Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Meet Our Self-Replicating Robot Overlords

This is clearly the coolest thing I have seen this month: RepRap. (via Overcoming Bias.)

Social Business

Jeff Dachis announced his new venture on Monday: building and consulting on social software for corporations. I worked with Jeff from the mid-90s to 2001 or so when my firm backed Razorfish as it grew from ten people in a single office to 2,000+ in multiple offices around the world. When Austin Ventures asked me about Jeff as part of their due diligence, I was happy to give an enthusiastic thumbs up.

And I like the concept. Certainly more than Fred Wilson. Fred says "when you think of terms like 'open APIs', 'customizable', and 'upload data/media', the enterprise with its need for security and control doesn't really come to mind." And later, "most enterprises don't want their employees to be active members of a community that it can't control, monitor, and moderate."

Fred is wrong. In the 'social' parts of a business, the parts where people interact with other people to get things done, it's not about control, it's about accountability. And that's an entirely different, but tractable, problem.

A good friend of mine spent the last year and a half using open-source collaboration and social networking tools to build bridges among her organization's dozens of international offices. Her effort has already allowed people to share knowledge (about best practices and successful local products that might work elsewhere), create new connections between employees and help maintain these new connections more easily. She had to find, evaluate, interconnect and teach a bunch of tools. Integrated enterprise social software would have been a huge head start.

This is a big opportunity. There are some intrinsic problems with knowledge sharing, etc., that I've blogged about, and these need to be addressed. But good entrepreneurs help create markets, and Jeff's a great entrepreneur.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Why did Google Apps choose Django and not TurboGears?

Anyone? I mean, after teaching myself TurboGears. Sigh.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Kids on the Internet

This is completely off-topic, so I'll keep it short.

A friend just sent me a copy of the "Shannon" email that's been circulating for the last many years. The email talks about the dangers of kids being online, how offering any identifying information at all can make them a target for assault or murder.

My nine year old daughter uses the internet so I am very sensitive to the threat. I've given her the talking to about giving out personal information so many times she now recites it along with me. But in an effort to avoid substituting ineffective worrying for actual parenting, I offer this article, Online "Predators" and Their Victims, from the Crimes Against Children Research Center. Just published under the auspices of the American Psychological Association, it's a meta-study that offers guidance to the real dangers to kids online and what we can do about them.

Required reading, if you have kids.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I own a lot of cookbooks; A couple I even own for the recipes

The Times has an interesting internet-killed-old-media article, Internet book piracy will drive authors to stop writing. I'm almost old enough to remember when The Times was called The Daily Universal Register, so take it with a grain of salt when I say that these types of articles always strike me as intentionally hyperbolic. The death of TV, the death of music, the death of newspapers (and even Mark Cuban's dadaist proclamation of the death of the internet) all make good copy, it's true. But even now, ten years after print was declared dead for the first time within my earshot, it still accounts for almost a third of advertising revenue (look at the Jack Myers numbers I referenced yesterday.)

We like to talk about growth, positive or negative, as if the world were all straight lines. Maybe because so much of our business news is investment oriented--where future growth is the primary driver of changes in company value--while the real impact of business on our everyday life is pretty much everything except stock prices.

The best quote in the article, from Tracy Chevalier, author and chair of the Society of Authors (proving, btw, that US journalists are not the only ones too lazy to try to find unbiased sources):

It’s hitting hardest the writers who write books that you dip in and out of: poetry, cookbooks, travel guides, short stories – books where you don’t have to read the whole thing.

Although people still buy [books by] Nigella and Jamie Oliver and Delia it is because of their celebrity. Cookbook authors are really struggling. I do it myself – if I want a recipe I go online and get it for free.

For a while it will be great for readers because they will pay less and less but in the long run it’s going to ruin the information. People will stop writing. There’s a lot of ‘wait and see what the technology brings’ but the trouble is if you wait and see too long then it’s gone. That’s what happened to the music industry.

I look up recipes on the internet all the time. When I want to make something, I usually look up four or five and compare them. So, why do I still buy cookbooks?

Chevalier is confusing two issues: medium and packaging. While it may be true that we no longer care so much about which medium our information comes through, we still care deeply about the packaging. Information may want to be free, but nobody buys media for the information.

My favorite cookbook right now is David Rosengarten's It's All American Food. Rosengarten collects a ton of disparate recipes, each easily the best in its class: I trust this cookbook; when I don't know which recipe to use, I use Rosengarten's. I'm sure I could find recipes as good as Rosengarten's on the internet. But how would I know when I did? I need someone I trust to help me choose, someone who has actually tried the many recipes and has taste similar to mine. I've found that person, and I bought his cookbook (and given it as a present to family members.)

It's simply more efficient to pay $25 for a cookbook with hundreds of well-chosen recipes than to spend an hour online sorting through recipes every time I want to try something new.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ad Spend Numbers

ReveNews links to Jack Myers' 2006-2009 media spend estimates. Jack's got a great breakdown of media spend by category. Nothing surprising, but it's always nice to look at numbers.

The big growers in 2009? Mobile ads (120% growth from 2008), videogame ads (60%), satellite radio ads (35%), and branded entertainment/product placement (30%) are the top four.

The internet wheezes in at number five, with 28.5% growth over 2008. How so very old media of it.