Searching for the Moon

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

Archive for January, 2008

Economics, live video, and The World Economic Forum at Davos

Posted by shannonclark on January 24, 2008

I am deeply interested in Economics, for many years now I have been researching and thinking about a Networked Theory of Economics, a goal of mine for 2008 is to write and publish my book on that topic (ideally selling it as well so it reaches a wide audience).

So at this time I am very interested in what is happening this week in Davos, Switzerland. This year, in a fairly radical move towards openness, The World Economic Forum has a YouTube channel where they are posting many videos from the press events as well as interviews with attendees and leaders at Davos. Davos has also given a number of leading bloggers full access (though some sessions are off the record, quite a few portions of the conference are on the record). Robert Scoble is wandering through Davos with his cameraphone, frequently streaming live to the web via Qik. Jeff Jarvis and Michael Arrington among others are also in attendance and posting about their experiences as they happen.

As I wrote this, Robert streamed live, I jumped into the live chat. Yup, we live in science fictional times.

I am up late here in San Francisco, as I go to sleep soon, the 2300+ participants at Davos will go on about their day, when I wake up they will likely be almost about to eat dinner and heading to parties (apparently tomorrow Google is having a big party). And I know that because minutes ago I watched live video from and of my friends at the forum, streamed live across the Internet. Of course that same video started by Robert observing the President of Israel recording two videos for YouTube, which are also now likely live on the web as I write this.

Truly this is amazing stuff. When I was growing up, in the 80’s and 90’s CNN and cable news was just getting started, though my family didn’t even own a TV, the impact of live news around the clock was just starting to have an impact on the globe. But the rest of the world was still fairly far away, phone calls cost money – especially overseas calls, and data rates were measured in baud (and computers showed mostly only text and very simple graphics – though that changed rapidly as I was in high school in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Now Robert’s cell phone on which he was recording and streaming live video has more computational power, I’m fairly sure, than the computers I used throughout high school and even into college. He almost certainly has multiple GB’s of storage and very rapid data connections to the web (3G I assume), a screen on his phone that is far denser than the screens we used then – and a camera that records at resolutions unheard of back then – heck nearly unheard of not all that many years ago.

And though Robert notes that not that many bloggers are at Davos this year, the impact of YouTube and bloggers is to help crack open in a fairly major way a gathering that had for years been shrouded mostly in secrecy into a far more open event. Still with a lot of secrecy and I’m sure a lot of security – but also impressively interested in engaging with the world.

In watching the video which I have embedded above, I was also struck by how interesting the group of co-chairs of the forum are – world leaders past and (near)present along side business leaders from across the globe – leaders who were not just white, anglo saxon males – but leaders of large and yes powerful companies from across the globe.

All speaking, at least in this press conference in English, and all seemingly comfortable with their roles, with each other, and for the most part with the press (though the press were for the most part mostly interested in talking to Tony Blair). Personally I was most interested in everyone else on the panel except Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger. I am encouraged by the engagement of the leaders of some of the largest companies in the world in the issues which face us as a globe.

My views on Economics, in the most simple form, is that all economics can be modeled as a network over time. What this means is that value is not fixed, not inherent but deeply and tightly embedded in the economic networks we create and participate within. I have to do more and deeper research and modeling, but in general I would thus be deeply opposed to protectionist steps – and also deeply suspicious of attempts to economically isolate countries (or other entities).

At MeshForum we talk about many types of networks and especially about interdisciplinary approaches to networks. The World Economic Forum at Davos is a prime example of the power of social networks – and the vital importance, even for the very “important and/or famous” of face-to-face interactions, of shared meals and joint experiences. But the spectacle of and around Davos also highlights that there is much more going on, there are other factors – new media old and new, political networks both within countries and globally such as the UN, economic networks both within corporations and between corporations, and newer, creative networks such as the Project(red) campaign which connects individual customers, brands, an NGO of the UN, and millions of HIV patients thoughout the world. $57 million dollars is, perhaps, a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of AIDS to Africa and the world, or to the revenues of the corporate sponsors of the project, but it is also enough to have had a very real and dramatic impact on tens of thousands of our fellow humans who were suffering and now have some measure of hope.

