April 29, 2005
I picked up a copy of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything last night before jumping on a plane. I pretty much devoured it on my flight. While I don't often write here about books (in fact this may be my first entry on the subject), if you liked Blink or The Tipping Point or are just curious about how the world works, I'd strongly suggest you check this one out.
The basic idea of Freakonomics is to use statistical analysis to explore relationships and answer some pretty interesting questions about our world (are swimming pools more dangerous than guns; why do drug dealers live with their mothers; how can we tell if sumo wrestlers cheat; etc). I eat this stuff up (for me its in part the mix of my two college majors - economics and psychology). And, while you may not find every topic explored in the book riveting, I think the broader premise is an important one - by thinking about problems a little differently one can come up with interesting ways of testing theories that would otherwise seem untestable. Perhaps by turning problems slightly askew you can gain a perspective into something that you didn't think was possible.
Your on-line world
Remember The Brain? It was a cool technology for people to map out linkages in their universe. Companies could use it to map out enterprise relationships; individuals could use it to keep track of who knew whom in their universe (a precursor to the social networking concept); they even had some search capabilities that allowed you to view your search results in terms of how they mapped to each other (they call this the WebBrain). Interesting stuff.
In my continuing search for better ways to represent data (see my original post on the subject here), I also came across MyDensity (thanks for Brady Bohrmann for pointing it out to me). Its powerful stuff – basically a way to visually map out linkages for any site. Try it on your blog (or anyone else’s for that matter) – it’s fascinating to see the mini-universe that is your on-line life). This technology alone doesn’t solve the data representation problem that I’ve been writing and thinking about a lot lately but its another piece of the puzzle.
Somewhere in all these data is
the secret sauce I’m looking for. Please
write if you have ideas or thoughts to share.
UPDATED FROM THE ORIGINAL POST FOR A MISSING LING
What Is Love?
I’ve been asked a bunch what I’ve found most surprising about being a new dad. My wife, Greeley, and I have talked about this a lot as well. I’m thinking about it right now – on a flight and looking through some family pictures on my laptop – and the answer is actually really easy (and I think shared by a lot of parents – at least I know that both Greeley and I feel this way).
The love you feel for your child is completely overwhelming – and for me the intensity of it was unexpected. Seriously – it’s totally different from anything I’ve ever experienced. I love my wife very much and in a way that is different from and more intense than I feel about anyone else. But the love you feel for your child is truly transformational.
It’s amazing to bring a life into the world – one that is completely dependant on you for a time. Human babies are probably the least capable of taking care of themselves than any other species. And nature’s way of making sure that you do a good job of it is to fill you with immediate and strong emotion towards your baby (and incidentally seems to make young babies look a lot like their dads when they are very young; which, very amusingly, according to my father-in-law is “how they used to do things before Morry Pauvich was around to do talk shows with paternity tests”). Well – I’m here to say that it works!
Nothing like a long, trans-continental flight to give me some time to think and write. I’m having a long travel week (first part of the week in CA and now a trip to Boston for a couple of days), but it’s a productive one.
Apologies for being silent for a while – there’s been quite a bit going on. Here’s a quick round-up:
Newsgator closed its Series C financing round led by Masthead Venture Partners. David Beisel from Masthead wrote a great post on it here. Here’s also a link to Brad’s post on the subject, which gives a nice background of how this round came together (which I won’t repeat here).
Feedburner is growing like crazy (hit the 50,000 feed mark) and recently announced a partnership with 20six (a European blog hosting company) and is in the process of releasing enhanced stats to their site (I’ve been using these for several weeks – they are fantastic).
Feedburner also announced support for AdSense in RSS. I’m sure this won’t be universally popular, but ad support is critical in my mind to the widespread adoption of RSS (more on that later).
Many of the other companies I work with just finished up great quarters and generally I’m feeling more bullish on the markets (which starts with sales in my world and steamrolls from there). I was remarking to a colleague recently that when I started in venture in late 2001 (4 days before 9/11, in fact) things like outside-led financing rounds and up-round financings were not common in my vocabulary. This year has seen companies beating revenue and bookings plans, unsolicited outside financing offers and an overall feeling that the market for early stage companies is on the mend. Companies that conserved capital and built strong foundations for future growth over the past few years I think are in very good shape . . . that’s my mantra at least, and I’m sticking to it.
April 18, 2005
Becoming a verb
You’re on the right track when your company becomes a verb. Just add a “d” to your name and you’ve got an idea what I’m talking about. Google is the best example of this – as in “Have you Googled that?”
A couple of the companies I work with are on their way (at least in the markets they play in). I take it as a good sign that they are becoming important enough with their customers as to actually enter their lexicon (as in “Have you Quova’d this IP address?”).
Making the RSS world a more user friendly place
I’ve been thinking about the ways that I interface with feeds that I read. Specifically, how I parse through information, how I figure out what I want to read and subscribe to and how I’d like view different types of information.
I see a couple of problems with the proliferation of information brought upon by the explosion of RSS. Specifically, with so much noise, how does one cut through all the chatter to focus on what you really want to hear? The issue is not just how do I figure out what blogs or news feeds to subscribe to (that’s actually pretty easy) – it’s the broader question of how do I manage those feeds; how do I capture information on topics I care about that are published in feeds I don’t care about; and how can I organize my information capture so I spend more time reading what I want to read vs. figuring out what I want to read.
I’ve read the attention.xml spec (and a bunch of related posts on the topic). I’ve played around with del.icio.us and read Fred’s post on why it’s cool (I’m still working on understanding that). I’ve set up keyword searches in Technorati. I’ve sort of played around with tagging in Technorati. None is getting me there (yet).
This is a real problem in the RSS world. With the number of blogs and feeds proliferating (Technorati says they now track almost 9m weblogs and over 1bn links; and that doesn’t even include all of the feeds from newspapers, magazines, on-line news, etc) there’s a lot of info to parse through. This is just too much information to get through and technology is behind the curve on figuring out how to help us deal with this volume.
Without jumping into the debate on things like attention.xml, tagging, etc and assuming that this broader solution will eventually get figured out (lots has already been said on the subject and frankly my opinions are biased – in both directions - based on my firm’s investments in Technorati, Newsgator and Feedburner) here are a few things that I’d like to see changed/developed RIGHT NOW to make my RSS life easier:
- Data formatting: I wrote a post about this recently. I’d like to have some ability to view large amounts of data (i.e., what a lot of people are writing) in an easily digestible format. Sometimes you don’t want to read specific feeds – just know what a group of people are talking about.
- Subject level subscriptions part 1: Why can’t I subscribe to just some subject areas of certain blogs? Some of the blogs I read have 50% or higher waste – topics I don’t really care about. I should be able to subscribe to specific topics only.
- Subject level subscriptions part II: Ditto the above concept, but for key-word searches. I’d like to be able to point a filter at only certain feeds – say InfoWorld – and return only their stories from only their feeds that I’m interested in.
- Subject level subscriptions part III: Why can’t publishers get better at this? I love Slate, for instance; but I hate the fact that I need to subscribe to their entire site to get their feed (as opposed to certain authors or even just specific sections of their site) – I shouldn’t need to parse through 100 Slate posts a day to get the 3 subjects I care about.
- Feed Sharing: This one seems like it should be simple. My version of attention.xml is called Brad Feld. He has the capacity to sort through more information than I can and he sends me stuff that’s interesting. That works well for me and, importantly, it cuts down on the feeds I need to read, but the process should 1) be simpler and 2) be broader. Brad (or anyone else) should be able to easily set up a ‘favorites’ list that I can subscribe to. When Brad is reading something in his RSS reader that he likes he should be able to hit a button and publish that post (not the whole feed – just the single post) to a “Feld Favorites” feed which I can subscribe to.
Sounds easy enough. Lets get on it.
April 12, 2005
I was talking to a friend of mine recently who was
telling me about the weekly meeting that he used to have with his boss in which
he was asked to talk about his top 21 priorities. 21 priorities – seriously. Talk about getting defocused. . . .
April 11, 2005
Taking 100% responsibility
I have a concept about
relationships that I really like (even if I sometimes forget to follow its
In any meaningful relationship (business, personal or otherwise) each person should be 100% responsible for that relationship.
I used to think that a relationship involved each of the parties to be responsible for 50% (i.e., and therefore the total 100% would be taken care of). I guess that works in theory, but if you think about it, your relationships will be much more meaningful (and fulfilling) if you take 100% responsibility for them. This plays well into my recent post on communication. If each person in a relationship is taking 100% responsibility for the communication in a relationship that communication is likely to be much more frequent and meaningful than if each person is waiting for it to happen ½ of the time (which is, of course, what happens if each person only takes 50% responsibility).
I’ve had a couple of break-downs in communication in the past few weeks – one with one of the CEOs I work with and another with a member of the executive team of one of our portfolio companies - and I realize that in both cases if I had taken full responsibility for the communication these break-downs would not have happened. These were relatively minor, but being a VC is largely about the relationships one has (with entrepreneurs, with CEO’s and executive teams, with other VCs, with people in the extended community in which we live and work, etc.) – so taking them seriously is really a key part of my job. Hopefully next time I’ll remember my own advice . . .
April 07, 2005
Media media everywhere . . .
No question we live in a world of ever expanding media opportunities.
From the AP:
The Global Language Monitor, which scans the
Internet for the use of specific words or phrases using Roman
characters, found 35,000 new stories on the pope in the 24 hours after
his death Saturday.
I did a search on "Pope" at Technorati and got over 85,000 hits (over 21,000 when searching for "Pope death").
1) the Pope was clearly an important (and well talked about) person
2) the proliferation of media continues
Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!
I was reminded (again) today of the importance of clear, open and honest communication. There’s no substitute for it. There seems to be a 1:10 rule about communication such that it takes about 10 times the amount of energy/effort to communicate something after the fact (i.e., after a communication break-down) than doing it up front. Not to mention the potential hard feelings, bad karma, etc.
With all the ways to get in touch these days (e-mail, phone, cell phone, sms, etc.) it seems like this should be pretty easy.
I’m as guilty as the next guy about forgetting this lesson. Perhaps writing it down here (and on a sticky on my computer screen) will help remind me. . .