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Preview: Silicon Valley Watcher - at the intersection of technology and media

Silicon Valley Watcher — the collision of technology and media



Former Financial Times journalist Tom Foremski provides insight into the business and culture of Silicon Valley.



Modified: 2016-08-11T18:46:27Z

Copyright: Copyright (c) 2016, foremski
 



Culture Watch: Board Game 'Settlers of Catan' Has A Cult Following In Silicon Valley

2016-08-11T18:46:27Z

Photo from Catan.com  Guest Post: By Janet Miller — a board game addict, habit scientist, former Silicon Valley executive and cofounder of Jen Reviews. Settlers of Catan Settlers of Catan was one of the first European games to gain popularity in the U.S., and has been called “the board game of our time" by the Washington Post.  Settlers has gone from being a Monopoly style game set in an island valley to a social, cult-attracting capitalist paradise. If you don't play, you're not going to fit in with the crowd of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The game is very popular in Silicon Valley — here’s some suggestions why: Photo from Catan.com  Guest Post: By Janet Miller — a board game addict, habit scientist, former Silicon Valley executive and cofounder of Jen Reviews. Settlers of Catan Settlers of Catan was one of the first European games to gain popularity in the U.S., and has been called “the board game of our time" by the Washington Post.  Settlers has gone from being a Monopoly style game set in an island valley to a social, cult-attracting capitalist paradise. If you don't play, you're not going to fit in with the crowd of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The game is very popular in Silicon Valley — here’s some suggestions why: 1. The game mirrors Silicon Valley culture. Playing Settlers, each team has to create a dominant community on Catan and outwit each other while competing for extremely rare resources. Does this sound like Silicon Valley itself?  The fact that the games pieces are made through distribution all over the world is another part of Silicon Valley culture that mirrors itself in the game. Dice are made in Denmark, the pieces in Germany, the cards from Dallas, and the plastic from Wisconsin. It is truly an international game, with components coming from everywhere -- much like tech in Silicon Valley being outsourced all over the globe. 2. Settlers allows employers to meet new employees. Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga Game Network Inc., plays Settlers of Catan with potential employees as a networking tool.  "It's kind of like our golf game," says Mr. Pincus. It usually lasts about an hour, making it a great choice for busy tech executives. "We don't have time to play 18 holes, but we can handle pizza and a board game."  Because of the richly interactive playstyle there is much more to the game than just rolling the dice and going around the board over and over. Some CEOs will play with potential employees to test their ability to think fast on their feet and manage limited resources. They can get a feel for how well new employees would mesh with company culture.  3. Settlers isn't hard to learn. Players create their own community within the Island of Catan. The game has rich mythology and narrative structure. The art is vivid and exciting, providing an immersive world — and what's best is that it doesn't take a lot of skill to learn.  There’s a website with an interactive tutorial for Catan that tells you exactly how to play — and a Catan Game Assistant for mobile devices.  4. Settlers appeals to smart bookworm types. There is no shortage of brilliant minds in Silicon Valley, and Settlers of Catan appeals to this crowd. Bookworms and intelligentsia rejoice in the game because they can become absorbed in it while strategizing for hours on end.  The rich lore and history have spurred an outpouring of books written about the vast world of Catan, and a wiki dedicated to Catan. This means it’s just the right kind of game for someone who wants to get lost in a world that isn’t our own.[Editor: Who needs VR headsets when we can get lost inside a board game?!] 5. The game has built a "cult" following similar to companies in the valley. Settlers of Catan is going to be turned into a movie. According to Deadline, Gail Katz bought the film and TV rights to the game, and plans to produce it in the coming years.   6. Catan involves a sweeping storyline, which Silicon Valley executives love. Have you noticed how much drama there is around the tech na[...]



Laugh.ly: A Comedian In Every Pocket

2016-08-11T18:08:37Z

For fans of stand-up comedy: Laugh.ly launched today what is described as a “Pandora for standup comedy” smartphone app. It features 400 comedians such as Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, George Carlin, Aziz Ansari and also - you! Self-publishing tools provide users with the means to create, publish and distribute their own stand-up act.  Deals with large media companies such as Comedy Central provide a media library of tens of thousands of comedy routines. 

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For fans of stand-up comedy: Laugh.ly launched today what is described as a “Pandora for standup comedy” smartphone app. It features 400 comedians such as Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, George Carlin, Aziz Ansari and also - you!

Self-publishing tools provide users with the means to create, publish and distribute their own stand-up act. 

Deals with large media companies such as Comedy Central provide a media library of tens of thousands of comedy routines. 




