September 30, 2006

Now, That's A Landing I Would Have Liked to See

BoingBoing has the scoop:

Think of the size of the heat shield, not to mention the size of the parachute(s?), to get the International Space Station safely back to Earth!

How are they going to get it back into space, I wonder?

:-)

Posted by brian at 09:00 PM | Comments (1)

September 29, 2006

Pod v. Mac

So Apple is going all-out to block other trademarks that include the letters 'pod'"Peapod?

Why has Apple not gone after MacWorld, MacAddict, MacFixit, MacOSRumors, MacRumors, MacInTouch, etc.? After all, they all include -- gasp -- the word "Mac"! I can't imagine, say, MacInTouch or MacFixIt paying fees to Apple... do they?

Posted by brian at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2006

How Software Gets Done?

Site crashed after one click.

Posted by brian at 09:48 AM | Comments (1)

September 26, 2006

DEMOfall Conference Report

There is a Bird in the Ballroom.
Overheard early this morning: "I think I have a way to claim legtimacy," one of the demo startup company heads said to colleague as they walked by.

Claiming legitimacy might be the theme of the conference, we'll see. I am here with a pre-set bias that a lot of these demos are "features", not businesses. I hope I'm wrong.

I'm at the DEMOfall conference in San Diego.

This is my first DEMO conference.


Chris Shipley making her introductory remarks

It's been a convenient year for the schmoozefests. First, PC Forum in the San Diego area. Then the WSJ D conference, also in the San Diego area. Now DEMO. If only O'Reilly would move ETech north and bring Web 2.0 down here, I'd be all set.

Oh, there is a bird in the ballroom.

This morning I found I spent a lot of time looking up high into the superstructure of lights and cabling above the stage to see where the bird -- a pigeon, I believe -- had gone to. Once in a whle the bird will leap off of a ledge or rail from somewhere in the ceiling above the stage, and fly to another point. The bird is clearly lost and doesn't know how to get out of here.


The ZING guy rehearses

As I type this, one of the executives of ZING Systems, a presenting company, is walking around center stage, quietly rehearsing his presentation -- the last of the afternoon, and it's only lunchtime now. He seems to be doing it over and over as he's been at it way more than the allotted six minutes. His microphone is not on, so it sounds like he's speaking extremely quietly, as if he's praying. He keeps walking around the center portion of the stage, as if dancing, not straying too far from a central point. Occasionally he'll somewhat self-consciously place a hand on a hip, or strike some other pose as he's talking. In his right hand he's holding a crib sheet. Or is it a cell phone? Or is it a phone with a crib sheet around it? I cannot quite tell.

The bird up in the ceiling occasionally flaps its wings.

Like most presenters, he's wearing the black T-shirt with his company's logo on it. Whoa, wait a minute, he's been interrupted by a colleague -- another ZING T-shirt has just walked up and they're talking. Now they're done. Now the original Mr. ZING is back to his prayers, pacing, gesturing.

I am wondering if the bird will feel the urge to make a dropping during a live performance when the crowds return after lunch.

An A/V guy wearing a headphone/mic rig, and carrying some papers walks up with one of the ZING T-shirt guys. "Just so you know," the A/V guy says, " you're not the only person submnitting new scripts." He goes on to explain that now has to go get some script-change-approver to review the changes. "He has to go see how much different it is, " he's saying, "and if he approves it, fine, but otherwise you have to stay with the old." The ZING guy mumbles something along the lines of understanding. The headphone guy adds, "Just because we're trying to be professional here, he has to go through this now" and walks off into the back of the stage behind the curtains.

A word about the stage. There's a very clever use of what appear at first glance to be enormous ice cubes on stage left and stage right, but are actually 1 meter by 1 meter squares of burlap, canvas, or other tough fabric, attached together like a quit patchwork. The fabric pieces are wrinkled and rough. But the effect of high intensity colored lighting from directly below, brings out the wrinkles and roughness dramatically -- making the pieces look like huge ice cubes. What I like about this design is that it is practical. Use lights, and lightweight pieces of fabric, and significantly reduce the shipping weight and travel case requirements for the stage backdrop.

"You guys are approved." It's the headphone guy. He's not talking to ZING he's talking to the other presenters who changed their scripts. "You guys are good." Now he turns to the ZING guy. " I need you to hang here one more second," and he walks off stage.

Later, two official looking conference types come out and give ZING the good news -- they're approved. "OK, let's do it, but understand, if there are errors on screen, we're going to cut the camera...." The ZING guy is saying, "I understand that...."

