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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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This Is The Smell Of Inevitability

Comments (76)

In the “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me” category, “a Missouri federal judge ruled the FBI did not need a warrant to secretly attach a GPS monitoring device to a suspect’s car to track his public movements for two months.”

I had to read that sentence twice. I simply didn’t believe it. Fortunately this one will go to the Supreme Court. The punch line from Justice Breyer is right on the money: “If you win this case, there is nothing to prevent the police or government from monitoring 24 hours a day every citizen of the United States.”

GPS tracking. Hey – did you know that you can already track me through my cell phone without my permission? How about a little tag sewn into all clothing that uniquely identifies me. Or maybe something injected under my skin. Giving the government the right to do it without probable cause or any process, or suggesting that someone doesn’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy,  just feels evil to me.

The depth of the ethics of these issues are going to be significant over the next decade. It will be trivial for any of us to be tracked all the time without our knowledge. Don’t want a device – how about image recognition view the web of surveillance cameras everywhere.

I don’t have any answer for this, but I have a lot of questions and ideas. And I’m glad that I live in the US where presumably my civil liberties, privacy, and freedom of speech are sacred. I know there are plenty of people in the US that don’t agree with this, or believe that the government should have more control around this to “keep out or find the bad guys.”

Philosophically this is a hard and complex discussion and has been since the creation of the United States of America. The difference, right now, is that technology is about to take another step function leap that no one is ready for, or is thinking about, or even understands, that will create an entirely new set of dynamics in our society. Our government, especially leaders in Congress, the White House, and the Judicial System need to get much smarter – fast – about how this works. SOPA / PIPA is an example of terrible legislation that runs the risk of massively impacting innovation and individual freedom of speech. But it’s just a start – there is a lot more coming.

Denying that there is going to be a dramatic shift in how humans and computers interact is insane. Trying to hold on to incumbent business models and stifle innovation through legislation is dumb. Trying to create complex laws to contain and manage the evolution of technology, especially when it transfers power from innovators to non-innovators, or from the rights of private citizens to the government, is a mistake and will fail long term. Trying to repress free speech of any sort is wrong and won’t be sustainable.

I live in a world where you can’t anticipate or control change. It’s coming – and fast. Let’s embrace it and use it for good, not resist is and try to surpress it in the name of “protecting ourself from bad actors.” I pledge to do my best to always be thoughtful about it and be a force for good in the world. But please, don’t deny the inevitable – embrace it, and build off of it. It’s what makes America amazing and extremely durable long term.

American Censorship Day Is Tomorrow (11/16/11)

Comments (19)

There are two very disturbing bills making their way through Congress: Protect IP Act (PIPA - S.968) and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA – H.R.3261). These bills are coated in rhetoric that I find disgusting since at their core they are online censorship bills. It’s incredible to me that Congress would take seriously anything that censors the Internet and the American public but in the last few weeks PIPA and SOPA have burst forth with incredibly momentum, largely being underwritten by large media companies and their lobbyists.

A number of organizations in support of free speech and a free and open Internet have recently come out in opposition to these bills. They include EFF, Free Software Foundation, Public Knowledge, Demand Progress, Fight For the Future, Participatory Politics Foundation, and Creative Commons who have organized American Censorship Day tomorrow (11/16/11).

If you run a website or have a blog, go to the American Censorship site to see how you can participate on 11/16/11.

In addition to being censorship bills, these are anti-entrepreneurship bills. They are a classic example of industry incumbents trying to use the law to stifle disruptive innovation, or at least innovation that they view as disruptive to their established business. To date, the Internet has been an incredible force for entrepreneurship and positive change throughout the world (did anyone notice what recently happened in Egypt?) It’s beyond comprehension why some people in Congress would want to slow this down in any way.

While you can try to understand the bills, this short video does a phenomenal job of summarizing their potential impact along with second order effects (intended or unintended).

PROTECT IP Act Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

I’m furious about this, as are many of my friends, including Fred Wilson who wrote today about how these bills undermine The Architecture of the Internet. But we are aware, as are many others, that simply being mad doesn’t solve anything. Join us and speak out loudly against censorship – right now! If you have a blog or website, please take part in American Censorship Day - the instructions are on their website which – so far – hasn’t been censored.

