Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Om Malik launches NewTeeVee

Quick update on what Om is up to... as I've mentioned earlier, I love the idea of online content aggregation.

But another idea I like is creating several blogs, covering different but related topics, around a single brand. It's been done before, but I think it is pretty interesting. With that, it is good to hear that Om is up to some new ideas around his winning GigaOm brand.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cooked Books? It's Toast for Firm's Market Value, Says Prof

A main incentive for “cooking the books” is to put out solid numbers for your quarterly analyst call. This call is when analysts pour over (or act like they took the time to pour over) your financial statements and attempt to formulate a reasonable opinion on the financial health of your company.

But the thing is, while analysts may put a company in the hot seat over quarterly earnings, investors have a much longer-term view of a company. Sure, quarterly earnings may send stocks ticking up or ticking down, but the overall investor-perceived value of a stock comes from looking at the firm’s financial and reputational performance over the long term.

I don’t see individual investors having the time, knowledge or energy to make decisions based on what are (for the most part) pretty incomprehensible GAAP financial statements. And insistutional investors? I imagine they are too sophisticated to by drawn into a short-term view of a stock (I could be showing my naivetĂ© here).

Either way, the fallacy of the numbers-by-the-quarter thinking is that investors, by and large, are short term thinkers.

James Surowiecki touches on this issue in far more elegant terms than I can muster.

Hat tip: Paul

A softer landing?

Chalk up a couple more points for those who said the economy may enjoy a softer, than rather have to suffer through a harder, landing. If inflationary pressures are easing at this report points out, then the Fed will be less motivated to increase interest rates.

Also, some signs from the housing market that the worst may be over. To me, this sounds a little optimistic. I wonder if it is more of a signal to the Fed saying if you want the worst to be over, think about dropping those rates.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Acquisitions Happen Quickly, but Integration Is a 'Slow, Steady Process'

So here is part two of the podcast series on Cisco's acquisition strategies. Here we talk about the integration process and I would highlight the word "process" because that is very much how Cisco thinks about acquisitions. Signing the deal is the first step in an acquisition, but the real work begins after the deal has closed.

Cisco has earned its reputation as being a successful acquirer because it puts so much attention on the integration of the new company.

In this podcast, director of integration Graeme Wood talks with Wharton management professor Saikat Chaudhuri about Cisco's integration philosophies and the lessons learned from integrating Scientific Atlanta, Cisco's biggest acquisition to date.



Podcast: Cisco's Graeme Wood: Acquisitions Happen Quickly, but Integration Is a 'Slow, Steady Process'


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Graeme Wood is director of acquisition integration at Cisco, the leading worldwide supplier of networking equipment and network management for the Internet, headquartered in San Jose, Calif. Since joining the company in 1998, Wood has held marketing and business development roles, and in his current position he has overseen the integration of 30 Cisco acquisitions -- the most notable of which is Scientific Atlanta, the Lawrenceville, Ga.-based global provider of set-top boxes, end-to-end video distribution networks and video systems integration. The $7 billion deal, completed earlier this year, allows Cisco to offer an end-to-end data, voice, video and mobility solution for carrier networks and the digital home. During a recent visit to campus, Wood spoke with Wharton management professor Saikat Chaudhuri about how acquiring a global company like Scientific Atlanta fits into Cisco's overall acquisition strategy, and the lessons learned about integrating on a large scale.

Imports Spurring Push to Subsidize Produce - New York Times

“The Chinese garlic totally caught us off-guard and knocked us down,” Mr. Mantelli said recently as he checked on newly planted garlic bulbs. “I think our industry has hit rock bottom. Maybe now we can figure out how to make it a level playing field.”

So Mr. Mantelli has joined the coalition of about 75 growers of specialty crops who have united to grab a much bigger slice of the federal subsidy pie.



I certainly do not want to trivialize the challenges Mr. Mantelli and other farmers face. Farmers, and the goods they provide, are an important part of the past and present fabric of our society. That said, I'm afraid I can't agree with Mr. Mantelli that subsidies will help "level the playing field" verses Chinese agricultural imports. I say this on the basis that subsidies are inherently market-distorting and therefore do the exact opposite of leveling playing fields.

“Things that help farmers band together and compete are not inherently protectionist or harmful,” Professor Morici said. “It is not an unreasonable thing for a fragmented industry to ask the government for assistance to make the virtues of their industry better known.”

Hard to argue with this point, I guess I just don't understand why it has to come in the form of government subsidies. Farmers highlighting the virtues of their industry is a great way to deal with competition, both foreign and domestic, but do they need the input of government to do this?

True, the agricultural industry in China is heavily subsidized and they have an artificially low currency. But subsidies battling subsidies will only distort the market further and prevent real innovation from taking place.

Imports Spurring Push to Subsidize Produce - New York Times

Monday, November 20, 2006

Art and science of M&A

Cisco recently did a podcast interview with Dan Scheinman, Cisco SVP of corporate development and management professor Saikat Chaudhuri (from Wharton... but don't hold that against him!)

It's a great 16 min conversation about the art and science of M&A, the importance of integrating an acquired company, and the importance of timing when making a deal.

Dan has overseen over 30 Cisco acquisitions including Airespace ($450M), Linksys ($500M) and Scientific Atlanta ($7B).

Cisco Podcasts

Cisco SVP Dan Scheinman and Wharton's Saikat Chaudhuri Discuss Acquisitions and Innovation, Part I: An Innovation 'Ecosystem'

In the first of a four-part interview, Cisco SVP Dan Scheinman talks with Wharton management professor Saikat Chaudhuri about the key drivers of acquisitions at Cisco and the critical role customers play in innovation.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Quick econ thoughts

Based on the brief snapshot in Reuters here are some quick thoughts....

Core prices are down so the Fed may be thinking interest rates are at the sweet spot. With inflation perhaps in check there may not be any sense in raising them to further slow the economy.

Could Home Depot's disappointing results signal a further slowing in the housing market? That seems a little too basic an analysis to me. But either way, it could be something worth watching and could perhaps mean that there won't be much more happening in the economy from the Fed or the government for fear of tipping this delicate inflation vs. slow economy balance.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

There goes one excuse for deficits....

Latest economy figures show that productivity was flat last quarter and per unit labor costs went up. This is renewing concerns that inflation is on the way.

Here’s my take on it based on the little I know: Per unit labor costs are going up, which means labor is consuming more capital to do its work. We get this capital from abroad as foreigners find new and interesting ways to invest in the US.

That is all fine and dandy so long as we can find interesting ways to use their capital; put another way, an argument can be made for trade deficits if we use the capital coming in to up our growth rate, which is intrinsically tied to our growth in productivity.

Productivity doesn’t grow, the US economy doesn’t grow, and those deficits look more and more worrying.


U.S. Productivity Idles As Wage Pressures Rise - WSJ.com

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What happens to Africa with Chinese cash?

Certainly in a part of the world as wracked by poverty as Africa, it is hard to not to be happy when anyone comes in with loads of cash for local investment.

Loads of cash seems to be what China is dropping on the continent in exchange for natural resources. Hopefully, that investment is putting local people to work on ground there but the Economist here asks the right questions, what else is Africa getting? Know-how? Greater transparency and efficiency?

These questions shouldn't, of course, be restricted to Chinese investments happening in Africa, but all foreign investment there.

If Africa really wants to benefit from this trade, individual African countries should band together to up their negotiating power and extract more for their people and their individual countries than piles of money (which undoubtedly will be misspent in several quarters.)

When I was in South Africa on vacation a while back, there was a lot of debate on TV about the benefits of doing more business with the Chinese (and again, this discussion should be extended to all powers, the US, EU, etc.) If Africa is just selling away its resources and getting little else in return, then this sort of trade will provide little more than a few poorly-paid local jobs.

I'm not advocating any sort of protectionism here, open trade between Africa and China could be a good thing. I guess what I'm saying is that Africa should negotiate for more broad investment in their countries, perhaps to beef up local infrastructure such as roads and energy transmission. There should also be some sort of real oversight with teeth to ensure that any foreign money coming into individual countries is well spent.


Africa and China | Wrong model, right continent | Economist.com

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Designing For Behavior In Massive Multiplayer Games - Forbes.com

I guess between this and my earlier post today on Linden dollars, I'm seeing a lot of real-life MBA lessons are being found in the virtual world.

We've obviously discussed a lot about how to organize teams and how to keep teams motivated in real business, but it seem this is a similar problem being faced in the gaming community. How to keep people motivated (either on their own or part of a team) is a key way of keeping them engaged with your game.

Interesting parallel in real life. What is also interesting is that the more of a social community is created in a game, the less likely a player will leave for another offering. But as soon a players start leaving, that opens the floodgates and people begin to leave the game en masse.


Designing For Behavior In Massive Multiplayer Games - Forbes.com

Real exchange in the virtual world

So instead of working or doing school work, I’ve been looking at virtual exchange rates this morning. Yes…my time put to good use. Last class we had a look at exchange rates and I’ve been taking a quick look at Second Life “Linden Dollars” and seeing their rates of exchange for real USD on eBay.