Cybersecurity Costs - An Unsustainable Tax On Business

2016-08-04T22:50:28Z

The cost of cybersecurity has become a burdensome tax on business and with 1.5 million IT security jobs unfilled, US corporations are losing to sophisticated criminal gangs, said security experts at a recent event in San Francisco. "Cyber is a tax on business. Jamie Dimon [JP Morgan Chase CEO] has had to double his cybersecurity budget to $500 million. Things can't continue this way forever, we have to get ahead of the problem," said Ray Rothrock (photo), a veteran VC, now chairman and CEO of RedSeal, a startup that measures the effectiveness of enterprise security. The cost of cybersecurity has become a burdensome tax on business and with 1.5 million IT security jobs unfilled, US corporations are losing to sophisticated criminal gangs, said security experts at a recent event in San Francisco. "Cyber is a tax on business. Jamie Dimon [JP Morgan Chase CEO] has had to double his cybersecurity budget to $500 million. Things can't continue this way forever, we have to get ahead of the problem," said Ray Rothrock (photo), a veteran VC, now chairman and CEO of RedSeal, a startup that measures the effectiveness of enterprise security. He said that the size of the problem and the opportunities are what lured him out of retirement in early 2014 to run RedSeal. He made 53 startup investments including "over a dozen" in cybersecurity when he worked at VC firm Venrock. JP Morgan Chase last year doubled cybersecurity budgets to $500 million and expects to spend the same amount this year. The financial services giant had a bad computer security breach in 2014 when 76 million household accounts -- two-thirds of all US households -- were compromised. Chris Webber, security strategist at ID security startup Centrify said there are1.5 million IT security jobs unfilled. It shows the size of the problem and that the criminals are winning.   "There are new security risks such as Apple's recent decision to speed up approval for software in its app stores. Will this let more malware escape scrutiny?" asked Domingo Guerra, co-founder and president of Appthority, a startup that monitors mobile apps for data risks in the enterprise. Dwayne Hall, CEO of startup Opaque Communications, said his company is working with government security agencies on a way of preventing some people downloading its technologies for secure and untraceable messaging. "If they are on any watch lists then they could be blocked from downloading our software," Hall said. Andy Grolnick from LogRhythm, a startup that analyzes data to spot security risks from within, said that companies cannot rely on perimeter defenses and that spotting criminal behavior relies on being able to normalize massive amounts of machine data.  Foremski's Take: Is enterprise security achievable? I could buy everything at the annual RSA Data Security show and still not feel secure. There are countless new exploits being discovered, which means they could have been exploited for a long time before. Add the fact that large enterprises don't know the location of all their sensitive data and therefore can't protect it or even know if it has been breached. Cybersecurity is a mess.  Buying things online used to be a one-click process but that was many years ago. Additional security checks of different types make buying things online a chore and certainly not the frictionless experience we were promised. Anything that disrupts the consumer experience is ultimately a danger to the entire economy of society. Ray Rothrock at RedSeal is right: we have to get ahead of the problem. [...]



Survey Warning: Millennials Will Shun Tech-Laggard Workplaces

2016-07-19T21:55:25Z

Millennials will leave jobs that use technologies “not up to their standard” and they prefer to have “high-tech perks” than free food and ping pong, according to a global survey commissioned by Dell and Intel.  The Future Workforce Study questioned almost 4,000 employees in 10 countries working at various sized businesses. It found:

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Millennials will leave jobs that use technologies “not up to their standard” and they prefer to have “high-tech perks” than free food and ping pong, according to a global survey commissioned by Dell and Intel. 

The Future Workforce Study questioned almost 4,000 employees in 10 countries working at various sized businesses. It found:


- Almost half of global employees believe their current workplace is not smart enough, while 42 percent of millennial employees say they are willing to quit their job if office technologies are not up to their standard.

- More than 50 percent of employees expect to be working in a smart office in the next five years

- More than 80 percent of millennials say workplace tech would have an influence when deciding to take a job

- Half of all employees and three in five millennials believe technology will make face-to-face conversation obsolete in the near future

- More than 60 percent of millennials would rather receive high tech perks at work versus low tech perks like ping pong and free food

Read more here: http://www.dell.com/workforcestudy

Foremski’s Take: Asking millennials what they want at work is a pointless exercise because as we all know, when you are young, job choices aren’t abundant and in your first jobs you do what you are told to do with the tools available. 

And as for millennials wanting better technology at work such as “augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) and Internet of Things (IoT) than low-tech perks like ping pong, free food, etc,” I detect the cynical response of the mischievous millennial mind. 

The study does have a spattering of insights but it comes across as very self-serving for Dell and Intel to drum up sales for more tech products. And it is disingenuous to portray the opinions of a tiny number of millennials — a demographic with the least work experience — as experts on workplace technologies. 

Millennials predicting technology will soon make obsolete face-to-face conversations in business, is an example of the lack of work experience in this survey group.

Marketers love to say that millennials are “born digital” but doesn’t mean “born knowing all digital technologies.” It just means they are a little faster at learning game player controls and user interfaces but workplace productivity is the sole responsibility of the employer. 

