Monday, December 12, 2016

Virtual Reality (VR) Observations

Google and Facebook have popup stores splattered around technology influencer cities this holiday season; both include their Virtual Reality goggle setups. After trying out the Google Daydream version with my son in NYC, I opted to buy one to play around with it a little more. A few weeks later, a Facebook popup demo studio showed up in my hometown of Boulder, CO, so, my daughter and I tried that one out too.

A few months ago my son and I tried out a full-blown Oculus rift at a buddy's office, so we have that experience under our belt too.

Here are some early VR observations.

Audio

No surprise coming from me, but the better the audio, the better the experience. The Google popups just use the tinny Pixel phone speaker during their demo. You get a sense of the visual/motion experience, but audio is severely lacking. I didn't realize just how lacking until trying out the Facebook goggles; they use Sennhieser over-the-ear headphones for their demos.

The experience is severely hampered unless you're using good in-ears/over-the-ears for sound. To drive this point home, my daughter tried my Google Daydream setup at home and was impressed. However, after walking out of the Facebook experience, she was completely blown away and indicated she wanted that setup for Christmas. When we got home I put some good headphones on the Google Daydream setup and she was just as happy. It's all in the audio!

Video/Picture Quality

The full-blown Oculus rift trounces the more accessible Facebook goggles and Google Daydream/Pixel setup. But, before you go out and acquire that scenario, it requires heavy tethering to a GPU/CPU intensive PC. I'm not into VR enough to warrant that kind of setup; besides, it would guarantee rotting away on your couch as you'd literally be stuck within a few feet of the immobile PC. I'd say second place in video is the Facebook goggle setup, but, again you appear to still be tethered to something. The demo's my daughter and I did had a cable that routed behind the wooden divider. That struck me as odd, but given the device's Oculus roots, I guess it made sense.

Re-Centering

The Oculus device seemed to have near-zero issues with staying level and centered, whereas both the Facebook goggles and Google's Daydream do need to be re-centered (push of a button) every so often; not a big deal.

In-Hand Pointing Device

The Oculus I used didn't have one, nor did Facebook's goggles. The Google Daydream setup includes one and it makes a huge difference. I can't imagine driving VR without one.

Apps

The Facebook demo representatives controlled the canned experience, so there's no way to know what the app ecosystem looks like yet. I haven't played with Oculus enough to judge that either. With regard to Google's setup, they have a foyer app, Daydream, which acts as the stage to all the other apps (and there are many). Google's ecosystem is definitely up and running and seems to be doing well.

My favorite apps so far are Google Street View and YouTube VR 360. I'm using VR to experience things apparently, rather than to play games.

There is plenty of content out there advertising itself as VR, when in fact it's just a flat image/video (you can call anything "VR"). If you dive into this stuff, it's really all about the 360 degree content, so search for "360 VR whatever".

The Future?

Humanity is doomed, and these demos of v1 technology solidify that for me. Go watch http://www.syfy.com/caprica and you'll see why. Our only way out of this is to get smart about how we interact with each other and our environment fast. If the latest U.S. Presidential election is any indication, we're not in a good place culturally to be ingesting technology as powerful as this.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Day In Pictures: Friday

Got to hear all about Gayle's incredible Morocco trip and talk Iceland itineraries.

Long time since I'd been able to hang with the big guy (and new father) Brad!

Talking app scale, network infrastructure limitations, and new ideas with Wyeth.

Bouncing ideas around with Deb from https://thetbar.com/

Fun catch-up with the man Moody.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful For... Life.

Several months ago April and I took part in a rescue effort that wound up saving a young woman's life. It was one of the most remarkable experiences either one of us has ever had. It showed us how fragile life is. It showed us how there is "something else" (whether you choose religion, or some other form of energetic/spiritual connectedness) that can bring disparate humans together to accomplish something in an intense life or death situation. It reinforced in us that people are good.

She was dead. I saw death in her black eyes. I stared at it as I breathed into her. The abyss of it looked back at me; darkness somehow showing me what wasn't there at all; life. I saw it when we pulled her from the water, and I saw it each time I pinched her nose and moved to her mouth to push air in. I don't know why I didn't close her eyelids. It just let it keep looking at me; perhaps to challenge it, so it could bare witness to all the life and energy that was going into her. After several minutes, her struggled breath came. A few minutes later the EMTs arrived and took over for us.

