Monthly Archives: April 2008

Are We in a Depression? Or is it Just Spring?

I know what a Depression is. It’s when things look bad even when they may be good. I’m going to try to capture some of my mood on paper today, to ask you whether you share it, or whether I am personally grieving and projecting it on to my environment. Usually at this time of year I am very upbeat, because it’s spring. This year, even though I’m a Pollyanna, my feelings are very mixed. The flowers are beautiful, and the weather is glorious, but there are clouds on the horizon as well.

Let’s start with the small things. We put my daughter’s dog Kodie down last week. He got cancer and died in a week, and he was only four.

Buppy the Puppy has been down with an infection that wears him out to the point where, to make him eat, I have to feed him cans of sardines and tuna. He got scratched by a cat and it became cellulitis. He sleeps under the bed or under the table all day, and he hasn’t stolen my braSickbuppy

and carried it into the yard since he got sick.

I’ve had a flu myself for more than a week, walking around at 50% energy level and feeling like Buppy.

My foster son has been laid off from his construction job because they ran out of work and he can’t find another one. His fiancee is upset because they are trying to save to get married. There are so many jobs he cannot get if he admits he was in prison, so I suggested he go to school full time, but he won’t do that because he wants to contribute to their household.

Now let’s branch out from my family to the world.

Yesterday Barack Obama threw his spiritual advisor under the bus after Rev. Wright’s 60’s style anger, still harbored after all these years, threatened to ruin the campaign of one of the truly inspirational leaders of the contemporary world. Obama might not be experienced, but he has the ability to inspire, strategize, and THINK. We need that. We need to get on the same page as a nation (without disregarding diversity, of course) and all row in the same direction before the boat sinks. And he has put himself out there, a black man, to test how far we’ve come in the last fifty years with regard to true diversity.

There are widespread food shortages around the world, too. This is making people contentious. Haiti is already having riots against the government.

President Bush is asking for the building of more oil refineries. And for drilling off Anwar. I’m hoping that before that happens, the price of alternative energy will equal the price of gas, and the entire issue of oil will be moot. Wouldn’t that be great? The problem solves itself.

How are you feeling about your life? About our nation’s life? If I get enough interesting comments, I will compile them into a totally unscientific poll and share them with you 🙂

Update: Just came back from Starbucks and found out that with my registered Starbucks card I get all my syrups free! This lowers my weekly Starbucks number by about $3.00. Things are looking up.


Filed under Current Affairs

No More Moving for Good School Districts

For the last ten years, Ted Kraver and I and a small group of others have been talking about the game-changing effect on education that will be brought about by the Internet. Now, in an interview with Disney’s virtual worlds team, Shel Israel gives me the evidence I need. I truly think social media will replace school, and virtual worlds will be the medium through which kids learnviewNode(“4a371678d20e4”,{ width: 425,height: 274});

You must watch this if you are thinking about how bad our school system is. Pretty soon we can just discard it like an outgrown shell.

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Filed under Current Affairs

Which Candidate Can Get Us Out of This Mess? None of Them

‘m up here in the Bay Area this week, having (or is it “taking”) some
meetings, attending Web 2.0 Expo, and doing some other business.
Unfortunately, I missed NewComm Forum, the other conference I was
supposed to attend today, because when I came home from Moscone West
last night, I had a fever and barfed. Flu. Not going anywhere today.

Which gave me unexpected free time, with practically my only option
being to think.

What is there to think about up here? Innovation, of course. While in
Arizona everything revolves around real estate, even in a down market,
in the Bay Area, everything seems to revolve around innovation. I’m
watching the local News, and there are three segments in a row about

–there’s a new CO2 laser that cuts down the recovery time in laser
resurfacing. It’s called the “dot” technique, and it leaves unbroken
skin between patches of re-surfaced skin, which allows skin to heal more

–there’s a new technology that helps non-verbal autism sufferers to
make themselves understood. It’s like a little Leappad, and if the child
presses on a picture, it tells the caregiver what he or she wants. It
cuts down the tremendous frustration autistic children feel about not
being able to make themselves understood

–there’s a new Lasik technique that apparently gives better surgical
results, and a new longitudinal study to determine what the true risks
are of the surgery.

