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Senator McCaskill responds!

February 25th, 2009

Yesterday, I examined why “Celebrities love twitter.” Today, Senator and twitter Claire McCaskill (@clairemc) just tweeted this concise answer:

The best part is being able to directly talk to Missourians about my day without reporters editing!

Thank you, Claire!

3. et cetera

Why celebrities love twitter

February 24th, 2009

I was at lunch with Scott Orn, a VC at Lighthouse Capital Partners, and he encouraged me to pursue this idea as a blog post.

Increasingly, A-list celebrities like Shaquille O’Neill and Demi Moore are actively updating their fans through twitter. In Demi Moore’s case, she has nearly 50,000 people following her! Even Congress is getting into the act, as 20 Senators and 50 Representatives have started twitter accounts. A friend from college has launched yardbarker.com, an amazing site that has gotten hundreds of professional athletes to blog on a regular basis and has the inside scoop on sports in general.

Why are so many celebrities and public figures “wasting” their time on social networks? Disintermediation. Now, they can offer tidbits directly to their fans bypassing the gossip rags and traditional media. By offering the personal tidbits of their own choosing, they can simultaneously help satiate their fans while controlling the spin about their lives.

Is this disintermediation a good thing? My brother-in-law, Sam, is a sport reporter, and he was bemoaning the fact that Tiger Woods issues press releases directly to his fans through his web site but does not do press conferences. Sam worried that ultimately fans were getting a disservice because they lost the chance of indepth, knowledgeable follow up questions on potentially sensitive subjects. His concern translates into a more alarming question when we turn to politics. Can we really imagine a “Watergate moment” by a blogger?

At the present time, I think the disintermediation trend is very real. We are losing our traditional “fourth estate” in the process, and hopefully entrepreneurs will create new institutions that are native to the new media to speak truth to power.

1. technology, 2. politics, 3. et cetera , , , , , ,

Oscars: two wins and one loss

February 22nd, 2009

Perhaps it wasn’t a bold prediction, but I picked Slumdog Millionaire to win Best Picture and it did. Bravo! (Win #1) Although Sean Penn was indeed terrific in Milk, I was sad that Micky Rourke did not win Best Actor for the Wrestler. (Loss #1)

But the unexpected win for the Oscars: the new format. (Win #2) I loved having previous winners make the case for each of the nominees. The new format was much more compelling than the short clips and voice overs they had in previous years. (Although Halle Berry did make a somewhat awkward speech by talking about herself, rather than the nominee.)

A few other notes. Thank goodness Benjamin Button only won a few minor awards–what an aweful movie. Thank goodness Revelutionary Road got bageled. Loved Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Understandable but sad that Frost Nixon did not win anything, but it was a very good film too.

I’ve never watched the Awards ceremony before because I found it unwatchable. I enjoyed it this year’s ceremony, which befits one of the best crop of movies I can remember in a long while.

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Best license, ever!

February 22nd, 2009

Playdate expectations

February 11th, 2009

What do you expect when you drop off your kid for a playdate? Reduce the uncertainty with this handy, dandy release form for the anxious and busy parent. Nice one, Peter!

3. et cetera ,

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

February 10th, 2009

I think Woody Allen is back. I liked Match Point a lot, but I liked Vicky Cristina Barcelona even more. Like Revolutionary Road, this movie critically examines whether modern success has meaning or if it is just a hollow notion. But unlike Revolutionary Road, though, it explores the fundamental tradeoffs–some positive and some negative–that alternative ideas of success (i.e. leading an “interesting life”) may have. In addition, it further complicates the question by comparing two women who value things in life differently.

And it doesn’t hurt that the movie has nice comedic moments too. The acting is very good, and the plot moves at a nice pace. Penelope Cruz is fantastic as the crazy ex-wife. Not quite awards material with so much stiff competition this year, but very much worth watching!

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But how do you *feel*?

February 6th, 2009

That’s one of the questions that Leonardo DiCaprio repeatedly asks Kate Winslet in the movie Revolutionary Road. It’s pretty well done, so I guess I can see why some critics and viewers would like it. But I thought it was a bit slow for my taste. Leonardo’s character had a fair amount of depth, but Kate’s character was almost singularly sad. This movie earns no award votes from me.

And how did it make me feel? Depressed!

3. et cetera ,

Insights by Hal Varian

February 3rd, 2009

McKinsey has published this terrific interview of Hal Varian, the Chief Economist of Google. (Why does Google need a Chief Economist and what does he do?!) The whole thing is worth reading, but I’ll highlight two quotes that I esepcially enjoyed.

First, he has a nice way of highlighting how digital distribution has reshaped the economics of intellectual property:

Back in the early days of the Web, every document had at the bottom, “Copyright 1997. Do not redistribute.” Now every document has at the bottom, “Copyright 2008. Click here to send to your friends.”

No longer is the Internet about ‘browsing alone’–the value comes the social activity of sharing.

Second, he validates my decision to go back and get a PhD (or at least the portion of the time that I spent studying statistics):

I keep saying the sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed that computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s? The ability to take data—to be able to understand it, to process it, to extract value from it, to visualize it, to communicate it—that’s going to be a hugely important skill in the next decades, not only at the professional level but even at the educational level for elementary school kids, for high school kids, for college kids. Because now we really do have essentially free and ubiquitous data. So the complimentary scarce factor is the ability to understand that data and extract value from it.

