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Web 2: Help Me Interview Carly Fiorina

By - October 07, 2009

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_@user_67953.jpgDuring the late 1990s and through 2005, Carly Fiorina was one of the most powerful women in technology. As CEO of HP, she developed a reputation as a respected and effective manager, doubling HP’s revenue, buying Compaq in the process, and debuting as Fortune magazine’s first ever “Most Powerful Woman in Business”.  

Fiorina is not without her detractors in the Valley (her departure was a story in itself), but she’s an indisputable powerhouse, and she seems ready and poised for her next act. According to most reports, that act will be as a Republican challenger to longtime incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer. During the 2008 election, Fiorina acted as a economic advisor to John McCain, addressing the Republican National Convention, a move often seen as a precursor to public life.

Fiorina will join us on our first night at dinner to have a wide ranging discussion about the state of technology, policy, and politics. I’m really looking forward to this conversation, and could use your help to identify the best things to discuss with her. What do you want to hear from Carly Fiorina?

Others we’ll be interviewing (and I’ve asked for your help):

Jon Miller

Sheryl Sandberg

Qi Lu

Carol Bartz

Evan Williams

Brian Roberts

Jeff Immelt

To come: Aneesh Chopra, Austan Goolsbee, Paul Otellini, Shantanu Narayen, Tim Armstrong, Tim Berners Lee, and more. Again, an amazing lineup.

If you want to come, I can still get you a Searchblog discount (for a few more days). Just ping me here.

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Web 2: Help Me Interview Jon Miller

By - October 05, 2009

web 2 09.png_@user_61072.jpg Jon Miller has graced the Web 2 stage several times, most memorably when he was CEO of AOL, and both Google and Microsoft were competing for his company’s search deal (Google won, that deal is close to expiration, and now-CEO Tim Armstrong, who helped Google win the deal back then, will be discussing, at the Summit, who he might next partner with – Microsoft or Google – but I digress…for now).

Now Miller runs digital for none other than Rupert Murdoch. I’ve enjoyed my relationship with Jon over the years, he’s a straight shooter. He’s inherited a number of seemingly intractable problems – the digital model for news, for one, MySpace, for another. But when I spent an hour with him in New York a couple of weeks ago, he was unperturbed. He’s seen too much.

Since Jon agreed to submit to yet another Battelle-style interrogation, his newest report Owen Van Atta has also joined the lineup (it’s so recent that we don’t have him up yet on the speaker page). No matter, I’ll ask both Owen and Jon what the plan is for MySpace.

But let’s not forget that Newscorp is a lot bigger than MySpace. If you want to know how much bigger, pay attention to the Audience Network, a little known entity that just happens to be #2 in ad network reach after Google. Who owns it? Well, Miller and Murdoch.

This one is going to get interesting. Trust me.

So help me out, what do you want to hear from Jon Miller?

Others we’ll be interviewing (and I’ve asked for your help):

Sheryl Sandberg

Qi Lu

Carol Bartz

Evan Williams

Brian Roberts

Jeff Immelt

To come: Aneesh Chopra, Austan Goolsbee, Paul Otellini, Shantanu Narayen, Tim Armstrong, Tim Berners Lee, and more. Again, an amazing lineup.

If you want to come, I can still get you a Searchblog discount (for a few more days). Just ping me here.

Web 2: Help Me Interview Sheryl Sandberg

By - October 02, 2009

web 2 09.png_@user_61556.jpg As I mentioned a couple of days back, one of the folks I get to interview on stage later this month is Sheryl Sandberg, who I met with earlier this week (this post was one result of that meeting). Sheryl is Mark Zuckerberg’s key partner in building out Facebook, and while she won’t take credit publicly, I’d wager that Facebook’s recent declarations of profitability and top line revenue growth have a lot to do with her leadership and focus on Facebook’s online advertising platform, which is clearly starting to scale.

Recall that Sandberg came from Google, where she ran ad platforms, and she made the choice to move to Facebook for a reason. What did she see? Well, my own thoughts run to the trends I’ve been pointing out for the past year or so – the model of attention distribution is shifting in the web economy, and Facebook, along with Twitter and other social sites, are increasingly taking share from Google. Follow the referrals, so to speak. Search is still king, but it’s no longer a dictatorship.

So what do you want to hear from Sandberg?

Others we’ll be interviewing (and I’ve asked for your help):

Qi Lu

Carol Bartz

Evan Williams

Brian Roberts

Jeff Immelt

To come: Aneesh Chopra, Jon Miller, Austan Goolsbee, Paul Otellini, Shantanu Narayen, Tim Armstrong, Tim Berners Lee, and more. Again, an amazing lineup.

If you want to come, I can still get you a Searchblog discount (for about another week). Just ping me here.

Web 2: Help Me Interview Qi Lu

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web 2 09.png_@user_60805.jpg In the personality-driven world that is our industry, Qi Lu stands out for his relative lack of public profile. Widely respected as a technological leader while heading up search at Yahoo, Qi burst onto the industry scene when he defected to Microsoft last year and took the role of President of the Online Service division. In short, Qi is the man in charge of Microsoft’s online strategy.

Our interview later this month will mark Qi’s debut on the Web 2 stage. From all accounts, Qi is a very different character from his boss Steve Ballmer (who was a highlight of Web 2 two years ago). I’m looking forward to our interaction. Clearly we have a lot to discuss – the shifting sands of alliances (Facebook, Yahoo, Myspace, etc.), the rise (and fall?) of Bing, the Yahoo search deal, the future of MSN with regard to content, the role of ad exchanges and platforms (the Aquantive deal), and much more.

But I digress. What do *you* want to hear from Qi this year?

Others we’ll be interviewing (and I’ve asked for your help):

Carol Bartz

Evan Williams

Brian Roberts

Jeff Immelt

To come: Aneesh Chopra, Sheryl Sandberg, Jon Miller, Austan Goolsbee, Paul Otellini, Shantanu Narayen, Tim Armstrong, Tim Berners Lee, and more. Again, an amazing lineup.

If you want to come, I can still get you a Searchblog discount (for about another week). Just ping me here.

On Facebook, Comments, and Implications

By - September 30, 2009

Today was a good day. I got to meet with serious leaders of the Internet economy, think Big Thoughts, and push my understanding of the world a bit. In short, I spent the day with folks I’ll be interviewing onstage at Web 2 next month, but also, with people who run companies that in one way or another are key partners and players in the ecosystem I love and in which my company (FM) works.

I started with a private meeting with a fellow who is taking time off from Google. Can’t say much more than that, but it was a great conversation. From there, I met with Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen. Now, I’ve got a lot more to say about Adobe, which recently purchased Omniture, but for now, trust me when I say, keep your eye on Adobe. Next, I met with Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz. And then, I met with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

I noted an anecdotal observation to Sheryl – that I would write something here, tweet a notification of my post on Twitter, and that notification would then update my Facebook status through an app.

Then, I’d watch what happens. And what happens, more often than not, is that I’ll get as many if not more comments on the Facebook status update – inside Facebook – as I do on this site or on Twitter. And more often than not, those comments on Facebook are as thoughtful if not more thoughtful than the ones here. On Twitter, responses to posts here are more likely than not retweets, which is great, but not the same as a comment.

I asked Sheryl if she thought I was an outlier, expecting her to agree that in fact I was. But instead, she said the opposite: people like to comment on links referred through friend networks, and for good reason. It’s one thing to comment on blogs like this one, in relative anonymity. It’s quite another to comment in the context of Facebook, where those comments are seen by a group of folks with whom you have a social relationship.

I’d like to close that loop – show the comments locked in the Facebook domain on the site here – and I’m looking into getting that done. Let me know if you have any insight on how I might automate it.

Regardless, the implications are rather vast. Facebook has become a defacto leader in distribution of attention – just as Google was back in 2004-6. And everyone – trust me, everyone – is paying attention. Twitter is also a major distributor of attention, but Facebook dwarfs Twitter in terms of social media sharing. I’ve got a lot more to say about this, but let me mark it this way: With search, we declared private intention, then chose our links to click.

With social media, we publicly declare our intentions and our links. It’s a shift of models that is very, very meaningful. More on that later.

And, by the way, Sheryl and I spoke about a lot more than closing the loops on comments. But for more on that, you’ll have to wait for Web 2!

Web 2: Help Me Interview Carol Bartz

By - September 29, 2009

web 2 09.png_@user_60981.jpgWhat more can be said about Carol Bartz? Her appearance at the helm of Yahoo has certainly energized the company and given both its supporters and detractors plenty to talk about. But beyond the colorful language and straight shooting demeanor lies one of the most challenging turnarounds in Internet history (at least from this observer’s point of view).
Last year I interviewed Jerry Yang, and by most reports, it didn’t go so well. Well, let me put that another way – it was great to watch (and to be part of), but many said that interview was pretty much proof that Jerry needed to find someone else to run Yahoo. Which is why I am both impressed and a bit trepidatious that Bartz agreed to sit for an interview – will she think I’m trying to drive her to the brink of quitting?! Well, the answer there is no, but I will want to ask her the hard questions. And that’s where you come in.
What do you want to hear from Carol Bartz, CEO of Yahoo?
Others we’ll be interviewing (and I’ve asked for your help):

Evan Williams

Brian Roberts

Jeff Immelt

To come: Qi Lu, Aneesh Chopra, Sheryl Sandberg, Jon Miller, Austan Goolsbee, Paul Otellini, Shantanu Narayen, Tim Armstrong, Tim Berners Lee, and more. Again, an amazing lineup.

