Searching for the Moon

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

Archive for the ‘meshforum’ Category

first look to the future – my hopes for 2010

Posted by shannonclark on December 30, 2009

Over the next few days I will likely post a flurry of posts here and on Slow Brand (where I just posted 2500+ words on why 2010 is a great year for print). Some will be looking forward, others will be thinking about the past year (and decade) but to start here are my hopes for 2010.

These are not resolutions, nor are they in any particular order. Some are small, some are pretty major.

  • see my niece who was born in Dec. This will probably mean taking a trip to NYC early in 2010 and, I hope, getting in a habit of more frequent visits to one of my favorite cities. Though my niece is just recently born, I want to be an engaged and active uncle. As she grows up I hope I can be a great uncle (and spoil her just a bit)
  • travel outside of the US. In 2009 I didn’t travel all that much, a few trips early in the year, but not many after. In 2010 I hope to spend time outside of the US, see the changing world. Hopefully this will include many countries and many types of travel – professional and personal.
  • the return of Chuck to TV (well the Web in my case). My girlfriend’s “tv boyfriend” is Chuck. I’m okay with this. And yes, our shared love of this show says a great deal about our relationship. I’m a geek but so, in many ways, is she.
  • the end of David Tennant’s run on Doctor Who and the beginning of Matt Smith’s run. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan but never thought it would return to the TV, the past 5 years have been enhanced greatly by the return of Doctor Who to TV as well as the great spin-off series. I’ve loved David Tennant’s Doctor but I really look forward to what Steven Moffat does as the new show runner and I trust that I’ll love the new Doctor. My Decembers for the past few years have been made better by the Christmas Specials and this year my New Year’s Weekend as well.
  • SXSW. Every year since I moved out to the Bay Area I have attended SXSW staying for a few more days each year. In 2010 I hope to stay for even more of SXSW Music (and hope to convince my girlfriend to attend with me hopefully she will be working for a company by then which might send her to SXSW…)
  • A MeshWalk at Social Media Week San Francisco (Feb 1st). I will be organizing a MeshWalk here in San Francisco on Feb 1st as part of the larger Social Media Week activities in San Francisco. The format will be a Social Media Crawl – we will range between a number of businesses with offices in San Francisco in/around SOMA who will have open houses, demonstrations and drinks. Should be an amazing way to start a busy and great Social Media Week here in San Francisco.
  • MeshForum 2010. My hope is to pull together a full, multiple day MeshForum conference in 2010, probably in the late Spring in/around the Bay Area. It has been too many years since I last held a full MeshForum and the focus on the interdisciplinary study of Networks is even more important now than ever before.
  • Raising money for a new, social media related venture. I have been immersed in Social Media for a very long time, running an online game with 1000’s of players from my college dorm room in 1991, being active in USENET in the early 1990’s and on the web in many incarnations and forms ever since. As 2010 starts I am actively engaged in raising an early stage/angel round to fund a social media related venture. Watch my blogs for more details and updates but suffice it say that the focus will be on topics I have been writing about for years – the importance of Curation as the future of Media.

Of course if you are interested in supporting any of my ventures, especially the last three above contact me directly. Especially if your company is interested in sponsoring one or more of these events and online activities.

I also know a number of ventures, of many different scales, who are always looking for additional sponsors and creative advertisers, in 2010 I expect I will be connecting great advertisers and sponsors to amazing, unique and fantastic publishers online and offline.

Politically I have long been a strong supporter of Barack Obama and though some are disappointed in his 2009, I am not. He has achieved a great deal of what I expected and hoped he would, along with the support of his fantastic appointees. In 2010 I am eagerly awaiting still more achievements from the first great administration of my lifetime. Starting early in 2010 with, I hope, the passage of Health Care Reform which will have an immediate and important impact on the quality of my life.

I have a pre-existing condition (Asthma and related allergies and allergy caused conditions) which combined with looking at individual not group coverage would, currently, make getting high quality, affordable health insurance nearly impossible. With the passage of #HCR I should be able to get far more affordable coverage of a far higher quality w/o restrictions for my pre-existing conditions (which I should note are not expensive to treat and keep under control but do require annual expenditures for emergency inhalers and the like).

But more than any of these admittedly wide-ranging looks and hopes for 2010 my biggest one is stay worthy of the love of my girlfriend who has been, by leaps and bounds, the best part of 2009 by far.

I hope you have a great 2010 and look forward to reading about what you are looking forward to – whether big or small.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, meshforum, meshwalk, networks, personal, politics, San Francisco, venture capital, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

What is a business designer or how to work with Shannon

Posted by shannonclark on May 22, 2009

Of late I have started to describe myself as a business designer in response to the usual question of “What do you do?”

But what do I mean by the term?

A Business Designer, as I intend the term, is someone who uses the techniques of design firms, such as IDEO, to design new businesses – whether entire new startups or within the context of an existing, larger business.

I have been highly active online since 1991 and working on the web since the mid-90’s so a great deal of my work does involve the application of technology, especially web technology, to business problems. However my process starts before deciding what the solutions will be, it starts with the discussions about the specifics of the business, the resources available, and objectives.

Only then do we address the specific solutions required, in many cases applying technology both purchased, open source and customized to the business objectives.

So what is my process?

Earlier this week I attended the SanFran Music Tech Summit and over the course of the fantastic conference I had many long conversations with entrepreneurs and business people who were attending the conference. In these short conversations and discussions I practiced a shortened version of my business process.

  1. Hear how the current business, or the business idea, is described today.
  2. Explore what is behind the business, what technology if any current exists, what are the current clients, what is the current business process.
  3. Get a quick sense of the business objectives of the team at present – new customers, investment, partners etc.
  4. Brainstorm. In this process I leverage the diversity of industries and companies I follow closely, seeking examples often from unrelated industries which can help us decide on direction and business models for the business.
  5. Make concrete suggestions of next steps for the business from simple text copy changes to complex shifts in business model.

That is the shortened process, at times taking only a few minutes, other times taking an entire lunch.

What I follow

At the moment I pay very close attention to a number of industries and technologies, these include:

  • The music industry, especially the emergance of the online, digital music industry.
  • “New Media” from the business models of old media applied to the new digital world to the emergance of new businesses and media leaders
  • Web 2.0. I define Web 2.0 as the shift to a data centric view of web applications. Practically this means more open web sites, api driven services, dynamic flows of information, and in many cases user generated content
  • Mobile applications. In particular I have been an early adopter of smartphones, currently heavily focused on the iPhone.
  • Gaming. Though I am not an active game player, I have a longstanding and deep interest in games and gaming. I’m very interested in the application of gaming elements to serious purposes.
  • Social Networks. I started Meshforu, a conference on the study of Networks in 2004 and have been an early adopter of online social networks. I also follow closely the academic study of Social Network Analysis as well as related fields of Network Science.
  • Advertising. I believe that advertising, across all forms, is in a major transition. In particular I am a passionate proponent of Brands and believe that brands need to adapt to the new, digital landscape
  • Internet Radio. While I follow the whole music industry closely, many of my current ventures relate to the new forms of Internet Radio.
  • Community. Most successful businesses are driven by a community both online and offline. I’m an advisor to a number of startups focused very much on the support of specific communities enabled by the new digital media world. In many cases these cross over many types of media including online websites.
  • The Food Industry. My father is a leading food technologist who has designed new products and business processes for most of the major food companies around the globe. I am a passionate foodie and follow emerging trends in the food industry, including restaurants very closely.
  • Social Entrepreneurship. I run a small non-profit, MeshForum and am passionate about new models of business which include a strong social mission and purpose.