As I live and work here in the US, in this very expensive and deeply futuristic place called Silicon Valley, even here in San Francisco which has at least a small measure of history and culture as well, it is well worth remembering how large and diverse and complex our planet is.

And to recall how small are the links which connect us all. My friends are now there at Davos hanging out, meeting, and sharing meals with some of the people who quite literally lead this world – the leaders of large corporations, the organizers of major efforts to save lives (as well as, less fortunately some of the leaders whose decisions cost lives), and the leaders of many governments (or past leaders).

They say that we, all humans, are connected by just a few steps, but also at far too many times it seems that even in our own countries, within our own cities we exist and live in different worlds. In 2008, however, I see many signs that our common links, our common, global interests are starting to be made clearer and that technology is, in part, helping more people reach out to each other – and to engage and perhaps see the “other” as also human, also worthy of respect and engagement with – even and perhaps particularly when we do not entirely agree.

Posted in economics, futureculture, geeks, internet, meshforum, mobile, networks, personal, podcasts, politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

MacWorld – covering for CenterNetworks

Posted by shannonclark on January 15, 2008

I will be covering MacWorld for CenterNetworks. Unfortunately I probably won’t be able to get my press credentials in time to get into the keynote (I may give it a shot early in the morning if I’m up and moving but I’ve been told it is unlikely).

With a press pass my experience of the conference likely will be a bit different than it was in years past when I was “just” there with an exhibit badge. A further difference will be that this year I have a bunch of friends who are working for companies who are exhibiting (in a few cases companies which they own and founded), I also have a large group of friends who are attending MacWorld and also going to the many related parties and events occurring around town all week. So this should be a different yet also fun way to experience the conference.

I am debating whether to bring my laptop or my XO laptop to cover the show. I don’t have a Mac portable – so either machine will almost certainly stand out. From a purely practical standpoint there are some arguments for the ThinkPad – but from a pure fun and engagement with others standpoint the XO wins heads down – I have yet to bring it out somewhere without drawing a crowd of people – most of whom ask where they can buy their own. I suspect even at MacWorld a similar reaction will be found (unless of course as I suspect Apple has a few amazing laptops of their own to reveal…)

So tune in tomorrow for my posts throughout the day and all week long – and follow me via twitter if you want the live as it happens coverage. (such as it is)

Posted in geeks, internet, iTunes, mac, mobile, San Francisco | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Advertising in Applications – a workshop series

Posted by shannonclark on January 9, 2008

As you may know if you have met me recently and/or have been reading my blog regularly, I am in the midst of starting a new company, Nearness Function, which is an ad network focused on placing commercial messeges, especially branding messages, inside of applications. We take an expansive view of what an application is – so we will work with web applications using AJAX, widgets, Flash applications, desktop applications (which connect back to the web), mobile applications. We are also exploring helping publishers of certain types of rich content such as podcasters and video bloggers – we’ll definitely work with media players which might play such content and as rapidly as we can build out the infrastructure we will expand the ad formats we can serve to include video ads which have had great success as an ad unit in many applications already.

As I speak with publishers (in our case mostly software companies) and with advertising agencies, media buyers and direct advertisers I have been struck by the range of experiences and questions around how to best place ads inside of dynamic applications. These questions range from debates about the formats that work to questions about what metrics and pricing models can be used to sell and track these ads. In our role as a network we have to provide solutions to the technical issues of getting the right, targeted ads in front of the individuals who use a given application, we also have to address the business needs and goals of both the media buyers, ad agencies, advertisers and publishers – all while also remaining focused on the experience of those individual users whose actions and reactions form the basis for the value of the advertising.

So, starting at the end of January and continuing on a regular basis we are starting a workshop series on Ads in Applications. This will be a long lunch to start with the first event to be held here in San Francisco at the end of January. Future events will include more lunch workshops and, I hope, some open to the public events in the evenings which will have a more traditional speaker format.

