Monthly Archives: August 2008

Gnomedex 2008 – Sarah Lacy, Tara Hunt, Olivia Hine, Francine Hardaway

Gnomedex 2008 – Sarah Lacy, Tara Hunt, Olivia Hine, Francine Hardaway
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This is a group of women who can shatter any glass ceiling.

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More on the Fierce Urgency of Now

You do not already know how I feel about this one.

Last night, when I saw Barack Obama accept the nomination, I cried. I wanted my father to be there to see this. He was the one who taught me a black person was my equal, and the person who taught me a woman could be anything. He put his money where his mouth was, doing legal work that paved the way for black entertainers to live in the hotels they performed in when in Las Vegas. That took guts; at the time Vegas was run by the mob. He was also the person who sent me all the way through school to get a Ph.D. even though he wanted me to be a lawyer. He didn’t care if I never got married, as long as I was a professional.

As a result, I am the girl from Hope! I always think anything can happen (and to me, it often does.)

But until recently, I was despondent about the direction of the country and worried about how little power I (or anyone like me) had to do anything about the two issues that really bug me: the economy and the war. All this other stuff, it’s commentary. The war takes our young people and makes us look stupid globally, forces us into maneuvers like torture and wiretapping, and strains our resources.

Not that we don’t need to protect the country. It’s just that we need a paradigm shift in how to do it.

And the economy? Well, for me that encompasses all of every day life: gas prices, cost of food, health care, outsourcing, insourcing…everything everyday people worry about, one paycheck away from poverty.

I am a firm believer in the power of entrepreneurship. I have been an entrepreneur for forty years, and I’m still engaged. I take a broad view of entrepreneurship — anyone who assumes responsibility for his own economic survival, whether by starting a business, helping one grow, or taking responsibility for his/her own employability is entrepreneurial to me. That’s how I’ve learned to view it from my travels in India, China, Malaysia, Africa.

I’m not a Republican or a Democrat, so don’t fall back on stereotypes. And I’m not a liberal or a conservative. I’m an independent and I take it issue by issue, election by election.

But I cried last night, and this morning I laughed. I laughed because John McCain, whatever else I think of him, has continued changing the game. Maybe he had to do it, but he did it. Maybe it wasn’t the right woman, but it acknowledged the sea change happening in our country.

America will never be the same after this election, and that makes me very happy. In a lot of ways, we can no longer afford to be the same.

Happy Holiday!


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Because We Need it NOW

I’ve been grappling for the past few months with the degree of importance to attach to real-time communications, as exemplified by XMPP (which I just learned yesterday stands for Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol). Why, I kept asking, is a three-minute latency period, while a message gets from Twitter to Twhirl, important? Why does Steve Gillmor keep making us talk about “track” (the ability to follow information in real time) on NewsgangLive?

Somebody finally brought it home to me yesterday. I wish I could remember who said this: “How would you feel if you dialed the phone and somebody picked it up and took three minutes to say hello?” That would feel like an eternity. And it would destroy the flow of conversation. Reveal yourself in the comments as my guru if you were the person who lit my bulb.

You can see the need for real time on a satellite TV interview when the interviewer is in Atlanta and the interviewee is in Baghdad. There’s that strange silence between question and answer. And you can see it when somebody dials 911 and it takes three minutes for an ambulance to get there. The patient dies. I could always understand the importance of Twitter and track for breaking news. But now I am beginning to understand it for politic as well. It could give us a true democracy if we use it correctly (not you, trolls).

This weekend Rick Sanchez used Twitter comments to interact with his audience on CNN. He asked questions of Twitter, soliciting opinions about things like the fair tax. He reflected those comments on the air, bringing the opinion of the Twitter community to a larger audience. Eventually, this could be a new version of focus groups, polling, and the development of a broader range of public opinion.

For months Steve’s been pounding at Twitter to bring back track, saying that micro communities can reach and impact larger audiences using the power of these new technologies, and we have all been struggling on Newsgang (myself more than most) with how to do this. Myself, I had even with struggling about WHETHER to do this, whether to spend my valuable time on micro communities and track as opposed to other things on my radar screen (like the election).

Now I see how they are connected. The live stream is everything. Like 20-minute delayed stock quotes, information explodes at the time of release and turns to ashes later.

If you are interested in a deep dive into these issues, Leo Laporte will have a podcast of Steve’s conversation with him yesterday on for download shortly. I just saw that yesterday’s show is up already, but the after show isn’t, yet. I’ll update with the URL later. And check out Karoli and Cliff on this, too. We are all thinking…


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Gnomedex 2008

Live TV by Ustream

If you missed me live…


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The Fierce Urgency of Now

Today on NewsGangLive, Karoli started the program by asking what “The Fierce Urgency of Now” meant to each of us today. Here’s what it means to me:
They say that every once in a while, a recession is necessary to wring out the excesses in the system.

