August 27, 2004

Tom Peters on Calendars

Tom Peters, who just turned 60 this year and wants you to know it, has a "60 TIBs (Things I Believe)" document (PDF) up at the new and growing ChangeThis site, and while many of the 60 points are useful or sensible (in a Swimming With Sharks or Selling the Dream business wisdom kind of way), one in particular jumped out at me: his take on calendars. Here's the 49th Thing he Believes:

Your calendar knows all. (You = Your calendar.) Physiologically, we are indeed what we eat. Professionally, we are our calendar. Fact is, there is only one surefire way for the boss to underscore her/his commitment to quality or empowerment or innovation or the Web or whatever: Spend (gobs of) Time on “It.” Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Tom, less famously, says, “You are your calendar.” Your calendar reveals all. (All = All.) Translation, if needed: Your calendar reveals like no other tool (such as soaring rhetoric) what you actually care about. The premier (only true!) indicator of caring is...Visibly Spending the Time:
  • You = Your Calendar.

  • Your True Priorities = Time Visibly Spent.

  • I care = It's on the Calendar. Big Time.

  • I don't care/it's not a priority = It ain't repeatedly/relentlessly on the Calendar.

Axiom No. 1: Calendars Never Lie!

All non-bosses are would-be Kremlinologists, as we used to call them; or intense Examiners of Tea Leaves. There's no more important survival question for an underling than “What's the Boss really thinking about?” And the answer is revealed...with crystal clarity...in that boss's...Calendar. If she or he is spending (lotsa) time on quality...THEN QUALITY MATTERS. If not...the converse is the case.

There's a crucial variation on this theme. I once watched a highly energetic chief ripped asunder by a senior member of his board. “Richard,” the determined board member almost shouted, “you are smart, energetic, creative to a fault, perhaps even a genius. But much of your 'genius' is dissipated because you apply it to ten different things at a time, albeit with great skill.

“Let me tell you what you need,” he concluded. “A 'to don't' list.”

I don't know about “Richard,” but for me that was a profound moment. Fact No. 1: We all have 50 genuine priorities. Fact No. 2: If we get even two Big Things Done in a six-year tenure on the current job, we will have had a...Great Ride. Axiom No. 1: Therefore, what we choose not to do (the sole subject of that “To Don't” list) is at least as important, or more important, as what we choose to do.

And, finally, effective “To Don't-ing” is far, far more difficult than effective “To Do-ing.”

One thing that struck me as odd in Peters' list: on TIB #25, he has this to say: "To say the schools are not responding, let alone leading, the global economic transition process is a grotesque understatement." Does that sentence parse?

Posted by brian at 07:30 PM | Comments (5)

August 26, 2004

Traveling

A big hello to all the WilWheaton.net folks who've descended upon this humble little blog. I'm in the Bay Area in meetings for my startup.. no time to blog anything new right now. And so, instead of a blog, here's a recent cellphoto (cellphone photo) of a squirrel and a log!

Posted by brian at 08:18 AM | Comments (4)

August 24, 2004

El Camino Del Teatro

Noticed a bustle of activity in a nearby neighborhood this morning. Workmen with walkie talkies everywhere, out on several streets, directing large trucks this way and that. A long line of campers, more trucks, black vans, and yet more trucks.

Turns out they're filming See Arnold Run, an A&E Made-for-TV movie about the life and times of . . . you guessed it . . . Arnold Schwartzenegger. Here's a very short blurb from the San Diego Union-Tribune about it.

This "Star Waggon" above was the biggest, and seemed to be for the star. The little sign says "J.P. AS 'Arnold'".

This motley bunch looked like a line of hobos waiting for handouts. As I drove by they gave me looks of, whaddayawant buddy, or, get lost. I'm pretty sure it was the cast, in line checking out their costumes. They did not look very happy. And their costumes were right out of Salvation Army . . .

I thought it appropriate that all this filming activity is going on on a little windy street in La Jolla called El Camino Del Teatro, "the way of the theatre".

Posted by brian at 09:20 AM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2004

SocialText, Technorati Investment News

I was speaking with Ross on the phone this morning and he said he could only talk briefly because he only had 7 minutes before a blog entry he was writing had to go live on his site. The news? Pierre Omidyar and others had just closed the "A" Round of investment on SocialText.