There are many other industries and specific technologies which I also pay attention to on a regular basis, I have worked for some of the largest banks in the world. I’ve also designed and build AI driven automated data applications and other complex pieces of enterprise software. But at present the above list of industries are the ones I follow most closely and where, primarily, I seek clients.

How I work

My preference is to work with clients over an extended period, typically via a monthly retainer with at least a three month minimum. In three months any business whether large or small can see specific results from the engagement. A retainer, instead of the more common hourly or day rate, allows for the wide range of ways I work for and with each client.

For most clients I will meet with the client, often onsite for a series of meetings and observations each month. I am often a part of internal discussions and meetings with partners and external vendors.

I am based in San Francisco but will work with clients anywhere in the world, combining in person meetings with extensive online collaboration.

Every engagement is different but a few specifics you can expect from working with me.

  • New Ideas – a primary part of my job is offering a new, interdisciplinary perspective on the challenges of your business. A key part of this is carefully suggesting specific, implementable new ideas and approaches.
  • Simplification – much of my practice is around paring ideas and processes back to identify what is most key and value creating. Many startups, as well as large companies, build technologies and processes which are overly complex. By focusing on simplification we end up with greater value.
  • Clear processes and designs – After we have focused and defined clearly the specific business objectives, my role shifts to achieving those objectives. There my job is to define and often help manage the business processes, including working with development teams, to build and design the related parts.

I have over a decade of experience as an Open Space Facilitator and use that as part of my consulting. The result of a facilitated open space event is usually clearer understanding of both the business opportunities and the resources available to address them, as well as focused groups of employees (and often external partners including customers) to address each business need.

If you are interested in working with me, email me at shannon AT or call me at 1.800.454.4929.

Posted in advertising, digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, geeks, internet, meshforum, meshwalk, mobile, music, personal, web2.0, working | 1 Comment »

Tasks for a new startup – and Startup Weekend SF

Posted by shannonclark on April 5, 2009

Saturday was a busy day. Spent at Startup Weekend SF.

Today will be an even crazier day as in less than 24 hours I will be taking 4 pages of notes sketching out a whole application and putting together a mess of parts and web services into what will be a compelling and useful service for many people. After I post this, my evening (well early morning) will be reading API and data format specifications and working out how to build out our first functional pieces.

However just having a great working application is not all of the tasks that a modern, web 2.0, 2009 edition company needs to do to be successful. Here for my own use (and my teams) as well as I hope for many other entrepreneurs is a checklist of tasks we also will have to try to do this weekend. Please add anything I have missed in the comments below!

[and before you mention it – legal structure & incorporation, partnership agreements etc are indeed important and if as we hope it does Radioki takes off we will complete them, we are building this in the context of pre-existing friendships as well as the Startupweekend open & collaborative ethos]

  • Register your new brand domain. We did this Saturday afternoon. Nothing at yet, but that will change rapidly.
  • Sign up for Twitter for your new brand. I’ve set up @radioki follow us to get updates on our progress, access first and we hope a few other surprises.
  • Set up an internal tool for documentation and collaboration. We chose the very simple and easy to sign up for and use PB Wiki as a repository for our team notes, drafts, pseudo code, internally important data etc.
  • Establish a simple version control system. Even if you have just one developer, work with a version control system everywhere you can (which is pretty much most things). A wiki for internal team documentation gives you version controls & who made what change data tracking inherently (assuming you as I would suggest use a private tool for that collaboration)
  • Register for all of the relevant API keys your applications will require. These days this can be a very long list. In our case we have at least three major API’s which we will use, multiple web services, Javascript frameworks, web hosts, domain registrar and much more which we need to sign up for and use.
  • Establish early on (as in before we launch) customer support & feedback channels. Almost certainly in our case this means that we will create and set up a GetSatisfaction for Radioki (using the free version first until we have a business model to support more) – note, when we complete the next task, we have to go back to sites such as Twitter and GetSatisfaction and upload our logo there as well.
  • Design a logo and pick a basic design pattern. Be comfortable with this being basic and expect it to change, but to launch quickly create a simple (even text only) logo to use at your avatar image across the web, to use on your home page, and along with it a basic color palette and design style for your overall web presence. Expect to change this but spending a few minutes early on in the process helps you create a clean, consistent look across web services and sites.
  • Set up corporate email addresses. Even if all you do is have them auto-forward to your regular email, yourname@newcompany is useful and is used as proof of employee status by some sites such as GetSatisfaction.
  • Join the appropriate networks as the new corporation. In the case of Radioki this means Facebook but because we have a strong Music component also means active engagement with (and especially MySpace Music).
  • Update the personal sites and network profiles of all founders. When you launch your personal site and blogs should note this and the profiles of all of the founders (and early employees if you have any) should be updated to reflect involvement with the new company. This is a signal for people who follow you on each network or who read your blogs that you are working on something new.
  • Link back to and thank publically as well as privately all the services your new company uses and works with. Besides being just common politeness everyone who builds any service wants to see it used and welcome thanks and updates about how their solutions are being deployed. Also many API providers offer directories of applications using each API. Building relationships with each company your solution relies upon and works with can also lead to lots of helpful advice, guidance, updates about new features and opportunities for promotion.
  • Remember to add contact information and background to your new company site. Yes, focus on getting the service built and launched, but also remember to include who you are who are building the company as well as how to reach you and who to reach out to for any media who might want to contact you. Photos of the core founding team are great as are short bios. All serve to humanize what can often be a dehumanizing process (web applications for example). And yes, real names and a corporate mailing address do combine to give lawyers someplace to send stuff – but it also gives journalists, bloggers, investors and future business partners someone to talk with as well.
  • Build logging and analytics into your site and application from the beginning. Deploy Google Analytics or another similar product on your new domain from before you share the URL with anyone (hmm we’ve broken this one so have to fix this quickly) For your main application make sure that user actions are logged so you build up a history of interactions. In our case this means ensuring that every search query entered is captured. Ideally you also log what output (or if something failed what error messages) resulted from that interaction.
  • Reach out to your friends. A new project whether big or small is perhaps the best excuse to catch up with your friends old and new. In fact I love it nearly every time a friend sends me an update about new projects or companies. Often these updates are the first time I’ve heard from someone.
  • But don’t forget to also reach out to the media. Start with the media who are also your friends. If you friends also covers your space then reach out to them on a personal level. Don’t send your friends mass, blast emails if you can avoid it – if not, then follow up (or send in advance as well) a personalized note. Do not rely on your friends having your contact details handy – include a direct phone (cell phones are great) as well as your personal email address.

And those are just the relatively simple, basic stuff. When a new company is launched a whole additional set of tasks get added nearly immediately. A few things to think about relatively soon.

