So needless to say I was less than satisfied with yesterday's BloggerCon conference. At one point i got pissed off enough that i decided to drive up to SF and play some ultimate to blow off steam. I came back later in the afternoon, but the same "conference rules" of censoring any vendor free speech got me all riled up again. Oh well, i'll get over it. Even if i don't agree with him, still i give kudos to Dave Winer for all his efforts in putting together the conference. But i do think it could be done better.
Then I got an email from Nelson Minar over at Google that helped put it all in perspective. He made me remember one of my guiding principles about dealing with life whenever i have an unpleasant experience. So here it is: if you're hitting .300, remember that you're doing great.
The translation: if you think whatever you're doing sucks, consider how many times you'd try it again in order to get a successful / happy result. Depending on the activity and the goal, you might find that a success rate of only 10-20% could be worthwhile for you. This mental exercise will often come up for me when i go to a conference or a user group meeting, and I find myself thinking "dammit, what a waste of time this is..." when i'm not enjoying either the speaker(s) or format.
But the important thing to remember is the 1 out of X times when you really enjoy the event, and how much *other* crap is offset by that one great experience. For me, i find my tolerance for pain or frustration is relatively limited in the short term (ie, i'll get up and walk out of a meeting or conference i'm not getting anything out of), but pretty darn patient in the long term (ie, i'll keep going to conferences and meetings that i know might be tedious, in exchange for that one event with the really terrific speaker or piece of info that changes your whole perspective).
I think this is a really important principle to remember for so many situations. Those singular, critical events we experience are worth so much compared to the rest of our average daily life, and their value should not be assessed lightly. The corollary of course, is that unhappy or tedious experiences need to be tempered by the likelihood of an extraordinary experience happening every so often, given similar conditions.
Perhaps I belabor the obvious here, but i think this is a key success trait (and sometimes flaw) of entrepreneurs... if you believe in something you feel is important, you should be willing to tolerate failure for an extended period of time in exchange for a low -- but non-zero -- probability of success. The colloquial way I like to say this is that I'm willing to bang my head against (or through) a wall for longer than almost anyone else I know. Of course in the extreme this philosophy can get you into trouble, but tempered a bit it can result in phenomenal successes.
So remember batter: hang in there. With persistence, perserverance, and practice... you'll get on base eventually :)
so this morning i got pissed off that Winer keeps trying to shut up anyone who has anything remotely to do with a vendor or company perspective, and walked out of the conference session.
i think it's pretty juvenile to assume that just because someone has a corporate perspective that they don't have anything valid to say. even more importantly, if we're talking about tools and stuff that are being developed primarily by companies, then it's relevant -- even necessary? -- for knowledgeable people from those companies to talk about what's going on with their development. of course they should LISTEN as well, but they shouldn't be precluded from talking.
Censorship sucks whether it's personal, corporate, or otherwise.
talk about blogging like it's some black art. Even the explanations for
basic stuff are long-winded and unnecessarily complex. We need to make
this a lot simpler.
Case in point: question about "What are trackbacks?" should take a few seconds to answer... as in "it's
a way for someone to make a comment on their blog and have it
automatically tracked on the original blog they're commenting about". Even that's probably too long, but it shouldn't take more than 5-10 seconds to explain this.
the UI for blogging tools should also be simple. This week TypePad just
updated their tools to add an easier WYSIWYG editor. A few months back
Blogger updated their UI to make it simpler (big icons, more
menu-driven, etc). These are good steps, but we really need to do a LOT
more to get to simplicity.
Another case in point: so I just decided to turn on [Blogger] comments, and i get this message:
nope. NOT good. this is not how you're going to make this service more accessible to the average human being.
session conversation is all over the board. Moderator needs to focus
the discussion around a smaller set of issues, and get to some
resolution rather than just ranting... even framing the problem would
be nice. Also, would be much more relevant to have TypePad and Blogger
folks here involved in the conversation so we are making sure they hear
what's going on, what their plans are for helping make things easier.
Disappointed this ended up being just a rant session, not much closure on what to do about it.
The problem is that much of America is still rooted in religious intolerance and ignorance, and it will take time (20-50 years? 2-3 more generations?) for this to change. And yet, I'm not here to blame America. But maybe i can explain America a little bit... and at the same time, explain what it means to be a Mountaineer, and also what it means to be a Citizen of the World.
So which of these two nations are we?
I grew up in West Virginia, and while I love my family and respect my home state's unique culture -- yes, I'm still a Mountaineer football fan, and I still sing Almost Heaven nostalgically -- a lot of folks there (and in the south) still fear and hate those that are different. Honestly, I don't believe they're all that different from most other people around the world... they just don't get much exposure to people who are [non-white / gay / non-religious / foreigners / etc]. And like many other people around the world, we tend to fear and hate that which we do not know.
Note that i'm not blaming all religions and all people who are religious. I'm sometimes guilty of making sweeping statements about religion being based in the past and being intolerant and bigoted, but at heart I depend a lot on the ideals of faith and spirituality. Curious as it may sound, I'm such a strong believer in Science that I can't be so arrogant as to claim God doesn't exist (though i may suggest you can't prove he does, either). But I do have a lot of faith in humanity, and I appreciate religions and groups that are open to everyone, such as the Bahai faith and Glide Church.
It will change, but it will take time. I used to think that day was right around the corner (and it may today for those of us here in Northern California and other urban / coastal areas), but now i realize it may take another generation or two to reach into middle-america. Perhaps even longer, since many immigrants also bring other religious short-sightedness with them as well.
