Living

“Don’t be bad.” vs. “Don’t be evil.”

From today’s New York Times article, Time Warner to Sell 5% AOL Stake to Google for $1 Billion:

If a user searches on Google for a topic for which AOL has content – like information about Madonna – there will be a special section on the bottom right corner of the search results page with links to AOL.com.

Google will also provide technical assistance so AOL can create Web pages that will appear more prominently in the search results list.

Time Warner asked Microsoft to give AOL similar preferred placement in advertising and in its Web index and… Microsoft refused, calling the request unethical.

Nietzsche distinguishes between good/bad and good/evil. The first is a question of merit; the second a question of morals.

I guess Google believes exchanging preferred placement and teaching one selected partner how to manipulate your objective ranking system in exchange for money is “bad,” but not “evil.” Therefore, it doesn’t break their promise of “don’t be evil.”

In comparison, Microsoft, by using the term “unethical,” clearly sees this as both “bad” and “evil.” It’s interesting how the DOJ can help you find God.

Yellow Watermelon

I picked up a three pound yellow watermelon at the Noe Valley Farmer’s Market today. I bought it from “the guy who always charges more for his stuff than the other farms.”

At $2 a pound it was twice as much as the melons Beth normally buys. However, he had cornered the market on yellow watermelon, so I had no choice. Surely, I could not pass up something labeled “Korean Yellow Watermelon?”

I ate half for dessert. It was not the best watermelon I ever ate. It was, however, the best yellow watermelon I ever ate.

Fun fact: China grows over 2/3rds of all watermelons worldwide. That’s a lot of fruit for dessert.

They’re Food.

One of the things I hate about San Francisco is that it’s hard to get one one point in town to another. The highway doesn’t connect one side to another; there are limited “fast” roads; and the hills can cause routing nightmares.

That said, after four months, Beth and I realized that we can sneak around the back of the city with ease. A few weeks back, while pulling our favorite maneuver, we noticed a pumpkin patch.

They don’t actually grow the pumpkins there, but they drive them down into the city and place them on the ground and bales of hay, so it seems all authentic-like.

Today, on our way back from eating pizza and walking around the Presidio, we stopped by and picked up two pumpkins.

After I paid my $15, I asked how long they would keep after I cut them up and turned them into Jack O’ Lanterns.

“No more than two to three days…. They’re food.”

Good point.

If you like this title, we also recommend…

I love the IMDb; however, I have never been a big fan of the “If you like this title, we also recommend…” feature. It seems good in practice, but as someone once said: “It’s tricky.”

My largest problem is that the closest link is also the most obvious link. “If you liked Rocky, we also recommend Rocky II.” Well, duh. Could I at least get Raging Bull?

However, sometimes it just pulls up links that amaze. “If you liked The Bad and the Beautiful, we also recommend The Road to Dracula?”

That is almost enough to get me to watch both movies just to figure how this might have happened. If only I had a Netflicks account.

-ster crazy

I was walking to lunch and saw the word “molester” out of the corner of my eye in a newspaper headline. Alas, I read it as “mole-ster,” as in “napster” and “friendster,” and my brain immediately conjured up images of some new P2P secret agent application where people rat out their buddies to the feds.

I had to go back and read it twice again before I realized what was up. Scary.

Book Review: The World Is Flat

I am 364 pages into Tom Friedman’s latest book, The World is Flat. However, even with 100 pages left, I feel compelled to give a brief review of the book.

Read it.

Tim O’Reilly has been flogging the notion of Web 2.0, Web services, and the architecture of participation for quite a few years now. Tom Friedman one ups this, rolling up Tim’s concept with quite a few more into what he calls Globalization 3.0.

Essentially, recent changes have enabled businesses to operate on a global scale that most of us don’t realize. We might think we’re seeing some of it, but we’re not truly getting the entire picture.

For example, two weeks ago I saw a bunch of links to Joe Krause’s blog post It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur. His claim is “There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur because it’s never been cheaper to be one.” And, using Excite vs JotSpot as an example, that it’s 30x cheaper to start a Web company in 2005 than it was 10 years ago.

I think many people read his post and immediately applied it to Silicon Valley or other US startups. And that’s despite Joe’s reference to global outsourcing sites. However, under Globalization 3.0, you need to recognize that all of these factors now apply to companies based in China and India.

Look at his points and see how they apply to countries with hundreds of millions of people. Hardware is a commodity. Open source has commoditized software. The glut of global bandwidth has turned that into a commodity. Now factor in 5-10x lower labor costs.

You end up with a giant group of people ready and able to bootstrap all sorts of technology startups.

It’s already happening. Most people just don’t know it. Tom helps you see it in detail.

If you don’t think this applies to you, check out this Times of India article with this juicy quote:

Says a programmer on Slashdot.org who outsourced his job: “About a year ago I hired a developer in India to do my job. I pay him $12,000 out of the $67,000 I get. He’s happy to have the work. I’m happy that I have to work only 90 minutes a day just supervising the code. My employer thinks I’m telecommuting. Now I’m considering getting a second job and doing the same thing.”

If stupid (heh) slashdot posters can figure this out, don’t you think businesses will catch on soon enough (if they haven’t already) and reorganize you out of a job if you’re not prepared?

By the way, don’t get me wrong, I think this is a good thing. (Read the book to see why.)

When I finish the book, I’m going to start looking for ways to to brush up on my long-dormant Chinese skills.

In-Q-Tel: The CIA’s VC arm

Did you know that the CIA has a VC arm? It’s called In-Q-Tel. They invest in a whole bunch of companies, including Keyhole, now known as Google Earth.

Books I am skimming this week

I’m skimming two interesting books this week. One old. One new. One borrowed. None blue.

The Art of Project Management by Scott Berkun. For some unknown reason this book showed up in my mailbox at work last week. I’m not quite sure who at O’Reilly decided I needed a copy, but I’m happy someone did. (O’Reilly is happy to send me any books of theirs I want, but I normally need to ask first.)

Right now at work I’m more focused on general management than project management, so I can’t quite bring myself to read it cover to cover, but I’ve been skipping around from place to place. Some of the lessons and tips are quite applicable, and I pretty much agree with most of what Scott has to say. He’s got a web site with a bunch of essays. Here’s one how to pitch an idea.

The Age of Discontinuity by Peter Drucker I crashed at a buddy’s house for a few days before the first FOO Camp in 2003. While there, I read selections from his collection of Whole Earth Catalogs and came across a great quotation from a book review:

Since the computer first appeared in the late 1940’s the information industry has been a certainty. But we do not have it yet. We still do not have the effective means to build an “information system….” We do not have the equivalent of Edison’s light bulb. What we are lacking is not a piece of hardware like a light bulb. What we still have to create is the conceptual understanding of information. As long as we have to translate laboriously every set of data into a separate “program,” we do not understand information. We have to be capable of classifying information according to its characteristics. We have to have a “notation,” comparable to the one St. Ambrose invented 1,600 years ago to record music, that can express words and thoughts in symbols appropriate to electronic pulses rather than in the clumsy computer language of today. Then each person could, with very little training, store his own data within a general system… Then we shall have true “information systems.”

With all the buzz about the symantec web and tagging folksonomies, I find it fascinating that Drucker started talking about the importance of making it easy to remix data in 1969. As a point of reference to frame the time, here’s another quotation: “Only now, when IBM is turning them out at a rate of a thousand a month, are computers starting to have substantial economic impact.”

Here we are, millions of computers later, and we’re still tackling the same issue.

When I stopped by to pick up Beth from work earlier this week, we ended up talking a tour of the main branch of the SF public library. While we were there, I finally got my SFPL library card. Since it was burning a whole in my wallet, I saw they had Drucker’s book, and checked it out.

With Web 2.0 (for lack of a better term) upon us, I’m convinced there’s got to be something to learn from his observations on the computer age 35-years ago. In particular, Part One “The Knowledge Technologies” and Part Four “The Knowledge Society” seem to be of particular interest.

Regardless, Drucker was right about one thing. We certainly are in The Age of Discontinuity.