Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sense shifting - hearablog and Feedspeak

A few years back we got excited about "time-shifting" - PVR's like Topfield and Tivo taught us that it was OK to watch the news at 8:17pm instead of the 7pm that had been dictated to us for decades.

Same goes for blogs - we've been slaves to RSS feeds since 2003 without too many cool filtering mechanisms (Yahoo Pipes or Google Alerts anyone?). In the last 2 years RSS is proclaimed dead and Twitter is the new heir but the social filtering (ahem) is a complete fail.

So being a good slave, I know I need to carve off whole sections of my life to keep up with RSS feeds and my friend has been gReader on Android by the almost palindromic "Noin Nion". But I'm failing: sites like Techcrunch have ramped up to ludicrous volumes of articles to justify AOLs purchase and so "Mark as Read" is the my new new (and oldest old) friend.

HOWEVER - Whilst not a new idea, I've been experimenting the last week with Medium shifting (or Sense shifting). Typically in the car or when walking or working in the yard I use my surplus audio sense to consume podcasts - whats cute about Hear A Blog is they have pretty good narrations of Suster, Shirky, Ariely - all the guys you want to read but can't get to because of Team Arrington's textual diarrhea...

So Hear a Blog is pretty nice - but its only a few top 20 geek blogs. So for more edgy stuff I'm using Feedspeak Pro on Android - it cost me $1 and uses the TTS (Text to Speech) built into the phone. Its almost but not quite as annoying as the TTS on my old Amiga - but I will stick with this "sense shifting" app for a while and give my eyes a rest. Next step is to aggressively filter Techcrunch - how about "grep -vi lacy" ?

Any other suggestions for filtering Techcrunch down to: segment, interesting people and serendipity?
I can't believe this is still an unsolved problem.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thoughts on Books - using an example:Do More Faster: TechStars Lessons to Accelerate Your Startup

Single thesis non-fiction books should just die. Now, Please.

Thankfully, "Do More Faster" is not one of these books and ironically it was a critical book review that inspired me to purchase it.

The book is filled with short anecdotes - just a page or two and a corollary comment from the authors Cohen (@davidcohen, and/or Feld (@bfeld,

The criticism levelled at the book that the anecdotes are too short - I disagree. Much of the ethos that goes into the book is about "lean", about getting to the core of what matters. As fellow aussie Mick @liubinskas says: "Focus on the core - the rest is mostly crap".

Whats frustrating about non-fiction business books is the self-indulgence on behalf of the author and the lack of respect for the reader's time that is pervasive. Books like Freakonomics, Blink, Free, Made to Stick are targeted at audiences who have the least time - these readers treat the books as knowledge acquisition missions rather than a leisurely pursuit. But what does the author do? They deliver in 249 pages something that can be concisely delivered in less than 50.

You can argue that nuances are lost but I posit that the anecdotes/stories (yes they are the true way humans learn) can be culled if the author respects the reader's time - get over it, these business books are just snapshot punditry of a moment in time. Just like we shouldn't patent Business ideas, these books arn't a permanent and lasting discovery - just a maven's dispatch from the field.

Example: This beautiful RSA Animate sketch achieves in 10 minutes 48 seconds pretty close to what Pink achieved in 256 pages. I'm not diminishing Pink's tome, just that the longform* should DIE! I'd be happy to pay the same for the "brodie's notes" version:
- in non-fiction, its not the size that counts
- in 2010 (now) I am throwing out my last bookcase, so its not the cover-art that counts.

With eBook readers, tablets there is absolutely no reason to consume non-fiction in linear text only formats - you don't need to fill a book with 21 anecdotes that repeats the same thesis - we get it, in fact we got it before we bought the book. Instead, I see that tablets will drive richer educational formats unlocking the multimedia experience that has been evolving for 15 years.

If you bleat about graphic creation costs then you really need understand the outsourcing marketplaces. Things will also shift to curation of collected works just like Cohen and Feld do here.

So...ANYWAY...I quite like "Do More Faster", it suits my attention-deficit personality type. The rapid fire anecdotes are efficient, address a specific learning point and you can consume one chapter in a few minutes - thats a digestible format that doesn't bloat - its much like a sequence of blog posts and does lack some writing craft - but thats not the point**.

* I love longform fiction, books that take weeks or months: get under your skin, reside in your daily thoughts remain one of the most unique human experiences - I've not seen a movie or TV series that achieves that.

** Ironically curation of collected works will become the new form of editing. Anything anyone says has been said before, so I'd be happy to pay the curator and the authors for the efficiency of collating the best practices (de-surfing knowledge acquisition)

Credit: for the image.

Your feedback is helping us build Earth's Most Customer-Centric Company - Amazon

The post's title was the footer from an Amazon Customer Service reply to me. I'm usually afflicted with a jaded view of such statements but this time I actually believe this company can and will achieve their goal.