Congratulations, Ross & Co! That's great news.

UPDATE: And now I see Technorati's VC funding is beign discussed publicly here at Om Malik's blog. $12m valuation. DFJ led the round.

Posted by brian at 11:53 AM

Real People, Stitched-Together Quotes

The MoveOn people have been collaborating with filmmaker Errol Morris on a series of televised interviews with people who voted for Bush in the 2000 election, but who plan to vote for Kerry in 2004. In other words, they're "switching", just like the Apple commercials (that Morris also filmed).

Here's a link to the page with all the MoveOn "Real People" ads.

I've got a problem with these ads. It has nothing to do with the politics. It has to do with how they've been edited.

First, let me step back and do a mini-review of Morris' THE FOG OF WAR documentary about Robert McNamara. Here was my reaction back when I saw that film in January 2004:

The most jarring thing about the movie was not the subject matter, but the editing. How can the audience trust what McNamara said? It got [snip] so bad [snip] at some points I [snip] wasn't sure [snip] what [snip] McNamara [snip] really [snip] said. Who knows [snip] what the original [snip] context was? Who knows [snip] what McNamara said [snip] in- [snip] -between snips? [snip] I would rather sit through the 200 hours or whatever it was of raw footage and make up my own mind than leave it to Morris to tell me what McNamara said. The editing destroys, in my mind, a good deal of the journalistic credibility of the documentary. We see McNamara's warts close-up, we see the hairs in his nose close up, but no, we can't hear complete quotes?

And so here we are, on the virge of the Republican convention, and these "Real People" ads are going to start running on television. And they suffer from precisely the same kind of editing that marred THE FOG OF WAR.

Go watch the ads. Listen carefully. Watch carefully. The statements have been stitched together from the full footage to create 30-second ads, but, it seems to me, the whole message is diluted by the stitching together of phrases and partial sentences. Who knows what they really said? If they couldn't say it in 30 seconds, do another take, and get 'em to summarize.

Don't get me wrong: I don't mind (in fact I like) the cuts between thoughts, where suddenly the camera has pulled back, or the talking head is on the right side of the screen instead of the left. All that is effective in keeping the viewer's attention. My beef is with the editing right in the middle of a spoken sentence --- the splicing of multiple sentences into one. Commercial advertisers have been doing this for years and years when selling soap, beer, tires, cars, and whatnot. But this is supposed to be different. Isn't it?

Morris' splicing technique really leaves me cold, and makes me lose trust in what these people say, because I don't know what they really said. Which is a real shame.

Posted by brian at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

August 21, 2004

Wil Wheaton's Big San Diego Bookstore Bash

Went to my third book-signing/author's reading event at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego today. (The first author event (Michael Gruber's Tropic of Night) I blogged here and the next one (Bruce Sterling's The Zenith Angle) I blogged here.)

Today it was former actor Wil Wheaton (just kidding!). Actor / writer / blogger / self-described geek, Wil Wheaton. He's got a new book out, published by O'Reilly and Associates of all things, called Just a Geek.

Copies of the book in the store window (complete with glare and reflections of the parking lot.. oops)

Let's put it this way. Wil was late for his own show. As in very late.

About 25 people were seated in the folding chairs when I got there ten minutes before the 1:30 event.

1:25pm One of the store clerks announced that Wil had just called from his cell phone, and was stuck in traffic on I-5. "He says he's five miles north of Oceanside, moving along at a blistering 35 mph."

It was going to be a long wait. (For those outside of San Diego: "five miles north of I-5" on a Saturday in summertime in San Diego means a huge amount of traffic.) Nothing else to do but start taking notes.

It was a typical Mysterious Galaxy crowd -- average age probably in the 40s or higher. One guy was holding several books high in one hand as he walked around the store looking at more books. Receding hairline, but long ponytail as if in defiance. His black t-shirt was emblazoned with bright orange words on front: BASTARD OPERATOR FROM HELL. I'm guessing he's in I.T.

"Want to start a pile?" one of the store clerks , trying to be helpful, asks from behind the counter. "Normally I do, " says Bastard, "One more book and I'll start that pile." He continues roaming through the store. The store must love customers like him.

