Searching for the Moon

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

Archive for the ‘working’ Category

Planning a new event

Posted by shannonclark on September 13, 2013

A year ago I started my most recent event – a weekly game night I host in San Francisco. It has been quite a nice small event – lots of fun, nearly 100 people on the mailing list for it and every week around 20 people gather in SOMA to play games (mostly Pathfinder Society but occasionally other games). All in all quite a nice event that I’m proud to have started and to continue to host and organize.

But it isn’t a professional event – though a few folks have found internships and made connections with others in the area it isn’t an event for professional networking.

I also recently moved out of San Francisco and down to East Palo Alto. Two months ago my wife gave birth to our son. So as I think about events that I attend and that I organize I have a new perspective.

Since moving to the Palo Alto area I haven’t gotten out to many industry events – I missed this year’s TechCrunch/August Capital summer party and I haven’t been going to meetups or networking events.

But this morning a thought occurred to me – what if I, once again, started my own event. An event I could invite the speakers I want to hear from to speak at and an event I could schedule for the time and place that would be most convenient for my wife and I (and our newborn).

My idea is to create a networking event that is designed to be parent friendly. An industry event that will accommodate kids of any age as well as their parents.

This means

  •  Kid and stroller friendly space – room to park strollers/wheel them, changing tables in the bathrooms, neither too bright nor too dark and definitely not too loud
  • A parent friendly time – breakfast, mid-morning, lunchtime or late-afternoon (after school) are all possibilities – I welcome feedback about the best time (after work/evening isn’t it)
  • Parking nearby (this is Silicon Valley so a necessary evil)
  • Great food that anyone of any age or dietary restrictions will enjoy – this means fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies from local producers etc.
  • Short talks (if any) with lots of time for Q&A – Demonstrations would also be excellent
  • Interactions – between people and with technology favored over dull slideshows or vapid chats.

The focus would be akin to many other technology events – getting smart people together to meet potential clients, partners, investors or employers. Topics might include marketing online, emerging technologies, new programming methods and languages, emerging technology and opportunities etc. But with a few specific focuses and goals.

  1. The people at the event are more important than the speakers (or the organizers) – the goal is very much to get people to talk with and interact with each other – and to talk about more than just their kids (but sure, their kids are a welcome topic here as well).
  2. Be open and encouraging to everyone – kids of any age (from newborn to teens), parents and non-parents, men and women. This isn’t intended to be a parents only group or a moms/dads group. The idea instead is to have amazing technology speakers and content – but just happen to be scheduled and designed to be kid friendly. Hopefully this means as well that this event draws a more diverse crowd (in all metrics of diversity) than most tech networking events tend to draw.
  3. Ideally it is a regular event not a one-time event and hopefully it builds a community around it as well as support of sponsors and venue(s).

Anyone want to help me with this? Especially if your company might want to sponsor or host (or speak) at this event! (Speakers won’t be from sponsors – though sponsors can suggest speakers they would like to hear from). Any friends who are parents want to offer suggestions for venues or times for an event like this?

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, personal, web2.0, working | 1 Comment »

What are your get the New Year started rituals, habits or practices?

Posted by shannonclark on January 2, 2013

Philly Street

Do you do anything every first business day back from the new year break?

Do you try to get down to inbox zero for the new year?

Do you try to clear out RSS feeds, evaluate podcast subscriptions?

Try something new to start the year?

For me here are my goals and new habits for the new year.

  1. Clear my inbox, currently hovering just under 2000 emails – going to try to get that down to <100 by the end of the week
  2. Zero out my RSS feeds for the new year and likely unsubscribe from dozens (hundreds?) of feeds I rarely read last year – giving myself space for new subscriptions
  3. Try to write a blog post (or more than one) and schedule others to get myself into the habit of at least one blog post a week for 2013 (so check back with me in 2014 to see if I make that – goal is at least 52 blog posts to or
  4. Visit at least one new cafe or restaurant a week for 2013. Today I’m at The Wooly Pig on Hugo St in SF – a new cafe and a whole new street to me (haven’t been here before) Great food, good coffee, free wifi (in a tiny space) = a definite winner to start the new year. 
  5. Reconnect with old friends and make new ones. Every year I meet 100’s of people, some years 1000’s, and while I always form new friendships each year I’m not always great about staying in touch with old friends. Not just via once a year birthday greetings here on Facebook but by actively engaging with my friends – catching up on the phone, meeting up in person. In 2013 I’m going to try to reconnect with at least one old friend each week – and meet at least one new person each week (whether they become friends isn’t the primary goal)

Posted in digital bedouin, personal, time, working | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Review – The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

Posted by shannonclark on October 12, 2012

Reading The Impact Equation at Blue Bottle Mint Plaza in San Francisco

Do you know how to make an impact? How to get heard? How to have your ideas shared with the world and have an impact?

My friend Chris Brogan along with his co-author Julien Smith have a new book, The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?, which will be published on Oct 25th, 2012. They sent me a preview copy and over the past couple of weeks I have been reading it at cafes and on the muni here in San Francisco. My copy is already dog eared and flagged with post-its for easy reference back to key points in the book.

TLDR review – pre-order this book and read it

First a few disclosures and admissions. One, Chris Brogan is a friend – not an old “grew up” with friend, but not just someone whom I follow on social media channels, he’s someone whom I have met in person many times and whom I knew years ago before he had books published and a speaking schedule that takes him around the world. Two, I haven’t (yet) read Trust Agents which is Chris and Julien’s earlier book. My stack of books to be read – for fun and for business including far too many by folks I know has been large and growing over the past few years and somehow I haven’t gotten to Trust Agents yet. Three, many of the people they write about in this new book (and I suspect in their previous book) are people I know friends from here in San Francisco and from the larger tech/social media/blog/podcasting world. Four, I don’t have the 1000’s of readers/followers/listeners of folks like Chris and Julien but I am as they say “a degree away” from many people who do – folks with millions of followers and a high impact on the world.

With all of that disclosed up front I have been inspired not just to write this review but to rethink a bunch of my personal projects (including this blog) and over the next few weeks and months I anticipate making many personal and professional changes inspired in no small part by the ideas of The Impact Equation. I can’t summarize their book in a few short paragraphs but I will summarize a few of their early and key points and discuss how I plan on addressing them.

