Searching for the Moon

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

Archive for the ‘internet’ Category

2014 – the battle of platforms continues

Posted by shannonclark on September 26, 2013

My wife and I are are a mixed couple.

Sure she’s Indian and I’m Irish-Jewish but that’s not what I meant. I meant that she’s on Android and I’m on iOS. Though we both also have iPads and share an older desktop iMac. I also have a MacBook Pro that is my primary computer.

We share a family Amazon Prime account though each use Kindle via apps not physical devices. We don’t, currently, have an Android tablet in the house.

As I look forward to 2014 I think we are an example of the looming battle of core platforms that a relatively small number of companies are waging. The companies that I would argue are battling this out are:

  • Amazon.com – especially with Kindle as their physical device but also with the growing features of Prime that have expanded well beyond free shipping. They are fighting for an increasing share of not just reading but all entertainment as well as all shopping for a growing number of families. And Amazon is powering a huge number of businesses via selling on Amazon.com and Amazon Web Services. Amazon payments is not as well known but is used by popular websites like Kickstarter.
  • Apple – obviously iOS is a massive platform and Apple is a platform for thousands (millions?) of app developers and companies that offer services to the huge and growing global iOS installed base (iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches) but Apple is also battling in the living room with Apple TV and their laptops and desktops are still very popular. While Apple is directly competing for entertainment time (iTunes Radio being their latest addition) and iBooks competes directly with Kindle, they are not competing for the eccommerce platform in the same way that Amazon or Google are.
  • Google – Android is their massive platform play on mobile phones and tablets and it is a huge success (if also a challenge in how many flavors of it our out in the wild). But Google’s platform plays don’t stop there. Chrome is a cross platform and important piece of their platform. Google+ is perhaps not a slam dunk success but it is an important piece of their puzzle and they have just recently announced a public roll out of their Google Shopping Express (currently limited to San Francisco and the Peninsula but presumably they plan on a larger scale rollout in the future) showing that they are looking for transactional solutions beyond advertising. If you can get what your family needs quickly, reliably and reasonably from local stores but delivered to you via Google they presumably see a way to make a lot of money offering that service.

There are many other companies that are also competing, though to a lesser degree.

  • Microsoft – hard to entirely rule out and their XBoxOne will likely be a huge hit this holiday season and gives them a footprint into many living rooms. But Bing is not as successful as Google, Surface is faring poorly against iOS and Android and while Windows 8 is big it is no longer as relevant of a platform as it once was as the focus for many consumers (and thus many companies and developers) has shifted very rapidly to mobile platforms. There while Windows Mobile / Phone (whatever they are calling it today) has some impressive phones from companies like Nokia, what it does not have is a large installed base or significant developer interest (there are applications and developers building for the platform but far fewer than for iOS or Android.
  • Ebay/Paypal – they have made some interesting acquisitions in the past year and have rolled out services like Ebay Now (that directly competes with Amazon Prime or Google Shopping Express for rapid fulfillment of ecommerce but they have lost their early community feeling and PayPal while still large and profitable has also made many people frustrated over the years as their anti-fraud systems have had many false positives. They remain a big online sales channel and PayPal is making inroads in other payments but they don’t have the same platform reach as other companies.
  • Comcast / Verizon / AT&T or other carriers/cable networks – this varies somewhat by region and is very different in other countries. but while Comcast certainly is competing for people’s entertainment dollars (directly with Apple/Microsoft/Amazon/Netflix for streaming/on-demand videos) and they have launched apps to expend to portable devices beyond TVs they don’t, yet, offer the other platforms of the companies above. But as the pipes upon which mobile phones, tablets, computers, consoles and entertainment devices like the Apple TV connect to the Internet and receive content they are certainly positioned to benefit from the success of other platform companies.

Are there any other companies I have missed? I know there are others outside of the US that are competing (and winning) as platforms. Companies like Alibaba in China (and indeed globally). Yahoo presumably wants to have a platform for consumers and businesses – who else?

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Posted in customer service, Entrepreneurship, internet, microsoft, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Initial thoughts on Facebook Graph search

Posted by shannonclark on January 22, 2013

I’ve been playing around with the new Graph search which i just got this afternoon.

