The Power to Dream

Sometimes you underestimate the power of little things. Case in point, the power to dream. As people get more and more experience, imagination starts to take a back seat and you start thinking in terms of what might be possible.

It just struck me at a small gathering. We were planning an event and a group of us were talking about realistic approaches, what kind of strategies would work, what we need to do it. On paper, the obstacles are quite formidable. However, one person had the “vision” or the “dream” and somehow every time he said something there was so much conviction in his vision and hope in his eyes that nothing we could say would diminish it.

So we walked away with a little bit of that hope and started thinking of ways to do it anyway. It’s really amazing how we sometimes hold ourselves back for the stupidest reasons and draw conclusions when we get the greatest reality check for free: reality. Makes you wonder what the point of limiting yourself is when you can just deal with reality and keep adjusting your plans until reality eventually comes around.

GREE Headed for IPO

Yeah, this is old news.  Gree, one of Japan’s largest social networks (at least in the mobile arena, No. 2 or 3 depending on who you ask) is headed for an IPO.  The timing couldn’t be worse with the sub-prime global meltdown, especially considering all the paperwork and red tape involved and all the restrictions following the IPO, but there you have it.


GREE was actually the first social networking service in Japan but were surpassed by Mixi relatively quickly and haven’t regained momentum until recently (by bolstering their mobile offerings).  They currently have 7 million users (as of October 19, 2008) with gross revenues of around $29 million.  Another interesting note is that the founder Tanaka Yoshikazu still holds a 62.4% stake in the company.  I wonder what their market cap will be after the dust settles.  I think speculators are going to jump on this due to a lack of any clearly exciting IPOs with the meltdown and their astounding growth of recent years.



The Joys of Reading

Been using as much free time as possible to read. It’s not that I haven’t been reading anything these past couple of years. If anything I’ve been reading tons of blogs and postings of various sorts. However, it’s apparent that the words you see on a screen are not the same as the words your read on a printed page. Books are simply a different beast as you concentrate across the span of several hundred pages as a narrative unfolds across the span of either hours or days. It just uses a different part of your brain. I like reading outside my current profession, which is programming. History, literature, and sometimes a little marketing or business.

Of course, reading takes up a lot of time and concentration so I no longer have that much time to watch many movies but I can definitely feel my brain really getting engaged. The funny thing is that since taking up reading in earnest, I’ve been performing much better at programming. Although, programming also involved a lot of writing and reading of code, they are completely different fields. However, it does seem to provide a tangible benefit.

I might cut back a little on my weekend reading though so I can work on some more weekend projects and maybe brush up a bit on technical stuff. I also need to catch up with some TV.

Jason Calacanis at Tokyo 2.0

I somehow managed to catch Jason Calacanis on his very first visit to Japan ever making a presentation at Tokyo 2.0. I was just going over my notes only to be a bit shocked to see that I could of read most of these by subscribing to his email list as shown in this post.

But to be fair, there’s also a lot that he said that wasn’t in the post and he’s a great speaker who does a great job of delivery, it was well worth the journey to see the real man in action. Now I can at least pretend that we’re actually Facebook friends since I shook his hand in real life.

Below are my notes:

TechCrunch 50, the Sundance Film Festival of Silicone Valley

U.S. is the best represented and Israel the second with 7 presentations and Japan came in third with 3 startups making their pitch.

Next round is next September

250 pitches are made to Jason lasting 10-15 minutes over the phone

The Future of Startups Under the Economic Climate We Face

Flying Cars versus Electric Cars

Who knows when flying cars will arrive? Some say 2 years and others say 30 years or more but in some ways it’s arrived yet in a sense it never has.

Electric cars in contrast have constantly arrived and re-arrived on the scene. The first was Edison’s model in 1913 followed by GM in 1973, the Vanguard-Sebris in 1974, GM’s EV-1 in 1999 that got destroyed by GM and the Tesla Roadster coming in 2008.