  • Corporate banking relationship. This will require legal incorporation in some form (or will require initially to work off a founder’s personal accounts – opening up reams of tax/legal complications. However such a relationship is a key part of being a real business – it gives you a way to sell to people via giving you a means of depositing checks.
  • Corporate legal relationship. Establishing a legal relationship, even if a relatively simple and low cost relationship is another part of being prepared to be a real business. A lawyer may early on be called upon to help with incorporation, reviewing various agreements and you hope reviewing customer contracts or investment documents (or best case both).
  • Building out the non-functional parts of your new site. What I mean here is collecting excerpts of blog posts and news articles & embedding audio or video coverage. This also includes keeping a new corporate blog up-to-date and continued use of the corporate Twitter account etc.
  • An ongoing PR relationship. Of course with a firm who knows your business area, with whom you can work closely and who gets your product as well as process. Great PR firms add incrediable value.
  • Telling a clear, updated and ongoing story. If you (or co-founders or early employees) are not great storytellers or public speakers then likely your PR firm (and perhaps other advisers) will need to help with this but especially early on it is vital to have a clear story about the company and your new, emergent brand. This story should be short and clear (oh and compelling)
  • Have a business model (or two or three or four). You do not have to implement the business model immediately, nor do you need to share it with anyone (though your co-founders should also know). But having a business model in mind can be exceptionally helpful as you evaluate what to use/not use, what to build/not build, what to track/not track

And yes, this list is long and incomplete.

I skipped over raising money, I skipped over legal incorporation (rarely a good reason not to just incorporate as a Delaware C corporation). i skipped entirely over office space. Until an income is generated a large number of boring but important tasks are delayed (salaries and benefits for example).

For now, sleep then back to work.

Posted in economics, Entrepreneurship, geeks, internet, meshforum, meshwalk, mobile, time, web2.0 | 7 Comments »

What are you working for?

Posted by shannonclark on September 14, 2008

A great question which a friend asked me earlier this afternoon after a brunch where our conversation covered dozens of topics. He is a financial adviser and most of clients are from the tech and startup world.

What am I working for?

I have been thinking about this question for a while now, all summer in fact. Being an entrepreneur means a lot of things, not least of which are some lean and sometimes tough financial times as you are getting started but also great rewards (including finacial rewards) when you succeed.

I have a, relatively short, list of things I would buy if money were not an object. A related list of things I would do, events I would attend. But I have realized that other than also putting some money aside for my hoped for future family (which first likely requires dating and probably marrying the right woman) much of what I am working for, what I would want financial rewards for are to be able to then do stuff for others with those resources.

So first the basics a quick list for my own future reference – what I am working for, what I would do when finacial success starts to flow my way.

  • Buy a car. Not an impractical car, but also not a beat up car. My taste tends towards hatchbacks or coupes, probably something with some serious power and performance yet also with many luxury features and definitely an automatic (I both do not and do not want to learn how to drive stick). I have not had a car for nearly 4 years and prior to that I had owned a car for 4 years but only drove it 13,000 miles. However to really enjoy living in CA I probably need a car and for my planned use of one owning it is likely more suitable for me than a car share service (for one I hate having deadlines or restrictions on my flexibility – one of the great things about working for yourself is being in control of your time and movements)
  • Furnish my apartment fully. I have, alas, expensive tastes when it comes to furniture. I really like very modern, very clean lines in my furniture. Most likely when I have the money I will spend a great deal of it at Roomand Board which is almost without exception my design aesthetic
  • Update and maintain my wardrobe. I like quality and clean design in most things, including clothes. However though I have many great pieces of clothing I also have many other items which are worn (even worn out) and do not update my clothes all that often. I also have many items where I really only have one – one pair of glasses, one brown belt (and one black belt), only a handful of shoes, not many different pairs of pants etc. Here I have also learned that for my taste quality matters – I definitely feel and act differently when I am wearing clothes that fit me well, that are well made from high quality fabrics, than when I am in ill-fitting clothes of cheap fabrics.
  • Complete and maintain my Doctor Who collection. I am huge Doctor Who fan, but for about the past decade I have not been actively collection Doctor Who items and as a result there are vast numbers of books, original audio plays from Big Finish, comics and especially DVD’s which i have not collected. If I had the resources I would buy a great deal of these materials and subscribe to many others. In particular Big Finish does amazing work, when i have the money I’d buy most of their back catalog and subscribe the future shows, in no small part as a thank you to them for their great work and that of the actors.
  • Buy even more books in hardcover editions and subscribe to great magazines. I already do buy a lot of books each year (probably averaging over 200 books each year, perhaps more some years) but much of what I buy are used or paperbacks and there are many new hardcover books, even by authors I really like, which I do not end up purchasing. When I have more money I would buy more these (though I likely will have less time to read so this is as much about supporting authors I really like as it is about reading the books – though for my favorite authors I do usually eventually read the books as well). On the magazine front I subscribe to very few magazines at the moment, yet here too there are many which I would really like to have and read on a more regular basis, in many cases a subscription is likely even a net savings (since i end up buying magazines like Wired and Monocle on newsstands with some frequency)
  • When I eat out eat at more of the restaurants I really love. And treat myself to serious dining experiences such as French Laundry and various tasting menus on a regular basis. I am a foodie, yet much of the time in the past years I have eaten cheaply instead of well, certainly not all of the time but there are hundreds of places I have always wanted to try but which I have not for lack of funds.
  • Upgrade my kitchen tools and continue to cook and buy locally. My one indulgence, though truly not much of one, has been to usually buy locally and mostly from farmers’ markets. However my kitchen equipment in some areas is lacking (no food processor or electric mixer) and I do not keep my pantry and fridge as well stocked as I would like (and for that matter my fridge and stove are not very nice at the moment)
  • Invest in myself. On a basic (and immediate even if the rest of this list takes longer to get to) I need to invest in my own health. Lots of dentist visits, finding a primary care physician in San Francisco, having full and complete health insurance, keeping a good supply of asthma and allergy medicines, etc. This also means investing more in my own ongoing and continual education. I love to learn, yet it has been nearly a decade since I last took a formal class anywhere. I should be taking something nearly every year – a writing workshop, a class at a local university, something to keep myself sharp and to continue to push my mind in new directions. For that matter I would also like to strengthen my knowledge of French and perhaps to try to learn other languages (Spanish? Hebrew? Chinese? Japanese?)
  • Commit to and attend more of the events I want to attend. In the past decade while I have made it to a lot of amazing conferences and events in nearly every case I have done so by deciding to attend at nearly the last minute and I have missed many events I would have really enjoyed being at (and at many of the events I have attended because I decided to go at the last minute I have not gotten the full benefit from attending – not been listed as an attendee, haven’t set up as many meetings or figured out what talks I want to hear/people I want to see etc). My short list of events I would want to attend includes: TED, PopTech, SXSW (music as well as film and interactive), a serious film festival (probably Sundance), one or more serious writing conferences (both genre such as World Fantasy and perhaps a non-genre such as the New Yorker Festival) and there are many more. I don’t see much live music, don’t get to live theater or opera, and rarely attend festivals. I definitely want to do more of all of that (and even some occasional sporting events such as this year seeing a Cubs game, especially if they make it to the World Series). More than the actual cost of attending any of these events (many of which are really business investments or which I have in the past been able to minimize through my own tech involvement and writing) is the powerful impat of being able to plan for the future, of being able to commit money now for future activities – and not be overly concerned if I have to later change my plans (as will inevitably happen as an entrepreneur). For the past few years I have not felt confident in my future planning (and budgeting) to commit money too far in advance, this is a habit and mode of thinking I want to break.