What’s amazing is how consistent LDs go for in USD. The going rate seems to be about 223LD/USD with very little variation between LD lots of similar sizes—lots of thousands and tens-of-thousand LDs go for about the same price per LD. Where there does seem to be a price change is when you are looking at lots of 100 thousand LDs or higher. Here you see prices of LDs drop to about 238LD/USD to 243LD/USD.

This presents an arbitrage opportunity I think to buy up large lots, divide them up, and then sell them off.


eBay - linden dollars, Internet Games, Video Games items on eBay.com

Monday, October 30, 2006

The economic cost of doing nothing

More than anything we need to debunk the myth that doing positive from a social, environmental or ethical point-of-view is negative from an economic point-of-view. This is a false juxtaposition that serves only to act as a cheap excuse to do nothing.

What is really costly is to do nothing on the issues that challenge us today. Throughout capitalist history, the rewards have gone out to those who have sought to change things and drive innovation, the losers have been those who have favored the status quo.

Doing something about the environment (for example) is not a cost, it is an opportunity. The real cost comes from ignoring the problem.

Read on:
Climate change could tilt the world's economy into the worst global recession in recent history, a report will warn next week.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Capacity utilization...who cares?

I've been looking at some of the PPI numbers that came out today and for some reason, the one that really stuck in my mind is Capacity Utilization, which is at 82% and slightly worse than expected.

Two things came to mind when I looked at this number:

1) It has been argued that US trade deficits could be a good thing because deficits provide the US with capital. But if we're not using all the capital (although I'm sure it is impossible to get to 100% utilization), then aren't the deficits truly excessive and should be therefore reduced?

2) The other thought I had was that the US hit the 300M population mark this week. The US population is actually growing (compared to EU or Japan where it is stagnating or shrinking), so this means in the near future we will need more capital per effective worker in order to maintain our current level of growth. So perhaps then this underutilization is a good thing, as it gives us some room to easily add more workers?

Tension in interest rates

The Economist runs a story on the rise of the Asian consumer and points out that because of them, the world economy now has a back-up if the American consumer starts spending a little less. (hat-tip: Maurilio)

This all has me thinking about interest rates. Let's say the US economy slows down and even gets a little rocky, this would push interest rates down, right?

But I'm also looking at this new Asian consumer who, contrary to the traditional consumer from that part of the world, may actually have a lower savings rate. Asians saving less may push global interest rates up.

Now, like any good economic model, this would eventually reach equilibrium. The interesting question here is where would interest rates eventually come to rest, at the lower level as desired by the Americans, or at the higher levels as pushed up by shopping Asians?

Again, just throwing this out there to test my (weak) grasp of macroeconomic principles.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Will work for peace

Whenever you talk about the Middle East, you are bound to inflame the passions of one side or another so I am going to attempt to tread lightly here...

As an everyday joe looking at news from that region it seems to me (without laying blame or praise on either side) that it is an impossible, no-win situation. A stable solution in the region seems impossible from where I sit right now (in my cube, looking out the window, it is a nice sunny day.)

Peace, unfortunately, has not seemed to work. War, as we've witnessed countless times, hasn't worked either.

So what is the alternative? Well, as ludicrous as it may seem on the surface, maybe business is the answer.

The argument goes that if you invest some money, put people to work, they'll be too busy to kill each other. That's so crazy it just might work! I know my day is so packed with work and school I scarcely have time to yell at my neighbor for playing music too loud... much less engage in mortal combat with him.

I mean, what do we have to lose? Things can scarcely get any worse over there. So let's have the soldiers and the diplomats and (above all) the ideologues step aside and let's have the business people come in with some money and a business plan and see if indeed corporations can be a force for peace in a part of the world where peace has seemed impossible.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Outsourcing diplomacy to TV

This NYT story of US culture as a tool to improve America’s reputation in Europe reminds me of other recent revelations that Jackson Pollack exhibitions were used by the CIA to improve the US's image there during the height of the Cold War.

Economist talks convergence

Fixed-line phone calls are going the way of the dodo, the future is broadband and IPTV/digital video, and cable and telcos are butting heads as they continually try to steal each other's customers. We've been saying this for years, but if the Economist says it, it must finally be true.

Pretty solid "audio interview" (I guess they don't like the word "podcast") about the convergence of communication services on a single IP network.

German economic recovery continues apace

Germany ups GDP growth estimates to around 2%-2.5%. This helps it pull ahead of the euro zone in general (about 2%) but still lags the US (about 3.4% GDP growth).

I am the world's single worst investor but about a year ago I dropped a few pennies in a German-tracking ETF and it is up almost 25% so far. I hope this news could push it up further (I'm saving up for a newspaper and a pack of gum)

FT.com / World / Europe - German economic recovery continues apace

America's population | Now we are 300,000,000 | Economist.com

So what's the impact of a rising population?

Greater demand for capital overall to maintain a consistent amount of capital per effective worker (so America's hungry demand for foreign capital--and the resulting deficits-- make sense here).

Necessity for increased capital could also prove to be the mother of greater productivity invention.

Europe and Japan: consistent amount of capital per effective worker, but flat growth unless added productivity makes each worker... well... more productive.


America's population | Now we are 300,000,000 | Economist.com

Friday, October 13, 2006

Investing non-traditionally

Paul Grim talks about investing in non-traditional targets (airplanes) and I think he has cause a bit of a minor local stir. But it all makes sense to me.

Aviation is an entire industry that is dying because there hasn't been any real innovation, and from a VC point-of-view, where they see neglect in the past, they may see profits in the future. (And personally, when it comes to airplanes I'm happy to have someone innovate beyond, as Grim puts it "rubber mallets pounding ill-fitting parts into place.")

Look around now at all of the VC money going into alternative energies, that is really just funding innovation on top of 100+ year old combustible engine technology. Seems to me that this is the same thought process as Grim's avaiation adventures. Hopefully investments made today in energy will clean up our air in the future (and probably make a few people rich in the process).

So is energy, then, technology? Again, I would say yes. In the same way I would say that fire and the wheel were technology. (You may want to flip through "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond for a fantastic discussion on how technologies, shaped by local environments, have helped plot the development of humanity; starting with fire and the wheel, but even moving on to seed and animal breeding "technologies" and methods.)

My MySpace baby

OK, you can rightly think that I've gone out of my mind linking to some random MySpace page but here is my logic:

It is late, I can barely keep my eyes open, and I've got a ton of work to do. So what am I doing? Trying to look up random songs online that I used to listen to way back when going to school meant goofing off and not trying to improve my career.

Why am I linking to this page? Well, I loved "The Crow" when it came out and because of this page, I've come to the realization that
"Time Baby 2" is actually a better song than "Time Baby III"

Take on Tetlock: Everyone's a framer

In “Everyone’s an Expert”, Phil Tetlock (Berkeley-Columbia EMBA Organizational Behavior prof., Genius Grant recipient and a fellow Canadian!!) argues that pundits and experts generally cannot predict the future in areas they study any better than the rest of us. Often these “hedgehog” types of personalities who try to stress one big idea or concept upon the rest of use succeed in doing so more by their overconfidence rather than by their clarity of vision.

What I find most interesting about experts, particularly those who appear often in the media, is not whether they are right or wrong, but how they are able to successful frame the debate. The impact of their accuracy is second to their impact in making us see the world in their terms, and then either agree or disagree.

My favorite example of this is Thomas Friedman and his famous book “The World is Flat.” In his book he argues that technology-powered business is making the world “flat,” meaning that borders and time no longer confine global commerce. Anyone with an Internet-connection and an idea can now compete in the global economy, no matter where in the world he/she is located.

When I read his book I didn’t read anything that I myself have not experienced in my own professional life. Everyday I work with people from around the globe and sometimes I have more interaction with someone across the planet than I do with someone across the hall.
So is Friedman right? Are we in a new, unprecedented era of techno-globalism I don’t know… maybe. But just to debate the issue in his terms shows that he has succeed in his role of pundit.

What was genius about Friedman was not that he predicted some sort of new-world-order based on the Internet, but that he named and gave the concept a form. Now, simply saying “the world is flat” is a convenient shorthand for everything to do with globalization. I’m sure there are many people who have never read the book but go around talking about how flat their world is.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Applying Finance smarts to GooTube

We've been talking about different sorts of financing in my Financing class (good place to discuss these issues, I suppose) so here is some of my new-found knowledge in action:

Google buys YouTube for $1.6B.

Since rumors surfaced last week that Google/YouTube were in talks, Google's stock shot up about $10. Given that they have about 215M shares outstanding that means Google gained about $2.15B on the news alone. Which means that not only is the deal for free, they had actually at one moment profited about $500M from the deal (in addition to getting YouTube.)

I'd love to say this was all my thinking, but I stole it practically word for word from here

This all makes sense after the fact, of course; the GooTubers couldn't have known before the deal that the stock was going to bolt the way it did (although, they may have suspected!)

