December 27, 2007

The Semantic Web

I watched three very smart, hard-working high-tech colleagues have a discussion this week about what "Web 3" really means.
- One said it means "finding middle ground" (i.e. we had top-down content from the same old media empires and corporate boomboxes with Web 1.0, bottoms-up, user-generated everything with Web 2.0, so something in between had to be Web 3.0. )
- The other one said that it was all a myth, just like the Web 2.0 is just a bubble, (in the good scenario) and all bull (in the worst case.)
- The third one had absoltely no idea what the other two were talking about, and stayed silent.

All three could be right. Just like all three could be wrong.

I was always assumed that it was a synonym of The Semantic Web. Here's a short intro by Digital Bazaar to get the conversation going.

December 26, 2007

Thanks, and Goodbye

It was after many, many months of deliberating that I reached decision to stop my active involvement in ResearchTrail. Many factors argued for and against staying, but two won out:

  • Evolving professional interests (more on that later...)
  • The juggling got too heavy to remain enjoyable, especially since there were far more important things I feared I was just about to "drop"
Letting go of your "baby" is very hard, but I'll always remain a proud parent seeing it flourish. ResearchTrail continues as strong as ever, and I look forward to see it launch very soon.
So to Judy and David, thank you for your trust and openness and friendship.
And to the regular readers of Creativivi, thanks for accompanying me in this rollercoaster. You can certainly expect more life juggling, idea bouncing, and Web & Work 2.0 explorations going forward.
In other words, stay tuned for part 2.

December 20, 2007

What frozen peas can teach us…

If you’re in the twittersphere lately, you will have noticed that some of the most prominent 2.0 figures have traded their traditional photos for… well, peas. Peas as wigs. Peas as backgrounds. Pea pods as dresses. Peas as their profile photo altogether.

To me, the mystery was solved thanks to a twitter question, and subsequent answer, by Dave Weiner yesterday

Here’s the story:

Susan Reynolds was, until earlier this month, an artist and media consultant from Washington DC. Some two weeks ago, she found a lump in her chest and found herself undergoing numerous tests (including biopsies) that would later tell her she had breast cancer. To cope with the immediate pain of the scars those tests left, she grabbed a bag of frozen peas and stuck them into her bra.

She very candidly began blogging about her experience in, which has, two weeks later, she has generated somewhat of a cult following.

As she writes in her blog,

- A bag of peas was something
everybody could relate to.
- Some people love them,
some hate them, some use them for their own injuries.
- A bag of frozen peas was a
vehicle for conversation and let people tease me instead of having to cry.
- It let people share
instead of bemoaning.
With the viral spreading and speed that only Web 2.0 can offer, today there’s a group in Flickr where you can upload your own FrozenPea “pea-vatars.” There’s also a FrozenPea Fund for cancer research started by her friends (which is due to launch tomorrow, Dec 21st).

So in just a little over two weeks, a growing list of little known and well-known bloggers alike have taken the “pink ribbon” cause and given it a funny, personal, whimsical makeover. And people are buying into it.

Case in point: Robert Scoble (Scobleizer blog) thinks about the Davos question " how to save the world?" His answer: Peas.
(photo credit: Goldie Katsu )

December 19, 2007

Time waster of the day: Dumbest Moments of the Year

It's that time of the year again. Somebody on an email listserv (yes, despite Twitter and RSS, some of us still get old-fashioned email digests with post by people we'll likely never meet face to face), sent me a link to a news story by the editors of Fortune magazine "the 101 Dumbest moments in Business"

After reading about executives who play golf for 3 weeks days while their companies are in deep sh*t from the subprime crisis, and hearing more "shocking confessions" from so-called celebs, and then worrying sick about the lead paing and date-drug-like substances that my kids might have been exposed to in the 2 and 4 years I've surely endangered them by buying them toys, I felt nauseated.

Was I the only one? What were others thinking?
I can just hear their voices...

- The Israeli: If that punk can be CEO, so can I. In fact, I already know I'm better.
- The religious extremist: Told you so.
- The Latin American Macho: Idiots. The idea is not to get caught.
- The Latin American with "Marianismo": It's the poor who always get scr*wed.
- My Jewish Mother: See, that's why it's better that we're not millionaires.
- My friends' Jewish Mother: Told you so.
- The writers of the piece: Checkmark. Now let's start our filler on "New Year's Resolutions." so that we can finally go on vacation.
- The execs, celebs and other (in)famous people covered by the story: Hurray! My name is at the top of the blogosphere/mediasphere/noiseland for today!

December 16, 2007

Feedback for Loic: Top (and bottom) five from LeWeb3

BEST of LeWeb3 this year.

  1. The caliber of the people. Big names not just for the sake of their names, but for their wit and influence and variety.
  2. More on the people: The openness of Martin Varsavsky, the cleverness of The Guardian’s Emily Bell, the charisma of Jason Calacanis & Ev Willams, plus, Jeff Pulver and Scoble popping up everywhere.
  3. Presentation fun: Jacob Share’s DIGGs live; Robert Scoble replying to TechCrunch announcement live, and good improvisation by several presenters in light of technical glitches.
  4. Israeli startups (and fellow iDrink members) take silver and bronze in the Startup Competition
  5. Blogger friedly: The networking lounge, the Ad-Click booth with seats and power outlets, the guy from Google who helped me find the nearest store to get a new power supply for my dinosaur laptop, and WiFi after they fixed the first day's glitches.

And now, some suggestions for next year

  1. Did you notice that none of the names I mentioned before were women? Except for a couple of presenters (and our host, Cathy), there were no women spekers (and a very small percentage of attendees).
  2. Please ban “advertorials” from the keynote presentations. Some really went overboard in trying to promote their companies when they should have made it more generic.
  3. Day 2 ended in what was perceived as rushed improvisation and with very few people in the room. Better call it quits at 4 and then have people mingle for coffee downstairs if they want to stay until 5 or 6. (On a positive note, I glad they gave the stage to
  4. Parties are a place where people want to mingle and dance. LaScala was loud & awkward, and as somebody pointed out, they finally got around to playing tood music, but "have you ever tried to dance to Led Zeppelin?"
  5. Online updates: many people didn’t know about the wiki or official site until late in the event, and then, it was not really participatory. Would have been great to follow changes in the schedule live throught these sites.