They say that Bernanke should resign and that the sub-prime market deserves what it is getting. Lenders, buyers, brokers and realtors all got greedy.

Everyone should have known better.

That is the conventional wisdom from the economists I see on TV. But let me tell you what I see in MY house.

We’re not wringing out excesses. We’re eliminating necessities. Or at least some of us are.

Once again, my son (more accurately, my former foster son who is now a man) has been laid off. He has been working at a steel truss plant, and they just don’t have any work at the plant because of the real estate slowdown. Not surprising. But very sad.

Having done his time and paid his restitution, he is engaged to be married to a very nice girl and they can’t afford to get married. He goes to college, she goes to college. He has a job (or did), she has a job. They are doing nothing wrong. In fact, they’re doing everything right. No drinking, no carousing, no popping off to strange vacation spots. They have a plan and a budget.

But right now they don’t have much more opportunity than Barack Obama’s mythical Kenyan half-brother.

Because Jerry has felonies on his record, he’s precluded from working in just about every industry you can imagine, including health care (which has great shortages) and financial services. He couldn’t even get a job with Target lifting boxes, because they do a background check. So do most large companies. No one is forgiven, even if (as he has) they have done their time, grown up, and even paid off their restitution.

To me, this is incredibly unfair. Yes, he was on drugs as a teenager. If you had grown up in his birth family, you probably would have been as well. His mother is still on crack, his father committed suicide because he owed drug dealers money, and his older sister ran away and has never been seen again. No one in the family had graduated high school before he did–while in prison. And last semester he got all A’s.

When he moved into my house at age ten, my husband and I sold him the middle class bill of goods. School is worthwhile, work is worthwhile, obeying the law is worthwhile, because there are societal rewards for these actions.

Outside of a year of backsliding after my husband died, Jerry bought the dream. In prison, he bought the dream of the new start. He took all the classes: anger management, substance abuse, plumbing, wiring, carpentry, writing — everything they offered, he took.

Yet right now, if it weren’t for me and my house in Phoenix, he would be homeless, just as his family used to be after they spent all their welfare on drugs.

This is tough on his fiancee, who is herself a dreamer. But she’s working at Costco, trying to support her own education, begging her employer to transfer to a store closer to home, so she won’t be spending all her money on gas.

In the mean time, I hear both presidential candidates spouting platitudes about what Russia must do, what Georgia must do, what Congress must do. I hear a lot about change, and a lot about offshore drilling. A lot about posturing and positioning to the rest of the world, and a lot about each other’s flipflops.

But I don’t hear either of them offering Jerry an opportunity. Weren’t we the Land of Opportunity?


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Is Obama the Open Source Solution?

This post started as a response to comments on yesterday’s post, but quickly took on a life of its own, for which I thank you all. Part of the problem is that I was trying to write about two different subjects in the same post: technology innovation and political or social change. I was trying to draw analogies between one and the other, and I’m pretty sure I failed.

But I’m humbled by all the people who took the time to comment. This tells me innovation is alive and well, because most of the commenters were innovators and activists as frustrated as I am, but more cheerful about it than I was yesterday. And, oh by the way, I’m an incurable activist/innovator, which is why I’m not retired:-)

Evan Prodromou is right that UI designers are in short supply and UI is what’s wrong with most apps. And that’s why Space 4 on my desktop is for the killer app I know will come. I fully agree that the goal is conversing between apps, or bridging microcommunities, so that they can learn from one another and cross-pollinate.

But on the subject of changing human behavior, the issue is more complex. A small group of, let’s call them political activists, change junkies, or early adopters depending on the particular sector, are open and willing to try things. Often these are younger people — the kids who programmed the first VCRs for their parents, or started Facebook.

The mass of people behind them are, shall we say, less willing to change, which is why we do things like re-elect George Bush. (Let’s not even talk about voter fraud here, because that’s another post.) It’s why race is still an underlying issue in the Obama campaign (“well, we’ve never had one of THOSE before. So he must be a Muslim.”) Do you realize how much resistance to change is packed into this election cycle, even though we have nominated Obama?

The jobs of marketing, advertising, product development, campaign strategist, industrial design, and many others acknowledge this unwillingness. In products, it’s a bummer how much longer the adoption curve is than the entrepreneur thinks it will be, and it’s the reason many companies run out of money. In politics, it’s the reason I worry every day on NewsGangLive in full view of everybody that we will not vote for change or hope, but will elect the familiar and live with the consequences, like the mass of people do on Twitter.

Ugh. I didn’t clarify anything, did I. But thanks again for trying to help me through all the flaws in my thinking. I think fast, but not necessarily well:-)


Filed under Early Adopter Stuff

Prelude to BearHug Camp

This is a tough post for me to write. Here I will reveal the fact that i am “just” a power user of microblogging sites like Twitter, or as Steve Gillmor would say, Tw*tter.

And here I reveal that. although I now understand the pressure being put on the microblogging community by a few brilliant people to make the services better for the user, I don’t care enough to keep switching.

