Sunday, October 5, 2008

Some old Spahn Ranch material

From the original 4-track demo tape... Courtesy of Rick Giampietro...

Lo & Behold
Wonder & Perish

Countdown has the original ee cummings lyrics.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Songs with tribal / marching band drums…

Love those jungle drums. Irresistible, primal, they got you.

Winners in respective categories:

Best Non-Gimmicky Use
Radiohead, There There

Best Gimmicky Use
Toni Basil, Mickey
Runner up: Gwen Stefani, Hollaback Girl

Best Incorporation of Marching Band
Fleetwood Mac, Tusk

Best Actual Marching Band
Pride of Arizona, Radiohead Medley

What are some others?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

“Loopt debacle…”

I was pretty shocked and surprised at the news that Loopt had a fairly egregious violation of user trust.

When the FireEagle team built their product, privacy was not only their foremost concern... it was in fact pretty much the main "feature" of the product.

Loopt has done the right thing and put their hand up and said "our bad!"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Goodbye, Bobji…

Two weeks ago I learned that Bob Sterner, my dear friend of 24 years died from a suspected drug overdose. (Autopsy report still pending.)

I first met Bob when I was nineteen. Odell and I were just old enough to start checking out the local Detroit music scene (which at the time was quite vital: Necros, Negative Approach, etc.) One evening we happened into a show by the band Grief Factory.

We were totally unprepared for what we saw next. Grief Factory was a minimalist three piece... An incredibly talented jazz drummer, tribal repetitive bass licks, and... Bob. They burned incense, lit candles, said prayers... it was not so much a concert as a ceremony. All of this could have been incredibly pretentious... but it wasn't. It was real, and somewhat frightening.

Bob was part shaman, part madrigal... He moved like no one I've seen before or since. He sang like no one I've heard before or since. Poetry flowed from him effortlessly. He was plugged into something deep and ancient, that I don't think he even understood or knew how to manage. He was so raw as to be almost unhinged... as if he were tripping or even mentally ill... But because he was willing to flirt with these scary, dangerous parts of himself... genius erupted.

After Grief Factory broke up, Odell, Bob and I formed Spahn Ranch. We were totally unskilled as musicians, and were seriously worried about that first practice session with Bob. He was still a larger than life character for us, and we were certain he was going to call our bluff... and we had literally nothing. Neither Odell nor I knew how to play an instrument. We hadn't even decided who'd play what. We had no equipment. But at that first session, Odell grabbed some souvenir ornamental drums from the walls of his family's Afro-pride decorated suburban home... And we rustled up a pawn shop guitar in time for Bob's appearance... And I remember that first time, playing outside... near the shed on the Double O ranch... magic happened, and we all knew it. Over the years Sarah Babb, Rob Rude, Billy Rivkin, and others floated in and out of the band... And eventually Hobey Echlin became our fourth permanent member.

Eventually we achieved some measure of success by modest local standards. We put out an album on California's (in fact Oakland's!) Insight Records, and pretty much commandeered the privilege of opening for national acts that came through Detroit in the 80's: Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Jesus and Mary Chain, Swans, My Bloody Valentine, Nina Hagen, etc. We had an avid fan base... But apart from the small modicum of local success we enjoyed, playing together always remained a ritual. Even if it were the four of us in a basement, it still gave me an opportunity to watch Bob in action. Whatever noises or melodies I could tease out of my guitar were just raw material that would hopefully inspire him and provoke him into action.

After a couple years, we broke up. My recollection is that this happened when Bob moved to the Cape to study nursing. I soon followed him to Massachusetts to grad school at MIT. Odell and Hobey pressed on and formed Majesty Crush. Majesty Crush were freaking amazing, and I still love them. Go buy this CD.

Anyway, my friendship with Bob shifted away from music (or at least from "the band") to a deeper connection. Bob and I shared a spiritual connection, that eventually led him to India where he served as the staff nurse in a small rural Ashram. He intended to stay for a short while, but ended up spending years there.

While in India, Bob nearly became Indian. He picked up fragments of Hindi... It was his seva (service) to take care of a number of elderly ashramites (folks in their 80's or 90's) that had been instrumental in the very formation of our path. These guys were "walking antiques" [(tm) Bob Dylan]. These guys loved Bob and he became not only their caretaker and mascot... but one of them. He joined their posse (and they very much ran as a posse.)

At the clinic folks would come by with the usual litany of minor ailments (scratches, rashes, bug bites, dehydration, etc.) and Bob would treat them with love and respect... but also a deliver a dose of connection, good will, love, smiles, gossip, poetry, art and advice. He became an institution, and literally hundreds of people grew to know him and love him through that role.

