Sunday, February 26, 2006

Web 2.0 and Marx (?!?)










Does Web 2.o = Karl Marx?

Interesting article from CBS (?). Click on the title of this posting to go direct to the article (or paste this into your browser:

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/02/15/opinion/main1320641.shtml

It's REALLY intersting. He's comparing the whole Web 2.0 world (what the internet is becoming and something we, ClickCaster, are focused on as a company) to Karl Marx.

The author (a Fellow named Andrew Keen from, it seems, News Corp.. hmmm) references Lawrence Lessig as being an Intellectual Property Communist (twice). Lessig created something called Creative Commons (www.creativecommons.org) that provides a different way of licensing intellectual property which is much more open and built on top of the assumption that intellectual property can be shared (and, at the same time, owned by it's creator).

Ever talk to Lessig? He's more of a capitalist than people know. He's just able to see beyond the current model to the next model. He understands what 'the Network Effect' is within a legal intellectual property context. (short network effect lesson: one fax machine: useless. two fax machines: useful. A million fax machines: really useful. Every new fax machine added to 'the network' the more valuable each new fax machine becomes. Same with user generated media like blogs and podcasts- Each new piece of media, that can be built on by others... via Lessig's creative commons licensing, has a similar network effect.. but in the media space. I know.. the connection isn't intuitively obvious.. but trust me.. it's there and Lessig completely get's it).

This article was written by a guy who (obviously) is threatened by the way media is changing (as he should be. Old School thinker that he is).

The old saying: "The power of the press belongs to those who own one" was never more true. Started with the Mac and a laserwriter.. Web 2.0 is just a logical extension of that trend and started back in the mid 80's when everyone could 'own' their own printing press (i.e. a Mac & a Laserwriter).

Clever title though (Web 2.0 Is Reminiscent Of Marx). I actually laughed out loud when I read it (and thought: what a riot.. this guy has no clue how far from wrong he is) I'll admit that it's a bit of a paradox (high tech capitalists talking about revolution of the media) but, trust me.. it's all about capitalism. The individual. Making money. AND doing it in a way that's 'good'. Things Ann Rand would have loved.

This is simply the (currently assumed) best approach to meeting the market demand for what people really want (which is what, in the end, the market IS, afterall). ;-)

Old media is scared sh*tless right now. And it should be. It's under siege, and it's losing, for the first time in it's history. And not just on an attention level, but on an economic one. The dot com bust was the best thing that ever happened to technologists like me. It made it really obvious that a solid business model and way of making money from the 'idealism' of our products was paramount. So, we adapted. And we're doing it, first, by deconstructing and replacing the old (and taking money out of their pockets). And the old media? Well, it really, truly, doesn't know what to do about it. Other than calling Web 2.0 'Marxist'.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

How to kill your business or The RIAA's take on Fair Use

It just keeps getting weirder...

Deep Links

RIAA Says Ripping CDs to Your iPod is NOT Fair Use

February 15, 2006

It is no secret that the entertainment oligopolists are not happy about space-shifting and format-shifting. But surely ripping your own CDs to your own iPod passes muster, right? In fact, didn't they admit as much in front of the Supreme Court during the MGM v. Grokster argument last year?

Apparently not.

As part of the on-going DMCA rule-making proceedings, the RIAA and other copyright industry associations submitted a filing that included this gem as part of their argument that space-shifting and format-shifting do not count as noninfringing uses, even when you are talking about making copies of your own CDs:

"Nor does the fact that permission to make a copy in particular circumstances is often or even routinely granted, necessarily establish that the copying is a fair use when the copyright owner withholds that authorization. In this regard, the statement attributed to counsel for copyright owners in the MGM v. Grokster case is simply a statement about authorization, not about fair use."

For those who may not remember, here's what Don Verrilli said to the Supreme Court last year:

"The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it's been on their website for some time now, that it's perfectly lawful to take a CD that you've purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod."

If I understand what the RIAA is saying, "perfectly lawful" means "lawful until we change our mind." So your ability to continue to make copies of your own CDs on your own iPod is entirely a matter of their sufferance. What about all the indie label CDs? Do you have to ask each of them for permission before ripping your CDs? And what about all the major label artists who control their own copyrights? Do we all need to ask them, as well?

P.S.: The same filing also had this to say: "Similarly, creating a back-up copy of a music CD is not a non-infringing use...."

Machine Generated Culture vs. Editorial Perspective


Something hit me recently about the value of culture defined by google vs. blogs. Machine readable culture vs. editorial.

Which is better? Which do I (in the gestalt) trust more?

Ask yourself this: when you want to form an opinion about something, your very own personal opinion, what do you do? Do you go Google and search or do you read blogs written by individuals you trust or, at the very least, are entertained by?

Google is the collective mind. The wisdom of crowds. The value of results computed by the sum total of links to the highly rated hits.. machine generated from the internet.

Blogs are individual voices from specific minds of people you know (or know of through their blogs). Many are deep experts in areas that you might be interested in. Some are just plain smart and interesting to read.

I do both, but I'm finding myself, more and more, searching for that individual voice (or voices) on particular topics, that I think has a ring of truth to it.

Of course, I often use Google to find these voices. The whole damn thing is circular as hell when you approach it that way.

