September 11, 2011
Social Network Review (September 11, 2011): Twitter needs to make it easier to block users

One reason why I use tumblr significantly more than twitter is due to the prominent blocking functionality on tumblr.  This is especially important when it comes to filtering hashtags that I check regularly.  If I use tumblr for a day or two following any hashtag, I’ll have a great stream of relevant topics after blocking people who post inane things.

This doesn’t hold true for twitter.  Cleaning up a hashtag stream is a pain because there is no prominent block button.  If you search a hashtag, your options are to hit the favorite, retweet or reply buttons.  Noticeably absent is a block button right after the reply button.  The lack of easy-to-find block button leads to messy hashtag streams on twitter.  On tumblr, I have filtered my hashtags to the point where 80% of the posts are things I am interested in reading about.  On twitter, my interest in any given tweet within a hashtag is probably less than 5%.

There are several news agencies that I have no respect for in any way.  They carry a sufficiently large following on twitter where they prop up constantly in hashtag feeds.  Yet there is no easy way to block those news agencies and their retweeters.  So I am left scrolling through a lot of tweets that I have no interest in reading.  Given this situation, I have almost stopped reading hashtags entirely on twitter.  The people at twitter really need to step it up and add a easy to use block button or they are going to eventually lose user’s time consumption to other social networks (like tumblr).

Am I the only person who doesn’t read twitter’s hashtags (relative to tumblr’s) because they are too cluttered?

August 22, 2011
Tech Thoughts (August 22nd, 2011): Facebook Acquiring webOS is a Bad Idea

I’ve seen a few tech commentators offer perspectives about why they believe Facebook should purchase WebOS.  I disagree with their assessment and think that a Facebook + webOS deal would lead to significant dilution.

The supporters of a Facebook + webOS deal fail to assess the implications of Facebook’s existing relations with other social networks.  In turn, the miss out on how the adversarial relationship Facebook has with other social networks would limit support for Facebook /webOS platform.  I’ll talk about the key competing social network first (twitter).

Why Twitter wouldn’t offer strong support to a Facebook mobile OS

Most people who access Facebook on their smart phones also access twitter on their smartphones.  They typically use Twitter and Facebook for different purposes.

Twitter is primarily used on smartphones to:

  • Update others on what the user is doing or feeling at the moment
  • Receive updates regarding what their friends are doing / feeling at the moment
  • Read critical news updates related to the users profession

Facebook is primarily used on smartphones to:

  • Upload pictures taken with smartphones
  • Add a person the user met on facebook if they are too shy to ask for a real phone number (for the singles population)

People typically access twitter more on their smartphones.  There are valid reasons for this.  Twitter use requires small transfers of data (for text to upload and download), the limited data transfer is perfect for smartphones.  The Facebook experience is more image intensive (and hence data intensive).  This makes using Facebook more enjoyable on personal computing devices with access to faster and more reliable online connections. 

In short, twitter has the edge on smartphones.  They also have no incentive to  strengthen their key competitor (Facebook) by supporting a facebook mobile OS.  They certainly wouldn’t want to share data with a facebook directly or indirectly.  Some key things to consider here:

  • Data transfer through a facebook mobile OS would improve Facebook’s social graph and increase the value of facebook’s targeted advertising.  It would also weaken twitter’s value proposition to potential advertisers relative to Facebook.
  • Users would most likely choose an iOS or Android based platform with strong twitter support over a facebook mobile OS with negligible twitter support.

Twitter’s reasons for not supporting a facebook mobile OS would hold true for other social networks.  Given the choice between neglecting a facebook mobile OS versus supporting it, competing social networks have every strategic reason to neglect a potential Facebook mobile OS.  This makes it difficult for a facebook mobile OS to gain market traction.  They already have key app developers (social network apps) gunning against them.

Other reasons why a Facebook/webOS deal has dillutive effects

Facebook is banned in a lot of countries.  It seems like a lot of tech analysts are stuck in a U.S. bubble.  A Facebook mobile OS wouldn’t see the day of light in many places of the world.  People can use VPNs and other methods to access Facebook even though it is banned on personal computers.  If a country forbids wireless carriers from selling phones with a mobile OS, those phones are dead in the water.

