Inspiring passages read on the New Year

I don't often write about religion, but this morning in Rosh Hashana services I read a passage in the prayer book that I found particularly impactful. It's not about religion so much as it's about life perspective, and life approach - I think we can, myself included, all benefit from focusing more on thinking about both of those things more often. The text I'm copying here is an abridged version, focusing on the portions that were most significant to me:

A Passage Read on Rosh Hashana

The day has come
to take an accounting of my life
Have I dreamed of late
of the person I want to be,
in the changes I would make,
in my daily habits,
in the way I am with others,
in the friendship I show companions.

I have remained enchained too often
to less than what I am
But the day has come
to take an accounting of my life.

I, who am my own kind of needy person,
have been afraid of vision.

I need to be loved.
Do I deserve to be?
I need to love another.
Can I commit to my love?
Perhaps its object will be less than my visions
(and then I would be less)
Perhaps I'm not brave enough to find new vision
through a real and breathing person.

So long as I have breath
I know I have the strength
to transform what I can be
to what I am.


Tina Fey delivers another fantastic Gov. Palin performance

Learning from the $700B Government Bailout of the Banks

Fred Wilson makes a great proposal for the public disclosure of the results of the government loan to the banks:
I would like the splurge legislation to require that we not only have public disclosure, but that we have in effect a real time listing (like the Nasdaq) of all splurge related transactions. This is good for the public (so we know what's going on with our money) and it's good for the Treasury (so it is forced to behave rationally) and it's good for investors who want to profit from all of this splurge activity. It will also allow us, after the whole things is over, to analyze the splurge and learn from it, like JLM learned from the RTC.
This is a great opportunity for the US at large to learn about investing - the US Government should be using this time to teach us all about risks, investing, returns, everything they can as they put a nation-wide contributed sum of money to work.  I hope the US government is paying attention to people like Fred Wilson and Mark Cuban, who have been pouring out intelligent recommendations for the use and management of the funds almost daily.


Ryan Howard Carries the Phillies to the Playoffs

Photograph taken by Googie Man and released un...Image via WikipediaCongrats to the Phillies!!, who made it into the playoffs for the second year in a row - 92 wins, 16 and 7 in September, and one step ahead in a race against the Mets (who have matches the Phillies 2 straight winning seasons with 2 straight end-of-season collapses) for the pennant. Ryan Howard, who started out the season horrendous, had a monsterous September - he hit .345, 11 HR's, and 32 RBI's (on his way to 48 home runs and 146 RBI's, well ahead of all other major league players). The whole team has been on a tear this month, so I hope they can ride the momentum into the playoffs and fair better against Milwaukee than they did against Colorado last year - outlook is good, since they were 5-1 against Milwaukee this year. Cole Hammels and the ageless wonder Jamie Moyer can help make it happen.
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Why I like the new Microsoft ads

The new Microsoft ad campaign has been unfolding over the last few weeks, and it's seen its share of criticism. The campaign has come in two waves. The first set, a few odd early commercials showing Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates hanging out together, lasted only a week or so.

The second wave swapped Jerry Seinfeld out for a series of short snippets of a broad collection of people stating "I'm a PC" - everyone from a random teacher in a 3rd world country, to Eva Longoria.

The Gates / Seinfeld commercials were a bad start - for the most part, they weren't funny (although the last line when Seinfeld asks for a sign from Gates that there's something new coming to Windows could maybe have been funny packaged differently). Worse, though, they almost made it seem like Windows was for rich people that don't get the real world. They even said that they need to spend time with regular families to understand them. It's not that they are elitist, they're just out of touch.

The new commercials, however, to be me accomplish exactly what I think they need to - they take back ownership of the now common phrases that Apple coined "I'm a PC", and they position Apple as the company that has thinks too highly of itself. And that in a subtle sort of way hits home because I desperately want a Mac, every time I see someone at Starbucks that seems to have a cooler computer and looks like they're enjoying it more.
If it really is because they are better computers, that's one thing. But if it's because I am jealous of the image, the cool factor, the elite, the step up from the regular people who use PC's, then I've bought into the "I'm a Mac" image, the Apple culture, and I'm getting ready to pay a 50% mark up on a laptop just to have it.
If the new Windows commercials can make me feel like it's not wrong to be the every day person, if they start to make me turn a more critical eye towards the elitist Mac cult, then I'll start to second guess paying a premium for Mac products (which I am as of late). Breaking down this yearning for a Mac, reminding us that it's ok to be a PC user, is exactly waht the new Microsoft ads need to achieve.

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Twitter tells us today's pop culture news trends

Twitter has a great post today on top pop culture interest trends as displayed by twitter activity.  In true Twitter fashion, all of the trends are described in 140 characters or less:
  • T-Mobile is trending because Google and T-Mobile have announced G1 a fancy new computer phone like the iPhone.
  • Obama is generating tweets today as people react to his comments on CNN from Florida about the current state of the US economy.
  • Heroes is still inspiring tweets even after the US premiere of its second season—lots of folks are just now watching it via DVR or online.
  • Sarah Palin trends every day but today folks are tweeting about her visit to the UN and that she's only had a passport since 2007.
  • iPhone is generally popular but trending more today because of a power adapter recall and the new competitor from Google.
  • Adobe is generating tweets today because they've released their flagship software suite, Adobe CS4.
  • Paulson is showing up in the Twitter trends as people exchange opinions about the government bailouts in the US.
  • Mothra is trending apparently due to a growing meme of "Your Mothra..." jokes—not sure what's up with that.
  • Apple seems to be trending for two reasons: folks are eating a lot of apples today and they're discussing iPhones and other Apple products.


