Monthly Archives: November 2007

long flying when you’re not having fun

There are two types of people in this world:

A. People who’s day takes a long time but their month seems to go by so quickly


B. People who’s day flies by but a month seems so long ago

I tend to gravitate toward the latter. If a month ago seems like ages, it often means that you’ve done so many interesting things over that time. If it seems like just yesterday, then maybe you’ve done a lot of the same thing.

Conversely, if your day goes by quickly, you’re energized and excited. But if a day takes a long time, you might be bored and repetitive.

Consumer Control in a Data-Driven World

The amount of data collected on you increases every year. And recently, the slope of the curve is getting steeper as there is much more data to collect, including your demographics, digital footprint, purchase history, where you are driving, how you are traveling, your network of friends, and even some of the most intimate details of your personal life.

At the same time, we’re not living in a Brave New World or 1984-type society where there is only one collector of this data, akin to the all-knowing Stasi in East Germany. It is actually much scarier than that. The number of actors collecting this data is growing astronomically. Today there are tens of thousands of actors collecting information about you and these include corporations, government agencies, non-profits, and others.

Of course there are a lot of apparent and unapparent benefits to having all this data collected. We can obtain readily accessible credit – the underpinning of why the U.S. economy is so strong – due to the fact that our debt payment data is easily accessible. Micro-targeting to your likes and interest is much better than receiving irrelevant spam. And very few web sites would work well without cookies grabbing your site preferences or shopping cart info.

Up to now, consumers have been willing to tolerate less privacy for the benefits of a frictionless world. But they are getting increasingly uneasy about this trade, especially since the trade is becoming a far worse deal for consumers. Data collectors are not giving enough back to consumers and that needs to change.

We believe that consumers will demand and receive – either by consumer action or government regulation – the following three rights:

#1 – You should know more about yourself than anyone else knows about you.
Consumers should have the right to find out what data is being collected about them. As a consumer, you should be able to go to DoubleClick, AdBrite,, Google, Yahoo, Aggregate Knowledge, etc. and a list of all the websites that track you. You should be able to go to Choicepoint, Experian, Acxiom, Rapleaf, etc. and see all the data they collect on you. You should be able to see the same government records that the DMV, FBI and Medicare have on you. And you should be able to access this data for free at anytime.

#2 – You should be able to opt-opt.
You should have the right to opt-out, either wholly or partially, of being tracked. That means you should have the right to tell DoubleClick to never track you, or just not on sports sites in particular.

#3 – Your data should be owned by you and be portable anywhere.
You should be able to move or copy your data from one location to another location. Essentially, you should be able to export your data from Doubleclick and import it to a different system. When you join a new social network, you should be able to take your social graph from Facebook or LinkedIn with you and tear down these walled gardens.

While consumer advocates have been talking about these three rights for years, we’re closing in on making these rights a reality. With respect to item #1, consumers can now check their credit history for free once a year from each credit agency. For item #2, next generation data collectors (like Rapleaf) allow consumers to easily and selectively opt-out. And on item #3, most blog-readers have agreed to a common OPML standard for easily exporting and importing the blogs you read.

But more pressure needs to be exerted on the extreme violators of these three consumer rights and the forward-thinking data-collectors must differentiate themselves with consumers.

Alex Kosorukoff is smarter than me

Alex Kosorukoff just sent me a message on my post on spam likes the weekend … Alex writes:

I had just read your post about spam and got curious how general such a pattern might be. I wrote a 5 line short script to parse my inbox for about 4 months. The absolute numbers of spam emails seem to be distributed by days of the week quite evenly. However, the share of spam on weekends indeed increases due to the lower total number of messages. This may create impression that spam is slightly more frequent on weekends, esp for people who receive less useful messages on weekend than me.

Mon 883 682 0.772367
Tue 799 599 0.749687
Wed 2001 723 0.361319
Thu 824 645 0.782767
Fri 870 692 0.795402
Sat 735 664 0.903401
Sun 675 628 0.93037

i should have thought of that! thanks Alex.

picking the right blackberry 8820 vs 8830 vs 8320

i’m thinking about ditching my treo and getting a blackberry. i tried out the iphone and it is not right for me (it misses some core business needs) …. but i still wasn’t sure of making the switch … or of the right model.

so i posted my question on LinkedIn Answers:
thinking about Blackberry 8820 or 8830. thoughts?

i got some really good answers … and thought i’d post some of the most thoughtful ones here:

jeff writes:

I had the 8820 for six months and liked it a lot. I just got the 8320 (T-Mobile Curve w/wifi) a few weeks ago and love it. Both phones get great reception and good battery life (I typically charge every few days). I like think the keypad is a lot better on the Curve, but they’re both great. The Curve weighs less than the 8820, and has a smaller form factor. I really do think the 8320 is the best BB I’ve had to date, and this is my fifth BB.