But as more immigrants from other countries come to US universities in the heartland, and gradually interact with local people (and even inter-marry occasionally) there will come understanding. As more gays come out to their friends and neighbors, and adopt/have kids who go to school with other kids, they will gradually come to be accepted by their families and co-workers. Just don't expect it to happen by 2008, and maybe not even by 2018. However, I'm guessing by sometime inbetween 2024 and 2054, it will change.
In the meantime, I encourage all of you to spend time getting to know christian voters and learn more about The South, and take time to explain your view of the world to them, and spend as much time (or more) listening to theirs. Leaving the country in frustration or isolating yourself in big cities won't solve the problem.
My wife Saya is Japanese, and she and I are about to have our first baby next spring. We're also thinking about adopting down the road a bit, specifically a baby (or two) of non-caucasion background so we have more diversity in our own family. I'm also sponsoring my half-sister who lives in West Virginia to do a high-school exchange program abroad next year. And maybe I need to spend more time understanding what my relatives in the south think about gay rights, and then explain how a few of my friends and family are hurt by gay marriage bans.
Anyway, we all have a lot of listening and understanding to do. We can't just all blame it on Bush and conspiratorial republicans. We as a nation (and a world) have much to learn about ourselves, and a lot more room to grow spiritually and globally.
But we should not despair. Remember how long it's taken for the American Civil Rights Movement to come in the past 40-50 years? It didn't happen overnight. 60 years ago my grandfather and my wife's grandfather were trying to kill each other in World War II. Now we're having a child together. Time heals all wounds.
So please... be patient, don't be complacent, and be optimistic. In time, we will overcome.
Well, contrary to my earlier hope/prediction, doesn't look like the youth vote and huge turnout were enough to offset the similar turnout of religious and gay-intolerant voters. Unless Kerry pulls out a late upset in Ohio, it's gonna be another 4 years of W. Very depressing.
While i do not agree with democratic positions on all fronts, i think it's more important to promote the priniciples and ideals of equality, diversity, and inclusion over that of privilege and status quo. I may agree with republicans on issues of free trade and smaller government, however i disagree on issues such as the environment, restricting abortion, and expansionist foreign policy.
Furthermore i am a strong believer in the separation of church and state, and i see that being muddied by the republican party. In fact I find it curious that many of my friends who call themselves libertarian tend to align with republicans, when currently so many traditional libertarian goals and values have been discarded by this administration and the republican party. George Bush is certainly no libertarian.
I am hopeful that in the future our political process will provide more centrist options in both majority parties that can provide an acceptable candidate to a larger portion of the population. Candidates like Schwarzenegger -- something of a fluke becoming the republican governor in a democratically-controlled majority state -- are closest to the model I'd like to see. Perhaps if the constitution is modified, he could be a presidential candidate in 2008 or 2012. At the moment however, due to the current primary process most presidential candidates tend to come from the extremes of their parties.
In summary, I'm disappointed that a majority of our country still feels that George Bush and his positions represent leadership. To me his presidency represents incompetence, deception, and mismanagement. However, it does appear that at this point in our history I am in the minority.
I guess Jon Stewart will have another very busy four years...
last friday, continued meeting with Reuters Digital Vision program folks at Stanford about microfinance, microequity topics. we came up with basic outline for an interesting way to do "microventure" investing via a series of ~$1M investments in a local general partner, who in turn would invest in a combination of synergistic businesses and property / infrastructure assets. assuming the filter/selection process for the GP is done well (which is a *big* assumption), this would allow for a more scalable method for microfinance investing.
in contrast to traditional venture capital, the goal for these investments would be:
- smaller mature size of business, but lower risk / higher rate of success
(ie, 8 of 10 generate positive cashflow, rather than 1 out of 10 going public/getting acquired)
- lower growth rate target, but achievable profit targets - use property & infrastructure assets to set a floor for investment return, also to provide pseudo-liquidity
- pick businesses that work together as a group, sort of like a mini-keiretsu
- pick businesses that improve the overall value of the property assets
(significant increase in value of land should be a primary goal)
- cashflow return sometime after years 1-3; mature / steady-state cashflow around years 5-10
however, there are several similarities to the venture capital model:
- general partner responsible for investing in businesses directly
- general partner draws salary from % of assets under mgmt (~2-5%? tbd)
- general partner has a stake in both raising funds (10%) and eventual profit (20% of upside)
UPDATE: in hindsight, i believe the key innovation we may have come up with here is using real estate investment as a synthetic exit / form of liquidity for small business equity. by combining 1) small business equity investments with 2) real estate investments in cheap property, the subsequent economic activity should increase the value of the land, and if sold at a later point could provide a modest form of liquidity. note that a requirement would then be that for the country of interest, national property rights should be well-established & ideally local mortgage markets should exist to facilitate capital.
Okay, i'm gonna go out on a [slight] limb here and predict that Kerry will win.
My intuition is younger (18-29) voters with cellphones may not have been sampled accurately in pre-vote polling, and lean more towards Kerry than Bush. A recent Zogby poll of young Rock-the-Vote participants via SMS would seem to confirm this, citing Kerry over Bush with a 55% to 40% lead among those voters.
Both campaigns have been working hard to register new voters and get out their base, and a tight race should encourage more people to vote. If the youth vote shows up in larger numbers than in the past, very possible they could swing the election towards Kerry by more than polls to date have been indicating. However, similar effect could also happen on the Bush side mobilizing through churches to get more evangelical and religious right members out voting for the first time.
Overall, recent polls seem to be breaking Kerry's way, with slight leads over Bush in the big battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida -- although Florida again appears so close that any election day shenanigans could once again provide a field day for lawsuits and legislators.