If you want to come, I can still get you a Searchblog discount (for about another week). Just ping me here.

Web 2: Help Me Interview Jeff Immelt

By - September 28, 2009

Jeff Immelt is the CEO of GE, one of the largest enterprises in the history of the world. Let that sink in for a moment, it’s not a trivial concept. One of the largest enterprises ever devised by mankind – General Electric. The Microsoft, nay, the Google of the 20th century, and not content with that success, Immelt and his team of hundreds of thousands of employees is bending toward the task of once again redefining the nearly 150-year-old company.

Witness this speech, recently delivered to the The Detroit Economic Club (Immelt was announcing a new R&D initiative in Detroit that will bring 1100 new jobs to the devastated Detroit economy). In it, Immelt does not pull punches. From the text:

I am proud to work at GE, a great American company since the 1800s. Since I joined the company in 1982, GE has earned $230 billion – more than any enterprise in the world. We have paid $130 billion in dividends to our investors – again, more than any company in any country. Today, we have over 300,000 global employees with about half here in the United States.

We are the oldest remaining company in the Dow Jones Industrial Average. This is not because we are a perfect company; it is because we adapt . Through the years, we have remained productive and competitive. We have globalized the company, while investing massive amounts in technology, products and services. We know we must change again. When the current economic unraveling began, many hoped it was merely a harsher version of past cycles. But now it’s clear that a serious and difficult transformation is at hand, not just another turning of the wheel.

I met with Jeff in his office last week in New York, and I found him engaged, thoughtful, and totally aligned with the theme of this years’ Web 2 conference (Websquared). I’m pleased and very honored he’s coming and speaking with us, and I seek your questions and input on what you’d like to hear from him.

Meanwhile, a few more zingers from his speech:

As a nation, we’ve been consuming more than we earn, saved too little and taken on far too much debt . Growth in research and development has slowed. Our country has made too little progress on some of the defining challenges of our time – like clean energy and affordable health care. Our budget and trade deficits have reached levels that are clearly not sustainable.

While some of America’s competitors were throttling up on manufacturing and R&D, we de-emphasized technology. Our economy tilted instead toward the quicker profits of financial services. While our financial services business has performed well, I can’t tell you that we were entirely free of these errors. We weren’t .

What has been the impact? Unemployment is at the highest point in 26 years. And, as a percentage of S&P 500 earnings, financial services expanded from 10 to 45 percent over a quarter-century. Compensation systems have fallen out of balance. You know something is wrong when a mortgage broker is pulling down $5 million a year while a Ph.D. chemist is earning $100,000.

Average real weekly wages have declined since 1980, meaning that we have been unable to provide a rising standard of living for the majority.

Leaders missed many opportunities to add to the capabilities of America. In 2000, the U. S. had a positive trade balance of high-tech products. By 2007, our trade deficit of the same products reached $50 billion. We have already lost our leadership in many growth industries, and other new opportunities are at risk. Trust in business is badly shaken,and it is going to take awhile to get it back.

This is unacceptable. Our country was built on great undertakings that brought out the best in government and business alike. But that kind of vision, that kind of focus on essential national goals, has been missing.

This is not a man who pulls punches or, apparently, plays politics. GE has significant businesses in healthcare, energy, consumer electronics, finance, transportation, media (NBC Universal), and more. Immelt’s presence at the premier Internet conference is a statement about how the Web and the World are merging. So what do you want to know from him?

Others we’ll be interviewing on Day One (and I’ve asked for your help):

Evan Williams

Brian Roberts

To come: Carol Bartz, Qi Lu, Aneesh Chopra, Sheryl Sandberg, Jon Miller, Austan Goolsbee, Paul Otellini, Shantanu Narayen, Tim Armstrong, Tim Berners Lee, and more. Amazing lineup.

Help Me Interview Evan Williams, CEO Twitter

By - September 23, 2009

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Thanks to those of you who chimed in, via email, Twitter, Facebook, and comments, on our first interview at Web 2 next month with Brian Roberts.   