A wise classmate of mine reminds me that it is always a good idea to analyze your ex-ante (before the fact) reasons for doing an investment once the investment is completed. He goes on to say that even if the investment works out in the end (ex-post), it is rarely for the same reasons you had initially considered.

Group think and chaos

MIT has proposed a new project to make "group-think" a positive endeavor. They are getting a bunch of people, connected Wiki-style, to collaborate and essentially jointly write a business book on (what else?) collaboration.

One thought that immediately jumps out at me. What if we got everyone in the world to collaborate on a single project, similar to what MIT is doing. Imagine drawing on the skills and insights of everyone on Earth, and focusing that brainpower on a single project or a single piece of writing.

And how depressing would it be if the end-result sucked?

What would it say about the human condition?

I guess this goes to the heart of the question of where do really great ideas come from? A group or an individual? A wise person once told me that never in the history of the universe has a good idea been thought up by committee. But MIT's project here isn't about ordinary committees (or indeed, some sort of super-committee).

In Chaos, a single random event can launch of a series of other events culminating in a completely unpredicted result.

Is it therefore possible to use technology to take the chaotic inputs from many individuals and assemble them so that the end result is greater than the sum of the most valuable inputs from each individual?

I don't know the answer, but I think it is a great question and I look forward to seeing what MIT comes up with.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The War Against Studying Economics

So this Krugman article on WalMart its "war against wages" has been circulating among classmates of mine.

I'm a Krugman fan although I haven't really kept up with him recently because I'm too cheap to pay for "Times Select" (which was a really dumb idea IMHO) and too lazy to constantly troll the internet for re-postings.

If you know anything about Krugman and anything about WalMart, you won't really have to read his article. It is as you would expect... WalMart sucks and is making money by paying people a pittance. There, I saved you a few minutes of basking in Krugman's glory (again, I'm only being hard on his because I love him.)

Anyway, in this case a re-posting was handed to me on a silver platter, so I hereby post it here.

And in the spirit of studying for my upcoming economics mid-term, here is an attempt at what might be a rebuttal from an economist with an opposing point-of-view.

*ahem*

Without the wage rigidity of unions and (to a lesser extent) of a dominant minimum wage the market can reach an equilibrium where the demand by WalMart for cheap labor is met by a supply of people willing to work at those wages. If this market-clearing equilibrium is not reached, than WalMart would hire fewer people. So the question then become what would you rather, more people hired at some sort of "artificially" increased wage, or some sort of full employment at the market-clearing, but lower, wage.

So waddia, think? Full marks?

Saturday, October 07, 2006

YouTube!

(sorry, I thought putting YouTube in the header again would be a good way to boost my traffic)

Google reportedly in talks get its pants sued off

There must be dozens of studios, labels and other copyright owners just begging for Google to buy YouTube.

Finally, someone with really deep pockets to sue!!!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Video projects to talk about other then YouTube

Not a big fan of the current broadcast model/DVR model. I like shows when I want them without fiddling through commercials (don’t mind if the commercials book-end the show). At the moment I'm relying heavily on Netflix and stuff on YouTube for my TV fixes, as I’ve discussed elsewhere.

With that in mind I read with great interest Om’s GigaOM »interview with Janus Friis, of Kazaa, Skype and now the mysterious Venice Project fame. P2P TV… sounds a little like YouTube without all the huge bandwidth issues we always hear they have.

Also, this project is trying to go legit so hopefully there will not be another endless series of repetitive articles wondering aloud over and over again how on Earth will YouTube ever make money, who is going to buy it, for how much, and will the studios pull a Napster on them.

In case you’re about to read one such article I’ll save you the trouble… no one has a clue what is the answer to any of these issues.

Smaller start-ups, smaller funds

The Sleuth has a great video interview with Neil Sequiera with General Catalyst Partners talking about how GYM (another goofy IT acronym… this one means “Google”, “Yahoo” and “Microsoft” but for some reason I find this acronym amusing) are aggressively buying small technology-play companies. He goes on to state that GYM would rather buy small companies and just focus on the technology purchase. If the start-up gets too large, then GYM figure it is cheaper to just build the technology themselves.

This is probably true for some of these more consumer-facing “Web 2.0” applications but I doubt it holds true for deeper, more complex technologies. There you probably want a slightly more mature company with some market traction. This way the acquiring company can pick up a technology that has already been market-tested, and they can pick up a few more customers in the process. But I don’t think this is the level that Sequiera is talking about.

A lot of what he is saying was also recently said by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin said at a talk I recently attended at B-school. If Sequiera is saying it, and Levchin is saying it… so it must be true

Sequiera also goes on to say that VCs are really only interested in bigger deals, because smaller ones aren’t worth their while. With that in mind, I was interested to read about microfunds. These are smaller funds some VCs are putting together to go specifically to go after the $10m-$15m deals.

Makes sense… if companies now require less capital to start-up, VCs should probably evolve to address and invest in those smaller firms.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Armstrong 'got Moon quote right'--GoldWave PR

I gotta admit... the whole "small step for man" think did confuse the heck out of me for a while. Glad to hear that GoldWave cleared things up and got some super amazing PR for themselves in the process.

Did they clean up the Armstrong audio themselves as a PR stunt or where they just used as part of some other effort.

Monday, October 02, 2006

No fix for Netflix.

Wisdom of the crowds or is Netflix out of good ideas? I dunno... this sounds a little flakey to me.

I mean asking the public to come up with a new tag-line or sneaker logo is one thing, but I imagine it is hard to come up with a new algorithm off the top of your head (but what do I know about such things... I'm in PR).

Hey, if someone out there can write me a new algorithm or computer-program thingy that increases my income by 100% (or more), I'll shoot you a few dollars also.



TechEffect: Netflix looks to the public for help

Two reads on Yahoo: BusinessWeek and Economist

As the eldest among my siblings, I used to get caught in-between my parents when they used to argue. I come from pretty hysterical, melodramatic Mediterranean stock, so you tell me how comfortable that position used to be.

I just got that feeling all over as I read about Yahoo’s acquisition strategy. Yahoo is too bureaucratic says the Economist, but BusinessWeek says that Yahoo’s acquisition strategy is the path to growth paved with gold.

Waahaaaa….. Mom and Dad… can’t you just agree???? Bwahhhhh!!!!!

So what am I to make of this? This disagreement by the two critical and highly analytical publications of BusinessWeek and the Economist.

Maybe one of these stories were filed in a parallel universe where Yahoo is really a great acquirer of companies…or a crummy one depending on which universe you happen to be as you read this.

Or even better, maybe this proves that there really is no such thing as pack journalism and that reporters are careful, thoughtful people who diligently research stories and in doing so may actually come to different, but well argued positions.

Um… yeah… I’m going with the parallel realities explanation too.

Content aggregation is the new black

Content aggregation… that’s been what’s on my mind as of late (well, what’s been on my mind that I feel like posting on this blog in any event.)

So lots of people what to make content, right? Everyone’s a critic, a pundit, a poet, an intellectual, a comedian….whatev, whatev.

And hey, that’s great. All sorts of people turning out all sorts of content and for the most part, the content is really only of value to the content-producer’s mother. But somewhere, somehow amongst all that mediocre stuff must be some good stuff, or at least some stuff you can convince someone to pay for or otherwise sponsor. This isn’t Chris Anderson “Long Tail” stuff… that’s not what I’m referring to. Well, OK, maybe I am a little but long tail stuff really isn’t of interest to me at the moment.

What is of interest to aggregating all sorts of content until the aggregated whole is greater than the sum of its disaggregated parts.

I was blown away by the deal SeekingAlpha cut with YahooFinance! I mean, that was awesome.

What is interesting about this deal is that SeekingAlpha is a blog that aggregates financial and stock information from many different individual contributors. Some are in the finance business already; some are private, individual investors; some are independent bloggers; and there is even a PR person who contributes regularly.

Once comments are on the SeekingAlpha blog, they will now be linked to a company's page on YahooFinance, right next to articles by mainstream business publications and even the company’s own press releases.

SeekingAlpha does’t write-up diddly-squat, they just rely on their contributors who post their thoughts for… get this… FREE. SeekAlpha gets tons of content that they pass along to Yahoo and they pay jack to the content providers. Now there is a business model if I ever heard one. True, they do apparently pay some human editors to go through the stuff so the content doesn’t read as free as is costs.

Anyway, I still think it is pretty cool.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Playing go-between: Mankiw vs. Stiglitz

Economist Joseph Stiglitz uses a green arrow to take aim at the folly of using GDP as the target number for assessing an economy (and yes, I am having fun with this mental image.)

It looks like he’s thinking about some sort of “total cost accounting” that takes in environmental degradation (which he likens to depreciation).

Sounds good to me. In assessing the health of a country’s economy its income shouldn’t be the only thing that is counted, but how it is depreciating its assets.

