Searching for the Moon

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

Archive for the ‘meshwalk’ Category

Post-Gnomedex suggestions

Posted by shannonclark on August 21, 2007

I attended Gnomedex this year and had a great time – though I did not like almost a majority of the speakers. There has been a lot of discussion throughout the blogosphere about this years Gnomedex. Earlier today, Chris Pirillo posted his deconstruction of the post-gnomedex discussions.

On that thread I left a very long comment, which I reproduce below.

Chris,

This was my second Gnomedex. I came expecting to spend the weekend reconnecting with a lot of friends, seeing some interesting presentations (including a few that might be announcements/newsworthy) and have a great time in Seattle.

I ended up having a very professionally useful conference (somehow doing bizdev for an ad network is not as difficult as I thought it might be – something about helping people make money I suspect). I indeed also had a great time in Seattle, had great meals and met many really amazing people.

All that said, I was very disappointed in this year’s speakers. In conversations I had at and around Gnomedex the rough consensus was that 1/3 of the speakers were kooks and aweful, 1/3 were okay, and 1/3 were good (Guy was perhaps great – but gave a speech many had seen many times before).

But I think the opening and the closing speakers started and ended on a bad note – and that many other speakers in various small ways showed a mismatch with the audience (I know Michael who spoke on Open Money in other contexts but did find his closing requests for funding a bit off putting along with how he handled a few questions).

One small bit of advice which I think though seemingly small was a big part of the change in feel this year.

Last year there were short presentations BETWEEN sessions (from Make magazine etc). At many other conferences these short between session presentations (videos, music etc) give people some mental space. For MeshForum I call these “Interstitials” and generally program artists and others to give short presentations/demos (in many ways much like the ignite talks – which was I think one of the standout moments).

Also there was a lack of cohesion between the speakers – a wide range of formats (one speaker, two speakers, lots of speakers for short periods) and not much of an overarching theme connecting the speakers and telling a story. This is hard, but I think a good flow to the speakers could have really helped.

And another small item – not certain this was the case, but this year it felt like the lighting in the audience was darker than in years past – for me at least this drained a bit of my energy while sitting in the audience (you’ll note in contrast to last year, I asked many fewer questions – and most questions were asked by folks in the most well lit/near the stage parts of the space.

I would suggest that you take a bit of a cue from SXSW – let people start to submit speakers – but also be proactive in asking for speakers – and frame those talks in some manner.

But in addition to speakers – I would look into getting interviewers. I’d suggest that probably almost all of the speakers this year (perhaps not the ignite folks whose talks were very concise and focused) could have benefited from a truly great interviewer asking them questions on stage – and then supplemented quickly with questions from the audience.

My suggestion would be:

– have the interviewer give a short context setting introduction of a speaker (but not a 30 second one, possibly a 4-5 minute intro w/slides)

– have the interviewer ask a few questions or one main one that leads into a solid but short presentation by the speaker (5-10 minutes probably – ala the ignite talks). This should probably set the stage for a viewpoint the speaker holds – something they are passionate about and working on (I personally don’t mind hearing about companies – but prefer to also get context)

– then some follow up questions from the interviewer – say 10-15 mins (so this is the first 30 mins or so)

– then for the remaining 20 mins or so, open up to a lot of questions from the audience (and ideally find a useful way to get some from IRC/twitter/backchannels as well)

The interviewer should probably have access to a computer on stage – so they might expand on an audience member’s question – inserting additional points from the IRC for example. Ideally as well it might be possible for people in the audience to also add to a question so that the speaker then addresses more folk’s questions/issues/thoughts

A key question to keep in mind in all of this is “what is the goal of the presentations?”

– spark discussions?

– capture and document a thesis/experience? (and share that with the attendees and through them the world)

– make news/announcements (launch a new product, make a political point etc)

– move the “blogosphere” forward on a given issue [I’d personally recommend against this last point – especially since there is by no means only one “blogosphere” and though Gnomedex is great, it doesn’t actually have everyone important on any given issue in attendance. That said, a session could certainly be scheduled with the intention of raising an issue and giving it a higher profile – along with one or more approaches to dealing with it (privacy vs. live streaming for example could have been one this year – i.e. disclosures, releases, commercial use, archives etc)

Hope this is helpful. Getting speakers and scheduling them in a balanced and well flowing manner is by far one of the hardest parts to organizing a conference.