Notes from The Future of Media Panel

The panel on The Future of Media was a collection of brilliant minds all looking at the media landscape from different historical backgrounds, different working positions, and different needs for the future. All of this lead to a dynamic conversation that leveraged the broad opinions across the panel to come to some vague truths, but more importantly some important learnings about how to continually approach the future of business in general. Overall it was a 2 hours we worth spent listening to a rare group of people that respected each other, respected the challenge of the discussion, and will likely be some of the key drivers in the developing future media landscape.

In no specific order, here are some of the key topics and ideas that I thought were interesting:
  • Yahoo and AOL are examples of great companies with valuable products thcat face the weighty challenge of unwieldy expectations; if a new company reached their traffic and income levels, they'd be the darling of Wall Street

  • A challenge that websites face: web browsing is fragmented, and so all of a single website's audience is able to be reached somewhere else. This is why YouTube has millions of users but nobody really needs to chance advertising with them

  • When Google's revenue growth slows, investors will start to start asking why it is subsidizing the internet's video streaming with no profitability; businesses need to start thinking about what's practical versus what's possible

  • The future of brands in media is uncertain
    • proponents of brands as significant believe that brands organize perception and author trust, which is all the more important in this 'everyone has a voice' landscape
    • proponents of brands as outdated believe that brands are overvalued premium prices on content that's readily available from countless sources and that millions of people are ready to produce for free

  • The opportunity with social networks is the massive information layer that's being formed. The true value for Facebook won't be within Facebook itself, but leveraging the data that's been collected as an information platform that can enhance targeting outside of the individual web property. This will be the power of Facebook Connect - allowing brands to leverage the detailed personal data that Facebook has collected about its users to enhance product relevance and advertising matching on partner sites

  • Data is a currency and a commodity - how you leverage data is a key question. Project Canoe is broadcast television's attempt to add a data layer to their product in order to provide both a better product and a better value to advertisers, and it's a key to broadcast television's continued profitability

  • Right now behavioral data is a currency but is that a generational thing? If it becomes apparent that the sale of behavioral data is a trojan horse, then future generations will value privacy more
    • On the other hand, is there even a possibility of privacy in the future? This may have died the second camera phones became ubiquitous
    • Andy Warhol "We're all famous, now how long"
    • The electronic footprint - will it enable transparency (in the '08 presidential election we learned of Edward's affairs for example) or will it force us to shut down in order to preserve what little privacy we have left

  • The future of media is imagination and courage; the courage to brave new approaches and reinvent yourself time and time again, the imagination to think of how to do so
    • One example of a brand with imagination is Uniqlo - a creative idea spurred it from a small Japan retail chain to a global phenomenon through the development of Uniqlock http://www.uniqlo.jp/uniqlock/

  • Users will want to pay for services on the internet when they see the value of a superior product that can only come through funding; right now, services are surviving without revenue due to relatively low cost structures, but soon the millions of websites and start-ups will need to show profit, and we will lose the services we treasure that were offered for free because advertising can't support everything

  • We are the point of devaluation of content - we're seeing this quickly with music, the music itself is being pushed to zero, and the music industry has to find value around the music (around the content)

  • "Music will never again change the world because of how it's passed around now" - Neil Young
    • We have lost the ability to experience awe in the way that single instances of content creation could once jump start a nation
    • To be on the cover of Time used to mean you had reached the pinnacle - there is no single powerhouse left that can create such a stir
    • Is the internet in this way actually destroying community in its quest to unite everyone on one level?

  • Technology enables the path of least resistance - expect that the internet and computing as we think of it now will die as technology enables more robust mobile consumption and rich interactive television enables us to consume content on the big screen (this is Mark Cuban's bet)

  • One investing truth: when everybody is looking in one direction, then the opportunity to create value is in a whole different direction
    • This may be true for Mark Cuban, but plenty of firms are successful investing in emerging web trends. It may be that the degree of return is correlated to the degree of which you can step farther in front of the wave

  • There are interesting opportunities to find value and reinvent in this landscape because everyone is focused on one specific landscape - the internet. This is why Rupert Murdock was able to buy the Wall Street Journal - it's loss of valuation despite its profitability and it's significant brand value. Murdock buying WSJ is an example of opportunity in chaos

Moderator: Ken Auletta, The New Yorker
Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines
Mark Cuban, Chairman of HDNet & Owner of Dallas Mavericks
Randy Falco, CEO of AOL LLC
Jeff Goodby, Co-Founder of Goodby, Silverstein, & Partners
Bob Guccione Jr., Guest Editor of MediaPost
Nigel Morris, CEO of Isobar
Joe Uva, CEO of Univision
Susan Whiting, EVP of Nielsen Company
Michael Wolff, Editor & Columnist of Vanity Fair
Paul Woolmington, Founding Partner of Naked Communications