As I noted i do not have particularly expensive tastes except in a few areas (furniture, food and clothing). I would probably also indulge myself in some modern electronics (an HDTV projector, some games consoles, etc) but even after all of that the actual cost of all of the items I mentioned above (assuming medical costs aren’t too insane) is in the grand scheme of things not actually all that high. Probably dipping towards six figures with all of the medical costs and conferences added, but only barely.

Long term I probably would want to buy a place here in the Bay Area and probably either rent or buy a place in New York, perhaps also somewhere in Europe (London or Paris most likely) and long term my fantasty is that I live a more fully bi (or including Europe tri) coastal lifestyle. But what I want more than the places is the flexibility of living in each city for extended periods of time – so creative renting might work well (or buying a place in one of the newer buildings that rent out your apartment as a hotel room when you aren’t using it).

Very long term I also want to own (or have a long term rent) on a venue where I can hold events, probably some retreat center like property, most likely in the midst of a large forest somewhere (likely near here in Northern California). Though I love living in large, vibrant cities, I am also a serious lover of forests – more so than coasts or open fields, a forest is where I feel most at peace and most comfortable. Someday I want to own my small (or not so small) piece of a forest and have a place I can retreat to from time to time, probably extremely well stocked with books, games and fireplaces. I can see myself buying a place as a mixture of a personal retreat and as a working retreat center, I love to run events, having a place where I could host them myself has a lot of appeal, especially if it had sufficient space and facilities for the types of events I most admire and want to have (this probably means space for up to a few hundred, perhaps as many as 400+ people). So this is long term – and with money and resources there are far cheaper options to having access to such spaces than buying them entirely myself.

So given that most of what I describe above would be well within my reach if I were to go to work for someone else – my skills, experience and contacts are such that I would likely command a quite decent salary even by Silicon Valley standards – why am I working towards the possibility of much greater rewards (with all the stresses and risks associated with that)?

This was the full question my friend posed me earlier today, given that for the most part my tastes do not run too high, that I don’t really have much need on a personal level (or for that matter the desire to spend), why am I working so hard (if sometimes it feels not yet hard enough) towards really high rewards? Why didn’t I (or why don’t I) take the seemingly easier route of taking a job working for someone else?

The short answer is I do have a lot I want to do with great resources – but most of it is not personally directed. There are dozens of organizations I want to make a serious financial (and other) support towards. At some point in my future I also see making direct investments (or indirectly as a limited partner), especially in the types of businesses I think can have a really deep and lasting impact locally and on the world. I want to offer finacial support to politicians I believe in (Obama for starters). I run MeshForum as a non-profit for many reasons, not least of which is philosophical I have a mission with MeshForum which is not to make money directly but rather to help spark and support innovation and new ways of thinking about deep and complex problems – in the case of MeshForum around the area of the interdisciplinary study of Networks – and informing different fields and businsesses which are network related with the techniques and approaches of other fields. The conferneces I hold and will hold help here, making the content available widely also helps, but there is much more I could do. In the future I want to directly support lots of research efforts, especially around making richer datasets available to researchers and around supporting truly interdisciplinary scholors.

My passion is around learning and around having a large impact on the world. One way i want to do this is building a large, sustainable (in all senses of the word) business – a truly global business which has a large impact. I then want to leverage that business and the resources it makes available to me towards supporting great work and research – especially research that crosses disciplines and very much the basic research that is not as supported today inside or outside of academia.

So that is why I work, in a small way for the personal comforts it will bring me in the future, for the support it will offer my future family, but mostly I work to get the resources to have a huge impact on the world, to support the many people I know (and will know) who are doing great things and to help support and spark new innovations that can continue to have great changes in the world in the future.

Why do you work? What are you seeking from your efforts?

Posted in Entrepreneurship, meshforum, networks, personal, politics, reading, San Francisco, working | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My Yahoo HackDay Hack – building a personal identity hub part 1

Posted by shannonclark on September 14, 2008

A few weeks ago I finally, after nearly a decade of trying, purchased my name domain At the Yahoo! Open Hackday this weekend I spent my time figuring out some ways to turn into my personal identity hub on the Internet.

My long term goal for the site is that it will contain much of what I do online as well as show who is linking to or using my content elsehwere across the web. Ideally I want to do this without updating or directly maintaining the site, instead i want content to flow into from all over the web in an automated (yet when needed moderated) manner.

I have many, probably too many, blogs which I maintain as well as a collection of blogs or bloglike sites which I do not maintain. Some are blogs which I started but have not posted to in a long time, others are my active blogs, and a few are the blogging sections of various social networks to which I belong which I do not utilize with great frequency. I am also active on dozens of online services and tools from Twitter to Facebook to countless other sites and services.

So my task this past weekend was to figure out how to start pulling together all this content I create, while ideally also capturing other people’s use of that content, all while avoiding claiming anything as my content (or my usage) which was not, in fact, me. After all the reason I did not have for the past decade plus was that another person (a woman specifically) who is also named Shannon Clark had registered the domain first, though luckily for me she had never used the site and earlier this year allowed it to expire without renewing the domain.

I started by installing the latest version of WordPress on my domain which I am hosting on This was easily done with the web management panel provided by Bluehost along with the automatic updates plugin I installed which then makes the process of updating wordpress to the latest version quite simple and fast.

With the latest version of wordpress installed I then set about customizing my installation. First I installed a set of core plugins which I run on most of my other wordpress blogs – wordpress stats, askimet to capture spam comments. I then also selected a variety of themes which include support for the latest wordpress features as well as widgets and started to play with a variety of looks for the new blog. The current theme I have selected may change as I continue to update and modify the site.

In looking over the wordpress plugins I looked for a way to consolidate a bunch of my blog posts via displaying or using the full text RSS feeds I generate from all of my blogs. I found a number of possible solutions as wordpress plugins, for the hackday I selected on that looked promising and installed it. I may revisit the one I selected and both look at alternatives or try to correct some small bugs I have found with this particular plugin (bugs which I hope will be fixed in a future update, I think they are some form of AJAX related overlap in functionality or naming as the plugin causes problems with wordpress’ admin features).

But my problem now was how to feed my various RSS feeds into new site in a way that managed to maintain the correct time order of my posts and which would be maintained into the future in an automated fashion.

My solution for this was to take the four key blogs (though I likely will add additional blogs in the future) into a special Yahoo! Pipe I set up. My first pass at this resulted in output that instead of showing all of my posts in full text and formatting only showed a short excerpt of each post. To make this work as I intended my Pipe had to join the blog feeds together, sort them, and then modify the elements to move the full text of my posts into the field which was storing only the excerpts.

Using this pipe’s output as an RSS i then fed it into the plugin I installed to syndicate content. The result of this plugin is that a bit over forty of my past posts across the four blogs were syndicated as full text posts, with titles and other internal links linking back to the original source blogs and comments on the new site turned off. And the plugin will monitor my blogs on an hourly basis and syndicate any new posts (such as this very post) as they are posted. I set this timeframe to an hour to minimize load on my blogs (the default was 10 minutes). Over time I’ll play with this configuration to determine what works best.

