Saturday, September 13, 2003

Most Extreme Elimination Challenge is now an inter-species hit. One of my wife's co-workers report that his two cats are avid fans of MXC. Apparently, whenever they hear the distinctive sounds of horrible injuries and the crypto-obscenity of Kenny Blankenship and Vic Romano's commentary, they sprint for the couch and fight for their favorite viewing spots.

Once can only imagine what they're thinking. "Oh, how entertaining it is to watch the two-legged food providers maim themselves!"

This sign of intelligence almost, but not quite, forces me to reconsider my position that housecats are foul creatures of darkness.

Friday, September 12, 2003

You heard it here first--now Techdirt is covering the "Social Networking as emerging bubble" story.

Among the interesting tidbits is the cross-board membership between Friendster and Plaxo: Tim Koogle and Ram Shriram invested in both.

In other news on the Social Networking front, former Internet millionaire Thomas Leavitt reports that Arianna Huffington is now on Friendster and using it as a campaign tool. Apparently, she's a big Eminem and Missy Elliott fan. And no, apparently it isn't a Fakester.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

This just in from The Smoking Gun: The cast members of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the second best show on television (behind the uproarious Most Extreme Elimination Challenge) make just $3,000 an episode.

On the other hand, helping straight slobs queer up still beats eating cow brains, getting covered with scorpions, or milking a goat with your mouth.
Party Like It's 1999

I'm starting to get concerned about the Social Networking market. At this point, I've joined Ryze, Friendster, Tribe, and LinkedIn, and they're all mixed together in my mind.

I joined Ryze first, but it's done very little to suck me in, other than mailing me a weekly list of upcoming events. Perhaps the lack of activity is because the Ryze system doesn't notify me when someone else links to me as a friend.

As I've previously written, I joined Friendster after meeting Jonathan Abrams. Friendster's focus on dating distinguishes it from the other services, but it's precisely that focus that makes it less useful for old married guys like me.

Tribe.net seems to be an up-and-comer, thanks to its "fast-follower" status. It also has a more transactional focus, which helps keep my interest. The problem is, does it offer enough value to overcome other services' headstart? I also think that Tribe needs to show full names, not just first names and initials; otherwise it's too hard to find the people that you know.

LinkedIn has a number of interesting features (you can search by industry, and it sorts its list by who's most connected), and it seems to attract a high caliber of participants. Unfortunately, it has a huge flaw in that you cannot view other people's connections. This makes it impossible to use LinkedIn to meet your friends' friends--unless you know who you're looking for.

At any rate, my concern is that with so many entrants, mostly undifferentiated in any meaningful way, all of the potential value capture will be competed away. Back in 1999, it was hard to charge money for services when someone else was always willing to give it away to get eyeballs. The same thing seems to be happening today. It will be interesting to see what the uptake is of premium services.

The parallels to 1999 also point out that these companies just don't feel like independent ventures. Eventually, they should be integrated into a larger product suite, by Yahoo!, AOL, Microsoft, or even Amazon.

Nonetheless, they clearly are filling a useful niche, and I'm glad that they exist. My favorite service, however, is InCircle, the Stanford Alumni networking service, which, alas, isn't open to the general public.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

I just wanted to send a quick tip o' the hat to Kindercare in Mountain View. For the past two months, they've taken great care of Jason. He loves his teachers and little friends, and vice versa. I know that I'll miss them too, especially little Grant and Trent, who always beg for crackers whenever I show up to pick up Jason.

Alas, we're moving Jason to Knowledge Beginnings at Stanford to cut down on my daily drive. Hopefully he'll like his new school just as well!

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I had lunch today with Ray Conley, which is always a mind-expanding experience (in a perfectly legal way). Unlike me (a fallen intellectual who has succumbed to cognitive laziness, and, coincidentally, gone from technical work to business), Ray still thinks big thoughts, and visiting him is always fun.

We projected today's technology trends into the future, with the following result:

1. Storage + Moore's Law + 20 years = PCs that are more powerful than the human brain.

2. Bioinformatics + Moore's Law + 20 years = Complete knowledge of your personal genome, what you'll die of, plus how to fix it.

3. Nanotechnology + 20 years = The ability to assemble any material object from a template or plan.

The result? When we're old, we'll be able to know when our time is up, transfer our neural configuration to software, upgrade our OS, and download it to a new, improved, genetically enhanced body.

Of course, it's one thing to predict this kind of thing; it's another to sign up for the beta test!
One enterprising Canadian strip club owner is offering tuition reimbursement for dancers who maintain a 3.0 or higher college GPA.

"A girl who wants to better herself, who wants to progress, makes for a higher level entertainer," said Robert Katzman, who is recruiting talent for his adult clubs in Windsor and in Detroit, Michigan. "They're happier young ladies. They're doing something with their lives."