Fun part about taking an MBA is that I can read statements like this and actually know what the @$@*%#@ he is talking about:

A startup can have no cash flow and yet be creating a software program of immense value. A company with positive cash flow can be running itself into the ground as its capital depreciates.


But speaking of MBA, Greg Mankiw, the author of one of my Econ textbooks, thinks Stiglitz is being “pedantic” and you can color him unimpressed.

Friday, September 15, 2006

On lonely girls and murderers...

For much of the past few days I’ve been sucked in by the invented on-line personalities of two different people. Last week, I knew nothing about either of them, but this week it feels like I’ve spent hours clicking through the various details of their on-line lives. One has amused me, the other has horrified me.

One of them seemed real, but we found to be a fake. The other seemed fake, only to find he was so terrifyingly real.

The real/fake one was Lonelygirl15, the young YouTube diarist who was recently uncovered (by the son of Silicon Watcher Tom Foremski, incidentally) to be an actress playing out a well-rehearsed script. Upon reading all of the brouhaha about “LG15”, I checked her out on YouTube and I have to admit that I found myself drawn into her little misfit world. Her diary on Pluto’s demotion I thought was particularly funny and summed up the whole high-school misfit experience.

I find the whole “LG15” episode fascinating as it blurred the boundaries of on-line and real world existences. It is no wonder some fans were upset when they found her to be fake. But did that make her stories and insights any less relevant?

The fake/real person was Kimveer Gill, who created a sinister on-line persona of an “angle of death”, and then brought this persona to life in the most horrific way. He was a real person who created his character of “Trench” on-line, and then defined that character with photos, internal monologues and ruminations for all to witness. But the existence of "Trench" seemed so contrived, so cliched in its comic-book fantasy.

He stands in the photos stiffly, dressed in black, with a gun in what appears to be a very suburban basement. I mean, what suburban boy has not posed in front of a mirror in some get-up with some sort of weapon acting out some sort of adolescent hero (or anti-hero) fantasy? (Granted Gill was not an adolescent). The horror of course is that Gill did not put away his banal fantasy like 99.9999% of us do, but chose to act on it.

In his mind, the barrier between fantasy and reality broke down, as did the barrier separating on-line from real life.

Daily Show off YouTube!?!?!?

While I'm pretty laissez-faire about the idea of certain copywrited materials appearing on sites like YouTube (c'mon, that’s tones for free publicity... I bet Daily Show owes at least some of its enormous popularity to YouTube), Mark Evans makes an interesting point that some hardship may be needed for these video sharing sites to eventually develop some sort of business model.

Basically, he highlights that video sharing sites attract a lot of viewers using clips that are, let's say, ambiguous at best in terms of their legal right to be on these sites. Because they have easy access to content and users, video sharing sites have been able to attract attention, investors and advertisers without too much effort. But if the clip-spigot is turned off and viewers float away, will the business models of these sites still wash?

(Regardless of the outcome… please don’t take Daily Show off of YouTube)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Content Isn't Worth a Damn

I totally agree with VCMike's statement about content not being worth a damn.

With SO MUCH CONTENT being produced everywhere (blogs, games, YouTube and we still have the MSM) it seems to me that content is turning into a commodity product. Anyone can produce it, anyone can consume it, barriers to entry are low and the price people are willing to pay for it is dropping like a rock.

I get all the content I want and all I pay is a monthly broadband connection (actually I expense it), a dirt cheap BusinessWeek subscription, my Economist was free with my NPR donation (you guys need to bring the Economist back, BTW), my Netflix subscription and MAYBE the occasional movie ticket.

All in all, I'm probably not shelling out $30-$40 months for content and I promise, I am getting it all legally.

Online ad spend is going up on average across the industry, but with so many online content sources out there I gotta think that competition for those dollars is fierce. From the advertiser POV, do I go with the popular site with broad appeal, or the small site with a niche audience?

Content is a way to try to lure an audience, but it isn't enough to keep it and it will be difficult to maintain a critical mass of audience that is of high enough value to advertisers.

That is why VCMike is right on the money, you need something else to form a solid relationship with an audience. I dunno, subscription content? Aggregation tools? Conference and special events?

Hey, if I knew I'd have a nicer car by now. But really, if engaging, witty, insightful, high-quality content was all that was needed to attract and maintain an audience, my sitemeter would go through the roof.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Digital TV Nation

Am I excited about the fusion of the Internet and entertainment? Sure, who wouldn’t be? First off, the more the Internet gets used (for entertainment or anything else), the more money Cisco makes and the more job security I have. I like job security, so I like Internet and entertainment.

The Internet is a great delivery vehicle that can allow you to access any movie at anytime. I’d love to do a search on my TV and just chose what I want to watch as easily as I choose what website to check out.

I may have mentioned this somewhere before but I think I am the only PR person in the history of the universe without access to TV at home (I hope my boss isn’t reading this… who am I kidding, no one is reading this….) So not only do I have no clue what is happening right now on CNBC, nor do I have a first hand opinion on Katie Couric’s debut on CBS News (nor do I care to have a first hand opinion), but I also (happily) have zero access to a lot of the rubbish that currently passes for prime-time television.

For my TV fixes, I turn to Netflix to get my Sopranos, Simpsons, and The Office (UK version) updates. I reckon that is all I need at the moment. If I hear something is good (Rome) I’ll add it to my Netflix queue and check it out later.

It’s TV procrastination… why weed through a ton of crappy TV today, when you can check out only the decent stuff tomorrow?

So I guess this is where the Internet comes in. So-long Netflix and with a click of my TV mouse I can watch the show of my choice in an instant. Nice thing is when the Internet becomes directly plugged into my TV and I can access all my content straight from the boobtube instead of always via YouTube. I mean, I spend enough time in front of my computer for work, so I totally do not want to use it to watch TV as well. Besides, the resolution isn’t that great and there are fingerprints all over the screen because I keep trying to choke the damn thing every time it crashes (which is often… don’t get me started.)

Anyway, some Cisco folks went to talk digital film at the Telluride Film Festival the other week. Really interesting stuff. What is reassuring is that you’ll see here that ARTISTS are still in-charge of the creative process (hopefully!) so the advent of new technology will hopefully enhance the creative spirit among filmmakers, rather than replace it.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Media and B-Schools

I’m currently doing Berkeley-Columbia Executive MBA Program and am loving every minute of it. My profs are great, the classmates are the best and I’m finding the whole process both challenging and rewarding (although I now have no time to do things like blogging, exercising, sleeping reading for recreation, interacting with other human beings).

We’re only in our second semester so there are still a lot of classes to come, but best I can tell there won’t be a whole lot of discussion on the impact of the media and on-line media on business.

In my mind, on-line sources like blogs, bulletin boards, vlogs, and user-generated content sites constitute part of the on-line media. So when I refer to on-line media as a shorthand, I’m referring to these outlets as well as the more traditional media outlets such as NYTimes.com, for example.

OK, with that out of the way…

We used to say that we live in a media-dominated society, but I do not think that is still true. We live in an entirely media saturated society where opinions (and occasionally facts) invade every aspect of our waking lives. This to me is a PR challenge for companies but I still think, despite all the information and PR consultants out there, companies are ill-prepared to deal with this challenge and, more to the point of this posting, B-schools are ill-prepared to explain the impact of these new forms of media to students.

The impact of the media does not fall neatly into a B-school program. It is not economics, accounting or finance (obviously) but (more importantly) nor is it marketing. There are elements of media studies that are relevant to marketing (i.e., getting a news story about a new product) but there does not seem to be a broader look at how the evolving media culture impacts the way a firm is viewed by both internal and external constituents.

A decision a manager makes, be that decision one of finance, HR or marketing, now has the very real potential to be discussed and commented upon openly on-line. Are there schools that study the impact of the media on a business? This to me seems like a critical issue and one managers need to have some knowledge of.

Doerr on VentureBeat

Matt Marshall of SiliconBeat fame has re-invented himself as VentureBeat and what a fine job he has done. To be honest, I haven’t had the time to fully explore the site but at first blush looks like a sophisticated and informative blog, definitely raising the bar of similar out there.

One feature I really like is this one, where you can look for companies that interest you. Very clever and a great way to add value for readers.

Matt also hits a home run with his contributors like Silicon Valley uber-VC John Doerr . Matt has been giving a lot of coverage to the emergence of greentech funding in the Valley, a topic he is obviously very passionate about. Well it seemed he got Doerr to share a few thoughts about this as well.

As usual, whenever someone tries to present a progressive view and illustrate how markets can help bring about positive change, there are cynical ignoramuses who end up taking up a lot of room in the comments section but really say nothing of value.

Anyway, the Doerr essay is an interesting, if high-level thought on the power of markets to bring about desirable change in behavior.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Noah takes a photo of himself everyday for 6 years.

Just wanted to share an amazing video. Yes, it is a little derivative, but a stunning work none-the-less, if more on a technical level than an artistic one.