To start with the equation itself (quoting from the pre-release copy but I assume this key part won’t change in the final print edition):

Impact = C x (R + E + A + T + E)

Yes, that is, not surprisingly, the simple yet key fact that to have impact now (and in the past) you have to create – frequently, often and well. The full equation defines each part and the book illustrates each aspect of the equation. Contrast – a new idea has to familiar yet different enough to be noticed. Reach – the number of people you can get connected to your ideas. Exposure – how often do you connect with the people you can reach. Articulation – being understood and clear in communicating your idea. Trust – the subject of their previous book but still not entirely figured out – but why will people listen to you? And finally Echo – the feeling of connection that great ideas and impactful people create.

Fairly simple, fairly memorable yet also complex enough to warrant a full book (and I’m sure many more talks and presentations in the future for Chris and Julien).

On a person level my biggest takeaways from the book is a reminder to get myself back into the ongoing, frequent content creation business – that if I want to grow my own personal impact I need to create more content, more often, and more thoughtfully. Furthermore I need to think about this whether I’m going to continue being an independent consultant or if I join a larger organization. That while I may have some impact in my tweets, comments, email list participation and even events that I create if I were more thoughtful about my online (and offline) activities I could have a much greater impact on the world. With more thoughtful (and literally more frequent) effort I can have a far larger impact on the world than i do today. That I can take the conversations I have one-on-one today and still have that impact but also bring it to a far wider audience.

For some of this I will have to get out of my comfort zone – write more content, experiment with new formats for myself (video? audio?) and generate this content far more frequently than I have been for the past few years.

In each of the chapters of The Impact Equation Chris and Julien cover a mix of specific tactics (and the occasional exercise to get you thinking) as well as stories that illustrate their key ideas. Some of these stories are from business people they have met others are illustrated with celebrities they admire. But in every chapter they also focus on asking you to think about how this applies to yourself – how would you evaluate yourself on this dimension of their equation. I think most of these chapters and the book over all are compelling but not every chapter is equally strong.

The initial chapters on Ideas – on Contrast and Articulation are very good and have a lot of useful exercises for everyone. In particular they have a lot of great exercises around how to evaluate your own ideas and how to communicate them clearly.

The middle chapters on Platforms – on Reach and Exposure – however are a bit weaker. In particular I think the chapter on Exposure is the weakest chapter in the book. In part this is because Exposure is in no small part outside of your direct control. They talk in this chapter about the exposure that someone like Jimmy Fallon has from his tv show but they also talk about the impact of frequency on your exposure but the links and what will work best for most people is not entirely clear from this chapter (and it is perhaps not an easy thing to answer). They have a lot of great questions and a few answers but this chapter left me a bit unsatisfied. Yes, participating in the communities you want to reach is great advice (it is what I tell my clients in fact) but it takes more than just that to get great exposure of your ideas.

The final chapters on Network – on Trust and Echo, Echo – are perhaps surprisingly among the shortest in the book. The chapter on Trust is a revisit (per what they wrote, I haven’t yet read Trust Agents) of the topic of their earlier collaboration. The chapter on Echo (Echo, Echo) is nearly the end of the book and very important but also fairly short. It is about how your ideas resonant and connect. Very important but I think if they could have gone a bit deeper here the whole book would have “echoed” for me even more strongly. But that said they make some really important points in this last chapter leading to the conclusion of the book.

Overall as I said above my recommendation is that you go out and buy this book – in fact that you go preorder it now to be among the first to read it. I hope for my friend’s sake that it is a huge hit and given the quality of the content I’m sure it will be a successful book. More importantly on a personal front it has many parts that I will be using myself to make changes in the coming weeks to my own professional habits and practices and online (and offline) content.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, networks, podcasts, reading, reviews, working | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Blogging with a computer

Posted by shannonclark on July 14, 2010

I am in Las Vegas for the next couple of days, here to celebrate with my friend Tara Hunt her birthday. She has brought together a group of her friends from all over the world and together we are spending sometime in what is perhaps my least favorite city but much improved by the company of friends.

As I packed for my short trip I debated about whether or not to bring my new MacBook Pro with me. It is a fantastic new machine and working on it still feels more like play than work. But if I had brought it I would have to watch it, would have to secure it when I joined the group at a cabana by the pool or went to a show (Ka tomorrow evening).

So instead I decided to only bring my iPhone 4 (along with bumper case – I haven’t had any antenna problems other than AT&T’s usual horrible service and dropped calls). I didn’t even bring my trusty and fairly new Panasonic Lumix.

As you can see from the photo, taken of the Irish band that played while er had dinner this evening, the iPhone 4 does indeed shoot well in low light and with the right apps – such as the WordPress app I’m using now – is a very powerful tool for new media creation.

I don’t know how many more posts I’ll write this week – mostly this is a vacation and though every move is likely documented by cameras, tweets and foursquare checkins in this particular crowd my focus this week is on catching up with my friends and making new friends.

But as I work on a new venture around helping game companies (mostly online social game companies) make more money there are a lot of lessons big and small I am seeing in how casinos (ie “gaming”) work here in Las Vegas.

Where the gaming is a bit less social though the social aspects are important and where the rewards are mostly very simple – cold, hard cash.

But I can also see that with casinos such as the Mandalay Bay Resort gambling is no longer the only (and indeed perhaps not the major) source of revenues for these establishments. Clearly food, drinks and entertainment as well as the hotel rooms themselves are now also significant revenue streams and may actually often be more profitable than gaming.

I haven’t been back to Las Vegas in a few years I think it may have been nearly four years and even in that short of a time it is clear that a lot has changed. As I sit here writing this post I am seeing a lot more people dressed (well barely in the case of many of the women) for a nightclub.

At the same time the poker rooms I have passed have been very full (since the World Series of Poker ( is ongoing this doesn’t surprise me. But while much of Las Vegas depresses me at least with poker real actual skill is present.

I may try to catch some of the WSOP tomorrow after I tire of lounging poolside or swimming.

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

Billion dollar ideas for the next decade

Posted by shannonclark on April 23, 2010

What will be the next set of Billion dollar industries?

In the past week one of the biggest angel investors in technology, Ron Conway, announced that he has closed a new venture fund and he spoke to TechCrunch about what he sees as the opportunities for the next few years, the opportunities he will be investing in with his new fund. He identified three “megatrends” – the real-time data, the social web and flash marketing.

I agree with Ron that these are big trends and that there are many companies already pursuing them but still many opportunities in these areas for new companies to be created and to succeed.

However I think there are a number of other very large opportunities which will be huge in the next decade, opportunities which will transform not just entire industries but how we (and by we I mean people around the globe) live. Some of these opportunities may require massive investments and infrastructure which means that the winners in these spaces will likely be existing large companies that navigate the transition to a new business model though there likely will be opportunities for large, venture backed (and eventually public IPO backed) companies to prosper in these spaces as well.

