An awesome video that my cousin Amish introduced me to recently:
A very interesting post by Arnold Kling at the EconLog. He very concisely defines the economic differences between entrepreneurs and workers:
Former Novell chief scientist Jeffrey Merkey says he donated $5,000 to the Wikimedia Foundation in exchange for changes to his Wikipedia entry.
Mr Merkey says Mr Wales agreed to "use his influence" to remove libellous remarks in the entry.
The above is a great example of why many people question the veracity of Wikipedia entries. Nevertheless, it is one of the most linked to and utilized sources of information on the internet. Scary, indeed.
It has been a while since Marc Andreessen has posted. So, this morning when my feeds indicated that my Andreessen folder had a new post, I clicked right away.
Marc was kind enough to recap a meeting he had with Barack Obama prior to the start of the campaign season in early 2007. He recaps the meeting and his perceptions of Senator Obama. Again, anyone who knows me well, knows how I feel about each of these gentlemen- as inspirations, as leaders, and most importantly as men that break molds. So, I was excited as I have been in a while to read Marc's perception of Senator Obama. The salient points:
First, this is a normal guy.
I've spent time with a lot of politicians in the last 15 years. Most of them talk at you. Listening is not their strong suit -- in fact, many of them aren't even very good at faking it.
Senator Obama, in contrast, comes across as a normal human being, with a normal interaction style, and a normal level of interest in the people he's with and the world around him.
Normal and Smart:
Second, this is a smart guy.
I bring this up for two reasons. One, Senator Obama's political opponents tend to try to paint him as some kind of lightweight, which he most definitely is not. Two, I think he's at or near the top of the scale of intelligence of anyone in political life today.
You can see how smart he is in his background -- for example, lecturer in constitutional law at University of Chicago; before that, president of the Harvard Law Review.
But it's also apparent when you interact with him that you're dealing with one of the intellectually smartest national politicians in recent times, at least since Bill Clinton. He's crisp, lucid, analytical, and clearly assimilates and synthesizes a very large amount of information -- smart.
Anyone who knows me well, knows my great affection for Netscape, Mark Andreessen, Jim Clark, and Netscape Time. I can go on and on about how Andreeson and the gang, the book, the browser, and their journey changed my perception of entrepreneurship and technology. So, of course, I was severely pained to read that AOL is retiring Netscape Navigator:
Netscape was created by Marc Andreessen who as a student had co-authored Mosaic, the first popular web browser.
His company Netscape Communications Corporation released the first version in 1994.
According to Shawn Hardin, President and CEO of Flock, Netscape played an important role in making the internet "a relevant mass market phenomenon".
"Netscape had a critical role in taking all of these zeros and ones - this very academic and technical environment - and giving it a graphical user interface where an average person could come online and consume information," he told BBC News.
"During its halcyon days it really felt like the internet and Netscape were really the same thing," he said.
Google continues its expansion into all things "data":
Google Inc. will begin storing the medical records of a few thousand people as it tests a long-awaited health service that's likely to raise more concerns about the volume of sensitive information entrusted to the Internet search leader.
The pilot project to be announced Thursday will involve 1,500 to 10,000 patients at the Cleveland Clinic who volunteered to an electronic transfer of their personal health records so they can be retrieved through Google's new service, which won't be open to the general public.
The expansion by technology companies into health care record management will inevitably lead to a revision of HIPAA. Interestingly, as it stands, Google can use the health records they store for marketing or other analytic purposes.
Barring the obvious privacy concerns, storing medical records (much like everything else) online is an inevitability and will provide for both greater transparency and efficiency within the healthcare industry. Currently, a medical records request is a multi-step, tedious process that takes too much time, wastes labor resources (not to mention paper) and doesn't always get the job done on the first try.
It was only a matter of time before the Wii was incorporated in the medical arena. It makes sense given that most therapy (especially physical therapy) is a series of repetitive motions. The obvious benefit is the alleviation of boredom:
In fact, many patients say PT - physical therapy's nickname - really stands for "pain and torture," said James Osborn, who oversees rehabilitation services at Herrin Hospital in southern Illinois.
Using the game console's unique, motion-sensitive controller, Wii games require body movements similar to traditional therapy exercises. But patients become so engrossed mentally they're almost oblivious to the rigor, Osborn said.
What's most surprising about the article is not that the Wii is being used for some sort of rehabilitative function, but rather that nobody has developed "games" specific to rehab:
The most popular Wii games in rehab involve sports - baseball, bowling, boxing, golf and tennis. Using the same arm swings required by those sports, players wave a wireless controller that directs the actions of animated athletes on the screen.
