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Category: risk

The Thinking Reed: David Sanborn on @NewsGang

The passion of David Sanborn as a player is acknowledged even by god. In the video above, watch Clapton’s face as Sanborn goes way outside and passionate on Hendrix’s Little Wing. It’s not a question of technique, but rather something deeper that is expressed through music. Standing on the stage next to the player, or from a distance through the lens of a video, you recognize that passion when you see it.

On the April 23, 2008 edition of NewsGang, that passion surfaced again. Sanborn picked up the riff and took some long solos on the current state of the American soul. It was blues writ large. Listening to the MP3 a few days later walking the streets of downtown San Francisco, his words blended with some stanzas from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl.

and rose reincarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in
the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the
suffering of America’s naked mind for love into
an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone
cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio…

  The way the Ginsberg talks about the breath line of the poem relates directly to saxophone and the music of expression:

Ideally each line of Howl is a single breath unit. My breath is long–
that’s the measure, one physical-mental inspiration of thought contained in the elastic of a breath.

The breath line poem was handed down from William Blake, through folk music, through Walt Whitman, all the way to Ginsberg and the saxophone solo. We use it to bring bodily into the world our fear of the dark potentialities of the human soul. But for Whitman and Ginsberg, America’s potential was much greater than the darkness at the edge of town. Sanborn’s solo veers into the darkness and dissonance of our possible futures, but keeps returning to the promise of the American experiment.

We live in interesting times and as Ginsberg once said, “The universe is a new flower. America will be discovered.”

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Day trading the information stream: Reading and Writing

Our filtering of information pouring off the network is starting to resemble the activity of a NASDAQ market maker. A market maker is a buyer and seller in a set of tickers on the electronic market. She’s always looking for pools of liquidity, ways to match up a buyer and sellers in whatever trading or crossing network that provides the acceptable transaction.

We are buyers and sellers of information. Techmeme, Delicious, Twitter, Google Reader, Technorati, The Gang and NewsGang, The NY Times, MSNBC, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, MySpace, CNN, your favorite Blogs, Meg Fowler, Chris Brogan, KR8TR, Karoli, C-SPAN, The New Yorker, The Public Library, News.com, TechCrunch, Mahalo, Google News, Yahoo News, ESPN, Digg, TWIT, Your personal network, and Your friend’s networks are all pushing information into the marketplace. You choose what to buy. You also sell your own writing, photos, music, films, radio into the networks you have access to, the pools the provide the most liquidity.

Just like a Hedge Fund, or a portfolio manager, we try to put together the best portfolio of feeds, and pick the best stories and pieces out of the stream. The term we hear these days is “curator” or “editor.” But the sense of time is not of the long term investor, but rather of the day trader or the market maker.

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More Rules for Startups: Embrace Error

Here are some of my rules for startups:

  • Have a great product that everyone wants
  • Enable huge margins by creating great value
  • Reduce the production cost of your product to as close to zero as possible
  • Sell lots of your product
  • Make it easy for your customers to pay you
  • If you don’t have a hit product, preserve your ability to make errors

Efficiency in a start up business has to do with your margin for error. The larger your margin for error, the better your chance of success. You want to use resources wisely so that you can make more errors. If you are a model of efficiency and save money on all the right things and don’t invest in making errors, it won’t matter.

When you find the right product or service, and the stars align, you’ll want to be able to put your foot on the gas. That takes money, it’s the moment when you test your belief in your product. It’s hiring at the right time, scaling infrastructure, buying advertising and providing adequate customer service. If your company has money, you maintain control. If you don’t, you’ll lose equity to investors in exchange for the funds to go from beta to launch.

And a final piece of advice, understand what the words ‘burn rate’ mean. Until your burn rate has crossed over the zero point, and your model is delivering on the margins in your plan, you’re on the clock. It works just like basketball, you miss every shot you don’t take. If you’re open and you have your shot, you’ve got to take it.

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Yahoo: The end is in the beginning

The word of a possible Yahoo + Murdoch deal is strange indeed. That merger would be the final transition of Yahoo from a technology company to a media company. The core values of Yahoo would undergo a fundamental transformation. In a sense, it would be a betrayal of the promise of the internet. One of the least interesting developments in the history of the internet has been the advent of regular old display advertising—and better targeting only makes it worse. Is the internet just another way to bundle up eyeballs and sell them to advertisers? That’s a one-way transaction in a medium built for multi-part two-way transactions.On the other hand, Microsoft and Yahoo is an explosive mixture that might actually result in something interesting. If Microsoft can accept a mixed operating system environment, which really means moving on to the web-based operating system, Yahoo could put its foot on the accelerator and really start to innovate.Everything comes to an end some time. Perhaps it’s Yahoo’s time. It’s the reason that personal data should be portable. Yahoo may end, but for the time being, you haven’t ended.

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