First impressions – BEST “tour” I’ve ever seen in a product – instead of canned searches & results the TOUR uses logical elements from your Facebook profile and actual live results (in my case “University of Chicago” then “my friends who attended the University of Chicago”)

Second impressions – very cool but the auto completion vs actual search is frustrating – and will be MUCH more so when (if) they allow searching in blobs of texts (i.e. updates, shares, posts etc) – much that I would want to actually search for won’t be possible.

For example something like “friends who are hiring” which would be awesome to get reasonable results for isn’t currently feasible.

And more playing with the searches also shows a lot about who is/isn’t keeping their profiles active and up-to-date. Definitely increases the value/importance of keeping elements of your FB profile accurate (companies you work/worked at for example). They also don’t quite get that distinction – i.e. Dave McClure showed up in a simple search I did for “friends who work at Paypal” (note that my search was in the present tense – of course I know Dave used to work there… )

This will also be useful but will suffer from the “when/how” do I use this? Will Graph search be available to me via the FB apps? Or just the website? Will it be a standalone mobile app (ala Messenger) What more complex use cases will this have beyond the obvious friend stalking/local restaurant suggestions types of things.

Seth Blank’s YourTrove.com is still FAR more useful for me – that lets me search stuff that has been shared with me (full text search of posts) – i.e. insanely useful in tracking down stuff I know someone shared with me at some point in the past but which I can’t recall the precise details (for example the private, friend’s only post where a friend shared the names of his newborn children)

Overall definitely going to be an interesting shift in how Facebook is used.

Posted in digital bedouin, internet, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Your Browser Alphabet

Posted by shannonclark on January 11, 2013

So a few days ago I came up with a fun yet revealing game – and asked folks on Twitter about it.

What is your browser alphabet?

That is, when you type a single letter what does your browser auto-complete to (if at all)? This may vary across the browsers you have installed and is, of course, based on your browsing and searching history in each of your browsers.

For me not every letter maps to a site and some more obscure letters map to sites I rarely use (but which are the only sites I use with any frequency that start with that letter). In my own case a few links, of sites I use the most, map to highly specific pages of a much much larger site. In most cases however the browser defaults to a fairly top level domain.

Safari (my secondary browser)

A is for accounts.google.com (yup, over Apple.com)

B is for bbc.co.uk

F is for Facebook.com

etc.

Browsers vary and a lot of this depends on what you have been visiting recently – but I think the full exercise can buy  revelation about what sites you actually spend the most time and may help you think about what you have been prioritizing. Sharing the full list almost certain reveals more of your self than most people would be comfortable sharing but I think it could easily be a very fun site/game to capture this info and compare it to others.

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, internet | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Comics, Geeks and the evolution of media

Posted by shannonclark on July 18, 2012

If you didn’t already know this about me – I’m a geek and proud of it. I’m also an analyst and observer of business trends and for many years now one area I have been studying very carefully is the ongoing evolution of media an evolution which is occurring all around us on a global scale in ways that may change billion dollar industries (and already have). For the past few years I have been focusing on studying a variety of specialized niches both because they are areas that interest me personally and also because I believe that each niche offers insights into the future of the larger market. Individual creators and content focused businesses should study these niches for what is working as well as what is not and for the direction of things to come.

While there are many great examples here are a few specific cases across a variety of niches which I think are worth careful study. Hopefully these are also entertaining and enjoyable.

Comics

As the big two comics publishers Marvel and DC experiment with line-wide relaunches and explorations of digital content (see DC Comics on Amazon for example – note my Affiliate link is in there – that’s a link to DC Comics available on the Kindle where for a while at least they were exclusive) independent comics publishers have been doing some really interesting experiments. The web comic world for example has launched a lot of highly successful Kickstarter projects to fund the physical print versions of web comics (which are mostly available online for free) and the model of free-online frequent web comic supported in part by infrequent collections in physical form (or as paid digital collections) is starting to see some successes.

The comics site that I will be watching carefully over the rest of 2012 (and into 2013 and beyond) however illustrates some other relevant trends around the comics industry – namely that comics are a fertile source of new IP that leads into other media and increasingly creators are crossing between many different genres and media types to tell and explore their story ideas. This site is ThrillBent which is a collaboration of Mark Waid and Jon Rodgers. Mark Waid is a highly acclaimed comics writer and Jon Rodgers is the producer and writer of the fantastic TV series Leverage (and other projects in the past and future). Jon Rodgers is also a gamer (see below where I embed a video that includes him talking about his game playing).

