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“Got kitesurfing on the mind, mixed with some search & classification tech, and a dab of political ranting”

Archive for April, 2007

Role-Based Search Environment

Posted by direwolff on April 19, 2007

Well, it looks like there’s now a name for the context issues raised in one of my old posts. It’s called “role-based search environment” and Lou Paglia blogs about his upcoming discussion topic at the Search Engine Meeting 2007 Conference titled, “Beyond Search: Visualizing Emerging Intelligence”. Wish I could attend this conference, more specifically this presentation, as the common thread of the various early stage companies that I’m currently involved in working with or on their advisory boards, is this very theme. Several of them touch on aspects of what Lou will be speaking about:

“This presentation discusses the current state of search, the advantages to text mining in extracting meaning from unstructured data as well as the future of search such as a move towards a role-based search environment, which will likely be one of the biggest technology trends to affect the enterprise. The concept of “role-based” search is about systems intelligent enough to understand the totality of what you do: your industry, your job and the daily tasks you undertake, and then help you accomplish those specific things more effectively. Effective role-based search applications will use technologies that uncover trending, comparison, discovery and determination of sentiment, which will then feed into applications that present the information using visualization and analytics. The session will also address business searching and how search networks will realign themselves to help all types of professionals find better information, faster.

My beef with so many of the methods being applied to enhancing search (ie. personalized search, social search, etc.) is that they frequently miss the critical contextual aspect, “who am I (or what’s my role) when I search for…”. In a project I’m involved with this is an important aspect being explored, as we consider letting the user tell us their professional function as a means of bringing some perspective to bear on the results of their information discovery exercise beyond other relevance metrics. Healia, a healthcare search engine does exactly this where in addition to providing the user with results from their search on say “diabetes”, the user can further specify that they are “female”, “teen”, and of “Hispanic Heritage”, and the results will sort appropriately different than say a “male”, “senior” of “Asian Heritage”. These criteria matter.

Glad to see that this important component of context is being addressed in more public ways now.

While this conference looks a bit vendor-centric in terms of the presenters, the topics being addressed seem very interesting.

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Posted in search & categorization | 1 Comment »

The Kitesurfing Men From The Kitesurfing Boys

Posted by direwolff on April 19, 2007

While I generally consider myself a pretty proficient kitesurfer, seeing pictures of one of my dear friends, Bob Smith, riding at Scotts Creek yesterday in winds gusting to 34+ mph with close to double-overhead swell, made me realize that there’s plenty for me to learn yet.

The past couple of days in the SF Bay Area, we have been experiencing gusting winds easily hitting the mid-30s accompanied by chilly temperatures. I was out at Crissy Field two days ago and can’t remember the last time my extremities got so cold, even on days I’ve gotten in December and January. Pretty crazy. Well, having insane winds like that are one thing, but when you combine that with serious swell and double-overhead waves you’re into a whole new place. Well, yesterday, Bob and a couple of friends went down south near Santa Cruz and Waddell Creek, to Scotts Creek and did their thing. They got some great shots of Bob (see Update below, as it was Bob taking the pics, not riding) that I thought were worth sharing to provide the curious an opportunity to see what this sport can be all about.

(Sweet!!!)

 

Not sure what seems crazier, the size and the amount of wind around those swells…or Bob for riding them :) Can’t wait until I get dialed in on my new Prisoner of Wind surfboard so I can join Bob hitting these beauties.

(UPDATE: A little mix up on my part, while Bob was out there riding as well, these pics are of others he was watching and snapping shots of. In other words, he was the photographer, not the rider. As I mentioned to him, having seen him ride the waves equally masterfully on many occasions, it was easy to make this mistake.)

(UPDATE 2: Gabe also got some excellent shots of the crew out there on 4/17/07 which you can check out at www.norcaltimes.photoreflect.com

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Wacky Weekend at Crissy Field – 4/15/07

Posted by direwolff on April 15, 2007

Strange weekend with very northerly north-westerlies at Crissy both Saturday and Sunday. Yesterday, it meant crazy gusty and windy conditions but powered the whole session. Today, a bit of a different story. Even with the Northern California coast going off with gusts in areas like Pigeon Pt., down by Gauzos Beach, gusting to 40 mph, and Ocean Beach flirting with 30 mph winds, somehow this was not making it through the Golden Gate gap to Crissy. Well, actually it did for a little while starting at around 2:45pm when some 7 of us jumped out just as it appeared to be coming up. Here’s me riding fully powered, by one of the race monitors for the sail boat race you can see in the background…

(Picture taken by John Gomes, race committee)

But alas, it only last about 30 minutes, long enough for us to reach the Golden Gate Bridge before the wind started to drop. We started making our way back to the beach but it was just an exercise in shear pain trying to keep the kites aloft. I dropped mine in the water on 3 separate occasions but was fortunate enough in each case to get yet another gust just strong enough to help relaunch. Made it back to the beach without the Coast Guard’s assistance which is always a bonus. Waited around to see if things would come back up, but it was not to be today, so I packed it up knowing that any day you can take off and come back to the beach you launched from…is a good day :)

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Megan McCarthy: The Reason The Blogosphere Is Seen As Having Few Scrupples

Posted by direwolff on April 12, 2007

Pretty pathetic to read in Valleywag’s own Web pages that one of its research assistants was unabashed about admitting that she snooped through someone’s mobile phone sitting on a table at a booth at the STIRR industry event last night:

Valleywag’s Megan McCarthy was spotted scrolling through the doughy entrepreneur’s cellphone contact list. “Yes,” Megan confessed to me. “If I find an unattended phone, I’m going to pick it up and look at it. It’s not a Valleywag thing, I’m just that nosy.”

That she feels comfortable admitting that this is justified behavior because she’s “nosy” falls right in line with the behavior that justifies people threatening Kathy Sierra. One can argue about the severity of the act, but in both cases these are violations of other people’s personal spaces and rights of privacy. Leaving one’s cell phone, even in a crowded space, next to where you’re demoing your application, does not surrender the owner’s right to privacy nor indicate consent for someone else to start going through the address book. If it had been my PDA she had rumaged through, I’d feel very violated. That Valleywag tolerates such behavior from their staff is deplorable and somewhat surprising considering I’ve always considered Nick Denton to have a sense of integrity. What’s worse is that she even tries to justify her act per a misrepresented 3 year old story about Kevin Burton that appeared in Wired and has since been resolved in his favor.

Something to keep in mind the next time you see someone with a badge saying they’re from Valleywag. Sad.

Perhaps the real question here is was she looking for Kevin’s phone number to call him for a date? Hmmm…

(4/14/07 UPDATE: According to reliable sources, the phone had to forcibly removed from Megan’s hand. Now she’s a liar too.  Just great.)

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Bloomberg Reports on Kitesurfing

Posted by direwolff on April 12, 2007

Last Friday a Bloomberg reporter, Ed Robinson, was out in the Bay Area doing a feature on kitesurfing with Charles River Ventures’ VC and long time kiteboarder, Bill Tai. The article came out today and in addition to Bill, also features dear friends, Steve Gibson (see Kiter.com) and Johnny Gomes (who was responsible for rescuing Bill after a kitemare last year under the Golden Gate Bridge). Not sure why there weren’t any pictures, but hopefully a physical copy of the Bloomberg Magazine will have some of these since there was a photographer out there snapping some shots.

Even by Crissy standards, Friday was kind of a crazy day with big wind gusts on shore and a bit lighter conditions towards the middle of the Bay. Having said that, we still made it work and ended up spending about an hour and a half riding, with probably half the time chasing the wakes from the tour boats that were cruising around. With a surfboard, chasing a ferry’s wake is like riding a perpetual wave…sweet!!! Anyway, there was a big crew represented and a good time was had by all.

Ed did a nice job in capturing the spirit of what’s happening out here with the sport and the addictive mentality of those involved. Bill is certainly representative of that. As well, because of the community that is out here, and in many cases their involvement in the tech industry and start-ups, you can imagine that casual conversation after a great sesh might drift towards work matters. In the case of start-ups it could be about fundraising or doing deals with other early stage companies. I’ve had the pleasure to interact with other entrepreneurs on deal issues as well as meet with VCs like Bill on funding issues, so I can certainly attest to the fact that it’s all happening. Noteworthy however, is that the discussions on the beach generally are just a set-up for a more formal discussion, because we’re all generally too goo-goo eyed from our session to want to do anything but rave about the winds, the swells and the BIG AIR.

