Archive for January, 2007

Tonight! Web Monday Silicon Valley

Monday, January 29th, 2007

Welcome to the first Web Monday Silicon Valley in 2007.  Tonight’s talks will look at online communities, structured wiki, group problem-solving, some social networking, and an interesting mashup project.  Oh, and there’s free pizza and beer.

Sign up on the wiki or on Upcoming. Feel free to bring your friends and colleagues.

The benefits of bankruptcy

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

Robert Young at GigaOm: Bankruptcy: The Opportunity to Fail

A former mentor, and a very smart man, once told me that the greatest invention in this democracy and capitalist system we live in and know as the United States is, of all things, bankruptcy. Yep, bankruptcy… the opportunity to fail.


Simply put, we live in a country that encourages dreamers to take risks, and the laws protect those “entrepreneurs” from the potentially excessive consequences of failure. Bankruptcy laws enable risk-takers to protect themselves and start over. There is no other nation on this planet that by its very by-laws fosters such an economic environment. This spirit, the acceptance of failure, while counter-intuitive, is crucial to this country’s enormous success within the world economy.

Sure enough, a couple of folks from Germany weigh in (both are non-German):

Anne Koark says:

I am British and have been living in Germany for 21 years. In 2003 I went bankrupt with my company. Here failure is completely stigmatized. So much so that many entrepreneurs affected by failure are suicidal. …

Anon says:

… I’m also an ex-pat American living in Berlin, Germany. What this country largely lacks is the spark of originality and creativity coming from America’s entrepreneurs. As an American, you take all that for granted until you move away. Americans really have a knack for coming up with new ideas, and should be proud of this.

My fellow Germans: Unless we make it easy to fail, we won’t get anywhere.

The race to reach 1,000,000 supporters on Facebook

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

RunObama.com: Talking ‘Bout An Obama Facebook Revolution

On January 16, someone named Farouk Olu Aregbe created an Obama Facebook Group with the (admittedly) audacious goal of reaching one million members. The group, entitled “Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack)” even had a timeline for reaching one million:

A million members would easily it largest Facebook group period (I believe). And it would dwarf, no swamp, any other single political group out there. For example, The Democratic Party’s Facebook group has only 4,480 members, the College Democrats clock in at 3,374.

But of course, 10,000, which was reached on January 20th, is a long way from 1,000,000.

Yesterday, when I blogged about the group on RunObama.com, I noticed it had grown from 66,599 to 66,730 in a matter of minutes as I was writing about it. Which means the group added 56,730 members in just 5 days, which opened my eyes.

But nothing compared to today, when I logged in at around 3:30pm to find that the group had grown to 90,094 members.

As of right now, the group has 127,774 members.

Via Personal Democracy Forum: One Million Strong for Barack?

Bridging the gap: USA Explained (USA Erklärt)

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

One of the finest blogs I have encountered over the past year (in German): USA Erklärt

Just earlier tonight, I was talking to a fellow SJSU econ student about the importance of “transatlantic translators” between Germany and the US (and vice versa) in order to overcome the pitfalls of commonly accepted stereotypes.

Anyway, Kansas’ or Kansas’s — who’s to judge who’s wrong or right here?

Clinton on Yahoo! Answers

Saturday, January 27th, 2007

The San Jose Mercury News ran this story yesterday: Sen. Clinton adds new twist to Web campaigns

Sen. Hillary Clinton signaled that hers would be an Internet-savvy presidential campaign by announcing her candidacy with a video posted on her Web site and e-mails to supporters. Throughout the week, she has been hosting live video chats. And on Thursday, Clinton held her first townhall meeting in cyberspace.

Clinton, a New York Democrat, used the Yahoo Answers service to ask voters: “Based on your own family’s experience, what do you think we should do to improve health care in America?”

By 5 p.m., Clinton had gotten more than 33,000 answers, making her question the second-most popular in the history of Yahoo Answers. Clinton is trumped by Oprah, who received 37,000 answers to the question: “If you were given $1,000 to change the life of a perfect stranger, what would you do?”

You can see her question her (currently at 36,033 answers and counting): Based on your own family’s experience, what do you think we should do to improve health care in America?

A random glance at some of the top-ranked answers she’s received so far suggests that people are actually responding, making suggestings, sharing their stories.

I think this tells you a number of things:

  • It’s not simply about blogs (or bloggers, for that matter — inviting a few bloggers into your campaign ain’t gonna win you the Presidency).
  • It’s too early to tell who among the candidates really gets it.
  • Looks like at least someone in the Clinton campaign has a clue (who knew?).
  • Health care will be a big issue in ‘08 (some say it will be the issue).

PoliticsBlog agrees: On the Web, Clinton Leads the Pack

And CBS News has this: Meet Hillary 2.0

Clinton entered the presidential race by posting a Web video. And to run its Web operation, her campaign scooped up at least four political bloggers, including Peter Daou, who worked on Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and blogs for Salon and the Huffington Post.

“Internet and technology has become an integral part of politics, and it is a great way for Sen. Clinton to have a conversation with people,” Daou, the campaign’s Internet director, told CBSNews.com. “It is a wonderful democratic medium that allows people to connect with each other and with the campaign.”

The Hillary for President blog is still getting up and running, pending the end of a contest to “write the very first guest post.” According to Daou, thousands of submissions have been received.

Nobody can know for sure how serious Clinton really is about conversation, but according to Wikipedia during her 1999/2000 US Senate campaign she did just that (emphasis mine):

While Clinton had a solid base of support in New York City, candidates and observers expected the race to be decided in upstate New York where 45 percent of the state’s voters live. During the campaign, Clinton vowed to improve the economic picture in upstate New York, promising that her plan would deliver 200,000 New York jobs over six years. Her plan included specific tax credits with the purpose of rewarding job creation and encouraging business investment, especially in the high-tech sector. She called for targeted personal tax cuts for college tuition and long-term care. Clinton began her campaign by visiting every county in the state, in a “listening tour” of small-group settings. During the race, she spent considerable time in traditionally Republican upstate regions.

Listening. What can I say…

Via Blog the Campaign in 08: Hillary Clinton Asks, Yahoo Answers: It’s Healthcare, Stupid

So What

Friday, January 26th, 2007

Miles Davis, Kind of Blue. From the CD cover:

Why another reissue of Kind of Blue?

More than a milestone in jazz, Kind of Blue is a defining moment of twentieth century music, one of those incredibly rare works of art that achieve equal popularity among musicians, critics, and the public at large. The rest of us might tend to agree with Jimmy Cobb, the drummer on the album, who commented of Kind of Blue that it “must have been made in heaven.” Don’t we all enjoy a taste of heaven now and then?

Marvelous.

Jaxtr private beta: Ready to take your phone calls

Friday, January 26th, 2007

I’m playing with Jaxtr:

Jaxtr was founded in October 2005 by Phillip Mobin and Touraj Parang with the mission to bring voice to social networks and blogs. With the free jaxtr service, users can link their phones with their online network to hear from callers worldwide while keeping their existing phone numbers private.

And jaxtr is not just about hearing from people who visit a user’s profile or blog. By adding their jaxtr link to their email signature, global friends can call our users on their phone with the click of the mouse – without downloading any software, incurring international phone charges or even registering for jaxtr.

When users change their work, home or mobile number, they simply add or update their number on jaxtr; incoming calls then get routed to the phone of their choice. They can even block callers from reaching them or specify on a per-caller basis which callers can reach them live and which get routed to voice mail. Isn’t that sweet?

Techcrunch did a little write-up in December: Jaxtr Widget Lets Social Networkers Chat On Real Live Phones

With the launch of jaxtr’s beta, the company also announced that LinkedIn co-founder Konstantin Guericke has joined the company as chief executive officer.

“There is nothing less satisfying than creating a social network page or blog and not getting a response,” said Guericke. “Social networks are a catalyst for people to meet, and jaxtr ‘jacks up’ the power of networks to help users make new connections. By putting a widget on their social network page or blog, jaxtr users can hear from callers worldwide on their existing landline or mobile phone.”

