Friday, June 29, 2007

Social Networking - The Beer Filter

Over the last month I have been suddenly deluged with a number of requests from friends migrating to Facebook. I signed up after they had opened up originally and quickly found that none of my friends were there. Old guy. But now they are. And in looking at Facebook and that some of my adult/real friends look like they may really be setting up their home there, it made me come to the conclusion that unlike most of the other sites I have signed up for, where I approve any friend request, I am not going to do that again.

Not this time. On Linkedin I am up over 300 people and a surprising number of them are actually friends. Then there are legions of people I met at a conference, or have had one meeting with, or I may have actually met at some time. No more of that. With Facebook I am applying the beer filter. What is the beer filter? I won't do an add friend unless I have actually sat down and had a beer with someone. The only exceptions I am making are people I work or worked with whom I might have had a beer with as part of larger company function. If the beer filter works then I may actually accumulate a good number of people who really are friends, colleagues or people I work with in business. At least that is the hope.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Avoiding Email Bankruptcy

Coming into this year, I realized that the activity level of work just continues to increase. I think there were times at Vivendi when I was possibly busier, but it had a natural ebb and flow that is different than in a startup. In a startup you have the ebb and flow but everything is on a continued upward trajectory.

I spent some time with the Getting Things Done materials and through most of this year kept telling myself that I would get rigid about how I process things. My natural state is to keep a lot of details in my head and switch back and forth very quickly. A lot of that ability was honed in my early 20s when I was a dispatcher at the studios and had to track 50+ people all day long all over Los Angeles. It was sort of like a living video game with screaming studio executives in the background. In retrospect it was really a lot of fun and to this day I can juggle a lot at the same time. This however doesn't scale.

The biggest monkey on my back has been email. I generally hover around 300 to 700 emails that are to be filed or to be responded to. In general, most of those are to be filed. With a number of posts from people like Fred Wilson making posts about email bankruptcy (deleting your inbox and starting over), I paused for a second and considered the option. My anal retentive nature with respect to information made that a bad option for me. I had to bear down and solve it. Last week as I transitioned to a replacement for my two year old laptop, I got the email box to zero. I plan to keep it there. I also am trying to use some structured approaches to deal with the scaling of information. I will keep you posted as to my success.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Mac Attack

So add me to the long list of people who switched from a PC to a Mac. I have never ever been a Mac user but the opportunity to use the Mac, PC and Unix environment on one machine was irresistible, especially as I became more comfortable with the Mac from using the Mini at home.

Yes it is great and I love it. No it isn't a social movement or the next best thing to sliced bread. My only hope is I get another 2+ years from this laptop as I did my last HP Laptop. I am thinking that I will.

One big drawback so far is the support for business nerds. Getting Outlook contacts to a Mac format was a real pain in the ass. I had to buy a $10 software package called Outlook2Mac. How I am going to sync things with my main smartphone is still a mystery to me. One big plus was the set up of my Upstage EVDO handset as a modem using Bluetooth. That ruled. No software, no discs, no drivers. It just worked. As it should.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Helio Ocean

I have been carrying around the Helio Ocean since the new phone launched. In general I don't like to talk much about carriers or devices because we work with both carriers and handset OEMs. In the past I have made the exception with Helio because I felt that they were targeting people like me as the core of their consumer base (Gadget freak, early adopter). This was based mostly on the early descriptions of their market pre-Myspace deal. The Myspace deal was confusing to me because I think that Helio, which is in general a higher end device carrier than the broad based US carriers that offer lots of phone choice as well as free phones and family calling plans, was targeted at a slightly older and slightly more affluent consumer. Given Myspace's ubiquity that may be a mistake on my part but in general I personally thought it was a head scratcher.

The Ocean, however, is the type of device I would expect from Helio. It is definitely a device like no other on a carrier today. While true their are devices like the LG Envy and others, the Ocean brings an amazing combination of hardware design and usability, with an awesome handset UI and a great network.

Big plus - The action on the Ocean (Pantek) both the traditional and qwerty side are switchblade like and is very similar to the Sony Mylo. The FAST mobile messaging and IM integration is ambitious and fairly well executed. The LBS enabled Google maps application is probably the hottest thing I have seen on a phone.

Big minus - The handset seems like it is bit under microprocessor strain. For example, although the Fast mobile IM works well, there are times when you type on the keyboard and the phone seems like it is hung, until about a minute or so later when it actually types. I can't tell if this is hardware or software related but that's a must fix in the future. No use of the device as a phone modem. Maybe that is going to change?