Shannon

Posted in internet, meshwalk, networks, reviews, web2.0 | 1 Comment »

Writers Room – a resource at the Seattle Main Library

Posted by shannonclark on August 14, 2007

If you live in Seattle, or plan on spending any time there, and are writing a book or article you should know about the Writers Room at the Main Libary. On the 9th floor of the beautiful building a room has been set aside for the use of serious writers.

Available for up to 6 months a writer can get access to this private space including the use of a private locker with proof of seriousness (book or article contract typically). The intention and assumption is of course that you would be using the resources and collections of the library while writing your book.

On Sunday after the MeshWalk I organized had mostly wound down, Brian Dorsey (of Noonhat) and I were walking in search of a cafe when he asked if I had seen the inside of the Seattle Public Library. Since I had not, we decided to take a detour and on learning there was a cafe on the 3rd floor work there for the afternoon.

We were on the 10th floor at the highest point the public is allowed when we looked down and saw that there was a really unusual space, a private room with a number of very nice desks, Aeron chairs, designer lounging chairs, lockers and photos on the wall. On closer inspection we noticed that the sign on the wall said it was the Writers Room.

At the reference desk on the 9th floor we asked about the room and learned that it was for the use of writers working on a book or article and that access could be given for a maximum of 6 months. The librarian behind the counter noted that we were the second people that day to ask about it and offered to show us the space herself (in part since she had not yet seen it). She is in the photos below.

As you can see, the Writers Room is an amazing space and resource. If you are a writer working in the Seattle area I encourage you to take advantage of this workspace.

I am living in San Francisco, however when I do finally finish my book proposal for my book on Networked Economics (or Flow Economics still need the right phrase) I’m certainly going to consider Seattle – or some similar space somewhere as a workspace while I complete the book.

Many public libraries and private research libraries have similar spaces and offers of resources to writers. Often these are not limited to academics. UPDATE – in NYC there is The Writers Room which has a large loft & reference library available for writers for $650/half-year and in Boston The Writers Room of Boston offers a similar work environment for Boston based writers. In Chicago there is the Uptown Writers Space offering hand-crafted wood cubicles and library tables. In San Francisco (where I live, though I haven’t yet checked these resources out yet) there is The Grotto as well as some spinouts of it. Search for similar projects and spaces in your town!

Posted in geeks, meshwalk, personal, reading, working | Leave a Comment »

Networking Advice – non-valley style

Posted by shannonclark on July 31, 2007

I am a geek. Let me get that right out there, in high school and even in college I was not by any stretch the most popular kid around, heck in high school as a freshman and sophomore I wasn’t all that comfortable calling girls on the phone (this was in the late-80’s, long before cell phones).

Why do I mention this?

Well since college I have become a fairly serious networker. I run conferences, organize events, attend many others and close to 100% of my business development happens as a result of the contacts and connections I make at events (and at follow ups to events such as dinners after).

At the closing party for the Mobile MeshWalk I held last March here in San Francisco one of the MeshWalkers told me a story of advice and training he had received from his boss when he first arrived in Silicon Valley. The advice – “don’t spend more than 2 minutes talking to someone at a networking event, look at their nametag and decide quickly if they are worth your time, if not move on”.

He noted that this was horrible advice – and thanked me for organizing an event which broke with that model and tradition – an event which encouraged longer conversations.

In the past week here in Silicon Valley you could have attended a major networking event/party nearly every single night. Last night it was a blogger dinner (at $40 a pop), Saturday it was my friend Scott Beale’s LaughingSquid Paradise Lost fundraiser, Friday night it was the infamous TechCrunch party at August Capital, Thursday night my friend’s at Satisfaction held an office warming, cupcake party. Wednesday I held my MeshWalk Palo Alto.

Leaving aside my own event, which both was different from the others by virtue of being a full day event and which my results from differ because I am the organizer of the event, the other events show both what is great about the valley and what is so very wrong. My friend’s boss’s advice being the starting point.

