Sunday, December 09, 2012

Hackerspaces, VC's and Investors.

The more I look at Hackerspaces (or Makerspaces, or whatever name you want to use to describe a co-op like group of people who like to create things, be it software, hardware, art, media, furniture, whatever . in a warehousey place where everyone stores and shares tools/knowledge and joins as a member and helps pay the rent)  I have to wonder:

Could this be a new Venture Capital/ Angel Investment model?

I mean, this is where people who like to make things are gravitating towards.  These are the people the investors are all trying to suss out and recruit.

I'm pretty sure some of the more recently created hackerspaces I'm seeing form are being used by investor types for just this reason (I just read up on a new on in Loveland, CO that seems to be funded by a guy who's a serial company starter himself).

It also looks like it might even be an actual business onto itself as well.  Different levels of access to the space and tools cost a different level of monthly 'dues'.  Maybe profit oriented, maybe non-profit.  Maybe a bit of both.



Is it a new kind of business incubator?

You could also look at them as a bit like an ongoing Techstars entity without the extreme focus of a set number of teams with a specific timeline to create.  It would be a looser kind of thing (sort of like a hackathon that goes on and on.. with things forming and popping out from time to time when they mature enough to be real).

Could it be a 21st century "guild center"  where people apprentice to learn new things?

I also suspect these spaces could become real community centers for towns creatives.  Kind of like the Free University model we saw in Boulder and other parts of the country back in the 60's and 70's.. effectively teachers self organizing to pass on knowledge to anyone interested in a broad range of subjects, and people interested in learning showing up to soak it up.

You could also look at it as a place that supports informal apprenticeship groups that are self organizing with the help of a place to meet (the hackerspace) and online tools to organize people and promote the meetings and classes (Meetup, Facebook pages, etc.).

Mix this all together, the creators with ideas and desires to build stuff (sometimes products and services, sometimes just cool stuff for themselves and their friends), investors who can fund things beyond the hobby stage, a place to meet and create community, a place to share tools, knowledge and expertise and a place to, well, just hang out and think up new stuff with interesting people.

Really... it's a community where that special subset of people, that 5-10% or so of the population that like to make things, can come together and have a clean, well lighted place to just create.

These places could become pretty magical.  Especially if every town had one.

Some Potentials:

Imagine all the local media types who have been laid off from their jobs at the local newspaper, radio station and TV station getting together at a hackerspace and creating a new local media entity of some sort that combines local news, events, community information with an online radio station (paired with a Low Power FM license), a specific YouTube channel for their town and a website full of the latest news and happenings...  I know I'D pay attention to something like that.  I might even contribute to it to keep it going.

A set of classes taught by, say, sysadmins, on how to securely run a business or school network.  I can see our city government and school systems hiring these folks to help run their own networks.  Or businesses in town realizing 'hey.. we have some real talent here, why are we outsourcing this to some consultant anyway?'.

Or a Node.JS expert teaching a regular class on whipping up apps on Android, and a bunch of high school kids or recent HS grads who've taken the class forming a gaming company that uses Spokeo balls to create a multiplayer soccer game, which turns into a company that in turn get's some Angel funding from hackerspace affiliated investors.

How about an EE who teaches a class on simple circuit design, attracting some EE wannabe who's never going to college, but has a gift for chip design that he would never, ever have discovered if he hadn't had access to people, ideas and a place to grow that ability like his or her local hackerspace, and then running into a Seagate employee who's also a member that get's him a job with the local Seagate software group.

Maybe a group of designers who are coming up with interesting toy designs and using the Makerbot 3D printer to create prototypes that they test market via the web to see if anyone will buy and then use the same prototypes to get quotes from factories in China, S. America and N. Dakota to make them in quantity.

It's really about community

Basically, it's a community for the 10% of people that make things, and it could be supported by those makers themselves as well as the people that invest in people that make things.  It could also partner with local schools, local municipalities and local businesses to help meet different needs in the community, whatever that might be.

And, I suspect, entirely new products, services, art, media, jobs, and entire companies will get formed out of these hackerspaces in the coming years.