I’m sure there are other, very large opportunities, but here are a few which I have identified.

  1. Full lifecycle manufacturing – products which are designed to be recycled and reused. Yes, physical goods. As Moore’s Law continues to move forward the pace of technological change is rapidly increasing, manufacturing is increasingly global and nimble yet climate change concerns, the cost of transportation and energy and many other concerns suggests a need to reevaluate many products. My prediction is that across products from cars to toothpaste design for full-lifecycle use will inspire billions of dollars in new products and industry opportunities. Businesses designed to take products after the initial purchaser of the product is done with that good and reusing those products, at scale, to add value and reenter the value chain. This is much much more than just “recycling” it is an underlying shift in design. Done well this is highly “green” but will also be highly profitable with lower costs, multiple revenue streams and ongoing, engaged relationships with customers over the lifetime of the product – whether it is a car or toothpaste or a laptop computer.
  2. Renewal products to extend the usefulness and value of goods. Cars designed just two years ago have technology components which are already massively out of date and limited (20gb disks for the media players in the car). Laptops and desktop computers are typically out of date when you buy them and new models come out from most computer companies multiple times a year. And while the trend for the past few decades has been to replace our electronic devices (and indeed much of our consumer society) on a frequent basis, I think there is a huge opportunity for a new business of retrofitting and updating a wide array of devices. This opportunity is two-fold. The big but complicated part is retrofitting current products – such as cars made in the past decade with modernized electronics. The even bigger opportunity is when the design of products starts to shift to be designed for ongoing upgrades. This has happened in software in the past five years – both desktop and mobile applications (and to a degree server based applications) are almost all now designed to have ongoing and automatically checked for updates which allows these products to upgrade over time. My first generation iPhone is still useful over 3 years later as a result of having been designed to accept significant ongoing updates both for the core software of the device and for the dozens of applications I run upon it (which wasn’t even an option when I purchased the phone initially!)
  3. Many pieces loosely coupled. This is a trend which exists online and offline. In place of monolithic products whether software or hardware the next decade will see many more opportunities to integrate small discrete items together in ways they may have not been designed to be combined or expected to be used. In software the rise of widgets, such as Facebook’s recently announced Social Plugins is an example of this trend. In hardware this trend is a bit slower but there are examples of it in action in the home entertainment center changes of the past few years – the rise of Internet connected devices other than computers within many homes. Most Blue-ray players sold today, for example, come with wired or wireless Internet access and along with the ability to play Blue-Ray disks the ability to connect to Internet delivered services such as Pandora, NetFlix Streaming, Flickr and more. I predict that there are billion dollar opportunities for increasing the types of devices that can connect with each other and for more combinations of hardware and software working together. Specific short term opportunities I see are around Bluetooth devices that are more complex than keyboards, mice or headphones. Eye-fi’s line of wifi enabled SD cards is a great example of how a second part added to an existing device, say a basic digital camera, can transform the functionality of that device.
  4. Hyperlocal but global curated experiences. At first this may sound like a contradiction, how can an experience be both hyperlocal and global? What I mean by this is the emergence of new retail opportunities which combine deep connections and relationships with the local community around the retailer alongside of a global perspective and sourcing. The emergence of Third-wave coffee roasters over the past few years is one great case study. (here’s a list my favorite coffee places  in San Francisco). This trend is not limited to small, nimble entrepreneurs, even large corporations such as Walmart with their recent major switch to sourcing most of the fresh food they sell locally to each store is an example of this trend. But in the next decade I think there will be a major retailing shift & opportunity where hyperlocal smart retailers who deeply know the needs and interests of their local buyers connect to a global network and source parts of what they sell from across the globe, curate these elements carefully and present specific to their community goods and services. In many cases building and finishing these goods locally but sourcing parts and raw goods on a global scale. But increasingly not just sourcing from massive global businesses but buying nearly directly from global producers. Third Wave coffee roasters increasingly buy their green coffee directly from farmers across the globe. These small scale local retailers are able to afford to send buyers around the globe to source their beans and are building highly successful (and highly profitable businesses). Four Barrel Coffee here in San Francisco recently was quoted in a New York Times article on Coffee in San Francisco that their retail business alone is generating over $100,000 a month with a 45% profit margin. Add to that significant margin a large wholesale business and you have a highly successful new business. 45% margins in a retail business can sustain significant growth.
  5. Global brands, local products. New brands and businesses across the globe will with ever increasing frequency in the next decade expand outside of their initial “home” markets into a more competitive global market. The brands which will prosper in this new world will be ones which combine the best of global sourcing with local connections, resources and awareness. In the media space large media brands will emerge that translate media generated in one country & language into another. Viz Media in San Francisco, for example, translates highly successful Japanese media properties (Manga & Anima mostly) into English and has had great success. TOKYOPOP in LA is one of the most successful publishers (in any media) in the US with many of the bestsellers each year from their highly successful English language manga.

There are many other industries which are likely to generate new billion dollar businesses in the next decade but which I know a bit less about – a few of these are Cleantech, Biotechnology especially around drug design,  and Renewable energy.

What other Billion Dollar opportunities have I missed?

Which of these opportunities should I expand upon in future blog posts?

And yes, if you are a venture fund or investor and want to work with me on exploring these ideas in greater detail I’m available…

Posted in customer service, economics, Entrepreneurship, futureculture, geeks, internet, venture capital, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

What do you actually use your computers to do?

Posted by shannonclark on February 1, 2010

Last night I wrote about why I think the iPad will be a great device for content creation – and included a number of potential million dollar plus ideas.

Today as I read a bunch of blogs and articles covering the iPad I am struck by how many people who are objecting to the iPad or predicting that it will fail seem to have some idea of computer usage which differs, dramatically so, from how I have used my computers for the past decade and very much from how I use my computers today.

The image that people have of “using” a computer seems to involve lots of overlapping processes, deep customization of the system and a variety of applications running which all push the limits of the system.

My reality?

I usually have one application running on my computers – a browser. On my tablet I currently use Google Chrome as my primary browser (not least of which because it doesn’t have lots of extensions and thus loads quickly and smoothly).

Recently I have been using Mindjet’s MindManager (I have the old 7.0 version installed here) which I enjoy but really only barely use, mostly I use it to capture all my various ongoing projects, to-do lists and the like (in short as my electronic GTD system).

Occasionally I use an IM application, mostly Google gchat – which I could just about as easily just use from within the browser, though I do appreciate the occasional notifications that pop up about new messages in my primary inbox. Though since I have at least three main email addresses and only get notifications for one email address and then only for my inbox and not for the many important messages I get but autofilter into various labels, the utility of this notification service is minimal at best.

