26 Feb

Time to Revive This Weblog

Like so many people, I let my blog, which I had started relatively early at the end of 2000, fall into a state of utter neglect as various social networks took over in the late 2000s. But in the past couple of years I went through a conscious effort to improve my information diet, and that took me back to where I started: a careful selection of handpicked RSS feeds consumed via an RSS reader, many of which are blogs from entrepreneurs and interesting companies.

Despite applying the same upstream filtering to my various social media streams (i.e. I don’t follow celebrities and other noisy crap in Twitbook+), I find their information density way too low. If anything, the current crop of self-centered, ephemeral social media show the lasting value of a good blog with a purpose. Read More

02 May

Zoho Sheet Supports Pivot Tables and Charts, Macros

I’m not going to trust my precious Excel pivot tables to a web app given how crappy the current generation of browsers is (I’ve lost count of how many times Firefox crashed on me) but this is impressive:

For people who don’t see the value in pivot tables, I’ll say this: do you really know where your revenue is coming from? We’ve met our revenue plan for the first four months of the year with uncanny precision (just a couple of grands above it) because we know how to split and dice our sales data in many, many ways. I don’t know how you can be a business leader and not be a spreadsheet jedi. Not that everything happens in the spreadsheet of course, and without people skills you have nothing. But you need to be able to make the numbers tell you all their little but important stories. They show you the hidden weaknesses, point to potential for greatness.

16 May

Looking for some ASP.NET/SQL Server Help

As I’ve just posted on SciFan, I’m stuck on technical issues a bit above my head and my other projects prevent me from stepping up and finishing the new version of that site. So if you know VB.NET and SQL Server and are interested in salvaging a project that looks that it will remain 75% complete forever, for little to no pay (what’s not to like so far?), please contact me. I probably won’t be able to afford anyone who develops for a living, but if you want to help with a nice project (reasonably well known and visible within its realm) for pocket money, that would be very welcome.
Someone looking for a showcase/reference might take a longer involvement with the site as there are plenty of cool things we can do with it (on its frontend and backend). Anyone providing significant help would also get public credit for it (on this blog and on SciFan), for what it’s worth.
For those with the necessary skills, the nature of the problem is related to database changes linked to a more thorough and better normalized schema.

Read More

25 Aug

[Guardian] Scientists discover secret that keeps French slim: eat less of everything

"Scientists have another solution for the notorious "French paradox" – the riddle of how a nation of alcohol-quaffing, croissant-munching gourmands stays healthy and slim, while a disproportionate number of health-obsessed Americans are obese and at cardiovascular risk.
The answer, after methodical study of brasseries, eateries, pizza parlours, Chinese restaurants and Hard Rock cafes in both countries, is simple: the French eat less of everything. And they eat less because they are served smaller portions. The French paradox has baffled European and US scientists for more than a decade."
Baffled scientists for more than a decade? Come on. The first time I went to the US 14 years ago, I was baffled that what we call a bucket over here in Europe passed for a glass in Los Angeles. If you drink Coke by the liter and have 6 meals a day (Americans really keep eating all the time) you’re going to get fat, OK? So after all we French have some common sense lessons to provide to the supposedly more pragmatic Americans. Or so I would wish, because obesity is a growing concern in France and elsewhere in Europe (the Portuguese for instance are increasingly fat too). Blame it on munching junk food all day long and not getting exercise to burn those calories.
Every food & beverage marketer knows that consumption of their product is elastic. That’s why you often see promotions that gets you increased quantity for the same price. These people are fighting for share of stomach, and proceed to expand your stomach at the same time. You’ll end up drinking more orange juice or cereals or whatever else in the same amount of time, as the product is perishable, so you’re either going to eat it or throw it away, and if you have more available, you’re probably going to eat it.

10 Jul

When Are Bloggers Off the Record?


"The bigger issue raised is an important one for the blogging community — when, if ever, is something off the record for a blogger? I think for some bloggers the answer would be "never." For those of us who are blogging in the context of our businesses, there has to be some more pragmatic line drawing. If companies that pitched me found the details of their businesses discussed on VentureBlog the next day, it wouldn’t take long before no one would pitch me. That said, business blogs are interesting because they are informed by the day to day business dealings of their authors. So I will continue to write about the things that interest me in my day to day life as a venture capitalist, but I will always be careful not to even push against the edges of confidentiality. Entrepreneurs are too important to the venture industry — I would not bite the hand that feeds me."

