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Lazy Afternoon at Manly Beach

November 27, 2010

After a quiet Saturday morning of coffee and work, I took the Ferry from Circular Quay to Manly Beach to the north around noon. It’s worth the fuss people tell you about. Today was a hot and clear day in Sydney, but the Ferry ride was breezy and cool. We arrived in Manly about a half hour later.

Manly is a great surfer/beach town, with the overpriced bistros, boutiques and bars you’d expect lining the street, but it has great character nonetheless.  I played my part and went to the Manly Grill and had two Coopers Pale Ales and Fish and Chips. The grill is right next to the beach, so after that rather heavy lunch I bought a beach towel and fell asleep for an hour.

I helped three girls get that “perfect” picture, and by that I mean we had about 7 takes. You kind of have to wonder what we used to do before digital cameras. Didn’t we just take the picture, roll the dice, and see how it came out on the other end? Still, they were quite nice and turned me onto to some good spots to check out in the city tonight.

The day was pleasant, and reminded me of my trips to Marin back home. Except 2o degrees warmer.

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The Rocks in Sydney

November 26, 2010

Got into town yesterday afternoon from Adelaide. After knocking off work, I walked down to The Rocks, a little north to the center of town where I’m roughly staying. In  summer evenings, they have the Markets by Moonlight, a festival like atmosphere through the streets with vendors serving gourmet food, desserts and arts & crafts.

One of the restaurants with a stand was The Wine Odyssey . I had a meatball sub, which I enjoyed while listening to a street musician play some wonderful music, kind of a mix between folk and indie. Her voice has still stuck with me, and I just e-mailed the event organizers to find out her name so I can download or purchase some of her music.

I also walked down along Circular Quay right as daylight began to dwindle. Very beautiful city that reminds me much of home in San Francisco.

One other cool thing was the Christmas Tree made of bicycles, but that’s more appropriate for Doug’s IceTubes blog, so more to come on that.

Visit Adelaide

November 26, 2010

While Sydney and Melbourne undoubtedly get more attention from international travelers, I really enjoyed my time in Adelaide, South Australia. The people were warm and friendly to me, and the city had many great restaurants and bars.  They have also really cultivated and maintained a nice cultural wing of the town, where I got to spend a little time. Had I not been working start to finish for the majority of my time there, I definitely would have explored more.

Adelaide has more than one million people, and is the largest city in South Australia.

  • Though cross-eyed tired from my 14-hour flight to Sydney and additional 2 hours to Adelaide, I did manage to make it to a nice dinner at the Sebel Playford with a work colleague and a customer Tuesday night.  To walk there from my hotel (the Majestic Roof Garden), I walked west along North Terrace, which is a cultural boulevard of the city, containing the State Library of South Australia, the South Australian Museum and the Parliament house, among other institutions. It was really hot that night (80s perhaps?), a not-so-mild departure from the San Francisco microclimate.
    • Of all of those landmarks, I got to see the state library (a Socialtext customer kindly gave me a tour) on Wednesday. It was an incredible building constructed in the late 1800s. The main room was architecturally wonderful, opening up in walls lined with books three or four levels high.
  • I also enjoyed some great food and drink.
    • Casablabla. Great tapas, but they had the misfortune of having a California boy order what they listed on the menu as a “perfect margarita.” It was served in a martini glass with no ice, and just didn’t have the right balance. They should at least rename it on the menu, or work the balance. The food was amazing, however.  I recommend the lamb skewers.
    • Ying Chow Restaurant. The ribs are pretty darn good. I also tried Crocodile. And sure enough to the hackneyed expression, it does taste like chicken.
    • Benjamin on Franklin. You feel like you’re in someone’s house, but in a good way. Lots of Coopers pints.
  • Lots of great wine down there (it’s near wine country!). Shared in a bottle of Chateau Tangunda, a Shiraz down there. Very nice.

Milling About Adelaide Australia

November 23, 2010

There’s nothing like a roadtrip to break you out of a blogging slump. Now, to be fair, the last couple months I was busy prepping for the launch of Socialtext 4.5 and concurrent Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, and have been pretty active on the Socialtext blog. But I’m going to endeavor to keep TheLynchBlog more fresh.

This post is being filed from Adelaide, Australia, where I’m on a business trip to visit with Socialtext customers and get the word out about how social software can change organizations across the whole commonwealth here. We’ve had some really innovative customers down in Australia. Hayes Knight, for instance, was one of our earliest adopters of Socialtext Connect.

