Brad Feld

Month: August 2008

The very first folder in my browser toolbar is called "Daily" and it’s the folder I right click and choose "Open All in Tabs" first thing in the morning when I do my email / web / blog drill.  For a long time was in there; I took it out about a year ago because I was getting all the information I wanted from other places.

Last week, Alan Warms from Yahoo sent me an email about the new Yahoo Political Dashboard.  Fred already beat me with a blog about it titled Polls vs Markets but I totally agree with him – Alan and his team have done a dynamite job creating a political dashboard that I’ll now look at every day.   It’s now the 11th item in my Daily folder.

Scott Converse has a wonderful post up titled Is Apple a Republican?  After reading it, I pondered my relationship with Apple and realized that it is just like my relationship with the Republican Party – there are some things that theoretically appeal to me, but endless deal breakers that push me away and head fakes that leave me cynical.

If you are a long time reader of this blog, you know that every six months or so I try again.  I go to the Apple store and buy whatever shiny new Mac toy there is.  A G5 – yeah.  A MacBook Pro.  Sure.  An iPhone – definitely.  A MacBook Air.  Yeah, this will be the one.  After tens of thousands of dollars spent on Apple products, the only three I am using today are my Apple 30" Cinema Displays (I love them), my G5 in my office (which I’m running Vista on), and my iPhone 3G (which has now lasted three weeks notwithstanding the endless dropped calls and lack of Outlook Task synchronization.)

The Republicans promise me smaller government.  Oops.  Better fiscal policy (e.g. no deficits) – double oops.  Distribution of power to state and local government.  Um, yeah.  Equality for all.  Patriot act, immigration policy, wars, anyone.  The list goes on.  I’ve always described myself as "conservative fiscal policy, liberal social policy" where theoretically a "moderate Republican approach" would work for me. 

Wrong.  The big deal breaker for me is abortion.  I couldn’t ever vote for a pro-life president.  Stay with me, you’ll get the Apple analogy soon.  There are plenty of others – war, immigration, protectionism, religion – but I still fantasize about that enlightened "conservative fiscal policy, liberal social policy."

Ironically, my friends the Democrats have always had the liberal social policy down and now appear to have a much better handle on the conservative fiscal policy side of it.  I was a Reagan youth, but have voted Democrat ever since.  And while many think I’m a hard core Democrat, I’m actually an Independent.

About the time I voted for Reagan, I had an original Mac.  My first computer was an Apple II.  I even had an Apple III for a while.  My Mac had one floppy drive and 128k.  I loved it even though it was basically useless.  When I got my first IBM PC (two floppy disk drives, 64k) and started writing software on it (and making money with it) I became a PC / Microsoft user.  My Apple fantasies continued unabated – every few years I’d buy another one and end up discarding it after a few weeks to go back to my PC.  There were always "deal breakers."

The deal breaker for me with Apple for the past few years has been Microsoft Exchange support.  Entourage 2004 was so inadequate that it never became an option for me and Entourage 2008 disappointed me so much that I punted.  I don’t really want to run Entourage – I want native Exchange support in all the Mac products.  ActiveSync anyone?

I tried with the first iPhone – I really wanted to like it – but it just didn’t get there for me.  Remarkably, after resisting for many years, Apple finally licensed ActiveSync and integrated it into the iPhone 2.0 software.  Voila – I dumped my Dash and am still using my iPhone 3G several weeks later.

But – Apple forgot one thing.  Tasks.  Apple syncs Mail and Calendar with Exchange, but not Tasks.  For anyone that is a hard core Outlook user (like me) that manages to a zero inbox, Tasks are important.  It’s kind of like being pro-choice but being against birth control.  Weird.  Limiting.  And intensely frustrating.

Third party apps are starting to appear that try to sync Tasks, but they are all weak.  KeyTasks from  Chapura seems to come the closest so far, but it’s not server side sync (with Exchange) – you have to have a client side agent running.  And of course, it doesn’t have categories ("Category support coming soon.")

Theoretically wonderful, but always comes up short with a deal breaker.  We didn’t even get into religion yet, but ponder that as you think about the Cult of Mac vs. the PC / Microsoft. 

I definitely have too much politics on the brain.  I can’t wait until 2009.

Om Malik discovered that Microsoft has received a new and exciting patent on "page up and page down."  It was issued on 8/19/08.  I just read the summary and this is truly a ridiculous patent.  The USPTO must have gotten confused by the fancy math included in the patent (e.g. "{[(p-1)/c]h}+r") that is included in claim 1.