Workplace technologies that deliver high productivity boosts will succeed —regardless of what employees want or not. 

 




Women In Tech: Is It OK To Say "Guys"?

2016-07-11T19:59:02Z

Is it OK to use the word “Guys”  when addressing a mixed gender group of colleagues? Should women celebrate their feminine qualities or seek to avoid those stereotypes entirely at work? These were some of the things discussed at a recent event, “The Gender Gap and How to Defeat It,” organized by Thomson Reuters and hosted by Blurb, a self—publishing startup in San Francisco. It featured a panel of younger and older women working in the tech sector and primarily aimed at an audience of young women students preparing to enter the workplace.   Is it OK to use the word “Guys”  when addressing a mixed gender group of colleagues? Should women celebrate their feminine qualities or seek to avoid those stereotypes entirely at work? These were some of the things discussed at a recent event, “The Gender Gap and How to Defeat It,” organized by Thomson Reuters and hosted by Blurb, a self—publishing startup in San Francisco. It featured a panel of younger and older women working in the tech sector and primarily aimed at an audience of young women students preparing to enter the workplace.   The panelists represented a wide range of experiences of women in tech: Sarah Granger, author and consultant; Rachael O’Meara, sales executive at Google; Judith Basler, Director of Project Management at Blurb; Marine Leroux Thibault, Head of User Experience Design at Thomson Reuters; Donna Boyer, Director of Product at Airbnb; Nono Guimbi, Senior Software Engineer at Jawbone; Kelly Currier, Director Agile Delivery at Salesforce; Nancy Dickenson, consultant. More information on the speakers is here.  Here are some of my notes from the panel discussion: - Women can manage teams of programmers without having to be coders themselves, said one of the panelists. But they do need to have some knowledge of the technology in order to give the right support to the engineers. - Women managers tend to look at the psychology of the teams and how to ensure everyone works well together. Some try to “be human” and bring feminine values into the workplace. But this doesn’t mean you have to bring home-baked cookies to the office or feel pressure to clean up after meetings, etc. Don’t reinforce stereotypes. A woman in the audience said she did not want feminine qualities in the workplace and said she felt pressure to fulfill some of the social stereotypes. - Just by being the only women in a room can change things for the better. Be authentic.  - Fear was discussed. There were stories of overcoming self-doubt and succeeding. Am I good enough? Do I measure up?  Often, women will only apply for a job if they think they fulfill all the qualifications. Advice: Look at the job description as a wish list and still apply for the job (men will apply for jobs when they meet just 60% of the qualifications).  - Some panelists wished for more feedback and mentoring when they were younger because it would have helped their careers and avoid common mistakes.  - Recognition is important but women should ask for power in the workplace as they progress in their careers because that means they will be able to get things done, such as hire more women. Nothing will change unless you make the change happen and for that you need power.  - Ask for help. You don’t have to know all the answers at work. Trust yourself. - Not every tech company is the same. When looking for a job try to visit the company and see “what does it feel like?” - Women who aren’t software engineers can still work in the tech industry in jobs such as product managers, leading teams of specialists. They are good with people.  - A man asked, what are the expectations of men in the workplace? He was told to listen, to take part in the conversation over gender inequality. And to watch language at work. An audience member objected to the word “Guys” when used at work and referring to a mixed group.  - There has to be more women to choose from in the hiri[...]



Blockchain: Revolutionary Technology Or Over-Hyped Bandwagon?

