up. thanks for this comment. i really enjoyed it.

      2. Dave W Baldwin

        Can you link vid since I’ll know where to look? Also, what is up in the next round in Congress post SOPA/PIPA?

        1. fredwilson

          i linked to it in the post under the words “a discussion i participated in last week ……”

          1. Dave W Baldwin

            Thanks… will get to it after me and some crazy kids get done with a robot.I figure you have a coming post regarding Lamar Smith’s next venture….

      3. Matt A. Myers

        Just watched it. You have so much heart Fred. ūüôā

        1. fredwilson

          too much. i wear things on my sleeve.

          1. Matt A. Myers

            People need more role models of people speaking with their heart. :)And no such thing as speaking with too much heart unless it’s detrimental to the person in some other way.

          2. Richard

            PS want a good heart of your sleeve performance ? See leonardo decaprio in the Aviator testifying before the senate (Senator played by Alan Alder). What a flick. Howard Hughes mortgaged his entire company to create his first film!

      4. Richard

        Just watched the video. Your best moment: the studio should consider that there is “no net loss in marginal revenue from from those who would otherwise not be able to pay”. Your worst moment: no rebuttal for point of film entrepreneurs who put together 300k and can not afford loss of incremental long tail marginal revenue. And now I think I may have a solution!

        1. fredwilson

          i wanted to plug Kickstarter at that moment but it felt a bit like talking my own book so i did not

    2. André DeMarre

      I don’t understand the¬†comment spam¬†noise at the end of this otherwise valid comment. To entertain the madness though, you shouldn’t store a GUID as text. It’s a 128-bit integer and should be stored in a binary field of that size. To store it in hexadecimal GUID notation inflates your storage requirements 225%.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        As regulars at AVC.com know, I have a project. Sorry you regarded my little project remark as “spam”. Besides, my post was mostly about politics while this thread, and I, are mostly about engineering. So I mentioned some engineering, as I have many times on this blog. While I was talking about my project, my talk wasn’t in any sense “spam” if only because such a remark is irrelevant to fund raising, at least for me.Yes, I know about GUID and associated data types. Also the sort order of GUIDs is different between SQL Server and Visual Basic .NET. As I recall without looking up my notes and testing code, SQL Server sorts using only some of the 16 bytes, and Visual Basic .NET sorts using all 16 bytes.Your remark about the character representation taking more space is correct although I regard the difference in this case as likely small compared with overhead and other considerations.My considerations: For users who have a user name, I’m using SQL Server data type VARCHAR (which likely abbreviates ‘variable length character string’) that uses just one byte per character (unless I misunderstand when Unicode gets involved). So, to use the same column for an internally generated user name for a user that did not give a user name, I still want to store that name with data type VARCHAR.As an easy way to get a unique internally generated user name, I am using GUID from Visual Basic .NET. So, I could not store a 16 byte binary GUID in a VARCHAR column unless I wanted to trick SQL Server and take some risks of problems (I want to avoid such chances of problems).By converting the GUID to character via .NET, I get a string of 36 characters. Yes, it is a hex string with four hyphen characters, but I ignore the hex aspect (I’m programming my project nearly always via a ‘high level language’ and avoiding working directly with bytes in memory; I don’t even know if my computer is big endian or little endian and, really, don’t have to care).Then sending SQL Server the string version of the GUID, I get the same sorting, just strings, in SQL Server as in Visual Basic .NET, and that’s nice. Since this column for user name is a primary key in its table, I care about the sorting. Also I don’t have to worry in any sense about binary data in SQL Server; that is, it’s just easier to work with character strings than binary data.For the hyphens in the string version of GUID, those and the 36 byte length will tell me, if I choose to look, that the user name is one internally generated for an anonymous user. Sure, this point risks violating something like a normal form rule, and I should have a separate column to indicate if the user is anonymous or not, but I can leave that column for later, when and if I care.For the storage space on hard disk, I’ve seen nothing on just how SQL Server stores VARCHAR. For all I know, actually there is little or no difference in the amount of disk space involved between 16 bytes and 36 bytes in a VARCHAR column.Performance is a major consideration in my project, so much so that SQL Server is very lightly used. Nearly all the heavy computing is from data in direct access files or virtual memory, in either case with good locality of reference. My back of the envelop estimate is that I can have a nice business with just 150 TB of virtual memory. For reliability and performance, there is a lot of partitioning (maybe ‘sharding’) and parallelism in my server farm architecture so that 150 TB is not a strain on current hardware.My usage of SQL Server is very simple.

        1. André DeMarre

          I discerned that you weren’t really spamming, but the SQL talk in your comment seemed so out of place with the rest of what you said that honestly I thought you had accidentally copied and pasted it from another thread somewhere! I’m sorry; no hard feelings.I’m sure you know what’s best for your project, but I imagine that you’re open to feedback since you’re posting so openly about these technical details.Your point about GUID sorting differences between .NET and SQL Server is interesting. I wonder if that would still be a problem if both were operating on the 128-bit representation of a GUID. Nonetheless, that’s probably a fine justification for your design choice there.I’m not an expert at .NET or SQL Server, but I would expect treating GUIDs as text everywhere to slow performance. Sorting 16-byte datums should certainly be faster than sorting 36-byte datums. Likewise for database lookups. Further, if you want to look up an account by username, the DB will have a smaller (faster) index to seek if GUIDs are kept out of that column.I am imagining a table with a GUID column for the primary key and a VARCHAR column for the username with a UNIQUE¬†constraint¬†on it. If an account has no username, that column is NULL. SQL Server has a native GUID data type, so it probably has some performance¬†optimizations¬†you could take advantage of by using it. As for storage, the GUID column would occupy 16 bytes per record, while the VARCHAR will use length+2, or 32+2 in the case of the largest allowed username. It will be 36+2 bytes if you store a text GUID in a VARCHAR.These are just some thoughts from a naive outsider. You’ve probably already considered these options, and as pragmatic engineers there are always many things to consider as we optimize our designs.Happy engineering!

