Searching for the Moon

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

Archive for February, 2008

Notes on Transit – transitcamp without being there

Posted by shannonclark on February 24, 2008

This weekend in Palo Alto TransitCamp Bay Area will take place. I was not able to attend (in not small part because via public transit it takes me 2+ hours if I catch all the right trains and buses to get from my house to Palo Alto) but as my contribution here are some observations and thoughts I have about Transit.

First some personal background. I grew up in Oak Park IL, moved to Chicago where I lived for another 13+ years, two years ago I moved to the Bay Area. In 2004, I sold my car and have not replaced it, when I sold it (a 2000 model I had bought in Dec 1999 as a new car, that car had only ~13k miles on it). So for about the past 8+ years I have primarily relied on public transit, not on a personal car for the majority of my transportation. With the occasional taxi ride (often to/from an airport – more on that as well, and yes, to a degree taxi policies and licensing should be considered as part of overall transit).

Here are a couple of observations followed by a few suggestions. Primarily I will focus on issues specific to the Bay Area, but I’ll note some additional elements based on my experiences in other cities both in the US and around the world.

  • Current transit is, mostly, focused on the needs of “commuters”
  • In the Bay Area we, simultaneously have too much and too little transit (I’ll explain)
  • There are many options for how to pay (as an individual) for transit – in the Bay Area we have nearly all of them (far too many)
  • When thinking about transit private (individual) and private (corporate) should be part of the discussion, as well as all of the factors that influence those choices (tolls, parking availability & pricing, zoning requirements especially around the construction of new parking, metered vs free vs permit parking, zoning rules around mixed use vs. sole use vs. “strip malls” vs. sidewalk frontage or set backs etc)
  • Tourists have different needs than residents, not all residents have the same needs, and those needs vary by time of day, day of week, month, the weather and the age & health of the individuals.
  • The groups who have the most political influence are rarely those who have the most vital needs for public transit, though the aspects of public transit which do impact those with political influence tend to be those which get the greatest funding.

Here in the Bay Area by my count there are at least the following varieties of transit which should be discussed.

  1. Private Cars
    • an unusual aspect being the commuter lanes & toll policies which combine to create an unique system in places of the bay area for ride sharing by strangers (essentially “hitching” but with a more fixed pattern)
    • toll policies preference travel in certain directions
    • parking and zoning regulations dictate certain patterns in SF while zoning & building patterns dictate others in the rest of the Bay Area
    • motorcycles and scooters
    • special cases of rental cars
    • special cases of tourist cars (“go cars” guided tours of San Francisco for example)
  2. Shared Cars (City Carshare, ZipCars) and Commuter vans
  3. Taxis (and to a lesser extent limousines)
  4. Amtrak
  5. multiple ferry services
  6. CalTrain
  7. BART
  8. Muni – buses, cable cars, and light rail
  9. A large number of public bus services – most one per town around the Bay Area, a few like AC Transit crossing multiple towns, and a couple which cross towns (TransBay)
  10. Private bus services
    • Corporations (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and a few others) have formal bus services for employees
    • Certain buildings & neighborhoods in San Francisco (and some buildings in other cities) have bus services, typically for residents or workers in those buildings usually between the buildings and main transit centers (Caltrain station being a main point)
    • Local universities have services for students between residences and campus locations and between multiple campus locations throughout the area (U. C. Berkeley in Berkeley, UCSF and many other schools throughout SF
    • Tourist specific buses (some of which do offer “on/off” services. There are some public tourist buses as well (in the Presidio, in Golden Gate Park)
  11. Public handicaped special bus services
  12. Greyhound
  13. Bikes
  14. Walking
  15. Select light rail in other towns than San Francisco
  16. Major airports (Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose)
    • these also have internal transporation and special buses connecting the airports and trains
    • for some reason no airport in the Bay Area has trains that run directly to the terminals
  17. Private airports (and to a lesser degree helicopter pads)
  18. Private boats & boat dock

That is a lot of transit options – many of which any one person rarely experiences and uses. Like much of the state of CA the private car, usually driven without passengers is a very commonly used form of transit. For that matter there are many people who never use any of the other services – especially public buses