We know Loic and Geraldine and Ouriel and the rest were stretched to the limit, but still, appointing someone else would have been great. (ehem, if iDrink sponsors me again, or ResearchTrail takes off as we'd like it to, or if I'm invited as a speaker or otherwise find a creative way to get there next year, I officially volunteer :-) )

December 13, 2007

Instant dose of culture – The Refill

Thanks to an airport strike in Athens, I got to spend an extra night in Paris. Luckily, it’s on a Wednesday, when the Louvre is open until late (10 PM according to the tourist guides, more like 9:30 PM in real life, when le-guards start to kick you out)

This night was a treat. I had just come from two mind-guzzling days where “dudes” and a few “dudettes” from 40 countries and inflated egos spoke about collaboration, communication, design, and technology - and I needed to get away from WiFi and let it all start to sink in. My first encounter with hieroglyphics and a Sphinx and the Venus de Milo (and yes, Raphael and Delacroix and the others again), finally drove home the point:

I can relate to this. This object is trying to engage me, to have a dialogue, to have me participate (or reject it). It goes well beyond the artistry and tools (the technology and skills). It’s –you guessed it- trying to tell me a story.

After walking up and down Denon (and Sully too this time!), I went back for a final dose of chic from the Gioconda. Unlike my visit Monday, the crowds around her were gone. I followed the famous gaze, reminding myself that it wasn’t enough to just stand there and listen to the audio guide or take another pic. Perhaps there was something I could understand about the Mona Lisa by myself?

And then her smirk turned into a full blown smile.

Thank you Paris.

On changing the world

At LeWeb3, basically everybody in the room thinks they can change the world (and most want to get filthy rich on the way). There’s a lot of emphasis on change and inspiration and dreams. But what impact are they really having?

After Hans Rosling’s talk, I felt moved. I wanted to continue to act, to make a difference in one of the “220 varieties” of countries he was referring to. But then, something started to bother me: as much as Gapminder brings alive otherwise very dry facts and statistics, the access to these graphs requires certain basic level of background/education to understand (as well as the means to see them).

I tracked Hans Rosling at the coffee break to ask him about the “lowest common denominator” of the people who use these graphs. His answer, tongue in cheek, was, “kids under 12 and Heads of State.” And added “This is because neither group wants to be told what to do. They want to explore themselves.”

Hans is a good conversationalist. People burst out laughing. Then somebody jumped in with a stat on the low ratio of CEOs with MBAs, and the high correlation of CEOs with MBAs that end up in jail. More laughs.

But Jonathan Mark, who was standing nearby, understood what I had in mind. Yes, the issues in so-called “third world” countries are important to raise. But by doing this on our own, with our own language and without giving others the chance to join the conversation (or create and preserve their own), we’re just imposing our own views on the subject. We’re not attempting to share (or listen to) the voices from those we’re trying to “help” in the first place.

Jonathan is trying to change this. He’s involved in projects in Africa that teach villagers, and especially women in these villages, to continue sharing their stories, their memories, their problems. The technology is simple, and most importantly, using a medium they’re familiar and feel comfortable with: voice. Radio is the solution.

Grass-roots radio stations are popping up everywhere. Women are communicating their issues, their hopes, their solutions, their dreams. And thanks to these projects, they’re preserving their stories, their memories.

Now that’s impressive.

The New World of Personalization, and what Philippe Starck didn’t get

Jonathan Medved from Vringo built a nice case for the personalization of technology. As a presenter, he made a very nice use of slides (featuring everything from Crocs-ware to Phone-ware.) He also had some memorable quotes:

  • (Quoting Efuse): “A web site is your personality in pixels”
  • As an investor, I wouldn’t have given money for companies in the ringtones business 5 years ago. That's unfortunate, because now it’s a $6 Billion business” (Jon's background is in VC)
  • Mobile personalization is behind the web. But it’s about to catch up.
  • The phone is really a fashion statement. [Vivi’s comment: my Nokia, by this definition, en is more like a 1987 Volvo station wagon: looks old and box-like, but sturdy and safe with kids…]

The second half of the presentation was, unfortunately, solely devoted to promoting Jon’s startup, which, marketing oriented as I am, was bit over the top. But I forgive him given the intro he gave on stage when he politely disagreed with design genious Philippe Starck after the latter’s (politically incorrect? shallow? even-for-this-audience disrespectful?) comments on God and stupidity earlier that morning.

December 12, 2007

Monetization dilemmas? Stay in the middle.

A note from a packed panel this morning on "Monetization" at LeWeb3.
For the most part, the answers were pretty much the expected ones (no, nobody has found the magic formula):

  • Bloggers & Content providers? Be among the top 5 in an industry in your country, or carve a big piece of a (tiny) niche. Otherwise, don't expect to make any money for blogging (or maybe enough to pay for BigMacs).
  • Others? Draw users in. Keep them there. Try subscription. And of course, various forms of advertising. And remember, Ecommerce is not making a profit from the commerce itself because the logistics are so expensive; they're good for being in the middle. Try being an intermediary - to offer serivces that either don’t produce the content or don’t do the selling part.

The one piece of advice I don't necessarily agree with: sell virtual products, like that website where 13-year-old girls purchase pixelized clothes for each other. I find it rather depressing. Maybe someone will show me something that will convince me of the viability/usefulness of such?

On European Entrepreneurs, or Robin Hood 2.0

One of the highlights today was Loic Le Meur's "conversation" with Martin Varsavsky. Unlike the self-perpetuating Sarah Lacy/Kevin Rose "conversation" yesterday or some of the impolite remarks to the audience during Dave Winer/Loic Le Meur's "conversation" this morning, this was one conversacion I wished could have gone on much longer.

Martin Varsavsky, entrepreneur, investor and Spanish speaker (no bias here, of course) struck a cord when he spoke about the change in Europe's perception of entrepreneurs. Before, he said, entrepreneurs were considered thieves, bandits. Nothing more than "Ricos, llenos de mierda" [his words].
Things are changing in today's Europe, where the entrepreneurial spirit is taking off (I take his word for it; he's also a lecturer at the Instituto de Empresas). Varsavsky says that their new image is much more positive, to the extent that some consider them the new saviors of Europe. They've gone from robbers to job creators, from outcasts to cultural icons.

