12:40 am - Sun, Apr 15, 2012

#Tweetsmart: A Review

#Tweetsmart is extremely useful for beginners as well as intermediate users. Advanced users will find this well written, well organized and whimsical read to be enjoyable. However if you could write a book on 25 games to play with twitter followers – using only 140 character tweets -  then this book may not be for you. 

                           #Tweetsmart Cover

Author J.S. McDougall says this book is not about  “how to use Twitter most effectively.” But rather “how to use these social tools to build, engage, and interact with your community.” He also says “I refuse to call the Twitter trivia project, “Twivia.” I hope you appreciate that“ and “The world has no funny photos of applied logistics.”  McDougal succeeds in his stated goals, and I really enjoyed the book’s straightforward yet playful tone. 

Note that this book was reviewed as part of O’Reilly’s Blogger Review program. A digital copy of this text was provided complimentary by O’Reilly for my review. 


4:40 pm - Fri, Feb 17, 2012

“Google Power Search: The Essential Guide to Finding Anything Online with Google” by Stephan Spencer; O’Reilly Media.

I joined O’Reilly’s blogger review program last summer. Here’s the review you didn’t even realize you were waiting for:

Google Power Search is a worthwhile read for both casual and advanced users of the ubiquitous search engine. This concise guide is intended to make it easy to learn and simple to implement search techniques that are non-obvious to most users.  At a dense but well organized 74 pages this guide is a good return on the time invested.

That said, this first edition is not perfect. Google’s recent integration of social results into search means that supplementary study is required to fully understand current Google search technology. Chapter 4, entitled “Understanding the Breadth and Depth of Google, Inc,” is a thorough and well written overview of Google’s product offerings as of the time of publication. However the speed with which Google updates its offerings means this chapter is useful but is not a definitive guide.  


Chapter 2 lists and describes search operators such as filetype:, inurl:, allinanchor:, cache:, define, {mathematical expression} street address} {sports team} and  similar. This list is useful to users who are unfamiliar with such search operators.  Advanced users will find that their mileage varies. Chapter Three is similarly engaging but less useful for more advanced users. Skip past obligatory sections like “key features of the google user interface.” I did find “Finding Documents People Thought Weren’t Public” to be one of many enjoyable little paragraphs throughout this short read.   

Chapter 5 covers research strategies, and includes interviews with three experts on Google and research. This chapter includes interesting suggestions for advanced research.

This book is highly recommended for novice to moderately savvy users of Google search. Most non-technical people will find great value on the very first page, which offers tips like case insensitivity and Boolean logic. I plan to print that page and give it to my [dad family member’s name redacted.] Advanced users may or may not find enough new information to validate a purchase, and are encouraged to review available previews and assess for themselves.


10:33 am - Thu, Jul 28, 2011

Livestream of Social Entrepreneurship Launch Night

The PresenTense Global Institute will begin livestreaming their 2011 Global Institute Launch Night today at 12EST. If you’re going to watch, I suggest tuning in at 1pm, in time to hear the pitches. 

The 2011 Global Summer Institute brings social entrepreneurs from around the world to Israel to eat felafel train them in the latest technology and business practices to launch ventures of interest to the Jewish community. Most participants are still in the ideation or seed stage, looking for grants, investments and advisors. Of the PresentTense fellows who have graduated from this and similar programs, 42% receive follow-up funding or merge with another organization. 

Fellow Ana Fuchs on a PresenTense trip to Google Israel headquarters in Tel Aviv.

Full Disclosure - I was a NYC Presentense Fellow this spring. 


1:30 am

Tim O’Reilly Chastises Geeks for “Creepiness,” Calls it “Big No-No.”

Like the O’Reilly fangirl that I am, I had to read up on the latest from OSCon. They are livestreaming the conference through this Friday, among other interesting content.  

I was surprised to find, in between “How to read Kindle books on BlackBerry Playbook” and “Free Book Samples,” an entire post titled "Sexual Harassment at Technical Conferences: A Big No-No." Tim O’Reilly really used the phrase "Big No-No." I love you Tim O"Reilly. And totally not in a stalky sexual harassment way either.  

I concur with one of the post’s many commenters Robert Cathey, who said “Stunning that this requires a written code.” Of course a different comment asking for sensitivity with respect to awkward and inappropriate social behavior is a good reminder of why an official sexual harassment policy became necessary. 

Setting policy makes it clear that the problem is both serious and is being taken seriously. O’Reilly’s appropriation of Flickr’s community guidelines ““You know that guy. Don’t be that guy” uses just the right tone. I do appreciate O’Reilly newly implemented “Code of Conduct.”  