Payment methods and models:

  1. Pay on entry – most buses, MUNI in SF, Ferrys
  2. Pay on exit – CalTrain – exact amount varies by start and end point (and varies considerably from a low of <$2 and a high of many multiples of that
  3. Prepaid – MUNI (monthly passes), most Tolls w/automated pass, to a degree BART since you have to have a card with value added to it already (new “TransitLink” will have aspects of this
  4. Payment via special unit – bus coupons in San Francisco, parking cards in SF

Some questions I have:

  1. What is the GOAL of Public Transit? (Not or at least not solely I’d argue to “get workers to work”)
  2. How should transit be funded (currently few if any transit services are fully funded by the riders in the case of public services)? Private services (buses etc) are parts of the cost of some other business (office building, large company etc)
  3. How can the many specific focuses and political complications of have dozens of public transit agencies be minimized to better serve the needs of the entire Bay Area?
  4. How can Public Transit in particular emphasize the public service aspects of transit, not just serve the needs of one sector of the public (businesses whose commuters have to get to/from work during “regular” business hours).
  5. In particular, in my view, public transit should have many 24hr options, be sure to have 24hr access to hospitals in particular, should avoid creating isolated sections with no inexpensive transit options for much of the day, and transit should build into their business models flexibility to accommodate changing circumstances (planes which are delayed at airports for example)

Some specific suggestions

  1. In San Francisco (and across the Bay Area more broadly) the last trains, especially across the Bay, should run for 1 hour AFTER bars & nightclubs close (and if on weekends this means running 24hrs – so be it). This both serves a very strong and real public interest (keeping people off the streets when/if drunk) and it as importantly would encourage more people to stay in the city after work for entertainment and/or head into the city on the weekends – without clogging roads with cars and without requiring preplanning in the morning (i.e. choosing to drive instead of taking the train). Combined with bike parking at many stations (already done) and with local bus/transit services so people could avoid driving from train stations home (perhaps also with friendly parking policies that encourage overnight parking without serious penalty)
  2. Trains (and buses) which leave from Bay Area airports should run until also an hour or so AFTER the last plane lands – if this means running very very late, again so be it. Ideally the trains would be in communication with the airlines and be sure to wait until all bags were off and arriving passengers were directed from the baggage claim to the buses to trains (and were made aware that trains would be waiting for them). This might be slightly costly (but heck, I’d imagine airlines might kick in some dollars in fact) but would dramatically improve impressions of the public transit services for visitors and locals alike. A related point, ideally public transit should run TO the airports in time to clear security for the FIRST planes of the day (and yes, this might in the case of SF to OAK traffic suggest running nearly 24hrs – see a trend in my suggestions…)
  3. Monthly (and Weekly) passes should be available WIDELY. From ALL machines and from all hotels – at a minimum as a starting point. My local Safeway almost without fail SELLS OUT of Monthly MUNI passes – that is completely unacceptable – each pass is simply a piece of paper – 1000’s more of them should be printed each month – NO store should EVER sell out of them. Chicago solves this by NOT selling a monthly pass – instead Chicago sells a pass good for 30 days from first use – but with the variety of ways transit s paid for in the Bay Area that might not work (can’t easily visually show the pass where that mode is needed such as on buses)
  4. Fine amounts for not having a pass/ticket in modes of transit where one is required at all times (most of the bay area services) should be SPELLED OUT AND POSTED.
  5. Unlike many cities, the bay area does NOT have a single, universal taxi number – and taxi rates are extremely high – which discourages many people from using or thinking about using a taxi. At a minimum there should be ONE number (perhaps per area code) for taxis which would work with ALL taxis. Outside of SF taxis can be nearly impossible to find at times (Palo Alto in particular I’ve had problems at times)
  6. ZipCar and City Carshare are good for many people – but serve people who need one-way transportation or need open ended transportation relatively poorly (I most often need a car on days, such as this weekend, when there is an event or events happening down the peninsula which I would want to attend – and which I couldn’t easily predict when I might return from the events – both because I don’t know travel times and traffic well and because I not infrequently will stay late at event and/or want to go out with folks from an event – to get dinner for example). This is a very hard problem for car share services – but for me at least, and I’m sure I’m not the only person, $60/day though perhaps actually a good deal is a very big hurdle to overcome to think about spending to go to an event. (For that matter the $10-12 round trip to take Caltrain down to Palo Alto is pretty painful as well)