2016-06-30T23:27:59Z

  Is blockchain technology the second coming of the Internet? That seems to be the enthusiastic message from many new startups that I meet with and also from top business consultants such as Don Tapscott, who authored with his son Alex Tapscott, the recently published book, "Blockchain Revolution: How the technology behind Bitcoin is changing money, business, and the world." Blockchain is a globally distributed ledger -- a platform for reliably clearing transactions without the need of a bank or other third-party. I get the concept behind blockchain, that everyone owns the same ledger and thus it can't be easily altered unless you can gain control of the majority of all the computing resources. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/r_N6WneIFiI?rel=0" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0">  Is blockchain technology the second coming of the Internet? That seems to be the enthusiastic message from many new startups that I meet with and also from top business consultants such as Don Tapscott, who authored with his son Alex Tapscott, the recently published book, "Blockchain Revolution: How the technology behind Bitcoin is changing money, business, and the world." Blockchain is a globally distributed ledger -- a platform for reliably clearing transactions without the need of a bank or other third-party. I get the concept behind blockchain, that everyone owns the same ledger and thus it can't be easily altered unless you can gain control of the majority of all the computing resources.   But I don't yet get how this eliminates "middlemen" service fees after all, the startups in this sector are the new middlemen and have plans to make money on their services. - how it can be scaled up to millions of transactions given the huge computational costs and the time taken to process a single transaction - how can blockchain escape regulation by governments - how can small blockchains provide the same levels of trust as the huge Bitcoin blockchain (which is larger than all of Google's server farms combined); - and why will blockchain challenge giant corporations, as many have said, when giant corporations are the ones sponsoring the blockchain events and conferences, and seem to have the most to gain? - where are the pain points? Surely, we have solved the problem of clearing transactions? Visa and Mastercard do it all day long and they manage to verify identity and guarantee security for a fairly low fee considering the 30% and more that Internet companies such as Apple and Google charge for handling payments for digital goods . To find some answers, I turned to a recent event at the NASDAQ Innovation Center in downtown San Francisco that featured father and son Don and Alex Tapscott, followed by a panel discussion with John Wolpert, Global Blockchain Products Director at IBM; Haskell Garfinkel, Partner and FinTech co-lead at PricewaterhouseCoopers; and Ryan Smith, co-founder and CTO of Chain, a startup building blockchain infrastructure for financial institutions. Above video,  Alex Tapscott with his explanation of blockchain. Below: The panel discussion. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/djoCGIy3T5U?rel=0" width="640" height="480" frameborder="0">  Foremski’s Take:I didn't get my questions answered but I did see a slide that appeared for a few brief moments at the end of Don Tapscott's presentation, about all the things that could stop blockchain. Some of my questions were represented as showstoppers on that slide. Blockchain is certainly fascinating to watch, who will use it and the many new use cases being proposed. The question is can blockchain overcome the many technical and societal challenges it faces, and emerge as a revolutionary technology that’s nearly as important to the global economy as the Internet itself? Too early to call but not too early for the blockchain cheerleaders. [...]



Women & Tech: How To Defeat The Gender Gap

2016-06-27T23:13:10Z

Thomson Reuters and Blurb are hosting a special evening Tuesday June 28 in San Francisco, focused on the topic: Empowering women to work in technology.

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Thomson Reuters and Blurb are hosting a special evening Tuesday June 28 in San Francisco, focused on the topic: Empowering women to work in technology.


Technology is everywhere around us and we all use it, both men and women equally. Yet if men build all the technology, then women’s needs won’t be considered through technology. We need both men and women to build the technical future of our world. But "I'm not technical", you say? What happens when we go on maternity leave? How do women survive the male dominated tech world? This event will answer all those questions and inspire the most non-technical minded woman to consider a tech job.

There will be a screening of the documentary CODE: DEBUGGING THE GENDER GAP. 

A panel discussion:

…with accomplished women leaders from Airbnb, Salesforce, Blurb, Jawbone and consultants. These amazing women will demystify the diversity of tech jobs and uncover various inspiring aspects of their career in technology: what inspired them to work in technology, obstacles they faced in their careers (like maternity), and their advice to young women.

Blurb Inc.
850 California Street @ Kearny
Suite 300
6-9pm

More info here.




Intel's Andy Grove Named Silicon Valley Visionary

2016-06-27T22:25:08Z

Visionary Awards: Craig Barrett, center with Tim O’Reilly and Jane Evans-Ryan, Genuity.  This year’s Silicon Valley Forum Visionary Awards featured a tribute to the late Andy Grove, the legendary leader of Intel, who helped build the company into the world’s most valuable semiconductor company. Three additional people received a 2016 Visionary Award: Carl Bass, CEO Autodesk; Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and Jennifer Pahika, founder and Executive Director of Code for America.

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Visionary Awards: Craig Barrett, center with Tim O’Reilly and Jane Evans-Ryan, Genuity. 

This year’s Silicon Valley Forum Visionary Awards featured a tribute to the late Andy Grove, the legendary leader of Intel, who helped build the company into the world’s most valuable semiconductor company.

Three additional people received a 2016 Visionary Award: Carl Bass, CEO Autodesk; Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and Jennifer Pahika, founder and Executive Director of Code for America.

 The Silicon Valley Forum is one of the oldest professional associations in the SF Bay Area (it previously was known as SDForum)

Andy Grove died March 21, 2016 and his is the first posthumous award by the 33-year old organization. It was accepted by Craig Barrett, former CEO and Chairman of Intel. He recited a poem and praised Grove for his mentorship that included himself and many others, some who later became heads of large companies. Grove was an immigrant from Hungary and worked at Intel for more than three decades. 

Jennifer Pahlka, founder and executive director of Code for America, was introduced by her husband Tim O'Reilly, founder of the publishing and events company O'Reilly Media, and a 2014 Visionary Award winner. Pahlka gave a passionate speech about government, communities, poverty and social justice.

Carl Bass, president and CEO of Autodesk spoke about the opportunties ahead. Tom Wheeler, the 31st Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission spoke about the importance of broadband infrastructure and net neutrality.