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Comment The right way for Facebook to do this... (Score 1) 260

The right way for Facebook to do this would have been for them to implement this with a payments system, and obviously, opt-in, instead of in by default and opt-out.

The advertisers should be paying for the use of the photos. The settings should be [Unavailable], and [Available / Price per View], with the price per view set by the user. The setting should be both for the full set of pics, with individual overrides for specific pics (e.g., pics that the user doesn't want used, or wants to set a higher or lower price). Obviously, better pics should command higher prices, and cheaper pics might get used more, and users wanting only fame could set the price to zero.

If properly implemented with accounting and logs (views, display, clicks, earnings, etc.), they'd actually be doing something respectable, instead of just pimping out all their user's property without their permission.

They also seem to have completely overlooked the issue of model's releases, which their vague TOS docs don't really cover. Of course, a good ecommerce/micropayments implementation would cover it properly as in if you set it to available.

Comment He's behind the curve - by definition (Score 1) 130

"Our secret plan is to watch what gets acquired and fund the next company."
Anyone who is following is, by definition, behind.
By the time any company grows and gets acquired, the ship has not only left the dock, it has arrived at its next port of call.
Even trying to "fund companies doing whichever the next-generation product would have been." is a hopelessly backwards-looking strategy. I've always had the impression that Andreessen is stuck in 1995, so I guess it is no surprise that he hasn't got the confidence to generate any new groudbreaking ideas himself, and the best he can come up with is A) watching what gets bought, and B) trying to fund 24-year olds as if they are wiser.
If this is the best he can think of, he's sunk, and the investors deserve what they will get, which is plenty of capital losses for their tax returns.

Comment Author is spot-on (Score 1) 386

I've been fortunate enough to have been involved as the lead tech/designer/architect/coder/whatever in co-founding, building and selling several successful software companies. I'm now in physical design manufacturing, and it is very satisfying, and there is a surprising amount of crossover.

Even those purely software ("information economy"?) projects benefited heavily from by earlier experience in physical/manual work through my HS/college years. I tended to strongly emphasize initial design to minimize coding and minimize machine loading before starting to code.

Possibly the biggest lesson transferred from physical work to software work was the lesson to work hard to avoid excess work. I found it worth it to spend many hours to AVOID writing code. This was not being lazy, as it is often initially faster to write code than to not write code. The basic lesson is: What takes time to run? Code. Where are the bugs? In your code. So, write no code that not absolutely required. Simplicity. It takes discipline and work, which is best learned from physical work, and not in a cubicle.

Especially in the late 90's, I became flabbergasted by the people that just wanted to start-writing-code and fix it later. Or, who wanted to just take the short-cut of sticking their fingers in everyone else's code and data structures. Fortunately, I prevailed in most of those debates, and in one company, in about 2yrs we were taking business from a much larger and better funded competitor who (surprise) had scalability problems that we (no surprise) avoided. When you work in the physical world, you learn well that short-cuts are almost always bad ideas, and that time spent sharpening the tool will more than pay off when it comes time to cut your material.

Since selling and leaving the last company, I did a lot of thinking about what to do next. Rather than doing another software business, I chose to start a business in advanced materials, which wound up mostly in composites (carbon fiber, Kevlar, etc.).

What I find remarkable is how much this feels like the computer industry did in the 1980s -- vibrant, interesting new developments and tools popping up all the time, good access to people who know about the tools and materials I'm using or considering (vs having to teach so-called tech support how to do their jobs just to extract an occasional clue). And, while it was really cool to see people happy to use software that we built that helped them do their jobs better, it seems even more satisfying now to build something physical with my own hands and see it used (but, maybe that is just because it is what I'm doing now).

This change, especially since the last economic crash, has also made me think even more how fundamentally bad an idea it is to oursource our manufacturing. It is an extremely dangerous and long-lived MBA fad (and I'm definitely glad to see the MBAs being properly skewered in Dilbert last week).

For our society, I only hope that the lesson is soon learned and that we can reverse the trend. Information Technology, and even management techniques, do have a place. BUT, that place is in support of the actual act of building something. If you never get around to actually building or growing something, you haven't done anything. And, one only need to glance at the trade deficits to see that we're building far too little.

Comment Be Practical, consider what the money will buy you (Score 1) 412

Speaking from the experience of an idealist -- Be Practical.

Think of the long term. If you are a person or group who has good ideas, you will have more (many more). If you can be organized and motivated enough to produce good working products, you can do that again.

What *IS* hard to obtain is capital to start whatever biz or project you want.

If this sellout will leave you with sufficient capital to start whatever you want in the future, then TAKE IT, do a great job, and stay as long as it is good for everyone.

After that, you will have the freedom to decide what to do next. That is truly valuable. I'm taking advantage of it now -- built and sold one good company, and now really enjoying starting a completely different business, which is acually more fun!

OTOH, if it is just a buyout into a cushy corporate job, then either turn it down, or raise the price until it is high enough to buy your freedom.

If you do decide to do it, get the best terms and get a really GOOD lawyer on your side, and make the contract solid. Decide what you REALLY need (not just what you want), and stick to that, and try to get some wants too. Be creative, and flexible, and if they meet it, great. If not, move on.

Either way you decide, move forward without second-guessing yourselves.

Enjoy it, and Good Luck!