Video entertainment

Increasingly there are entertainment options that are available on-demand from a wide array of options (physical media – DVDs/BluRay being the least useful option) and as this evolution continues to expand the 500+ channel cable/satellite TV model is increasingly under attack and likely will evolve considerably in the next few years. Just this year YouTube has taken a major step in generating eve more new ongoing content on YouTube via their program of channels many of which they are helping fund. My personal favorite is the Geek And Sundry channel which has become my regular video viewing on a weekly (and often daily) basis.

See this video from Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop series feature Jon Rodgers among other guests.

Shows like this may not garner the millions of viewers of the latest reality tv show but they are compelling and engaging and, in this case, highly geeky…

Posted in futureculture, geeks, internet | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The business opportunities I see for 2012 and beyond

Posted by shannonclark on June 26, 2012

I see 1000’s of opportunities all around me for new businesses. A few are being pursued by my friends (and even family in a few cases) but most are not being pursued or well funded. Before I list a few of the opportunities which I see let me start with a few disclaimers.

I am not (currently at least) an investor – I don’t work for a Venture Fund or other investors and my personal net worth, such as it is, is tied up in my own company and family. I will mention here many companies and ideas being pursued by friends, invested in by friends and in some cases have family involvement – I’m completely not an unbiased observer of the tech world and do not claim to be one. That said I try to offer constructive criticism to my friends (and family) when asked.

Many of the opportunities I see and the ones I’m most passionate about are likely not the ones that you “should” focus on if you want to have the easiest path to getting funding in the current environment. I will be focusing on sustainable businesses (sustainable in the sense that they can keep going based on pulling in more resources than they expend on a regular basis – in a few cases also sustainable from an environmental perspective) I’m not focusing on what is “hot” or “trendy” or “sought after by investors at the moment”.

I can offer few guarantees other than that a) I will miss at least one billion+ opportunity and b) many of the opportunities I propose will upon being pursued lead to failed companies in many cases.

So disclaimers done here are some of the 1000’s of opportunities I see all around me. I think that many of these ideas could be pursued anywhere in the world – many of them are not limited to a specific geography or a culture (but some are) and these are not just for the “1%” though again a few of them are at least initially targeted at a luxury market. My goal is not to suggest the “best” businesses for the world – or to solve every problem across the globe.

That said I do also fundamentally believe that the best businesses are based on strong values and consistency (and honesty with all stakeholders). Businesses built upon fooling someone (regulators, investors, customers, suppliers, bloggers or other partners) will inevitably come crashing down – leaving destruction in their wake. Absolutely these can be businesses that give the impression of success (and in fact often generate outsized returns for someone – see many firms on Wall Street in recent decades or the stories behind many past booms and busts) but in the long run if your business is built upon fooling someone once that deception is revealed your business (and personal reputation) will likely suffer.

Businesses which are built upon a basis of offering great value to every party involved in the business (including the communities where the business operates) are businesses which are designed for long term success.

So where do I see opportunity?

  1. Streamlined and carefully curated local businesses.
    Far too many small businesses try to please every potential customer – they try to stock something for everyone, try to have a dish on their menu (if a restaurant) for every taste and occasion. In their efforts to please everyone more often than not small businesses (and for that matter big businesses) all too often please no one and furthermore invest too much in aspects of their business which will not pay them back (i.e. in inventory which will go unsold). Instead the successful new retail businesses which I see are most often those businesses which have very carefully curated what they sell – and thus who they sell to. Businesses that may offer only a very small selection of items – but which know those items exceptionally well, offer very high degrees of service and high quality products and experiences. Frequently as well these are businesses that do not try to be the lowest priced offering in their market, instead they have the confidence in their products to offer them at a fair but often high price.

    These opportunities are both for restaurants, cafes and retail businesses of all types. Look around your community and see what is missing. Most of these businesses are unlikely to be venture capital investments – but a few could be – see The Melt for example. Consider as well that most fast food businesses were very streamlined when they started (at least) offering just a handful of items and a consistant quality. While this has changed as many businesses have expanded around the globe it is a lesson worth revisiting.

  2. Curated eccomerce combined with a pre-order and limited edition philosophy.
    Online it is relatively easy to think about businesses that have seemingly infinite inventories – think Ebay,  Zappos, Amazon.com or indeed most of the eccommerce businesses started in the 1990’s. This model is indeed powerful but for long term profits it requires vast numbers of customers (to attract eventually a buyer for everything in your warehouses) and it requires fairly significant investments into warehouses and inventory (or in Ebay’s case a network of sellers that handle these issues).

