Month: April 2007

Apr 29 2007

The Sony Reader

I love new toys.  It had been a while (at least two weeks) since my last one.  I was sitting next to Howard Morgan at a meeting catching up and he asked me if I had gotten a Sony Reader (PRS-500) yet.  Both of us are voracious readers and travelers – picture me lugging at least three books with me wherever I go.

Howard said the Sony Reader had changed his reading life.  I bought one online that afternoon (Sony uses Intershop software for their ecommerce – man – I’d forgotten they still existed.)  I read my first book on it today – Simple Genius by David Baldacci. 

It was awesome (the book and the Sony Reader.)  I loaded it up with a couple of David Halberstam books and I’ll leave the pile of hardback books behind on my seven day trip next week. 

I had an early ebook device (I can’t remember who it was from) and it was “ok” but too big, too heavy, the battery life was too short, and the screen wasn’t quite right.  The Sony Reader seems to nail it all and after spending four hours with it this afternoon, I’m looking forward to my next book on it.

I’ll check back in after a few more books and tell you if I’m still loving it.

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Apr 29 2007

Is “Damn It” A Swear?

Jack Bauer (ok – Keifer) explains why he says “damn it” so much on 24.

Thanks Jason S for the pointer.

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Apr 27 2007

Forbes 90th Anniversary Issue

I rarely read an entire magazine.  I typically just skim them in the bathroom and tear out the articles I actually want to read. 

The Forbes 90th Anniversary Issue was an exception.  I realized I was tearing out almost every article so I sat down (outside the bathroom) and read most of the magazine (there were a few skimable articles.)  The cover title is The Power of Networks and has 28 essays from diverse, smart, and extremely articulate people.  For a sample, take a look at David Gelernter’s essay on The Inside-Out Web (right on the money with Defrag.)  

If you don’t subscribe to Forbes, stop in at a newsstand in the next airport or drugstore that you are in.  It’s a white cover with a red border – you can’t miss it.  Perfect for your next 2+ hour airplane ride.

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Apr 27 2007

Bulk Email Patent Nonsense – I Volunteer to be an Expert Witness

I read Matt Blumberg’s post on Silly, Silly Patent Nonsense this morning.  It concerns a bulk email patent that was issued in 2003 that is being used to sue InfoUSA for patent infringement.  Matt doesn’t have the detailed data, nor do I, but if it’s true I’ve got to believe it’s totally bogus. 

I was involved in a patent suit of bulk email in the 1990’s.  I am aware of prior art dating back to the 1980’s.  The chance of there being anything non-obvious here is approximately zero.  My suit settled for $1 and a cross-license after $1 million of aggregate attorney’s fees and a bunch of unnecessary hard feelings (some of which have cleared due to the fundamental good karma of some of the people involved.)

I despise this stuff.  Hopefully the facts will come out in the next few days that nothing of this sort is going on.  But – if it is – I volunteer to be an expert witness in the case.

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Apr 27 2007

Tim Wolters on Wallstrip

One of my favorite CTOs – Tim Wolters of Collective Intellect – is on Wallstrip today chatting with Lindsey. 

 

While I’d much rather there was less of Tim and more of Lindsey, I think Tim did a good job explaining what Collective Intellect does and why it’s useful to anyone that trades public stocks.  I’m an investor in Collective Intellect and have been nudging Tim and his partner Don Springer along on how to think about dealing with all the user-generated content in the world.  They’ve got it – and Tim is now actively participating in it – sort of.  Plus – he’s basically long on everything, which is an attribute that is helpful for all entrepreneurs.

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Apr 27 2007

Change from GAAP to SAAP

A blog reader (Sam from – well – somewhere) pointed out a critically important new set of accounting principles called SAAP that are a replacement for GAAP and are described on Long or Short Capital.

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Apr 26 2007

That’s A Good Question

There are a bunch of verbal tics that people use that drive me crazy.  “Honestly” and “to tell you the truth” are the two that I dislike the most. 

Another one that I hate is “that’s a good question” as the immediate response to a question.  I know this is just buying time to start to formulate an answer, but it always annoys me.

Today, one of my partners (who heard me coach a CEO on this the other day in preparation for a presentation) told me that I had just said “that’s a good question” three times in a meeting we were in.  I looked at him with my normal incredulous “huh?” look and said “really?”  He didn’t respond with “that’s a good question” but responded, “I don’t mean to be an asshole about it, but really.” 

I guess I’ve been promulgating one of the verbal tics that annoys me.  If you notice me doing this with you, please admonish me appropriately.

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Apr 26 2007

Widget Stats

Some of the companies I invest in are innovation factories – it feels to me like something interesting comes out of them at least once a week (and sometimes daily.)  FeedBurner and NewsGator both fit in this category – it’s a combination of having amazing developers, a core platform architecture, and a philosophy of iterating quickly on small product increments (rather than the “big bang – take 12 months and release a product – approach.”)  While the spirit of web-based apps encourages this, I’m amazed at the number of startups (including some that I’m an investor in) that have a rapid innovation cycle at the beginning of their development, but then slow down significantly as they add headcount and complexity in their application (more on this in another post.)  Hint to those of you that want to go faster – consider using an agile methodology and tooling.

