2005 in Review

I sort of let the holidays wash over me without taking the time to do much more than the bare minimum. I guess it’s age but it seemed like the Halloween > Thanksgiving > Christmas medley roared through before I could soak it in. I believe that is what happens as you get older – the notion of 12 months making up a year and the need to mark the passing of each one seems more and more arbitrary, unnecessary, and a bit artificial. Anyway, that’s my lame excuse for only now getting around to sending you my annual update.

This has been a year of putting down roots. It was our first full year in the San Francisco Bay Area so we spent most weekends exploring our new home. A couple of highlights:

Six Apart, the startup I worked at with my sister Mie, moves to the city and I start to commute to the city, usually by bus but when the weather was nice, by ferry which was spectacular. Tyler learns to ride his bicycle without training wheels and we join the Yarrington’s for a snowboarding trip up at Tahoe.

A quick trip out to Hawaii to relax a bit with Izumi’s parents. Sun, Sand, Surf, and garlic shrimp on the North Shore. I take a Howard Rheingold book and get hooked on SMS and the fact that I can text a friend in Scotland while waiting in line to get on a submarine in Waikiki.

We visit the Russian River for the annual Barrel Tasting festival. We taste some wonderful Champagnes and Pinots and later commune with the Redwoods and Izumi finds a giant four leaf clover. Tyler takes up t-ball and akido. We start reading the Harry Potter books together. Julia learns the theme song to the movie. My Japanese Grandfather passes away peacefully while taking a bath.

Izumi passes her written test for a California license on the third and final try. I try my hand at professional blogging and conceive, install, design, and write for, a site to promote the motorcycle wheels made by Izumi’s father’s company.

Intrigued by Daddy’s interpretation of Professor Dumbledore, Tyler takes up reading and uses a bookmark to mark his place in Green Eggs & Ham which we nibble over the course of a week. One last trip up to Tahoe where, amazingly, we ski in t-shirts.

Izumi and the kids head off to Japan for two months so that Tyler & Julia can get a taste of Japanese school. Julia’s happy to follow in Tyler’s footsteps and attend the “little t school” where Tyler went last year. Daddy catches up on some live music and sees Les Claypool, Oliver Mtukudzi, and the Devo cover band Mongoloid all one month.

Daddy, hating spending time in a big empty house by himself, finds things to do on the weekends. He goes sailing on the bay and lets his sister drag him out to a rave and ends up having a good time.

The family is rejoined in Japan where I spend a short week hitting old haunts but not able to meet everyone I would have liked. Julia’s talking up a storm in both English and Japanese and is becoming her own person. She masters the art of the batting eyelashes.

After getting my picture in the paper as a business blogging expert, I decide it’s time to push on and leave Six Apart for Yahoo. To celebrate, I buy an iPod Nano and listen to podcasts during my daily drive down to Silicon Valley. I visit my relatives out in Tennessee but decide not to try the wakeboard this time.

Mie and Dav get married, my parents visit San Francisco, and we buy a Tivo. For Halloween Julia is a generic Princess in Pink and Tyler is a Ghost Buster. We hand out $60 in candy in less than two hours and Tyler loses his first tooth and I get my first traffic ticket.

We visit the Mystery Spot in the Santa Cruz mountains and Izumi gets sick. We join a local health club situated in an old naval aircraft hanger. Tyler and Julia take up soccer lessons.

Julia gets four Barbie for Christmas and Tyler now favors his new Bionicles and Transformers over Thomas the Tank Engine. Packing our bags for a long weekend down in Monterey, I’m reminded that this is where we spent our New Year’s last year. It looks like First Night on Alvarado Street is getting to be a Kennedy family tradition. As we head into our second year on the West Coast, we look at doing more of the stuff we liked and less of the stuff we didn’t. I do believe taking stock of the year is a useful exercise and I thank you for indulging me.

A long pipe to the sea

I’m eating breakfast and the family is getting in the mood for a trip down to Monterey for New Year’s Eve. It helps to listen to the Monterey Bay Aquarium webcam with the sound turned on. If you plug it into your stereo and turn it up loud, you can hear the harbor seals.

See you in 2006! 

The Sounds of the Ocean

We’re eating breakfast and getting in the mood for the seashore. It helps to listen to the Monterey Bay Aquarium webcam with the sound turned on. If you plug it into your stereo and turn it up loud, you can hear the harbor seals.

“Human social networks constitute a habitable environment and a giant playground for memes.”

UC Berkeley grad student Sean Savage writes about social networks from the perpective of machines, corporations, and memes. Sean’s post pokes fun but is also a useful reminder of how insular and kinda creepy all this talk about "social media" must sound to the person on the street.


The Origin of Stealth Technology

My uncle tells a great story about how he discovered some of the technology that contributed making stealth aircraft. He was in charge of QA at an aircraft plant that was making wings out of composite materials. He was looking for a non-destructive way to test the makeup of composite materials to look for imperfections as they cooled. One approach he was researching was using, “non-traditional forms of energy” to look for voids in the composite structure. During the course of his fiddling around with various waveforms and orientations, he noticed that he could deflect the waves when the composites were configured in a certain way.

My uncle, upon telling his boss about this oddity, was encouraged to document his findings for a company patent. When management looked over what he had presented, they saw that he was onto something and he was called in, asked if he could get the security clearance, and the rest is history.