Comment This is why we need a distributed system (Score 1) 328

The electrical system needs to be redesigned in the same way as the Interstate Highway System was redesigned in the 1950s -- Designed from a defense perspective, with a variety of beneficial side effects.

The electrical system should have 30-50% of the power generated where it is used, not almost 100% at central stations. Yes, large generation stations have economies of scale, but they also have major systemic weaknesses. With a significant minority of the power requirement generated locally, the system will become extremely robust, and even if the central system fails for some reason, the core functions continue uninterrupted.

Whether or not this particular computer infiltration issue is hyped, there are a wide variety of threats to the grid, from simple overloads, solar flares (one took out all of Quebec and some of the Northeast in the 1980s). In wartime, it is simple to take out the grid with a single high-altitude nuclear burst; zero casualties, zero physical damage, and half the grid is toast from the EMP.

Once power is out, for a few hours it is a bit of a holiday, but after a few days, there are serious problems. Communications are mostly out after the backup power runs out, frozen food rots, fuel is unavailable because pumps have no power, and even water is a problem without pumps. In the northern tier in winter, people start freezing because even oil and gas heaters won't start without electric signals & starters. In short, it becomes a real problem to maintain society within a week.

However, with 30% distributed power, we can lose the grid entirely for months, and maintain communication, food and water, and transportation. of course, it would be inconvenient, but not a disaster.

And, it would have the side benefit of helping us say "FU" to OPEC, since many of the distributed systems would be solar and wind.

Comment Re:So, to get it right... (Score 1) 499

Good point, but I don't think it is quite that binary.

The 'wisdom of crowds' solution is already used in very critical situations, with processors designed for accuracy; e.g., the Space Shuttle has 5 separate computer systems, and accept a majority result from the primary 4, or use the 5th as a tiebreaker if the primary 4 are split.

If you abolutely NEED more speed than the 'accurate' processors can be provide, and one of these 'inaccurate' processors is insufficiently accurate, then a crowd could improve their accuracy enough to be useful, and still provide the speed you need.

So, while crowd configurations would probably not be the most commonly deployed design, it isn't a completely unreasonable design approach.

Comment So, to get it right... (Score 1) 499

... they would need to use a crowd of these processors and some kind of "wisdom of crowds" algorithm to figure out which of the output values is good.

So, in rough figures, if 30 processors is enough to get a good reliable answer from the 'crowd' of procesors, and the overhead of the "wisdom of crowds" algorithm is less than 14%, then maybe we have a system that uses the same power and is about 6x as fast, but no power savings.

If a less good answer is acceptible, then maybe only a few processors are necessary, and there is a net power savings. If it takes more than a crowd of 30 to make a completely reliable answer, then it costs power, but we still get a faster system.

It could be useful for certain applications, if carefully applied. In addition to the media playback and gaming apps already mentioned, it could be good in robotics, where speed amd low power count for a lot, and the feedback loops do a lot of successive approximation anyway.

Comment 3 words: Exit Strategy and Vesting (Score 1) 315

These will determine if it is worth anything at all.

First, is there an Exit Strategy? As in, is there a definitive committment to sell the company at some point, either via an IPO or to another company? Remember, the shares will ONLY ever be worth anything if they can be sold.

If the owners have taken VC money on board, then they have such a plan, as VCs will only invest with an enforced committment to sell (implemented by any of a variety of 'incentive' mechanisms).

Without VC, if the owners are clearly planning and executing a growth plan, with a defined product (or service product) strategy, and a plan to sell out, there is hope for the shares. If they are just operating the company to earn income, e.g., a consultancy, then there is little hope, and all the other advice is moot -- you should ignore the offer, as the shares will likely never be worth anything.

If it looks like the shares may be worth something one day, then you need a good vesting schedule. Five years is too long. 4 years is much more typical. Also, you want a gradual vesting schedule, not a "cliff" in which you vest zero and then 100% after X years.

The vesting schedule I used in both the companies I co-founded and sold worked well for all parties. The plan started vesting the allocated options 6 months after the plan (or the new hire) started, and then vested the the options at 2% - 3% per month until 100% of the options were vested. E.g., if you were on the 3% plan, 30% of your options/shares would be vested after 16 months, 60% after 26 months, etc.

The plan also provided for 100% vesting with any substantial change of control event, e.g., the company gets sold ahead of schedule.

Also note that what you probably want are cheap options (which have fewer tax consequences), instead of outright grants of shares, but you MUST consult a tax attny on that one.

Good Luck, however it turns out!!

Comment MOD PARENT UP (Score 1) 1093

Good to see a clear explanation of how things actually work in the real world.

I almost laughed out loud about the bear comment (that a gun wouldn't do much about a bear).

I was reminded about the Alaskan Park Ranger who was confronted with a grizzly bear last year. He had to unload the whole magazine from his .44 magnum pistol into the bear but he did kill it in time to save himself. The Park Service later found that the bear contained the remains (incl. bits of shoes and clothing) of three different hikers. Too bad one of them didn't have a good gun on hand.

Ideas and Guns can both be very dangerous things in society, and both are necessary to a functioning society. Yes, occasionally, someone will go off irresponsibly shooting off ideas or bullets, and both can cause much harm to others in society. But, once you take either one away from the people, you no longer have a society, you have a totalitarian state.

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Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd. - Voltaire