Starting September 2, 2003
BloggerCon photos, Esther Dyson at MIMC, Dinner with Dave Winer and Halley Suitt, Innovation Odyssey - the book, Au revoir, Julianne!, Mass Software Council meeting, Flying on September 11, Signs of the times, John Chambers talk, I finally have an RSS feed
BloggerCon photos [link]
I'm off to the BloggerCon conference. I assume there will be lots of reports from others. I'll post some pictures on "BloggerCon 2003".
Esther Dyson at MIMC [link]
The Boston Globe's Scott Kirsner interviewed Esther Dyson last Thursday night at the MIMC Fireside Chat. I found it pretty fascinating, even though I've heard Esther speak many, many times. I posted my report (along with pictures, of course) as: "Esther Dyson interview at MIMC".
Scott Kirsner interviewing Esther Dyson
Dinner with Dave Winer and Halley Suitt [link]
I went to the MIMC Fireside Chat last night where Esther Dyson was interviewed by Scott Kirsner. I'll try to write up a report this weekend or so. It was interesting.
Since the meeting was on the Harvard campus, I walked over to the Berkman Center afterwards to see if Dave Winer was still conducting his "Blogger Thursday" meeting and perhaps go off with some of them for dinner. As I walked up, I could see Dave through the window -- they were just wrapping up.
Dave Winer at the Berkman Center through the window
One of the attendees was Halley Suitt. I've been really moved by her story last month of the big physical change in her life: She's had cataracts in both eyes for years, maybe since birth, and with the surgery on the first one she now can see like she's never seen before. We had some conversations about this walking over to dinner. It is such a change, with the world being all different for her, making what she thought the world to be like now clearly wrong. Shakes up your belief system, she says. It will be interesting to follow her thinking as she lives through the change.
In the spirit of "before and after" pictures, here's a picture of Halley's eye that I took last night, modified in Photoshop to be my idea of what she'd see before and after:
Halley as I saw her outside the restaurant, her now good eye as she describes her vision "before" and "after"
Nice dinner with a few bloggers. Lots of discussion about BloggerCon (I've signed up for both days), politics, and more.
Dinner with Dave
Innovation Odyssey - the book [link]
Early this morning I attended a breakfast kickoff for the Boston History Collaborative's Innovation Odyssey book. VisiCalc is mentioned in there along with other Boston-area firsts like using ether for anesthesiology, the World Series (yes, back in 1903), the disposable razor, the telephone, the mutual fund, and dozens and dozes of others. Bob Frankston joined me at the breakfast, as did some Internet inventors from BBN, and others.
The book is a companion to the Innovation Odyssey, a 2-hour tour you can take around the Boston area in a high-tech bus with an actor/tour guide accompanied by video. (I'm on their honorary board.)
Boston History Collaborative Executive Director and book coeditor Bob Krim addresses the guests in the Hall of Ideas at the Mary Baker Eddy Library in Boston
Rod Spencer (grandson of Percy Spencer, the "inventor" of the microwave oven when he noticed a melted chocolate bar in his pocket), Bob Frankston, and Ray Tomlinson (first inter-machine email on the ARPANET and chooser of the "@" sign as a separator -- "the only preposition on the keyboard") pose for a publicity shot in the Library's Mapparium under Boston's place on the outside-in stained glass globe
Au revoir, Julianne! [link]
As long term readers of this weblog may remember, I used to get editing help (and encouragement) from Julianne Chatelain. She was an early employee at Trellix who, as I reported on March 1, 2001, left us for personal reasons. I hear from her by email every once in a while, but haven't seen her in person in about a year and a half. We had lunch together today. As usual we had lots to catch up about.
Two big changes. First, she's going off to Australia for a year to study for a degree in interaction design at the University of Technology Sydney. Second, after I saw her last, she had surgery to help her lose weight. She's gone from 350 lbs. down to 180. What a change! It's very strange to listen to the same voice and joie de vivre coming from a totally different looking person. She was always full of energy and lively, but she seemed held back by her size, bad knees, etc. She was also very up front about the problems of her size. Now she seems much more at ease, but with the same energy closer to the surface. She's happy. "Now I can fit in the seats at Fenway Park," she told me. She suggested I show the picture from her goodbye party along with one I took today. I know many of my readers know her, and were probably wondering how things went. Congratulations, Julianne, on all the changes, and good luck in your studies!
