I’ve become my parents when it comes to music

Not in terms of enjoying the same music, but I realized today, that I’m exactly like them in terms of knowing what band is playing what. My wife is way better at knowing what band is what, who is playing what song. I’ve almost completely lost it. It’s not from lack of listening to music. I listen to music all the time. There’s a ton of songs that I truly love and listen to on a regular basis, but I hardly remember any of the bands names or the name of the songs.

I think some of it has to do with the fact, that unlike a lot of my friends, I never was particularly interested in the specifics of a band. For example, I only know the members of Metallica because I’ve liked them for so long (their old stuff) and had many friends that were all about the history of the band. However, I have no idea nor do I care, who makes up the group Black Mill, or even if it’s just a single person. Not interested. I love the music, willing to pay for it. But I don’t care so much who it is.

This is definitely something that’s evolved over time. I think it has to do with the fact that a lot of my friends, and I mean A LOT, growing up were super in to music. Back home I have a ton of musicians friends and even more than are audiophiles. People obsessed with the ins and out of bands and listening to music. As I’ve moved around over the course of the past 13 years since HS, I’ve met less people with that deep rooted passion. I think that because of that continual influence of music lovers in my life, I’ve just gradually become even less interested in knowing anything about the band that I’m listening to.

I’m kind of disappointed in this, but I think that this is reflective of a general lack of interest I have for a lot of things over time. For instance, I love playing video games. For about a month. Then I gradually become less and less interested in that and try to find something else that can consume my time. I basically quit cold turkey from a point where I essentially only thought about the game, played it day and night, and couldn’t wait to get more. Then a switch will hit and I’m suddenly not interested any more and just kind of move on.

I love music, but I don’t think I’ll ever know all the bands playing on the radio at a given time like I did when I was in High school. I’m glad that there are people out there like that, because they continually feed me new music to listen to. Which is really awesome, cause I’d almost never find new music on my own.

Business, processes, and things to drive improvement

About a week ago I was at PegaWorld. I’ll tell you what, for a rather dry business application – business Process Management, those guys know how to party. That being said, it is a really powerful platform to help automate existing processes or to interact with other systems to put a wrapper around the inputs and outputs of that system. That’s pretty powerful. Pega is one of those pieces of software that has the potential to “disrupt” the way traditional software is built. Essentially it eliminates the need to actually develop software the old fashion way, and allows users to create process flows that then generate the underlying Java. Now that doesn’t mean all coding will go away, especially at the interface API level, but it’s still a huge step forward to leveling that playing field.

I think this raise an interesting point, software is going to eat the world according to a lot of VC type folks. However, what happens when a piece of software enables more people to do what software was enabling people to do? I think it’d drive down the cost of enabling automated solutions. Not only are there super high level “languages” like Pega, there’s also a great deal of higher level programming languages out there, such as Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, Python, and others that help to develop the application as you’re building it. Swift from Apple is another such language. It shortens the learning cycle. I’m partially through building an App in Rails and I’d never used it before, it’d be a lot harder to do the same in Java alone.

All of this really drives a concern – we could just automate bad processes. Things that doing faster don’t actually help any customer or ourselves actually accomplish any sort of goal. This is a problem if you don’t actually understand what you’re trying to do. This is something that I think a lot of startups miss – who cares that I can really efficiently do something, when some thing isn’t really worth doing? It’s a waste of time, energy and activity to do that. Software eating the world or other types of automation are only useful to anyone if they actually work to improve the underlying structure they are being built upon. PegaWorld had some interesting talks of people that looked into this, but it was basically tangential when it needs to be at the core of everything that’s happening.

Apparently in the show, Silicon Valley, every startup ends up saying that this product is going to make the world better. Simply saying that doesn’t make it so – I’m sure that Ubisoft and EA believe that their games are going to make the world a better place. You could argue that by excluding something from the next Assassins Creed game really did make the world better by driving a conversation about the choices that developers and companies make when bringing a product to market – and how poorly those decisions can go for the company that makes them. It’s important to understand the root cause of a problem as well as any risks changes pose to the business when you don’t deliver on something you are selling.

