Monday, June 30, 2008

Punk Capitalism (The Pirate's Dilemma)

THIS is a book worth reading

The Pirates Dilemma
How Youth Culture is Reinventing Capitalism

Or put another way: much of the worlds innovation was created by Pirates.

You can download a copy of it here.

Did you know Jankes was the word for pirates back in the 18th and 19th century? Its where the work Yanks came from because Americans were considered the most piratical bootlegging nation on earth. They stole, copied and ignored copyrights and patents. They looked alot like China of the 1990s, and Japan of the 1970s.

Did you know Hollywood is a bunch of pirates? Yep. Edison invented filmmaking and demanded a licensing fee from anyone making movies with his tech. What happened? A band of filmmaking pirates, including one named William, left New York for the then still wild west where they thrived, unlicensed, until Edison's patents expired. Williams last name? Fox.

CableTV: Same beginnings. In 1948 when Cable TV started, cable companies refused to pay the networks for broadcasting their content. For over 30 years operated like a primiative illegal file sharing network.

Excellent short video on the subject here:

It's worth all 4:59 seconds of time it takes to watch.

He also talks about the history of how punk music created the DIY (do it yourself) culture. Something we, today, call UGC (User Generated Content).

The basic ideas of this Punk Capitalism are simple and come directly from the philosophy of punk rock (From the book):
Do it yourself.
Punk refused to take cues from the mass market, and created a vibrant cultural movement as a result. Now a critical mass of punk capitalists is removing the associative barriers that held them back. They are working for themselves, setting up businesses, and finding ways to produce as much as they conume, laying the foundations for a wealth of new markets and business models. D.I.Y. is changing our labor markets, and creativity is becoming our most valuable currency.

Resist Authority
Punk resisted authority and saw anarcy as the path to a brighter future. Punk capitlists are resisting authority, too--by leveraging new D.I.I. technologies and the power of individuals connecting and working togethrs as equals. This twin engine of the new economy is creating new ways all of us can live and work, leaving old systems for dust. Technology plus Democracy = Punk Captialism.

Combine Altruism and Self-Interest
Punk had high ideas--it looked aggressive and scary, but through its angry critique of society and subversion of it, it sought to change the world for the better. Punk capitalists are using the same techniques, subverting a world full of empty corporate gestures, manufacturing businesses and producst with meanings that attempt to inject substance bank into style. Punk injected altruism into entrepreneurship, a motivator of people long overlooked by neoclassical economics. Not only that, punk made the idea of putting purpose before profit seem cool to an entire generation. It menufactured new meaning in an area where it was really needed.
It's written by Matt Mason, an ex-Pirate DJ and journalist. It's well researched and offers great real world examples.

Here's a overview of the book:

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tornado's, Storm Chasing and Walk-Abouts

Every so often, it's important that you get out from behind your keyboard and drop off your usual grid.

I like walk-Abouts. Actually, it's more the American version re: Drive-Abouts. It's something I've done periodically for years and it takes the place of a planned vacation very nicely for me. Solitary, mind clearing and life re-affirming. You get in your vehicle, with no clue where you're going to end up, and you drive. I've ended up in NYC, biker bars in CA., deep in Mississippi's swamps and in the middle of Death Valley.

I also like storm chasing. Tracking down heavy weather and tornadoes is invigorating in ways I suspect is similar to how big game photographers must feel when stalking rhino's or lion prides. So, this week I'm dropping off the grid and mixing the two up by heading to somewhere in center of the country with my trusty little AWD, some video and still camera's, a GPS, CB/weather radio, a laptop with Swift WX and GRLevelX software(weather tracking/radar software) and a hankering for roadside diner food with no $5 a cup coffee shops within a 100 miles.

I'll also be bringing along a high level of healthy respect for wall clouds (above). I've done this for years now and, generally, it's a hit and miss endeavor. I'd say 1 out of 4 times to I actually get close enough to see a tornado, but man, it's like nothing you've ever experienced until you've done it (and I've climbed mountains, raced cars and skydived in my younger days). Oddly, it's the opposite of doing high adrenaline sports in that you, really, have no control over the environment.

It's both terrifying and calming.

I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but one things for certain, after chasing a tornado across the long flat plains of Kansas and actually catching up and having one stare you down, it puts all the other concerns, fears and hopes in a persons tiny little world in crystal clear perspective.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The BlackBerry vs. iPhone Experiment

I managed to lose my iPhone for real this time. 4 days later, still missing. Since my life tends to revolve around my phone (I've been using smartphones for 10 years now), I needed to replace it.

So, Sat. I went down to my friendly AT&T store and tried to get a new iPhone.

Try and 'replace' an iPhone right now. Can't do it. None to be had. New iPhone coming out next week donchaknow.

So I decided to try an experiment. I know alot of people who swear by their Blackberry's. So, I picked up a $99 Blackberry Curve. The sales guy told me I had 30 days to return it for a different phone so I'm taking AT&T up on the test drive offer. If I hate it compared to my iPhone (which I spent the last year with, and greatly enjoyed), I'll trade it in for a new iPhone early next month.