Julianne in March of 2001, and today
Mass Software Council meeting [link]
Last Friday was the Fall Meeting of the Massachusetts Software Council. I've been a trustee since the founding about 15 years ago. The name was the Massachusetts Software and Internet Council for the last few years, but now it's moving back to just "Software Council" since, at this point, the Internet goes without saying. The meeting was sponsored by The British Midlands, Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Silicon Valley Bank, and Waggener Edstrom. The last was a surprise to me. You usually think of them as Microsoft's PR firm (and Microsoft is probably their dominant client), but they now have a Boston office going after the firms here (including biotech). Kristin Hilf, the head of the local office, is a local person who used to run another company's office.
It opened up with the Member Spotlight, where a few members get a couple of minutes to tell you about their company. One of them was Paula Singer, cofounder of Windstar Technologies. She quoted Ken Olsen (of DEC) as saying "Pick something everybody else thinks is boring." So, they picked tax and immigration filing processing for foreign nationals. That's a real software company, typical of the type of successful ones in the Council.
Kristin Hilf of Waggener Edstrom at the head table with other sponsors, Paula Singer of Windstar Technologies giving a Member Spotlight, MIT's William Mitchell
The first main speaker was Bill Mitchell, head of the Media Arts and Sciences program at MIT. He talked a bit about the type of research they do, and explained how they have local Media Labs around the world. They feel that sitting in the ivory tower of Cambridge, Massachusetts, you can't understand the problems and nuances of the world well enough -- you have to actually be in various locales. Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte is chairman of that effort. Most of Bill's presentation was about the new buildings going up at MIT, especially the new addition to the Media Lab (he is architectural advisor to the President of MIT, so you'd expect him to concentrate there more than bits and bytes). These buildings have lots of open spaces and ways to meet. The idea (of their building and the Electrical Engineering department's new Stata Center) is for people of different backgrounds and interests to run into each other in hallways and public areas. He said that piazzas like in Europe won't work in Boston ("Imagine it with 3 feet of snow..."), so you have to build the spaces inside. Here are some pictures from his slides:
Frank Gehry designed Stata Center for Computer, Information, and Intelligence Sciences (you can watch a webcam following the construction); the future Media Lab; and a work area with lots of offices around a big common work area
Next came William Wray, Executive VP and CIO of Citizens Bank. He talked about the IT things the bank was doing, and told people how best to approach him to sell to him. He's spending $100 million on IT capital over the next several years, so that was of interest to many people. As anybody who has seen their TV ads knows, the bank's positioning focuses on the strength of their branch offices (as opposed to ATMs or "home banking"). They've moved from "green screens" to more modern, integrated systems: "Applications that allow us to effectively fulfill our service promise, as well as to support our sales process." They cut signing up for a package of accounts down from 45 minutes to 12, much more palatable for a lunch break and highly supportive of their positioning. He wants sales pitches that don't say "Do you want to cut expenses?" (of course he does) but rather "I will cut down on X, it will cost you only Y, and you will only need to do Z". You may think improving a particular thing is the most important thing in the world and expect people to devote lots of time to doing it, but to him it is one of many things, so as little work on his part as possible is a key.
Citizens Bank's William Wray, one of their new applications to speed things in the branches, people coming up afterwards to sell to him
The final speaker was Ted Leonsis, Vice Chairman, America Online and President, AOL Core Services. Ted has been with AOL for a long time. He was introduced as the soul of the experience it provides. He was very warm and personable, even as people told anecdotes about his ownership of various sports team (he'll be known as "the person who fired Michael Jordan"...). He opened by putting up a slide with four questions and then later one with four, short answers. He then went into much greater detail.
What wins in media? Content or distribution? New more powerful distribution drives demand for content.
Where is messaging going? Always On drives demand for Always with You.
Is there danger in media consolidation? Scale matters -- but segmentation ensures diversity.
If you were starting a company in a garage today...what would it be? Get customers engaged, connected, in control, protected.
AOL's Ted Leonsis
My raw notes (probably with errors as usual): He likes to take long term perspective, he's in love with AOL -- it's a long term marriage. Moore's Law will continue for 20 more years in the Internet. In 1992, they had the first Instant Message, now millions a day. America likes packaging: McDonald's Happy Meal #1 is the most popular food item, Happy Meal #2 is the second most popular. People are brand buyers. In the bubble, people took stupid pills with business models, giving away free content. Waiting for new applications that take advantage of bandwidth. Always On aspect of broadband is a fundamental change. He doesn't mean you always use it, but "always on" like your water is always on in your house, ready whenever you need it without thinking. It's a multi-band world -- you need products sized correctly for dial-up, high-speed, mobile, etc. The Apple iPod is a key example of important things. It is an example of local storage being so great as to be almost "free" -- that's part of where convergence is. UCLA Internet Report -- tenure (number of years you've been using the Internet) drives need for more bandwidth. AOL finds broadband buyers have been using the Net for an average of 4 years. Took AOL 10 years to get to 1 million subscribers. Then 3 1/2 million per year for the next 10 years. 43% of broadband users have multiple online sessions per day ("info-snacking"), about double dial-up users. Broadband people shop -- 60% of broadband people spend more online than dial-up users. Safety is #1 concern.
