Starting March 6, 2008
Scott Kirsner's Tech @ The Movies panel video, Tech Tuesday next week, Transcript of interview with John Morgan, Interview with Vice Admiral (Ret.) John Morgan, Interview with Paul Carroll about Merrill Lynch/BofA, MassTLC Innovation unConference coming up so no Tech Tuesday in September, No Tech Tuesday until September and Vibemetrix goes live, No Tech Tuesday this month, Socialtext announces SocialCalc as part of their enterprise wiki, Tech Tuesday coming up, Jeff Raikes sets another good example, More about this Tech Tuesday: Xboxes and Zunes and XNA and more, Tech Tuesday coming up next week on May 13th, Tech Tuesday was a big success and debuted the Linn Sneaky Music DS, Don't forget Tech Tuesday!, Tech Tuesday again in Waltham, A video interview of me by Dan Farber of CNet, Another Tech Tuesday meeting this coming Tuesday in Waltham, Interview with author Dan Ariely of "Predictably Irrational" about applying behavioral economics to Open Source, Podcast with Scott Kirsner: Next-gen display technology
Saturday, October 11, 2008 
Scott Kirsner's Tech @ The Movies panel video [link]
Scott Kirsner hosted a panel last month called "Tech @ The Movies". He got to celebrate the release of his book, Inventing The Movies, that covers the history of the technology of the movie industry from Edison to Steve Jobs. (The book looks good - I've already bought a copy to give as a birthday present for a techie film buff and he loved it.) The panelists were from EZTakes, Synthespian Studios, Avid, GenArts, and Brickyard VFX, and they showed samples of their work as well as talked and answered questions.

A few days before the event Scott asked me if I could attend and record it for a podcast or videocast. I'm glad that I decided to go so that this was saved for others to see. I didn't have time to bring a lot of equipment, but I did bring one video camera and a wireless mike. I put the handheld mike on one channel and the camera's mike on the other. (The camera's picked up room voices but is much quieter - I didn't bring a mixer.) I gave the raw tape to Scott and he just finished processing it and putting it up on Google Video. If you are at all interested in movies or digital effects or editing or seeing some of the cool lesser-known Massachusetts tech companies it is worth watching (it's an hour and 20 minutes long).

To see it, go to Scott's "Panel Video: Tech @ The Movies".

Friday, October 10, 2008 
Tech Tuesday next week [link]
FYI: The Mass Tech Leadership Council is having another Tech Tuesday this coming Tuesday, October 14 (the second Tuesday of the month), from 6-8pm at the Skellig Pub & Restaurant in Waltham. See the event info page for details, to sign up, and to see who else has already signed up (you can show up even if you don't sign up). After the very successful Innovation2008 unConference this should be a good kickoff for this season and a good way to continue all those conversations. Microsoft is sponsoring so the admission is free to all. Ian of the MassTLC has been working on a new list of cool techie YouTube videos and I'm sure there'll be other worthwhile things to see.

Saturday, October 4, 2008 
Transcript of interview with John Morgan [link]
I've been experimenting with transcripts of some of my podcasts. I saw that some other podcasters had used CastingWords to do transcripts and I liked how they were set up so I tried them. It was pretty easy and the transcripts look pretty good. (I used their 6-day option and the audio quality I gave them is good.)

The first interview transcript that I am posting is the one I just did with John Morgan. I have not reviewed the transcript, so there may be errors, especially where the audio was unclear or a strange term was used. I paid to include time stamps so you can go back and forth between the text and audio.

Thursday, September 25, 2008 
Interview with Vice Admiral (Ret.) John Morgan [link]
In March of 2007 I did a podcast interview with Vice Admiral John Morgan, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information, Plans and Strategy. He has been involved in the setting of strategy and worked with Admiral Mike Mullen, now the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Admiral Morgan retired last month after 36 years in the Navy. He is starting to do consulting and speaking.

Yesterday I recorded a 56 minute telephone interview with John. We discussed global systems of cooperation for the betterment of the world, the role of interconnectivity, learning to deescalate conflict and cooperate towards mutual goals rather than escalate and then try to win and defeat, his view concerning  the problem of technology helping our enemies as well as us, and much more. I found out that the Navy apparently makes successful heavy use of the somewhat organizationally flat chat-style typed communication rather than the old (and even Star-Trek) hierarchical voice style. (One story he told me was of when he commanded the USS Enterprise battle group right after 9-11.) The way I see it, this is a vote for the usefulness of products like Twitter. He made reference to Clay Shirky's 2005 TED talk about building cooperation into interactive infrastructure instead of relying on institutions and agreed with him. This interview should be useful to people interested in social software, geo-politcal relations, the military, and more.

You will find the recording listed as "VADM (Ret.) John Morgan on cooperation, technology, and more" on my podcast page.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008 
Interview with Paul Carroll about Merrill Lynch/BofA [link]
Paul Carroll and Chunka Mui released a new book last week titled "Billion Dollar Lessons: What you can learn from the most inexcusable business failures of the last 25 years". They did a lot of research and came up with a list of common tactics that companies follow that very often lead to failure, such as merging based on an unrealistic belief in synergy (it rarely pays off anywhere near as much as thought), moving into adjacent areas, etc. They also propose ways to avoid such situations. I've heard them give talks about their work, and am halfway through reading the book. I like it enough that I've already bought a copy and given it as a birthday gift to a business consultant friend (I kept my copy).

I saw Paul and Chunka at the Diamond Management & Technology Consultants Exchange conference earlier this week. They had thoughts about the deal between Bank of America and Merrill Lynch that was just announced. I offered to record a short interview so they'd have a podcast version of their thoughts. You can get a link to listen to it by going to my podcast listing for it. They have a written post about their thoughts on their book blog.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008 
MassTLC Innovation unConference coming up so no Tech Tuesday in September [link]
The Mass Technology Leadership Council is holding the Innovation2008 unConference on October 2, 2008. It will connect entrepreneurs (both budding and seasoned), investors, and advisors. Check out the web page for it for more details. They decided to hold off on Tech Tuesday this month for that, but also to use it as a feed in to Tech Tuesday for next month.

I'm sorry I haven't had much to post here on my blog recently. I've been very busy with some consulting and writing projects that take up my time but that don't warrant blogging. The coding for the SocialCalc integration into Socialtext is continuing well.

Monday, August 11, 2008 
No Tech Tuesday until September and Vibemetrix goes live [link]
It looks like they aren't going to have another Tech Tuesday until the second Tuesday in September. I'm very busy with SocialCalc code for Socialtext and a few other non-programming projects, so that's fine with me. (All that has been keeping me from blogging, tweeting, etc., but it's all good for me.) See you in September!

One of the companies I'm on the board of, Grazr.com, has something interesting that is just coming out. As I was writing this post I asked Adam Green, the CEO, if I could mention it. He wrote back that I could and then posted a blog post announcing that it's now "open".

The short pitch: Vibemetrix lets you manage the social media conversation. Among other things, it monitors blogs and RSS feeds and continually updates a list of items that match keywords that you set. It then helps you keep track of comments you post, notes you make to yourself, and more, to help you better participate in conversations around your company, brand, product, commercial niche, or whatever you care about. All of this is done with appropriate use of Ajax to make it very efficient for dealing with the many posts that may match your keywords.

They have a demo and the first 14 days of use are free. This is not a free service, but for an awful lot of people it should pay for itself in improved PR and time saved doing something you know you need to do.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008 
No Tech Tuesday this month [link]
The Mass Tech Leadership Council is in the middle of a move of their offices this month and the staff is quite busy with that. We decided to not have an official Tech Tuesday meeting next week (the second Tuesday of the month). We should be starting up again in August. A few of us may still show up at Skellig's to schmooze, but I don't plan to bring the video projector, etc., and there won't be any free food (unless someone buys a round...).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 
Socialtext announces SocialCalc as part of their enterprise wiki [link]
Socialtext is announcing today that they are adding integrated spreadsheet capability to their enterprise-level wiki, making use of the new SocialCalc code I've been developing with them. This isn't just a repository of separate spreadsheets, nor a separate standalone system like wikiCalc, but rather a full wiki where a page can be either the traditional paragraphs of text or a spreadsheet grid. In all cases, the pages share easy linking between each other, even to the level that the formatted "printed" representation of a named range in a spreadsheet can be embedded in a text page and wiki text with links may be used within a spreadsheet cell. All pages have revision tracking, tagging, change notification, etc.

