Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

In case you haven't been keeping up with your Doonesbury, Gary Trudeau has crossed an interesting landmark: B.D. has been injured while on reservist duty in Iraq. And his helmet has come off.
Today's Doonsebury

Although I had some problems with the Plaxo model, I hate hearing stories like this. Sean Parker, the founder and visionary behind Plaxo was kicked out rather rudely by the VCs. I don't know the details, but it sounds bad.

The company sent out an anonymous, terse statement that Parker is ``no longer with Plaxo,'' but called him a ``visionary, creative entrepreneur'' and ended with: ``We thank him for his hard work and wish him well.''

In reality, though, a source said Parker has been locked out, and everyone at the company has been instructed not to talk with Parker, except by way of the company's lawyer, Ray Hickson.

When contacted and asked whether this arrangement is ``normal,'' Hickson said: ``I can't discuss a client personnel matter with newspaper reporters.''

Parker himself issued a terse statement: ``While the company is moving to a new stage of its growth, the management team remains committed to executing my original vision,'' he said. ``The company remains in capable hands.''

I've founded several companies and as companies grow, the skills required to be the chief executive change. When I've founded (or helped found) companies in the past, I've usually stepped aside to allow someone with better administrative and sales skills to lead the company after it's up and running. This was the case with Digital Garage and PSINet Japan and to a certain extent Infoseek Japan. I seem to be the most useful getting things going, not running them.

As a VC/investor, I've seen my share of visionary CEOs who can't run the company, but we usually try to keep them involved in some way and stay on good terms so we can invest in their next good company. I don't see how you can continue being a VC in the valley being cruel to serial entrepreneurs.

Pierre Omidyar of eBay is probably one of the best examples of knowing when to bring on a real CEO, but staying involved as the founder. I think he and his investors were smart about this.

Jason Calacanis blogs about this on thesocialsoftwareweblog

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Takenoko are bamboo shoots. We're in takenoko season right now. You take a special hoe and walk around in a bamboo forest until you step on the tip of the takenoko. The best and most tender takenoko are the ones that are barely visible. As they grow larger, they become tougher. You have to then dig around the takenoko, find where it attaches to the root network and chop it at the right angle to get it to come off easily. Then you shuck them. After shucking, a very important step is the aku nuki. Many vegetables, particularly takenoko have a very bitter taste that comes from impurities (alkaline solution and dissolved elements) which is called aku. Aku nuki (removing the aku) is typically done stewing the takenoko with komenuka (rice husk powder) and Japanese red chili peppers. The best takenoko is tender takenoko picked and immediately stewed, left over night in the water, then prepared with rice, stew or some other typical Japanese dish in the morning. Yum.

Although I think the "socially awkward" and the "what's the point" problem of some social networking sites is a problem, I think the "suck up your email addresses from outlook" and the one click "spam all of my friends" features are the most troublesome. Stowe Boyd talks about his accidental "spam my friends with one click" episode with Zero Degrees.

Actually, what I find scarier is the way Spoke takes all of your email address from your headers and makes a network out of them. Even if you don't "join" Spoke, if someone who you exchange email with joins, you're actually already in Spoke.

I think the key is user control and a clear interface of what is happening. I think UI used to be a lot about making things "seamless". I think when you are dealing with sensitive privacy related information, your UI has to make it very clear where your data is, when it is going to be transfered to another machine, and what the privacy policy of the said machine is. Every time data moves across a boundary, the user should know this an be provided a choice. UIs that deal with personal information should be about showing the seams, not being seamless.

Ross and Judith also chime in.