The point: the future constantly plays with us and it’s the entrepreneur’s task to make it happen, but it’s hard and will only get harder.

Personally experienced 3 boom/bust cycles.

The global financial crisis puts us at a unique point in history where the whole world gets to experience the same recession, so how do you innovate in a recession?

Zero Cost Startups

From 1995-2000 it would take more than $2 million to create an IT startup (see slides below)

Now you can do the same with Amazon infrastructure, recruit through social networks, work from home/co-location office/distributed.

Stocks have their ups and downs but the internet is still steadily rising whether it be time online, money spent online, internet access per capita, etc.

Experiences Over Expenses

In a recession, people postpone spending.

Internet usage goes up as free time increases.

Some laid off people started:

  1. partying more => Facebook
  2. taking more pictures => Flickr
  3. got into relationships => eHarmony
  4. find others with similar interests => Meetup

In a down market, people build out of need and not greed.

Companies founded on passion will outperform companies founded for economic gain.

Everything that can be tried will be tried.

The best things are made by people for themselves.

Trust and Curation are the Future

Today we have anonymity, marketers and shady characters.

Need to find a way to add trust to combat anonymity.

There is no wisdom in crowds only in those that control them.

Need a stronger foundation through the process of curation.

Surviving is Innovation

It takes years to make a truly great company.

Many of the great companies of the day are built upon ideas of Web 1.0 companies that died (Friendster to Myspace, Facebook)

Some of the great ideas from web 1.0 are yet to be implemented even as web 2.0 is coming to an end.

Build something that you love with patience and only worry about survival.

Survival is what separates the real entrepreneurs.




Categories: web

Facebook Marketing

Like many books of its kind based on websites, Facebook Marketing spends a lot of time on basic usage with more than ample screenshots. The book is mainly written from the perspective of a person successfully marketing real estate on Facebook. Unfortunately, most of the screenshots are obsolete due to recent interface changes and one of the prime examples of marketing discussed in the book, leveraging network pages is completely irrelevant now that the network page feature has been completely phased out by Facebook.
Of course, if you know nothing about social marketing, this book will teach you the importance of building meaningful social connections within Facebook, leveraging the various social features to get your message out, using Facebook advertising to maximum effect, and what things to avoid if you don’t want to get blocked by Facebook.

Facebook Marketing: Leverage Social Media to Grow Your Business by Steve Holzner

Beyond Rape

This is one of those rare pieces of long form journalism that tells so much through one traumatic event: a woman reporter’s rape. Joanna Conners, a reporter covering the theater, is raped in a deserted theater by a young African-American young man. The rapist died of cancer while locked up for the crime many years ago. After more than two decades, Joanna shares her story and in the process takes us on a journey to find out who her rapist is and finally putting the story behind her by sharing it with the world.

Rape is a powerful taboo, even more potent in this age of so-called technological enlightenment because its continued existence in modern society taunts our notions of civility and reveals certain humans to be driven by primal rage against nothing and everything. Victims are forced to face all their inner fears now dragged out into the open or spend hopeless attempts to rationalize what went on. We can all walk in the dark as long as we can pretend that everything is alright until something bad happens. Like any disaster, the crime itself may only be minutes, infinitely long minutes, that play out consequences across the span of a victim’s life.

The act of rape forces Joanna to experience some of the same pain the rapist and his dysfunctional family faced all their lives: the rapist’s sisters all go through prostitution, rape and drug addiction at one point. Was the rapist a young black man whose potential was smothered by a racist society and abusive childhood? We’ll never know the answer to that since the rapist grew up committing crimes, never holding a regular job.

The most amazing thing about this piece is Joanna’s honesty in telling the story, to reveal how repressed thoughts of seeming racist by not trusting a young stranger simply because he was African-American made her ignore warning lights had she been in the same situation with someone white or how her notions of feminism or feminist empowerment made her less attuned to guard her personal safety.