Here's my quote in the Socialtext press release: "Traditionally, wikis have centered on paragraphs of text and have proven invaluable for dealing with information in that form," said Dan Bricklin. "I am thrilled at how we have been able to bring spreadsheet editing into the wiki environment. Business people get the familiar layout, formatting, and calculation functionality of a spreadsheet together with the organic multi-page building and sharing functionality of a wiki. The spreadsheet metaphor has proven to be one of the most popular ways to organize, analyze, and store a vast range of types of information. With the addition of SocialCalc, Socialtext now has an even more powerful tool to let groups develop and keep track of their important data and ideas."

This is a major milestone in an endeavor that I started three years ago. By the end of the summer the project should be coming out of beta and be generally available to customers.

I've written up some "history" to explain the steps that got us here: Background on SocialCalc "2.0" and Socialtext.

Socialtext's Ross Mayfield is announcing the product today at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, and I'm leaving the office now to attend. If I make it to Tech Tuesday tonight, I hope to show a little bit of its capabilities. In the coming weeks I'll post more information, too. In the meantime, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact the people at Socialtext.

Sunday, June 8, 2008 
Tech Tuesday coming up [link]
This coming Tuesday is the next Tech Tuesday event from the Mass Tech Leadership Council. Along with people from Socialtext, I'll be attending the Enterprise 2.0 conference elsewhere in Boston during the day, but hope to show up for Tech Tuesday in Waltham, and maybe get some others to come, too. We'll see.

For more information, see my old posts below, or go to the events page on the MassTLC web site.

Monday, May 12, 2008 
Jeff Raikes sets another good example [link]
I just read in the news that Jeff Raikes will be taking over the CEO position at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation when he leaves Microsoft at the end of the summer. There's a press release on the Foundation's web site. This brought a big smile to my face. Congratulations, Jeff! What a wonderful example to set for others and what a generous way to devote your time. Yet again, another technology leader retires to helping others rather than just enjoying their money.

Jeff Raikes in 2002 showing off Tablet PCs and software
I've known Jeff for many years and have always liked him. I first met him back in the very early 1980's when he was the product manager at Apple for VisiCalc on the Apple III. Later, when he was at Microsoft, we both served on the board of the Software Publishers Association. In the early 1990's our paths crossed again when I was working on pen computing application software at Slate Corporation and he was running the "Pen Windows" effort. One of our founders, Dottie Hall, had previously ran a business together with Jeff's wife. Jeff and I run into each other periodically, and I last spoke with him about a year and a half ago -- he was using his Tablet PC to take notes at a meeting.

Jeff has done a lot for Microsoft over the years and it's great to see that he'll be using that drive and skill that helped make Office the ubiquitous product it is (both through sales and functionality) to help improve the lives of people around the world. The Foundation's values are listed as: "All lives -- no matter where they are being lived -- have equal value. To whom much is given, much is expected." It's wonderful that both Jeff and Bill are about to be very dedicated to the Foundation. The reason to succeed in business, they show, is to go on to use your skill and money to help the world. Quite different from the "greed is good" and "lifestyles of the rich and famous" portrayal in the popular media. The successful people in business follow it up with trips around the world to work with the poorest people, not sitting on a yacht partying. That should be the norm, and the expected behavior encouraged by the entertainment industry, and not just encouraged by religious institutions.

Sunday, May 11, 2008 
More about this Tech Tuesday: Xboxes and Zunes and XNA and more [link]
I received an email from Philip DesAutels of Microsoft about what they will be bringing to Tech Tuesday:

"Edwin [Guarin], Alfred and I will be there with Xboxes and zunes and some great presentations on writing software for them...Microsoft [is giving] away an Xbox 360 with tons of accessories and games to one lucky attendee!!  Why because Microsoft will be showing off XNA a platform you can use to write games for the PC, the XBOX 360 and the Zune and they want to be sure one attendee can go home with a full 'development' system...Michael Cummings, Principal Consultant at Magenic and head of the Boston XNA Developers Group will be there to give demos of XNA and answer your questions. Alfred Thompson, Microsoft will demonstrate the Popfly game creator. Oh and there will of course be several XBOX 360s there for you to try your hand at Halo or SceneIt."

Hmm, writing software for the Zune. Maybe someone can customize it as a podcast-listening device in addition to adding games? (Or has that been done already?) In any case, it sounds like the energy level, and technical depth, of Tech Tuesday is going up another notch. Even people not interested in gaming will surely get some ideas they can use, and I know that other people will be showing up who have different things to talk about (and demo).