"One of the advantages of a thirty odd six," a voice uttered behind me, "is if you get close to the target that's all you need, you don't need to aim, there's nothing left!" Two men were talking about guns.

"Big Sculpture Is On Its Way to LA," a headline announced in the newspaper the person seated in front of me was reading. The chairs were so close together you couldn't help see what others were reading. This guy kept underlining words and phrases in the article. Each time he made a new underline, he would take his left hand and scratch his head momentarily. Then he would underline another word or phrase. Then he would scratch his head. Underline. Scratch. Underline. Scratch.

I wished Wil Wheaton would get here so I could get home and back to work.

"You don't buy food, you don't buy shelter, you buy books!" someone behind me said, amid laughter. Another ideal bookstore customer.

"I put the Olympics on and turn the sound down all the way, then I put music on." It was the thirty-odd-six guy. "That's how I listen to all sports shows."

The Bastard Operator from Hell bought a pile of books, enough to fill a large shopping bag. Then he walked towards the seated crowd, noted that there were no seats left, and wandered away again.

2:00pm. Thirty minutes after the event was supposed to begin, there were about 45 people in the store.

"He's in Encinitas!" a store clerk announced. Wil had phoned in again. "We're assuming another 25 minutes." She suggested we all stand up, stretch, and walk around the store (i.e., BUY BOOKS, PEOPLE!).

"People say Unix isn't user-friendly," someone uttered from the middle of the seated crowd. "Thing is, it is friendly. It's just particular who it's friends with."

2:21pm. "Everybody rise up and stretch!" A store clerk waved her arms to signal "get up." She then wanted everyone to start singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

The audience wasn't interested. (I was thinking, let's sing, "We Gotta Get Out of This Place, if it's The Last Thing We Ever Do...")

2:25pm. A red blur. Wil Wheaton is in da house. He is running. And he has to go to the bathroom REALLY BAD. So PLEASE. GET OUT OF THE WAY. He hugs one of the store clerk ladies, then gives her a look like, "I can't talk -- I gotta GO!" and he dashes into the back of the store.

"It's not flushing right, be careful!" some woman shouts out.

A minute later, he comes back out. Marches up to the podium. Showtime!

Wil Wheaton is small. I mean, smaller than I imagined he would be. I guess this is a normal reaction to seeing people in person who you've only seen prior on TV. He kind of looks like Ensign Crusher. Still.

"Hi," he says. "I'm a Wil Wheaton and I'm a mess."

Someone in the front row suggested it was time for twelve Guinesses.

"Twelve Guinesses, and the DESTRUCTION OF SEVEN THOUSAND CARS!" he shouted.

He thanked us all for waiting for him. "I wouldn't wait an hour for me!" The audience laughed. He was determined to give the patient audience a performance they would be glad they waited for. "I'M SOOOO NOT GONNA SUCK!" he announced.

"I wish I could blame it on that I was out drinking with hookers last night," he said. Nothing that glamorous. He explained that normally he comes to San Diego on the train. This time he and his wife decided, hey, a train takes 3 hours, and the car takes only two. Let's do the car! Oops. Bad decision. He explained how his wife had to hear "GOD DAMN IT!" over and over again the whole drive down.

[Idea: it is 2004. For crying out loud. Why can't you sign on somewhere, or call up somewhere, and say, I need to get to San Diego. I'm in LA. What's the best way of getting there, right now? And the service, which updates in real time, tells you, "really bad backup on I-5. Estimated drive time: 4 hours. Take the train." Cmon, why don't we have such a service?]

"I'd like to read to you," he says. He's holding a copy of Just a Geek -- a special copy. He's keeping track of the places he visits on this book tour, and inscribing his itinerary in the front of the book. "Chapter One, Page Three," he announces. And then he starts reading.

Of all the authors I've come across in the book-author events I've been going to in the past few years, Wil Wheaton is by far the best reader of his own material. He's really good. Five years of acting school have paid off. He's passionate. He's a ham. He's loud, he's funny, he knows his stuff: he could read the material blindfolded. And he has a quick comedian's wit, interjecting funny behind-the-scenes commentary here and there. Some quotes:

  • "I'm very jealous of the actors on Enterprise -- their uniforms are very comfortable"

  • "This was the first time I got to wear pointy sideburns. It was really cool!"

