Yahoo Go on my Blackberry

I switched to GMail about 2 years ago, but I have kept my Yahoo email account around so it can forward everything automatically to GMail.

But today, because of Jerry Yang’s CES Keynote, which makes it clear that Yahoo is going to become very friendly to third party developers, and because Yahoo Mail still has more users (I think) than GMail, I decided that I would download Yahoo Go! to my Blackberry, and start using YahooMail again, so I can keep my feet in both camps.

My company email will still be GMail based, but I’ve got a ton of contacts in Yahoo that I never transferred to GMail, and there are a lot of Yahoo Mail users that I could instant message with, from the 7-8 years that I did use Yahoo Mail as my primary email account.

The Yahoo Go features on my blackberry are very impressive, but a little less intuitive for me than all the Google applications that I have on my blackberry. Yahoo installs everything as one app. Google has about 8 or 10 icons on my blackberry, and their Mobile Application updater just automatically updates their apps for me. I can delete the ones I don’t want. So in terms of taking over my blackberry real estate, the Google strategy is much better than Yahoo’s.

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Facebook Strategy Lunch for Utah Executives

I organized a Facebook Group for Utah CEOs who have a Facebook strategy or want to develop one. I wish I could change the name of the Facebook Group, but Facebook doesn’t allow that. I can see why. What if someone set up a group called “Mothers Against Drunk Driving” and got a million members, and then arbitrarily decided to change the name of the group to “We Love Beer.” The creator of a group can control a lot of things, but can’t change the name after people have joined it.

If I could change the group name I would broaden it to include any Utah Executive (not just CEOs) and also to broaden it to include Facebook, OpenSocial, and other major web sites such as Yahoo that are opening up their platforms to third-party developers.

At CES I heard a forecast that 1.2 billion people will be using social networks by 2012. On Wikipedia’s excellent list of social networks I count 26 that have nearly 10 million users already.

There are opportunities everywhere you look to build social networking applications or widgets that can spread throughout the web. And there are companies that can help you get started:

  • Widgetbox, a VC-funded company (Hummer Winblad), helps companies build and distribute widgets. They claim that 10% of the Facebook applications started as widgets that have migrated to Facebook. They announced last week a Bebo accelerator that can help a widget turn into a Bebo application. (Bebo is a massive social network that opened up last week to third party applications, just like Facebook.)
  • KickApps has raised $18 million to date. It provides widgets and social networking components for a fee. I spoke with a KickApps executive at CES. He said they charge for their applications and widgets based on page views/usage. So if you need a video player with social networking functionality built it for your web site, you don’t have to build it from scratch. It also appears that they can provide you with your own white label social network like Ning.
  • Ning allows anyone to quickly build their own social network on its platform. Founded by Marc Andreesen, Ning reached 100,000 social networks hosted back in September.
  • claims to be the first company that exclusively builds Facebook apps for customers. They have a growing list of applications they have built.

    So, if you are a Utah Executive and you would like to learn more about how to develop a strategy that can help you reach the 1.2 billion people who are going to be using social networks in the next 4 years, and how to do it inexpensively and virally, sign up for this Facebook group, and plan on attending our lunch meeting next week in Provo.

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Needed: Transparent Government and Transparent Media Coverage of Elections

I am tempted sometimes to wring my hands in despair at the sorry state of the Federal Government, at our $8+ trillion national debt, at our incredibly low popularity ratings around the world, even from our allies, at our lack of global competitiveness in some key industries, of our economic slowdown, and most of all, at the incredibly biased and inane media coverage of politics and elections.

But then I think about how the internet is changing everything, and how the ideas of openness and transparency and collaboration for the common good are powerful and viral and may never be able to be caged again. And my discouragement melts away. I look forward to the time when these concepts infuse our electorate with the information and tools they need to make better decisions than we have in the past few decades, when the power of the media has been concentrated in the hands of a few people within a few companies.

In 2006, a law was passed and signed by President Bush that is a first step towards helping every US Citizen learn how the government spends tax dollars.

Here’s what Edwin Feulner of the Heritage Foundation said in 2006 about how to reduce federal spending, as he reported on this ball:

There’s a simpler, cheaper and more permanent solution: Allow 300 million Americans to review how government spends our money.

That’s the idea behind the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, a measure co-sponsored by an unlikely duo: conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and liberal Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), with strong support from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

The bill would require the Office of Management and Budget to build an easy-to-use Web database containing detailed information about all the grants and contracts the federal government hands out. This database would allow virtually anyone to see how much money a federal program received and how it spent that money.

As I understand it, the web site was supposed to be the place where we can learn how much money is being spent on every federal program and every federal contract. Currently the site has an Alexa rating of about 11,000, so it is quite popular, but it seems to simply report generally on the efficiency of each federal program. Many federal programs are currently rated ineffective, meaning that they aren’t demonstrating results and therefore are a waste of taxpayers money, but I can’t seem to find anything on this web site that tells how much money we are spending on each program. I actually thought that was the main point of the new law.

In fact, I searched for “ dollars” and “ million” in Google and found fewer than 10 hits for both terms combined.

If we ranked the ineffective programs by dollars wasted, instead of alphabetically, and if we allowed for citizen input as to the qualitative effectiveness or ineffectiveness of various programs, rather that just letting the government do all the ratings, then this tool could be a powerful way to combat waste and to shrink the federal budget, as one wasteful program after another faces the scrutiny of an informed populous.

Another hopeful sign is that transparent government is being pushed in several states, and many are beginning to publish their entire budgets online. Of course, it would be easy for any state government to publish the budget in such a way that the average person wouldn’t even begin to figure it out. But I assume that overtime some best practices will be adopted by state and local governments, or that some private enterprise will figure out how to take the raw data from state and federal governments and roll it up into a very user friendly interface, allowing citizens to provide feedback to elected officials on all their fiscal decisions.

Okay, so the trend towards transparent government is already underway. But what about transparent media?

I would love to see media companies and reporters to stop pretending to be objective.

Anyone reporting on stocks is required by federal securities law to disclose their position in a stock so that their “reporting” doesn’t influence the value of the stock.

But no one, to my knowledge, in the political arena, is required to disclose any bias whatsoever. A major news anchor could be a sworn enemy of a particular party or candidate, and could be using all of his/her influence to bias the elections against them, but no one knows.

Now I’m not someone who believes in a grand media conspiracy, where the boards of directors of all the major media companies get together to decide who the next President of the United States will be.

But I believe that everyone in the media has a personal bias, and that very few individuals take their journalistic calling seriously enough to be able to report on news in an unbiased way. I remember seeing a sign on a university professor’s door (he was a communications professor) with a quote from about 1910 by the Dean of Columbia’s School of Journalism to the effect that the profession of being a journalist basically “went to hell” when students stopped studying history and started studying communications. So now, instead of having deep content expertise, many journalists and media company employees understand entertainment and psychology, and know how to create certain reactions among their viewers/listeners/readers with attention grabbers and sound bites. Instead of having deep knowledge so they can inform us, they have skills so they can manipulate us.

Is that completely unfair? Or do you think is actually true?

One example: if anyone in the mainstream media really wanted Mitt Romney to be elected the next President, don’t you think someone would have reported that he actually won in Wyoming, and that he actually leads in the delegate count so far?

Instead, everyone is saying Michigan is his last stand. The media seem to want to declare certain candidates have lost. And voters can easily be affected by this. No one wants to “waste” their vote, by voting for someone that the media declares has no chance to win an election. So Giuliani is clearly losing momentum in Florida.

The young people in the country, who seem to avoid the mainstream media and get their news almost exclusively online, from all kinds of sources, including millions of blogs and from their social networking friends, don’t seem to mind wasting their votes for Ron Paul. Any online poll, any poll that uses cell phone text messaging for voting, and both the MySpace and Facebook “primaries” overwhelmingly went to Ron Paul and to Barack Obama. And yet the mainstream media for the most part ignores this.

But as the social networking generation get older, every four years the mainstream media will lose more influence, and more and more voters will be informed in other ways.

I think there is an opportunity for a media entrepreneur to embrace transparency and emerge as a trusted source for a generation of US citizens that don’t trust government or media to be objective. I think someone could launch a news company where EVERY reporter’s bias is revealed in every report that is made.

Sometimes the bias is so subtle:

  • a silly picture of John Edwards next to a handsome picture of Obama. So who chose those pictures and why?
  • Ron Paul gets the same percentage votes as Giuliani in New Hampshire, but his name doesn’t show up on the pie chart because there isn’t enough room for it.
  • Romney wins Wyoming but no one reports it.
  • Again, I’m not saying there is a single media conspiracy underway, but I do think that transparency is coming. Either the mainstream media will embrace it, or someone else will emerge that really does create a trustworthy media company, and will eat their lunch as the social networking generation increasingly ignores CNN and Fox News and goes elsewhere for their information.

    Until we get transparent media here in the U.S., I find that often times the best source of news is from the UK. I am impressed by the journalism in the Economist magazine, the Financial Times, and sometimes get good information from the BBC. In a recent search, the best explanation I could find on the confusing delegate counts for the Republican and Democratic primaries was from the Guardian, another UK paper.

