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

Saturday Post: Silicon Valley's Liquid Amorality - Water Will Find Its Way

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 22, 2014

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The Facebook campus sits next to colorful algae on salt flats along San Francisco Bay.

Ten years ago in mid 2004 I left the Financial Times and started publishing Silicon Valley Watcher. Silicon Valley was starting to wake from a long downturn from the dotcom deflation and Google's August IPO was a good sign after several years of bad news.

The culture of Silicon Valley was different then. The software engineering community was more radical than today, and far more socially conscious. The open source software movement was very strong among engineers and there was overall an anti-commercial attitude and a respect for protecting an open commons.

It shared much in spirit with the radical English groups from the mid-seventeeth century such as The Diggers, and also with the The Diggers of the 1960s in San Francisco, who ran free stores and served free food from their kitchens.

The business bible of 2004 was The Cluetrain Manifesto and it came directly from that culture. Here's an excerpt:  

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Castlight GigaOm Panel And SAP's 450 Designers...

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 21, 2014

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Om Malik (right), founder of GigaOM at SF Jazz Center

I had lots of great feedback this week from my participation on panel organized by Castlight Health, a San Francisco based startup focused on making healthcare choices easier for employees. Design is tremendously important when it comes to the complex subject of healthcare where employee decisions can have life or death outcomes. 

The GigaOm Roadmap conference had the theme of "Invisible Design" and my job on the Castlight panel was to provide some context and a long view from my perch as a Silicon Valley watcher, and my many years as a beat reporter covering enterprise tech.

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Dave Winer On Silicon Valley And Tech: 'Clowns To The Left Of Me, Jokers To The Right'

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 21, 2014

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Dave Winer is a serial innovator and father of the Blogosphere, if such a thing exists anymore. His recent post is one of his best. It's worth reading because he's a long-time Silicon Valley watcher and he brings his long experience with the tech industry to the article.

Stuck in the middle

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No Private Bus Or Free Lunch - Weber Shandwick Named A 'Best Place To Work'

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 18, 2014

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I've been spending a lot of time in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood, working with teams on Weber Shandwick's Mediaco venture, which is helping companies become media companies.

This week Ad Age named Weber Shandwick as one of the best places to work. As an independent observer of only one large Weber Shandwick office, I can attest that everyone is hard driving but super nice with each other and with everyone else. 

I can also attest that there are no private buses whisking staff to work, there are no celebrity chefs in the office kitchens, and there's no free lunch or Blue Bottle coffee for the staff. Tech company HR managers would be aghast.

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News Is Not Free: Uber Exec's Threat Against Reporters Reflects Ugly Amoral Culture

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 18, 2014

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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Photo: JD Lasicka

Uber senior executive Emil Michael's comments that journalists who criticize Uber should have their personal lives investigated and publicized has created yet another controversy for the ride hailing app startup.

Ben Smith at Buzzfeed reported:

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US Polish Innovation Week - Stellar Panel On Women In Business And Innovation

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 17, 2014

Among the many events scheduled for US Polish Innovation Week is this star-studded panel at Stanford university offering a global perspective on women working in innovative businesses.

It features top local business leaders: Susan Wojcicki, CEO of Youtube; Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer at Cisco.

I'm a huge supporter of Ted Taube, honorary Consul of Poland in San Francisco, and his incredible philanthropic work that is having an effect on the culture of an entire nation. Here is the full line up and details:

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Mobile Media Decimation Prompts Say Media Sale

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 14, 2014

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Say Media, the San Francisco publisher of ReadWrite and many other sites, is looking for buyers for its titles as it pivots into a media technologies vendor.

Matt Sanchez, CEO said it was hard for the company to focus on two businesses: growing its media brands and developing media technologies for media companies such as its Tempest content management system.

 Lucia Moses at Digiday reported:

"When we launched Say, it was really about, how do you provide technology and services for independent media," [Matt Sanchez, CEO] said. "It was this vision of building the modern media company by building, partnering with and buying independent media companies, build the tech beneath it and think holistically about the entire media stack. We just came to the conclusion that it's very difficult to do both."

Platishers, beware: Say Media gives up on publishing - Digiday

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Weber Shandwick Partners With Niche For Social Media Traffic

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 13, 2014

Nathalie Tadena at the Wall Street Journal reports on Weber Shandwick's partnership with Niche, an aggregator of more than 5,000 "social media celebrities." 

Among the social media celebs in Niche's network with the biggest reach are Nash Grier, a teenage Vine star with nearly 25 million followers across his social media accounts, and singer Kevin Jonas, who has a total reach of more than 22 million users.

