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

Archive for December, 2006

Jet-man!!! How cool is this?!

Posted by direwolff on December 30, 2006

Just happened to catch a slide show on the Reuters site that included these pictures of Jet-man, Yves Rossy:

You gotta check out this video (updated with video below) to really appreciate how truly inspiring this is. Totally ROCKS!!! These francophiles just don’t know when to quit. First it was kitesurfing, then it was speed-riding (parasailing on skis), and now we have Jet-man, all invented and brought to us by the French and the Swiss-French. Now where can I get me one of them Jet-man wing packs?! :)





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

OpenBC, now Xing, now public

Posted by direwolff on December 27, 2006

This has to be the most underwritten story of this year. You’d think a social networking company like Xing, that competes with LinkedIn and goes public at 4.5x the valuation that LinkedIn got in its latest private equity financing round deserves some attention. As has been widely reported, LinkedIn’s valuation (I’m presuming post-money but I could be wrong) was $250M with a current base of 8.5 million members. Xing went public last week with a market capitalization of €157M (~ US$200M) with much fewer members. Here’s an excerpt:

OpenBC, which is rebranding as Xing, has around 1.5 million members, and was able to boost its revenues year-on-year from €1.6 million to just under €6 million at the end of the last fiscal year.

Now that should have been pretty newsworthy, but surprisingly even in Google News, you had to look down the page several results to find this story. In Techcrunch it wasn’t mentioned at all, except in the 82 comment made on the Yahoo! “Project Fraternity” Docs Leaked story . Mashable did pick up on it and devoted two-thirds of a post to the story.

What surprises me about the lack of discussion here is that Xing in effect has gotten a valuation of just over $137 per member compared with LinkedIn’s valuation of just under $31 per member. By these standards, LinkedIn’s investors got a heck of a deal. The closest comparable to Xing is Facebook if we consider the reported (in the same Techcrunch post from above) Yahoo! offer of $1.62B for their approximately 9 million members (~ $180 per member).

So the question I have, is why has this story not made more headlines? Heck, I couldn’t swing a stick in the blogosphere without running into the LinkedIn valuation story. Is it that it’s not an American thing? Given the reach that social networks are now getting geography should have little to do with it since all of these services are crossing borders. I’m puzzled by this because I knew this IPO was going to happen, but didn’t hear much talk about it before, during or since and am wandering how was such an important event towards the valuation of social networking businesses, not discussed more widely. Hmmmm…

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Posted in Entrepreneurship, Online Community, VC | Leave a Comment »

Microsoft, Out to Prove that the U.S. Patent System is Broken

Posted by direwolff on December 22, 2006

At least that’s my take, because to have the audacity to waste their internal staff’s time, as well as that of the patent office’s time, to create and review applications that they be granted the patent to RSS, has to be their way of exposing the insanity which today we call our patent system. The blogosphere is all a-buzz about this and rightly so. Here are the patent applications in question, 20060288011 and 20060288329. It would be interesting to see what, if any, prior art was mentioned in these applications given that such a list would no doubt have to include mention of Netscape and UserLand (Dave Winer), not to mention so many others since this was worked mostly in an open source arrangement.

If Microsoft even gets close to getting this patent, I think it’s time to throw in the towel and admit that our system doesn’t just suck, but that it isn’t a patent system at all. If you ever get a chance to check out the book Information Feudalism: Who Owns the Knowledge Economy, you’ll find out that this prior assessment I’ve made contingent on the success of these patent applications, is already the state of affairs but it affects too many people so no one is willing to call a spade a spade.

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Posted in Intellectual Property | Leave a Comment »

Revere Data on CNBC

Posted by direwolff on December 21, 2006

How cool is that, my dear friend named Kevin O’Brien is the CEO of Revere Data LLC, was interviewed on CNBC today to discuss the announcement of a new index that will begin trading on the International Securities Exchange (ISE) called the Revere Wal-Mart Supplier Index. This index represents a list of companies that derive a significant percentage of their income from Wal-Mart. Because Revere Data has mapped all U.S. publicly traded companies into a very robust and detailed industrial classification system (down to a company’s products and services), the Revere Hierarchy, and also track each of these companies’ stated competitors, suppliers, customers and strategic partners (known as Revere Relationships), they make it very easy for financial analysts, traders and hedge fund managers, to quickly isolate a basket of companies that fits well with their refined selection criteria and trading strategies. It is with this in mind, that the ISE tapped Revere Data’s expertise to help create this new Exchange Traded Index. This is actually the second index that they have created with Revere Data, the first was the Revere Natural Gas Index.