One of people taking advantage of Katzman's largesse is an engineering major from Toronto who flies in every week to perform.

Sometimes, a story is just so perfect, it's impossible to add any witty commentary.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Show me the funny:

A new Harvard Business Review article (available to subscribers only) describes research that shows that witty executives get bigger bonuses and better performance ratings.

Editor's Note: This is not a good excuse to whip out your old copy of "Truly Tasteless Jokes, Volume 3."
Here's some more on localized dating services, from former Internet millionaire/activist/Santa Cruz resident Thomas Leavitt:

"I like Friendster's attempt to create a digital analogue (request
introduction, make a match) to the real world.

If I were to do a dating service, I'd dispense with the detailed surveys and
profiles all together, and replace them with IM and attempts to get people
in the same place at the same time in a non-artificial way.

The success of HotOrNot's "meet me" feature shows that people don't need
much information at all to make a decision about whether they are interested
or not.

What I envision:

It's Friday night... I go check out the web site, see what cool events are
happening in my area, and see who is planning to be where (or, even better,
who is already there)... if I see that Jane is going to be at Club
Polystyrene in San Francisco tonight and that she's single and interested, I
send her a message and say, "hey, I'm going to be a Club PS tonight as
well... do you want to hook up for a beer or something?" or "Hey, I'll be
there as well. If you see me, come on over and say hi." Jane will be able to
take a look at my profile, decide if I'm cool or not, and then drop a line
back say, "Hey, cool, sure." or "Sorry, doesn't look like you're my type."

Alternatively, Jane will have indicated a tentative interest in two or three
venues, and you'll be able to do the same thing, only saying, "Hey, I was
thinking about hitting Club PS tonight, I saw that you're also interested,
but only if you have a date. Message me back if you're interested, 'cause
I'm in the same situation. If Club Gyro is more to your liking, I can do
that too."

If you're already out, and bar hopping, you can pull out your PDA, check out
the list of clubs in your area, see what cute chicks or hot guys are in the
hood, maybe IM one of 'em and say, "Hey, this is Joe. We talked before, a
bit online. I'm out here in SF, and I see that you're hanging at Mickey's.
I'm on my way over there now. Wanna hook up when I get there?"

Or, simply...

Joe and Jane are hanging out at the same bar. Joe IM's Jane and says, "Hi."
Jane peeks at his profile, and then says, "Buzz off." or "Hi backatcha.
What's up?" blah blah... and it goes from there."

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Is it worth it to root for sports teams? I feel great when my teams win, but lousy when they lose. And since, by definition, there can only be one champion in each sports league, the odds are always stacked against us fans. I'm fortunate, in that some of the teams that I follow (Lakers, Angels, Rams) have won championships in the past 5 years. On the other hand, other teams that I follow (Clippers, Dodgers, Raiders, UCLA, Stanford) haven't won a championship in the big three sports (basketball, football, baseball) in over a decade. And LA sports fans are lucky; imagine the plight of Philadelphia fans who are so sore about their lack of championships that they hurl batteries at their own team's players, and once booed Santa Claus at an Eagles game.

On the other hand, when I play sports, I feel happy whether we win or lose. I'll let you draw your own conclusions.
Yesterday, we spent most of the day working on dishes for an Iron Chef party. At 12:30, the host sent out an email with two theme ingredients, and all the teams had to complete their dishes and bring them to the judging panel by 6:30 PM. 4.5 hours seems like a long time, but it goes fast when you spend an hour deciding on the dishes and two hours shopping for ingredients. We didn't get down to cooking until around 4 PM, leaving 2.5 hours for serious victual construction.

Let me tell you, I have even more respect for the Iron Chefs' ability to construct an entire gourmet meal in less than an hour. It is hard to cook that much food in that short a time!

Our menu was:

Chilled Berry Soup With Cabernet Sauvignon
Crostini with Mixed Wild Mushrooms and Gorgonzola
Mixed Green Salad with Raspberries, Portabella Mushrooms, and Goat Cheese
Fresh Potato Gnocchi in a Porcini Mushroom Cream Sauce
Pan-seared Beef Tenderloin with Dried Cranberries and Portabella Mushrooms
Double Happiness Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries


Unfortunately, it turns out that the judges were instructed only to consider the three best dishes in calculating their scores, which is not how it works in the real Iron Chef contest! As a result, finished second to another team that had focused its efforts on three dishes. Nonetheless, our Fresh Potato Gnocchi captured the award for best side dish (the winning team won for best main dish and dessert).

Of course, the most important thing is that a good time was had by all, even Jason, who spent most of the day playing with Uncle Andrew while Janet helped Alisha and I cook. The judging took place in a beautiful Palo Alto home, which I appreciated more after I read the story behind it. Hopefully, when we are able to buy our dream home, we won't have to go through quite as much of a struggle!