Each celebrity is a big media publisher in their own right and the deals brokered through Niche aren't simple sponsor or advertising opportunities, the "celebrities" will be paid to create the social media content for Weber's clients. 

Weber Shandwick's global president of digital Chris Perry... estimates about 15% to 20% of Weber Shandwick's PR programs involve social media influencers and that's growing fast, especially for consumer brand clients.

Read more: 

Weber Shandwick Partners with Niche to Tap Social Media Celebrities - CMO Today - WSJ

Foremski's Take: [I'm working with Weber Shandwick's Mediaco on an unrelated project.]

Partnerships such as this one are a smart way to jumpstart an audience for a brand if it's part of a long term strategy to build a loyal audience, it has to be more than just a three-month campaign.

Borrowing the audience of a "social media celebrity" is fine but at the end of the day companies need to learn how to become "celebrities" in their own right, they need to learn to become media companies with direct access to their own audiences, unmediated by Google or anyone.

Weber Shandwick's Mediaco group is worth watching because it is directly focused on helping "every company become a media company."  It's a trend I first spotted nearly ten years ago and it has now reached a tipping point influencing the content marketing initiatives of companies worldwide.

Media publishing success has the additional benefit of blocking attention to competitors. It's a killer competitive strategy -- if you aren't seen online you don't exist.

Tooling up for business...

There's tremendous business opportunities for PR and marketing agencies to capitalize on this trend, and there's opportunities for many others, too. For example, software developers of media technologies.

Corporations will need to equip themselves with an arsenal of media publishing platforms, apps, tools, analytics and infrastructure, all made complex by the fragmented nature of tens of millions of media channels; and made even more complex by the extraordinary two-way nature of our modern media: we can publish content to any screen and each screen -- pocket or desktop -- can publish back, through comments, video, clicks, silent cookies, etc.

Companies need to become good at interpreting and engaging with all that media feeding back to them, as well as know how to produce great media content. And they'll have to feed (and walk) that media beast every day. It won't be easy.

They'll need a lot of help from a lot of people. And hopefully, they won't have to relearn basic rules of ethics and best practices that we've accumulated in the media industry over hundreds of years.

The media is dying ... and growing

The old media might be dying out but before it disappears, it can teach the new media how to walk. It's an important lesson. 

We face a democratic crisis in that special interest groups will gladly pay for the media they want people to read but people won't pay for the independent media they should read.

Brands becoming media publishers will be tempted to skew things their way, all the way. But they should be careful because they will be subject to the same ethical scrutiny as a Wall Street Journal or any other media company. Learning to walk straight will be key.

Living History: Marie Curie 'Historic TED Talk'

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 13, 2014

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San Francisco's Victoria Theatre hosts two performances of the critically acclaimed one-woman show: Manya: The Living History of Marie Curie

I'll be there for the Sunday performance! There is a 20% off code for SVW readers: "polonium" http://mariecuriesf.eventbrite.com/

She is a the first person to win two Nobel prizes and a fabulous example to students of achieving the heights of the scientific profession from very humble beginnings.  

Poland Accelerated: US-Poland Innovation Week

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 13, 2014

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Poland has become one of the best places for US companies to site their R&D and other operations because of the high availability of top engineers and a common cultural base. Polish teams also exhibit lower turnover which is a problem in other countries and it can lead to delayed projects because companies are constantly integrating new staff members.

The Polish economy is one of the bright spots in Europe and its information communications and tech sector is projected to nearly double from 8% of GDP to 15% in the next ten years.

There are events in Berkeley/San Francisco/Stanford University and in the Los Angeles area. The latest agenda is here. Find out more about US-Poland Innovation Week November 16 to 21 here.

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Fly With Me: Airport Security Has No Policies For 'Wearables'

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 12, 2014

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Intel Free Press writers Michael Sheehan and Marcus Yam show their smart watches at IDF 2014.

By Intel Free Press

Thinking of gliding through airport security wearing your new FitBit, Android Wear watch or soon, your Apple Watch? Think again.

New wearable technology in the form of smart watches, activity trackers and jewelry with embedded tech may cause confusion for security screeners.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have yet to write official policies around security, safety and usage of wearable technology. 

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Tibco Now: 25 Virgin Startups Announced

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 7, 2014

 

Necker Island

The 25 winners of a startup competition that attracted 2,000 entrants, were announced this week at the Tibco Now conference in San Francisco.

(Tibco Software is a former sponsor of SVW.)