    But there is an opportunity that I think too many investors are reluctant to invest in but which is a brilliant and long-term game changing model to consider – sell only a handful of items almost all of which you have pre-sold and which you limit the number of to command higher margins and minimize inventory complications. Think the model built upon many Kickstarter projects where 1000’s of customers have paid, in advance, for the products they desire. Now imagine a business that, mostly, only sells things that customers have not just said they are interested in but have taken the bigger commitment of actually ordering and paying for in advance. This business does require a lot of care to get the timing right – you have to know how long it will take you to make the goods you sell and you have to know what your prices will be in the worst case to ensure that you haven’t just sold your entire inventory of something new for less than it will cost you to make. But if you can get that right this model is incredibly powerful (and highly bootstrapable). It also is a model that can be highly sustainable especially if you are selling a product to customers who will likely come back to buy another product from you in the future.

    This model is seen today in a handful of mostly design driven businesses – Threadless, 20×200 but I think the opportunity is actually a lot greater and bigger especially as manufacturing networks shrink and capabilities increase globally for collaboration and production to happen faster and in smaller batches.

  3. Co-operative partnerships to create strong brands and great businesses as well as create compelling content.
    I don’t know of current examples of this idea but here it is.

    Historically great content was supported by a handful of brands that sold goods and services that had a wide market but limited differentiation (think soap companies that started the genre of “soap operas” via their support of early radio dramas). In the modern era however brand advertising on a national scale has become limited to only a handful of mostly very large businesses (still some soap companies, a few banks and insurance firms, car companies, soft drinks and beer companies, drug companies and only a handful of other industries). But at the same time content creation has dropped in cost in many places (other than non-reality show television series) with the proliferation of YouTube channels and other forms of online content across all mediums.

    I think there is an opportunity for a group of new companies to pool their resources and support great content that has a logical association with their businesses, targets a specific niche and which has a long term plan both for content creation and distribution – a plan that will support the business goals of every party involved. This is high risk to be sure as most content sounds better in theory than in practice and building an ongoing audience is never easy – nor is tying that audience back to each of the supporting advertisers/sponsors a trivial issue and this has to happen over a long timeframe and at a level that grows the businesses of every party involved. That said, I think that the opportunity here is massive – something has to replace the 30 second tv spot and the historical model of advertising based content (newspapers, magazines, radio and tv). The costs here also don’t have to be high – this could start with a YouTube channel type of model and indeed we are starting to see this to a degree with some of the current crop of YouTube channels – except that the content and the sponsorship/advertising support for the channels are not tightly connected to each other in the least (and in most cases seem highly random).

  4. Businesses that are not built on offering the lowest price but on offering incredible quality and exceptional experiences. 
    Yes, WalMart will not be failing anytime soon and sure everyone everywhere loves a great deal. But increasingly there is also a recognition that many “great deals” aren’t as good as they at first appear. Cheap clothes that you have to replace every few months quickly cost you more than clothes that will last for years. Food in large bulk containers that end up being tossed away unused and rotting and which contribute to higher health care costs are also not a “good deal” however cheap they appear to be at first. Instead I think there are lots of opportunities in building businesses that charge for the value they provide and use that to grow lasting business. This is a shift back towards quality and craft alongside the customization available at lower volumes. Companies such as San Francisco’s Rickshaw Bagworks illustrate this model.
  5. Businesses that build tools and services that enable other businesses to prosper.
    Okay this is an old fashioned business, it is the modern variation on the don’t be a gold miner be the guy selling shovels and pickaxes. But more fundamentally it is about recognizing that there are in essence only two core types of businesses – those businesses that provide a core element for another business’ success (suppliers broadly speaking) or businesses that sell discretionary purchases that compete to some degree with all other optional purchases (whether optional purchases by corporations or individuals). The first category restricts your pricing to low enough that your customers can still leverage your offerings to in turn make more money from their customers. The second category allows for literally unlimited pricing (or more specifically “as high as the market will bear” but means your customers are likely fickle, more costly to engage with and your competition will continually emerge from new areas you can not anticipate.

