To Twitter or just copy Twitter?


In technology there are few more important questions than “What’s going to happen with Twitter”.    As with many early adopter issues, only the digerati and a few smart marketers understand how profoundly and importantly Twitter is reshaping the online landscape, giving a voice to millions who want to interact casually and superficially with … millions more.

This spinoff effort will be very interesting to watch as it’s a successful niche website that is  establishing a Twitter like interface:
http://blogs.wsj.com/digits/2009/03/27/a-twitter-spinoff-launches-for-moms/

The challenge here is that if every website you go to has it’s *own* chatting interface you’ll either 1) get ticked off or 2) spend the rest of your life interacting with people at all these sites.

The answer is not individual site chat areas, rather we need to integrate the real Twitter with websites.  (or some other chat standard,  but Twitter seems to be the right choice given it’s ease of use and exploding subscriber base)

Open ID, Facebook connect and Google Friend Connect and open social and Disqus (for blog questions) and many other applications  have the right general idea but nobody seems to be able to integrate all this across the board.   We need to be able to seamlessly move from site to site, carrying our identity along with us so we can comment and interact easily.

Obama: We are Bound by a Common Humanity


Here in the USA many amazing social and financial experiments are underway.    President Obama’s approach to international diplomacy really impresses me, and I’m convinced it will impress the overwhelming majority of the world’s people who, like us, want peace and prosperity especially for their children.

It’s not naive to believe that dialog and engagement are more strategic than warfare and violence.    I’m all for keeping a big stick handy if the bad guys threaten your family or your country,  but it is interesting to me that some Americans seem to think diplomacy is a waste of time when it’s better perceived as an extremely cost effective and strategic alternative to violence.

The world is an increasingly complex and interconnected place, and clearly we need to shoot *last* and ask questions and engage people *right now*.   President Obama’s appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was a great move in that direction, and videos like the one sent to the people of Iran help make it clear to our friends around the world that we are …. their friend around the world.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/Nowruz/

Would you be the Ambassador to Afghanistan?


Watching (on C-SPAN of course –  why we can’t get the important real news into the mainstream news?) the respectful and thoughtful confirmation hearing of Lt. Gen Karl Eikenberry, likely to become the Ambassador to Afghanistan, I am again struck by how transparently and nobly our system functions in most matters of state.    This position will become one of the key Ambassador appointments in the world, and it appears President Obama has again chosen an intelligent and insightful political moderate to spearhead this complicated diplomatic mission.

There is far too much chatter from both the far left and far right who fret about the personal lives and minor gaffes of our public servants.   Sure there are a few bad apples but on balance we owe an enormous debt of gratitude – especially during these challenging times – to those few who are willing to work so hard to bring peace and prosperity to the rest of us.

General Eikenberry is not only taking on a difficult assignment, he’s taking on what is likely to be one of the most dangerous ones in US Government.    I really appreciate the fact that folks like this are willing to take these risks in an effort to bring peace and stability to the most troubled regions of the world.   I was not a harsh critic of President Bush’s policies, feeling we generally don’t have enough information to make informed criticisms, but I do feel that the Obama team has a much better understanding of the importance of projecting diplomacy as well as power to bring stability to regions where the bad guys have undermined the ability of the people to make their own decisions and lead the lives they choose.

Thanks General Eikenberry, and good luck to you!

Biography

Mr. President: This budget won’t work.


I remain a fan of President Obama but it has been painful to watch him and congress move to adopt the most reckless example of massive and excessive government spending since the founding of our remarkable American experiment.    The founders knew that solutions spring not from large and cumbersome governments, but from the hard work and inspired innovation of a free and vibrant people.

The budget problem is another great example of how chickens tend to come home to roost, and expensively.    After inheriting a spectacular financial situation from the Clinton years, GW Bush managed to drive up the national debt by about $6,000,000,000,000,  doubling this critical measure of our future prosperity potential even as Republicans whined about how “tax and spend” liberalism was ruining the country.   Note also that only a small part of this was war spending and war is not a legitimate economic  excuse for long term deficit spending.     As they shifted our costs to the far future rather than balanced the bloated budgets  Republicans adopted a “don’t tax, just spend!” philosophy that  is now …. wait for it …. being used by Obama and the Democrats to speciously justify spending of  far-greater-than-biblical proportions.    Meanwhile, having lost almost all of their “fiscal responsibility” credibility over the past 8 years Republicans *very correct* concerns about the new budget are reaching a lot of deaf ears.

Republican Senator Judd Gregg, who turned down a major administration appointment probably due to these differences –  has been one of the most articulate critics.   He notes that the proposed budgets for the next decade will create a massive wall of debt – probably an insurmountable debt  – such that our children will have to choose between massive taxation levels or dangerous inflationary measures such as printing money to repay the huge sums we are borrowing now from other governments.

Senator Gregg is right on with this, and it will be tragic if he does not become a key architect of the solutions needed.

Democrats, who tend to choose optimism over realism, suggest that we’ll jump start the flailing economy and restore the prosperity train and live happily ever after.    It’s probably true that the current budget and high spending will help keep the economy from tanking.  Most economists agree we need a massive injection of Government money to stimulate things.     However I think few experts – and even fewer real people (who often have at least as good a power of prediction) would make the case that we aren’t heading for major trouble down the line.

