For Your Holiday Listening Pleasure: TechnoGirlTalk

This week sees the launch of a new technology website & podcast, run by my old college classmate Sunshine Mugrabi: TechnoGirlTalk.

Yours truly was one of the panelists on the initial podcast and it’s a doozy — we dive into the James Chartrand controversy, as well as dissect a controversial Droid vs iPhone ad and discuss what it’s like to be a woman in technology.

Recording the episode was a ton of fun and I hope you’ll take advantage of the slow holiday season to download it and listen.



I’m not sure if I have gone over to the Dark Side or to the light, but as of last night I’m the owner of a Blackberry Curve 8310.

Setting the BlackBerry up is kind of a pain, especially since my old Cingular SIM card needed to be replaced by a new AT&T card. I had to call to activate the phone, then go through three different setup procedures to get my BIS account and associated email activated. It’s not a very user-friendly process and had me seriously wondering what I’d gotten myself into.

Once that was all done, though, things got easier. I love the over-the-air install, and already have three 3rd party applications running on my Curve: Twitterberry, the Gmail client, and a multi-IM client called WebMessenger. I still don’t really know how to use all the features of the Curve, but I’ll learn.

On a side note — switching SIM cards, while not a Blackberry-specific issue, brought to light exactly how unorganized and messy my personal address book management has become over the past few years. I run Thunderbird on my desktop and my laptop, and neither of those address books is complete or up-to-date, with some more key data living only on the SIM that I can no longer use.

No matter what I do for a PIM solution next, it’s going to involve a bunch of tedious manual data entry to bring all the bits and pieces of contact info I’ve accumulated together. I’ve got to figure out how to minimize that. I’ve even found myself wondering if this might be a good job for Plaxo (I’ve heard that they are not a grubby spamhaus anymore).


When Great Is Not Enough

We all tend to see the world through our own lens, that’s a given. UX people think UX is the most important thing in developing a product. Developers think that great programming is the secret sauce. Entrepreneurs think that if you’re not at a startup, you’re a loser. Marketers think that without marketing, you’re toast. Others say that “Marketing is the price you pay for creating mediocre products”. And on and on it goes.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years in this business, it’s a sense of perspective. In this case, it means remembering this:

It’s not just about building insanely great products, it’s also about building an insanely great company.

And to do it, you need a balanced team with a firm grasp of not just the nuts and bolts, but also the bigger picture.

The history of the Valley is littered with stories of people and companies who couldn’t get the balance right — great ideas poorly executed, slick promotions that couldn’t save a piece of crap product, great products ground into the dust by badly-managed companies, and many more besides. Success is very, very difficult.

Fail to keep your sense of perspective, though, and it’s that much harder to achieve.

Is It Me Or Is It YouTube?

Yesterday, a friend of ours e-mailed a link to a video of her new kitchen. I decided to send her back a video of our own kitchen. So I shot a quick video, uploaded it to YouTube, and sent out the link.

Then the weird thing happened. About 30 minutes after I uploaded the video, it disappeared off my YouTube account. Poof. Gone. No notice, no nothing. I have no idea why. The video is about 45 seconds of me talking as I walk through my kitchen; I didn’t add any music or graphics or do any editing at all, so there’s no possible copyright issues.

I don’t upload stuff to YouTube very often so maybe this is normal and I just don’t know it. Or maybe I’m the victim of some unfortunate glitch. Either way, it’s a little annoying.

At any rate, I signed up for a Vimeo account and re-uploaded the video there. If you’re really curious, you can see it (but I warn you, it’s kind of boring):

UPDATE 8:30PM: And now it’s back on YouTube. Go figure.

Once Bubbled, Twice Shy

I wasn’t going to link to the Richter Scales’ awesome “We’re In Another Bubble” video, but after reading Mike Arrington’s thoughtful big-picture post today, I thought it would be an appropriate counterpoint. Together, his article and that video define the yin and yang of the whole crazy technology startup game.

Here’s an excerpt of Arrington’s post on the shadow of the dot-com crash and how the impact still affects people today:

Entrepreneurs who didn’t go through the crash don’t carry that burden. They don’t have memories of looking their employees in the eye as the laid them off. They were never trashed on F*ckedCompany for making ridiculously stupid decisions. Basically, they’re optimists, as any entrepreneur should be. They have no baggage.

And as a result they do exactly what they should do – they take big risks and hope for a big payoff. For the venture capitalists it’s even more important. They need one or two big wins in every fund to generate enough profits to keep their limited partners happy. A gun shy entrepreneur may not take appropriate risks at appropriate times, and the chances for success plummet.

I’m definitely a bit tainted myself. What I saw happen to startups in the first bubble makes me hesitant to raise money (we never have), hire too many people, or generally spend money (our offices are still in my house). I think less about growing the business sometimes than I do about losing what we’ve built so far. That’s part of the reason why I hired Heather as CEO to take over the business side of things. She’s conservative, but knows when its time to take risk and grow the business.

My interactions with Edgeio, a company I co-founded and which went into the deadpool last week, were similar. It seemed like every board meeting I was saying the same thing – stop spending money, stop hiring, stop. I was out voted, and the company followed its own path. The fact that they ultimately failed, though, doesn’t mean I was right. The investors felt that the time to spend and try to grow was now. It doesn’t matter that Edgeio failed, what matters is that it is the right approach if you are trying to make something big. If you want to be conservative, don’t be a silicon valley entrepreneur.

I don’t blame Arrington one bit, because I completely understand that mindset. Fear of failure is poisonous. You can tell yourself any kind of lies you want in an effort to justify your choices to yourself, but if you can’t remember the last time you swung for the bleachers and took a big risk on something, then you’re probably a victim too.

Which is not to say that this video isn’t also true. Some excess and stupid choices are a necessary part of the process. Remember the normal distribution curve? Outliers in both directions are inevitable.

If you live and work in the Valley, this is the life you chose — the excess and the fear, the hits and the misses. You need to be able to take it all in stride, because sooner or later it’s going to be your turn to be the hero, and the goat.

I like to think I can handle it all, but I know I still have work to do in not letting fear shut me down. What about you?

UPDATE 12/15: Sadly, the video’s not on YouTube anymore. Here’s some background on why.

I Am Not Interested In The Kindle

Or in any e-book reader, for that matter. And here’s why: The quagmire of DRM and proprietary file formats.

I have quite a few books on my bookshelves that are more than 20 years old. Some are even older than that. A few were printed before I was even born. Five years from now, will any file formatted for the Kindle be readable anymore, on any system? Possibly, if the product does well enough.

But what about 7 years from now? Or 10? Or more? Not so likely.

I’ll pass.