          1. sigmaalgebra

            My post on SQL work was in the theme “back to the real work” after all that political mud wrestling.Of course, the main theme of AVC.com is Internet information technology startups. Here Web browsers, Web servers, and databases, SQL or no-SQL, maybe Redis, maybe Hadoop, etc., are ubiquitous. Further, one of the major interests on AVC.com is the programming for such startups. Indeed, in January there was a lot of interest on AVC.com in learning to program for such startups. So, SQL Server programming is an important special case. So, my little remarks here on SQL Server add some real, ‘color’ examples to how the relevant programming can go. So, these remarks are not so much about my project as just a little on programming for the coveted startups.> “I imagine that you’re open to feedback since you’re posting so openly about these technical details.”These SQL details are what I’m doing just now, but they are very routine, even elementary, database issues and not the crucial, core ‘secret sauce’ issues of my project. Actually the secret sauce stuff is done. So it’s curious that there is time on so many really elementary SQL issues. For anyone doing a Web 2.0 startup and using relational database, issues such as I describe and answers from Stack Overflow will be standard. Indeed, clearly Joel Spolsky saw that as he created Stack Overflow!> “Your point about GUID sorting differences between .NET and SQL Server is interesting. I wonder if that would still be a problem if both were operating on the 128-bit representation of a GUID.”Absolutely would be a problem: If the GUIDs are converted to strings, then they sort just as strings and, thus, sort the same in Visual Basic .NET and SQL Server and, really, nearly anything else. It is only when GUIDs are in their ‘native’ form as 16 bytes that they sort differently in Visual Basic .NET and SQL Server.”I would expect treating GUIDs as strings everywhere to slow performance.”Sure it would. In SQL Server, the data type of a GUID is uniqueidentifier, and I am using that several places in my schema and, then, always just in its 16 byte binary version, usually as keys, and essentially never convert those values to strings (maybe for some error messages to some log files I will convert a GUID to a string and write the string). Yes, there are pros and cons using GUIDs as keys, but my usage should be okay.My use of a string version of a GUID is quite different from usage in the native 16 byte version: As you might expect for a Web site, I let users pick a user name and store that in SQL Server. Since when a user returns to my Web site and gives their user name (or I read it from a Web browser cookie) I have to look up data on the user, e.g., their password, I need for their user name to be a key. All fine and good.But a lot of users won’t have a user name and will be, say, ‘anonymous’. So, just for ease, uniformity, and convenience in much of my software, I want, internally, to assign a user name to even an anonymous user. So, how, internally, do I pick a unique user name for an anonymous user? Sure, the easy way, even in a large server farm with many Web servers facing users, is to use a GUID.What about using a null as the user name for an anonymous user? I would not be thrilled with the idea of having a column with many millions of nulls per day, or per hour, also a key! So I don’t want the internally generated user name for an anonymous user to be a null.But, of course, the column for the user name has SQL Server data type VARCHAR. So, I can’t store a GUID value for an anonymous user in a VARCHAR column (without doing tricky things to fool SQL Server, which I don’t want to do). But, if in Visual Basic .NET I just convert the GUID I get from .NET to a string, then I can store the string in a column of data type VARCHAR. So, that’s what I want to do.So, the length of a GUID converted to a string is 36 characters. So, my user name column needs to have length at least 36 characters. But I had that length only 32 characters. So, I need to increase the length.How to increase the length? After looking at the several options I listed, I settled on something from Stack Overflow based on INSERT * SELECT *. But, since then it appears that I can use justSELECT * INTO … FROM …;for each of my dozen or so tables. Right: I’m a beginner DBA!With this approach, when I get an anonymous user, have .NET give me a GUID converted to a string, and give the string to SQL Server as the user name, poor SQL Server thinks it is just working with a string and not a GUID.Actually, closer to your ideas, for each user, anonymous or not, I generate, inside SQL Server, an internal identifier, of type uniqueidentifier and use that GUID for all the rest of work particular to that user. Why? Generally I’m not thrilled with using user provided data for data base keys; so, ASAP I don’t.What you said about storage is, of course, at one level correct, but I suspect that the actual disk space used is quite different and generally significantly larger. That is, I would expect that a data value in a column with data type VARCHAR(36) would occupy, maybe, 2 bytes plus one of 14, 30, or 62 bytes no matter what the actual length was. That is, a physical disk record or chunk will likely be 512 bytes or 4096 bytes or some such, and SQL Server needs to allocate space within such physical records. A first cut guess is that the 4096 or so is broken into pieces, each of length a power of 2 bytes. But, again, I don’t know.Yes, working with 16 bytes will be faster than working with 36 bytes, but in either case the data and code are in level 1 cache where things are really fast, and the bottleneck is the other two caches, main memory, and especially the hard disk, especially if the computer has a lot of hard disks accessed via some expansion card! So, net, I doubt if I could construct a realistic test to show that 16 bytes was faster for SQL Server than 36 bytes! Even getting an accurate value for the timing of one of the cases, 16 or 36 bytes, promises to be a pain due to (‘non-deterministic’, i.e., random) effects of alignment in (1, 2, or 4 way set associative) caches, main memory, hard disk physical records, etc.! Also have to remember that typically in these little computers, the easy way to do physical I/O with main memory is to run the I/O data through the cache to let it do the virtual/real address translation and, thus, flush the cache!So, net, on speed of SQL Server, I am ignoring the effect of 36 bytes versus 16. Instead, for speed, which is an issue, I am following the common, broad strategy that architecture means much more than issues in the deepest Do loops (where the difference between 16 and 36 bytes will have its most direct effects).For my architectural strategy, my main idea is to make only light use of SQL Server and for more SQL Server performance to use various cases of partitioning to admit multiple parallel instances of SQL Server on independent mid-tower cases. E.g., a standard trick, with support from SQL Server, is to have a big data base of read only data and a small data base of read/write data with each SELECT going to both and results from the small read/write database, which is likely all in main memory somewhere, taking precedence. When the small database gets too big, it is written to the big, read only one. The read only database, of course, being read only, can have astoundingly high parallelism, performance, and reliability. And the small, read/write database, all in main memory, can also be astoundingly fast. And the small read/write database can also have partitioning for performance and fail-over for reliability. Net, I believe I can get, for my light usage of SQL Server, the performance and reliability I need.Then the real high performance stuff stands to be some TBs of data in virtual memory with good locality of reference, with SQL Server not involved and with a lot of parallelism and partitioning for both performance and reliability. I’ve written the core software with such partitioning already — didn’t want to take the same ground twice!All this server farm architectural hand waving is actually quite simple, in a figure on one page! It’s not complicated. But anyone planning a busy Web site will have to work with such considerations and more! Ah, a little “engineering’!

