Searching for the Moon

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

Posts Tagged ‘techcrunch’

Economics, live video, and The World Economic Forum at Davos

Posted by shannonclark on January 24, 2008

I am deeply interested in Economics, for many years now I have been researching and thinking about a Networked Theory of Economics, a goal of mine for 2008 is to write and publish my book on that topic (ideally selling it as well so it reaches a wide audience).

So at this time I am very interested in what is happening this week in Davos, Switzerland. This year, in a fairly radical move towards openness, The World Economic Forum has a YouTube channel where they are posting many videos from the press events as well as interviews with attendees and leaders at Davos. Davos has also given a number of leading bloggers full access (though some sessions are off the record, quite a few portions of the conference are on the record). Robert Scoble is wandering through Davos with his cameraphone, frequently streaming live to the web via Qik. Jeff Jarvis and Michael Arrington among others are also in attendance and posting about their experiences as they happen.

As I wrote this, Robert streamed live, I jumped into the live chat. Yup, we live in science fictional times.

I am up late here in San Francisco, as I go to sleep soon, the 2300+ participants at Davos will go on about their day, when I wake up they will likely be almost about to eat dinner and heading to parties (apparently tomorrow Google is having a big party). And I know that because minutes ago I watched live video from and of my friends at the forum, streamed live across the Internet. Of course that same video started by Robert observing the President of Israel recording two videos for YouTube, which are also now likely live on the web as I write this.

Truly this is amazing stuff. When I was growing up, in the 80’s and 90’s CNN and cable news was just getting started, though my family didn’t even own a TV, the impact of live news around the clock was just starting to have an impact on the globe. But the rest of the world was still fairly far away, phone calls cost money – especially overseas calls, and data rates were measured in baud (and computers showed mostly only text and very simple graphics – though that changed rapidly as I was in high school in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Now Robert’s cell phone on which he was recording and streaming live video has more computational power, I’m fairly sure, than the computers I used throughout high school and even into college. He almost certainly has multiple GB’s of storage and very rapid data connections to the web (3G I assume), a screen on his phone that is far denser than the screens we used then – and a camera that records at resolutions unheard of back then – heck nearly unheard of not all that many years ago.

And though Robert notes that not that many bloggers are at Davos this year, the impact of YouTube and bloggers is to help crack open in a fairly major way a gathering that had for years been shrouded mostly in secrecy into a far more open event. Still with a lot of secrecy and I’m sure a lot of security – but also impressively interested in engaging with the world.

In watching the video which I have embedded above, I was also struck by how interesting the group of co-chairs of the forum are – world leaders past and (near)present along side business leaders from across the globe – leaders who were not just white, anglo saxon males – but leaders of large and yes powerful companies from across the globe.

All speaking, at least in this press conference in English, and all seemingly comfortable with their roles, with each other, and for the most part with the press (though the press were for the most part mostly interested in talking to Tony Blair). Personally I was most interested in everyone else on the panel except Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger. I am encouraged by the engagement of the leaders of some of the largest companies in the world in the issues which face us as a globe.

My views on Economics, in the most simple form, is that all economics can be modeled as a network over time. What this means is that value is not fixed, not inherent but deeply and tightly embedded in the economic networks we create and participate within. I have to do more and deeper research and modeling, but in general I would thus be deeply opposed to protectionist steps – and also deeply suspicious of attempts to economically isolate countries (or other entities).

At MeshForum we talk about many types of networks and especially about interdisciplinary approaches to networks. The World Economic Forum at Davos is a prime example of the power of social networks – and the vital importance, even for the very “important and/or famous” of face-to-face interactions, of shared meals and joint experiences. But the spectacle of and around Davos also highlights that there is much more going on, there are other factors – new media old and new, political networks both within countries and globally such as the UN, economic networks both within corporations and between corporations, and newer, creative networks such as the Project(red) campaign which connects individual customers, brands, an NGO of the UN, and millions of HIV patients thoughout the world. $57 million dollars is, perhaps, a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of AIDS to Africa and the world, or to the revenues of the corporate sponsors of the project, but it is also enough to have had a very real and dramatic impact on tens of thousands of our fellow humans who were suffering and now have some measure of hope.

As I live and work here in the US, in this very expensive and deeply futuristic place called Silicon Valley, even here in San Francisco which has at least a small measure of history and culture as well, it is well worth remembering how large and diverse and complex our planet is.

And to recall how small are the links which connect us all. My friends are now there at Davos hanging out, meeting, and sharing meals with some of the people who quite literally lead this world – the leaders of large corporations, the organizers of major efforts to save lives (as well as, less fortunately some of the leaders whose decisions cost lives), and the leaders of many governments (or past leaders).

They say that we, all humans, are connected by just a few steps, but also at far too many times it seems that even in our own countries, within our own cities we exist and live in different worlds. In 2008, however, I see many signs that our common links, our common, global interests are starting to be made clearer and that technology is, in part, helping more people reach out to each other – and to engage and perhaps see the “other” as also human, also worthy of respect and engagement with – even and perhaps particularly when we do not entirely agree.

