Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for September, 2007

Vista rants continued – tablet issues

Posted by shannonclark on September 28, 2007

If you follow my twitter feed you know that for the past few days I have been having another round of major problems with Vista (and some non-MSFT related issues with mail servers and mail clients).

I just rebooted my tablet and this time I timed how long it took from the login screen to having Firefox restored and back functional. It took almost exactly 7 minutes. In my book that is about 6 minutes too long and even that is pushing it, there is no excuse for why a modern laptop should take over 5 minutes to boot up and start a basic application such as Firefox. I am not starting a ton of unusual applications (anti-virus software, skype, google chat, my laptop’s power management applications, and that’s about it).

The full process to shutdown and reboot often takes 10 minutes or more, rarely if I’m lucky it takes less than 10 minutes. Even just trying to put my laptop into sleep mode (so it shouldn’t drain the battery while in my bag) can often take a couple of minutes!)

I posted a bunch of my recent issues as a comment on a post about similar Vista rants.

Here are a few of my major issues currently with Vista. I am running Vista on a Lenovo X60 tablet which I purchased earlier this year. It is a dual-core Intel system, with 1 GB of ram, a 1400×1050 resolution tablet screen, a 100+gb hd, and otherwise fairly standard but generally high end components. It is not a gaming laptop so the graphics card is not insane, nor are my cores of the absolute fastest speeds, but it is also claimed to get up to 8hrs of battery life with the battery combinations I have (that claim like so much else about this laptop is, however, false). Since I have owned it in essence most of the parts of the laptop other than the hard drive have been replaced – I have a new screen (my old one was defective) and a new systemboard (either also defective or rendered defective when the screen was replaced).

Earlier this month I crashed Windows Explorer. In a manner that generated a C++ error message. And then rendered a user experience of Windows without any icons or taskbar. Oh, what did I do to crash Windows Explorer? I copied files from a zip folder (I think my problem was I was trying to copy two different folders from the same zip folder at the same time).

I should note, my system was fully patched when this happened – and I run antivirus software etc frequently – so my issues were not spyware or virus related – they were simply a major and fatal system error.

That’s a single event, but I have more frequent issues with Vista.

1. Many, many times when I wake up from an extended sleep (like say letting my laptop recharge overnight) Vista insists on resetting my screen resolution. Not immediately, no, it wakes up (slowly), even connections (or tries to) back to the wifi, then suddenly the screen will freeze, go completely black, and a few minutes later (and I’m not exaggerating it literally will be frozen for a few minutes) it will wake back up but with the screen resolution set to 1040×768 (my screen is really 1400×1050). I have to manually reset the screen resolution (and of course this resizes any windows I might have had open at the time).

2. I mentioned above “tries to reconnect to wifi”. Not infrequently when Vista wakes up from sleep, my wifi will enter into a state where though the wireless device is active and sees networks, it is unable to actually establish an internet connection, it will connect locally, but not to the internet. The issue is not always with the servers as usually a reboot will fix this problem. But note, a “reboot” takes my laptop about 10 minutes – and that’s a good day, it can be more.

3. On my 2007 edition laptop, running the latest, fully patched OS (Vista Business Edition), my laptop often freezes for no apparent reason. My mouse will stop moving, if I am typing my text no longer shows up (as if the computer has to catch up with my typing) and it can literally be many minutes before it unfreezes, if at all. As well applications for no readily apparent reason will display “not responding” often for many minutes at a time, in these cases other applications may (or more often may not) still function and sometimes I still have mouse movement – but often that to stops after a bit. I should note, I am not recompiling massive applications or running Second Life or a major high end game or editing application – the applications I am usually running that cause these issues are: Firefox (latest version with minimal extensions), Outlook 2007, or other Office 2007 applications. All fully legal, professional installations – not running beta code or anything strange – just trying to do plain vanilla tasks like manage my contacts & calendar or edit a presentation. I rarely have more than 10 tabs open in Firefox (usually less). And I am not running anything else major (no bittorrent clients or the like just google chat & skype) I also often have iTunes open but generally not all the time.

In short a typical business professional use of Vista. Nothing too intensive and certainly not usage that should freeze a modern system. Sure, I have a lot of email (a few GB’s worth in my main system, but because it is so slow and nearly totally unresponsive I actually don’t usually use Outlook all that much (which is a major professional issue, I really do need to have a full featured and usable contact manager which will sync with my iPhone and with web services such as Plaxo – I have 1000’s of contacts + 1000’s of business cards from new contacts which I need to enter – but the constant freezes and the sheer pain of using this system have delayed me. Likewise I have a lot of serious Excel work I need to do, also around deep data gathering and modeling and the near impossibility of having this laptop work reliably have delayed that work as well.

So this is a completely unacceptable situation. I may try adding more memory (I have room to add a 2gb dimm) but it is such a painful process to figure out what dimm this system needs and order it I have also been avoiding that (and I am likewise not looking forward to then installing that memory – the design of the tablet does not make that all that trivial unfortunately). But I do not think all of my issues are a result of memory – when I launch the task manager and watch the performance measures, the memory and the CPU will often spike to 100% – which is just insane given the rather lightweight tasks I’m actually doing.

