Marc Andreessen’s Library: Books still have power

September 15, 2016

Books still have power.  Did you know that the Silicon Valley venture capital company Andreessen Horowitz has a carefully curated library of 800 books in its waiting room?  A lot of people do now, because of this article in Wired magazine by Cade Metz. Each of the books has been selected and placed there by Marc Andreessen, the firm’s co-founder (and one of the original Internet browser inventors through Netscape).  The collection – focussing on Hollywood, Silicon Valley and computer programming – is so legendary that “as authors and publicists come through, many of them slot in their own books—sometimes in bulk”, Metz writes.  “Andreessen is the room. And the room still has the desired effect: It makes you want to talk to the people inside.”

According to the article and the photographs accompanying it, the library includes many of my favourites, including Neal Gabler’s An Empire of Their Own:  How the Jews Invested Hollywood, David Thomson’s The Whole Equation:  A History of Hollywood and Clay Shirky’s Cognitive Surplus.


Uber promotion crosses to the material world

August 31, 2016

There is no doubt that the digital world is changing our lives in profound ways.  Not only publishing, film and television production/distribution, newspapers and music are affected.  Accommodation – think Airbnb.  And of course now taxis and ride-sharing: think Uber.

So it comes as a shock when a digital organisation does promotion and advertising in the “material world”.  That’s just what Uber did in downtown Sydney, with a host of people handing out Uber “starter” discount cards (see below).  Perhaps there is a limit as to how much promotion can reach in the digital world?


Silicon Valley’s View of the World

February 6, 2016

As I have written about previously, California is another world. Endlessly fascinating, endlessly changing. It is also becoming the power centre of our current world. New York, London, Los Angeles, sure. But think Silicon Valley, a place so powerful that it has turned San Francisco into its “bedroom community”, according to Rebecca Solnit and others. (I suspect that if you live there, this is so not news.) Why has Qantas started direct flights to San Francisco from Sydney? Easy to answer, that.

Still not convinced? What’s the most valuable company in the world, by market capitalisation? Apple. Also in the top five: Google and Microsoft. Microsoft? I hear you say, isn’t that so last century? Apparently not.

In the November 2015 issue of “The Atlantic”, the “View from the Valley” column reported on a survey of 101 technology leaders. Go to the article for all the results, but here are some highlights:

Who would the tech leaders vote for?
– Hillary Clinton, 43%
– Bernie Sanders, 11%
– Jeb Bush, 5%
– Lawrence Lessig, 2%
– Marco Rubio, 2%
– Martin O’Malley, 2%
– Warren Buffet, 2%
– “Anyone but Trump”, 5%
– Undecided, 28%

Which TV show or movie of the past decade best captured the culture of Silicon Valley?
– HBO’s “Silicon Valley”, 37%
– “The Social Network”, 12%
– “Game of Thrones”, 7%
(This was before the release of the current “Steve Jobs” film.  My review to come next week.)

In 20 years, which of the following companies will still be in business?
– Apple, 95%
– Google, 94%
– Amazon, 91%
– Facebook, 75%
– Microsoft, 71%
– IBM, 54%
– Uber, 52%
– LinkedIn, 48%
– PayPal, 39%
– eBay, 29%
– Twitter, 23%
– Yahoo, 16%

(My comment: the ephemeral nature of the tech industry is a wonder to behold. And these hard insights are a real lesson to those of us who think that what we see now will be there in the future. Isn’t Yahoo about to disappear – despite the fact that it still has one of the biggest media audiences in the world?)

Could the Sony hack happen to your company?
– Yes, 74%
– No, 24%
Comment by Dev Ittycheria, President and CEO of MongoDB: “Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves.”

San Francisco and the changing future of tech

December 26, 2013

The day after I graduated high school in New Jersey, I flew to San Francisco.  It was my first trip to that city, and I was visiting my girlfriend, who lived in Tiburon.

The next ten days became one of life’s memorable “moments”, and San Francisco has played a role in my dreams ever since.

And I am not alone.

More than probably any other city in the USA – and possibly the world – San Francisco is setting the trends, pace and norms of social interaction for the twenty-first century.

The latest person to chronicle this evolution is Nathan Heller, whose article “Bay Watched: How San Francisco’s new entrepreneurial culture is changing the country”, appeared in the October 14, 2013 issue of The New Yorker.  (The full article is freely available on The New Yorker website.)

Heller is an interesting character.  He grew up in San Francisco and graduated from Harvard University in 2006, a classmate of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.  In fact, Zuckerberg lived only a few rooms away from him during their freshman (first) year.  In his devastating critique of how the film “The Social Network” got Harvard wrong, Heller writes of his classmates: “The kids entering Harvard in 2002 came largely from pressure-cooker public schools, dorm-room entrepreneurships, the cutthroat upper echelon of prep institutions, or, in my case, the all-weather-fleece-wearing wilds of San Francisco.”

