Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blogging the Night Away

Well, considering the number of responses to my previous post, I figure that in my hiatus from blogging, I lost at least some of my following, so the move to a new domain became a no-brainer. I'll let you know once that's up and running, which should be by next week. To nobody's surprise, the domain will be and the title of the blog will still be Reality Overlaps.

I'll continue writing about the stuff I write about, which is community, online and off. I'm also going to write more about games than I did in the past, not because of the increasing interface between games and reality, but because I'm now in that industry. Yay! What could be cooler than having a job where playing games and watching youtube videos of people playing games is part of your job? I never have to worry about my boss coming in just as I am fiddling around playing a game again!

And, for a blogger, what could be better than having a job that is interesting enough to blog about?

But that's not what I came here to blog about today. I wanted to blog about blogging, or more specifically about my experience with GoDaddy. I decided to put my blog there, frankly speaking, because it was the easiest thing to do. My hosting is at GoDaddy, so whatever.

In the name of laziness, I also just picked out whatever their blogging package was, something called Quick Blogcast. Although I wasn't thinking about videos or podcasts, I thought cool, looks good enough. Unfortunately, it's really lame. I won't go into its lameness, because I didn't spend more than quarter of an hour fooling around with it. Why should I? I knew that in 10 minutes I could figure out Wordpress, so I wasn't willing to devote more than that to this thing.

But then I was stuck, because I had signed up for a year. So I called GoDaddy. They were great. They walked me through setting up Wordpress. They walked me through putting the domain name I wanted on the hosting. Twice, because I hastily pressed the wrong button. They refunded all the money from the lame blogging account and credited it to the new hosting account.

Then they asked me if there was anything else they could help me with today. They always do that, and I'm always stumped. I mean, if I had anything else, I probably would have mentioned it.

But looking at it now, I have to ask myself, why isn't this standard everywhere? Why doesn't every support call for every service I have always end with "Is there something else I can do for you today?" How many times have you hung up the phone and gone "Dang, I forgot..." It usually isn't with your hosting company, either.

GoDaddy offers really extraordinary service. It's unusual, considering what they sell and what it costs. I spend about $100-$150 a year on this kind of thing. In other words, I'm not a very big customer. I probably call them 3-4 times a year, and these are pretty low-cost people, so let's say that they are spending under $10 on service for me. Still, 10% of cost for customer service is money. And they know it's me, too, because I type in my customer name on the dialpad before they pick up, so they could relegate me to the inferior-service department if they wanted.

Bottom line, more power to you, GoDaddy. Ridiculous ads aside, the product is solid.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Back to Blogging

A combination of the following kept me from blogging over the past few months:
  • Being incredibly busy
  • Blogging twice weekly for the company blog (IOW, being burned out)
  • Not being able to figure out that Google has disconnected my blogger login from my mail/calendar login and that now I need yet more passwords.
I thought the whole idea was to have all my Google stuff in one login, but lo and behold, for some reason, Calendar, Mail and Sites are a separate login from everything else if you have a domain that is not I can't figure out the logic of this being different for mailboxes but not domain mailboxes.

Also, I can't figure out the logic of "Mail, Calendar and Sites". Mail and calendar, yes, but sites, why sites? Mail, Calendar and Docs, maybe. But Mail, Calendar and Sites? Do you know anyone who uses Sites?

Whatever. I'm back and now I am debating about whether to keep the account on now that I no longer have the convenience of 1 login for all Google stuff. I'm thinking about moving Reality Overlaps to my domain. I even started, but that's a whole new bunch of aggravating technical settings to deal with.

What do you think, keep it at blogger or put it on my personal domain?

Monday, May 17, 2010

We Respect Your Privacy

I love when I sign up for some free thing, and they make me put in my email address to get their junk mail, and the form says "We respect your privacy."


Maybe that's the wrong question. Maybe the question is:

What privacy?

Most people today have an email address for stuff they don't want to read. Those who don't have a filter or some other methodology to toss the garbage out. Or they have given in, as I have. I just ignore most of the mail I get.

I don't know what's worse. That you don't really respect my privacy or that I don't care.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Farmville Could Change our Eating Habits

I know this sounds truly asinine, but Farmville could to have more impact on our eating habits than Food, Inc. I'm sorry to have asked this question, but when I did, I found out that 63 million people are active Farmville users, and that Food, Inc.'s box office gross was under $5 million, and we all know seeing a movie costs more than a dollar.