In the meantime, we'll see how well this new phone stacks up against my experiences with a year old (feature and function wise) iPhone.

UPDATE: 7/11/08- Well, I couldn't take it any longer. The BlackBerry was 'interesting', but no fun to use (at all). It was clunky, hard to find things and hard to connect activities that are fluid and natural on the iPhone. And no, I didn't get a new 3G. I'm sticking with my old first gen iPhone until it gives out largely because I'm not comfortable with a GPS chip in my phone for some reason and with the 2.0 update, I'm getting pretty much everything the 3G iPhone has (less the GPS 'features'.. which is fine with me).

iPhone: still the best out there.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Time Warner Caps Your Bandwidth

Well, sort of.

In Beaumont, Tx. only, for now:

40GB For $55 per month: Time Warner Bandwidth Caps Arrive

By Ryan Paul | Published: June 03, 2008 - 09:18AM CT

Time Warner Cable will launch a trial program on Thursday which will impose monthly Internet consumption caps on new subscribers in Beaumont, Texas. Following a two-month grace period, cable users will pay $1 for each additional gigabyte consumed beyond the cap.

They claim 5% of the users are 'using up' 50% of the available bandwidth.

First, I'd ask: and how much capacity is actually still unused? If it's less than 100%, isn't that just efficient use of resources by your users? As long as it' not causing overcapacity issues (and they have never said that it is), why is this an issue?

Second, they imply that only the bad guys (those wretched Bittorrent users stealing music and movies) are the ones at fault.

Not so. The article goes on to say:

Time Warner's bandwidth caps might seem like acceptable limitations at first glance, but they look a lot less attractive when one considers the growing number of important services we use that soak up lots of bandwidth. The Internet is increasingly being used as a vector for distributing software and digital video content and also facilitates multiplayer gaming, video conferencing, real-time collaboration, interactive remote desktop access, file backups, and many other bandwidth intensive activities.

The average user using Pandora to listen to streaming music for a few hours a day while working at home, then watching TV shows for a few hours after dinner then playing WoW or SoCom a few nights a week for a few hours can easily hit this limit.

Add in a spouse and 2 or 3 kids with their own computers, and it gets stupid expensive at $1 per GB past the 40 alloted pretty damned fast.

It never ceases to amaze me how bigco's can shoot themselves in the foot.

I'll bet the DSL providers out there (who have alot of POTS and Internet business taken from them in the last 10 years by CableCo's like Time Warner) are rubbing their hands with glee hoping all the Cable Guys get on this boat. This won't hurt the WiMax guy's proforma either.

Our CableCo, Comcast, hasn't jumped in yet, but I'm still calling Qwest about that 20MB pipe they're selling into homes now first thing tomorrow.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The Trouble with Venture Lawyers

Jason Mendleson over at Foundry Partners (he's the guy on the far right) has an excellent post up on his frustration with venture lawyers.

His analysis is better given that, before he became a VC, he was a lawyer.

His two primary points are cost and execution.

The first point on cost resonated strongly. He compared the average VC deal in 1998 to 2008 and concluded that the amount of the deal had gone up about 11%. The salary of a starting venture lawyer, during that same time, went up 114%.

We've felt the pain. Before we call, or even email, our lawyer, we ask ourselves long and hard: do we really need this? The minimum billing for a startup lawyer is 1/6th of an hour. 10 minutes. At the low end, that's $50.

Fifty bucks to send an email asking them to change something on our yearly Delaware filing paperwork. Minimum. More likely $150. They have to read the email (10 min charge- 1 minute of reading time), go do something else, come back and make the changes to the document (10 min charge... 2 minutes of work), go do something else, then come back and put the paperwork in an envelop (10 minutes charge- 1 minute of work).


God help you if you want an actual contract reviewed, which comes to the second point re: execution.

We had a large contract with a big company that our then CEO 'ran by the lawyers'. $25,000.00 later, we had a passable contract. Chances are it would have been more if our CEO at the time hadn't left the company. To this day I'm not clear how we spent that much money on a simple contract with pretty clear terms to start with.

Even at $500 an hour, that's 50 hours. I'm wondering if that's really possible. Does it really take 50 billable hours of a partners time to 'review' a contract?

There's definitely an execution problem there. I have no idea if it was on our side or the law firms, but at $500 an hour, it's pretty easy to lay at least part of the blame on the law firms doorstep.

So, I couldn't agree more with Jason's take on venture lawyers.

I do know this: If I wasn't paying $500 an hour for the advice, I'd ask for alot more of it, and I'd count the lawyer as more of a partner in my business than a hideously expensive last resort 'check' to keep us from getting nuked when dealing with a big company or a litigious partner.

It's a little like health insurance costs: You skip getting the health insurance because it's just too damned expensive and pray you don't get sick.

An excellent read from an ex-evangelical.

  As you know, I once was an evangelical megachurch pastor and my pastoral career stretched over many years. Eventually, I could no longer t...