The local NBC station even has an ecological reporter, who is talking
about the carbon footprint of what and how we eat. In a real restaurant,
where we eat off china and use flatware, we’re being sustainable. But
paper plates and disposable packaging? Not sustainable. Most of the
paper goods used by fast food companies are not recyclable because they
are coated.

The local news in San Francisco has a lot of the “WOW” factor. It’s not
just a re-telling of the latest shootings, pool drownings, and bank
robberies in town.

California has a crummy housing market, too. In fact, foreclosures here
are up 300%. On my block alone, there have been two short sales, which
will of course bring down the value of my own home.
But people don’t sit around talking about the real estate market all the
time. It resides (bad pun) in the background, rather than the
foreground, as it does in Arizona.

Conversation in Phoenix is all about the bottom. Are we there yet? When
will it happen? When will things turn around? You would think people had
nothing else to think about. It will turn around when we stop talking
about it and feeding the fear.

Actually, there’s plenty else to think about. Rice is being rationed in
Costco and Sam’s Clubs, and Brazil and VietNam and Korea have chosen to
quit exporting. The price of rice has gone up 140% since January. Food
rationing in the United States — unheard of but happening. More to

The price of food has gone up about 13% in the past year.

And in preparation for tomorrow’s price rise of 22 cents a gallon of gas
on the New Jersey Turnpike , there were long gas lines tonight as
drivers tried to save $3.00.

That’s true in California, too. It’s one of the most expensive states in
which to live. Gas here is easily $4.15 a gallon.

But the emphasis on innovation continues. And I think that’s what I like
about it here. I believe, as I always have, that innovation is the key
to getting us out of the recession/depression we are now in. Not
government. Not stimulus packages. Not handwringing. Not corporate jobs.

There’s pain in America now, and when there’s pain, there’s a market
opportunity for solutions. Think of this pain as an opportunity. Go out
and do something new.



Filed under Entrepreneurship

@SamLawrence’s Sponsored Wheelchair

Originally uploaded by hardaway

Just came out of the panel on “Short Attention Spans,” i.e. microblogging, at Web 2.0 Expo and ran into a fascinating guy in a wheelchair. Turns out @SamLawrence broke his foot a couple of weeks ago and realized he would be coming to Moscone in a wheelchair.

So he Twittered the opportunity to sponsor his wheelchair,and within minutes he had a porn site, wanting to sponsor him. He wouldn’t sell (good move for an early stage venture) and soon he had Cap Gemini and two others.

His sponsored wheelchair is called The Corporate Octopus, and you can see it in the halls outside the conference room, where all the REAL action is.


Filed under Entrepreneurship

Earth Day at Cunha’s

Earth day at Cunha’s
Originally uploaded by hardaway

Just something I happened to see at the grocery store in Half Moon Bay today, while Earth Day was being neglected for the Pennsylvania Primary!.

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Filed under Uncategorized

To What Do I Give My Valuable Attention?

Setting the Stage:I’m on the bike at the gym, and everyone around me has an iPod. It’s a pretty middle class gym in the desert, and my fellow gymnasts are probably listening to music that gets them in the mood for cardio–disco, maybe, or punk, or rock. I’m listening to a podcast. I am, after all, technically a representative of “the grandma factor,” so the people around me would probably guess it’s NPR I’m listening to.

Nope. It’s the chaotic ramblings of half a dozen middle-aged geeks with absolutely no social skills, who think nothing of talking over teach other, embarrassing each other, insulting each other, and even hanging up on the call. Yes, it’s my new Fave Rave, The Gillmor Gang. I am addicted to it. And it’s just like every addiction — unhealthy. For them, though, not for me.

Example. The call starts with comments about the quality of the sound, and the defiant assertion that it will not get better. Half the people are on their cell phones, on Skype, on speaker, or in the air. Love it or leave it.