  41. Cynthia Schames

    (Not related to SOPA/PIPA, but to the last two paragraphs.)I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past few months, especially the part about investors/advisors only having *so* much power over the actions of startups in which they’re involved. ¬†I’ve seen a couple of founders who faced very clear challenges, got great advice from their investors and advisors, and quite simply refused to execute. ¬†I’ve been in the position of advising a startup and having my advice disregarded, and I know how frustrating that is; it must be exquisitely painful to have actual money on the line and be able to see that at some point your experience and advice are simply falling on deaf ears. ¬†The double-edged sword of experience is that sometimes you really DO know the future.

    1. fredwilson

      i’ve learned to live with it.

      1. Cynthia Schames

        @fredwilson:disqus¬†I haven’t. Not sure I ever will, and honestly I don’t want to learn to live with it. I’m not an engineer, and don’t have an engineer’s brain, but as a longtime consultative sales/biz dev professional, I’m deeply motivated by problem-solving. ¬†And common sense.It makes me absolutely furious on other people’s behalf when I see them doing the same stupid crap over and over again. I’m stubborn, though, and try valiantly to resist saying “I told you so”. ¬†Instead, when and if I see signs of motion in the right direction before it’s too late, I just re-engage like mad and try to help steer the ship away from the rocks.What blows my mind is the fact that people exist in the startup world who wouldn’t take *your* advice. ¬†No one is always right, but I’d say that you have a much better than average shot at it.

        1. LE

          I’m fascinated by alI of this. I think this is the “cousin” of the “doctor was wrong” bias. Or is it the “went to 10 doctors and they all missed it bias” (fill in the appropriate psychology principle which I can’t pin down)There are always cases out there where some older experienced person was wrong and the younger person made it despite the advice of an older person.I’m pretty sure Trump’s father thought he was nuts back when he built Trump tower (father built other types of apartments) but Trump took a chance and it worked. And those are the stories you hear. You don’t hear the ones that failed. ¬†(Trump was nuts and his father was right. The fact that Trump pulled it off is a total outlier. And without his father’s reputation he would have never pulled it off either.)So young people are particularly susceptible to this bias.Now of course I don’t think this exists in all industries. I don’t believe that young people don’t listen to the football coach or that this exists in the entertainment business.I’m sure if a young person spoke to Brian Williams and wanted to make it big in TV news he would listen and follow whatever Brian Williams said, right? Or a big deal football coach.I think it has to do with competition.The balance with startups is with the entrepreneurs not with the money. And the entrepreneurs have mastered the art of playing those with money against each other. ¬†The new generation also has a different attitude that has been written about many times. They have been coddled and told how great they are and how it’s all about them. That certainly didn’t happen when I was growing up that’s for sure.¬†

  42. JLM

    Fred, good news and bad news.You are wise.You are not elderly.In the next 10 years, you will do some of the best work you have ever done. ¬†You will marvel at how easy it is to deploy the wisdom you have paid full tuition to acquire.What you are experiencing is the “abyss” and the challenge of band width.At 50, you look down into the abyss and say — “Is this all there is?” ¬†You confront your own mortality and ultimately, you will say — “head fake”.If you were a Texas pick up truck, you would just be getting to “broken in”.

    1. Aaron Klein

      I think he would prefer New York subway car but I agree entirely. Fred + AVC are just getting started.

