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

Archive for May, 2007

So Close Yet So Far…or Tribe Dreamt It But Facebook Did It

Posted by direwolff on May 30, 2007

Don’t know if any of you remember the South Park episode where Butters in his Captain Chaos persona struggling to be bad but finding that every prank he thinks of he’s reminded by his little friend that it’s already been done on The Simpson’s. Well, that voice of Butters’ friend saying “The Simpson’s did it!” rang in my head upon hearing the Facebook announcement that they had opened up their APIs. This ringing came from my days at where we were seriously moving down this path at one point. But the ringing was also kind of empty since we were never able to fully realize this vision due to the pragmatic views of a few on the management team who didn’t understand the power of what could be accomplished from this. Sad really.

Just tonight, I decided to go look for the discussion where I broached this topic by way of example in the Social Software Intellectuals tribe, and found the thread as I had expected. Note the foresight in Limbo’s (a particularly active member of the Tribe community) response to my comments at one point in the thread:

Re: Leveraging of social networks into simple stuff

Sat, November 26, 2005 – 8:51 PM

>> conceptually I like what this means fm a perspective, but the
>> context seems more general and less specific to what tribe members
>> would want fm their shared tribes.

which is why open is good. tribe can concentrate on being a great community. delicious can concentrate on being a great bookmark site (or at least on not sucking as bad as they do). and both can benefit from using the other’s platform.

i’d bet that if tribe had a real open interface for the social network and tribe membership data, you’d have had at least one mashup that does this by now. and probably about 20 others that do some useless BS with google maps too :)

How about a few hundred, as Facebook has experienced?

While Marc Canter had espoused this for a long time (and is now working on the next generation of this), it was Brian Lawler who had to really think through the issues around implementing such a platform and began experimenting with making this a reality. At the time, we were watching how MySpace was going about this process with little regard for security allowing just about any javascript widget to be put up. Brian wanted to proceed down the more elegant and secure direction of opening up several dedicated APIs. His approach was the right one, but the lack of support and understanding for what this could enable from our newly recruited “old school” CEO at the time, made any effort here fruitless despite the excellent progress Brian made off the clock, so-to-speak. Well, Facebook did it, and they’re reaping the windfall from this, much as Canter has envisioned it, and much as several folks in the Tribe community had expected it would happen. Even with the nascent widget industry at the time, it would have been the right thing to do as there were plenty of apps that could have benefited from an open social network platform even back in November of 2005, even with less than a million members.

It’s with some relief that I believe that those of us who saw this vision have been vindicated. Sure, we were no Facebook, but where this would have helped create an ecosystem that would have helped grow the Tribe community beyond the where it remained. The impact opening up their APIs has had on Facebook in my opinion, has already put them clearly on a map of elite companies along side Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, MySpace and They are now clearly a platform play (funny that they call this the Platform), and will not be easily displaced considering the momentum this is creating for them by leveraging the network effects of all of their partners’ participation.

The real winner in all of this of course is Mark Pincus. While he was no longer directly involved in the daily activities at Tribe, he got to see the beginnings of this from his board seat at Tribe, and will now benefit even more from this as an angel investor in Facebook. He got two bites at monetizing the effect of a platform play, and the second one may yet prove to be the charm.


Posted in Online Community | 2 Comments »

Naish Torch ’07 Kite…Having Exploding Issues

Posted by direwolff on May 22, 2007

(See my update below, as I’ve gotten some more info since originally reporting this story yesterday.)

What’s sadder than a boy with his broken dreams? Well, that would be a boy with a torn kite three days before getting ready to go do some wave riding down the California coast. And here’s what that boy with broken dreams’ face looks like…

This late afternoon, just as my buddy Charlie picked up his kite and began turning it over on its back to deflate it, after a most excellent kitesurfing session at Crissy Field, we all heard a loud bang, like that of a blown tire. Well, it was the leading edge of Charlie’s kite basically exploding right at one of the seams. According to another fellow kiteboarder, this is the second time this has happened this season with the Naish Torch 12 meter kite. Another friend of ours experienced the same phenomena recently. The tear is clean along the seam and through the bladder. To say that Charlie, who has really liked this kite since he’s been riding it this season, was not terribly disappointed, would be an understatement. We all tried to console him, but you could tell that this wasn’t easy on him. He put his faith in Naish, and he was let down with what appears to have been a defective product. Wwe’re only now hopeful that the company is prepared to stand by its product and provide Charlie an exchange, but given that it’s not the first time this has happened, there’s obvious cause for concern.

