Monthly Archives: August 2007

Perspective…

I am still thinking a lot about David Boschmans lately. He was our gracious host in Belgium when we visited in December of 2005. Spent a lot of time driving Maryam and me around and hosting dinners and having us speak at Microsoft and other places. Proudly talked about his new family (he has a two-year-old daughter, he was so proud of her). Shared more than one beer with us and was clearly liked and trusted by lots of geeks in Belgium. Here’s a picture of me with David.

Two weeks ago he died unexpectedly in his sleep. He was 32.

His death hit me and Maryam hard. Harder than other tragedies in the tech world have hit me lately.

It gets down to who is a “real friend” and who is an “online friend.” David was an online friend who turned real over beers in Brussels.

He also reminded me that every day is a gift. I’ve had 10 more years of those gifts than he’s had. He did a lot in his short time here.

I look around the Web and see the love for David from around the world. Tom Raftery, Ireland’s top tech blogger, wrote about him. Roy Osherove, one of my favorite bloggers in Israel, did a video for him.

If you search Google for his name you’ll see page after page of people who were touched by David. Nathan Weinberg links to lots of the best stuff about David.

Anyway, what are you doing with today? That’s what David keeps asking me.

Today I’m thinking about a guy who took a few days out of his life to make sure we had a good time in a foreign land. He had a new daughter at home and, I’m sure, plenty of better things to do. The memories of him are among my most prized possessions. Worth more to me than an iPhone or an HDTV. It’s why I love traveling the world and hanging out with geeks.

I’m honored to have shared a beer with him and he definitely left a void in the tech world that won’t easily be filled. Thank you David!

Google. Sun. Yahoo. HP. Cisco. And?

You might think I’m stupid. Dumb. Lame. Irrelevant. Arrogant. Or worse.

But this guy is none of those things. In fact, he’s the opposite of all those things.

So, why is Mehran Sahami worth listening to?

He runs Stanford University’s undergraduate computer science department.

We have a 45-minute-long discussion about what’s going on at Stanford University, and also computer science education trends. Among other things happening in the industry.

Mehran is simply one of the most interesting people I’ve interviewed. You’d have to be to get a job running probably the most important computer science University department in the world. Hope you enjoy.

[podtech content=http://media1.podtech.net/media/2007/08/PID_012404/Podtech_Stanford_CompSci_int.flv&postURL=http://www.podtech.net/scobleshow/technology/1614/the-guy-who-runs-stanfords-undergraduate-computer-science-department&totalTime=2738000&breadcrumb=6c880c806c7f460fa6c21b6369b4f9e1]

OK, some of you are asking for more text to judge whether the video is interesting, or not, so I took an hour out to do one for the interview of Mehran Sahami, head of Stanford University’s undergraduate computer science department.

00:00 introduction to Meharan Sahami
1:38 What’s the big thing he’s focused on? Joke about bubbles. Working on improving curriculum.
3:10 Why are numbers of computer science students going down?
5:30 Discussion of off shoring.
7:20 Discussion of social aspects of technology development.
9:00 Discussion of amazing things students are doing.
10:45 Discussion of the mythology of Stanford’s computer science department.
11:15 Discussion of the pressures that heading up such an important department brings.
12:58 What is Stanford not doing well?
14:50 How is the Internet changing education?
16:30 Joking about having Larry Lessig (law professor who started Creative Commons, among other things) at the school.
Which leads into a discussion of Stanford’s advantages and resources.
18:30: Discussion of the entrepreneur’s frustrations. Getting people to use new technologies.
22:20 What is the next big idea that’s cooking in your classrooms right now?
24:10 Did anyone working here understand how big Google would turn out to be? (Back when Google was being developed at Stanford).
25:00 What is it about big companies that keeps them from seeing the small idea (innovator’s dilemma discussion).
27:40 What would you like to tell the world about Stanford?
29:00 What’s the role of mobile in the world?
What kind of work is Stanford doing?
32:30 Is Stanford working with CERN?
34:09 If you were coming to Stanford this fall, what class would you take?
39:00 Talk about some of the famous names who are on the faculty here. Don Knuth for one.

The next big thing from Stanford: Robotic Cars?

[podtech content=http://media1.podtech.net/media/2007/08/PID_012403/Podtech_Stanford_AI_CarGuy.flv&postURL=http://www.podtech.net/home/4004/building-robotic-cars-at-stanford-university &totalTime=1800000&breadcrumb=9f133d000c8349e69adbec71bb821a39]

Mike Montemerlo is one smart dude. He works on Stanford University’s DARPA challenge team which is building a robotic car that’ll be able to negotiate a course without humans being involved.

Anyway, we have a 30 minute conversation about the future of automobiles.

We talk about the algorithms he’s designing (he’s the lead software guy on the project). What the challenge is this year (last year the team won $2 million). What real-world-things this car could affect.

I think you’ll find this conversation fascinating.

The interview was done in Stanford University’s Computer Science department. The Bill Gates building. Can you imagine the guys who started Google meeting around this conference table and working out their plans?

Blog of the Future

Matt Mullenweg, founder, Automattic (WordPress and Akismet makers)

Yesterday I had lunch/dinner with Matt Mullenweg, founder of Automattic. They are the fine folks who bring you WordPress (the blog service I use) and Akismet (the comment spam blocker I use).

That’s him holding his iPhone yesterday.

Anyway, we got talking about the “Blog of the Future” and I thought I’d just give him some ideas on video and get you involved. Did you know you can record/upload your own video to my Kyte channel? Just click “produce on this channel.”

Anyway, here’s my ideas on “blog of the future.” (that link takes you directly to my video, the widget below shows you my entire channel).

What do you think should be in the blog of the future?

Oh, and remember, my Kyte.tv channel is open for YOU to post your own video so tell Matt Mullenweg what YOU want on YOUR blog of the future! (Francine Hardaway did just that yesterday).

[kyte.tv 6118]

Nokia tries to get leadership position back from iPhone

Nokia has a bunch of new devices that I want to try. I have both an iPhone and a Nokia N95. I am keeping track of how often I pick up either device. The iPhone is winning. Bigtime.

Did the new Nokia devices fix the problem the iPhone pointed out: that its software is unthrilling?

Based on first reports and videos I’ve seen today: no.

That said, Nokia’s hardware is much more advanced than the iPhone. Better cameras, GPSs, replaceable batteries, more open so you can choose your carriers, etc.

What do you think?

What I learned

So, last post was about me hitting back at all the personal insults and the inbalance of the blogosphere. As Len Edgerly said in my comments last night we like our junk food more than we like our broccoli, even if the broccoli is better for us.

Dave Winer this morning sent me a clear message: admit you made a mistake and move on.

Danny Sullivan continues the conversation.

First, to Dave Winer. Of COURSE I made a mistake. Anytime you open yourself up to personal attacks the kinds of which have been made on me the past few days that’s explicit evidence that I made a mistake in some kind of judgment. Even I get that. Especially punctuated when you get really smart people like Danny or you to attack.

But Dave’s right. Time to make an accounting of the mistakes and things I have learned.

The reason I’ve been quiet is to figure out what my mistakes were, and to glean some personal learning about it.

Here’s the mistakes I can see I made. I’m sure there’s at least 20 others, most of which have been pointed out in excruciating detail on the blogs I linked to on Monday:

1. Hooking my thesis to a technology that doesn’t have an obvious tie to search. TechMeme.
2. Hooking my thesis to a company that doesn’t yet have a good track record: Mahalo.
3. Attacking SEOs needlessly, which caused all sorts of people, including Danny Sullivan to get their hairs up in a fighting stance.
4. Doing too simplistic an analysis of how Google actually works.
5. Misjudging Google’s speed today. It took literally minutes for it to show up on searches.
6. Misjudging TechMeme’s ability to point at a short post and at video. Turns out if you get enough conversation going it probably will link to a one-word post. Gotta try that someday! :-)
7. Jumping into a battlefront (SEO’s vs. Google) without really understanding how that warfront will go.
8. Not making it clear that I was making some BIG assumptions. Like that Google won’t adopt and that Facebook will open up enough to make it possible to build a new kind of search engine in public on top.
9. Using the form of video, which makes it a lot harder for some people to consume. But, then, I’m doing R&D and am going to continue to use new technologies like Kyte to see what’s good and bad about them.
10. Hooking my thesis to a guy, Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo, who has been pushing his stuff so hard lately that lots of people have turned him off. Or worse.

That’s a lot of mistakes for a 20-minute video on a Sunday morning.

But, as Tom Rolander, one of the guys who has made an even bigger mistake in his life and lived to see another day, says “every story has to have 10% fruit juice to be believed.”

So, what’s the fruit juice in my story?

1. Google is getting noisier and isn’t improving as fast as we’d like it. So, anyone who has an idea of how search is going to improve will get listened to. I think this is why Powerset and Spock got so much hype.
2. A lot of people have discovered social networks and services in the past six months. Twitter, Pownce, Facebook, Plaxo, not to mention Upcoming, Yelp, Flickr, Del.icio.us, Digg, etc. And we’re just starting to learn about how those are potentially going to change our life and the services we expect. So, anyone who can see a new pattern in how these will be used will get paid attention to.
3. Anything with a halfway interesting story about how an upstart like Facebook will beat Google will get listened to if for no other reason than to argue about it.
4. There’s a LOT of personal animosity against “a-listers” and anytime an a-lister gives everyone a chance to get that animosity out of their system it will be used.
5. Kyte.tv, the technology I used, is a lightening rod of its own. People either hated it or loved it. Many of you came by the chat room over the last three days and told us that. If you use a new technology to tell an interesting story that’ll increase the chances you’ll get listened to.
6. RSS has such a strong place now in how many of us consume information that when you mess with that reading behavior you’ll increase your chance of getting noticed.

So, to wrap this up. Did I learn my lessons? Are there others that I should have learned that I didn’t pay enough attention to?