A Chuck Close of the YouTube set…


YouTube - Noah takes a photo of himself everyday for 6 years.: ""

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Om Says "Web Workers of the World...Unite"

I like it… I’m not sure I get it… but I really really like it. As Om Malik branches out to make his mark in the world of independent journalism, he has launched a new site called WebWorkerDaily.

It has a great design and a great feel and I’m kinda excited just by looking at it. Now, I gotta be honest (which is tough for a PR person) I’m not 100% sure what the site is supposed to be about. I don’t think it is just another blog for Om. I reckon this is supposed to be more community oriented where people log on to share thoughts and ideas about being connected, but working independently.

If I’m right, and if this catches on, then it could be really cool. I’ve been a huge fan of “wired working.” I live in San Francisco and work in San Jose so any day that I can save the commute, stay up in SF but still get out of my shoe-box-sized apartment, and spend an afternoon doing emails from a cafĂ© is probably a day that I’m far more productive that battling traffic for 1.5 hours and spending a day in a soul-destroying office cube.

While there are a lot of great blogs out there, GigaOm is hands down the one I pay most attention to. Om covers virtually every space that impacts Cisco and, more importantly, the interplay and cross-overs between those spaces. Om knows telecom like few others so his insights I know come from years of talking to people about the state of the industry; so you know you’re always dealing with quality when he writes.

Now, of course, he’s got a whole new host of writers on the newly independent GigaOm. They all seem to be top notch and I’m find this site as informative as ever. If I have one complaint about the new GigaOm, is that there is TOO much stuff on this site and rarely is a post up long enough on the front page to get a good dialog going between readers.

But with the WebWorkerDaily, it looks like Om is trying to expand his on-line real estate which is way smart. One blog site does not a business make, IMHO. I don’t have any insight into anyone’s finances but it just seems to me that it would be too difficult to make any serious cash just by selling a couple of banner ads on a single blog.

A blog I don’t think can exist in a vacuum and needs to be part of some sort of larger strategy. When I think of bloggers, for some reason I think of Bloomberg News. Bloomberg (if I understand them correctly) essentially uses the news to sell terminals. Their real business is terminals, their brand making exercise is news. That to me is the model for bloggers. The blog builds the brand and creates noterity, but the real business itself has to come from other sources. Those other sources could be other aligned blogs or on-line services, or they could come from off-line sources like organizing events and conferences. (Looks like Paid Content is getting the groove on that as well… will need to follow that trend to see where it goes.)

Anyway, I don’t know what Om’s strategy is, but I wish I did. I don’t think anything I’ve written here is news to him so I’m sure he’s got few tricks up his sleeve. I wasn’t terribly impressed by the whole job board thing , but I don’t think that is the be-all and end-all of his GigaOm strategy. I’m sure there are more things to some and WebWorkersDaily is a peak perhaps to what’s in store.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Mark Evans :: My [NYT] Times My Way

Another blogger-journalist (but one who has kept theday job), Mark Evans hints at what's to come with the the new My Times, from the NY Times.

Battle for the eyeballs continues. Who will win, personalized media outlets or personal media outlets?

Another day, another journo-gone-blogger

So Matt Marshall got off to a rough start today . Despite what I’m sure were careful preparations for launch, the lights never turned on at his new blog VentureBeat (or if they did, I blinked and missed them.)

Some 16 hours or so after launch the site still remains dead. Anyway, I’m sure this is but a minor blip in what will otherwise be I’m sure a glorious blogging endeavor. Who knows, it could even go down as some Silicon Valley lore someday as the auspicious beginning to a media empire that will someday will rule the world….or something.

So not that I’m keeping count, but that is now Dan Gillmor , Tom Foremski, and Om Malik who have left comfy jobs with publications to start their own blogs. I’m sure there are a bunch more that I’m missing.

Dan’s the director at the Center for Citizen Media and will soon be hawking the paperback of his book; Tom’s got a couple of other blogging gigs with ZDNet and “Friday’s with Foremski” with the Chron; and Om still has his column with Biz2.0 and he’s venture backed.

So they all have side jobs, as well as job boards.

So other than his blog, I’m wondering what else Matt has up his sleeve. I guess his servers are going to keep me wondering.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got an enormous amount of respect for all of these guys. They’ve rightly earned the title “entrepreneur” and they are trying to remake one dog-of-a-business, the media business. From a media and cultural studies point-of-view, they are the way of the future.

My question remains, however, are they the way for the future from a business point-of-view.

Yes, I know TechCrunch is making gobs of money. I saw the article in Biz2.0 as well. But I’m still wondering if there is a sustainable, repeatable business model around these blogs.

(Arrington, however, seems to have no interest in sustainable business models and is waiting for all the other schmoes to go down.)

Also, what’s the market size? Can the market support a bunch of stand-alone blogs that are all (broadly speaking) in the same space?

Reading what these guys write is always interesting. Seeing how this stand-alone tech blog market plays out will be even more so.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bloggers really need a job

Weren't we just talking about this????

Now Silicon Valley Watcher has launched a job board


And forget what I was talking about $150 or $100/pop job postings, the Watcher is offering them for free! (So far, one has signed up...a marketing position in New York.... hmmm...interesting....)

Guys, seriously... if you are all writing about the future of Silicon Valley and the future is job boards, then I'm cashing in whatever stock options I have that are above water and heading for the hills.

Scoop on the Sleuth

One of my favorite bloggers is Silicon Valley Sleuth. The Sleuth doesn’t try to be an “insiders” blog that talks about the names and faces of Silicon Valley, or one that tries to latch on to the latest tech fad. I like the Sleuth because it is a solid meat ’n’ potatoes tech blog without the pretension.

What’s on the Sleuth? What works, what doesn’t; what’s real, what’s vapor; who’s got something, and who is full of something.

Although the Sleuth is not a technologist by training (I think he studied Russian and Eastern European Studies or something really useful like that), he is one of the most tech savvy bloggers out there. Maybe sometimes he’s a bit too savvy and ends up writing about things that bore the heck out of me (try as I might, I can’t get excited about open source software). But even then, he puts a spin on it that makes the blog colorful.

But most of all what I like about the Sleuth is that he is trying to innovate. He is the first (and one of the only?) bloggers to actively incorporate video into his blog. And he does so using available tools such as YouTube, Yahoo Video and Google Video, which adds (dare I say) a more community, open source feel to his blog.

Also, the video is news video, not a vlog of punditry or self-congratulatory “insider’s insight.” It’s straight up technology news from the technology newsmakers. An idea so simple no one else seems to have thought of it.

And I’m not the only one who has noticed the Sleuth’s video innovation. Luminaries like none other than Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz also appear to be fans and are ripping off some ideas.

Video seems to be good for traffic as Sleuth says that his exclusive “One Laptop Per Child” has attracted an impressive 100,000 viewers so far.

One thing worth noting is that unlike guys like Om Malik or Tom Foremski, Sleuth is not independent and has the backing of the mighty VNU corporate machine, so maybe that gives him more resources to add things like video? Who knows…

Anyway, I know that journalists consider it faint praise indeed when a PR flack pays them a compliment (only when they rile us up and we are forced to use threats of violence and lawsuits that many feel like they’ve done their job). But in this instance the Sleuth will have to listen closely because I am saying something nice.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Farewell, Pluto - we thought the world of you - National - theage.com.au

With the endless horrors going on in the world right now and an overwhelming feeling of helplessness to do anything about it, I find it uplifting to read about a debate that does not involve life or death, but makes us contemplate the wonders of the universe.

I've been reading a few stories on Pluto's cosmic demotion, but leave it to the Aussies to really sum up how people feel about this decision:

"Pluto," she writes, "retains an emotional hold on planethood. People love Pluto. Children identify with its smallness. Adults relate to its inadequacy, its marginal existence as a misfit."




Farewell, Pluto � we thought the world of you - National - theage.com.au

Bloggers get jobs...

So GigaOm has launched a job board a few weeks after TechCrunch did the same.

Michael Arrington of TechCrunch held out an olive branch to Om to start up a separate company for job postings which Om declined.

Om’s a smart guy and to be honest, I like his blog more than TechCrunch (matter of what I find interesting) and I’m sure he has his reasons for passing on Arrington, but I can’t figure out what they are.

Job listings are a commodity product, you can get them anywhere and it doesn’t really matter where you get them. And with RSS readers, for the most part you may set up your search once and then you’ll have no idea where you got them from. They’ll just show up in your reader.

So why is Om attempting to make a big splash in a commodity market? He set his price at $200/pop, which is the same as CrunchBoard. This is smart because the last thing either probably wants is a price war. However, I’m sure some other blogger is going to come in with a cheaper job board and there goes the market. No barrier to entry, no differentiation of value.

I see the blogger job board market last a short while and then melt away like Icarus’ wings. It takes one blogger with an RSS and $50 postings and the whole market will plummet to Earth.

Sure, both Om and Arrington could argue they get higher traffic numbers, but who cares? I’m a MyYahoo junkie. All I need to do is set it up once and then I’ll never know/care how much traffic the original site gets.

