Archive for February, 2008

The Price of GTD Mastery Has Gone Up

I’ve gone to two of David Allen’s GTD Roadmap seminars in Seattle – once in 2006 and again last year. The first time I paid around $550 or so; the second time, since I was an alumnus, I got a 50% discount and only paid $275.

David’s returning to Seattle next week, but the price has gone up considerably:

We are offering an exclusive discount to our friends in Seattle, a 25% savings from the usual registration cost (regularly $995).

I’m not surprised the price has gone up, and as they used to say, the Roadmap is a bargain at twice the price. If you’re on the fence, you should definitely consider going (if they still have room). Very inspirational, yet very hands on and nuts-and-bolts.  If you’re new to GTD, attending the Roadmap will get your GTD efforts jump-started; if you’ve been doing it a while, it will help you understand the nuance and subtlety of the system.

NWEN Hacked?

A Russian server is injecting a hidden IFRAME into the NWEN page right now.  I can’t believe that this is legitimate.   I first thought that it was trying to replace the login screen and steal credentials; but upon further inspection, it’s not (apparently) doing that.  I’m no expert, but it looks like it’s….falsely crediting traffic to…jino-net.ru?  Seems strange.  Perhaps someone else can take a look and figure it out.

NWEN hacked

I’ve notified NWEN via e-mail.

The funny thing is that if not for Google I wouldn’t have known. The main events page at http://www.nwen.org/index.php?option=com_events&Itemid=15 appears normal. But Google directed me to the page shown above when I did a search on “Early Stage Investment Forum”, and I wondered why the date was set to 1969. Something didn’t smell right.

Trusty Firebug showed me the hidden IFRAME  problem in two seconds.

The Angel-to-VC Funding Gap?

In this morning’s Seattle P-I is a new venture article from John Cook in which he reports that Jeff Schrock, former Real Networks / Yahoo executive, is joining local venture firm Monster Venture Partners.

Cook writes:

Monster Venture Partners is taking a different approach than the big venture firms of Silicon Valley, investing personal funds and doing so in small increments of $300,000 to $1 million. That concept appealed to Schrock, an angel investor who believes there’s a “huge gap” between early-stage seed investments and traditional venture capital.

This is the second time in less than 24 hours I’ve heard mention of the “financing gap” between traditional angels and traditional VC firms. What’s needed, I’ve heard argued, is what might be called the “Third Way” of startup financing, one that combines the smaller dollar amounts of angel investors with the support, rigor, and broad reach that traditional VCs provide.

Michael Rice reported from the recent NWEN Early Stage Investment Forum that “The funding gap is a painful reality here in the Northwest”, but in context it’s clear he’s talking about process and engagement issues, not dollar amounts.

What do you think?

Kluster Will Try the Startup Weekend Concept at TED

From Read/Write Web this morning:

Founder Ben Kaufman, who bankrolled the company in part with money from the sale of his last company Mophie, has organized a gimmick over the course of the TED conference he hopes will prove Kluster’s worth. Kaufman intends to let TED attendees — and users from around the world — design a completely new product over the course of 72 hours.

*cough* been there, done that. Doing it again in Portland in a few months. I think what this shows is that Andrew Hyde’s Startup Weekend model — get a bunch of smart people in a room, give them a challenge, set them loose — has legs and strikes the right chord in people.

I’ll be really interested to hear what Kluster comes up with. Operationally, I’m interested to hear how you can “launch” a physical product – not a website – in 72 hours. There will be a lot of interesting (yet minor) dissimilarities with Startup Weekend. It will be good to compare and contrast.

Cory Doctorow gets Intellectual Property terribly wrong

What’s that greenish haze wafting silent-but-deadly over anon hill? It’s the stink of pseudo-intellectual midnight jam sessions posing as policy prescriptions.