  • A lament about Generation X: "We spend so much time looking back at the closed doors behind us, we miss out on the open doors ahead."

  • "I'm a degenerate gambler and poker player."

  • On the subject of acting, and his constantly trying out for auditions, only to be turned away, typecast as Ensign Crusher: "I'm so intimidated by the Globe Theatre. I'm now 32, almost old enough to do Death of a Salesman!"

He spent most of his time reading directly from his book, and he sold me on getting a copy (although I didn't buy one today... no time to read it right now). I didn't take notes as he read from the book --- he was that good, and it's all in there.

At one point one of the store clerks handed him a supersized soda from the McDonalds next door. Unlike with Bruce Sterling (who received the same size soda when he appeared here at Mysterious Galaxy), Wil Wheaton drank a huge gulp of the drink as if he'd just come in from forty days and forty nights in the desert.

I don't know what it is about the clerks at the Mysterious Galaxy store. Here are the four of them behind the counter, which is situated directly behind the podium where authors speak. In other words, the audience is facing not only the author, but the storekeepers behind the counter.

As I said, this is my third author event at Mysterious Galaxy. All three times, I've noticed that the people behind the counter just sit there, looking miserable. They never laugh when the author makes a joke. I never saw them smile. They just sit there, waiting, looking as if they can't wait to shut the store down for the day and go home.

During the brief question-and-answer session, someone asked him about his first book, Dancing Barefoot. Interestingly, he said he self-published it, and did the fulfillment out of his home, which he jokingly termed a "Dickensian workhouse." "Best reason to have kids: cheap labor! My lawn has never looked so good!"

I asked him, "How did you convince O'Reilly and Associates to publish your book? I mean, they're mainly known as being a technical and programmer's reference manual publishing company."

He recounted an interesting story of how he was giving a talk about Dancing Barefoot at Powells, the gigantic bookstore in Portland, Oregon, and during the book-signing afterwards, who shows up to have his book signed but The Man Himself.

"Hi, I'm Tim O'Reilly," Wil recalled Tim saying, adding, "I was.... AAAAAAAAAAGGGH!" A "we're not worthy" moment for Mr. Wheaton, apparently.

Tim "demanded that I let him buy" a copy of the book, Wil said. He then heard from an editor. Tim had loved it --- he was "blown away" by the book, really impressed with the crowd that turned out to see him speak at Powells, and told him he'd publish anything he'd like to write. Originally, the idea was a how-to book on web design. The result is an autobiography, Just a Geek.

Someone then asked him about the odd classification code on the back cover of Just a Geek: "Science Fiction / Biography". Wheaton confessed that was a subject of much debate with his publisher. The reasoning is something like this: the trekkies would expect a Wil Wheaton book to be in sci-fi, even if the Wil Wheaton book has to do with economics or the lastest research on endoplasmic reticulums. He wanted the book in biography. In the end he had to settle on what may be a first: "Science Fiction / Biography." "They say that Biography is where books go to die," he quipped. But he prefers his book there. He confessed he's gone into Barnes & Nobles and moved copies of his book over to Biography...

One final shot: as Wheaton finished his talk, the store cleared everyone out --- made everybody leave! --- so they could rearrange the store for a book-signing. Everyone filed out and stood in line, all of them having numbered tickets determining the order in which their books would be signed. And yes, if you look at the photo above, at the far left at the front of the line, just walking into the store, is none other than the Bastard Operator from Hell.

I didn't buy a book, didn't have a ticket, so I didn't stick around in line. I plan to get the book later. And I plan to read WilWheaton.net more regularly.

Wil's got a big screen role ahead of him. Just a matter of time. Until then, he's just a geek...

Posted by brian at 07:05 PM | Comments (28)

August 20, 2004

The Reason For It All

In the early days of MP3.com when we moved to the fancy new offices in the new building, the president of the company, who seemed to relish the role of being in charge of decorating the place, began talking about what to do with the walls.

I suggested what I thought was the obvious answer: cover the walls, floor to ceiling, with the CD album covers and personal photographs of our hundreds of thousands of independent artists who were our loyal customers, so that all day long, every day of the year, everyone who worked there, and everyone who visited there, would be constantly reminded of what our company was all about.