Thursday, May 8, 2008 
Tech Tuesday coming up next week on May 13th [link]
We're coming up on the second Tuesday of May and it will be time for the next Tech Tuesday in Waltham, Massachusetts. Take a look at the last several posts on my blog for details of what it's like.

Microsoft is going to provide free food and drinks, as they did last month. Thank you! They're adding something new: This month they'll be giving away an XBox 360.

The event is open to all. It's free for employees of member companies and students, only $20 for others. You can sign up in advance at the Mass Tech Leadership Council web site or just show up. Bring your friends! It's from 6pm to 8pm at The Skellig Irish Pub, 240 Moody Street in Waltham, MA. There's free parking behind and public transportation nearby.

I'd appreciate it if Boston-area bloggers who read this would post a reminder about attending on their blog, too. Engineering and business students are especially invited.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 
Tech Tuesday was a big success and debuted the Linn Sneaky Music DS [link]
Last night's Mass Tech Leadership Council Tech Tuesday meeting in Waltham, Massachusetts, was quite successful. Not only did we have local people like Bob Frankston and John Landry (Lead Dog Ventures, Lotus, etc.), but we also had engineering students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and CXOs from companies around the world, including Scotland, Nigeria, New Zealand, and Spain. (The CXOs were attending Harvard Business School's Owner/President Management Program.)

Gilad Tiefenbrun, Director of Engineering of Linn Products in Scotland (known since the 1970s for their high-end audio equipment), showed their new Sneaky Music DS device for playing high quality music stored on a home LAN -- with Open Source software components you can modify to your heart's content. There was a lot of excitement about it. This was the first time, he said, that it was being shown publicly in the US, and is shipping Monday. From Gilad in a follow up email:

"Sneaky Music DS is our first player to add power amps inside i.e. a one-box solution that is ideal as either your first step in a do-it-yourself home networked audio system, or as an affordable way to add extra rooms, or to upgrade from budget networked audio players. It costs $2,000.

Our by-word on our technology platform is "Open" i.e. we want to embrace the most open standards for control interfaces (UPnP seems best), networking (TCP/IP Ethernet) and formats (FLAC seems best). We built on top of the open source RTEMS kernel, added multi-threading and TCP/IP, and put that back into the open source. The guys at NASA were quite pleased! We are going to open source the GUI, including our own world-class UPnP stack. We'll have an open source site up-and-running soon, along with forums and on-line support."

Laura Fitton (known as Pistachio on Twitter) showed up near the end. She brought her Nokia N95 and streamed video live using Qik. You can see those clips archived, listed as "Tech Tuesday", on her page Qik.com. There were others streaming live video with other systems, too.

Here's one of Laura's videos where she interviews Gilad of Linn about the Sneaky, among other things, and gives you a good idea of what things were like at the event (it's also on this page):

Microsoft picked up the tab for drinks and food, which was much appreciated by all.

Here are some of my photos:

Some of the people talking, watching YouTube videos (you see Theo Jansen's TED presentation on the screen here), eating and drinking
Gilad Tiefenbrun of Linn Products and their new Sneaky Music DS digital stream player
Philip DesAutels of Microsoft watches as Laura Fitton holds a Nokia N95 which is streaming video through Qik.com. The live feed is visible in a browser window in the background on the projection screen.

As Don Dodge points out, Boston has lots of events like this that are good for start ups, innovation, and for meeting others. Last night, there was also another talk in the Vilna Shul Speaker Series (I've covered some of them in the past).

Monday, April 7, 2008 
Don't forget Tech Tuesday! [link]
Just a reminder that tomorrow, April 8th, is the next Tech Tuesday meeting in Waltham. I've heard from young (well, compared to me) engineering students, very experienced Internet engineers (closer to my age), Web 2.0 developers, marketing gurus, and others who are coming. There should be a lot of interesting people to talk to. Bob Frankston tells me he'll be in town this time and be able to make it, too, and bring his Amazon Kindle, Chumby, and more. Others should be coming to show off other devices and services, including Qik and Seesmic.

This month, Microsoft has kindly offered to sponsor some free food and drinks! Thank you, Microsoft.