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Dublin's Web Summit - A Top Show For Startups

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 6, 2014

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Royal Dublin Society is the venue for more than 20,000 people attending Web Summit.

I wish I were at Dublin's Web Summit this week. Founded by Paddy Cosgrave, it has become one of Europe's top startup conferences, along with Loic Le Meur's LeWeb in Paris next month.

I had a fabulous time two years ago and made many new friends and contacts and came away very impressed with the local startups and the serial entrepreneurs.

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Mediaco And Scalable Technologies Of Brand Publishing

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 5, 2014

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It might not seem surprising to my readers that I'm working on a project with Mediaco, a Weber Shandwick business that advertises, "We Help Every Company Become A Media Company.

Helping companies be great media companies is a noble calling these days, especially with the huge loss of skilled and experienced media professionals. There's hundreds of years of best practices that still apply regardless of paper and electron.

I'm working on an interesting project with Mediaco's West Coast lead Luca Penati and an enthusiastic team of professionals across many disciplines and locations.

This is what's needed in today's digital media worlds — the complexities of managing fragmented media channels and user interfaces across many devices requires integrated tech, media, design, SEO and communications professionals on the same publishing teams.

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St. Louis Spirit: Lockerdome And Other Standouts

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 5, 2014

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Gabe Lozano, CEO of Lockerdome.

Over the course of my career as a journalist I've met with many thousands of CEOs of large and small companies and I know quality when I see it. On my recent trip to St. Louis and my brief few days with the city's startup community, I was very impressed by the quality of the startups and also by the success of some. 

In Silicon Valley the VCs want startups to come to them and are famously averse to driving beyond a 20 mile radius of Sand Hill Road. Their belief is that the best deal flow always comes through Silicon Valley so all they need to do is sit tight.

But that's not true, there are fantastic startup teams in St. Louis, and many other innovation centers I've visited over the past ten years. There are many excellent startups that will never come to Silicon Valley for one or many reasons.

And that means Silicon Valley VCs are missing out on having access to all the best deals. The VCs know that their biggest bottleneck is a lack of great startup teams, it's not a lack of ideas. St. Louis is just four hours away from SFO.

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Educational Rocket Ships Launch 'Soda-Can' Satellites

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 4, 2014

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Intel's engineers have been working with students helping them adapt the tiny Intel Edison microcomputer to control satellites the size of a soda can. Above, a Can-Sat launch by Magnitude.io.

By Intel Free Press

Magnitude.io, a project-based education company in San Francisco, aims to boost interest in STEM subjects (maths, science, tech and engineering) with hackathon-style projects relating to the exciting world of rocket ships  and aerospace.

Students' imaginations are captured by the lure of rocketry and exploration and to attain the heights of outer space requires achieving new heights in core STEM subjects. 

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Upcoming Thomson Reuters Event - "Perspectives On Innovation"

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 31, 2014

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This looks interesting: "Perspectives on Innovation - Building our Future Today" organized by Thomson Reuters on November 6 at the Computer History Museum 5.30 to 8.30pm. 

The panel is first class: Michael Karasick, VP Innovations at IBM; Peter Lee, Head of Research at Microsoft; AnnaLee Saxenian, Dean at School of Information, UC Berkeley; Jeff Clavier Founder of SofTech VC (ex-Reuters); Tom Reilly, CEO of Cloudera. Moderated by Rob Cox from Reuters Breakingviews.

Innovation plays a significant role in economic growth and prosperity. Hear how global leaders foster innovation and how it impacts their growth, strategy and assets. 

RSVP.

Internet Archive Cloud Offers Media Archive Tools

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 29, 2014

San Francisco based Internet Archive is a fabulous venture founded by Brewster Kahle almost 20 years ago. This week the organization had a fund raiser and also announced tools to help others archive their digital media.

Brewster Kahle writes:

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Matt Taibbi Is A Rolling Stone - Exits Omidyar's $250m First Look Venture

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 29, 2014

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Matt Taibbi at a Commonwealth Club event in April 2014.

Former Rolling Stone feature writer Matt Taibbi has pulled out of a new publication funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar's $250m First Look Media Group. The unnamed publication was due to be launched in the Fall and Taibbi's departure leaves an editorial team without its chief muckraker.

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St. Louis Spirit: Cortex Urban Research Park Bucks Tech Campus Trend

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 28, 2014

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 Dennis Lower, President of the Cortex Innovation District among blueprints and maps. (CortexSTL.com)

Dennis Lower has spent nearly three decades building research parks around the US and he's at the peak of his talents and at the forefront of a very important trend: building research parks in urban settings. The goal is to build resilient communities that generate jobs from a highly skilled workforce and the spinoffs of startups.