The CEO and the president didn't go for my floor-to-ceiling proposal, but along a few feet of wall on the second floor of the building they did line some of the artists' CDs. (Later, the president of the company ok'd the trashing of the entire first floor corridor with floor-to-ceiling spray-paint graffiti on the walls. Serious gangsta-style graffiti, as if the place had been broken into overnight and we'd just left it that way. I dunno. Never could figure out what message the graffiti was supposed to convey, but it wasn't positive that's for sure, and it was a real shock for first-time visitors.)

I was reminded of the MP3 story because tonight I noticed in the Meetup Watch blog, run by Meetup itself, a 7/29/2004 blog posting about a photo on the wall of the offices they recently moved into:


(Click on the image to see it full-size at Meetup's site)

Meetup is proud of what they've accomplished, proud of their customers -- people like you and me. Chihuahua owners. Kerry supporters. Perl mongers. Knitting enthusiasts. Wine lovers. Film buffs. Over a million people with thousands of interests. I've seen Meetup's CEO walk up to folks to explain what his company does: he pulls out his wallet, and there in the wallet are little snapshots of... meetup people. Including the famous chihuahua owners, now blown up larger than life along the wall of the offices. Meetup gets it.

I was also thinking today about how early in 1999, when MP3 was still very small, the president of the company got us all together for a pep talk, and asked us to think about where the company might be in five years, and where each of us would be five years from now. We looked around the table to everyone seated and wondered: who would still be here five years later? Some, he said, would be long gone. He wasn't even sure if he'd still be there.

Here it is mid-2004, five years later, and nobody's there. Company is long gone. A few people made fortunes, most made resumes and moved on. The hundreds of thousands of artists? Some left, some hung on and moved to GarageBand. The conference table we all sat at, that hopeful day in early 1999? Prolly got auctioned off with the rest of the expensive LA-designer-created decorations and custom furniture the company splurged on over the ensuing years.

Five years from now, will Meetup still be around? If the photo above is any indicator, I bet it will.

Posted by brian at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)

A Google Insider Blog

Some interesting insights into the engineering mind at Google, from Douwe Osinga, an employee there who's been blogging his observations of Google company culture.

Be sure to visit the Projects page for some interesting little projects he's working on or has worked on. I love the Google Top 1000.

(Um, maybe I'm wrong, but doesn't it seem like he was happily blogging away about Google in July and early August, before the IPO, during the so-called "quiet" period....?)

Posted by brian at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2004

DokuWiki

A quick plug for a great little Wiki engine called DokuWiki by Andreas Gohr.

I've looked at everything. There are ten gazillion wiki engines out there. Here's an exhaustive list (i.e., try installing and evaluating a mere fraction of the wiki engines listed on this page, and you too will be exhausted!).

Why I like DokuWiki:

  • It works.
  • It installed quickly.
  • It has a nice set of features.
  • It's free.
  • It has a GPL license.
  • It has a nice look and feel, it doesn't look like 1994 HTML.
  • It's all PHP code.
  • It has RSS and Atom feeds built in!
  • It does not require a database back end, and the flat-file architecture is fast and responsive. (Why bother with a stinkin' database if you don't need it?)
  • It works.
I'm now using it for some intranet stuff at my company and it seems to be working out nicely.

Need a wiki engine? brianstorms sez... check out DokuWiki...

Posted by brian at 07:51 PM | Comments (0)

August 17, 2004

Sea-risk-it

Lauren Hillenbrand's follow-up to the wildly successful narrative nonfiction book Seabiscuit has been announced... here's the "Publishers Lunch" posting:

Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand's book about Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete and Army Air Force bombardier who, in 1943, crashed into the North Pacific Ocean and survived 47 days at sea in a small raft, and then endured two years of imprisonment in a Japanese prisoner of war camp before being freed at the end of World War II, again to Jonathan Karp at Random House, by Tina Bennett at Janklow & Nesbit.

Wanna bet the film rights are already a done deal? Sounds like something Spielberg would option.

Here's one summary of the life story of Lou Zamperini. Here's another account, focusing on how after his ordeal he got religion.

Finally, a quote from a February 2004 article:

At age 87, Zamperini walks two miles a day in his Hollywood Hills neighborhood, flies planes and skis. He has carried the Olympic torch four times and has written a book, "Devil at My Heels."

