Archive for January, 2007

Widgets, Shmidgets?

Thursday, January 18th, 2007

Valleywag says the enthusiasm for widgets is “entirely out of proportion to their importance” and gives five reasons why: Against widgets

4. Business model. Finally, enthusiasm for widgets is contributing to unhealthy internet hype. Some companies, such as Imagelooop, are raising money specifically to develop tools for Myspace users. Let’s get something straight here. A widget is an affiliate marketing program, no more, no less; the maker is entirely dependent on the tolerance of the page’s owner or a network such as Myspace. Any widget maker that tries to sneak in their own advertising — and most of them entertain such fantasies — will be swiftly slapped down.

Which is exactly what might be happening right now, as GigaOm reports: MySpace Blocking Widgets?

Our instinct on this one is that it is a test, and FIM is testing how far they can push the widget makers. Saber rattling is the word, but we would appreciate your feedback in realtime. If FIM does decide to erect a toll booth, well the widget economy is going to have its first fiscal crisis. We will follow-up with FIM and find out.

A few more ideas for what could work.

Tony Conrad on startups

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

A hybrid perspective: Tony Conrad, VC investor in Oddpost turned founder of Sphere

What lessons did you learn from Oddpost and other companies you have been involved that can be applied to any startup?

[...]

The lesson is: Always start with an interesting problem to solve. When you start, you don’t know if its a big market. The startup process allows you to better understand how big the problem is that you want to solve and to determine how big the market opportunity is if you solve the problem.

[...]

You have seen it as a VC and and entrepreneur, what are the top three factors that determine success of a startup?

I have worked with several startups as a VC and thinking back, I think some advice I got from Bill Draper early on, really works “Always bet on people, A-quality people won’t chase B-quality opportunities”.

StartupStories has more first-hand startup stories.

Via Thomas Gigold: StartupStories

Wikileaks

Tuesday, January 16th, 2007

Another large-scale wiki project:

Wikileaks is developing an uncensorable Wikipedia for untraceable mass document leaking and analysis. Our primary interests are oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to those in the west who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their own governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact; this means our interface is identical to Wikipedia and usable by non-technical people. We have received over 1.2 million documents so far from dissident communities and anonymous sources.

We believe that transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies. Many governments would benefit from increased scrutiny by the world community, as well as their own people. We believe this scrutiny requires information. Historically that information has been costly - in terms of human life and human rights. Wikileaks will facilitate safety in the ethical leaking movement.

Wikileaks opens leaked documents up to a much more exacting scrutiny than any media organization or intelligence agency could provide. Wikileaks will provide a forum for the entire global community to examine any document for credibility, plausibility, veracity and falsifiability. They will be able to interpret documents and explain their relevance to the public. If a document comes from the Chinese government, the entire Chinese dissident community can freely scrutinize and discuss it; if a document arrives from Iran, the entire Farsi community can analyze it and put it in context.

Who is behind Wikileaks?

Wikileaks was founded by Chinese dissidents, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa.

Our advisory board, which is still forming, includes representatives from expatriate Russian and Tibetan refugee communities, reporters, a former US intelligence analyst and cryptographers.

There are currently 22 people directly involved in the project and counting.

Via SmartMobs: Freedom of Information, the Wiki Way

Jim Lehrer on journalism

Sunday, January 14th, 2007

From Jim Lehrer, probably one of America’s finest journalists (and host of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS): yet more journalism guidelines.

For journalists, obviously, but also for bloggers who claim (or aspire) to be journalists.

Rocky Mountains PBS: Jim Lehrer in Denver

Jim Lehrer, anchor of “The NewsHour,” was in Denver December 8 for a Rocky Mountain PBS 50th anniversary luncheon. Lehrer spoke to a packed room at the Pinnacle Club about his career with “The NewsHour,” his work moderating presidential debates, his new novel — and even his early days as a Continental Trailways ticket agent in Victoria, Texas. Watch portions of Lehrer’s talk by topic or watch the entire speech below.

From his speech:

I was asked whether I had any personal guidelines we use in our practice of journalism on The NewsHour. Here’s part of what I sent them. Our guidelines, my guidelines.

