Friday, September 24, 2004

The Unwedding

Normally, I try to steer clear of Britney Spears. As I'm fond of saying, "no comment necessary."

In this case, I have to highlight the fine work of the folks at The Smoking Gun. They have truly outdone themselves by unearthing a copy of the legal documentation for Britney's "wedding."

Rather than saying, "I do," the legal document says "I don't." Just the sort of thing to kick off a romantic honeymoon, eh?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

"Gifted" Children

I happened to run across this Time magazine article on the subject of gifted children and skipping grades.

It's a balanced article that describes how the preponderance of research shows that most gifted children who skip grades do just fine, though some do not.

Unfortunately, as the article points out, many people are uncomfortable with the idea of gifted children, and seize upon the examples of troubled kids to argue against grade skipping.

My own perspective is biased; I went to a school for gifted children, which means that most of my childhood friends were of genius-level intellect. Of course, even at a gifted school, there are relative jocks and nerds.

I had classmates who were taking Calculus at age 10. When I returned to the normal public school system, I was miserable. Being forced to take classes below my grade level was sheer torture.

After a miserable year punctuated with many fights with school administrators, I was allowed to skip two grades and head straight to high school, which was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Today, I and the rest of my old classmates are doing just fine. We work in a wide variety of fields, ranging from teacher to chef to rock star, and everything in between. Time is a miraculous thing--everyone gets old. Ultimately, it's irrelevant whether you skipped a grade or two. What's more important is that you have a chance to be happy, and that's what acceleration offered us.
Marilyn Manson's Respectable Brother

Ever wonder what happened to Paul from the Wonder Years? Now he's an attorney in New York:

And yes, he does look like Marilyn Manson.
Betting the Farm

Joe Kraus, the founder of Excite (and a fellow Stanford grad--albeit from one year before me), has a great post about how Excite bid three times their cash on hand for the rights to Netscape's "NetSearch" button.

Essentially, Excite bet the company and lost. They bid $3 million, when they had less than $1 million on hand (which in itself is a fascinating lesson). Yet they lost the bidding to MCI.

The story doesn't end there, however. Like their lead VC, Vinod Khosla, Excite didn't give up. They hounded Netscape for almost a month before MCI backed out at the last minute, which resulted in Excite winning the bid.

Sometimes it takes an irrational stubbornness to succeed. I've noticed that many of the CEOs I've worked with are uncommonly stubborn and resistant to reality. The bad ones are simply disconnected from reality, and live in their own world. The good ones are in touch with the real world but don't accept things the way they are. If the rules are against them, they change the rules.

Monday, September 20, 2004

The American Idol-ization of Commerce

Sean Carton of ClickZ wrote this article about, a community where the members vote on which T-shirt designs they like the best, and the top vote-getters are produced and sold.

To me, Threadless is just another example of the American Idol-ization of commerce. After all, the current system of producing content, where artists create content, and a publishing industry decides which artists to distribute, is terribly inefficient. The reason it exists is because the costs of distribution and infrastructure were too high for artists and audience to connect directly.

In the world of the Web, those costs have declined by orders of magnitude. But it isn't enough to simply create a product and start hawking it. As Steve Jobs put it, "It's called taste." Not everything is fit to print.

That's where American Idol comes in. What American Idol shows is that if you simply throw open a competition to every budding artist, and let the nation decide what it likes, you can eliminate the uncertainty of the publishing process. Each American Idol winner has a massive built-in audience of fans, which helps explain why recent Idol winners (and even runner-ups) have debuted with platinum records.

Threadless does the same, on a smaller scale, for T-shirts. What can you do to Idol-ize your business?