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My New Personal Facebook Strategy

I have been a serious user of social networks since joining LinkedIn several years ago–the fourth person in Utah to join, as I recall. My friend Michael Tanne, now CEO of, turned me onto it. Of my 858 connections, I think I personally know about 98% of them. I have turned down a ton of connection requests because I really did want to be part of a trusted network. But I read that you should connect to a couple recruiters and a couple of the most networked people in the world, and I did, and it has dramatically expanded the reach of my own network. I am three degrees away from 3.74 million people. I use LinkedIn all the time to make contact with people from other companies.

I tried many other business social networks early on, including Ryze, Spoke, Xing, ZeroDegrees (first caught on with entertainment execs in So Calif) and but nothing had the ease of use of LinkedIn, so I’ve dropped them all except Xing, which is strong in Europe. Someday I’ll beef up my usage of that site.

I’m not a fan of MySpace, but have been active in Facebook for quite some time. I have about 300 Facebook friends, but probably 90% of them are just casual acquaintances, and the reality is that less than 10% of my actual close friends use Facebook. So how useful is it to me really? I’m married and have kids, so much social life is pretty much limited to work, family, church, and my kids’ school activities. The vast majority of Facebook apps are useless to someone like me. For business I rely on LinkedIn, and for family stuff, my own family and my wife’s family still use, the social network for families which I helped build in 1998.

With all of that in mind, I’ve decided to dramatically change my usage strategy of Facebook. I’ve got 130 friend requests that are pending–almost all of them from people that I’ve never met. Many of those requests are from people in different countries. I am certain that many of them think I’m the Microsoft Paul Allen so they friend me. Or maybe they are entrepreneurs or members of the same Facebook groups that I belong to, and they just want to beef up their friend network.

During last week’s Robert Scoble controversy, where he was using the new Plaxo tool (in Alpha) to mine email addresses from his Facebook friends, I learned that he has about 5,000 Facebook friends, apparently the upper limit of what Facebook allows. I read recently that one person with more than 1,000 Facebook friends uses it to get a first hand glimpse of how Facebook apps spread, and who is using what apps. I got to thinking…maybe my Facebook connections can become as valuable to me for market research as I watch what they are doing and ask them questions using My Questions or other surveying/polling tools, and I’ll get a much better sense of what my own company can do in Facebook.

I see some serious downsides.

  • My newsfeed will become interesting mainly as market research, kind of my own mini zeitgeist, and not very satisfying in terms of keeping up with people that I really care about.
  • Reputation comes in large part by association–you are judged by the company you keep. So anyone who knows me and then clicks on any of my “friends” may assume certain things about them, based on what they know about me, and now, that trust by association will be almost completely lost. In fact, my own reputation, may be damaged.

I am quire worried about the reputation thing. Just last week a friend of mine told me should couldn’t believe I ever worked with so-and-so, who had tried to defraud her and take credit for her idea, and there was clear guilt by association. Thankfully I told her that I had met with him a couple of times and talked about doing something together but had such serious disgreements with him that we never actually worked together.

But the upsides are interesting also. I envision getting 5,000 friends like Scoble, with most of them being international entrepreneurs and older consumers.’s products and services are primarily of interest to family historians, who tend to be older, often over 50. Canada has more Facebook users over 50 than the U.S. does, with only about 1/9th of the population.

I’ll publish my blog into Facebook and attract more comments since I’ll have more readers. I highly value reader comments, and love to get 10-20 comments per post.

When I travel internationally, I often have very few good contacts in a given country, and it is hard to have a successful first trip when you don’t already have some kind of network there. I usually use LinkedIn to make some initial contacts and to set up some meetings, but now I may have some Facebook “friends” who may be willing to give me advice about where to stay, how to get around, and who to meet with.

For the last few days I’ve gone back and forth about the value of meeting new people through Facebook vs. the risk of a damaged reputation and the possibility of friends trusting people that aren’t trustworthy.

I’ve decided to go ahead and try an experiment. I’ll accept the 130 other friend requests that I have, and actively start seeking friends in countries that I’m planning to travel to this year. I’ll try to find a way to “warn” my own friends and acquaintances that I’m using Facebook in this way, and that they can’t instantly trust people in my friends list. I’ll also start using the new Friends List feature of Facebook, so I’ll have my own way of communicating instantly with all my real friends.

I was on the fence for several days. But I finally decided to go ahead and get a zillion Facebook friends when I realized that if this experience turns out badly, I can just reboot. I can delete my Facebook account and start over from scratch.