  • Do nothing I cannot defend.
  • Cover, write, and present every story with the care I would want if the story were about me.
  • Assume there is at least one other side or version to every story.
  • Assume the viewer is as smart, and as caring, and as good a person as I am.
  • Assume the same about all people on whom I report.
  • Assume personal lives are a private matter unless a legitimate turn in the story absolutely mandates otherwise.
  • Carefully separate opinion and analysis from straight news stories and clearly label everything.
  • Do not use anonymous sources or blind quotes except on rare and monumental occasions.
  • No one should ever be allowed to attack another anonymously.
  • And finally, I am not in the entertainment business.

Those are our guidelines.

Can you spell “highest standards”?  Setting up a blog is the easy part.

Peuplade — Le premier site de Quartier

Saturday, January 13th, 2007

Interesting neighborhood social networking project from Paris, France: Peuplade

Un site de quartier, pour quoi faire ?

  • Pour redécouvrir son quartier
    Restaurants, ballades, cafés, coins secrets,…
  • Pour échanger biens, services ou coups de main à proximité de chez soi
    Petites annonces, plantes à arroser, chats à nourrir, dépannages, gardes improvisées, courses,…
  • Pour participer aux apéros, sorties et dîners
    Rendez-vous minute au café du coin, pétanques, pots de bienvenue, plans « restau », dîners chez les uns et les autres…
  • Pour participer à des projets de quartier
    Maison de quartier, gazette, court-métrage, groupe solidarité, voyages collectifs, concerts privés,…

Peuplade est en somme un cousin des blogs de quartier, des apéros et repas entre voisins, des maisons des associations, des réseaux d’échange de savoir,…

BBC News reports: Parisian neighbours meet online

Just as most Parisians are too cool to visit the Eiffel Tower, most of us ignore the possibilities for friendships immediately outside our front door.

French social networking website Peuplade aims to bridge that small but often insurmountable gap by putting neighbours in touch with each other. It also wants you to meet people different from your usual crowd.

“In life today we get to meet people in a very specific situation and social background. You meet people from your school, from your family or from your work,” said Jérémie Chouraqui, a lawyer and one of the founders of Peuplade.

“With Peuplade you will meet people that you will usually not get to meet in cities: people with different ages and social backgrounds, but they all live in the same neighbourhood.”

The site is effectively a neighbourhood notice-board which started life in Paris’s 17th arrondisement and is now spreading to the rest of the city.

[...]

Peuplade aims to change the way we make friends and the sort of people we make friends with - when you sign up you leave your prejudices at the door.

“We have a profile page in which we ask you a series of questions. We don’t ask your age, sex or job because that can lead to discrimination. We encourage you to leave a photo or image that moves you, rather than a photo of yourself,” said Stephane Legouffe, a sociologist and one of the co-ordinators of the site.

[...]

Founder Nathan Stern said: “The idea from the start was to create links between people who shouldn’t really meet, who don’t really have an affinity, who aren’t part of the same group or network.

“How do we do that? We go beyond group status and membership and create accidents, chaos. And when you come to these Apero de quartier for a while you develop a familiarity among people who you previously not think of belonging to your world.”

Rules of engagement

Apparently there is a science to this sort of social engineering.

One rule is that breaking the ice is often easier on the net. Another is if you are hosting a party of people who have never met, choose a tiny venue.

It seems elbow-to-elbow people are forced to get along.

Alors, je m’inscris…

FormCamp Munich, February 13-14

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Wow, totally hadn’t heard of this one: FormCamp is happening in Munich this weekend, February 13-14, sponsored by Yahoo.

At FormCamp, they are trying to build an easy-top-use form framework that will help build forms quickly while taking into account things like form validation and overall accessibility.

Via web output: Barcamps 2007 - es geht weiter ab!

US foreign policy in bad shape

Friday, January 12th, 2007

Special comment by MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann last night: Bush’s legacy: The president who cried wolf

Most importantly, perhaps, Mr. Bush, the plan fails because it still depends on your credibility.

[...]

In fact, when you briefed news correspondents off-the-record before the speech, they were told, once again, “if you knew what we knew … if you saw what we saw … ”

“If you knew what we knew” was how we got into this morass in Iraq in the first place.

The problem arose when it turned out that the question wasn’t whether we knew what you knew, but whether you knew what you knew.

You, sir, have become the president who cried wolf.