And when I sync my iPod and iPhone I fire up iTunes – but since my library is vastly larger than my laptop’s HD, doing so requires that I attach an external HD to my system for the syncing to work. I use a wide array of complex smart playlists to result in every device I own and sync getting exactly the content I want to reside on that particular device – which always includes the latest podcasts I have downloaded as well as any other new content I have recently added to my iTunes library (so if I buy new content, rip a CD or download legal digital content it will get onto my music player automatically and be added to the primary playlists I use to select what to listen to during my walks, waits for buses and other podcast listening opportunities during the day.

But that is about all the applications i use on a regular basis. Sure, I have some compilers installed on my laptop, the full MSFT Office suite and much more but the reality is that I almost never need to run any of these applications. And when I do other than looking up information in my browser from time to time, I rarely need to have multiple applications open at the same time – for one my screen resolution though good for a laptop is still so low that I almost always run every app I use in full window mode.

Perhaps I am missing something major about how people use their computers today – some suite of applications that everyone other than me uses – but I don’t think this is the case.

A few possibilities.

  1. Photo & Video editing. My digital camera died a few months ago and I have yet to replace it (need a camera but don’t have the spare funds to buy one at the moment) so I don’t do a lot of photo and no video editing. But there are some great online alternatives to applications such as Photoshop. Aviary is my personal favorite – they offer a wide range of image and vector art online editing tools along with even some music editing tools. Adobe even offers an iPhone application for Photo editing (limited but
  2. Games. I don’t have powerful enough video cards in either of my computers to do much gaming (definitely not in my tablet, my iMac could handle a bit more though there are far fewer MacOS games to select amongst). But PC gaming is and likely will remain a big deal. But so too is gaming on the iPhone and in the future on the iPad and I suspect very rapidly the iPad will attract games that may be better in many ways (or at least very uniquely different) than games not just on PC’s but even against games on any of the major game console systems. I predict that the iPad will be a gaming platform as big, perhaps bigger, than the current game consoles (not their portable game systems which the iPhone already is a potent competitor to but also the main game consoles – Wii, Playstation3 and Xbox360)
  3. Personal Finance. Here in the US we have started to shift into preparing for Tax season shortly. I know in the past many years I have used TurboTax in some form to help prepare my taxes and that many friends run software such as Quickbooks for their family finances or small business finances. That said, there is a reason why Intuit bought Mint last year. Finance software including tax preparation and small (and large) business bookkeeping is rapidly moving from local computers to web/cloud delivered products.
  4. Customized “run the business” applications. These vary by business but think the Point of Sale systems in a retail shop or restaurant. Even here, however, with the rise of platforms such as Square there are many opportunities for many retail transactions to move to the cloud & mobile applications.

So what uses of your personal or business computers have I missed?

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, futureculture, geeks, internet, mac, microsoft, mobile, networks, tablet pc, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Am I an Interactive Strategic Planner?

Posted by shannonclark on January 18, 2010

For the past few years I have been looking for a title to describe what I do as a consultant, I’ve tried the term business designer, which fits but isn’t a term in common usage.  This weekend while I was showing a friend some of my favorite food and retail businesses in San Francisco we also got to talking about my current business ideas and career options.

After hearing more about what I like to do for clients – ideation, brainstorming, connecting companies with the right mix of partners, finding innovative uses of technology, organizing offline events etc – he suggested that I look for roles either full-time or as a consultant as an Interactive Strategic Planner.

Which is great advice for me – but unexpected.

I don’t think of myself as a marketer, yet multiple times in the past few weeks people have suggested to me that really I am, that what I think of as “just” business strategic consulting is, most of the time, very much marketing related as well. Sure I also can dive deeply into technology but increasingly what I’m most passionate about and most involved in is less about writing lines of code and more about exploring creative business models and partnerships, about how to best use a range of technologies (some in-house most not) to achieve real business results.

Even more what I’m most passionate about is not that there is a single, best way to use technology (or a best technology) but rather matching up a company or organization’s resources and goals with a range of available technologies and social tools. I’m also most passionate about combining media – about helping craft a coherent message that crosses many medias and which reinforces and builds the brand. Building that brand not just by one ad or even one campaign but a consistent and ongoing pattern of usage – from the tools & services chosen to activities across many media and platforms.

In the past few years I have mostly worked with small, very scrappy, early stage startups. But we have pulled off some great things – events which drew 100’s of people and dozens of sponsors.

So am I an Interactive Strategic Planner?


and if you want to hire me drop me a line. I know 100’s of technology firms and media opportunities which would help your company today.

Posted in advertising, digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, internet, personal, working | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

The big tables in the cafe principle

Posted by shannonclark on October 22, 2009

This afternoon I had the pleasure of attending Lunch For Good here in San Francisco, organized by my friend Chris Heuer, the lunch gathered around 50 people together for a tasty meal and serious conversation about how to inspire critical thinking.

At my table as part of our conversation I mentioned my “big tables” principle in evaluating cafes as part of our conversation about groups and spaces. At the table the pet owners were all sharing how much enjoyment they get from talking with fellow dog owners at dog parks. I mentioned that I could never even be in such a space, couldn’t ever own pets of any type.

If you are wonder, no I don’t hate animals, I’m just seriously allergic, so allergic that I stop breathing and have asthma attacks along with concurrent serious skin rashes, red eyes and stuffed sinuses. For a short time I can take some allergy medicines and endure brief exposure, but I refuse to take medicine every day of my life just to live with a pet – and furthermore such prolonged exposure to both the medicine (which does have very real side effects) and to the pet dander which has extreme impact on my well being is not conducive to my overall health.

My point in bringing this up is that while the interactions between pet owners are fantastic and it is great that such spaces spark interactions between folks who might not otherwise meet (though likely they share some common interests and traits since they have chosen to live in a near geographic area) such spaces are not, in fact, truly universal, there are folks, such as myself, who not only are unlikely to be at such a dog park my in fact be completely unable to enter such a space.

We then started talking about online spaces and communities and here I brought the discussion back to physical spaces. Cafes are often cited as spaces where strangers can meet, interact and get to know each other. However as a frequent cafe denizen (I’ve been working from cafes since the early 1990’s) I have observed that there are simple steps a cafe can do that dramatically change how the cafe functions as a social space.

Hence my “big tables” principle.

The bigger the tables in a cafe the more social interactions between strangers are likely.