In the Valleywag coverage of the TechCrunch party one paragraph by my former college editor Owen Thomas stood out to me.

It was the same small talk, the same pitches, and the same scanning of nametags before faces as any other Valley networking event. With one small hitch — partygoers were asked to fill out their own nametags, and most neglected to include their company information. That omission perplexed at least one venture capitalist in attendance. “I feel like I’m walking socially blind,” he confessed. “I don’t know how important these people are to me.” You mean Arrington’s velvet rope-holders let in some hoi polloi who aren’t worth your time, let alone your capital? Quelle horreur!

A few things to note here. One, Owen observes the same behavior I have, the scanning of nametags to judge whether someone is worthy of time spent talking with them. Two, the sense that lacking this context you are “socially blind”. Three, the implication that you should only talk with “important” people.

Let me now give you, the reader, some different advice.

And so you can judge me, some context. I run a conference on the study of networks, most weeks I meet my personal goal of meeting 5-10 new people (and have for nearly over a decade – do the math), my last event, the MeshWalk Palo Alto drew nearly 100 entrepreneurs and investors for a day of walking, was sponsored by Mohr Davidow Ventures, and well over a dozen angels and vc’s participated.

So, my advice.

1. Networking is about giving and listening.

Spend your time when you meet people thinking about how you can help them. Often this can be both very simple and immediate – introduce people who you meet at a party to each other. As you do, mention why you are introducing them i.e. “John, meet Jenny, she mentioned that she’s looking at deals in the healthcare space and you were telling me about your friend’s new medical startup…”

To do this well you have to be listening. Listen not for a pause when you can enter and pitch yourself/company/product/investment opportunity, listen for how you and the person you are talking with can form a connection.

2. Have a very concise, two or three at the most sentence explanation for yourself.

This is something I have to work on, in part because I am working on too many projects at once (three startups, one ongoing non-profit, writing a book on economics). But for all of the projects I am involved in, I can explain them very simply and quickly – in a few simple, easy to understand sentences – which generally get a reaction of head nodding and interest in the project.

Getting to this point is not easy. In many ways it is harder than writing a long business plan. You have to strip away everything that is unnecessary and communicate quickly what you are working on. Without, ideally, doing so in a jargon or buzzword filled manner (I never use terms such as “web 2.0” when describing my projects, even those that are, in fact, “web 2.0” in spirit).

The point of this is to get the introductions behind you and to give someone stuff to continue to talk with you about – give them hooks to a conversation.

3. Parties and events are the starting point, not the end point.

Photos with celebs can be fun. Being on the guest list is always nice. But from a business perspective the conversations and discussions at a party are just the starting point. Make a point of following up with people – in ways that emphasize giving not taking. If while you are talking with someone you mention a book they should read, a person they should talk to, when you get back from the party fire off a quick email introduction or a reminder about the book/website/tool you mentioned. This does not take long but has a very real impact.

4. It is not quid-pro-quo.

Frequently people’s reaction when you do something for them is to try to “pay you back”. There is a strong sense that networking is some form of accounts – that you do favors and then collect on them, that people “owe you”.

Please, break yourself of this instinct. Not the part of it which inspires you to help others, but the part which tries to keep accounts, which tries to weigh whether someone can help you before you help them.

If I were to trace back the links and connections which have, in the past, resulted in business deals and opportunities for me, rarely is the line simple or direct. Usually it is something more like:

I was at an event, got into a conversation with another attendee, we went out for dinner as a group, later followed up via emails, over time those emails led to me participating in an online discussion group, later that led to other introductions, those introductions led to meetings while I was visiting CA, when I moved out to CA those occasional meetings grew more frequent, leading to participation at an event, which led to going to another event, which led to a conversation, that led to a lunch meeting in NYC, which led to a partnership to start three companies this year.

And that’s the relatively simple, straightforward version.

The full, detailed account would take a lot longer to explain – and takes many more twists and turns and mutual introductions and reconnections.

But, by giving back, by helping others via my comments, introductions and referrals, I have gotten far more. Not via direct paybacks, but indirectly.