Farmville isn't out to change our eating habits, but they do come up with all kinds of cool and interesting crops. I need to look some of them up. For some of the crops, like durian, I look them up and think "Oh, that's what it's called!" But just as often, it's like "Really? There is such a thing?"

So where could this change our eating habits. Well, if 30 million people suddenly decide they want to try a jackfruit, not much of a shift would occur. Fruit trees take years to grow, so you will either be able to get your hands on a jackfruit or not. Most people know this about fruits, and even if they wanted to try a new fruit, they aren't going to replace their apples.

But for amaranth, which is a grain, you could really create a shift. I don't think people will replace wheat and corn, but it's possible to imagine. I don't know about you, but corn is kind of wearing thin with me.

A while back I was talking to one of the largest grain importers in Israel, and he said the amount of grain imported annually doesn't change much, but the type of grain does. Right now, quinoa is "in". Grains take weeks or months, not years, to grow, and they can be stored and transported.

From what I read on amaranth, it's got a higher protein content than wheat, and it's easier to grow in various conditions. I bet I could find some in the health food store. With 63 million people already exposed to the product, this is an interesting marketing opportunity for someone.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Driving Out of Gas (TEDx Follow -up)

As a follow-up to TEDx Tel Aviv, I spent part of my afternoon in the BetterPlace electric car visitor center outside of Tel Aviv. The facility is in the last standing oil tank left at Pi Glilot, which was the storage area for gasoline in central Israel. Apparently someone figured out that having such a facility adjacent to your largest population center isn't terribly bright. The petrol was moved out. BetterPlace managed to salvage one tank and convert it into a beautiful visitor center.

We were hosted by founder and CEO Shai Agassi himself, who spent over an hour answering our questions. I was so late to my next meeting that I missed it, not just out of respect (Agassi was late to his next meeting too), but because I was completely blown away by Agassi's generosity and devotion. The answers to the questions were jaw-dropping beyond all expectation.

I took the time out for this, not just because I like to mix with smart people, but because I truly care about this issue. I have had visions of overhauling transportation since I was 11 years old. I've thought about transportation deeply and often, though I haven't taken the time to make it a central part of my life.

I had a lot of questions, but I didn't ask any. I still have them. I am concerned about what's next, what we do to stop paving our earth with parking lots and freeways, how we cure traffic, and stop bashing into one another. I have a lot of questions, but I didn't ask them because they became instantaneously irrelevant to the conversation.

The conversation took place in the context of the singular, compelling vision of eliminating gasoline. The conversation lived inside the clarity with which Agassi has considered, research and planned how to make that vision a reality.

I have to make a confession here. Often, when I see or meet someone doing great things, I think to myself "I could do that." Sometimes I even think "I could do that better." I know, you never think that to yourself. You also never think "How the heck did he get that job?" or "He might be famous, but he's kind of a jerk." I know you never think those things. But people like myself, with big egos or big jealousy syndromes, sometimes think those thoughts.

But today I found myself, really, truly in awe listening to Agassi. I mean, this guy, he has a vision. He is out to end oil dependence. He is out to replace the gasoline industry. But that's not the main thing. Lots of people have vision.

This guy truly has the leadership and business skills, the audacity and modesty to pull it off. That's impressive. Very, very impressive, and very, very rare. But even that's not not the main thing.

What's fundamentally unique about Agassi, is that, on top of all those things, he has the ability to think, plan and execute at the level of the entire ecosystem. I should say "ecosystems", because the more you ask, the more you hear that Shai Agassi has thoroughly researched, questioned, analyzed, and created ecosystems. Not just one ecosystem. Multiple ecosystems.

He has considered the economic ecosystem of how people purchase cars and the lifecycle of automobile value to consumers. He has considered the entire ecosystem of where we get our energy now, how it could potentially be garnered, and how it needs to be delivered. He understands the entire car industry from manufacturing to distribution. He understands the ecosystem of introducing new technology. He understands his competitive environment and has multiple potential scenarios played out in his head.

Agassi has thought deeply, researched thoroughly, and asked the right questions. Come to think of it, he's asked the wrong questions, too. He's thought about it all.

The result is that at BetterPlace, absolutely everything is thoroughly researched and planned. Everything is considered from how the price of oil is determined; how to avoid impacting the power grid; how to build an outdoor charging station that will never electrocute anyone in any kind of weather.

The group of TEDx refugees asked intelligent questions. Every question got a thorough answer that showed depth of thought from macro to micro , from economic to engineering, and from basic human behavior to basic physics.

No words can describe the thoroughness with which this one man has thought through all the aspects of his business. No less astounding is his ability to articulate all of this with clarity and purpose. Yet even more indescribable is Agassi's humility and humanness. You are in the presence of a human being, not an idol or a figurehead.

One of the final questions was about tension between Agassi and his investors. Here, again, he gave a thoughtful answer on multiple levels. On the micro level, Agassi shared personal stories of trust between himself and Idan Ofer. On the macro level he spoke about how our society vilifies public figures and seeks scandal rather than inspiration. Agassi spoke of the loss of our perception of our leaders as heroes and our loss of trust in the human spirit.

In short, he spoke like a hero, whether you choose to believe that such things still exist or not.

Monday, May 3, 2010

This Side of the Line

Mid-day Saturday, I remember that I don't have any hot-dog rolls. I recall that yesterday, when it was too late for me to do the shopping, my son had announced that we needed 15 of them for the Lag b'Omer bonfire.

Ok, I think. We'll just take a drive over to Jaljulia and get some. They must have bakeries there, and they don't close on Saturday. Tevel comes with me, and I'm vaguely aware that his dad might think that it's not a great idea to take the kids to an Arab village with me. Not that I don't buy my vegetables there all the time -- but that's on the edge of town and now we are going into town.

I ask at the petrol station where the bakery is, and they tell me that I need to go to Kfar Bara, another mile up the road. No biggie. Still, I experience a vague discomfort as I drive there, thinking, the discomfort is silly. It's an Israeli town, it's 5 miles from my house, I've never heard of any incidents, and yet, there's a vague discomfort.

The bakery owner sells me rolls and pita, tells me, yes, there's been quite a flow of people today and he had forgotten it was a Jewish holiday and the Sabbath, and he hadn't yet prepared for the potential demand.

As I drove out of town, there was a woman hitchhiking. When I see these ladies hitchhiking by the side of the road, it breaks my heart. We have them in my town too, because of the inconvenient bus schedule. When I seem them standing by the side of the road, I always stop, and usually go out of my way to take them to their destination.

Now I know I shouldn't stop in an Arab village and pick up a hitchhiker. But I just couldn't see her at the side of the road like that, so I stopped. I told her I could take her to the outskirts of the next town, but not into the town. She turned me down with body language, probably not because she couldn't speak Hebrew, but because she was in shock. She knows I'm not supposed to stop for Arabs and she knows she's not supposed to get in the car with a Jew. So that settled that.

It's weird, you know, or maybe it's not.

People live in their separate communities. I grew up in America, where the social norm says that pluralism and integrated towns are equivalent. After 200 years of failing to artificially integrate people, you'd think someone would have the thought that integration, in and of itself, may not be morally "good" (or "bad" for that matter). But Americans are stubborn, and the society refuses to accept that people, by and large, want to live with people like themselves. In fact, it's almost considered morally wrong to oppose artificial integration. It's as if there is something unethical about people wanting to live in a homogeneous environment.

In Israel, the social norm is that people want to live separately. Now, I'm not a fan of the "separate but equal" train of thought, because nobody is under the illusion that it's equal. Not in the US, not in Israel. It's not equal. But that's the end of the moral issue. Apart from problems of measuring equality, there is no reason why heterogeneous residential communities should be better than homogeneous ones. People have their tribes, they always have and they always will.

It's not necessarily a question of race. Sometimes "like themselves" means belonging to a socio-economic group, to an age group, or even to a particular profession. Sometimes it's just being someone who loves bar-hopping or a particular sport, or even a particular sports team. It's perfectly natural.

It's almost embarrassing for someone like me, that is, someone who believes in equality, who loves everyone, and who is something of a peacenik.

But when I look around at my friends, the people I hang with are pretty homogenous, socio-economically and culturally.

I was talking about this just last night with meezoog founder Tuvia Rosenthal. Meezoog is a technology that basically allows you to check out if someone is trustworthy or socially compatible. Right now it's a dating application, but clearly there are additional applications for this.

What I said was, indeed, when I meet a guy on Facebook, if we have no contacts in common, the chance of a first date being successful is very low. Tuvia pointed out that this is fairly true in Israel, that is, in a small population, if my social network on Facebook is well-developed and gives a good representation of my RL social chains. I can see that. The main communities in my RL are high-tech, roller-blading, synagogue, and Landmark (self-development). I have dozens of friends from each of those networks. If you don't know any of them, you might be a really kewl person, but we don't have a lot of interests in common, so we aren't going to have much to talk about on a date.

