Friday, September 19, 2003

Eat Less, Live Longer

New studies seem to indicate that going on a low-calorie diet can extend lifespan, regardless of when you start the diet.

Conversely, the beneficial effects disappear as soon as you stop the diet.

Hmmm, I smell a whole new basis for suing McDonalds! Super-sizing = death.

On the other hand, McDonalds could take advantage of these new findings by offering "Longevity-Sized" meals, charging more for smaller portions!

Thursday, September 18, 2003

The fast-followers continue; now Techdirt is running a story on the Social Networking bubble. There's a couple of good links to coverage of the recent Social Networking panel at Stanford. I especially liked Ross Mayfield's blow-by-blow.

Ross said something very interesting: "I actually like how cynical we have become these days. Anything with the slightest market traction or investor interest is immeadiately suspect. Keeps us in check."

This kind of skepticism ends up benefiting all the parties--the original entrepreneurs have less competition (both Ross and CBS MarketWatch noted Jonathan's attempts to discourage other people from starting Social Networking companies). The VCs get saved from overinvesting in something just because it shows a spark of like, and consumers aren't forced to sort through hundreds of me-too services.

The problem with Social Networking is that it's just so darn easy to create a service; it reminds me of the bad old days of advertising-supported Web sites, where everyone (including me) believed that you could always monetize traffic through DoubleClick. Now it's even worse--people are getting into Social Networking without any good idea of where the money is going to come from. Unless VCs and entrepreneurs show some restraint, this bubblet could grow into a full-fledged bubble.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

For those of you who are fans of military hardware, the Atlantic Monthly has written a fascinating article about the procurement process behind the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The JSF is the largest, most expensive military weapons program in history, yet James Fallows' article describes how, by applying civilian techniques and innovations to the procurement process, it may end up being one of the most affordable at a mere $28 million per plane (versus the current $100 million per plane for the Air Force's F-22 Raptor).

Of course, what the article is missing is the whole Tom Clancy treatment...

"The setting sun glinted off the gunmetal grey twin tailfins of the F-35. The fighter jet, $28 million of the most deadly machinery ever created by man, seemed to poise lightly on the tarmac, as if waiting for a signal to roar into the sky with its deadly payload. Jack Ryan, Emperor For Life of the Planet Earth, tugged on his flight helmet. Time to kick some alien ass."

This link came from the one and only Gregg Easterbrook, whose Tuesday Morning Quarterback column is surely the only regular feature on ESPN.com that includes geopolitical analysis, photos of scantily-clad cheerleaders, and endless criticisms of Star Trek plot holes.
Once again, you heard it here first:

Andrew Anker of VentureBlog is now reporting on Social Networking as a bubblet. Remember, you heard it here first last Thursday!

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The new new thing:

Check out Terra Nova, a new blog dedicated to the wild and woolly world of massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs).

For those who have never heard of EverCrack widows, MMOGs are online role-playing games (RPGs), often with a fantasy theme (a la EverQuest). Now instead of "Ted from Accounting," you can be "Gorthon the Destroyer, despoiler of fair maidens."

These games are so addictive that at least one player died from exhaustion and dehydration. This, of course, makes them great business, since any opportunity to legally sell an addictive substance tends to be enormously profitable.
Fart-smeller? Animal masturbator? No, these aren't insults from a deleted scene in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. These are actual scientific jobs, as explained by Popular Science.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article discussing how some failed dot-com CEOs are getting a second chance from VCs.

This isn't big news; anyone who has been through the startup process before knows just how much leaders learn from the experience, win or lose. In fact, even in 1999, failed entrepreneurs were more sought after than first-time entrepreneurs--a fact that I didn't appreciate the wisdom of at the time, being in the second category.

What's bigger news is the following:

"After declining four consecutive quarters, funding for startups in seed or early stages of development rose 44 percent, from $408 million in the first quarter of this year to $588 million in the second quarter, according to industry data."

VCs haven't been investing in seed-stage deals because they could invest in later-stage companies at a similar valuation. This increase in early-stage investing indicates that a) we have finally worked through the overhang of excessive company formation during the bubble, b) there are hot new technologies on the rise, c) VCs are again bullish on the future (which means that they believe their startups will be able to achieve liquidity events), or d) all of the above.

It's too early to call it a recovery, but things seem to be looking up.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

America's Political Matrix

I try to avoid politics like the plague. For one thing, espousing a political view is bound to alienate a significant number of people with alternate views. For another, I have no desire to reach into my wallet, which is the only effective way to play politics in the United States.

On the other hand, even politics can be analyzed using the same strategic frameworks as any other human endeavor, and that's what I feel like doing this morning.

In America, we tend to think of politics as a continuum from left (pinko commie) to right (gun-toting, fundamentalist zealot). Yet this left-wing/right-wing approach fails to capture the true flavor of politics.

In actuality, America has a political matrix. One axis is the standard liberal/conservative continuum. The other is what I call the idealist/pragmatist continuum.

An idealist believes that his/her ideology is correct, and refuses to compromise them. A pragmatist believes that his/her goals are worthy, and does whatever is practical to achieve them.

Thus, we end up with four quadrants:

Quadrant I: Conservative Idealist
Quadrant II: Liberal Idealist
Quadrant III: Liberal Pragmatist
Quadrant IV: Conservative Pragmatist

I believe that the majority of Americans, like me, fall into the two pragmatic quadrants. Unfortunately, because we view politics principally through the lens of the left/right axis, politics ends up dominated by idealists. Here's why:

As long as Americans identify themselves as liberal or conservative, a pragmatist candidate, can, at best, appeal to one Quadrant. A Conservative Pragmatist will generally not appeal to Liberal Pragmatists, who already have an unwritten rule in their minds that they will only support Liberals.

On the other hand, a Conservative Idealist can appeal to both Conservative Idealists (the true believers) and Conservative Pragmatists (who would rather hold their noses and support Conservative Idealists than vote for a Liberal Idealist).

Until we recognize that political parties can be organized along idealistic and pragmatic lines, rather than liberal and conservative, the American political matrix will continue to be dominated by the Idealist Quadrants, to the detriment of the silent majority of pragmatists.