So without going further, there are already two key impediments to a facebook mobile OS succeeding.

The Value of webOS - A neutral mobile OS (that is developer friendly and has a great UI)

The primary value of webOS stems from its potential source of mobile data on consumers.  However, to obtain the full value from webOS, a potential acquirer must be as neutral as possible in order to gain support from other tech firms.  Facebook competes on too many fronts with key third parties (any social networking company).  Two acquirers that make more sense would be Google or Microsoft.

Google benefits from acquiring webOS on two fronts

  1. Google gains intellectual property rights to protect itself from lawsuits
  2. Google kills off the only platform that could act as a competitor to Android on non-iOS based smartphones.  If Google acquires webOS, they would have an effective monopoly on mobile OS systems that aren’t affiliated with Apple.    Any aspirations Microsoft has of a prominent mobile OS would die immediately.

Microsoft can obtain the greatest amount of accretion from a potential transaction due to its neutrality:

Microsoft’s Social Network Neutrality

  • A Microsoft Windows/webOS platform would be more neutral relative to Google’s Android, giving reason for social networking platforms to support it.  Microsoft’s weakness in social networking makes it the strongest reason for other social networks to embrace Windows/webOS platform.
  • Google has Google+, which makes Google a potential enemy to key third party social network app providers even though Google+ hasn’t gained substantial traction yet.  Google+ isn’t as large a threat as a potential facebook mobile OS would be, but it is still a lingering threat to other social networks (twitter, foursquare, tumblr).   Social networking companies would have incentive to see a Microsoft mobile OS succeed (or at the very least split the market with Android) given Google’s entrance into social networking with Google+).

Microsoft’s Smartphone Hardware Neutrality

  • Microsoft doesn’t make smartphones for the time being.  HTC, Samsung, LG could hedge their bets on a Microsoft/webOS system.  It gives them leverage over Google.  The possibility of cutting off Android in favor of Microsoft/webOS would keep Google in check.

Concluding Thoughts

Facebook would make a poor acquirer of webOS because it is insufficiently neutral.  The best potential acquirer is either Google (for defensive purposes) or Microsoft (which has sufficient neutrality to maximize webOS and attack Android).  Of course, HP also has the option of keeping webOS and releasing it for free.  However, I’m not sure if HP has the relationships and influence necessary to push webOS as an Android alternative.  I’m leaning towards webOS dying a slow death if HP doesn’t sell it soon.  Now is the perfect time to sell webOS in an auction environment though, since major tech firms have large reserves of cash.

July 18, 2011
Social Network Review (July 18th, 2011): Why Google already achieved strategic objectives with Google+

Google has already achieved success with Google+.  I know what some people are thinking, “it’s so early, how can you tell if google+ will overtake Facebook?”  That question assumes that Google+ needs to overtake Facebook in aggregate users or impression time to be successful.  That’s a false assumption in my opinion.  Google already has achieved major strategic objectives already.  The threshold for success is passed as long as users create an account on Google+ (even if they don’t spend as much time on it as Facebook).

Why Google+ is already successful

  • User Preferences through the Like and +1 buttons: The primary reason why Google’s management would fear Facebook the past year is because Facebook was begining to gather lots of useful data on user preferences.  This was achieved primarily through the dissemination of the Like button across the web.  Through this, Facebook could possibly offer better targeted advertising than Google by having data that Google didn’t have.  This doesn’t hold true any more.  Since google+ is automatically signed in through gmail, data collection through the +1 button is seamless.  It doesn’t matter if no content is posted at all on actual google+ profiles.  If google gets all of their gmail users to create google+ accounts (and use the +1 button whenever they found things that interested them), they will essentially negate Facebook’s data advantage on users through the like button.  In fact, Google can collect more data through the +1 button because Facebook is banned at many work places.  Gmail is open, so even if Google+ is banned at work eventually, the +1 button functionality would still be in place automatically through signing into gmail (which is allowed at most work places).  The advertising data advantage that Facebook has disappears entirely, this alone can justify the costs associated with developing Google+.
  • Protecting Google AdWords / Defensive Maneuvers on the Golden Goose: Google has the largest ad network online.  However, Facebook’s user data from sharing, likes and interests in user profiles created a very solid base for an ad network.  Facebook could have and still might create a product to compete with Google AdWords.  Previously, they could have said to web proprietors that they had exclusive data not available anywhere else (with what is approaching a billion users).  Using this as a base, they could sell websites on the idea that using a Facebook Ad Network could be more effective than Google AdWords.  With the introduction of Google+, it’s hard for Facebook to make that same argument.  Google can tell web proprietors we have data through google searches as well as gmail in addition to everything Facebook has (through Google+).

