So i've been a bit remiss in posting the rest of my Foo photos, and in blogging my thoughts from such a gloriously fun & educational weekend. i'll try and get all the Flickr pix up soon (took over 200, still sorting them out), but in the meantime here are a few brief vignettes from my wondrous journey down the rabbit hole known as FOO camp 2006...
so i drove up to Foo with James Levine (my former colleague & partner in crime from SimplyHired) and Paul Rademacher, now a Googler and the Artist Formerly Known as the Mashup DJ of HousingMaps. James & Paul are both alpha geeks i can't hold a candle to, so i felt privileged to shoot the shit with them on the roadtrip up to Sebastopol. quick aside: i met Paul a year ago, but just a few months back while sharing a shabu shabu lunch we discovered we both grew up in West Virginia. imagine, yet another hillbilly entrepreneur here in Silicon Valley... small world.
anyway, Paul & I had recently exchanged emails on what kind of talk we'd like to give at Foo (participants are encouraged to give presentations on their areas of interest / expertise, except that paul has lots of the latter & i only have lots of the former). as usual, we were down to the wire and hadn't quite nailed down our topic. we tossed around a few ideas about creating personalized agents and simplifying / automating search engines, but realized we better come up with something quick... by nightfall we'd have to choose a name for our talk on the Foo UnConferenceBoard. maybe our brains got fried from traffic on 101, but in the end we came up with something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT called HalfBaked.com: Entrepreneurial Improv Theatre.
Here's the concept behind HalfBaked:
Act 1: start by having people yell out ~50 random words.
Act 2: split into 5 teams, each chooses 2 words + ".com"
Act 3: each team has ~10 min to prep their BlankBlank.com biz plan
Act 4: each team does a 5 minute pitch on their product to a VC
Act 5: vote on who did the best job, then celebrate the insanity :)
Our winners (pictured above) were the imagineers of a business called BottlecapPorn.com, led by Rael Dornfest, Christine Herron, Greg Sadetsky, and a few other creative friends. (and yes, they really did pull together that website DURING the session, in < 15 minutes... impressive extra credit!)
We were also fortunate to reel in David Hornik & Paul Graham as judges, who didn't quite realize what was going on until we had them cornered. I know David pretty well and he's a gamer, but i must say a special thanks to Paul, who gave a talk earlier in the day on his experiences with Y Combinator that helped inspire our HalfBaked craziness. David is one of my favorite and shortest VCs, and Paul is one of the most eloquent, stimulating entrepreneurs & thinkers around (if you haven't read Hackers & Painters, i encourage you to check it out).
Thanks to James for all the photos above... he captured several exquisitemoments while i was emceeing the whole affair. And many thanks to all the fun folks who came out for our session: Rael, Christine, Chris DiBona, HB, Avi Bryant, many others... we had a great time!
i'll post more stuff soon on the rest of Foo, Werewolf, more foo pix, and a few of the amazing sessions i got to attend. thanks Tim! what a weekend :)
(update: added link to Greg Sadetsky, CTO of BottlecapPorn... apologies Greg!)
However, i think people assume both too much & too little about the possibilities of online content.
Let me explain...
Most folks who have some familiarity with today's offline publishing businesses assume those companies are the living dead -- large but ailing, slowly crumbling behemoths with millions of readers, gradually turning into less-and-less millions. These dinosaurs built their revenue streams on classifieds and other advertisements, and business was very, very good for many years.
Then in the late 90's, a number of things began shifting. Companies like eBay, Craigslist, Monster, and others started turning the classified business on its ear. They could do the same thing online that newspapers & magazines did offline, except their overhead was MUCH lower... and their audience wasn't limited by geography or page count. These new Internet 1.0 businesses grabbed some revenue from traditional news media, but since internet access wasn't ubiquitous in every household (yet), the old guard didn't notice much, and after the first dot-com bust they breathed a sigh of relief and continued to pimp overpriced want ads to barely-literate luddites.
But in the early 2000's, Overture (nee Goto.com) and later Google figured out how to make money by selling small text ads displayed alongside search results (and with AdSense, contextually-matched to non-search content users browse through). Although this hardly seemed an earth-shattering innovation to many in the publishing business, it was notable for one very simple reason...
Suddenly, a very hard-to-measure CPM-based advertising world became dramatically threatened by a relatively-easy-to-measure CPC-based advertising world. Why pay just for eyeballs (impressions), when you could pay for qualified leads (clicks)? Why pay for mass marketing, when you only had to pay for the niche verticals that drove the highest customer value? Advertising became measurable, and Marketing became [more of] a science. And once CPA-costed ads arrive, we'll see even more defection.
Now there are more people than ever online, more people with Tivo, more people reading blogs & newsfeeds (tho they might not know it), and less & less people participating in plain old mass media / offline media. It might not die tomorrow, or next year, but the new order has arrived. And that doesn't mean that Rupert won't still find a way to make bazillions of dollars feeding you pablum, but now you'll have a bazillion flavors of pablum, in every shape & size.
Q: So where does this leave the Future of Publishing, aka Publishing 2.0?
A: Still not here yet.
The real meaning of Publishing Where No Man Has Gone Before is not, as many assume, the online equivalent of the Hearst Corporation. The strategy of aggregating related content to drive up page views & viewership while driving down ad placement costs certainly makes sense, and although not terribly revolutionary, does work.
However, the true promise of the Web isn't just to move traditional classified models into the online world... it's to change the very nature of media distribution & advertising itself. So wtf does that mean, dave? well, i'm glad you asked.... stay tuned for Publishing 2.0 part II, coming up soon.