    2. Richard

      Age:0-20 useless and selfish20-90 productive90-100 (who knows)

      1. Uselless

        PEOPLE , Y U NO LIKE ABOVE POST? I have 5 more months to be selfish and usele.woo hoo

      2. testtest

        not sure about the boundaries. i remember my friend getting offered a job at an isp when he was 16. he would have been paid more than his parents. 

    3. fredwilson

      hmm, did that post come across as signaling retirement?not at all what i intendedjust spent four days skiing trees with three sixteen year olds and mostly off the gridi’m as energized as i’ve been in months

      1. LE

        “did that post come across as signaling retirement?”Hmm. Worse than that:”move from youthful enthusiasm to elderly wisdom””skiing trees with three sixteen year olds”Ok that’s better.

      2. Ela Madej

        yay! do whatever you need but please don’t retire in the next months ūüėČ What am I saying? Years! Still some great projects and companies out there who need you!¬†

      3. Donna Brewington White

        Well, you did use the word “elderly”.In the words of Gollum, “It burns us!”

  43. gregorylent

    dropping the word “piracy” is a great start. call it digital sharing, and proceed from there.

    1. Dave Pinsen

      What would you call old-fashioned piracy (or, “piracy”, if you prefer), “maritime sharing”?Whether the goods are physical or digital, “sharing” implies consent. Taking without consent is theft.

      1. kidmercury

        taking without consent is just that — taking without consent. theft is the deprivation of property from another. that’s the big difference between physical and digital…..i.e. i steal your car you don’t have it anymore. i “steal” your mp3 and you still have it.the “you deprived me of revenue” argument is not one i buy either. by that rationale walmart is depriving small businesses of revenue. tough luck for them, they need to up their game and learn to compete. but alas, crying to government is always easier. ¬†

        1. ErikSchwartz

          If your first defense is semantic then you’re not going to win.

          1. kidmercury

            all of law is semantics! ūüôā but my first defense is always economics…..i.e. what creates greater economic efficiency and wealth for society as a whole. that is why i think the copyright debate is a business model debate, and as new business models emerge, the copyright debate will fade away.

          2. ErikSchwartz

            We can quibble over all law being semantics. If your first defense is a reframing of the question to a more favorable stance rather than a statement of righteousness of your position then you might be going the wrong way.

          3. kidmercury

            well, my personal value system is very bottom-line oriented…..and so, i view what is morally correct as what is economically correct. whatever creates prosperity for all wins. so, i’ll always look to view every political issue — war, copyright, taxation, regulation, etc — from this perspective.

        2. Dave Pinsen

          Your Walmart analogy doesn’t fit. Competing with someone by retailing 3rd party products at lower prices is entirely different from taking someone else’s products. If Walmart stole small businesses’ inventories and resold them, your analogy might make sense.

          1. kidmercury

            you are still trying to compare digital stealing to physical stealing — physical stealing deprives the original owner, this does not occur in digital stealing. if you publish an ebook and i steal it you still have the right to sell it. if your business model is devised for modern times, you will potentially profit from my stealing via the exposure it gets you. i don’t dispute the need for property rights, or for property rights enforcement. i think we are at a point now where public commons are not being respected enough and that this is hurting economic progress. more importantly, though, i think the burden is on new media publishers to understand the rules of the digital economy and how profit opportunities are created here. even if the copyright crowd got whatever enforcement they wished for, i don’t think that would get them the profits they are looking for.

          2. ErikSchwartz

            If I am the original creator I bear the expenses of creation. If someone copies my creation and undersells my price point (because their cost structure does not include the capital costs of creation) how is that economically correct?

          3. kidmercury

            the value of attention needs to be factored into this equation. here is a crude mathematical expression:profit oppty = (attention * monetizabilty of attention) + (direct sale * profit margin)in the digital world, the first part of that equation is the opportunity. “monetizability of attention” is all the new stuff we talk about; i.e. service-oriented models, merchandise sales, game play, etc. is that part of the equation being hindered or enabled by “stealing”? i think it is, for the most part, being enabled. you may argue that you, as the creator, don’t want to play that game, regardless of how economically efficient it will or won’t be. that is fair enough and is certainly your prerogative. in time, however, i think the market will evolve to that model — unless regulation makes that model impossible. as such i don’t think society as a whole should be burdened with a higher regulatory cost, because i think there will be sufficient economic opportunity for creators and for society at large as the mathematical equation in this post attempts to crudely illustrate. also worth noting is that the regulation that the copyright crowd calls for does raise the enforcement cost, so it is raising the cost for everyone who pays for the enforcement of those laws (i.e. taxes). so, the morality of property rights can be viewed from this perspective as well.

          4. ErikSchwartz

            But the choice of how a creation is consumed rests with the creator no the consumer, no?

          5. kidmercury

            Well I wouldn’t entirely agree with that — if someone buys something, I migt argue they have the right to do what they want with it. In any event, creators can put drm or whatever they would like to specify their terms. When they ask for more public tax dollars to enforce/subsidize their business is what I find to be more economically- – and thus, morally- – flawed.

          6. ErikSchwartz

            The place I think many of these problems start is the idea that the value of the creation is proportional to the cost of the delivery medium. Back in the CD day I can’t tell you how many times I heard people say “How can they charge $15 for a CD when it costs $1 to make a CD”?. But that argument is ignorant. The cost of delivery medium is only a tiny fragment of the cost of creating a piece of IP be it movies, SW, music, or visual art.No one forces artists to use any particular business model. But once they sign a contract then they have made their choice and they no longer own their art, the label they sold it to owns it. You want to change it, make a business model artists choose over advances and up front money.