Of course, most disconcerting of all, is that Charlie and his wife had big plans for some coastal riding this weekend which may now be up in the air as a result of this fiasco. I’ve always had respect for the quality of Naish kites, and I just hope that they make good here, as it would be very sad if they let this event, witnessed by 15 local Crissy Field kitesurfers including a Naish team rider, represent the new image of the company.

(Update – 5/23/07: In the spirit of fairness in reporting, I had a chance to speak to the other kiter who had experienced the blown bladder on his Torch. First off, he loves the kite and continues to fly it, and he explained that while the bladder exploding was certainly unusual, he was willing to attribute this to perhaps having over-inflated it. When I relayed Charlie’s experience and we realized that these two events took place within two weeks of each other, lots of questions loom, but given his positive experience with the kite, the fact that he continues to swear by it and ride it, the fact that Charlie also really likes this kite, we might conclude that these incidents were flukes that shouldn’t get in the way of a kite that so many people enjoy riding.)

(Update – 7/29/07: So it appears that at the recent Crissy Kite Week here in San Francisco, 4 more kites including that of two other good friends of mine also exploded in the same way as Charlie’s.  I took a lot of heat from some friends on the original post but I have to say now, that given the number of people I know who kitesurf, the percentage of those who use a Torch, and the percentage of those who have had it explode in the exact same place, this is faulty construction issue if I’ve ever seen a case for one.  More importantly, it was one of those who gave me the upbeat talking to that fell victim to a blown bladder…he apologized and now supports my assertion ;)

(Update – 9/28/08: Well, it’s not just over a year later and Charlie’s misadventures with Naish Torches are still happening.  Needless to say, he *really* likes these kites, but I think he’s beginning to rethink his commitment here.  Below are pics of his kite and the recent exploding bladder in the exact same spot…)

Posted in Kitesurfing & Extreme Sports | Tagged: , , | 18 Comments »

Elementeo’s 13 year old founder & CEO

Posted by direwolff on May 22, 2007

What’s there not to like about a 13 year old kid with this much enthusiasm and natural ability as an entrepreneur.  I for one, am jealous :)

Check him out:


My favorite line is, “I want to get one million dollars in revenue by the end of middle school”.  Now that’s focus and a solid understanding for the importance of revenues.  I’m betting he’ll do it.

Posted in Entrepreneurship | Leave a Comment »

Tumri, a throwback to my days at Impulse! Buy Network

Posted by direwolff on May 22, 2007

After reading the following VentureBeat post about Tumri back on May 7th, I wrote the following comments:

Talk about a case of “Back to the Future”, back in 1997 a company called Impulse! Buy Network was built on this very premise. It was sold to Inktomi in April of ‘99 for $115M, which at the time provided Softbank Ventures (Mobius) w/the best ROI of their portfolio for that year. It was before the term widgets was in vogue and these ads were called “barkers”. Yahoo!, AOL, ComputerShopper, Disney’s GO Network, AT&T Worldnet, and a host of other major portals were affiliates and displayed these product driven ads targeted to whatever section on their web site they were placed (ie. sports products targeted to sports content on the portal). Yes, contextual ad targeting before Google had released AdSense.

This was a merchandising network, with such merchants as J.Crew, K-mart, and over 200 others feeding product offers into the network. These product offers could also be paired up w/such selling methods as “falling price offer”, “auction”, “limited time offer”, and so on.

Anyway, Inktomi ended up combining Impulse! w/their C2B acquisition (a competitor to MySimon and Junglee at the time) of an early comparison shopping engine. This made tons of sense because if you consider, having products in a comparison shopping engine or as product offers on widgets, these are simply applications of a product database. Hmmm…I wonder if a similar fate awaits these latest entrants?