In fact, you could imagine a Craigslist type place with a solid RSS feed, no content to get in the way and super-cheap price for companies and there you go.

Or, you could imagine that either Om or Arrington see a slow down in their $200/job post model, and dip their toes in the $150 pool. Then it is just a race to the bottom.

I’m not trying to be a bag of downers… I really hope both Om and Arrington succeed and that they can finally create some sort of repeatable blogger business model. I just don’t really see how offering competing job post boards will do it.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto sent down to Minors

A view of astronomy from the dug-out. It is sad, but I think demoting Pluto was the rigth choice... I just feel like I've lost part of my childhood in the process.

Major League Baseball : News : Major League Baseball News

Selling arms by the pound

Yesterday Cramer on Mad Money talked about how Cisco is selling arms to both sides of a battle (cabelco vs. telco) like the Swiss.

Here's USA Today article on how that battle is shaping up on Long Island.

As a Sopranos fan, I worry what happens when turf wars get a little too heated around that area....

USATODAY.com - Verizon, Cablevision skirmish as war nears

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Friday, April 07, 2006

VNU to shareholders: Take buyout offer

VNU is looking to sell but it has to convince its shareholders to do so. The company is more well known in Europe than it is here but they are publishers of a number of trade magazines and also controls the plug the powers the servers running popular blog Silicon Valley Sleuth.

VNU has made a number of acquisitions of its own in the past few months buying up such IT titles as “Inquirer” and some healthcare titles as well.

Just fattening themselves up before the slaughter, perhaps?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Bios in Canada

Two looks at bio-innovations in Canada that show the both the promise and peril of government involvement.

First the good news, which is around my favorite topic, environmental technologies. Here, the new government in Canada will be announcing a bio-fuel strategy that will mandate that all gasoline sold by 2010 must contain 5 percent ethanol. That doesn’t sound like a lot to me, but it is a step. Would be one way to make the poorer Prairie provinces more of an economic force.

But while biofuels are powering ahead, biotechnology is getting sicker in Canada. Seems like the lack of investment is the culprit but I don’t know enough about the industry to understand what this particularly hurts biotech verses other innovation-driven industries.

Study finds two supermassive black holes spiraling toward collision

I actually clicked on this article thinking it was another story about the Lucent/Alcatel merger.

Ooopss...silly me.

Study finds two supermassive black holes spiraling toward collision: " "

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Environment drives innovation

I could ponder as to whether the Governator would be so pro-environment if he hadn’t been smacked around so badly during his “special election” last year and happens to be up for election this year… but that would be unkind.

But people have been asking if this current trend and interest in environmental technologies is real and sustainable, and I think this law helps show that it is. I see the environmental technologies (ETs) movement really begin to fire on all cylinders now.

Yes, gas is expensive and the thought it, that if it drops, so too would interest in ETs. And if gas prices were the only driver of ET interest, then that would be true.

But fortunately they aren’t.

If the killer hurricanes of last year, the disappearing icecaps of the past several years and the current torrent of rain being dumped on Silicon Valley right now indicate anything, it is that weather patterns are changing and we need to be concerned about that. So enlightened thinkers and consumers are increasingly being interest in ETs, cost of gas be damned.

And then there is my favorite trend. It is that the painfully false and the entirely invented conflict of “good for the environment” vs “good for the economy” is being broken down and cast aside. Good for the environment IS good for the economy. Not only do we save money in health costs, disaster costs, and general clean-up efforts, good for the environment is driving a whole new wave of investment and innovation.

Toyota and the Prius prove that consumers will reward environmentally innovative companies, and centers of such environmental innovation will thrive and as different centers (Silicon Valley, Shanghai, Bangalore, Tel Aviv) compete with each other.

SiliconBeat: Why alternative energy market is hot: $130 billion to be created in 8 years

SiliconBeat helps us stay on top of the numbers in the emerging alternative energy market

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

EU pushes lawsuits over protectionism

With the rise of protectionism around the world, it is good to see strong legal action being taken in Europe to check this trend.

Protectionism between major economies is worrying, but to see it happening within the EU strikes my as near economic suicide. Europe can only compete against the US and a rising Asia as a unified bloc. To begin to errect these sorts of internal walls will make the EU even less competitive, and will be a major distraction as indidivudal countires focus on competing against each other rather than competing (as a bloc) against other global economies (US, China, India).

I hope European Commission's actions are for real and not just touch anti-protectionism talk with little to back it up. As we've seen from the protests in France, Europe still has a lot of social barriers to overcome. They needn't create more by errecting protectionis walls.

Intel and MSFT hate me... what am I doing right?

Nicholas Negroponte shares his wisdom as to when you know you're on the right track with a great idea.

HD DVD vs. Downloads

Somewhere out there the gods of irony must be at work as Samsung delays the launch of its blu-ray HD DVD player the same day movie studios announce that first-run movies will now be available for download.

OK, there is not a lot of price difference between downloaded movies and DVDs ($15-$30) and HD-DVDs are probably nicer in terms of packaging, extra features and so on. But all that will change as you’ll be able to download and print covers, download the extra features, download the film in HD and be able to do that from your couch with the click of a mouse while stuffing your face with potato chips.

That’s why, my friends, downloadable movies are progress, endless bickering about HD standards and when they will be available is not.

The Art of the Executive Summary and News Release

How VC Guy Kawasaki explains the art of an executive summary to start-ups, is how I’d like to explain the art of the news release to my counterparts. There has been talk in several places about the “death of the news release.” My take on it is that the news release is a zombie, the living dead. It’s not alive, its not dead, you can't resuscitate it but you can’t kill it. So you might as well deal with it in all of its grotesqueness.

I make no apologies that I spend as little time as I can on news releases. Frankly they are a waste of time, no one reads them, but you gotta do one anyway so make the process as quick and painless as possible. If someone wants to write in a news release that something is “best-of-breed, turn-key, solution that drives business process and is powered by one million gbs throughput of pure IP joy” on one of my news releases, I let them go ahead and do it and I hope my media relationships are strong enough that no one of note would think that I actually wrote something so lame.

But all that being said, I love the way Guy Kawasaki highlights the elegance and simplicity of what start-ups need to know about making a good executive summary. When you think about it, the news release is an executive summary by another name and when reading these guidelines, I can’t help but fantasize about those simpler, gentler days of my youth when news release writing was a joyous affair where we just introduced the news, explained the fact, highlighted opportunities and potentials and communicated in English.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Intel and MIT take different routes to bring computers to the developing world

I've been speaking a lot about MIT's $100 computer and other initiatives to bring low cost computing to developing areas.

Silicon Valley Sleuth takes a look at Intel's efforts in this space and compares them to what is coming out of MIT.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Calling Apple's DRM bluff

The Sleuth does a good take on Apple's battle with France.

Sometimes it seems you can't throw a rock without hitting a company that is at odds with the French government, but this time it may be vive la France!

My continual struggle to get my Windows machine to operate in a normal, non-buggy, non "ctrl-alt-delete" manner is a daily challenge, so now I get nervous anytime someone wants to control a market by shutting others out.

Apple took its superior PC product and almost imploded a while back because it wouldn't play nice in the industry. Will it do the same mistake again?

Facebook is doing the Skype dance

The new bubble? Rather than looking for massive IPOs a-la the dot-com era, are Web 2.0 start-ups now looking for the massive buy-out?

(I know I know... Web 2.0 is not a bubble... it is for real this time... sorry to offend.)

Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math - New York Times

I’m glad to see there is a renewed focus on basic skill such as reading and math in schools, but at the risk of sounding like someone who can never be satisfied (not for the first time, mind you), I find it disheartening that increases in math and reading comes at the expense of other subjects like art and social sciences.

For the US to produce an innovative workforce and remain competitive in the future, its graduates must have strong quantitative and communication skills (math and reading), but they also must be aware of the world around them (social sciences) and creative thinkers (art/music). What the US doesn’t need is a generation of highly skilled, highly adept test-takers (No Child Left Behind.)

In our quest to quantify learning, we forget that it essentially an abstract process. In the drive to cram little heads with formulae and trivia that can be rote repeated come test-time, we neglect to teach how to learn and we neglect to foster their curious and creative sides.

I’m all for improvements in math and reading… if you don’t have those basics down, then all other attempts at education are moot. But there should be more balance and other aspects of a child’s mind need to be developed. There is a bottom-line argument for this. Silicon Valley can only survive if it is creative and innovative. The business of new ideas is here, the business of simply cranking out gizmos has moved on to other parts of the world where rote learning is more the norm.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Hey Buddy, Can you Spare a Yuan?--China Law Blog

Interesting discussion on China Law Blog about the state of lending to small start-up businesses in China.

The key point highlighted is that there isn't much credit available for start-up and small businesses to found and expand their operations.

This highlights one of the overall issues that has me uneasy about China, that while there is a lot of money going into the economy there, certain foundational piece of infrastructure remain absent, in this case the availability of credit for small businesses.