          7. Dave Pinsen

            The right to sell my ebook is virtually meaningless if you have the right to take it without paying for it and give it away without charging for it. You are being obtuse if you don’t acknowledge that.As for business models designed to potentially profit from your stealing, in order to profit, I have to eventually get paid. Which leaves advertising, if I am unable to sell my product. That requires scale as is, but in your world it would be more difficult, because, since fewer businesses would be able to sell their products (since digital products could be freely taken), there would be fewer potential advertisers.

          8. Andrew Hoydich

            “if you publish an ebook and i steal it you still have the right to sell it. if your business model is devised for modern times, you will potentially profit from my stealing via the exposure it gets you.”Do you think you can explain this a little bit more for someone who is trying to understand your argument a bit better?

          9. kidmercury

            here are some examples of where the creator benefits from the “stealing”: 1. if the “stolen” product had product placement or ads, stealing increases the value of those ads2. if you are selling merchandise, stealing also potentially helps in that regard. for instance, stealing could conceivably generate more product sales for harry potter merchandise if the book was read more. the caveat here is that products can also be stolen, and identity can as well, which has potential to create problems. but, most of those who steal have no interest in doing this. in fact, the “thieves” may in fact be inclined to be the very customers who by merchandise.3. special limited edition products, evening with the creator, etc. for instance, if you put an ad in the ebook that folks can pay $X to have an autographed copy, or $X*10000 to have the author come do a book reading, the theft can help.to put it simply, it is about turning the ebook into an ad for something else that is actually scarce, rather than pretending that the book itself is scarce. i should note that this works better when you are dealing with bigger markets; the closer you are to teh market being only one person, the more likely you need to go the traditional route of selling something, and the more legitimate the copyright claims become. accordingly, another option for those who want to focus on selling digital media is to focus on selling media that is personalized or time-sensitive.

          10. K_Berger

            I was going to reply to this but then I reread Fred’s post and decided against it.¬† ūüėȬ†

          11. Andrew Hoydich

            First off, thank you for your response.¬†I absolutely understand the value you are giving attention. Without the sharing that takes place over the internet, a piece of content that would only reach a few hundred now has the potential to reach millions. That is a beautiful thing on its own and has proved to be a powerful and useful tool.And although I don’t really understand how your examples justify pirating, thinking about the situation in terms of your second paragraph has definitely opened me up a little.¬†Take the artist Pretty Lights for example. He’s a relatively new electronic/trippy/etc. DJ that allows people to download all of his album music for free on his website. His live shows also sell out almost immediately. These two things are definitely related. He took content that was not scarce, gained wide-spread attention, and used it as a tool to sell what actually is scarce (his live performances).¬†I’ll have to do some more thinking as to whether this can be generalized to all creators of content.But one more thing I want to mention is the effect of piracy on the gaming industry. Here is a situation where I see no good coming from piracy at all. A video game’s scarce commodity is the gameplay it provides and that is¬†embedded¬†in the product itself. Once you have the game you have everything. You don’t need merchandise, there is little to no product placement, and the exclusive content usually comes when you preorder a hard-copy of the game.¬†Companies have tried to combat this with pay-to-play strategies and locking certain aspects of the game to non-paying players but those strategies suck. I want to be able to pay for a game and that’s it. I have it. If they come out with additional content, post release, that’s a different story. But if I get to a point in the game and it says “this level is only accessibly to platinum members” it makes me want to scream. On top of that they¬†aren’t that efficient either, people still get the content they want.

      2. kidmercury

        in regards to your comment below, it is true that the free content model works better in smaller markets, and ideally personalized media. however, advertising from third parties is not the only game in town. using mass market media to sell personalized media, merchandise, real-time information, are all options. the right to sell is still important and relevant, and can compete with free. the kickstarter stuff is an example. it does require upselling, and more directly, selling something that is actually scarce rather than mass media that is not.  

    2. fredwilson

      good suggestion

    3. Matt A. Myers

      It’s a public good – like parks – that everyone has access too! You’ll hear them scoff at the term public good because in reality it shines the light on the positive aspects of it.

  44. Ela Madej

    I think it’s great you’re making effort to “define” what type of person you are to understand your own incentives (and consequences)¬†However, you can try to control it and¬†“grow wiser” but you can’t change who you are. What if this very part of your¬†personality¬†is the basis for your success?¬†My fav quote of all times is:¬†‚ÄúBut I don’t want to go among mad people,” said Alice. “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the cat. “We’re all mad here.”¬† Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

    1. fredwilson

      and we are all mad here at AVC too Elathanks for that comment

  45. kidmercury

    as we’ve discussed before the copyright “problem” gets solved with new business models, specifically platform business models. i’ll take it a step further and say that the platform will eventually evolve into the licensing and enforcement mechanism. this will require end to end control (media, device, social graph). apple could do it, but they are BFF with old media so not really. amazon will make this reality.the real moment everyone is waiting for is when the original movies made by amazon, netflix, etc are actually good and popular. there are some major obstacles here — namely marketing and talent, since the new school media kids won’t have unions and thus won’t have big celebrity names — but eventually someone will solve that problem (perhaps something like maker studios).