Venture Capitalists goals to exit will drive winner-take-all growth

While watching a friend stream on twitch today, his radio station played a commercial from Audible an Amazon company. Which made me think about how Audible was a really up and coming company that a lot of people were interested in. Companies like Audible are funded by Venture Capitalists to help them in a few ways – pay for more developers, pay for access to content, hire marketing folks, or any other litany of things that a business needs. They come in at a stage when a company has little to no revenue.

These VC’s then put pressure on the companies to become profitable through new businesses, increasing the number of number of subscribers, or even changing markets or product types (pivots in their language). This is for a pretty simple reason, they make money in a boom or bust manner. If they fund 64 companies having at least one of them profitable means it needs to raise a massive amount of money to break even or to make all of those investments profitable for the company.

This means that whenever a company like Amazon approaches the leadership board of a company like Audible, the board will likely push for a higher price, but will likely be willing to sell. This is because Amazon, Google, Apple, and other companies similar in size, breadth, and depth in the market, offer absurdly deep pockets. For example, Facebook bought Oculus Rift, a company that’s only had a few prototypes released for $2 Billion. This is a huge amount of money which likely made the VC’s extremely happy.

Because of these market conditions we’ll likely continue to see a winner take all approach to markets that these players are in. Since most of these companies are competing in the exact same space, a company like Audible, that could offer a distinct advantage in the market place would be extremely valuable. It would actually have significantly higher value than if there weren’t 4 giant companies competing in the same space.

It’s likely we’ll see this continue to expand as Sony tries to figure out how to move into these spaces more adeptly, as well as Microsoft resurgence in consumer markets. Fully expect more and more of this to happen and greater and greater valuations for these companies in the coming months and years.

We know that NSA is hurting tech companies – that’s a good thing

Snowden leaked his documents a year ago. We’ve been getting a slow trickle ever since. However, some of these documents are getting date and surely the NSA is doing more stuff than they had in the past. That being said, they are continually being surprised by a new document that’s released or another. They clearly haven’t fully figured out the full list of documents that Snowden managed to take. Furthermore, they haven’t learned anything by not changing the techniques that they currently use. The NSA should have systematically shut down every program that could have been possibly leaked and moved onto something different. They haven’t, which means that they don’t really feel they need to change anything unless we force them to acknowledge that they’re doing something Americans (and the rest of the world) don’t want.

Today the guy that founded Netscape (a Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist) thinks that the fact the Edward Snowden released these documents hurt US technology companies. He thinks that because we now know that the US government does bad things with OUR tech company’s technology before it reaches a customer is hurting our companies. He blames Snowden. This is the most assinine thing I’ve ever heard. Marc Anderssen should be pissed off at the US government and praising Snowden because NOW US tech companies can DO something about it.

This is what a good manager or leader does. They support and acknowledge the fact that a person raise the attention of a problem, used them to address the root cause of the problem, and move on to the next problem. This is what Lean process improvement is all about. You NEVER shoot the messenger, you shoot the root cause of the problem eliminate it and make sure it never comes back. Saying that Snowden is a traitor because he highlighted the fact that the US government is taking good companies work (Cisco) and add malware is counter productive. We need to know when anyone government or otherwise is intentionally trying to break the internet. I do not believe that Mr. Netscape believes that the person who leaked the TransPacific Partnership is a traitor – when they essentially highlighted a similar problem.

I also believe, that labeling Snowden a traitor implicitly removes any blame from those companies that are being harmed by the US government. In many cases those companies have bee fully complicit with not just the US government, but “rogue” states (Iran, China, and other oppressive regimes) as well as companies (like Comcast, TWC, etc..) through enabling deep packet inspection (which allows anyone to snoop at anything you do. All of these have to have been enabled by a US technology company. These companies found a benefit to their benefit by doing this.