5. Know what to ask for, and very important, ask for it.

People often ask me, “How do you get…” (sponsors, attendees, speakers, funding, clients, partners etc).

My usual and true answer is “I ask.”

It is amazing how few people do and how often asking the right people for the right thing gets amazing results.

Critically I do not usually ask in ways that only lead to yes or no. Rather I ask for something very specific (will you speak? Can you sponsor this?) but also for something openended “Who else should be speaking? Who should I be talking with about this? What should I read or take a look at?”.

This combination of specific and openended has worked very well for me. The specific leads to a yes or a no (and seriously, getting a quick no is really valuable – the worst result is the indeterminate answer that delays you from asking others). By asking for something open ended you give people a chance to help even if they can’t immediately do your specific request – i.e. if they can’t fund you, they may still help via some introductions, if they can’t make it to your event they may help via inviting someone to go in their place.

Getting to the point where you know what to ask for, however, is hard work. You have to really deeply understand your project and what next steps you need to take.

A few specific examples to help illustrate this.

I have many projects going at the moment. However what we need, for now, is not overly complicated.

– we need specific types of partners for trials we plan for our ad network this fall (publishers, advertisers)

– this is leading to needing serious investment (but for now we’re starting to talk with investors but mostly need to know who might be good fits when we are ready)

– for my next few MeshWalk’s I need participants (in Seattle Aug 12) and sponsors (for NYC in Sept)

– for another project which we are about to launch, we will need the right type of (probably) angel investor interested in content investments (online and to a degree offline)

– for that same project we need to talk with large (ideally trade show sized) event organizers in Chicago or San Francisco

We have other needs – for beta testers, for future hires, for certain types of partners. But, those are my current priorities and thus what I mostly ask for when it is appropriate to ask. And I have what we are looking for down pretty specifically (I can get into details about the trials this fall for example).

Specifics, even if open ended i.e. “who should speak”, lead generally to better results than very vague and uncertain questions.

i.e. don’t ask “can you help me with my startup”

Ask for something more specific. I have a call scheduled later this week with a former CEO who built, took public, and sold a company in a space we’re entering. My call is to get his perspective on our plans and to ask him if he would join our board (at least our advisory board, but very likely after we raise funds our formal board). This is very specific and importantly, he knows why I am talking with him (his perspective and advice would be very helpful plus his association would help as we raise money). I am also going to be asking him specifically about hiring sales and business development people in this space.

I hope this is helpful. Please leave comments with other advice (and feel free to point out alternatives or clarifications to this document).

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, meshforum, meshwalk, networks, venture capital, web2.0, working | Tagged: , | 13 Comments »

Shifting from event planning to company launches

Posted by shannonclark on July 27, 2007

This past Wednesday the MeshWalk Palo Alto which I have been planning for a bit over a month took place. Nearly 100 people participated over the course of the day, well over a dozen investors and 75+ entrepreneurs. I was thrilled, as some of the MeshWalkers have noted, at how diverse the participation in the MeshWalk was. I have long argued both in this blog and in comments and discussions elsewhere the value of diversity – that though I am indeed a white, male American, I want to hear and meet people of many different backgrounds, with a variety of perspectives.

One other note about the MeshWalk, one of the participants noted that it was only the second event he has seen which included public transit directions in the conference materials – and the other event was a conference on green and sustainable development so it was somewhat expected there. As a rare CA resident (and rare American) who does not own a car, I too have noted this lack in the directions and descriptions most events provide.

So, though I will be planning many future MeshWalks, now my attention and focus shifts from the active planning of a large event to the launch of multiple projects (companies) this summer. It is a balancing act – I have a great deal of important work to do as my contribution to these projects – writing projects to complete, data entry, UI testing, sales and business development calls to make, important business milestones to define and track, to a degree business plans to write (more specifically not formal plans but simple yet informative spreadsheets to track the key metrics for each business – and thus our plans and timing to test, measure and prove the business models). In short plenty of work (and these being bootstrapped startups, probably really plenty of work for multiple people but work which I will have to complete for the most part myself).

But I have to balance this with the important role of getting out of the house, of talking with people of doing business development not just via email or phone calls but also be in person meetings – both one-on-one but perhaps more importantly in many cases via attending and participating in the wide range of events throughout the Bay Area (and at times conferences and events outside of the bay area). Just this evening, while getting dinner with a group of people after one such event I had a brief conversation and exchange of cards with someone working at a company that is precisely who I need to talk with to line up as a participant in the beta trials for the ad network we are building. And at  the party before the dinner I spent a lot of time reconnecting with people – learning for example that one friend may soon be taking a C-level position at a large firm which may be a potential client for one of the projects I’m working, I also chatted with another friend who thought I should talk with the organizer of a conference at which I might be an appropriate speaker, etc. In short the social glue which binds business – for even at the largest of scales business is personal.

Yes, the numbers have to work and you have to deliver, but opportunities arise from this social fabric. In comparing the tech landscape of Chicago to the Bay Area, as I was doing multiple times in the past few days, I have been noting the fluidity of the business world here (in the bay area). People who work at your competitors today may be your boss tomorrow (probably at an entirely new company). It is not just that every investor knows each other (or at a minimum talks with each other) the same holds true with most positions here in the area.

It is one of the reasons I do not hold to the position of being “in stealth”. I do see the role that mode can play in group unity and in an ability to take on large targets/competitors and perhaps launch and surprise them – but one major tole it takes is to disconnect your team (and partners & investors) from the casual conversations which permeate San Francisco. Just tonight, for example, at the same table were Twitter employees and Pownce employees. Yes, they compete, but they also attend the same parties, know many of the same circle of friends, and it is not unlikely that at some future company current competitors will be working together (perhaps as investors if both firms are successful).

Tonight (Friday) is the TechCrunch Party where some 500+ people will attend, network with each other, and chat. At the last party I actually had some really interesting conversations – I hope I have many tomorrow as well. However I am also in a new mode for tonight’s event than I was previously.

For this event I have a number of specific goals – a bit of a rarity for me – so let me share them publically here (as I mentioned, I am very much about being open).

1. In the late summer/early fall we plan on conducting a trial of a new ad network. This requires building relationships with both publishers (broadly defined – in our case specifically application publishers mostly, though possibly also some “content” sites) and equally with the right matching mix of advertisers.  So I am actively networking to talk with application publishers, direct advertisers, and media buying/campaign management firms.

2. The purpose of the trial – in addition to making money and providing a valuable service to all parties (including the users of the applications) – is to prove out portions of our business and help us raise the right amount of capital. So I need to be proactive in starting conversations with the right mix of investors (and also need to define the scope of funding we’ll need – as well as what in the current market we should expect & try for).

3. In addition to the ad network, we have two other projects which are getting ready to launch (or in one case open up the launch much more widely). So I need to think about how to spread the word about these projects and how to seed the initial launches – i.e. who I know who would be interested and passionate users (and thus testers – by beta we really do mean beta).

4. And again in one of these cases (possibly in both) we are investigating raising funds (probably angel scale of investment) and we will be seeking ways to prove those business models as well. For the content play – think a Zagat’s like guide by business people for business people I need to talk with the organizers of conferences and trade shows. Especially ones to be held in the Bay Area (SF or the East Bay in particular) or in Chicago.

So I have some agendas in my conversations at events these days. But as well I want to spread the word about my own events to people who might enjoy participating in them (next MeshWalk is Aug 12th in Seattle after the Gnomedex conference for example).

If you are reading this, wondering how/if you “meet” what I have outlined above, please feel free to ignore what I have written and when we meet, perhaps tonight at the party, just tell me about yourself and what you are doing – I am always happy to help if I can, if an introduction makes sense making it (whenever possible at that event). My philosophy is always to try to be helpful, to assume the best of people until proven wrong, to give. I try to be open about what I am doing – but also attentive to others and what they are doing, listening for when I get a sense of “hmm you have to…” as I talk with someone.

So a bit of a mental shift for me this weekend, but a good one.

Posted in customer service, Entrepreneurship, meshwalk, networks, San Francisco, venture capital, web2.0, working | Leave a Comment »

MeshWalk Palo Alto – pre-announcement

Posted by shannonclark on June 22, 2007

For the past few weeks I have been planning the next MeshWalk, still have a few details to finalize before I can formally announce the date and full details and open up registration but I wanted to post a note here to keep my few blog readers informed of what I am working on in much the same way you would know if you have met me in the past few weeks.