Registering to Vote

I realy need to be paying more attention to election coverage, and learning more about our potential presidents - today I filled out my voting registration; if you haven't yet, and you live in New York, head to this link now to register to Vote 

Ticketmaster is a terrible company that milks its customers

Every time I buy tickets to a concert I am blown away by how ridiculous Ticketmaster is in milking their customer base in ridiculous fashion.  Their "convenience charge" is nearly 20%, they charge a $2 "processing fee" for what is essentially nothing, and they won't provide the tickets in PDF unless you pay a $2.50 upcharge!  Why should I pay $2.50 to save them on mailing?
It's not that it's a lot of money, it's that they over and over find ways to increase their premium, with nonsense chrages.  It's a crapppy way to cheat a customer base.


Skydeck Part 2: Some Additional Recommendations

Skydeck Logo

After trying out Skydeck recently, I sent my initial thoughts and recommendations to the designers.  Very shortly, I received a message back from them thanking me for spending time with the tool, and asking for more feedback on what else I might want to do with more detailed analysis of the mobile data.  I came up with a few more recommendations that I’d like to see in Skydeck, which I’m posting here as well:

  • Per person, a breakdown of texting vs. calling, and which they respond to more
  • How quickly does someone return a call or text message
  • When is an individual more likely to pick up a call or respond to a text?  For example, I typically am able to connect with my mom in the morning before she leaves for the day, but my friend only answers after 8PM, when he’s coming back from the office
  • How could you do this type of analysis if mobile phone carriers don’t provide it natively? What about having a seconds threshold, such as recognizing that calls longer than :30 sec are real discussions vs. voicemail
  • ability to mark certain contacts as irrelevant; for example, my Verizon voicemail and Verizon web service are listed in my top contacts, and they heavily overshadow individual people, but I don't care about them
  • can it pull the backup phonebook data form my cell phone, so i can use the contact names for numbers that I've already entered into my phone

These are all new in addition to my original comments.  It’s great that Skydeck is reaching out to its users; hopefully this type of interaction with the early adopters will aid it in developing into a cool and resourceful product!  Has anyone else tried it out? What are your thoughts?


Pirating Decreases When Content Producers Give Consumers What They Want

ars technica has an article discussing how P2P traffic is beginning to decrease as streaming of media online increases. Why is this important? IT hammers home the fact that consumers just want to consume media (music, tv, movies, etc) in the easiest way possible. They want to consume it when and where they want it. If I miss an episode of Scrubs, and the only way I can watch it is wait months for a re-run, or spend a few hours downloading it, then I'll be downloading it. But if I can stream Scrubs off Hulu even faster, then I'm more than happy to sit through some advertising, and turn to Hulu for my online television needs. It's the reason a centralized spot like Hulu for broadcast TV is going to be so powerful. Content producers need to see this trend and realize that they will cut off pirating as soon as they provide a better product.


Google Unveils it’s own Web Browser: Google Chrome


If you’re web obsessed, this is already old news – since yesterday morning, everyone and anyone interested in the web has weighed in on it, but for everyone else, here’s a heads up:  Today at a press conference, Google will be unveiling Google Chrome, an open source web browser entering the market to compete with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and more. 

The news was leaked when a 40 page comic meant to introduce the browser to techies was leaked a day early -  you can now read it here, but if you aren''t a techie you probably won't care.  The big changes that will effect everyday users:

  • Increased Speed - Google is using a combination of rendering engines built by Apple, Mozilla, and their own internal guys, which is meant for one thing: speed up the loading of websites, especially google tools
  • Reduced Memory Usage - The browser will turn each tab into an individual applcation, which means it will start with a larger memory requirement, but me more efficient over the day as tabs are open and closed
  • Built in Google Tools - Integration of Google tools will be big, right down to page rank and suggested links as you type in URL's or open a new tab - all data they mine will help to make the browser more intelligent
  • Desktop Hybrid - Google Gears, their offline anchoring tool, will be installed with the browser, letting websites leverage your PC to speed up their site, provide offline usage, and more
  • Privacy Mode - with one touch of a button, you can make a surfing session entirely private, with no trace of history recorded and no cookies dropped (this was going to be a big new feature in IE8)

It’s big news, it’s one more step towards a ubiquitous Google OS, and it’s going to elicit major reactions from companies across the board.  Just a week ago, Google renewed their agreement wit Firefox to be the default search engine and share in the search revenue.  Now Google is going head to head with Firefox in the independent browser market, and hoping to steal even larger share of the browser market from Microsoft Internet Explorer.  One certainty, this is going to push feature development in browsers even farther.  There is also reasonable speculation that this browser is being designed to live without an operating system, to eventually work not just on a computer, but in mobile devices, TV boxes, and more.

For more information, see the hundreds of articles written already on the Google Chrome Browser, and stay tuned for a link to download.