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My 15 seconds of fame at the SF New Tech Meetup

Posted by direwolff on April 11, 2007

As I mentioned in my “SF New Tech Meetup – 4/07” post, Adriana Gascoigne interviewed me for bub.blicio.us. Well, just got the link on YouTube and I’m the second presenter interviewed in the following video:

I really gotta sharpen up my elevator pitch as this just made the Readware technology just seem too undifferentiated. Oh well, there has to be a first time out there so as to improve for the second, third and fourth I guess :)

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Posted in Entrepreneurship, search & categorization | Leave a Comment »

Auburn Ski Club Take the Championship Race

Posted by direwolff on April 8, 2007

One of my fellow Sherman Island regular kiteboarding friends, Zeev, has a daughter who has been doing GS racing for the Auburn Ski Club. Well, looks like she’s kicked some butt and her team won the championship race. She also won 1st place for slalom and 2nd place in Super G. Here she is below charging the gates at Sugar Bowl…how exciting :)

[Sadly, the pictures were taken down]

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SF NewTech Meetup – 4/07

Posted by direwolff on April 7, 2007

Last Wednesday I presented the Readware technology at SF New Tech Meetup. It was a bit surreal as it was nothing like I expected. First off, Myles Weissleder, whom I recently met and was gracious enough to invite me to present had mentioned that it would be an intimate affair (of course a week earlier he sent me a BBC article that covered the event and was surely going to bring more attention to it…it did). Second, I’ve only had to be rescued by a boat during a kitesurfing session at Crissy Field 3 times in the 6 years I’ve been riding there, this Wednesday was the third (good ol’ Murphy’s Law standing by hen you need it). Third, 5 minutes for a presentation requires a dedicated focus on a short message or purely on a demo, trying show any sort of Powerpoint is a mistake and that short of a time…I made a mistake :)With that said, I was off to the races. After me and 3 other kitesurfing buddies got fished out of the SF Bay by the Coast Guard and dropped on shore at 6:15pm, I managed to get dressed and over to the event with 15 minutes to spare. A bit frazzled mind you, but no matter I was there. As I walked in the room, it began to have distinctive less than intimate feel to it as there were a lot more people there than I thought would be attending. Not that I have a problem presenting to larger groups, it’s just nice to be mentally prepared for it. I basically zoned out of the scene while preparing so as to get overwhelmed. Of course this zoning was not to last as I was approached by the Valley A-Lister, Adriana Gascoigne of the bub.blicio.us video blog, who was interviewing all of the presenters and I was next up. “Interview?!!…what interview?! Yikes!”. Well, if things weren’t getting too weird for me yet, it was more as a result of not being intoxicated or medicated, ’cause everything else was definitely lining up to feel like altered states. Fortunately, Lil’ Pinot showed up like a warm blanket thrown over my shoulders to ease my nervousness. It felt good to have her there supporting me, ’cause boy did I need it that night.

Exposing Readware is something I truly enjoy and feel passionate about, but at the same time, as we ease our way into finding the right business model and direction, I like to do this in intimate gatherings where I can somewhat steer the conversation. This was definitely more of a “let the chips land where they may” type of situation. The unfortunate part is that in trying to spend more time defining what Readware is, I only had the opportunity to expose people to the classification side of the technology and not to the discovery side, which often creates a bigger “aha!” moment. Oh well, considering it was my first outing in such a public forum, the interaction with the audience was engaging, the questions were smart, and those who approached me at the end seemed to have a genuine understanding for the technology’s applicability, which was comforting.

All-in-all, it was an enjoyable experience from which I learned as much as I hope the audience did. The other three companies presenting were tellfriends.com, Merchant Cirle, and MyThings.com. The SF New Tech Meetup provides a really cool format for people with ideas to present them, and I’d highly recommend it to any one even if your idea is half baked as there’s also a 60 second format at the end where any one can make any requests, talk about their start-up, recruit, asked to be recruited, or make an announcement. People used this time very creatively which was fun to see.

Rafe Needleman blogged about the event on Webware.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Feelings, search & categorization, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Erin Loscocco Photography & Kitesurfing

Posted by direwolff on April 4, 2007

While kitesurfing yesterday later afternoon out on Crissy, I noticed some guy taking photos of us having a blast out there. Well, it turned out that it was another kiteboarder, Erin Loscocco, himself a kitesurfing addict. When I got out of the water he mentioned having gotten some shots of me and suggested I check them on his site. Well, another buddy just happen to beat me to the punch and sent me a link to the pictures which sure prove that I’m enjoying riding my new surfboard…

Erin managed to get a couple of action shots of me and some of the other local riders just enjoying the ride. With the winds gusting fairly strongly on the inside, it wasn’t a day to get too crazy, but for surf riding the swells were really sweet and I got a nice workout on my new ride.

In checking out Erin’s site though, he’s got some really cool pics. For an amateur photographer, it sure looks like he could go pro if he wanted. If you want to see some real nice scenic shots, check out his Photos page which shows the diversity of his work. Really impressive stuff. You can tell he has a real passion for photography as he captures some great moods and colors in every shot. Anyway, it’s definitely worth your time checking out his site.

