February 11, 2010

A gathering of big brains in Marin County

Pt. Reyes Lighthouse Beacon

JD LasicaSpent last weekend at an annual retreat put on by a friend and consultant. This was the biggest gathering to date, with 90 of us from around the U.S. and Europe holed up in Marshall, Calif., near Point Reyes. (I mean holed up literally, given the extreme weather and the lack of Internet and cell phone access throughout.)

This was a retreat, not a conference, so I wasn’t in note-taking mode. But here are a few dozen photos I captured, and some interesting snippets. (We played by Aspen Institute rules, so we could report on comments but not attribute them without permission):

• I helped steer the most spirited discussion of the weekend, alongside author Scott Rosenberg, about the fate of news and journalism as they decouple from daily newspapers. I was surprised by the near-unanimity of the view that the kind of investigative journalism performed by news organizations like the New York Times needs to be preserved. How we get there is a story for another day.

• Coolest allusion of the weekend: to The Tralfamadorians, the creatures in Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five who could see in four dimensions, including everything about a person’s past and future.

• Attendee Tom Gruber’s new iPhone app Siri launched during the retreat and shot to the No. 1 lifestyle app in the iTunes Store. I can’t wait to use it — it’s getting great reviews (NY Times) (USA Today).

• “intellectual property regimes are the exact opposite of social capital.” (I would differ.)

• “Stone Age people had more leisure time than we do.” Continue reading

January 10, 2010

At CES: Privacy, openness & broadband’s future

Julis Genachowski
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski

Beyond the techno eye candy, digging out the substance at CES

JD LasicaAn army of tech and gadget writers descended on the just-ended Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Rather than duplicate their coverage, I’ll offer some snapshots from my three days at the conference:

FCC chairman on the need for ‘digital literacy’

The Tech Policy Summit (for whom I’ve twice moderated panels in past years) held three days of sessions at CES, highlighed by Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro’s on-stage chat with Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski, whose appointment last year won rave reviews from reform groups.

In March the FCC is due to release its plan for making Internet broadband connectivity available to all Americans. Some nuggets from Genachowski’s talk:

• “Computers are in 75 percent of people’s homes, TVs are in 98 percent. … Can TV be part of the broadband solution?”

• “The concept of literacy and teaching kids to read needs to be expanded to include digital literacy so all of our kids, as they grow up, are prepared for the new economy.” Absolutely.

• “If you don’t have access to the Internet, more and more you can’t find a job.” Many job listings can only be found online.

• New website launched on Thursday: reboot.fcc.gov, with an aim of fostering discussion of how the FCC can be reinvented to serve the public.

• “The idea that open platforms are good business is becoming conventional wisdom, and I think that’s a healthy thing.”

• He said he wants to create a “baseball culture,” where batting .300 for a lifetime gets you into the Hall of Fame — it also means you failed seven out of 10 times, and innovation flourishes only when your employees aren’t afraid to fail.

• “The fairness doctrine is dead.”

• The FCC will defend the precept of net neutrality “rigorously.”

Privacy in the age of openness

Chris KellyOn Thursday afternoon, at the Intel Upload Lounge for bloggers, Cathy Brooks moderated a fascinating hourlong discussion about privacy, identity and the culture of openness. Chris Kelly (at right), who’s on leave as Chief Privacy Office of Facebook to run for California Attorney General, was the center of attention in a conversation that also included Brian Solis, Frank Gruber and Genevieve Bell of Intel.

The panelists agreed that there’s a growing culture of prizing the authentic and the transparent — up to a point. Some highlights: Continue reading

December 14, 2009

Social media & startups: It’s a different ballgame

The social media disclaimer start-ups should know

socialmediaposttagcloudJoanna LordI get asked a lot: “How do I make money off social media?” Uhmm, well, you use the magic wand of online web awesomeness, obviously. Or maybe not. We have all read a million articles pointing us toward tools we should be using, things we should be considering, and the best practices we shouldn’t ignore. We get it: Social media is valuable. I think by now we all understand the importance of social media as a visibility engine and viral message maker. It can be used to enable conversations, announce information, put out fires, and so on.

It can do a lot. But it has limits. Ohhh buzz kill.

The reality of a start-up culture

Having lived in both Los Angeles and now Seattle, I have been surrounded with start-ups. In fact, it was a huge push for my location decisions in general. Start-ups face unique challenges, especially right now. No surprise there.

Start-ups also have a ton of options. They really are entering with a clean slate most of the time and, often, a huge number of resources. They have investors, boards, friends, family, old colleagues, old networks, etc., all pushing for them and offering a helping hand. So when it comes to deciding where they want to invest their energy and call in those favors, it can get tricky. Continue reading

December 3, 2009

As media gets more democratic, it gets more feminine

bing-maps
The new Bing Maps geotargets Twitter tweets.

Supernova roundup: Media, real-time services — and ‘the end of the Web era’

JD LasicaI spent Wednesday at the Supernova conference in San Francisco, which has morphed over the years from a gathering about mobile and telephony into one that addresses the larger themes sweeping through society: Social media. The real-time Web. Public policy in a connected society. New technologies that rewire our culture.

Given the enormously impressive attendee list, Supernova may now have the highest signal to noise ratio of any conference in the tech galaxy. I’ve written about Supernova in 2004, 2005 (here’s Caterina Fake and a Flickr set), 2006, 2007, and have spoken there twice — and, indeed, it was at Supernova 2004 that Marc Canter and I hatched the plan for Ourmedia‘s launch in March 2005 as the first video hosting and sharing site.

But this year’s Supernova may be the best one yet. It concludes this afternoon.

Please read on — you can skip the next six months of conferences, saving thousands in registration fees, just by reading this blog entry. Some Supernova highlights:

Is media getting more … feminine?