Reminds me of Robin Hood.

Saluting the people formerly known as "consumers"

After getting bored with LeWeb3's own version of Buzzword bingo during a couple of the sessions this morning, I was very much drawn into what Gerd Leonhard had to say about the future of media.

Not that his session wansn't peppered with some of the terms of BS Bingo, but unlike some of the others presenters, he actually used these to add to the conversation something more than fluff.
Some of the highlights:

  • You don’t make money with protection. You make money with engagement.
    In other words. We’re all pirates.
  • Control – the most crucial subject for the future of media. The distribution channels are changing. [Remember Porter's Five Forces?]
  • Radio was illegal for 15 yrs in Europe and 20 yrs in the US. The solution? Change the law. This was catalyzed by none other than the people... that is, the people formerly known as consumers
  • User generated really, user generated context

Israeli startups win second and third place at LeWeb3 startup competition

Congratulations to and PLYmedia (with prize, below) for being the runners up at LeWeb3's startup competition this year. You make us all proud!
The other winners: SplitGames, Erepublik, and the first-place winner, Goojet.

My Buzzword (or Bull?) Bingo for LeWeb3

Note the prominence of the word storytelling: a concept I strongly believe in, but am disappointed in its lack of use during presentations by the speakers who promote the idea in the first place.

Finally, what's missing from the picture? "Bubble." Interestingly enough, I have not heard it mentioned thus far (26 hours into the conference).

The side feature bears a Company

Twitter's Evan Williams got top marks for an early-morning presentation today. Simple. Short. Fun. Memorable. Come to think of it, many of the same principles he applied to Twitter.

The essence is simple. Pull out features, leave only what you absolutely need. But, as the Scobleizer asked, how do you know when to stop taking out features?

"Don't know when," Evan Williams answered, "but carefully and slowly." When they felt they needed them, the users themselves returned more features (the Hash/tags, the @/link, Twitterific, etc).

The interesting part of the features is the idea that each one can be turned not only into a separate product, but into a separate company. Twitter started from the "status" line of instant message clients. Feedburner is another example - and now a $100 M company.

(photo: the main conference hall before it filled up this morning)

December 11, 2007

Chag Chanukah Sameach from LeWeb3

Thanks to Corey and Jeff and Amber and Sarah and the others who came together to light the eight candle at LeWeb3. Chag urim sameach from the City of Lights.

More on the the power of storytelling

An inspiring lecture by TED’s June Cohen focused on behavior, not technology. Only downside - she didn't tell it as a story, unfortunately. Still, some good points:

  • We are living through a profound shift in the way people consume and provide media. But we're not really evolving. We're actually reverting to the natural media.
  • A campfire: this is actual media. It's where people interacted. Passing on gossip. Passing on stories. Media has always been social, participatory.
  • From that standpoint, the idea that media is created from up high and it’s dictated to you is depressing. Americans over the age of 50 watch an average of 40 hours a week. That’s isolating. That’s a full time job
  • In the last 50 years, "Speech" has become boring. Not inclusive, not engaging as the 1960s media that Marshal McLuhan gave.
  • But we're now re-discovering the participatory nature of media. It's personalized, not just broadcast from the high towers of the majority. And it's going on without media conglomerates. And with tremendous impact.

Go to the TED site to see June Cohen's presentation notes for this keynote.

P.S. My version of the personalization of technology: at the Nokia stand in LeWeb3, they give you a day's test drive of the new Nokia internet tablet (so what if it's also a phone) for free. First thing I loaded? My blog, with the pics of my kids.

Lessons on Innovation from Google - CCS

What does Google have to say about Innovation? Here's a Google product manager's view:

  1. Culture: this is the most important one. According to Nelson Mattos, Google puts users first; profitability is "an afterthought." Also in the Google credo: create a global skills base, as only local engineers will be able to understand the nuances of their geographies (Orckut big in Brazil, blogging big in France but not Latin America, etc) Finally, maintain a non hierarchical structure
  2. Collaboration: Some secrets are more valuable when shared
  3. Speed: Fast is better than slow. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be fast beating slow. At Google we absolutely encourage people to move at high speed, build a prototype, launch immediately and get feedback directly from the users. And improve over that.

Beyond Red Wine/ White Wine geography - or storytelling in a tech world

Just finished a fascinating lecture by Hans Rosling (founder of Medicine Sans Frontiers, and now, Gapminder) on technology, culture, diversity and storytelling. Lots of thougths to ponder:

  • "We thought we’d produce pages where people would lean forward and click.
    That does not work. You need to tell stories."
  • "There are 10 thousand watchers for each clicker"
  • "Every country that has gotten richer and healthier has done it at the expense of CO2 emissions. It’s you, the OECD that has destroyed the atmosphere. But we forgive you. Nobody knew what they were doing. But on the condition that we now count per capita. How can we make Chinese public perceive it as a problem when we are emitting so much more per capita?"
  • But we need the storytellers on top of this. It’s the storytellers that work.
  • "Start to look at the world as the place where all humans are equal – in choices, in opportunities
  • "We don’t want everyone to eat camembert in this world, to eat big macs. Bloggers, consider how all these blogging communities may enforce the ethnic homogeneity of Western Europe, NA. Create contacts elsewhere."
Take Hans' neighbor. He knows all about wine: temperature, food that goes with it, regions, taste. But he also only knows two only types of countries: “western” and “third world”
Now take Hans. He knows two types of wine: red and white. But he knows over 200 countries.
The main problem, says Hans, is that too many people that know wine, and too few people that know the world. Come study the world.

December 10, 2007

Instant Culture

What does one do on a cold, rainy Monday afternoon in Paris? After the compulsory Eifel Tower 5 min Kodak moment from Trocadero (and souveniers for the kids), it is de-rigeur to hop onto Line 1 of the Metro, straight to the Louvre.