Much of the transit system fails because of serious gaps in the transit experience between commuters (many of whom have their passes paid for by their companies or significantly discounted) and the use and costs born by everyone else. I buy a monthly MUNI pass in San Francisco ($45) which is a good deal – and it makes it trivially simple for me to get on/off buses, trains or even the cable cars if I’m traveling within San Francisco – however I can’t, for example, use that pass to get to an airport (why the San Francisco airport at least for purposes of transit isn’t “in” San Francisco still befuddles me).

Yes, the trip planner is useful (though why there isn’t a mobile and iPhone interface for it I don’t know) and NextBus is also helpful, but even so there is also too little flexibility in too much of the transit patterns in the city – travel in the commute times is uncomfortable (very packed – suggesting that even more trains/buses could be run then) but at least trains and buses arrive fairly frequently – but if you wait just a bit everything slows to halt. And if you want to travel on, say a Sunday, good luck – your options shrink to almost none (no Caltrain back to San Francisco after 9:30 or so on a Sunday night for example).

Plus the payment complexities and the inability to pay on the train in most cases (you can’t even pay the gate agent at MUNI or BART but must fight with the often broken/flaky machines) also makes transit a frustrating experience. From CalTrain’s giving change only in dollar coins (and not taking payment on the trains) to MUNI’s insistence on using two different machines at times to get change (for dollar coins and for quarters).

So those are some suggestions and questions and observations I have about transit. I with I could have made it to the TransitCamp this weekend – but as I noted, it would have been costly for me in terms of time (and money).

Posted in customer service, economics, geeks, personal, politics, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Abstractions for Metrics and Targeting – extending OpenSocial

Posted by shannonclark on February 20, 2008

Tonight I attended the MIT/Stanford Venture Lab event “Shaking the Money Tree of Multi-Platform Social Networks” which my friend Jeremiah Owyang moderated. It was a sold out event which drew a very diverse crowd of students, brand advertisers, technologists, entrepreneurs and analysts. The event was great with short presentations and an engaging panel discussion. During the panel discussion I asked a question, which in turn sparked an idea I am exploring in this post. In the next few weeks and months I will be engaging with many people around these ideas and I look forward to comments, criticism and suggestions about how to accomplish these two main ideas.

In the interest of full disclosure, when I asked my question tonight at the event I noted that I was not an impartial questioner – I have a stake in this. To elaborate further, the company I am in the midst of co-founding, Nearness Function, is an ad network working to bring brand advertisers to select applications – including very likely applications running in Social Networks and on OpenSocial. If both of my proposals below happen it certainly will help Nearness Function and our partners and clients – and I hope, will help the entire industry.

Tonight Kevin Marks of Google discussed three important ways in which OpenSocial creates abstractions.

  1. Abstracting the Friend networks of the “viewer” and “owner”. Allowing these to queried and traversed.
  2. Abstracting data persistence for applications
  3. Abstracting the event (“news”) feed which the use of an application can generate

My question and now proposal would add two abstractions – to OpenSocial and likely to more of the web in general.

  1. Abstract metrics
  2. Abstract targeting data

Taking these points in detail, here is what I am suggesting. These are my initial thoughts – I welcome feedback and further discussions.

Abstract metrics

The web 1.0 metrics resolved around “pageviews” and later, slightly more refined around “impressions” or “uniques”. In the past few years with the rise of pay-per-click advertising both against search results and increasing elsewhere across the web, “clicks” and a resulting calculation of “ecpm” (effective cost per thousand) has been a commonly used metric for success. And terms like “uniques” and “impressions” get used a lot – though exactly how to define and calculate them is not always clear in the least. Even “clicks” have to be recalculated to take into account “ClickFraud” – i.e. automated or malicious attempts to game pay-per-click systems, often by automating clicks on links (sometimes to generate income, but more subtly to exhaust a competitor’s budget).