Posted by brian at 10:37 AM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2004

Phish Done

Never saw the Grateful Dead in concert. That's a regret. Never saw Phish in concert, and now they've disbanded after playing their farewell marathon concert in northern Vermont. Too bad, missed them too.

Here's the New York Times coverage of the final concert this past weekend. I assume there will be (or already is?) a multi-disc CD or DVD of the whole event.

I love how the "ADVERTISER LINKS" on that NYT page include: "Phish Tickets $25 off: Great selection & prices-All cities Order ticketsd today save $25" and "Discounted Phish Tickets: We have a huge selection of Phish Tickets for all venues order online." I bet they do.

Posted by brian at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

August 15, 2004

The Buy of the Guy

Guy Kawasaki's new Art of the Start book is a lot cheaper than the conference of the same name was, and maybe more valuable.

It bugs me that Kawasaki's never started his own company from scratch, paid his employees out of his personal savings account, gone without a paycheck for several years, designed and built a product that worked, designed and built a product that didn't, found and thrived in a market that loved the company, never found a market that cared for his company. I mean, has he? (Garage doesn't count.) His most honest book title: Selling the Dream. That's what he does in a nutshell. He believes the dream, and he makes you believe it too, even if he hasn't actually lived it. (I mean, has he? And what has Garage funded to date that's been a wild success?)

But, all that said, I buy every book he writes. When Rules for Revolutionaries came out, I bought a dozen or so copies and gave them out to a bunch of folks at MP3.com where I worked at the time (I don't know if anyone ever read their copy, but at the time giving them out seemed like the right thing to do.) And when he comes to town, I make sure to be there to hear him speak. He always delivers.

The new ClueTrain-like ChangeThis site is offering an interesting and useful summary of Guy's new book. It's worth a read.

By the way, here's Guy's promotional video from his speaker's bureau (warning: 53MB quicktime movie).

Posted by brian at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2004

The Battle of the Bumps

And now for something completely different.

There's a controversy that's been boiling for months in the neighborhoods of La Jolla, over five speed bumps installed along a quarter mile stretch of La Jolla Rancho Road. Here are two recent mentions in the local La Jolla Light newspaper: a 7/29/2004 story and two letters to the editor printed 8/5/2004 .

The owners of the multimillion-dollar mansions on either side of the road managed to get the City of San Diego to rush through a speed bump approval, much to the surprise of the surrounding community. What prompted the call for bumps was quite reasonable: too many drivers were speeding well over the posted 25 mph limit. I used to walk my dog on this stretch of road all the time, and several times I had to dive for cover and yank the dog into the bushes to get out of the way of some nut whooshing by at over 50mph.

Here's the now-infamous stretch of road:


According to the La Jolla Light, this is a "narrow, winding road". They got the narrow part right, but it's as straight as an arrow. You'd think the editor of the local newspaper would have caught a mistake like that.


On the morning of Thursday August 12th, passersby saw this mess at the 1775 address of La Jolla Rancho. Someone papered the entire frontage of the yard.


A wide-angle collage of two photos showing another view of the papered 1775 house.


If I had to guess, I'd say this was the owner of 1775. He was taking numerous pictures of the mess all along the property. Interestingly, when I drove by here a few hours later, the mess had been completely, totally cleaned up and you'd never know that anything had ever happened.


This 1775 house was already notable before someone came along and papered it. First, there's the dress hanging from the tree.

Yes, that's what I said, a dress hanging from a tree right over the front yard. I first noticed the dress many months ago. I'm pretty sure the sign hanging from the same branch says THIS IS A SCARECROW. Um, ok. I've never seen crows on this road. I guess the sign works.

The other thing that's notable about 1775 is the red barriers on either side of the speed bump:


This is the part that pushes me over the edge and into the camp of the 800 people who signed the petition to have these bumps removed. The "safety reflectors", which I'll get to in a moment, are one thing, but these red-painted concrete barriers are the most extraordinary thing I've ever seen along a neighborhood street in terms of "wait a minute, that can't be legal." Think about it: how is this a safe thing for law-abiding drivers, bicyclists, or pedestrians (including folks like me walking my dog, and mothers pushing their baby carriages)? How can it be legal to install these devices which have one purpose and one purpose only: to cause as much damage to a vehicle as possible, and possibly cause injury to pedestrians, bicyclists, or other motorists.

