2014 Tech Theme -> Inclusion

Over the years, the tech industry has had some lovely tech themes: Killer Apps, the Web, Search, Portals and Vortals, Dynamic HTML, Personalization, Verticals, Everywhere, Web 2.0, Web services, mashups, Digital Divide, Mobile, Location, HTML5, the Cloud, Apps, and now we’re looking at “Wearables” and “Contextual”.

Mitch Kapor and seemingly the tech scene in Oakland are pushing for the tech theme of Inclusion and I’m right there with him.  Doesn’t have to replace our fascination with wearables or context (e.g. Siri or Google Now), but it should be one of the themes that we carry forward.

Who are we including as our customers, as part of our development team, as part of our projects, as part of our investors? Are we valuing diversity? Are we equipping minorities with the training, tools, access, opportunities, money/resources to thrive or lean in? The truth is we’re missing out on a lot when we’re not being inclusive.

(what diversity in tech should/could look like)

Look for “Inclusion” or #Inclusion or include or inclusivity, etc. Inclusion is a tech theme you can be proud to be associated with, to be thinking about, and a nice theme to move forward.

Home monitor/computer and Home storage device

*drafty*

In the next 5 to 10 years or so, we’ll have a “home monitor” or “home computer” and a home storage device as a part of our homes much like a thermostat, heater, A/C, etc.

Home energy storage is an easy concept — big battery is charged from the electrical grid or solar panels on the home and essentially runs the electricity for the house and helps keep the home off the grid or helps a home be more efficient by powering it up during peak hours. This is one of the reasons why Tesla seems to be more than just an electric car company. A Tesla battery in every home and business? Sounds pretty cool to me.

The home monitor/computer (needs a better name) is going to be a little bit harder to define and it can go a couple ways. The first way is as an extension of the NEST and becomes that connected device that monitors *everything* about a house, temperature, water usage, water quality, air quality, security, and electrical usage. The next is the ability to manage each (automatic turn on/off/regulate) for appliances and lighting, temperature, etc. But how great would it be to know air quality and water quality in your house at all times. I’d love that, I’m sure others would too.

We’re moving into the phase where there are connected devices doing that one thing and doing it really well like a NEST thermostat or smoke detector, or one of those smartphone door locks, or one of many connected security systems. There are devices that exist that already do some of the “smart home” functions — pricey though. And then you could even plug your car into the home monitor to make sure everything is running smoothly. Lots of possibilities.

The other way this could go is the home computer/home server where a home server manages all the computers and data for the home, all the photos, music, videos, documents, online accounts and entertainment that serves as the method to keep the main files, serve as a backup, and also as the intermediary to a cloud back up service. Some of this is available now but haven’t seen a clean Apple-like solution.

The home server feels like one of the cleaner ways to manage a household where everyone (2+ people) has a computer and a smartphone and possibly another device like a tablet and then another couple of tvs in the home and a few music devices. In a shared household environment, where’s the main file (that photo, that music file, that video, that contract) that everyone can use? Alternatively, those files could be all on Dropbox, Google Cloud, iCloud, SkyDrive, somewhere else in the sky?

Where’s the primary file? What device can I access it from? Can I cache/store it on that device? Is that file backed up? Is that file backed up to the cloud? Digital hoarding at it’s finest or just where we are these days with tech assets.

Going through the user experience is best when considering the most important files you own/store, so likely photos, music, videos, and certain documents.

 

 

Is agency the next big thing?

I was going to write this last week but it looks like the concept might be coming up again given this article per Mozilla’s new hire and the concept of smart agent.

Basically the idea is this: the web is moving towards becomes a better agent. It takes the concept of the web browser as “user-agent” and really becoming an agent that works for you much like a real estate agent, travel agent, concierge, financial adviser, etc. In order for this to happen though, there needs to be a deeper relationship, the agent needs to know you better in order to give better advice and ultimately act for you.

Early Realization

Google Now, Siri, Pandora’s results matching, Amazon’s recommendations are all early implementations in the realm of personal assistant. Motorola Assist is another example as it knows when you’re driving, having a meeting, or going to sleep in order to make recommendations for you. The initial phase is gathering the information, finding out what people are doing, and then building services around those actions. When the agent can actually act for you, buy that product for you, book that flight for you, make the reservation for your  wedding anniversary dinner at your favorite restaurant, that’s when we might have something.

Evolving from…

Where is this evolving from? The concepts are “personalization” which we’ve seen with My Yahoo!, iGoogle, NetVibes; recommendation engines from services like Pandora, Amazon, and loads of other web sites; the notion of likes and having a “likes” database that could power better recommendations; avatars and the creation of mini-me type experiences on the web; if this then that type of services; identity, signing into a web browser and knowing history and bookmarks; and, web services in general that are talking to each other and they’re letting us be our own real estate agents and travel agents. The next step is better recommendations, actual transactions, and then our interaction with our agent is maybe just the confirmation of the transaction.

For example…

tbd…and that’s why the concept of a “real” agent is hard. But a real agency works when you have a deep relationship with your agent and he/she knows you. Can you take that to browsers, the web, and do you want Google, Apple, or somebody else developing the agent that’s really going to work for you?

And ultimately, I’d love to be able to give my “agent” $1,000 and have it make me some money (should’ve bought some bitcoins)…

 

Firefox or Chrome, what’s the difference?

9 years ago

Lifehacker has an article Which is Better: Chrome or Firefox?  It’s funny because my kid  asked a similar question two days ago.

What’s the difference between Firefox and Chrome? And this is more or less what I told him:

The way the Web and browsers work is you can choose any web browser you want. With the Web, you choose what application you want to make web pages with and choose whatever you want to view it, that’s just how it works or supposed to work. Great right?

Browsers consist of the backend, frontend, and services. Firefox is based on Gecko, Chrome is based on Webkit, same with Safari, and other browsers have different browser engines. The different browser engines have different components to parse through the HTML, images, JavaScript, etc and they build the Web page. Some browser engines render pages faster than others, some do it more “correctly” to the Web standards, and others have experimental features. That’s why I like using the Nightly builds of Firefox, and I’ve been using Nightlies since 2001 so neither Firefox nor Chrome for me.

Next part is the front end and that’s all the features and look and feel that help you browse the web. Some of these features are like tabbed browsing, or bookmarks, a download manager, or add-ons. So if you think the browser backends are more or less equal, you can choose from how the browser looks and what features you might like better.

Finally, these browsers integrate different services. Chrome integrates a lot of Google services and some people like that so they choose Google (if it’s actually a choice and not shoved down their throats some other way). Firefox doesn’t have as many services tied into the browser as Google which can be either good or bad depending on what you like. Firefox is more feel good and more about the Web where Google is more of a Google-centric view of the Web.

For what it’s worth, I worked on Firefox (and shipped 9 years ago tomorrow) but feel free to choose what you want.

 

Veblen Index

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Thinking about a Veblen Index, companies that maximize the theory of the leisure class such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay etc. In essence, these companies are middlemen, they don’t really make anything (physical goods), they don’t have any inventory, but they facilitate transactions like nobody else.

Companies that maximize middleman transactions.

The alternative is a Veblen Index that looks at companies that make “Veblen goods” or luxury goods.

better with use

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“Better with use” should be a bigger theme and a greater emphasis/focus within the tech industry. The components of “better with use” are there with the concepts of personalization, history, recommendation engines, identity/single sign-on, “sticky” features like bookmarks but the feeling of better with use hasn’t crystallized. Part of the issue is the need for the industry to innovate and to show newness (to sell more stuff and to IPO/flip and IPO again) and it’s hard to show age and wear with software when you’re continually redesigning and introducing new features at a rapid rate. It’s also just hard to show age/wear with software in general.

Products that are Better with Use

There are lots of products that become better with use such as: cast iron skillets/cookware, woks, leather saddles (other leather products like bags, baseball mitts), denim jeans, suits and other clothes, shoes, linen sheets, musical instruments, and cars.

Some products need to be “broken in”, some build a patina that can help protect the product and give it some character, other products when used look better than new. And sometimes new products are created to look used and worn because the worn/used look is valued more like designer jeans.

Software that’s Better with Use

Installing the Concept

Winter 2014 preview

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Here’s Kirkwood’s Tumblr account.  It’s already snowed and supposed to snow today too. A few good things happened in Kirkwood this Summer:

  • new siding and windows for the Sun Meadows complex,
  • new recreation building for the Kirkwood Community Association getting ready for a January ’14 opening,
  • electrical lines laid down so Kirkwood will finally get it’s electrical on the grid versus burning diesel for its electricity,
  • new ski patrol building at the top of Chair 10, The Wall, to improve grooming
  • picked up some nice, good looking snowshoes for cheap on eBay for us and for guests who don’t ski or snowboard

Should be a good year up there.

the theory of conspicuous likes

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On the web, the act of liking something serves as currency and is a good enough substitute for actually knowing a person, knowing a subject, purchasing a good or service, or participating in an event, allowing a person to maneuver upwards within his or her social class.

“Like” tools or companies like Facebook, Pinterest, Google, Apple, Pandora encourage their customers to like posts, events, people, products, thoughts, all sorts of different things. The goal for them is to generate money for these “likes” through advertising and also getting the transactions or “conversion” for actual goods. For companies that advertise, the goal isn’t necessarily to get the transaction, it can be more the branding play which may encourage a future transaction. An example is encouraging people to like Aston Martin even though only a small subset of people can actually buy that car. For the person who buys the Aston Martin, it’s made even more valuable because people or even friends that person knows values the brand highly.

What’s not obvious is that the act of liking something is enough. I only need to like the Aston Martin and not purchase it. I only need to like President Obama, I don’t need to have met him or know him. I only need to like marathons, I don’t need to run the actual event. Just liking something gives me similar cachet versus an actual transaction.

The measure of where you sit within a social class can be defined by traditional achievements, level and breadth of knowledge, level of wealth, health, level of influence, amount of friends. The ability to articulate preference and taste via “likes” maybe another measure that trumps some of these traditional achievements.

Do you now then “like” more things? Sure, participate. There will be a point where your level and collection of “likes” is saturated and there’s no additional gain in your social status. To be clear, “liking” something however is not always a flippant or subconscious act by most people. People are aware that “likes” make a statement, they’re conspicuous and they’re attempts at increasing one’s social status. Not only does liking something serve as a cheap substitute for acquiring and owning something, it’s a cheaper way to gain more Facebook likes and status.

conspicuous likes

Stuff2

Conspicuous consumption is the spending of money on and the acquiring of luxury goods and services to publicly display economic power — either the buyer’s income or the buyer’s accumulated wealth. Sociologically, to the conspicuous consumer, such a public display of discretionary economic power is a means either of attaining or of maintaining a given social status.

I’ve been reading up on The Theory of The Leisure Class and the concepts of conspicuous or invidious consumption by Thorstein Veblen. Just as the Internet has amplified other systems, flows, and experiences, conspicuous consumption is heightened with apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If not items or goods that are bragged about, it’s vacations and trips to the gym/golf course and other leisure activities — perhaps building and flying a plane.

Two thoughts.

1) It might be that “conspicuous likes” is enough — the act of liking something on Facebook or the act of pinning an object. Can you really afford that Aston Martin Vanquish? But it’s certainly easy to like and that might be enough. These days you might not actually need to purchase or consume anything if you want to impress your friends or gain status. You just need to like it. It’s your taste that matters and will move you up and down on the so-called social ladder, wherever you seem to have placed it.

2) It also seems that the ultimate “conspicuous consumption” is your health status and athletic endeavors. In the Theory of the Leisure Class, Veblen writes “success as an athlete presumes not only a waste of time, but also a waste of money as well as the possession of certain highly unindustrial archaic traits of character and temperament.” Well, that’s Ironman training, ultramarathons, triathlons, and other ultra endurance events in a nutshell. With the motto “2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile marathon, brag for the rest of your life”, that’s about inconspicuous as you can get. This is also what you eat, how skinny you are (really how healthy/strong you are), workouts for the day, if you’re disease free or overcame an illness, and how mentally strong you are.

Of course people shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about being healthy and striving for lofty fitness goals. But they should be aware that pursuit of these physical feats puts them at the very top of the leisure class society. Or, you could just “like” events like a marathon, Ironman race, cross fit challenge, etc instead of actually trying to do them. Might just be enough if all you want to do is impress your friends.

clean diet and core training

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Working on the “clean” diet and “core” training routine to get into snowboarding shape for this Winter and hopefully launch me back into Ironman triathlon training.

Clean diet – “clean” foods, clean meals, simple ingredients

Core training – shoulders to thighs training with emphasis on developing ab and back strength