For OpenSocial, and for much of the web of 2008, I would suggest that we start to think about abstractions for metrics that fit this new environment.

My initial suggestions would be to define active vs. inactive states so that an application can report back when a user is active (and we define what that means) within the application. A further refinement to this abstraction would be to measure the time in each state again with uniform ways to start and stop that clock.

Additionally a defined way to count events within the use of an application potentially including a measure of where within the application attention is paid could be highly useful as well. This might start by building on similar tools that are already used to track web activity and interactions. In the OpenSocial (and widget case more broadly) one complication being how to log and report back these metrics in a standard manner.

Ideally these metrics probably should flow back to the hosting social networks, to the application provider, and potentially (and again this needs clarification) be shareable with third party providers – such as an ad network (like the one I’m building).

Abstract targeting data

In the panel tonight when I asked about this the conversation shifted to a discussion about what an ad network can and can’t store based on the terms of service of a given social network. That is important, but it missed the point of my suggestion.

Here what I would be proposing is a bit more complex than the metrics, it would be a set of abstractions around what data flows to the application (which in turn might flow to the systems used to target advertising) which could be employed for targeting. Abstractions are important because even seemingly “simple” elements can, in many cases, prove complex.

Take “gender” – in many, but not by any means all, social networks this is relatively simple “male” or “female” – however this is not always the case. For one there are often many people who leave the field blank (i.e. undefined) and in at least some networks people of another gender (“transgendered” to take one example) can specify that. An abstraction might not resolve all possible nuances – but, for example, it might require the “undefined” case (and likely an “other” case) to be handled.

The issue that advertisers, marketers, application developers and social networks all face is nearly everyone recognizes that targeting messages – if done well and reasonably – adds greatly to the impact and effectiveness of those messages (however you choose to measure that). But each party also defines what and how they think that targeting should (or could) happen in very different ways.

My suggestion would be to create some standard and abstracted ways to think about a common set of data that could be available at the point when targeting could occur. Note that this would be done in a manner that could also be kept in compliance with a given social network’s terms of service. i.e. on FaceBook that data which is shared would not be retained for more than 24hrs etc.

Here are a few of my suggestions for areas where a discussion could (and should I’d say) happen, I’m sure I’ve missed or overlooked some things – and in some cases the standard may be very simple.

  • Gender
  • Age – I’d suggest by ranges vs. specifics – with a standard set of ranges
  • Geographic location – potentially in two parts a) of viewer, calculated from IP address etc, at time of use and b) “home” (possibly “homes”) as stated in user profile
  • New user/viewer of a given application vs. returning user/viewer vs. has application installed on own system (ideally even if “own” profile is on a different social network)
  • Path to current session – i.e. via internal to social network search, via link on friend’s page, via link on stranger’s page, via external search, via external deep link
  • Technology – browser type, speed of connection, mobile phone vs computer vs console
  • Measure of frequency of interaction (with social network, with a given application) – i.e. you could target people who use the site every day and have for the past 6 months differently from people who use that particular site only once a week. You might also want to target users who are in their first X days of using an application or the underlying social network in a different manner than users who have been using it for months.

I’m sure there are others.

The key points here is that what needs to be defined is not just the categories but some abstract and standard ways to pass the relevant data. Keeping in mind that at the end of the day the goal here would be to make:

  • The user experience better by presenting more likely to be relevant commercial messages
  • The advertiser purchasing opportunities to be more clearly defined so advertisers can compare apples to apples
  • The developer have an easier set of tools to understand the users and to offer, if desired, opportunities to advertisers
  • and for Third party providers, such as an ad network, to have at least a minimum set of expected to be available data which could be used

These abstract targeting data would not preclude additional information being used to enhance and improve results (where that data can be used if covered under terms of service) but it would help improve targeting especially for OpenSocial applications which cross multiple social networks. The final results (i.e. which specific ad to show if any) might take a variety of additional factors (which ads were shown to that user or to similar users recently, what the actions of those users were, what various advertisers are willing to pay at the moment, etc)

This is very much a work in progress. I’m sure there are some overlaps here with activities of various industry groups. I welcome suggestions, enhancements, and other comments!