Tivo (whether as that company or something similar in technology) is the next step in personalizing media habits. Ted's favorite channel is "WTED". He talked about doing multitasking. He said that "Search, Find, Obtain" will make commerce real. Rich media needs new business models. New applications with rich media need a price attached, because they are so expensive to produce. AOL will package and charge for the packages. On demand deep libraries. Their AOL voice-related offerings already have 1 million subscribers. "It's the product, stupid. It's the customers, stupid." Customers constantly vote by being able to leave the service. "It's all software." Radio (streaming online) is a killer app. IM is adding more animation, then voice, and then video. Peer-to-peer transfer.
He sees value in managing alerts and reminders. Email, phone, sports, stocks, traffic. They get 10 million spam reports a day. Once a piece gets a certain level of complaints, they block it. "Policing neighborhood." He spoke about the need for interoperability in video conferencing. "Search providers are arms dealers" selling to all and he buys. He expects new ones to emerge. He mentioned DRM.
He did a PowerPoint demo of AOL 9.0, showing AOL by Phone with voicemail being sent as email attachments, parental controls that assume the child can negotiate with the parent online for permission to view particular web sites, IM with voice, video, etc., and more. The idea is for everything to be no more than a click or two away, unlike the old days when navigation was tedious.
Ted is a real, dedicated blogger. He says it: "I'm a blogger!". He mentioned blogging multiple times throughout his talk -- naturally, not forced. He told how he "got goose bumps" when he was able to update his blog over wireless. His blog is not public, apparently being about some subject like his sports teams where you may expect it to need to be private, but he is clearly passionate about it. (Which other large company senior executive is so passionate about blogging and learning about it firsthand?)
Many lined up to speak with him afterwards -- he stayed quite a while to talk, Bob Frankston showing us his tiny WiFi card that fits in an SD slot
Flying on September 11 [link]
It's September 11th and I write this on an airplane flying back to Boston from Los Angeles via Chicago. I made the plan to fly without thinking of the date, just the day of week. Friends went "Uh oh, are you really flying that day?" I had committed, though, and here I am. Anyway, I rationalized, I'm flying an inexpensive airline (ATA), and leaving after noon Pacific Time, later than a good time for an event timed to happen during that day as seen by people to the east of the USA. (I think in terms of marketing and PR...) The guy who drove me to the hotel on Monday said reservations for trips to the airport were down for September 10, and way down for September 11.
This morning, after getting up early, I had CNN running on the TV, just as it had on September 11, 2001, in that hotel I was staying at in San Francisco. This morning there was coverage from the name readings at Ground Zero in NYC.
As we waited for 20-30 minutes on the runway for clearance for takeoff, some guy in the back of the plane got up (to get his stuff, bathroom, who knows?). "You must be seated" the stewardess said. Apparently he didn't sit down. "All passengers must be seated before we can take off, SIR" someone else said on the public address system. We all turned to see who was doing something so inappropriate today. I felt a strong sense of "group" with those around me. We looked intensely to see what was going on. The guy sat down, but it took a little too long for my taste. A jolting reminder. Today does feel different.
I promised to call a few relatives when I land.
As usual, some pictures:
Others flying -- our part of the terminal was crowded
The list of departures, showing the date and time
The view from my seat in the air
Signs of the times [link]
A few pictures that remind us how things are changing. The first was something a coworker suggested I take a picture of: A local bookstore's front window:
Bookstore "Moved" to the web
From the web site: "Our funky little shop in the heart of bustling West Concord village is now online only!...And even though we're not a traditional storefront anymore, we still sponsor poetry and music open mikes."
The second item is a set of pictures of some breakfast cereal boxes. No more plastic decoder rings. CD-ROMs are the thing:
Two cereal box fronts
CD-ROM in plastic from inside one, back of the box describing the "Virtual Trading Cards" (DRM?) and RealVideo "Huge Home Runs"
Are these the requirements for eating (from the bottom of the box)? How many bytes does your cereal bowl hold?