On the technical side, I spent some time this weekend over at the pub making sure that we'll have good WiFi. I think I've worked out the problems we've run into in the past when only one laptop seemed to be able to connect (it was a DHCP problem on the router). Yesterday I was able to successfully have, as a test, two PC laptops, one Apple Powerbook, and one OLPC XO browsing all at once, so I think I got it fixed. We'll also have two projectors working, each with amplified speakers.

So, if you're anywhere near Waltham, Massachusetts, tomorrow (Tuesday) between 6pm and 8pm, drop by. It's at the Skellig Irish Pub at 240 Moody Street. Students, press, and employees of Mass Tech Leadership Council member companies can get in for free; it's $20 for others. There's free parking (after 6pm) in the lot behind the pub (off Pine Street) and public transportation with the Waltham MBTA commuter rail station a block away (3 stops from Porter Square, I think).

If you're not able to attend (for example, are stuck in San Francisco or Paris...) you can follow some of the people who might be there on Twitter: @danb (me), @pistachio (Laura Fitton, who posts when she does Qik or Seesmic), @mikepk (Michael Kowalchik), and @antrod (Antonio).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008 
Tech Tuesday again in Waltham [link]
Next Tuesday, April 8th, is the second Tuesday of the month and it's time for another Mass TLC Tech Tuesday get together in Waltham, Massachusetts. The last two have been lots of fun and this should be, too.

Last month, among other things, Scott Jamison of Microsoft demoed some of Microsoft's cool image display technologies, including Seadragon, PhotoSynth, and HD View. It seems that Microsoft is working hard on dealing with very large photos (multi-GIGApixels) or collages of photos that make the zoom range of the beloved "pinch" gesture of an iPhone seem very limited. (You can see Apple and Microsoft staking out parts of a spectrum of uses.) Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe had just returned from SXSW and told stories. Tracy Licklider, whom many may remember from the Boston Computer Society, was there, as were many others. Like the first meeting, we shared Youtube videos that we liked, drank, ate, and schmoozed.

This time, in addition to previous attendees who told me they are going to attend again, we have more people telling us they are going to come for the first time, including engineering students, entrepreneurs, and techies of all sorts. We'll have more tech toys to see, too. The Mass Tech Leadership Council is also kicking off its 2008 Awards program at this Tech Tuesday.

If you are in the Boston area on Tuesday, April 8th, drop by the Skellig Irish Pub at 240 Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts, from 6pm - 8pm. There's free parking (after 6pm in the lot behind the theater) and public transportation (commuter train) nearby. It's free to Council members and students, $20 otherwise. You can sign up in advance on the Council website, or just show up. There are lots of interesting restaurants within walking distance, so you might want to make plans with friends to meet at the Pub for Tech Tuesday and then go out to eat afterward.
A video interview of me by Dan Farber of CNet [link]
On February 29th I stopped by CNet in San Francisco to be interviewed by Dan Farber for their "Super Techies" series. He asked questions on topics ranging from my earliest days programming through VisiCalc, Slate, and wikiCalc/SocialCalc. Afterwards, at their request, I sent them some photos and over the last few weeks they've edited it all down into a little over 10 minutes.

You can watch it on their web site on the "Super Techies: Dan Bricklin" page, or watch it embedded here:

Here are some photos taken just after we did the interview showing Dan Farber and the studio:

Saturday, March 8, 2008 
Another Tech Tuesday meeting this coming Tuesday in Waltham [link]
This coming Tuesday, March 11, 2008, we are having another "Tech Tuesday" meeting. It's sponsored by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council and its Open Source cluster. I did a write-up about the idea behind this ongoing series of meetings last month -- see my post on February 7, 2008.

As before, the meeting will be at the Skellig Irish Pub at 240 Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts, from 6pm - 8pm -- with free parking (after 6pm) and public transportation nearby.

We had a really good turnout at the last meeting, filling the room nicely, even though there was a major snow storm starting at the same time. Google was kind enough to pick up the tab from the bar for an hour or so. iRobot sent along a green Looj gutter-cleaning robot. The One Laptop Per Child people had a representative with some XO laptops (also with green plastic -- do I see a trend?). People did demos using the video projector and sound system I brought connected to Skellig's free wifi. People met others and made new connections. I think the feedback was pretty positive.