If I were a Venture Capitalist, or an Angel Investor group, or even a school district or city government, I'd be taking a long hard look at helping to start, or just flat out funding the initial startup (rent, some basic equipment, not very expensive) creation of a hackerspace in their town.

I'll bet the ROI they get would far exceed any money put in for just about anyone smart enough to get plugged into what looks like a new global movement just now starting to really pick up steam.



Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Google: Ingress Location Based Game

So, got a closed beta invite yesterday to Googles Ingress game.  Reviews sound good.  Looks like a location based game designed to get people to walk around and take pictures of things (betcha Googles got some interesting things it can do with THAT data).



I played Shadow Cities pretty intensely for a few months early this year, similar concept.  We'll see how good Google is at games when I start playing it later this week.  More to come.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

On Makers & Hackerspaces


Paul Graham's got a short thought piece up on makers and the Hardware Renaissance.  Great read.  Link to his latest thought piece here.

I recently joined denhac (www.denhac.org), a hacker space based in Denver and it's full of makers.  People who love hardware  But they also love software, technology, music, art and media.

There's a trend here.  A big one.  I think the cost of creating hardware is dropping.  Atoms will always cost more than bits to produce, but the distance in cost between the two is closing fast.  The cost of the tools needed to create are dropping extremely fast and the capabilities of these tools are skyrocketing.

When I really think about it, these hackerspaces are kind of the new computer club, moose lodge/coffee shop/bar/hangout/workspace and free schools of the 21st century.  

I suspect they may be even more, like the beginnings of new local media creation points.  A place where media makers come together as well as technology geeks.  An intersection where the cool kids from all the clicks meet, and. well.. create.

Our denhac, for instance, is for us a club,  a place to work, an impromptu movie theater, a recording, podcasting and live internet radio studio, a 3D print shop,  a well stocked toolshed for hacking together a range of silicon based projects you'd be surprised at the sophistication of and a university to take classes on damn near any subject you can imagine; for example: denhac has in the last few months, had classes on Synthetic Biology (hacking DNA with $3000 home 'labs'), Lock Sport (picking locks), Serious Computer Security (think: ROP Exploitation and associated protection techniques) Game development, Home Beer Brewing with microcontrollers, Silicon Mask Making (Level: Hollywood), DEFCON 'badge' creation (basically a custom computer that does wild stuff built into your DEFCON badge) and on and on and on.  It's a 'true' Free School where those who can teach something interesting self organize and present classes for any interested person to attend and learn.


We've got a van.  I don't know why.  But we've got a van.

We're also getting ready to put together a proposal for a Low Power FM (LPFM) license (something that's going to become available mid next year... a 100 watt FM station that covers your local community).  This would make us the first hackerspace with it's own live radio station (we already have an internet radio station, why not go retro AND analog!).
Creating DEFCON badges, en mass

Now, put all this stuff together and what you really have is a place that attracts intelligent, interesting, creative and slightly crazy people.  The ones that don't really fit into the 'corporate' culture of a big company (although many members work at these big companies).  You'll get lots of startup types.  People who like creating things because they feel the need to.  Because they want one.  Because that damn thing is stupid and and I can do so much better.  And when you get these kind of people together, well, really good things happen.

I'll even go so far as to say that, if your town doesn't have a hackerspace, you might think about getting to work on creating one.  It's going to be the place that attracts all the creatives.  It's where the cool kids will hang.  It's where the future's, very likely, being invented... right now.






Sunday, October 07, 2012

A good cellular provider experience.

I had an odd experience yesterday with my cellular provider.

It was a good experience.  



I know, right?  Who says that nowadays?

But it's true.  I switched to Sprint about 3 months ago.  I received a bill that had something on it that I didn't understand.  On a Saturday  I called Sprint and was on hold for less than a minute (huh.. that's new).  The person who answered was not a native English speaker, but it took me a few minutes to figure that out- which is great.  No communication issues there.