The first lunch workshop will be by invitation only. If you are reading this and would like an invitation contact me directly – please include a note about why you are interested in participating which includes your current role & company (or companies). The workshops are intended for senior people from application companies (often founders) and senior folks from the ad buying side. Select investors who have a portfolio of firms in the application space will also be welcome to participate – though they are encouraged to invite representatives from their portfolio firms. For the workshops press, including bloggers, are specifically not invited – these will be off the record, working discussions. My hope is that from these closed events we will also organize some open to the public events and/or come up with some public proposals – either for standards or as suggestions to standards efforts at organizations such as the IAB.

For the first workshop the format will be highly collaborative discussion, we will be a relatively small group and will all have a chance to both talk, listen and ask many questions. My hope is that in a few hours we can cover a range of ongoing questions and issues – including formats, metrics, measurements, definitions of “targeting”, acceptable pricing models (which both drive metrics and are in turn driven by what can be measured), how to define success, and various best practices around the integration and targeting of ads. I hope also that we have some discussion about how to disclose commercial content inside of a variety of types of dynamic applications – in many small widgets and in many types of other content what is an “ad” can not always be fully obvious.

Watch this blog for more details about the workshop and contact me directly (and/or leave a comment here) if you would be interested in attending, hosting, or helping organize these workshops.

Posted in advertising, Entrepreneurship, internet, networks, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

One more reason why Comscore and other “surveys” are unreliable

Posted by shannonclark on January 2, 2008

And that’s being kind…

Over the past few days the CA Security Advisor Blog has been posting about the spyware which is installed by Sears and KMart when you join their “community”. Spyware which leads back to Comscore and which, in essence, tracks every single web action – including secured transactions, that the infected users take. And it is this very pool of spyware infested users which Comscore then relies upon to make sweeping statements about the traffic and online activity across the Internet.

This is not a minor issue. These seriously flawed and troubling methods result in the numbers which, in turn, get cited as fact at major events (such as from keynote speakers on stage at AdTech NYC this past Fall) and quoted heavily in the major press on and offline. Further these comscore numbers are then used to drive much of online ad spending.

On the Pho list I wrote the following analysis a few months back, I am quoting my email in the entirety,  the context was a discussion on the list (which is focused on digital music) on the Radiohead In Rainbows experiment and a comscore report that claimed that 60% of all users who visited the Radiohead site had downloaded the music without paying at all. A statement which the band itself vigorously rejected.

A few observations and further fodder for discussion.

This past week I spent the last four days at Ad:Tech NYC. (I was
covering Ad:Tech for my friend Allen Stern’s blog, Centernetworks –
see http://centernetworks.com/tag/adtech for my coverage).

At MULTIPLE times over the course of the conference, most notably at
many of the keynote presentations from senior ad industry leaders, the
comscore study was cited without question as being authoritative and
proof that most people won’t pay.

I see any number of very serious flaws in Comscore‘s processes and methods.

Here are a few.

1. The underlying, basic assumption of any survey is that your sample
population can serve as a proxy and basis to extrapolate up to the
whole population. HOWEVER I think that especially online today this is
dangerously flawed. People do not act independently – instead people
are deeply influenced by the behaviors of their peers – and online
this effect can be multiplied many, many fold. In my own personal,
online networks literally dozens upon dozens of people have sent
twitters, emails, and written blog posts about In Rainbows so my
awareness of it (and the purchases of it often down to the exact price
paid) is extremely high. Amongst my circle – a very very high
percentage of people likely have visited the site,and most have
downloaded the album (and in most cases paid over $5 for it)

2. On a related front – about zero percentage of my population I
mention above are part of comscore‘s surveys population. Indeed given
that they: install an explicit piece of spyware (with permission – but
inherently it is spying on your every action) in return for “server
based virus scanning, sweepstakes and helping the internet” I doubt
anyone I know would participate – nor would I allow or suggest it to
ANYONE I know or advice. Not to mention that almost certainly most
corporate security processes would not allow such technology on
corporate machines (and with extremely good reasons).

