The path to a stable democracy is to measure government in terms of value, rather than size or cost. Return on Taxation should be the metric that both liberals and conservatives maximize.Read more
It seems I had a recurring dream about a man who played beautiful music in the morning. I say “it seems” because the music is quite familiar; I think I have heard it many times in dreamland. He played from some place nearby, a small house or maybe a shack.
A few days ago I dreamed that I recorded his music as I heard it from my window. The music was interrupted by argument, then by shots.
I ran out to see my friend dying on the street — the dream was quite graphic. His race was different from mine but the same as the murderer.
This morning, I dreamt that I was in his house. A crowd – mostly members of his race – gathered outside, angry, seeking revenge.
I had the recording. I played it. We all cried.
I wonder if I will ever dream about this man and his music again.
I’ve been engaged with social media since forever. Always found it fascinating, even exciting. I really like Twitter. Now Quora seems interesting, but in a semi-social-media sort of way. There’s a bit of a shift happening. A lot of “early adopters” have been doing the Quora thing for a while and now it’s on the upswing of that familiar knee function of exponential growth.
Meanwhile, Twitter seems a little less vibrant. Is it because all the cool kids are playing with Quora? Partially. After all anyone with a real job only has so much time to dicker with this stuff, unless you’re a rare beast: a Professional Social Media Guru that’s a real job. So maybe Twitter is a little less shimmering with excitement because really interesting people are spending less time on it.
But that isn’t all. That only explains part of it. Read more
Over the past year or so there’s been an unusual amount of public navel gazing on the investor side of Silicon Valley (and by proxy most of the North American venture capital space). Venture capital companies have an image of being slow, demanding, and cumbersome; solely focused on big wins with huge valuations. So called “super” angels have emerged to fill a void in the VC deal space, and new hybrid models like that of YCombinator have emerged.
As Max Levchin observes, angels have an interest in lower valued exits. He concludes that the positioning of super angels as VC alternatives has resulted in a “lack of visible significant innovation”. While Levchin’s observations are correct, I’m not certain that it’s the angel’s fault.
Instead, I think we’re reaching the “long tail” of the Internet, and we need to look for innovation elsewhere. The big hits in the Internet space have all had to do with providing analogues of existing human behaviours, and the number of untapped behaviours is diminishing. A preponderance of incremental innovations with corresponding low exits is only to be expected.
We have been so focused on Internet related innovation for the past decade and a half (and software for the decade previous) that for a lot of investors seem to have forgotten that there are alternatives.
It’s not that there’s a shortage of demand for innovation. There are many areas that need great minds and risk capital. Unfortunately those aren’t the opportunities that can be exploited by a bright kid with six months programming experience. They’re big, capital intensive, long term projects that need teams of highly skilled people to address them. Some of these problems are critically important. They need to be solved if we’re going to preserve our current lifestyle, if not ensure our survival.
If the investment community wants to innovate, it’s going to have to stop looking for the ultimate solution to determining how to rank “influence” on Twitter, and instead look for better transportation solutions, better solar power generation, methods to scrub carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, local power generation and distribution, and solutions for other truly important problems.
While North America becomes increasingly concerned about it’s own relatively trivial problems like how to make an even cooler handheld device, our ability to innovate our very concept of innovation is collapsing in on itself like a dying star. Meanwhile, Asia is fast becoming the true leader in innovation and unless we pull out of this “make it big on the Internet” vortex, it won’t be long before we’re buying critical technology from abroad.
Let’s not blame the angel investors. Levchin says “we should aim higher.” He’s right. The question is whether or not we know which way is up.
As either a younger member of the boomer generation, or an older member of Gen-X, I’m a member of a big demographic that seems to have a hard time understanding social media. The most common reaction I get to mentioning something on Facebook is “I will never have a Facebook account!”
I realize now that part of the bad reputation that social media has with middle-aged adults is due to the fact that most of these people are parents, and everything they know about social media sites has come from their kids.
This led me to a great insight. Good social media sites are malleable to individual users, and that’s what makes them so powerful. I am certain that my Facebook experience is vastly different from that of your average teenager’s, and that’s a good thing.
A middle-aged friend recently asked me about Facebook and Twitter, with the subtext “I don’t ‘get’ either of them.” I’ve reworked my response a bit in hope that it will be helpful to others:
The main purpose of Facebook is to get found by people you already know but have lost touch with, think of the people you would invite to a high school reunion. Simple as that. It’s also good for keeping up on the big stream of small things that winds up being news in a nominally mundane life. It works well if you’re not “always on” the net. You can pop in every week or so and catch up. If you ignore the clever little time-wasting applications and notification noise, it’s a useful tool. In short, Facebook is good at making an electronic link to people you already know.
Twitter is much more geared to making new connections and is really something for those of us who are “on the ‘net” most of the time. What it’s best at is finding new clever people, and getting breaking news. Information travels very quickly in Twitter, and to a large extent it’s filtered to the interests of the people you follow, which means you get more information about the things you care about. As a writer, it’s also superb at making you edit things down. The 140 character limit is brutal, but it enforces the practice of a clarity that can carry into other writing.
So how did I do? Is there anything else that “defines” these sites?
Last night I attended a presentation by Doug Hyatt, Business Economics Professor at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Business. Although billed as focusing on the music industry, his comments were actually more broad ranging, even abstract.
I guess that is a telling indication of how early we are in the process of adapting to the digital era. When very smart people who make their careers from studying these problems speak in abstract terms, you know we have a long way to go. Read more
Last month the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corporation (TWRC) released a report on dealing with the Gardiner Expressway an ageing elevated highway that cuts through the centre of downtown Toronto and pretty universally regarded as an eyesore.
In general it’s a well reasoned report, but it’s striking for its continuing embrace of car culture. Read more
I just fielded a call from Ipsos-Reid, a large and reputable polling firm. The subject was Canada’s "diplomatic and development" role in Afghanistan. The sponsor of the survey was the Federal Government. It began by asking what aspects of the media’s coverage I was aware of. Then it went on to ask about how I felt about the role, conveniently ignoring anything to do with the military’s current combat operations. Then it asked if I agreed or disagreed with various aspects of our non-military activities. After going through all of these items, it asked again how I felt about the overall role (still restricted to diplomacy and development, of course).
The repetition of the question is fascinating. You expect that really what’s being measured here is this question: "If we keep telling Canadians about all the good things, will they change their opinion to support the mission, conveniently ignoring the occasional body bag (which we’ll hide by blocking the media from showing them)?"
But that’s not the reason for this entry… Read more
Leah McLaren recently wrote an interesting article, titled "Logging out of the blogosphere" where she describes the reasoning behind her decision to stop reading blogs. I must admit I find myself agreeing with her in many respects. Even correcting for the volumes of garbage from spam and search engine placement games, the signal to noise ratio — the ratio of useful, accurate, or meaningful content to incoherent, unoriginal and redundant content is disturbingly low. This is a problem with ideas that get picked up en masse on the net. Universal accessibility implies average results. For this a favourite phrase comes to mind: It’s almost like half the people have below average intelligence.