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

Archive for June, 2005

Don’t believe the P2P hype

Posted by direwolff on June 28, 2005


Cyberspace is alive today with grumbling sounds extolling the death of P2P innovation, that the Supreme Court's ruling on MGM v. Grokster will chill enthusiasm from Venture Capitalists for companies in this space. Well I say "bull!". If anything, the door for opportunity has been opened wide.

First off, most of the articles I've read on the subject seem to be written by people who did not properly read the decision before commenting. Within the first two pages I found the following paragraph ("respondents" refers to Grokster):

Discovery revealed that billions of files are shared across peer-to-peer networks each month. Respondents are aware that users employ their software primarily to download copyrighted files, although the decentralized networks do not reveal which files are copied, and when. Respondents have sometimes learned about the infringement directly when users have e-mailed questions regarding copyrighted works, and respondents have replied with guidance. Respondents are not merely passive recipients of information about infringement. The record is replete with evidence that when they began to distribute their free software, each of them clearly voiced the objective that recipients use the software to download copyrighted works and took active steps to encourage infringement. After the notorious filesharing service, Napster, was sued by copyright holders for facilitating copyright infringement, both respondents promoted and marketed themselves as Napster alternatives. They receive no revenue from users, but, instead, generate income by selling advertising space, then streaming the advertising to their users. As the number of users increases, advertising opportunities are worth more. There is no evidence that either respondent made an effort to filter copyrighted material from users' downloads or otherwise to impede the sharing of copyrighted files.

Basically, this says, that if you create something for the express purpose of breaking the law and help others act on that, and make money from those actions (in this case it was through advertising), then you can be held liable for damages, in this case, to copyright owners whose rights are being violated.

In continuing to read the decision (which can be found at…er/04-480.pdf ), the justices also discuss how this relates to the Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios case where the issue of non-infringing uses is what supported Sony's claims that it did not willingly create nor support the violation of copyright holders' rights. We can argue about whether copyright law is fair or not, and I have plenty to say about its abuses, but the reasoning stands that the fairness of those laws stands apart from whether one decides to violate them.

Suffice it to say, had Grokster (or Streamcast (aka. Morpheus)) not helped their users download illegal music by replying to e-mails on the matter, perhaps even placed a notice somewhere saying that this doing so was illegal and that they did not condone this behavior, and focused their product pitch on how useful these were for legitimate applications, then perhaps they might have avoided this sad fate. It's clear that what got these folks in trouble was thumbing their noses at the law under the guise that the Sony case absolved them of responsibility for copyright violations. They were wrong.

I do believe that had Grokster taken the precautions above and maybe even integrated something like Paypal into their platform for copyright owners to charge if they wanted to, this would have gone a long way towards gaining some sympathy for their efforts. At which point it would have been difficult to say that they were not at least trying to do the right thing.

Recently, I had a chance to sit with an old acquaintance that shared some of his company's P2P initiatives and I do not see this latest Supreme Court ruling getting in the way of his plans. Hence, all the hubbub and negative press is really being over played. As well, there's now an opportunity for a company to come up with a P2P filesharing solution that makes sense for legitimate purposes, which those still wanting to violate copyrights will make use of for their own purposes. Nothing will change except that company's respect for the rules.

Don't know when I got to be such a crony on this stuff. I still see a long fight ahead for copyright issues, but this will be around the term that they're being extended to, not whether intellectual property ought to be subjected to theft.


Posted in Public Policy, Technology | Leave a Comment »


Posted by direwolff on June 27, 2005

(That’s Chip Wasson in the pic above. The Bay Area’s first kiteboarder laying out an unhooked kiteloop…and yes he landed this trick.)

Byro just e-mailed me these shots of what some of my psychodic friends were doing while I was trying to take it easy on the water on Saturday. Check out the pics at this site to be blown away by what kiteboarding is all about…

Posted in Kitesurfing & Extreme Sports | Leave a Comment »

National Geographic & IBM team up on the Genographic Project

Posted by direwolff on June 21, 2005

This project looks really cool. The IBM project manager presented this project at Supernova 2005 today and I thought it worthwhile passing on for others to be aware of it. It's a project where they're trying to map DNA from people all over the world in order to better understand the human race including linguisitic, migratory, race, and many other issues.

Individuals can participate on an anonymous basis as well. If you get a chance, check out the Web site at:

The information is not being owned by National Geographic nor IBM, and once collected it will be made available to any one.

Posted in Just Fun, Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

How many members of the Bush administration does it take to change a light bulb?

Posted by direwolff on June 20, 2005

A good joke from Craig Newmark's blog

Check it out at:

Posted in Just Fun | Leave a Comment »

Notes from The Business of Social Media – Supernova morning session

Posted by direwolff on June 20, 2005

The Business of Social Media – Stowe Boyd (Corante)

This session did a very good job of explaining how and why corporations need to get involved and be part of the conversation. It did however, miss a very important component of this discussion which has to do with policy and corporate liabilities. At the end of the day, shareholder lawsuits are very real, costly, and unfortunately play a role in why corporations have to proceed into the blogosphere with *extreme* caution. This, regardless of the fact that leaks of embarassing or detrimental information will happen and the truth will ultimately come out.

