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Posts tagged with ‘jason calacanis’

Chamath Palihapitiya and the Neo-Libertarians of Silicon Valley

I left San Francisco after living there approximately one third of the time for four or five years, basically a year in aggregate. One of the things that really disturbed me was the underlying elitist, libertarian, dog-eat-dog, beggar-thy-neighbor attitude of many tech leaders, a neolibertarian ethos that has come to dominate much of the tech world there. This is shown to an extreme by Peter Thiel, who goes so far as to suggest that increases and welfare and giving women the vote made ‘capitalist democracy’ an oxymoron (see Peter Thiel, Techno-Utopian, and Beware Peter Thiel). But even a slightly more benign techo-libertarian like Eric Schmidt show his deeper leanings when he says I love gridlock’.

So this exchange last week between ex-Facebooker and angel Chamath Palihapitiya and Jason Calicanis, the host of This Week in Start-ups, is just the newest go around in the rapidly emerging neo-libertarian worldview of the tech elite in SF.

Calacanis makes a joke about the government shutdown, and this ensues:

Palihapitiya: The government, they’re completely useless.

Calacanis: The government got shut down today and the stock market went up 1 percent.

Palihapitiya: We’re in this really interesting shift. The center of power is here, make no mistake. I think we’ve known it now for probably four or five years.But it’s becoming excruciatingly, obviously clear to everyone else that where value is created is no longer in New York, it’s no longer in Washington, it’s no longer in LA. It’s in San Francisco and the Bay Area. And when you look at sort of, like, how markets react to things like that, and when there’s no reaction, it should be taken as a very subtle signal that the power dynamics have changed. Because markets value meaningful events, markets discount meaningless events. And so the functional value of the government is effectively discounted to zero …

Companies are transcending power now. We are becoming the eminent vehicles for change and influence, and capital structures that matter. If companies shut down, the stock market would collapse. If the government shuts down, nothing happens and we all move on, because it just doesn’t matter. Stasis in the government is actually good for all of us. It means they can neither do anything semi-useful nor anything really stupid. They just sit there and they just kind of, you know …

[Applause.]

Calacanis: There you have it.

Yes. There you have it.

Kevin Roose sizes this up this way:

The bigger takeaway from Palihapitiya’s rant is that a certain strain of influential Silicon Valley thought has moved past passive political apathy and into a kind of anarchist cheerleading. Dysfunction and shutdowns are good, this line of thinking goes, because it hamstrings Washington’s ability to mess with the private sector’s profit-making schemes. And as long as the Bay Area is still churning out successful start-ups, what does it matter if hundreds of thousands of government workers are furloughed, essential services are cut off for low-income Americans, and the threat of a sovereign default endangers the entire economy?

[…]

For them [Bay area tech elite], government is mostly a hindrance — a regulatory obstacle to the kinds of disruptive start-ups they fund, and an enemy of a looser immigration policy that would allow their portfolio companies to recruit more talented foreign engineers.

But the message they’re pushing isn’t as simple as small-government libertarianism or selfish profit-seeking. It’s a kind of regional declaration of independence. The entrepreneurial community in San Francisco and Silicon Valley increasingly thinks of itself as a semi-autonomous region within the U.S. — one that has its own funding scheme, its own leaders, and its own paths to success. And the message they’re sending is simple: We matter, you don’t.

And they could be the answer to the GOP’s burning problem, which is finding a constituency that isn’t just the Confederacy. Yes, FWD.us the tech elite that back that neo-libertarianism will become the new quadrant of the right in American politics.

image

The recent Keystone Kops routine in Washington was the attempt of the Tea Partiers to move the country abruptly to the lower right quadrant of this chart, despite the rejection of those ideas by the electorate in the last presidential elections.

But the goals of the neo-libertarian, SF billionaires club are much more in line with American sentiment, especially those upward strivers on both populous coasts. They will be in favor of gay rights, legalization of pot, and women’s rights (Thiel’s bile and Twitter’s board of directors, notwithstanding). They will push for directed immigration relaxation on economic grounds: they want more Indian and Rumanian PhDs. And they will support corporatist globalism, and even the extreme risks posed by big banks will not bring them to argue for increased government regulation of the financial system.