Ironically, it’s the rapist’s last victim that gives voice to the plight he lived. Another young black man locked up, who comes from an abusive family, grows up in poverty, lives a life of crime, and finally gets put away, only to die from cancer. Poverty and dysfunctional families drive a vicious cycle where many members of the victim’s extended family continue to repeat a history of crime across many generations. However, would a redistribution of wealth be the only thing needed to break the chain of violence shackling the modern inhabitants of America’s inner cities?

Beyond Rape: A Survivor’s Journey, Part 1 Beyond Rape: A Survivor’s Journey

Categories: web

So Now Your Hobby’s a Job and Other Random Thoughts

Back in the day, the web used to be my hobby. Programming started as a hobby very late in life as well. Now it pays the rent. I wont pretend and say it was purely for fun. I thought it would be not only cool to bring my web ideas to life as well as get paid to do it or even score a hit. Now that I’m fully in the heart of it, it kinda makes you think. What happens when your hobby becomes a job?

It’s really weird that I sit in an office with other people clacking away at a computer, getting toked up on gobs of coffee, while a bunch of other dudes get paid to do the same. It’s weird that the thing paying our rent isn’t much more than a popular web site. The program powering it is nothing more than a collection of words that follow a certain logical structure that can be translated into pictures and machine instructions that users can interact with and keep them coming back. I often think it’s awesome that I can do almost the exact same thing I was doing at home on my own time getting paid.

The benefit of working is that there’s a lot more at stake. When I came up against a difficult problem before, I’d lie down and think about it. Nine times out of ten I’d fall into a nap and just clack away on my own sweet time. Now, I don’t have that luxury so I just keep typing, keep experimenting, keep banging my head against the wall until I come up with a solution or get bloodied up enough to think that I have at least made some progress.

There’s a lot of opportunity for growth their but it comes at a price. I have to take better care of myself, be more aware. I suppose that’s a post for another day or maybe like an hour later. It’s definitely changed the way I look at the game. To tell you the truth I don’t see all that much excitement in the web. I think the world agrees.

Microsoft making a bid for Yahoo! just drives home how much of a solid and ultimately dead industry traditional IT is. Apple as a company is starting to scare me. They’re much more dangerous than Microsoft ever was in their prime because Microsoft was ultimately tied to the crappy products they wrote, just look at Vista. Their code base is so full of holes that there’s no way to keep the momentum save a good solid rewrite and you know what a disaster that is going to be. It took OS X a good decade before it became what it is in terms of solidity and performance but look at the mess Apple is cleaning up after Leopard (10.5.2 will finally be the release that should have been if there are no further issues).

Apple scares me because they have all the technology in place to do all the things like IBM, Sony, Microsoft, and even Yahoo at one point tried to do and fail. They’ve got the whole spectrum of consumer experience under control with everything from music, movies, to computers. They’ve got it all wrapped up in one nice package that’ll lock you in to their world and here’s the scary part, we’re all thankful for it (at least those of us that buy their stuff). It’s only a matter of time before they get over ambitious and get bashed. Jobs is not a changed man, he’s just older and still plotting his next move. He’s still the same control freak with a little more new age sprinkle and a brush with death.

It’s the only company that can really deliver a total experience that can wow the consumer while giving advanced users access to some amazing technology (at least when Apple engineers aren’t busy screwing things up with various “hot fixes” to keep prying paws out). All the other software companies were busy leveraging closed source or building third-rate software products in house that fail to deliver on any level. I hate to admit it but playing with apple products like the iPod Touch is like holding the future in my hands right now. They just kill the competition. I can watch a movie on my MacBook, grab my iPod Touch and pick up exactly where I left the movie without fiddling with a thing.

Maybe it’s paranoia but I can guarantee you that I’ll be spending more and more time at the terminal, playing with the UNIX back end for my own personal growth and as insurance for some other day. I really wish Microsoft would just give up the ghost so some kind of UNIX collective can build an operating system to at least compete with Apple at a viable level. I guess I can dream.