Posted in advertising, Entrepreneurship, internet, networks, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Inspiration when single – an entrepreneur’s guide

Posted by shannonclark on February 15, 2008

As I write this it is Valentines Day, restaurants are full, hearts are everywhere, and couples are kissing and holding hands. On twitter a cool graphical hearts feature has been getting a lot of use (at least amongst my friends). Friends who are parents report that their children are excited about giving cards to all of their friends.

But this post is not just about Valentines Day and how I am single today as I have been for by far the majority of past Valentines Days (I’ve only had a date on Valentines Day 4 times in my life – and I’m 33 so do the math, fairly pathetic).

No, this post is about how and where to find inspiration when you are single and an entrepreneur. Something I have been thinking a great deal about (and struggling with) for the past few months.

I do not like being single. I know there are some people who do, some people who enjoy the “freedom” or for whom being “single” means lots of dating, lots of somewhat meaningless relationships.

But that is not me. And though I respect my poly friends, I am probably not poly (heck just being in one relationship is such a rare occurrence in my life the concept of having multiple relationships at the same time is well nigh unthinkable).

The world, however, is structurally set up for people to be in relationships – to be couples, not to be single, especially not as middle aged adults (I’m not actually comfortable calling myself that but at 33 going on 34 I’m no longer “young”). Prizes every where are for tickets for 2, homes and lifestyles and deals and expectations everywhere are that past some period of early adulthood most people will settle down into couples (and then in most cases into families).

I overheard a group of people at a restaurant a few weeks ago talking about dating, with one of the guys at the table talking about how hard it has been for him to have gone 30 days without sex. Don’t get me started on that (let’s just leave it at I broke up with my last girlfriend in the spring of 2006 – I’d be thrilled if it was “just” 30 days..) . But from the conversations at this table (mostly guys but one woman) the expectations there were that they all would and could date and date frequently and that “dating” led to sex on a regular and frequent basis – whether with the same person or multiple partners.

What does all of this rather personal stuff have to do with business?

Or with being an entrepreneur?

Well there is a key question for everyone to answer – what (and who) are you working for?

What do you want from your career? Why do you want (and need) money? Fame? “Success”? In short what is success for you? And how does that drive you? More crucially how will you know when you get there?

And then, if answering all that your path is to be an entrepreneur, how (and can) you get there?

If you are not single you have some fairly simple answers to the above questions – many people would answer that they work to provide for their partner & for their children (or future children). As they work, a partner is someone whom you can lean upon, someone who comforts you when you are down, someone who helps balance out your life – and on a very simple and practical aspect, someone who can take some of the load of life off you when necessary.

Now I don’t just mean couples who have a traditional (though not so much these days) life of one partner working, one “keeping the home/raising the children” even with both partners working one can usually take some of the chores of life from the other – cleaning the dishes, arranging for dinner, picking up the dry cleaning, paying the family’s bills, waiting for a delivery, etc.

But if you are single what do you work for? Who (or what) can you rely upon for support?

Where, in short (okay in long form), can the single entrepreneur draw inspiration?

I’ve been asking this of myself for the past few months. The life of an entrepreneur can be mentally challenging, you rarely if ever can be “off” – I only slightly jokingly describe it as “you always have something to do when awake, and when you are sleeping you dream about it” but that’s not all that far from the truth. Yet, besides “work” you also have a life – all the small, little things of living which collectively add up, which all take time and to a degree attention.

Here in Silicon Valley many entrepreneurs (and others) are fans of “Getting Things Done”. A part of that system is to create contexts, to think both about your very long term goals and your tasks for the next hour. And yes, from a tactical standpoint GTD can be very helpful and from the perspective of a process, of a way to think through what you are working on, what your goals and requirements are it is very helpful.

But from a deeper, personal level it only helps with the tactics, you still need to find what your personal source of inspiration is, to have an answer for yourself what you are working for, and to find some alternative (or alternatives) to the help that someone in a relationship gets from having a partner (or as I noted, partners).

