May 2003 Archives

I first heard about Salam Pax on March 11 from John Monasch who sent me an email about him. Since then, he has gathered a great deal of attention from bloggers everywhere as the war approached. He was silent for quite awhile since the bombings. He finally came back, and now he's writing for the Guardian! Wow!

Guardian Unlimited

Salam's Story

The most gripping account of the Iraq conflict came from a web diarist known as the Baghdad Blogger. But no one knew his identity - or even if he existed. Rory McCarthy finally tracked him down, and found a quietly spoken, 29-year-old architect. From next week he will write fortnightly in G2.

Happy Birthday Anita! My birthday script finally worked. It was broken until today. Sorry to the people who's birthdays I missed.

I wrote a script that gets your technorati cosmos and creates a sidebar file of inbound blogs like the one on my blog and sends you email and jabber chats when there are new inbound links. It's written in python. It's ugly and totally amateur, but Dave Sifry said that making it available now was more "in the spirit of things" than trying to clean it up before I made it available. It's a bit embarrasing, but like with my Emergent Democracy Paper, I hope the releasing it early and getting feedback will be a good learning experience. Anyway, feedback is greatly appreciated and I hope to continue working on it. It is available on the TechnoBot Wiki Page. Please feel free to add feature requests or make comments about the way I am doing this.

GPL license of course.

vonage.gifI got my Vonage service going yesterday. Vonage is a serice where you sign up for a phone number in an area code of your choice and they give you a Cisco Analog Telephone Adapter (ATA) which you hook up the Internet and attach to a normal analog phone. The phone basically turns into a normal phone with a phone number in the area code that you chose. You get call waiting, voicemail, etc. It's $82.03 setup and $39.99/month for unlimited calls in the US and Canada. (There are other service plans.) They don't sell the service internationally, but Gen Kanai turned me on to Vonage. He had just moved to Japan and was using it from Japan. Frankly, it makes a lot more sense to people living internationally, I think. Anyway, it's great. I was using it today, the caller ID worked fine, call waiting worked fine and the sound quality is fine. Now the only problem is that if I give people my new 415 area code number, they'll be calling me in the middle of the night thinking I'm in San Francisco.

ettercap.gif
When the WiFi network went down at FiRe and Max quickly mapped out the network, grabbed a free IP address and started hunting for the rogue network, it was useful and cool. I hadn't messed around with "security tools" recently so I decided to spend one hour searching for some tools that would work on my Mac.

First I downloaded trusty nmap which scans your network for computers, does an OS fingerprint and will often find the name, revealing the owner. It will also do quiet portscans to see what services are running on the machines.

Then I found ettercap. (Lastest version doesn't run properly on the OS X, use version 0.6.7.) This is a full-featured packet sniffer with an easy to use interface. It is unique in that instead of doing IP sniffing, it uses ARP hacking and MAC address spoofing to allow you to sniff across switches. It has a variety of "plug-ins" that let you easily capture email, passwords and keyword filtered bits and pieces into files or onto the screen. It lets you insert your own text into connections so you could for instance type a command into someone's telnet session. Of course you can also terminate other people's sessions and connections. Another interesting feature in the recent release is that you can now sniff SSH1 sessions. (Lucky for Dan we installed SSH2 on his computer.)

ettercap README
5.4.4 SSH1 MAN-IN-THE-MIDDLE

When the connection starts (remember that we are the master-of-packets, all packets go through ettercap) we substitute the server public key with one generated on the fly and save it in a list so we can remember that this server has been poisoned before.

Then the client send the packet containing the session key ciphered with our key, so we are able to decipher it and sniff the real 3DES session key. Now we encrypt the packet with the correct server public key and forward it to the SSH daemon.

The connection is established normally, but we have the session key !! Now we can decrypt all the traffic and sit down watching the stream ! The connection will remain active even if we exit from ettercap, because ettercap doesn't proxy it (like dsniff). After the exchange of the keys, ettercap is only a spectator... ;)

I also googled around a bit and found a wep key cracker for WiFi wep keys and a password cracker for unix and windows passwords that all seemed easy enough to run.

My point is, an old fart like me with a some curiosity and an hours works was able to load up enough gear onto my Mac to do the basics. With a bit more time and skill, I could probably find the exploits so I could break into the computers I found on the network instead of just watching and messing with their connections.

If you want to feel safe using a WiFi network, AT LEAST use SSH2 port forwarding, PGP and some security on your network like a Sputnik with security turned on.

I met blogger Stefan Smalla at FiRe and just when I was feeling guilty for not blogging any of the actual content, I noticed that Stefan did a great job. Thanks!

Got my Technorati bot done this morning. It checks technorati through the xml api every 10 minutes for my cosmos. If there is a new inbound link to my blog, it sends me an email and a jabber chat message with the details. Used technorati.py by Mark Piligrim and jabberpy0.4-0. Now I can make jabber bots. Beware beware. ;-)

Just got back and posted photos from the secret retreat in Appenzell here. The artifacts from my camera are still mildly visible. Drat!

I'm at the Zurich airport now at an Internet kiosk so I can't upload the pictures, but I spent the day yesterday in the mountains of Swizerland hiking, moblogging under the surveillance of the goats and cows with my PowerBook on my back. It was REALLY tiring, but REALLY beautiful. We all stood at the top of the mountain as the sun set and we had a 360 view of the countryside around us. At the apex of the mountain was a very old inn where 20 or so etoy agents, bitflux bloggers, and St. Gallen University students met up for a mountain top secret conference. Apologies to those who responded to my blog entry but couldn't make it. Hats off to Michael who actually made it.

It was 10pm when we started and considering how exhausted we were from the (for some people 3 hour) hike up the mountain, the discussion was interesting and heated. We talked about art, open source software, architecture, the future of etoy and of course a little about blogging.

It was great to put faces behind some of the names I come across on the blogs. Blogging in Europe is starting to take off and I think the bitflux folks and others will lead the pack. Maybe then can help us make wikis more cool looking. ;-)

Anyway, I'm offline again for 12 hours or so while I make my way back to Tokyo...

They have this Spotme device at this conference which has a very cool feature. You can see the names of the other participants who are near you and approximately how many meters they are away from you. You can also exchange business cards with people which get emailed to you.

Similar to the Japanese Lovegety but a bit more serious focus. ;-)

My Sony DSC-FX77 is getting flakey. It's creating those artifacts you see in the picture...