MeshWalk Palo Alto will be the last week in July. The theme will be entrepreneurship. This MeshWalk will be by invite only, limited mostly to entrepreneurs. Like previous MeshWalk most of the day will be walking and outdoors, but captured and documented electronically.

We will start in the morning with conversations with Angel investors as well as some academic thinkers and researchers. For lunch we will be in downtown Palo Alto hosted by a couple of venture backed startups. Then we will head down Sand Hill Road and hold conversations with VC firms and some select related parties about the early stages of venture investing as well as follow on rounds, other forms of financing, and towards the end of the afternoon about late rounds as well as exits – both via IPO and acquisition.

We will then end the day with a party, probably hosted by a major local public tech company.

So, interested? If so, leave me a comment here or drop me a private email. In your note or email, even if I konw you, leave a very quick summary of what you are working on (or what you have founded in the past). I may not be the only person selecting who will get invitations to this MeshWalk. If you are not given an invite for this one, we will very likely be holding additional similar MeshWalks later this year in Palo Alto (and perhaps in San Francisco as well). I will also be holding a MeshWalk in NYC this fall. That MeshWalk will probably be more focused on Media and Advertising but entrepreneurs will of course be welcome to participate (indeed encouraged).

Trust me, when you see the list of who has agreed to sponsor this MeshWalk as well as who has offered to participate during the walk in conversations with entrepreneurs you will want to be there.

A few guidelines/rules however. No pitching. The point of the MeshWalk will be to focus on not selling your specific current project – but rather to learn from your peers, entrepreneurs who have done it before, and investors who work with and look at many entrepreneurs. Everything other than your specific company is open for discussion – who to work with, when to seek funding (and how much, what type etc), how to sell, how to fire, suggestions about adding early employees, other founders, board structures, etc.

Posted in economics, meshwalk, networks, venture capital, web2.0, working | 1 Comment »

Travels and June conferences

Posted by shannonclark on June 3, 2007

Later this week I will be attending the Future of Online Advertising conference in NYC. I fly to NYC Tuesday night (taking JetBlue so I anticipate fewer problems than with my recent United travels). I am looking forward to this conference as a chance for me to learn deeply about the current state of the online (and especially mobile) advertising worlds. In the next few months NELA Partners will be turning on and opening up to other publishers our advertising network. This week will be a chance for me to learn as well as to network with others in the industry.

I will be staying in the New York area for a few days after FoOA working as well as connecting with friends and family in the NYC area.

Then I have a few days here in the Bay Area, a weekend birthday brunch to organize and host, and then in the following week I will be actively participating at Supernova 2007 here in San Francisco. My hope is to organize a talk/session for the open space day on June 19th, and to be an active participant throughout the week.

Following Supernova I have a few weeks of work, probably mostly here in San Francisco, though I’ll likely also be spending some time in Palo Alto.

In mid-July I plan on returning to Chicago for a non-work conference, Think Galactic, a science fiction convention put on by a bunch of my friends in a political science fiction reading group I was part of when I lived in Chicago (though not as active as I might have liked as I often had conflicts on the nights they met). A bit left of my political leanings perhaps (though I’m pretty difficult to place on a left/right spectrum and in general think that politics is far more complex than just left vs. right). And yes, I’m a capitalist which is not a label many of the organizers would accept for themselves. But still, it will be a weekend of intelligent conversations with very smart people.

I may also return to Chicago for BlogHer at the end of July. Still trying to decide, I’d like to go, but two trips to Chicago in one month… (though given that I have so many friends and family in Chicago I’ll probably go).

Then in August I will probably be going up to Seattle for Gnomedex. For which I probably should register very soon if I want to go.

Somewhere in July or early August, scheduled around these travels, as well as other related events here in San Francisco and in Silicon Valley, I hope to hold the next MeshWalk. This time in Palo Alto along Sand Hill Road. Still working out the details (and the sponsors) but the basic plan is to work with a number of VC firms and companies to have a conference that is in motion, with lots of places to stop during the day. Stops ranging from small startups, to places of historical note, to VC firms. We may start with a “traditional” breakfast, likely will have lunch somewhere notable, and will end with a party. I hope to have the basic details set within the next week or two.