The charge was an extra $10 a month that made sense, but hadn't been explained to me by the store employee.  This, of course, pissed me off and based on previous experiences, I simply said "fine... screwed by yet another phone company" and hung up in disgust.

End of story.  Well... no.

Several hours later, the SAME customer service rep called me back.  She told me she'd talked to her supervisor and they would remove the $10 charge, for 3 months, since no one explained it to me.  

I know, it's only a $30 credit, but damn.... I have never had a phone company give a crap about a complaint I made before, let alone have them react to it in the exact right way: "We'll refund your money, but now that you know about it, and why, we'll charge it from this point forward".

So, they addressed my concern, they gave me a reward, and they preserved their ability to charge me that $10 a month without pissing me off every time I see the bill.

Impressive.

Maybe I'm wrong; maybe this was an anomaly of some sort, but if this is the 'New Sprint", I'm sold.

And yes, that's a Galaxy S III (my new phone).  And yes, I love it, still, after 3 months.  Had the iPhone 4s, don't miss it at all.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Oldie but goodie: Custom eWorld Screens.

Ran across these and thought I'd throw them out there.  These are customized screens to the Apple eWorld service (my group at Apple created the software for this service) that was around in the early 90's (pre internet days).  Some appear to be copies, but they're all slightly different.  More on eWorld here if you're interested:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EWorld

Enjoy.























Friday, August 10, 2012

The Fall of the Apple Empire...It's the Little Things

Apple's new Macbook magsafe power connector and it's new commercials:  The beginning of the end.



Simple stuff.  The first is the new Magsafe connector for Macbooks.  Here's a quote from the Apple forums on The Verge website:

"The new MagSafe 2 connector sucks. Apple blew it. It's hard to argue that they changed the adapter for the sake of room when the MBA accommodates it fine. This new adapter is quick to pop out when you are using the notebook on a couch, plush chair or somewhere where it can get forced up while in use."

This is a common complaint.  So what does this tell you?  It tells me Apple is getting sloppy, already.  Do you think Steve Jobs would have allowed something that was badly designed to ever leave the lab to be proto-typed let alone ship?  I think not.

I know this is a small thing, but it's the culmination of the small things that made Apple products great.  It will be the culmination of small things that destroys the 'magic' so many Apple enthusiasts wax poetic about.  The tiny details that are so well thought out and that people notice, sometimes only after months of use, or when they use a non-Apple product.  It's subtle, but it's very very important.

Next up are the new Apple Genius ads.

Take 2 minutes and compare the Nexus 7 (Googles new 7" table) add with Apple's Olympic ad(s):

Nexus 7:



Apple Genius:




Even Ad Age agrees that Google's advertising is better than Apples.
"Google's Nexus 7 TV Spot Tops Apple's 'Genius' Ads in Effectiveness"
Think about that:  Google's TV ads are better than Apple's TV ads.  This is just flat out heresy in the marketing world.  Apple, since Jobs return to the company, has consistantly created the best marketing and advertising compaigns, for any product, on the planet.  Now, here we are, months after Steve Job's dies, and Google, a company not known for making brilliant (or even interesting) TV ads, is beating Apple at it's own game.

Do you really think Steve Jobs would have let those genius ads anywhere near a production studio after seeing the pitch for them?  I know that when I first saw them I thought "Apple ad?  Really?  WTF happened?".

So this is how it begins.  The many little things that add up to a really big thing.  The inevitable fall is starting sooner than I thought it would.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Apple's 'Secret' Lab and the Knight Ridder Folks

Did you know Apple had a secret lab in Boulder, CO for several years?  Yep.  It was called the AEML (Apple Electronic Media Lab) and it was a part of the eWorld division, basically, it's research group.

I know because I started it and, along with my local proxy (a brilliant guy named Dennis Dube)  ran it for several years.
Why bring this up now you ask?  Well, this weekend, I attended a 20 year reunion party with a few folks from the AEML, but the parties main event was to bring together Roger Fidler and his crew from Knight Ridders IDL (Information Design Lab). 

