July 2008 Archive

UGBT: Feather City

We're absolutely exhausted and happy in that weird euphoric, tired way. We just got back to the hotel, but I wanted to express what a great night I had in Omaha! It was everything I hoped this tour could be. More details tomorrow.

In case the title of this post confused you, Geoff just said "ugh! feather city!" because he's getting in bed and he's allergic to feathers. But Omaha is sort of feather city too-- in that it's a nice soft, warm place to land!
Seriously-- it reminds me so much of Memphis which is a very very high compliment. AND I sold almost as many books here as I did at the mass party in DC!!

Ok, we've been up since 4 a.m. Bed time.

That's Right Icahn and Pickens: Back Off My Valley

This is petty.

But I'm glad to read this post where Carl Icahn laments that he can't so easily throw out a board anymore and this report that T. Boone Pickens lost $50 Million in speculative Yahoo buying. Icahn's lack of a clear victory had little to do with the Jabba the Hut-sized mutual funds squatting on shares. As Henry Blodget and Aaron Task have said over and over and over again on Tech Ticker-- as pissed as shareholders may have been, there was simply no reason to support Icahn. He had no plan except begging Microsoft to buy Yahoo which even a five year old could tell you isn't a good negotiating tact. He hardly even uses a computer.

You worry about creepy monopolist Microsoft having Yahoo in its clutches? What about people who probably understand as much about the Web as this guy:


I hope Pickens and Icahn just back away slowly from slumping Valley behemoths now. Sure, I have affection for Yahoo-- I wouldn't have a contract job with them if i didn't think it was a great asset. Yahoo Finance is one of the only sites I've consistently relied on throughout my career and because of that strength, in less than a year Tech Ticker has gathered an audience of several times the size of CNBC. (Sarahlacy.com is a ZImbra shop too.) But it's more than that. The Internet is so vitally important as a new platform for small businesses, independent contractors and people looking to connect and communicate with one another and Yahoo is the largest property, by several metrics. I don't want that in the hands of people who just see it as a stock transaction, damn the consequences.

Sure, if Yahoo was handed over to inept Ted Stevens-like hands, or broken into ineffectual parts that don't benefit from the fire hose of front page traffic, it'd be good for startups down the road. Say what you want about Yahoo-- it's a powerful force on the Web and if that were eroded some scrappy startup would profit. But what about the meantime? I'm not saying Yahoo is out of the woods. But these two corporate raiders are certainly not the answer.

UGBT: Omaha Welcomes Me with "Lacy Jump"

Jeff Slobotski of Silicon Prairie News welcomes me to town with the first male Lacy jump. BTW: Omahaians (word?) I will have my video camera tonight... (Also: how is your garage that CLEAN?)


Jeff jumps to promote Sarah Lacy's book from Silicon Prairie News on Vimeo.

News Feed Controls = Good News

I'm really happy Facebook is adding more controls and functionality to the News Feed. I feel horrible saying this but I hope they do take on Friendfeed more directly. It's been a great site for me in terms of syndication and whenever I go there I like it-- particularly the commenting features. But I agree with others who say it's not a Twitter substitute and frankly, I don't have the time to work another site into my everyday routine. (I know a TON of Friendfeed fans disagree...so it's not meant a condemnation of the site. Even though I invited the founders on Tech Ticker and they didn't even respond!)

In general, I am loving the new Facebook UI. I love that the site has been de-cluttered and I love the central "Wall." My only issue is the continued neglect of the fan pages!! At least in the old profile page there was the pages box. I can't seem to find an easy, one-click way to get to my fan page which is frustrating because people leave messages for me there. It's doubly frustrating because I leave messages back and people never see them. What is the point?

I've been asking, but please please PLEASE Facebook work the fan pages into the News Feed! It's one of the only real half-baked features they've done, and I always wonder why it gets no love. It reads like it was a half-hearted attempt to give people MySpace-like features (since businesses can't have profiles on Facebook, for instance) but it's as if Facebook doesn't really want that part of its audience to grow. Hmph.

Seriously I Wonder Why I Blog Sometimes.

Because I seem to inadvertently offend people I care about all the time. I didn't think my PR comment-- as covered on ValleyWag-- needed explanation because everyone standing around me (some in PR) found it just as offensive.

It's not that I don't want to be "mistaken" for a PR person or that I feel I am somehow "above" them. It's the idea that women's only possible place in the tech world is as a pretty face to charm male press into writing about them. It's not only offensive to me-- it's offensive to genuinely talented PR professionals who happen to be attractive women!!

My sincerest apologies to any PR friends I offended, but that bit of sexism has been almost a cliche joke in the Valley for a long time-- reviled by smart women in every aspect of the Valley, PR included. I'd be just as offended if someone said to me, "Oh, you must be an on camera repoter." I am an on camera reporter-- it's not a position I'm ashamed of-- but the implication is my only attribute is the way I look. Thought my meaning was understood.

Quite Different from Playboy and almost as Suprising

Another list I'm on today: NowPublic's tally of the Web's 50 Most Influential People in Silicon Valley. I'm a respectable #35. Thanks for the props guys!

But more to the point: It struck me how few "traditional" journalists are on this list. I can count them on one hand. Obviously, a group focused on "crowd powered media" is probably going to weigh things differently than if, say, a consortium of newspapers was coming up with it. Still, it pretty much sums up the two sides of the media business right now: There's a ton of pain on the traditional print side as people still grapple with the best ways to be relevant online BUT if you embrace it, iterate, experiment there's a ton of opportunity amid the chaos.

I know I wrote something critical this morning about the blog-induced 20-second hype cycle, but all things considered, I think it's a great sign of the media industry's health that so many new voices-- and new types of voices-- have become so relevant and influential so fast.

Although, as I was discussing this with my BW editor Tom Giles today, (Sorry! You didn't say off the record! ;) ) he noted that individual brands are very hard to sustain, not to mention scale. After all few of us have the energy of Robert Scoble, who may secretly have clones or twins running around with all that video equipment. Tom is right. That's why I try to have the best of both worlds: I work for myself, but heavily contract out to two strong brands in Yahoo and BusinessWeek. We'll see how long I can stay relevant!

Blantently Ripping off Dan Frommer...

But I was all alone at Yahoo HQ laughing my head off at this and it was such a nice Wednesday morning moment I wanted to share it with everyone. I don't think I ever saw the whole clip before. My, my. No wonder we're a third world country when it comes to broadband.

Oh, the news peg is this guy was charged with seven counts of "making false statements." "LOL" as they say on the tubes...[UPDATE: more on HuffPo!]

Really: Is it Cuil or Us?

Pretty harsh post on TechCrunch this morning about how Cuil "blew" it's launch in 20 seconds. It talks about the absurdly short hype-cycle of less than a minute on today's Web.

I'll be the first to say I was disappointed in the early results of a company that a lot of people I respect think very highly of. And I, too, was a bit stunned after raising that much cash and working so hard, they would launch now. And they should have kept their messaging to indexing more cheaply, the UI and privacy-- not touting greater relevancy, obviously. (We didn't even mention that one in our TT piece, because I hadn't gotten enough time to play with it.)

So yeah, they screwed some things up. But doesn't part of the blame go to the blogosphere? I'm counting me in that too. I was probably too effusive. Like everyone else in the Valley, I find technology and new companies exciting and Cuil has a great story. But you don't make up for that by then eviscerating a company. It doesn't somehow balance out in the greater cosmic order. TechCrunch says the whole thing was Cuil's fault because they didn't let pre-briefed bloggers use the service. Ok, that was dumb, but take some responsibility! No one forced you to write a glowing piece before you'd used the site. If I erred in being too excited about Cuil, that was my bad as a reporter, not the company's. (For the record, I seem to be the only blogger in the land who didn't get a pre-brief, I had just heard a lot about the company from sources for more than a year so I'd been anxious to check it out for some time.)

At some point, the tech blogosphere has to break itself from the junky-like addiction of having to get a story two seconds before the competitor. Can it really drive that much traffic when every other blogger got the same pre-brief? Isn't it better to wait a bit, use the service and write something smarter?

If we've got a 20-second hype cycle in the Valley, that's not Cuil's fault. And I don't think it's serving readers well either. If we write something is amazing in the morning and then total junk in the afternoon, does anyone looking to tech blogs for analysis keep coming back?

I, for one, am not writing the company off after one day. Launches are hard. How many of the products we use and rely on today were perfect the day they launched? I've invited the founders to come on TechTicker and hope they accept. I'd love to hear their thoughts on why the launch day went the way it did and whether they're worried about the backlash or just chalk it up to the increasingly schizophrenic blogosphere.

Hey, You, Get Off Of My Cloud!

This is yet another guest post by my super popular contributor and Twitter friend, Paisano. This time I asked him to do a think piece on that over-used buzz word of tech buzzwords, THE CLOUD! Enjoy!

The rumblings you hear overhead isn't thunder but everyone scrambling to setup shop in the cloud these days. The consensus is that we want to run and store all of our stuff in one centralized location online, not in several different local destinations which is a headache and time consuming. Let's focus on the cloud computing strategies for three of the biggest angels on the web these days: Yahoo, Microsoft and Google.

What's Up, Bitches?

That's what I jokingly titled my column I just filed for BusinessWeek. (Late, again.) The column was about women in Silicon Valley, a topic my very benevolent, smart and good looking BW overlords asked me to tackle. (Can you tell I'm trying not to get fired for so many late columns?)

My first reaction was "Sure, I can write that in my sleep!" But it wound up being incredibly hard. For one thing, I think the position of women in the Valley is really at a crossroads and I wasn't initially sure how to wrap my head around a lot of conflicting data points. And contrary to popular opinion we don't all move in lock-step making sweeping generalizations pretty hard. Anyway, read the column later this week to see how I sorted it all out.

A woman's place in this industry has been heavy on my mind lately. First, there was that whole Playboy thing that so many people freaked out about, then this odd occurrence at the TechCrunch party (more funny in its textbook "what-you-don't-say" quality than truly offensive) and the most recent visit to the Valley from the girl no one can agree on: Miss Julia Allison. As you know from reading this blog, I like Julia. Is she any kind of serious tech or business journalist? No. But she's not trying to be. After having many a late night conversation with her about business and brand, I can say she's not just a fluke or a pretty face or a girl who had her career bestowed upon her by Nick Denton's magic wand. She's a savvy business woman and she's learned a lot in the last few years. I had her come by TechTicker to share her thoughts on why companies shouldn't be afraid to brand employees. Believe it or not, it's not too different from the advice Charlene Li gives companies in Groundswell. Clip below:

I get a lot of grief for being friends with Julia. But you know what? People also probably get grief for being friends with me. If there's one thing I've learned from my life on the Internet it's not to believe everything you read about people, but to meet them and judge for yourself.

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Srah Lacy

Sarah Lacy is an award-winning reporter who has covered high-growth entrepreneurship for more than fifteen years. She is the founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of PandoDaily.com, the site-of-record for the startup ecosystem. She lives in San Francisco.

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