My ideal cafe has tables big enough for two people to work on laptops comfortably while simultaneously having a plate of food, a coffee and some books or other materials open in front of them. Such large tables usually can readily accommodate more than two people and easily inspire ad hoc conversations and interactions between strangers – starting with the simple question ‘do you mind if I share your table” but often ending up with philosophical discussions.

Today, however, in the era when many folks, myself included as I write this post from a cafe in the West Portal seated on a couch (by myself)  frequently shut out the world via listening to headphones as we work, a cafe needs to take further steps to truly inspire people to converse with each other, to actually create a space where social interactions happen.

A few steps I have observed that help.

  1. Watching the volume of the music including any live performers to be quiet enough to enable comfortable conversations. A quiet cafe without any background music however isn’t ideal as people will turn to their own soundtracks. But a cafe with pounding music makes it hard to converse even with friends
  2. Regular events which help spark conversations and interactions. One cafe here in San Francisco (On the Corner) has a weekly games night sponsored by a nearby games shop. Such events give strangers a reason to do more than just talk in passing with each other. Other cafes have regular art openings, cuppings of coffee or other events which help inspire people to interact.
  3. Sociable staff. This is simple but friendly, sociable staff at a cafe will spark conversations with strangers and regulars alike (and help make strangers into regulars). In turn these conversations will then often offer reasons and entrypoints for strangers to interact with each other. Some cafes (and other spaces) take this to an extreme but generally speaking friendly, outgoing staff help create a space where people get a bit out of themselves and interact with others.
  4. Hours that encourage social interactions. Cafes that are open late inspire people (often but not always) to linger and hangout, to use the cafe as an alternative to other evening entertainment options such as bars or nightclubs. One of the more social cafes I have spent time in here in San Francisco is, in fact, a Starbucks. However it is also open 24hrs a day six days a week. Being located near to universities it is full of students studying and interacting with each other until the early hours of the morning.

What lessons can be drawn from such cafes (and other spaces) for online businesses seeking to spark conversations and interactions?

  1. The design details matter a great deal. Small, tiny tables in a cafe or a web design that emphasizes an individual experience will lead to individuals being alone in that space.
  2. Small gestures can inspire and spark interactions. Many of the cafes that most impress me, where I most quickly feel comfortable and at home are cafes where the staff take a simple step of learning my name from the first time I am there – and not just to call out my order but to greet me by name as they interact with me.
  3. Hours and patterns matter.Yes, the web is a global usually open 24hrs a day space but even online most successful communities and sites find rhythms and schedules to fall into. Here on my personal blog I fail in this regard, I do not post nearly enough. In contrast many of my favorite blogs have gotten into a pattern of one or more “open threads” posted every day specifically to create spaces for readers to converse with each other. These posts, in turn, supported by a regular pattern of other posts (the frequency and form of which differ by the blog). Cafes with short hours cater to one audience, cafes with longer hours open later reach a different group.

How do you judge a space? Whether online or offline what about a space inspires you to join it, to engage with the people who might share it with you?

Posted in customer service, digital bedouin, geeks, networks, personal, working | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Defining yourself through your priorities

Posted by shannonclark on May 27, 2009

This is a post mostly for myself, a reminder of what my priorities are, a checklist of sorts for myself in the future when I have the resources to follow up on these priorities.

In a strange way this is also a bit of a personals ad – a woman for whom these priorities resonate noting both what is and what is not on my list would, if she is single and at least relatively close to me in age, be a woman I would like to meet. (A man for whom these resonate might be a good friend – but my interests lie in the opposite sex).

In particular a few key priorities for many Americans which are decidedly not on my list.

1. Anything religious. I’m an Atheist, my budgets and priorities have no money at all for religion. Plenty of other worthy causes and organizations whom I would strongly prefer to support, groups whose goals are more closely in alignment with my own.

2. Beyond a very small amount of wine, mostly for dinner parties, no alcohol or for that matter other drugs (legal or otherwise – medically needed ones the exception). I don’t drink much – which has probably over the past decades saved me a great deal of money. Nor do I smoke or consume any other drugs.

But enough of the nots, what are my priorities. This may be a bit random – I’ll seek to  impose some order on this list and it is not in any particular order, but I am trying to be comprehensive. In general I’m looking at my life on a per year basis – what would I spend money on if I had it to spend. Not just for the act of spending it but because what I spent it upon held meaning and importance to me.

My priorities, in no particular order:

Shelter Currently my one real indulgence, I have a large apartment in SF capable of both hosting many friends (large downstairs space w/couches/airmattresses for up to 7 friends). With more resources I would also like a second place in NYC (or London) and perhaps a third place somewhere quiet & remote but w/great Internet connectivity, likely in a large forest somewhere.

Furniture – I have expensive tastes – prefering timeless, very high quality furniture. If I had the money I’d like to indulge myself and actually, for the first time in fact in my life, live in a place fully furnished – and not with furniture found on the street. So this is a one time purchase, but then as I add other places to live I’d expect to also furnish them well and occasionaly to replace items I own (this would be the height of luxury for me – my parents still have, ugly, furniture from my mom’s college days – stuff they have moved across the country and back)

Clothes – at the moment I buy new clothes of any type rarely, mostly just once every few years and then rarely spend all that much. That said, like with furniture my tastes in clothing run expensive. With enough resources my goal would be to get over my hangups here, to finally only have clothes that fit well and are comfortable (and yes this means very few of my current staple – free logo t-shirts from trade shows). I doubt I’d ever be replacing my wardrobe on a seasonal basis, but I would like to have a wider range of options and to have more stuff that makes me feel great when I wear them.

Glasses – I currently have only one pair of glasses, purchased many years ago. Instead I’d prefer to have a couple of really nice pairs, plus at least one or two pairs of prescription sunglasses. I don’t wear jewlery but do wear glasses, so would probably splurge a bit here, albiet with my tastes running to stylish but without logos. Ideally I would have a spare pair of glasses in every place I live, as well as sunglassses and spares to travel with.

Health Care – from expensive dentistry which I am slowly working on but with more resources would do at a faster clip, to having full comprehensive health insurance this is a necessity I have been avoiding for far too long.