Note how in the photo above, the "safety reflector" pole has been knocked down, no doubt run over by a truck or something. What's standing is another pole that I'm guessing the owner of 1775 put in. Just you watch: within a few days that'll be down as well.

The "safety reflectors" are a problem all along Rancho now. Check 'em out:

This is a narrow street, which when two vehicles in opposite directions approach each other, leaves very little room for pedestrians to maneuver out of the way. Problem is, there are parked vehicles -- often service trucks, gardeners' pickups, etc --- parked along the sides of the road. Often right near these steel poles. And when that happens, and you encounter an oncoming vehicle, it's sometimes hard to get out of the way, because if you're not careful, you'll drive right into one of these steel things, since they're sticking right out in the road.

What nincompoop put these things in? And how can they realistically be called safety reflectors? There's nothing safe about them. Many of them have been knocked down or pretty beat up. They're replaced regularly. No doubt at taxpayer expense. Why didn't they just run the bumps all the way to the edge of the shoulder? I mean, it doesn't take a PhD to understand that these things were placed where they were placed to prevent people from driving around the bumps. So put the bumps all the way out to the very edge of the shoulder. If the bumps by law have to stay, I think they actually should be widened to the very edge, and these reflector thingies removed. Put red flags up, supported by thin plastic poles if need be. But steel poles designed to damage vehicles and possibly injure pedestrians is a disaster . . . that's already happening.

One final thing: for many months along Rancho a ton of these political signs appeared, urging people to re-elect Scott Peters to the San Diego City Council during the CA primary held back in the winter. (Here's a recent expose on Peters that ran in the San Diego City Beat. And here's another expose about Peters from the San Diego Reader.) I love his slogan: Getting Results for Us. Who is "Us"? I guess the homeowners along this stretch of road: they apparently appealed to Peters who apparently was the one who got these bumps put in, bypassing the normal notification processes that involve getting the attention and approval of the whole neighborhood, not just this block. I doubt it's coincidental that these Peters signs popped up like mushrooms all along this road just around when the bumps were originally installed.

Posted by brian at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2004

O-SPAN: A C-SPAN for the Olympics

I wish there were an O-SPAN cable channel (or even O-SPAN I, O-SPAN II, etc) modeled after C-SPAN.

Imagine: C-SPAN style coverage of the Olympics. No fluff pieces, no heart-rending human-interest stories, no mindless chatter, no cutting from one event to another just because no American is the potential winner, no commentary, none of the ugly commercialism that American television has become so focused on. Just the games. Let the games be the games, and the athletes be the athletes, and may the best competitors win.

After the 2000 Olympics coverage, I simply don't trust NBC to do a good job with the games. I'm hoping I can catch some of the games on Telemundo and other international cable channels.

Posted by brian at 10:14 AM | Comments (2)

eBay and craigslist

Huge, huge news. Here's Craig's posting about the news.

Posted by brian at 06:46 AM | Comments (1)

August 12, 2004

The Brazil Effect

The rise of the Brazilian internet community has been widely discussed lately, particularly because of how it's impacted the Orkut and Fotolog communities.

There's a Reuters story from last month about the issue.

I'm fascinated with this phenomenon. I'm glad it's happening, and I suspect it will be like this forever. Brazil this year, who's next year? Americans are already just another minority of the world's total internet user population. According to this site, native English-language speakers using the Internet number 287 million, whereas non-English speakers number 516 million.

But think about this for a sec: you don't see any articles about Americans descending in droves onto Brazilian websites, taking over their online communities. Not many Americans know Portuguese. Funny how people in other countries learn multiple languages, and are able to proficiently use an English-only website such as Orkut or Fotolog. (Why is it, in America, politicians and pundits portray language proficiency as a negative, as unpatriotic? I remember in college, you could take Fortran and it would qualify as your second-lanaguage requirement. What a joke. Fluency in multiple human languages is a great and valuable skill. Perhaps America will finally discover that as the century wears on.)