An obvious first-to-market sort of opportunity for the savvy healthcare entrepreneur.
Microsoft has offered to buy the search engine company Yahoo for $44.6bn (£22.4bn) in cash and shares.
The offer, contained in a letter to Yahoo's board, is 62% above Yahoo's closing share price on Thursday.
The most ironic aspect (and very fulfilling I'm sure for a lot of technophiles) is that Microsoft is making this offer to prevent domination by a single company.
In a conference call, Microsoft's Kevin Johnson said that the combination of the two companies would create an entity that could better compete with Google.
"Today the market [for online search and advertising] is increasingly dominated by one player," he said.
Via the great Gizmodo, LA is now going to provide medicinal marijuana vending machines:
To use them, you'll need to go with a prescription in hand, get fingerprinted and get a prepaid credit card that's loaded up with your dosage and what strain of weed you want. Yeah, no joke, the pharmacists in LA give you a choice between OG Kush and Granddaddy Purple. In the future, the machines may also be outfitted to sell other popular drugs such as Viagra, Vicodin and Propecia.
This seems too easy. You mean I can sit on my ass and text in an order of pizza? I can't quite figure out if the goal is ambitious or undershooting:
Within five years, Pizza Hut aims to earn half its revenue from orders placed via computers and mobile phones, [Bernard Acoca, Pizza Hut's director of digital marketing] said.
My gut tells me that they should be able to generate 50% of revenues from technology very easily and quickly. The statement, more likely, shows Pizza Hut's (or rather Acoca's) lack of understanding of the ubiquity of technology.
Via GigaOM, an interesting feature on a couple of startups, Jango and Seeqpod, that are seeking to tap into their belief that music is a social network in and of itself. Interesting perspective. Maybe its me, but I always thought of my music as being a solitary and very personal activity. Now, I might share a moving song with my significant other or close friend, but I don't see myself sharing everything I listen to with a network of people. I suppose that statement ages me (I am 31). Thus, I imagine I am not the aforementioned companies' target market. I haven't quite gotten into the Facebook thing either .
Having said that, though, I think this sort of service would be a big hit with teenagers given the inherent teenage need to express him/herself. I can see teenagers defining their networks based on the persona they embody in real life. I am thinking back to my high school days and envision networks along the lines of the "hip-hop kids", "alternative kids", "classic rock kids", etc. In that light, I decided to sign up for both services and give them a shot.
Jango was extremely easy to sign up for and the idea that I could just enter an artist name and the music would start playing was very appealing. The ability to browse through other songs by the same artist and look for similar music was cool, I suppose, but nothing that hasn't been done before. The real, appeal, though is the ability to set up and customize "stations" based on your searches. Others have the ability to listen to your stations and as such you are creating a social relationship.
It seems as if the revenue model calls for targeted advertising based on network interests and music tastes. I guess this can be appealing to teenagers. I also assume something like this can be done via Facebook or Myspace. It will be interesting to see how Jango makes this work.
Seeqpod is a little different in that it is more of a search engine. Even when I signed up, there seemed to be no ability to create a profile or start a network. Thus, it seems that the revenue model is based more on sidebar advertisements a la Google search.
Of the two, I definitely preferred Seeqpod and can see myself using it. It had more of an adult feel and again, I might not be Jango's target audience. It will be interesting to see where these two end up in a very competitive field.
A well-written 6,026 word essay on Google at the New Yorker. The first half of the essay describes Google's increased focus on Washington (by necessity):
The modest one-man operation in Washington has expanded considerably and now includes about thirty people, among them Robert Boorstin, a former speechwriter for President Clinton; Johanna Shelton, a former senior counsel to Representative John Dingell, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; and Pablo Chavez, a former chief counsel to John McCain. In October, 2006, the company established its own PAC, called NETPAC, and since then it has hired three outside firms to lobby on its behalf: the mostly Democratic Podesta Group; King & Spalding, where Google works with former Senators Connie Mack and Dan Coats, both Republicans; and Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which hired Makan Delrahim, the former Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Bush Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.
“We’ve been under the radar, if you will, with government and certain industries,” David Drummond, a Google senior vice-president, observes. Drummond, who is based in Mountain View, oversees all the company’s legal affairs. “As we’ve grown, we’re engaging a lot more. We’ve had to put a lot more emphasis on engaging.” Google’s Washington office reports to both Drummond and Elliot Schrage, the vice-president for global communications and public affairs, who is also based in Mountain View, and one of its immediate tasks has been to address the privacy issues raised by the proposed acquisition of DoubleClick. “Privacy is an atomic bomb,” a Google executive who does not want to be identified says. “Our success is based on trust.”