Bottom of cereal box and close-up. For real! It doesn't say it's for the CD-ROM and not the cereal.
John Chambers talk [link]
This morning I attended a talk by John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems. It was hosted by Northeastern University's College of Business Administration. There was a half hour or so of standing around with coffee, followed by a sit down breakfast, and then a 15 minute talk by John and about 30 minutes of questions and answers. He seems to be a relatively easy-going person at such events, and gave his presentation using a lapel mike while walking around. Cisco and John were in the news this morning with a positive report about August orders. Here are some pictures:
John Chambers was available during the 7:30 - 8 am coffee time, and here he listens to someone along with Cisco media relations person Melanie Bragg (who is holding today's newspapers, I think)
More listening and being available
Chamber's table, including Massachusetts Speaker of the House (and Northeastern University grad) Thomas Finneran, and EMC co-founder and Northeastern trustee Richard Egan with Northeastern president Richard Freeland
John is an animated speaker
People listened carefully and asked lots of questions, including Akamai CEO George Conrades
Some of my relatively raw notes (surely with errors...):
He lived in Boston for 6 years. He worked for Wang at one point. "Dr. Wang was the smartest man I met in my entire life" and he made reference to him later. A while ago he talked of "100 year flood", but now "I am the optimist in the industry". Thinks recovery will start first with small and medium businesses (yes!) and then verticals in their time (some later than others...). Employee growth will come 2-3 quarters after each industry recovery. Productivity growth from technology. Talked quickly about "out tasking" (you control details?) vs. "outsourcing". His strategy: 100% customer driven, know your customers. Take advantage of market transitions. Need corporate culture -- theirs is be close to customer, pulled out his badge pack which has lots of cards and said they wear their goals on their belt, quality, stretch goals, and employee ownership (he discussed the value he sees in stock options in the Q&A). Do it yourself, too -- they try to be Internet experts and use their own stuff. Finally, something about the Network growing out to be all connected or something. (He mentioned something related to packet sniffing for viruses, I think.) Cisco changed direction 10 times in 12 years. Need to take business risk.
Q&A included: Why the Boston area for one of their few major centers? The area has "the best startups I can buy", people, work ethic. VoIP? "Pretty much the future", and telcos need to go to different revenue models than voice. 5 years out, VoIP and other media over IP will be across the board. Does being close to the customer lead to the Innovator's Dilemma of missing out of the box stuff? Thinks listening to customers works. Some discussion about cable and telcos. Dividends? Will be used by companies not growing too much. With them, 90% would say use money to repurchase stock, not dividends. Something about common standards (like IP) good for ILECs, as they start doing better selling to them or something. Hear any new trends? Companies (like theirs and some other now-big guys) funded during economic slowdowns do best -- this is the best time to start. Question is which opportunities will the world consolidate around? What about corporations like them doing venture capital? They do it to keep their finger on the pulse of things (part of listening). He found that (good) VCs helped evolve the management team and provided expertise. They took VC money and never spent it, but thought the 1/3 of the company they gave up was worth it.
After the presentation, he was still talking with people as I left:
After the talk
I finally have an RSS feed [link]
After years of lame explanations why I don't have one for this weblog, I've finally added an RSS feed (see "XML" link near the top of this page).
My excuse has been that I create this weblog with the old Trellix Web (now CuteSITE Builder) client-side web authoring tool, and as a general purpose tool it doesn't have the built-in RSS support that most blogging tools now have. I like the image, text formatting, and page management capabilities of Trellix Web, so I haven't changed tools. (Interland/Trellix's server-based general purpose web authoring system has blogging as an integral part, and it has supported RSS since early in its deployment, but I'm not using that tool for this weblog that started almost four years ago, either.)
I've always assumed that I'd eventually get some tool that made creating an RSS feed easy. The freeform layout of this web site makes general purpose screen-scraping programs unreliable. I wanted a simple tool which remembered what I had so far, and that let me just type in the minimum new stuff and then automatically made the file and put it on my web site. I looked around a little bit, but didn't find anything I wanted (I didn't look too hard.)
Finally, this past holiday weekend, I took a few hours and wrote a tool that I hope meets my needs. (It's in Perl, and is "unfinished", of course.) I wanted a tool that is not tied to any blog system, so I can experiment if I want with RSS feeds of all sorts, and experiment with formatting in this weblog. It seems that RSS is being viewed as a preferred way of doing "opt-in push", and will find its way into uses distinct from blogs and news postings. Over time, I may evolve the output. It starts with very simple and basic RSS 2.0.
So, to all of you who have been asking, I finally listened.
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