If we want this to be a regular thing, and I hope it becomes that, we need people to show up whenever they can. Whether you made it to the last one or missed it, please try to come this coming week. I know it's hard for some who are in Austin at SXSW, or at other meetings, but anybody else should try to attend. An ongoing techie gathering is important to the financial health of our region. I'll be bringing my stuff, including an OLPC XO and I hope Bob Frankston's Amazon Kindle. If you have something cool, please bring it to show and tell. Some well-known members of the press are trying to make it. In any case, please try to attend! The Mass TLC web site has more information and a sign-up page if you want to let us know in advance that you're coming (but show up even if you don't sign up).

Here are some photos from the last Tech Tuesday:


Thursday, March 6, 2008 
Interview with author Dan Ariely of "Predictably Irrational" about applying behavioral economics to Open Source [link]
This week I attended one of Diamond Management & Technology Consultants' Diamond Exchange meetings. Senior IT and other executives from major companies, senior members of the US military, and others listen to talks about, and discuss, some relevant topics.

This meeting revolved around the behavioral economics research of MIT professor Dan Ariely. Dan, like Gordon Bell, Alan Kay, myself, and a few others, is a "Diamond Fellow" and usually attends these meetings as one of the interesting parts of the community that develops (a reasonable subset of the attendees are the same from year to year). This time, Dan had his new book, titled "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions" [link to Amazon] that just came out a few days before. It is (as of this writing) number 21 on Amazon and number 5 on the NY Times bestseller list.

Dan is interested in the decisions people make everyday, such as when shopping, but, unlike a normal economist, as a behavioral economist he doesn't assume that people make decisions rationally. He looks at different facets of life and looks at people's expectations, and their passions (or lack thereof) for work.

The book addresses a variety of areas in which Dan performed a lot of experiments. He uses things as mundane as beer, wine, pencils, and chocolate in his research. For example, to see how people treat money differently than non-money, he put 6-packs of Coke in college dorm refrigerators and figured out the "half-life of Coke" (i.e., how long it took for people to steal it). Quite quickly. He then left plates of money. No one took any.

His experiments are all quite simple and clever. They cover areas such as how we assign values to things, how we treat financial relationships differently than social ones, how sexual arousal affects decision making, and more.

Dan gave me a prepublication copy of the book a while back, so I've already read it. It's a wonderful book. Not only is the research fascinating and important, but Dan's entertaining and very personal voice comes through in his writing. I highly recommend it to all sorts of readers. It is not a technology book, nor a dry economics one -- it is a book about people.

Dan has already been interviewed by NPR and some major publications and will certainly be interviewed much more as he goes about his book tour, but I thought it would be interesting to cover something you wouldn't find in the popular press: How do his findings apply to Open Source software? Dan and I sat down to talk in one of the lounges for almost an hour during the conference after one of the activities for non-golfers (sandcastle building after a short demonstration by a professional on a beach in Monterey, California). I recorded the whole thing as a podcast.

Dan Ariely, right after our interview
Here are some of the things we covered, which you should be able to see are usually related to Open Source software and its development:

For most people, when it comes to purchasing something, there is a big difference between free (as in "free beer") and even one cent.

Also, according to his experiments, there is a big difference between how hard people will work for free (without pay) vs. different amounts of payment. People will work hard (such as moving furniture) for free, and just as hard for lots of money (e.g., $60 per hour). They won't work anywhere near as hard for a small amount (e.g., $2 per hour).

He distinguishes between the "social realm" and the "financial realm". When things move from the social realm to the financial realm they are viewed differently. People don't think "This is the same as free, plus I'm getting a little bit of money." They think "I'm being paid very little."

When comparing things, it is easier to compare things that are in the same "bucket". For example, it is easy to figure out what you would pay for a shirt similar to another you've bought previously. But if something is "free" or is in the social realm, then it is considered in a different bucket from the "money" realm and comparisons are done differently, as if you were comparing different types of items. They are different mindsets. When you switch from the money realm to another, things change and not just in ways related to price. So, Open Source software is often not compared head to head with proprietary software and other factors come into play when deciding its value.

Feeling that your work is useful, even if you know it's an illusion, has motivational power with respect to that work.

People have an over tendency to keep doors open: We love options and over value them. We love keeping our options open even when it is clearly not in our interest. The fact that a piece of software is Open Source, and thereby gives you options, is an attraction (such as being able to make changes yourself, even if you never actually take advantage of that option).

Normal, financially-based contracts are usually pretty fully specified. In contrast, socially-based contracts are less fully specified but are more flexible and you know that when things go really bad the other party won't abandon you. (For example, see the difference between a marriage contract and one with your gardener.) Proprietary software has explicit contracts while Open Source software usually has incomplete social ones that are more flexible.

Once you move from a social contract to a financial one, it's very hard to go back, so you have to be careful if you want to stay in the social realm.

Gifts are viewed more like in the social realm than being paid in cash, though being told how much the gift costs brings it back into the financial realm.

Open Source can be about the pride we take in our work and in the pride of knowing other people are taking what we've done and building upon it. Paying for the work, even paying some people but not others, can change that view and amount of pride for everybody.

Money has side-effects. There are different norms of what is and isn't appropriate when money is involved, including moral aspects.

Just knowing a piece of software you are working on is covered by a socially helpful license (especially if it says it at the top of every file) may possibly affect your attitude while working on it. (This is my idea that stems from his research that says that just being asked to list some of the Ten Commandments cuts down cheating on subsequent tasks when compared to listing some book titles.)

We talked about the intoxicating "high" of doing programming.

He is interested in the meaning of labor. The old philosophy that you do a job just to be paid is wrong. However, we don't understand labor enough as an academic discipline -- about passion, affiliation, and motivation. The area of Open Source software is interesting, he feels, because in many places it removes the issue of money and just leaves the "payment" of joy.

We overvalue what we have or what we create. Ownership or authorship moves things from financial-based to pride-based. The inefficiencies from the author's perspective of continuing to develop and support a project even after there are "better" alternatives could be very efficient for users worried about switching costs. These effects should be much stronger in Open Source than proprietary software because of the financial nature of deciding to keep proprietary software projects alive.

Dan sees a real importance in doing experiments, and in taking social forces into account, in corporations -- but most companies ignore it. Open Source software removes money from the equation and opens the opportunity to take other forces into account.

We talked a bit more about gifts vs. money, including donations to Open Source projects. He looks to Burning Man, which is a gift economy and not a monetary one.

Finally, because of the way in which people do things by relative valuation and not absolute, he sees that the initial emerging social norms, such as in an Open Source community, are very strong and of long lasting influence, since they become the baseline that future behavior is measured against.

That's my overview of what we talked about. I really recommend that you listen to the podcast. Dan has a very special way of expressing things. Also, if you end up reading the book (which you should), you'll hear his voice in your head because of his writing style. People who have heard him give a speech and then read the book comment upon how much they can hear him clearly in his writing and how much that adds to reading the book.

Podcast with Scott Kirsner: Next-gen display technology [link]
I'm writing this on a plane coming back from a variety of things on the West Coast. After sprinting to get SocialCalc up to the level of the last release, I then had some other long-awaited projects to do, which took up most of last week. Then I flew off to some conferences and meetings. I finally have some time to catch up with blogging. I'll write what I can on the plane, and finish it up and publish sometime in the next 24 hours back home.

On February 13th, Scott Kirsner held one of his Entrepreneurs on the Edge get-togethers. He invites various entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and others, has a panel discussion, and has lots of social networking. In this case there were also some demonstrations around the room.

The topic was display technology, and he titled it "Seeing in new ways: Next-gen display technology". The panelists were Adam Bogue of Circle Twelve/MERL/DiamondTouch, Peter Kazlas of QD Vision, David Rose of Vitality and Ambient, Mark Spitzer of Myvu, and Bob Zehner of E Ink. They are involved in (respectively): A multi-person-touch display system (it is multi-touch like Microsoft Surface and the iPhone, but can distinguish between different people working together and has very fine accuracy); some special materials for producing bright, colorful, displays; interesting consumer devices including a pill-bottle with a cap display that tries to remind you to take your medicine; a wearable display for the iPod and other portable video devices; and the display technology behind the Amazon Kindle.

As a few times before, I provided some of the sound equipment and recorded a podcast. I posted it on my podcast page, where you can find the 50-minute recording listed as "Scott Kirsner: Next-Gen Display Technology 2008-02-13".

I took a few photos:

The panelists
The audience

The eInk display next to an Amazon Kindle and two photos comparing it to a normal LCD display (35 grams and 1.2mm thick vs. 252 grams and 11.5mm thick)

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