  46. CJ

    Enlightening, I find myself in this same position, especially in my personal and family life. ¬†So easy to see clear cut solutions when others come to me with a problem, but I’ve recently come to the conclusion that they aren’t looking for solutions all that often, just looking to vent. ¬†It’s the hardest thing, being a problem solver, listening to problems and biting back the natural tendency to offer a solution. ¬†*sigh* ¬†

    1. fredwilson

      bingoooooooyou nailed it malcolm

  47. ErikSchwartz

    “And it is not clear to me that the entertainment industry wants to solve the problem. So maybe I should move on.”I’m in the same place. You can’t force them to save themselves.As a change of pace I’ve taken a consulting gig as head of product for a healthcare related web/tech company. I’m not sure if this is a long term industry switch, but it’s exciting to apply skills I developed in entertainment to problems that are not so frivolous (and boy oh boy is it a GIANT market).

    1. fredwilson

      i’m interested in healthcare too Erik.we will come up against similar fear of changebut the upside is bigger both in dollars and outcomes

  48. Richard

    Fred : you are not “elederly”. ¬†Was steve jobs elderly? If your adult life begins at 21 and you are healthy, you are at best middle age.¬†I am glad that you tied together engineering with the curent debate. As a fellow engineer, the line that we are trying to sell to the motions pictures industry that we engineers are so smart yet the only answer we have for piracy is ¬†..”you cant stop piracy” ¬†is LAME.¬†As joe peshi said in my “my cousin vinny” .. ¬†Our position to there is nothing you can ¬† is ¬†what we lawyers call a counter offer.¬†Cmon engineers …lets put our heads together and solve this problem.¬†

    1. fredwilson

      well i laid out an approach, based on commercial service providers like domain registrars and spam whitelist and blacklist providers combined with a requirement that the entertainment industry makes their content available legally for their copyright to be enforceable. i think its very doable

  49. ShanaC

    I see myself in this all the time.  Usually surrounding people.  And I can never fix them to my sastisfaction.*sigh*I need to let go.  People and organizations are not large machines (though they are more interesting than large machines)

  50. Marcus Oberholzer

    Great post, and even better comments.I’m an engineer working with the Fed gov’t in DC…talk about different worlds! I feel like I am starting to get the hang of why the “problem solving” approach can be fruitless in these circles. ¬†As an engineer, I’m too comfortable with the idea that each answer is either right or wrong, with no gray area. In reality, there are so many moving parts with so many stakeholders that nothing exists in a vacuum (even in the startup world), and there are constant tensions pulling in so many directions. Decisions have to be made that account for these as realistically as possible, and any decision accounting for only one set of beliefs is short-sighted at best.¬†After this process, the decision you are left with is, are you willing to take a hopefully-better-than-mediocre solution that can assuage most stakeholders (including your own), or are we too stubborn to move off the perch of “the right answer” and get nothing? How much of the gray area are you willing to accept?I’m realizing the 2007 me would despise the comment that 2012 me just wrote. Maybe I’ve been in DC too long?

    1. LE

      Quote follows from a movie producer that I am helping with an idea of funding films as we have discused, my emphasis:”I can deliver the product to market, but I don’t know yet how to bypass the “studios” without engendering ill-will, or worse, their bad decisions and choices.¬† Which is what the crux of this is all about — making entertainment from a positive, non-fear-based, platform. ¬†“”¬†As an engineer, I’m too comfortable with the idea that each answer is either right or wrong, with no gray area”Exactly. This is an analog problem to be solved, not a digital one.”and there are constant tensions pulling in so many directions. Decisions have to be made that account for these as realistically as possible, and any decision accounting for only one set of beliefs is short-sighted at best. “Right again. I’m amazed by the number of comments (here and elsewhere) that simply seem to think that the right thing will happen because it makes sense and it, well, will benefit people. It won’t. It’s a power game. And the various stakeholders all have something to gain and lose. And they are in control. (It’s called the “golden rule”).The decisions that need to be made (by either government, Hollywood, Networks etc.) will be made by people (and stockholders) who stand to gain or lose personally by whatever happens. Additionally they all have only a certain amount of energy to devote to standing their ground before they cave in. (More or less similar to what happens in a labor union strike many times.)”or are we too stubborn to move off the perch of “the right answer” and get nothing”This is exactly why congress has deadlocked recently on major issues. They are caught between a rock and a hard place. And in a sense they have boxed themselves into a corner with the people they answer to as well (so they have no room to budge in their positions). They haven’t managed expectations of the various parties. Which of course may or may not even be possible.This is not a technical problem that needs to be solved. It’s a people problem and a strategy problem. ¬†The technical part is quite easy.

      1. Marcus Oberholzer

        Thanks for the response, LE. Your last paragraph hits it on the head. It’s not a technical problem, it’s a people problem…just like¬†@JerryColonna:disqus¬†pointed out in his (fantastic) guest post: “The bottom denominator is always people”

  51. Jonathan Nichol

    Thank you for this post (and everything else you share with us). Love your blog! Please, write some more!