But on the economics dimension they can go pretty far to the right. They will oppose raising taxes to better the welfare of poor people, or to underwrite better schools in districts that historically have done badly. They will oppose extending health care, and forget single payer.

They will be able to fund their objectives, and once they get over their dislike of government — which is completely useless, after all — they will likely start to play a larger role in the power vacuum left by the collapsing of the traditional constituencies of the fading conservative bloc in the US, which is aging, and out of step on a societal level with the sentiments of the young, who have come to accept interracial marriage, gays and lesbians, smoking pot, and the decline of religion as an ethical foundation.

Why Is It Still Web 2.0? - Alexia Tsotsis →

Tsotsis attends Web 2.0 Summit and wonders why we haven’t started to adopt the term Web 3.0, which she associates with Reid Hoffman’s big data ideas.

Well, for one reason, six dozen other attempts to define Web 3.0 have sputtered and died like the attempt by Jason Calacanis to say that what he was up to at Mohalo was Web 3.0 or the many efforts to say that the semantic web is Web 3.0.

The reality is this:

I personally feel that Web 2.0 has a long way to play before we can advocate jumping onto some new wave. Have we seen the full culmination of the social revolution going on? No, and I think it will be awhile before we do.

Personally, I feel the vague lineaments of something beyond Web 2.0, and they involve some fairly radical steps. Imagine a Web without browsers. Imagine breaking completely away from the document metaphor, or a true blurring of application and information. That’s what Web 3.0 will be, but I bet we will call it something else.

Whatever the cool kids call what they are doing when they shift the metaphor away from what we are doing now won’t be Web 3.0. The ones that invent the next thing won’t count back. They won’t even remember Web 1.0.

Next giant step: social operating systems, which will lead to social networks — and communication through them — becoming the central purpose of the web, not just a bunch of unintegrated applications.

Jason Calacanis: "Blogging Is Dead" & Why "Stupid People Shouldn't Write" →

A few sound bites from Jason Calacanis delivered at yesterday’s RRW 2WAY Summit — I did not attend.

Dan Rowinski via

"Blogging is largely dead."

"There are a lot of stupid people out there … and stupid people shouldn’t write."

"There needs to be a better system for tuning down the stupid people and tuning up the smart people."

[…]

Calacanis thinks that Web 3.0 will be the “Age of Expertise.”

Ok, Calacanis made his fortune building up a blog network — Weblogs, Inc. — and selling it to AOL, which has now also acquired Techcrunch and Huffington Post: a huge seething mass of blogs. Meanwhile Tumblr and Wordpress both have respectable growth rates.

But Calacanis thinks it’s dead. Maybe that because he’s running a content farm called Mahalo, and Google’s Panda — an effort to decrease the page rank of crappy, mass-generated content — has cut its traffic in half.

Maybe Calacanis justifies building Mahalo based on his premise that people are stupid anyway, so what the heck? But the combination of the ugliness of Mahalo and this painful, chip on the shoulder elitism is not good.

Jason — Please shut down Mahalo (or sell it off) and dedicate your considerable talents to something worthwhile. Launch was good, but yet another launchpad event? Can’t you find something more interesting?

And that Web 3.0 meme is totally tired. Doesn’t expertise always matter?

Here’s something Jason said about Web 3.0 over three years ago, and my response:

Stowe Boyd, Jason Calacanis On Web 3.0

I really don’t get the Web 3.0 meme, which I have seen introduced at least a dozen times by all sorts of people. Some have been advancing the term as a synonym for the semantic web, but others have put forward other definitions, usually as part of some ultimately fruitless marketing ploy to define a market niche and place their shiny new product smack in the middle of it.

That’s what Jason Calacanis appears to be doing.

I formerly read Jason’s blog avidly, but since he launched Mahalo he has become a monomaniac. Everything revolves around his new shiny product. And now, it seems, the future of the web does, as well:

Jason Calacanis, Web 3.0, the official definition.

Web 3.0 is defined as the creation of high-quality content and services produced by gifted individuals using Web 2.0 technology as an enabling platform.

Ahem… like the individuals that are building the Mahalo index, that sits above the existing web?

I personally feel that Web 2.0 has a long way to play before we can advocate jumping onto some new wave. Have we seen the full culmination of the social revolution going on? No, and I think it will be awhile before we do.

Personally, I feel the vague lineaments of something beyond Web 2.0, and they involve some fairly radical steps. Imagine a Web without browsers. Imagine breaking completely away from the document metaphor, or a true blurring of application and information. That’s what Web 3.0 will be, but I bet we will call it something else.

At least Jason’s natterings three years ago led me to start waving my hands at what has turned out to be the rise of liquid media, as typified by Apple’s iOS 5. I just wish Jason would jump aboard and build something shiny.

It's War of the Silicon Valley Boosters - Yahoo! News →

via Atlantic Wire

Two sources tell us that Arrington has tried to persuade attendees and sponsors not to participate by threatening bad or—maybe even worse in the buzz-driven industry—no coverage on TechCrunch. One entrepreneur, who would only speak anonymously because he said he feared retribution from Arrington, said Arrington had told him his company would no longer be covered on TechCrunch if he attended Calacanis’s conference. “Michael has told me that if I go to this, they’ll never do business with me again,” said the entrepreneur.

Calacanis refused to comment on whether he had heard reports of Arrington and TechCrunch trying to persuade attendees and sponsors to skip Launch, but he did say that no writer from TechCrunch had applied for credentials. “I think it’s unfair to those startups and I don’t understand how any publication could blacklist companies over a business dispute,” Calacanis said. “I feel terrible about it.” Neither Arrington nor AOL returned requests for comment. We’ll update if they do.

I am completely unsurprised that this mess continues to fester.

Short Takes For 18 May 2010 

Alex Payne leaves Twitter to co-found banksimple, a new web bank business based in NYC.

LazyFeed *finally* follows a recommendation I gave them a year ago, and have reconfigured their app to allow users to publish streams, or ‘channels’, of information. Louis Gray has a more detailed write-up. Looks like they are trying to compete with Tumblr?

Jason Calacanis and a group of other angels funds ‘This Week In’ for $300K, launching a new live streaming web network. ‘Watching streaming shows on your iPad is the future,’ Jason says.

Rumors swirling about Apple’s plans for Lala — a streaming music service to rival Spotify. Lala.com is shutting down 31 May, and the San Francisco Apple Worldwide Developers Conference is June 7. Will we finally be getting a social iTunes?

AIMSpace or Outerspace?

Wow. The hype and antihype is really swirling around the direction that AOL is taking with the project formerly know as AIMSpace, and which now looks likely to be called Head On, as I wrote about yesterday. The “MySpace Killer” meme culminated in a Business 2.0 blurb:

Indeed, word on the street has been that Time Warner’s (Research) AOL would use its AIM instant messenger as a platform to jump on the social networking bandwagon. The B2Day blog reported in March that the project was codenamed “AIMSpace” and was expected to launch in mid-April. AOL exec Tina Sharkey argued that AIM was already the “largest social network in the world.” The rumors got a bit louder this morning as AOL program manager Armughan Javaid confirmed existence of AOL’s MySpace killer, claiming the service “will be open for non-members, and it will be kick-ass!”

Ted Leonsis jumps in:

Working on a product that “kills” another, popular product is just so…1999.

Here’s a better way of looking at it. The AIM Buddy List (which was introduced 10 years ago) was the orignial social network, and it has 43 million AIM and Buddy List users. We’re working on adding functionality to AIM that will really open it up — allowing developers, partners, and users to take part. It’s going to be fun. Rather than thinking of it as a killer of anything, let alone MySpace, it will allow our millions of users to express themselves in new and interesting ways and become a catalyst for new communities to grow and flourish. We’ll have more to say about it soon.

Jason Calacanis chimes in with the nobody is killing anybody spin. Doesn’t anyone remember 1-2-3 killing Multiplan, or Word killing Wordstar? OS/2? Things do get killed off, people. Let’s not get too “sweetness and light” over this.

And Mike at TechDirt argues that AOL is two years too late, and that MySpace can’t be toppled.

The reality is that for most adults, MySpace is a social phenomenon that has not made a direct impact on us. It has been primarily limited to young adults and teens. There is still the opportunity for a social network for the rest of us, and it could well be based on the AIM buddylist. 43 million users is a good start.

I totally believe that the buddylist is the center of the “universe 2.0”, this new world we are in: denizens of a newly enhanced online experience. AOL has a chance to make a run at the untapped market for a significantly improved social networking experience. The LinkedIn generation of so-called professional social networking 1.0 apps are so lame that they are ripe for obliteration by a new approach, and as I have been trumpeting for years, the instant messaging buddylist should be the heart of such an approach. There is an opportunity to kill off some or all of those apps, if not MySpace and Facebook, and AOL has a good story brewing, even if they are reluctant to actually show us anything yet. Or at least me.

I had lunch with some AOL guys yesterday, who said more or less the same thing as Ted. Stay tuned, its going to be cool, we can’t tell you when it’s coming out, but soon, real soon, like in May, maybe. They had me diverted by pointing me to the Triton beta — not the current Triton release, mind you — which I will fiddle with over the weekend on my son’s PC since it’s Windows only. Apparently it incorporates a lot of the Nerdvana IM client features I have been wishing for. For example, your buddies’ presence indicates more than just on/off status. It can indicate new blog posts, they tell me.

Well, I am ready for something new, but if it all turns out to be Windows only, I am going to howl like a stuck pig.

AIMSpace or Outerspace?

Wow. The hype and antihype is really swirling around the direction that AOL is taking with the project formerly know as AIMSpace, and which now looks likely to be called Head On, as I wrote about yesterday. The “MySpace Killer” meme culminated in a Business 2.0 blurb:

Indeed, word on the street has been that Time Warner’s (Research) AOL would use its AIM instant messenger as a platform to jump on the social networking bandwagon. The B2Day blog reported in March that the project was codenamed “AIMSpace” and was expected to launch in mid-April. AOL exec Tina Sharkey argued that AIM was already the “largest social network in the world.” The rumors got a bit louder this morning as AOL program manager Armughan Javaid confirmed existence of AOL’s MySpace killer, claiming the service “will be open for non-members, and it will be kick-ass!”

Ted Leonsis jumps in:

Working on a product that “kills” another, popular product is just so…1999.

Here’s a better way of looking at it. The AIM Buddy List (which was introduced 10 years ago) was the orignial social network, and it has 43 million AIM and Buddy List users. We’re working on adding functionality to AIM that will really open it up — allowing developers, partners, and users to take part. It’s going to be fun. Rather than thinking of it as a killer of anything, let alone MySpace, it will allow our millions of users to express themselves in new and interesting ways and become a catalyst for new communities to grow and flourish. We’ll have more to say about it soon.

Jason Calacanis chimes in with the nobody is killing anybody spin. Doesn’t anyone remember 1-2-3 killing Multiplan, or Word killing Wordstar? OS/2? Things do get killed off, people. Let’s not get too “sweetness and light” over this.

And Mike at TechDirt argues that AOL is two years too late, and that MySpace can’t be toppled.

The reality is that for most adults, MySpace is a social phenomenon that has not made a direct impact on us. It has been primarily limited to young adults and teens. There is still the opportunity for a social network for the rest of us, and it could well be based on the AIM buddylist. 43 million users is a good start.

I totally believe that the buddylist is the center of the “universe 2.0”, this new world we are in: denizens of a newly enhanced online experience. AOL has a chance to make a run at the untapped market for a significantly improved social networking experience. The LinkedIn generation of so-called professional social networking 1.0 apps are so lame that they are ripe for obliteration by a new approach, and as I have been trumpeting for years, the instant messaging buddylist should be the heart of such an approach. There is an opportunity to kill off some or all of those apps, if not MySpace and Facebook, and AOL has a good story brewing, even if they are reluctant to actually show us anything yet. Or at least me.

I had lunch with some AOL guys yesterday, who said more or less the same thing as Ted. Stay tuned, its going to be cool, we can’t tell you when it’s coming out, but soon, real soon, like in May, maybe. They had me diverted by pointing me to the Triton beta — not the current Triton release, mind you — which I will fiddle with over the weekend on my son’s PC since it’s Windows only. Apparently it incorporates a lot of the Nerdvana IM client features I have been wishing for. For example, your buddies’ presence indicates more than just on/off status. It can indicate new blog posts, they tell me.

Well, I am ready for something new, but if it all turns out to be Windows only, I am going to howl like a stuck pig.

Is it Head On or AIMSpace?

There have been a number of recent posts about AOL’s plans to launch a new social networking app, like Jason Calacanis’ recent piece where he simply — and enigmatically — reprints a Dave Winer one-liner — “I just heard a rumor that AOL is going to challenge MySpace, “head on,” to be announced in approximately two weeks.” — and then comments, “I know nothing. :-)”.

AIMspace is the internal project name, and it’s not clear if Winer is suggesting that the name of the product will be “Head On”.

But I know from discussions with folks like Tina Sharkey that AOL is planning to roll out a lot of stuff over the next few months, and that the buddylist is very much the center of their social universe. No surprise, considering what an asset AIM is.

I am having lunch with some AOL folks today, so maybe they will tell me something substantive, although I bet they won’t let me publish a word.

Blogging for Fame….and Maybe Fortune

A relatively lopsided discussion between Jason Calacanis and Alan Meckler at WSJ.com, Can Bloggers Make Money?, where Jason overpowers with hard data about CPM rates and Alan restates the conventional wisdom.

The truth is that blogging is an egalitarian and edge medium: anyone can start a blog. Some years ago William S Burroughs (in Words Of Advice For Young People) said “Any old soul is worth saving, at least to a priest; but not every soul is worth buying. So, you can take the offer as a compliment.” So, while all can blog, not all can make money from it.

Glenn Fleishman makes some good comments at the WSJ.com piece, noting that he has received paychecks from both Meckler and Calacanis:

[from comments]

I’ve been asked many times over the last three years about how to run a blog that makes money as my Wi-Fi Networking News one does. It requires a combination of obsession, reporting skills and/or a good turn of phrase, an audience willing to read obsessively, enough of an audience in a segment, and advertising dollars that target that audience.

David Sifry of Technorati put it well in an analysis a few weeks ago (http://www.sifry.com/alerts/archives/000420.html) in which he identifed 155,000 sites that are close enough to the top of the power log curve of inbound links that they get significant traffic (not nearly as much as the real top hitting blogs and news sites). Tens of millions of blogs get only personal traffic.

Even though I enjoy what I do, it’s the equivalent of a very small business. I don’t make enough to hire other writers, although that’s a plan. But I don’t have to invest very much except my time. If I were to burn out, which has happened to some other fine bloggers, then there’s the question of monetizing a blog to sell it or to replace the main writer or writers.

My bet is that the top 20,000 blogs or so (today) can make serious bank, enough to be, as Fleishman puts it, a “significant minority” of the author’s income. These bloggers will become enmeshed in blog networks or ad networks that free them to write obsessively, focusing on the flow of words, not the clickstream.

A number of others (like Thomas Hawk and Hugh MacLeod) jump in to point out that for many of us, blogging is a way to flog our personal brands (Hugh says “microbrands”) or position ourselves as experts to get consulting gigs, or sell books.

But today’s news about the New York Times investors witholding votes because of the plummeting value of that company’s stock (fallen 47% since the start of 2004) tells the other side of the blogging for dollars story: media is surging onto the Web, and readers are gobbling up the top information sources online. And blogs (and their wild-eyed authors) are going to remain a fixture in this world. And the very best are going to be well-compensated for it, once all the kinks in the supply chain are worked out.