So to reiterate, I am exited to see Helio push the envelope with a device like this. I can't wait to see what the next devices are going to be absed on this direction. There are a number of concerns I expressed previously about the deck being kind of locked down, the inability to use Opera or Opera mini etc. that may be issues around Pantek devices specifically. In any event, I would bet that in the future those issues will fall by the wayside.

One big question I had that seems to have disappered is the H.O.T or Helio On Top application from the Ocean. I thought that in concept this was one of the coolest things that Helio was trying to do. The software for the Hero was pretty buggy but I figured that would be fixed over time. I wonder if there is a data load issue with that kind of application? Hard to say.

The ultimate question I face when I look at a device is whether or not I would adopt this as my primary phone. In this case I would give the Ocean a pretty high thumbs up in general if not for my involvement with my current phones. Yes, phones. I am still way bought into the Sidekick III. It is almost laughable that I carry a device just for IM, but it is really that good. I think that I could use the Ocean in a serviceable way, and it is certainly better than anything I have seen on other handsets including my SE P990, but it isn't as good as the Sidekick for IM. On other fronts I think it probably beats the Sidekick but as that is my primary use case, I am still going to carry the larger device.

Since I am a smartphone user, it isn't a fair comparison as a replacement for that class of device but it is certainly a top of the list phone if I were to abandon the smartphone class of device.

Hats off to the Helio team for a bold direction with their newest phone. I can't wait to see what is next.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Devices in my Bag - Phone Porn

Two things happened to me a couple of week ago that made me dump my travel bag out on the kitchen table to reassess what I am carrying around in my bag.

First my Sprint Ambassador phone, the LG Fusic expired and I had to switch to a new phone. I have to say that I really loved that Fusic.

Second, I was heading to Europe and I had to free myself of my CDMA phones. I figured that would lighten the load in the bag when you consider that I carry around power cords for all these devices.

So I thought that it might be fun to share which devices I am carrying now including a little editorial where appropriate and the promise of a full review where warranted.

Jawbone - Tom in our office was cruising around a couple of months ago with a bluetooth headset that looked like something from Counter Strike instead of a McDonalds headset. He said it was the Jawbone and it uses special technology that isolates sounds so you could in fact be mowing the lawn and talk on your phone. Not a use case I would consider but a good pitch. I found that after too many times driving my car with one hand up to my ear that I should use one of these devices. It also looks pretty cool. The noise filtering doesn't perform as advertised but how often do you mow the lawn anyways? The added side benefit is that I have been stopped by half a dozen people who have asked me if that is the Jawbone. I am impressed that they have that kind of mindshare when I have never heard or seen an ad. It could be what I am watching. For the record, I don't wear it in the office.

Helio Ocean - I have spent the last four weeks using this phone as a replacement for my Sidekick. It does some things really well and others not so well. I think this one warrants a full review. All in all I would say that it is a thumbs up, but like I said, I think it is a longer discussion.

Bluetooth Keyboard - Underneath the Ocean I have a fold out Stowaway Blue Tooth expandable keyboard. I haven't used it in over a year. I keep business cards in the bag. Reminder. Take out if bag next trip. The device was ok historically, but if I am going to bother with pulling it out, I might as well just get the laptop fired up or use the qwerty board on my other devices.

Sony Mylo - I have written about the Mylo before. Funny how it looks like the Ocean? Except no phone capabilities, and no upslide to complement the side slide. I topped up my Skype out and set up a Skype In account because I thought in Europe there would be hotspots everywhere. In fact, there were hotspots, at around $.36 a minute or $50 a day. What a disappointment. I thought I would come back with a great use case for the Mylo and it didn't happen. On the other hand, if I were in our office in London and had our own network, it would have been infinitely more affordable that using my cell phones. Next time.

The Upstage - What an awesome music phone. I can't get the Flip thing figured out. Apart from the device however, what I found intriguing is that Europeans like to say how far the US is behind Europe in mobile. In fact the media capabilities, LBS capabilites, and quality of service of Sprint and Verizon are insane. If you use some of their advanced technologies, I can't imagine that there are superior services in Europe. Now that could be my North American ignorance, but using my super fancy quad band phone on a smoking hot 3G network didn't strike me as anywhere near as fast as the data rates on US 3G CDMA. This wasn't a benchmark test and it was more my opinion, but I have to say next time I will be trying to test it more aggressively, like actually using the video calling capability.

Samsung A707 - This is my standard demo phone. Not too fancy, not too constrained although it is a 3G device. I have been using this to demo video primarily.

Nokia N73 - I have a couple of demos on this device, primarily around Flash. I generally shun Series 60 devices for demos as I think it deviates to far from where the consumer market is in terms of feature set and price. That said it is certainly a nifty phone on par with any of the high end phones I have used. I am more bought into the Symbian UIQ platform but it feels pretty close.