Photo of Me, Four Other Women, Lots of Dudes at the NYEBN Startup Pitch Series

Still - my experience at technical conventions and meet-ups is precisely the opposite. Men tend to leave me (and the other four women in the room) alone until given an opening to start a conversation. I hope that tension between the sexes at places like OSCon doesn’t trickle down to the events that I frequent, making me and other women even more difficult to approach in a professional context. 

If you see me at a professional event, you are officially invited to say hello. I totally won’t press charges. 


1:12 am - Thu, Jul 21, 2011

Beer Drenched Rooftop Wake, What’s Not to Like?

The music business has certainly become a very tough venture.”Erez Safar, Shemspeed

JDub Record’s recent demise was celebrated Sunday night in a manner more befitting an Irish wake than a Jewish shiva service. Partygoers drank PBRs and Brooklyn Lagers from the open bar while dancing (in most cases, half-heartedly) to DeLeon. JDub clearly knows how to throw a party, raising the question of why the org won’t live to party another day. Was their original logo referencing a headstone simply bad juju, or do only Sephardic Jews believe in such things?


JDub’s business model relied on revenue from both the record industry and philanthropy - two revenue models undergoing radical change, and not for the better - what could go wrong? Everything - eventually. 

Steve Arnoff, Executive Director of the 14th street Y, introduced himself to me remarking “We’ve just ordered ten pizzas.” He also said “It’s sad when creative culture takes a hit. It’s part of our responsibility as communal institutions to support the work that JDub has done, to support the bands. Hopefully the essence of the vision will continue to live on.” 

Friends of JDub are quick to emphasize that 50% of their revenue from “mission related revenue.” What about the other fifty percent? I was told that the funding simply wasn’t there.

The blame - at least by JDub supporters - has been cast on the lack of (later stage philanthropic) funding. This is evidence, says Dan Sieradski, “that the jewish funding establishment doesn’t take Jewish social innovation seriously. They fund innovation at the seed stage for a few years and then move on. For my part, what we need to do is invest in content with the potential to compete with the mainstream. JDub was one of the only organizations doing that.”

Former JDub staffer Mica Scalin said on this matter, “To say that culture is not a valid way ot connect to your Jewish identity is really sad - non-creative, missing heart, and a little bit soulless.” 

Clearly there is a need for later stage Jewish philanthropy. 

However, as a business student I wonder why JDub prized revenue from philanthropic sources as opposed to earned income. In a recent interview, former JDub president and CEO Bisman said, “It was clear that with any of the potential ways forward, we would no longer have been JDub,” he said. “We could not be an organization that existed just to exist.” Bisman declined to comment at the event, noting that it was noisy. 

Yet continuing to exist is often exactly the right approach. One of the VCs who spoke at Startup Festival (I think it was Jeff Clavier) discussed how the difference between successful and unsuccessful ventures is simply that the unsuccessful ones simply give up. They run out of steam. Continuing to press on through hard times separates the successful ventures from the rest more than any other factor. This gives the organization time to change strategy and adapt to new conditions. 

Some say JDub’s shutdown is about a shift in the market away from religiousity. Not necessarily - JDub was about a cultural religious experience. That’s a very niche market, to say the least, as only a portion of affiliated Jews need their culture to be Jewishly inflected as well. I thoroughly enjoyed DeLeon’s rockin’ musical performance, but think the whole Hanukah in July theme required further explanation. 

A better explanation, for Jdub’s shutdown if not for the gratuitous Hanukah references, comes from the talented Mica Scalin who told me that they were running JDub foremost as an ethical organization. She said “All of us are ethically driven. A religious organization has to be ethically driven, as opposed to only business driven. We were all about exploration for ourselves and for people like us.” As a social entrepreneur, I see this as a false divide - but understand that it takes study, careful planning and often specialized consultants to achieve ethical profitability. (Full disclosure - I am one of those specialized consultants.)

JDub would have continued if they’d pivoted the biz model, ramping up their earned income and not relying on funding $$. This is the model of social entrepreneurship that is currently all the rage, in business schools and in the secular nonprofit world.  

And for good reason. 


9:54 pm - Wed, Jul 20, 2011
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Jeff Clavier and the Three Asses

Had an amazing time last week at the International Startup Festival. Many thanks to my boss at Stealth Dating Site for supporting my trip.

Among the highlights was a talk by Jeff Clavier, who spoke from his perspective as a venture capitalist. When evaluating companies, he said he follows the three asses rule. You want a smart ass team, building a kick ass project, in a big ass market.  


Clavier also elaborated on the qualities that make for a good team. Fundable teams come in all shapes and sizes, and Clavier even spoke of a solid team of just one founder. (Heresy!) Three is often considered to be an ideal size. In most cases, an ideal  founding team will cover the following skill sets: Development, Design and Distribution (biz dev and marketing.) 


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