Transportation – Since 2004 I have not owned a car, rarely even renting one. But living in CA this is a position which is increasingly hard to sustain. At a minimum I want to just budget a reasonably large amount each month for renting cars (or using ZipCar) and get back in the habit of driving. But ideally I probably want to get a car, something exceptionally reliable (I don’t want to get to know a mechanic on first name basis), automatic (I refuse to invest the mental energy in learning how to drive a manual – or in the attention it requires). Almost certainly this means a non-American car (I’ve never owned one and have hated driving every single American car I’ve ever even briefly driven). But I haven’t shopped for a car seriously in years – walking around I’ve be interested by some of the newer Volvo’s, have in the past mostly owned Acuras (2 plus one high end Honda), and like some of the Infiniti’s and Mercedes Benzs which I see around SF (generally the smaller, sportier ones, often hatchbacks). My ideal car gets very good gas milage, is inexpensive to operate (less concerned about the initial cost – this is assuming I have the money to just buy it outright), isn’t overly costly to insure (I have no sense at all what insurance will cost me in CA). Probably it will seat four adults in a pinch – with the ability to store a bunch of stuff in the trunk – though ideally without it being visible (a drawback of many hatchbacks) as I would likely be parking on the street fairly often.

For me as well visibility while driving is a really, really, really big deal. I hate a lot of modern cars, such as the Prius, because I find they have really obnoxious blind spots, at least for me, plus physically I find myself in pain when I have driven them in the past (something about the seat and layout really, really does not agree with my body. I also seriously do not like the other trend I’ve seen in many otherwise interesting cars of moving the dials to the center of the dashboard instead of in front of the driver – really don’t like that all and find it beyond distracting – and also physically uncomfortable (Scion’s fail for me here, as does alas the Mini, wasn’t a big fan of the Honda Element the few times I’ve driven one either)

I also want to be able to just buy a nice bike. I’ve been intimidated by the cost – mentally I still think bikes should be 100’s of dollars, not the 1000+ they can easily be these days. I’m also not entirely sure how to handle riding a bike in San Francisco on the hills of the city (since I live on one, impossible to avoid) and I’ve never figured out the whole bike helmet thing – how to handle having one with me when I’m using my bike. I think this is in part a generational thing, I grew up before helmet laws so never really rode a bike with one all that much. It is also a factor of not having an office to ride my bike to/store it at. Instead I would expect to be riding to cafes, dealing with the scary prospect of locking up an expensive bike on the streets of San Francisco, and then repeating for as many stops as I had in one day.

So even with lots of money, not sure when/if I would get a bike, the stress of owning one here in San Francisco might be too much for me.

I would also, will get to this in more detail below, want to travel a lot. Between the East & West Coasts at a minimum, but probably also traveling globally far more often than I do now. For a few weeks a year at a minimum, but ideally more than that. Some of the time for conferences and events (again more below) but I would also want to travel just to travel, go to places I haven’t yet seen, or to places I have been once but really want to return to (India comes immediately to mind). I might even want to live abroad for months (or years) at a time.

The later depending on personal relatioships and work of course.

Events – At the moment I mostly attend conferences here in San Francisco, when I can get a press pass or know the organizers and can get in for free or at a discount (often helping with the event). However there is a long list of events I would want to attend if I had the funds and resources (which include the time and business purposes for some)

  • SXSW – full, platinum pass. Yes, 10+ days, film, tech and music, but this is very high on my list of must do soon as each year my experience there just gets better and better. Next year (2010) I’ll be working the conference for one client (at least, perhaps two or three) so this will probably be very doable. But with the resources I want to just stay at a great hotel, right downtown, fly on flights that don’t make too many stops, and otherwise not scrimp on my conference experience.
  • TED – Yes, this is expensive (really expensive). I might not be able to get into the main conference, but while I love BIL, I do want to go to TED and be part of the whole experience. I might start by going to TED Global or the like but sometime soon, in the next few years I hope, I plan on saving up to “do” TED. (best case I get invited as a speaker first)
  • PopTech – I have been to PopTech twice, haven’t been back in too many years, but I miss it. I want to have the money (and the time) to attend again.
  • Picnic, Le Web, LIFT or another tech conference or two NOT in the US – I have never been, but friends help organize these events, speak at them regularly, and report back about how great they can be. There are smaller events happening in Europe as well which appeal to me, the point being I want to get myself out of the US more often – and I want to experience non-US perspectives on a more regular basis.
  • A full Film festival – not just a few films at SXSW, but I want to give myself the luxury of attending a film festival and just seeing dozens of films in a short period of time. I’m not sure which festival I want to attend, there are many great ones (The Toronto Film Festival would be one that has a lot of appeal)
  • A Renaissance Weekend – I’ve been a few times, but like PopTech! haven’t been back in too many years. A great event, really interesting people, and people whom I haven’t seen in far too long. If I had the money I would both want to attend some of the smaller events held in Santa Barbara or Monterey as well as the New Years Eve far larger event.
  • San Diego Comiccon – I’m tempted to try to attend this year in fact, but sometime soon I want to make it to this mecca of all comic book conventions.
  • WorldCon (and one or two other “big” Science Fiction/Fantasy conventions) – I’m a huge science fiction fan of all genres though most especially literature. I don’t go for the costuming or for the purest geeking out, but rather relish the chance to get to know writers and editors (and other creators) whom I respect. So my preference tends to be for the smaller, more focused conventions such as World Fantasy Convention over larger, more media focused events. But ideally I would like to be able to attend more conventions without scrimping when I do so – so just going ahead and having a nice hotel room adjacent to the convention center etc.
  • A Doctor Who convention – perhaps one here in the US, even better one in the UK (or heck both a US and a UK conference). I’m a huge Dr. Who fan yet I haven’t been to a Dr. Who convention in decades.
  • One or two new events each year. Stuff I haven’t previously been to – perhaps a great music festival such as Cochella, a convention for an academic field I’m interested in, something like the New Yorker Festival in NYC or a conference focused on Social Good. There are many, but my hope is to have both the money and the time to attend conferences a bit outside of my comfort zone – where I’m there to absorb the experience. Hopefully with a “native” guide to the experience. In some cases I might go as a speaker or participant (which is always a good way to attend) for others I might go with or for a client. But my goal is to get to more new events and experiences.
  • Still a bunch of important tech conferences – AdTech SF & NYC, Web 2.0 Expo (at least SF, perhaps NYC, possibly the Summit), TechCrunch 50, MacWorld. If possible I’d like to get a few more – stuff like the D Conference happening this week or Internet Week in NYC happening next week.

Food – this is a big deal for me. I take food seriously. Starting by mostly eating as a locavore. Most of the food in my home I buy from local merchants, primarily at local Farmer’s Markets or my local butchers. With a bit more resources I would keep my kitchen more fully stocked with the foods I enjoy (fresh seasonal fruits etc). I would also eat out more often and at a higher end of restaurant than I usually get to at the moment. I’d love to eat at places with chef’s tastings more often, to get to the many specical meals and dining events that occur on a regular basis. Here in San Francisco as well as in NYC and as I travel. For me serious food is one of my main pleasusres in life and an artform I really appreciate – both in the creation of it myself (I’m a very good chef) as well as in appreciating the skill of serious chefs.