Zuckerberg, as we all know, came from a combination of “upper echelon of prep” schools (he attended Phillips Exeter Academy) and “dorm room entrepreneurship”.

All of this is relevant to Heller’s insights into the new technological elite.  He grew up where it is happening, and he went to college with those (Zuckerberg et al) who are making it happen.  By his own admission, Heller never learned how to drive, and currently lives in New York City.

Heller’s description of San Francisco is both literary and colourful:

San Francisco has traditionally been a Dungeness crab of a city, shedding its carapace from time to time and burrowing down until a new shell sets….  San Francisco has never been dominated by anything, but it’s always ended up pre-eminent in something. Gold, for instance. Free love. Microchips….  Those irked by change rarely stay long.

Lately, the pattern has begun to break. San Francisco is an industry town. This industry is usually called “tech,” but the term no longer signifies what it used to. Tech today means anything about computers, the Internet, digital media, social media, smartphones, electronic data, crowd-funding, or new business design.

At some point, in other words, tech stopped being an industry and turned into the substrate of most things changing in urban culture.

Heller continues that, “Everyone had a sense that Northern California was the source” of these major cultural changes, yet few people actually understand why.  San Francisco has come to personify the new capitalist technological elite, one that is increasingly populated by the young.  Its “growing startup culture has a dreamy, arty, idealistic bent: this is the whimsy of youth carried to a place where youth and whimsy have not often thrived.”  This is a throw-back to the 1960s, but with a major difference:  unlike the hippie “communitarian” focus, this “rising metropolitan generation … is creative, thoughtful, culturally charismatic, swollen with youthful generosity and dreams—and fundamentally invested in the sovereignty of private enterprise.”

This is not limited to the San Francisco Bay area.  You find it in parts of New York City, in Austin, in Seattle and in the back streets of Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Here in Sydney, there is a thriving young tech entrepreneurial culture nesting in inner Sydney suburbs, from Pyrmont and Ultimo through the central business district to Darlinghurst and Surry Hills and reaching to the lower north shore.  The same exists in Melbourne, and – I am sure – many other major cultural capitals.

This is not a particularly new phenomenon.  I sensed this in my own flirtation of working as a business development manager in a (soon to fail) tech start-up during 2000 and 2001.  We wore collared t-shirts with the company name emblazoned on them, and – even then – took all of our cultural cues and most of our professional language from Silicon Valley.  I was the second oldest employee.

So while not new, as 2013 comes to a close, San Francisco has increased its dominance of our tech dreams.  Facebook did not exist back in 2000 (Zuckerberg and Heller were still juniors in high school), Google was still in its infancy and Apple was struggling.

I cannot predict where this world will be in another ten years, but I do know this:  San Francisco will continue to personify the hopes, dreams and business models of that world, one that will arrive sooner than we think.

San Francisco from water

Evernote California and technology marketing

December 4, 2013

This week’s Time magazine includes a very complimentary feature article about the Silicon Valley company Evernote, whose motto is “Remember everything”.

Have a look at the photo below; it accompanies the article (and you can see a portion of it online):

Evernote CaliforniaNote the unusual inclusion of the word “California”.  So it reads “Evernote California Remember Everything”.

I have been writing for some time how the California brand (see Apple) has now become such an important part of the technology marketing.  What, exactly, is it about California that is meant to convince us?  I am not sure, but clearly people believe that the California identification is important.

Designed by Apple in California – the new campaign

July 1, 2013

As my post earlier this week details, California’s lock on our imagination continues, this time with Apple.

Apple’s latest campaign goes under the name “Designed by Apple”, and features two different videos, both of which end with the tagline “Designed by Apple in California”.

“Apple=California”.  Never mind that my iPhone was manufactured in China.  It was designed by Apple in California.  That’s all that matters.

If the Chinese think they will ever catch up to the Americans, it’s only when we are convinced by the statement “Designed in China” that they have a chance.  This may happen, but I am not certain if it will be in my lifetime.

Apple’s “Intention” video launched the company’s “World Wide Developer Conference 2013” (10-14 June), held in the Moscone Center in San Francisco.   The video is worth viewing – it was already viewed by some 695,731 people by the time I got there:

There is a specific reference in the video to “saying no”, a point that that Steve Jobs made in his presentation to the World Wide Developers Conference in 1997, in which he stated:

People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.  (Click here for the full video of Jobs in 1997.)

And here is a copy the “no” frame below:

There are a thousand nos

And here is the just released “Made by Apple in California” TV ad (1’02”) that Apple has released:

The word text of this ad is:

This is it. This is what matters. The experience of a product. How it makes someone feel. Will it make life better? Does it deserve to exist? We spend a lot of time on a few great things. Until every idea we touch enhances each life it touches. You may rarely look at it. But you’ll always feel it. This is our signature. And it means everything.

There are also “still image” advertisement forms of this campaign.  I sure noticed it here in Sydney with a full two-page spread advertisement by Apple in The Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 29 June 2013. They repeated it again today – Monday 1 July 2013, with a two page spread on pages 2 and 3, the first time I can remember such a spread so close to the front of that paper (Good on ‘ya, Apple, for supporting that old analogue – print – media!  I sure paid attention to it.)  Can we expect more in the next few days?