One of the innovation factories that I’m an investor in is Lijit.  Stan James and Todd Vernon are obsessed with getting stuff out the door on a short cycle, testing it in the real world, and iterating.  Every time I turn around Stan shows me something amazing (Stan – when does the world get to see Bubbles?) – on Monday it was the first “known” (at least to me) widget stat report.  The methodology is described below:

These statistics are based on a crawl of 8552 blogs done over April 11-15, 2007. This crawl was “centered” on blogs with the Lijit widget (or as we call it, Wijit), and expanded outwards by following the blogrolls. Due to some bugs in how we stored this data, we had to throw out a large number of blogs. These stats only include numbers which we are sure to be correct. This is our first time, after all! For this sample we take a wide definition of widgets, including non-visible widgets such as as Google Analytics. Also note that we do not include image-only widgets, this includes the Feedburner subscriber count badge and the LinkedIn badge. Also not included are “widgets” that are automatically added by a blogging platform, like those from Blogger or Typepad. Because our crawl expanded outwards by blogrolls, and because of the general disconnect between the traditional blogosphere and social networks, widgets from sites like MySpace are not included in these stats.

Widgetstat1

During the first crawl and analysis, Stan clearly acknowledges what assumptions they made, what didn’t work on the crawl, and hints toward what they’ll be tuning with their algorithm. 

As a data junkie, this was intensely interesting to me.  The top 10 widgets on the crawl were Google Analytics, Google Syndication, Sitemeter, Technorati, Flickr, Statcounter, Mybloglog (damnit guys – why did you sell to Yahoo – we could have built something really big), FeedBurner, Blogrolling, and icio.us (del.icio.us).  The next 30 are an interesting collection of things to pay attention to (and a few surprised me with both their relative popularity or their relative unpopularity.)

While this is still a small sample size (8552 blogs) with built in bias (crawl centered on blogs with the Lijit Wijit), it’s a fascinating start.  Analytics dominate with Search relatively light.  The power curve (or long tail for those of you that don’t like math) is front and center in the analysis.

You should assume that there’s a method to the madness with this type of crawl (rather than just a desire to make a set of pretty graphs and satisfy my need for data.)  That’s part of a really interesting thing that you’ll see soon from Lijit.

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Apr 26 2007

The Ultimate Travel Community Site

Passion for ideas for new companies come from lots of different places.  I’ve learned to pay attention to them and see where they lead.  Sometimes they lead somewhere; often they don’t but make me smarter about the world.

Recently an investor that I’ve gotten to know and really like started talking about an idea for the ultimate travel community web site – its purpose would be to facilitate a community comprised of members that love travel.  The community would enable sharing of ideas, recommendations and travel experiences.

When I started playing around with user generated content and local search in 2005, one of the obvious applications to me was something oriented around travel.  At the time I looked hard and found nothing particularly compelling.  Ironically, the most interesting thing was the Yahoo Travel Planner which – while interesting – was very rough and underfeatured.  It’s gotten a lot better but still misses the ball somehow – probably around its lack of real social networking and lens through “trips” rather than specific reviews in geographies.

So – I’m looking around for something like is the intersection of a deep content site like Yahoo Travel with a real social network / UGC site like the stuff at YourRunning.com.  There would be a couple of pivot points: the user, the trip, a group around a trip, and groups of interests in trips.  Each user would be able to generate a blog and other user generated content (video, photos, comments) around a specific trip.  Groups would be able to communicate with each other (via whatever the appropriate messaging is – including real time stuff like Twitter.)  All the data would be persistent – so someone interested in a specific trip could see what was good and what was bad.  Search would be pervasive and accurate across all the content on the site.

The trip construct would obviously be monetizable through the creation of actual trips (and affiliate revenue / advertising.)  This is one of the really interesting parts of the idea – once you lay out a trip online – as a function of other people’s trips – you can then make plane tickets, hotel reservations, dinner reservations, and event schedules automatically, get maps and directions, and have an itinerary generated.  Assuming that all my fantasies about the Implicit Web become true, your compute infrastructure should be smart enough to do this for you automagically.

I’ve looked around for stuff like this but keep coming up short.  If you are out there and working on this (or know of something that does this well and has a real community), leave a comment about what you are up to.

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Apr 26 2007

The Seeking Alpha Web Interview

Seeking Alpha has started a new interview series on their site.  Dick Costolo – the CEO of FeedBurner – has an excellent one up.  Seeking Alpha readers have a window to ask questions online and then Dick (or the interviewee) answers them.  Dick’s interview is a superb window into the mind of the brilliant, creative, and often hilarious guy running FeedBurner and writing the Ask the Wizard blog.  It’s not quite Being John Malkovich but close.

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