I’m occasionally tempted to get an iPhone, but I don’t think the iPhone is a realistic phone for business use. Definitely ditch your phone and get a Curve – you’ll be really happy. I just converted my wife, her brother and her father.

Jane writes:

Sadly, neither phone will work in Japan (or Korea, probably). Even though 8830 has CDMA and is advertised as a World Phone, I’m not sure how much additional coverage that will get you outside of the U.S. since the rest of the world is GSM (or 3G UMTS, in the case of Japan), so I’d go with the 8820 since it’s quad-band GSM (8830 is dual-band only) or the 8320 (Curve), which I believe has the same coverage, but is lighter and thinner. I’ve heard good things about the Curve.

If you want a truly global phone that will work on UMTS networks as well, your only BB option is the 8707, which is clunky and doesn’t have the trackball feature. It’s rumored that BB will be launching 9xxx models with 3G, but probably not until sometime in early 2008.

Erik writes:

I’ve currently got the 8830, which I’m quite pleased with. My only gripe is that the keys on the keyboard are more awkwardly configured than on any other Blackberry model I’ve owned (i.e. too close together), but still functional. If not for my Verizon contract, I’d prefer the Curve – it’s got a slightly smaller/lighter and more comfortable form factor, as well as better keypad configuration. It also has a 2 megapixel camera. All things being equal, I’d go with the Curve.

Sherri writes:

I have an 8830, a very positive experience. I plan on upgrading to a curve, however I’m slightly worried it won’t be as sturdy if it falls out of my purse. The 8830 has all the basics and above everything is reliable.

Stephen writes:

8820 vs 8830 is really a question of whether you prefer Verizon or AT&T. For most people in the Bay Area – Verizon is better. Clearly they are new to this whole ‘world phone’ but so far the anecdotal problems have been limited. I have been using the Curve (8300) as it is the smallest of the full QWERTY keyboards. Works well, although I blame most of the voice quality issues on the AT&T network and lament having to give up Verizon. Voice and data worked great in Croatia and Italy, but if your going overseas, spend the extra $10/month on ‘global’ unlimited data or they will try to charge you by MB.

A.S. writes:

I have the Motorola Q9h – AT&T just started offering it. Its internet is 3G, blazingly fast, and compatible pretty much anywhere around the world. I highly recommend it, especially if you have an Exchange Server for all your contacts/calendar.
You can find it at any AT&T store now. I love it b/c I do gmail on the browser (this one now also has opera and it’s lightning fast)

Alexander writes:

I would get the 8310 (GPS) or the 8320 (wifi). It has a much better keyboard than the 88XX series and is much smaller. 8310 also has a camera with flash. I just switched from the Plam Treo 755p. Overall the 8310 is a step up, but to really take advantage of it, you need an enterprise account, which lets you sync email, calendar, contacts and notes wirelessly. There are somethings that the Treo does better, like SMS messages. Also, after using Spring for 5 years, At&t’s network is a disappointment.

Ron writes:

I have been using the 8830 with VZW since early August and am quite pleased so far. As a BB (e-mail sync), it is great (you get used to the keyboard being small), and the phone is great. I have used it in Europe and it worked seemlessly (have them pre-install and activate the SIM card when you buy it). The fact that it opens all manner of attachments is a huge plus. You can’t go wrong with the 8830.

Matthew writes:

The BlackBerry Curve 8320 has been, by far, the best BlackBerry i’ve ever used. The WIFI Calling feature is great for business people. I have unlimited calling at my home and my office.

Lesley writes:

My warning on Blackberry no matter what the model: get it unlocked so that when you travel you don’t have to pay the roaming charges. When I took my T-mobile to Morocco, my daughter ran up a $700 phone bill when she simply called and hung up because she got my voice mail. Then I got it unlocked and put a local sim card in and suddenly, voila, no outrageous charges. My BB was an international one, and the reception was terrific on the top of a mountain in Fez or on the beach in Greece but I could never get the phone to work inside my NY house! I’ve now got an iPhone which I love and will carry an international phone with a local sim card when I travel.

Noah writes:

I have the 8830 and my wife has the Curve, so I’ve played with both. The form factor of the Curve is better, it’s lighter, fits in the hand easier and it has a good keyboard. The 8830 has a better data browsing experience with the Sprint 1xEV network, and you can use the USB cable to connect to your PC for data access on the go (you can’t receive calls and data simultaneously, however). In theory the international coverage is comparable according to the coverage maps (using Sprint), although GSM is more of a known quantity. I’d say if form factor and international coverage are most important, the Curve is the way to go. But if data performance is paramount, then the 8830 has better performance.