There are other similar examples of holes in China's economic infrastructure. I just wonder what will happen first, will the holes be filled in? Or will too many people just fall right into them?

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Tom talks TiVo

Tom Foremski talks TiVo here.

Here's the money quote IMHO:

BTW, Tivo could have become the Netscape web browser to the TV--instead it thought it was a box maker.

Most recently, it has switched to an annual subscription/commitment model instead of month-to-month payments. Why would someone hand over an annual payment or make a year-long commitment to a company struggling to find its way? Shouldn't Tivo remove obstacles to gaining customers and make it as easy-as-pie to be a subscriber?

SiliconBeat: Billionaire green entrepreneurs; the sweet Loremo & SF's cleantech competition

SiliconBeat does a great job of summing up some of the interest here in the valley around new green technologies.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, businesses "get it" and green technologies are a key path to a sustainable future. We need the government (especially this polluting administration) to get out of the way.

For example, given the concerns about the environment and our addiction to foreign oil, and witnessing the potential behind green technologies, how can you possibly explain why the pork-barreled, lobby-slave, Mr. Bridge-to-Nowhere Don Young (R-Alaska) is trying to block the creation of America’s first large-scale offshore wind farm in Cape Cod???

Oh wait… I think I’ve answered my own question.

Unskilled and Unaware of It

I have an above-average awareness of my below average skills.... so if you take these two scores together, I come out right on the average.

Here are the thoughts to make you go "hmmmmm":

1. Incompetent individuals, compared with their more competent peers, will dramatically overestimate their ability and performance relative to objective criteria.

2. Incompetent individuals will suffer from deficient metacognitive skills, in that they will be less able than their more competent peers to recognize competence when they see it–be it their own or anyone else's.

3. Incompetent individuals will be less able than their more competent peers to gain insight into their true level of performance by means of social comparison information. In particular, because of their difficulty recognizing competence in others, incompetent individuals will be unable to use information about the choices and performances of others to form more accurate impressions of their own ability.

4. The incompetent can gain insight about their shortcomings, but this comes (paradoxically) by making them more competent, thus providing them the metacognitive skills necessary to be able to realize that they have performed poorly.



Damn Interesting � Unskilled and Unaware of It

Lucent Technologies and Alcatel Respond to Merger Talk Rumors

We've all seen the coverage... but what I'm really wondering is why did they put out Lucent this statement? Something must have triggered it? Were there rumors about this before the statement was issued? Think this was done to drive up the price?


Om Malik and Mark Evans offer insights into the deal.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Video games... good for the economy

So funny... I remember back in the day when parents and teachers and so on were lamenting the destructive influence of "Pac-Man" on kids. Now, a few years on, governments are lining up to provide incentives for these companies to move into their jurisdictions.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Local Matters IPO

Wow... I didn't think it was possible any more for any sort of company even remotely connected with search to make it all the way to IPO without being acquired or shut down.

Watching these guys go IPO feels like watching someone overcome great odds to finally reach the end of an epic odyssey like in...ummm.... the Odyssey.

Inveneo.org | A New Way to Serve NGOs and Remote Communities with Technology

As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I'm a huge fan of different ideas to bring the benefits of IT into developing parts of the world. I've written about the MIT $100 computer a bit, but here is a new company, Inveneo.

It looks like they focus on doing a single integrated system that is easy to use, and has low power consumption.

Inveneo.org | A New Way to Serve NGOs and Remote Communities with Technology

A Peace Corps for Generation Net - March 1, 2006

As far as I know, getting equipment to developing parts of the world isn't really that huge of a problem. I mean, it is a challenge to find the gear and then transport it to where it has to be, but there are organizations that are pretty adept at that.

Getting the gear to run and stay running... now therein lies the challenge.

Leave it to some global geeks to solve the problem.... Peace Corps for the 21st century.

A Peace Corps for Generation Net - March 1, 2006

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

SiliconBeat: Wilson Sonsini: VCs going to China & India at unprecedented rate

Is it a bubble or is it not? That seems to be a very good question as more and more people pile money into different parts of the world.

My gut feeling is that China may be a bubble whereas India is not. I have no experience in making such calls so feel free to ridicule me. My logic? India's growth is based on (somewhat) more sound economic principles whereas China feels to me like a house of cards being built up by the government and well-connected industries.

I've also been reading about funds heading into Israel and parts of eastern Europe. If things settle in the Middle East, I can see a lot of excitement in that area as well.
SiliconBeat: Wilson Sonsini: VCs going to China & India at unprecedented rate

Bona tempora volvantur--by Guy Kawasaki: The Art of Sucking Down

As a fairly insignificant clog in the greater Cisco machine (ok, a TOTALLY insignificant clog in the greater Cisco machine) I really appreciated Guy Kawasaki's thoughts on sucking down.

Bona tempora volvantur--by Guy Kawasaki: The Art of Sucking Down

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Free Donald Trump Tickets

We all know business is a dog-eat-dog world… so here is your opportunity to learn from the hungriest and boorish dog out there. That’s right, DONALD TRUMP!!

Everyone’s favorite boss is speaking next weekend in San Francisco and he will share his knowledge on how to get rich! Rich! RICH!!!


Normally, tickets to attend this once-in-a-lifetime event can go for several hundred dollars a piece. But through my EXCLUSIVE agreement with the Trump empire, I am able to offer four pairs ABSOLUTELY FREE (some conditions apply).

To win the tickets, simply answer in the comment section this skill testing question:

In the comic “Bloom County”, the brain of Donald Trump is removed from his body and transplanted in which character:

A) Opus the Penguin
B) Bill the Cat
C) Milo

Good luck!
Penguin IP


Real Estate Wealth Expo | Home Buying Seminar | Real Estate Investing Conference | Real Estate Foreclosure Training

Plugged In: Global warming could melt your portfolio - Mar. 21, 2006

Nice to see where business is succeeding where governments (especially here in the US), again, for the unteenth million time, have so miserably miserably failed.

It used to be if you were an environmentally-conscious company it was (falsely) assumed you were losing money. Finally the tables have turned and it becoming apparent that it is the environmentally-damaging companies that are really at risk of losing the bottom and top lines.

Global warming is happening, there is not doubt about it. And like anytime in history when an organism fails to adapt to the new climate, they die (think dinosaurs... which seem to have a lot in common with some companies.)

Now think about it, if you were an investor during the late Cretaceous period, would you have placed a bet on dinosaurs?

Fast Forward: Facing reality about climate change - Feb. 24, 2006

Oh well, better late than never I suppose....

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The secret behind Web 2.0

So I've just spent a couple of hours of a sunny California Saturday afternoon indoors surfing blogs checking out photos and watching goofy videos on YouTube.

I have it all figured out...

Web 2.0 is all about doing sweet F-A with your time.

HD DVD and Blu-ray get launch dates - vnunet.com

"Both formats ready to rumble" says the article.

Wow... HD DVD vs. Blu-ray....sounds now like such an anachronistic match-up; all the drama of, say, Celebrity Deathmatch with none of the contemporary relevance.

Yes, I suppose for a few years it will matter which format you are able to play at home, and then it won't. You'll just download your favorite HD Hollywood movie (same crappy plot and characters, better picture quality) and leave the format bickering to the manufacturers.



HD DVD and Blu-ray get launch dates - vnunet.com

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Fast Forward: The new Net boom - Mar. 17, 2006

David Kirkpatrick of Fortune says that the current excitement in tech is a boom, not a bubble, and is therefore built on more sustainable foundations.

I'm not smart enough to comment either way, but taking David's word for it, then what the future holds will be mass consolidation of these many new disparate Net companies. Some will get acquired by larger companies and some will go out-of-business, but if it is indeed a sustainable innovation boom that we are witnessing, then those companies that remain will have to merge or gobble-up smaller companies in order to grow and become more competitive.

That would be interesting....


Fast Forward: The new Net boom - Mar. 17, 2006

Friday, March 17, 2006

TeH_ShoW

I think these guys are awesome and highlight some of the real power behind such online video services a YouTube.

Two guys, a camera, and some pretty nifty tech insights. This show has some good review of wireless products including our very own Linksys gear.

I fear that sites like YouTube may see their fortunes wane as they undoubtedly come under attack from various copyright holders and as some of the novelty wears off from both viewers (like me) and producers (like “TeH_ShoW” team). But in the meantime, I’m enjoying the certain unpredictable and of such sites.

I’ll continue to tune into “TeH-ShoW”

Metro WiFi

There are some things you love as a concept, but just don’t see how they can work in reality. For me, Metro WiFi is one of those concepts. I absolutely think that cities should provide cheap (or free) wireless access for people to access on their PDAs and other hand-held devices. As someone who gets lost walking to the corner store, the time I save wondering aimlessly through streets and back-alleys alone is worth my tax dollars. Plus it would be a boon for local retailers and other local small businesses that could target and attract customers in the neighborhood.