In the next posts on this topic I’ll explain what I did to create a page that displays my activities across the web (and some future experiments I’m looking into for alternative approaches to this challenge), my start of tools to track usage of my content across the web, and my plans for the “about Shannon Clark” section(s) of the website as well as additional areas and features I may decide to build out in the future.

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, internet, meshforum, meshwalk, networks, personal, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Communities I speak

Posted by shannonclark on August 10, 2008

A few days ago I wrote about the communities all around us as I rode the Muni back from the Farmer’s Market this afternoon I thought a lot about the Communitites I speak – i.e. those groups I can participate in, can speak the lingo, know the references, pay attention to the key events and sources.

I think there are many different ways to define community. In the past I have written about how what we pay attention to helps form and share the communitites we are a part – who we are is what we follow. And indeed this is one key aspect at least of the active, current and potential communitites we could be a part of (we might pay attention to a community without being an active part of it). But there is another key part of the puzzle – what we can “speak”.

Speaking a Community

I am gifted at being a very quick study and learner. In part because I have always been and remain to this day an avid reader of books, magazines and more so in the past then today of newspapers I have at least a passing knowledge of tons of subjects and topics. Especially today with most of the world’s knowledge at your fingertips via well crafted Google searches (plus knowing what resources to use when Google isn’t enough) I can fairly quickly come up to passing speed on nearly any topic.

But this is not fluency in a given Community, rather it is merely an ability to perhaps get a quick glimpse, to exchange a few words, perhaps to ask some smart questions and likely to learn how to learn more, which is itself often pretty vital.

However there are quite a few Communities that I do speak, communitites where even though I may not have been active in them for quite sometime I could jump right in and participate quickly. Here are a few that come to mind, I’m sure there are others and I’ll note a few special cases.