If you are interested in attending the MeshWalk, hosting it and/or sponsoring it please leave a comment or contact me directly.

And that takes me through August. I do not think I’ll be going to Burning Man this year, too much else going on, though I may go to something over Labor Day weekend (probably not the WorldCon this year either however – Japan is a long way to travel). Already I have plans for a week+ trip back to Oaxaca in the fall, along with likely many trips to NYC.

In and amidst all of this travel and conferences, my primary focus for the Summer will be the continued growth of NELA (and likely the launch of a few related projects).  In a few weeks after we complete some major bug fixes and feature enhancements we should be opening up NELA to many more beta users.

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, meshwalk, NYC, personal, politics, San Francisco, venture capital, working | Leave a Comment »

MeshWalk – inspirations

Posted by shannonclark on May 4, 2007

Tomorrow, all throughout Toronto people will be participating in the first annual Jane’s Walks in honor of Jane Jacobs and sponsored by the Mayor of Toronto.  I wish I were going to be in Toronto, my only dilemma would then be how to go on as many of these walks as humanly possible.

They are very much in the same spirit as my MeshWalk. Though with an explicit focus on seeing the city around them (as per Jane Jacob’s inspiration and call to action) and led by one or more assigned guides/local experts. The idea of MeshWalk is a bit more distributed, not that one person would “lead” but rather that deliberately everyone participating would converse with each other – and take turns discussing and asking questions with everyone asked to also help capture and document the MeshWalk.

I have not yet read Jane Jacob’s books. I think as I work on my own theory of Networked Economics, I will need to read pretty much all of her books (and cite them), her thinking and mine I suspect resonate a great deal.

Posted in economics, meshwalk | Leave a Comment »

Observing the city around you

Posted by shannonclark on April 12, 2007

I do not own a car, though I have in the past, I sold my last car in 2004 and have not replaced it. Since moving to San Francisco I have tried to walk at least a few miles every day, often 4-5 miles.

A few days ago, the Washington Post ran an experiment on commuters in Washington DC. For all the details, take a look at the article Pearls before Breakfast. After you have read the article, click thru and read some of the over 51 pages of comments (over 500). Go ahead and read it then come back here.

Have you read the article?

If not, quick (too quick really) summary, the Post got Joshua Bell, one of the leading violinists in the world to perform in the morning at rush hour at a Metro stop in Washington DC using his over $3M Stradavarius violin and playing some of the hardest pieces in the Classical Canon. And out of over 1000 people who walked by, less than 10 stopped to listen and very few gave any money.

Just a few days ago, I remember hearing a bit of a musical battle between two musicians at the Bart/Muni Powell station in downtown San Francisco. At one space, a man played a saxophone (very well in fact), at the other space, another man played a trumpet (fairly badly). I was in a rush (had to head into the nearby mall to find a bathroom) but I remember noting that they were overlapping in their music – and that the sax player was by far the better musician.

I try as I walk through the city to observe the world around, to notice the buildings, the businesses, the people. Lately I have been trying to take at least a few photos every day.

At the recent Mobile MeshWalk I organized over 900 photos were taken by the participants.

One of the specific goals of the MeshWalk format is to have people see the world with each other. That is, as you walk together through the city actively seek to observe the world around you – and then share those observations with each other. Help others see what you see, add what you know about the city, what you observe to their knowledge and experiences.

In the light of the Washington Post experiment of a few days ago, I think it would be a good thing for all of us if we were a bit more aware of the world around us, if we stopped and looked deeply at the details, at the people, listened to the music.

Tonight, after the fundraiser for Irene McGee I walked down Polk St. looking for a late night snack. Besides many other people out late, I observed a really fascinating building at the corner of Polk and California (well one building in from the corner). Downstairs it is now a Walgreens, garish and lit by fluorescent lights. But clearly from the upstairs architecture, at one time this building was a theater or hall, indeed faintly still there is a name and the words Hall in large letters at the top of the building. However, besides a disused doorway plastered with ads for the Walgreens and hidden behind iron fencing, there is no obvious way upstairs. But I wonder what a space lies hidden above the routine Walgreens, and what was there before it was removed to put in drop ceilings, glass windows and a tile floor?

A few blocks later looking carefully at the businesses on adjoining blocks led me to notice a restaurant that advertised that it was open until 4 am. That restaurant, the Grubstake Restaurant, is housed in a dining car from the early part of the century which has been used as a diner since 1925. I ate a really good burger and a homemade flan. Not bad for just before 1am.

Observe the world around you.

Stop, listen to the music.

Take photos, capture details.

Take notes, make connections, catch someone’s eye. Say hello. Hold open a door. Nod. Smile.

Engage.

Posted in digital bedouin, meshwalk, photos, restaurants, San Francisco | Leave a Comment »

Post Mobile MeshWalk – first thoughts and thanks

Posted by shannonclark on March 21, 2007

So I am home from the Mobile MeshWalk. A few quick thoughts and thanks – I will be blogging a great deal more as the media from the MeshWalk is uploaded and more participants have had a chance to write their own blogs and thoughts on the day.

First a huge thanks to everyone at France Telcom/Orange who helped with the coordination of the Mobile MeshWalk and the financial sponsorship of the costs of today.

Thanks to everyone to came and participated – whether at the end of the day for the closing party, in the morning for the design crawl, or for all who participated in the whole event!

Thanks to Twitter, who in the midst of their massive hype and growth, rolled out a cool new group feature for us today.  [a meshwalk group – anyone who followed meshwalk could then send a message with meshwalk at the start and have it sent to everyone else following meshwalk]

And finally thanks to everyone at RubyRed Labs (now Satisfaction), Frog Design SF, and fuse project! Your generosity with your time this morning in hosting the 40+ participants and in presenting some of what you have learned, worked on, and thought about the mobile space is fantastic.

Though I was suffering from a serious cold today, I had the real pleasure of meeting an incredibly diverse and smart group of people who participated in the Mobile MeshWalk. With participants from France, Japan and China (the first who flew here for the Mobile MeshWalk, the other two who live in the bay area at the moment) as well as from all across the bay area and a few from New York and other states – we had a great mix. Participants included many designers, a number of entrepreneurs, but also representatives of multiple cell phone manufacturers, many different international carriers, researchers and media.

More than any specific topic, a MeshWalk is about connections – about shared experiences and of seeing the world via showing it to others. The act of talking to people while walking with them, as more than one participant mentioned to me tonight, is very different than how we engage in more traditional business or networking environments. For one thing, as people are walking you can easily and comfortably walk alongside them, listen in, and naturally join a conversation – and as importantly, leave that conversation comfortably when you wish.

The morning started off with sprinkles and a bit of rain – but for those who stuck with it after our delicious lunchboxes from Mistral – the sun came out and over the course of the MeshWalk, we shed our coats and sweaters as the walk progressed towards the Palace of Fine Arts.

In the next few days I will be focused on the upcoming launch of my new firm NELA. As the media from the Mobile MeshWalk is posted online we will be asking everyone (myself included) to use that media corpus as a starting point for telling stories – illustrating the conversations sparked by the day, or telling new ones inspired by the images as well as the experience. I will try to link to all of these stories here – as well as on the MeshWalk wiki

Thanks again to everyone for a great day – and to new (and old) friends!

Posted in meshforum, meshwalk, mobile, networks, San Francisco | 2 Comments »

PodTech:Shannon Clark on Mobile Identity

Posted by shannonclark on March 7, 2007

An interview I did at the recent Mobile Identity Workshop organized by Doc Searls here in San Francisco.

[podtech content=http://media1.podtech.net/media/2007/03/PID_010422/Podtech_ShannonClark.flv&postURL=http://www.podtech.net/home/technology/2292/shannon-clark-on-mobile-identity&totalTime=333000&breadcrumb=3F34K2L1]

Posted in digital bedouin, economics, Entrepreneurship, geeks, internet, meshwalk, mobile, networks | 1 Comment »