28 Feb

Alive and grateful

Living through a major earthquake: pretty scary.

Realizing your family, yourself, and your property don’t have a scratch: priceless.
My thoughts to the families of the deceased, wounded and homeless. Te quiero Chile.

Update three years later: I had posted this after the 8.8 earthquake on Feb. 27, 2010 in Chile. We live about 350 km (215 mile) north of the epicenter, so we felt a pretty long ~M7 earthquake on the Richter scale. Not tsunami traumatic, but definitely scary nonetheless (the noise!). This will remain a strong memory for life for sure. Oh, and the aftershocks (we’re in the upper part of that collection of 458 aftershocks, with a bunch of M5s-M6s right where we live).

02 Feb

The Chilean Sea is Not to Be Given Away?!

We’ve started to (carefully) explore to what extent there might actually be value in the current crop of social networks. We were involved in earlier waves – from Ryze to the now defunct Soflow – with little to show for it, so we chose to sit out of Facebook and Twitter for a long time, mostly for signal-to-noise issues. Feverish hype or not, I think the jury is still out, but I admit there seems to be staying power here.
Anyway, today’s weird FB discovery (in the sense that I just stumbled on it), or maybe it is telling, is the group named El Mar de Chile no Se Regala!!!! which loosely translated is this post’s title (though I’m using my own bewildered punctuation). 3,169 members to support Chile’s position in one of its territorial disputes with its neighbors! I wouldn’t have thought people would create groups around rather arcane geopolitical issues, and that’s before Facebook has even been localized. Peru’s FB network is half as large as Chile’s, which I guess reflects its smaller online population (broadband is expensive in Chile in PPP terms, but I think it’s much worse in Peru). The El pisco es Chileno group seems more at home on FB, since the dispute between Chile and Peru over paternity for a regional drink is more of an informal joke of an issue to rant about over a pisco sour. Speaking of which, I like this cocktail but also highly recommend amaretto sour. How’s that for a conclusion about world affairs seen through the lens of social networks?

24 Jan

Innovation Outside of Big Cities

Jon Udell has a good conversation (with very good audio quality) with Neil Giarratana, the president of a small web shop based off Keene, NH. This stroke very close to home (so to speak!) since our HQ is based in Vermont but we have people all over the place: Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Georgia, Montana, Colorado, Oregon, California, and myself down here in Chile. We have people who sometimes spend time in London or the Florida Keys or wherever and don’t really skip a beat. Looking at Lucidus’ blog, I see we go through the very same issues, from how much can you rely on Vonage or Skype, to making sure wherever your people are, they’d better investigate their broadband options.
It’s interesting to see Giarratana has made his location choice in large part for family reasons, just like we did. From a practical perspective, there are many variables, but the bottom line is, where can you get good schools without paying an arm and a leg for real estate? The almost philosophical under-current is to define and pursue success and quality of life on your own terms, and go in big cities only when you want to enjoy what they offer without bearing with their noise, pollution, traffic, cost and crime on a daily basis.
As a business, this distributed MO has definitely its challenges, but I’m convinced we’ve been forced to develop a sense of focus and discipline whose lack is killing a majority of internet start-ups. For us, it’s all about outcomes, from new features to better content to, most importantly, satisfied customers and increasing revenue and free cash flow. There’s no water cooler and white board endless filler. Less banter, more writing. Not that we can’t have fun though!

18 Nov

LA Is Not My Kind of Town

Despite my taste for corny Barry White songs, I don’t like Los Angeles much. At least not the LA I remember from a UCLA summer session 18 years ago, as a non-driving visitor with little money on hand. Admittedly LA without car nor cash is by definition a non-starter. Bldg Blog had a great post that captures the essence of that place very well (I can’t bring myself to call it a city), in a “never met a woman so alone” way. To many people LA doesn’t feel just indifferent but also downright hostile. I’ll have to give it another chance some day but I think you need someone to drive you along and help you socialize or else, or how do you even get started there?

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15 Sep

We Made It to Chile – A Small Tale of Three Continents

As I hinted this (northern hemisphere) summer, we decided a few months ago to relocate to Chile, the most stable, secure and less corrupt country in Latin America (see for instance recent coverage in The Economist). Well, now it’s done as of last Sunday. We’re in Renaca on the Pacific coast, 90 minutes from Santiago and less than three hours from pretty good ski options. Not only does Chile have great geography and climate to offer, but it seems one of the rare countries these days that hasn’t decided yet to melt down into a police nanny state. Since all we want is to be left alone, that’s an attractive value proposition. The best resource to prepare such a relocation ended up being the All Chile forum.

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08 Jun

Mundo de Warcraft and Frontline Thoughts About the EU

In this discussion thread many British World of Warcraft players want to be able to migrate their characters to US servers after Blizzard has effectively turned "English" servers into international ones where it’s OK to chat in any language. This translates into some servers being dominated by, say, Spaniards or Russians who seem to flood the general channels, insult English speakers or kick them out of groups. Not a nice customer experience and maybe Blizzard should be a little more proactive on this.
This is an interesting, real-world example of what’s wrong with ever-closer union within the EU and why I voted No to the European constitutional treaty (in the recent French referendum). Talk about putting the cart before the horse. By the way I voted from the French consulate in Lisbon since I’ve been living in Portugal for the last two years. My 4 1/2-year daughter is bilingual (well, she’s making progress in English too so she’ll be trilingual by age 6). Besides my native France I also lived in Germany and Italy in the past, and that leaves out tourism and business trips to England, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ukraine, and Russia.

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13 Feb

How to scale media projects beyond static galleries?

Haiko Hebig: Industrial Night and Magic, where headed?

"Now that I took Gigabytes of photos in the abandoned and torn down steel mills and other former sites of heavy industries here in Dortmund and surrounding cities, comes up the question: how to organize, how to present them? […] I want to throw all the content into a box and be able to generate a variety of views on it: […] Let me explore the database browsing by year, by location, by technology, by process step. […]
Obviously, there are (at least) two dimensions to such a plan: the technical, to come up with a flexible framework, and the social, to motivate other people with similar interests to throw in their content and knowledge."

I have been following Haiko’s photo project for a while (there’s something to be said for real life Unreal Tournament playgrounds) and this is taking a fascinating direction, though I question the PHP choice. For that kind of project, .NET has an edge for its ability to produce both web frontends and rich clients, just like WWMX showcases.

01 Feb

It’s High Time I Started Knowing About the World

visited countries

The latest travel meme is something I wanted to visualize for a while, but up to now I didn’t know of any tool to do it easily. Thanks World66.

And am I pathetic. There are only 3 countries where I’ve spent more than six months (France, Italy and Portugal — ok 4 with Germany but I was a toddler), while coloring the whole Russian territory for 4 days spent in St Petersburg is of course an outright lie, and that’s about the same fiction for every other country (dots to the cities visited would be a lot closer to reflecting the truth). The only place I know decently for having visited or lived about everywhere around is France. With only 5 states, my map of the US shows my utter ignorance of most of the country.

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