And this system also freezes on other tasks which should be easy. With nothing else running other than iTunes, playback of shows I have purchased is often halting and slow, with the audio and video sometimes getting out of sync (the same files however play back perfectly – and indeed more enjoyably and smoothly on my iPhone, which I should note is running a vastly slower processor and graphics chip than this laptop is – at least in theory)

My point is that there is something seriously wrong with Vista. Perhaps also with the design of this tablet, but if Lenovo/ThinkPad is having issues, then likely ALL laptops running Vista have issues – ThinkPads have long had a reputation as some of the best and most reliable of professional laptops. My previous laptop was a workhorse which though I tortured never gave me anything like the types of problems I am having with this current system.

I do not think it is asking too much in 2007 to have a laptop that performs better than machines I owned 5+ years ago.

Here are the specs of what I would ideally like to own – if you know of a company that makes this please leave a comment (and I’m more than happy to review a trial version of such a system):

– weight of LESS than 5 lbs. This is a deal breaker (literally for my back). I walk 4+ miles EVERY DAY. Every pound that goes into my bag I feel. My fantasy is a laptop that w/power supply is less than 5lbs, I’ll settle for a system that is <6lbs with power supply. I currently sacrifice having an optical drive in part to achieve this weight target, though I did buy a larger/heavier battery to try to meet my next goal

– real world working capacity of at least 6 hours with 8 hours the ideal without needing to be plugged in. i.e. can be used on a cross-country trip, or in cafes over the course of a day without needing to fight for an outlet. I don’t need to do this while watching videos the full time or while working with a very bright screen, but it should accommodate using wifi for the duration (i.e. being connected to the web the whole time)

– screen resolution of at least 1400×1050 and higher is better. My entire work is information – as an entrepreneur I am pulling in information from many sources and massaging it, the more pixels in front of me,the more I can work with and monitor. I refuse to go back to lower resolutions

– at least 100gb of internal storage, these days I’d probably ideally want 250+gbs

– full range of USB, firewire, etc ports. With option for adding an EVDO card in the future.

– great keyboard (ThinkPad’s have spoiled me, they really are lightyears better than most other laptops) and I have gotten used to a trackpoint w/multiple buttons (I use the right mouse button a lot, many times nearly every hour, it is a core part of my workflow).

– tablet functionality would be nice, but not a complete deal breaker – though if my system was more reliable and stable, I would likely use the tablet features more often. I want to be able to use the machine without a barrier between me and others (when in a meeting, at a conference, or giving a pitch). I also want to be able to generate content such as quick sketches of an idea or workflow and tablets make this easy – if all the rest of the applications don’t crash or freeze.

I’m not overly fussy about the rest of the specs, though ideally the system should have standard components everywhere – ideally all ones which have open source drivers (which implies they should also have good drivers for Vista though that may be stretching a point). I’m not ruling out a Mac, but the lack of a second mouse button (or a trackpoint) and the keyboards are really strong negatives – the weight and relatively poor battery life are my major other issues. The OS however is lightyears ahead of Vista.

I have been told that there are some systems that come close in Asia, though when I last looked the really ultalightweight systems had lower screen resolutions than I really want, but perhaps that is slowly changing. Certainly the current iPhones and new iPods show that pixel densities continue to get denser (though perhaps they have issues scaling up to laptop screen sizes).

But more than anything else, I want a system that is rock solid and fast and lightweight.

Update – reports on the beta of Vista SP1 indicate that some of my issues may (emphasis on may) be corrected. Note this post on the Microsoft Windows team blog about the beta. In particular, note that he has the same issues I have about losing wifi on wake up from hibernation and some of my other issues as well.

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Posted in microsoft, personal, reviews, tablet pc, working | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Launching a new Ad Network – or why this blog is a tad silent

Posted by shannonclark on September 27, 2007

In the next few weeks I anticipate seeing the above street sign more than a few times as I start a series of meetings and phone calls. Some along Sand Hill Road (and elsewhere) as we start raising money, and many others across the Bay Area (and perhaps in other states) as we line up the first partners for our new ad network, Nearness Function.

Needless to say, while I may make it to an occasional event, such as STIRR Founder’s Hacks, for the most part my time and energy for the next few weeks (hmmm probably next few years) will be dedicated to Nearness Function.

So what is Nearness Function?

Nearness Function is an ad network for dynamic content.

What does that mean?

Nearness Function is an ad network for publishers of AJAX applications, Flash Apps (and yes, this includes games), Java applications (including on mobile phones), widgets (where ads are allowed) and other forms of rich, dynamic content, the stuff that often is labeled “Web 2.0”. If you are technically inclined, think of Nearness Function as an advertising network with an API (well when we launch fully). If you are not technically inclined, think of Nearness Function as working to sponsor and enrich the most interesting and vibrant applications on the web today.

Oh, and Nearness Function is designed to also help support new, non-browser based applications – mobile applications, streaming content, and potentially downloaded content where commercial messages make sense (some videos and podcasts perhaps).

We start, however, from a focus on enriching the individual user experience. So we will not work with all advertisers, nor will we offer all types of ads (you won’t see us serving up pop ups/pop unders). Our view is that where appropriate, where the messages are highly targeted and relevant (and fully disclosed as being commercial messages) there is a valuable and enriching role for commercial messages. Not at all times or at all points in the use of an application or service – but at the right time with the right messages everyone benefits.

Individuals have a better experience and are made aware of brands and opportunities they value.

Application providers make money and have happy, even thrilled users.

And the commercial parties (i.e. advertisers) reach their targeted audiences with relevant, often actionable messages. Building brands and sparking specific, immediate actions.

How can you participate?

Nearness Function is in the very early days. As I alluded to above, we are likely going to be raising a funding round this fall. Even before that, however, we are putting together a series of trials this fall. These trials will involve a select group of advertisers and a carefully selected group of application publishers. Real ads will be placed and paid for during these trials – and the full specifications for the technology we are building will be shaped during these trials.

If you are an advertiser, willing to work with a new advertising network, and interested in reaching individuals where they are spending time and attention today (and even more so into the future) please contact me directly – shannon AT nearnessfunction.com. or call me at 1.800.454.4929.

If you are a software company who want to enrich your applications with well targeted advertising – whether you are delivering services via AJAX, Java, Flash, or another technology also get in touch with me directly.

It is still the very early days, but we are happy to talk with the press or event organizers about what we are building. Both myself and my business partner, David Spector, are available as speakers, either on Nearness Function or on the multitude of other projects we have each worked on in the past. Please sent a note to press AT nearnessfunction.com.

So if this blog is a tad quiet for the next few weeks – this is why… I’ll post when we have more news and definitely when we start hiring.

Oh and if you have examples of great (or terrible) advertising, especially as a part of a dynamic application, please leave a comment here and/or contact me directly, we are collecting best practices to publish and share with publishers and advertisers.

Posted in advertising, economics, Entrepreneurship, networks, venture capital, web2.0 | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

If you have sent me mail in the last 24hrs…

Posted by shannonclark on September 26, 2007

And I haven’t replied, please resend it – but DO NOT use my @jigzaw.com address. That mailserver is, apparently, receiving my mail (or at least not sending bounce messages) but I, in turn, am currently unable at all to access those mails (they are supposed to be forwarded but that started to fail some point last night)

So, instead please contact me at shannon DOT clark AT gmail.com (or if you have my new card, you have my other less public addresses).

And if you have any suggestions for a good, reliable, mail server host – and how to migrate from one host to another without losing messages – I’m all ears. (at the moment however I can’t seem to do a backup of my old domain including of the mailboxes for the mail on that server – very annoying)

Posted in internet, personal | Leave a Comment »

Being a bit political – this is the land of the free right?

Posted by shannonclark on September 21, 2007

Okay I have to get this off my chest. I am not normally overly political on my blog, I am deeply passionate about politics – but as a centrist, independent, neither of the major US parties really represent me so my options often have been the lesser of two evils (and on national campaigns the first few times I voted I went with a third party).

But I am also proud to be a US citizen, even today.

The news of late has been full of stories about how the President of Iran who will be in the US visiting the UN is not going to be “allowed” to visit Ground Zero. Full of stories and outraged folks saying that he should be prevented from visiting there, that he should not be allowed there etc.

I can see the logic (if barely) to the extent that he might have asked to go down into the pit, onto the actual worksite of Ground Zero (i.e. not to the public spaces and viewing/memorial spaces around it) but isn’t the US supposed to be a free country? Aren’t we supposed to be a land where our citizens, and our visitors and guests here, are allowed to go where they want on public spaces, to have free speech in those spaces, and have a right of free assembly etc?

I think the reaction is a worrying sign, a sign that we as a country (and our politicians) are increasingly scared of actual freedom, actual liberty, actual discourse and engagement with those with whom we disagree.

I am Jewish by ethnicity if not by active religious practice, I find the President of Iran’s comments in the past and support of Holocust deniers to be reprehensive. But, and this is a very big but, I think we are ill served by not engaging with him, by not letting him see our country while he is here, not bear personal witness to the site of Ground Zero.

In many other areas of politics and economics (which is more the frequent topic of my blog) I see a similar trend, an avoidance of those who might disagree with us, a refusal to allow for freedom of movement, an increasingly restrictiveness across many sectors. Here in the US it is now incredibly difficult for many non-US citizens to visit the US, whether as tourists, students, or workers (legally). Visa take more and more time to get and are seemingly revoked at a whim.

As a conference organizer I have to give a lot of consideration to issues of visas if I were to invite non-US citizens to speak at my conference. I also have to think a lot about what might happen if non-US citizens have problems getting into the country to attend my event. It is clear to me that this is having a major impact on people’s decisions about studying in the US and about their choices of where to work and what events to attend. In turn the fewer and fewer non-US citizens who are engaged at US events, teaching and attending at US universities, and working (or investing) in US companies the less engaged with the rest of the world we as a country will be.

In the next few months as we seek funding for my current company we will be grappling with some of these issues of engagement with the world. Our company will be providing advertising to publishers of online applications – in turn on average today most of these publishers see 60% or more of their traffic and users from outside of the US. To work with them and there users in turn we will need to be actively engaged outside of the borders of the US.