So, tell me what you think about my decision. I’m starting right now, and if you really think this is a bad idea, post a comment and tell me so, and maybe you’ll save me from a disaster. Or if you have any advice for me, please share it.

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World Vital Records record visitors and page views

World Vital Records President David Lifferth keeps the company well informed about our key metrics. I got this information from him yesterday in an email:

“Yesterday, Jan 8th, we set an important traffic record on WVR. For the first time ever, we surpassed 300,000 page views in a single day. We had 336,665, which was a big jump over our previous best of 294,000. The last record was set in Nov 27th, 2007. We had come within a few thousand page views of that record for every day so far this month. I knew we were going to break that old record any day. The newsletter and the chatter about our 2 million We’re Related users was enough to push us into record traffic territory. We also set a new unique visitor record at 22,272. The day before on the 7th, we had came in 2nd to beating the previous record of 20,630 with 20,174. This new traffic has Omniture projecting an 8.2 million page view month. December was our previous best with 6.3 million.”

Our Quantcast chart should look really good when the Jan. 9th numbers come out. We should pass 400,000 monthly unique visitors for the first time.

A year ago, we averaged 50,000 unique visitors in January and February, so our overall traffic has grown eight-fold in the past year. Perhaps we will be able to double or triple again this year, and reach more than a million visitors per month by the end of the year.

Also, our site traffic (a social network for genealogists) has nearly doubled this year, and our new development team in India is close to rolling some significant improvements to the site.

Finally, our whole company is working hard to get ready to launch an important collection of international databases. You’ll hear more about that later this month, but I think a lot of genealogists will be really happy with our new collection.

I never get over the magic of the internet and the power of internet marketing that allows a small startup company to launch a web site and build something valuable for consumers, and then to watch the traffic pour in.

At CES eBay ads said nearly a quarter of a billion people buy things on eBay and Yahoo talked about 500,000,000 users worldwide. I can’t imagine being a part of a company that size; but I’m still thrilled by small numbers like “millions.”

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$100 laptops, $2500 cars

In this morning’s post I mentioned low cost cars coming from India. Today Business Week reported that Ratan Tata’s new $2,500 car, called the Nano, is being met with “extreme enthusiasm” and is going to put India on the map in the auto world. CrunchGear indicates that Tata plans to introduce the Nano to other low income areas like Africa and South America in the next four years.

Maybe they should bundle the $100 laptop from OLPC foundation with the vehicle, so the kids can have something to do in the back seat? (I know it’s more like $199 in quantities of 10,000 right now, but I’m sure prices will drop over time.)

Imagine how fun it would be for kids to play multi-users games over the XO mesh network in the back seat of the Nano while racing down India’s highways. Someone could build some great software for that.

Seriously, could Tata be the Henry Ford of the 21st Century? Will the Nano, the world’s least expensive car, sell more units than any other car in this century. India is poised to become the world’s most populous nation after all.

“The Model T was a great commercial success, and by the time Henry made his 10 millionth car, 9 out of 10 of all cars in the entire world were Fords. In fact, it was so successful that Ford did not purchase any advertising between 1917 and 1923; in total, more than 15 million Model Ts were manufactured, more than any other model of automobile for almost a century.” (Wikipedia)

The model T Ford cost $850 in 1909 and prices dropped over time as the assembly line lower manufacturing costs. (According to Wikipedia, “The assembly line was introduced to Ford by William C. Klann upon his return from visiting a slaughterhouse at Chicago’s Union Stock Yards and viewing what was referred to the “disassembly line” where animals were butchered as they moved along a conveyor. The efficiency of one person removing the same piece over and over caught his attention.”)

By 1915, Model T Ford’s cost only $440, and Ford was paying his workers $5.00 per day. He hoped that any of his factory workers could afford a car. “In 1914, an assembly line worker could buy a Model T with four months’ pay.” (Wikipedia)

Ford sold 15 million Model Ts from 1907 to 1927. The U.S. Population reached 123 million by 1930, so Ford sold to about 8% of the U.S. population. (I don’t know how many were sold outside of the U.S.)

India’s population will hit 1.3 billion by 2020. And the Nano costs less than the Model T did by the 1920s, adjusted for inflation. Wikipedia says: “By the 1920s, the price had fallen to $300 (about $3,400 in 2006 inflation-adjusted dollars) because of increasing efficiencies of assembly line technique and volume.”

If Tata can sell to 8% of the Indian population over the next 20 years, it would sell about 104 million units. Those numbers are staggering.

According to the Guardian, the Indian middle class will grow from 50 million now to 583 million by 2025, so anything is possible. But Tata projects selling up to a million Nanos per year. The initial manufacturing capacity is only 250,000 units per year from a factory near Calcutta.

After low cost laptops and cars, what industry do you think will be revolutionized next by a legitimate low-cost manufacturer that is building products for the poor in developing nations?

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Notes from Nicholas Negroponte Keynote at CES (1-9-08)

Thanks to my brother Curt who taught me to be inspired by visionaries, I always make an effort to hear the great thinkers and movers and shakers in person. It is so much different and better than hearing about it later. Nothing, for example, was better than attending the Facebook Platform launch event in May 2007, and even meeting Mark Zuckerberg afterwards in person. I’ve heard Marc Andreesen in person (2001), Bill Gates (2003ish), Larry Page (2005), Jerry Yang, Guy Kawasaki multiple times, Mary Meeker (2000), Bill Joy (2001), and many other influential VCs and entrepreneurs.

One of my former college students actually took me seriously when I suggested that he take all his tuition money for four years and invest it instead in meeting all of the industry’s thought leaders in person and learning from them directly when they speak, and also buying all their books and tapes, and that it would be a better use of money than sitting in the classroom for 4 years learning from academics. I’ll have to see if he is actually following through with this. He’s probably too busy working. For future entrepreneurs, this advice may actually be good. If you’re going to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a 4-year education, why not make the world your classroom and handpick all your instructors?

Anyway, the highlight of my CES trip was hearing Nicholas Negroponte discuss the purpose and progress of the One Laptop Per Child foundation, which he spun out of MIT Media labs about 3 years ago, I think, and which is now manufacturing laptops which are being sold by the millions into the developing world.

I have heard a lot of hearsay about the OLPC effort, mostly skepticism and disbelief in media reports, but Negroponte’s talk blew me away. I think this may be one of the most important initiatives in the modern era, with amazing consequences.

He gave credit to Seymour Papert for inspiring the idea. The overriding goal of the project is to leverage children to bring the world out of poverty. He has observed (as have nearly all parents that I know) how our current education system takes bright kindergarten and first-grade children whose faces are bright, and who are eager to learn, and by the fourth grade they are bored with school and not interesting in learning–they can’t wait for recess. I know there are magical schools and teachers that are good counter-examples, but as a whole, I think he is right.

I don’t believe just giving computers to kids will solve this problem, and neither does he. (He gives examples in the developing world where the only software on the computers is Word, Excel, and Powerpoint–which he thinks is ridiculous.) I think his approach is a holistic and open approach that will attract a lot of companies and individuals to the cause. Making OLPC a non-profit was the best move they ever made, he said, because heads of state know the real motive and it melts away resistance.

The most interesting thing I heard him say, and I’m going to be thinking about this for a very long time, is that the biggest failure of modern education in this country is not teaching kids computer programming at a young age, because that is a superb way to teach kids how to think and how to learn learning. Debugging a simple computer program that you wrote to draw a circle, will help a kid learn more about circleness than anything else.

I learned Basic programming when I was 12 or 13, when my Dad bought us an Apple II computer, with a cassette player as its memory. I remember my first “Hello, World” program that I learned from the Basic computer book he bought me. I remember all the Goto commands that I used to use. My magnum opus was a 2800 line Dungeons and Dragons program. I stopped programming a year or two later, but picked it up again in 1988 and wrote utilities for data preparation for about 6 more years.

Programming definitely changed my world.

Negroponte doesn’t understand why kids can’t all learn to write simple programs, so that they can learn learning. There was a programming language for kids called Logos developed in the 1960s. For some reason, we stopped teaching programming in this country and maybe around the world.

His lecture was very eye-opening and mind-expanding. There are a lot of disruptive technologies that were developed for the XO Laptop that the foundation is producing. The fact that a non-profit will be building tens of millions of laptops for the developing world is certainly disruptive. I bet one of the most popular web sites that these millions of kids will be accessing will be from another non-profit that created Wikipedia, in most languages. I like how these two projects will work together to provide knowledge for children worldwide.

Negroponte talks about how for-profit computer manufacturers are driven every year to bloat their machines with the latest of everything, so that they can keep the prices relatively high, rather than letting Moore’s law driving prices down by 50% per year. It took a non-profit with a goal to manufacture a $100 laptop to start causing some disruption. The prices still need to come down, but I see no reason to think that they won’t do it.

He highlighted a similar problem with auto manufacturers. Instead of a simple vehicle that focuses on transporting people from one place to another, now cars expend most of their fuel in transporting the vehicle itself. Reminds me of a contest I read about a few months ago where a (100hp souped up) 1921 Model T driven by a 70 year old man beat a Hummer H2 in an uphill race with its low horsepower, because the weight to power ratio was so much in favor of the Model T.

Makes you wonder if anyone will ever create a non-profit One Car Per Family foundation to manufacture a low-cost self-reparable vehicle that uses very little fuel to provide transportation for families in the developing world. I remember reading something about an Indian auto manufacturer that was aiming to build cars for a few thousand dollars.

There are so many industries ripe for the kind of disruption that will come when the developing world is the target of the innovation. I refer you to the excellent book, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid. If I recall, it describes the business opportunity for for-profit companies, not non-profits.

Here are my complete notes. Sorry they are so rough. (About half of Negroponte’s slides were just a few words in a list on a white background. Interesting way to do a powerpoint. I’ve tried to capture the content of those slides when I just list a few words/topics in a row.)

Nicholas Negroponte, author of “Being Digital”, board of Motorola, partner in VC firm, founder of MIT Labs, angel for more than 40 startups

Purpose of One Laptop Per Child:

The world doesn’t look great right now, not just wars, terrorism, etc–but the promise is a bit gloomy if you look at children as being the greatest resource. Pakistan and Nigeria–50% of the children don’t go to school. Education outlook is pretty bleak. If you look at any big problem: poverty, war, environment–part of the solution includes education. Sometimes it can be done with just education. I can’t think of anything that can be done without an element of education. After years of the MIT Lab and seeing how children learn, we decided to spin it out of the labs and focus on a particular kind of learning.

Goal: eliminating poverty

Means: Education
Learning learning

This gets misinterpreted as meaning that our PCs are anti-school….that is not right. In the world, first grade classes, eyes are wide open. There is in the room a kind of eagerness in their eyes; by the 4th or 5th grade, the kids will be excited because you come in, but in general the heads are down and kids are waiting for recess. A little bit of the passion is taken out. When we think kids in the developing world are dropping out of school to help the family financially, care for younger children, that’s part of the story, but school is actually boring and quite irrelevant.

Time machine
Hard fun vs drill and practice
Leveraging children
Immunization against ignorance

If you take a time machine that can go back in time and look at something like medicine, 150 years back and look at operating theory, whatever doctor was performing that operation and bring them forward to today–that person wouldn’t recognize a single thing except the human body. If you play that same game and bring a teacher forward 150 years, in any country, that teacher could be a substitute teacher, they would recognize everything. Nothing has changed. What is changing is what kids are doing outside of school, not in. Maine state program was quite good 7 years ago, but kids there now say they have another real computer at home. The school supplied laptops are left in the dust.

Computers should be fun but hard work, like kids learning to program VCRs.

To me the biggest tragedy that has happened in education worldwide is that kids aren’t introduced to computer programming anymore. In 1968, logo computer language was developed for children. It wasn’t just simple, but it used basic elements that led kids to think about thinking. It’s not so you can be a computer programmer. The act of programming is the act of learning learning. Example: if you write a computer program to draw a circle, it turns out that child will understand circleness in a much deeper way than you and I did. We learned about circles in an abstract way. When you write a program that draws a circle, it will have bugs, so what does the child do. You debug the program.

What happened? In the 1970s, we found the children who engaged in that kind of programming transferred some of the concepts to their own learning. We saw this in spelling bees. If I got 8 of 10 words right I was happy. That was a B. The debuggers were fascinated by the two that they got wrong–they didn’t sweep them under the rug like I did. Their passion was for the two they got wrong.

In most developing countries school is two shifts, 7-12 (with few recesses). Average child spends 12-13 hours per week in the classroom. That is not many hours.

1982: first year that Seymore Pappart and I tried to bring computers to developing country schools. Steve Jobs gave us several hundred Apples. These kids from Dakar (Senegal?) had more computing power than the government.

My family helped set up a school in Cambodia in 1999. In 2001 my son was living in Italy and had girlfriend and startup problems, his name is Dmitri, I said if you can suffer the indignity of working for your father, why don’t you go to Cambodia and wire this school and I’ll send laptops. I bought laptops on eBay. The kids started taking these computers home. First english word was “google.” When they took the laptops home, the parents asked the kids not to open the laptop because they looked expensive and fragile–every one. Dmitri had notes for them to take home the next night–so the kids were able to open their laptops at home. The parents loved them because they were the brightest lights in the house (no electricity.) Parents started getting the kids to do things for them. The second year of this school–100% more children showed up for first grade. The kids told other kids how cool school was. Every child who started 7 years ago is continuing.

I think connectivity is coming in the developing world; but what bothered me is the laptop issues. Prices of electronics keep dropping, but if you keep handing savings to the consumer, then there won’t be a high price or margins. So manufacturers keep adding features, so the price can stay the same. Laptops, cell phones, etc. So an obesity occurs and turns most things into SUVs. Most of the gasoline is used to move the car, not the person. So we said, can we revisit this? 1) not be an SUV any more. 2) make something that is child-centric. What do kids do? They are not office workers.

If you see 6 and 7 year-olds in villages, they are learning Word, Excel and Powerpoint. They shouldn’t be learning particular programs, but learning to learn.

One Laptop Per Child
XO computer
A non-profit was our best decision we made. We were advised from day one not to be. We were told to make a lot of money and give it away. Or to follow the Paul Newman model. We said we needed to be a non-profit to keep the moral purpose absolutely clear. When I visit a head of state or minister of education, there is no question in that person’s mind what the project is about. We have no shareholders. It makes no difference if a country launches 1 or 2 million. We need numbers to get the price down; but when the volume is there, there is no reporting to shareholders. Kofi Annan announced this 26 months ago. We presented a strategy to get the bigger countries to launch it and the smalle rones to follow.

Everyone who saw the original model remembered only the pencil yellow crank. Today’s model has a crank, pedal, solar. 50% of the children in this world have no electricity at home or at school. If you are really serious about laptops and learning, you can’t use the power regimes.

4 things we really had to do:

1) <2 W
2) Dual mode, sunlight display
3) WiFi mesh network
4) Rugged

Why less than 2 watts? Your laptop is somewhere between 30 and 40 watts. How much power can a child’s upper body generate? At peak with major movements, you can generate 10 watts, but if you have a 10-1 ratio , 1 minute of cranking, 10 minutes of usage, it’s pretty good.

When I’m outdoors my laptop is impossible to use. Many of the kids we’re talking about go to school under a tree. Mary Lou, our CTO, invented some display technology that reads very well outdoors. I prefer to use it outdoors and in bright light, the resolution is higher.

People are fascinated by Facebook. Kids have to be able to have their own network, independent of the internet. If you open the laptop, they all make a network. Yes, the technologies are all somewhat disruptive, but the main thing is thinking about the kids and learning.

Rugged goes without saying.

Design matters. Two ways to make something inexpensive. Most common is to take 3 components: cheap labor, cheap components, cheap design and make a cheap laptop. Second approach is to take very advanced manufacturing, very large scale numbers, very cool design, and poor chemicals in one end and spew out ipods on the other end. We’ve gone in that direction.

You can’t have holes in this. USB and PCMCIA. Think of dust, sand, mud. There is one hole in it, to plug in the crank, or solar panel or AC adapter. When it converts into a games machine or electronic book, you are using it in a very different way. Games, ebooks is at the foothills. It is going to have an impact in several years that is quite large and quite unexplored. If folds up and become a laptop. Everyone smiles when the little ears go up. They are the wifi, network. By being steerable you get very good reception. I have been in meetings where 20 laptops come up, and no one gets a signal, but I do, because of the steerable ears.

Quanta is the manufacturer of the laptop–they make 40% of the world’s laptops. Having a partner like them is very important. 18 months ago people said they can’t do it, or it couldn’t be done. When Quanta raised hands and said we’ll build it, the questions went away completely.

3000 people; minus open source is 500; minus partners help is about 60.

Brightstar (mobile phone company) is doing the distribution/logistics from HQ in Florida.

Maintenance: how do you do this?
Design for it.
Laptop hospitals.
Teacher preparation

The display is 50% of the parts cost of almost any laptop. In the case of the XO, you take out 4 screws and take out a bar of LED lights, that cost less than $1, and you have a new display.

The XO has to be a little bit more like an auto was designed 20 years ago. You could see things and make repairs. Today you have to hook it up to the computer to diagnose.

In Nigeria we developed idea of laptop hospitals run by kids. 95% of the maintenance and repair can be done by the kids themselves.

Most products have labels or messages–if you open this up, warranty no longer valid. I’d like to label ours: warranty not valid until such time as you open this up!

Most companies ask visitors to sign a non-disclosure agreement. We ask you to sign a disclosure agreement! We want to get the word out!

Wiki’s are people supporting each other. We released it in this country a few weeks ago; that was daring. It wasn’t designed for kids in this country. There is a growing community of wikis with kids supporting each other.

Our Chief Education office is in Argentina.

Teacher preparation not training. When someone says, who is going to train the teachers to train the children, I wonder what planet they are from, because there’s no a person in the room who doesn’t ask their child about their computer, cell phone, etc.

1,000 kids can share a satellite dish

Laptops are always connected

If a kid bicycles home or walks 3-4 miles, they will lose contact; so there are devices you can nail to a tree and boost the signal that cost $10.