So here I will also reveal the fatal flaw in the efforts to make microblogging perfect. Nobody cares. Once the “quick and dirty” version is up, and works, the great mass of people adopt it and move on. Like they did with Windows, or Office. There’s a point where a service crosses the chasm, and the switching costs for the average user become a big “not worth it.”

This is not to say that microblogging services have not become a huge part of my life. I spend hours with five Twhirl windows open on Space 2 of my desktop. Space 1 is my browser, and by default all my apps, which are now in the cloud. Space 3 is ITunes. Space 4 is up for grabs. My Twhirl windows monitor conversations on Seesmic, Twitter under the user name hardaway, Twitter user name Earth911,, and Friendfeed. And when I can’t be with Twhirl, I follow Twitter and through track with Twitterspy and Laconicaspy using Gchat.

I started with Twitter when it started, thanks to my friendship with Scoble, and I was very happy with it. I grew an entire community of friends through Twitter. They are all over the world, and when I meet them face to face, they are like long lost relatives. After all, we spend part of EVERY day together. What RL friends can you say that about?

But then everyone else discovered Twitter, and it became unreliable. So I switched most of my attention off it and adopted Friendfeed. And then, when an open source alternative came along, I switched to, mainly because it immediately had “track,” a feature that allows me to follow conversations in real time. Twitter had it for a while, and then it mysteriously vanished during an outage, never to return.

But in two weeks, I go back to Phoenix. There are about a thousand people in Phoenix, a city of 4 million, on Twitter. Fewer on Friendfeed, and maybe no one else on All this will fade to black for me as I sink back into the local Phoenix bad real estate economy and nothing is important anymore except housing prices.

I understand that the people trying to make and Twitter better are like the political candidates trying to change America. I understand it’s a hard job to make business or government more responsive to its customers. And someone has to hold their feet to the fire, both corporations and governments.

But I can also see from following the American elections that producing change is not easy, because most people just do not care. Their horizon is so narrow that it doesn’t encompass change, even for the better, and they don’t care from one day to the next what happens even in their own country, much less on Twitter or

That being said, I fully intend to be at Bear Hug Camp.


Filed under Early Adopter Stuff

The Alchemist on our Current World Situation

This morning I found @PauloCoelho on Twitter, and from there, his blog. And from there, this quote, which I’ve been trying to say myself:

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Report of a friend who has been to Georgia

The person who wrote this has been a friend of mine for almost thirty years, and is Canadian by origin, and thus a little more cosmopolitan than some of us.

"Thanks for the thoughtful blog.  […] and I visited Georgia in June 2006.  It is a pitifully poor country
as a result of various and ongoing Russian policies since the end of the Cold
War.  For 2 years, the entire country was denied electrical power by the
Russians because they would not dance to the Russian drummer.  This of
course was a catastrophe for the people.  Then Russia blockaded their main
exports, particularly wine.  As you visit the countryside and the
towns and villages you see no prosperity.  One of the most striking
pictures though is of Georgians destroying huge cold concrete Soviet housing
projects which are both bad memories and for the most part not habitable due to
poor construction.  There are few automobiles and agriculture is still laid
out in the long narrow strips with a house in the front on a road.  It
could be 200 years ago in many places.  I do not think we can afford to
fight a war with Russia in this location but I share your concern that not
drawing the line in the sand with a Fascist dictatorship might lead to much
worse consequences in the not too distant future. 

Interestingly, our trip
was with a group of Stanford professors who said that they believe that Russian
expansionism will be the most dangerous world issue in the 1st half of the 21st
century.  They predicted that Russia would move against is neighbors on the
pretense that it had to protect the Russian minorities which Stalin relocated to
all of these countries.  Looks like they might be right.  I do not
believe that Georgia is responsible for this fight.  I don’t think they are
suicidal plus there is already lots of intelligence showing cyber attacks on
Georgian computer systems in the days before the conflict started and massing of
Russian troops on the border.  We should ascribe no good intentions to
Vladimir Putin and his Fascist KGB buddies.

I know this man would not want his name all over the Internet, so I’ve removed it, but he’s someone who, even though I often disagree with him, I really respect.  And he has seen it with his own eyes.

Update: Another offline reply, this one from a very well-educated Brit living in the US:

My take: Georgia was upset that they could not bring South Osetia into
their sphere.  SO does not want to be part of Georgia preferring to
lean towards Russia.  Out of frustration they invaded and it appears
did major damage to property–heard one town was flattened and presume
civilians were killed.  This gave Russia an excuse to teach Georgia a
lesson.  It took Georgia years to get rid of Russian troops.  Russia
resents the expansion of the EU and NATO and Georgia wants to join NATO
and perhaps the EU.

Bottomline: Russia is out of sync with the direction of the 21st
century.  No longer do we try to bring areas under control through the
military rarher through trade and the hope for prosperity.  Hopefully
the US will begin to realize this more often.

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