LOLcats, isn't that obvious? Notes on Ethan Zuckerman's talk at ETech, by himself. In one sentence: People will do what they want with new media, and trying to fight them is just pain. Or in three borrowed points: If there's no porn, it doesn't work. If there are no activists, it doesn't work well. Try to block the cats and other silliness, and you're providing an excuse and learning ground for the activists. RTHT, it's worth your time. (Sorry I couldn't make it to ETech this year, but I've still got this gimp thing going on.)
Can you say 'fiduciary duty'? Speaking of fighting the crowd, here's startup MobiTV's lawyers threatening a website that revealed the company was putting its (for pay) video streams out unencrypted, on a publicly available URL. That worked real well, as the company was forced to back down in less than 24 hours from the story hitting the net. MobiTV has a lot of big names associated with it. Maybe someone should have a chat with management re why the data was out there in the clear to begin with? Personally, I'm pretty skeptical that there's a lot of revenue to be had from mobile TV. It reeks of the usual wireless carrier ARPU fantasies, and feels over-invested at any rate.
Iterate, Iterate, Iterate. Here are some good words for entrepreneurs from Paul Buchheit. One of the big advantages of today compared to the bad old days when we had to put software in boxes is that you can test early and continuously with real users, and refresh the product without worrying about obsolete stock in the distribution chain. So why do so many startups charge ahead building their 'vision' without testing against the market that's as near as their net connection? Hubris. And Paul's got the right antidote: Humility. The market knows things you don't, go learn them fast. The more engineers on the founding team, the more you need his advice.
Speaking of Entrepreneurs. Here's a shout-out to blogger Ole Eichhorn, whose day job is CTO at digital pathology company Aperio. This week's VentureWire feed mentions that Aperio has just closed a $20 million C round led by HLM Ventures. Well done, sir! Don't spend it all in one place. (I've been pleased, if that's the right word, to see that the XRay images resulting from my little misadventure are being zapped digitally between the relevant offices, rather then hand carried on film. Glad that part of the healthcare world has caught up with the gaming sector.)
No, Not Bad Home Loans I spent part of a quiet two weeks here finishing off a small consulting project that I could do from my arm chair. Then a few more days on one of those "I'll get around to it" projects that really only happens when there are few alternatives. In this case, doing some serious research on locations for buying vacation/retirement property. The venerable Placed Rated Almanac is a good place to start, but there's a lot of information on the net these days, right down to dinky vacation towns with 10,000 population.
Having the long term, but paranoid thought habits of a VC now well impressed on me, I also did a bit of digging into the financial health of the various locales. No fun buying in and then finding your property or income taxes going through the roof in 10 years because the politicians have spent the funds in advance. S&P ratings on general obligation debt at the state level are a good starting place. Presumably their analysts have some experience at judging domestic political risk. From this I learn that California is one of the three lowest rated states in the country. Joy!
And since - as current debacles show - the professional analysts may not be paranoid enough, I went a little bit further looking for unexploded debt bombs. And found them. Here's a three year old study of unfunded public pension liabilities (big PDF) from the Reason Foundation. Check the tables at the end to see how much your local pols may have promised the teachers or civil servants without having bothered to deal with the eventual costs. Hmmm, says here my current home county of San Mateo, PRC has an unfunded debt overhang of a half billion dollars, give or take. Could be worse - San Francisco carries a billion dollar plus debt. This kind of things has already pushed one city, San Diego, into bankruptcy, so do your research before making long term commitments. Here's a database of public retirement funds and their health (reg. req'd.) for your enjoyment.