Does Me-Too Stuff Bore You?

Comments (6)

As 2011 kicks off, I think we are in for a ton of innovative software and Internet stuff this year.  Yeah, some of it will be “just like everything else but different.”  However, of the areas we invest heavily in – human computer interaction – has an incredible amount of activity going on.  I’ll be at CES in Las Vegas this week so I expect to have a dose of nerd-eye-candy (e.g. the latest TV sets) along with a bunch of cool / amazing / clever / intriguing new HCI things.

I expect CES will be a classic case of “a mile wide and an inch deep.”  If you want to go really deep with HCI, consider joining me at the Blur Conference in Orlando on 2/22 and 2/23 especially if any of the following topics appeal to you.

  • markerless motion capture
  • phone controlled robotic gaming devices
  • augmented reality apps
  • alternative input mechanisms
  • neuro-physiological measurements
  • all kinds of Kinect hacks
  • 3D/digital sculptures
  • neuro-ergonomics
  • social robotics
  • multi-touch interfaces
  • speech recognition
  • human instrumentation
  • natural user interfaces

I’ve accepted the reality that the computers are going to take over during my lifetime.  I just want to help be involved in writing some of the code to hedge my bets.  Register now to come join me in my quest.

It’s Time To Reinvent The Signature Page

Comments (36)

Last night I printed, signed, scanned, and emailed two signature pages.  As is my custom of not keeping anything around, I tore up and tossed the sig pages and then deleted the files.  This morning I woke up to an email saying “We didn’t get your signature pages.  Can you please send them.”  I just went through the same print, sign, scan, and email process again.

This is so profoundly stupid.  I sent a note yesterday afternoon in reply to the email thread asking if I was all set to go that said “I’m all set to go.”  A bunch of lawyers were on the email thread (mine and the company’s.)  We are wiring the money today.  Now they have some pretty scanned sig pages also.

There has got to be a better way.  Over the last decade, there have been lots of “electronic signature” companies pop up.  None have seemed to take root in the corporate world.  In the past year, I sold a house and bought a house.  In both cases, there was some goofy online thing that I signed with my mouse (my signature looked like a messy “X”) for the offers (to make / accept) but I still had to go to the title company and sit and sign 37 documents to close.  Every time I go to the grocery store I swipe my credit card through a little electronic checkout machine and when it’s time to sign, I put a big “X” on the sig line.

When I think about the number of places my actual signature is at this point, it’s a pretty useless mark.  But for some reason it’s still important in the legal closing process.  This now seems more like a tradition, instead of a useful thing.

While I’m not interested in funding something in this arena (it’s outside our focus), it seems like there’s finally an opportunity to solve for this, at least in the corporate world.  I’m not talking about biometrics or retina scanning – just a valid electronic signature that becomes a standard.  Maybe someday.  Wouldn’t it be cool if they lawyers took this on and tried to solve it?

Reverse Flips

Comments (8)

Like most of the blogosphere, I’ve been trying to use Flipboard since its extraordinarily well executed (or well hyped – I can’t tell yet) announcement.  But, like almost everyone I know, I can’t get it to authenticate Twitter or Facebook.  Two days ago I entered in my email address to reserve my place in line.  Today, at 9:55 AM AKDT I got an email titled “Your Flipboard is Ready to Customize” that said:

Hi there. We’re now ready for you to set up your Facebook and Twitter accounts on Flipboard. Try it out and let us know what you think. And thanks again for your patience and enthusiasm.

I went to connect up my Twitter and Facebook accounts.  Nope – doesn’t work.  At 10:34 AM AKDT I got an email titled “Apology, and Flipboard Confirmation”

We just sent you an email telling you that we were ready for you to set up your Facebook and Twitter accounts. We are sorry to say that our email system sent the wrong email. We were actually trying to send you an email confirming your place in line for you to setup your Facebook and Twitter sections.

You will receive another email when your reservation is ready. We are working around the clock to get you your invite and will send you your official invite soon.

Thanks again for your patience and support.

Oops.

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