For me I have historically had great friends and a great relationship with my family, both my friends and my family have offered me an emotional outlet – someone to talk to about what my goals are, to vent my frustrations, to relax with when that’s what I need. But two years ago I moved from my long time hometown of Chicago to San Francisco. At the time I was in a relationship (she followed me a month later) but a few months later she and I broke up and she moved again (to Mexico). We’re still friends, but now I’m in a new city, far from my immediate family, and though I have many friends here I don’t have the same type of friends as I had back in Chicago (i.e. friends whom I had helped move, whom I had known for years, had helped through crises and in turn had gotten help from).

So for the past year or so I have been seeking answers – been looking to myself for why I am an entrepreneur, what I am looking to do both in the short term and in the longer term. In part I also have been looking at myself. I still hope not to end this year single – I do think being a relationship is a better state for me than being single – but I also have to find answers that work for me if I’m still single.

This is a post without easy, simple answers but here are a few which at times help me, not to say I always keep my own advice, so in large part this is also to be a reminder for me as to what I should be doing, what I can change over the next few months which might, just might, help.

  1. The life of an entrepreneur can highly varied, build into your week some regularity. Lately every Wednesday morning I have been having breakfast at 9am at Chow on Market St. (and inviting anyone to join me).
  2. Don’t let your personal space go neglected – if this means dropping off your laundry and paying someone to do it vs. doing it yourself do that. A cleaner could be a great investment – but even just always (and see point 1 schedule this) spending an hour or less cleaning and imposing order on your living space helps considerably.
  3. Don’t let you go neglected. Get exercise, eat healthy, schedule regular doctor and dentist appointments (all of which can be very hard when being an entrepreneur, especially the last two before your new company has group medical plans, one of the early things you should do for yourself and your first few hires).
  4. Even if you can work entirely from home, don’t. Sure, work from home some of the time, but even more so as someone single, getting out of the house and having face-to-face human interactions is really, really important. It is all to easy to order in, to keep really odd hours, and blink and realize a week has passed and you have barely seen another human in person. This is not healthy.
  5. Every few months do a brutal clearing out of junk from your life. Donate all the free t-shirts & schwag you have collected (so you aren’t tempted to just get by wearing poorly fitting free logoed t-shirts). Clear out of your kitchen expired foods – but also unhealthy temptations. Recycle pile of newspapers and magazines. Online this means hitting a reset on your RSS feeds, it also means unsubscribing from mailing lists you haven’t read in months and stopping emails from vendors & analysts you never read or reference. In 2006 I moved so many times this happened naturally, in 2007 far too much clutter & junk accumulated in my life both online and in my home.
  6. Find a small set of peers and find a way to gather, in person, and talk openly and deeply with them on a regular basis. This can (and should) be hard, but seek this last point out. By peers I really do mean that, find people who are or have been doing something similar to what you are doing – other founders (perhaps though in other industries) and find a way to gather in a small group on a regular basis and talk. This might be over a dinner or even a card game – and the point here is NOT to do business together (if anything that might hurt the goal) rather the goal is to have a group of people who can tell you that you are being stupid, who can give you tough truths. Someone in a relationship hopefully has that type of honest from a partner – but especially as a single entrepreneur it can be very hard to be told the harsh but helpful truths. And it can be hard to find a way to speak out loud about ideas you are considering. I haven’t yet found this precisely, but periodically over the past year I have, at times, had some really amazing conversations in small groups which scratched the surface of this issue – conversations with friends who told me tough truths – who challenged and even yes confronted me. This can, should, be hard. But I’m serious, seek this last bit out.
  7. Don’t go overboard but build into your week some  personal pleasures. No, I don’t mean reading even more blogs on your industry – no matter how passionate you are about it. What I mean here is you should keep up with some of the things which are why you live – are what you take a great deal of pleasure and enjoyment from. For me this is great food and good writing (especially science fiction). To a lesser extent it is also staying current on US politics and a bit of everything else by reading the New Yorker every week. On Saturdays I try to get to the local Farmer’s Market (both so I have healthy snacks and food to start the week and for at least one great meal that week). And even on weeks when I can’t finish a book I try to listen to two of my favorite podcasts – one a one hour discussion of music (Sound Opinions) and the other a weekly podcast of great short science fiction & occasional fantasy stories (Escape Pod).