The following are some of my notes from the session. Note the 10 commandments at the end of the notes.

Blogging and impact on corporations:

A new take on journalism?

-> Blogging is a gonzo experience. The individual is clearly delineated. It’s impassioned involvement.

-> Taking the remote control away fm the editor.
Rethinking marketing?

-> Branding has to be unbranded

-> Conversations: not messages, not positions It will no longer be a promotion, it will be an invitation

Upending the Establishment?

-> How does business change when everyone is potential publisher? Companies have gotten used shaping the message, now they’re loosing control.

-> They’ll never get it back.

-> Podcasting will affect the network broadcast models even more and faster than blogs have affected print publishing, (according to Doc Searls).

-> Today’s individual rejects organizational mediation, seeking instead to have an impoact on matters that tough his or her life[…'''''] (True Voice: Filling a Power Vaccum – Ronald Inglehard).

-> As one political scientist put it, individuals are seeking “legitimacy based on inclusion is replacing legitimacy based on hierarchichal authority.” (Shoshanna Zuboff and James Maxim, “The Support Economy”)
* David Weinberger's "Joho the blog"…'''''good at demystifying complex issues.

* Steve Rubel’s 10 Commandments are important and worth corporations' time understanding (…ts.html )

Posted in Online Community, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Citizen Jounalism – Berkeley Cybersalon at the Hillside Club

Posted by direwolff on June 19, 2005

Tonight I attended the first event tied to the Supernova conference happening this week here in SF. It was part of the Berkeley Cybersalon series held by Sylvia Paull (standing in the picture). This was a discussion about citizen journalism with Dan Gillmor (formerly on the tech beat for the SJ Mercury News and currently a very active blogger), Becky O'Malley (owner/Executive Editor of the Berkeley Daily Planet), and Peter Merholz (Editor of an East Bay journalism blog called The Beast Blog which can be found at (note: "eastbay" is pig latin for "beast", hence the name)).

Given that Tribe is exploring ideas around micro-local community publishing, thought this was a worthwhile event to attend. The event itself was held much like town hall meeting at the Hillside Club in Berkeley which harkens back to the days of small stage theatres where communty plays were put on. The discussion was lively and interesting points were made all around. I'll just mention a few here.

* It's tough to make money on community news sites, which is one of the major obstacles for them. As well, it's difficult to keep a community sense with so much comments spam taking over.

* The Berkeley Daily Planet has an annual burn rate of $500K on 20 people and is making a 25% profit. It has many readers who prefer the paper because of their inaccessibility to computers. They also have an online component but only use it to post letters to the editor and such. Exploring greater uses there but the money issue makes this challenging. Their reporters don't get paid much which has helped in running profitably on such a low burn rate.

* A reputation system is needed to somehow validate reader comments and participation in forum discussions. This is particularly important to avoid people making outright lies in their comments. Dan Gilmour felt that the eBay reputation system was better than the non-existing alternatives we have, though he did believe it was far from perfect for journalism purposes.

* Dan's new experiment which is visibile at , is all about hyper local journalism and is using Palo Alto as a testing ground. The company was funded by Mitch Kapor (of Lotus 1-2-3 fame) and Omidyar Group. Nothing there will be foreign to Tribesters, but it's interesting to see others begin to explore what we've already known for some time.

* Blogging and Journalism needed some clarification in terms of the purpose behind what's being written (opinion versus hard news), but that was disparaged by the idea that some times bloggers just write for fun, some times they actually report news, so it's tough to draw the line on purpose.

* For the Beast Blog, even though it's a joint effort between several bloggers working together on blogging here, keeping submissions constant can be challenging.

All in all, this was a good session with interesting attendees who asked provocative questions. People from all sorts of backgrounds where in attendance including an anthropolgist, a librarian, a film producer, a movie sound designer, people involved in initiatives around identity online and new emerging standards, the founder of Rojo (who's also pushing the envelope in some of the areas of identity and group news sharing), and lots of other interesting folks.

Posted in Online Community, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Outlook Ventures’ Meeting of the Minds on 6/14/05

Posted by direwolff on June 14, 2005

Had a chance to attend the Meeting of the Minds event which is held twice a year. It's hosted by Outlook Ventures, a venture capital firm that actively invests in promising seed and early stage next-generation software companies in the Western United States. You can read more about them at .

The evening's topic was "Getting the Business Model Right" and was a moderated discussion with an intriguing group of founders, CEOs and other industry luminaries sharing their own experiences on – how are changing times and markets changing the models start-ups are following? Which consumer and enterprise software models have worked? Which business models have been abandoned or "morphed" along the way? What are the latest & greatest business models being tested on todays corporate and consumer markets?

The guest speakers addressed these questions and discussed the models that have made their businesses successful.

As part of the introduction, Cindy Padnos (Outlook Venture Partner) had a slide with a quote from Bill Sahlman, Professor of Entrepreneurial Finance at Harvard Business School. The quote read:

"When I think of a business model, I think of the interplay of the strategic and financial decisions that a company has to make."

This set the stage for some interesting comments from the panelists mostly addressing issues of strategy, as it relates to those running early stage companies.

David Alberga, CEO of The Active Network, explained how he moved most of the developers in his company to functional business units so that they could be tied to revenue initiatives rather than simply contributing to cost.

Gunjan Sinha, Chairman of Metricstream (formerly Founder of eGain and WhoWhere), explained that one has to be conscious of the point of inflection in any industry and act on it decisively.

Reid Hoffman, CEO/co-Founder of LinkedIn, touched on Google's innovation not so much being their ad model, but the fact that they required advertisers to get at least a 1% click-through rate or they would remove them from the network regardless of their desire to pay to stay. This meant for publishers, that Google advertisers performed.

Peter Thiel, Chairman of Clarium Capital (formerly Founder/CEO of Paypal), explained that the people you hire are more important than the business plan. Reason being that a business plan can change, but you need to have the type of people who can flow with these changes. He also highlighted the importance of listening to what outside people are telling you.

Reid also elaborated on Peter's thoughts by quoting fm Sun Tzu's "Art of War", "No plan will survive the enemy." Basically, he was explaining that in the early stages of a company and its business plan there's constant change until a plan that works is found.

In the area of how to get feedback on one's business model, Peter responded, "listen to those who will write you a check", as opposed to those who tell you how great the idea is but don't put their money where their mouth is. Gunjan raised the concept of the "3rd opinion", referring to the comments from industry peers of your management team. David preferred to listen to his customers, though he also felt that good advice could be obtained from the board of directors, but that they also needed to be kept abreast of the goings-on regularly so as to add value with reasonable comments.

There was unanimous agreement on the idea of never hiring consultants until the task is extremely well defined.

Peter also suggested that one has to focus on reality of the present and ignore sunk costs when making a strategic business model decision.

Reid also suggested that as part of getting the business model right you wanted to enlist two types of people within the company, writers and editors. Writers are the out-of-the-box thinkers who are prepared to consider all possibilities. Editors are the more critical thinking folks who prefer to criticize. The writers are better for coming up with concepts, the editors better at making these more realistic.

Finally, Reid suggested that when working through a business model, first determine the number of key things that have to go right in order for the idea to succeed. If there are more than a few items then the idea won't be effective. Then determine the likelihood that these things will go right.

There were no definitive comments on where business models were heading nor what the next generation of them would bring.

All in all, it was an interesting evening with good speakers sharing valuable advice from the front lines.

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Seacrest Beach…sweet!!!

Posted by direwolff on June 13, 2005

This past Saturday I grudgingly agreed to go to a beach party with Lil’ Pinot, down in Santa Cruz. I say grudgingly because in still feeling some of the discomfort from my recent neck and back trauma, the last thing I wanted to do was find myself by the ocean unable to truly enjoy it. And worse, be there with a group of people I didn’t know, under their scrutiny because I’m dating their dear friend, Lil’ Pinot.

After driving past the main Santa Cruz exit off of Rte. 17, we kept going for approximately another 5-10 miles before reaching Seacrest. We walked down through one of the hotels to the beach and there it was, this splendid long gorgeous coast. The sand was thin, the coast line spacious and the waves delightful to watch.

Lil’ Pinot’s friends were old hands at this BBQ thing, and had a big canopy set-up, plenty of coolers of refreshments, and some killer BBQ fare (can you say yummy tri-tip, sausages, and ahi?). They were super cool, and while there were enough kids between the respective families to start our own nursery and elementary schools, it was all good. Most of these folks lived within 30 minutes from the beach, which was easy to tell by their fun loving and generous vibe. The BBQ occasion was to celebrate the visit of dear friends from Portland coming out to hang for a weekend. Smiles and genuine happiness were abound.This beach which reaches from before Capitola and goes all the way to Moss Landing was beautiful and with clear skies and little wind made for a great BBQ spot. Of course, I still couldn’t really take advantage of the water, and dared not bring my kitesurfing gear (which would have definitely gotten some use there), but I was enlightened to some new fabulous California coastline which will require further exploration in the near future.

Lesson learned, keep low expectations and you’ll always beat them, but some times it will be with truly outstanding people and places one could never have imagined.

Posted in Feelings, Just Fun | Leave a Comment »

Lil’ Pinot gettin’ into some kitesurfing

Posted by direwolff on June 2, 2005

Well, after much talking about it, I finally got Lil’ Pinot out on a kitesurfing class while we were in Maui last weekend. As expected, she loved it! It was great to see how gutsy she was about it and despite some trials and tribulations with her instructor, she managed to get the basics down and do a body drag session which is a key stepping stone towards getting on the board for the first time.

Of course, there’s something about a nice sunny place with clear warm water that really helps with the learning curve.

Posted in Kitesurfing & Extreme Sports | Leave a Comment »