AmigoFishing? Brings cool podcasts

Why do I look at my referer log? Cause the coolest people link to me. Heheh.

Anyway, tonight the AmigoFisher blog linked over here.

AmigoFish? Hmmm, I remember my readers telling me that AmigoFish was cool. So, I read on. And tried it out.

It indeed is cool.

I am into digital photography, so did a search for that. That led me to the Studio Lighting.net blog and podcast, which let me to the Strobist blog.

This is the best of podcasting. People who care about what they do and are willing to share their craft with other people.

I’m gonna definitely do some more “AmigoFishing.”

Aside: Kevin O’Keefe, LexBlogger (a law blog) writes today that the best blogs send audiences away.

Well, the best search engines take you to great stuff.

The future of cable TV that you probably will never get to watch

I get the weirdest phone calls.

This afternoon I got a call that went something like this:

“Hello, this is Robert Scoble.”

“Hi, this is Michael Markman and I live right around the corner from you and wondered if you would like to see Moxi before you leave?”

“Sure.”

Now, Michael had emailed me before to let me know about Moxi and it sounded very interesting, so I wanted to make sure I saw it before I left. He pitched it as sort of a Media Center for cable companies.

Long story short I wasn’t doing much and the heat was keeping me from doing anything productive anyway, so I said “sure, wanna meet up now?”

Anyway, I just got back from spending a delightful hour or so with Michael.

I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

First, I didn’t know much about Michael. He was creative director on Moxi. Ran the team that designed the interface, which won two Emmy’s! (That was a clue that this would be a step above other UI’s). He also told me he worked at Apple for about 10 years in the creative services department back in the 80s/90s.

Anyway, he showed me through the UI. I wanted one almost instantly. And that’s where the story falls apart.

“Can I order this through Comcast?”

“No.”

“How about any other cable company?”

“Only if you live in a few select cities.”

Seems that you can have the best UI, a well-thought out system, with lots of great options, but if you can’t talk the cable companies into adopting it you’re dead in the water.

You know, I’m tired of putting up with a poor user experience on my cable box.

Everyone complains about the monopoly that Microsoft has, but at least you have a choice there. You can go with Open Office. Or Wordperfect. On the Office side. On the OS side there’s OSX and Linux. Wonderful competitors to Microsoft’s offerings.

But on cable or phone systems? We have absolutely no choice.

I want to buy Moxi. But the cable companies are keeping us from considering it.

And we won’t even talk about the IPTV systems that Microsoft showed me. Four HDTV video channels on screen at one time.

That’s blocked too.

Instead we have to put up with crappy UIs, poor feature sets, and crappy HD content.

Do you blame me for loading BitTorrent?

Anyway, thanks Michael for inviting me over. I sure wish everyone could use the system you helped design.

Why I’m a Southwest Airlines fan (Jeff is stuck on Northwest)

Jeff Sandquist, my former boss at Microsoft, had a horrible experience on Northwest Airlines today. He’s sitting in the Minneapolis airport. Say hi if you see him. He also just started a wiki to start tracking power and wifi locations at airports. I thought about doing that, but not sure it would really help anyone. Wikipedia, though, does list wifi availability for airports.

Anyway, this reminds me why I am a HUGE fan of Southwest Airlines. Nearly the identical thing happened to me on a recent trip. I was set up to have a connecting flight through Reno. The flight was getting delayed. I was getting nervous. But before anything could happen the flight attendant called out my name and the name of another gentleman.

Turned out she was getting us off the plane and had already booked us on another flight.

It’s weird, but the people who interact with the customers at Southwest are just a lot more interesting than their blog makes them out to be. I’ve been on flights where the attendant tells great jokes. Another time someone sang and got cheers from the passengers.

Remembering the post-bubble pain

Fred, over at A VC blog, writes about “scars from the last bubble.”

Oh, that matches my psychological profile very well. It might seem from reading my blog that I have non-ending confidence that the advertising market (and the pressure on VCs to keep pouring on the gas) will continue to grow robustly.

The truth, however, is quite different. I’m very scared of the future. I remember the day in February 2003 where I laid myself off. I remember how hard it was for Maryam to find a new job (she went unemployed for more than a year).

I remember when most of my friends were either totally unemployed, or working for no cash. Remember the guy who started Blogger at Google? He wasn’t getting paid. How about the couple who started Six Apart? Unemployed.

So, what have I learned?

Your revenue ramp better be going up faster than your cash on hand is going down. Seems simple to do, but this is really hard. Why? Well, here’s a good example. Which would you rather have? $100,000 today or a penny doubled every day for a month? Well, the penny doubled will be a lot more money. But, if your cash runs out before the 20th of the month you would have been better off taking the $100,000. Markets build by doubling. That’s why big companies miss important things when they are small (they only see things after the metaphorical 20th day when the numbers start to get really interesting). But keeping your company going until that metaphorical 20th day is a terrifying game of chicken between your cash going down and waiting for that doubling effect to really kick in (and that’s assuming you have a product or service that’ll keep doubling — like blogging turned out to be).

If you are seeing a doubling effect going on, measure its amplitude, and then spend accordingly. The blogging world was doubling every five months. In the first year I was blogging, 2000, that meant going from a couple hundred blogs that I could find to about 400. In 2001, it went to 800, then 1600 by the end of the year. In 2002 it went to thousands. In 2003 it went to hundreds of thousands. In 2004 it went to millions. The problem is that we spent our cash so we couldn’t survive past 2003. That either meant we should have gone back and gotten more money (not possible cause VCs weren’t investing in very many things back in 2002/03) or we should have slowed down our spending. If I was honest with you I should never have gotten hired at UserLand back then, I didn’t add enough value for the eight months of cash that were left. The doubling effect hadn’t yet kicked in.

Sometimes it’s good to take the $100,000 offer if it makes sense and live to see another day instead of holding out for a penny doubling. I don’t remember one of those on the table, but if I ever get a chance like that I’ll look back at this as advice.

At this point PodTech is gassing up. Why? We need some products and services, er, shows, that can get onto the doubling effect that video blogging is now seeing. But this scares the hell out of me. On the other hand, if we don’t spend the money, hire great people, we won’t be able to surf that doubling wave that we’re seeing. It means getting over your fears.

My mom dying was a HUGE part of this. She told me, by dying at too young an age, “it’s time to surf and take some risks.” It isn’t lost on me that my new house is just a few miles from Mavericks, the place where some of the largest waves in the world hit land. Those waves have killed professional surfers. The surf report has come in and the waves are getting bigger. :-)

I don’t know that we can really avoid the next bust, though, but at least this time around I’m going in with my eyes open. If you were joining a startup today like I am, what would you be trying to do to live through the bad times?

“Where’s Michael Dell?” BL Ochman asks

BL Ochman has an interesting post today about Dell’s recent business problems.

I think it’s even deeper than the support issues that Dell has had with bloggers.

But, let’s start there. This week Patrick’s power supply broke for his Apple iBook. So, I dropped him off this afternoon at the Apple store in Bellevue, Washington.

He promptly walked out with a new powersupply. I didn’t have to even be involved. He just got a reservation at the Genius Bar and took care of the problem himself. I wasn’t even in the store.

Dell can’t match that customer support. If he had a product from Dell he’d need to wait until Tuesday to receive his new power supply.

If Dell hasn’t figured it out yet Apple is now just another Windows OEM. But what an OEM it is! And Apple is definitely taking away marketshare from Dell (all the new MacBooks at Microsoft that I saw were evidence of this — passionate computer users appreciate great design and great service). Dell is also being hurt on the innovation side of the house. By not doing a Tablet PC Dell has told the marketplace that the innovation is gonna come from other places. I’m typing to you on a Lenovo Tablet PC right now. Why isn’t this a Dell? Because Dell didn’t innovate.

Apple has marketing that makes everyone pay attention. Does Dell inspire anti-Dell advertising imagery like this?

But it gets worse from there. I need a new laptop for work. PodTech has given me a budget of $2,500 to spend on a new laptop.

I’m a home user. Quick, find me the new Dell that has a high-definition screen on Dell’s home laptop page. Hint: it doesn’t exist there. If I hadn’t seen them at Microsoft I wouldn’t even know about them. This is a competitive advantage that Dell has over Apple (Apple doesn’t have 1080 screens in its laptops yet) but Dell is hiding them.

But, I look at how Apple treated a 12-year-old today. And, I probably will hold out for an Apple product because of that service aspect that Dell just can’t provide because Dell’s business model requires cutting every bit of cost out of its distribution chain.