The Opening Session.
One kudo for the conference: none of the "keep 'em locked out until there's no room to breathe" pre-conference ballroom door guards at DEMO. The doors were unlocked perhaps a half hour before the festivities began, which meant no mad rush for a seat within a power cord's length of a power strip. Power, at a tech conference, is everything. Laptop power, that is.

I found a seat up front, next to the CNET gang. The music was blaring and loud: a pounding disco remix of an old Fleetwood Mac hit, which segued into an old Kraftwerk classic, "Computer World". Then, "Sky rockets in sight, aftrnoon deliiiiiight!" Then as we got closer to the start of the show, an odd rewriting of "Puttin' on the RItz", something about "Constantinople", was played very loudly. Then the music REALLY got loud, nearly rock concert loud, as the A/V people played "Ballroom Blitz" by, who was it, Meat Loaf?

When Ballroom Blitz faded, the announcer came on. "Ladies and gentlemen, Chris Shipley!!!!!!" New music was rapidly cued up --- "Suddenly I see, this is what I want to beeeeee" a woman sings, as Chris Shipley comes out on stage from behind a curtain, and walks to the edge of the "bunker". The stage was set up with two four long podiums, two rows on either side of stage. It's as though the stage were set up for a big brass band. But those platforms aren't for musicians, they're for people running the laptops that are doing the demos. There must be some two dozen computers on stage in total.

I find it interesting that Shipley doesn't come full center stage, but hangs around the end of one of the "bunkers." She reads a speech. The video cameras are not kind. They pick up the fact that she's quickly turning red as she speaks. She says a bunch of light introductory remarks about the kinds of things we're going to see at this conference, some of which will be controversial. I'm wondering if any have military applications. It's always the surprising (as in, what are they doing here?) military demos at geeky tech conferences that seem "controversial." "We're going to begin this parade of 67 companies with five products that make life a little bit easier," Shipley announces.


You only get one chance to change the future? Balderdash. You get tons of chances.

She introduces the first presenting company: DASH. The A/V folks turn up the intro music INSANELY LOUD. It's JIMI HENDRIX SCREAMING "CROSSTOWN TRAFFIC, ALL YOU DO IS SLOW ME DOWN!." Damn, what is it about Americans and their loud rock and roll at conferences.

Thankfully, the Hendrix music went away as quickly as it had flare dup. Dash has a small GPS-driven device that you mount on the dashboard of your car. What makes DASH different than conventional GPS toys is that this one phones home. Spyware for your car? The presenter assures the audience that the DASH device phones home anonymously. One hopes. I thought it interesting that Yahoo! Local search, Craigslist listings, and Upcoming.org data are all accessible from the device. Theoretically any website data is, one assumes.

After that, Tribeca Labs demoed "how photography gets better" with their Photobot tool. Featuring "zero click" (i.e. hands-free) photo retouching. Gee, Zero Click. Where have I heard that one before? oh yeah. I would not use Photobot. I like to tinker with the photographs I take.

Next up was PLUGGD. PLUGGD is cool. It seems like a feature, that Google should offer. It does audio search. Text search in audio, I should say. Found a 30 min podcast? That someone said mentioins your company name? In theory you could use this tool to type in a keyword and search the audio. Potentially revolutionary. Stuff the three-letter agencies have no doubt had for years are finally appearing in the open marketplace.

PRESTO was the next demo, and it's something I saw demo'd at the WSJ D conference in June, so I tuned out. (Ummm, I thought the DEMO conference was for product PREMIEREs? Oh well....)

RINGCUBE introduced Mojopac, which lets you store your whole desktop, documents, and even applications, on an iPod. The demo was very attention grabbing -- the guy walks across center stage and drops a Thinkpad. Pause. Dramatic pause! Totally had me. I thought, oh shit, his demo is toast. Then he says, "not to worry, I have my whole system on my iPod thanks to Mojopac...."


I love this picture, that they keep showing on the screen during the periods between speakers... Vision.... and a guy holding something to his ear. Perfect.

Next up were enterprise solutions. SystemOne was uninteresting. ThinkFree I've heard of before. SalesGenius.com well, that was unbelievable.

Why unbelievable? Talk about Total Information Awareness and the End of Privacy. Just what you want. You visit a website, and a sales rep pops up a message on the site saying, "Hi Brian, I've got some great prices for you. Let me call you right now." SalesGenius lets you monitor what your prospects do -- who's reading the spams you send them, who's visiting your website and what pages they're on and when and for how long and --- worst (or best, depending on your level of evil) of all, it gives you a "buddy list" showing how recently your prospects have visited your website, including who is on it RIGHT NOW. Oh, you can also replay the surfing activity of your prospects, which pages they saw in what order.