So what’s a quick explanation on why Google is already successful?  First, they maintained user data advantage (for advertising purposes) over Facebook.  Second, they effectively defended themselves from a a threat of a competing product to Google AdWords. 

If users start spending more time on Google+ (relative to Facebook) because of Hangouts, Huddle, or privacy options offered through Circles - that’s all just gravy on top at this point.

July 14, 2011
Tech Killing / Entrepreneurship killing Protect IP Bill moving through Senate

It must be pass stupid legislation month in congress or something.  In addition to the idiotic S. 978 Bill, the U.S. Senate is also considering passing the Protect IP Act.  There are a lot of bad things about it that you can read about independently below.

Here’s what you need to know.

People Against the IP Bill

  • Over 50 VCs including Andreessen Horowitz, AOL Ventures, Draper Richards, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures, Softbank Capital, Venrock
  • Google
  • Senior Citizens that buy generic drugs online for low prices (the bill would force generic drug sellers to be shut down)

People For the IP Bill

  • The RIAA
  • Microsoft
  • Unions

Take a look at who supports this legislation and who is against it and you’ll understand quickly whether or not this bill is awful or not.  The people supporting this terrible bill might as well call themselves Axis of Evil.

Opposition to the PROTECT IP Act — Hollywood-supported legislation intended to reduce content piracy and block counterfeit goods — is growing among the tech community, with a letter blasting the bill released Thursday by more than 50 venture capitalists from 40 firms that have funded many top Internet companies. They argue that the methods embodied in the proposed law would create untoward burdens and endanger the Internet.

A wide range of Hollywood trade associations and unions disagree, calling the legislation a critical step toward prevention of unauthorized downloading and streaming, problems that have proved near-intractable to date.

Also speaking out in recent weeks against the law is a completely different constituency: groups concerned that the broadly drafted act would endanger U.S. consumers’ access to pharmaceuticals from Canadian and other foreign pharmacies. They contend that such access, which is generally at lower-than-U.S. prices, is vital for uninsured consumers or those with limited coverage.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently passed the bill, but Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) immediately put a hold on the legislation, on the grounds that the act was “overreaching” and would “damage … speech, innovation and the very integrity of the Internet.”

The bill’s prospects are uncertain: Wyden’s move prevents further action, at least for the time being, and the House has not introduced similar legislation.

In Thursday’s letter, the venture capitalists say the bill will “will stifle investment in Internet services, throttle innovation, and hurt American competitiveness.” They assert three problems:

— The bill burdens “countless Internet services” by requiring sites and search engines to remove links that point to sites offering pirated content.

— The bill endangers the security and integrity of the Internet by requiring DNS providers to block access to such sites. (The Domain Name System is the Internet mechanism that enables software such as web browsers to connect to websites.)

— The bill creates a private right of action that rights holders may use in ways that create significant burdens, even on companies acting in good faith. 

The venture capitalists work at such high-profile firms as Andreessen Horowitz, AOL Ventures, Draper Richards, Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures, Softbank Capital, Venrock and others. According to an accompanying statement by an organization opposing the bill called Demand Progress, the firms collectively manage over $13 billion and the VCs were early investors in Facebook, Twitter, and Skype, among others.

Demand Progress also said that more than 350,000 people have signed its petitions against the PROTECT IP Act and a predecessor version of the bill.

Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, took particular exception last month to DNS domain blocking, noting that this is the same approach that China takes to censoring websites. Blocking “seems like an appealing solution but it sets a very bad precedent,” he said.

Microsoft, in contrast, supports the legislation, though it suggests that some modifications are necessary to address various concerns.

