The Science of Success and The Wisdom of Mobs

Interesting look at the notion of a scientific process to business success, as espoused by a popular book of the same name. It’s worth reading the review if you are interested, as I am right now, about how to better manage people, however there is a concluding paragraph that captured some wisdom we all need to be reminded of from time to time.

When I had my web-based business, we found ourselves in 1998 and 1999 up against some competitors with frightening amounts of venture capital. However, we soon noticed that they put most of their efforts into trying things that we already knew did not work. Our most valuable intellectual property was this knowledge of "what ought to work, but doesn’t."

The wisdom of crowds is quite often positioned as an absolute, however it’s also rather obvious that just becuase everyone is doing something, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Something your mom once told you about people jumping off bridges, I would imagine.

Every venture capitalist has a story about some space they didn’t fund even though it was one of the hot memes because they knew the model was fundamentally flawed. Of course, there are probably an equal number of stories from the other direction, but even they reflect a contrarian view to the popular wisdom of the time.

In 1998 how many investors would have looked at Google in a dorm room and passed on the deal because Inktomi and Yahoo! dominated search? YouTube? How many B2B exchanges got funded even though the physical realities of those markets made them ill-suited for e-commerce? A lot, and I funded a couple of them when I was at SAP Ventures so I’m guilty as well, but for the most part this entire sector has been a bust because of things "that ought to work, but don’t".

It’s pretty obvious stuff I guess, but always good to dust off and be reminded about nonetheless.

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Truthers

9/11 Truthers piss me off. Really.

Recently, Rosie O’Donnell, a co-host of ABC talk show The View, made comments on the show that renewed controversy over the collapse of World Trade Center 7.

These are the same people that criticize people who don’t hold their views for “ignoring the science” when they themselves do exactly the same thing without a hint of irony.

I realize this is kind of a random thing for a Friday night blog posting, but enough already. The Bush administration can’t even fire some attorney’s without it escalating into a Constitutional crisis, does anyone really believe that a government, this government, could pull off something like 9/11 without it showing up on the front page of the Washington Post the very next week?

UPDATE: I’m not going to allow comments on this post, which is almost a first (the only other time I have done this is when spammers targeted archived posts). Secondly, there was one rant comment that slipped through and I deleted it… another first. I am just not interested in reading angry comments from angry people trying to convince me that 9/11 Truthers are anything but nut case conspiracy theorists. Just go away, I’m not buying what you are selling.

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Pulling the All-Nighter

I love anonymous satire blogs written by people inside the bowls of the industries they reveal their frustrations about. In terms of pure comedy, it doesn’t get much better than the observations made on these pithy sites, but then you realize that the reason they are funny is because of the high degree of truth about them. There are few businesses that have the target richness that the investment banking business has, here’s one of the best parody blogs I’ve read in a long time. The All Nighter features a great storyline that is very well written.

“Why then, does every banker have a Mont Blanc pen? You look around you, and every monkey on the floor has one. The little plain black pen with a blob on the cap. That’s it. Rob has two tucked away in his desk. Rupert carries one in his jacket at all times. Frank used one in the meeting at Kruelberg. EVERY banker has one of these babies. Why?

200703301340“

Ecopods

Okay, this is getting a little out of hand… 3 clean tech posts on the very first day the category debuts! This one is pretty damn cool, even though I’m not exactly sure why.

EcoPods are environmentally friendly coffins made from recycled paper. Whether you’re worried about the state of the planet, or just want to be sure that you’ll have an easy climb back out of the grave, should the zombiism take hold, this seems like a good idea.

CFL again – sigh.

It’s a two-fer tonight for the newly created "Clean Tech" category. This time we revisit the ban-light-bulbs movement that is still circulating in California and elseware.

It turns out that the free market (and Wal Mart’s ability to sell a lot of CFLs) really is capable of responding more effectively than government regulation.

The free market, all on its very own — people reacting purely to price pressures, the differences in costs of the bulbs and the electricity to power them — is leading the switchover. We don’t actually need any governmental action; we’re already producing over 50% of the compact flourescents that will be needed, perhaps an even higher portion.

BTW, I couldn’t help but notice that whenever the CFL debate comes up there is someone who chimes in with "well the incandescent light bulb is 140 years old and really hasn’t changed". Of course the core principle behind incandescent lighting hasn’t changed but the technology certainly has making the argument factually inaccurate on it’s face, but more to the point, how many of these pundits know that fluorescent light bulbs were first debuted in 1893, making it 114 year old technology…

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The Environmental Toll of the Prius

Unfortunately for them, their ultimate ‘green car’ is the source of some of the worst pollution in North America; it takes more combined energy per Prius to produce than a Hummer.

Here’s an interesting take on environmental toll of the Toyota Prius, which will no doubt spur a rather vitriolic comment thread. BTW, in honor of Shai’s abandonment of enterprise software for clean tech, I’m starting a new category to track the topic.

 

Is Regulation of the Internet Explicitly a Federal Domain?

"Because material on a website may be viewed across the Internet, and thus in more than one state at a time, permitting the reach of any particular state’s definition of intellectual property to dictate the contours of this federal immunity would be contrary to Congress’s expressed goal of insulating the development of the Internet from the various state-law regimes. See 47 U.S.C. §§ 230(a) and (b); see also Batzel, 333 F.3d at 1027 (noting that "courts construing § 230 have recognized as critical in applying the statute the concern that lawsuits could threaten the ‘freedom of speech in the new and burgeoning Internet medium’")."

This does appear to be a pretty important decision regarding regulation of web sites, it would seem to suggest that web sites are by their nature viewable across the entire web and therefore subject to Federal regulation and immune from state regulation that conflicts with Federal law. In other words, if Federal law regulates a specific aspect of the web, then states are pre-empted from regulating them on their own. This case applies specifically to intellectual property but it would seem reasonable that this would be used in other cases involving regulation of the web

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Google Notebook Out of Beta

Google Notebook has made it out of beta. I actually use this service probably at least once a day and really like it. I do wish there was an offline sync’ing capability because I would like to have access to this data when I’m not online, and sync’ed to my Blackberry as well.

Sounds like an opportunity for buildout on SpanningSync. Charlie?

Google Notebook was previously a "Google Labs" project, but it has left that phase to become an official service without the familiar "beta" label. Though the interface isn’t extremely different, it has been nicely polished and finally looks like a finished product.

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