Now other companies, like Google, WordPress, and others are trying to get around both of these by encrypting their data. I actually suggested this as a tool to get around data caps or fast/slow lanes (if all data is encrypted you can’t slow or speed up traffic). This will inherently force a more net neutral internet (baffling deep packet inspection) and defeating much of the tools of the NSA.

All of these are good things. We know this because of Snowden. We know that tech companies need to address problems that the NSA and other government agencies have caused. This is a cause for celebration not condemnation. We need more people like him so that the internet can continue to thrive and be an economic driver. Don’t blame the messenger, if the US government is hurting US tech companies, we need to know so we can stop that from happening.

Driverless cars aren’t without ethical quandaries

While driving home the other day I was thinking about the new Google Driverless car stuff that I’ve seen. It’s an interesting looking vehicle, see it below. Apparently, one of the reasons why Google went fully autonomous was that people would be first hyper vigilant, then so lazy that they completely trusted the car in any and every situation.

Google’s fully automated driverless car

I believe it’s likely that the first round of driverless cars won’t be fully automated. Data will eventually show that the fully automated cars are perfectly safe, but we’re a paranoid lot when it comes to new technology. I also think that there are definitely risks with a fully autonomous car in regard to hacking and spoofing the system. I have a feeling that will become a game with hackers to try to trick the car into thinking that a direction is safe when it is actually not. To continually combat these risks Google will have to make it very easy to update the software, possibly while driving, as well as the hardware. I believe this is one of the many reasons why Google just announced their 180 internet satellites that they will be launching soon.

However, I think that the best of intentions will likely lead to some serious issues for Google and law makers in the next few years. For some of them an author at the Guardian wrote a few of them. That being said, I think that the first cars will not be fully automatic until enough data comes into show they are safe going highway speeds consistently. I think that this will lead to issues for Google.

One of the things that is missed in the Guardian article above is that if you’re an Android user, those very things could happen already. Your phone already tracks not just GPS but also nearby cell towers, so you could very easily subpoena either Google or your cell provider for records of your whereabouts. However, the interesting thing that Google talks about in regard to safety, is that drunk driving will be a think of the past.

As I mentioned before I think that there will be a manual mode and I think there will have to be one for a while because of definite hacker threats. You’d need to override. I also think that this would require a mechanical switch that literally overrides the system. The system would still run, but would not be able to override the human driver. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I don’t think that anyone can create a truly secure vehicle like this and if one is compromised then all of them would be under the exact same risk.

Now, let’s say a guy goes out drinking. Google knows where he is. Google knows that he took pictures of his shots Instagraming “#drinktilyoublackout!”. Google also knows that he texted a few friends through Hangouts fully integrated texting capability. Furthermore, he tweets to @Google “Getting Black out drunk no #DD #DriverlessFTW”. This guy then gets into the car, switches it to manual override for whatever reason gets in an accident, who is at fault here? Clearly the guy that’s driving right? Well, if he had a fully automated car with no other option he’d not hurt anyone. Google knows everything he’s doing. Google knows everywhere you go already because of how their devices work. The difference is now that they can control where you’re going and how you get there.

Is Google responsible for building a car with a manual override that could save people’s lives in other instances? Is the State responsible for mandating that Google put in that switch? Should Google have built in safety measures that make the user go through a series of actions or prove the driver is capable of overriding the car?

I think that we need to hash out all of these before these cars are allowed on the road. I also think it’s going to be vitally important that we understand what happens with that data from all our cars, who can access it, and if we really have any privacy in a fully automated car like that. Simply by participating in our culture with a cell phone we’ve already eroded our privacy a great deal in both the public and private realm. Driverless cars will further impact that and will likely end up being a highly political issue over the next several years. Taxis, Lyft, and Uber will be out of business – the Car2Go model will beat them out any day of the week if the cars are autonomous. Direct to customers, like Tesla is pretty obvious. Lots of changes are going to happen through these cars.

We can’t just let this happen to us, we need to make decisions about how we want to include driverless cars in our lives. They aren’t inevitable and definitely not in their current incarnation.