I also do love great foods of all types – I’ve happily traveled great distances to try little hole in the wall places, restaurants far off the beaten track.

I would enjoy going to more food related events, a Slow Food Convivia for example and I could well imagine planning an entire trip around getting a reservation somewhere (el Buli for example would be among the places I would love to dine, though by no means the only such place).

I have mastered the somewhat dubious art of ordering so as to get great food but not spend a ton of money, often by being highly selective in what I order, by passing up on many elements of a meal. I’d really like to be able to put this aside, even if only a few times a month, and just embrace what the restaurant does well and really experience it (not the alcohol perhaps but everything else). Ordering the Omakase at a Japanese restaurant instead of just the chirashi etc.

But in many ways my tastes don’t run to the extravegant, I’d rather an amazing local grapefruit in season than a the most expensive cavier. That said, when I entertain I have also now mastered the art of stretching my budget via careful choices, ideally I’d like to be able to support local farms a bit more, to buy the prime grade meat over the choice etc.

Living in San Francisco one of my small but very pleasant pleasures is being able to get great, serious coffee from now almost literally dozens of choices throughout the city. I’m also a big fan of tea, however in recent years I haven’t been as focused on teas as I have been on great coffee. With more money I would want to have great means of making coffee at home (currently I have no reliable means at all) and instead of random tins of now fairly old teas I would like to stock fresh, great teas.

Kitchen – while I love my current apartment in many ways, the kitchen is not one of them. In an ideal world in a year or two I will find a place which has nearly as much space as my present space but which has a truly fantastic kitchen. For me this would be:

  • Modern gas stove, ideally six burners – Currently I have gas, but it is an old and somewhat unreliable and in any case cheap stove. I would much prefer to have more burners which get hotter than my current stove and which I could control more finely.
  • Double ovens – I am a serious cook, often as I cook for dinner parties I literally run out of space in my oven. I’ve love to have two ovens so I could bake in one, broil in the other.
  • Serious dishwasher – currently I don’t have a dishwasher at all, for the previous decade when I lived in Chicago I had a dishwasher, but more often than not it didn’t work very well.
  • Double Sink – Currently I have one, deep but relatively small sink. I’d really like to have a double sink, ideally with a garbage disposal.
  • Plentiful and easy to maintain countertops – I would like to have more plentiful space to spread out and cook, to have room to entertain while I cook, space to cook with someone else at the same time without tripping over each other. This means great countertops, it also means a logical layout and flow for the kitchen as well as plentiful storage.
  • Upgraded pots and pans – I have mostly great pots and pans, but don’t have a lot of them and a few of what I have could stand being upgraded to higher quality versions. I am also lacking certain key and useful dishes, such as a serious cast iron post (Le Creuset probably) which I could bake in and do much more in. A great wok is another (I have one but it isn’t very good and I lack a place to store it).
  • High end, serious kitchen gadgets – at the moment I have basically no kitchen gadgets at all, no mixer, no food processor, not even a simple blender or hand powered mixer. I don’t need lots of gadgets but I would like a few of the more basic ones so I could expand the range of what I can make – a mixer for more serious baking for example.
  • Duplicates of the basics – I have three spatulas at the moment, one set of tongs, only a few (albiet very high quality) knives. No wooden spoons etc. Mostly this is a combination of trying to only have high quality products in my kitchen and of simply not having much space, with more resources and I hope more space, I would fix this and finally have enough of the basics so I can do even more serious cooking.
  • A few special treats – I use a great local Balsamic but I don’t have any really aged balsamic, likewise there are many other products I would love to use but don’t stock in my kitchen for a lack of funds. Ideally I’d like to have a range of local olive oils, restock my spices on at least a yearly basis and keep the staples I stock at high levels of quality.

Books – I have a book habit, even today I buy around 100 or more books every year, in some years many more than 100. I read a lot but my list of books to read keeps growing, hurt by my habit of buying more books than I read most weeks. With more resources, however, I would want to do a few specific things with my book buying habit and collections.

  • Just buy the hardcover editions of my friend’s books. Since I have 100’s of friends who are authors (seriously not exagerating) I currently pick and choose whose books I buy and not infrequently in some cases I wait for the paperback editions. Ideally I would prefer to buy most of my friend’s books and to suppor them by buying them in hardcover and ideally via pre-orders or online purchases around the time of release so they see the best spike in purchases possible.
  • Be more serious about a few of the my collections. Earlier today, for example, I chose not to buy a copy of Asimov on Shakespeare, though it is among the many books I have always wanted to own a ocpy of. With more resources I would just buy such discoveries without as much worry, building up I would hope a more complete collection of Asimov’s works, as well as many other books and authors I wished I had more works by.
  • Buy most of the Doctor Who books, both as they are printed and filling out my collection going backwards. I have not bought most of the recent books though I am huge Dr. Who fan and would really like to support the show and the creators and authors.  This includes buying the back catolog of Big Finish Audio Adventures and subscribing to the new editions as they come out.
  • Buy a few graphic novels and comics on a more regular basis. Probably sitll would mostly focus on trade paperback editions but there are many great artists and creators working whose work I would like to support more strongly. Starting with finally finishing my collection of Sandman graphic novels by Neil Gaiman which is a series I should have read decades ago. But I would like to be getting great series such as Fables on a regular basis as well. Oh and the new Dr. Who series of course…

Magazines (and perhaps newspapers) – currently I subscribe to The New Yorker which I have subscribed to for nearly two decades. I would like to support a number of other great publications:

  • Monocle
  • The Atlantic Monthly
  • N+1
  • Asimovs
  • Analog
  • Business Week
  • Granta
  • Paste
  • and ideally a handful of other great publications, perhaps a gaming magazine or two, other great literary publications, possibly again subscribe to the New York Review of Books

On the topic of newspapers, at the moment I don’t see a great local paper anywhere in the Bay Area. I think the Wall Street Journal has declined considerably. I could perhaps see subscribing to a newspaper again in the future though I’m uncertain which or in what manner. The New York Times I might subscribe to while I am in NYC.

Technology – For the past few decades I have put off upgrading my computers for about a year or two too long, Enduring machines at the end of their life and often running an older OS for far too long. I have also frequently compromised and haven’t had resources which would have, in fact, helped me be more productive.

