Current Events

Dave McClure: One can only go to Zero

Dave McClure

I was listening to Jason Calacanis interview Dave McClure on his This Week in Startups podcast and had to share this amazing rant on the sorry state of investing in the United States. Dave rants on the lopsided, systemic governmental bias towards the real estate business. The worst you can do when you invest in a start-up is lose all your money while, with real estate, you can leverage your down-payment to the point where you’re upside down on your mortgage and have to have your backing institutions bailed out by the taxpayers.

There will be people in their 70’s who are clearly credited investors with millions of dollars who should not be investing in fucking startups and there are kids with $10 in their pocket who know more than you or I do. Net worth is not the intelligence test for investing in startups.

There’s a certain amount of money that anyone should be able to fucking burn or blow on startups. We encourage a ridiculous amount of money to go into the residential real estate market which has burned people fucking terribly in the last five years. Ridiculous numbers of people in this country are upside down on their mortgages and bankrupt because legitimate, regulatory-approved agents have shoved real estate fucking mortgages down their throats. We have subsidized this with our tax dollars, we are the people.

Like you fucking blame the investment bankers? Fuck You.

It’s you voting for your representatives who are in the pockets of Sallie Mae Ginnie Mae, Fannie Mae, whatever who are shoving shit down the pipe. Like Moody’s and all these other people who have crap verification. . .

If you want to protect the small investor, don’t let them buy a house in this country, because that is the most dangerous thing you can do with your money. Period.

Investing in startups which might fail? You only lose $1. You invest in a house, you put 5% down or sometimes 0% down and you can lever up a ridiculous amount of money. You can lose 20 times your investment and people do it every day and they think it’s a good idea.

The whole interview is amazing but scroll forward to the 1:00:00 for the rant on “accredited investor” requirement for start-up investors.


Feature List for an RSS Reader

With the announcement of the sunsetting (never did like that word) of Google Reader, a discussion was kicked off at work over what features would make up an ideal RSS reader. Everyone at GigaOM is a voracious reader so we like to compare information processing tools and techniques like foodies discuss recipes.

Here’s my short list:

  • Must be able to import an OPML file. The easiest way to get started is to load up your existing collection of feeds.
  • Must export OPML. Never trust a platform that doesn’t support data portability.
  • Must keep track of what you’ve read.
  • Must have a mobile version that syncs what you’ve read with on the desktop, mobile, or anywhere else
  • Must support pubsubhubub so news is pushed and realtime if the feed supports it.
  • Must be able to browse by feed or as an aggregated, reverse-chron sorted river of news
  • Must support browsing by headline, excerpt, or full-text
  • Must support rich media so the reader can be used to browse video, podcasts, and photo feeds. Bonus points if you can output a photo feed as a screensaver.

Then there are the extra features are what would put one reader above others

  • Provide search across all feeds. This is your slice of the best of the internet after all.
  • Add the ability to star or otherwise mark items for simple re-tweet behavior. Let people publish a feed of these curated items so others can follow your information exhaust. Even better is to re-create the “share with note” feature in Google Reader and you’ve got a light-weight tumblr network.
  • Add the ability to follow other people and add their feed bundles to your collection. This was the single best feature of Google Reader and the one that, when taken away, killed off the future of the product.
  • Decay. Add a natural decay to feeds that do not get a lot of your attention. Provide a bookmarklet that lets you grab and add feeds as you find interesting posts across the internet but feel safe in the fact that if you let a feeds’ post go unread, that the feed itself will eventually drop off your main view, keeping things clean and focused.
  • In the day and age of Twitter & Facebook, have a pre-set filter that reads your social feeds and parses out all the links you add and puts them into a folder which you can search across or curate & share back out.

Finally, there is the uber-geeky-cool feature that I built with the MyBlogLog team, the Interest Engine. The vision was that you would pipe all your feeds through the reader and the tags on all those feeds and shares would feed the algorithm to improve what bubbles up in your aggregated newsfeed. If you subscribe to a bunch of blogs about “fly fishing,” use that as a signal and focus posts from other, more generic feeds on your interests so that if a story about Fly Fishing flows across your New York Times feed, it gets higher placement.

So that’s my list of MVP features & nice to have differentiators.  Did I miss any?


Some choice words from Chris Wetherell, one of the original engineers on Google Reader, on the effervescent business opportunity of the GReader community.

Dave Winer shares his thoughts on how he would build RSS anew. Centralized OPML profiles (as were offered by GReader) are key.


Internet of Things – What Things?

All joking aside, the internet of things is a technology looking for a use. The geek in us tells us that connecting devices together is a good thing. Networks are better than the sum of it’s parts. Choice is better than none at all.

Back in the day, I had a friend who set up a macro on his Palm V to wake up each morning and emulate his remote control and turn on and tune his TV to the morning news. Sure he had to remember to set his Palm on the coffee table each night so the IR sensor could reach his television but the combination of a simple cron entry and an IR emulator added value not only to the Palm but also to the TV which had a new purpose as an alarm clock.

Mousetrap, the game

Let’s run through some of the previously inanimate objects that now can be addressed by a network. I’m not including things such as a computer or the Arduino which is like the breadboard for the internet of things. I’m focused more on single purpose devices or sensors which can be networked. A partial list includes,

What happens when we hook this stuff together in the cloud. What use cases can you imagine?

More reading:

GigaOM posts tagged Internet of Things

ReadWrite posts tagged Internet of Things

TechCrunch posts tagged Internet of Things

Mashable posts tagged Internet of Things

Current Events

My Kitchen Just Crashed

It started with devices such as Nest, the connected thermostat, and Withings, the connect scale. As more and more devices hook into our home network, the opportunity to have them talk to each other begets scenarios that harken back to the Connected Home visions from the 90s. Remember the internet-enabled refrigerator? Samsung now makes one.