Andy writes:

I recently moved to Blackberry 8830 (Sprint) from Treo 650, and have these complaints:

1) SMS interface is poor, intermingled with email, no threaded SMS conversation display, and hard to start an SMS. Treo was better, iPhone is better still

2) the voice command feature keeps saying “Say a command” when I pick up the phone or put it in my pocket…perhaps I am too lazy to find the way to turn this feature off or make it useful…

3) the screen is so soft that after a month it is totally scratched up, this did not happen with my Treo

However, the phone radio is good, I prefer the “push” email of BBerry, it worked for email in Canada when my partners iPhone did not, and I have found the GPS nav useful a number of times thus far

Charles writes:

I have owned a Blackberry for several years and I would have to say that the 8830 is a less sexy version of the Curve. The Curve is lighter, fits better in the palm, and has a better keyboard. However, the 8830 gets great coverage in the Bay Area anywhere from San Jose to Sausalito. The international data rates are reasonable but not a bargain.

The only grip I have with the 8830 is that I find it crashes more often than my old Curve did. I have to do a hard reboot about once to twice per day due to hardware hangs.

… now I’m still not sure what i’ll do (some conflicting advice) … but definitely is food for thought.

baseball cards and bubbles

This is a post about bubbles … from what I learned from selling baseball cards. I started a little business selling baseball cards when I was 13-18. it was a lot of fun. I rode the wave of my first bubble and learned a really good lesson to help be prepare for the Web 1.0 bubble.

Most people get into baseball cards because they love baseball. They love the player statistics, the stories of the players, the beautiful cards, and more. But in 1987, baseball card mania was huge. So I actually got into baseball because of baseball cards. Entrepreneurship has a way of doing weird things to people.

Baseball cards were the “sure thing” of the late 80s like dot-com was of the late 90s. Almost every card went up in price eventually — certainly it was extraordinarily rare for a card to go down. If a player had a great year, the card would appreciate very well. If the player was in some sort of scandal, the card might skyrocket. There was often no rhyme or reason to the prices. It was in a less efficient market.

The first hint that it was a bubble is that people like me were getting into baseball because of the money-making opportunity. People were doing a lot of speculation. The second was the proliferation is baseball card brands — at one point every baseball player had over 8 different cards of themselves from different brands — like Topps, Fleer, Upper Deck, Score, Dunross, and more. And it seemed like there was a baseball card show every weekend. It was crazy.

And then the levies broke. In one month, everything crashed. Everything. The local baseball store went out of business and the owner, a nice guy named Rich, had to start working in Kmart. My portfolio went down 30% almost overnight. And it really went down a lot more than that because the liquidity vanished from the market.

That’s also what happened again in 2000 in the dot-com world. I fared a lot better in 2000 — maybe because I experienced a smaller but very personal crash a decade before. And right now I’m seeing a lot of signs of a bubble too. The number of start-ups is proliferating. Our biggest competitor in hiring is not Google or other cool start-ups but people starting their own company.

so I’ll be be thinking about my Eric Davis rookie card (once $15 in 1990 and now hovering at a $1)…

spam likes the weekend

Jeremy Lizt, one of my colleagues at Rapleaf, recently pointed out that spam usually arrives at night or over the weekend. We believe that might be because bandwidth costs are lower then.

i tried to find some more information on when spam is more likely to arrive and i couldn’t find anything. if anyone has some stats like this, please email me. thanks!

book: The Dust of Empire

The Dust of Empire: The Race for Mastery in the Asian Heartland
by Karl Meyer

this is a great book on the stans, India, Pakistan, Iran, Georgia, and Central Asia overall. I’m reading The Great Game at the same time as this book. highly recommend it

more data on expert wine tasters being scam artists

Greg Fodor forwarded me this interesting article:

The Subjectivity of Wine by Jonah Lehrer.

Lehrer writes:

In 2001, Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn’t stop the experts from describing the “red” wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its “jamminess,” while another enjoyed its “crushed red fruit.” Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine.

The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table. Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was “agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded,” while the vin du table was “weak, short, light, flat and faulty”. Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was.

thanks Greg!

a recovering out-of-office addict

I used to be a big believer in those “out of office” email reminders … even when I was only gone for an afternoon. I was an Out-of-Office zealot. I’d let you know where I was, that I was unlikely to get back to you anytime soon, and contact info of my asst in case you really truly needed to reach me.

And while there is no 12-step program for out-of-office-aholics, I somehow kicked the habit.

The thing is, I realized that very few people actually read those auto-replies. And who was I kidding???? … I still checked my email and cleared my in-box every day. so about a year ago I went cold turkey and cut my out-of-office habit. Now, even when I am out of town, I’m still in the office.