Next up on day one is Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter. I’ve had the pleasure before (at FM’s CM Summit), and posted on it here. But much has changed in the past year. Twitter has become a mainstream brand, grown to tens of millions of active users, and raised a lot more money (and speculation continues that it has raised even more, at a billion dollar valuation, no less).

And while questions remain about “how will Twitter make money,” there’s been no shortage of ideas – including from Twitter – addressing that particular concern over the past few months.

Not to mention, the past year has seen Facebook pretty much re-furbish its user interface to be more Twitter like, and Twitter has added or promised to add a slew of new features to make the service more robust.

But readers of this site don’t need me prattling on about what the best questions are for Evan. You guys have them in your heads. Do me a favor and help me have a smart conversation with Evan next month! Thanks in advance….

Help Me Interview Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast

By - September 21, 2009

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We’ll be opening this year’s Web 2 Summit with an interview of Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast. I’ve asked Brian to come for the past three years, and he’s always had a conflict. In those last few years Comcast has continued to grow, in particular when it comes to its footprint in the digital world.

Besides its role as a major cable television player, Comcast is one of the largest providers of broadband in the United States, and as such plays a major role in nearly every story now playing out across the Web ecosystem. Net neutrality? Check. Bandwidth caps? Check. Migration of television models to online? Check. Learning how to become a smart brand by joining the conversation online? Check.

More on Comcast and Brian:

Under his leadership, Comcast has grown into a Fortune 100 company with $34.3 billion in revenues, 24.2 million customers and 100,000 employees. Comcast’s content networks and investments include E! Entertainment Television, Style Network, Golf Channel, VERSUS, G4, PBS KIDS Sprout, TV One, and ten sports networks operated by Comcast Sports Group and Comcast Interactive Media, which develops and operates Comcast’s Internet businesses, including Comcast.net.

Comcast Interactive is an interesting play as well – a distinct entity with a number of newly purchased assets (Fandango, Plaxo, Daily Candy, etc) that may or may not find itself competing directly with Yahoo, MSN, and AOL someday, not to mention Google. It’s clear to me that one of the next great battles online will be for the real estate currently known as your television (the other, of course, is your mobile device).  

I will be covering all of this and more with Brian, but as I do every year, I really seek your help with what to ask him on stage. So what do you want to hear from Brian Roberts?

Web 2 Preview: DigitalGlobe: The World Is The Index

By - September 11, 2009

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I had an extraordinary day yesterday, in terms of who I got to talk with. Not only did I meet with several of FM’s partners – two Fortune 500 marketers, a major platform partner, and a major blogger – I also got to watch the launch of Ad Stamp and the complete schedule for the Web 2 Summit. But a highlight of the day had to be my chance to steal 30 or so minutes with the founder of DigitalGlobe, Dr. Walter Scott.  

Now why was I talking to Dr. Scott? Well, he’s presenting at the Web 2 Summit this year, and I get to work with him on how Digital Globe fits into our theme of WebSquared.

In Dr. Scott’s case, this task pretty much a layup.

Now, Web 2 is known for in depth interviews with titans of business like GE CEO Jeff Immelt, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts, or former HP CEO and pending Senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina – all of them are coming this year. And it’s known for having the stalwarts of the Internet industry represented as well – leaders from Google, Twitter, Yahoo, AOL, Newscorp, and Microsoft will also be there.

But Web 2 is also known, I hope, for the High Order Bit – the short, mind blowing presentation of a new idea or new data that makes you step back and just say Wow.

To me, that’s what happened when I really grokked DigitalGlobe, a company with a billion dollar market cap that successfully went public in the midst of the worst recession since 1931.

What the company does is pretty simple, actually. It sends super expensive satellites into space, and takes high resolution, geographic-data tagged pictures of every square foot of the earth. It then makes these images available to anyone willing to pay* (and sometimes to those who can’t but really need the data, as it did with the recent LA fires).

Those images are, of course, digital. And they comprise, to echo my writing about search, nothing less than a database of surface reality, albeit from the point of view of outer space. This reality is objective, factual, and indifferent to politics. It can inform a mind bending number of new use cases. If you think about this database from the point of view of an Internet entrepreneur, well, It could become, to wax into a bit of hyperbole, fuel for a whole new ecosystem of value.

Allow me the use of a metaphor, one with which you are all quite familiar.

So think of search. What is search? Well, search is a database of everything that is worth knowing about on the web. It’s made by a crawler that pings web real estate and creates an index/database of what it finds. It’s served up as an application through a user interface that takes your queries and matches them to the best results in that database.

Simple, but that simplicity largely fueled Web 2 as we know it.

Now consider a new dataset for search, the dataset owned by DigitalGlobe. The “crawlers” are DigitalGlobe’s satellites. The “real estate” being pinged is every square foot of the earth. As with the web, some parts of the world are worth pinging more often than other parts. (“We don’t hit Greenland very often,” Dr. Scott told me. But during the Olympics, the company took a picture of Beijing *once every 8 seconds.* Imagine if this technology was around during Tiananmen). The data that satellite crawler captures is stored in a vast index/database. And that index is served up as a product through a UI, though in DigitalGlobe’s case, the UI is not yet scaled to a mass consumer use like Google.

Wait, check that, it is, in a way. DigitalGlobe provides the imagery you see in Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth. And while that information is really cool, and provides the foundation for a huge number of interesting applications (and controversy), things get really interesting when you bring two key pillars of search into the equation: Freshness and comprehensiveness.

Freshness is what is sounds like – how often does the crawler check back to the source and see what might have changed? And Comprehensiveness is equally self-describing – but in the case of satellite imagery, it’s not so much how *much* of the earth you have in your database (that would be the whole darn thing), but rather, how high the resolution of that data can be.

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The data fueling Google and Microsoft’s web applications is good, but it’s not very fresh, and it’s resolution is limited. But that doesn’t mean DigitalGlobe doesn’t have far fresher data and way better resolution. It does. It just doesn’t sell it to Google. (And as I think about the company, I can’t help but think Google or Microsoft must be sharpening their pencils, sketching out scenarios for how they might acquire DigitalGlobe. But I get ahead of myself).

Imagine a time when DigitalGlobe’s crawlers scale across every square inch of the (interesting bits of the) earth at second-by-second freshness – the way Google’s crawlers do for the Web. And imagine a time when the data from this crawl becomes available to all of us, in near real time. Is it possible? Of course it is. You need more satellites, more CPUs, more storage, and some pretty amazing UI and use cases.

Far as I can tell, we have those components already made, just like Google’s infrastructure was not so much about its component parts as it was about how they were put to work in the service of a culture changing service.

Is your mind blown yet? Mine is, but then again, that happens a bit more frequently than your average bear, I’ll admit.

Back here on earth, I asked Dr. Scott two questions that bear repeating. First, who are DigitalGlobe’s largest customers (and how did they use the data)? Far and away, he said, the company’s largest customer is the US Government. Why? Well, they buy high resolution data of, say, a particular Afghan village, datestamp yesterday. Then they give that data to soldiers on the ground, who go into that village and ask folks questions like “What were those heavy loads being moved around in the town square by these five men at around noon yesterday?”

Why, might you ask, why doesn’t the US use its super secret spy satellites to give ground troops this data? Well, because the information on those spy satellites is classified. It’s super secret. But DigitalGlobe’s information is commercial, and unclassified. In essence, the US Government uses DigitalGlobe for the same reason it uses FedEx to move military supplies around the world: it’s just faster, better, cheaper, and easier.

OK, so there’s the answer for why the US Government is such a big customer (and it’s not just military, of course. There’s NASA, there’s NIH, there’s Agriculture, you get the picture, no pun intended). What was my second question?

Well, my second question was informed by the concept of search and my rhapsody around the implications of the world as a database. Might DigitalGlobe consider offering a fresh, high-resolution database of its imagery to developers world wide – replete with business rules for commercialization? Imagine the use cases – for the images are not simply images, they are laden with latent meta-data – interpretive data on everything from how crops are growing to how traffic is moving to how governments are treating their citizens…..might DigitalGlobe consider doing such a thing?

“That would be cool,” was Dr. Scott’s only answer (he is an officer of a public company, after all.)

It sure would be. That would be so WebSquared.

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*From the company’s own product descriptions:

DigitalGlobe’s CitySphereTM product features 60 cm or better orthorectified color imagery for 300 pre-selected cities worldwide. These GIS ready cities are available as off the shelf products and ready for immediate delivery.

With over 37 million km2 of 3 inch to 2 foot resolution color imagery of select American and international markets, DigitalGlobe’s Orthorectified Aerial Imagery is part of our complete offering of the most current high resolution aerial and satellite imagery and the largest library of earth imagery available anywhere. In addition to the largest library of aerial imagery anywhere, we maintain a complete, highly accurate USA basemap at 1 meter resolution or better, with major cities at 6 in to 2 ft resolution.