    Amazon.com is an example of company that is trying to do both types of business – both be a supplier to 1000’s of other businesses – via both their Amazon Web Services technology offerings and via their Amazon Fulfillment services offering as well as other ecommerce services to 100’s of other businesses and of course as both a large scale consumer eccommerce company and as a publisher and consumer electronics company Amazon sells discretionary purchases directly to consumers.

What other opportunities do you see in the market today (globally or locally)?

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Conferences outside of San Francisco – TechWeek in Chicago

Posted by shannonclark on June 16, 2012

While I have been attending a lot of conferences in the Bay Area of late there are fantastic conferences being held outside of the Bay Area these days as well. If I could get back to Chicago in two weeks I would try to attend TechWeek 2012, however I won’t be able to make it this year but at least one of my Chicago based co-founders at Beyond Age will attend in my place and the folks at TechWeek have offered me a discount code to extend to my readers/followers (see below – full disclosure they also offered me a free pass – some of the text below is copy they provided though I’ve edited it a bit to clarify what I think is interesting – i.e. the speakers, range of events and affordability)

Here is some more info about Techweek 2012 Conference + Expo in Chicago, IL from Friday, June 22 to Tuesday, June 26. It’s a comprehensive tech conference that includes:

Over 350 Speakers, including:

  • Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber
  • Jason Fried, founder of 37Signals (Ruby on Rails came out of this group)
  • Stefan Weitz, Director of Bing at Microsoft
  • Matt Mickiewicz, founder of 99designs

Parties:  Several major parties and events including the annual Bootlegger’s Ball (themed rooms with live music & DJ’s, bourbon tasting and swing dancing).

Hiring Fair: Come meet with 50 of Chicago’s top companies and find your dream job! Entry is open to anyone that brings their resume.

Techweek LAUNCH: 35 exciting startups will be demoing their products and the top 5 will present on the main stage.
In addition, visit some of the many educational workshops and test your skills in the Techweek video game lounge!

Use discount code P_tbnl_172  for 20% off conference passes and if you’re a student, use discount code tw12student (must show proof of enrollment). 

Register today!

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If I were the Yahoo! CEO (for a day…)

Posted by shannonclark on May 10, 2012

So many people around the tech world have been writing about the current  Yahoo CEO’s problems with honesty.

Which got me to thinking – what would I do as the Yahoo! CEO (even if just for a day – though really it will take years to revitalize Yahoo! if it is even possible to do so)?

First the full disclosures

1.  My resume is messy. I don’t have a college degree (I entered the University of Chicago in 1991 as part of the class of 1995, but in 1994 I took a year off  – I was 19, on track to graduate at the age of 20 and had just had a very rough year emotionally as my then girlfriend left me for another woman, that year off during which I wrote a play and parts of two novels, turned into many more years as I was able to first start a business selling collectibles that paid extremely well and then started a series of computer consulting jobs that just kept paying more and more, in 1998 and 1999 I returned to school while also working full time, wasn’t able to negotiate a leave of absence to finish my degree so quit but instead of finishing completely took a better job offer – after seeing my clients through the Y2K transition and after not getting paid commissions on the nearly $2M in renewals and new sales I had negotiated I left in early 2000 to start my own company. Since 2000 I’ve worn many different hats at various times – as an entrepreneur, consultant, conference organizer, writer/blogger, advisor to startups and more – none of my various startup ideas have resulted in big successes and at times have overlapped – so yes, my resume is “messy”).

2. At present I’m not a direct Yahoo! shareholder (though mutual funds my wife and I own likely hold some Yahoo! stock) but I have all kinds of personal conflicts of interest. Lots of friends who were at one time employees (and even senior leaders) at Yahoo!, plenty of friends across Silicon Valley (and indeed the world) who are investors in competitors to Yahoo! in one form or another, have sold companies in the past to Yahoo!, are building companies that compete with Yahoo! or who work at competitors to Yahoo! including Facebook. I also have a number of consulting clients, including some in whom I have small equity stakes that may compete with some division of Yahoo! now or in the future. For that matter I’ve personally tried ventures that would have competed with some part of Yahoo!.

But all that aside here is what I would if I were offered the chance to help Yahoo! turn around.

Step 1. Immediately halt the patent trolling lawsuits & apologize to the tech community for the lawsuits (including to former employees whose works were used as part of these lawsuit.

The lawsuits even if there is a chance of “winning” via a large settlement (or judgement if the case makes it to trial) of money from the flush with cash post-IPO Facebook would be at best a Pyrrhic victory – the cost in future trust, in diminished ability to hire the best and brightest or to retain those who remain at the company would be immense – making any future hope of innovating out of the current mess difficult to achieve (at best).

Step 2. Repair relationships with Alibaba and SoftBank. 

See this article from February to see what I’m referring to if you aren’t familiar. According to a more recent report a new deal without SoftBank may be in the works. Clearly this is one of the best remaining assets that Yahoo! has which could be divested to generate cash to fund reinvigoration efforts for the rest of Yahoo! However while taxes matter, Yahoo! also needs to repair the underlying relationships with two major Internet giants (Alibaba and SoftBank) if Yahoo! wants to remain a powerful and viable global Internet company. I don’t know what it would take to repair these relationships – but if I were CEO doing so would be a very high priority.

Step 3. Clean house with the Yahoo! board.

Somehow the Yahoo! board has presided over the long, painful to observe from the outside, decline of what was once one of the most innovative online companies to one that is while still important decreasingly relevant. The board has dickered, fought founders and shareholders alike and generally underperformed in a huge way. Of course, if I were appointed CEO (for that matter this is true of nearly any new CEO) I would likely “owe” the board for that appointment – but this is in part one of the problems. As the founders have departed there seems to be a big leadership and vision gap at Yahoo! Perhaps a smaller and newer board, refreshed by a mix of outsiders, former insiders and even a critic or two would be able to help guide the company into a new direction.

See http://specials.yahoo.com/forward/ for what the current board and revitalization effort looks like. Given the current scandal I don’t think it is working as intended.

Step 4. Define a clear vision for Yahoo!

Go read the new CEO’s Strategic Vision for Yahoo!. Don’t worry I’ll wait – though I do recommend you have a large shot of espresso first…

Can you summarize his vision? Not sure that I could.

And I think that’s the problem. Yahoo! sees itself as being so many different businesses (and has grown so large that it really is) that it no longer has a clear vision about what Yahoo! does (or should do) or what value Yahoo! offers to others. Is Yahoo! a technology company? A media property? An advertising platform? A search engine? A portfolio of Internet services and properties? Something else?

Yahoo! needs a clear, concise, simple vision that dictates everything that Yahoo! does – something that every employee, partner, client, customer or site visitor would get immediately and understand. This is HARD.

I can’t claim to have it fully – but I think it should be something like:

Yahoo! makes the web personal.

Okay perhaps that needs work – but listen to my logic. When Yahoo! launched years and years ago and as they grew the crown jewel of Yahoo! was not any specific website or part of Yahoo! – it was the user profiles that Yahoo! had for every user (and they had millions at a time when few sites had over 100k users) which they were able to extend to nearly every new property or site they launched. These user profiles meant that you could add a new service that Yahoo! created without needing to create a new username and password, user profile and more.

Now this seems like a minor achievement – Yahoo!’s profiles have been overtaken for more web users by their Facebook accounts (or their Twitter accounts) which are the login tool that millions of people use to access other services beyond Facebook or Twitter. But done well it is still an opportunity for Yahoo! – and one that starts to help inform what Yahoo! should focus on (and what they may want to forget about).

It is also a question of what is Yahoo!’s identity and offering to companies that will partner with Yahoo! or which will generate revenue for Yahoo! in some manner (most probably via purchasing advertising through Yahoo! in some capacity – currently limited mostly to Yahoo!’s own properties). If Yahoo! were to focus on making the web personal – making it relevant and interesting and useful to every user of Yahoo! – across whatever service(s) and platforms (including sites and services not created or owned by Yahoo! potentially) this would be challenging – and would require that Yahoo! take the side of the individual user over the advertiser – but in exchange the advertisers would get a more valuable placement and likely see far better results when they do (since Yahoo! would in theory only show ads when they were really targeted and of interest to a given user).

In today’s Internet this would also require that Yahoo! focus on building products and services that cross ALL platforms and forms – not just the web but mobile, touch, TV and more. Find ways to expose their services and properties that made them available on every platform – including making advertiser’s campaigns available and relevant to the given form factor. This would be hard, this would be challenging, this would require rewiring/rewriting/reinventing most of Yahoo! currently. It would also require renewed interest in building products and services for non-Yahoo! developers to leverage (Yahoo! just a few years ago was on the forefront of building open APIs and hosting Hackathons to encourage developers to build on top of Yahoo! platforms but I think they never fully committed to this and never made it a strategic priority). I would encourage Yahoo! to explore directions that included revenue sharing with outside developers – potentially putting Yahoo! in the middle of a vibrant mobile development future. Yahoo! would also need to explore lots of service offerings that instead of relying on advertising and mass scale rely instead on subscriptions and direct payments by users – again including pass through payments to outside developers in many cases.

Would this be enough to “fix” Yahoo!? 

I don’t know but it would be a start.

And there is, of course, “one more thing…”

Yahoo needs to streamline and eliminate as many layers of management and approval processes as possible. Likely this means a lot of transitions for current employees and a total rethinking of their current workforce. This might not be easy or painless but I would start by carving out small entrepreneurial teams within ALL of Yahoo!. Teams that would have full authority to spend a given budget in whatever manner they require – with encouragement to be creative – and few requirements that they wait for a committee to approve everything. This would of course work best if a unified, simple vision can be shared by every employee – something would make it easy to answer the question of “would this new …. further the big picture vision for Yahoo!?” – would it help make the web more personal (for example). As much as possible I would look at models from innovative firms such as Valve to attempt to flatten the structures of Yahoo! as much as possible. This is, of course, challenging in a global, large public company – but it isn’t impossible.

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A few podcasts and video series I subscribed to recently…

Posted by shannonclark on May 8, 2012

I’d love to get your suggestions for other shows I should subscribe to and watch – either as podcasts or as YouTube subscriptions.

YouTube subscriptions – I’ve only added one in recent months, the fantastic Geek and Sundry  Felecia Day, The Guild, Dark Horse comics, Wil Wheaton – yup, my kinda video series and perfect for watching via my Apple TV when nothing else is on cable (i.e. most of the time)

Podcast subscriptions – I’ve added a bunch of new shows, not sure I’ll stick with all of them but I’ll give them at least a few episodes before I make that decision, but shows that I’ve added in the past few weeks which I’m really enjoying include:

  • Ze Frank’s A Show (http://ashow.zefrank.com/– Ze is back and in a big awesome way. Great videos though watching them via subscription in iTunes may be less than ideal as the show notes and comments and community are probably more fun even than the just the videos…
  • Mac Power Users (http://macpowerusers.com/) – a bit long but really interesting discussions about how a bunch of people use their Macs – a great reminder to me about how little I actually leverage the great applications and technologies of my devices – macbook, iPad and iPhone. Good inspiration to get back to using tools I really should be leveraging to get more work done, write better (and more often) and get more out of my tools.
  • 3.5 Private Sanctuary (http://www.35privatesanctuary.com/) – okay I confess I’m a geek and in the past few months I’ve gotten back into actively playing paper RPG’s (playing Pathfinder Society games most Monday nights and at occasional gaming conventions). 3.5 Private Sanctuary is actually a bunch of different podcasts all interesting and all a reminder of how much fun playing RPG’s can be (and a reminder of just how old many of us have gotten…) It is always good to connect, even if just via listening to a podcast, with folks who share your love of a specific niche.

I still haven’t found a great tech podcast – surprising but I don’t really want to listen to a long winded discussion for many hours – I want something which is focused, engaging and interesting – which covers news I may have missed and/or offers a perspective and summary of news I’ve seen but may not have explored fully (i.e. I can only try a few of the many new applications and technologies that launch every week).

What podcasts (or videos) do you make time for every week?

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, internet, iTunes, personal, podcasts | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

My Steve Jobs memories

Posted by shannonclark on August 25, 2011

My Steve Jobs memoriesAs a kid I learned to program on Comodore64’s and on the Osborne “luggable” my father had from his work. My mom was a mainframe programmer but we were relatively early adopters of computers – however as we didn’t have a TV we didn’t get an Atari or other home computer for a while. But I did use Apple’s at various schools and learned to program them.In the 1980’s my parents bought one of the very first Mac’s, a Mac512 which we later upgraded to a MacPlus with a whole 1mb of memory! (they still have this – likely now it is a collectible).

In 1991 as I prepared for my first year of college I bought my first computer of my own – it wasn’t a Mac, nor was it a Windows PC, I bought a used NeXT cube. The bit over $6000 I spent on that NeXT was probably among the best purchases I ever made in my life – more than college, more then my first condo. Okay not more than a certain ring I just bought but other than that, one of the most long lasting purchases of my life – as the skills I learned connecting that NeXT to the Internet have lasted to this day.