The “Is There a Media Business?” panel provided a lively give and take with the 75 or so participants in the session, and it focused less on the travails of the news business than on the larger forces churning through the media landscape: music and movies as well as news. I found it interesting that I had profiled two of the three participants, Jim Griffin and Cory Ondrejka, in my book Darknet. (You can read the chapter on Griffin at Pho, Cole Porter and Tarzan economics.)

The highlight for me came when Jim Griffin alluded to traditional media as quintessentially male in nature — pushing out product through blunt force and “the need to consummate a relationship without even getting your name” — while Lisa Stone and the panelists agreed that there may be a “feminization of media” underway, where the value comes from creating a relationship that never ends. Lisa called it the “coopetition” model of media, mutually cooperative and competitive.

I think there’s something to this: Social media is all about relationship building, about giving more than taking, and women still top men in that department.

After Lisa cited news publishers’ criticism of Google and the Huffington Post as “technological tapeworms” of the Internet — a few hours earlier Google announced it would restrict access to fee-based news sites — Cory quipped: “Google is handing a gun to mainstream media, ‘Here, go shoot yourself.’ Do you want your customers not to find [your articles]? … Making your content more obscure does not seem like the right approach.”

Griffin said more companies were in effect becoming media entities — like J&J, which purchased and is running BabyCenter.com for new and expectant parents (I used to run its editorial department).

It will take 3 years for Google, the music companies and Hollywood to come to an arrangement that pays stakeholders a share of revenue derived from ads on YouTube.

Midway through I made the point that the music companies and Hollywood studios deserve some credit for not cracking down on the literally millions of copyright violations that are appearing on YouTube every day. And I argued that the marketplace — we, the people — have indeed moved the goal posts over the past three years without the need for Congress to act.

I predict that it will take another three years for Google, the music companies and Hollywood to come to an arrangement that pays the various stakeholders a share of revenue derived from ads on YouTube, some of which will go to the musicians, some to the songwriters, some to the studios and so on. But rights are an enormously thorny bramble bush, and the lawyers and suits will spend years trying to figure out the new rules of the road in the digital age.

Let’s hope that Google will map the way for creative mashup monetization, just as Apple pioneered the way for music companies to enter the digital era after Napster. One hopes that the mashup artist gets a slice of the pie, too. Continue reading

August 13, 2009

Cali Lewis on what goes into a successful podcast

Cali Lewis of GeekBrief.tv from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

The host of GeekBrief.TV also offers 7 secrets to podcasting success

JD LasicaIf you travel in technology circles, chances are you’ve heard of Cali Lewis, the extraordinarily gifted, personaable and successful Web show pioneer who hosts and co-produces GeekBrief.TV. She’s about to top 50,000 followers on Twitter at @calilewis.

Geek Brief, launched on Dec. 23, 2005, now boasts more than 600 episodes (I’ve watched most of them), done on location or at Cali and her husband Neal Campbell’s studio in Dallas. I don’t know how they keep up the pace, given the show’s high production values. Over the years in my talks on new media, I’ve often held up Cali and Geek Brief as a spot-on example of how to “break” into new media — and of how the next generation of Web video shows will look: fast-paced, interesting, fun, personality-driven, passionate and polished.

In this interview, conducted at WordCamp SF shortly before her talk, Cali discusses the genesis of Geek Brief (after 5 months, “we were done with our day jobs and began doing the show full time” — living the dream), podcasting’s place in the mediasphere (“What podcasting offers is that anybody can do it. They don’t have to be told by ABC or NBC or any radio station that they have the talent to do this. The audience is picking and choosing who is successful.”), and how she chooses which tech news to feature (new technologies that excite her and her viewers).

Social media’s role

We spent most of the interview discussing social media and how to engage an audience. The most important rule of audience participation is “you participating back,” she said. Putting questions to the users is a good technique, through Twitter, blog comments and directly on the show itself. She’s on a campaign to coax people to communicate via Twitter rather than email (“You can have a great conversation in 140 characters.”) She’s also particularly adept at using live video streaming during some of her episodes, calling it “a great way to interact.”

Her advice to those just starting out: “Think about what you want, and then just go for it!” I often echo her advice to not get tripped up by the technology. GeekBrief.TV offers some training materials on its Podcasting Tips page.

The lighting on this 9-minute video was subpar because it was bright outside and my LP-Micro fill light wasn’t up to the task.

Watch or embed video on Vimeo
Watch video in H.264 QuickTime on Ourmedia.org
Download video from Archive.org

Continue reading

August 5, 2009

Final reflections on the Traveling Geeks trip

Craig & Karyn

JD LasicaIt has been one month since the Traveling Geeks kicked off our trip to London and Cambridge with a Tweetup at JuJu in Chelsea. (I was the chief organizer of trip.) From this distance and vantage point, here are a few random impressions:

• I think too much can be made of the differences between entrepreneurship in the UK and in the United States. While it’s true that Silicon Valley nurtures a spirit of innovation marked by the mantra “Fail often, but fail fast” — an axiom that permits experimentation without demanding an immediate return to investors — it’s even more true that the businessmen and entrepreneurs I met along the way have the same fire in the belly — a burning desire to build something of great value.

SeedCamp was a high point of the trip to many of us, and apart from the well-done, compact presentations, it was fascinating to watch tomorrow’s young business leaders mingle with each other and exchange ideas and contact information. Cross-pollination at its best. Spotify, Huddle, Skimlinks, Zemanta — these are names that may grow into notable consumer brands in the coming years, and Moo arguably already has. (Here’s my writeup; and here’s my video interview with Skimlinks founder Alicia Navarro.)

Continue reading