  • Get a second monitor for my desktop setup. A 24″, full HD resolution screen, probably from Apple. This is one of those things I should have done a long time ago as it would add greatly to my productivity.
  • Always have a current, updated, modern laptop. Here I face an issue, there are serious issues I have with Mac laptops (weight, lack of a trackpoint, reliance on a trackpad) My ThinkPad is still fairly powerful at the moment but that will be changing rapidly in the next year or so. I should really have a second laptop and should invest in upgrading my current laptop (larger hard drive, probably installing Mac OS & Ubuntu).
  • Have a real gaming PC. I have never had a gaming PC in nearly two decades of owning computers. Given my interest in gaming this is silly. I should have a high spec, high quality, quiet, fast and upgradable gaming rig with great monitors and a suite of modern games (or a gamefly subscription so I can try many games, as well as a Steam account)
  • Breakdown and get a real, modern, HD TV. In fact get one for my bedroom (for the first time, seriously, in my entire lifetime) as well as getting either a very large screen or a very high resolution projector system for my downstairs. Get real speakers to go with these systems (also for the first time in my life)
  • Get the modern suite of accessories for a TV – TIVO, HD source(s), BlueRay player (or a PS3), an Apple TV (or Miro box etc), an Xbox360, probably a Wii. All stuff I’ve never owned – ever.
  • Get serious headphones instead of making do with cheap ones I got for free at a trade show somewhere. Both for my iphone and for my ipod and some great over the ear ones for around the house.
  • Get a bluetooth headset, probably a Jawbone for when I am driving (and more generally for walking around the city making calls)
  • Get an HD capable, small video camera. Perhaps a Flip or the like but I should be shooting video on a more regular basis
  • Get a digital audio recorder capable of serious podcast creation. This might include serious microphones and a small mixer.
  • Get a Skype capable headset for my laptop and desktop computers. I rarely use Skype though I really should be using it more often.
  • Upgrade my iPhone to the new version when, as seems most likely, it comes out in a few months.
  • Invest in a network backup solution for my computers and automate this process so all of my systems are backed up on a regular and automated basis
  • Get a modern, networked, duplex capable, color laser printer.
  • Get a fast scanner and start to migrate to a fully paperless (and backed up) lifestyle.
  • Get a serious digital camera – both an upgrade to my small pocket friendly Lumix and ideally also larger more serious camera with lenses. Also get some great lenses.
  • Invest in serious software – Adobe Acrobat for example, but also video editing software, current editions of Office products etc. Also useful utilities and productivity software (and also make use of the tools I buy). But stop avoiding buying software and then only making do with partial solutions to problems I have (free themes for my wordpress blogs vs. more serious but non-free themes etc)
  • Invest in online services that add value to my life – take full advantage of Plaxo, pay for a serious online backup service, consolidate all of my domains into one registrar and register other relevant domains on a more regular basis etc. This last one might actually make me more money than it costs me.
  • Get more iPod docks and/or make my music more networked so I can stream it to what I hope are serious speakers (I haven’t ever owned real speakers or even one good sound system)

Personal Services – at the moment though I go to a serious hair salon, I do so on a very infrequent basis, generally weeks after it would have been sensible. I should go on a far more regular schedule, never letting my hair get completely out of countrol. Additionally I should invest in personal health and wellness services – pay for a real serious massage on a regular basis (as I write this I can feel the knots all across my back). I have also always avoided gyms though I shouldn’t – I should invest in the clothes to work out (at the moment I don’t even have gym shoes or any clothes suitable for a gym), in a membership (or two) and in a personal trainer to motivate me and to ensure that I don’t hurt myself while focusing on being healthier.

Music – In the past few years I have bought more music than I have in years past, mostly digitally and primarily through great services such as Amie St. I would like to buy more music which I enjoy – completing my incomplete collection as well as supporting newer groups and artists I’ve discovered in the past few years. Ideally I would like to also attend live shows on a far more regular basis probably a few times each month as well as select larger festivals. I have clients in the music industry so some of this is even work related.

Entertainment – I’ve alluded to some of this in the above sections but I would like to on a more regular basis support many creators I really appreciate – buying the Dr. Who dvds but also DVDs (or more probably BlueRays – or better yet HD downloads) of TV shows and movies I love. I would also like to have and use memberships at local institutions (in SF and perhaps in NYC or other cities – art museums etc) and get to them on a far more regular basis. Also get out to the Opera and to live theatre.

Charities – At the moment other than a few small donations and volunteer help with some events, I have not been able to support charities to the degree I would prefer. If I had the resources my selection of charities to support is a bit eclectic:

  • Creative Commons
  • EFF
  • Clarion – science fiction workshops
  • The Carl Brandon Society
  • Wiscon/Tiptree – Feminish Science Fiction
  • one or more charities focused on literacy
  • effective charities (or for profit but mission driven businesses) focused on addressing homelessness
  • Architects for Humanity – one of my favorite groups
  • – amazing resource
  • other focused, highly efficient art (especially of the printed word) groups and organizations

I’m sure I’m missing many worthy groups, but these are a few that reflect my priorities – literacy, support for effective global change and creative technology thinking about worldchanging issues, highly focused local efforts to address seemingly intractable problems such as homelessness, and small but effective groups such as the Carl Brandon Society and Clarion which support Science Fiction writing, especially from diverse voices.

If I had the resources I would probably also, anonymously, support a number of other efforts and projects – often offering capital support (assuming I had the funds) to help groups become more effective and ideally in many cases more self sufficent (and not entirely reliant on only donations or only on market returns that would often be counter to the group’s mission). I would also not draw a firm line between non-profit and for-profit groups, offering support without much concern whether I could specifically get a tax deduction.

My own projects – this is a touchy subject, some of these might be how I fund all of the above, others will probably never be funding sources and may always be a money sink. I have to balance out my time and attention as well so a few of these ideas and projects may have to be delayed or my active involvement minimized.

  • MeshForumI organized a MeshForum in 2005 and 2006, but haven’t held one in a few years. I would like to hold another multiday conference on the study of Networks as well as more MeshWalks which are conferences held mostly outdoors and in motion.
  • tbnl – later this year I would like to publish what I hope will become a quarterly publication focused on great, timeless stories. A mix of fiction & non-fiction but all with an emphasis on great storytelling. A celebration of spending time with content the print editions would be very well made and the focus would be on long form (though not novella length) pieces with only relevant and value enhancing illustrations or photographs.

So there you are 5000+ words on my priorities at the moment. This is a long post, I don’t expect most people to read it in full, it ia highly personal post as well, perhaps I should have just written it and kept it only as a draft. I’m certain I have missed something important – of course I would have other things I spend money on (gifts for friends and family for example) but these some of my most important priorities.

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