  52. Doug Gibbs

    The problem with Piracy is not the pirates, it is¬†availability. It is easier to get the latest movie, video or show online via a pirate site, than via some proper outlet. So people steal when it is easy. Wrong, but easy, and the comments show all the justifications people will find to excuse their wrong behavior.Find and back a company that can provide TV, movies, and content easily and at a fair price where the studio and artists get a cut. They will be hugely successful, and your returns will be astronomical. The tech is done, the business is all about forging IP agreements with studios and artists. Maybe bypass them and go directly to the artist unions and make new contracts as a studio/distributor.The movie and music industry are hung up on the distribution method. The music industry was almost lost, except iTunes came along and saved them from themselves. What is iTunes? An easy way to get music, at a fair price where the studio and artists get a cut.Why can’t we see a movie in our home, streamed over the internet 1 or 2 days after the theater release? I know you have a nice TV room with a big screen and super sound. Would you pay $20 for to see a movie at home? Sure, that is cheaper than the theater, less of a pain and easier, especially with kids.It is obvious, but the movie studios want to leave money on the table to preserve “history” or something. Fighting the piracy sites is failing, so pump more money at it and try and get congress to save you. That makes no sense.¬†What would a good¬†entrepreneur¬†do? Ignore the pirates, make a better system, and take it to the bank. Don’t you want to go to the bank with that¬†entrepreneur?

  53. testtest

    problem solving can be fun. when there’s freedom of creativity it can be more fun. the best is creativity under constraints. the¬†constraints set you free. as odysseus well knows

  54. laurie kalmanson

    suing your customers: not the right answer

  55. Carl Rahn Griffith

    I am still baffled as to why an industry that deals in digital content – so has the luxury of products that can be shipped to a target market of several billion people with the greatest of ease – chooses to construct obstacles to entering global markets.Is there a hidden agenda? I have had dealings with cross-border and double taxation issues in the context of digital purchases, and it is quite a minefield – each government of course wants a slice of the taxes but this is not the problem of the consumer.Additionally, these ‘goods’ are by definition luxury/leisure items – people are not going to fight for them – they will follow the path of least resistance – if they badly want their ‘goods’ right here, right now they will find the medium that provides them.

  56. André DeMarre

    There’s an unexpected point where the interests of copyright holders and “open social” advocates intersect. The latter want a system where users own their own data. That’s a great idea, and interestingly, with ownership comes accountability. When we standardize social media and put users in control of their content, then we’ll have a system where rights holders can target the violators instead of the service providers.Consider FedEx. They might be used to deliver illegal items, but instead of shutting them down, law enforcement targets the real drug dealers and smugglers. FedEx is given regulations to comply with and spends effort ensuring the legality and safety of the items they transport, but ultimately the law is after the real violators.A difficulty with copyrights is that violations aren’t easy for social media service providers to detect. Likewise with physical goods; there may be ways to detect dangerous and illegal substances, but FedEx has no way to identify a shipment of bootlegged DVDs or stolen goods. At least until the digital equivalent of that problem is solved, the burden of identifying infringement must rest with the copyright holders.Ignored by the big copyright holders is that the right solution needs to be scalable. It should be just as easy for an independent author to control distribution of his self-published e-book as it is for Warner Bros. and their blockbusters.The internet is rich with¬†opportunities¬†for clever and monetizable distribution channels. Surely there are many which haven’t yet been realized and offered as services. The indie artists are¬†attracted¬†to these, and perhaps that’s partly why the big rights holders are so slow to modernize their business models; they know that by embracing these channels and playing the new game they would be accepting a system where they aren’t necessary in the manner they are accustomed to.A consequence for the music industry in particular is that the record companies need to focus on adding value for the artists to use them, because they will no longer control the distribution channels. If they don’t add value, they’re an¬†unnecessary¬†middle man.When copyright holders use the modern distribution channels that people want, then piracy will decrease.

    1. fredwilson

      Totally agree. That’s why an online content registry structured like DNS and using the same registrars was one of my proposals

      1. André DeMarre

        I like your content registry idea, but rather than model it after DNS, I think the most elegant solution is a cryptographic one. This gives us more flexibility to make the implementation decentralized.We can create a “web of trust” where copyright holders use digital certificates to sign their content. Consumers are given signed assertions that prove their rights to use that content.

  57. andyidsinga

    watching the video – I’m curious about the the notion of a “tidal wave of piracy” and users “searching google for a movie or a tv show”.Is this really how most users look for content – on google – when a market for the content actually exist (itunes, hulu, netflix, redbox, youtube etc)?I (and most people I know) seem to search for TV, video and music ¬†in the relevant apps and youtube.(edit: further along in video – a lot of good discussion around content availability and timeliness)

  58. jason wright

    The Paley discussion.Clearly the players in that content industry (as distinct from other content industries) haven’t the necessary spark required to come up with an elegant solution workable in the new environment that has grown up around them. So, it is for others to take this enormous opportunity by the balls and come up with one for them. Instead of becoming exasperated become entrepreneurial and sell them an idea that ¬†can satisfy both their needs and the needs of content consumers. I don’t have the idea, but I sense that trying to convince them of the error of their ways will never ever succeed.It must be deeply frustrating having to continuously engage in this debate with such people. However, the more frazzled one becomes the more the other side may take that an an indication they they are in the ascendancy, and embolden their resolve to plow on. Charm them to death.