Software on the laptop is designed with social networks in mind, it looks as children as friends, buddies.

12 keyboards in hand: english, arabic, thai, west african (nigeria), portugues, spanish, amharic (ethiopia), urdu, cyrillic, mongolian, devanagari, kazakh

6 more keyboards coming. Two weeks from design to being deployed.

Current launch countries: Uruguay was first, Peru, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Cambodia

Peru understands constructionism, is a student of it as well.

We launched Give One Get One as a financing mechanism. It ended Dec 31st. 162,000 laptops were sold.

The Intel fracas gets a lot of attention, but we have other great partners and the foundation will continue on.

AMD, Marvell, Google, eBay, Nortel, Red Hat, Brightstar, News Corp, Citicorp, SES/Astra, two others

One of the fastest growing websites, the wikis in particular. The community growing around it is in multiple languages!!! The mishaps of last week have caused a lot of press to come out. If you look at the laptop or more importantly at education, more widely than just the classroom. It doesn’t mean you’re anti-classroom. If you ask how you leverage children, you can’t do it just in the class hours.

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CES 2008–for me, it’s about Facebook

I’m in Las Vegas for CES 2008. Last night on my drive from Provo I listened to some podcasts in the Stanford Entrepreneur Lecture Series. (You can download them for free from iTunes or from Stanford’s web site.) The most interesting was Mark Zuckerberg’s talk 2 years ago when Facebook had 5 million users and was still limited to authenticated college students and invited high school students. It was growing by 20,000 member per day, was generating $1 million per month in revenue, was cash flow positive, had taken money from Accel by then, and had more page views already than Google. Mark said the key metric he looked at most was the percentage of his users who used the service every day.

The most interesting moment was during the Q&A where a Stanford student asked if Mark (and Jim Breyer, a board member and VC who was also there) had thought about opening up Facebook (which Mark had been arguing was an online directory utility, not a social network) to other developers and turning it into a platform. Mark’s answer was immediately: yes, and if you have experience coding operating systems, etc, then come and help me do it.

So that was a long time ago, in internet years. Mark had just turned 21. This was 2 years before the May 2007 official launch of Facebook Platform, that Mark indicated that Facebook wanted to be open to third party development.

I also listened (for the second time) to Marissa Mayer’s lecture on nine ways that Google fosters innovation and creativity. She joined Google in 1998 and has managed its consumer search business for years. This is a fantastic lecture. She describes the 20% time at Google and how it works in practice. She indicated that in one recent six month period, 50% of the new products launched at Google resulted from employee 20% time. The most interesting moment for me was her description of a 3 am brainstorm session back in about 1999 when a bunch of developers were staying late to lend support to Harry, the sole guy in charge of running the 3-4 day web crawl updates using 500+ command line commands, and during a brainstorm at that time they came up with what is now Google Book Search–the idea of scanning all the books in the world. She describes the magical moment that it was for all of these early employees at Google, but then she indicated that Google continues to recruit people who want to change the world and that creative moments like this continue to happen every day or night at Google around the pool table as incredibly bright people try to imagine what Google could possibly do next.

So now I’m finalizing my plans for today using the excellent My CES online planning tool. It’s definitely the best online experience I’ve ever had looking for speakers, companies, exhibitors, and products that I want to learn about.

Facebook, it appears, has a booth at the Sands/Venetian, and they have about 20 employees registered to be here this week. This is a bit surprising since the major search engines and web sites don’t usually exhibit at CES, although they participate in keynotes and on panels. I’m very curious to see if this is really a booth or just a meeting room.

I’m hoping to meet up with some other Facebook developers and thought leaders today or tomorrow. Our first Facebook app We’re Related now has 2 million users (our press release announcing this should hit today.) Since our company’s mission is to creative innovative tools for connecting families, we intend to develop apps for other social networks and to create widgets that operate on major web sites (like Google and Yahoo) and on mobile devices, that will help family members communicate and share information with each other. Yahoo made a big annoucement yesterday at CES about Yahoo Life! which apparently will allow third-party developers to create widgets that can be utilized in the new combined search portal/social network platform that Yahoo is building by combining its key tools into one user experience. I don’t quite understand it all yet (I wish I had seen it in person), but my main interest is in figuring out how we can deliver utility to families who are using any major web site. The more open large companies are to third party development, the more likely we are to focus on creating value for their users rather than trying to build destination web sites ourselves.

Before I head over to the first keynote, I’m going to use LinkedIn to attempt contact with 6-8 people in the social networking industry that I hope to meet tonight or tomorrow at the show, and see how it goes. When I travel I can’t believe how useful LinkedIn is in getting last minute meetings set up.

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