He's responsible for the Cortex Innovation District founded in 2002, a huge area most of which is a building site with half-finished and nearly finished buildings sprouting up between buildings already staffed with researchers.

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St. Louis Spirit: Startup Voodoo - The Black Magic Of Building A Tech Business

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 27, 2014

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The central goal of my St. Louis trip was to help with Startup Voodoo, the launch of a new conference focused on helping to grow the local startup community by bringing together investors, mentors, and startups to share their lessons and encourage each other to succeed.

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St. Louis Spirit: Social Media Club - Can You Compete With Silicon Valley?

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 27, 2014

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(From my series on St. Louis startups.)

On my first day in St. Louis I was part of a panel at a meeting of the local chapter of the Social Media Club at The Wheelhouse: "The Integration of Social Technology and the Startup Mindset."

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Greenpeace Questions AMZN Green Data Center

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 27, 2014

Amazon's claims that its German data center is carbon neutral is a good step forward for the "dirtiest" cloud operator but show proof, says Greenpeace:

Greenpeace Senior Energy Campaigner David Pomerantz said: "While we would like to trust that Amazon's new [Frankfurt, Germany] facility will actually be powered by renewable sources, Amazon's refusal so far to disclose any data about its energy use makes it difficult for customers or the public to accept the company's claim on good faith alone."

"If, however, Amazon is buying renewable energy credits or carbon offsets while continuing to power its Frankfurt facility with coal or nuclear energy, then its latest data center will continue the company's track record as the dirtiest major cloud computing provider."

Greenpeace estimates that more than 60% of Amazon Web Services computing capacity comes from Virginia in the US, where 97% of the electricity is coal, gas, and nuclear. 

Greenpeace report: Clicking Clean: How Companies are Creating the Green Internet. 

Driving Hackers Away From Cars

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 20, 2014

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Was journalist Michael Hasting's car hacked? 

By Intel Free Press

Intel Research Scientists Hack Slot Cars to Illustrate Vulnerabilities and Security of IoT Hardware.

You're driving through downtown, heading to a new hot spot as your Internet-connected GPS gives you the best directions with real-time traffic updates, when suddenly your car veers out of control and accelerates onto the sidewalk. Were you just hacked?

As part of a demonstration, Intel research scientists oversimplify the risks of a world of Internet of Things (IoT)-connected devices as they remotely hack into the speed controls of a targeted slot car and force it to shoot off the track.

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St. Louis Spirit: Arch Grants Equity-Free $50K For Startups Moving To St Louis

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 16, 2014

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Ginger Imster (above) is Executive Director of Arch Grants, funded by four St. Louis philanthropists with the aim of encouraging innovative ventures that boost the diversity of tech jobs and the diversity of the population, in the St. Louis metro area. 

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St. Louis Spirit: Pixel Press - Draw A Video Game

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 16, 2014

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Robin Rath Co-founder of Pixel Press demonstrates the iPad app.

Pixel Press is a local star startup because it's raised $750,000 and has a very cool technology that converts simple drawings into video games simply by using square-lined drawing paper. It has a joint project with Cartoon Network.

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St. Louis Spirit: Bud Albers Is Chief Angel And Mentor

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 16, 2014

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Bud Albers, former Disney CTO, angel investor and CEO of ClickWithMeNow.

My first meeting in St. Louis also turned out to be one of my favorite interviews,  with Bud Albers, a veteran of many large corporations and mentor to many local startups.

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The Startup Spirit Of St. Louis - Building A Sustainable And Socially Conscious Tech Community

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 16, 2014

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With it's famous arch in the background, St. Louis celebrates 250 years in 2014.

I recently returned from 4 days in St. Louis, meeting the local startup community and contributing to a new conference, Startup Voodoo organized by local tech news site Techli and Elasticity, an innovative digital marketing agency.

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Younoodle: A Snapshot Of The Global Female Entrepreneur

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 15, 2014

Here's an interesting infographic from Younoodle, which runs startup competitions around the globe:

 

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Keep On Trucking: Planning And Hydrogen Lighten Costs And Carbon

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 15, 2014

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By Intel Free Press

At events and trade shows like International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), exhibitors often have to bring in booth materials that require giant moving trucks. The cost to transport demo materials -- sometimes across thousands of miles at a time -- isn't cheap, and fuel costs are one area where modern automotive technology can help, while also leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

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Tom Foremski is a Founding Fellow of the Society for New Communications Research - a Silicon Valley based think tank focused on developments in media and PR.


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