1. In a computing environment, a method comprising: displaying at least one page of a document that has multiple pages, at least one of the multiple pages, and the displayed at least one page including a first page displayed beginning at a starting point offset from a top of the document and from a top of the first page; calculating a height of at least the first page; calculating a row offset of the starting point of the first page; calculating a vertical offset at the starting point of the first page, wherein the vertical offset is calculated according to a formula of the form {[(p-1)/c]h}+r, where p is equal to the number of pages in the document, c is equal to the number of columns of the document which are simultaneously displayed, h is equal to the height of at least the first page, and r is equal to the row offset of the starting point of the first page; receiving a command indicative of a whole page-based incremental scroll request related to changing first content currently being displayed in the at least one page; determining a whole-page increment for scrolling from first content to second content, wherein determining the whole-page increment includes calculating a vertical offset at a second starting point in the document, the vertical offset being calculated according to the formula V.sub.1.+-.(cr), where V.sub.1 is the vertical offset at the starting point of the first page; and changing the display to display second content, by replacing the at least one page of the document with at least one other page, the display of the at least one other page beginning at the second starting point.

I think this used to be exercise #4 on problem set #3 in 6.001 at MIT.  You used to have to write this in Scheme, which I’m guessing is a lot more elegant than the Microsoft C# implementation.

On Saturday I ran the Mesa Falls Marathon.  I’ve now completed a marathon in 12 of the 50 states – almost 25% of the way there.  My co-conspirator for this one was Matt Blumberg, who ran the last half of it with me and wrote about it in Half as Long, One Third as Hard.


This was a small marathon – my guess is around 150 people ran it.  My goal was to finish in the top 200 which I accomplished comfortably.  My serious goal was to break 4:45.  My official time was 5:02, although according to my Garmin 305 my running time was 4:52.  I can confirm that I lost about 5 minutes to a bathroom break at mile 10 and another 5 minutes at the half way mark and on a few pee breaks.  So – I was close.  However, I finished much stronger than I had two months ago at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth so I’m pleased with the progress of my training under my new coach Gary Ditsch.

Mesa Falls was a beautiful marathon.  The first 10 miles are on a dirt road in the middle of no where.  Tranquil, quiet, and wonderful.  I had trouble getting into a rhythm – my shoes were too tight, I had to pee, and then around mile four I got an upset stomach.  There was a porta-potty at mile 6 but I felt better so cruised by it.  Predictably, at 6.5 miles, I had to go.  For a brief moment I considered turning around, but powered on to mile 10 where I took a delightful 5 minute break.

We immediately turned onto a road and I totally kicked ass – covering the next 3 miles in 27 minutes.  It was a decent downhill but I felt much lighter.  I stopped for 15 seconds right at mile 13 to look at the incredible view at Mesa Falls and then stopped again at 13.1 to meet up with Matt, make the "Uncle Spike sign", have Amy take a few photos of us, and change my shirt.


It was huge to have Matt join me.  The course had a brutal uphill between mile 17 and 20 that Matt towed me up.  I marched through to mile 23 where I finally slammed into the wall.  I don’t really remember the 25 minutes that it took me to run mile 23 and 24, but Matt said I was pretty calm.  I got a seventh wind at mile 25 and covered the last mile in under 10 minutes.


Thanks to everyone who supported me on this one, especially my sponsors Return Path, Pixie Mate, NewWest, and Bill Flagg who made an extra generous contribution to Accelerated Cure.  And of course – my sherpa Amy and my friends the Blumbergs.

Next up – Mount Desert Island Marathon in Bar Harbor, ME on 10/19/08.

Congrats to Josh Hug and the gang at Shelfari for joining the family.  I was an early angel investor in Shelfari and have been a long time avid user of the service.  Amazon was an investor in the first round and the two companies fit naturally together.

I invested in three vertical social networks in 2006 – Shelfari (books), Dogster (dogs and cats), and Enthusiast Group (sports).  So far I have one win (Shelfari) and one loss (Enthusiast Group).  Dogster is doing great and looks like it’ll be a nice winner also.  I made these as small angel investments to learn about the dynamics around vertical social networks.  I’ve learned a bunch from Josh and from Ted Rheingold at Dogster.  It also looks like I’ll have a nice "aggregate financial outcome" for my investments in this area.

