Changing the world

apps over austin at sxsw

I went to Austin, and I came back with an excellent orange beanie. I also spent a lot of time talking to interesting people and — when I wasn’t busy producing content for VentureBeat — drinking a bit too much. (And I made a brief appearance on NPR, which made my mom really proud.)

I’m tired and happy to be home now. But I’m also feeling kind of inspired by the whole event. From the guy in the bar who is making an app to help people commit “random acts of kindness,” to Amanda Palmer’s challenge (at a session about startup communities) for more awareness of the way crowdfunding builds a sense of shared responsibility, to the huge, world-changing ambitions of the Founders Fund partners, there was one common thread for me at SXSW this year (my first): Changing the world.

Here’s an excerpt from my latest column.

AUSTIN, Texas — At South by Southwest, every party had long lines of people waiting to get in, sometimes stretching the length of a block.

Every party except one, that is. I walked down the street last night past a Microsoft Windows event, which not only had no line, it was so empty that a staffer was standing on the sidewalk urging us to come inside.

Maybe Microsoft needed to hire a more exciting band. Half a block further down, and the sidewalk was crowded with young folks hoping to get into a party sponsored by some technology company. I’m pretty sure the headliner wasn’t Robert Scoble.

SXSW is an interesting mashup of a music festival, a film festival, and a geek fest. This was my first year attending, and I was a bit nervous, given that everything I’d heard about it made it sound crowded, noisy, and uncomfortable. But I’m leaving impressed.

Short version: Yes, SXSW is crowded and in many ways a dysfunctional event. No, there’s no real news. But it’s a great experience.

Read more about SXSW, startup communities, Tony Hsieh, and Amanda Palmer in my latest Dylan’s Desk column: How I learned to stop worrying and love SXSW.

How I stay productive

Fast Company asked me how I manage to be productive, which gave me a chance to explain how I use Evernote and Instapaper. Here’s their writeup:

Dylan Tweney, the executive editor at VentureBeat, said Evernote, the popular note-taking and archiving service, is his go-to productivity tool. “I use Evernote to collect everything I might possibly need to save for later, with the exception of emails–Gmail is fine for that. I store all of my important documents–from notes to interviews–in Evernote. I also use Evernote tags as a kind of to-do list: I have a set of tags that I can use to prioritize things that need to happen immediately or that Im waiting for someone else to finish: “1-next,” “2-soon,” “3-later,” “4-someday,” and “5-waiting”. When I get an email that I need to act on but cant respond to immediately, I forward it to my private Evernote address and then prioritize it,” said Tweney. “Finally, I use Instapaper liberally to save articles that I run across during the day, but dont have time to read during the busy hours. It sends stories to my Kindle automatically, so I always have something interesting to read on the train ride home or in the evening. That helps keep me focused on work, even when people are sharing fascinating things on Twitter and Facebook all day.”

via How CEOs Stay So Productive | Fast Company.

Dylan’s Desk: What you need to do to get more women at your conference — or company

panel of investor "sages" at DEMO Fall 2012

Last year, Courtney Stanton organized a conference for game developers whose 12-person speaker roster was half women, and half men.

And she did it without considering the gender of applicants.

In the world of tech conferences, that gender ratio is almost unheard of — let alone getting there without actively saying yes to certain applicants just because you know they’re female.

Stanton is a product manager for a video game publisher. She wanted to put together a conference for game developers, make it accessible — and get onstage speakers more diverse than, as she put it, “the same four straight white men agree(ing) with each other on some panel.”

How did she do it? By actively recruiting women through every possible channel. She attended events and spoke to women. She encouraged women she knew to submit speaking proposals. She recruited online. She met people for coffee and promised to mentor them, review their slide decks, help them brainstorm — whatever it took to get women to apply.

Read the original story at http://venturebeat.com/2013/01/30/what-you-need-to-do-to-get-more-women-at-your-conference-or-company/

Photo credit: Stephen Brashear/Flickr

 

Swipp hopes to make your status updates into collective, global knowledge

Swipp, a new “social intelligence platform,” is trying to bridge the gap between evanescent, useless social data (I ate a B.L.T. for lunch today! Look at this cool mural!) and more lasting, but less personal, knowledge, like the Wikipedia entry on San Francisco.

“We want to create a smarter, wiser planet,” co-founder Don Thorson told me in an interview recently. “It’s like the Borg Collective, with a more compassionate bent.”

The combination depends on an ambitious play: Getting people to share updates with their friends that include a unique 11-point rating, from -5 to +5, through Swipp’s iOS app and website, both of which launch today.

So, for example, you might use Swipp to post an update about the 49ers winning the game last weekend. Like Twitter, there’s a place to put a short note (up to about 250 words long), and you can attach a photo.

But unlike Twitter, the last thing you do before “Swipping” something is give it an emotional rating with a slider at the bottom of the screen. There’s a cute cartoon face that animates from sad/angry to happy as you slide the scale left and right.

Originally published on VentureBeat: Swipp hopes to make your status updates into collective, global knowledge | VentureBeat.