Categories: web

Gratuitous Post on MySQL Acquisition

I sincerely hope that Sun is no longer the place that promising ideas and projects go to die. To be fair they’ve been innovating and open-sourcing some great stuff like zfs, solaris and java. Of course, having a pony-tailed CEO is not the same as having a coherent strategy. If you consider the potential of MySQL the acquisition price seems like a major bargain. They were also on the brink of making an IPO. I wonder why they bailed at the last minute?

As mentioned in the official posts, a lot of IT departments actually want to pay for open source offerings. It helps sooth the accounting department and it acts as a safety net for incompetent or inexperienced engineers to deploy technology. It hardly matters if they’re the exact same product. I had the recent pleasure of using Red Hat Enterprise Linux on a server. There’s really not much different from CentOS (its open source counterpart) and in fact you can upgrade/switch RHEL to CentOS seamlessly. The only difference is you can’t use RHEL’s up2date package management without registering an email address and having a valid support contract (this one ran out). I had to think for a minute, okay I need to register an email and pay for support or switch to the open source version where this just works out the box. I wonder.

I guess that’s the reality of enterprise software vending. I’m not saying engineers in large organizations are all third-rate. However, they do attract their share of people with all the right credentials and none of the required skills. There are brilliant hackers in any organization but a lot of the really brilliant engineers strike out on their own or are attracted to organizations with the most toys, intellectual stimulation, and freedom. Right now that’s Google. They’re also the least likely to let a vendor dictate the terms.

The reason I took this digression is that there’s not escaping the fact that IT will continue to grow and make inroads into the corporate even more than it is now. Unfortunately, engineering talent doesn’t grow on trees. This means that you have to adjust for the quality of recruits by other means and in many cases that might mean enterprise support. We’ll see how it all plays out. The people at MySQL certainly deserve the recognition and cash for all they’ve done. Of course, the community plays a major part in an open source project of this scale but sometimes we tend to forget the importance and difficulty of fostering such a community and this is where MySQL shines.

Categories: web

Developing Web Apps on Windows

I finally got my windows environment up to par though I still have some ways to go. In a sense I’m not really developing on windows since I log in to a regular UNIX server where I check out code and run vim remotely to write the web app. As long as I’m using putty, GNU screen and the Osaka font (which is a nice clone of mac’s Monaco font for the windows platform) it’s really hard to even think I’m even on windows. I guess in a sense a blessing that I don’t have any of my shiny mac apps since it would cut into productivity.

Right now I’m basically writing code on the server via GNU screen (so I can resume coding when I cut my internet connection) and running a test server that connects with the windows Apache to test code. Of course, I could be doing a lot of this out of the box with the mac but once you get a development environment going none of it really matters. I’m just happy that it wasn’t as much of a royal pain as I initially thought.

Did Blogs Kill StumbleUpon?

Now, read this post carefully before you go ballistic over the title alone. To my SU friends, please ignore and move on as it doesn’t concern you nor is it about you. Don’t get me wrong, I still love StumbleUpon.

It’s also a boon for smalltime bloggers that holds us through the “dog days” of blog traffic. For small time bloggers it’s hard to keep up quality output or sometimes we let a little time pass before a post or two. At which point, all readers including your mother have moved on to more popular blogs.

Still, I’ve noticed a dramatic decline in the quality of stumbles since bloggers caught on to SU. Every other stumble is a blog. Some of them are lackluster opinion pieces (like this) and others are just spam trash. There used to be a time when SU actually gave me stuff I would never find on my own in a very good way. Now it serves me stuff I would never seek out on my own. It still has its moments occasionally and I’m sure most of the problems are due to bloggers promoting their stuff (which should not affect overall performance ever because we’ll do whatever the rules allow and then some because we DO believe our stuff is good whether others agree or not).

Here’s the button we really need on the toolbar:

I guess it’s easy to maintain quality when you have a relatively small and very passionate user base. Probably why Google stays number 1. They still manage to keep the trash at manageable levels. Whatever they learn about filtering I hope they pass on to Ebay.