I’m leaving Rackspace to join Upload VR

The news is now out: http://venturebeat.com/2016/03/10/robert-scoble-leaving-rackspace-for-uploadvr-to-explore-augmented-and-virtual-reality/ I’m joining Upload VR, details here…

What a seven years it was working at Rackspace, much of it as its futurist.

As you know, for the last seven years you’ve seen me hop around the world visiting innovation labs, conferences, startups, and other places/companies that could tell me something about where the future is going. I’ve built relationships all over the world and brought Rackspace to many new companies and places but there are deep shifts coming in our society due to new technologies and it’s time to make a career change.

Not to mention I was one of the most recognizable faces at a multi-billion-dollar public company with 6,000 employees and successfully helped it build its brand on social media and on the world’s most important stages.

Today I’m announcing that I’m leaving Rackspace to join Upload VR http://uploadvr.com/ — a new media site covering virtual and augmented reality — as its entrepreneur in residence, where I’ll be developing new shows, events, and working with other entrepreneurs in the Upload Collective, a coworking space for virtual reality-focused startups. In particular working with Upload’s cofounders Will Mason and Taylor Freeman.


Well, two years ago, at Web Summit in Ireland, I watched many people get their first look at Oculus Rift. Nearly everyone came out of the demos with a stunned look on their face and most used expletives to describe their experiences. Me too. I’ve seen that happen dozens of times since, including last weekend in Cape Town, South Africa, where a local entrepreneur threw a VR party in my honor and many people got their first experiences with VR, which is why I posted this video as part of this post.

It is clear to me that there are new opportunities to build companies in the VR space (duh, just look at the billions of dollars of investment) and the Augmented Reality wave that will follow VR will be even bigger. I wanted to be in a place where I’d have the freedom to create businesses, or at least be part of a media team that was focused on this future.

In the past six months it’s been clearer and clearer that Rackspace was undergoing its own shifts, toward supporting more enterprise customers who were moving existing datacenters to clouds running at Amazon or Microsoft. VR and AR didn’t yet matter to them, at least not to the bottom line. At least not yet and probably won’t make a difference in the bottom line for three years.

As a media guy, though, I know that in three years the market window will have closed. If there will be new brands, and I believe there will be, or new shows, documentaries, conferences, blogs, worlds, whatever you want to call them, they will all be built in the next three years.
I just didn’t want to sit on the sidelines and Rackspace couldn’t invest in me internally to do such. That’s not how companies work.

So, today, I’m announcing that I’m leaving Rackspace to be entrepreneur in residence at a new media property that you might have heard of. Upload VR http://uploadvr.com/ is my favorite place to learn about new VR headsets, products, experiences, games, cameras, and more.

I’m writing a separate post about what Rackspace, and, in particular, my boss, Robert D. La Gesse, meant to me over the last seven years. It’s been such an honor to be a public face of a public company and, especially one that has such an important role in the tech industry with hundreds of thousands of customers.

Some QA:

Q. What does Rackspace think of this? Were your bosses disappointed?
A. Rackspace invested in me to go follow my dreams and passions. We both are friends and you may see Rackspace involved in what I do in the future. They also gave me my newsletter, content rights to use as I see fit. This move made sense for both sides. We’ve been working on this for a while and figuring out what my future might look like.

Q. How are you going to be compensated?
A. I’m in a very fortunate position because I’ve been asked to speak to corporate events all over the world. I have a new speaker management company, ODE Management, and they are quite positive that there’s enough demand out there for me as a speaker that I don’t need to worry about that short term and that I can work with Upload easily while doing so. That said, I’ll be working on making a series of businesses, including a new book, “Beyond Mobile” that I’m writing with Shel Israel, so I’ll open up new sponsorship and advertising possibilities in the future. More on those soon. I’m also open to new business opportunities, if you have one let’s talk!

Q. What does this mean for what you are doing on social media?
A. You probably won’t see many changes, at least not soon. My Facebook will keep being full of industry news and things that catch my eye. I will still visit with many entrepreneurs and others, albeit with more of a VR/AR focus now. Same on Twitter, SnapChat, LinkedIn, and Google+. They will get my newsletter, like I’ve been doing the past year. Some changes you might notice is that my blog will start up again and I’m playing with some ideas for YouTube, but more on those later in the year.
One idea that I’m noodling on is doing social media consulting, though. Dale Bracey (he worked at Rackspace on the social media team) and I are thinking that through. A lot of the world still doesn’t understand how to use social media well and Dale was amazing at doing the dirty work of what I call “defensive social media” (helping customers out on Twitter and other places) while I did the “offensive work” of building brand, and building storytelling devices for Rackspace (like I did at Microsoft too). I’m working with brands to come up with some ideas, if you have advice or need that kind of service, drop us a line at scobleizer@gmail.com

Q. What will my role as EIR at Upload entail?
A. I’ll be working with the Upload Collective team to help find other great startups to join me in the space, along with thinking through its event strategy for 2017. This is one reason why I wanted to join as an EIR, it would give me time after leaving Rackspace to have discussions with a number of companies without the constraint of worrying about appearances. Being a public representative of a public company does tend to limit the kinds of discussions one can have without causing rumors, brand destruction, or stock price consequences, so this change frees me to work with the marketplace on a number of different initiatives. Want to have a chat? Please contact me at scobleizer@gmail.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

Q. What will you be doing this weekend at SXSW?
A. I’ll be attending the Upload VR Mixer on Sunday night. I’ll also be hosting a “Beyond Mobile” VIP breakfast for VIP brand representatives on Sunday morning (sorry, that’s sold out). Plus speaking at several events and doing my own reporting on how the VR/AR space is evolving here at SXSW. Am on a panel during the VR day on Thursday with several VR pioneers. Plus having a little fun at the concerts in the evenings and many dinners and parties I’ve been invited to.

Q. Will this mean you will focus exclusively on virtual reality?
A. No. I’m going to continue to cover “Beyond Mobile” technologies, including additive manufacturing, IoT, robots, self-driving cars, artificial intelligence, and other technologies that change our future, all hitting in the next decade. I’m especially interested, though, in VR and AR, and how our culture is deeply changing due to these new technologies. In fact, one advantage of this move is I can spend more time working with Shel Israel on our book, “Beyond Mobile,” which will ship in December. We’re still looking for more sponsors for that, by the way. We’re looking for companies who want to position themselves as leaders in the “Beyond Mobile” space.

Q. Why Upload VR?
A. While most people haven’t heard of Upload, it is my favorite site of those covering the upcoming virtual reality and augmented reality spaces. Plus they have a great office in downtown San Francisco where they are hosting several startups with more coming soon.

Join us for the Scoble Show (music/charity event)


Details on “Scoble Show” on Saturday.

I have 200 friends coming from around the world to Napa on Saturday to raise awareness for http://www.preventchildabuse.org/ and celebrate several birthdays. Angelica Mabray and I started this last year because our birthdays are next to each other and we wanted a way to celebrate and kick off the year properly. Last year we started the Scoble Show because it was my 50th birthday.

This year it takes on a new importance, because its been a year since I’ve been drunk on wine I had from Sarah Francis at this party last year (she was our featured entrepreneur).

This year we have a TON of music, and much more. We’re planning on live streaming it on my YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/scobleizer

We’ll also be using the shoto app to share photos with each other, as the official photo sharing app of the Scoble Show (it is sponsoring the Scoble Show). This is a great new app that lets people easily share photos at events, or moments in their lives and get the photos your friends take. It’s a lot of fun, more on Saturday.

Rackspace is another sponsor, they didn’t put any money in, but gave me the time to plan this, which is very valuable. As we further move to supporting a variety of business infrastructure, from our own OpenStack, to AWS, Azure, Magento, and other clouds, having great relationships with entrepreneurs and other key players in the ecosystem matters a lot, plus Rackspace supports employees’ charity and community building efforts in a variety of ways.

Prevent Child Abuse is an organization that means something very personally to me, since I was sexually abused when I was young. If we can help just one person avoid such this will be worth it.

Anyway, come join me at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time on Saturday. I’ll post the exact URL then.

Here’s a list of the music and when they will be on stage.

Streaming will start at 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time, with Roem Baur.
–>>Official Start 4:15 p.m. Introductions,
4:30 p.m. Claire Parr. She’s an amazing musician, who has built an entire career around finding the best in life, music, food, wine (she picks the music for Southwest Airlines, among many other brands).
4:40 p.m. Jillette Johnson Jillette’s voice is amazing and is getting millions of listens on Spotify.
5:30 p.m. Bebo White and The Sada Springs Jug Band (Bebo built the first Website in the US).
6:15 p.m. Teresa Valdez Klein (Tae Phoenix) and Anna Post (She played her first concert last year at my event).
7 p.m. Roem A Baur (and Philip Nelson). Roem beat 100,000 others to get onto the Voice two years ago and he’s even better now.
7:30 p.m. Peter Hollens (he has millions of views on YouTube for his unique performances where he sings all the parts).
8 p.m. Pete Stringfellow and his band (Pete will be showing us his new music video which will be shown for the first time, then performing for us with his band). Pete also helped me choose the charity and will be talking about what it means.

Thank you to:

Sasha Webber for helping me with event planning/etc.
Sachin Dev Duggal and the team at http://www.shoto.com/ for sponsoring the Scoble Show.
Eddie Codel for live streaming the event on my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/scobleizer
Michael O’Donnell for making great photos in the studio downstairs.
Alexander Green and http://www.symmetrylabs.com/ for providing amazing LED displays upstairs.
Dominic Mendiola and his wife for the amazing Dom’s Chop Salsa – Taste the Grilled Difference. (They will be our featured entrepreneur).
Kara Keenan Goldin for the Hint Water. My new addiction.
Don Wetherell and http://www.bountyhunterwine.com/ for the amazing BBQ and other food.
Eric Mitchell for sharing his EDM documentary, which will be seen for the first time at our party (unfortunately we can’t share that publicly, but you’ll see more about it at SXSW).
Hugh MacLeod for the great poster artwork.
Tanya Denise Halepota for the flowers.
Kevin Hague and JBL for the Pulse 2 speakers.
GotLight for the AV. http://www.got-light.com/

Oh, and most importantly, Maryam Ghaemmaghami Scoble who makes it all possible and Robert D. La Gesse who continues to lead by example.

Hope you can join us for a fun time on Saturday! Thank you to everyone who has added something to this event to make it something very special.

Want to go? Tickets are sold out, but I still am holding three tickets for people who will make a great non-alcoholic drink for our guests. You game? If so, post below what it will be.

15 years of blogging…

In December, 2000 I started my Scobleizer blog.

Damn, thinking about how much the world has changed since then. (I also posted this to Facebook here).

Back then there was:
No Facebook.
No YouTube.
No Twitter. Or Google+. Or Quora.
No Uber. Or Lyft.
No iPhone. Or iPads. Heck, even the iPod hadn’t been invented yet.
No Android.
No self driving cars.
No Waze.
No Google Maps.
No Spotify. Or Soundcloud.
No WordPress.
No Wechat.
No Flipkart.
No AirBnb.
No Flipboard.
No LinkedIn.
No AngelList.
No Techcrunch.
No Google Glass.
No Y Combinator. Or Techstars. Or Geekdom.
No AWS. Or OpenStack. Or Azure.
No Snapchat.
No Skype. Or Hangouts.
No Yelp.
No Kickstarter.
No Apple Stores.
No Periscope. Or HangW/. Or Meerkat. Or, even, Qik or Kyte, which are gone now.
No Nest.
No drones.
No Kindle.
No Foursquare.
No Pebble. Fitbit. Or Apple Watch.
No Tesla. Or Hybrid cars. Or electric cars.

I can’t remember how we survived back then.

If I live another 15 years, what will we see?

Maybe I should fire up my blog again. I was thinking of doing that as a repository of my newsletter. http://www.scobleizer.com

Oh, and thanks to Dori Smith and Dave Winer. The two of them convinced me to start a blog (they were speakers at a conference I was helping plan back then, working for Dan Shafer). I thought blogging wasn’t important enough to add a session about it to our conference. Now there are conferences on blogging, even a famous one just for women bloggers. But they got me to start and Dave’s blog at http://www.scripting.com is still at the top of my reading list.

I’ve completely moved to social media

After giving it some thought I have completely moved to Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RobertScoble

I am putting TONS of great content into there. If you aren’t on Facebook, I’m also on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/scobleizer or on Google+ at https://www.google.com/+Scobleizer

Someday I might come back to the blog, but the world has moved and it is on social media.

Knock, knock, is this thing on?

We’ve done some updates to the blog here. Hopefully the feeds and everything still works. Now on a modern server at Rackspace, thanks to Rob Collazo for helping me out. Got the latest theme. Improved security here. Updated to latest WordPress. Everything is looking good.

Now the trick is to figure out what to do here that I can’t already do on Facebook, which is where I’ve been spending most of my time lately. Are you reading me there? Why not? That’s where you’ll see EVERYTHING I do.

Here? I think I’ll start writing longer posts again here and see what happens. Also, after this post ships I’ll also connect this to all the social networks, which will bring more people here.

Nokia's Trapster is too far over the freaky line

Why trust is the new currency in Age of Context and why Nokia lost it here.

In the Age of Context lots of companies will go over the freaky line. What is that line? Where at least some people are uncomfortable with the privacy implications of the service. At EVERY speech I’ve given about our new book privacy comes up and people tell me they are scared by this new world that we’re heading into where systems like Google Now help you based on all sorts of private data, from where you are standing to who has sent you airline plans.

But there are some “over the freaky line” concerns that are actually valid because they could put users into real harm. I believe this is one such case.

Figuring out where the freaky line is is one of a product designer’s top jobs in 2014 (and really this falls on corporate leadership in the CEO and CMO office, which increasingly will gain power over the IT budgets in the future, I believe).

Lately I’ve been looking at location-based services to make sure I didn’t miss anything that is important in the Age of Context we’re headed into (if you haven’t read the book Shel Israel and I wrote about the future of mobile, titled “Age of Context,” you really should because it’ll get you up to speed on how data from location, social, mobile, and sensors are being fused together and what this means for the future of privacy) and I looked back at Trapster. I thought it might have been killed by now, in the shadow of Waze, which, at least in San Francisco area, does a LOT better job (Waze is now owned by Google and some of the data reported by users on Waze now shows up on Google Maps but that data doesn’t come close to the freakiness of what Trapster shares with other people).

But Trapster is still alive and is being pushed by Nokia. Trapster still has a team with a budget of millions of dollars per year being poured into it by Nokia and dozens of employees. In fact, on April 30, 2013, on the Trapster blog it shows they have 30 employees.

What I found, though, scared me and showed me a company too far over the freaky line to be safe. Trapster is similar to Waze in that it lets drivers report cops, accidents, and other hazards which are shared with other drivers. I hadn’t used Trapster in a while because Waze has thousands of times more users in San Francisco and cities I’ve tried both on. Waze isn’t over the freaky line the way Trapster is which you’ll see in a moment.

Here’s what’s going on: Trapster shows your driving behavior on other people’s mobile phones as a blue line. A traceable path. Waze doesn’t do that, Trapster does. The blue line is there to show people that someone has just driven there and hasn’t reported any cops or other driving problems. The thing is this blue line sticks around for hours (I believe two, in my testing) and can be captured as a friend did on my account. He called me after I reported a cop and said “hey, did you just make a U Turn?”

Why yes I did. “Oh, how did you know that?” I asked. “I’m watching you on Trapster.”

Turns out that because Trapster has so few users it’s easy to “stalk” individual users based on these blue lines (I have several examples of where friends of mine and me have “stalked” users as they drive around town in real time). Especially if they use their real name as their user name, like I do. But even if not, if you know where someone lives or works you can easily figure out who different blue lines belong to. I did this to one employee who works at Trapster as I watched him drive home. These blue lines even continue after you stop driving and I can see what stores you visited and where you walked, even.

Competitor Waze doesn’t do that and when I’ve talked with Waze officials they tell me they are careful not to show your car exactly where it is in real time to other drivers, either, to keep stalkers from “attaching” themselves to you and following you around. In fact, in my testing, Waze obfuscates your real location in a pretty deep way and doesn’t show you at home or at work. Trapster, on the other hand, starts sharing your blue line as soon as you get up to about 35 miles per hour and shows everywhere you go, see screen shots below for more.

This is a case where a product designer hasn’t put enough privacy into the system and isn’t clear enough with the risks involved.

I’m getting more and more attuned to this problem because of all the speeches I’ve given because of the book I wrote. Yesterday, for instance, I talked with product designers at Expedia (company that helps travelers with their plans), and they are feeling pressure to come up with new cool location-based features, but that team is very focused on privacy fears because they know that many people will switch products because of lack of trust and aren’t willing to take huge risks in order to put new features in place. The conversations I’m having with companies like Expedia and Ford and Ritz Carlton execs show that privacy is a HUGE concern in corporate world because they know that it could piss off rafts of customers if they get it wrong.

The thing is they know there is value in going over the freaky line too and are watching as companies like Uber ask customers to share a HUGE amount of location data in order to build new billion-dollar businesses. Uber knows where you are standing, for instance, a few years ago THAT would have been “over the freaky line” for a limo company to ask for. But Uber doesn’t share that data with the public so isn’t nearly as freaky as Trapster is (and Uber even takes other steps to protect privacy and make it hard to stalk people who use its service. For instance it uses the Twilio API to obfuscate phone numbers from your driver).

What do I recommend to companies to make sure they gain trust when doing over the freaky line stuff?

1. Disclose EVERYTHING you are doing to gather data. Visit Google, for instance, at its privacy site at http://google.com/privacy — it shows everything it collects on you. I couldn’t find clear wording on Trapster’s info screens, privacy policy, terms of use that your location will be shared with other people. Plus, even after your blue lines disappear, we aren’t sure whether that data is kept on Trapster’s servers and for how long. What happens to that data? Is it given over to government authorities (I bet it will be turned over if a court order is received).

2. Make the data correctable. If it made a false assumption, make that correctable too. One app noticed I live on a golf course and kept showing me info about golf. I hate golf. Don’t have any interest in playing or lessons but there was no way to shut the app up. Same thing on Trapster. Once I realized my data was being shared in public I couldn’t correct it to make it to my liking. I couldn’t hide my blue line when I got close to things I might care about keeping private, like my son’s schools, my home, or my work.

3. Let me turn it off. I couldn’t figure out how to make it not share my blue line with others in Trapster’s case. Maybe there’s a setting somewhere I missed, but I couldn’t find it and if I can’t find it other users can’t find it either. With such “freaky” data, though, that could lead to really nasty consequences product designers have to be far more careful in order to gain my trust.

That’s the rub. By doing something freaky and not putting me in control (and not giving me enough utility to make being that far over the freaky line worth it) Nokia has lost my trust.

I no longer believe that Nokia is a company that can properly guide us into the age of context and that should be frightening to executives at that company since they no longer have the phone business to fall back on. Nokia should be leading us into this new age where even Mercedes is building a contextual car and Nokia should be showing all of us how to go over the freaky line in a responsible, trusted, way.

This is why Google has gotten so many scared with its acquisitions of robot, artificial intelligence, and home automation companies recently. What new risks to our lives will show up because of all of this surveillance-era technology? We don’t yet know and are looking to companies to carefully build new products that have great utility with a minimum of risk to us personally.

This lack of care with over-the-freaky-line privacy features from a company as important as Nokia is definitely troubling. Here’s some screen shots that show why Trapster is over the freaky line.

Trapster shows where people walk inside stores and in parking lots
Trapster shows where people walk inside stores and in parking lots
Here you can see a user, Paraminder, drive to work on Trapster.
Here you can see a user, Paraminder, drive to work on Trapster.
Trapster potentially shares personal info with everyone, including user names. Not dangerous here, but matched up with blue lines on other screen shots it certainly is.
Trapster potentially shares personal info with everyone, including user names. Not dangerous here, but matched up with blue lines on other screen shots it certainly is.