  59. LE

    If you have the time, read this article opinion. This “thing of ours” is under attack again.http://online.wsj.com/artic…On Feb. 27, a diplomatic process will begin in Geneva that could result in a new treaty giving the United Nations unprecedented powers over the Internet….‚ÄĘ Subject cyber security and data privacy to international control;‚ÄĘ Allow foreign phone companies to charge fees for “international” Internet traffic, perhaps even on a “per-click” basis for certain Web destinations, with the goal of generating revenue for state-owned phone companies and government treasuries;…‚ÄĘ Establish for the first time ITU dominion over important functions of multi-stakeholder Internet governance entities such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit entity that coordinates the .com and .org Web addresses of the world;…‚ÄĘ Subsume under intergovernmental control many functions of the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Society and other multi-stakeholder groups that establish the engineering and technical standards that allow the Internet to work;

    1. kidmercury

      ^10 for posting this.¬†anyway, i believe the solution is simply to refuse to comply and to roll our own internet…..of course we can try the political route, but the odds are stacked against us…..old school media has the home field advantage in national and supranational governments.¬†either way though, we are in for the non-violent fight of our lives……

  60. Donna Brewington White

    Elderly or not, I do think that at a certain point our increasing awareness of our own mortality does cause us to want to focus more on what matters and on where we can truly make the most difference.And it occurred to me, reading this post, that the compulsion to solve problems may get in the way of creating solutions.That’s what I want to do, create solutions. ¬†But those enticing problems keep rearing their heads. ¬†Especially for those of us wired to solve them. ¬†It’s a battle to resist them. ¬†But one worth fighting.Interesting, is it my imagination or are some of us still feeling the effects of @jerrycolonna:disqus¬†‘s post from yesterday as we comment today. ¬†

    1. FlavioGomes

      I’ve been really blessed to have had good sense of mortality at a young age.¬† Its what keeps me packing so many interests.When I was a teenager at a friends northern farm, i met this older guy, maybe late seventies, early eighties and we chatted a bit by his cabin.¬† He pointed to this big hangar like building in the back yard and asked if I wanted to see something cool.¬† It was middle of the summer, yet he proceeds to put on a snow suit, goggles and that snoopy like cap and proceeds to taxi out a dual prop ultralight. He takes off, does a couple loops around the back 40, lands and says to me…how much money do you spend partying in the summer?¬† For probably half of that you could fly!!! I was so impressed. For some reason, that conversation with him instilled a sense that life is over in a blink of eye…and not for reasons of crashing a plane ūüėČ

      1. Donna Brewington White

        You have great stories, Flavio!So how much did you spend on partying?

        1. FlavioGomes

          ¬†I was fond of having fun, lets put it that way…and Pietro was right. 20 hours of instruction and a decent entry level ultralight was within reach of a teenager with a decent summer job and no real bills to pay other than beer, burgers and dates.¬† One slight modification; I chose to take the lessons in a Cessna 172rg attempting to keep my sense of mortality intact. ūüėČ

  61. Mark Gannon

    The optimist says the glass is half full.  The pessimist says the glass is half empty.  The engineer says the glass is twice as large as it needs to be.

    1. fredwilson

      That’s goodI am going to use it

  62. BillSeitz

    This blog gives you a great platform from which to spread solution ideas which others can run with.

  63. Conrad Ross Schulman

    Hey Fred, Please continue to make a difference.  You have in the past, you are right now & ure future is limitless. Run forrest run! #fastestmanalive 

  64. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Off the topic.The new Disqus Discovery is interesting. But the discussions shown has no¬†relevance¬†to the current topic of discussion (like my comment here does not have any connection to the discussion …) It just hangs there as samples.

    1. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

      Now the Disqus Discovery is gone. Any reason?

  65. panterosa,

    Fred, you have defined Engineer’s Mind here.¬†I am considering a parallel/complimentary system to Johnson O’Connor’s abilities testing and curious to your thoughts on types of minds/thinkers.What other types of minds do you think there are?¬†

  66. Gil B.

    Reading your post made me realize I should have taken or continued my Engineering course. 

  67. ShanaC

    fah wrong post

  68. Alex Murphy

    Quiet the mind, quiet the heart, let go of the attachment to solve every problem, find the one you are passionate about, solve that.  Much more fulfilling than trying to solve every problem, much more likely to succeed too.

  69. Cam MacRae

    Did you re-write this post? I’m struggling to make 1+1=3 from it, but it seems plenty of others have managed.Pick your battles: sage advice.

  70. Mark Essel

    As a fellow engineer guided by the unseen hand of social and political evolution, I can relate to the incessant distraction of tackling problems both difficult and obvious. My personal redemption will be found in discarding transient challenges which yield little lasting satisfaction.No amount of experience can predict the future though. How do we decide which child to love most? There is no easy choice, beyond deciding that such a question is never fruitful.

    1. Emily Merkle

      to further reinforce the futility of pondering such questions .. attachment theory quite clearly establishes all too common environments in which loving a child is not quite as simple or controllable as input = output :)i agree with your alignment of interest + challenge. if you are gonna go go big – someone has to start. let’s go!

  71. paramendra

    Wisdom! Requires enormous discipline though. 

  72. Rohan

    Love it.¬†Wasn’t that Mandela’s speech though??

  73. fredwilson

    hmm. based on the comments i think i implied something in that post i did not mean to imply

  74. kidmercury

    so back in the early part of the 20th century, we should have regulated against automobile manufacturers for depriving the horse industry of revenue? or should the horse industry have upped their game and re-positioned themselves accordingly to adapt to the changing environment?

  75. fredwilson

    ah, got it

  76. kidmercury

    Well I suppose that is where we disagree, as I don’t see the difference. To me it is just another case of adapt or die.