It will be a challenge – and one which is ill-served by the current political trends here in the US. By political here I am not solely talking about our public officials and politicians, I mean the tenor of the public discourse, the easy assumption that a visitor on our shores can and should be denied access to public spaces – that we should shy away from engaging with and discourse with those with whom we disagree – that not talking, not engaging, actively avoiding is apparently a wise strategy by current popular opinion.

Okay, got that off my chest.

Posted in personal, politics | 3 Comments »

The use and abuse of copyright – thoughts on presentations at TechCrunch40

Posted by shannonclark on September 19, 2007

disclaimer – I am not an attorney, so do not take anything here as a legal opinion. That said, I have many friends who are lawyers, many who are creators of lots of copyrighted works, and quite a few whose companies are built on the use of copyrighted works – in a legal manner. I am also a supporter of Creative Commons and use CC licenses on much of my own creative output.

On stage at TechCrunch 40 earlier this week I saw a nearly unbelievable amount of misuse of copyright. Much of it was simple and almost certainly not intended to offend, but startup after startup used unlicensed images from across the web (or ripped from other media), many used clips from Hollywood movies, and in many cases this use extended beyond the PowerPoint they showed on stage to their live website and application.

At least one company has already been called out in public by my friend Scott Beale – at least they have apologized in the comments and removed the infringing photos from their site. In their case they abused a cc licensed work, perhaps not realizing that there are many variations of such licenses each which allow different uses and require different acts. In Scott’s case he does not allow commercial use of his works, and in the case of non-commercial use he requires attribution and spells out clearly how he wants that attribution. He has at times allowed commercial use of his images – but only when as his license requires the company in question has asked him and gotten permission, usually he asks for some attribution.

In general however there did not seem to be a realization in the presentations by many of the companies (there were, thankfully a few exceptions) that using other people’s images, videos, and music without permission or a license (including abiding by a CC license) is a bad idea. Further that it could include very real legal issues – far beyond a small specific infringement – in many cases I think a strong case could be made on the basis of the company’s fairly public demo at TC40 that they as a company were encouraging infringement in the use of their application – i.e. that their application is built with the intent to infringe copyright. In turn, that could lead to very serious legal issues – not just for the company but also for the founders individually should the company be sued.

[did I mention, I’m not a lawyer, go talk with your lawyer about these issues. Also, consider attending the EFF’s Bootcamp on Compliance for Web 2.0 companies being held on Oct. 10th ]

In all fairness I should note that in the final grouping of startups on stage at TechCrunch 40 there were a bunch who did the right thing in their presentations and even more importantly in the underlying design of their applications. They talked about the rights of the creators of the content (even when that content was “user generated” – and in fact took steps to have proven to them that the people who submit the content have the rights to that content they are submitting. In other cases the companies showed working with bands to promote their content and offer an experience for their fans. I commented to many people that the final group of companies clearly “got” rights issues. They used cc works in the right way, gave attribution even in the course of using works in their business presentations, and showed business models that respected the rights of content creators and owners.

Refreshing.

But far too rare.

UPDATE – Don Dodge summed up the issues and his comments in a great post about copyright law and the presentations at TechCrunch 40

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, venture capital, web2.0, working | Leave a Comment »

post TechCrunch 40 thoughts – part one

Posted by shannonclark on September 19, 2007

I have just returned home from the second day of TechCrunch 40, Jason Calacanis’s and TechCrunch’s very good new conference, held a week before DEMO. The conference was great and I had an incredible time. Lots of great conversations, interesting companies on stage, in the demo pit and in random conversations over meals. We are building a new ad network – in the past two days I’ve had great conversations with potential investors, publishers, a few potential advertisers, and many friends who have offered feedback and in quite a few cases offers of relevant introductions when the time is right.

I also managed, as has now become a bit of a typical pattern for me, to order all the food for dinner the last two nights (well tonight only for our table of 11 out of the three+ large tables of TC40 attendees). Had dinner with, among others, MC Hammer.

My attendance at TV40 was the result of helping a friend of a friend. I was asked if I could host a visiting entrepreneur who was exhibiting in the Demo Pit. Not a problem at all and it was my pleasure to do so (I have plenty of space and always enjoy having guests here for a few days). When he arrived he mentioned that he had an extra pass, would I want to use it?

So thus I had a pass. I spent most of Monday, however, as Robert Scoble notes in his flickr “Shannon Clark – holding court” outside the main spaces of the conference.

This post will be on my feedback on the TC40. My next post will have a specific gripe I have with a LOT of the presentations (and more generally with many – perhaps most – startup presentations, and in some cases business models/lack of them).

  1. TechCrunch 40 drew a really good audience. A mix of entrepreneurs, strongly of the non-funded/not much past seed/small first round stages, and investors. There were also a smattering of other professionals (though many of those in attendance were sponsors, or PR professionals there with clients). Perhaps it was because the press were in front or in the press room but the press presence, while strong and good was not overly dominating or intense. Though I did see a great mix of tech press at the conference and I’m starting to see the articles and blog posts already
  2. TechCrunch 40 proves how hard it is to scale a conference past about 500 people – the 750-1000 person conference may be one of the hardest sizes of events to hold comfortably and successfully. The Palace hotel as the spaces were used by TC40 has two main rooms which could handle 400-500 people (at the very most) as laid out (i.e. in classroom format with tables for people to use their laptops).
  3. I do not know the solution – more spaces need to be found which have rooms that seat 1000+ people Ideally in classroom seating – which implies up to 2000 or so people in auditorium seating. (the difference is a table, no table means no power usually but also about twice as many seats. One option at the Palace might be to rearrange the seating so that press had tables up front, then a LOT of auditorium styled seating (so laptops not actively encouraged) with an outer ring of additional tables for people who need laptops open.
  4. This might work as the wifi AND cell coverage (so EVDO coverage as well) at the Palace Hotel was beyond bad. In most cases it was simply not there or functioning. Wifi was spotty but usually okay in the main TC40 space – though I was booted off many times due, I think, to lots of computers/iPhones overloading the wifi routers as configured.
  5. TC40 did a very good job of driving people over the course of the conference to spend time in the demo pit (though perhaps some of this was due to the issues as per above in lack of seats)
  6. The food from the Palace Hotel catering was in most cases very bland. Some good to decent ideas behind the food (“chinese theme” one lunch, “mexican theme” the next lunch) the overall quality of the food was not great. Nothing horrible, just nothing as stellar as the surroundings would have led you to expect. Flavors were bland, service was very aggressive in removing plates from tables – but also and especially in removing food service very quickly (though not as fast in replacing missing plates or forks from the buffets) Overall nothing was very good about the food.
  7. This is the problem with conferences in hotels – the hotel catering can often be very bad and not infrequently, even in hotels with a lot of character and history, use lots of ingredients of relatively low quality. Even the whole, fresh fruits (which were appreciated) were fairly bland flavorwise – I think they were not from CA in most cases. I did not finish some of the wraps today as they were not particularly pleasant to finish (the crab wrap was real crab – a definite plus – I know this, however, because parts of the shell and cartilage was still in my sandwich).
  8. One specific place TC40 somewhat dropped the ball was in having beverages available at all times during the conference – snacks (with drink carts) were available around the planned breaks – but coffee ran out in the mornings and drinks disappeared later in the afternoon. It does take very real money (especially at a higher end hotel such as the Palace) but drinks should have been available at all times – one suggestion would be to have had a beverage station inside of the demo pit which was always open.
  9. The conference bags were very nice – one of the few bags I plan on using on at least a semi-regular basis. That said, the schwag items inside were very random (a cd case from AOL – I can’t remember when I last needed to carry more than a couple of cd’s at any time recently, a soft ball, and much else which was quite random). The hat from Mahalo was nice – no complaints there. Other than the bag, however, nothing that really stood out (at least for me). At a pretty seriously priced conference ($2500/person) I’d expect a bit more uniqueness from the items from the sponsors – and/or items from them that had specific, attendee resticted offers.
  10. The contests/drawings were generous and had I won one of the, I’d certainly have appreciated it (prizes from companies at TC40 included – a roundtrip ticket to Ireland, 10 winners of new nanos, 2 winners of MacBooks, and a 42in TV – which was a case of having been used for a display but not being shipped back.). That said, I actually think that there is somewhat of a disconnect with the audience of a conference such as TC40 and these types of prizes.
  11. As an alternative I would suggest – more prizes like the $50k won by the best of the TC40 companies or the $10k in legal services offered by one of the sponsoring law firms.
  12. I would suggest prizes for not just the best but perhaps the top 3-4 companies who demoed. I’d suggest as well a surprise prize of some form of service or other in-kind offers from the sponsors – for the prize winners – but possibly also for ALL of the companies who demoed on stage. Prizes such as: a server and/or hosting from a hardware sponsor such as Sun, some free legal services – either on a cost basis or perhaps more focused one service from a library of commonly needed services/documents.
  13. In an ideal world these prizes might go not just to the companies on stage but some prize might go to all of the companies who paid to be a part of the demo pit as well.
  14. Speaking of the Demo Pit. I think in general it worked well – companies had enough space but not too much for the stage they were at (i.e. not full booths but room for a computer or to). That said, the companies who were against the wall were at somewhat of a disadvantage to those who had more space around them. But all of the companies suffered from a lack of a simple and easy “cheat sheet” for attendees – especially such a list given out in advance of the conference program book.

So what major suggestions would I make for next year’s TechCrunch conference?

1. Engage sponsors more actively in supporting the companies on stage and in the demo pit. Ideally, make participating in either the demo pit or being selected on stage an amazing and surprising experience which exceeds expectations. The practice presentations probably helped all of the companies on stage (though some clearly had started from a very bad position and only got a bit better), the companies in the Demo Pit had highly variable experiences and displays dependent on their stage, but also their expertise at presenting themselves in a trade show like environment. At a minimum the exercise of getting each company to give a one sentence description of the product they will be demonstrating in the Demo Pit would be a very good experience.

2. Since the conference was being filmed, it likely would not add overly much to display the conference as it happens on stage to a few spaces around the hotel. Specifically I would suggest screens set up: in the Registration/lunch room, in the hallway just outside of the main conference space (by the atrium), in the hallway to the side of the main space (where the sponsors had booths), and a screen set up in the Demo Pit area. Ideally these screens would have audio and video – but even just video would give the entire conference a visual sense of what is happening in the main space. (I’d also suggest running the same feed into the press room – definitely with audio in that case)

3. Consider setting up the lunch/registration space as an overflow room and livestream the events on stage not to a “small” 40+ inch flatscreen as in the hallways, but to a live, projected image. Note, this likely means having at least two cameras running at all times and one or more people mixing the live streams of images.

4. Given the issues with wifi connections have multiple means for the presenters on stage to get online – ideally via an entirely different path than attendees  – hardware connection to a dedicated DSL connection perhaps and/or a dedicated secured wifi, with an EVDO card as a third backup – in short no company on stage should use lack connectivity as an excuse for a busted demo.

5. Seriously consider not letting presenters use their own computers – instead get all presentation materials on dedicated laptops on stage for the presenters to use – virtual machines on a mac laptop could allow every presenter to literally have their own machine to use to present.

6. Make the time for presentations clearer – I head anything from 6 to 8 minutes mentioned at the time for a presentation at different points during the conference. I would suggest perhaps 5 minutes but that might not be enough for some people. For the companies in the Demo Pit – I’d suggest that you require each company to deliver a presentation to TC which would be used by them when they win a slot on stage – I’d make these presentations be required to be 3-4 minutes long – perhaps with a template design which allows the company to enhance the pre-submitted presentation with 1-2 minutes of additional material (and/or always accommodate a presentation which is of the form – intro, live demo, wrapup thanks & contact info – a format which should be encouraged by many)

7. I would definitely encourage all companies presenting demos to have two people on stage – one talking and engaging with the audience and the other driving the demo – many companies tagged off – which can work but in 5-8 minutes does seem a bit short for that

8. ALL presenting companies – both in the Demo Pit and onstage should get a short-course on copyright, attribution, and how to/not to use copyrighted works. Much more on this topic in my next post – I would estimate that over 50% of the presentations I saw on stage, and many of the demos in the demo pit, involved companies misusing copyrighted works in the course of their presentations. The companies whose very products are designed to break copyright laws are a somewhat separate matter and issue (personally I wouldn’t have put at least one of the companies of the 40 on stage for this very reason)

But overall a great conference – congrats to Heather, Mike and Jason – and to their whole team & sponsors for a fantastic conference. I’ll almost certainly be back next year in some capacity (and of course, I’m happy to help in anyway I can)

Posted in Entrepreneurship, internet, networks, reviews, San Francisco, venture capital, web2.0 | Leave a Comment »

Ignore the critics – go see Across the Universe

Posted by shannonclark on September 15, 2007

And then, like I plan on doing, go back and see it again. Probably a few times.

Seriously.

Across the Universe just opened today in a few cities, will be opening in wider release in a week. BTW, the website for the film is in flash, undersells the film, and does not have much (other than a facebook “share the trailer” option for a fan/critic to use to promote the film, no easily accessed stills I could use to illustrate this review, just for example)

Across The Universe - Strawberries

It is the most beautiful film I have ever seen. And I have seen a lot of films – 100’s of them. In college I was a film projectionist, for two different campus film societies. I projected both 16mm and 35mm films, films which were pre-1950 for Law School Films (so named because we showed the films at the University of Chicago Law School Auditorium and for at Doc Films anything post-1950 up to current films, even the occasional film preview. And while there I saw many stunning and fantastic films – films by masters such as Wim Wenders.

Across the Universe is on that level – and since it benefits from the best of modern technology, the visual quality is stunning. Seriously there are literally 100’s of frames of this film which I would pay to have as prints to hang on my wall – they are deeply detailed, rich, colorful, and perfectly lit images. Amazing if they were still photos. Hint, that link is to 48 frames from the film, go take a look. Then come back and read the rest of this review.

Almost unbelievable in a film.

I am almost always deeply disappointed in the lighting of most films – I recall being very annoyed by a particular scene in Philadelphia where the lighting was used to play tricks, where it changed in the middle of scene to create a specific effect on the main characters in the midst of a dance.

In contrast, Across the Universe appears to have been shot by master photographers, by experts in getting exactly the focus they want, including some really amazing shots of reflections, of subway cars in motion, of landscapes and waterfronts. Shots which even with the best film or digital cameras are hard to get – and which are usually almost impossible in a movie.

And then, of course, there is the music (and the cameos, more on those in a moment).

I loved the music – and I enjoyed the story, relatively light as it is. If you don’t already know, every song in the movie (and there are some 33 of them) are Beatles songs. Yup, those guys. And this is a musical – the main characters get up and sing.

But unlike Britney Spears on the VMA’s, they are not lip syncing. The soundtrack is the main actors (plus cameos) performing, in most cases recorded live, on set!

To quote from a NY Times article on the making of the Across the Universe:

… like some two-thirds of the film, uses the vocal track recorded on the set rather than the cleaner studio version, which is almost unheard of in today’s movie musicals. But Ms. Taymor wanted the singing to flow seamlessly from the acting.

Can I get a “hell yes!”?

My kinda filmmaker! This is a movie about music where the characters are hearing what we, the audience are hearing, they are the ones singing it, they are the ones performing it. That, for me at least, is how music should be used in a film. And here it is used to amazing effect.