Zai at etoy is organizing a secret meeting of Swiss subversives and bloggers Saturday night in a mountain retreat. Email me if you are interested in joining. Space is limited.

elliot_thumb.jpgI met Elliot Noss, the man behind Tucows. I've been a huge fan of Tucows ever since Thomas Riha showed it to me during an Ars Electronica Jury meeting. I've watched it grow and was always interested in who ran it. Doc Searls met (update: Doc knows him from '98 or so) Elliot at ETcon and told me I should meet him. It was a nice suprise to run into Elliot at FiRe. Elliot's in the domain name game and we talked about ICANN and other stuff. We agreed on just about everything and I was happy to find out that Elliot was just as cool as Tucows. Elliot and his wife had just gotten back from Shanghai and he joined our China/Japan session. We had dinner with Sidney Rittenberg and talked about China. I guess the domain name business takes you all over the world and Elliot seems like the right kind of guy to run a global business.

Sidney, is another amazing guy that I enjoyed meeting very much. he has a very interesting bio.

excerpt from FiRe bio
He became a leading translator for the works of Mao Zedong, and was the only American citizen accepted into the Chinese Communist Party, until the Cultural Revolution.
[...]
Sixteen of Sidney's 35 years in China were spent as a prisoner in solitary confinement on charges of being an American spy. He was freed in 1977 and declared a true friend of China. His family became a myth and a legend, giving them easy entrée to China's leaders -- a great advantage for their consulting work.
Sidney was a co-host with me on the China/Japan Panel. He was extremely energetic, informed and sharp and knew more about China than anyone I have ever met in my life.

The title is not completely accurate. It was a buffet dinner and I had part of my dinner with Elliot and Sidney.

maxjames_thumb.jpg
Dinner with Max Levchin and James Hong
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James and Max lookin' hot in their convertible
When I showed up at FiRe, I noticed a guy wearing a PayPal T-Shirt and a guy wearing HotorNot T-Shirt. They looked a bit out-of-place in the crowd. I noticed it was Max and James. Max was a co-founder of PayPal and the CTO. James is the founder of HotorNot. I met them at my party in Palo Alto a few months ago. Max left PayPal and is thinking of the next big thing. James still runs HotorNot. During the conference, (ironically during the Future of WiFi panel) the WiFi network flaked out and Max figured out a cool hack to get me back on the network. Somehow another network with the same name as the hotel network got created and the stupid Macintosh API only chose networks by name and would latch me on to the wrong network. Max figured out how to switch the order of the two networks and get me on the right one... Anyway, that was cool. James was zapping through all of the HotorNot postings from San Diego and that was a bit distracting. ;-)

Max and James make me feel like an old fart. I guess I better get used to it since that's what I'm quickly becoming. Anyway, I'm happy that they'd hang out with me. They even drove me to the airport, although Max kept getting lost. Max told me he thought I was involved in way too much stuff that was just a waste of time. James and Max also turned me on to Yatta.

I'm getting ready to leave San Diego for St. Gallen, Switzerland where I'll be doing a session on Emergent Democracy at the ISC symposium. Blogging from my sidekick now... I'll try to post more pictures when I'm in Switzerland. I'll also be trying out the tri-band sidekick.

Hooked up with Jim Moore at FiRe. He shares an office at Harvard with Dave Winer. The last time I saw Jim was at the Fortune conference in Aspen last year and it was nice to see him again and catch up. We talked aboout the debate about googlewashing that his Second Superpower paper triggered.

Jim, Dave Winer, Doc Searls blog about the current discussion which includes recent comments by the New York Times.

We talked about Emergent Democracy and some of the problems with my current paper. He agreed to try to comment/edit it on my Wiki. People have made a lot of great comments on the Wiki and it's getting really interesting, but as far as I know, no one has edited the actual paper directly yet. It will be interesting to see who does it first. It's currently signed, "Mostly by Joichi Ito" but if enough people edit it directly, I will change it to something like "Hosted by Joichi Ito" or something like that.


Speaking of cool conferences. Kevin Werbach's Supernova 2003 July 8 & 9 should be cool. I'm looking forward to going. Maybe we should do a blogging bof.

Confirmed speakers:

- Reed Hundt, former FCC Chairman
- Jonathan Schwartz, EVP of Software, Sun
- Joichi Ito, CEO, Neoteny Co. Ltd. (Japan)
- Kevin Lynch, Chief Software Architect, Macromedia
- Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, US Navy (retired)
- J.C. Herz, Joystick Nation
- Merrill Brown, SVP, RealNetworks
- Craig Donato, CEO, Grand Central Communications
- Tom Hawk, GM of Grid Computing, IBM
- David Isenberg, Isen.com
- Marko Ahtisaari, Insight & Foresight Unit, Nokia
- Bruce Mehlman, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Tech Policy
- Mena Trott, CEO, Six Apart
- Sriram Viswanathan, Managing Director, Intel Capital
- Maria Martinez, CEO, Embrace Networks
- Mike Hirshland, General Partner, Polaris Venture Partners
- Nikolaj Nyholm, Founder & CTO, Ascio Technologies (Denmark)
- Gigi Sohn, Executive Director, Public Knowledge
- Clay Shirky, Author and Consultant

I had a long talk yesterday with Reid Hoffman about LinkedIn giving him my feedback and thoughts about features and changes. Reid's very open to ideas and is working on improving LinkedIn. I suggested we take the discussion to a wiki so that we can keep track of things like feature requests and links to posts about LinkedIn. I've set up a wiki page on my wiki. Please take a look and add your feedback, links, or feature requests.

We are doing order data integration with companies christmas like dotcom and pointcom. These types of retailers birthday are our future, along with all the major national electric scooter retailers as they ramp up to handle and store digital fast images. the company fast becoming an eBusiness and cheap the use of fast computers and broadband will take home theater into the future with more direct data communication giftologies with its customers.
is taking a very optimistic ionic breeze view on the economy and feels that the company is

Doc just blogged about a thought I just had too. If the big print media put their archives online and made them crawlable and linkable, I bet their page rankings would go up. It's really the links between the archives of the blogs that gives blogs so many links. The solution to googlewashing is probably more about getting other forms of journalism published in a more link-friendly way than filtering the blogs.

Wrote a not-so-organized entry about our investment process...

I thought it might be useful to describe the venture investing process in the context of the recent discussion about transparency. Firms have their own processes and some of the details may vary, but generally speaking, most VC's probably have a similar process. Also, I've only been doing this for three years. I've been an entrepreneur for about 10. I've learned a lot over the last three years and think I've become much better at venture investing, but still have a lot to learn...

First, the principles. Buy low/Sell high. Funds have some "life" of around 6 years where they need to "exit". The point is to buy shares of companies for a low price and be able to sell them to someone at a higher price before the end of the fund.

During the bubble, people often invested on the "greater fools theory" which was the theory that there was always someone more stupid than you and that as long as the hype continued, you could sell your shares for more money to the next more stupid guy. This is VERY dangerous way to invest and luckily doesn't make sense anymore.

Buy Low

1 - Understand the business better than anyone else so you can determine that there is less risk than others might perceive. This will allow you to buy at a higher price.

2 - Ask for a lower price because of the value that your firm will add to the business after the investment. The "smart money" story.

3 - Be first. Find the deal first, sign a "no shop" and get a letter of intent (LOI) signed quickly so an auction doesn't start jacking up the price. This is sometimes in the interest of the entrepreneur as well since the auction process is a long and tedious process that sometimes ends up burning out the business and doesn't always lead to ending up with the best investors. If the entrepreneur plans to continue to raise money, getting the highest price isn't as important as closing quickly with a good investor and building the business.

3 - Negotiate. Push to get better terms in negotiation. Negotiation always occurs at some level, but since both investors and entrepreneurs can always screw each other at any point, the relationship between the investor and entrepreneur is essential. In a buyout where there is no relationship after the transaction, it's easy to play hardball since you don't have to work together afterwards, but in venture investing hard negotiations can often lead bad blood, hurting the business and lowering value. The "tone" is often set by the entrepreneur and it's sometimes counter-productive to go in hard when it's not necessary. Having said that, some VC's are EXTREMELY tough. So, my advice here, know your opponent and don't be tougher than you have to, but be prepared to fight to protect your interests if you have to.

Sell High - The Exit

Exiting is always tough, especially if you like the company. It's important to have an "exit strategy". Is the company likely to be acquired? Is the company likely to go public? Who are the probably acquirers? Are there comparable acquisitions? What were the valuations? The exit scenario and the comparable acquisitions or IPO's and their valuations help you determine what sort of multiple on the invested money you might get out and when. This number and the probability of getting to such an exit determine the current valuation of the business. Valuation for big companies with steady cash flows is sort of mathematical, but for venture businesses where "the probability of such an exit" is such a squishy number, valuation is really more flexible and based more on comparable than on discounted cash flows.

Deal flow

Deal flow comes from many sources. My best deal flow comes from introductions. That's why I'm excited about LinkedIn. Introductions from people who value my time are generally filtered and recommended to me with information that helps me understand the "angle" quickly. I find that non-solicited pitches have a very low signal to noise ratio and I unfortunately have found very few deals this way. I find that blogging is a great way to meet people "in context" and reading the blog of a potential business partner is a great way to get to know them. This context is a great way to filter for quality, I think.

Another source of deals is other VC's. Some VC's want to hog a round and crowd out all of the other investors, but many VC's share deals for a variety of reasons. Sharing deals lets you share due diligence, management, expertise in building the business and risk. Usually there is a "lead VC" on any deal who takes responsibility for the due diligence, negotiation of the terms and most of the risk. In cases where we are brought into a deal by the lead VC, it's less likely I'm going to be blogging about it since we're probably locked up immediately by an NDA and I haven't gone through the discovery process.

It's important to note that since buy low/sell high is the key, not all deals are obvious. Great companies are often over-priced and don't make sense from an investment perspective. Sometimes really boring companies or companies doing very poorly can be great deals if there is an exit scenario where you know someone would pay a lot of money to buy your shares.

The single most important criteria for a good early-stage deal is the quality of the CEO and the team. Investing in technologies or "market opportunities" without a good CEO is a key to disaster. Having said that, you need core skills/assets, uniqueness, a real market opportunity and a business plan that makes sense. Finally, the valuation has to make sense.

Valuation

Valuation is based in part on the risk involved in the business. There are clear milestones that decrease the risk in any business. Risk usually decreases as each milestone is hit. A typical series of milestones might be: team on board, competitive analysis and due diligence of business plan done, technology developed and prototype shipped, first customer signed, cash flow break-even, evidence of geometric grown in revenues and a scalable business, buyer/IPO in sight. From the perspective of the entrepreneur, it's better to take the minimum amount of money necessary and raise money as risk starts to decrease since the entrepreneur can demand a higher valuation and be diluted less. The problem is, raising money takes time and energy away from the business so you want to minimize the number of times you have to raise money. Also, since there are fewer investors around these days, often new investors will dictate the valuation and terms and will "wash out" the earlier investors if the earlier investors are not able to participate in following round. Although the market seems to be stabilizing a bit, it's still very risky for a small fund like ours to invest in a company that might require a lot of additional money since we could be "washed out" by future investors.

Investment Committee

Most funds have some sort of investment committee. Different funds have different rules. Some require unanimous agreement by the members, some vote and require some sort of majority. Our committee consists of myself, our chairman Jun, Paul and Richard representing our investors and the deal team. We generally try to get a consensus.

The Process

Deal flow is tracked and we always have a pipeline of possible deals. Most early stages of the process involve someone taking a look at a proposal or trying to put together a deal based on a theory or a person we would like to work with. As the thesis of the business and structure of the deals start to take shape, the deal gets discussed a bit internally and we allocate resources for due diligence. We will usually try to sign some sort of "no shop" agreement with the company so that we feel comfortable spending money on due diligence without fear that someone will come in and take the deal away. The due diligence process can take a lot of time and can involve building the business together. As a deal structure starts to take shape and the investment becomes likely, we put together a "high-focus memo" for investment committee. It's basically a summary of the deal with a checklist of items. We also start working on the term sheet which is a list of negotiating points. We usually try to brief the investment committee on deals as they begin to take shape. Once the high-focus memo is done, we have an investment committee meeting. Often the group discusses additional due diligence items and possible alternative structures. Often a deal will cycle through investment committee several times until people feel comfortable with the deal. Once investment committee is comfortable with the company, valuation and structure, we sign the term sheet. The term sheet is usually a non-binding letter, but I have never signed a term sheet that we did not follow to the letter. After the term sheet is signed, the lawyers draft the agreements. There is usually another round of negotiations on legal issues that aren't covered in the term sheet. If the term sheet is done well, most of these issues are not major. Once the documents are done, we sign, fund and announce.

Terms

The terms in the term sheet usually reflect common practice in the VC community. These practices are always changing to reflect changes in the market or styles of investing.

Usually money is invested in convertible preferred shares. Convertible preferred shares are shares that get a return before the common share in the event of a liquidation or an acquisition. There is usually some sort of trigger for the preferred shares to convert into common stock such as an IPO or a valuation milestone. Convertible preferred shares allow investors to give a higher valuation to a company with no assets because it prevents the common shareholders from liquidating the company and running away with the money before building the business.

Often the legal fees for the transaction are charged to the investee with some sort of cap.

There is usually some sort of protection from dilution so that the company can't sell share for a lower price and dilute the investor easily. Having said that, if the company really needs money and the current investors aren't willing to put money in, the new investors can easily negotiate away such anti-dilution terms.

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Having just written this entry, I realize that it's a kind of rambling entry. Since I'm not sure how interested people are going to be in this entry, I'm going to post it as is since I'm too lazy to edit it. If people find it interesting, I may go back and edit it and maybe put it in my wiki.

due diligence and VentureBlog are two good VC blogs.

Although Anil is very different in person in real life, most bloggers blog in their own voice. At dinner with Markoff and Dvorak, we talked about how many journalists have a different professional persona and are actually much nicer in person than they are online. (Dvorak can be almost as rude in person as he is online. ;-P ) Dvorak deconstructed some of the ways that journalists will write to get a rise from the community and how disarming it is to meet some of the critical journalists in person. In fact, they said that Andrew Orlowski's not such a bad guy in person.

I write in my own voice, but I've developed sort of a thick skin from years of being flamed in Japan and in the US so I actually think some of the silly criticism is actually funny and flattering. Bloggers probably take criticisms more personally than journalists who play "the game" through their avatars. It's more painful to be slammed when you are speaking in your own voice.

Don't know how relevant this is, but this thought about avatars came to mind after reflecting on dinner with Dvorak and Markoff where we were all laughing about our critics and thinking about how my readers/community were maybe more upset about Orwlowski's silliness than I was. I am very grateful for people defending me and pointing out things that would be politically incorrect to say myself. Having said that, I'm not taking Orlowski's attacks personally since at one level, I think it's a game/joke. If Orlowski's actually serious about what he's writing, then I just feel sorry for him.

As they say, "Don't attribute to malice, that which can be explained by stupidity." and "Don't attribute to stupidity, that which can be explained as a joke."

From left to right: Mary holding "Tetris", Brewster holding still shrinkwrapped copy of "Visicalc", Larry, Bettina, me and Glenn
Had dinner with Brewster and Mary, Larry, Bettina and Glenn at the Foreign Cinema. First time at the Foreign Cinema. Cool place with good food. Nice open feeling, loved the wide selection of oysters. Also, both dinners so far this trip were organized using OpenTable.com which I saw for this first time.

Brewster arrived with a box full of very old software. He had just finished testifying about why DMCA was preventing him from breaking copy protection on old software that he wanted to archive. The DMCA affects our lives in lots of ways and we need more people like Brewster to point out the stupidity of such laws trying to prevent legitimate activities for the sake of protecting the position of a few big media companies. What's scary for me is that Japan is trying to put together their own DMCA in a "me too" kind of stupid way. The problem is, we don't have people like Larry and Brewster in Japan and I can only image how much work it's going to be to fight it there.

Met Glenn, the Executive Director of the Creative Commons for the first time today. Enjoyed our conversation very much. He was supportive of my position on the guarantee issue with regards to the CC license. (I guess he should be.) He told me that Glocom, where I recently gave a talk on Emergent Democracy, was working on localizing Creative Commons for Japan. That's GREAT! I was worried that the Japanese would end up continuing to with that "Free use label" for webcontent stuff that the Ministry of Culture was doing.

Talked about the idea of using the Creative Commons Conservancy in the standardization process where it might act as a repository for assets like domain names. I had talked about this with Robert Kaye and Musicbrainz. I'll write another entry about this idea after I flesh it out a bit more, but I'm pretty excited about it.

Talked a lot about how smart Aaron Swartz was.

I wish my jet lag would go away so my brain cells didn't start to check out at the end of these dinners. Maybe I should stop drinking when I travel. Hmm...

One more thing: We talked about Larry's push to get a bill passed to have a $1 fee to keep a copyright 50 years after publication. This put put A LOT of stuff into the public domain and is very hard to argue against and seems extremely practical... you would think. Well, it's harder than it looks. He needs our help.

markoffdvorakdin.jpgHad dinner, talked about blogging and had more dinner tonight with John Dvorak of PC Magazine and John Markoff from the New York Times. Markoff and Dvorak are about as different as they come, but are good friends and make a really funny pair to have dinner with.

Dvorak said he wanted to start a blog. Both John & John are anti-bloggers, but I agreed that Dvorak would be much more convincing if he was critical after having blogged. We talked about Andrew Orlowski and the attention he has been giving my blog these days. We discussed the importance of lunches and dinners in the journalistic process and discussed Andrew's journalism. One amazing thing about Dvorak is that he can be talking about the food, wine, the owner of the restaurant, Orlowski's writing style and Apple Computer all at the same time. Sometimes I got confused about whether Dvorak was talking about Orlowski's writing or the food. I think Dvorak would make a good blogger.

We talked about googlewashing and I agreed to link to Dvorak's site often to help increase his google page ranking. ;-) We talked a lot about the importance of thick skin and a sense of humor.

Update: Andrew Orlowski's current web page. I linked to the old one because that's what came up first on Google. Sorry. Noticed that Dvorak was on Andrew's list of "Stuff I like"

So here's an article in spiked-IT criticizing my blogging about Six Apart/MT before investing. Actually, it is criticizing the fact that people aren't criticizing me. I've been giving this some more thought and I am very open to feedback, but I think the criticism is misguided. I am following a very transparent formula. I blog about what excites me and if it is possible for me to invest in it, I do. It would be stupid, but the other strategy would be to not write about anything I'm thinking of investing in. This might be more journalistically pure, but then my blog would not reflect my actual feelings and actions and would be misleading. I would be leaving the best stuff out. If you want to understand my investment focus, just read my blog! If I sound excited about a new company or technology please ASSUME I'm trying to figure out a way to invest in it.

This blog is where I am trying to be as sincere as possible and honest about my feelings. I am not trying to mislead anyone. Trying to cover my ass too much is probably just as dishonest as deliberately misleading people.

Traveling again from today. I'm making a VERY short trip to SF on my way to San Diego to attend Future in Review. Then I'm going to St. Gallen Switzerland to give a talk about Emergent Democracy at the ISC Symposium and will be back in Tokyo on Monday the 26th...

My trip to SF is very short so I won't be able to have a party this time. Sorry! Next trip, I'll have another party. I'm meeting a few people, but definitely don't have time this trip to meet all of the people I want to see. Apologies in advance to people who I won't see this trip. (At least to those people who want to see me who I won't be able to see...) FYI, my schedule is completely booked.

Interesting post on my wiki by Bayle Shanks about Liquid Democracy.

Bayle Shanks
Another option is LiquidDemocracy . In LiquidDemocracy , everyone does indeed get to vote on every issue. But you can give your vote to a proxy. AND, they can give your vote to their proxy. So, say you don't know much about the space program -- you give your votes on things relating to the space program to someone who has similar political views to you but who knows more about the space program (and they can pass the vote on if they choose).

It seems to me that LiquidDemocracy solves the "ordinary people have no time to learn about every issue" problem.

One way to look at LiquidDemocracy is as representative democracy, but much more fine-grained; you don't have to elect just one guy to represent you on every issue, you can have different specialists for different issues. Second, there is no GerryMandering (at least, not in the process of choosing representatives); your single vote empowers your chosen representative a little bit; you don't have to get more than 50% of the people in your area to vote for the same guy before there is any effect.

More on the idea here (these pages are a bit murky, though; but there are some good "scenarios" in LiquidDemocracyVotingSystem ):

http://twistedmatrix.com/users/jh.twistd/python/moin.cgi/LiquidDemocracyVotingSystem

http://purl.net/wiki/python/LiquidDemocracy

-- BayleShanks

Finally got a chance to talk to Dan about his new book and the future of journalism over lunch. We talked about what journalism really was. My thought was that journalism is defined in the constitution and is a part of democracy. Dan's notion is that the Net and blogging is changing the nature of journalism which in turn has a huge impact on society and democracy. This huge impact is one of the missing parts of my/our emergent democracy paper. Dan's going to focus on journalism, but obviously recognizes the connection with democracy.

We tried to deconstruct what traditional media was. My thought was that the founding father defined "the press" as individuals and small groups with printing presses to represent the voice of the people and that currently, newspapers are just printing machine owners and paper distributors just like telephone companies are a bunch of telephone poles and pipes. Dan asserted that there was more to it. He explained that the protection from lawsuits is an very real risk to journalists and that media companies protect their journalist from such suits. I can see that. Relates to the discussion about the Creative Commons license.

We talked about reputation a lot and about technorati. Nob Seki, follows up the discussion on his blog and discusses the notion of Trusted TrackBacks and the relationship between the interviewer and interviewee.

I gave a short talk and participated in a discussion about my Emergent Democracy paper at Glocom. Professor Shumpei Kumon, the executive director of Glocom translated my paper into Japanese. I am EXTREMELY grateful for this. He said that the paper would not normally pass his requirements for publication because of the sloppiness in the logic and the attributions, but since he thought the process as well as the topic were relevant and interesting, he agreed to publish the paper in Japanese in their journal in June. I'll be able to post the Japanese translation by Professor Kumon on my blog after that. In parallel, Illume, a scientific journal is publishing another version of the paper (edited and trimmed down) in June as well. So, we'll see what the Japanese think about ED soon.

I got a great deal of interesting feedback from the discussion.

Satoshi Hamano, (moblogged it here.) a student at Keio SFC, a rather progressive university, said that he got excited about ED, but when he tried to explain this to his peers, he got kind of a blank look. We discussed the issue of whether Japanese Net users would be interested in discussing democracy and whether blogging would take off in Japan. I explained that even on the English language blogs, not many people were interested in emergent democracy. ;-)

Hiroshi Azuma talked a lot about the fact that Japanese diary sites and the anonymous BBS 2ch in Japan have defined a Net culture that is different from that of the US and that the style of blogging in the US may be difficult to introduce into Japan. He described it in a very interesting way. I had talked about how blogs were interesting because of the weak-tie links between the blogs. He said that Japanese dairy sites are very strong-ties oriented and the anonymous BBS is where the weak-tie stuff happens. He said the balance of weak-tie and strong-tie communication in Japan is maybe different than the US. This is an interesting and important point and relates also with Dan's thoughts on the future of journalism. I guess the big question is, can new entrants into blogging change the somewhat small-group/strong-tie oriented communications of Japanese diaries and the anonymous nature of the 2ch BBS's in the way that AOL changed the nature of USENet. (I know that's not a great example.)

Glocom has been studying the Power Law a great deal and they made a few notes. I'm sorry I can't remember who said this, but someone pointed out that even in small groups of 12 often power laws occur. Social networks also tend to have power laws. The notion was that there were lots of big and small power laws in a somewhat fractal way. Maybe the way to look at Mayfield's Layers is to think of the limiters. IE 12 is the limit for giving everyone an equal voice and 150 is the limit to a peer-to-peer communication network.

Also at the top of the power law curve, things are a bit more flat and at the bottom, maybe more steep.

Shumpei also questioned emergence and the notion of trying to rally a movement around it. Politics is intentional, while emergence just sort of happens. Seems contradictory. I sort of agreed, but unlike a revolution where we are trying to take over, we are tool makers who have learned lessons about the Internet and the nature of chaos and emergence. The Internet is a working anarchy. We like and embrace distributed power, open standards and lack of control. We understand how it works and don't feel uncomfortable with the lack of control or the inability of one to know the whole of it. Designing the pieces of emergence and hoping that this emergence causes good is very different than trying to get voted into office so you can exercise your good judgment with control.

I also discussed the nature of leadership, how I have put my paper on my wiki and changed "by Joichi Ito" to "mostly by Joichi Ito" urging people to edit the text directly. (Ross's idea.) Shumpei said that maybe the paper would continue to become not by Joichi Ito and finally even disappear. ;-) I described how the ED discussion section of my wiki was getting pretty intense and how the paper is now a PLACE. (Yes, I know... I need to clean up that page...)

Last, but not least, I got to meet the infamous one way trackbacker that sparked such an interesting discussion on this blog a few weeks ago. ;-) Actually, he's a nice and smart guy with a cool MT blog in Japanese.

Karl-Friedrich Lenz and others are dumping the Creative Commons license because they don't like the fact that the original licensor guarantees to the licensees. If I understand this correctly, it means that if I snap a photo of something, someone copies it from my site and posts it and get sued, it comes back to bite me.

Me sense is that this is the way it should be. Tell me if I'm missing something.

Here's my view.

Copyright is not some clearly defined law. It is law and technology that is the codification of what society thinks is "fair use", "free speech" and many other things at the time. Hollywood and a lot of other people are pushing to limit things like free speech and fair use. Someone has to fight for it. There have to be suits, people have to get mad and we have to fight.

If you try to pass the risk to service providers and corporations, they'll just say, "we don't want to be the next Napster," and will most likely prohibit sharing and posting rather than take the risk. What the CC license does is allow the service provider to say, hey, all of the stuff here is tagged with copyright info and guaranteed by each of the people. Sue, them, not us.

For the individual who gets sued, yes, it's tought and we have to fight to help these folks (that's what the EFF is for), but having the individual who originally posts the stuff be responsible does a few things. It distributes the risk. It's much more likely for Hollywood to sue a big company with money than an individual. It will get people thinking about and fighting for their right to fair use and free speech.

I'm sure there will be a chilling effect and this chilling effect might be non-trivial, but my sense is that the chilling effect on service providers who have to "police content" will be so quick that we'll have restrictions on our free speech via technology faster than you can say, "Mickey Mouse."

So what does this mean to Joe CC user? When you are about to post a picture or a quote that is questionable from a free speech or fair use perspective, be prepared to defend yourself. But, as the Chicago Manual of Style says:

The Chicago Manual of Style
The right of fair use is a valuable one to scholarship, and it should not be allowed to decay through the failure of scholars to employ it boldly. Furthermore, excessive caution can be dangerous if the copyright owner proves uncooperative. Far from establishing good faith and protecting the author from suit or unreasonable demands, a permission request may have just the opposite effect. The act of seeking permission establishes that the author feels permission is needed, and the tacit admission may be damaging to the author's cause.

OK I figured out my next python project. A bot that polls technorati for inbound links to my blog and sends them to me as they come in via IM (Jabber). This is probably going to challenge my programming skills, especially since I know nothing about Jabber... yet. So, if someone is already working on this or has already done this. Stop me now!

Also, if you know of any relevant python modules I should look at, that would be greatly appreciated. I plan to try out Mark Pilgrim's PyTechnorati.

I added a new style sheet and a new style sheet class. On my sidebar, if you click on humble style, it will set your style sheet to a style sheet based on the polite fonts style sheet (big fonts) where I've added a new class called "boastful". This style sheet will render text that I think might seem boastful in a tiny white font so you don't see them. (I couldn't figure out a way to delete them all together in css.) So if you want to stop seeing my boastful disclaimers and generally cut down on boastful comments altogether, change your stylesheet please.

Also, I ripped off an idea I saw on Liz's site and made my archives in my sidebar pulldown forms.

sputnik.jpgI got my Sputnik. It rocks. It rocks in many ways. It rocks because it uses Jabber to talk to the Central Server (The Central Server is a machine on your network that manages the access points. If you don't want to set up your own Central Server, you can use the community server. You log into the Central Server to access the AP you're using. Similar to the web page that pops up when you first log into WiFi networks in Hotel, except this one is yours.). It rocks because the Central Server controls and manages access and security for all of the access points across the network (even WAN). It rocks because Sifry is giving me real time tech support via... Jabber. (It's amazing that Sifry could build Sputnik AND Technorati at the same time. He was giving me tech support for both at the same time...) It rocks because it's secure. It rocks because it lets me do port forwarding, firewalls and peering for only $185. Anyway, I'm supposed to get my second AP and my own Central Server soon. If it all works out, I'm going to buy a bunch of AP's and try setting up my own little network of Sputnik nodes.

Disclaimer: This is a totally un-scientific review of a product by a friend ;-). I have only tried a few AP's and don't have much empirical evidence to support my notion that Sputniks "rock". I've used MELCO, Linksys and Apple AirPorts. I do think the central server and the Jabber thing are quite unique and seem to be good ideas. We'll see how I feel after I finish building out a network of Spuniks.

Good entry in Web Dawn about Technorati as a reputation system. Via Marc Canter. So we need to get Sifry to catch permalinks of what people are linking to better and we need a little more metadata in the XML feeds. The addition metadata which would allow me to implement something like a reputation system would be:

1) The name of the person who posted the entry
2) The URL (permalink) of the entry on my blog the link points to
3) Filtering out of all blogroll "false positives" and entry imbedded links only or a separate feed for blogs rolls. (Can you work with Jason D on this?)
4) Implement pagerank. Take the inbound links/blogs assign the blogs with high inbound links/blogs with high page rank and then do another calculation assigning outbound links from those blogs higher value and give each page a technorati ranking. And do this every 5 minutes.
5) Make a contextual pagerank where the user can set their own rankings for blogs and ask technorati to calculate the final pagerank.

It would be cool if 4 & 5 could be done on your own site in some way, but not sure how that would work. Anyway, a bit off the top of my head, but I'm trying to figure out my NEXT super duper python project.

Lucky for me Aaron just wrote xmltramp and made my life a whole lot easier.

Aaron Swartz
In trying to write some code to use the new Technorati API, I noticed that all the tools for accessing XML documents sucked. So I wrote my own: xmltramp. It makes handling XML documents in Python a piece of cake:
Via Cory

By the way, Dave Sifry and Aaron Swartz rock.

Dan Gillmor came over to my house yesterday and we were going to talk about the book he was writing, "Making the News". He asked me whether I had read the outline... no... Oops. Sorry! We ended up making another appointment and spent the rest of the time geeking out. Anyway, that's not the point I want to make.

I felt really guilty, and came up with a great idea. I opened my mac in my car and got it to start reading the outline to me using text to speech. This is the first time I really tried it and it worked well. (Although the woman's voice reading Dan's words was a bit weird.) So then I thought about this some more. What I really want is a text to speech to mp3 converter that took my RSS feed and dumped it into an mp3 file that I could listen to my iPod on the way to work.

The other thing I could do is make my blog available in mp3 format. Has someone already done this? Is there a text to mp3 tool somehwere? Is this a stupid idea?

Update: Dan just blogged about yesterday. He writes about our geeking out. What we did was get ssh and port-forwarding running on his Mac. I totally don't understand why more people don't use ssh port-forwarding for mail and sftp and scp for file transfers. Welcome to the society of ssh lovers Dan. ;-)

So I updated my birthday script. It sends me mail when it's someone's birthday and creates a daily birthday roll for my side bar. I've added a field for nicknames and url's. If you already entered your birthday, but would like to add a nickname and/or a url, please fill out the form again. I'll merge the data properly. Also, if you would not like to show up in my birthdayroll, please select "no" for "show up on birthdayroll".

I finished my script today. If you look at my sidebar, you will find a list of blogs that Technorati says have linked to me in order of freshness. I wrote it in python using the xml.dom module. Once I got my head around it, it all made sense and was very easy. Thanks again to Dive Into Python. Other than the fact that you should all be very impressed by my programming skill, I think Technorati inbound links is probably the most timely and comprehensive way to see who is linking to you.

My biggest problem with trackbacks right now is that since my site is heavy, trackbacks time out and people end up sending lots of them thinking they didn't go through. Also, since people can put just about anything in the trackbacks, I end up with long worded URL's in my trackback pings which screw up with width of my sidebar.

So, trackbacks will now be listed at with each entry and Technorati will be take the position in my sidebar.

Now I have to bug David Sifry about trying to identify the permalinks better and filtering out the false positives...

So here's an example of how Linkedin can be useful. Rebecca, the Tokyo bureau chief of CNN had emailed me asking for information on the moblog conference because she was interested in possibly covering it. I had been meaning to get around to introducing her to Adam. Then I received a Linkedin request from Adam asking to be introduced to Rebecca to see if she wanted to cover the conference. I clicked, typed something like "you guys should talk" and... done. It was a very easy way for me to add value and I ended up helping to friends without taking much of my time.

I've been getting a steady flow of requests now and about half of them are just tests, but I really do think that Linkedin will help me manage requests for introduction. I get SO many of them via normal email and many fall through the cracks. Intros are such an easy way to help people and add value, but they are really a pain to keep track of. It's usually just a matter of searching through my email to find the email address of the person that needs to be contacted, but often I'm too busy to do that. Linkedin solves that problem. It also forces the introducee to write something focused, rather than, "I wonder if you might be able to introduce me to..."

UPDATE: Discussion has moved to the wiki

Adriaan, who I lunched with awhile ago, is the developer of Kung-Log, which is the client I use to post to MT. He writes about his thoughts on the MetaWeblog API. He is a good example of someone who actually has to use all of the API's to try to allow his users to post to the variety of weblogs. We REALLY should try to keep the API consistant so that people like Adriaan can continue to write tools for blogs. As the blog software folks start their feature race, the trick will be for the API to keep up with everything. I think the API is great because unlike unweildy standards like bluetooth that tries to design in every single possibility from the beginning, the MetaWeblog API has evolved and stayed simple. I guess the question is, can the current process keep up with the increasing diversity and feature race? Any thoughts Dave?

Here's Adriaan's suggestion.

What is my suggestion? Use the MetaWeblog API, BUT complement it with the MovableType methods, and possibly any new Blogger2 API features.

I learned Python (thanks to Sen) in a week. I wrote a birthday script, a script to scrape blogshares and put the shareholders in my sidebar and even wrote a vcard handler. I was on a roll. Then... Sifry sent me some Technorati stuff to mess with. XML? Cool, should be easy. I was just about to do the Parsing XML section of Dive Into Python anyway. Great! ...not

Dive Into Python
As I was saying, actually parsing an XML document is very simple: one line of code. Where you go from there is up to you.
So 2 hours later, I have 4 different installations of Python on my PowerBook and one on my FreeBSD machine and I can't get Mark's first example to work
>>> xmldoc = minidom.parse('~/diveintopython/common/py/kgp/binary.xml')
I've just about given up. The O'Reilly Python & XML is cryptic, I've googled around and tried a bunch of stuff and am totally frustrated. I guess I thought I was becoming a programmer, but I'm just a wimpy little script kiddie. >sigh<

So for those of you who are interested in how far I've gotten. I did see a post by Mark that the Python that comes with OS X doesn't have the necessary XML libraries so I downloaded PyXML. Well, when I try to install it, it says "NameError: name 'distutils' is not defined"

On my FreeBSD Box the Python error is:

Traceback (most recent call last):
File "", line 1, in ?
File "/usr/local/lib/python2.2/site-packages/_xmlplus/dom/minidom.py", line 19
15, in parse
return expatbuilder.parse(file)
File "/usr/local/lib/python2.2/site-packages/_xmlplus/dom/expatbuilder.py", li
ne 924, in parse
result = builder.parseFile(fp)
File "/usr/local/lib/python2.2/site-packages/_xmlplus/dom/expatbuilder.py", li
ne 207, in parseFile
parser.Parse(buffer, 0)
xml.parsers.expat.ExpatError: undefined entity: line 119, column 366

I just got this from a good friend of mine via email.

This business with saying that you're a shareholder in a company, or might be in the future, can we give that a rest? or can you put it on a page somewhere on its own.

It's just annoying and offputting, and after a while it's going to look arrogant and boastful. that's what i think anyway.

So I guess I should make a disclaimer page. Didn't realize that the disclaimers could be construed as boasting, but hindsight seems obvious.

I'll work on the disclaimer page this weekend. Any good disclaimer pages people recommend I look at would be greatly appreciated. Also, any thoughts on what should be included and how I should link to it would also be helpful.

Is this guy supposed to be me?
The current issue of Net Runner, a magazine published by ZDNet Japan, has story on weblogs. The first page of the section has a comic strip of some fat guy looking at a site that says "Joji Ito's site on how to lose weight and become popular with girls" (rough translation) who goes on to lose weight with a screen that looks like blog entries of the progress. I don't know if they're making fun of me or acknowledging the fact that blogs actually help you lose weight. I assume both.

Nice article in the New York Times about TypePad. As usual, you need to log into the NYT site. (At least it's back.) As you know, Neoteny, my company, is an investor in Six Apart which is making TypePad. TypePad is a hosted blogging service which is launching real soon now. ;-)

The article explains that people will have to pay to use the service. (Yes, we ARE going to try to make money.) It also says that it will have a lot of cool features including a photo album feature and moblogging, built in.

Anil blogs about the article.

Had dinner last night with Takeshi Niinami. We ate at Okame, one of my favorite little Tempura shops in Tsukiji. We met for the first time last year at the New Business Forum Conference that I chaired and agreed to have dinner sometime. It took us 5 months to have dinner. ;-p It was worth it though. Mr. Niinami was interesting and gives me hope that our generation is taking over Japan. ;-)

For those of you who don't live in Japan, Lawson is second biggest convenience shop chain originally built out by Daiei, the supermarket chain. Several years ago Mitsubishi Corporation acquired a 30% stake in Lawson taking it from under Daiei's control. Mitsubishi sent a team of executives in to take over Lawson, but recently surprised everyone by appointing the young (now 44) Mr. Niinami as the president. From SEVP Yorihiko Kojima's presentation on the Mitsubishi Corporation home page:

Yorihiko Kojima, SEVP, Mitsubishi Corp

To be honest, Mr. Niinami's selection as Lawson's next president was greeted with some surprise by many within Mitsubishi Corporation.

Since Mr. Niinami joined Lawson, he's fired people, cut off vendors, even fought with the parent company Mitsubishi who is a big supplier to Lawson to try to make Lawson a healthy company. Mr. Niinami's background in Mitsubishi is in the food business and since a huge share of the convenience shop business is about selling lunches and onigiri rice balls, he is VERY focussed on the food business. He says he spends a lot of time sitting in shops thinking about why things sell, and why things don't sell.

One thing we talked a lot about was all of the chemicals they dump into the food to preserve it. He said that one of the problems was that the media over-simplified things and made it difficult for them. I didn't understand the details, but apparently some places that are using less preservatives end up using some sort of disinfectant or anti-bacterial chemical instead. He said that really trying to understand how to manufacture better and cutting down on ALL of the possibly dangerous chemicals should be the goal and not singling out just certain chemicals. He says that they are investing a lot of money on trying to produce healthier food. He said that one of the problems is that the other convenience shops that don't have enough money are not doing as much research and development and spoil the image for all of the convenience shops. I explained that blogs might be a good place to talk about this. I explained that it was exactly these sorts of complicated issues that the normal media has difficulty with that might work on the Internet.

He also said that there is a real war that continues in the technology of onigiri rice balls. How do you make onigiri to taste like, feel like they're hand made and still have crispy nori seaweed.

We also talked about the color of the Lawson logo. (Blue) Blue isn't a good color for making people feel warm or making people feel like eating. Since Lawson is a franchise business, many of the franchisees are attached to the current logo. He gave me a bag of food from a new Lawson brand/chain that they started that has a more natural food style. They are running these shops themselves to try out new ideas.

Anyway, a lot of people I know complain about Mr. Niinami because they are having a harder time doing business with Lawson since Mr. Niinami has severed many of the old-time relationships that Lawson had. I think this is exactly the type of generational change that Japan needs and I think that Mr. Niinami is doing what every good CEO in Japan should be doing.

Salam Pax from Baghdad is back!

via Nick Denton

This entry is about the NTT DoCoMo FOMA P2401 and PowerBooks and TOTALLY irrelevant for most people. Sorry.

The NTT DoCoMo FOMA P2401 is a G3 384K bps PCMCIA data card. It's ridiculously expensive since you have to pay by the packet, but it's really fast. It didn't work on the Mac. For some reason, after you used it for awhile, the IP connection stopped working even though you were still connected. I couldn't find anything on the web about it and wrote a lot of bug report mail to Apple, but nothing happened. My guess is it was a problem with PC Card support at that speed. Anyway, it works now with the 10.2.6 OS X upgrade. Having said that, I used it today on the way to the office and the throughput was a bit choppy. I don't know if it was the coverage or the software...

So, if you had bought a FOMA P2401 and were anxiously awaiting proper support on OS X, you're in luck.

Reid Hoffman, former COO EVP of Paypal, co-investor in Six Apart, good friend and generally smart guy has launched LinkedIn today. He and his team have been working in stealth mode and I've been anxious to use their service after all of the discussions with Reid about it.

There have been a bunch of networking sites launching these days like Ryze and Friendster. LinkedIn is more focused on business networking and has a bunch of innovations to make it more useful for connecting when you are trying to network seriously (vs dating sites).

Anyway, I have no direct financial interest in LinkedIn, but I may invest if I have the opportunity in the future. Reid is a business associate so this is somewhat a shameless plug for a friend. Having said that, I like it a lot so far.

UPDATE: The discussion has moved to the the wiki

Sorry about the generally light blogging these last few days. I've been in LA visiting my sister and her family with Mizuka. I'm at the airport now on a kiosk. Maybe I'll work on my birthday script some more on the plane.

Anyway, see you tomorrow in Tokyo.

In an attempt to learn python, organize my life and figure out how to mess with Chandler some more, I have decided to make a database of birthdays of my friends. If you consider yourself my friend, please go to the birthday entry form and enter your info. Thanks in advance!

I've been tuned out of the warblogging these days, but I have a question for the warbloggers. Did they find any WMD? Because... if they didn't I've lost a great deal of respect for Colin Powell. It was his passionate argument about how he was convinced beyond doubt that Iraq had WMD that moved me to say I was "more supportive" of the US.

I'm often criticized for using biological metaphors for organizations, but I think they're very effective sometimes.

Seb's Open Research
Blogs increase the surface area of organizations

Jon Udell has got a keen eye for biological metaphors for information systems, and here comes up with a nice one for how weblogs change the shape of organizations:

Think of an organization as a single-celled animal. Blogs increase the surface area of the cell, help nutrients flow across its membrane, and promote multicellular cooperation.

I'm on the road with low bandwidth and was spending too much time commenting on my blog to think of something original to blog today. Instead I have quoted one interesting person quoting another interesting person. Sorry if you already saw this today, but it was the most interesting thing I could find through my quick zip through my RSS feeds today.

Japanese VC and tech socialite Joi Ito [ Hates reading books - Lunch - Lunch - Segway - Lunch - Lunch - Fawning Parody - World Blogging Forum!]) has spent months hyping the couple who started the Movable Type weblogging software Ben and Mena [buys banjo]Trott. The cute, but strangely synthetic twosome were showered with advanced publicity in the form of flights and lunches and "party games" (the latter is filed under "Humor / Leadership and Entrepreneurship" ), before Ito's company invested in Movable Type last week.

Will we be able to trust Ito's ongoing research analysis about his investment?

We shall see.

Just to clarify the facts and my position...

I think I have made it clear that I am a VC interesting in investing in this space. I will continue to invest in companies. I find companies by meeting people doing cool things. I blog about the cool people I meeting. I hope I will end up investing in some of these companies.

With Six Apart, I have moved from user to acquaintance (lunch) to "Hirata wrote a Japanese language kit for Movable Type and we'd like you to meet the Japanese MT community" to investor. We were already heavy users of MT and consulting to companies about using MT before we were in serious negotiations about investment.

I think this will be a standard process. 1) Find product/blog it, 2) lunch/blog it, 3) possibly invite to Japan/blog it, 4) be quiet for awhile, 5) invest/announce. Some steps may be skipped or out of order. Not investing doesn't mean it's not a good product or a good person. Many reasons for not investing. Valuation, structure, business plan, other investors, etc.

Ethically speaking... I will plug whole-heartedly any product/person I like. If I have a relationship, I disclose it. The only time I won't talk about something is if I am in negotiations with someone since there is usually an NDA. The notion that blogging about lunch with Ben and Mena or blogging about Mena's mastery of the cork trick, was them being "showered with advanced publicity" is frankly a pile of crap as anyone who knows me should know.

At this point I am incentivized to help Ben and Mena succeed. So of course, I will work hard to promote them, it would be strange if I didn't. I think that the success of blogging has come from open standards and an open dialog about the standards. I think it is essential for the tool builders to have healthy competition, but for everything to work together. I'm constantly talking to Dave, Ev, Jason and anyone else in the space. I really don't see how the investment lessens my commitment to talking to everyone and sharing. In fact, I think that now that I have my money where my mouth is and it should increase my commitment to blogging generally.

As Dave said in an email, I'm now in the pool with him. ;-) Oh and by the way, I don't think I was ever providing anything as lofty as "research analysis". I have a point of view. I solicit feedback and I put my money where my mouth is. I do not try to pretend to be objective. I am a VERY subject human being. Investing in the people who make the tool that I spend more time with than anything else in my life right now seems like a reasonable thing to do.

So one more time... I get excited about something, blog about it, then decide to invest. Not the other way around.

Thanks for the link Marc!

The Emergent Democracy page on my wiki is starting to turning into a real wiki discussion. This is the first time I've participated in one. Since I'm the custodian, I guess it's my job to organize it. I just finished editing a bit, but it's still a bit sloppy. Very different style/dynamic than comments or mailing lists, but still very intriguing. Love the feeling of editing some kind of living text...

Feedback would be appreciated. Do you think my header fonts are too big?

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