It meanders on to the fact that one member, Doc Searls, has had a stay in the hospital. Do we ask how he is feeling? Of course not. We ask “are you dying, Doc, or just trying to get attention.” or words like that. Then we proceed to laugh like high school kids about how if he had been taken ill a week earlier, he would have been able to be in a New York Times story about how blogging causes death.

Scoble calls from an airplane over the Atlantic. He says he is paying $2.00 a minute, and everyone suggests that they talk over him and let him waste his money.” By this time, one of the members of the call, Mike Arrington, has already hung up out of boredom. Or perhaps out of anger.

Because Steve Gillmor has announced that he will not tolerate any more conversations about advertising as a business model for technology products.

As I listen to this call, which is mostly about Twitter and how it is going to make money (as it has been for many months), I am laughing out loud, while everyone around me is sweating. This call always makes me happy.


Filed under Web/Tech

What Every Geek Should Know: The REAL Digital Divide

Fellow geeks, we live in a dream world — a world of Twitter-Twhirl-FriendfeedAlertThingySeesmic. And if you think most people reading this can identify any of those things, think again. Moreover, if you think there’s a chance of any of those crossing the real chasm in the next ten years, think again.

Why? Because the rest of the world just isn’t ready. We live in a rarified world of social media consultants and early adopters. Where is the rest of the world? Well, I hate to tell you this, but it’s back at YAHOO.

Why does Microsoft futz with buying Yahoo? Because the rest of the world is still there. At least it is from a social media standpoint. This morning on Twitter, Scoble asked why CNET still existed, when all he read was Tech Crunch. None of those names mean anything to the people I meet in Phoenix.

I have been facilitating technical assistance groups for SLHI, a foundation in Arizona that helps non-profit organizations collaborate. This is my second group.

The first group was called “social media,” but most of the people who signed up didn’t know what social media was. They signed up because we marketed the group as “free web site tools.”

These were non-profit executives who had built websites (or hired someone to do it for them), but a few years later, the sites were out of date, the designers out of business, and keeping their sites current is impossible for them. Most did not even know who owned their domains (not usually their charity) or hosted their sites (often the owner of the domain).

What tool did I use to teach them to build web sites? Blogger. How long did it take? Six weeks. Why? Because most of them had to be taught how to log on to a computer, launch a browser, and find a URL.

The second group is quite different. This group is called simply “free web tools.” I started off by asking people what they needed in their organizations. From their answers, I selected a group of tools I thought they could use. In this group, I had to start by teaching people Yahoo Groups, so they could communicate with their constituencies and I could communicate with them. I answered questions like “if I join Yahoo, will it put a virus on my computer.” Once I had them signed into Yahoo, I went down the entire left navigation bar to show them how to upload photos, post files, and use the calendar.

These were half a dozen people who can use Microsoft Word and answer email. One woman even carried a thumb dirve with her church files on it, and knew how to upload from the drive to a computer — but then not how to post a photo on a photo-sharing site.

What I’ve learned is that computer training is all over the map. While almost everyone who works in an office can now use email and perhaps word processing, the level of competency after that is all over the map.

These are not people in undeveloped countries; they are not residents of the barrio; they are professional people who have been taught a small piece of a very big puzzle, and don’t have a sense of what the completed puzzle should look like.

We hold this program in the Phoenix Indian Center, a building full of resources for urban Native Americans. I’ve been told that most of the Center’s clients do not have access to computers at home, so they come to the resource room in the Center to use the computers. There, they can check the things they already know, such as job listings or email, but there’s no systematic training for them here, either.

What this means to me is that it will take a generation for the kids who may be growing up with social media now to be comfortable with it, as it has taken ten years for the current generation of employed professionals to get comfortable even with the amount of collaboration and transparency represented by Yahoo.

I am so grateful for my life, because I have the privilege of experiencing both ends of the spectrum, and therefore getting some perspective.


Filed under Web/Tech