Monthly Archives: July 2007

The Foreign Cinema Restaurant

This was the beautiful venue for the Loic and Hugh San Francisco geek dinner. It is a huge, industrial-looking restaurant space and gallery/banquet area. Very sophisticated and befitting a group of Eurogeeks.
The Foreign Cinema Restaurant
Originally uploaded by hardaway

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Loic and Hugh Greet their guests


IMG_0069.JPG
Originally uploaded by hardaway

And in the middle of these elegant surroundings, here are the guests of honor. Loic Le Meur and Hugh MacLeod are here from Europe, and they convened a group of geeks for a dinner in name only (finger food and booze) at the Foreign Cinema tonight. Notice Loic and Hugh up on the “dais “as the guests of honor, in their formalwear acknowledging the people who came to see them. We are all gathered in the darkness in front of them. Almost everyone there except me and Dan Farber had a romantic accent.

Got to spend some time with the always-intelligent Dan Keller, too.

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TechCrunch Party


TechCrunch Party
Originally uploaded by scriptingnews

This is pathetic. I know I attended the Tech Crunch party and said it wasn’t interesting, but Dave Winer snapped this photo of me laughing wildly. What was I doing?

I look like Lindsey Lohan, not like a serious professional or even a mother figure for entrepreneurs 🙂

And that party must have been a lot better than I remember.

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Over the iPhone

You knew I would get an iPhone, didn’t you? Well I didn’t stand in line for one, although I did visit Robert Scoble, who camped outside the Apple store in Palo Alto the night before the iPhone launch with his teen-aged son. I thought that was a cool thing for a dad to do, so I paid them a visit. But then I raced home to my bed while they slept in their canvas folding chairs.

Instead, I sent for one online. I do as much shopping online as I can these days, and if I can buy shoes online, I can certainly buy a phone. One size fits all, right?

No, it doesn’t. Amazingly, the iPhone doesn’t “fit” me at all.

Which doesn’t mean it isn’t right for YOU. But you have to want your photos, your music, and YouTube with you, and be willing to trade off those companions for simple functionality.

First of all, I’m a lefty and the touch screen doesn’t work as well for me as it works for my daughter Chelsea, who is right-handed (and loves her iPhone). I can tell because her emails don’t come through full of typos and mine do. The auto-correct function on the screen seems to misinterpret me more often than not. Especially since I make up words. For example, I’m fond of saying “I yuvved that movie” to my family. The iPhone refuses to let me substitute “yuv” for “love” and forces me to say “tubbed.” If I’m trying to type while driving, this is life-threatening.

Also life threatening is the poor speaker and the lousy reception with the iPOD earphones, which forces me to hold the phone in my hand. Half the time either my business partner can’t make out what I’m saying with the phone on speaker, or I can’t hear him. And no, a lifetime of listening to loud music hasn’t made me hard of hearing (yet).

Worse is the way the iPhone uses my contact list to help me compose emails. No useful auto-fill. Admittedly I have 7500 contacts (yes, I’m in the process of de-duping and getting rid of the dead people) on my computer address book and that’s a lot to carry on a phone, but the Blackberry Pearl used to burp once or twice and then do just fine.

And when someone calls you and you miss the call, you can’t (or at least I can’t) take the phone number from my missed call list and add it to my contacts.

I do love the ring tones. I’m currently using “bark.” It’s not unpleasant, like the song snippets most people are using. In fact, most people don’t even notice it when my iPhone barks. I happen to be attuned to barking.

By far the worst feature is the battery life. I can’t figure out what drains the battery, but on a good day (a day where I use it for both calls and email) it’s finished by the end of lunch. I then have to run home and plug it into the charger, or plug it into my laptop. If I’m not near either of them, I’m SOL, so I had to order a car charger. I also had to order a bluetooth headset, to increase my chances of living another year. I nearly swerved off the road using the “slide to answer” function on my touchscreen when the phone rang in the car.

So I traded in all the great functionality of the Blackberry Pearl, which functioned like a mobile office, for the ability to drag my entertainment center to business meetings. So far, no one has asked to see my photo album (800 photos) or hear my 375 songs. Nor have I had the time or the battery to spend on YouTube.

So is it $600 down the drain? Not really. It’s a dude magnet. Every guy wants to play with it. I haven’t been spoken to so much in bars for a decade. So it’s a lousy phone, but a really good investment.

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Old and New Media Meet

It’s the morning after the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate, and I’m watching Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, the founders of YouTube, struggle through an interview with Matt Lauer. First of all, they are techies, so probably not morning people, and this is sunrise in the East. They’re on Pacific time biorhythmically, and Eastern Daylight time at the moment for the show. They look a little like they slept in their clothes. And yet, they own a multi-billion dollar company that has just produced the biggest disruption in the political system since the Kennedy-Nixon debates.