Thus almost certainly their survey population, though over 2M are
almost entirely home/personal computers (even while more and more
workers have internet access at work and use that access for some
personal use). Furthermore since they are installing tracking in the
browser they miss: people with multiple browsers which they use on the
same machine, potentially people who have multiple logins to the same
computer (parents sharing a computer with children for example),
people with multiple computers, people with multiple internet
connected non-pc devices (i.e. browsing via a game console for
example), mobile phone (such as iPhone) access.

I use multiple browsers on both my Vista tablet and my iMac desktop –
not to mention my occasional use of Parallels on the mac. I also make
extensive use of my iPhone’s web access.

3. I would need to know much more in depth technical details of how
their browser plugin works – but on Vista computers to take one very
large example by default the OS firewall will block many types of
outbound reporting by applications without authorization (but this may
happen as part of their install).

4. I find it somewhat telling that nowhere which I could find at least
on http://comscore.com could I find a means to choose to join their
survey population (they may do this deliberately in that they want to
have some “randomness” to their survey population.

BUT this implies that they are using online ads and other means to
attract people to join their survey population.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but almost all savvy Internet
users I know generally never click on any survey driven offer (and/or
never give anything accurate in an online survey). I certainly don’t
answer surveys via online ads. Nor most via emails or popups on a
given page. Occasionally I will follow up from a conference by filling
out their survey of attendees (but I would NEVER allow such a survey
to install spyware on my computer).

5. While comscore is tracking a survey population designed to measure
the “typical” Internet user (though with billions of “internet users”
this alone may be essentially meaningless on a global scale) Radiohead
never intended to reach the “typical” user.

Radiohead wants to reach radiohead fans first – mostly current fans
but also to grow and gain new fans. They sing in English so a large
portion of their fans speak English (though now 100’s of millions of
people online do not) – further while they tour worldwide almost
certainly countries and cities where they have performed in the past
have more fans than those where they have not.

With the millions of existing radiohead fans (people who have bought
their past albums, gone to their shows etc) I would guess that the
percentage who visited their website is very very high – and that the
percentage who paid is also quite high.

Shannon

Posted in advertising, internet, networks, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Resolutions, plans, hopes, dreams, and a plan or two

Posted by shannonclark on January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Welcome to 2008. Later this year I will be 34, given the trends in life expectancy I have lived about 1/3 of my likely time (though as this past year so painfully showed no one can really know how much time they will have as surprises can lurk in countless places). In my time I have done a lot, yet not by far enough. The time seems to be accelerating, passing me by faster and faster without catching my breath or having time to reflect or time to catch up with my personal perceptions to that of reality.

In my mind, it is still the mid-90’s, I am entering college and my whole life looms ahead of me with endless opportunities, in a few years I would have a degree, then most likely another, with a PhD completed (this was my plan) by sometime around my mid-20’s. Not unrealistic as had I graduated with my entering class of college, I would have been 20 at the time of graduation – unable to join in for the Senior Day at the Pub or to take a legal drink on my graduation day.

But.

That did not happen, perhaps that is why in many ways my mind thinks back to that time and those possibilities and still in ways feels it is still those years, that time and those possibilities. Instead, I took a year off, then more, worked odd jobs, spent a year selling Magic the Gathering cards and writing most of two novels (and a play and a few other works). I then started seriously working in technology, going from extremely entry level jobs to more senior consulting work in a fairly rapid and short period of time. In the late 90’s I went back to school and completed most of my classes, but the boom time of the late 90’s tech bubble got to me a bit and I took a consulting job, then a few months later left that to start a company in the beginning ot 2000. A few months later the bust, then a year later, 9/11. From 2000 to the fall of 2005 I made a go of it in Chicago, trying a variety of things, building some cool technology mostly too early for the market.