In 1991 from my college dorm room which included wired Internet access I had a static IP address and had nearly 1000 users from around the globe playing the MuCK which I ran for some friends on the NeXT (named Collatz). While I wasn’t ever a highly active player of the MuCK I helped to run that experience and the ongoing experience of the NeXT OS as an interface to the Internet in 1991 has shaped me and my technical interests to this day.

I purchased the NeXT largely because it came bundled with Mathematica (I thought I was going to be a Math or Physics major and had been an avid Mathematica user while working at Argonne National Lab). There are still UI and software elements of the NeXT which I think still would be innovative today – the multi-dimensional spreadsheet for the NeXT OS was really impressive and the mail included the ability to link photos to addresses (something only gradually available today via add-ons such as Rapportive to Gmail though Google is also making some strides to add this – but it still is far from standard).

A few years into to college, however, i sold my NeXT and bought my first laptop, which wasn’t a Mac but a PC. That served me well as a writing tool but less well as a technology tool and the various PCs I owned in the 1990’s and early 2000’s weren’t much better.

Finally fed up with Windows I switched to first an iMac for my home computer a few years ago and then added the MacBook Pro I’m writing on at the moment. Earlier this year my fiancee and I each bought an iPad and I’ve had an iPhone since the first version.

I’m still not a full power user of the latest MacOS (Lion) and I don’t do a lot of coding these days (though I did hack up an iPad app a while back and may try my hand at that again later this fall) but I’m appreciative of the power of the Mac platform and the reinvigorated Apple company that is Steve Job’s legacy.
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Posted in geeks, internet, mac, personal | Leave a Comment »

Cool ideas and links – coworking, cooking and more

Posted by shannonclark on April 4, 2011

I have been slow to blog in the past few months so my goal for April is starting today (April 4th) to post at least one blog post to one of my blogs at least 5-6 times a week. Besides my personal blog here the other places I likely will be blogging include Slow Brand and the blog for wwbll my new startup venture.

Cool ideas and links for today:

  • New office space for startups in SOMA- Storetek Building – this looks to be a very nice new space, not the best of locations (but not the worst), no idea what the price of rent in the space will be or how many startups will be there but it is good to hear about another large space and venue possibility in SF
  • Speaking of new venue spaces – Cookhouse SF recently opened here in SF. It is a brilliant business (one that I had thoughts about myself a while back) – it is a fully outfitted serious kitchen and entertaining space located in North Beach here in SF where you can rent the space by the house, get help stocking the kitchen if you need it, and cook for (or with) your guests and entertain in style. A perfect business for an urban environment where many people do not have big kitchens or space for a dinner party for 24 friends. They offer rates by the hour, auctions for busy times around the holidays and a membership program which offers discounts to events and other benefits. One link to them I read today mentioned that they may also be offering a co-working space/wifi cafe, something I will have to follow closely but in general I love this whole idea and will be following this carefully (and fully expect to host a dinner party there sometime later in 2011)

I have spent the day at the Data 2.0 Conference here in SF. Which has had a bunch of interesting announcements and product launches amongst great keynotes and panel discussions. Two in particular stood out as services and applications which I will be using in the future.

  • 3taps.com which is a venture from one of the early investors in Twitter is now live and the founder gave a great talk and presentation on stage. They are a service which is taking lots of websites with postings of some kind and by considering that they are facts and thus can be considered public domain knowledge (which I suspect may lead them to some legal challenges which I hope they eventually win) are aggregating postings from sites such as EBay, Craigslist and many other places across the web. Turning these into a firehouse of near realtime updates. As a demonstration of their capabilities they have created an iPhone app Craiggers which offers search across multiple geographies of all of Craigslist, something which the actual website does not allow you to do. They have also launched a self-branded app 3Taps which offers full access to all of the datasets they are collecting. Both are very cool and I’ve installed them on my iPhone today.
  • Twitter and MediaShift got up on stage after lunch to announce the launch of Datasift which offers curated and filtered access, on demand to the full Twitter firehouse (as well as other data but that last bit wasn’t mentioned on stage today). Exceptionally cool and looks to be something I’ll be using as soon as later this week.

Posted in banking, geeks, internet, iTunes, San Francisco, web2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »