Monday, June 5, 2017

CARMERA

I can finally talk about this product and company!

CARMERA is building a marketplace for real-time, in-depth (3D), street-level environment information. Autonomous vehicles and smart city efforts have insatiable appetites for this kind of data, and collecting it is expensive and hard. CARMERA brings it to market in a scalable, affordable, manner, so industry can focus on solutions that leverage the data, instead of the collection/creation of it. If this sounds a bit analogous to my previous effort in the social data space, Gnip, Inc., it should.

Much of the inspiration for this idea came from Ro's (co-founder/CEO) experience in the public social data industry while working at Disqus. Disqus and Gnip (my previous firm) worked together to build a marketplace for vast amounts of discussion data, by pairing the supply and demand sides of the ecosystem. Delivering real-time, high-throughput, reliable, full-fidelity, was our collective mantra, and CARMERA's doing this with street-data.

In order for new industries to flourish, they need to be able to focus on their specific value-adds, instead of putting time, energy, and money into acquiring the underlying data they need to fuel their efforts. CARMERA does for real-time, street vision data, what Gnip did/does for real-time, public social data.

One of the cool things about their approach is that they leverage existing commercial vehicle fleets to do the "crawling" of the the road networks, instead of owning and paying for a massive fleet of vehicles themselves (they do have some vehicles). They partner with fleets, slap their homegrown sensor packs on the vehicles, and collect/analyze the data. They then turn around a provide that data, and associated intelligence, to the market.

The CARMERA team is what makes this possible of course. Ro Gupta (previous Disqus fame) and Justin Day (previous CTO of MakerBot) co-founded the effort. Ethan Sorrelgreen (previously Amazon Maps + Apple Maps Eng Lead) drives Product. Engineering is comprised of former MakerBot, Google, Inrix, Microsoft/Bing Maps, and MetaVR crew.

Below is some cool eye-candy around what the platform can do.

I'm an investor/advisor.

3D Point Map of the West Village on Manhattan.
Feature detection.


Fleet Partner Vehicle with sensor packs on roof. 

One of CARMERA's cars.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Women, Confidence & Trying to Father A Daughter

carrying on with the vulnerability theme, I'm going to talk about some of the challenges that I perceive to exist around being a woman, and get into some of my parenting inadequacies. I am not a woman, and I am no doubt coloring outside my lines here, but, I wanted to convey an observation, and vulnerability around being a father to a daughter. I do not purport to truly understand any challenges that women face.

whenever I travel to non-"Westernized" cultures I see beauty in women to a degree that sadly often feels foreign at home in the U.S. (and Europe). when I pause and wonder why that is, I'm reminded of just how powerful media can be. sure it can contort our political views and understanding of information, but it can quite literally transform a gender's understanding of itself. it can literally change what a gender believes is valuable and what is desirable in relationships and society.

this has hit me the hardest on two particular trips. one was to India around a decade ago, and the other is on this trip to Mexico I'm currently on. after several days of being away from Western advertising and media, the brainwash starts to rinse off a bit, and you "see" beauty and sexiness in women that goes against everything we, in the Western world, have been taught to be beautiful and sexy.

as an example, you see "normal," and "plus," sized women behave with an underlying confidence in social settings that you just don't see in the West. and you see men throw themselves at them accordingly. the measures of physical attractiveness are simply different. as an observer, it's neutralizing and refreshing.

while I selfishly enjoy the shift in understanding and perception, an expansion of understanding of what constitutes beautiful, it reminds me of just how particularly brutal it must be to be a woman in the West. of course there are cultures that treat women in downright inhumane and torturous ways; I'm certainly not trying to draw a comparison to those horrible dynamics. however in the West, it seems, from the moment a woman is born, they are held to impossible physical standards (standards that I undoubtedly perpetuate, despite my best efforts to be more enlightened than that). all of this resonates with me on a new level now that I have a daughter though. I catch glimpses here and there of the absolute bullshit she sometimes consumes on YouTube or Instagram. tweens doing makeup tutorials... beauty product evaluations at age ten... Musicly music videos of young girls mimic'ing hardcore sexual acts portrayed by adult models in the actual music videos. it's just so un-fucking-real when you immerse yourself in a non-Western culture for awhile and see how much of the rest of the world works.

as a father I struggle like mad with how to parent my daughter. she is physically beautiful to me, just as my son is handsome. her value in life is independent of her physique, and I tell her that (and get the commensurate eye-roll in response, and then an "I knooooow Daaaaad."). she has an enlightened mother who is unbelievably confident and strong in her Self, and she parents from that position of maternal strength every waking moment (thankfully). I don't make comments about women's looks when I'm around her. I emphasize her mind, her creativity, and her studiousness when I talk to her. yet, I just don't feel like I'm doing enough as a father. I want to "fix this." I'm frankly scared to say "you're beautiful just the way you are" even though I think it, because I fear she will lock onto something in her world that she thinks caused me to say that (say... a new haircut or something), and if that thing becomes un-true (a change in said haircut), she may subconsciously start thinking that she's suddenly not beautiful. and on and on.

doing what I can here, and grateful she has the mother she has to help guide her, and me, through this mess. having a daughter continues to be one of life's greatest joys for me; it is also the scariest thing I've ever had to try to get my head and heart around.

Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) & Vulnerability

I'm reading Brené Brown's "Daring Greatly" book, so... in a vulnerable/sharing mood.

when I think about the experience our children (Logan, 14... Annie, 11) are having in middle-school I am so profoundly grateful. I'm not oblivious to the reality that there are still all kinds of awful things going on "in the halls," but, when I compare the experience they're having to the one I had in the same district thirty years ago, it makes me so happy.

specifically, when it comes to bullying. and, again, I don't think for a minute that bullying is non-existent at our school, but, the district has been able to name it and call attention to it over the past 10-20 years (probably "Columbine"'ish timing) in a way that appears to have had incredible impact. it's as though a light has been shone directly on it, and like a cockroach, it has to scatter and hide. as a result, it doesn't appear to manifest the way it did when I was growing up.

the kids at school can be who they are in ways that weren't accessible in middle-school when I was attending. perhaps it was just me (entirely possible), but, I think it's bigger than that. perhaps nothing has changed and my perception of our kids is that they are just able to be who they are in ways I wasn't able to access personally as an adolescent. so, could just be me, but, I hope not.

the kids at our school produce a weekly "TV" series (published on YouTube), and the very existence of it speaks volumes to how kids today are willing to be vulnerable in ways my generation couldn't imagine. in a million years my middle school experience couldn't have produced something like this. only a tiny subset of the students would have had the vulnerability to put themselves out there like this, and then they would've been subject to ridicule. very few people back then could be so vulnerable and brave at the same time. when I try and explore the reasons for this new level of vulnerability on a deeper level, I think it comes down to acceptance, empathy, and tolerance of each other as humans. even more specifically, there's an acknowledgment and understanding of how detrimental bullying/shaming is, and so it is actively managed against, and, sexual orientation/preferences, gender identification, are more readily accepted and the various forms are better accepted.

this all means that the mechanics for being who you want to be as a kid today are in better condition (the "adults" have put formal frameworks in place to better support kids and their identities), and masculine and feminine energies have more room to collide, intertwine, co-exist, explore each other, etc, than they did when I was growing up. "faggot" is not ok as a word or a concept. Being a "pussy," has different connotation now.

if your child is having a different experience and is in bullying dynamics, I'm sorry. if I'm simply in the dark as a parent, and you know of either/both of my kids on the contrary, are involved in bullying dynamics (on either side), I beg you to reach out to me and let me know. I played both roles growing up. I'm ashamed of the times I was bullied, and I'm disgusted with the moments in which I was the aggressor.

it is with all of this said that one of the reasons I'm most sad about the 45th President is that it is a major setback. we have in our highest office, a bully. this thing we've held on-high as a culture, the Presidency, has finally been reduced to this thing we've spent so much energy abolishing, and that gives license to a new wave of bullying and shaming. sad.

I hope that our school district can maintain, and grow, the energy and programs it has put in place to make school a safe place (as safe as possible... these are kids after all).

grateful.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Independent Web; Pocket, Highly & Mozilla?

At a recent dinner I sat next to an exec from a large adtech company. I tend to avoid adtech discussions, but this one was fascinating. He described his, successful, platform as increasingly fighting a silo'd/walled-garden web where advertisers were hunkering down with specific platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter), and were considering spending less on the "independent web." I had never heard someone call what I just thought was "the web" as the "independent web." I part of me died inside. Sure enough, while I hadn't heard this term before, it's a thing. Publishers are driving us this direction more and more, because, that's how advertisers want to spend. AOL showed us how limiting a Publisher centric view of the web can be; let's not do that again.

As time has moved on, a few use patterns have become increasingly important to the "independent web:" "read later," and "highlight."

Read Later

The other day, the most prolific "read later" platform, Pocket, was acquired by Mozilla. This was Mozilla's first acquisition believe it or not. The marriage speaks to the significance of "read later" and the necessity of it being independent and functional across Publishers. While Mozilla will always be a part of me, I do have concerns about their ultimate browser market share. Pocket as part of a cross-platform client dedicated to the "independent web" only makes sense though. If Mozilla wants to fully carry this torch, they need to get in bed with another company though; Highly.

Highlight

Just as we need a platform to collect and share content (URLs) in a cross platform, cross publisher, manner, we need the ability to highlight content in the same manner. Highly has done a great job building this.

We're already being spoon fed by a shrinking number of Publishers (read... advertisers), we need to be careful not to fall into the proprietary technology stack trap in the process. AOL did this, and while it took us awhile, we realized it was a problem. Let's not let history repeat itself on this one.

What You Can Do

Use products that support an independent web model. Chrome (though at risk of, or arguably already there, not actually being independent, but, it's at least not Safari), Brave, Mozilla, Pocket, and Highly. You can also let your Publisher silos know you don't like it when they lock-you-in. Facebook, as the new AOL, is most famous for this by regularly stripping our ability to share content outside of Facebook at all.

If you're an independent publisher (e.g. a "blogger") host your own stuff, and use the "Publishers" as distribution platforms, not as publishing platforms; confusing the two is dangerous.