It's 13:43. The afternoon sessions begin soon. The reggae music is up load. Two people wearing black pants and white shirts are standing on stage, looking to the ceiling. They're clearly looking for something. I think they're looking for the bird. The bird is sitting on the main lighting superstructure. They cannot see it. I can see it clearly. Yep, it's a pigeon. I hope it doesn't get fried by one of those high powered Klieg lights.

More later.

Posted by brian at 02:03 PM | Comments (2)

September 22, 2006

If I could just speak to the CFO...

RRrrrrrring!

"Eventful, this is Brian, can I help you?"

"Hello, I was wondering if I could speak to the CFO of the company?"

"May I ask what this is regarding?"

"Well, I'm from [insert name of equity financing company here] and we specialize in equipment loans for emerging companies just starting out."

"Let me guess, you saw a press release somewhere about our getting a second round of venture capital funding?"

"Why yes---"

"Sorry, I don't think it's a good fit, it's not like we lease big iron, we use cheap commodity PC equipment. We've been getting a ton of calls like this and it's just not a good fit, but thanks for calling."

"Oh ok, well good luck with your business."

Rrrrrrrrrrringggggg!

"Eventful, this is Brian, can I help you?"

"Hello, is this Brian?"

"Yes"

"Brian Dear?"

"Yes"

"This is [insert bloke's name here] from [insert bloke's big private equity bank division of an even larger multinational investment banking conglomerate] calling to say hello and introduce myself. We offer a great line of private wealth management options for senior executives such as yourselves..."

"Let me guess, you saw a press release announcing we closed a second round of venture capital funding and you think the next step is a big fat IPO?"

"Well . . . yes."

"And that I'm going to need professional assistance with all of those millions."

"Something like that."

"Well, nice wishful thinking but I assure you it's the last thing I am thinking about right now. And besides, I would not be interested. Just not a good fit but thank you for calling."

"If I could just say that the . . . "

"Really, I'm kind of busy."

"How about I call back in three months to check in?"

"It won't make any difference."

"Six months?"

"Whatever. Got to go. Ciao!"

* click *

RRRRRRRINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!

"Eventful, this is Brian, can I help you?"

"Hello, if I could speak to the CEO or the CTO?"

"And this is regarding?"

"I'm [insert sales rep bloke's name here] from [insert sales rep bloke's company here] here in San Diego and we offer data colocation and bandwidth services and..."

"We're happy with what we have now."

"And may I ask who you are using now?"

"No."

"Well, we offer competitive rates and---"

"Sorry, just not interested. Not a good fit. No time. Gotta run."

"How about I call you back in a month?"

"Sorry, don't think so."

"Three months"?

"Ok, call me back in 24 months and we'll see."

"Great, I am penciling you in for a call in September 2008. Talk to you then!"

"I cannot wait. Bye."

"Bye!"

* click *

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Eventful, this is Brian, can I help you?"

"Can I speak to Brian Dear?"

"Speaking."

"Hi, this is [insert bloke's name] from [insert bloke's very large mutinational private investment bank] and if I could just have a moment of your time to tell you about the extaordinary opportunities now emerging in the bond market---"

"Sorry, not interested."

"Well, how about mutual funds?"

"No."

"Hedge funds?"

"Nope."

"Real estate investment trusts?"

"No."

"International emerging markets?"

"Nope."

"Wealth management?"

"Sorry, simply not interested."

"How about I call you back in a month?"

"How about three years?"

"Fine, I've got you down to speak to you again in September 2009. Thanks for your time!"

"The pleasure was all mine."

* click *

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNGGGG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"Eventful, this is Brian, can I help you?"

"Hey Brian, this is [insert bloke's name] from [insert financial services company's name]. We offer financial services---"

"I'm sure you do."

"Well, would you be---"

"No, I'm afraid I wouldn't."

"How about---"

"Sorry, gotta run, byebye."

* click *

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGG!!!!!

"Eventful, this is Brian, can I help you?"

"Hello, could I speak to the person in charge of [something or other]?"

"I could probably answer your question."

"Okay, I'm [insert lady's name] from [insert lady's company] and we sell postage metering equipment. I'd like to---"

"Sorry, no need. No fit. We do bits not atoms."

"Excuse me? Bits? Bits of wha---"

"Thank you, good day."

* click *

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIINNNNNNGGGGGGG!!!!!

RRRRR--RRRRRIINNNNGNGNGNGNGNGG!!!!!!!

RRRRRRRRR-RRRRRRRRRRRRRR-RRRRRRRRRRRIIINNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGG!!!!!!!!!

"Eventful, this is Brian, can I help you?"

"Yes, hello sir this is [insert bloke's name] from [insert name of bloke's very very large multinational corporation] and we're updating our records and have a few questions. What is your current revenue?"

"Um, what fee will you pay me for this update?"

"I'm sorry sir. Your current revenues?"

"What fee will your company pay me to provide you with information about my company?"

"Sir, we do not pay any fees."

"Well, but you sell this information right?"

"No sir. We are just updating our records."

"Who uses these records?"

"Well--"

"I mean, companies contact you looking for information on other companies, and they pay you fees to get that information, correct?"

"Well, yes, sir."

"So, like, you get paid for the information that companies provide you, so other companies can use that information somehow."

"If I could just update some of our records, sir..."

"Well, hmm, what do your records show already? I'm intrigued. And how did you come about getting the information in your records?"

"Sorry to bother you sir."

* click *

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGG!

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGGGGG!

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGGG!!!!!!

RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNGGGGG!

Posted by brian at 08:05 AM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2006

Not Everyone's Cup of Team

I love Paul's typos. I think I'll call them Kedroskyisms.

For instance: "Malcolm "Blink" Gladwell isn't everyone's cup of team, but his Ted Talk from 2004 on what business can learn from spaghetti sauce is worth watching." (from)

There have been others, but you gotta catch 'em fast because I think Paul's pretty quick to fix 'em . :-)

As I find new ones I'll post 'em here.

Posted by brian at 07:41 AM | Comments (1)

September 18, 2006

Life is short... so, raise money!

My company, Eventful, Inc., announced a major new round of venture capital funding today. Here's the press release. Here's the coverage in Red Herring. And here's some more coverage in bizjournals.com.

We are hiring.

Posted by brian at 05:44 PM | Comments (1)

September 13, 2006

SitePal: The Demise of Technorati?

If you've been to Technorati lately, you've seen them. They're everywhere. Watching you. Talking to you. Asking you to tell them things to say back to you. Animated avatars. SitePals.

These things ruin my user experience. The only thing I find useful with them is to tell them to say things that Technorati probably wouldn't like them to say.

Try it: "Hello, I am a SitePal. I'm a way to add dynamic, talking characters to your website. Think about it. You know it's the one decoration on your website that is missing. Ever since you got rid of the rotating 'e' for email. And the construction worker icon for 'under construction.'"

Or how about: "You probably think I am very annoying, distracting, and in the way. You're right. I'm a SitePal. Designed to ruin your experience. Sitepal. The surest way to make a site jump the shark. Let me help you make your site jump the shark too, today!"

Endless fun for the whole family.

(Looks like I'm not the only one who thinks SitePals are lame. Then again, maybe there are a few fans.)

Posted by brian at 07:31 AM | Comments (8)

September 10, 2006

Exercising My "Viewer Discretion"

I've had it. That's it. The lies, the propaganda, the projection-as-truth, the bullshit, all of it.

Walt Disney Company, I'm no longer a viewer, listener, reader, or customer. For starters, television:

ABC (including the local ABC affiliate, KGTV Channel 10), ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS, ESPN PPV, ESPN Deportes, ESPN International, ESPN Classic Sport Europe, ESPN Latin America, ESPN Asia, ESPNU, ESPN2 HD, Disney Channel, International Disney Channels, Toon Disney, SOAPnet, ABC Family Channel, JETIX Europe, JETIX Latin America, A&E Television Networks (The History Channel, The Biography Channel, History International, A&E International), Lifetime Entertainment Services (Lifetime Television, Lifetime Movie Network, Lifetime Real Women, Lifetime Radio for Women, Lifetime Home Entertainment), E! Networks (E! Entertainment Television, The Style Network). And finally, the Ebert & Ropert show (yes, it's owned by Buena Vista Television, part of the Disney empire).

And no more Disney films. Including Pixar. Steve Jobs, you have a lot of explaining to do, being the largest individual Disney shareholder and having a seat on the board.

And no more visits to ABC.com, ABCNews.com, Oscar.com, Disney.com, Family.com, ESPN.com, Soccernet.com, Toysmart.com, Go Network, Disneysgamecafe.com, Expn.com, Abcsports.com, ESPNdeportes.com, or Movies.com

And no more listening to KGO news radio when I'm in the Bay Area.

That's it, goodbye Disney.

Posted by brian at 06:39 PM | Comments (2)
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