I left San Francisco Sunday night, embarking on a 14 hour flight that got me into Sydney this (Tuesday) morning. From Sydney, I connected three hours later to Adelaide, which is about a 90 minute flight. It’s a long day(s).

After a long shower and nap, I took a walk around Rundle Mall, which seems to be the center of commerce here and is only a couple blocks from my hotel. I ducked into the Woolworth store and bought a bottle of Crown Lager (I don’t know any better — Australian friends please advice) and some Smith’s Potato Chips.

Very, very hot here. I feel like I’m in Boston in August.

Why “The Social Network” Doesn’t Define My Generation Or Mark Zuckerberg

October 13, 2010

Will The Social Network go down as the movie of my generation? If it does, I can live with it. But I don’t think it tells the full story of my generation, Mark Zuckerberg, and his vital role in our future.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the movie or find the fictional portrayal of Facebook’s co-founders entertaining or dramatically powerful (arguments about its authenticity bore me, since anyone with half a brain knows it’s fiction). It’s more that the issues in the film seemed universally human — and American — than they did generational or technologically driven. If anything, I walked away with a more positive feeling and elevated respect for Mark Zuckerberg (even the conflicted one portrayed in the film) than I’ve ever had as someone who has followed him and his company very closely. In fact, I left the theater last night more inspired about the possibilities of my generation than I have in a long time.

(And I got home and wrote this post right away).

From the moment I heard Facebook’s history would be made into a movie, I knew it would be as much an indictment on my generation that grew up with computers as it would on Zuckerberg himself. In fact, prior to seeing the film last night, I intentionally didn’t read the reviews because I wanted to go in unencumbered by the opinions of commentators twice my age who want to give me their $.02 on the net generation with zero credibility.

That said, I think tech and social media enthusiasts who deem “The Social Network” an unfairly negative view on emerging technology need to relax. Technology affects all generations and the way they interact with each other, both for good and bad. Not reflecting technology’s role on our lives in art — and the natural drawbacks its has on our relationships — would be silly. Sure, Facebook and like technologies also brings many positive additions to our relationships that could have been covered in the film, but that wouldn’t make for fun fiction. Plus, we all know TV, the defining medium of the generation before mine, is a much bigger culprit in social ineptitude and a loosening grip on reality than Facebook, so I’m not sweating it.

What The Social Network reveals, and what Mark Zuckerberg has successfully shown in real-life, is that my generation not only has the brains and intellect to be successful and innovative on a grand scale, but also those celebrated American qualities of grit, resolve, and determination that the older generation so often insists we lack. Pete Cashmore of Mashable touched on this entrepreneurial spirit depicted in the film by Zuckerberg, describing him as a “genius with an industrious work ethic.” But I think it runs even deeper. Poetically, the story, especially Zuckerberg’s decision to move to California and grow his business rather than play-it-safe back at Harvard, revealed an alive and well manifest destiny story being embraced by an early 20-something. One where you don’t settle. Where you don’t stay at home in mom’s finished basement. As the movie aptly shows, he wouldn’t be content to build a $1 million business if he can build a $1 billion business. And even when he did get $1 billion buy-out offer (he did in real-life), these same older critics probably called him out for hubris. Now, he could be looking at a $30 billion business.

It’s not a cliche, but a mere truism, that my generation is often told we sit around computers all day and expect to get everything free and easy. The Social Network — in an appealing, bold, and human way — illustrated that we have ideas we’ll work tirelessly to realize, and we will help contribute to our economy, create jobs and (though not shown on screen) promote causes. Like the generations before us, along the way we’ll make mistakes and hurt each other sometimes in the process, but the spirit endures.

Unfortunately, this country’s gross disparity in providing opportunity means it’s not set up to create as many Mark Zuckerbergs as we need, which is why his recent donation of $100 million in Facebook stock to the Newark Public Schools couldn’t be more appropriate. Right now, the reason we have so many twenty-somethings living at home has more to do with a lack of education and opportunity due to the complacent generation before them to create jobs suited for the information economy. And parents who spend the majority of their time watching their 25 recorded shows on the DVR rather than helping their kids with homework — and then blame teachers and presidents rather than themselves when their kids don’t thrive in the 21st century economy — should think twice about criticizing.