In the fall of 2005 I had been dating the same woman for a few years, living together with her in my small condo for much of that time but we were both getting tired of living in Chicago. I spent that fall here in the Bay Area subletting a place in Oakland and looking for a more permanent home for us. However to do so, I was also spending a lot of time here and not in Chicago with her. We moved here fully in January of 2006 into an apartment in Berkeley which I had found, and which thankfully I had only signed a 6 month lease on (both because a few months later we broke up and because the apartment turned out to be ant infested, the landlord a bit crazy and moving into the downstairs apartment, and Berkeley was not where I decided I really wanted to live though I am happy that I did live there at least for a little while)

Soon after moving fully here to the Bay Area (which took many flights back and forth, a cross-country moving van, some real money, and a lot of decisions to give away, donate, sell or otherwise not move most of our worldly possessions – I gave away most of my closet of cloths, sold most of our furniture, and chose not to move many things such as my stereo which I had had since before high school or the first and only TV I have ever bought which I had bought the first few days after I bought my condo.

And I put my condo on the market, where it would remain for much of 2006, finally selling late that summer to my great relief.

A few weeks after we had both moved into Berkeley (I had flown out here earlier than my then girlfriend to meet up with the moving van with most of our possessions) we took a long trip together to Oaxaca Mexico. It was a great trip in many ways, but also a bit of the beginning of the end for us. We had been drifting apart in many ways for the past year by that point. Though we lived together our schedules and drifting level of interest had meant that we were not as intimate as we had been at the beginning of our relationship – sure we lived together but we were passing in the night. Sometimes literally as I tend to keep very odd hours (for example as I write this it is 5 am and I have yet to sleep in the new year – not a rare of unusual occurrence for me).

In May of 2006 an event which I had been planning for many months happened, MeshForum and it went off mostly without major hitches (well had to scramble to find a new venue the morning of the last day but that got resolved relatively smoothly). But soon after that my girlfriend and I broke up, though we would live together through the end of our lease that spring. At that time we moved her belongings into storage, moved me to my new apartment in San Francisco, and she left the country to live (and eventually work) in Mexico. So that was my spring of 2006 – lots of moves, finding a new apartment and settling into it.

When I first moved in to my home, where I still live, I had very little, 1400+ books, a few bookcases, the bed we had purchased together for our new west coast life, and that was about it. In the kitchen I lacked silverware and even all that many plates or glasses, I didn’t have any chairs, any tables, any other seating for that matter. Over the summer I started to slowly furnish my new apartment, ordering a dining table, buying bundles of kitchen items off Craigslist.

The end of the summer of 2006 was spent selling my condo, finally.

That fall, at a conference in the east coast, i met my current business partner. We started exploring business ideas and decided to work together.

And, mostly, that brings me to 2007.

There was a lot more happening in 2006, networking events I helped with, lots of people I met (and people I left behind in Chicago) even a few first dates (but no seconds).

But skipping that, to 2007. This past year was for me a busy yet not busy enough year. A year of great possibilities, some accomplishments, lots of new connections and friendships, many great experiences, but not as many successes as I would like.

A few of the things I am pleased about from 2007. On a personal front starting mostly this fall I have started seriously  entertaining in my new home. This summer I had my first guests stay with me, this fall I have started having frequent dinner parties.

This means, finally, I am feeling like I am an adult. I have a home which I can be proud of, which does not look like a college dorm room or graduate student housing. A home which is not, perhaps, as finished as I would like, but which is seriously coming together and which can accommodate my enjoyment of hosting friends, of feeding them, of having them over for entertainment. In the past month I have had friends stop by to play games, I have had many large dinner parties (on Christmas Day feeding over 20 people), and just this evening a friend is crashing in my downstairs room so as not to have to drive across the bridge post-NYE.

On the very last day of 2007 I purchased a rug, not a big rug, but one that will help complete my bedroom. A few days earlier I had taken delivery of a nightstand, dresser, and sweater chest. Sure, this sounds somewhat small, but realize for over a year I had been living without any drawers for any of my clothing items (I had everything on shelves in my closet). The effect is that for the most part my bedroom now feels finished. I have multiple nice sets of sheets, a bench at the end of my bed, a really comfy and cool rug, a bookcase full of books, a closet on the verge of being organized (okay, still has a few too many boxes of random crap which need to be sorted and cleared from the closet) but likely by the end of this week in fact even my closet will be put in order – and I’ll try to finish unboxing my books and readjusting the shelves on my bookcase to better accommodate my book collection. I also plan on going through the large pile of books which are unread and deciding which I plan on eventually reading and which I should sell or donate somewhere.