Unlike computer programmers (who are valuable for creating programs), statisticians are valuable not for creating new statistics algorithms but in the ability to apply statistical analyses to business problems.

I hope that Hal is right!

Via Aleks Jakulin

1. technology, 3. et cetera , ,

Predicting the demise of newspapers in 1981

January 29th, 2009

Well, it’s actually a tongue-in-cheek prediction because in 1981 it took 2 hours at $5/hr to download the entire paper (minus the pictures, ads and comics). Another interesting tidbit: they estimate that between 2,000-3,000 people in Bay Area have computers in 1981.

via Nat via techcrunch. Enjoy!

1. technology, 3. et cetera , ,

Over-rated, Overdone & Totally Missable: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

January 27th, 2009

I am trying to watch all the major Oscar nominees, and so of course, I had to watch this year’s most-nominated film, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The premise is weird: Benjamin is born an old man in 1918 and grows younger throughout the film. What might make a passable short story, however, is an interminable 2 hr 43 min movie. The plot is completely disjointed and the point, if there is one, is captured in Brad Pitt’s obvious, trite statement: “I was just thinking about how nothing lasts…and what a shame that is….”

Unlike Benjamin Button, you and I grow older if we waste our time watching pointless movies. So, skip this movie when there are so many other good ones currently out in theaters for your viewing pleasure.

3. et cetera , , ,

Anatomy of A Facebook Chain Letter

January 27th, 2009

There is an interesting chain letter circulating around Facebook asking people to post a note with 25 random things about themselves. I’ve seen 3 or 4 of them among my friends. Here are the “rules”:

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you.

The tagging part is key. Normally, tagging is supposed to be used when you write something ABOUT someone else. But functionally, tagging ensures that the note appears in the persons newsfeed.

This tactic is extremely viral. When someone reveals 25 random things, and asks you to reciprocate, it can be quite persuasive. And so the chain continues!

If you want to see an example, a blogger that I stumbled on through the SocialFeet network has posted her own 25 random things on her web site. She’s got some funny things on her list, mostly either boastful (e.g., “7. I once got an A+ in a statistics class at NYU that I only went to twice. Once for midterm review, and once for the final review“) or revealing (e..g, “23. I have a huge collection of stuffed animals, and as much as I know I should get rid of some of them, I can’t decide which to give away. Every stuffed animal contains a memory.“)

It’s one thing to spread a note like this among your friends, but it’s quite another to post it publicly on your blog. It is quite clear that Stephanie is a confident extrovert!

3. et cetera

And the winner is…

January 21st, 2009

In the past week, I have watched three great movies: Milk, Gran Torino and Slumdog Millionaire.

From Milk, I learned a lot about San Francisco history and the gay movement. Sean Penn was fantastic as Harvey Milk. I also realized that as much as I support gay rights, I have an uncontrollable aversion to watching men kissing other men. That insight has made me more interested in seeing whether such unconscious acts of discrimination translate into more meaningful decisions, like at the ballot box or for hiring decisions.

From Gran Torino, I learned an interesting lesson about violence, life and death. Clint Eastwood is fantastic. The movie moves along slowly, which is obviously intentional but almost had me giving up before the end. But that would have been a mistake, because the ending is terrific.

But my hands down pick is Slumdog Millionaire. It’s the best movie I have seen in years. Gripping story. Incredibly cinematography. Tremendous climax. (Here’s an interesting post about the ending for people who have already seen the movie.) As I saw on someone’s Facebook status update, “Slumdog Millionaire lives up to the hype. Great movie.” And my clear favorite for Best Picture of the Year.

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Obama not the first African American POTUS?

January 20th, 2009

Apparently, Condi Rice was President of the United States for about 1 minute today, beating Obama to the punch as the first black President. And we were probably under Biden’s rule for a minute or so as well, if this blog post by a constitutional law professor is to be believed:

No, the oath is *not* legally meaningless, even if it is a ritual. Art. II Sec 1. Cl. 8 of the US Const. clearly states that “Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following oath. . . ” Therefore, from 12:00 noon until about 12:01 pm today, the President of the USA was Condoleeza Rice. From 12:01 until about 12:03 pm the President of the USA was Joe Biden. Interestingly, this means that, technically, Obama was *not* the first African-American President! (And yes, I actually am a constitutional law professor!).

What good are lawyers anyway? This must be nonsense!

2. politics, 3. et cetera ,

Seven things you might not know about Madoff

January 19th, 2009

I am fascinated by the Madoff scandal. I want to understand the lessons to avoid these mistakes myself, and also to see what public policy recommendations might be in order. Bill Burnham has a nice list of 7 things about Madoff that I did not know, and that you might not know either. Two quick things: first, investors probably knew that Madoff was conducting business illegally (though not a ponzi scheme), and in fact that was part of the allure; second, Madoff championed reforms that ironically ruined his own original trading strategy.

It’s a very good list, and I recommend reading the entire post.

3. et cetera

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