We went to bed that night assuming the worst; that she had died. There was just no way she could have survived the situation (at least 12 minutes, and more like 15, without air, complete with severe blunt head trauma). The next morning, the Sheriff called, but instead of the words "I'm sorry" he told me she was off of the machines and responsive. I couldn't believe it. None of us could.

Months later her family, friends, and the rescuers gathered in the mountains so everyone could meet. She had just completed the last waves of therapy, and was getting back to life as she knew it before the incident. She was _alive_ and thriving. Against all odds. The accident killed her, and the odds of her coming back were just non-existent. But, it happened. We witnessed it.

I got to hold her face and stare into her eyes. The life inside poured out. It was like death hadn't ever been there at all. It was beautiful.

I am thankful she is alive. I am thankful she is surrounded by so much love. I am thankful to be alive. I am thankful to be surrounded by so much love.

I am thankful she doesn't remember the experience.

I am thankful to have been part of a spontaneous collection of heroic humans. Without the collective effort, she wouldn't have had a chance. The above is a but a fragment of my own experience, and just a sliver of the overall effort.

Arrival & Linguistic Relativity

The movie "Arrival" explores a concept I've loved since my first trip to Europe as a young man; Linguistic Relativity. Immediately the new world I dropped into felt different in ways I couldn't explain. Sure things were "different." Architecture, the "age" of cities, city layout, transportation, food, etc. But, I was convinced there was something else going on. The underlying human interactions were just "different." Something inside me told me it was related to the language being used to communicate.

There's a name for what I was feeling; "linguistic relatively" explores how our mind's fundamental experience and wiring is rooted in the language we know. This explains why fluently multi-lingual humans are just "different" than the rest of us. It explains how musicians are just "different" than the rest of us.

"Arrival" goes so far as to suggest that language can change our relationship with time itself. Such a cool idea!

I've been fortunate enough to spend time in a handful of Asian language rooted countries, as well as Latin based countries. The Asian languages (all rooted in ancient Chinese in one way or another), and therefore people/societies, are the most fascinating. When you talk to someone who primarily speaks/reads an Asian language, in-country, and ask them to translate something, you can see their brains trying to come up with an explanation and translation. Something that feels like it should be "easy," often just isn't. Sure, some nouns are easy: "car." But, much of the time the surrounding environment and context literally changes the words you'd use verbally or in writing. This experience doesn't hold as well if you're interacting with someone with Asian language roots in a non-Asian based society. For example, I've of course interacted with many of Asians here in the U.S., and you generally don't get a taste of this translation challenge unless you delve into it with them. I believe the reason for this is that they're outside of their native context, and their minds are working in overdrive to map to the "other" language (English in my case). Operationally they're trying their best to conform to the "other" language.

Some of my favorite interactions and music come from non-English native speakers who map their "other" language headspace into English. The mappings are often deeply impactful and non-conformist to how I, as an American-English speaker, hear/speak; often they're deeply profound. They can articulate things in ways the "other" native language speaker simply has never considered. Bjork comes to mind.

"She uses English like a weapon."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Few Months of Ad Blocking

Two friends each have competing ad blocking companies/products (Brave and Optimal) that I've been trying out for a few months now. Detailed reactions below, but let me start by saying how much faster the web is without extraneous connections/bandwidth being gobbled up by advertisements; each solution provides a 100x better browsing experience based on performance alone. Nearly 50% of mobile bandwidth is used by moving advertisement bits across the wire. That's not only costly from a monthly data-plan bill standpoint, but it also illustrates the size of the stake mobile carriers have in the game; without ads, they'd lose 50% of their data-plan revenue! So, if either solution takes hold, rest assured the mobile carriers will push anti-ad-block legislation (legal or commercial lobbying) hard. If you flip that model in its head, you can quickly argue that the ad-industry is heavily subsidizing our data-plan costs with our mobile carriers.

I haven't decided which approach is better yet; Brave's browser/client-side approach, or Optimal's DNS-level approach, but both are working great. Each has their bugs/issues, but it's a joy, for the most part, to surf/navigate/read/transact sans advertisements online.

If you're a publisher reading this and are upset that you haven't gotten ad-dollars from me, send me an email and I'll bitcoin you what you'd likely received had I surfed you with ads.

Brave

Brave is well, a brave approach as it requires the user to download/install/use a new client/browser. They have support for OSX/iOS/Android, so the platforms that matter are covered which is good. Brave is also attacking the end-user privacy front which is nice. They give you all the privacy/security controls/tech that you'd want as a user. They also provide probably the most important part of this ad-blocking puzzle to me, and that is the ability to pay publishers I choose based on my consumption. This was likely largely motivated by the publisher cries over ad-blockers adversely impacting their revenue, but more interestingly, to me, is that I get to decide how much I want to pay for content, and guess what, it's a heck of a lot more than the crappy ad-industry pays on a per-user basis, so, if I were a model for most consumers (and I admit I'm not unfortunately), publishers would actually make out better.

Brave's challenge is that it's a separate browser. Which plugins/extensions work and which don't? Does this website work in Chrome? etc etc. Getting consumers to switch browsers is super hard.

Optimal

Optimal chooses to do all of its blocking at the DNS level. This requires an app-install on mobile, or DNS address swapping by hand on OSX. What's nice about this approach is that ads are blocked across all applications/browsers on the system (mobile or otherwise). Downsides here though are that if  you're already using custom DNS (e.g. openDNS) for things like content blocking for kiddos, you have to pick one or the other. Optimal is still sorting out how to backfill lost ad-revenue to publishers, but, there are frameworks to accomplish this that they'll sort out in time I believe.

Optimal's challenge is in getting an alternative publisher payment model in place, and one that lets me, the user, decide who gets my dollars. Also, a DNS approach can ultimately be circumvented by the industry by pushing ad distribution out to the app-level/root-level top-level domain and subdomains of the apps/websites I'm visiting.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Can You Put a Price On Data?

Here's another Dee Hock transcription from The Birth of the Chaordic Age. He does an impeccable job describing the material surrounding so many sleepless nights while we were building Gnip (and while our partners were trying to understand their value propositions as well).

If you're building a company that sells data, or its surrounding services... read on.

In the end, Gnip profited primarily from its services, and the "publishers" of data (e.g. the social networks) ascribed value to the "data" itself (and priced accordingly). We did share in some of that value, but it was a relatively small percentage of our revenue.

Any emphasis is mine.

Old Monkey Mind and I had spent countless hours trying to understand information and its relevance to organizations, asking our endless questions. What is the significance of the “inform” part of the word “information? What is the nature of that which is received from eternal sources and “forms us” within? What is the nature of that which forms within us which we then feel compelled to transmit, and how does it form others when it is received? What allows formation of information, permits it to endure unaltered, yet be available at any time for transformation in infinite ways? Why and from where came the universal, perpetual urge to receive and transmit information - the incessant desire to communicate? Is it an urge at all, or is it an unavoidable necessity - an integral component essential to life? Indeed, is it the essence of life itself? Or is it a principle beyond life itself? Could it be the fundamental, formative essence that gives shape and distinction to all things - part of an inseparably whole universe?

It helps to think what information is not. Certainly it is not just another “thing”; on more finite, physical entity. Certainly, information is far moe than digits and data. They may be components of it - the shape it sometimes takes. They may be of it, but they are not it. In a rare insight, Gregory Bateson proposed that “information is a difference that makes a difference.” If something is received that cannot be differentiated or, if once differentiated, makes no difference, he asserts it is just noise.

Bateson’s perspective is fascinating but limited, for it implies only mind-to-mind communication. If you are hiking alone in the wilderness and a rock comes bounding down the mountain, breaking your leg, that is certainly a difference that makes an enormous difference. The same can be said o running barefoot through the house and breaking a toe on a chair leg. Is that information? Both are certainly a difference that makes a difference. Both certainly convey meaning. If your broken leg and crushed toe are a difference that makes a difference, then, by Bateson’s definition, condensed, inanimate matter and gravitational force clearly have the ability to communicate. Locked in our box of self-awareness, we think of it as one-way communication - rock to leg, or chair leg to toe, but we truly have no way of knowing what information , if any flows the opposite way. Unlike finite physical resources, information multiplies by transfer and is not depleted by use. Information transferred is not lost to the source, yet is a gain to the recipient. Information can be utilized by everyone without loss to anyone. As far as we know, the supply of information is infinite; therefore, it does not obey any of our concepts or laws of scarcity. It obeys only concepts and principles of infinite abundance, infinite utilization, infinite recombination. We have only dim perceptions of what those principles might be, or if they exist at all.

Projecting onto information our old notions of property, thus turning it into a method by which one person can extract wealth from another, neither reveals nor changes the extraordinary nature of information. It reveals only the limited nature of man and his reluctance to change internal modules of reality or external behavior.
Information is a miser of energy. It can endlessly replicate, move ubiquitously at the speed of light, and massively condense in minute space, all at minuscule expense of energy, in other words, cost. In countless ways, it is becoming a replacement for our present enormously wasteful use of matter. To the extent that we increase the value of the mental content of the composition of goods and services, we can reduce the value of the physical content. We can make them lighter, more durable, more recyclable, more versatile, and more transportable.

Information breeds. When one bit of information is combined with another, the result is new information. Information is boundary less. It cannot be contained. No matter what constraints we try to put on information, it will become the slave and property of no one. Efforts to make information conform to archaic notions of scarcity, ownership, and finite physical quantity - concepts that grew out of the agricultural and industrialized age - merely lock humanoid into old, mental boxes of constraint and exploitation.
Information is ethically neutral. Its immense power is as applicable to destructive, inequitable, violent ends as it is to constructive, equitable, peaceful ends. The history of modern sciences has been an effort to divorce the ethical dimensions of life from the physical to divorce subjective values from objective observations; to divorce spirituality from rationality. The effect has been deification of the rational, physical, objective perspective as ultimate truth, and demonization of the subjective, ethical, and spiritual perspective a superstition, delusion, and ignorance.

Products, services, and organizations in which the value of the mental content begins to dwarf the value of the physical content require wise people of deep understanding. To endlessly add to the quantity of mechanistic information, knowledge, and technology without similar evolution of values and wisdom is not only foolish, it is dangerous. To massively develop means and act in accordance with what those means permit without careful consideration of ends in the context of values is equally idiotic.

Thinking about a society based on information and one based on physicality requires radically different perspective and consciousness. However, we prefer too often to ignore the fundamental differences and carry over into the Chaordic Age of managing information, ideas and values, concepts, and assumptions that proved useful in the mechanized, Industrial Age of machine crafting, the age of managing things; concepts such as ownership finite supply, obsolescence, loss by conveyance, containment, scarcity, separability, quantifiable measurement, statistical economics, mathematical monetarism, hierarchal structuralism, and command-and-control management.

The birth of the Chaordic Age calls into question virtually every concepts of societal organization, management, and conduct on which we have come to rely. Clinging too rigorously to old concepts, dismissing new concepts too lightly, protecting old forms that resulting from those concepts too fiercely, imposing those rooms on a changing society too resolutely, are a certain path to failure. As Sir Francis Bacon put it precisely centuries ago, in admonishing those who apposed the mechanistic concepts of Newton and Descartes: “They that reverence too much the old times are but a scorn to the new.”

The new concepts Bacon so ably defended with that assertion are excruciatingly old today. They are concepts that we now reverence too much.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Are You Really a Leader?

The following transcription from Dee Hock's Birth of the Chaordic Age says it all. Whenever I'm asked about leadership, I always fumble around with some incongruent response that only makes sense to me. What I really need to do is memorize this and just regurgitate it.

If you lead a team, consider this.
Leader presumes follower. Follower presumes choice. One who is coerced into the purposes, objectives, or preferences of another is not a follower in any true sense of the word, but an object of manipulation. Nor is the relationship materially altered if both parties accept dominance and coercion. True leading and following presume perpetual liberty of both leader and follower to sever the relationship and pursue another path. A true leader cannot be bound to lead. A true follower cannot be bound to follow. The moment they are bound, they are no longer leader or follower. The terms leader and follower imply the freedom and independent judgement of both. If the behavior of either is compelled, whether by force, economic necessity, or contractual arrangement, the relationship is altered to one of superior/subordinate, management/employee, master/servant, or owner/slave. All such relationships are materially different than leader/follower.
The remaining paragraphs do an amazing job picking that apart and diving into how "there is no spoon."

Somewhat aside, this is an amazing book.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Main Stream Media And Me: A Year Later

A year ago I cut myself off from going to mainstream media sources for content consumption (with the notable exception of the New York Times in paper form Sunday mornings). I'm here to report that I generally feel more calm, balanced, smarter, and informed. I also feel more aware than ever of just how tied our media consumption is to financial interests. It's been great to disassociate from that to some degree.

I've found it pretty challenging to find regular good sources of "news" and interesting media content. The sad practice that Techcrunch introduced us to so many years ago is now the "norm" for new/alternative online media outlets (such as Huffington Post and Buzzfeed and Medium (kinda reluctant to put Medium in here, but not really.?) and their ilk). Algorithmic content creation, and/or content farming (Techcrunch's original M.O.) that incestuously drives the SEO beast plagues online content creation in the name of "clicks." It's a sad state of affairs out there unfortunately.

I still like my idea around effectively representing the journalist. It'd be a small piece of the puzzle, but an increasingly necessary one as we consume more and more content en-masse that is created by a) machines directly or b) humans that have no journalistic understanding whatsoever. Having an understanding of who/what, and ultimately why, created the content is crucial.

Anyway, I've eliminated mainstream channels of content from my flow. I rely on Feedly to surface content from sources I curate myself (individual's blogs who I care about, Ars Technica, products I care about, companies I care about, etc). I increasingly prefer email "newsletters" that I proactively subscribe to, to provide regular doses of content from curators I care about. That list looks like:

  • https://www.brainpickings.org/ - to eat my regular spinach and broccoli.
  • http://bizwest.com/ - for Colorado-local stuff
  • https://redef.com/ - for music, style, and media stuff
  • http://www.nytimes.com/newsletters - for nytimes digital stuff
  • http://nuzzel.com/ - I use this a little bit, but not much.
  • http://www.boredpanda.com/ - my dirty secret
I use Instapaper and Pocket to collect things that I want to "read later." I use Highly to markup and share content I find interesting with my friends as well as Twitter/Facebook communities.

About Twitter and Facebook. Twitter Moments (and Apple TV app) has become a solid go-to when I'm curious about what's happening "right now."

Facebook is the trashy magazine one flips through to numb their mind by the pool. It's also a great place to stay connected to longtime friends/family. If you consider it a news source, I worry for you to the same degree I worry for Fox News viewers.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

(Timeless?) Music Today

I've been meaning to write this post for awhile. A conversation with my brother today finally motivated me to do it. He has two kids (9 and 5); mine are 14 and 11.

A few nights ago our family spent the evening with another family. Drinks were had and my buddy, a musician, fired up some Gun's & Roses and Kenny Rogers on the Sonos (via Pandora). The adults all wailed along while playing air guitar. The kids giggled and pointed at us. The next day my son asked me why his generation doesn't have such timeless and iconic music. As we parents do, I responded without any preparation, on my feet, with something like this.

Creation

Twenty-plus years ago, producing music for the masses required a lot of capital, and relationships with distribution channels. So, a musician would desire and aspire to access record labels (who had said capital and relationships) for "record deals." Convincing a label to sign your band meant you had to be pretty great at producing a quality product that would likely appeal to the masses. In today's tech-easy framework, a lot of good (not necessarily great) music can be produced relatively easily. In some cases, with nothing more than a laptop. So, there has been an explosion in artists who can create decent music. Yesterday, there were simply fewer bands that could produce material that was fairly easily consumable.

Distribution

This is where things have shifted most significantly. Yesterday, distribution was accomplished via radio plays, physical media sales, and concert halls and arenas. Importantly, the pinnacle consumption of music, a concert/arena, was something the community would experience together, in a room, with the band itself. Obviously these "shows" still exist today, but when you consider the shifts in access to music, production, and costs, the large-scale shows (arenas) are the stuff of marketers; of manufactured content with no soul. The smaller venues are the only place to see live music with soul, and therefore by definition, the number of people that can share the same live experience together is orders of magnitude smaller. So, this collective bond that thousands or millions of people can establish and share over the course of a band's "tour" (a year or two at a time), has vaporized.

I don't think Streaming actually has much, if anything, to do with the lack of iconic/timeless music production. It obviously has had a massive impact on consumer cost-to-access music, and what musicians get paid, but the connection with timeless/iconic bands isn't so clear to me. I could probably argue that better, cheaper, access to music via Streaming would promote more great bands across an even larger consumer-base. I might argue that because we have such ready access to nearly _all_ music now, that our need/desire to build up, and save up, to go see a big show has dwindled. But, I suspect that interest has waned more because the large-format shows have been commercialized to the point of no longer being as interesting as they once were.

Access

Our kids access music through Spotify, Pandora, and Soundcloud. They listen on over-the-ear headphones, or via speakers driven by Sonos (built-in amp or line-in to a receiver). They have fallen victim to Streaming's general lack of "offline" or "download" support, and realize this when we're in the car somewhere sans cell-tower coverage. That's when they ask me to fire up my music which I diligently downloaded (Spotify Offline).

Equipment

Coincidentally I introduced my son to Boulder's high-end audiophile showroom today. I needed a component and he was out running errands with me so, I took him in. I introduced him to an engineer who spends his hours tuning amps and speakers and furniture placement and sound baffles and cables and such. I showed him McIntosh amps with tubes and phonographs as beautiful as the female form. We sat. We listened. He came to understand why I take my drivers and amps so seriously. That was a fun parenting moment. I remember when my own dad took me in there when I was a kid. I haven't been the same since.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Day In Pictures: A Wonderful Thursday

My early bird. She gets up a little after me.

Biker Chic. She thundered in during morning coffee meetings and graciously let me take her picture. #badass

Lovely Gayle. Lovely catch-up.

Annie. Relaxed after some well used time-off.

Casey (with PrintReleaf) building the right software to reforest Earth.

Jordan (with PrintReleaf) building the right business to reforest Earth.

DL Thomas demoing Nitro Kaffe Coffee for us at Techstars. Dangerously good.

Brown. Getting all of the pieces to work optimally; the hardest job.

Zack Mance who's moving to Boulder from NY to hang with us and create software.

Dan. Adapting to a growing team; sharing the knowledge and passion.

Ryan. Serializing data more efficiently while playing pinball.

Michelle. Diligent. Clear. Consummate professional. Default: happy (always breath of fresh air). 

Joey. Knows more about global telco packet traffic/scale than you. Katie says he still owes us rent.

Smart Techstars Tech Meetup crew talking Machine Learning at Trident Cafe (thanks to Andrew Hyde!).

Those eyes.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Investing: Humans or Machines?

I ran a test to try and compare human money manager strategy against machine money management strategy. It wasn't scientific and it had a handful of holes, but, I looked at 14-months of returns (from 02/2015 to 06/2016) for both the professional (1'ish % fee-level) human managers and Wealthfront's machines (on level 7 in terms of aggression). The comparison was of public equity portfolios only, with roughly the same "international"/US "mix." I calibrated the humans and the machine with roughly the same risk tolerance levels.

The humans handily beat (nearly double the machines' return percentage) the machines most (65%) of the time. When the machine's did win, they ok; 50% better than the humans.

I did not compare tax loss harvesting which is important. My gut tells me though, based on just looking at the numbers peripherally, that the machines win in a big way here. Harvesting algorithms are pretty good if you don't involve human discretion, _but_ they can get into nasty trouble in down markets, and this is where another interesting bit of data came out.

When you look at the overall market nastiness that occurred over the past year, the humans destroyed (sometimes as much as 5x better) the machines in particularly ugly months. The implication here is right in line with my hypothesis, as well as the marketing material human money managers spew, that humans are smarter when markets start to tank. Put another way, when markets tanked in a given month, the losses the machines took were much larger than those the humans took.

I ignored fees. You can't argue with the fee savings incurred when machines manage money. Machine money management companies like Wealthfront charge nearly a quarter on average of what you pay humans to do.

Result: you're paying humans more to protect your money in down market scenarios. If the machines can get smarter in down scenarios (seems really hard to solve this), there's no need for humans to manage money anymore.

Monday, June 27, 2016

"The Talk" With My Son

He is thirteen and thinks he's seventeen. Everything went from zero to sixty about a month ago when school let out for the summer. I feel like he was a little boy on the last day of school, then a week into summer break, he became a teenager; mostly all wonderful life progression stuff. So far. Thankfully.

Along the way things shifted from hanging with his boy buddies, to hanging with his girl buddies. He spends entire days with a handful of girls now. So, I had to pull my "talk" together in short order and deliver it toute suite.

We are a fairly liberal household. I particularly believe we, as a society, have way oversampled on violence in entertainment over sex; waaaaay oversampled. Video games are laden with gun violence, but if so much as a bare breast makes its way on screen, it's a moral panic. So, in a futile attempt to compensate, we've always been pretty open about sex, naked bodies, and the wonder of it all. Lots of embarrassment for the kids along the way to be sure, but I think we've done a decent job weaving the right amount of sexual exposure in along the way.

So my talk the other day went like this.

That Morning

A warning. I told him that I wanted to talk to him today, just the two of us. He knew what it was about; my tone and a hint made it clear. I asked him if he wanted to chat now, or sometime later; his choice. "Later. This evening." Ok.

That Day

He spent the day hanging out with three girls; the usual crew.

That Evening

Probably my biggest concern was dragging on and on. I tend to explain things in too much detail. I tend to make points over and over again. So, a big focus of mine was saying the things I wanted to say, then ejecting. I didn't want to lose the audience on a topic as important as this one.

Point 1

If there's one thing you remember from this conversation, it is this. Women/Girls bodies are theirs, and they decide what they do with them; not you. If you ever witness a woman/girl being disrespected or taken advantage of, you intervene and help her.

Point 2

Mom and dad believe you are too young at this age to be doing a ton of exploration with your body and someone else's, and in particular to be having sex. However, we also understand that you are indeed exploring and figuring things out. If you find yourself in a situation in which you are going to have sex, you must use a condom. There are two reasons for this: one, safety. There are diseases that easily transmit through sexual activity, and no-one wants those, so, protect yourself. Two, while figuring out each other's bodies is fun, a pregnancy at this age is not. Wear a condom for your sake, and hers. By now you know how mom and dad parent and who we are. If you ever have questions or a concern, you know where to find us.

Point 3

This point was tricky to convey. If you fully understand and believe Point 1 and Point 2, you're entering a whole new phase of life, and it's amazing. Women/Girls are the enlightened gender, and exploring relationships with them is one of the greatest things you'll ever experience; eye-opening and beautiful.

He said four things the entire time: "Dad, I know all of this stuff." "Dad, I know all of this stuff. I've taken Health class." "I understand." "Ok." It wasn't what he said or didn't say though that impressed me. In general, he can do a lot of eye rolling and looking away when I talk to him about things. I was fully expecting that during this talk. However, he instead looked me in the eye nearly the entire time. He wore a soft, gentle, open face while I talked to him. He didn't squirm. He was open and receiving. I was so grateful.

No, I didn't give him any condoms.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Day In Pictures: Friday

I'm a bit rusty and composition and focus plane suffered. 50mm prime lens on the Canon 5dsr. The usual suspect didn't want their picture taken.

Herlinda; house cleaner extraordinaire for fifteen years and extension of the family.

Aprilla's stare over breakfast.

Annabelle; bright and joyful breakfast server.
Daniel Feld; operator and iron man.

Dave Drach; even keel.

David Brown; conductor.

Nicole Glaros; alive and existing on another plane.

Brian Draves; methodical "lawyer."
 
Kevin Tapply; closer and man with the plan. 
Sonya Hausafus; storyteller.

Annie Lydens; marathoner.

Dan Andrews; commitment.

Ryan Wagner; pinball. "at home"

Jed Christiansen; underwater (Navy submariner, and lots to do). "in SF"

Steven Chau; many balls in the air. "in Seattle."

Michelle Van Veen; cohesive. Blew this shot. Focus was off for starters. Grey wall backdrop was an opportunity I missed.

DMV agent with great energy. "If I become famous, tell them you found me at the DMV!"

Evening server... wanted the shot done with "props." In this case... tempranillo before pouring.

Friday, February 19, 2016

I Helped The F.B.I. Get Into Someone's DB

It was back in 1997 at my first job out of college. I was a networking stack engineer on the Netscape Browser. At that time, the email client, news reader, and browser were essentially rolled into one (I'm sure I'm pissing some lawyer off by making that statement as they'd inevitably argued in court somewhere/sometime that they were separate; hell, I was probably a witness in a case making the argument at some point), anyway.

I got an email intro from someone on the Mail team introducing me to an FBI agent. I was a kid (24 or so) and I was intrigued. The agent was looking for some help navigating the underlying Mail db on a computer they'd recovered in a child-porn raid. While he obviously didn't disclose much, he explained to me that they'd spent years watching this guy and tracking his non-digital activity. He explained to me how he'd dedicated his career to nailing this guy, yet he'd hit a wall with the digital stuff he *knew* was there. I sympathized deeply. Child-porn? Horrible! Dedicated career to stopping this guy? How do I help?!? I was in!

They had one team working on the binary image attachments, but they were having trouble understanding and mapping Mail's underlying message/meta-data database (berkeley db) to/from them. He couldn't send me anything to actually work on (child porn stuff apparently can't move across state lines/wires... even if/when law enforcement is doing it), so it was like doing remote surgery trying to help him out. After several hours of helping, my day-job work was starting to pile up and I had to stop and ask myself how I was supposed to prioritize this apparently very high priority thing. How was I supposed to stack rank this against my companies' commercial needs? I was essentially volunteering my time. Would my company get any recognition for this? Should it? I was 24... what the hell did I know?

The agent started leaning on me more and more for more and more help. My work responsibilities started slipping so I consulted my boss. He left the ball in my court, empathizing with the situation. He wanted me getting my day-job done, but also wanted to help in what appeared to be a big deal.

I helped off and on for another couple of weeks, but at some point I realized we'd done 80% of the work that could be done without me going full-time on the project and co-locating with him so I could sit with the actual meta-data. I told him I had to get back to my day-job and that I was sorry. He expressed great appreciation for all the help, and also disclosed to me in the processes how outgunned he and his department were in this "digital age." When we broke off all the interaction it left me feeling really scared actually. There I was, a kid, coming to the realization that this thing that was supposed to protect me, my government, wasn't able to do so. It hit me like a ton of bricks. A corporate entity, me/my-company in this case, was, in his eyes, required to help them catch a horrible criminal. Leaving the project was really hard.

He left me enough bread crumbs that I was able to piece together a massive, publicized, multi-state, child-porn ring bust (biggest to-date at that time), was the one that I'd contributed to. Assuming everyone involved in that was indeed guilty, I'm proud of the work I did.

A couple of years later during some patent litigation case, I was again confronted with the fact that my government (USPTO in this case) had been leapfrogged by technology. The USPTO crumbled before my eyes as I watched patent agents fumble through software patents and a case they really didn't understand (all the way up to the presiding Judge). I left that experience faithless in the systems's ability to manage the patent concept across software.

Several months after working on the mail db project, I received a FBI mug in the mail at work. No return address, and no note inside (I later found out the FBI can't pay for assists like this with $ or gifts). It's my favorite mug. It represents so much.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

jud@techstars.com

I'm getting back into the mix. It's been a creative, fun, enlightening, educational, expanding, and relaxing couple of years "off," but I want to re-engage with something operational again; I've joined Techstars as its CTO.

I'm jumping in for a few reasons.

First, the kids are ages 13 and 10, and in these particularly formative years I want to make sure they witness their father executing in real-time. I don't want them learning about career/work stuff via distant stories around the dinner table. I want them to see and hear and feel what it takes to build something as it's happening. Interestingly my motivations for jumping back in are very similar to my motivations back in 2006 when I left a big media/tech company to dive headlong into Boulder's burgeoning software startup scene.

Second, I have missed trying to solve big biz/tech challenges with smart people. Investing and advising has been rewarding, but without operational involvement, you're always just injecting perspective into a situation at a high-level with no actual responsibility or risk (other than the unemotional financial). Investing and advising are great, but insufficient for me. My commitment to "my founders" and "my companies" remains intact; if you're one of those, I'm still with you, don't worry (or perhaps... sorry... you're not getting rid of me yet).

Third, Techstars. I've watched this thing evolve since day-one. The people (turns out it is _all_ about the people), the mission, the progress, the market validation, and the overall community impact are phenomenal. Techstars has built an incredible operation around stoking the entrepreneurial fire that millions of people across Earth have burning inside them. At this time when so many macro economic assumptions are challenged, I'm excited to participate in something that is bringing a new way of thinking to the system. I get to learn from my colleagues, and contribute my background and experience back into what we're doing.

Through the years Techstars has built and acquired a fair amount of code and product. I consider Techstars' customers to be anyone that touches the ecosystem, whether you're a Startup Weekend attendee, a mentor in the program, or an investor, you're one of hundreds of thousands of people we're building product for. I'm now working to ensure your experience with us is a great one.