Steve Case talks his game


One thing I love about being in the Bay Area is that there are so many interesting events related to my industry going on all the time. Just up the street MacWorld is going off as Steve Job’s counterpoint to the CES show in Las Vegas last week. A lot of us at Six Apart are Mac fans so it’s not surprising that one of our developers went on record to gush about Apple’s latest.

Last night I headed down to Stanford to catch Howard Rheingold’s Literacy of Cooperation class and ran into Niall Kennedy who told me about a Walt Mossberg/Steve Case event over at the Computer History Museum. The format was an interview and Steve retold stories from the early days all the way up through the AOL/Time Warner merger.

Steve got his early training in marketing at P&G and one of the first lessons he learned was the value of the “free sample” in the consumer market -now we know the origin of those giveaway CDs. We also heard about his first foray at running online forums in which his strategy was to bundle access with the computer manufacturers and also make the “peripheral” modem part of the standard PC bundle. Apple was first, Tandy (Radio Shack), and then IBM. It was only when “the Apple deal blew up in our face” that Steve was forced to remove the Apple brand from the service that the AOL brand was born. Apple basically pushed Steve into the consumer business.

As someone who built a business on member-generated content and later the Chairman of a traditional media company, I was curious on Steve’s opinion of weblogs. There was a Q & A segment at the end and I took the opportunity to ask Steve this question. He was strongly in favor of this explosion of new voices and predicted that the media brands of tomorrow will rise up out of these new voices. When I followed up to ask about the role of editors in this new world, he noted that, “once you give the tools for everyone to be a publisher, you find out that not everyone is a very good publisher. There will always be a need for editors.”

[picture by Niall Kennedy]


Commuting Choices

At long last our offices are now up in San Francisco so I am no longer taking the automobile down the freeway to work each day. Now the choices of how to get to the office abound:

1. The bus can take me from Alameda to the Transbay bus terminal. There is a stop about five blocks from my house for the morning and the return lets me off just three blocks from home. On the San Francisco end, it’s a good 15 minute walk to the office through a dreary (in the rain at least) fringes of the warehouse district. There are three different bus routes to choose from, including a fancy coach-like bus (The “OX” Express) that has cushy seats and nice lighting.

Cost? $3/each way, $100/month if you buy a monthly pass.

Pros? Can drop Tyler off at school on the way to the bus stop if we motivate early enough. It’ll be nice to walk with him to school each morning when the weather gets better.

Cons? The folks that ride the bus seem a bit ground down – usually clutching crumpled up and slightly damp newspapers. With fogged up glasses and overstuffed shoulder bags, these are the worker bees.

2. There are two ferries, one from the West End of the Island and the other over in Harbor Bay. I’ve only taken the Harbor Bay but it certainly is a treat. A 15-minute bike ride along a bike trail (no traffic lights, beautiful views of the bay) takes you to the ferry dock where boats leave on the half-hour. The riders are definitely the movers and shakers, overheard conversations are of family vacations in the tropics and visits to ivy league alumni events.

Cost? Pricy at $5.50/each way, includes a “gasoline surcharge”, $150 if you buy a monthly pass.

Pros? If you absolutely must ignore the views, they have wireless. They sell coffee in the morning and beers at the bar for the ride home.

Cons? There’s a sign up for an emergency email list which indicates to me that this service is not totally reliable. At $150/month you’re talking about a $1800/year commitment.

3. I could still take a car to work and most likely will on days when I have to drive somewhere later in the day. It’s a real grind but do-able if you go either *real* early or after 9 am. Trouble with going after 9 am is that all the good city parking spots are gone so you end up paying for it on the other end. Going home is a drag too b/c of the traffic on the bridge, bring good music for the radio!

Cost? $3 going into the city on the tolls or you can go free in the carpool lane if you pick up 2 riders on the way over. Parking is the kicker – some places advertise an “early bird special” of $8/day but you need to get there fast. Usually it’s more like $10 – $15.