In the same way that libertarians boil all practical reality out of politics and economics and reduce it down to one or two mindless soundbites, Cory Doctorow, with Mathew Ingram in tow, takes intellectual property law and leaves us with naught but smelly air. What Cory is doing, of course, is responding to the popular angst over “fair use” and mashups in particular. He’s not really talking about intellectual property per sé; he’s really concerned about copyright and trademark law. In his Guardian piece from last week, he writes:

Most of all, [knowledge] is not inherently “exclusive”. If you trespass on my flat, I can throw you out (exclude you from my home). If you steal my car, I can take it back (exclude you from my car). But once you know my song, once you read my book, once you see my movie, it leaves my control. Short of a round of electroconvulsive therapy, I can’t get you to un-know the sentences you’ve just read here.

What about trade secrets? If I invent a bulletproof stock-picking algorithm that returns 100% year over year, it darn well is exclusive to me. Nobody has an interest in my stock-picking algorithm except me. The investors who sign up with my hedge fund don’t have an interest in the intellectual property; what they have is a risk/reward contract for the use of their money. If I share it under NDA with a few key employees or partners, who then sell it to Goldman Sachs for a boatload of golden guineas, have I not been harmed?

Next:

Trying to shoehorn knowledge into the “property” metaphor leaves us without the flexibility and nuance that a true knowledge rights regime would have.

Actually, Cory is trying to take all the flexibility and nuance OUT of the system, which has been slowly and painstakingly built up over the years using actual people as test cases. Case law IS nuance. You will probably not find a more nuanced set of discussions anywhere in public life than in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Cory wants a magic wand, but there is (unfortunately?) no one-size-fits-all solution to these painful and often bitter disputes over intellectual property, which is why we fall back on a larger philosophy: the rule of law. Law give us the final answers in particular cases in ways that Philosophy 101 pronouncements on knowledge can’t.

This topic floats along in a larger river of much more interesting theoretical arguments, ones about absolutism and relativism. Pithy quotes like “knowledge wants to be free” may be true in one sense, but to what extent are they absolute or “true”? This is the big world we live in – the world of competing interests that Cory writes about. This big world lays all sorts of traps for the absolutist in each of us, which is why I personally believe in the philosophy of relative truth.

I’ll leave with two favorite quotes that apply:

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
– Walt Whitman

(h/t Mathew Ingram)

TED, Live

TED is a 24-year old conference meant to solicit and spread inspiring ideas.  Of course, since I’m usually falling off the last turnip truck into town, I saw my first TED talk just a few weeks ago, thanks to my friend Damon.  You can see Malcolm Gladwell talking about market segmentation here.  Highly recommended.

Based on my experience with that lone video, I’m going to watch as much as I can of this year’s TED2008 conference, which starts this week.  Live video streaming of the talks begins Thursday night at 5:15 PM PDT.

Apparently schedules aren’t necessary for people with five brains, but I only have a puny, normal brain and I can’t seem to find a schedule of speakers for the TED2008 conference anywhere.  Perhaps the TED types communicate not over HTTP, but over TP (Telepathy Protocol).  A kingdom for a schedule!

Decision-making: Can people voluntarily limit their choices?

Following up on yesterday’s post “Making Difficult Product Development Choices”, I ran across this article in the New York Times that reviews experiments done by Dr. Dan Ariely. Dan is a professor of behavioral economics at MIT. He has found, unsurprisingly, that people can’t bear to limit their options.

The Times article talks about some funny experiments to get subjects to give up options and in return get actual cash, hard dollars — but it’s SOOO hard for them, even when they should be able to predict the output and thus get more money. You can play the (non-cash) simulation yourself here.

“Closing a door on an option is experienced as a loss, and people are willing to pay a price to avoid the emotion of loss,” Dr. Ariely says. In the experiment, the price was easy to measure in lost cash. In life, the costs are less obvious — wasted time, missed opportunities.

David Allen, the creator of GTD, has a favorite phrase: “Know what you’re NOT doing.” The idea is that the more conscious and intentional you are about not exploring every option for the use of your time, the less psychic stress you’ll feel. Makes sense, and it works!