Silicon Valley And Innovation

Last weekend I attended a gathering of the Silicon Valley Innovation Institute. The event took place at the beautiful Byington Winery, in the Santa Cruz mountains near Los Gatos on a wonderful Californian summer afternoon, replete with jazz band and loads of desserts.

I’ve included a few pictures of the place taken with my iPhone. It was really interesting to observe the number of people in our party of 30 who were taking snaps with their camera phones – there has definitely been a shift away from standard cameras to such integrated devices for casual photography.

There have been a few alarmists recently who have said that Silicon Valley is in trouble and that innovation isn’t happening here. That’s real bullsh.t – from the conversations I had with a range of people at the event, people who are all heavily involved in innovation I can confirm it is alive and well and, in fact, thriving.

Piclinq: What Motivates Your Photography?

I’ve recently joined Burlingame, CA-headquartered connected photography company Piclinq as CEO.

We are currently building up our design and innovation team, which is pinging the market to ascertain what motivates them with respect to photography.

It is a fascinating journey – people exude the most incredible level of passion in and around photograghy, and what is most fascinating is how multi-faceted this passion can be in its manifestation.

The most interesting and thoughtful response has come from Sydneysider Ben Haylock. I’ve set out his thoughts in full below:

Image: Copyright Ben Haylock.

Randal Leeb-du Toit asked

quick poll: what do you do with your photos

I replied

take them, share them, Flickr them. No retouching as I have zero skills. I collect fine art photos and look at them every day.

That’s simplifying things down to 140 characters or less.

Rand followed up

what motivates each of the 3 actions – take, share, Flickr…

Had to stop and think about that.

Image: Copyright Ben Haylock.

Take.

I take to reinforce memories, not to create them. I don’t live the event through the viewfinder, I live in the event with the viewfinder. Kress and Van Leeuwen would probably disagree. Baudrillard would have laughed.

Share.

I love to share the image, and the story that goes with it, with others: usually friends and family. Nearly everyone says that, but it’s not a motivation per se. My motivation to share is to learn more about the art of photography by doing, then sharing, then listening.

Flickr.

Honestly, I have tried many, many image sharing platforms in the last 10+ years. Flickr is the best fit for me. So, what’s the motivation to Flickr? Again, it’s to share and to learn. I have a few snapshots in Lachlan Hardy’s awesome group for all our amateur chef-fests. I put images up so my father, living in a very, very remote location can see his granddaughter’s experiences.

And Flickring is fun. Just honest to goodness eyecandy fun.

———————

Way to go, Ben.

Shaping Up: Top Tips For Getting And Staying There

I won’t profess to being at the top of my fitness game at present, but as a former professional lifeguard, lifelong surfer and record-breaking athlete I’ve both been there and aspire to be again.

So this morning, five minutes before going for a jog, I was overjoyed and enthused to read Loic Le Meur’s post on 13 tips for geeks to get in shape.

Like Loic I have used a Garmin Forerunner 305 – an awesome device for measuring and pushing your performance. I also believe in the power of music to inspire you and like to mountain bike with a pair of Oakley Thumps blasting U2 into my brain – geeks, this is off-road only and sure you can get that from an iPod too, but when you need to uncouple from your bike at high speed…the less cords around the better!

For me one of the most important aspects of getting going on the road to being in shape is to rip yourself out of your comfort zone. OK, so for me that meant moving half way around the world from Sydney to Palo Alto and moving into an unfurnished cottage.

No need to be so extreme, simply break from your current routines. Had a heavy day at the office and feel entitled to that beer or glass of wine to help you unwind. Bullshit! Get out your running shoes and burn through the day’s stress.

As I mentioned already, music can be a big influencing factor and another serial entrepreneur/venture person who is doing some great stuff in this area is Heidi Roizen. She used to run a billion dollar venture fund, but these days she is the founder of SkinnySongs, a startup that is helping women to lose weight through listening to motivational songs she writes herself.

Whatever you do to start down or keep on the shaping up path, be assured that doing so will lift your sense of well being and make you more effective at, well…everything.

Go to it!

Triibes: Moving Beyond The Echo Chamber With Seth Godin

Today marked the inaugural gathering of the San Francisco chapter of Triibes, the social network set up by marketing guru Seth Godin.

Meeting over lunch at Apple HQ, the group discussed what they were looking to get out of their involvement, broke ice and nibbled pizza. About half way through Seth dialled in and the conversation lifted a notch.

Seth spoke about what Triibes means to him – a place to engage in dialogue with the audience he has cultivated through his writing over the years.

He also spoke about his vision of books and how they fit into the social media paradigm. He sees them as a great way of collating a number of conversations or essays into a format that can easily shared. As proof that his theory was being put into practice, the group unanimously pointed out they had all given one of Seth’s books to a colleague.

It was also interesting to note the attraction for some folks in joining Triibe was that it is not a part of the usual social networking echo chamber. Yet.

Google Gets Customer Satisfaction, E-Business Benefits

Google’s customer satisfaction rating in 2008 has leapt 10% on the back of its transition from a search engine to a full service portal, according to a report from the University of Michigan.

The annual e-business report measures the ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) and Google achieved 86 on the 100-point scale, one of the top ratings for any service company.

Not surprisingly, though, MSN and Yahoo lagged with an unchanged rating and a 3% fall respectively.

You can download the report here.

Elgg 1.0: Roll Your Own Social Network Releases

UK-based Curverider has released version 1.0 of their flagship open source social networking engine, Elgg.

There are two versions to the release – a full version that includes a number of pre-installed socnet features (bookmarks, blogs, messageboard, status etc) and a core version that allows anyone to build their own social network on top of it (think ‘layers in an onion’).

Version 1.0 comes after three years evolution of the codebase since Elgg was initially released in 2004 as vers. 0.1.

The guys at Curverider have emphasised design as a key factor in the build and they have also focused on user control as a key element. Co-founder and CTO, Ben Werdmuller, explains their thinking as follows:

Over the next few years, the explosion in niche social networks, and otherwise socially-enabled websites, will lead to new technologies that will allow you to federate your connections all over the Internet. This presents new opportunities for exciting new applications, but also opens new opportunities for your data to be abused. Therefore, you need to control exactly what is released, and to whom. That’s the core principle in Elgg.

It’s High Time For Blogging To Embrace Social: Digital Life Aggregation

I totally agree with Om Malik’s prognostication about blogs embracing the social, lifestreaming features of services like Dopplr, Friendfeed and Twitter.

Om was writing in response to Six Apart’s release of Moveable Type Pro:

Six Apart is making the right move, for it is time for blogging to evolve…blogging is not just an act of publishing but also a communal activity. It is more than leaving comments; it is about creating connections.

He sees your personal blog acting as your digital life aggregator – an aggregation point or hub for all the various lifestreaming services or features you want to utilize wrapped or skinned with your unique identity.

The big question here is around ease of use and mass adoption. MySpace, Facebook and other services have done an incredible job in solving these two points so that anybody can very easily set up a semblance of a personalized digital life aggregator.

Does Moveable Type Pro (and hopefully soon, WordPress) go far enough in extending this metaphor for those who want to increase their independence and assert their unique identity?

In other lifestreaming news, AOL has acquired Socialthing!, which was still in private beta, and will be integrating it into the People Networks division, alongside AIM, Bebo, ICQ and others.

Google Insights: Search Trends Revealed

Google recently released its Insights product, which Andrew Chen describes as an insanely useful product. If you are a trendfollower or coolhunter then this is absolutely true.

Be warned though, as with many things in life, you get out what you put in – read Eric Schonfeld’s take on inputting “twitter” rather than “twitter.com” for a true representation of the microblogging tool’s US coverage.