Check it out the interview here

Revere Data has also rolled out to applications, Revere Research and Revere Real-Time, which are made very powerful by the incorporation of this unique and valuable data. The company has been around refining its offering over the past 7 years, and now the market is catching up to what the Revere crew has known all along, that mapping value-chains and companies’ ecosystems, can provide a lot of value to investors. Part of my excitement in this company is that by virtue of my angel investment in Kevin’s previous company, Gradience, which was acquired by Revere Data, I’m a small angel investor in Revere Data. So it’s good to see their increased visibility and to hear about some of the big wins they have been experiencing in the marketplace.

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

And You Wonder Why It’s Difficult to Trust Our Government

Posted by direwolff on December 21, 2006

From the files of truth being stranger than fiction, and the paranoid delusions of our government, comes the amazing truth that the secret files kept by our government on John Lennon over the past 30 years had not one iota of information that could qualify as confidential in this or any other century. Well, unless what our government was hiding was their ridiculous incompetence in making a case for why Lennon should have a file to begin with or worse, why they spent so much energy fighting its release for so long.

Andrew Gumbel of the Independent Online has an expose titled, The Lennon Files: The FBI and the Beatle. My favorite excerpt from the piece is…

The fight for Lennon’s FBI file is one of those stories that tells us much less, in the end, about the subject himself than it does about the bumbling, bureaucratic, loopily paranoid universe of intelligence operatives and official secrecy. The fact that Lennon was under surveillance at all was already scandalous – neither the FBI nor MI5 established any instance of either criminal behaviour or intent, nor did they have more than the most measly of grounds to suspect it.

But don’t worry, that was then this is now, and when George W. says that he hasn’t spying on our country’s citizens, he means it, not like the other guys ;)

It’s such findings that requires us as a people to be less trusting and more vigilent of the decisions and laws being passed by our government that affect us all. Over the past 6 yrs, a large percentage of the people in our country abdicated the use of their critical minds, as we can see by events like this one, this just can’t be allowed to continue to happen. Even with the new greater balance between the executive and legislative branches of government it’s obvious that it’s not always enough to bring sanity to the process. If you consider how long these files were kept a secret, that also means that both parties were in office and at one point or another both parties dominated the executive and/or the legislative branches, and both parties contributed to keeping this information a secret for so long. Lesson learned, don’t trust your government. I know, I know, you knew that already.

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Posted in Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

Tagged, I’m it!…Five things people don’t know about me

Posted by direwolff on December 20, 2006

Thought I was enough under the radar to avoid being tagged, but that was too much to hope for so I guess I gotta go with it. So here are the five things people don’t know about me:

5) I eat pizza and hamburgers with a fork and knife.

4) Like Kevin Burton, though when I was much younger at the time, I almost joined a monastery to seek enlightenment. Bailed when I thought it through and didn’t want to do without the sex.

3) At 14 I was an alterboy at two different churches at the same time for about a year and never got molested. That explains a lot.

2) Never got my undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon University, though I now hold an MBA from Theseus Institute.

1) I speak Haitian Creole fluently, in addition to English, French and Spanish.

Time to tag five folks. So here are my five tags: Seth Goldstein, Marc Canter, Mark Pincus, Chris Nolan, and Michael Parekh. Let’er roll.

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Posted in Just Fun | Leave a Comment »

Is this headline necessary?

Posted by direwolff on December 16, 2006

Just caught this news headline on Bloomberg this morning: One in 10 Russians Say Their Special Services Killed Litvinenko. In reading the story I was wondering why 1 in 10 people saying something made it more newsworthy than what the other 9 people said. So I clicked to read the story and found the following:

The Moscow-based Levada Center asked 1,600 Russians between Dec. 8-12 who had killed Litvinenko. Some 20 percent said it was his former business partners; 15 percent said Boris Berezovsky, a billionaire businessman who fell out with President Vladimir Putin and now lives in exile in London; and 10 percent said it was Russian special services.

Some 13 percent said they didn’t know anything about the case and 26 percent termed the question “difficult to answer.”

Headlines, gotta love’em. Nevermind that 2 in 10 people thought it was Litvinenko’s business partners or that 1.5 in 10 thought that it was the billionaire businessman. Neither of those two possibilities is nearly as inflammatory as calling for it to be the Russian special services. Having said this, I don’t purport to know the answer to this question only that Bloomberg News really shouldn’t be trying to compete with such pros in this area like the New York Post (the unabashed masters of inflammatory headlines). When you add to the fact that 39% of the people actually didn’t see a simply answer to this question, then picking off the 10% as the lead for this story is really making an issue where none appears to exist…at least in this story.