For my own startup, I'm thinking seriously about the Brazil phenomenon and what it means for boosting the priority of internationalization and localization (or "I18N/L10N" in Netscape-speak). You can't count on everyone being able to read English. Can a web company today afford to turn away potentially thousands or millions of customers simply because the site is limited to English? Used to be, I18N and L10N were version 2.0 / version 3.0 features... now web startups need to seriously consider making them 1.x features, if they want to stay competitive and be prepared to support the embrace of a global internet user community.

Posted by brian at 09:53 AM | Comments (1)

August 11, 2004

Multiply? Subtract 1.

I'm getting a ton of invites from folks seeking me to join their social networks over at the social networking site du jour, namely Multiply.

I've not responded to any invites, primarily because Multiply.com's website doesn't mention who is in the company or even where they're located. As a rule I never fill out detailed registration forms revealing my own identity and the identities of all of my relatives and friends, when the company running the website refuses to offer anything about their own identity.

The only clue I could find about their location is on their Terms of Service page, which mentions jurisdiction is Palm Beach County, Florida.

You know what? A customer should not have to search high and low to find out simple things like this. Of all the kinds of web businesses, SOCIAL NETWORK businesses really owe it to their customers to share some of their information about themselves. I mean, be real -- how is a company going to start being trusted by customers without their knowing a thing about who's behind it?

When will these companies learn? Whatcha hiding, Multiply? Come on out where we can see you. Aren't you proud of your company? Why can't you say who's running the company and what your backgrounds are?

C'mon. Fess up, and then maybe I'll join up.

UPDATE: Here's the WHOIS info:

Registrant:
   Pezaris Design, Inc.
   964 Cypress Drive
   Delray Beach, Florida 33483
   United States

   Registered through: GoDaddy.com
   Domain Name: MULTIPLY.COM
      Created on: 20-Nov-00
      Expires on: 20-Nov-05
      Last Updated on: 08-Mar-04

My theory? It's Peter Pezaris, PerlMonger from DelRay Beach, FL, formerly an executive with SportsLine. Gee, looks like there's a Peter Pezaris who lives at the Pezaris Design, Inc. address mentioned in the Whois record above.

Perhaps he'll speak up and confirm or deny?

UPDATE II: Found more info on Multiply, including:

Posted by brian at 07:39 PM | Comments (2)

A Brief Update

It's a shame that much of the increasingly limited time I allocate to blogging is being consumed by blog maintenance rather than posting new material. And by "blog maintenance" I mean cleaning up the increasing amount of comment spam I'm seeing in this blog. What's especially galling is that the comment spammers will post some inane comment like "I read your blog very much, keep up with good!" and then the URL they supply will be for one of the usual spam subjects, and then they top it off by supplying an email address of "nospam@nospam.org". Riiiight.

Suffice to say, I am spending more and more time on two projects right now: the new startup, about which I can't say anything yet, and the PLATO project, about which I've said a lot. Those two things are eating up 110% of my time, and that's going to be the way it's going to be for the forseeable future.

I have a couple things in the queue for upcoming posts that I will put online here over the rest of this month, so stay tuned!

Posted by brian at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2004

A Billion Here, a Billion There

Pretty soon it adds up to real traffic.

Right at the end of July, Craigslist hit a rate of 1 billion pageviews per month. Back in January I'd heard a reported figure of 500 million pageviews per month. That's a ton of growth in seven months. I'm betting 2 billion per month is right around the corner.

Reminds me of when I first joined eBay and had an eye-opening (and humbling) experience. I'd previously worked at MP3.com, where we were so proud to hit 150 million pageviews per month. eBay, I learned, was doing something like a billion pageviews a day. A totally different league. Helped me apppreciate how MP3.com was never a big deal in the Valley... ("Where'd you use to work?" "MP3." "Wow, you worked at Napster?" "No, I worked at MP3.com" "Oh. I thought you meant you worked at Napster.")

Posted by brian at 08:00 AM | Comments (1)

August 05, 2004

Halliburton in Haste

On the drive home on I-5 on Saturday, this pickup truck whizzed by at high speed. I glanced at it as it went by and noticed it was a HALLIBURTON truck. Immediate thought: gotta get a picture. :-)

I sped up enough to get to their door to snap this picture using the Treo:

They had to be doing close to 90mph. Rushing off to an undisclosed location?

Posted by brian at 07:38 AM | Comments (0)
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