Wednesday, February 28, 2007

New Home

My blog moved! Didn't notice? Check the address bar - I'm now at The muse hit me and I decided I needed to have my own domain name. For $2, I'd say it's worth it. Change your bookmarks and tell all your friends...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dear NewsCorp

and Rupert Murdoch,

RE: MySpace

Why do you do the things you do? Over the weekend, you blocked Imeem, a popular widget provider.

Now, I don't know what Imeem is. Nor do I, unlike the 100+ million around the globe, even use your service all that much. (MySpace missed me - it got "cool" for my little sister, so then I couldn't use it of course, and didn't get "cool" for me till I already had Facebook.)

But I watch you from afar and wonder why, oh why, you do the crazy things you do. And today I finally had to blog about it.

You stumbled into a gold mine. The founders launched a solid product and made the right moves to get it popular. Then you came along and bought the site for extremely cheap ($580 million) by today's standards. (Facebook wants almost 4 times what you got for far fewer users than you had when you sold.)

Now you, a bunch of media execs, are trying to run one of the biggest websites on the planet. And I applaud the effort - you're really doing a decent job - because you have the balls to venture into a new space rather than sit back and deny its importance to your own doom.

So I know you mean well with your attempts to kill widgets and keep the site nice and closed and safe. On the surface, it may even seem like wisdom - keep foreign things to a minimum because they could be bad and security is important. But there's definitely a little greed there - you don't want other people profiting off your site. And why would you, it's yours.

Here's why - those pesky little widgets you've been trying to kill are going to keep you alive. MySpace, as an independent organization, may have had a slight penchant for innovation. As a huge, bloated, media corporation, you have none. The men and women behind those widgets, however, are some of the brightest and most forward-thinking minds this country has to offer. And, guess what? They're working for you. They may be taking some of your pie, probably more of the pie than you give to your developers. But they're making your pie bigger.

For that, you should thank them, not kill them. And thank arguably your biggest competitor, Facebook, for making sure no one can develop widgets for their site.

While you're at it, crack open a history book or two. Maybe it's a stretch, but that nagging voice in my head tells me we've seen this one before. Inferior but open source technology against brilliant product with a proprietary system and a purist bent? Dare I say it? Microsoft vs. Apple? The OS wars? Learn from the past - encourage third party developers to build widgets and whatever else on top of your site (and, hell, you could take a play from Microsoft's playbook and reverse engineer the widget and add it to your product. Or you could just be nice and buy them). But you probably will want to invest a bit in make sure security on the site is top notch.

In other words, take the lesson from that old fable: don't kill the Goose that laid the golden egg. It never works out well for you.

(PS - If you're really bored, count how many times I've referenced the OS wars on this blog. I know it's a little hackneyed, but it's a classic example displaying the wisdom of quite a few tenants in the tech world. And there's tons of parallels to whats going on today in various situations. Really, why isn't this stuff more obvious? Do people just not think to look to the past to decipher the future? Or perhaps the view from the ivory tower tricks CEOs into thinking they'll succeed where others failed...)

Friday, February 23, 2007

Interesting Response

Robert Scoble pointed today to this article written by Dan Dodge in response to the Google Apps announcement yesterday. This is the second time I've heard the "Don't worry, we're taking care of it" answer from Microsoft (the first being Ballmer himself here at Penn). And it's a kinda convincing, I'm not going to lie. Microsoft has been thought to be on the way down before, only to come back in seemingly effortless fashion (think Netscape and Explorer).

Anyway, decent read, and I'm loving the reference to Clayton Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma, a great book (thanks for making me read it over the summer, Dad). At least Gates & Co. are well versed.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Google Declares War

It's about time. After the rumor mill churned out whispers that Google had a big announcement coming regarding its Office-like web apps, it came as little surprise when the news hit today. But that doesn't mean it isn't big news.

Google unveiled a combined office suite for businesses, packaging its documents, spreadsheet, calendaring, and email software. The combined entity will cost $50 a year, a user. Though it's ideal for small businesses looking to save money, Google has already signed GE and P&G as users. Checkout the usuals (GigaOm, TechCrunch, etc.) for fuller stories, and there's a nice InformationWeek article here.

The War has officially begun. The one that we'll be telling our kids about. Since Google's first strike comes as Microsoft is trying to convince the world to upgrade to Office 2007, the company will probably draw first blood, but the blow will hardly be fatal. If consumers adopt Vista, Microsoft will own the OS for at least the next 5 years, giving the Empire a window to Strike Back. Simply put, in the long run, the boys in Redmond will need to find a way to capitalize on what they're good at, probably by tying desktop apps in with a web-based ones. Just how they do it remains to be seen...