Posted in MSM | 1 Comment »

Prospects for a new face of Christianity

Posted by direwolff on December 15, 2006

If I hadn’t read it with my own eyes I wouldn’t have believed it, but Jay Bakker (son of the infamous Jim & Tammy Faye Bakker (now Jim Bakker and Tammy Faye Messner) has penned a piece that appeared on CNN (titled, What the hell happened to Christianity), which is truly inspiring. The inspiration it brings is not that of trying turning us all into Christians which has seemed to be status quo of so many fundamentalist groups, but of a more tolerant voice that understands and appreciates our differences and acknowledges them. Jay follows in his father’s foot steps in becoming a minister himself (of the Revolution Church), but of what appears to be a very different church with a more empathetic set of beliefs. As he correctly puts it in this article, it’s a path much needed if his faith is to continue, which in my opinion would be a short road if it continues to spew the brand of condemnation and bile about anything it doesn’t understand or agree with, that we have become accustomed to.

Here’s a noteworthy excerpt from the article:

This brings us to the big issues of American Christianity: Abortion and gay marriage. These two highly debatable topics will not be going away anytime soon. Obviously, the discussion centers around whether they are right or wrong, but is the screaming really necessary? After years of witnessing the dark side of religion, Marc and I think not.

Christians should be able to look past their differences and agree to disagree. This allows people to discuss issues with respect for one another. Christians are called to love others just as they are, without an agenda. Only then will Christianity see a return to its roots: Loving God with all of your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.

An interesting message indeed.

While I’m always ready to point out the abuses by the new brand of Christians that has emerged over the past 20 years, I’m also happy be able to point out the good that is coming out from the disgust the newer generations are feeling from the kidnapping of their faith, and how they’re prepared to handle it. Jay and Marc Brown’s (a Revolution Church member) words are well aligned with spirituality rather than the religious fervor that has affronted us over the past 6 years in particular. This is certainly the beginning of a path where we might all be able to live together again afterall.

I do wonder if this path will be strong enough to hold and draw more followers against the will of such frightening and evil leaders as Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell (who even on 9/11 chose to say some hateful things).  The good news here is that given their ages I’ll place my bets with the rookies to help bring about the necessary changes since they’ll still be left standing long after the ol’ farts pass.  Christianity may do nothing directly for me, but it sure is nice to know that the next generation of Christians are people with a greater sense of self and less of a need for the hypocrisy so many espoused in recent times.

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Posted in Feelings, Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

Lucene + IBM + Yahoo! = Free Enterprise Search

Posted by direwolff on December 14, 2006

Certainly, this is the last thing I’d want to hear about if I worked with the Google Appliance group, Autonomy, Northern Light, Grokker, Convera, or any of a host of search companies who depends on this to generate their primary revenue. Heck, IBM is even bringing in some of their heavy artillery by including LanguageWare and Unstructured Information Management Architecture (UIMA) to bear on this free product. The nice thing however, is that a lot of people with good ideas for search-based applications will have a reduced barrier to entry in experimenting with this free application. With the bells and whistles that IBM is throwing into this package (even comes with its own crawler), it should enable developers to play with some nifty concepts. While I believe that LanguageWare is lacking primarily in the language model they’ve chosen to pursue, this doesn’t stop developers from familiarizing themselves with issues that used to cost people tens of thousands of dollars to learn about prior to this offering.

Also it’s pretty interesting that IBM chose to work with Yahoo! from the UI perspective. I may have to go for the download just so I can see what all of this means to the big picture of the enterprise search industry. Boy, IBM has really learned a lot about playing the open source game…very interesting indeed.

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Posted in search & categorization | 2 Comments »

Privacy and Patent Reform on the Congress agenda…amazing

Posted by direwolff on December 13, 2006

This is all good news, though until we see the outcome it may too early to start celebrating. It does appear that Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is ready to take on these two massive issues, at least according this CNET article referencing the senator’s recent speech at Georgetown University. Not a moment too soon for reforms in these areas, but given the number of significant special interests that could affected here, we will need to wait and see how radical the reforms will be before beginning to sing their praises. But he’s certainly hitting on some of the right chords:

In a speech titled “Ensuring Liberty and Security through Checks and Balances,” many of Leahy’s remarks assailed what he deemed an “impulse to unilateralism” by the Bush administration.

“It has acted outside lawful authority to wiretap Americans without warrants, and to create databanks and dossiers on law-abiding Americans without following the law and without first seeking legal authorization,” Leahy said in prepared remarks.

However, like any change in this area, it’s a step in the right direction that the Senator in charged with the public trust to address these issues is willing to take on this difficult task.

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Posted in Public Policy, Security/Privacy | Leave a Comment »