The IDL was a 'futures' lab that ran from 1992 to 1995 and Roger Fidler was it's director.

Roger's IDL was the reason I started Apple's secret lab in Boulder in the first place.  I visited him there shortly after he opened his lab and knew, just knew, this was the kind of thing Apple needed to get's it's head around. .  At the time I was the head of R and D for eWorld (Apple's attempt at competing with AOL and other now long gone online services) and believed that the printed mainstream media of the time (primarily newspapers, magazines and books) would translate best to the online world.  This was way before video was possible due to slow bandwidth being the norm.  Hell, it was basically pre-internet (which I date to being born along with the first brower...Mosaic-1993 and it's commercial brother Netscape- 1994).

So I set up the AEML.  I rented the office space across the hall from his offices in the Randolph Building on the corner of Walnut and Broadway in Boulder, CO (Top floor, NW corner looking out on the flatirons and down on Walnut St) and set up our own lab.  One of the things we were trying to nail down was what good is the Newton PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) in a connected online world.  It was handheld, battery powered and it was supposed to fit in your coat pocket.  It was also slow and it wasn't connected to anything.  There was no wifi back then and data over the air was a Motorola engineers wet dream, but little more.

Here's what it looked like:













At around the same time, Roger and his guys were making an online newspaper tablet prototype.  Here's a video mockup of what he was doing from 1994:




He, spot on, envisioned tablets as data consumption devices, not data creation devices.  Here's a closeup of the mocked up tablet:





I'm not going to get into did Roger Fidler or Steve Jobs invent the Tablet Computer, but it's worth spending 13 minutes and watching that video up above.

Some things to keep in mind:

In 1994, you couldn't build something like Roger's tablet.  You could barely build something like Apple's Newton in 1994.  The technology hadn't caught up to (what was effectively) an interface design.


There were mocked up 'big Newtons' in Apples own labs (below) so you could make the argument it was only a matter of time.


But, everyone likes to be first and get credit where credit is due.  The Knight Ridder folks were first with the interface ideas of how to put a newspaper onto a tablet, that's clear.  The problem was Rogers vision just couldn't happen until a few other things happened.  With the iPhone (and then iPad) those stars lined up and it came together:  Fast low power consumption processors, much better battery technology and highspeed wireless networks.  It was 15ish years after the Knight Ridder video was made before these things got good enough.  Until then, it just wasn't technically possible.

We (AEML) played around with trying to figure out how to build one back then (using, of all things, a Mac Powerbook)....

Take off the screen, flip it, put a touch overlay on it, bolt it to the back of the CPU and pretend it's a working tablet (actually, worked pretty well and would have been build-able almost immediately).  But the idea just didn't fly.  Hungry processors, lousy battery life and no wireless bandwidth was still the issue.  It was, quite simply, too soon.  And, it was an ugly hack.  If Jobs had seen it he would have laughed his ass off and fired everyone who'd had anything to do with it on the spot.
But...... we (meaning Knight Ridder, Apple, and all the rest of us) were building on top of other people's ideas all the while.  I could put a LONG list in here as examples, but I suspect you already know this is true.  It's always true with technology.  Hell, just watch a few episodes of a Star Trek series (any will do) and you'll get plenty of ideas.

I don't think any one person (or even any one group at a specific moment in time) can "claim" they truly own, lock stock and barrel, an idea.  Of course, the patent system would disagree with me on this, but that's a topic for another post another day.

I did enjoy catching up with all those folks though.  It was great to see people that, 20 years ago, did indeed help move the needle a little closer to where we are today.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Privacy, Identity and Your Local Grocery Store

If you think Facebook knows alot about you, take a look at what your local grocery store is tracking.  If you want (sometimes significant) discounts, you are likely a member of a loyalty program with your local grocery store.  You get a card you scan before you checkout (or just your phone number) and viola! you save $10-20 bucks.  Who wouldn't?

Imagine how that information (what you - mostly - eat) can be interpreted.  Buy a lot of vegetables fruits and chicken?  How about a medical insurance discount to go along with that?  Oh, you like candy, Nutella and pizza?  We'll pass that along to your doctor and your insurance company for a future checkup and premium increase.