But considering how complex these networks are, I just don’t see how a city can properly manage them. These networks are finicky devices and the technology is improving so rapidly, you will need a committed and highly trained SP to ensure the municipal network is properly maintained and upgraded, and I’m not convinced that a city has the resources to be that sort of SP.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Knight Ridder and the fate of MSM

Despite what media doomsayers say, I don’t think the sale of Knight Ridder heralds the end of the MSM. The media, like every other industry, is going through and evolution, but not necessarily and extinction. I love the wild, somewhat democratic feel of YouTube and the gobs of blogs that are out there, but few have the authority or reliability of the MSM. Blogs et al. are good for exploring ideas, rumors and opinions, but they are not so hot for really getting facts and information (with some very notable exceptions, of course).

Note that many of the bloggers who actually do provide valuable primary information are really MSM journalists in real life.

Also, the MSM is a primary source for information which bloggers use as fodder to provide comment and endlessly debate minute topic of interest.

Another thing is that bloggers do not provide more voices, but rather serve to further amplify existing voices… hence the “echo chamber” phenomena, which I think is the blogosphere’s dirty little secret.

The role of the MSM is to try to break down the walls of this echo chamber. It is this function that will save the MSM and keep it relevant to society.

I guess I don't agree with Bill Gates or Craig Barrett

Craig Barrett doesn't like MIT's $100 laptop, and neither, it seems, does Bill Gates. Unfortunately, Gates has to incur the wrath of the blogosphere for his opinion.

I actually like the $100 laptop. I think it is a great idea and can do a lot of good in developing countries. The very valid question is, if you're dying of disease and malnutrition, why do you need a laptop? These are excellent questions to which I reply a laptop is of course not a panacea to save the developing world, but access to such technology, and more important the Internet, can help improve the overall economy of developing countries and raise the overall standard of living (computers haven’t done much for the rural poor in India, but they have helped raise the country overall into one of the world’s most dynamic economies.)

A device for developing countries, be it MIT’s $100 laptop or anything else, needs to be simple and resilient. My vision is that they are used as wind-up kiosks to help villages access government services. With a direct line to these services, villages will be spared dealing with corrupt local bureaucrats who are, IMHO, a chief obstacle to development (and I speak with some experience here).

The “one-laptop-per-child” is a loft goal, but I agree, I’m not sure the MIT $100 laptop does the trick… but you never know.


Gates and PR: He still doesn't get it | News.blog | CNET News.com

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

i heart youtube

Why advertise when we can get Cisco fans to advertise for us (nice use of classic Simpsons footage here.)

I’m only a recent discoverer of YouTube and am fascinated by it. It is so inventive. I used to be a pretty frequent visitor to iFilm byt YouTube is a lot more fresh and funny.

I have a TV, but I only use it to watch NetFlix. So we don’t have cable and no over-the-air reception so whatever TV I get, I either get it at a friend’s house (like I did with the Oscars) or I download clips from the Internet (mainly Daily Show excepts.) I suppose I could get a video iPod and start downloading clips from iTunes, which I may begin to do. But at the moment that seems like too much trouble. I mean, I only want to watch a few minutes of TV on my laptop, I don’t think I could take watching an entire show on a small 2 inch screen… I’d probably go blind or something.

As Internet TV Aims at Niche Audiences, the Slivercast Is Born - New York Times

I think what people don't realize is the role Cisco played in this trend. I don't mean to be all "rah-rah... my company is the best" and all (although I am in PR... so it is a bit of a reflex action) but if it wasn't for broadband and the increasing presence of the Internet in our lives, Slivercast wouldn't be possible (nor would YouTube... which is awesome IMHO).

I'm probably not going to tune into Sail.TV because sailboats make me throw-up, but I think it is great that people who want all sailboats all the time now have a place they can log onto and get virtually seasick.

And all this is because of the Internet... yay Internet.

As Internet TV Aims at Niche Audiences, the Slivercast Is Born - New York Times

Thursday, March 02, 2006

News @ Cisco: Mark Chandler, Cisco SVP and General Counsel, Talks About Censorship in China

This is an issue that has been dogging Cisco for a while and it is one many people rightly have concerns about.

I think it is important to clear the air about several misconceptions about what it is Cisco does in China....

There are still allegations that you have altered your equipment for the purposes of censorship. Why do you think that is?

Mark Chandler: I think the allegations likely stem from a misunderstanding of thefunctionality of our equipment and, unfortunately, inaccurate claims made about Cisco's actions in China. Cisco has not and does not design products for the purpose of political censorship.

The equipment we sell in China is the same equipment we sell worldwide. We have not designed, marketed or altered equipment for the Chinese government. The filtering capabilities of all Internet routing equipment, necessary for protection against viruses, spam and denial of service attacks, can be used to block access to sites for political reasons, anywhere in the world.

What are your views with regards to political censorship?

Mark Chandler: Cisco strongly supports free expression on the Internet.


News @ Cisco: Mark Chandler, Cisco SVP and General Counsel, Talks About Censorship in China

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Origami on YouTube

With all the hype around MSFT's Origami ask yourself this, is this video on YouTube a mistake? An unfortunate leak? Or part of they hype?

(OK, honestly, it is probably a leak... but what if it wasn't?)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Plugged in: Out with old media; in with... what? - Jan. 19, 2006

Nice look at where we are going in media land. I love blogs, blogging and the independent nature of the whole thing. The theory is that with so many different voices out there, people have the opportunity to access many different points-of-view.

Well, they may have the opportunity but they don't do it. The decay of the MSM is I fear leading to a balkanization of thought on the net.

Here is the money quote... ready both paragraphs:

But it [loss of MSM] can also mean a loss of shared experience, of common reference points for a society. This has to be part of the explanation for the increasingly polarized state of political discourse in the United States: Partisans of both left and right are now able to assemble media diets that almost never contradict their preconceived views.

This is not an unprecedented state of affairs -- big American cities used to have lots of different newspapers, each with pronounced political leanings and articles explicitly shaded to reinforce those leanings. There is nothing natural or inherently superior about the monolithic media institutions of the mid-to-late 20th century.




Plugged in: Out with old media; in with... what? - Jan. 19, 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

Moksha: Belated goodbye

With Cisco investing in MovieBeam, acquiring Scientific Atlanta and making other pretty exciting moves into the world of networked home entertainment, I think it is appropriate to take a momeent and not talk about video as a "market" or a "technology", but actually as what is is, an art.

The missus says farewell to Nam June Paik, an influential video artist who recently passed away. I've seen Paik's work at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (a surprisingly good modern art gallery considering it is in the mid-west) and have been fascinated by video art since I took a course on it at college. (FYI--SF MOMA has two fantastic pieces on display now … run, don’t walk)

So why do I bring this all up now? As amazing as all the new technology surrounding video, IP TV and home networking is, we can't lose sight that these are all transport mechanisms and while they enhance the viewing experience, they are not the experience itself.

The experience is what we watch, not how we watch it.

Valley smarts to stop pollution

I've yabbered-on yabbered-on about how the sense of innovation in Silicon Valley can play a key role in reducing the threat that humanity faces from global warming. It doesn't need to be a big idea, but it needs to be a good one that can inspire people to pollute a little less, and even to come up with their own novel "green" idea.

Here's an idea that I love and I think highlights how a simple business model can do something about complex issues as global warming.

The idea is TerraPass and basically it is a voluntary fee you pay on your car to offset your car's greenhouse emissions. The money collected then goes into funding various greenhouse reducing initiatives

Internet and development

Looks like Nicholas Negroponte has left the MIT Media Lab to concentrate on his One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative.

I've been following the story of OLPC's $100 laptop and while I'm not 100% convinced that the $100 laptop is all it is cracked up to be (can't really picture kids in school hand-cranking these things all day) I think the project is interesting because it opens up the debate on what sort of tools are needed to bring the benefits of networking technology to developing countries.

Mobile phone companies are a leading voice in this debate as they have been rolling out low-cost versions of their products with great success. But mobile phones are just one part of the equation. In terms of basic communication and some functions, they are fine, but for more complex applications, I feel you need some sort of PC device just because the interface is easier. Even if the PC-like device is completely dumb and reliant on the network, the fact that is have a bigger screen and a more easy to manage keyboard makes it the right format for uses such as education and information kiosks set up in villages.

But the common refrain is, when people are dying of diseases and don’t have access to clean drinking water, why on earth do they need the Internet? That is a totally valid question and the answer is that like food and water, communication is a basic human need. I spoke the other day to Cisco’s Jim Forster who is currently working on a project to help people learn to set up wireless networks in in developing countries and he highlighted that people in these countries often walk for days from one village to the next just to inquire about family members or find out what has happened to friends and relatives. Social and family bonds are important and people with very little in the world often pay a premium in time and effort just to maintain those bonds. If the Internet could save people from making a day’s trek just o find out simple information, and they could then use that gained day to find another way to better their lot, then it seems to me that the Internet has a key role to play in development.