This thing is wired to my cell for now. Feel free to give it a try, just keep in mind I may be in a different time zone than you are (I’m on the West Coast).  Try not to wake me up in the middle of the night.
I get the feeling I need to switch to a three-column design soon to make space for all these widget things.

Liberty Alliance launches openLiberty

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

I met some Liberty people last night and heard they had just launched openLiberty:

The openLiberty effort was established to provide easy access to tools and information that can be used to jump start the development of more secure and privacy-respecting identity-based applications based on Liberty Federation and Liberty Web Services standards. This wiki is part of the openliberty.org portal because so much of this community project requires broad participation and a tool that can handle the collaborative nature of this project. Feel free to sign up for an account and begin to make any changes to the site you feel is helpful. These pages are not moderated at this time so please use your own discretion.

More from the about page:

openLiberty is a community effort started by a handful of us with a common need for open source software to Liberty-enable relying parties in a SOA. The first deliverable we have agreed to is a Java library and reference implementation for what Liberty Alliance calls a Web Services Consumer (play with this flash diagram for a quick sense of how the WSC fits into an identity-enabled SOA).

This project is being bootstrapped by the Liberty Alliance which is a consortium of companies and organizations producing standards and best practices for network identity (protocols and policy practices that deliver security and privacy to portable identities on the network). We believe the standards coming out of Liberty Alliance and their liaison partners (like OASIS) are leading the market and we are investing our time and effort implementing them for relying parties (web sites that will trust an identity assertion from a trusted source). This effort has a life of its own and though we appreciate what Liberty Alliance is doing in bootstrapping this community project, it is the community who will set its own Roadmap.

They do have a blog though at this point it only shows the press release: Press Release announcing openLiberty.org

Jimmy Wales: Three principles for building the Wikipedia community

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

At last week’s Social Media Club meeting in San Francisco, Jimmy Wales of Wikipedia shared some of the guiding principles used for building the Wikipedia community:

  1. “Assume good faith!”
  2. Intentional vulnerability
  3. Accountability rather than gatekeeping

He says these principles also apply to a wide range of internet or social media projects.

You can listen to his 6-minute speech here (starts at around 20′55).

More on AssumeGoodFaith on the Meatball wiki.

Sensemaking how-to

Wednesday, January 24th, 2007

Dan Russell over at Creating Passionate Users has a nice article (part two of a three-part series): Sensemaking 2: What I do to make sense

His personal process is as follows:

  • FIRST: Figure out what it is that you’re trying to understand or get done–let’s call this the domain. This is crucial because you can waste a lot of time doing various experiments or studies on the wrong thing. …
  • SECOND: Collect a lot of information about the domain. I like to read about how others think about the domain, what works and (just as importantly) what doesn’t work. Sometimes people will say how they think about the whole domain, and that’s often incredibly useful because they’ll have already organized things in a way that’s useful. …
  • THIRD: Organize the information. Depending on what the domain is, you might look for an organization that helps you see the entire structure of what’s known, or you might end up building a very detailed model. In almost every case, I spend a lot of time figuring out how to organize the information I have into some kind of representation. …
  • FOURTH: Iterate. Realize that you almost never get it right the first time. Sometimes I’ll get the original domain wrong, and I’ll be studying the wrong thing. Sometimes I’ll collect a lot of junk information that I have to winnow out. And sometimes I’ll just create representations of that information that don’t work out.
  • FIFTH: Do. As in, do whatever it was you wanted when you figured out what the domain was. Research of the kind I work on is always trying to figure out something so you can do the next thing.

I’d be interested in learning more about how sensemaking works, for individuals but also collaboratively among (large) groups, and if and how it can be done over the web. To what extent does divison of labor work here? Can sensemaking be split up into many small tasks so as to allow for more of a swarm approach?

A real-life example as well as third and final part of the series are scheduled to come out later this week.