Funny to see these apps coming back strong. I should also note that at that time Accel passed on investing in the company, so I’m guessing this time around they didn’t want to miss it again ;)

Well, in catching the following press release that Tumri had teamed up with online performance based direct marketing agency NETexponent to offer their widgets, I started seeing the second leg of what Impulse! ended up moving towards over time.  Because some of the portals at the time wanted to control which merchants would be allowed to appear on their site, and they liked the Impulse! platform and administrative features for giving merchants more control for handling this themselves, Impulse! began to license a branded closed version of its open network functionality where merchant would be permissioned by the portal and only appear across those other web properties that the portal company wanted (as opposed to across the entire Impulse! Buy Network).  Disney’s GO! Network was the first licensee of this model.  It would not be such a leap to see Tumri enter into relationships with networks of sites like the New York Times Co. or Yahoo! or Viacom, that want to offer the Tumri capability as an added product to offer their advertisers.  After all, this is basically the combination of advertising and affiliate models.

In looking over Tumri’s list of advisors, I see three ex-Inktomi folks but none of them were from the Impulse! acquisition, which leads me to believe that they may be missing out on some of the valuable lessons gleaned from the first iteration of this merchandising business model.  People like Mark Goldstein, DC Cullinane, Richard Ling or Scott Cahill, would have been invaluable resources for them to have included among this group.

Posted in advertising, e-commerce, search & categorization | Leave a Comment »

In a Democracy, there’s no room for this sort of police brutality…

Posted by direwolff on May 9, 2007

…yet another example of why ours is not a democracy. Here’s footage from the May 1st police action in Los Angeles. Truly shameful.

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Posted in Feelings, Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

To Blog or not to Blog, that is the question

Posted by direwolff on May 8, 2007

Scott Karp’s recent blog post on Publishing 2.0 titled, Users and Abusers of Online Publishing, makes some very good points about the issue of blogging and the challenges with trying to legislate it. Having been thinking about this issue for a while, I wanted to elaborate some additional thoughts here.

As Scott explained it, the act of blogging is simply taking advantage of an easy to use content management system. What people choose to write is far from standard, and their care for professional journalism relates more directly to their background and the opportunity they feel has been given to them by the new medium. Those who were previously journalists who find themselves free to write about topics they were previously prevented from exploring due to their publications, now have an outlet to practice their trade more freely. However, people like me who just wanted a place to put down some random thoughts for no particular reason at all, also now have a venue. When you explore the blogs in MySpace or some of the corporate blogs, you see yet some different uses for blogs in personal expression and corporate public relations.

With that said, why the rush to standardize how all bloggers should be treated as a group given that the only thing most have in common is their use of a software tool? It’s actually a bit ludicrous. Scott quoted a Sunday Times in article in which the writer was clearly out of touch with the fact that blogging has nothing to do with his points on the quality of the blogs he found in the blogosphere. As a brief aside, when I worked for Reuters over 12 yrs ago, and was brought in to look at the business opportunities for them on Internet, I was meeting with one of their board members (who is no longer there). As I surfed the Net with him using a 19.2Kb modem and showed him web sites, he’d scoff at how slow the connection was and that this would only be a fad, instead of focusing on the content that was being created and what was being enabled. When we ended, I had to point out that it wasn’t whether Reuters had the fastest and most reliable global network, but that all of a sudden independent writers could band together and begin to publish news from around the world without the need for the expensive infrastructure that Reuters had had to build.

Newspapers maintained an arrogance about their trade and took their sweet time moving their activities to the electronic medium. I couldn’t believe when I was seeing all of the new portals like Yahoo!, Excite, and Lycos dominating users’ attention in the mid-’90s, when in effect it was the newspapers that had it to loose. Well, today when I read journalists complaints about the blogosphere I have to laugh, as it’s clear that they’re still missing it. They’re missing the fact that they have just been freed from the bonds that bound them to the newspaper they work for and that if the quality of their work is indeed worthwhile they can prosper on their own, if it’s not then they will have been exposed for the shills that they have always been. It’s like the sham of their writing has been exposed and no one really cared what they had to say anyway. Turns out, some 15 year old kid writing a review about Spiderman 3 is more valuable then the esteemed opinion of the local newspaper’s senior movie reviewer, how funny is that?

