Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Poland Day In Silicon Valley - May 15 Stanford University

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 16, 2014

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Poland has an excellent community of software and hardware engineers thanks to the country’s long tradition of excellence in maths and encryption. Its developers think on their feet and they are very loyal workers. Google, Cisco, and many other US companies have opened development centers in Poland, especially in the south around Katowice and Krakow, where there are many colleges and universities. There are also European Union grants and subsidies for US companies.

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Celebrating The Life Of Daniel Jabbour: An Intersection Of Psychedelics, Activism And Technology

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 16, 2014


The Psychedelic Society of San Francisco announced the sudden death of its 30 year old founder, Daniel Jabbour, a well known software engineer and political activist. 

There will be a memorial celebration April 19th at 11.30 AM at Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park.

Daniel founded the society in November 2011 and it currently has 1674 members. There's a strong connection between psychedelics and Silicon Valley, please see: The Steve Jobs Way: Intersecting Psychedelics And Technology -SVW

Daniel was a passionate political activist on drug policy and spoke at many events. There are videos of his talks on his channel:  Daniel Jabbour - YouTube

Daniel loved volunteering with “Hack the Future,” an organization that teaches kids to code. Here's an account of Daniel at the most recent Hack the Future event, written by one of his colleagues at Amoeba Consulting, where Daniel worked. 

The event was held in the brand new tech studio, a "hands on" discovery area at The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose. The event brought together a hundred kids with makers throughout Silicon Valley including programmers, game developers, designers, web developers and engineers.

Amoeboid Daniel Jabbour led the web and javascript table- helping kids to get into programming. He supplied them with some basic project starting points and let them discover for themselves what they could accomplish with programming by designing their own blogs and games such as pong and chess. Daniel commented, "for me, it was so fun to help a table full of kids write pong, in javascript, in an afternoon... sitting a hundred feet away from the creator of Pong, Al Alcorn (another mentor at the event)."

Throughout the day, they guided kids through the design process, and helped with whatever they wanted to design- from defining the problems, thinking about their users, coming up with design goals, ideating, sketching, to rapid prototyping for both product and application designs.

Such a great day...

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Wearables: Putting Technology Second - Humans First

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 15, 2014

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The ‘Human Factor’ is often overlooked in wearable computing…searching for feelings and emotions amid the technology.

By Intel Free Press

Designers and engineers often create code or cool new hardware without thinking as much about the human side of the technology. At a recent Intel workshop that might be seen as counter-intuitive, engineers were being trained to think about real-world applications first, the technology itself second.

“Don’t build with technology just for the heck of building a piece of tech. Build for a purpose, for the user,” said Carlos Montesinos, a research scientist at Intel on collaborative design who co-sponsored the workshop. “Design with the user in mind and then technology will follow.”

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CultureWatch: The Fading Fashion Of Google Glass - Too Gauche For Social

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 12, 2014


Sarah Slocum’s recent experience at Molotov’s, a lower Haight Street bar where an irate drinker snatched her Google Glass off her face, did a lot to boost her popularity as TV and newspapers covered the incident. But the association with someone who called the incident a hate crime,  has not been good for Google Glass.

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Victoria Espinel - Leading The Fight Against Bad Laws Restricting Digital Technologies

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 11, 2014

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Victoria Espinel, the recently appointed head of BSA | The Software Alliance (formerly Business Software Alliance) visited San Francisco recently to gauge the mood of Silicon Valley towards software patents and intellectual property laws in the US and around the world.

Based in Washington, D.C, Espinel served in the Obama administration as the first US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator, and worked in the Bush administration in senior positions in the Office of the US Trade Representative.

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Matt Taibbi: 'Emotional Language' Is Important In Reporting Outrageous Events

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 11, 2014

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Clara Jeffrey, Co-Editor, Mother Jones interviews Matt Taibbi.

Matt Taibbi, the former Wall Street beat reporter for Rolling Stone, and now heading a digital magazine for Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media, spoke at the Commonwealth Club’s Inforum event Thursday in San Francisco.

Taibbi was promoting his book, “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap” described by Timothy Noah in the New York Times, “as infuriating as it is impossible to put down.” Here are some of my notes from the evening: 

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Gild Says Algorithms Can Lift People Out Of Poverty

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 10, 2014


I had a fascinating conversation recently with Vivienne Ming, Chief Scientist at Gild, a San Francisco based company that scans the Internet to identify potentially great software engineers for their clients.

Finding good talent is incredibly hard especially software engineers but Gild says its algorithms can identify people with the right fit, in qualifications and also in cultural fit, sometimes in places where companies wouldn’t think of looking.

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Omidyar's First Look Media Searches For Strategy

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 8, 2014

Stephan Buckley at Poynter, reported on a meeting hosted by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder of First Look Media, with “about a dozen high-profile editors, journalism educators, industry analysts, and former reporters… to listen to his vision, dissect his emerging strategy and offer advice on both.”

The $250 million venture has hired two high profile reporters, Glen Greenwald and Matt Taibbi, each heading their own digital magazine, with more announcements to come.