Obviously, an application like meezoog makes sense if you are in New York City or Paris, where the population is much, much bigger, and you need a better measure of trust than 1-degree of distance. 2 or 3 degrees of removal are helpful in this case for checking out whether someone is of dating caliber.

In other words, our compatibility and trust levels are directly correlated to how closely connected we are to the same people. Or to similar people.

Maybe it's the sad truth, or maybe it's just the truth.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Post-TEDx Thoughts: Next Generation Job Expectations

I attended TEDx Tel Aviv yesterday. Rather than reviewing or saying how awesome it was, I'm just going to use the vast and bubbling inspiration and allow my thoughts to take off in various directions for the next few posts.

Not only did I hear astounding lectures, I met astounding people doing astounding things. The audience selection was indeed impressive. And I got to thinking about career expectations.

Career expectations have undergone a revolution in the last generation. You've heard people say that it used to be that people worked in one place for their lives, yadda yadda yadda. I'm not going to talk about that because I'm not old enough to have the right to do so.

I'm old enough to talk about what my generation grew up expecting in a job. (I'm middle-aged, if you must know.) In essence, there were two main streams of thought. One stream of thought, but not the predominant one, was "I'm going to get really rich." If you went to law or biz school, that might have been predominant, but certainly, in most places, that wasn't the main drive and expectation of my generation. The majority stream of thought was "I'll get a decent job and have a decent career in something I'm good at and that I enjoy."

Truly, if you have a job that you enjoy and you make a good living, you are indeed among the fortunate of the earth.

And yet, unlike in the past, people move from job to job every couple of years. And unlike in the past, many people I know, at one point or another, have started their own business. It might just be freelancing for a couple of years while the kids are growing up, and it might be doing a full-blow startup, but it seems like a growing number of people are doing their own thing in one way or another.

At TED, you start to hear something else. You start to hear it at the most base level from people like Martin Rapaport who simply could no longer bear to be part of the human rights abuses that were part of the diamond industry. It runs the gamut through to people like Paul Holman, who is looking for the coolest solutions to mundane problems, like killing mosquitoes with lasers (and, btw, in fact, bugs are much, much cooler than lasers, but you do need to look very closely to notice).

What you hear is that our generation and the younger generation are increasingly not satisfied with a good, well-paying job that they love. Increasingly, people are saying, it's not enough to do good business. We want to do good while doing good business, or at least, do no harm. We don't want a good job, we want an inspiring job. Yes, we may work at good jobs for some or even most of our life. But that's not the goal. The goal is to have an inspiring job, a job that helps other people, a job that improves our world.

If you don't get this, what we have is a completely revolutionary way of looking at a career path. I grew up knowing you should work at what you are good at and enjoy. Work is a means to an end, the end being having money to live your life and do other stuff. Work is not an end. Yes, you would hear that you should do what you love, for sure. But there was never any question about the fundamental function of work. The fundamental function of work, in the generation I grew up in, was to make money to do things that weren't work, like raise a family and be entertained, and even to give to charity.

The basic functionality of work is changing. From being a means to allow us to live, work for an increasing number of people is equivalent to contribution. They don't want to work so they can make money so they can contribute to a cause. They want to be a cause. The cause could be using lasers to eliminate malaria, and it could make a lot of money as well as save a lot of lives. In fact, it should.

In a world where we are saying that you get paid for your value, no conflict exists between doing good business and simply doing good. If your value to the society is great, you should be compensated. The way the world is today is that contribution is poorly rewarded, from teachers to peace activists. Those are not well-paid positions, and yet their contribution is enormous.

The new way of thinking is saying, all this needs to be turned on its head. Society should pay for worth beyond just monetary worth. Society should and will pay more for clothes manufactured in a humane way and for foods grown naturally. As individuals, we will work at what we believe in, and we will be compensated.

Certainly, for many people, it will be beyond their reach to have a job that is more than a means for money-making. And certainly, there will always be causes that are not-for profit, and there will be philanthropy and volunteerism.

Yet, the time is here when people are aligning with their core values, not just their core talents. People are asking not only what they enjoy and do well, but what their inner calling is, adn where their skills can make the most impact towards a better world for all.

It is astounding to live in this time. Simply astounding.