First: its a bold statement but also humble. Most of the time you get: "The worlds leading...", "The best..." etc etc. But Amazon are saying they a "building" - they are not there but are working on it. They also say I am "helping" them - allowing me to engage with them and giving me recognition.

So all this is very nice and Cluetrain and all that - but only works if the product is good....

Second: I've been using the Kindle Reader on NexusOne for a while to read snippets of books (e.g "do more faster" by Techstars crew - more on that in a later post) when commuting or grabbing a coffee, it did the job and didn't try to do too much. (fit for purpose). However, Kindle drove my emotional justifications for getting the Samsung Tab the day it came available -> my first installed application was the Kindle.

I start Kindle on the Samsung Tab, open "do more faster" and boom, it opens at the page I last read on the Nexus One. Thats a very nice customer experience. The only problem is now I have to compete for the Tab at home (Angry Birds was second installed app thus sealing the Tab's fate as must-have mission-critical domestic tool).

To remedy this injustice: last week whilst in China I purchased a yum-cha Android "iRobot" tablet for $100. I didn't expect much but installed Kindle and boom, it opens at the page I last read on the Tab. I now can pick up reading on the formfactor that suits me.

Moral of the story is that even with a 600MHz 1st/2nd generation Shanzai tablet you can enjoy a great customer experience because Amazon focussed on the few features that really mattered. Second moral is that you can do that without purchasing an Apple*.

Third: No product is ever done - Kindle also syncs comments and highlights. But what I want to do is post or share a highlighted quote to a blog, Buzz, Twitter or an email. More importantly, I think this would help Amazon sell even more books (naturally my post would link to the Amazon page for that book). I used the feedback section of the Kindle and told them so. Unsurprisingly (but often neglected by other companies) they've built in a closed loop mechanism to easily allow me to "help".

That is where the Amazon Customer Service reply came from.

* BTW I saw Android 1.6 tablets a while back in China before the iPad appeared.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

dialling back the security stuff (Change of blog title)

Internet security is still the wild-west - and will be for a long time. Mobile internet security will likely make the O.K. Corral look like an episode of Neighbours:
  • all that geo-location stuff
  • real-time elements is a new window of opportunity
  • The belief that Sandboxing (of phone apps) and app review solves personal security is a delusion - it just shifts the goalposts - moves the problem up the stack.
Its good to see some solutions emerging to "out" applications that may (err) leak personal data from phones but at the same time social networks and search giants are squeezing everything but your banking password out of you (unless its your dogs name or your first car). Consumers are the meat in a data theft sandwich.

In summary, lets just say "security is a feature". As people building solutions for the web and mobile, security patterns and practices need to be builtin - not as a premature optimisation but as a trust element for the communities of users and their data.

From a consumer perspective - we still need the "internet drivers licence" but I'll do that next week :)

That said, I want to use this blog for more topics than security - to "dial back" the security tone. There are plenty of great sources - both corporate and independent - not so many for web fraud and community trust/reputation, I will still likely post some here but probably do more via work channels or just social streams.

So I've renamed this blog - simple and a little ironic.

Just for my own record, this is what the old blog intro text said:

"Trust me, I'm a dog" is homage to the apocryphal and naive 1993 cartoon. Identity, trust, reputation are the cornerstone of basic human relationships, but on the web its broken.
Also writing about my experiences as start-up Founder, CEO, CTO in Palo Alto and Sydney.

Menu option to see the lists I follow

Once you follow an external public list, you can't find it again until a notification comes. The whole purpose of following a list is to refer to the existing entries as well.

Otherwise I'd need to create a list of "public lists I follow". Thats not efficient.

in reference to: Follow a list : Managing lists and labels - Bookmarks Help (view on Google Sidewiki)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Startup Metrics for Convicts

Yesterday Matt Barrie, CEO of and asked me to do a fill-in guest lecture for Technology Venture Creation (ELEC5701) course at Sydney University.

So, because the web is already cluttered with a bajillion posts, articles, platitudes and opinions on startups I thought I'd make some comments on the uniquely Australian perspective. Having started and been involved in a few startups bootstrapped from Australia - its worth sharing some tips and traps that might help young aussie entrepreneurs thinking they have a global product/company.
Most aussies know that the convict thing is a convenient ice-breaker in offshore conversations, so I've called the presentation "Startup Metrics for Convicts" in homage/rip-off of Dave McClure's "pirates" talks. Sorry, its a bit rough - I was short on time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Zuckerberg says nobody uses lists - umm Gmail contacts?

truth is facebook has less utility than an a sorted categorized contact list. Google Buzz does it well and you can simply buzz to family, friends or colleagues

will "green" or "games" drive internet of things?