Much of the solution is clear:

Stimulus should be smaller, more targeted, and eliminate the tens of billions in costly projects with dubious benefits.

Health Care cost reductions should be massive, aggressive, and all options must be kept on the table.   Europe and Canada have vastly superior models to our system with comparable care at half the cost.    Whining about the relatively small numbers of underserved patients isn’t convincing anybody anymore.   If free market enthusiasts can come close to Canada / Europe health costs then propose plans that do this NOW.     Otherwise shut up and adopt a single payer or nationalized health care system.    The “quality of care” arguments are largely bogus and designed to scare people into opposing cheaper solutions.   The current system is not sustainable and we have alternative cheaper and viable models.

Defense cost cuts should be massive and aggressive.   We’ve massively overspent on defense since WWII and both parties refuse to view this spending rationally, where ROI is measured in logical terms of achieving objectives.  Simply eliminating the military pork projects will cut *tens of billions*  We need to use our highly effective targeted strike capabilities, humanitarian assistance, and public relations to gain far more international support at a fraction of the cost.     Note to Republicans – stop your knee jerk nonsensical support of indefensibly massive defense spending.

Entitlements should be cut gradually but eventually massively and as soon as the economy shows clear signs of stability.    We’re living on the money of future workers, not our own, and if this does not stop soon it could be the greatest case of intergenerational theft of all time.     With respect to many entitlement programs we are all little Bernie Madoffs, pushing the Government to pay us from money they are borrowing from America’s children.
Note to Democrats:  stop your knee jerk nonsensical support of excessive entitlements.

These three measures would allow a balanced budget as soon as the economy stabilizes.   

We must end the era of  tribal thinking and “political finance” where the government – to please constituents and party hacks – keeps running things wrong and not in the long term best interests of the country.

Acumen Fund’s Novogratz on Charlie Rose. Fighting Poverty with Profits.


Charlie Rose was rocking today with two superb interviews that enhance and challenge our perceptions of how to think about the world’s most pressing problems of poverty and health in the developing world.  [yes, I realize the global economy is part of this massive problem equation and agree that fixing it is of primary importance to developing world as well as to those of us who live higher on the hog].

Jacqueline Novogratz, a former Wall Street Banker turned Venture Capital Do-Gooder, on her book “The Blue Sweater” and her personal and business adventures using microfinance and entrepreneurial innovations.   Brilliant:   http://www.charlierose.com/view/content/10176

Connecting poor and wealthy to solve pressing problems in developing world: Acumen invests in innovative projects around the world, using the power of entrepreneurial capitalism to solve pressing problems of human need.

These approaches to development and poverty reduction are *so powerful* and *so effective* that it’s painful to watch how many people get bogged down fretting about issues like privitization of water and corporations as evil. We must focus on what *works*, regardless of our ideology.  The best representatives of that approach are folks like Novogratz, Gates, Yunis, and many others who bring their business brilliancies to the challenges of international development.

Rose’s next guest was ethics professor Peter Singer on the ideas from his book “The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty”.   Singer notes the major success of the Gates Foundation and also the fact that  while most Americans tend to say they think “too much” tax money goes to international Aid yet fail to understand how small our contributions are to international development projects, and actually suggest we should send “about 5%” when the real amount is about 1%.     Also makes the case that international development is actually in our own selfish best interest, but for many is not in our *perceived* self interest.   http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/10174

Obama is Open for Questions – Brilliant!


In another exceptional move to open up the dialog between Government and the governed, President Obama will directly answer questions posed online at the “Open for Questions” website.

Wow, I just played around with this asking and grading some questions – it’s a fantastic application with easy registration, forced short questions, and an easy “thumbs up or down” on other’s questions. This allows the participants to determine the top questions which is a fantastic way to involved the public using social media. Obviously the users are more likely to be Obama supporters due to demographics and avoidance of White House projects by Obama critics but this is light-years ahead of the kind of interactions we’ve seen in the past.

This approach combines with town meetings and frequent press conferences to keep President Obama in touch with the public in a way no President has ever done, and I really think he deserves very high praise for this level of interaction. This isn’t necessarily transparency though so the caveat is that these PR efforst must be supported over time with the data-rich information on budgets and decisions about spending, the economy, defense, and more. Still, this makes sure that President Obama President, unlike President Bush before him, will at the very least have a clearer understanding of the concerns and values of the American public.

When you want to separate bad from good policy and approaches in many cases you just need to ask “What would the Founders have done?”. Opening up questions to the President from all Americans and allowing them to vote on the best ones? The founders would have loved it!

More at President Picker

Will Internet Advertising Fail?


Dr. Eric Clemons from the Wharton School of Business has written a provocative post over at TechCrunch called ” Why Advertising is Failing on the Internet“.      It’s a very interesting perspective even though – very surprising to me – Dr. Lemons has really missed the boat in a major way on this issue.

Clemons argues that both offline and online advertising are failing because people are rejecting  deceptive, unwanted intrusiveness of ads pushed at them during their experiences ….

Continued over at Technology Report