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Posted in Just Fun, Kitesurfing & Extreme Sports, reviews | 1 Comment »

Kitesurfing Fun Comes Back Surf Style

Posted by direwolff on April 1, 2007

When I first took kitesurfing lessons, the board of choice where I learned was the Naish Sky Pirate. This was a 6’6″ mother of a surfboard style directional board, that rattled throughout the ride, but had amazing floatation giving a beginner rider that little extra welcomed support. One had to jibe when changing directions as there was very little chance of riding that board toe-side given it’s width and the layout of the straps. Jibing was never a strength of mine, but fortunately the wakeboard style boards started getting better. Since then, bi-directional boards have become the stipend of the sport, and now even beginners are better off riding these twin-tip boards so as to avoid the whole jibe thing, as well as move up the learning curve of doing tricks faster.

However, there was always a core group of former surfers that kept their surfboard style handy and would put on a show any time the coastal conditions here in the Bay Area called for some wave handling. Heck, down at Waddell Creek (down by Santa Cruz), the surfboards never got put away at all. Many of us twin-tippers could also ride the waves, but in our case it would be more about just riding in wave conditions than truly riding the waves where you nearly completely depower your kite and just surf wave before powering up again at the end to get back out.

Last season however, saw a pick-up of people in the Bay Area getting into the surfboards for what seems to be two reasons. First, lots of the seasoned twin-tip riders have reached the competency of the big air tricks, whether these be huge straight jumps, rolls and spins, or the more committed kite loops. Sure, every one keeps working to perfect these tricks, but there are those times where you just want to sail and the surfboards provide that ride. The second reason is that with kites having bigger and bigger wind ranges, one or two kite quivers are becoming more common than what used to be 3 or 4 kite quivers. Hence, you can more easily extend your low-end wind range by using a surfboard which requires less wind than a twin-tip wakeboard style. When combining this with a desire to surf the waves, the surfboard becomes an invaluable component of your gear.

Jeff Kafka, local Bay Area kitesurfer, who’s also an accomplished surfer (yeah, this guy rides Mavericks on a tow-in board…sick!!!), not to mention a great snowkiter whose school Lil’ Pinot & I attended last February in Utah, just started shaping custom kitesurfing surfboards under the brand Prisoner Of Wind.

His boards are pretty awesome. Last Friday was my first time on one after hearing so much about them. Another buddy, “Gibby”, let me ride his 5’2″ Tri Halo board at Crissy Field, and all I can say is what a fun ride. That board is cut for smooth turning wave riding, and though that was far from the conditions I was riding in, it was especially great when I was doing a downwind ride surfing the swells. Because I ride “goofy-footed”, the Quad Skull was going to be the better board for me, partly because of its stability and unwindability (which is necessary at Crissy), but also partly because of its ability to release when snapping on a wave. Since most of my top turns will be toe-side, I need the snap a bit more than a regular rider doing a heel side turn off the wave. As it turned out, another friend, Gabe, was selling his 5’2″ Quad Skull in favor of a 5’9″ he’s having custom made by Jeff, and was willing to part with his old board at a fair price…so I jumped on it.

So here’s my newly acquired board…

Managed one reach on it yesterday and I could feel the unwindability on it. Only lasted one reach because I had the wrong straps on it, but even so, it’s still motored. Good thing I also had my wakeboard so I settled into an expression session at the beach. Today it looks like we’re going to get a session at Stinson Beach with the winds appearing to cooperate. I still don’t have my jibes down, which means that I either fall in the drink while trying or pull it off at the speed of molasses. Having said that, it’s a small price to pay to learn a new aspect of the sport and to enjoy wave riding. Fortunately, since I generally pop into the waves toe side any way, I’ll likely be able to ride Stinson without too much problem as I’ll already be in the heel-side position to exit the breaks once I’m done riding the wave, and the waves there tend to me more mellow. Anyway, I’m super psyched to experience the zen of wave riding.

(6:13pm UPDATE: The board rocks, but I still suck at riding a surfboard. Man, this thing takes on the waves with true style. It was so easy to turn on it and get right up on the wave. Unfortunately, my inability (or fear) of jibing meant that I got tired fast riding on one side of the board, so I only got to ride it for about 20 mins. Fortunately however, I had my Underground Firebird with surf fins on my goofy direction which made for an awesome surf session any way. I should also say that Stinson went off today and played host to nearly 15-20 kiters.)

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