All that you say about Iraq now could be gospel.

All that you say about Iran and Syria now could be prescient and essential.

We no longer have a clue, sir.

We have heard too many stories.

[...]

Also worth reading is this recent article in the Washington Post by the former national coordinator for counterterrorism, Richard A. Clarke: While You Were at War . . .

Without the distraction of the Iraq war, the administration would have spent this past year — indeed, every year since Sept. 11, 2001 — focused on al-Qaeda. But beyond al-Qaeda and the broader struggle for peaceful coexistence with (and within) Islam, seven key “fires in the in-box” national security issues remain unattended, deteriorating and threatening, all while Washington’s grown-up 7-year-olds play herd ball with Iraq.

The “fires in the in-box”, in his view, are:

  • Global warming
  • Russian revanchism
  • Latin America’s leftist lurch
  • Africa at war
  • Arms control freeze
  • Transnational crime
  • The Pakistani-Afghan border

Not to mention the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where it seems the US has also taken a hands-off approach and pretty much nothing has been achieved over the past six years. That’s very little when you consider that this may well be the root cause for a plethora of other problems in the region and in the world today. The same goes for the conflict between Syria and Israel, or between Syria and Lebanon, or within Lebanon.

That part of the world is a complete mess (at least politically), but the US is not excerting the kind of leadership that’s needed to turn things around.

And in another article in the Washington Post, former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski notes Five Flaws in the President’s Plan (via Before Decisions):

  • The decision to escalate the level of the U.S. military involvement while imposing “benchmarks” on the “sovereign” Iraqi regime, and to emphasize the external threat posed by Syria and Iran, leaves the administration with two options once it becomes clear — as it almost certainly will — that the benchmarks are not being met. One option is to adopt the policy of “blame and run”: i.e., to withdraw because the Iraqi government failed to deliver. That would not provide a remedy for the dubious “falling dominoes” scenario, which the president so often has outlined as the inevitable, horrific consequence of U.S. withdrawal. The other alternative, perhaps already lurking in the back of Bush’s mind, is to widen the conflict by taking military action against Syria or Iran. It is a safe bet that some of the neocons around the president and outside the White House will be pushing for that. Others, such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman, may also favor it.
  • The speech did not explore even the possibility of developing a framework for an eventual political solution. The search for a political solution would require a serious dialogue about a joint American-Iraqi decision regarding the eventual date of a U.S. withdrawal with all genuine Iraqi political leaders who command respect and wield physical power. The majority of the Iraqi people, opinion polls show, favor such a withdrawal within a relatively short period. A jointly set date would facilitate an effort to engage all of Iraq’s neighbors in a serious discussion about regional security and stability. The U.S. refusal to explore the possibility of talks with Iran and Syria is a policy of self-ostracism that fits well into the administration’s diplomatic style of relying on sloganeering as a substitute for strategizing.
  • The speech reflects a profound misunderstanding of our era. America is acting like a colonial power in Iraq. But the age of colonialism is over. Waging a colonial war in the post-colonial age is self-defeating. That is the fatal flaw of Bush’s policy

Lots of potential for a lot of improvement for the next administration.

Who is Chris Dodd?

Thursday, January 11th, 2007

Chris Dodd is a Democratic US Senator from Connecticut. As of today, he’s running for president.

Is there social media? Yes, there is:

Here’s a full-length quote from the initial blog post:

Never before has there been a presidential campaign with so many candidates attempting to recruit and mobilize supporters from within the netroots. Almost all will have blogs looking for their own niche in a crowded field. Some will focus on the wonkish policy details, some will encourage suggestions while providing opportunities for meaningful participation, and some will copy and paste favorable news articles into the body of posts and call it day.

We’ll do all of those things here too.

But at its best, we will provide the kind of “window” into a presidential campaign never seen before while serving as a robust vehicle for two-way communication between Senator Dodd, the campaign, supporters, undecideds and even critics.

That means lots of video — especially the kind of stuff you won’t catch in 30 second clips on the nightly news. It means lots of voices — starting with our internet team, but it also means you will hear directly from Senator Dodd, campaign staff, interns, volunteers, supporters, and again, critics from across the country.

