Shortly after reading an article in the NY Times this morning by Bob Morris titled Global Yawning I received the following email from a reader of this blog:

I’ve noticed that I am skipping your blog posts with increasing frequency.  The reason is that the “What a great team! What a great product!” posts about your portfolio companies seem to be an increasing proportion of the total (it may not be true – I haven’t run the numbers – but “perception is reality” anyway).  At this point you may write a post that says that Newsgator is a crappy company but all I will see is “Newsgator” and I will move on.  As an entrepreneur, I would love to have such a dedicated, high-profile investor-evangelist. However, as a reader I feel that the “advertorial” content is starting to chip away at the foundation of your otherwise excellent blog.

Well said my friend (and thanks for the constructive criticism.)  It’s often difficult (at least for me) to walk the “fanboy line.” I always try to say something useful / educational when I’m cheering on my companies, but I’ll always acknowledge that I’m also promoting them.

The juxtaposition to Global Yawning hit me over the head.  Morris has an excellent essay with the killer quotes “How much green-standing can we stand?  It’s enough hot air to melt Antarctica.  In no time, an inconvenient truth has become an obnoxious one.”

I’m a huge environmentalist.  I have a conservation easement on all of my land in Colorado.  I’m on the board of the Colorado Conservation Trust and am actively involved in helping conserve land.  I was “green” well before green was in. 

But I’m now lost in noise and can barely read anything about global warming right now without my inner cynic coming out.  It baffles me that people fly across the country in private planes to prostelitize about being carbon neutral.  Morris points out some new problems with ethanol (more smog than gasoline) and mercury in the newfangled compact fluorescent light bulbs that create a different environmental problem.  Magazines increase their difficult to recycle page count with endless articles on how to be more green while advertising products that are most definitely not environmentally friendly.

I haven’t spent the time to separate fact from fiction – nor am I going to – but the dynamic is overwhelming to me.  When the noise overwhelms the signal, it’s time to take a giant step backward and look at what is going on.

I’ll keep being a fanboy for things I care about, but I’ll be more conscious about telling a story while I’m doing it.

  • i am brand new to your blog. and i am overwhelmed at the sheer scale of it. apropos the comment about cheerleading – well, i hope you don’t stop because i am curious to know more how you think and what you think is good. it’s all subjective of course. i think all you have to do to satiate fanboy criticisms is to point out what the risks are in any concept or venture. there are always risks. it isn’t the same as a vote of no-confidence. thanks for blogging.

  • Brad,
    Of course you won’t see magazines and private jets disappear overnight.The media storm around global warming is exactly what’s needed for a healthful change to occur. Okay, so you’ve been green all along but most people haven’t. You should be glad to see them exposed to and challenged by journalists donning green-colored glasses. The only unneeded surplus of green media I see are stories about the story, like the Times piece (and yes, I know, my comment itself is about a comment on a comment on the story).
    As for promoting your companies in a blog, I’m shocked!!!!!
    (Blogged with Flock, profiled in LinkedIn, protected by Lifelock)

  • I disagree with the emailer. I enjoy getting the updates about your portfolio companies from this blog. Often your updates are more timely and informative than the company’s. As for whether the company news posts are coming more frequently, I would again disagree. LIke the emailer I can only speak anecdotally, but I haven’t noticed an uptick.

    Posts on any given topic will naturally ebb and flow based on what you’re thinking about during a period. If your portfolio companies are in a particularly active and innovative period, and you find that period interesting, I’d like to know about it. That’s part of why I subscribe; to follow what one VC finds interesting and engaging about his investments.

    Don’t pare back posts of a certain type due to a non-existent editorial responsibility.

  • I think the hype about global warming is partly due to the fact that the U.S. has been largely out of sync with much of the rest of the world on this issue. (Consider our abstention from the Kyoto Protocol, for example.) With the IPCC’s fourth assessment report gradually coming out, we’re starting to see a shift in the U.S. public’s awareness of this issue. It’s not clear yet whether it’ll be a long term shift or a flash in the pan, but I’m struck by the similarities to the shift that happened in the debate over whether smoking causes cancer.