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Posted in economics, futureculture, geeks, internet, meshforum, mobile, networks, personal, podcasts, politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Remember everyone is human – even the A-listers like Arrington & Scoble…

Posted by shannonclark on December 12, 2007

[full disclosure – Robert Scoble spoke at MeshForum 2006 in San Francisco. Oh and both he and Mike are friends of mine]

UPDATE – Robert has posted his side on his blog “It is your business

Though even if I did not count both Mike Arrington and Robert Scoble as friends, I would still find the commentary on Mike’s recent TechCrunch post about Robert’s plans to leave PodTech disturbing at best and more than slightly depressing at the worst.

Reading the comments I was struck by the vitriol of many of the commentators – the sense from them that both Robert and Mike “had it coming” (one commentator called Robert a “liar”). The comments also have a sense of being written about characters – not fellow humans (one comment talked about how Mike and Robert are “real world” friends – implying that somehow the comments and blog posts exist outside of the “real world”.

For most of my career in technology I was outside of Silicon Valley, I only moved here in January of 2006 full time (and spent some time here in the Fall of 2005 but spent much of that time looking for a place to live). The Chicago tech community was (and still is) much, much smaller than Silicon Valley’s. A recent Chicago email subscription I still have showed that that is still the case – the lead article was about how a bunch of Chicago based VCs all called Facebook’s valuation an “aberration”, clearly in my mind not understanding what Facebook is building.

Since moving out to Silicon Valley I have met many of the people who, back in Chicago, I read about. My opportunities to meet them have been at countless networking events, conferences, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Some public events, many others private gatherings of friends. The “secret” to Silicon Valley, however, is that people are friends with each other – the tech world is in many ways a very small place. At almost any networking event throughout the bay area “competitors” can be seen sharing drinks and talking with each other – more often than not individual employees may have gone to school together, worked together at previous companies and usually fully expect to work together again at some future company.

Founders and investors alike know as well that the links that connect people here in Silicon Valley are many and diverse – it is a rare company here that does not have countless ties to other firms across the valley – shared investors, former colleagues, roommates.

Likewise, while in Chicago (and indeed in much of the rest of the US and world) failure is a taint, something which is assumed (again outside of Silicon Valley) to “ruin” you that is not entirely the case in Silicon Valley. Sure, no one – founders, investors, or employees wants a company to fail – but likewise nearly everyone knows that failure is a very real risk with any startup. And there are many different types of failures.

What matters most, though this is something which few (perhaps none?) of the commenters on TechCrunch grasp, is how you fail – and how as individuals you treat others, your investors, customers and partners.

In my observation how Mike Arrington and Edgeio are handling their failure is an honorable way. Yes, it is a bit abrupt but even that is likely better than lingering – especially for the employees who will almost certainly find other employment.

But to get back to my main point and the topic of this post – Remember everyone is human

Yes, this includes the “A-listers”

And yes, even lawyers and VC’s.

Even at the biggest of companies – whether Microsoft, IBM, or newer giants such as Yahoo! and Google – are, in fact, the result of the collective efforts of 1000’s of individuals, fellow humans all.

It is easy for everyone to be snarky, to gossip, to offer commentary and to put down someone else – we all have more than our share of faults.

But I also believe and my life and career keep reinforcing this point over and over again that your expectations about others are usually right but that the causation here is not simple – if you expect others to be jerks, to be untrustworthy, to be stupid, to “not get it”, it is your very attitude which helps that self-fulfilling point of view. In contrast if you approach the world assuming the best of others, assuming that generally speaking people are good, smart and trying hard, and willing to help more often than not you are proved right. Again, your attitude helps shape the world around you – and equally importantly what you focus on and emphasize for yourself.

This is not I should note looking at the world with rose-colored glasses or being naive about business matters. Rather this is about what you focus on, what you spend your time cultivating starting with your own attitude and approach to others.

Starting with how you interact with people in person and most definitely including how you interact with others online.

One of the commenters on TechCrunch whom I won’t name here except to say he (and yes, I am assuming he is male from his writing style on his personal blog) was very active on this post, is also apparently in the midst of seeking funding and partners for a new venture. While I always wish everyone the best, I also have to note that were I advising someone about his venture (an investor for example or a friend considering working for him) I would caution against it. Because of the attitude about others which comes through in his blog and comments – a strongly bitter sense of betrayal and a core assumption that others are idiots, wasting money, doing things in stupid ways etc.

(all while, I should note he is, I think, missing some technical approaches to a problem he is facing)

But. And this is a big but, I would still be happy to meet him, to discuss what he is doing, and very likely even offer my help. I believe in giving everyone a chance.

My view is that you can and do shape reality around you – how you approach others reflects back upon you, shapes how they will interact with you. If, as I have advised in the past you approach everyone starting from the perspective of “how can I help you” when you need help it will be there, likely from the most surprising of people.

I am by other’s accounts a networker – yet the core “secret” I have found to getting things done in the past has been the simple act of asking for the help I need. And if someone says no not just giving up but learning from that – and asking follow up questions such as “can you suggest who could…” [speak in your place, sponsor the event, etc]

So I encourage all of you to think about this when you next read about celebrities – whether “a-list” bloggers, startup founders, or media stars – and remember that everyone is human.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, geeks, internet, meshwalk, networks, personal, San Francisco, venture capital, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »