October 18, 2007
Sharpcast Expands Management Team
Sharpcast announced today that they are expanding their executive management team with mobile and web industry veterans Korak Mitra from Nokia (where he led EMEA carrier sales for Intellisync) and MobiTV's former VP of Engineering Domingo Mihovilovic.
They're also adding a new VP of Marketing: Minesh Shah, who was former director of consumer marketing for Walmart.com, where he helped make one of the top three online shopping destinations in the U.S. during his tenure.
October 14, 2007
What Makes New England New England
On New England trips, I try to incorporate visits to Dunkin Donuts, CVS, Boston suburban driving ranges that feel more like the backyards of country inns, and farmers markets that have as many varieties of pumpkins and apples as they do tomatoes and onions.
What I always long for more of are walks, walks of any kind. Walks down Boston's Newbury Street, a visit to the cheese and chocolate store in downtown Concord, fresh fish and margarita's along Newburyport's waterfront, bicycle rides through Marthas Vineyard's narrow lanes, lazy afternoons at various lobster shacks up and down Maine's Route 1, oyster happy hours in Bar Harbor, farmhouse B&Bs in Vermont's countryside, outlet and fireworks stores in New Hampshire and the ever-engaging combined old-world library coffee shop in Northhampton. The list goes on. And on.
It's not just these references that remind us of what New England stands for and IS; its the conservative, intellectual, old-world, predictable culture that surrounds all of these colorful and delicious visual moments.
Some of these cultural nuances which end up being mismatches for free spirits, are of course what drove me to leave New England, the resistance to change being one of those, a natural death trap in the technology industry.
Yet, living day-to-day in an environment that not only welcomes change and spontaneity but proactively encourages it through consistent actions, leaves one longing at times for a society that does honor commitment, loyalty and predictable lifestyles and behavior.
This my friends, is New England.
The predictable presented at times in the most uninteresting and puritanical manner and at other times, in a way that feeds the soul at the deepest and richest of levels. This is why those born and raised in New England who are natural free spirits come back for a feeding as often and quietly as they can, hopefully unobserved by their aggressive, business-loyal, transient west coast pals, who will never quite understand its unsurpassed value, regardless of how many photos and stories you present.
Walking down the street of a small New England town on a late Halloween afternoon, you'll find carved pumpkins on porches and stairways, in yards and gardens. You will also find children riding their bikes amidst a flurry of brightly colored dried leaves falling from the trees.
The same could apply in December with the freshness of the season's very first snowfall. Something in the air arouses and inspires. It reminds us who have endured the harshness of New England's toughest season that we are born to endure more than we are born to succeed and thrive.
It's an attitude not that far afield from post war Eastern Europe and England. Somehow, it trickled across the Atlantic and settled into the walls, cracks and stone exterior of our Victorian townhouses and turn of the century wooden homes, the kind with the wrapping porches, hanging hammocks and potted geraniums.
This, my friends is New England.
When I first moved to San Francisco, I was adamant about finding a place in the city, where I could hang one of my three hammocks that I have collected over the years. While it was a challenge, I finally found a house that not only has a protected courtyard in the rear with plants and herbs that thrive year-round, but a front porch with a view of both bridges, a porch that would finally home my New England hammock.
My grandfather warned me of such shifts. He told me that the sun wouldn't set the same way on the west coast, the moon would feel different, the stars would not be quite so dark, and the air would mess up my sensibilities for years to come.
Yet, as the land of untapped opportunities and some tapped but not yet refined, he didn't ignore the value of heading west, just as they all did in the Gold Rush. The Tech Rush followed a century and two generations later, and the same types of people who had the courage and adventurous spirit to make the journey west for a perceived better way of life then, are making their way west today.
But, these people don't write letters on a piece of handmade paper from some factory in Cambridge or stationary store in Vermont. These people don't send out old fashioned holiday cards, or bake cookies from scratch in beat-up pewter trays that their great grandmothers owned.
These people don't tear up when they read Thoreau or accidentally find an old arrowhead on a walk in the Adirondack Mountains that may or may not have belonged to a Mohawk Indian. OR, recall with passionate energy a time they ran over lilly pads or saw trout in an inviting but flowing river as they made their way down its winding path in an Old Town canvas canoe.
It's dangerous to so wildly exaggerate is it not? Of course there are people country-wide who have had such moments, but that's not the point. My point is about what is consistently conveyed on a regular basis, day in and day out, that formulates a culture. What a culture was, is today and what part remains in years to come.
Hanging onto what was in years gone past, isn't a west coast cultural trait. There, its about change, movement, growth, opportunities, progress in whatever form that may take (entertainment, film, technology, sustainable building and so on).
So in addition to the sameness, which is a positive and necessary part of what creates and maintains a community, is New England air. There is most definitely a distinct New England 'air', not to mention other quirky things you don't quite expect, like a parade of ducks on a lake or pond.
You watch them pass by and somehow you notice that they have a different energy from the ducks you just saw in Montana or Nevada a couple of months earlier.
This trip east leaves me very little time in Boston itself, but not by accident. Somehow I felt the desire to retreat to rural areas near the water, as quickly as possible.
And retreat I did of course, after a visit to an old friend's place on Marlborough (which parallel's Newbury Street), where I recall countless summer dinners on his deck.
Having dinners outside on the top floor of his Edwardian-style brick building meant that we could easily see everything and anything that the general public has come to know as Boston, i.e., the Hancock Tower, and the CITGO sign in Kenmore Square, where on my first night in town, the Red Sox playoffs were stopping traffic on both Memorial and Storrow Drives.
I found myself on Charles Street for the first time in years where I discovered a new bistro called Bin 26 Enoteca (formerly Torch). The term enoteca has several definitions— wine shop, wine bar, and wine library, among others.
They extend all of these meanings into their restaurant with a flavor of all things wine that encourages you to sample styles you wouldn't normally try. The ambiance is also eclectic, exemplified in one room by hundreds of open wine bottles hanging top side down from the ceiling. Along Charles, Todd English' Figs remains a regular fixture.
Boston, like Newport, Providence, Portland, and even Portsmouth, has their fair share of great restaurants, but what is really magical about New England is not its urban centers.
A relatively unknown gem not far from Boston, is a small pond in Pembroke where my friend Mark completed a home restoration in the past year. It is a rural town on the way to Cape Cod that may not be a destination choice for anything other than a place for a peaceful read in an Adirondack chair on a summer day or a walk through the woods pretty much anytime of year.
Here, in what was a small boxed wooden home that resembled a fishing shack in rural Maine, we created feasts and drank wine with such vigor and attention to detail that even the finest chefs in a trendy urban restaurant would smile with approval and delight.
Whether it was a late summer barbecue where we all gathered outside to grill various kinds of fish, chicken and steak, or huddled inside by the old stone fireplace, the lack of refinement of the place went entirely unnoticed by anyone who was fortunate enough to be invited.
Sometimes Mark, who divides his time between writing about wine and teaching classical guitar, would bring out something to surprise and further our senses, like Francisco Tarrega's Doce Composiciones.
Fabulous wine from various parts of the world would continue to flow and it was a salon like no other I've ever attended. This was because it wasn't trying to be a salon - it had extended beyond what we have experienced of such events in a 'trying to re-establish' salons world.
The fisherman's shack that I had grown to love, had recently been demolished, and in its place, a natural wood shingled house twice its former square footage, was built.
It is now draped with long slender windows, has a front and back door, a square wooden deck laced with potted herbs, and a 'made-to-entertain' kitchen with stainless steel appliances, perfectly facing the pond while you cook.
No classical guitar came out on this most recent trip and we didn't start-up the fireplace. While larger in size with what would appear to be cold Italian tiled floors, the place warmed up quickly between the active oven, the incoming crowd of people, and the heated tiles which rose through the floor boards, and up through your stocking feet. It was the kind of warmth that accompanies a child's smile on Christmas morning.
This kind of day and evening in late October could only be experienced in this way in New England. The air, the pond, the ducks, the pumpkins, and the homemade squash and bacon soup was all a reminder that it was so. And that we were here.
The quivering leaves that were aching to drop held on tightly to their branches. Because of the drought, they still rose above us, greener than I've ever seen this time of year with no sign soon that they were on their transitional journey into reds, oranges and mustard yellows.
Ask any New England child of their what appears to be a mandatory school project of ironing their favorite colored leaves between waxed paper and how long their works of art hung proudly on their home refrigerator or on the whiteboard of their dad's office.
This, my friends is New England.
East Coast or West Coast in October: Not a Hard Decision
I don't come east nearly often enough. New York is an easier destination since there are enough business related events throughout the year to get me on a plane, but Boston, despite the fact that its a technology hub in this country, rarely gives me reason to visit.
They may think that they don't compete and they don't really, but both events draw a lot of the same people, including the likes of me, who ultimately decided that Maine in October was far more interesting than the center of San Francisco the same time of year. And so, the East Coast it is.
October 12, 2007
Dunkin' Boston Style
When I think of my old haunt, in other words my old hood, in other words Boston, the first two things that come to mind is heading home late at night along Storrow Drive and Dunkin Donuts, which remains an East Coast institution, an institution very different than its newer rival Starbucks. Yet Starbucks drinkers wouldn't touch a cupa Dunkin Donuts and vice versa.
When I was barely old enough to work, I served Dunkin Donuts coffee behind the bar and stuffed donut holes with extra fillings late into the night before the 4 am truck drivers came in for their jelly donuts and glazed twists.
Seeing countless Dunkins on so many corners repeatedly brings a smile when I'm on the East Coast, moreso in the greater Boston area. I think perhaps because it seems as if its woven into the New England culture somehow. Long live Dunkin Donuts coffee.
October 09, 2007
Web 2.0 in Berlin
There's another European Web 2.0 conference on the horizon. The event is launching in Berlin on November 5-8, 2007. Web 2.0 Expo Berlin is targeted to people who want an opportunity to access the designers, developers, product managers and VCs that make up the Web 2.0 ecosystem in Europe.
The conference will be in English and is being marketed as a Pan-European conference with registrants coming from all over Europe. More information here.
October 05, 2007
Larson's Devil in the White City
I finally finished Erik Larson's Devil in the White City, which I struggled through largely because my Boston book group which I rarely see is currently reading it and I'll be back there to attend later this month.
While I was thrilled to finish it, I have to admit that Larson did manage to bring Chicago in 1893 alive -- after the read however, not always during. I found myself wanting to revisit pages that explored Chicago's physical beauty and presence at the time, from its slums to the grandeur of the legendary World's Fair.
He looks at the lives of two men, the historical architect Daniel Burnham and psychopathic killer Henry H. Holmes. Burnham's firm wins the right to create Chicago's World Fair, which became known as the "White City." This was a huge undertaking affecting the health and lives of a number of prominent men in history.
As a lover of great architecture, it was inspiring to read through one thread, a meeting where some of the greatest architects of our time gathered, unrolled their drawings and presented their ideas -- each aware that something extraordinary had occured in the room that day. As one architect put it to Burnham at the time, "I never expected to see such a moment. Look here, old fellow, do you realize this has been the greatest meeting of artists since the fifteenth century?"
I got goosebumps reading the line and could also feel the silence in the room as each artist presented, wondering if they would outdo the other. At the same time, they realized that they were in this together, as a team, to create an awe-inspiring wonder that would only stand for the world to see for a mere six months, from May to October 1893.
All this magnificent creation right along side the life of Dr. Holmes, who had various aliases. Here was a man who managed to kill countless people, mostly women and children, all without police suspicion.
It was that last 20% of the book that I found riveting, when east coast investigators got closer and closer to uncovering the truth, a truth that makes you wince and your skin crawl simultaneously.
Writes Larson, "what motivated Holmes may never be known," basing his account on known details of his history and behavior and on what forensic psychiatrists have come to understand about psychopathic serial killers and the forces that drive them.
October 04, 2007
Graphing Social Patterns
If you're in the Bay Area and are tapped into social media at all, you may want to check out Graphing Social Patterns: The Business & Technology of Facebook, in San Jose from October 7-9, 2007.
Graphing Social Patterns is a conference for developers and marketers on how to build and distribute apps for the Facebook Platform, and how to reach online communities using social networking platforms and applications. Notable speakers include Reid Hoffman, Founder & Chairman of LinkedIn; Tim O'Reilly, Founder & CEO of O'Reilly Media, Dave Morin, Sr Manager of Platform at Facebook, Charlene Li of Forrester Research, and Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land, as well as many others. You can sign up here.
London's Predictions Markets Event
Check out the Predictions Markets Cluster, an event held in London on October 11 and 12, 2007, which aims to examine prediction markets, collective intelligence networks and knowledge management.
Overview: huge strides have been made in the mainstream adoption of prediction markets. These new ways to share, trade and aggregate information using Internet-based information markets are everywhere. These markets help companies, schools, governments, and individuals to acquire, to create and optimize ever-growing bodies of knowledge. These capabilities achieve mastery of collective wisdom with stunning speed and accuracy.
Learn applied prediction markets, through intimate conversations, with these innovative thought leaders, scholars, entrepreneurs, subject matter experts and prediction market innovators --
- Bernd H. Ankenbrand - The Knowledge Laboratory
- Dirk Glienke - Nokia
- Dr. Michael Gebauer - gexID
- John Delaney - InTrade
- Mat Fogarty - Xpree
- Professor Leighton Vaughn-Williams - Nottingham Trent University
- Will Speck - FT.com
- Emile Servan-Schreiber - NewsFutures
- Henry Berg - Microsoft
- Jesper Muller-Krogstrup - Nosco
- Oliver Bernhard Pedersen - Nosco
- Peter Norman Sorensen - University of Copenhagen
- Gunther Gadler - Prokons
- Peter Gollowitsch - Prokons
- Jed Christiansen - Mercury Research & Consulting
Defrag in November
The second Defrag conference is next month. Produced by Phil Becker, Eric Nolan and Brad Feld, they tout that its the first conference focused solely on the Internet-based tools that transform loads of information into layers of knowledge, and accelerate the “aha” moment. Defrag is about the space that lives in between knowledge management, “social” networking, collaboration and business intelligence. The message is still too geeky guys. For those inside your space, sure, many will get it, but you need to simplify the message just a tad AND better convey your uniqueness and value-add. Regardless, with a team like Phil, Eric and Brad on board, its bound to attract some top level discussions and people, so if you can manage to fit it into your schedule, try to. Speakers and line-up here.
The second Defrag conference is next month. Produced by Phil Becker, Eric Nolan and Brad Feld, they tout that its the first conference focused solely on the Internet-based tools that transform loads of information into layers of knowledge, and accelerate the “aha” moment. Defrag is about the space that lives in between knowledge management, “social” networking, collaboration and business intelligence.
The message is still too geeky guys. For those inside your space, sure, many will get it, but you need to simplify the message just a tad AND better convey your uniqueness and value-add. Regardless, with a team like Phil, Eric and Brad on board, its bound to attract some top level discussions and people, so if you can manage to fit it into your schedule, try to. Speakers and line-up here.
Not Enuff Time to Blog 'The Creative'
No time to blog, no time to blog VERSUS time to launch amazing stuff into the market. I still try to do both, but arrrrrgh, no time to blog, no time to blog, no time to blog........It's easy to get 'stuff' out there but without the necessary time and a staff of bloggers and editors, its so damn hard to find the time to get 'really creative' on a blog -- your own or others.
BoingBoing is great for all things creative but not everything they blog about interests me. I'm sure its the same for others. AHHHHHH, no time to blog, no time to blog, no time blog......