Lauer, whom I like, asks them portentous old media questions, like “how will YouTube change the political debate?” They explain to him that two years ago, when they founded the company, they were trying to solve a problem they had sharing video with each other. They weren’t planning to change the world. They seem a little shell shocked that they have. Chen looks nervous as he tells Matt Lauer that in the beginning, they posted videos of their cats.

But they’re certainly not stupid, even though they are barely 30, and Hurley goes on to say that he thinks this is a good opportunity for politicians to engage in dialogue with voters, and to add some transparency to the political process. Lauer shows a bunch of videos in which candidates have been tripped up by videos posted to YouTube (like George Allen’s “macaca” moment, and the first Obama girl video). Clearly the candidates are no longer in control of the campaign as they used to be.

More important, neither are their consultants. This will be a very interesting election. To me, the debate revealed how far off some of the pollsters are in reading the American mood.

As the interview wound down, Matt Lauer asked the question in the back of every main stream media guy’s mind: “Will I still have a job?”

Hurley and Chen reassured him that they were only providing him more and better opportunities to be seen. He seemed unconvinced, although Lauer is ever the gracious host. “Next time you are in New York,” he tells them, “come see us in the studio.”

Chen and Hurley mentally look at each other: “what’s a studio?” they seem to be asking as they smile politely. The generations have quietly clashed.

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Building MultiUser Social Systems

Rashmi Sinha’s presentation about how people connect, at WordCamp.

Summary: They don’t connect by saying, “let’s connect.” They connect around an object: a viral sharing, water cooler conversations, tag-based sharing, a cup of coffee.

Rashmi is a young Indian woman speaking at a tech conference full of young white males. Eventually they grow to respect her and listen to her presentation, but not until she proves that she has very important things to say.

Her project, Slideshare.net, builds community around slide presentations. But it is really about creating a social system around a particular object — slides. It’s a web-based social system that takes a different spin on “The Wisdom of Crowds.” Web-based social systems can produce wisdom if they encourage cognitive diversity, independence, popularity (top 100 lists, tag clouds). She was amazed to find that churches use Powerpoints for sermons, and fifth graders use them for homework assignments. There is also Powerpoint pornography.

The way we design our social systems ends up deciding what becomes popular. And once someone or something is popular, it’s very hard to dislodge. The blogosphere is a perfect example of this. The early bloggers are heard and are popular, but the later entrants have a tough time developing an audience.

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WordCamp 2007

Here I am at WordCamp 2007 not listening to a presentation about WordPress that is aimed at developers. I’m waiting for the next speaker, who is going to tell me about blogs at the NY Times.Wordcamp2007 If you’re wondering what I’m sitting on, it’s a throne in the Swedish-American Club in San Francisco, which I bet used to be a church. I’m sitting against a wall with the people who need power strips 🙂

Why am I here? Because I went to Chris and Kristie’s pre-WordCamp breakfast so I could see them after their wedding. I met Brian Oberkirch there and we got into a conversation about iPhones, etc. He was walking over from Chris and Kristie’s to the meeting, so I walked with him. And suddenly, I’m inside. Andy Kaufman, the real estate blogger, is also here. And he has recently met Steve Groves
, who is a good friend of mine from Phoenix. More incredibly, I’m sitting next to Chase Granberry, who is also from Phoenix. Very bizarre.

This is, indeed, a hall of mirrors.

Now I’m hearing from Jeremy Zilar (jeremyz@nytimes.com), who is in charge of blogs for the NY Times. They have 100 blogs right now. 30-40 are active. They used to have only six or seven last year.
The elements of the blog are used to teach people about what is possible on the web. Jeremy spends most of his time teaching people how to use a medium that didn’t exist ten years ago and is just coming into form. Most people are still not sure what a blog is or how to use it to their best advantage.

So the NY Times teaches its potential bloggers a process. Jeremy usually starts with email, and works on to telling them how to use WordPress. He urges documentation. Name, About, and Blogroll are essential means of communications. Who is your audience, what’s your angle, how often will you be posting, and who will be posting. Then he tells them how to read blogs. He teaches that a blog is two way conversation. Writers and editors are not comfortable with this at first.

A blogroll is a very important part of a blog. For the City Room blog at the Times, the blogroll is a list of resources.
The Times also had to teach the writers to pay attention to comments.
Encouraging comments:
Most readers will comment in extreme situations
If they feel they are being listened to
If you misspell something and they comment and you correct it
Highlight a comment from a recent post

The concept of tags has been hard to introduce at the Times. Tag clouds as a visual representation of what’s being talked about are scary to some writers, who don’t want people to see what they are talking about the most. They don’t realize it’s a continuous conversation and they can change it going forward.

Jeremy said there is a certain kind of energy that you have to circulate around a blog to make people feel that it is fun to do and keep up. In order to generate that energy, people have to comment and the writer has to answer the commentators.

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