Bob absolutely adored Indian culture. When I came to visit, we'd make trips into Bombay where he'd show me back alleys, little chai shops, how to travel on the trains with the working class, etc. He adored everything about India, but especially the people...

Over the years, we watched each other go through relationships... We watched each other change jobs... Change tastes... change habits... But our friendship and love was constant, and truly never wavered.

We were very, very different... but we totally appreciated each other. The world will never be the same for me with out Bobji on it. I lost a brother. But I am committed to honoring his memory in the way I know he'd want me to... by "loving bigger"... a beautiful phrase his sister Jeannie invoked at the memorial on Friday.


Okay, now a public service announcement...
< mount soapbox >
I am particularly devastated by Bob's departure because it was so senseless. I have gone through the usual bouts of self-flagellation around "How could I not have known?!" and "I failed him..." Truth was, I had no idea that Bob was back on drugs. I knew he'd had a problem over the years, but all signs pointed to a total recovery... Everything seemed to be going so well for him. We had made plans to see each other on Friday night... and instead I was at his memorial that day.

So please do not OD on drugs.
</ mount soapbox >

Attached are some memories from Bob's friends who gathered together in Trenton MI to celebrate his life...

Goodbye, Bobji...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Amy Goodman at Google tomorrow…

I just came to know (via a campus poster) that Amy Goodman is speaking at Google tomorrow via the Authors @ Google series. Noam Chomsky coming later in the month.

The group sponsoring this series is doing a fantastic job of bringing compelling, provocative speakers. What a perk!

And the talks are archived on YouTube for the world to enjoy.

This in addition to an unbelievable stream of internal technical talks that transpire on a daily basis. I'm way impressed.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Call me…

I'm playing around with Grand Central, and am really impressed with the power of this service. (Not to mention impressed with the team... What a talented bunch of folks!)

I've added a "Call me" tab to this blog... I'd love to hear from you. Give me a shout...


Monday, March 3, 2008

Video of Martin Friedmann

In an effort to remove physical clutter around my house between gigs, I bought a cool device: the Pinnacle Video Transfer unit. The device is cheap ($129), accessible (bought mine at Best Buy) and works exactly as advertised.

One of the things I ripped was my old VHS copy of the memorial that Ali put together for Martin's memorial. When I eulogized him, I said - "To those who knew him, no explanation is necessary... To those who didn't, no explanation is possible..."

Well even if you didn't now him, this video gives a taste:

More about Martin here... He'd have loved Google.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

On Leaving Yahoo…

Leaving Yahoo.

Yes, it's true. I've left Yahoo.

It was somewhat overwhelming sifting through the barrage of reactions over the last 48 hours: "Thanks for all you've done", "How could you?!", "Congrats!", etc. It's fascinating to watch people react. I've been taking it all in.

I want to use this post to explain some of the circumstances around my departure.

I came to Yahoo out of a startup that I helped found, and it was my first "real job." I literally expected to stay there one year. I thought it would be a good life experience to see first-hand how a successful, multi-billion dollar corporation operated. But I never expected to build a career there... to retire from Yahoo... or frankly to stay for a multi-year stint.

But this "park there for a year and learn" strategy was out the window in a day. There was such an excitement at Yahoo, and I was taken aback by the level of passion and talent there. This was no place to "park". And not aspiring to climb the corporate ladder there made it easy for me to be cavalier, call shit on stuff I thought was broken, and generally do what I thought was right.

What was most delightful is that I never got the expected "pushback" from management. Instead they were the wind at my back, pouring gas on the fire, inviting me and challenging me to do more and more provocative things. So in this manner, nearly four years flew by. I had a dream job that I had the luxury of creating for myself. It was a perfect fit between my inclinations and abilities, and Yahoo's needs at the time.

The name of the group I created at Yahoo is the Advanced Development Division, or ADD for short. I wanted to be VP of ADD. I was able to retrofit a reasonable acronym back onto the letters and got away with it. I'd generally say, "I head up the ADD group at Yahoo... We work on lots of things, for a little while..." That was generally good for a chuckle... but it's true, that's how the group was designed. (By the way, I don't know a lot about the actual syndrome ADD, and I don't mean to make light of it. Apologies if I am being crass or inappropriate... not my intention.) The point of this paragraph is simply that as VP of ADD, four years is a very long time for me to focus on anything! I am amazed and grateful that Yahoo continued to create circumstances for me that held my full interest and engagement... and hopefully allowed me to make the place a little bit better.

The question should not be "Why are you leaving?", but rather the rhetorical "Isn't it amazing and wonderful that Yahoo created circumstances that allowed you to stay for so long?!"