If they have a pharmacy (and many stores do) they're able to track that as well.

I'm not saying that's happening today, but, it easily could.  I mean, really.. did you read that Terms of Service for that loyalty program card? 

And it's getting even more all encompassing.

Now, of course, there's an app for that.  Safeway, in this case.

When I walked into the store recently, I was approached by two store employees asking me to 'sign up for our app'.

They were hitting everyone and they had both doors covered to make sure.  This went on for about a week, every day.

So, of course, I signed up.  It's an app!  Yay apps!  I asked them some questions about it but they didn't really know much other than they'd been told to do it.  They had an iPad right there and I was able to set up an account that sent me a link via email to download the app to my phone or tablet.

It's pretty simple really.  You put in your shopping list (which you can use as a check off list while you're shopping) and it finds coupons and deals for things you're looking for.  It also suggests 'additional' purchases (with an associated coupon to prod you toward 'trying it') that might go with what's already on your list.  It also gives you coupons for alternative products (let the competition begin!).

What I find fascinating about this, beyond the privacy and identity tracking issues, is how they are creating an entirely new marketplace via coupons.  It's a little like those endcaps at the end of the aisle- if you sell products at Safeway and you want great placement (end of the aisle) you PAY Safeway to put your products there.  They now have a virtual equivalent that they can sell to companies (pay us X dollars and we'll put up your Jiff coupon for that peanut butter and not your competitors, even though it says Skippy in their shopping list).

They're also creating an incredibly powerful direct relationship with their customer base.

This direct relationship effectively destroys traditional local advertising for third parties.  What grocery store is going to put expensive four color ads in a local newspaper when it has a direct, on their phone, relationship with a majority of their customers, for free.

It also means those coupon aggregation services  (Groupon, Living Social, etc.) are about to be cut out of the equation if the local merchants can get everyone to put an app on their phone that links them directly to that local merchant.

And you think no one's going to put that app on their phone because it's too many apps?  Think again.  How many places do you go on a regular basis?  I'll bet it's one grocery store.  one general purpose store (like Target).  one home improvement store.  Even restaruants... it's likely you favor only a few.

I'll bet it's less than 10 total.  More likely around 5 that you actually go to on a monthly or weekly basis. 

5 apps?  That's nothing.  That's less than 30% of one screen on your iPhone.

What about actually reaching all these people with an app?  I shop at the grocery.  All of us do.  It's part of life as we know it in America.  No avoiding it.  I have a smartphone, everyone I know does and, although it's not the population as a whole, like broadband internet, it'll reach 75%+ in, at most, another decade; most likely sooner.  Phone's are too expensive?  Nope.  Many perfectly useful Android based smart phones are free with a contract.

Imagine some of the big data tricks a store like Safeway could pull off.  Here's one:

That's a smartphone.  Trackable to within 30 feet via GPS and a couple of feet if you add in local wifi hotspots.  I can see store managers pulling up real time heat maps of the store layout showing where people go as they shop.  The path they take.  The displays that are ignored and the displays that draw people in like flies.

You think IKEAs (somewhat blatant) way of  forcing you to walk through the entire store to see what they want you to see via a maze... think about doing that in a way that's far more subtle (and really, manipulative).  But hey.. that's marketing eh?  Talk about real world data manipulation potentials. 

So, who owns all that data on you?  It's clearly not yours.  It's a free service.  Remember this and do not forget it:  If the service is free, you are the product.  Someone is selling all your data to someone, somewhere.

So, privacy.  Big issue.

And identity as well.  What you do is very closely tied up with who you are.  And who sees that data (health insurance company anyone?) can directly effect your finances, and your life.

But damn, I love all those discounts and coupons I get, so I leave the app on the phone.  Just remember it's there, and know, someone, somewhere, is watching.