The Corporatization of Memetrackers: Netscape, Digg, Rojo, and our Engines of Meaning

Rafat Ali reports on the Netscape memetracker relaunch, which is just the first of a spate of news in the memetracker space:

[from Netscape.com To Be Relaunched As a Digg-Like Site; Calacanis Heading It]

The storied Netscape.com will be revived again by AOL, and will relaunch soon as a Digg-like user-driven news/aggregation site with Jason Calacanis at the helm, sources have told paidContent.org. Some Netscape-Calacanis rumors first surfaced on SV gossip site Valleywag.

The original Netscape division has been more than decimated over the last few years and layoffs have been almost routine these last few months. The new Netscape.com will be headed by Calacanis, who came in through AOL’s acquisition of Weblogs Inc. Not clear what role Weblogs, Inc.’s blogs would play but both divisions would report in Calacanis, according to the sources. He already reports to Jim Bankoff, executive VP of Programming & Products, who would also oversee the Netscape.com changes.

Calacanis has been a big Digg fan and has written about it on his blog a few times. He has yet to respond to our query about these details, but said on his own blog in response to rumours: “There are no details to share right now, but if that changes I’ll certainly let you know.”

What is not clear is whether the new Netscape will stick to just technology news aggregation like Digg, or go the general consumer route. The latter seems the most likely.



Jason has demonstrated a good ability to serve up what consumers want, a la Engadget, and ‘gets’ what makes Digg work: the wisdom of crowds, or perhaps, the positive feedback loops in mob dynamics.

Don’t get me wrong: positive feedback, unchecked, can be a not nice thing. It just sounds good. The known problems of memetrackers — the “heaping on” behavior of authors or participants can polarize the system, biases in the majority can lead to dissenting perspectives being squelched, new voices are shut out — are likely to be an ongoing issue for anyone moving in the space.

The dynamics of memetrackers — which stories that are breaking, what announcements are racing through the blogosphere, whose new insights are being discussed — represnts a critical turning point in media, demonstrated by the growing importance of the Diggs, memeorandums, and Tailranks out there.

It’s the algorithm, the machine, harnessed to the collective insights of a body of people, that is replacing the editorial management of media. Instead of the CNN newsteam deciding what’s hot, tech.memeorandum’s machinery moves certain hot stories to the top of the page, or the activities of a handful of folks at Digg leads to a cascade on interest in a new product announcement.

That’s all well and good, and probably better — and obviously cheaper — than conventional editorial controls. But the control of the algorithm, the inner workings of the magic box that determines what’s hot and what’s not, is in the hands of the wizards that work for these new media gatekeepers. Yes, the myriad decisions of tens of millions of individuals still factor in heavily — like the ranking of blogs at tech.memeorandum being based on popularity, which is based on links and traffic — and the more explicit voting stuff at services like Rojo’s new Mojo, a personalized memetracking tool (see the TechCrunch and Read/Write Web for solid, in-depth reviews).

The answer to feed glut might be memetrackers, where we rely on the machinery and the harnessed collective grey matter of many, many others, to guide us to the right stuff to read, the right viewpoints to test, the right insights to be exposed to. But the corporatization of memetrackers is my biggest concern. Will there be a consistent weighting of more established, more conservative voices? Will the hippies, dreamers, and iconoclasts be weeded out? Will thoughtful and critical analysis be avalanched by hot meme-chasing newshounds who loudly proclaim love for everything hot? I wonder.

But there is no doubt that my primitive hunter/gatherer model of roaming around looking for good stuff will be augmented with something more overarching. Bruce Sterling once wrote about this:

[from Order Out Of Chaos]

Ultimately no human brain, no planet full of human brains, can possibly catalog the dark, expanding ocean of data we spew. In a future of information auto-organized by folksonomy, we may not even have words for the kinds of sorting that will be going on; like mathematical proofs with 30,000 steps, they may be beyond comprehension. But they’ll enable searches that are vast and eerily powerful. We won’t be surfing with search engines any more. We’ll be trawling with engines of meaning.

And the abiding question for me is “who is writing those algorithms?” If we can get to the point where we — the eventual users of these engines — have some say, or at least an insight, into the inner workings of the engines, I would more happily embrace them.


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