No, these are not the Beatle’s versions of the songs. If you don’t like really good covers, if you aren’t a fan of Coverville, you might not love this movie as much as I do. But I am, and I do love it.

It appears that critics are heavily divided on this movie – some are panning it, some are praising it. Ignore them. Go see it in a great, modern theater with the best possible projection and sound, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Stay through the credits.

Then, if you are like me, figure out when you can return and see it again.

When the full soundtrack, with all of the songs from the movie is available, I’ll buy it. I plan also on digging up my old Beatles albums and listening to them afresh – though I’ll confess, I suspect in many cases I may enjoy these cover versions more than the originals.

Though I hope that this movie helps get the Beatles remastered for the digital era. I know I’d like to hear them in their full glory, but unfortunately the digital versions I have, ripped from cds issued many years ago are not at all crisp or remastered versions.

There are images from Across the Universe which will haunt me – in a good way – for a very, very long time. Yes, there is psychedelia, animations and general craziness, but there are also shots of real, haunting beauty – crisply lit closeups, rich shadows, a few scenes on the waterfront where I literally said to myself – “okay, no way she can top that image.” then, “wow, she just did. Not sure how entirely but wow, this next shot is even more amazing” and then, “whoa. She just did that again, three times in a row”

It is that kind of film. Simple shots, shots of paint peeling from a door in a rundown NYC apartment are lit in creative ways.

Okay, I mentioned some cameos. There are a lot of them – Bono, Joe Crocker, Eddie Izzard, Salma Hayek to name just a few. I’m sure there are others I didn’t quite catch.

In summary – go see it. Amazing movie, great music reimagined by masters, shot beautifully and performed phenomenally.

Personally I think it should sweep all kinds of Oscars – at least for music, photography/cinematography, and costumes.

Posted in personal, reviews | 3 Comments »

10 things to do in the next decade

Posted by shannonclark on September 13, 2007

The usual format might be “things to do before you die” but instead of that, I’m going to list a much more immediate set of life goals.

  1. Improve my health. Lose at least20lbs, 40 is even better, figure out an exercise for my upper body like my walking 3-4 miles a day for my legs – my legs are in great shape, my upper body not so much. Also some long put off time with a dentist. Target – by end of 2008, dentist by end of 2007
  2. Visit Turkey. I spent most of my time in college studying Byzantine, Ottoman and Armenian history. Yet somehow I have never been to the part of the world I spent so much time learning about in depth. Target – by end of 2010 have spent 2-4 weeks exploring Turkey
  3. Have a home that feels fully furnished. For over a decade my living space has been furnished in a mix of free, cheap, and only slightly functional furniture. I haven’t ever had a fully “finished” room in any home I’ve lived in on my own. Takes money, sure, but also just spending the time and getting it done finally. For the moment this means: buying rugs, buying dressers, desks, chairs, lights, curtains, and a few other pieces of furniture. Target – by end of 2008.
  4. Travel in Asia. I have been to India. Once. I need to go back there for many more weeks. Also to Singapore (to eat especially), to Tokyo & Japan, to Hong Kong, to China, to Thailand, and to Vietnam (where I never took up an invitation from the Ambassador to the US to visit him in Vietnam!). Target – at least one trip by end of 2009, many many more each year there after.
  5. Start a family. Tricky without a partner (female in my case) but by the end of the decade with or without a partner I hope to be in a position to have a family. Which does mean adoption possibly if I don’t have a long term relationship (probably a marriage but that choice is a mutual one). Target – by 2015 take steps if not already in progress.
  6. Attend conferences I have long wanted to attend. Best case as a speaker, but in any case stop reading about them and attend them. Specifically at the top of this list is the TED Conference but there are a few other events I have long wanted to attend which are similar (Rennaissance Weekend’s New Years Even event, Davros, The Aspen Institute’s conference, Poptech -which I have attended in the past). On a related note, I want to have the time (and money and partner) to “do” a film festival – pay to go, get a festival pass, see lots of great films all at once. Probably not Cannes but rather a smaller but great festival such as the Santa Barbara Film Festival or the Toronto International Film Festival.  Target – attend at least one of the conferences on my list, even if I have to pay for it, by 2008.
  7. Eat meals at a couple of places I have long wanted to try. I have eaten many, many great meals. Cooked some myself, paid for others. But there are a handful of restaurants I have long wanted to try but have not – French Laundry, El Bulli, Masa (In NYC). Total cost for these three meals (assuming I go with one other person and pay for her) is likely about $2500 or so ($1000+ for just Masa). Of course El Bulli would require flying to Spain and French Laundry renting a car (don’t own one) and probalby staying somewhere overnight in Napa Valley. So the total cost would probably be higher still. But in the scheme of life and my personal passion for great food, worth it.  In addition to these very high end places I want to get into a lifelong habit of cooking more for my friends, as well as trying at least one great (and yes sometimes fancy) restaurant each month. It is all to easy for me to fall into a pattern of eating only at inexpensive, mostly ethnic, restaurants, often by myself. Target – share at least one great meal at one of these three restaurants by the end of 2008
  8. Write my book on Economics. Since about 2003/2004 I have been telling friends that I wanted to write a book, since 2006 I have felt ready to write the book. I have offers of introductions to publishers and book agents, I have to get serious about writing a book proposal, pitching the book, selling it and then writing it. For me writing it means getting it published, so this to a degree requires the help of others to achieve, but I am confident in my abilities to both write a great book and to sell it. I do, however, have to follow up and get it done. Target – 2007/2008 I have a bunch of business activities which will keep me rather busy, so a realistic goal here is to have the book in print by 2009, though I do hope it is sooner than that.
  9. Get my degree. I do not have a college degree. I took time off from college, worked for a while, then went back and nearly finished but got busy with work and starting my own company. I never again in my life plan on working for someone else (the exceptions being if a company I’ve started is bought or I hire someone at one of my companies to be my “boss”. See my related list below, I don’t ever expect to need my resume. So this is entirely for myself. Beyond my BA at some point in my life I fully expect to get a PhD as well. Though that may not be in the next decade as I anticipate business will keep me rather busy. Target – by 2010.
  10. Build a long lasting, great company which changes the world. Yes, this is not atypical for many entrepreneurs, but it is one of my long ranging life goals. I don’t want to build a small, “lifestyle” business. Sure the money could be nice but though I do want to build a great company in part to get the flexibility and freedom that comes with wealth and resources even more I want to build something which is self sustaining and worldchanging. A company which impacts many people – possibly in part by employing them, but even more by helping lots of other companies and people to earn money, make a great living and have an impact. I am a capitalist (see above, the book I am writing is on Networked Economics after all) so I want to do this in part by building a self-sustaining great global company. With the resources this will, I hope, bring me, I also will continue to do projects such as MeshForum and MeshWalks which also help change the world. Target – this will be an ongoing part of the next decade, but we have I hope started along this path this year, so it starts in 2007