Besides a good story of good-ol’ American tinkering is that this transformational innovation came from, “the accidental discovery of the answer to one problem while looking for another.” Careful study, analysis, and focus groups can only get you so far – to truly innovate, you need to give a chance for opportunities that come stumbling your way sometimes by chance and be open-minded enough to trust your instincts and grab it.


Google Reader API

Niall Kennedy rolled up his sleeves and reverse engineered the Google Reader product to document the API that runs it. After posting his findings, Google let him know that they are planning on opening access to the API. Cool!

In other news, Microsoft has let it be known that the next version of Outlook will include the ability to read RSS feeds which includes the ability to drag a copy of a post into your mail folders. This feature, which is available today to anyone using the Yahoo! Mail Beta, completes the folding of RSS into the mail client where it will be indexed alongside all your email messages, further blurring the distinction between RSS and HTML email.

This is all good news in the march towards universal adoption of “feeds” as a distribution channel but spells trouble for the companies out there making their dime off a pure aggregation play. If this was a couple of years ago, I would have figured that the product that figures out how to deal with offline use and synchronization would end up the winner. Now, with over 50% of households using an always-on broadband connection, many of them equipped to handle wireless, I’m not so sure that offline is such a, “must have.” I started out using FeedDemon because it supported offline use but with the links being such an integral part of the experience of reading a feed, I rarely read my feeds unless I’m connected.

Look for Newsgator, Bloglines, and the others to differentiate themselves with innovative new features to keep themselves ahead of the pack.

UPDATE: Scoble uses this news to build his case for Microsoft to buy Newsgator. 


We’re the Nicholsons

Six Apart featured a few of our Flickr photos on their new microsite promoting how blogs can be used for a holidays. I like what they wrote about Julia’s photo under “Melanie’s Music Recital.”


Yahoo Hosts Movable Type for its Small Business Customers

So I’m really happy to see the announcement. I knew this was in the works but, because I used to work at Six Apart, I stayed away from getting too involved in the details of this partnership. I’d write more but I’m in the middle of the Syndicate conference. I’d just like to say it’s great to see blogs integrated into the Yahoo Small Business offering in a click-to-install way so that Small Business customers can take advantage of Six Apart’s premier product.

In the grand tradition of using my employer’s products, I’m moving this blog over to a new site that I set up on the Small Business service. It took me all of 10 minutes to set up my blog and import my posts into my Movable Type installation. Bear with me while I work through templates and plug-in tuning over the next few weeks.

Satellite Radio as a Wireless iPod

Thursday’s Wall Street Journal had a piece on their front page (timed for the Howard Stern’s move to Sirius satellite radio) which talked about how record companies which had cut the satellite broadcasters sweet deals on royalties because of their limited reach are now beginning to regret it.

While existing models (such as the Sirius S50 pictured) have only 1 GB of storage, the newer units due out next year are said to be able to store much more. With certain "artist only" channels for Elvis and Bruce Springsteen, these devices will become a portable "best of" device that will allow subscribers to sift through the stream and edit out and save the best of what they hear.

Other features include:

  • “My SIRIUS” channels automatically generate custom content based on your listening patterns.
  • Sports Ticker shows scores from any play-by-play broadcast on SIRIUS while listening to your favorite content
  • Game Alert prompts you when your favorite teams play and score
  • One-touch access to traffic and weather reports for your city or use to tune to your favorite SIRIUS channel

Sounds pretty compelling to me but I’m sure a satellite recorder was not what the record executives has in mind when they cut these deals. I’m sure we’re going to see a round of talks where the record companies are going to try and hobble the devices so consumers can’t do what they want to which is to have the digital equivalent of a radio/cassette player.

If the industry was really smart, they’d realize that to go against the consumer’s wishes is just an exercise in frustration for both parties and it’s much better to leverage the momentum and use digtially recorded broadcasts as a sales channel. Add meta-data to each song, detailed liner notes with information on where the song came from, which album, which musicians, a graphic of the album cover, anything that might entice the listener to dig in more. Embed information on where you can purchase the album as a "call to action."

Then let the music travel. Not only allow it to be downloaded off a satellite broadcast stream to the subscriber’s receiver, allow it to be recorded and shared. You could lower the bit rate upon export but leave it otherwise unblemished so that it can be shared with the subscribers’ friends and sent around easily with the meta-data intact. If the file name is intact, you can also track where the file gets posted and use search engines to discover where your fans are and reach new audiences. Each posting of your low bit rate song will be a beacon for one-click purchase of a high bit rate version which you sell online or as part of a pressed CD package.

The future is bright, so long as you look at it right. The power of free markets and consumer utility will ultimately prevail. It remains to be seen how long the record companies will struggle will be to keep this genie in the bottle.

How many times do I need to tell you Hashimoto-san. It’s the blue button first then the green one, NOT the other way around!

Another reason why you need a good night’s sleep before executing large block trades with other people’s money.

On Thursday morning, a trader at Mizuho Securities tried to sell
610,000 shares at ¥1 each of a job recruiting company called J-Com,
which was having its public debut on the exchange. It had actually intended to sell 1 share at ¥610,000.

Even worse, the Tokyo Stock Exchange doesn’t let you cancel a trade once it’s in the system. Imagine the horror as this guy watches the market pounce on his mistake. By the end of the day, Mizuho lost $27 million and I’m pretty sure the poor guy who made the mistake is delivering pension checks on his bicycle to little old ladies in Hokkaido.