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Women In Tech: Award Winning Chip Scientist Kelin Kuhn

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 7, 2014


Intel Fellow Kelin Kuhn

By Intel Free Press 

Though it has been more than a decade and a half since she left the “publish or perish” world of the university, Kelin Kuhn is still writing papers and award-winning ones at that.

Kuhn, who is an Intel Fellow for the company’s Technology and Manufacturing Group and director of advanced device technology, was recently presented with the IEEE’s Paul Rappaport Award. The award recognizes the best paper annually in a publication of the IEEE Electron Devices Society.

Kuhn says, her paper “Considerations for Ultimate CMOS Scaling” is about “all the intricate things we have to worry about when we build super advanced short channel devices.”

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Content Marketing Problems Will Lead To A Revived Media Industry

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 4, 2014

“Every company is a media company,” which is why there is a deluge of content marketing as companies struggle to produce media and build an audience.

A new media publication typically budgets at least two years to develop a solid readership and it will take years more to fully build a trusted relationship. When I interviewed Shelby Bonnie, CEO of CNET’s 10-year old in 2004, he said he likely needed another ten years to fully establish the brand.

How long will it take companies to establish a media brand? 

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The News Is Not Free: 14 Journalists Murdered in 2014

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 4, 2014

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan police commander opened fire Friday on two Associated Press journalists inside a security forces base in eastern Afghanistan, killing prize-winning photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounding veteran correspondent Kathy Gannon.

Niedringhaus, 48, who had covered conflict zones from the Balkans in the 1990s to Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan and was part of a team of AP photographers who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, died instantly of her wounds.

AP photographer killed, reporter wounded 

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The Hubbies: PR Awards For Digital Creatives

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 3, 2014


The first Hubbies awards (winners above) were presented in San Francisco earlier this week recognizing breakthrough digital creative work. It is organized by a new publication The Hub, a sister publication to PR Week.

Steve Barrett, (below, right) Editor-in-Chief of PR Week was on hand as part of a day-long conference discussing key trends in digital PR. He also interviewed Brian Solis from Altimeter Group. The Hub is based in San Francisco and edited by Omar Akhtar (below, left)

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Egnyte: Competing With Giants In The Cloud

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 1, 2014



I recently met with Vineet Jain, (above) CEO and co-founder of Egnyte, which offers file sharing for enterprises, with a hybrid cloud and data center model.

My recent post about startups having to sell because they can’t get to scale, caught the attention of Jain’s team and we met to discuss the company’s strategy. It is competing against some extremely well funded companies such as Box and Dropbox.  Here are some notes from our conversation:

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San Francisco's First Look At New Microsoft CEO

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 29, 2014

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It was “Day 52” for Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and his first visit to San Francisco as head of the software giant. The local media were out in full to see him as he introduced Office on the iPad, and speak about the importance of Microsoft’s “Mobile First” and “Cloud First” strategies.

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Pew: Impact Of Billionaire Funded Journalism Is Tiny

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 28, 2014

2014 03 28 12 37 26 Billionaire funded journalism has received a lot of media attention over the past year as EBay’s Pierre Omidyar, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett have invested hundreds of millions of dollars into newspapers and news sites.

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When Every Company Is A Media Company: Content Marketing's Massive Blunder

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 27, 2014

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When I first introduced the concept of every company is a media company in 2005 there were very few people that understood what this meant. Today it’s an accepted fact and it’s why there’s a massive surge in what’s called content marketing.

With so few media professionals around to help tell a company’s stories it makes sense for companies to try to tell their own stories and get them out online and into the many communities that matter to them. That was the prime reason Intel launched Intel Free Press, to make sure that key stories about Intel would be told and published in a professional manner. 

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PR's Next Big Challenge: Tooling Up For The War With Ad Agencies

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 26, 2014

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Richard Edelman (right) with Steve Barrett, Editor-in-Chief of PR Week, at a Churchill Club event in 2013.

Can PR companies “Show Up Differently” as Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman, the world’s largest privately held PR firm, wrote in his New Year’s rally cry for his troops? 

Edelman understands that PR agencies will need to show up differently if they are to win against the advertising agencies. 

My post this week about the lack of automation technologies in PR is directly related to this coming confrontation. There’s a great business opportunity for PR agencies to compete for  lucrative advertising budgets — if they can prove  performance with solid metrics and at scale.

The pitch is easy: “Spending money on PR is more effective than on advertising, especially with the billions of dollars lost to ad fraud. We help you build lasting relationships instead of fleeting ad impressions.” 

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Nielsen Study Finds Very Poor Performance For Branded Content

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 26, 2014

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Nielsen this week released the results of a multi-month study on consumer brand awareness and buying decisions. The study, commissioned by San Francisco-based InPowered, found that consumers rely on online content five times more than five years ago and that they overwhelmingly seek trusted content written by unbiased, independent authors.

 The results paint a poor picture for the performance of content marketing by brands, and new trends such as native advertising, which seeks to look similar to trusted content. Here are some of the findings:

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Here's How To Put Billions Back Into The Media Industry Overnight

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 26, 2014

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Suzanne Vranica at the Wall Street Journal reported that between $6 billion and $18 billion is stolen every year in the US  because of ad fraud.  The Secret About Online Ad Traffic: One-Third Is Bogus -

The fraudsters erect sites with phony traffic and collect payments from advertisers through the middlemen who aggregate space across many sites and resell the space for most Web publishers. 