Then, there's the personal recommendation thing. For instance, I like a couple of VC blogs. One from Brad Feld, a Colorado based VC and exceptionally straight shooter, damned smart and all around good guy. And a fellow named Fred Wilson in NYC.. same general description.

How did I find them? Through friends. Folks I trust telling me 'you've gotta read these guys blogs'. It helps to actually meet them as well (Brad, who's local to me, I've met and Fred's geographically a bit too far, so it's only been a bit of email).

It's funny though how I feel like I really know these guys. They're a part of my daily life. I subscribe to around 100 or so blogs and I read some percentage of them every day, Brad and Fred (along with 10 or so others) I ALWAYS read.

I read them more than I bother reading my $99 a year online Wall Street Journal. And in their specific area of expertise, I trust them (far) more than I do anything written in the Wall Street Journal or that I find through a Google search.

So... having thought this out via writing it down here, I think I have my answer: Blogs are 'more' real, from an informational trust point of view, than Google (or any other machine generated culture).

I love the gestalt.. the global mind. I have faith in the wisdom of crowds. But in the end, I TRUST individual minds like those owned by Brad and Fred.

Monday, February 13, 2006

We finally got our blog up


Well, that took too long.

We finally got our official blog up and running. We've had one for months, but the development team convinced me it would be bad form not to have it running on our own software (I was pushing to a typepad or (gasp) blogger account.. just to get something going).

So, it's there. Check it out at: www.clickcaster.com/blog

Creative name eh? Heh. whatcanyado?

Friday, February 10, 2006

A day with the Venture Capital Investment Competition


I spent the day today at the University of Colorado participating in a unique and interesting program. The Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC). Imagine, a room full of about 40 MBA students and 5 or six local venture capitalists. Also in the room: CEO's from 5 local early stage companies looking for funding.

Each CEO gives their pitch, limited to 10 minutes. Wrap up, next CEO. Audience of said MBA students, VC's and fellow CEO's watching. OK.. interesting, cool even. Fun watching other CEO's pitches (it’s unusual for CEO's to do this together at a VC oriented event).

Next, the work. Break out the MBA students into teams of 5. 8 Teams total. Each team grills you like they were a VC to determine if you're someone they're 'fantasy' VC firm would invest in. Two minute break between each 15 minute session.

1 CEO, 1 or 2 VC's 'monitoring' on the sideline and 2 solid hours of grilling broken into 15 minute chunks with a new group every 15 minutes cycling through.

Pretty eye opening, actually. These are the future junior VC's we'll be dealing with 2, 3, 5 years from now.

Some where funny. Some where naive. Some where hard and nasty (well, they tried to be). Some were arrogant, Some got it and some didn't. Some were intensely intelligent. Some, not so much.

Kinda like dealing with VC's, actually. Under developed. Didn't really know the lingo yet, but pretty much the same general themes.

What's interesting is I could SEE the kind of VC each of these guys would make in the future if VC work is something they actually went into. You know how you can tell what the personality of a child is when they're very young? Even under a year old?

Same thing here. You could spot the ones who were going to be assholes in 5 seconds. And you could tell which ones would be insightful and fun partners who could also make the hard decisions when needed in the first 30 seconds.

In terms of what I learned, well, some, but nothing earth shaking. Mostly validation of things already known. I didn't get any laser like insights. All of them told me they 'loved' my business (but who knows... part of their job was to get me to like them and rate THEM highly).

Maybe they were practicing that time honored VC tradition of 'the slow no'. Heh.. yea.. some definitely where. “be nice to the little startup guy.. you never know”. Some honestly liked the business. And with some of them, the space (consumer software with a business and social network twist) obviously confused them.

I did learn that some of them actually found this blog (which as I've noted before, I'm pretty sure no one reads but me and a few close friends). That, actually, impressed me. I don't advertise or link to this blog from any of my company related sites. You have to dig a bit to find it.

A few even logged into ClickCaster, my startup company's site, and created podcasts. All who did (seemed) impressed that it actually worked as advertised.

Style varied widely. One group shook my hand, sat down and started pounding me on the financials. I damn near said something like "what.. no foreplay"?.

Another glad handed and joked around for the first few minutes, selling me on why they were a great group to work with, then pounded me on the financials (among other things) and got reasonably deep reasonably quickly but never intrusively so. (they got my #1 vote).

There was the early evening mixer with VC's, CEO's and student advisors from CU as well. Good folks. Colorado has some very together VC's. I have yet to meet one I didn't like (not something I can say for every VC I’ve met over the years).

I talked with the other 4 CEO's. Several of them agreed we need a 'startup CEO' regular get together in the Denver Metro area. Think I'll put that together in the next few weeks, see if we can get something interesting going.

Overall, any startup CEO that gets a chance to do this shouldn't hesitate. It's a very mental kind of event and you're likely to feel a little like you've been the ball in a pro tennis match by the end of the day, but it's fun and you're giving back to the universities that sponsor the event (and the students) in a way only you, as a real world startup CEO, can.

We Need A New Kind Of Local Community Funded Newspaper- At The Public Library

A story on this our local NPR station did: "As News Deserts Encroach, One City Looks At A new Way To Fund Local Journalism"...