However even sticking to all of the above won’t help if you don’t find an answer for yourself as to why you are an entrepreneur – i.e. what you are trying to do. This is tough – but seek out an honest answer for yourself and set those goals. At some point in time being very aware of your own goals and reasons will help you make a tough decision – when to stop, what to sell for, when you have “won” etc.

If you are in a relationship I think you should be honest with your partner and discuss your goal for your venture – but being single it can be harder to share your goal(s). Share it publicly and you might divulge something which could hurt you in the future (i.e. when someone is potentially investing in your company or considering buying it). But even without sharing all the details and specifics at least as an exercise for yourself write these goals down – even if only on paper and in the privacy of your own home.

Revisit these goals on a regular (at least once a year but I’d suggest more like once a month) basis and see how you are making progress towards them.

Keep in mind why you are doing what you are doing and, in fact, you have a greater shot at achieving it.

For me, again without naming numbers, here are after much thought what I want – why I’m trying to start something big.

  1. I want a lot of freedom and flexibility – for me this does take some real resources. I want to be able to say no to a lot of people – I want to make my own choices.
  2. In many respects where I want to live are not cheap places – nor, in fact, is it a singular place – I want to live and put down roots in more than one city (indeed perhaps in more than one country).
  3. Eventually I do want to be a father – I feel I could be a good one – and thus at some point I want to be able to give my children the opportunity to pursue (and excel at) their dreams.
  4. I want to build many things which will outlast me – and in doing so I want to help a great deal of others (individuals and companies).
  5. I want to see my ideas tested – that is I have (and I suspect always will) have many ideas, I’m an entrepreneur in part because I want to take those ideas and see them turn into reality into actual products and services which help others and impact the world. I then want to keep repeating this – and to help many others do the same (take great ideas and make them real). At some point I suspect this means I’ll be either an angel or VC investor myself – but to get there I probably have to see a few of my ideas through to success first.
  6. And I want to teach. I’m not sure where, but my fantasy of “retirement” has always been to get a PhD (or not to need one) and to teach – but to do so on my own terms and without needing to play political games (“publish or perish” etc). I think I can be a great teacher – but I also want to do more than just teach – I also want to do.

What are your inspirations?

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, networks, personal, startupcamp, time, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Some thoughts on Obama’s possible running mates

Posted by shannonclark on February 10, 2008

This is, of course, still all quite speculative, as I write this Obama has a lot of momentum having won all the primaries this weekend, but the final result of the Democratic Primary is still quite up in the air. I am, however, an Obama supporter and I want to put a few thoughts out into the “blogosphere”.

First, I do not think an Obama/Clinton ticket would be a good or healthy ticket. (and nor do I like a Clinton/Obama though I’d be marginally okay with that if necessary but as I noted, I want Obama to win it all).

Nor do I like some of the names usually mentioned – Al Gore, Howard Dean, or John Edwards. Edwards has said he doesn’t want the VP nomination. I also don’t like the idea I’ve seen tossed out in some places for Colin Powell. A few others I don’t like – Wesley Clark, Richardson, or for that matter any of the other candidates for President this time around (all of whom besides the big three turned in pretty poor showings in debates and on the campaign trails).

My primary criteria for a VP is I want a VP who will, in 8 years time make a great president. I want the Democrats to pay attention to the long term – I want another candidate of the same generation of Obama (possibly even someone younger than him) who after 8 years at the VP would make for a fantastic President.

So two names I have heard suggested both seem like very viable and positive suggestions – the female governors of Kansas and Arizona. Both have proven an ability to win in states where Democrats are not typically successful. Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas is 59, Governor Janet Napolitano of AZ is 50. Both are highly skilled politicians from states which could this year be in play for the Democrats.

While for the past few weeks I have been marginally in favor of Governor Sebelius as the VP, on further reflection this evening I now think Governor Napolitano would be a truly fantastic choice for VP by Obama.

Here are my reasons:

– She, like McCain is from Arizona, which makes AZ definitely in play against McCain in the national campaign.