This post shows the big boys are taking sensors seriously....BUT it still seems like "technology looking for a problem".
Normally porn is awarded the kudos of furthering internet technology (sort of like NASA) but I half suspect social gaming will be the heir (commercially speaking) to the throne. (iPhone and Wii sensor driven gaming).
Or perhaps it will be the more altruistic, green initiative that will apply sensors for energy reduction and intelligent minimisation of resources. Here are the "thing" sensors (as HP crow):

  • Vibration
  • Tilt
  • Rotation
  • Navigation
  • Sound
  • Air flow
  • Light
  • Temperature
  • Biological
  • Chemical
  • Humidity
  • Pressure
  • Location

..still seems applicable to porn....

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Great post on embedding "viscerality" in your UX

A perfect companion for Made to Stick by Chip Heath is this post. Focussing on "transitions", "wow moments" and "endings" the post communicates the weaving of a story that embeds deeper in the user's emotional level than just clicking stuff. Made to Stick!

I don't agree with one of the commenters complaining about eBay - yes its an ugly 1.0 site but:
  • I think the star rating was central to their success. It "took reputation to the consumers" in a form that was (mostly) understandable and dissolved distrust of remote buyers/sellers. People forget how revolutionary that was.
  • Also the concept of "WINning" an auction was a critical piece of reality distortion that surfaced an emotion that people often don't realise themselves. That reinforcing a visceral experience.

It also reminds me how ever since - everyone seems to be building green sites - meh.

The emergence of game culture in other ecosystems (foursquare etc) is also another huge wave that will be interesting to follow - will we become fatigued at the endless goals applications/sites start to set for us? Can I monetize my effort, is there a liquid market for "badges"?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pop will eat itself

...was the name of a seminal "alternative" Brit music outfit in the '80s.

A mere 3/4 years ago Dave Recordin gave seminal presentation on openid that still stands today. At some point he casually remarks that people want different identities for themselves and in fact he had several OpenIDs.

This seemed perfectly naturally to me coming from a security background - having more fake identities than Sybil (or fellow aussie Tara) is just your starting point.

In OZ various identity systems (the australia card) and various government and banking PKI initiatives have failed because a unique explicit identity is just too creepy.  What's worse is a flat social network where there is no granularity.  In recent years Chi.MP and Google Buzz have allowed "Groups" but Facebook has remained steadfastly flat - what crazy logic is that?

Its fashionable to critique FB based on privacy - but thats not the point. The point is that it can't work. Now everyone's friend are blamange of mates, Nannas,  ex school friends, colleagues and people that owe you one beer. With "lists" Facebook is showing some vague hint of granularity but maybe too little too late.
Leakage of the disenfranchised will become a network effect - Ryze, Friendster the proof.

The Law of 150 probably only survives on your ability to "chunk down" into subsets. Without seeing the mooted FB privacy controls, "pop" will eat itself.
Dave Recordin was right that everyone deserves to select what identities they have and as many as they can keep a track of!

the fridge delivered social granularity for hormone charged transgressions
See earlier post on multiple personalities

exit for Aussie distributor mPath to ExactTarget

Monday, August 23, 2010

All your interesting posts are in "draft" (the personal diary you didn't know you had)

Hypothesis 1: (My ratio of drafts to posts is 4:1.) I'd posit that most un-professional bloggers have similar ratios.
Hypothesis 2: Many drafts are really interesting. Because you've not wrestled your words to publish-ability - its raw and unresolved. The very nature of your drafts means have more questions and loose ends that remain unsolved mysteries.
Hypothesis 3: The rest of your drafts are inane - but no more inane than your tweets.

This is a quick post triggered by Paul Carr's Thnks Fr Th Mmrs: The Rise Of Microblogging, The Death Of Posterity. Based on Leo Laporte's epiphany that he'd traded his publishing "center of gravity" over to the social networks - them being the main beneficiary. Paul's response is to exit the social networks - will he cease to exist? Perhaps his posts will be short but have focus and punch.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Speed Matters: Urs Holzle from Google on acceleration

This talk (video, audio) - was really interesting for me. When you get to situations where bursts are coming at you tens of thousands of hits per second (perhaps driven by some social meme), the natural response is just to scale out. However, there are other things that make a lot difference - some you can control and some you can't. For example DNS and content acceleration around geographies is something we work at.

In this talk Urs covers things that can be done now and also things Google are trying to improve explicitly (in Chrome, Android, their own DNS servers, upgrading of Google Analytics tags, Jquery CDN etc) under the hood via IETF drafts and recommendations for web developers.

He also reiterates the thing that marketing knows but geeks forget - "speed = revenue". People will be more engaged and spend more if you are looking after them. 27 minutes well spent.

I think we are going to see a bunch of new mobile design patterns emerge as well supporting interactive performance that can be learned from gaming or even the Powerbuilder, Gupta generation of the early '90s. Mobile (not Mobile Web) is heading back to highly engaged client-server.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Maaaaaate- we're starting up StartMate...