Ultimately, our goals for the campaign blog rely heavily on citizen participation. Of course, comment on the site and upload your photos to the Flickr Group. But we encourage everyone to step outside the box and into the (You)Tubes to add video … both as “reporters” from events nationwide, and also as part of the ongoing “start the conversation” program with Senator Dodd.

That said, take a moment to add the blog’s RSS Feed to your Reader. We look forward to having you check back in and participate often.

Tim Cullen

P.S.: We’ll turn on comments for the blog later today. We promise!

Did I say the 2008 race will be interesting? Oh yeah, baby!

StudiVZ company blog hacked

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

Recently acquired German social network StudiVZ has had a number of security issues over recent months.

In an interview today (Jan 10) with German weekly Manager Magazin, Holtzbrinck Networks CEO Konstantin Urban said:

StudiVZ is a company that has grown extremely fast in recent years, has billions of pageviews, and has a need for massive server capacity. It’s not surprising that there were some technical problems during the time after the company got started.

Of course things had to be revamped, and StudiVZ has done just that. Data security has been established. A short while ago, Chaos Computer Club tried unsuccessfully to hack the system. The site is stable now. …

Translation mine.

Well, as for the security part of what he said, someone must have disagreed.

The official StudiVZ company blog, which is run on Wordpress, has been hacked. At 12.00am, Thursday morning German time, the following message appeared:

Dear StudiVZ folks,

The new official owner of your personal data, Konstantin Urban of Holtzbrinck Ventures, seems to know as much about data security as the wanna-bes whom you have entrusted so many details about yourselves in the past: nothing. He impertinently claims Chaos Computer Club has “unsuccessfully attempted to hack the system” and therefore everything is really secure now.

“Of course things had to be revamped, and StudiVZ has done just that. Data security has been established. A short while ago, Chaos Computer Club tried unsuccessfully to hack the system. The site is stable now.”

[http://www.manager-magazin.de/it/artikel/0,2828,druck-458408,00.html]

Unfortunately, that is completely wrong.

Chaos Computer Club does not participate in these types of “Why don’t you try to hack us?” gimmicks such as the contest announced by Studivz. Regrettably it sometimes happens that some morons claim to act “on behalf of CCC,” as may have happened in this case. However, this has nothing to do with Chaos Computer Club.

Chaos Computer Club is currently dealing with matters of greater importance, e.g. the lost trust in voting computers, the dangers of biometric passports, and the fight against total surveillance from data retention in telecommunications. Maybe you, too, have better things to do than to voluntarily throw your data at a profit-oriented collecting society, and you take care of your own life, the world outside, and the real problems of mankind.

Many thanks

This is a machine-generated message in the interest of public security. It is valid without a signature.

Translation mine.

Whoever is behind this message, at least we know they have a sense of humor.

The posting has been taken down (the entire blog has been offline for the past three hours), though screenshots are already available elsewhere.

Some bloggers speculate that this exploit was may have been used in the attack.

Over at the Blogbar, someone in the comments asks whether the attacker was able to access and change the admin password, knock on the doors of other databases, create dumps, manipulate data etc.

I guess we will find out soon.

Mistakes happen. And I’m usually all for cutting young startups some slack when something gets screwed up (and they do everything they can to fix it). But man, has this been a long series of security mishaps at StudiVZ.

Web Monday, January 2007: Bielefeld, Berlin, Kiel, Stuttgart, Vienna, Bremen, Cologne, Karlsruhe, Jena, Frankfurt, Silicon Valley

Wednesday, January 10th, 2007

With a total of eleven Web Mondays, January is shaping up to be our busiest month yet.

You know what to do:

  • Mark your calendars, spread the word, bring your friends, bring your colleagues (heck, bring your boss)!
  • Share your insights, give a remarkable talk, or demo your hot, new, curve-jumping, paradigm-shifting, patent-pending, world-changing, revolutionary, first-mover app!!
  • Have fun inventing the future of the internet!

January 15:

January 22:

January 29:

One of my key goals for the development and further growth of Web Monday in 2007 is better sharing across what will soon be 20 different locations.

I would like to take the opportunity and encourage everyone to make sure their demos, presentations and talks at every event get recorded or otherwise properly documented (photos, podcasts, videos — you name it) so we can make them available online.

Yes, Web Monday is about to get its own blog shortly (and podcast, I assume).

Happy New Year!