Complete text of the newspaper ad – which includes more words than the 1’02” video version – reads as follows (including their actual formatting, spelling and punctuation) – an expansion of the words in the TV ad above:


This is it.

This is what matters.

The experience of a product.

How it makes someone feel.

When you start by imagining

What that might be like,

You step back.

You think.

Who will this help?

Will it make life better?

Does it deserve to exist?

If you are busy making everything,

How can you perfect anything?

We don’t believe in coincidence.

Or dumb luck.

There are a thousand “no’s”

For every “yes”.

We spend a lot of time

On a few great things.

Until every idea we touch

Enhances each life it touches.

We’re engineers and artists.

Craftsmen and inventors.

We sign our work.

You may rarely look at it.

But you’ll always feel it.

This is our signature.

And it means everything.

Designed by Apple in California


Poetry?  Yes.  Certainly consistent with previous Apple campaigns, going back to their “Think” campaign.

Here is a grainy photo so you can see the “analogue” version of the ad:

Apple ad SMH 29June2013

Postscript on 19 July 2013:

Apple continues its admirable financial support for the Sydney Morning Herald, with yet another two-page “Designed by Apple in California” ad on pages 2 & 3 of today’s paper.   See below:

SMH Designed by Apple 19July

Ad watch: one cool ad for the iPad mini

December 9, 2012

Here’s a cool ad for the iPad mini which appeared on the back cover of the November 26, 2012 edition of The New Yorker:

iPad Mini ad with New Yorker cover Nov 26 2012

And why is it so cool?  Have a look at the cover of that edition.  Look familiar?  (I suspect that The New Yorker won’t be too upset at my reprinting their cover, as they already have ….).

New Yorrker cover Nov 26 2012


Superstorm Sandy and telecommunications

November 3, 2012

Lots of coverage of “Superstorm Sandy” here in Australia.  But here’s a fascinating summary of the storm and telecommunications infrastructure, supplied by the Benton Foundation (“media and telecommunications in the public interest”).  Entitled “Sandy, Sandy, my darlin’, you hurt me real bad“, it summarises the policy and operational issues (including details no-one else writes about, such as how many cable TV services were lots and how many cell phone towers were damaged) connected to the storm.  It concludes that “What this week teaches us, again, is that during an emergency, one of the most precious commodities is information and the ability to communicate it without impediments.”

The future of tablets

January 31, 2012

For those who follow developments in technology, it’s good to be able to access very smart professional and up-to-date research.  The phenomenon of tablets is certainly one which I am seeking to try and understand, and I have found an excellent free report by Euromonitor (alerted courtesy of a LinkedIn colleague):   The presentation The Future of Tablets: Segmentation, Forecasts and Implications for Related Products – originally made at the International CES in Las Vegas earlier this month (January 2012) by analysts Mykola Golovko and Marco Salazar is now available for free download.

Summary of key findings:

– Tablet sales will continue to increase, reaching an expected 165 million units sold in 2015.  There will be continued “price erosion”.

– In 2013 through 2015, demand is expected to shift from developed markets to emerging (“developing”) markets.

– Smartphone growth will remain unaffected in the coming years.

– Laptops will continue to drive revenue in computers.

– Media tablets will remain dominant for now, but hybrid models are likely to develop in the long-run.

– Content will remain very important.

Interview on technology in The Australian IT section

September 30, 2009

I was interviewed by The Australian‘s IT section (journalist Jennifer Foreshew) on Monday 28 September 2009.  The article discussed the Rural Health Education Foundation’s use of technology in delivering its programs.  You can view the full article online through this link,24897,26136966-5013040,00.html (but note that The Australian often does not keep its pages accessible that long).  The full article is reproduced below:

Jennifer Foreshew | September 29, 2009

THE Rural Health Education Foundation expects to trial the delivery of its training programs, which reach an audience of 100,000 health professionals, via handheld devices within a year.

The non-profit foundation produces and packages information on a range of health and medical issues and makes it available to rural and remote areas via satellite, webcast and DVD.

It operates a network of more than 660 satellite receiving sites nationally, called the Rural Health Satellite Network. The network is one of the largest dedicated networks of its kind in the world, reaching more than 90 per cent of rural doctors and other health professionals.

Rural Health Education Foundation chief executive Don Perlgut said the organisation was producing most of its live programming via simultaneous satellite television and webcasts.

The foundation, which used the Optus Aurora platform, was focused on accessibility and content delivery to its audience.

“One of the things we are examining is how we make our programs as suitable as possible for delivery to handheld devices, not just the mobile,” he said.

The next stage was to “retro-fit a program for use on a handheld device”.

Another issue was formatting and, Mr Perlgut added: “Do we need to shoot them differently and offer them in six or seven-minute programs rather than 60 minute programs.”