Starting to thank people is a very slippery slope. Apologies to everyone that I'm surely going to omit, and if you ping me I'll edit the post to try to atone for egregious errors. These are some of the folks that I feel compelled to call out and thank for making my experience at Yahoo so wonderful:

My heartfelt thanks to Eckart Walther, Jeff Weiner, Qi Lu, Raymie Stata, Prabhakar Raghavan, Kiersten Hollars, Dan Rosensweig, Chad Dickerson, Cindy, Kaigene Jau, Ethan Fasset, Joe Hyrkin, Ellen Salisbury, Marc Davis, Joshua Shachter, Wendy Pfeiffer, Doug Crockford, Tim Mayer, Joff Redfern, Meg Garlinghouse, Randy Farmer, Susan Mernit, Marco Boerries, Paul Levine, Jen Dulski, Lorna Borenstein, Scott Gatz, Gary Clayton, Caterina Fake, Salim Ismail, Ian Rogers, Larry Tesler, Joy Mountford, Irene Au, Zod, Phu, Venkat, Terry Semel, Brad Garlinghouse, Toby Coppel, Stewart Butterfield, Libby Sartain, Andrew Braccia, Mor Naaman, Tim Cadogan, Sam Pullara, Tom Coates, Jeremy Zawodny, Mike Marquez, Jeff Karnes, Pasha Sadri & the Pipes team, MyBlogLog team, Andy Baio & Upcoming, Arlo Rose, Sue Decker, Ash Patel, Jerry & Filo.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Yahoo is filled with brilliant, dedicated folks that have inspired me and been incredibly generous to me. Thank you.


Were you laid off?
Ha, I wish. Yahoo provided very humane (even generous) packages and accommodations for those folks. See next question...

Why now?
The timing is a bit unfortunate. I wish I were leaving with Yahoo on top of the world... it'd still be the right thing for me personally. So while the timing may look "suspicious", please don't project your own assumptions onto my decisions. I thought that since so many people were leaving on Tuesday, it'd be a good day for me to slip out unnoticed too.

What about your teams? What happens to Brickhouse?
The teams are in great shape. Salim is also gone, and I arranged to fold the Advanced Product and Brickhouse teams under the leadership of Chad Dickerson. They recently launched Yahoo Live! to much fanfare, and have several more fantastic products in the pipeline. Chad is the man. I have every confidence that the team will thrive under his tenure.

Part of why I feel able to leave is that the teams are rocking, and much of the change I aspired to bring to Yahoo is now baked into the culture. Yahoo has no single-point-of-failure, and I've thought a lot about succession planning. Yahoo and the initiatives I started (or care about) are gonna be just fine without me.

So you've lost faith in Yahoo's strategy, leadership, etc.?
Not in the least. I have been incredibly impressed by (and reasonably close to) the improvements and changes that Sue and Jerry have instituted in the past 6 months. While the search for a "silver bullet" came up short (hey, it was worth looking), I believe the management is doing all the right work to align the team to execute on the new strategy. And the strategy itself? I think it's spot-on, and has already made a huge impact on how the company identifies itself. When I joined 4 years ago, Yahoo was all about what transpired on "*". That part of Yahoo now self-identifies as our "O&O" (owned and operated) division... In the context of Yahoo's larger ambitions, it's extremely helpful to be a principal in the publishing space (and not just a principal, but amongst the web's largest)... but Yahoo has transformed itself into a company that participates and embraces the open internet ecosystem at large. Yahoo "gets it."

So you don't want to work for Steve Ballmer, eh?
I have no more insight into the current MSFT / YHOO discussions than any avid reader of the NYT, WSJ, etc. Given my trajectory, I honestly haven't invested a lot of time or energy wondering which scenarios would play out best for Yahoo. I have faith that Yahoo's board and management will optimize for the best possible outcome.

What will you be doing at Google?
We'll save that for another post. What's unfolded for me over the last few months while thinking about my next steps has been amazing and surprising... I'm excited about the my next step, and thrilled I'll be working with a stellar team that I'm sure will teach me a lot.

Thank you Yahoo!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sunday, January 20, 2008

DLD Conference

Richard Dawkins & Craig Venter

Originally uploaded by bradley23

I'm at the DLD Conference in Munich.

This is my first time at DLD (though I've been to Munich many times for other conferences and personal visits. It's a city that I love.)

The conference agenda is pretty thrilling. Apparently a lot of folks stop through DLD on their way to Davos, so the quality of speakers is outstanding. About the only challenge is that the conference is oversold by about 2x. The facility is busting at the seams, and simply navigating around into the sessions is practically impossible.

I'm on an "Exploding Media" panel tomorrow, with Clay Shirky, Jeff Jarvis, Marissa Mayer and Peter Hirschberg. Looking forward to it...