Don't care that they're closing in 60 minutes. Doesn't matter that they won't rent me a guide at this hour, or that I can't waste time to drop 3 extra layers of clothing in the cloakroom. I'm in Paris and I'm entitled to pay my 9 euros and get my guaranteed dose of instant refinement.
So yes, I managed to catch a couple of Raphael and Delacroix and even a sneak peek at the Crown Jewels as I whisked through the halls of the Denon Gallery following the hordes. And when I finally reached my destination, I felt a sense of accomplishment.
The Mona Lisa. Right across the room, peeking at me from amongst the sea of tourists snapping from every angle.

Now, my turn... Click! I have a "real" snapshot of the Gioconda, flash reflection and all. This proves it, I'm uber chic now. Effect should last a full 72 hours.

December 07, 2007

To "Hal" With Privacy

Scott McNealy's utterings caused a stir back in the late 90s when he declared that privacy is dead. Almost a decade later, we hold this truth to be self-evident...

At one of the sessions at the Online Information conference in London today, Invisible Web author Chris Sherman shared the association of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Google's privacy "control" button.
One is green. One is red. Both watch and learn all the time. But we hope that the former, unlike its movie-like counterpart, does not end up killing anybody.

For the record, Chris is one of the least paranoid among the search gurus. He believes that the benefits gained from personalization (which can be as mundane as typical Amazon recommendations) far outweight the threats. Or continuing McNealy's reported quote, "get over it."

December 06, 2007

The thrill of the chase

One byte from Marydee Ojala's talk yesterday at the Online Information 2007 conference in London:

Information professionals get a kick out of the scavanger hunt. They enjoy the thrill of the chase, the process of finding the structure in the unstructured.

There is a lot of training that goes into this - taxonomies, search techniques, specialized search engines, tons of commands, and of course, interviewing skills. But the basic quality is there: loving the process that leads to the aha moment.

Well, apparently the conference organizers at the Olympia have taken this a little bit too seriously when they planned the maze of corridors and elevators that lead between the conference session rooms and the exhibit floor :-) But other than the lack of proper wireless internet connection (basically, forget it), a pretty enjoyable experience. More coming soon.

December 02, 2007

Social Graces 2.0


I need your help. I don’t think I’m doing things right. The more time I spend online, the more confused I get about social norms 2.0.

For example,

- Am I expected automatically connect in LinkedIn or ning if somebody responds to a post on a professional mailing list? Or should I save those only for facebook or myspace?
- And will people be offended if I add them to my “limited profile” list? Or don’t allow them to see my LinkedIn connections?
- Maybe that explains why I don’t have enough friends. My facebook stats say over 70, but hey, my (20-year old) sister has 632 friends, and counting. Is my social life over at 31?
- Maybe I should be a better friend. Am I the only one not throwing back friendship balls, traveling bears or playing Texas Hold’em?
- I got “accepted” to Pownce the other day! But then I didn’t find any friends there. Does that mean I don’t have cool friends?
- And a web 1.0 question that still puzzles me… When in doubt, should I break the chain? My friend Esther Solomon published a nice op-ed piece in Haaretz today against automatic chain mail forwarding (“England wants to ban Holocaust studies!”) But what if I’m responsible for not helping find a lost child’s parents or passing on a warning about cancer and deodorants?

Thank in advance,

A very confused Vivi

P.S. Just occurred to me… wanna be my friend on Pownce?

November 28, 2007

Big Ben for Little Ben

One of the few advantages of having a 4-year-old TV-addict is the fact that they become well versed in the world. That is, if they’re watching the “right” programs.

  • Take Dora the Explorer for example. English as a second (or third) language has never been easier (despite some of the character's accents in translated Hebrew version). Plus, the feminist Latina in me cannot object to the protagonist’s ethnicity and gender.
  • And Little Einsteins. He learns about music, composers, cities and art. It’s a bit too artificially put together for my taste, but hey, Ben’s buying it. Here’s proof:

I’m flying with ResearchTrail to the Online Conference in London next week. When I asked Ben if he wants me to bring him “algo chiquito de Londres” he said,

Mama, bring me back a picture of Big Ben...For little Ben.”

What more could I ask for?

November 27, 2007

Yedda founder shares his knowledge - Part 2

(Part 2 of notes from the TIIC / The Coils event Nov 26)

Yedda's Avichai Nissenbaum spent a full hour going over the story of Yedda, from the team's point of view, from idea to concept to angel to alpha to beta to Round A to launch and finally, AOL exit.

10 takeaways from his talk (and a curious tidbit):

1. Leave ego at home. That's true for five guys trying to work together in crowded basements and unbeliavable pressure, and judging from his demeanor, still true for someone who's just made an (undisclosed sum) exit to AOL.

2. You're in it together. Regardless of the outcome, most co-founders end up hating each other. (He stressed it wasn't the case with Yedda, plus Yaniv Golan's nods and smiles from the audience - see pic - sorta proved this)

3. Do you really want to work on this idea for the next five years (or more)?

4. Are you scared? (being scared is okay) But are you more excited than scared?

5. Can you survive (bootstrapped) for at least 6 months? (Consensus was at least 12 months)

6. Quoting Stephen Covey, the main thing is that you keep the main thing the main thing.

7. Ask around. A lot. Anyone you know, trust. Even your "competitors." And...

8. Listen. It will always be hard to have your ideas lambasted, but it's VERY important. A good meeting with a VC/angel/potential partner/guy from the street was not just one in which they expressed interest, but one from which they learned something.

9. Technology is important. But marketing is what makes it happen. "I can't stress this enough," he said.

10. Put together a winning team, who complement each other. Preferably people you know well, and have worked with before. But if something's not working out, cut from the root before it spoils the bunch.

What I will remember about Avichai - he's got five kids. When asked how he does it, he just pointed that his wife was the real hero here.

And for some reason, I believed him.

November 26, 2007

Yedda founder shares his knowledge, part 1: Investors

Avichai Nissenbaum, co-founder and CEO of the recently acquired Yedda, seems to know a thing or two about creating and running a startup. At today's TIIC/The Coils event, he shared with an audience of some 200 startupers a little of his experience in the Yedda rollercoaster.
Questions to ask yourself before meeting/chosing an investor:

1. What do you want in return?
2. Will the provide value? (actually, they won't have too much time for you anyway)
3. Do you need their help? (investors are looking for an entrepreneur who can run a business, and not someone looking for an angel/investor to run it for them)
4. Do they understand you biz?
5. Will they support the long-term objectives of your company?
6. Full transparency + frequent updates = trust. And relationships are built on trust.
7. Should you take money from friends and family? (Somebody then added a third "f": fools)
8. Can you create a sense of urgency?
9. Traction! Can you prove that you mean what you say?

November 25, 2007

Long-distance Zeides

Ben and Yael have long-distance grandparents. This is nothing new in my family - my sisters and I had a long-distance grandma until we each turned 18 (and them made up for these "lost years" by going to live with her for college). And though I'm almost convinced we came out of this experience unscathed (yet additional proof that kids get used to anything), I'm not so sure about the parents: No babysitting. No potential sleepovers. No sleep.

But the real losers in the equation are the grandparents.
They missed the kindergarten Chanuka parties. They missed the visits to the doctor. They missed the ballerina chocolate birthday cakes, the love triangles in a four-year-old's world, and the new haircuts.

They missed Ben's face when we brought home the keyboard, the bike, even the little siter. They missed Yael's first words in Hebrew and Spanish, and now miss the bilingual conversations peppered by an ocassional English word (yes-yes, blue, noooou, piiiink).

Skype helps. Email and Shutterfly do too. VoIP is a blessing. But still, to have some sort of real-time interaction with them, these long-distance grandparents can't really be spontaneous. They must coordinate between time zones (8 or 9 hours behind Modiin standard time) and weekdays (Sundays are a workday in Israel), dodge key obstacles (no response during Mickey's Playhouse or Little Einsteins), and pray that the little ones will in the mood & willing to talk.

So kol ha kavod to the long disance-grandparents. My next challenge, besides finding more backup babysitters and surrogate uncles, will be preventing Ben and Yael from one day doing the same to grandmother me.

November 21, 2007

Startup Me?

A recent post by Guy Kawasaki (continuing the thread of a guest column in TechCrunch by Glenn Kelman) talks about the differences and similarities between the Web 1.0 vs Web 2.0 entrepreneurs. Often, he says, it's the same entrepreneur, but much richer, less driven, less suited for the CEO role he/she wants to take on.
Paraphrasing Sequoia's Mike Moritz, he quotes his definiton of the ideal entrepreneur:

“Guys under thirty who are building a product that they themselves want to use.”

Three observations:

  • I'm not a guy. Actually, two-thirds of ResearchTrail are women.
  • I'm 31 (and actually, the youngest of the co-founders)
  • But yes, we're building ResearchTrail the way each of us, with his/her different background and experience, would give anything to use.

Guess we just expanded the definition.

November 20, 2007

The Journalists view - on one foot

Now for the journalist's point of view:
Fern's talk on Promoting your Startup during last week's MIT Enterprise Forum of Israel meeting was followed by a presentation by Guy Grimland of The Marker.
Guy is a tech journalist. Well connected. Can cut through all the words that ever made it to the better known version of Buzzword bingo. And though he didn't explicitly say it, he's probably sick and tired of the gung ho attitude of us Israelis who think we deserve his coverage because...well... because.

A sobering (yet humble, funny and to-the-point) presentation.

If you don't read Hebrew/don't want to go over the full presentation above/want to learn The Publicity Bible while standing on one foot, here's my summary of the two main takeaways (plus fine print)

i) Publicity does not happen overnight. A peak is just a peak; real promotion of a business/concept/person is done step by step.
ii) You have to play the game. And part of the game means giving up (at least partial) control.

i) HOW? email is fine. phoning fine too (but not between 11 and 2 pm, when most journalists -at least in Israel- are fighting their deadlines). And cultivate those relationships.
ii) the WHAT will come from the journalists point of view. Think about what makes you different, and share changes in your company (funding, new management team, big release, etc)
iii) WHO: bring your CEO. That's the person the journalists and the public really want to see.
iv) WHEN: meetings take some 1 to 1.5 hours. Zehu. That isn't really a long time, so be ready. Think about what makes you different.
v) WHY not give up: if a journalist does not return your emails, it's his problem, not yours. Maybe he's working on a huge headline and must remain mum, or turn down otherwise interesting stories temporarily. This does not mean your business will go bust.

November 18, 2007

Twenty tips to promote your startup (your business, or youself)

Last week, I attended Fern Reiss' talk at the MIT Enterprise Forum of Israel on "Expertizing and Maximizing Media Attention." I did a short course on self-publishing with Fern several months ago, and had also heard her introduce Expertizing in a different forum last year . But now that I'm donning the new "entrepreneur" hat, these tips take on a whole new meaning.

My summary of the talk in twenty tips:

1) Position yourself as the expert in a subject (it gives you instant credibility for the media to find you). Best way according to Fern? Write a book on the topic.
2) Syndicate: your column online, ezines, magazines. Doesn't pay but it's wonderful visibility. Where to submit? Google the following: submit article:[and the subject here]
3) Link to someone's big name (including big competitor if relevant) by giving them a positive mention on your website. Example: Bill Gates wealth calculator.
4. Blog & use social networks (what else is there to be said?)
5. Create the "International association of [fill in your cause here]"
6. Create the "International [theme] Day" and add it to Chase's Calendar of Events
7. Contests
8. Branding. It's really easy to forget this - but keep your brand visible at all times: brand your cocencept, reinforce it (everything from your branded name tags at conferences to tote bags)
9. If you do a flyer, put something useful on the other side so that people will keep it (same goes for givaways). In other words, what do you want people to have taped to their computer monitor?
10. Connet with journalists: press kits are no good (piled up in the back of the room). Same as "mass PR. Consider, the system where journalists ask to find experts on everything. The catch? It's about $7 K annually.
11. Make a PR that's newsworthy - what is the spin that will really interest the press (not "I've got a new manager"
12. Keep track of journalists and cultivate those relationships. Know what interests them, feed them tidbits thoughout, become a (trusted) source
13.Carve out a unique niche and position yourself in differnt directions
14. Enjoy public speaking? Do it!
15. Email newsletters - easy way to cultivate thousands of readers
16. Brand yourself according to either popularity or exclusivity -both work, but not together
17. Offer diversified products: books, audio, consulting, gift baskets, lectures, small groups
18. Sweeten the offer: "if you sign up now, save $500"
19. Remember: you're not selling a product or service, you're selling the DREAM associated with it. This is ultimately what people buy
20. Think in soundbytes. Think of catchy, descriptive phrases you can use and people (and the media) can remember.
More on Fern Reiss here:

November 15, 2007

Two Lessons from Gogel (ehem - Gogol & Google)

1. I recently attended a short conference where an entrepreneur shared his experience creating and promoting internet companies. ( This is somebody who's been around, knows the industry knows the technology, and uses it all the time.)
He obviously had something to say - but I stopped listening. I was too busy counting the times he said Gogel instead of Gugl, goooogel, gugel or google, whichever way would have made it less obvious that he didn't care to pronounce it correctly. I even started making sketchmarks in my notebook after each time I heard "Gogel."
32 times.
Part of what the speaker had said earlier interested me; other parts (including some of the tactics), I stronly disagree with. But all this takes second stage to that faux pas.
My takeaway? As speaker, it's terrifying to think which "little" things can make you flunk in front of an audience. And sadly, nobody in the audience (including myself), corrected him.

(NOTE: "Gogle" image above is from Ferran's Com blog - in Spanish)

2. Another "Gogel" (actually, it's Gogol, as in the famous 19th century Russian writer) that made an impact on me is one of the main characters in The Namesake. Obviously, there's much more to a name than a string of consonants and vowels (for kids or web 2.0 ventures alike). In names, there are definitely no "coincidences." (And yes, Jewish tradition also emphasizes this.)
Anyway, if you haven't seen that movie yet (originally a novella in The New Yorker, then a book), it's highly recommended.

November 13, 2007

Gracias! Thank you! Toda! (and now Merci!)

I'm elated!
Just heard I'm the recepient of the free ticket to Le Web3 next month in Paris. On behalf of ResearchTrail and myself, a big THANK YOU, iDrink!
And to the iDrinkers to whom I pledged my help if selected - feel free to leave a message, email, twitter,
poke me, befriend me, or otherwise find a way to let me know what I can do for you while I'm there.

Looking forward, and thanks again.

November 12, 2007

Before signing that contract - check out the restroom!

Forget location. Don't care about fancy foyers or top-notch meeting facilities. After the basic conditions are in place (people, people, people and decent compensation) I've come to judge workplace by the importance given to bathrooms. So far, my experiences leave much to be desired...

1) Privacy: One of the companies I consult for is located in what they lovingly describe as "a building with a long history." (Actually, it's only ~40 years old but looks like it was built during the Ottoman era.) It's clearly not suited to the cubicle-like partitions or insufficient elevators or even sunlight in some of the offices, but what bothers me the most are its restrooms.

- In the side of the floor where I spend most of my time there are only 2 bathrooms, so there's almos invariably a line.
- Due to their strategic location, Daphne from Travel can literally take a tally of when and how long each person in the floor "has to go."
- Worse, they're coed (a-la-Ally McBeal, only that the individual doors to the toilets actually face the hallway!) This means you're in perennial panic that you forgot to lock properly and somebody else will catch you with your pants down, since the toilet is perfectly visible from the door. (And yes, they tell me it's happened before).

2) Image: This same company has an executive floor with a spacious boardroom and state-of-the-art teleconference room... right next to some very amusing bathrooms. For starters, they doors open to the hallway (yes, even here). And somebody seems to think they actually need instructions: next to the lever to flush the toilet, a half-curled P-Touch printed label reads (in English, because they obviously get lots of important visitors from abroad) "push here." So you try to push it and nothing happens. (Actually, one needs to pull the lever in those archaic toilets). VIPs must really be amused.

3) Discrimination: Speaking of executive floors, the builders of another hight-tech company in Raanana I know well seem to have forgotten that women can be executives too. The seventh-floor of their relatively new HQ houses the C-level suites, while the other half hast the company's dining room/cafeteria, which was busy for many hours of the day. I remember the days when everyone would notice when the (female) Legal consel or the (female) CFO "had to go" because they had to use the ones inside the communal dining room. This is because, well, the only toilet inside the exec suites had been claimed by the guys. And yes, there were at least 3 (female) secretaries last time I checked (guess which toilets they also used?) BTW, the same General Counsel and the CFO have left the company since then, so I sincerely hope things have improved for their current (female) CFO.

4) Attention: It seems like some companies realize this is the space that gets the most attention from employees. My CI Guru says in conferences that it's often the one place you'll get get those *&%%@! Executives to actually read your work. (Haven't tried... yet) But seems he's onto something - just recently, someone at my husband's company decided to add little vinyl pockets next to the toilets in their (thankfully not coed) restrooms. What do they contain? The company's official internal newsletter. Never waste a minute away from work.

November 10, 2007

We're officially out there. Well, almost.

Okay. So you've known that I have a *new venture* called But as of last Thursday, we're officially out there on the radar screen by having published an article on Freepint, and by having made our blog public.
(BTW, "we" also includes my biz partners David and Judy).
So if you're interested in collaborative search, or just need info and are unsatisfied with current options to find it online, join the conversation.

November 07, 2007

Tectonic Plates of Information

A recent article on The New Yorker talks about the discontents of digitization of content (specifically books on the attempt to create a "universal library") What caught my eye is its eloquent description of the real challenge ahead [parts in bold are my emphasis]

"...The supposed universal library, then, will be not a seamless mass of books, easily linked and studied together, but a patchwork of interfaces and databases, some open to anyone with a computer and WiFi, others closed to those without access or money. The real challenge now is how to chart the tectonic plates of information that are crashing into one another and then to learn to navigate the new landscapes they are creating...... "

This goes waaaay beyond books; it applies to all information (online or off, free or for-fee, old and new). I can just hear my favorite info pro saying "But of course, every person worth spending two minutes with knows that not everything they need/want to know is reachable by googling ve zehu."

Nope. Guess we all need a reminder here and there, before we continue wasting time and effort on fruitless search. (Just don't tell me you found this entry through Google)

October 31, 2007


An Israeli version of a scary Halloween.
Yael, my two-year-old, fell yesterday. Result? Very bad bruise and scratch on her big toe. She's scared of a bandage, terrified of using her foot at all.
- Limping and all, she is sent to Gan anyway (guilt trip). A couple of hours later, my cell phone rings. Caller ID shows Yael's Gan. Heart thumping. Kidergarten teacher says Yael isn't doing too well, plus she has a fever. I panic (tetanus shot? X-rays?) Drop everything and rush back to pick her up.
- Outside the doctor's clinic (a new pediatrician, 5 minute walk from home) Yael sees the stethoscope. Still traumatized by her vaccine a couple of weeks ago, she goes into a tantrum.
- New doc shows special "funny monkey." She's clinging to mom. He blows bubbles. Yael is not impressed.
- "Dr. Red Nose" takes out a pink balloon and makes her a cute dog (yes, I'm serious.) Yael finally smiles. Result? Mom is reassured.

Yael's fever is down, her big toe has not changed in size or color. And in case I had any doubts, she's now jumping on the couch. Sigh of relief.

But then I open my inbox after a 12-hour lapse. Boooo!

October 29, 2007

Dormir, dormir

According to an article in New York magazine, loss of sleep is responsible for many of the ailments we face today:

  • "Sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories yet recall gloomy memories just fine"
  • "Sleep loss also elevates the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is lipogenic, meaning it stimulates your body to make fat,"
  • "... experiment shortening adults’ sleep to six hours a night. After two weeks, they reported they were doing okay. Yet on a battery of tests, they proved to be just as impaired as someone who has stayed awake for 24 hours straight."
Here's something for the parents amongst us
  • "On average, children who sleep less are fatter than children who sleep more."
  • Sleep deficiency "has the power to set [kids'] cognitive abilities back years."
Here's one for Mrs. Maristhany (and the rest of the principals at Colegio Interamericano):

“Of all the arguments I’ve heard over school start-times, not one person has argued that children learn more at 7:15 a.m. than at 8:30.” (Dr. Mark Mahowald, U Minnesota professor who runs a sleep clinic)

Too late. 14 years too late.

October 22, 2007

Grumpy green

I like red. I love blue. I don't like green.

But these days, everyone is going green. So I take a deep breath, clear my mind and "embrace" green.

I collect plastic bottles (and dutifully put my 3.75 shekel's worth of deposit money in the pushke next to the cashier.) But then I learn from the newspaper that the underworld controls bottle recycling around here. So what can I do? Drag the stacks IHT/Haaretz dailies into the trunk, drive to the nearest paper recycling bin and hope that my well-intentioned road won't lead to environmental hell.

There's much I still have to learn from my Permaculture-versed cousin (and current India backpacker.) She's a self-defined eco-freako that looks ultra cool cool in her perennial knapsack of recycled clothes. I, however, have to worry about clothes that won't wrinkle and chemicals in dry cleaning and the carbon footprint of my 52 km car journey for my low-fat extra hot large 7:15 am cup.


When I was growing up, "green" was a uphemism for dollars. It stood for materialism and extremism and unripeness.

Today, it's a statement, a mindset and a business proposition. Or at the very least, a nice blog template color.

October 21, 2007

Information R/Evolution

As someone interested in, working with and pushing for information, this is simply a pleasure.

Facebook sins

"So you too have given into the vortex?" is what a friend wrote to me (privately, not on my wall) after having "ran into me" in Facebook. And less than 3 months after that original sin, my poor soul must confess to three other ones:

1. Last week I sent my cousin a birthday greeting through Facebook after having learned what he actually did for his 29th birthday (jumping from a plane, seriously) from his Facebook updates. We live 50 km apart (no time zone difference, no long distance calling or VoIP failure=no real excuses.)

2. I then sent my sister a happy birthday greeting through Facebook (okay, she lives halfway around the world) BUT.... I tried to make up for it by using my one free gift (chose cute chocolate birthday cake, which she -publically- said she liked very much)

And the worst of them all:

3. My bosses' boss found me on Facebook. I had the honor of being his friend. Big Brother is officially watching, and I let him.

Guess I now have to say three Hail Zombies and install the super-enlightened-extra-fun-fun wall as pennance.

October 06, 2007


I like frameworks. I feel comfortable with a plan, a timetable, a path. Does that mean I'm not spontaneous? Not at all. But I like the peace of mind that comes from knowing I'm not dropping too many of the important things at once.
Last week (and the previos one) was supposed to have been annual vacation.
Instead, I worked on two major projects (no, didn't finish), had a houseguest, juggled new schedules for my kids in their respective kindergartens, squeezed in three dozen visits to the supermarket (hey, it was erev chag 4 times in the past 2 weeks) and a visit to the doctor (ear infection for me) and home-sick-from-Gan-day (for Yael). Didn't quite have the patience for my soon-to-be-new-neighbors remodeling their apartment (thump thump, brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr - with no break during Israel's theoretical siesta between 2 and 4 pm.)
I need my framework back.
On shabbat and holidays I turn off the cell phone. I don't turn on my computer. Then I have a legitimate excuse to put off everything else, and just focus on my family (and myself) and the rest of the really big things that don't even make it to the to-do list.
Would my partners in the new biz venture be happier had I spent today working on my deliverables for Tuesday? Absolutely. Will M have a fit tomorrow when I tell him I didn't yet finish the set of presentations? Quite likely...
But did Ari and the kids enjoy the time that I finally had for them? Hey, they even said so.
I'm happy.

September 29, 2007

Forgiving and Forgetting

So what if it's only been one week since Yom Kippur?
I've so far managed to break all my new Year's promises on not procrastinating (see the date since my last entry), trusting my instincts, listening with full attention, being more patient and involved with the kids...
Warning: Guilt trip coming.
But I'm going to take a U-turn this time, courtesy of an old teacher. She taught me to learn from kids when it comes to forgiving. "Just look at them," she said, "they're real pros."
You see, even during the most ear-piercing of tantrums, it's unbelievably easy for children to suddenly stop, work things out with the brother/kid who "stole" the last piece of the puzzle and simply run off laughing with them, as though nothing had happened. Best part is, this ability is not exclusive to child-child fights and injustices; it also includes forgiving their parents.
I don't know when we lose this innate ability to forgive and move on, and I certainly like the idea of a built-in mechanism for such. It certainly beats the shallow, I'll-come-back-to-haunt-you survival skill of repressing and (temporarily) forgetting.
So 19 days into the new year (I'll try to be in time next year, but won't sweat it) - A healthy, happy, creative and guilt-free 5768 to all.