These are ambitious goals. And beyond these I have numerous smaller, shorter term goals. Organizing my library, catching up on great books I haven’t yet read (and/or going through my 150+ some books “to read” and selling/donating the ones I will never actually get around to reading).

There are some former life goals which I have met, many in this past year.

  1. Buy a custom suit. When I was in India a few years back for a friend’s wedding, I achieved one of my former goals, I had two suits (and a bunch of shirts) custom made for me. These are amazing, great suits and the shirts and suits give me pleasure everytime I wear them. Well worth the cost (which was less than buying an off the rack designer – not even couture or high end – suit and shirts and the fabrics, construction and quality are all higher)
  2. Be able to visit NYC without needing a hotel room. Eventually I expect, possibly in the next decade, that I have a place of my own in NYC and even live there for some of the year (and hopefully still have a place in San Francisco and likely one or two other homes at least one of which is outside the US). But earlier this year I started having enough friends in NYC and near NYC that I have not needed a hotel room in New York though I have visited there many times in the past months.
  3. Have a home where I can host friends. Growing up and even to this day my parents often opened up our home to guests. We hosted exchange students, visiting musicians, friends and family. For me, the ability to be a host, to share my home with my friends (and help them avoid needing a hotel room) has always been part of what it means to be an adult. But it was not until this year that I have had both a large enough space and the furniture, bedding etc suited for hosting friends. Just a few weeks ago I hosted my business partner, his wife, their 7 year old daughter, and their newborn son. I now have enough beds to accomodate up to 6 guests (a pull out twin sofa bed, two twin studio sofas which can combine to form a king, a fold down full studio sofa, and a queen air mattress with room to use it.  Just this weekend I’m hosting a client of a friend of mine who is a fellow founder of a bootstrapping startup, in town to present at a conference but looking to save money. Being able to do this gives me a great deal of personal pleasure.
  4. Have space for my full library. I own over 1400 books. Most weeks I buy 3-5 new books. Have for most of my adult life. When i lived in Chicago I left many books at my parents, when I moved to the Bay Area in 2006 I fully expected I would have a hard time finding an apartment with lots of wall space (and indeed most places I looked at did not have much). My current apartment has nearly 100 feet of wall space which I can fill with bookcases. I have much of my library out on shelves already, in meeting my goal of furnishing my home a part of that will be expanding my bookcases to accommodate the rest of my collection, something which is, thankfully, among the easier parts of my goals.
  5. Help my friends change the world. A few years ago, back when I lived in Chicago, though my personal network was large and I tried to have an impact (and did manage to hold a great conference in 2005 thanks in no small part to my extended network) I little imagined that I would routinely read about my friends in the Wall Street Journal, in the New Yorker, in the pages of many other business magazines. Or that I would see their books in bookstores everywhere, including airports, and on best seller lists. But in the past few years that has become almost routine. And as a proxy measure for the impact my friends are having it seems a reasonable one. My friends now are routinely speaking at conferences, being interviewed on television, running worldchanging companies (and blogs) and in short helping change the world in countless ways. My small contributions give me great pleasure. And no, thse are not “frienda” in the weak, social network sense of the word, these are folks I’ve invited to my home for brunch, whose children I have met, whose bbqs I have attended. I keep pinching myself but we are changing the world. And that’s really cool.

I have a busy decade ahead of me. I plan on revisiting this post from time to time. It is my public reminder of what I am really trying to do.

Posted in meshforum, meshwalk, networks, personal, time, working | Leave a Comment »