  • Chess. I learned to play chess at the age of 4 from my grandfather. In high school I was the captain of my chess team for 3 1/2 years. Since then I have read probably 100’s of chess books and though I haven’t played a serious game in a few years, a few years ago I played regularly with the serious players at North Ave Beach (and in Old Town) in Chicago, drawing or beating players up to about 2100 or so. So yes, I can “speak” chess at a serious level. In Paris a few years ago I tested this, I went to the Luxumberg Gardens where there have long been public chess boards, there I played an English Barrister who is one of the only Englishmen to practice law in France. I met him over the chess boards where Chess, more so than French was the language of choice.
  • History. Especially of the Medieval Near East. I haven’t studied this in a few years (and though it happens slowly historians do over time make progress in learning more about the past as new works are found and increasingly made more readily available via technology) but I could probably have a good conversation with any historian generally and specifically anyone who is interested in the Ottomans, Byzantines, Armenians, or to a lesser degree some aspects of English or Italian history as well as the history of the Crusades. I studied history in college in the early 90’s, so quite some time ago, but being a historian is a particular approach, a particular view and also a way of thinking – a way of taking information, often limited, and pulling it together into a cohesive narrative and story. The type of history I prefer is an archival history, a history of digging deeply into primary sources and using those sources to reveal more about the past – sometimes telling small, specific stories, sometimes piecing out a bigger picture and a greater narrative. An active historian might be more up on the latest books, the places to be published, job opportunities, but we very likely would quickly find ourselves sharing a common language, a common approach and at least some related interests.
  • Slow Food and related to this Cooking. I am a foodie both in terms of where I like to eat and what I like to cook. Again there are many people who are even more active than I, more deeply focused on food, food culture and the professional aspects of food, people who have attended culinary school, who work some part of the food industry at restaurants, magazines or other parts of the food industry. But I definitely speak the language. Doesn’t hurt that my sister’s boyfriend is a professional food critic (for the NY Times) and cookbook author, so though to my friends I may seem fairly seriously a foodie, I have a sense of what I would consider “real” foodies are like. But probably I too qualify, even if I haven’t fully found my community of fellow foodies here in San Francisco quite yet. A few friends who usually like my cooking, a few people I see at the farmer’s markets but I’m not active in the local Slow Food groups, not active in an online forum such as Chowhounds or Yelp and in short not deeply part of the food community (or more accurately many different communities) here in the Bay Area.
  • Programming. I am not an active programmer today, I haven’t written a line of code in a number of years nor do I have a degree in computer science, but I first learned to program at the age of 7, took serious programming classes in high school and a couple of classes in college and though I have only occasionally been a paid programmer, I “speak” programmer. In the late 90’s I worked for Perot Systems (yes owned by Ross Perot) mostly working for Swissbank and later UBS after they merged doing source code administration, in which role I supported over 1000 programmers around the world working as one of the people running the source code servers for those programmers and teams. I also worked with each group on building and compiling their programs. To do this did not, in fact, require that you be a programmer yourself, indeed most of my coworkers were not programmers, but I was able to speak programmer with the project leads, hold a different conversation with them than my coworkers, a conversation about programming methodologies, about language and tool selection, and about to some degree techniques. I’m a bit rusty today, haven’t been keeping up, but generally speaking I can “speak” programmer even if I’m not up on the latest languages, programming challenges, toolkits, libraries or other development tools.
  • Gaming. Today this term often refers to online, computer or console games. But though I know a lot of people who play those games fairly seriously (and some who cover the gaming industry as journalists or work in the industry) I have never been much of a computer gamer, haven’t been one since the early 90’s and I do not own a TV or any gaming consoles. But I was a serious gamer of other types of games for many, many years. In high school I played various board games and roll playing games nearly every week with a group of friends both at our homes, in the high school as part of a gaming club, and at a local games shop we all frequented. In fact one of my high school friend’s father was a game designer for Mayfair Games and we often playtested games. At that time I went to Gencon many times and I ran a lot of games there and locally. In college however though I did play card games with friends I didn’t play many board games or role playing games (though I had prior to college assumed that I would play a lot of role playing games when in college). But in the mid-90’s I supported myself for a year as a professional Magic the Gathering card dealer and player, at that time I was most definitely part of a serious community. Later in the 90’s and early part of this century I played a LARP in Chicago which was part of a very active community, a worldwide community in fact. I played in fact at one of the first games so I definitely spoke that community, but I was also not entirely of the community. Over the years I didn’t make it to every game, in this century I became very involved in starting a company and drifted away from the game. I briefly tried to reconnect with a branch of the game (which is still ongoing) here in California but didn’t fully “click”. But all that said, I certainly can and do speak Gamer – whatever the game whether paper, board, computer or console.
  • Politics. I am fairly passionate about politics, have voted in every election I was eligible to vote in, follow the campaigns and care passionately about many issues. But at the same time unlike many of my friends who are, in some cases, professionally interested in politics (among others I have friends who have run national campaigns for president, served as candidate’s CTO’s, and in some cases run for office themselves) my interest and passion is not professional. In a small way I have helped with a non-partisan public policy group, Hope Street Group whose goals and mission I fully support. But politically I am centrist of neither party. I can certainly, however, speak Politics. And at times I have even toyed with the idea that someday I might run for an office myself, albiet only when I think someone with my centrist views and aethistic leanings could stand a chance of winning (probably rules out running for any national offices in the foreseeable future).
  • Being Jewish. I am Jewish could emmigrate to Israel and would qualify – much more than the past three generations of my mother’s family have been Jewish. I grew up in a household where Yiddish words were sprinkled into conversation with some frequency (my mom’s influence). Every year as a child in our Christmas stockings my mom gave us Hanaukah Geld. But I didn’t attend Hebrew school, wasn’t Bar Mitvah’ed and if I didn’t tell you noone ever guesses that I’m Jewish – my name tends to lead people to another assumption. In fact one Jewish friend with whom I was staying in New York City once called me on a Friday night while I was in NYC and wasn’t sure if I would be comfortable meeting him at his friends whose Shabbat dinner he was enjoying, he assumed I wasn’t Jewish (if he had realized he probably would have invited me to join him earlier). But in college I taught an Israeli friend of mine how to cook Kosher (first having to help teach her how to cook) for the local Hillel Shabbat dinner. I am not religious but I do consider myself Jewish at least as an ethnic and cultural identity. At the same time to some degree I don’t fully speak “Jewish”, I was raised more as a Roman Catholic, went to a Catholic elementary school and the world around me has generally engaged with me not as someone who is Jewish so I haven’t had the experiences positive or negative that might convey. One of my most vivid memories of my childhood is a day when I realized that attending a Catholic elementary school was limiting my perspective on the world considerably. I remember thinking that everyone is Catholic – certainly that everyone I knew was. Yes, I knew that my mom wasn’t, but it was that moment when I realized the danger of being fully immersed in a community, the danger of too much of the same being all around you. I think it was the next day I started asking my parents to transfer me into the public junior high for my 7th grade a move I’m still grateful for to this day.
  • Being Roman Catholic and Irish. I was raised Roman Catholic, went to mass nearly every Sunday for most of my childhood, recieved my First Communion and went to Confession. My father was and is deeply active in his church, he gives the homilies with some frequency and is a very active member of what is a fairly atypical Roman Catholic community, a community that has mass in a school gym and has music played with guitars and where laypeople take a very active role in the service. My aunt is a Roman Catholic nun. I grew up half a continent removed from most of my aunts and uncles (who were and are mostly still back on the East Coast) but we had large family gatherings around the holidays and heard stories of what it meant to be Irish earlier in this century in the US. Stories which reinforced an identity outside of the mainstream of Protestant America (stories of “No Irish allowed” type signs and workplaces). At the same time, however I was not immersed in an Irish idenity, we didn’t learn Irish folk dancing or cook much corned beef at home (though we did eat a lot of potatoes). I also rejected the Catholic church at a very young age, I refused to be Confirmed being unwilling to publicly vow something I did not believe or would want to honor. To be Confirmed is how you join the Catholic Church as an full adult member, it is your act of publicly affirming that you believe in God (which I do not), agree with the Roman Catholic faith and will both be an active member of the Church and will raise your children as members of the Church. All of which I would not swear that I would do – not the least of which being I feel how children are to be raised should be a mutual decision by both parents – which makes it very hard for me to feel comfortable taking such a vow on my own. So while I can speak Catholic, I am not (in a very formal sense of the word) a Catholic. I’ll always be, I guess, Irish – that’s my other side of my family.
  • Web 2.0. Since moving out to the Bay Area I have become, I guess, immersed in the emerging community around Web 2.0. My friends are the bloggers covering the companies, the CEO’s, founders, programmers, and investors in Web 2.0. When I go to a conference on the topic I usually know both the organizers of the conference and a majority of the speakers. I speak “web 2.0” with a high degree of fluency. I use many of the web 2.0 services though like everyone else I don’t use every service or have the time to try everything. I’ve covered Web 2.0 myself as a blogger for Centernetworks.
  • Business. I do not have an MBA. Though if you were to look at my bookshelves you would be forgiven for assuming that I might have one. As a child I read, at least some sections, of the Wall Street Journal from almost the time I learned to read. I have always followed the workings of business with a great deal of interest, I read a relatively large number of business books each year (increasingly books whose authors I might in fact know) and I try to stay up on the many nuances of business. However not having an MBA, not having spent much of my career working up the ranks of a large corporation (or a large services firm serving corporations) there is also a very real sense in which I do not speak Business, some nuances of relationships and interactions I simply don’t get or am at least very rusty about. I was never very good at internal company politics or at the wink and a nod aspects of how a lot of business actually occurs (over games at a golf course and the like). I’m not a member of right health or private clubs, I don’t rack up the frequent flyer miles, and I don’t go to very many business focused conferences or events. But I probably would fit in even at a very high level with people at most large corporations, I could ask the right questions, hold serious conversations, make useful contributions and introductions.
  • Social Networks. In 2004 I formed MeshForum. In 2005 and 2006 I organized a three day conference on the study of Networks both Social Networks and many other types of networks. Speakers at MeshForum included experts from the Pentagon, professors of many fields and from many different schools, entrepreneurs, investors and artists. In 2007 I held a series of smaller one day MeshWalks and I intend to hold more MeshWalks and another MeshForum in the future. As a result of my involvement in organizing MeshForum and in participating in online discussions such as the SOCNET mailing list I have become very well versed in the theory of Social Network Analysis as well as have been a student of the emerging class of web sites (and other services) around “Social Networks”. But I am not a practicing Social Network analyst, I haven’t published research and increasingly I am unable to keep up with the all too many different social networks around which people I know engage (and even less so able to track and follow the countless other networks where few if anyone I know engages). But I most definitely speak Network in all the many permutations of that word and concept. Heck, I can even hold my own in conversation with my friends who are telecomunitions policy or technology wonks. (and in my case that includes people who literally invented major pieces of our current technology stack and or who founded major companies or worked on major policy)
  • and I’m sure I am missing many other Communities I can speak to as well – science fiction fandom, art, the music industry, gay/lesbian communities (I’m most definitely straight but have many friends who are not, many of whom are very active in a range of communities around sexual orientation and idenity) and even sports fandom (the last of which is perhaps a bit of a secret even to some of my friends – for all of my life I have listened to a lot of sports talk radio at times I have followed different sports with some degree of passion – but somehow this hasn’t overlapped with my social circles much).

So what Communities do you speak?

Posted in geeks, meshforum, meshwalk, networks, personal, politics, restaurants, San Francisco, web2.0, working | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Networking Advice – useful business cards and other tips

Posted by shannonclark on October 8, 2007

I am an expert networker – I’ve organized networking events for most of the decade, I even run one of the first conferences on the study of Networks – MeshForum. My MeshWalk events have drawn over 100 people to spend a day walking and talking with each other. Here in the Bay Area I make a point of attending many events and conferences, helping out when I can.

As a result I end up with lots of business cards and lots and lots of contacts, connection requests on Facebook, LinkedIn, followers on Twitter, and the occasional other social networking tool.

Here are a few tips for everyone, but especially for entrepreneurs. Some are seemingly simple but even the simplest tips are, I hope useful. I do not always adhere to my own advice, this post is as much to remind myself as to, I hope, educate others.

Tip 1 – a useful business card

I just reviewed nearly 1000 business cards which I had collected over the summer. Almost half or more of these broke the advice I’m about to give – and as a result, I am less likely to follow up with those contacts. Here is the advice: a business card should be easy to write ON and contain enough information to identify who you are & why someone will follow up with you

This means no glossy business cards, no cards with all graphics, no small moo cards (can’t write on them) and ideally no cards with just your name and email address (I have a bunch of these, usually can’t remember who that individual is/why I might want to follow up with them) Perhaps an exception can be made if you are easily googleable – but even then a card with your company name, job title/one line description, and preferred contact means can go a very very long way.