With this said, I’m not trying to denigrade the journalistic profession, and we do indeed need to help readers understand what’s being written by whom and that the information gathered is well supported. Hence, issues around anonymity need to be addressed in a big way, but along with those privacy issues have to be taken much more seriously and people’s information needs to be better protected. I submit that more people would be willing to talk outside of the cone of anonymity if they could count on their privacy being maintained. Yes, you can have the cake and eat it too if this is something we want to be serious about. As well, it may be worthwhile creating a sort of certification for those blogs seeking to present themselves as maintaining journalistic integrity, which would require an independent review of the process they undergo to assert the accuracy and veracity of the facts contained in their stories (ie. having two sources to back-up a story). Transparency of their process would go a long way to asserting that there was a process that has been agreed upon for one to be anointed, journalist.

This certification would mean that people like me probably wouldn’t care and wouldn’t go through the trouble, but people like Joshua Micah Marshall would need to obtain this certification to maintain the necessary credibility of their work. Perhaps newsreaders could also highlight these certified blogs in a different color than other blogs, as a way to provide readers a quick way of determining what’s journalistic versus what’s something else. Where some people might still abuse the system by trying to obtain the certification for the hell of it, providing greater transparency into their processes might also help determine when they’ve not maintained the rigor of what’s required to be considered journalistic. While this may all be an artificial classification or certification, it could help to address the liability and rights issues that come from being in the business of journalism versus being a hobbyist writer. In other words, the ethos of “write anything you want, but if you call it journalism than it comes at a price” would be a good way to start separating the “wheat from the chaff”.

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Posted in Online Community, Online-Offline Media, Public Policy | Leave a Comment »

OK What’s Up With

Posted by direwolff on May 8, 2007

After not having posted anything new to my blog for a couple of weeks, in putting up the last post and saving it, I suddenly realized that none of the WordPress widgets I had placed on the margins were there any more. No pics, no Flickr, no text, nothing, just the default margin items. Not sure why this has happened, but considering I haven’t received any e-mail about it it’s pretty disconcerting that I now have more to worry about here than on Blogger where I used to have my blog.

I’ve sent in an e-mail to support and hope to find out why this has happened, but it really sucks…at least that’s my off-the-cuff reaction to seeing this. Hopefully this will get worked out, but in the mean time, grrrrrrrrr!!!

Update: Decided to just build everything back up, and it appears that the data in the widgets remained though they had all been removed from my template…weird.

Posted in Feelings | Leave a Comment »

Two wonderful mentions of Healia within a week

Posted by direwolff on May 8, 2007

How cool is that? Healia continues as the little healthcare search engine that could. While I’ve recently discussed how they are a good example of role-based search, it appears that I’m not the only one who sees this as they received a major endorsement in winning the Outstanding Achievement Award for Health Search Web Site from the Interactive Media Awards. CEO and founder Tom Eng has worked tirelessly to get Healia to the next level and it’s so great to see his efforts rewarded this way. I’m still surprised that Microsoft acquired Medstory when Healia was right in their back yard in Seattle with a superior service and user experience.

Healia was also mentioned in Read/Write Web blog post titled, Top 17 Search Innovations Outside of Google. Healia appears under innovation #14, “Results refinement and Filters”. Healia could have actually qualified for mentions in several of the other categories as well, but just the fact that they were considered in one of these speaks loads to what Tom and his team have accomplished to date.

Under full disclosure, I’m on the company’s advisory board, and have had the unique opportunity to see as they’ve improved their service over the past year. Very exciting. They’re also beginning to win contracts over other search service providers, so we know they’re heading in the right direction. It’s a challenging space, but the Healia team has shown the perserverance necessary to succeed. I’m looking forward to continuing to watch them get discovered by more and more people.

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