– She has a lot of experience, is strong on a lot of important issues (immigration for one having led a major state where immigration and border issues are important)

– and at age 50 she would be 58 after two terms in the White House and would make for a great presidential candidate at that point!

– plus she will be term limited in 2010

Either would be a historic candidate, neither are however as well known nationally as Hillary Clinton – but as well neither would come with Clinton’s negatives – and both would be strongly in keeping with Obama’s message and movement for change.

And I think either (though slightly more likely for Governor Napolitano) would mean we would go from our first African American President to our first Woman President!

If you haven’t yet voted be sure to vote in your upcoming primary. If you can afford it, consider donating to Obama’s campaign.

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Vote Today if you can – my vote is for Obama

Posted by shannonclark on February 5, 2008

I am not a Democrat. Nor am I a Republican. I have been a registered Independent since I moved to CA, while I was in Illinois I didn’t have to registered as a member of either party and I did not, though living in Chicago meant that generally the Democratic primary was the most important so I tended to vote in that (since few if any Republicans even ran for many positions from Chicago).

But this year I have a clear choice – I have been and am strongly supporting Barack Obama for President. Not only because he taught law at the University of Chicago (where I attended The College) and lives in my old neighborhood of Hyde Park, though both are positive factors in my support. My primary reason for supporting Obama is that I agree with his positions (more so than any other candidate of either party) and even more I respect how he goes about governance – what he focuses on, how he listens to and respects alternative positions and viewpoints, including those of members of the other party – yet at the same time how he has now many times over shown an ability to run a very efficient and masterful organization and shows planning and foresight for the long term.

For example, in both the Illinois Senate and at the US Senate Barack Obama has championed, sponsored and gotten passed a number of ethics reforms many of which share a common trait of focusing on transparency and accountability. He has pledged even more such steps when he is elected. Here I think is an example of simple, very hard to argue against steps which will go a long way to major reform of the government – and which take full advantage of our modern, digital age.

He also has shown a willingness to not shirk from his views or positions even when they might not go over well with a given audience he is addressing – notably he championed merit pay for teachers even while addressing a large teachers union (not known for supporting that position – which is one that I also strongly share). He has also frequently addressed gay and lesbian rights – again even when not addressing “friendly” audiences. I’m straight, but countless of my friends are not – and even were that not the case I deeply respect his giving gay rights a prominent place in his campaign and speeches (and unlike certain presidents he has not shown any unwillingness to even say the word “gay”).

On foreign policy I also strongly support his positions and approach. I was not anti-war – though I respect those who were – I do think there are times when we should act militarily, though to be blunt I think the time probably was during the first Gulf War or later on when there was an uprising in Iraq which we had initially supported but then did not follow through with that support. At that time we had a large (and real) coalition and a much clearer reason for acting (invading and taking over a neighboring state is a very clear and immediate cause for military action – much more so than the we now know fictitious reasons for the current conflict).

Obama’s position before the war was and is a very smart one – he was opposed to “dumb wars” – not the knee jerk, sometimes head-in-the-sand “all wars” but he recognized that Iraq was a dumb war. He has since followed up on that position and insight with opposition to further dumb bills – all while also being very active in veteran’s rights (he serves on some relevent committees in the Senate).

In short I think that Barack Obama is the best candidate for President I have had the chance to vote for in my lifetime. This will be my 5th presidential election (I’m 33) – and though like all previous elections in my lifetime a Bush or a Clinton (or both) are involved, I hope that is only the case for a few more weeks during the Primaries.

If you are not in a state voting today, I encourage you to contact and reach out to all your friends who are in states which vote today – and if your state has not yet voted making sure you are registered to vote and when the time comes vote. While I hope, like myself, you will be voting for Barack Obama, even more I hope you will vote and participate. This year we are seeing record participation levels in every primary – and overall I think this more than almost anything else is a positive sign for the country.

So please go Vote. Use the League of Women Voter’s SmartVoter site to locate your polling place and view a full sample ballot.


Yes. We. Can!

Update – check out the comments on this Talking Point Memo post for another great Obama related post

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