Once king of enterprise software, Lotus Notes is dragging IBM down

lotus notes is coming poster

Published on VentureBeat

When IBM bought Lotus for $3.5 billion in 1995, it looked as though the venerable computing giant was just about to lock up the software industry and coast to unstoppable profits.

Eighteen years later, Lotus looks more like a millstone around IBM’s neck than a flywheel giving it extra speed.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, in advance of IBM’s Q4 earnings release today, Lotus was the weakest performer in IBM’s software portfolio, shedding 6.4 percent of its sales volume in the first nine months of 2012.

It probably accounts for about $1 billion in annual revenue, according to estimates sourced by the WSJ, or one-sixth to one-fifth of IBM’s overall software business.

Ironically, Lotus once led the way toward today’s hottest enterprise technologies, the collaborative software that helps teams communicate and work together on projects. One of the success stories of that niche is Yammer, which Microsoft acquired last year for $1.2 billion. So, why is IBM sitting at the back of the pack instead of leading from the front?

Read the full story at: http://venturebeat.com/2013/01/22/lotus-notes-history/

Photo credit: Andrew Mason via photopin cc

We need more people like Aaron Swartz

Here is my latest column on VentureBeat: We need more people like Aaron Swartz.

I spent much of the past few days thinking about Aaron Swartz and what a loss we suffered when he took his own life last week.

His passing breaks my heart. I didn’t know him, though he was in my circle: I know many people who knew him well. But he made my life better, and every day I use technologies that he contributed to. Whether that was working on an early version of the RSS spec, laying out the Python framework for web applications known as web.py (used by many sites now, including Reddit), or working with Larry Lessig on the launch of Creative Commons, he had a knack for finding useful projects where his considerable talents could make a real difference to millions of people. I use the fruits of those projects constantly.

That, in a nutshell, is the focus of what I look for and try to write about: technologies that have the potential to make a difference to millions.

Unfortunately, most of what tech journalists wind up writing about instead are technologies that have the potential to make millions (but only for a few people).

Read the rest of the story: We need more people like Aaron Swartz.

 

“In short, Aaron Swartz was not the super hacker breathlessly described in the Government’s indictment and forensic reports, and his actions did not pose a real danger to JSTOR, MIT or the public. He was an intelligent young man who found a loophole that would allow him to download a lot of documents quickly. This loophole was created intentionally by MIT and JSTOR, and was codified contractually in the piles of paperwork turned over during discovery.”

via The Truth about Aaron Swartz’s “Crime” « Unhandled Exception.

Dylan’s Desk: CES still matters, even if you hate it

Some guy at the Canon booth at CES 2011

Some guy squinting into the future at the Canon booth at CES 2011. Photo by Dylan Tweney

After a two-week holiday break, my VentureBeat column is back. This week: why CES still matters.

Coincidentally, this morning NPR ran a similar story on Morning Edition. The reporter points out that, while big companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Amazon don’t have booths at CES, they still send many executives and other people to scout out technology and make deals. And, for many companies, CES can actually lead to unparalleled press coverage — especially if you have something that photographs well.

Here’s my piece on VentureBeat.

Tech journalism’s annual festival of self-loathing is in full swing. I refer, of course, to CES, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that will draw, this year, over 150,000 visitors and nearly as many blog posts complaining about how irrelevant and miserable it is.

I won’t argue about the miserable part. When you take people from all over the world, many of whom were just visiting with family members a week ago, and cram them into a single, shared space with industrial ventilation systems, you’ve got one of the most efficient systems for transferring pathogens ever invented. It’s crowded, the lines for cabs and coffee are long, and it takes forever to get anywhere, whether that’s from Caesar’s Palace to Mandalay Bay or merely from one side of the Las Vegas Convention Center to the other.

And yet, CES is still, for all its failings, one of the most important single events in the technology industry.

It’s not important as a press event, but it’s critical as a meeting place for manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of consumer electronics. I think of it as a temporary bazaar or souk on a grand scale: a huge marketplace where vendors compete to draw the attention of buyers, who flock up and down the aisles looking for a good deal, an angle, or merely an interesting distraction.

CES is also a barometer for where the hardware industry is going. Yes, hardware as we know it is dying. Software is more important than ever, and there hasn’t been a world-changing product unveiling at CES for years. The action has shifted to apps and cloud services, and it’s arguable that those are all more important than the hardware used to deliver them to consumers. But the pendulum may be starting to swing back, and CES 2013 shows the first signs of it.

Read the full story: Why CES still matters, even if you hate it

Small stones #4-7

My son asks me to time him, then bolts down the sidewalk and out of sight between two strangers. He returns at top speed, twelve long seconds later.

4 Jan 2013

 

the binoculars reveal distant waves
crawling slowly across the horizon

5 Jan 2013

 

Sunlight breaks through the sky over Capitola, surrounding the surfers with a silvery glare. Along the horizon, a thin bright line underscores the massed grey clouds.

6 Jan 2013

 

The day after
the sky’s pink and orange haze
matches my own

7 Jan 2013