All this reminded me of this piece about the Connected Home that was floating around on usenet way back in the day. It’s enjoyable to read as a lens into the mid-90s and what they thought of the future. It also reminds us of how far we’ve come. Thanks to Google Groups’ archive I was able to dig up the original which unfortunately was never signed. Enjoy.

The Diary of a Digital Homeowner:

Nov 28, 1997:
Moved in to my new digitally-maxed out Hermosa Beach house at last. Finally, we live in the smartest house in the neighborhood. Everything’s networked.  The cable TV is connected to our phone, which is connected to my personal computer, which is connected to the power lines, all the appliances and the security system.  Everything runs off a universal remote with the friendliest interface I’ve ever used. Programming is a snap.  I’m like, totally wired.

Nov 30:
Hot Stuff!  Programmed my VCR from the office, turned up the thermostat and switched on the lights with the car phone, remotely tweaked the oven a few degrees for my pizza. Everything nice & cozy when I arrived. Maybe I should get the universal remote surgically attached.

Dec 1:
Had to call the SmartHouse people today about bandwidth problems.  The TV drops to about 2 frames/second when I’m talking on the phone.  They insist it’s a problem with the cable company’s compression algorithms. How do they expect me to order things from the Home Shopping Channel?

Dec 3:
Got my first SmartHouse invoice today and was unpleasantly surprised. I suspect the cleaning woman of reading Usenet from the washing machine interface when I’m not here.  She must be downloading one hell of a lot of GIFs from the binary groups, because packet charges were through the roof on the invoice.

Dec 8:
Yesterday, the kitchen CRASHED.  Freak event.  As I opened the refrigerator door, the light bulb blew. Immediately, everything else electrical shut down — lights, microwave, coffee maker — everything. Carefully unplugged and replugged all the appliances. Nothing.

Call the cable company (but not from the kitchen phone).  They refer me to the utility.  The utility insists that the problem is in the software.  So the software company runs some remote telediagnostics via my house processor.  Their expert system claims it has to be the utility’s fault.  I don’t care, I just want my kitchen back.  More phone calls; more remote diag’s.

Turns out the problem was “unanticipated failure mode”:  The network had never seen a refrigerator bulb failure while the door was open. So the fuzzy logic interpreted the burnout as a power surge and shut down the entire kitchen.  But because sensor memory confirmed that there hadn’t actually been a power surge, the kitchen logic sequence was confused and it couldn’t do a standard restart.  The utility guy swears this was the first time this has ever happened.  Rebooting the kitchen took over an hour.

Dec 7:
The police are not happy.  Our house keeps calling them for help.  We discover that whenever we play the TV or stereo above 25 decibels, it creates patterns of micro-vibrations that get amplified when they hit the window.  When these vibrations mix with a gust of wind, the security sensors are actuated, and the police computer concludes that someone is trying to break in. Go figure.

Another glitch:  Whenever the basement is in self-diagnostic mode, the universal remote won’t let me change the channels on my TV.  That means I actually have to get up off the couch and change the channels by hand.  The software and the utility people say this flaw will be fixed in the next upgrade — SmartHouse 2.1. But it’s not ready yet.

Finally, I’m starting to suspect that the microwave is secretly tuning into the cable system to watch Bay Watch.  The unit is completely inoperable during that same hour.  I guess I can live with that. At least the blender is not tuning in to old I Love Lucy episodes.

Dec 9:
I just bought the new Microsoft Home.  Took 93 gigabytes of storage, but it will be worth it, I think. The house should be much easier to use and should really do everything.  I had to sign a second mortgage over to Microsoft, but I don’t mind:  I don’t really own my house now–it’s really the bank. Let them deal with Microsoft.

Dec 10:
I’m beginning to have doubts about Microsoft House. I keep getting an hourglass symbol showing up when I want to run the dishwasher.

Dec 12:
This is a nightmare.  There’s a virus in the house.  My personal computer caught it while browsing on the public access network.  I come home and the living room is a sauna, the bedroom windows are covered with ice, the refrigerator has defrosted, the washing machine has flooded the basement, the garage door is cycling up and down and the TV is stuck on the home shopping channel.  Throughout the house, lights flicker like stroboscopes until they explode from the strain. Broken glass is everywhere. Of course, the security sensors detect nothing.

I look at a message slowly throbbing on my personal computer screen: WELCOME TO HomeWrecker!!! NOW THE FUN BEGINS …  (Be it ever so humble, there’s no virus like the HomeWrecker…).

Dec 18:
They think they’ve digitally disinfected the house, but the place is a shambles.  Pipes have burst and we’re not completely sure we’ve got the part of the virus that attacks toilets. Nevertheless, the Exorcists (as the anti-virus SWAT team members like to call themselves) are confident the worst is over. “HomeWrecker is pretty bad” one of them tells me, “but consider yourself lucky you didn’t get PolterGeist.  That one is really evil.”

Dec 19:
Apparently, our house isn’t insured for viruses.  “Fires and mudslides, yes,” says the claims adjuster. “Viruses, no.” My agreement with the SmartHouse people explicitly states that all claims and warranties are null and void if any appliance or computer in my house networks in any way, shape or form with a non-certified online service.  Everybody’s very, very, sorry, but they can’t be expected to anticipate every virus that might be created.

We call our lawyer.  He laughs.  He’s excited!

Dec 21:
I get a call from a SmartHouse sales rep.  As a special holiday offer, we get the free opportunity to become a beta site for the company’s new SmartHouse 2.1 upgrade.  He says I’ll be able to meet the programmers personally.  “Sure,” I tell him.