Friday, August 03, 2012

Book Review: Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez

I can't say this is science fiction so much as a near (actually, really near) future war story.  I know a guy in Boulder, CO. that consults for the military creating a specialized Android OS specific to the US Air Force designed to fly, remotely, jets.  As in F18 type jets.  He told me almost 2 years ago about how they had to have autonomous operations if they were cut off from remote control and much of what I read in this book sounds very similar to concepts my friend told me about over lunch at a restaurant on Pearl street in 2010.

2010.

So, not so 'near future' as 'tomorrow or the day after' future.

As far as this book is concerned.. exceptionally well written.  He's using a Tom Clancy like style and, for a story like this, it works beautifully.  Fast paced, (reasonably) believable characters and an excellent plot line.  It's also all a bit close to home.  Police forces are considering (and in some municipalities, have already implemented) drone technology similar to what's used in the middle east now by our own military.  What if that were to go a little haywire?  That's what this book is about.  The engineers among you will love it, as will those who just like a good well told fast paced action story.

The only thing that bugs me (and the reason I'd give this a 4 instead of a 5 star rating) is his trick of getting me to buy the 'whole' story twice.  He did this with his first two books (Daemon and Freedom).  It's effectively a clever selling technique to make more money.  He's not exactly serializing the story like the old SciFi guys used to.  He takes a longer story, finds a good break point in the middle, and prints the first book (1/2 the story) at full price, then the second book (finishing the story), also at full price.  You'll notice this book is a little short.  That's because, I'm betting, he's not done (at least, I hope not.  There were some major plot lines left unanswered). 

Still, if you like his first two (really one) books, and Tom Clancy's style, you'll love Kill Decision. 

[[ASIN:0525952616 Kill Decision]]

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Community Broadband: An apparent threat to big business

Every so often you see the real harm that comes from big companies having too much say in the local politics of your town, state or region.

Community broadband is one of those areas.  Just recently, we saw an example of this.  N. Carolina, effectively, made it illegal for a town to have it's own broadband services.

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/06/south-carolina-passes-bill-against-municipal-broadband/

I live in a town that owns it's own power and water sources.  It also has a fiber loop that could easily be adapted to provide high speed internet services to businesses and households.  When the town started making noises like it might do just that, Comcast and others created an astro-turf 'group' that opposed the town's interest in being an actual 'smart' city.  They spent over a quarter of  million dollars (this is a smallish town; less than 100K people) to get the local population to vote against it.

The first time this happened (in the mid 2000's), they succeeded.  The second time (last year) they failed.  Now, the city council is visiting places like Chattanooga Tn. to see what a gigbit to the home network can create.  They are impressed, and I am very hopeful our little town here will become one of the dozen or so cities that actually has real broadband services available, to all.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Who's data is that... really?

Propublica has a fascinating article up on the location data your cell phone provider tracks and what they do with it.

The thing I found most interesting was they'll give it to lots of people, with one major exception:  You.

It's worth taking a few minutes to read if you have a cell phone with GPS capabilities (which is, very likely, most of you).

http://www.propublica.org/article/cellphone-companies-will-share-your-location-data-just-not-with-you


Sunday, April 01, 2012

Silicon Valley is Hollywood for geeks... and not in a good way

Brendon Wilson from TechVibes has a pretty interesting post comparing Silicon Valley to the Bio-Dome.
Silicon Valley believes itself to be a self-contained, self-sustaining ark of innovation. To hear technology industry luminaries tell the tale, there is simply no better place to achieve your geek dreams than Silicon Valley: there’s money, there’s brains, and therefore (the theory goes) there’s success. Much like Woody Allen, Silicon Valley casts itself as the romantic lead in its own movie and the rest of us willingly suspend our disbelief. We hail pimply-faced youths on the covers of our magazines and marvel at the virtual success they’ve achieved, even if it defies all rational explanation.

I view the situation somewhat differently. Instead of thinking of Silicon Valley as a self-contained innovation ecosystem, I think of it more akin to Biosphere 2, a self-contained environmental ecosystem that spent the majority of its existence trying very hard to kill its own inhabitants.
Silicon Valley has a tendency to eat it's young and throw out it's old. Oh, sure, there are the grey beards (Canter, Winer, Dvorak etc. etc.) but once you're into your 40's, if you haven't made it already and are part of the Angel network, you're pretty much toast in the Valley. If you're under 30, generally, you can take a few hits but The Valley does it's best to use you up and burn people you out.