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Can PR Be Automated? The Technologies Of Promotion Are On Their Way...

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 21, 2014

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The media industry has been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world and forced to adopt new media technologies and drastically overhaul its operations.

The successful new media model is a combination of three components: professional media, user generated media, and smart machine media (e.g., automated news aggregation).

Buzzfeed is an example of this trinity: it has top journalists producing original content; it makes great use of social media; and it has a tech platform that leverages the algorithms of distributors such as Facebook and Twitter.

Forbes is another example of a large media company with professional journalists, user generated articles, and a good technology platform.

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Remembering IDG's Gentle Media Giant Pat McGovern

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 20, 2014

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Time’s Harry McCracken has written a wonderful column remembering Patrick McGovern, one of the most successful publishers of the past 50 years, and a huge proponent of tech when it was a far smaller world. He died this week at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto.

I met him in 2009 (above) and was incredibly flattered when he sought me out to talk about how his publishing group IDG was successfully managing its digital transformation. It was just the two of us talking for a couple of hours in his hotel room at the Fairmont. I was very impressed by his intelligence and his gentle manner.  He invited me to visit him and also tour his medical research center.

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SF Creators Salon: Rediscovering The Lessons Of Trust And Independent Media

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 19, 2014


The recent SF Creators Salon focused on the topic of trust and content marketing and as usual, it was a lively evening hosted at InPowered’s community space in San Francisco.

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To Give Or Not To Give: The Stingiest Gazillionaires – Bezos, Page, Ballmer...

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 18, 2014

Inside Philanthropy magazine has a fascinating list of the top philanthropists in the tech industry (you’ll be surprised at who is at the top: Leonard Bosack and Sandy Lerner, the original founders of Cisco Systems).

It also includes the six “least generous” (a generous way to say, “the couldn’t care less ”) tech billionaires.

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This Is How Stephen Hawking Rolls... With A Posse Of Intel Engineers

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 18, 2014


By Intel Free Press

Intel engineers have created a custom-built computer system for Stephen Hawking, the British theoretical astrophysicist, for his travels. He is completely dependent on his chair for communications, now, if there is a problem he can be quickly transferred to a backup chair. 

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The Problem Of Scale: Building The Next Big Silicon Valley Company

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 17, 2014

I spotted this recently from CB Insights: 67% of Tech M&A Exits in 2013 Went to Early-Stage Startups

The headlines may obsess over the WhatsApps and Twitters of the world, but the reality is most venture-backed startup exits are smaller and far from being unicorns. According to CB Insights data, 2013 saw 67% of tech startups exit after either the seed or Series A stages. 

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Commonwealth Club Events: Matt Taibbi, Jared Diamond, Nicholas Carr, Jeremy Rifkin, Evgeny Morozov And Archduke Of Austria!

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 13, 2014

I’m looking forward to seeing Matt Taibbi, a scathing critic of Wall Street, at The Commonwealth Club April 10 in San Francisco. He recently left Rolling Stone and joined Pierre Omidyar’s $250m media group First Look, which I persist in calling OMG!

There’s lot’s more great events coming up. These caught my eye:

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Twitter's Biz Stone: A Humble 'Hallucinogenic Optimist'

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 11, 2014

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John Helpern at Vanity Fair has lunch with Biz Stone, a co-founder of Twitter. They eat at one of my favorite spots: Liverpool Lil’s. 

Biz Stone speaks very humbly despite his hundreds of millions of dollars in wealth. He says he is too embarrassed to buy a new car but he did buy a house for his mom.

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How To Earn Trust In Content Marketing - Feeding The Beast

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 11, 2014

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We know that every company is a media company and therefore every company needs to create content. But trust in media content has to be earned and there is but one way: constant publishing of consistently high quality media content spread out over time, a long time.

Buzzfeed and Upworthy talk as if they've won the race -- they haven't.  They'll find out how difficult it is to keep going, and going, and going. Trending is ephemeral -- creating a trusted media brand is chronological and there are no shortcuts.

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The Curious Case Of LonelyGirl15... Trust Issues In Content Marketing

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 11, 2014


The BBC recently asked permission to use this story as a case study for an upcoming programme, Silicon Valley Watcher's discovery of the identity of LonelyGirl15.

At the end of the summer of 2006 we had the biggest story in the US: Silicon Valley Watcher discovered the true identity of LonelyGirl15 (above) -- an anonymous 15 year-old video blogger called Bree, that had amassed a staggering number of viewers on Youtube over several months -- but no one knew who she was. The media was obsessed with her and questioning is she is real or fake?

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LinkedIn And MetroNet Want More Women In Tech - (Women Rule Social Media!)

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 10, 2014

Women are only 30% of tech workforce, and only 15% in software engineering so there’s a long way to go to mirror the 50% split in the general workforce. 

One way is to increase the number of women students matched with mentors, which is the goal of a partnership between LinkedIn and MentorNet. They hope to have 40,000 students teamed with mentors over the next two years.

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