Hollywood too has been broadly supportive of the legislation, with trade groups such as the MPAA, IFTA,and the National Association of Theatre Owners, and unions such as the American Federation of Musicians, AFTRA, DGA, IATSE, SAG and the Teamsters, all speaking out in favor. The RIAA favors the bill as well.

July 14, 2011
ECA Against Law that would send Gamers to prison for posting videoclips (Senate Bill S.978)

I’m glad to hear that the ECA is taking a stand against Senate Bill S.978, which would send gamers to prison for posting photos and videos of videogames online.

The ECA is busy trying to protect their consumers, which I guess makes them the exact opposite of the RIAA and Hollywood who are trying to imprison their consumers.

Seriously, how can America justify releasing violent criminals because of overcrowded prison systems only to turn around and release a law sending people to prison for posting video clips online of them playing their favorite games?

If it became law, Senate Bill S.978 would amend current copyright law to include not just the unauthorized distribution and replication of copyrighted works (like pirated games and bootlegged movies), but also “public performances by electronic means.” While the bill was intended to make streaming copyrighted material illegal in the same way downloading it through a peer-to-peer service already is, critics are concerned that its wording is so broad as to potentially send people to prison for up to five years for largely accepted behavior.

For example, the bill could cover musicians who upload their own cover performances of popular songs to YouTube or other streaming sites, or gamers who upload their walkthrough videos, speed runs, or machinima.

"There are already strong laws on the books for copyright holders to protect their intellectual property," the ECA said in its statement. "We don’t need this draconian measure that’d make criminals out of millions of Americans who just want to share their enjoyment of their favorite entertainment."

July 14, 2011
"From our experience, it’s entirely possible that all the revenue for a product can be eaten up by legal fees. After years of pouring your heart and soul into that product, it’s devastating. It makes you question why the hell you’re in the business: when you can’t pay salaries from product sales, there’s no point in building it in the first place." · The Rise and Fall of the Independent Developer (via judsondunn)

This is just another example of why America needs patent reform.

(via judsondunn)

July 14, 2011
Features that I would like to see on Google+ (July 14, 2011)

A few days into using Google+ and I have some thoughts on what I’d love to see added.

  1. Ability to add hashtags on posts.  Make this similar to tumblr, this would improve content discovery.  For instance I could click on a tech hashtag and see everything my friends are writing about technology.
  2. Allow custom settings for blocking specific circles from hashtags.  For instance, I might want to share information on tech to my tech focused friends as well as the general public that might be interested in the tech news.  Yet at he same time, I know that most of my friends don’t care about that topic, so those specific people wouldn’t see any shares from me relating to technology.
  3. Allow users to block specific hashtags or words from their newstreams.  I might be interested in certain friends for their thoughts on food but not their politics.  I shouldn’t be forced to block them or remove them from my circles just because I have no interest in reading their political opinions.  It applies on the other end too.  I love going to art galleries and uploading photos of artworks I like.  Some of my friends only want to see photos of me and our common friends though (and not the 50 photos I took from a visit to an art gallery of paintings).  Give them that option!  At least that way, the will be able to interact on things where we share common interest, as opposed instead to blocking me entirely.  Some social sharing is better than none.  This encourages users to be more open to sharing too.

Do you have any thoughts on how Google+ can be improved?

3:29am  |   URL:
Filed under: tech google+ technology 
July 13, 2011
Continuations: Income Taxation of Founders' Stock: A Really Dumb Idea


Last year when there was a big debate about carry taxation, I came out in support of taxing carry as income (even though that will clearly mean a much higher tax bill for me personally). With the budget battle in Washington reaching ever new heights this issue is coming back in full force. I…

Raising taxes has never been about “fairness” in American politics.  It’s always been about envy and self-entitlement towards other people’s money.

California is losing companies to other states because of taxes:

Companies are “disinvesting” in California at a rate five times greater than just two years ago, said Joseph Vranich, a business relocation expert based in Irvine. This includes leaving altogether, establishing divisions elsewhere or opting not to set up shop in California.

Why do people think entrepreneurs won’t move to other countries because of taxes?  Money motivates people.  Hong Kong and Singapore have been largely successful because of their pro-business environments and low taxes despite having no natural resources to speak of.  They also regularly have surpluses.