September 08, 2007

Good manners

Ben and went back to Gan (kindergarten) last week.
He's not the type who says much about his day. Only after probing a bit, or even better, telling him a little about my "exciting day" at work (what I had for lunch is usually the highlight), he'll say something like "Our teacher brought a real shofar to Gan the other day" or "I didn't like my tahini-and-cucumber sandwitch, so I didn't eat a snack today" (And so, guilty of treason, I cross out another "nutritious option" filling and make a note to buy more "round yellow cheese" with the hope I'll manage to add another item into the menu before the end of the schoolyear)
But today, something seemed to bother him.
"Ma, did you know that people in my gan don't close their mouth when they eat!"
"Yep. Not even the teachers!"

I chuckle. What am I supposed to say? My loud, hyperactive (sure seems like it) four- year old, the one that hardly says hello and goodbye, and who knows that whining works much better than please and thank you - worried about this?
Should I answer "You're right" and implicitly criticize his teacher ? Should I tell him that all people are different and have different style for eating? Or say "c'mon, it's Israel, son, and everyone is doing their own thing"

So I don't say anything. I just smile. He was listening to what we say at the dinner table after all.

September 03, 2007

Tia Godmother

Mom called again. Tia didn't make it.
Baruch Dayan Emet.

September 02, 2007

The Godmother

Last Tuesday our family's Godmother (otherwise known as my mom's aunt Reyna) had a stroke. Early Wednesday the morning, finally crying since she first heard at midnight, my mom called to tell me. To sweeten the blow, she ended, "I'd like to think that my sister is exaggerating, because she tends to exaggerate. She says things with Tia seem pretty bad."

She was not exaggerating. Tia is still in a comma, suffering from even more complications since.

Doctors say there's no hope.

Every family has a pillar. Someone whose influence is so strong, whose presence is so important, that others define the family in relation to that person. I am known as Reyna's grand-niece.

I am also Zeide Nune, Tia's father, great-grandaughter. We used to call him The Godfather (no mafia connection here, but his charm and influence over the family would rival the Corleones.) Tia inherited Zeide's sense of strategy and influence, but she used it in a different way. She was the silent Godmother, always pulling strings and making things smoother for all of us behind the scenes, no glory there

And when Zeide passed away 11 years ago, she became the sole Godmother.

She was a womanly Godmother, a fairy Godmother. Caring for Tio Mike and for our 93-year-old Bobe Malka. Orchestrating all the seders and rosh hashana dinners and family events for the family in California, and never missing one elsewhere (weddings in Guatemala, Bar Mitzvahs in Mexico, her grandson's school ceremony in San Francisco, and had she not collapsed last week, Eitan's wedding in Boston tomorrow). (And before my time, building the shop with Tio, growing the business, making deliveries for him. Plus raising two kids)

Tia was always running the show, making plans, volunteering, calling friends, giving and giving. Even driving me to a business meeting 50 miles away in rush-hour traffic when I was in LA for a quick business trip ("But Tia, my company pays for cabs!" nonwithstanding.)

This pillar is now fading. What will we do without her? Did we ever tell her how important she was for all of us.

And will my kids ever understand the concept of Tia Godmother?

August 29, 2007

Some thoughts on outsourcing

A friend in a high tech company I do consulting work for shared this story:
Both he and his wife work in high tech. They have 3 kids.
He has a confession to make - they've come to terms with their decision to "outsource childcare."
Outsourcing? As in sending out your manufacturing to Flextronics? As in offshoring your call center to India?
His explanation:
The nanny (metapelet) stays with the baby at their place, and at 1 PM picks up the older kids (ages 5 and 7) from kindergarden/school. Feeds them. Helps with homework. Takes them to their extra-curricular activities.
By the time mom and dad arrive, they're done with most of the activities of the day. But, he's fast to add, if there are any emergencies (older son forgot to sign approval form for his karate club? Younger kid wants to have a playmate over?) either parent can get there in 15 minutes or less.
Costs them a fortune, but doesn't sound too bad. It certainly beats our arrangement of leaving my kids until 4 pm at their respective kindergardens, and having a teenage babysitter several times a week (confirm availability an hour earlier) to pick them up and walk home (rail, sleet or scorching sun), who then feeds them hopefully-colorant-free-but-sugar-loaded shlukis (hey - whatever keeps the kids happy) and makes a mess out of my livig room in good days, watches 2 hours of TV in bad days.
Or maybe not.
My friend's confession is not that they have a brilliant Mary Poppins every day. It's that they've "come to terms" with outsourcing childcare.
No way. I refuse to accept that I'm outsourcing childcare or child rearing. Outsourcing is something you do with
a) things so specialized you're better sending them to an expert,
b) a task so common or simple that it's cheaper for someone else to do it (or by economies of scale as my mentor Ben Gilad would say)

Could motherhood not be a core competency of mine?
(okay, save your comments)
Is money all that is at stake here?

I don't care how many other "parenthood helpers" we hire to get on top of our regular workload - I'm not outsourcing this bit. I'm insourcing help. Creating new jobs. Bringing diversity into my children's day.

Is it only a question of semantics? It all comes down to what the I balance book will say in the end - did our kids show a profit from our activities as parents? Did we?

August 23, 2007

Naming your kids Web 2.0 times?

It suddenly dawned on me.
While looking at possibilities for naming certain elements of my new venture, I realized that naming your kids had just gotten much more complicated.
People currently search the web to browse popular names, learn more about meanings, maybe even Google a name or two to get a feel for spellings, variations, and current bearers (hopefully famous).

I'm guessing some are now using zillions of Facebook polls and Yahoo Answers questions to help make the decision. But will these folks alsocheck the domain name for availability as a main criterion ( As in )

Hmm. It gets worse.

  • Will worth more than dot net or dot info? Skip the dashes and underscores, of course.
  • Startup! Special suffixes for those under 18 who are yet to claim their domain? Obvious candidate: dot kid.
  • Will there be a new generation of kids named Tylr or