As we’ve experienced recently, some people don’t get that.

16 Jun

Why Europe still doesn’t get the Internet


"Second, the proposal substitutes an unelected bureaucrat’s judgment about what material is appropriate for a mailing list, a chatroom or a Web log for the judgment of the person who first created the resource. There are other checks and balances than this kind of rough-hewn approach, such as readers eventually recognizing that a publication is biased or prone to errors and thus turning elsewhere for news and opinion. Besides, for many bloggers, it’s already common practice to swap links with critics."

You mean we should trust individuals to make good choices? But the people don’t have judgment, that’s why we regulate for them!
The problem with Europe is not just that it doesn’t get the Internet. The problem runs much deeper: Europe doesn’t get the very concept on individual freedom and responsibility. To those people who mean to tell me what I should or shouldn’t post on my publications: go fuck yourself. There’s no way I’ll post links to trolls if I don’t feel their answer deserves it.
06/18/03 update: A message to the European Union from Samizdata.net

25 Mar

Are These Soldiers Asked to Pose for Pictures?

Looking at the three pictures of Marines in the side bar of this article (especially the picture at the bottom), these soldiers seem crammed very close to each other for a position taken in broad daylight nearby a road. Keeping proper distances between foot soldiers is key to their security (you still want to be able to communicate within your unit of course, and not lose track of where your people are). The bottom picture looks especially artificial. I had similar concerns about some pictures from the Afghan operations. I’m going to ask Getty Images.
Update: thanks to Kerry McCarthy from Getty Images who got back to me quickly:

"We never ask subjects to pose for pictures on breaking news stories such as this, "for visual reasons" or any other. We do not set shots up. What you see in Joe’s images are as they happened. I can not comment as to the lack of space between each soldier, even though what you say here makes sense."

Well, I wasn’t there, so I can’t question Getty Images and Joe Raedle’s integrity from my armchair. I’m a reserve officer (insert obligatory joke about the state of the French army, still what I’m talking about is pretty much a basic) and one thing in my training was clear: you don’t let your soldiers pack up close to each other if the visibility and terrain allow you to allocate proper intervals between them. Maybe the soldiers on this picture took it to themselves to regroup, maybe it’s an effect of perspective and distance (they really seem very close to each other though), or maybe at that time they were far from the enemy and didn’t really care (but then their ammo is loaded, which you usually don’t do at a picnic.) Here’s something about US infantry doctrine, it doesn’t detail proper formations, movement techniques or deployment guidelines though.
05/08/03 update: reader Michael Nosal wrote me this, with convincing examples to support his argument:

"I’m certain this is the result of the photographer using a long telephoto lens. Long focal-length lenses give the impression of compressed perspective – items look closer together than they really are."

10 Dec

More Bullshit About How Weblogs Should Work

Jimmy Guterman:

"Well, first I want to be clear that Media Unspun itself was not a Weblog. We’re big fans of the freedom and diversity of blogs, but we were not a blog. Blogs go from a single person’s mind to the Web with no intervention (team blogs work the same way). Unspun has writers and editors, all of whom collaborate to create a product we intended to be professional as well as useful and entertaining."

Emphasis mine. It’s not the first time I read this kind of nonsense. Nothing prevents a collablog from having "writers and editors." We have editorial guidelines at TheEndOfFree and MarketingFWonk. We brainstormed extensively about who was our audience, what content we wanted to provide, how we wanted to organize it, and what voice we would have. Of course individualities remain, but we do have a common purpose and operational mode. It’s not because they’re informal that they don’t exist. This is the usual "we love blogs but we’re better than them because we have our editorial process blah blah blah" from late wanna-be bloggers with a traditional media-mindset.
In the collablogs I’m part of, we run stories by each other for comments or approval (i.e. "do we want to run that kind of stories?") and we did "collaborate to create a product." Whether we succeed our readers get to decide, but claiming that weblogs can’t be run that way is ludicrous and uninformed. Weblog software might not embed formal workflow, but Blogger Pro and Movable Type support a draft status that you can use to edit stories before publication. Just do the collaboration through online tools such as plain e-mail, IM, discussion lists or intranet blogs.
And although that’s far from optimal, you can always edit stories after publication when mistakes are spotted after the fact. It still beats stories that stand uncorrected once they’ve been published (you know, the deadline mindset and all).