It's a little like Hollywood in some ways.

The bright eyed beautiful people star wannabe's come to LA all full of energy and hope. They network, they try to meet the 'right people', they work their asses off, they pitch themselves over and over to get a part so they can get into the game. Some of them (a tiny percentage) make it. Most burn out by 30 and end up as a hostess at a club, a gopher at some tiny production house or a bit player in B and C movies or never aired pilots. There are a huge number of people competing in a small geographic location  for access to a few hundred king/queen makers (producers, directors and studio execs) running the show.

Sound familiar?

Replace the king/queen makers with VC's and well known angels. Replace the beautiful people star wannabes with brilliant 20 something techwizkids and you get a very similar social interplay among all the players.

I've lived in both worlds (Worked for Paramount Pictures in Hollywood for a couple of years, and at Apple in The Valley a little under a decade). I've seen it up close and personal.

The people are really different, and being a technology guy, I of course like and prefer The Valley personalities, but the social dynamic is still quite similar in many ways.

As a result of the intense competition for resources (be it money or brains in the valley, or money and looks/star power in Hollywood) these two groups are generally out of whack with the rest of the world.

Oddly, these two groups are who personify much of what the rest of the world admires about America, and who both tend to wield unnatural degree's of influence in their respective areas (entertainment and cutting edge technology/branding).

I won't get into politics here but the 'winner takes all' nature of America in general is, largely, worshiped in both these environments. And since the rest of the world seems to want to re-create these environments for themselves, and tries to copy The Valley and Hollywood models (pretty much always failing, but each time getting a bit closer), I can't say this is 'good' for the world in general.

It's too concentrated. Like Brandon's Bio-Sphere analogy, it's a closed loop system without enough human feedback. That all important human element that the rest of the planet tends to work well within is largely missing. It's all purely market driven.. meaning: profit, the buck, the biggest box office, the largest funding round or the largest IPO listing.

It tends to kill the people that live and work there. Or, at the very least, it sucks out their souls and leaves bitter and burned out husks; even the ones with alot of money.

For example, let's use the poster child for Valley success.  Apple.  I just finished reading Steve Jobs biography and, well, wow.  This was a guy who's life I would not want to live.  If this is what it takes to be 'the best':  obsessive, narcissistic, abusive, extreme perfectionist, an asshole, I can think of better lives to live.  He created the most (rated by dollar value) valuable company in the world, but at what cost?  A sense of complete entitlement and a belief that the rules (ANY rules) didn't apply to him.  An alienated child he originally disowned who never grew to like (or trust) him.  3 kids by one women who were neglected (two, basically, ignored).  Friends who couldn't trust him and regularly talked about how often he lied (called Steve's 'reality distortion field') how to manage his childish tantrums (which continued up almost to the day he died) and what a self centered asshole he was.  What did he get?  5 or 6 'great' products, some hit movies, some screwed up kids, the last 2-3 years of his life living in extreme pain and misery, death by 57 and a company that was so controlled by his will and ego it can't possibly continue it's success more than a few years now that he's gone.  This is the goal?

When I was at Paramount, during my first couple of weeks I had a meeting with Johnathon Dolgen, then CEO of Paramount, to pitch a project.  I brought in a presentation on paper to go over with him.  He came in, sat down, looked at his assistant and said 'get me a bottle of aspirin', looked at the stack in front of him, put his hand on it and shoved it, hard, across the table sending it flying.  He then looked at me and said 'you've got 5 minutes, why am I here'*.

Similar to a meeting with Jobs?  Never had a face to face business meeting with Jobs, but I'll bet it would have been (sans the aspirin) pretty much  the same.

Life is short.  Relationships (friends, family, trusted associates) are rare and to be treasured, not abused.

I think our little corner of the world here in Colorado has a far better balance with people that are far less self centered and far better integrated into each others lives and society in general.


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*Because someone will ask:  Yes, I took out a blank sheet of paper, drew as I talked and the project was funded and approved on the spot.  He gave me about 30 minutes, not 5.  Kerry McCluggage, president of Paramount TV and Dick Lindheim, SVP of Paramount TV where also there- ask them.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Daniel Suarez - A great new author worth checking out


  

Some fiction books are more then entertainment. Every so often you read a book (or in this case 'books') that really grab you and make you think.



Daniel Suarez has written a pair of books that nail it. Daemon and FreedomTM. If you've got a day free (you'll need it because you likely won't want to put these books down until you're done) and want to have your view of the world shaken up a bit, these near-future sci-fi books are worth every penny (thanks to Brad Feld for the pointer via his blog: http://bit.ly/A7uZVC ).

For more on the books and it's author: http://thedaemon.com/

Daemon & its sequel, FreedomTM - by Daniel Suarez

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Don't join a class action suit. Instead, individually sue in small claims court.


This may seem like a small thing, but it's really a big thing because this women won her small claims suit against Honda.  Instead of 100,000 people suing a big company after it lies to them in a class action lawsuit, and, maybe, getting a few hundred bucks each, with the lawyers getting millions, they each sue in small claims court, getting, in this case, almost $10,000.  

Instead of a $100MM settlement, it becomes a $1 Billion dollar nightmare (not counting the administrative costs, likely another billion) for the companies involved.

Maybe, just maybe, this will help keep our largest corporations just a little more in line and thinking about their customer first.

This could change the face of class actions in America.  Instead of hiring a lawyer, you go to a coordinating website to learn how to get your fair share.

This is the kind of thing that the internet is best at, leveling the playing field for the average person and, in this case, democratizing the law itself making it more accessible, with a better payoff, for all of us.

Full story here: http://usat.ly/ziYpQk

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A slippery slope


A slippery slope:  It would seem the word "Freedom" doesn't really correlate with "America" like it used to.


"Reporters Without Borders released its 2011-2012 global Press Freedom Index. The indicators for press freedom in the U.S. are dramatic, with a downward movement from 27th to 47th in the global ranking, from the previous year. Much of this is correlated directly to the arrest and incarceration of American journalists covering the 'Occupy' protest movements in New York and across the country. 'This is especially troubling as we head into an election year which is sure to spark new conflicts between police and press covering rallies, protests and political events.' Only Chile, who dropped from 33 to 80, joined the U.S. in falling over 100% of their previous ranking. Similarly, Chile was downgraded for 'freedom of information violations committed by the security forces during student protests.'"


http://en.rsf.org/press-freedom-index-2011-2012,1043.html

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Apple, Evil Badass


I've got to hand it to Apple. 


 They've taken this we're gonna be the most evil badass you've seen since Gates version of Microsoft in the 90's really seriously.


Love the timeline:


January 2005 – Pixar senior executives (which include Steve Jobs) draft written terms for a no-poach agreement and send them to Lucasfilm
May 2005 – Apple and Adobe make agreements
2006 – Apple and Google make agreements shortly after Eric Schmidt joined Apple’s board of directors
April 2007 – Apple and Pixar make agreements
June and September 2007 – Google enters into agreements with Intuit and Intel that are identical to the agreements between Apple and Google, Apple and Adobe, and Apple and Pixar


I'm trying to figure out why a company with $100 Billion in cash would want to cheat the employees that made that cash pile possible.  And it wasn't some low level HR person doing this.  It was Steve Jobs.  He started it, personally.


Major alien puke on the 'do no evil' company as well.  Google, we hardly knew (the non-evil) you.


I am getting very (very) tired of the Steve Jobs worship in the tech industry.  If this is the guy we want to emulate as the best of the best, long term, we are lost.


http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/26/apple-google-consipracy/

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

Let's put unbiased local newsrooms into a place that's not obvious, but when you think of it, makes more sense than anywhere ...