The essay distinguishes itself from the usual monotony in the latter half. I find the interactions between Brin/Page and Schmidt fascinating:
The youth of the founders (Brin is thirty-four and Page is thirty-five) leads to jokes that someone like Schmidt, who is fifty-two, was essential to manage Google. “It borders on insulting to say that Eric provides ‘adult supervision,’ ” Elliot Schrage says. “It is insulting to both.” Yet there are times when Schmidt does supervise. One day, I asked him how he felt about the U.S.A. Patriot Act, which gives the government broad powers—including wiretapping and reading e-mail—to investigate terrorist suspects. “I’m not a big fan,” Schmidt said. “I’m offering you my personal opinion as a citizen.”
Later, at a press lunch attended by the founders and Schmidt, I asked about Google’s position regarding the government’s use of the Patriot Act. “I’m not an expert on the Patriot Act,” Brin said. “But it’s certainly a long-standing issue prior to the Patriot Act—”
“Can I?” Schmidt interrupted. Not waiting for permission, he proceeded: “The best way to answer this question is to say it’s the law of the land and we have to follow it.”
“Or, in some cases, we fought it in court,” Brin said, referring to Google’s successful challenge of a Justice Department request, in January, 2006, to hand over search data to aid the Bush Administration’s defense of an Internet-pornography law. The company accused prosecutors of a “cavalier attitude” and said that the government was “uninformed” about how search engines work. Again, Schmidt interrupted, saying, “We fought it legally, and we followed the law, and we won in court.”
“Every once in a while he does this unintentional condescending thing, and he does it in public settings,” a Google executive says of Schmidt. On Tuesdays, Brin, Page, and Schmidt hold product-strategy meetings, which are dominated by engineers. I was permitted to attend one, on the condition that the product, and the engineers, not be identified, but the tenor of the meeting was clear enough: Page and Brin had wanted an upgrade of an existing product, and they were unhappy with what they were hearing from the engineers. At first, they were stonily silent, slid down in their chairs, and occasionally leaned over to whisper to each other. Schmidt began with technical questions, but then he switched roles and tried to draw out Page and Brin, saying, “Larry, say what’s really bugging you.”
Page said that the engineers were not ambitious enough. Brin agreed, and said that the proposals were “muddled” and too cautious.
“We wanted something big,” Page added. “Instead, you proposed something small. Why are you so resistant?”
The head of the engineering team said that the founders’ own proposed changes would be too costly in money, time, and engineering talent.
Schmidt—the only person at the meeting wearing a tie—tried to summarize their differences. He noted that Brin and Page wanted to start by deciding the outcome, while the product team focussed first on the process, and concluded that the engineering would prove too “disruptive” to achieve the goal.
“I’m just worried that we designed the wrong thing,” Brin said. “And you’re telling me you’re not designing the optimum system. I think that’s a mistake. . . . I’m trying to give you permission.”
The product team went on to make a slide presentation, but everyone there realized that the issues would not be resolved that day. Schmidt told the team to report back with a detailed design “that is responsive to Larry and Sergey’s criticism,” and to clarify “what it takes to build a good product,” and what it would cost in time and money. However, he balanced this with praise: “But this is very well done. I love it when people show me the flaws in our products.”
In meetings such as this, Page and Brin are like a tag team, taking turns as they chide employees for devising something that is merely a “cute” solution, not a fundamental one. Schmidt says, “They think about what should be, and they assume it is possible.” Brin and Page also introduce a measure of what Schmidt refers to, affectionately, as management “chaos.” Neither has an assistant. Executives check Google Calendar to learn if Brin or Page plans to attend a meeting. Sometimes, Schmidt says, the founders show up, unscheduled, for the wrong meeting. Sometimes they simply disappear—flying off on their Boeing, for instance, or indulging their newest sport, kite surfing.
I love to see the interaction between founders and management; between technologists and business people; between the young and the old.
The concluding point is the most illumined and effective:
What sets Google apart, Schmidt told me in another conversation, is that although people like him always assumed that “Google would be an important company, the founders always assumed that Google would be a defining company.” He remembers a day in 2002 when he walked into Page’s office and Page started to show off a book scanner he had built. “What are you going to do with that, Larry?” Schmidt recalls asking. “We’re going to scan all the books in the world,” Page replied. Eventually, Google began to do just that.
It hits at the heart of, I think, what every entrepreneur wants. Not to just build and "important company", but rather a "defining company".