Some of Australia’s best-known web entrepreneurs have banded together to deliver the first mentor-driven startup fund. Called "StartMate": it delivers a combination of seed funding, access to mentor’s experience, guidance, US networks and a launchpad to further angel funding.

StartMates aims to fill a gap that exists in the Australian startup scene today that may ultimately deliver greater success on a global level. The focus is to help startups through the process of building a business that solves real customer problems, overcoming a common mistake of “working in a vacuum” too long.

StartMate’s initial goal is to select and fund five startups, the program is similar to the US-based “TechStars” and Y-Combinator programs which has mentored and launched exciting companies like, Socialthing! And Omniscio.

The outcome of the program will be that each startup will have launched products and gained initial “traction”. The chance is there to then pitch the business in the US possibly for market entry of follow-on VC funding to grow the business. During the program the startups will leverage mentor pool (at not cost) whose experience and network.

Its possible the number of places in our program will change depending upon the quality of the applications we receive. Applications priority is given to technology-based startups, where code has already been written, and technologist founders. First intake is early-2011 but look here for the Application process.

In Summary:

  • Focussed on Lean
  • Mentors on tap at no cost
  • Seed Funding
  • Focussed Time period/program and tangible traction goals. How to get from zero to one real customers (not your mum and Aunty Joan)
  • Access to legal guidance (you will need it!)

StartMate is going to be super-valuable for people trying to build startup outside Silicon Valley and specifically I am sure the mentors will have some scars and stories to share based on the Australian experience.

I am pumped about seeing where this fund goes and grows and how it helps build not only the startup community but also capacity for success.

This was announced at Tech23 today be StartMates participants, Scott Farquhar from Atlassian and Ryan Junee from Omniscio (now YouTube). Startmate was brilliantly conceived and driven by Nikki Scevak (Founder of Homethinking).

Book: Building Web Reputation Systems

Good Guy Reputation, Bad Guy Reputation, Product Reputation, Company Reputation, Expertise Reputation and the list goes on and on......

As a real-time fraud detection company, one component of our solution is a dynamic reputation system that supports both automated and "asserted" data to build the reputation. Over the last few years social networks have completely exploded the number of reputational ecosystems and also inspired the ingenuity of people/groups that game those systems.

Alisdair pointed me at a new book thats definitely worth a read. Its at and Building Web Reputation Systems - O'Reilly Media.

  • Commerce (buying online, banking online, paying from my phone), relationships (social, dating, meetups, knowledge, punditry) and even products (music, apps, videos, memberships etc) are become increasingly virtual.
  • The fullfillment is also irresistibly micropayment (mega volumes of $1-$5 purchases) via methods like Apple Appstore, Android Market, SocialGold, Facebook Credits, BillToMobile etc etc.
This confluence drives a greater need for every site builder to understand the reputational elements that drives value in their site and not to just rely on FaceBook "Likes". New recommendation engines like Blippy say something about the purchase and something about the purchaser - it feels like reputation is just at the beginning - and I still have trouble finding a good plumber.....

Sunday, August 15, 2010

test post from blog-droid

Just experimenting with various android apps for quick blog posting - specifically I'm looking for a sort of a posterous "hit and run" experience - most of the apps don't seem to publish to draft and thats a bit befuddling because quite often you want to tidy up or format something later.

Blogeroid, AndroBlogger, Blogger-droid all have this deficiency.

Blogaway looked really promising but keeps crashing on "Edit". Further, once you post as a "draft", you can't re-edit or even view the draft!

I'll keep sussing it out. This is triggered from Android's excellent "Share" menu option on most applications but mostly RSS Readers and Browser - most days I share to:
- work or gmail (to tell someone something specific)
- Google Buzz (which ends up in Twitter and Facebook)
- gTasks (which syncs with Google Tasks - for me to followup later)
The Google Buzz is getting the "shares" that I should be belting into this blog post. That must stop.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Blog post linking to Buzz

Normally folks post a blog entry and then broadcast in Twitter. So I thought I'd try it the other way round for Buzz. Here is my recent Buzz Post

What is interesting is this picture that demonstrates what Buzz delivers.
--->>> PRIVACY CONTROLS <<<--- (I wish I could bring back the blinking font)
I don't follow all the social media players, but I've only see have a crack at allowing people to post to private groups simply, easily and in an naturally intuitive manner. Facebook and Twitter just couldn't be bothered giving the granularity, instead they betray their users in relentless pursuit of "network effect".

Buzz changes the game here - I can now post:

  • just to my family
  • just to my friends
  • or public
and as opposed to the requiring you redefine your contacts, Buzz just leverages Google Contacts.

Google Contacts was the killer app all along, unsexy, under-rated but at the center of how we define our personal relationships. You know it makes sense.