And even in today’s hyperconnected online world, at a minimum include your primary city – when I’m in a town I like to catch up with people whom I know who live or work there, if all I have about you is your email address, I’m unlikely to invite you to dinner or lunch.

And yes, one of my businesses is exactly about this process – Never Eat Lunch Alone. But if I don’t have your city at the very least, I am unlikely to use my own software to invite you to lunch.

Why no glossy paper you might ask?

Tip 2 – shortly after you get someone’s card, write a note and reminder to yourself on that card

And I do mean shortly, as in minutes after you get the card. Jot down the date and/or the event where you met, write down anything you just promised to do (send an introduction, pass along an article, take a look at a beta, more on this point in the next tip). Make a note which product or project you are working on they might be interested in, or even if you didn’t promise to do it someone you know whom they absolutely should connect with. In short, remind yourself what to do when you next follow up.

If they mentioned a mutual contact, make a note of that.

If they added information in the conversation to what is on their card, jot that down as well.

Are they an investor? A potential partner? A competitor? A prospective employer or employee?

When I have a note to myself on the back of a card, I am reminding myself in the future why I have that card. Without it, I am relying on memory and proximity in a jumbled pile to realize when and where we met, and I will likely have to research who the person and company is before remembering why I took their card in the first place.

Tip 3 – don’t be shy about discarding cards from people whom you do not want to follow up with

Of course do not be rude, but if you meet someone and your immediate reaction is “I don’t trust this person”, or you look into their company and realize it is not a firm you have any interest at all in, save yourself future headaches and memory exercises and discard the card as you are going through the business cards you picked up – and do this quickly (if discretely).

In a related point, most of the time you should only collect business cards from people whom you have actually met in person and have a reason to follow up with. Cards just left out on a table or at a trade show booth are much less useful to you, you don’t have as much context to follow up with someone (and most likely they don’t have the context to recognize you from a conversation when you do follow up).

Tip 4 – have your cards with you and exchange them, along with context as you do so

Something as simple as introducing yourself to a speaker after a talk, getting their card and giving them yours means when you do follow up (and you will won’t you! Soon after the event is best, btw!) you can add to the subject or right at the beginning of the message “we exchanged cards at [name of event] and as I promised I’m following up with you to…”

So if you promise someone to make an introduction, or you mentioned a book, article, blog post, or website to someone, follow up on that promise and deliver.

Tip 5 – networking is about giving.

I have mentioned this before in a previous post about networking, but it bears repeating. Always approach networking first and foremost with the attitude that you can help others. Listen to their conversation and think about how you can help them – is there someone at the same event, even someone whom you have just met who they should talk to? Have you recently read something – on or offline – which might be relevant to what they are doing? Do you know someone who could help them (and who, in turn, would appreciate talking with them)? In short, focus on how you can be helpful – while remaining aware of in turn what help you yourself at looking for.

Oh, did I mention that last point before? Be clear when you start networking – and yes this starts with when you set up your business card and get them printed – what your goals for networking are. Do you want to reach investors? Customers? Partners? Employees? Find a new job? Learn about a new subject?

In short what are you focused on as your own needs. Then, does your business card help contextualize you in the context of those goals?

i.e. if you are mostly seeking to network in the context of a new business, your cards which mostly promote your personal hobby of building model airplanes (unless that is also your new business) are most likely not helpful and at worst a distraction. This is not to say that you shouldn’t include personal as well as professional details – but that you should think about the overall context and focus.

On my own card I have some fairly personal elements such as my personal blog (this blog), my twitter and my skype accounts. I do so a number of reasons, one of which is to in part communicate my attention and focus on fairly cutting edge technologies online – there are probably not too many people currently who put their skype and twitter accounts on their card – I am thinking about what else to put on my card and/or how to communicate other new wave networking elements such as my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles – or some more unified ID for myself online.

Tip 6 – convert business cards from paper to digital data quickly and sync the data widely

It almost does not matter which address book you use, but you should be using some form of a contact manager and in turn you should sync that contact manager widely across your frequently (and to some extent infrequently) used tools. Plaxo is a great help here, though there are other options. [full disclosure, is a business partner of Plaxo, we will be integrating NELA to Plaxo address books for our users]

Increasingly I’m finding Facebook a very useful business contact tool, often my contacts on Facebook share the best and most direct ways to reach them in their profiles, and they often include useful information and details not found on their business cards (personal blogs for example).

A related habit which I am in, though it does take a commitment of time to do this, is to add to the data found on someone’s card when I entered them into my digital address book. Here are the data elements which I ideally include in every contact’s listing:

  • Full Name w/gender note
  • Company (or companies)
  • Title
  • phone – noting if mobile (so on sync to my phone I use that for SMS)
  • primary email address
  • work address (at minimum city, but usually company address is findable online)
  • blog or other personal website
  • corporate website
  • photo [can be hard to find – best is one I have taken or corporate headshot]
  • note on when & where we met
  • note on why I kept this card (i.e. transcribe notes I wrote on the card)
  • short bio – from conference directory, linkedin, facebook, corporate website, personal blog etc
  • tags and/or notes about where/how we are connected (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter,, same college, etc)

In short I try to write a short but useful to me profile on each contact. The photo and bio, along with notes on when/where we met are to help jog my memory in the future. The keywords and other tags are also to help me slice through and search my contacts. I have literally 1000’s of contacts, the ones which I have built these rich profiles for are the ones which I am most apt to follow up with in the future – they are the ones which are easiest for me to search and easiest to remember why I might contact them.

In the best case over time I’ll add to the notes with some additions and/or add keywords. Many good tools also note some of these connections automatically – noting the emails I have sent to them etc.

I hope these tips help you. Now I have to get back to following up with all the folks I’ve met over the summer, I’m behind in following my own advice.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, meshforum, meshwalk, networks, personal, working | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

10 things to do in the next decade

Posted by shannonclark on September 13, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time, attention and our social networks

Posted by shannonclark on August 28, 2007

What we pay attention to, what we care about, shapes, influences and defines our social networks.

(by Esther Dyson)

Consider the most basic units of time – timezones and the definition of the week. Broadly speaking the timezone(s) we focus our attention upon define (mostly) our primary social circles. This is not always, as Cory Doctorow points out in his book Eastern Standard Tribe, the same as the timezone where we live – but it is usually.

Likewise, how we define when the week starts and ends is a major factor in defining our primary social circles. Here in the US this may seem redundant – the weekend is Sat & Sun, the week Mon – Fri (usually thought of as the week starts on Monday, ends on Sunday.

However for religious Jews or Muslims here in the US and for most of the Middle East, the week starts on Sunday (which is a workday, not a day of rest) and ends on Saturday, with Friday being part of the weekend – and Friday night (sundown) to Saturday night defining the holy day each week.

In the US most religious Jews and Muslims have to accommodate the US pattern, so they work on Friday until before sundown.

And for many of us (myself included) who are non-religious Saturday and Sunday are “the weekend” but do not have a significant difference – one day or the other is not a special “day of rest” or imbued with religious meaning.