P990i - I love this device. It is my most favorite ever. In Europe I was able to see the nifty little 3G icon light up for the first time. That was cool.

Moto Q - I demo Windows Mobile on this. If I carried a Blackberrytreoqblackjack, I am pretty certain that this is the one I would carry.

PSP - I love this device. It isn't pictured because it was in the process of filling itself up with movies from my Tivo. Isn't that fricking cool? I can't wait until they fix the keyboard missing thing.

Marc Andreessen Blog & GoMo News

Over this last weekend I was turned on to two new blogs that I want to pass on. First, Marc Andreessen from web browser fame started a blog. It is a great collection of posts about technology, VCs and personal productivity. I'd say it is a definite subscribe given the quality of his first several posts.

The second one is GoMo News which describes itself as Edgy Wireless News. Debi Jones turned me onto it during a conversation where I lamented the shortage of good wireless blogs, or rather new voices. There are in fact a good number of mobile bloggers ala the Mobile Carnival ring, but it seems like there aren't a whole lot of new faces posting these days. Maybe they are working on companies...In any case GoMo looks promising as they are kind of irreverent and we even got singled out as a potential bubble company. Thanks guys!

Thursday, June 07, 2007


Europe was a blast. It was a really busy trip and I had a bad time with jet lag. The purpose of the trip was all business development (carriers, offdeck, community sites). We arrived in London, which was 40 degrees and raining the day we arrived. Glad it was almost summer, I can't imagine what winter is like. ;-)

Our meetings went well and I only have a couple of observations about London. First, the US dollar is in a really sad shape. The last time I had been to London was 3 1/2 years ago and I was blown away by how expensive everything was. I guess those deficits in the US aren't helping.

Second, WIFI is a joke. By that I mean that it was either a. obscenely expensive, or b. it was metered by the minute. Yes by the minute. I guess in some ways that makes sense but for something that probably doesn't have any variable cost it seemed like a big joke.

Third, I love Carphone Warehouse. What a great concept/store. Their selection was amazing and their ubiquity was impressive. I am excited to see what they do with Best Buy over here in the US.

Fourth, transportation in and around London is a pain. Granted transportation is amazing, but to get from one meeting to the next seemed to consume around twice the time that you spend in NYC doing similar things. It could be how we planned things out.

One really funny story. Right after we get to London, we showered, changed and headed to the Express. As the train pulled up, the car that stopped in front of us had a familiar face. It was Tasso Roumeliotis from Wavemarket. Now the odds that a couple guys from the west coast, who happen to work in mobile, happened to be in London at the same time, and just so happened to be on the same train, which just happened to deposit us right in front of each other was beyond comprehension. In any case it afforded us some time to catch up, compare notes and chat. They have been doing some good things with their Kid Finder application and it was good to hear that they are doing well.

In addition to the strictly business aspects of the trip I got to spend a little time with Russell Buckley from Admob who is one of the bloggers at Mob Happy.

London was a bookend on both sides of the trip and in the middle we took some of the exploding Southwest style budget airlines in Europe to Germany for meetings in Dusseldorf and Bonn. I had been to Germany back in 1997 in Munich and really liked it at the time. This time I truly fell in love with Germany. The weather was beautiful and the scenery in the Rhineland reminded me of the Pacific Northwest in summer, or something like North Carolina. Everything was very organized and clean and people spoke a lot more English than I recall.

When I returned home I had some observations about differences in the US and European market in terms of wireless coverage and services but I think I am going to hold off on that editorial until after my next trip when I have more data.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Where is Waldo?

Sometime approximately 24 hours ago I was walking through the park adjacent to Buckingham Palace. I had a bit of the jet lag sleep issue and thought a brisk walk would do me some good. Fast forward. Train to Heathrow. Pass out in Admirals Club. Run to plane. Pass out on plane. Land at JFK. Work in Admirals Club. Rush to plane. Board plane. And then the nightmare starts.

We push out and proceed to spend the next four hours touring the airport. Apparently there was some horrible thunderstorms which of course there was no evidence of at JFK. Strange. After four hours, and I began to complain loudly at two hours, they cancel our flight. Having figured as much, I was one of the first of the plane to rebook for tomorrow. Ouch, nothing until 1 PM. LA? Yes, run to gate there is one last one out. Get in plane. Plane pushes out. And we wait. Again. At least I have my EVDO phone and the laptop and they have a bit more tolerance of us tired and angry fliers. Someone said Bush flew in and did this. Seems possible but frankly all I want to do is get in my own bed. Europe was great. Recap later.