    If it is a longer term shift, venture investments in environmental tech might do well. Sure would be nice if someone could solve the power storage problem, for instance.

  • Brad,

    After following your blog for less than a fortnight, I was beginning to think exactly the same thing as the e-mailer. That guy couldn’t have timed it better.

    You may enjoy flying the flag for your ventures, and that’s great, I’m sure they deserve it. But why not offset the positives every so often by discussing ways of improving the businesses you invest in. Surely you’ve made at least one suggestion to a dev team under your wing – why not post the same suggestion through your blog too? You might just obtain some unique perspectives.

    I’ll start you off…

    I use Newsgator Online – in fact it’s perma-tabbed in FireFox. However, I recently tried the beta release of the new Ajaxified interface, and it’s completely broken. I couldn’t read a full feed without receiving a syntax error. So here’s a new mantra; a beta release of an RSS reader should, at the very least, enable a user to read an entire RSS feed. This is especially true if a fully functioning service is interrupted to ask the user if they want to try said beta release.

  • Brad –

    Couldn’t really disagree more with your fanboy emailer. I read your blog in the first place to get insight into what you’re thinking. Obviously, most of your mind share ( I would expect ) is focussed on your investments, therefore I’d expect to read about it on the blog. And your portfolio companies happen to be a very interesting sample across lots of sectors in the Internet right now — from feeds, to search, etc. I absolutely want to hear your take on new cool stuff they’re doing — why it’s important, etc. I know you’re not recycling back every little announcement, but ones you think are particularly relevant and insightful. Please please – keep it coming. You are an insider; you’re stuff is most valuable when you share the stuff you are behind the curtain with — that is always going to mean a lot of portfolio companies —


  • As the CEO of one of your portfolio companies, I do appreciate it when you mention our company. On the other hand, you know I spend a lot of time with new entrepreneurs and I always direct them to your blog as a source of great information. I’d say the signal to noise ratio is very high, and given that you’re doing this out of the goodness of your heart, an occasional round of chearleading seems like a reasonable price to pay.

  • I am totally convinced that there is something unusual happening with Global Climate. I am convinced of that.

    What I am not convinced about is the science behind the “causality”. Are we sure about what precisely is the reason for this unusual trend?

    I am not so sure about the science behind the causality. This is not some politically motivated quibbling but a sane question a sane person should ask. What is that I can do personally that will at least stop the situation from becoming worse if not reverse it?

    This is where things get shaky. Either we don’t have the answers or I may not have seen them!

    This thread is pretty surreal – two threads in one! A dual-core processor would come in handy with this blog parallelism. 🙂

  • You can find good information about the link between greenhouse gases and global warming in the IPCC Working Group 1’s Summary for Policymakers. (PDF here.) It’s written for politicians, so it’s pretty readable. It looks like WG1 has now released their full report online. I haven’t had time to read it in detail, but it goes into considerable depth and cites back to the literature, letting you make your own independent evaluation of the quality of the research.

    As for what you can do about it, you can find several good suggestions in Working Group 3’s Summary for Policymakers (pdf here). Again, the target audience is politicians, but with an election cycle coming up in the U.S., a well-placed question or letter could change the course of world affairs. You can also take steps around the house like improving energy efficiency (better insulation, etc.) and thinking carefully about the next vehicle you buy, but you probably already knew about that energy conservation stuff.

  • John W

    With all due respect, your wife drives a Rover – – so I’m not sure you are that green. Yes, you saved some land and got a tax break with your conservation easements, but here’s more to it than that. Live it.

  • False data – you are just tweaking my inner cynic, aren’t you? Didn’t you know that you could buy carbon credits to offset your energy consumption (sort of a like a fat person buying “diet credits” from someone that is skinny).

    I also fly in airplanes for work. A lot.