But think about how just a simple fact about how you perceive the week defines crucial social differences. If you treat Friday night as a religious occasion whether or not you know each other in any other respect you have something vital in common. Of course if you are Jewish and another person is Muslim many other differences might soon show up – but you start from a common view of time – one which is different from the majority here in the US.

Further, if you treat Sunday as a religious occasion – i.e. you focus on a regular “go to church” activity most Sundays – separate from which church you attend (or even if you make it to Church most Sundays) you share something. You might also fall into the category (limited mostly to the US) of thinking “Sunday afternoon = Football” which would be a further grouping. These groups have some overlap – but not 100%.

My point is that a common perception of time defines potential groups. If you and I do not share many of our focuses and definitions of time – if what you consider important about 2008, about each Sunday, about next month, about the end of Summer etc are all different from what I am focused on, then we are in some literal way from different worlds. We may still find overlap, find a set of common interests and create common foci but it will be much harder.

If, instead, we build from a set of some common interests – as defined by what we are paying attention to and how we perceive different times, then we are very likely to have other bonds – and most likely we will share with each other things we are paying attention to – and find more and more ways to overlap our schedules and our attention.

Let me illustrate this further with a discussion about the month of August/early Sept.

In Europe many people think “Aug = holiday”. Not quite literally true, but seemingly entire cities and companies go on holiday at the same time in August.

In the US, if you are a parent (or a student) then August usually means “last month of Summer, school is going to be starting soon”. Often the end of summer is the Labor Day weekend here in the US.

Here in San Francisco (and to a degree in other places) the end of August is defined for many by “Burning Man”. Even if you are not going, the fact that so many people from San Francisco are spending the end of August at Burning Man shapes how the city works (and how many Bay Area companies work).

I am part of many different mostly non-overlapping social networks. Labor Day Weekend and the days around it are, each year, an exercise in choosing from amongst a large set of possible networks. Many friends are going to Burning Man. In years past many others went to the SCA’s (Society for Creative Anachronism) annual Pensic War (which I attended twice in the early 90’s). Many other Labor Day weekends I have attended the World Science Fiction Convention (was in Anaheim last year, this year though many friends are there I’m not going to Japan). This year there is also a local gaming convention, Conquest over Labor Day weekend which I’m sure many friends of mine will attend and which I am considering attending.

Another, more private social network (of sorts) which holds events four or five times a year usually holds an event around Labor Day weekend, this year in Monterey (which if I had planned a bit in advance I probably should have attended).

And even more so than in years past as more of my friends have children, especially school aged children I am more aware of the fact that school is starting up again.

As a Chicago Bears fan I am also following the end of pre-season and the beginning of the regular season.

As a Chicago Cubs fan I’m also following the ongoing season and cheering as August comes to an end and the Cubs are still in contention (a rare occasion indeed).

As a business person and entrepreneur though I am not on vacation this year at the end of August, I am aware that many people are, so though I continue to work on building my startups the end of August is, perhaps, best spend on the multitude of tasks which do not require replies from others (many of whom might not get back to me until sometime in early September.

And that is just what comes immediately to mind as I write this towards the end of August.

At the beginning of September begins a series of Jewish Holidays. Though I am not a religious Jew, I am Jewish and increasingly aware that many of my friends are as well, so I am more aware than I was in the past of when the major Jewish holidays are.

In the stores at the moment for the most part they are dominated by Back to School sales. In a few weeks, these will be replaced by Halloween sales, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas (here in the US – clearly not Thanksgiving sales in other parts of the world).

I do not own a TV, so though I am vaguely aware that we are still in the “summer” season on TV (and thus in a time of generally few original or new shows) very soon we will enter the “fall” season and new shows will resume airing. I am not, however, aware of when this will be. Instead, I am more focused on when a very small handful of shows I do care about will be broadcast (but in most cases this is not until sometime next year – i.e. 2008).

A small side note. A telling definition of time is whether you think of the year as starting and ending on the calendar year (i.e. for most of the West starting on Jan 1) or if you are more focused on another “year” – such as the school year – so starting in the fall, usually end of Aug/early Sept and ending in the spring in May or June. For many people similarly you might be focused on the football or baseball seasons (or other sports – basketball, college football, golf, and soccer/football among many others have their avid fans). For each of these you might think of the “year” as being defined by the start and end of a season – not a physical season but the sports season.

So Sports, Religion, School, Hobbies and Work all define to a large extent our perception of time – and thus create and are created by the groups by which we define ourselves. When we overlap, at least in part, with others, we have a starting point for a common bond. You might be following the San Francisco Giants and I the Chicago Cubs but the fact that we are both aware of and paying attention to the baseball season is a starting point for a common bond. If, instead, I paid a lot of attention to baseball (I don’t but am at least aware of it to a degree) and you paid no attention to it all, then we see the world and time in different ways.

Of course we might still be friends and overlook this difference between us, but our view of reality is different.

So why this lengthy discussion – full of places I should have linked but haven’t yet (I’ll try to go back and add some links)?

Our current tools do not do a good job of helping us map our own perceptions of time – or find others who share these in a broad sense. Sure, a tool such as Upcoming or Facebook might show us people who are following a specific event which we are also following but they do not help us see bigger pictures and patterns. Nor do we add to most such “social networks” the broader, bigger picture patterns of perception of time which are so vital.

Consider 2008. When I think of it, I immediately think “presidential election”. A bit later I might think “new seasons of Doctor Who and Torchwood”. Pressed still further I might start to think about specific activities in 2008 which I plan on attending, SXSW 2008 in Austin TX, Wiscon in Madison WI, etc.

There are many other answers, each showing a bit about what you are paying the most attention to. For some you might focus on new cars (starting sometime in the Fall of 2007), you might think “new version of Madden Football”, you might think “when I graduate”, etc.

I think it would be a really fascinating experiment (and perhaps a useful service on some dating sites) to ask some fairly open ended questions that capture elements of your perception of time. And then in a fuzzy manner use these to start to show how/if you overlap with others.

So, you might go from the very broad “when does the week start and end”, “what do you do every weekend?”, what do you think about Mon – Fri? any regular things you wait for/think about each week?

To more specific questions – “what are you looking forward to next week? next month? next season? (and which “season”(s) do you think about?)”

I know that most likely anyone woman (I’m a single straight man) who defines her week by a religious observation is most likely not for me – though if that observation is not on Sundays the chances are much better. Likewise someone who is mostly focused around consumer patterns (new fashion seasons, new seasons of TV, various “Hallmark Holidays”) but not around personal interests – whatever they are is also unlikely to be for me. I pay some attention to food seasons, what’s fresh and available at the local farmer’s markets – someone who shared that passion of mine would be fairly interesting to me.

Especially if she also paid some attention to overlapping passions – science fiction, writing etc. Even if the events she followed were different than what I followed (heck, might be something I’d want to go to myself).

As I write this I’m thinking of countless other things people wait for, people follow and pay attention to – concert schedules, seasons of theater, sports schedules, tax years, public company earnings calls, annual conferences for various industries, etc.

We need to find ways to think about what we pay attention to – and to find others who share, at least some, of our view of the world.

Posted in geeks, meshforum, networks, personal, San Francisco, time, working | Leave a Comment »