This should be very fun to watch. Strap in and enjoy.

(This is the kind of thing that deserves a long, analytical post. And there's no way that's going to happen anytime soon. Nat, you were telling me you wanted blogging ideas - here's one on a silver platter. And anyone else, if you want to make some predictions, I'd love to read 'em.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Wharton Tech Conference

So a last night a friend asked if I'd be interested in attending the Wharton Tech Conference this Friday. Of course, my first reaction was "Wharton Tech" anything had to be a top 10 oxymoron. No way I'd be caught dead at this thing, right?

But then I thought about it. I don't have class on Friday, and even though I'll probably be out with Jack for his birthday the night before, I can pull myself out of bed and get downtown by mid morning. And possibly get Nat to join me? (PS - Jack, you need to have a blog so I can link to you when I do that.) (PPS - Mom, Dad, ignore that sentence. I'm going to be diligently studying. :)

I mean, I've got recruiting to do, and I might run into a someone I could bring on for various projects. Right, that won't happen there. But I may as well see how this side of the world tries to do tech while I'm out here (1.5 years and counting. Go time, go.).

So in case you're in the area and want to be amused for the day, leave a comment and come join me. I'll be that kid blogging (or probably working) in the corner who sticks out because he doesn't realize that "jeans and a t-shirt" isn't the dress code for a tech conference on the least coast.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

CommunityNext Wrap-up

The CommunityNext Conference yesterday at Stanford was a huge success. Props to Noah Kagan, CambrianHouse, and everyone else who made it possible (both for me and in general).

I'll be fleshing out a lot of what went on in the coming day (and by that I mean probably after my Math 412 midterm on Wednesday), but a few highlights:
  • The SkinnyCorp guys (Jeffrey Kalmikoff and Jack Nickell) stole the show. Their company executes a series of ideas that "would be cool." Their biggest project as of now is threadless, but naked and angry and extra tasty are making waves as well.
  • James Hong telling the HotOrNot story: "So we were drinking one afternoon at 3pm, because we were unemployed of course, and my friend mentions me recently met a Perfect 10..." But in all honesty, he had some great insights about getting a website off the ground. James also put a great post a few days ago about staying hungry.
  • The enthusiasm about community. The passion was palpable. It's a little Zen-like, but it was great to reaffirm that the Valley, at its core, is about passion and not money (embodied by the SkinnyCorp guys).
  • Getting recognized:). Kind of at least. I was talking to RapLeaf co-founder Vivek Sodera about school and life and whatnot. When I brought up attending Wharton, he mentioned that he'd read in a blog somewhere that the entrepreneurial environment there was awful. I sheepishly told him that, yeah, I wrote that.
I also have some bad news - nothing major, but I wouldn't expect blog posts here nearly as often as they've been coming. I aim for 3 a week, but in the coming weeks I'll be lucky to do one a week. Life and projects are beyond hectic. Hopefully once the smoke clears I'll have something sweet to write about...

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Jobs creates a stir

Steve Jobs is at it again. I'm assuming most of you have read his Thoughts on Music. Jobs lays out the state of the music world and three alternatives for the future. He uses the post to explain why Apple must slap DRMs on music sold on iTunes, making it playable only on iPods. His three alternatives, continuing the current system of separate DRMs for each company, licensing its DRM (FairPlay) to other sites, or removing DRMs altogether, basically serve to explain that the current state needs to be changed. His conclusion is a plea to the Big 4 Labels (Universal, Sony BMG, Warner and EMI) to help charter a course along the lines of the last option.

It's a solid analysis and definitely a fairly impartial article. However, it smells just slightly of a PR move, showing the people that Jobs and Apple are on their side. His point (doing away with DRMs) is fairly obvious and a sentiment almost all readers are inclined to agree with. Of course, getting rid of DRMs will boost iTunes sales, so Jobs is definitely speaking mostly from the heart.

Interesting response on Mark Cuban's blog. Not what Jobs wants to hear, but Cuban urges the major labels to build a iTunes clone as a joint venture, get rid of DRMs, and monetize both the music and the traffic on their new music purchase platform(via Yahoo's Panama or Google's AdSense). There's a bunch of other great responses out there, but too many to link to.

Once again, sorry for the lack of posts - crazy times in West Phil these days. As I mentioned in the last post, I'll be home for CommunityNext at Stanford this Saturday. Hope to see you there.