Well done Shelfari!

The parents of a close friend just had a direct lightning strike on their house.  It immediately burned to the ground and everything was lost.

The simple advice from my friend if this ever happens to you is "get out fast and not go back for anything that is not a human being."  She also suggested that you check your home insurance to make sure you are covered for this.

One of the big topics that came up on the panel I was on today at the DNC was the issue surrounding the labor supply in the US in computer science and IT.  There is a growing shortage of software engineers in the US that is getting worse as every year passes.  I’ve talked about this in the past as my main motivation for being involved in the National Center for Women & Information Technology as one of the ways to build the long term labor pipeline is to encourage more women and girls to get involved in careers in computer science and IT.

I think the Bush administration has completely missed the boat when it comes to dealing with temporary work visas and permanent residency for high tech software / IT workers.  This issue has come up repeatedly over the past few years as large software and technology companies have finally weighed in to try to impact some of our inane policies.

I think the solution to the problem is really simple.  The US should grant permanent residency to anyone who graduates from a qualified four year university with a computer science degree.  If you are concerned about people gaming the system, you can start out by limiting it to people that receive a post-graduate degree.  Of course, you can easily extend this beyond computer science (e.g. physics, chemistry, etc.)

When I was an undergraduate at MIT, a meaningful percentage of the student body was from other countries.  It never even occurred to me that these folks were "different" and didn’t "belong in our country."  Some of my best friends in college weren’t US citizens and I was baffled by the hoops they had to jump through even back then to work in the US.  In the past eight years, this has gotten dramatically worse and it’s time we got in front of this.

Everyone on the panel seemed to agree that this was a huge issue surrounding innovation in the US over the long term.  Most people seemed to agree that this was a simple solution that would not require a huge bureaucracy to administer.  With your diploma, you get permanent residence status. 

I don’t understand why there would be any rational resistance to something like this – after all, wasn’t the United States built on immigrants?

I’m having my half day DNC experience this morning.  At 10am I’m on a panel creatively titled 2008 Technology RoundtableIt’s limited attendee (200 people at the Ricketson Theater) but appears to being broadcast live on the web.

It’s an interesting experience. I really didn’t want to deal with the traffic and people around the DNC, especially after running a marathon this weekend (and still being in a recovery phase), so I took advantage of my early wake up time and drove to downtown Boulder around 6:30.  I’m now sitting all alone in the breakfast room (green room equivalent) waiting for them to pull together the coffee service.  It’s kind of tranquil in a weird way.

My session (one of three) – titled "Promoting the Next Wave of Innovation" – covers the following:

The second session will address the question of what strategies that the federal government can use to promote technological development and innovation. In particular, it will evaluate what public policies can best spur capital formation and protect the U.S. advantage in that area; what educations reforms, particularly as to math and science education, can prepare a next generation of engineers and business persons; and what innovation policies, be they support for basic research or patent law reform can spur greater levels of technological development.

My co-panelists are John Seely Brown (Deloitte Center for Edge Innovation), Charlie Ergen (CEO – Echostar), Bill Kennard (Carlyle Group, Former Chairman FCC), Honorable Zoe Lofgren (Congresswoman – U.S. House of Representatives), Don Rosenberg (General Counsel and EVP – Qualcomm), and David Thompson (Group President of Information Technology and Services – Symantec). 

It’ll either be really interesting or really dull.  I’ll work on "interesting" but I’ve been told "no swearing."

Anyone who has worked with me knows that one of my favorite lines is "marketing is stupid."  And – if you really know me – you know that I don’t actually mean "marketing is stupid", but I use it as a proxy for "most PR people suck, most marcom is done poorly, and most companies have no idea what they are trying to accomplish with all the money they waste on shitty marketing and PR."

Last week I got one of Jason Calacanis’ email missives from his new email list (post-blog).  It’s been reblogged on the Silicon Alley Insider blog titled Jason Calacanis On How To Get PR For Your Startup: Fire Your PR CompanyThere are a few things I disagree with, but on the whole it’s one of the best long essays I’ve ever read on how to do PR for your startup.

While there are a few technology PR firms (or more specifically – people) that are just awesome and worth the money, the vast majority range from marginally useful but not worth the money to completely useless.  If you are the CEO of a startup, I encourage you to read Jason’s post slowly, and then re-read it, and then think about what you are doing to get PR for your company.