The Social Network revealed that ideas — and the ability to execute on them — will yield the prosperity and new economic opportunities that our generation must create if we are to make up for the mistakes of the generations before us. My brother and I both proudly work for start-ups, and I know our parents, who just visited us in San Francisco and taught us about a strong work ethic, couldn’t be more proud. The reason I hope this movie doesn’t define my generation is that ethics — not just money — are important to us. And though I don’t him personally, I believe ethics probably matter to Facebook’s heady CEO as well.

So while I know this movie couldn’t have been easy for Zuckerberg to watch, I’d tell him not to sweat it. Despite whatever mistakes he’s made along the way, he’s done more good for my generation than many of his critics care to admit.

The Open Web Moving Inside Businesses

September 7, 2010

The last month and a half this blog has been all but silent, as the majority of my prose production has been focused on key writing and research projects for work. One in particular came to fruition today, as ReadWriteWeb published a whitepaper I penned (and Socialtext sponsored) on Open Web standards. For those TheLynchBlog readers who don’t speak geek, let me explain.

The emergence of popular social technologies like Twitter, Facebook and Google Buzz have thrived in large part by adhering to some standards and formats (like activitystrea.ms, OpenSocial) that make it easy to move information in an out those sites from other places around the Web. As the report mentions, Facebook and its 500 million users who utilize the Facebook News Feed is the most recognized example to mainstream Web users. When people log on to Facebook, they can see both people and system generated messages. A people generated message would be John “uploaded his photos from his vacation to Thailand” or that “Natalie is now friends with Chris.” A system generated one could be “ReadWriteWeb published a new whitepaper.”

Now, businesses and technology leaders inside companies of all sorts have learned that people can consume information around them in the same way. Rather than tab-toggle to various applications all day, employees should be able to select what information from colleagues and systems across their company they want pulled to them. It allows them to see that “John edited the Q2 marketing plan” or that “a new record was created in your Oracle CRM system.” This will make their core business processes more flexible, and in line with the way we expect to consume and act on information.

Oh wait, that was still geeky. Oh well. I tried.

On a personal note, it was a pleasure to work with the ReadWriteWeb team. I really enjoyed dusting off my old skills and working on a long-form, published piece of writing for such a great outlet.

“Blogger Burnout” Isn’t About New Versus Old Media Companies

July 20, 2010

It’s been interesting to watch the incredulous reactions to The New York Times’ story on “blogger burnout.” The premise of the article is that the heavy content demands at media sites — and their reliance on page views to drive their business — causes hectic hours and a less than glamorous lifestyle for the journalists who write for these publications.

Such is the state of the media business these days: frantic and fatigued. Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news — anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way.

Unfortunately, an article that merely pieces together the lifestyle of many online journalists has been held up as an affront on New Media (i.e. Foster Kamer’s rant in The Village Voice). The problem with this now really hackneyed statement is that 1) It doesn’t factually refute anything about the lives of modern journalists 2) The New Media vs. Old Media argument is a completely separate issue than what’s described here.

If Mashable or the Huffington Post wrote this article, would we hear this kind of backlash?

No.

You don’t have to be anti New Media to understand that the content demands of sites (New and Old) are often unreasonable, especially when we haven’t worked out a business model to adequately compensate good content creators (New and Old) for the work they do on a proper scale. This makes life hard for many people who work in journalism, regardless if their outlet is two years old, or 150. One way the Times could have hedged against this was adding more examples of blogger burnout at its own company or one like it (it did mention The Christian Science Monitor in passing).

Good journalism — practiced on a blog, a magazine, radio or video medium — requires careful thought and (sometimes, believe it or not) time. I see it on the Times, and I see it on mom and pop blogs, too. But if your business model requires so much content and low common denominator page view metrics to help satisfy the revenue goals of the company (both New and Old are playing that game right now), it’s going to be a hard lifestyle for content creators regardless of the glamor that comes with a byline and a press pass.

Yes, burnout happens in many other professions, such as teaching, firefighting, medicine, and non-profit work. People do write about the intense demands of those professions, and I’m not sure why online journalists should be excluded just so New Media pundits can land a conference speaking engagement where they say “Old Media is so 1.0.”

What I can’t wait for is when the New versus Old media argument begins to blur. We’ve already seen it after Michael Arrington, the creator of one my favorite publications, TechCrunch, rightly lashed out at poor content creation, and I’m sure we’ll see it happen more and more in the future.