Oh and I really need to get a curtain for my french doors between my bedroom and my dining room, nothing too complex but something which can when I need it give me some privacy.

My office nook only needs a rug and perhaps a standing light to be fairly finished. My dining room is also in pretty good shape, though I eventually want to get a corner storage unit of some form and a nicer wine rack than the old wine box I am currently using.

My entrance hallway needs a standing mirror and in my long hallway I hope to finally hang some artworks – hopefully a few of my own personal photos, as well as some other posters and items from the past few years.

My kitchen is coming together quite well. I have a small table which I purchased earlier this year and really like, my entertaining supplies are strong thanks to a gift earlier this year from my grandmother (who gave me a lot of her old dishes). This past month my sister gave me a very complete collection of baking dishes and I have been expanding my cooking supplies quite well. I anticipate a few additions in 2008 but nothing overly major, probably a food processor and a few more items for entertaining needs (serving spoons and more platters for example).

In 2008 I anticipate my primary home furnishing goal being to finish decorating my downstairs room, a huge space which I want to keep open yet render far more functional than it is at present. This means a lot of storage units to move what are now piles of boxes into more organized files and storage.  It also means no longer borrowing an entertainment system from a friend, but finally buying a new stereo and likely a video projector. In the other half of the room I plan on buying some nice and highly multi-purpose  tables to play games upon, a small fridge to store drinks downstairs and keep them cold, probably also a small bar, and some rugs to help define the spaces.

So why all that detail.

It is a part of what I see as one of my main personal “resolutions” for 2008 – getting my own personal house in order. Allowing myself to be an adult, no longer live (and think of myself) as still in college. Be the serious adult my age implies I should be (and really mostly am).  This likely will take some money, but it also takes effort – going through boxes and throwing out junk, keeping my home cleaned, getting friends to come over and help hang art (possibly also painting some of my walls – my landlord said I could) and otherwise fixing up my home to be even nice, even better than it already it.

I find that if my home is organized, is clean, open and uncluttered it helps my thinking be uncluttered as well.

And, my main goal, beyond the personal benefits of a clean and ordered home, is to end 2008 not how I start it. To end 2008 in the company of a great woman. I know my home would be a really great place to live together with a woman it is more than large enough to have multiple people living here together (a walk in closet, multiple rooms for home offices, enough space that we can be here together yet work apart if we need to, lots of room to entertain). And though  I have now furnished it fairly well (I think) there is still plenty of room and space for her touches and items she loves.

To have a great woman in my life there are many other things I have to take care of – staying healthy and getting into better shape, taking care of many other personal matters. As I organize my closet I plan on early this year getting rid of a bunch of things which I have but really should not be wearing (they don’t fit, look awful, are seriously worn etc). Likely this means I should also shop for some new clothes for the first time in a long time – but for the most part that is a good thing.

Professionally 2008 will be a busy and hopefully highly productive year. Business success will make my personal goals a bit easier to achieve (money and income helps) and likewise having my personal life in order, living in a home that helps me be productive can only help make my ventures in 2008 be more successful.

So those are my thoughts and plans as I entered into the new year, a few of them at least. There are many more, thoughts which are racing through my head, hopes I have for friendships which started at the end of 2007, personal and professional goals which I will be working seriously upon in 2008, but these are the things I am thinking about at the moment (and willing to write about in public).

I wish everyone a happy new year and that you take the time, even if only in private, to write down both some reflections on the year(s) of the past and on the year to come, to think about what matters most to you in the new year and to then start thinking about what you could do to achieve those goals.

In my case, it all starts with thinking of myself as an adult – and acting accordingly – in how I live my life, furnish my home, entertain friends, work and play.

Happy New Year.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, personal, San Francisco, working | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »