Truemors and Guy’s clay feet.

Truemors
From time to time I have read Guy Kawasaki’s blog. It was usually engaging, informative even if I didn’t always agree. It also exposed sides of the venture beat that I wasn’t familiar with. I came to respect Guy and still do.

When Guy started his new project truemors.com I was stunned. Truemors was pitched as a place to post inside scuttlebutt. In effect a place to post rumors and gossip. This was the last thing I would have thought Guy would get into.

This shock prompted me to email Guy to quench my curiosity. To my surprise Guy started to correspond and I started to get the feeling that what had transpired was only partly a change in Guy.

After some reflection I realized that a big part was the crumbling of a personal mythology that had developed around Guy’s blog. When we expose parts of ourselves on the web others develop a mental picture of who we are as people. The higher the signal to noise ratio (more quality/less crap) the more respect and expectations.

In this instance I had developed respect for Guy that was tied to the perception of Guy as a VC and analyst. A perception that he had such insight as to be able to see the forest for the trees. Truemors struck me as trivial and fluff. An idea that I would have discounted and rejected.

Of course the reality is that trivial and fluff with the right twist can be more viral and successful than something that took years to develop and millions of dollars. In many ways the paradigms have changed and it truly is the little guy in his garage that can come up with the next great thing for very little money. Throw it against the wall and see what sticks.

Spam?

When I added Guy on Facebook I received a message to try Truemors. Mind you I get messages from time to time from other developer friends who are developing Facebook apps to tryout their wares and don’t think anything of it. Once again I apply a double standard for Guy.

I told myself that it was because Guy wasn’t commenting on others work or talking about the next great thing he was involved with. Guy was selling Truemors to us. In my mind he had violated a trust. The critic is not allowed to be a promoter.

In my mind Guy was now trading social capital for the success of this enterprise. The earned respect and myth being traded for a chance that you might try his application. That it might be enough to help put Truemors over critical mass.

So of course I send Guy a message, what gives? In Guy’s reply he asks “I have to do what I have to do, right?”.

Guy was right; you do have to give it your all. He wasn’t being any more spam than my other friends, he was simply promoting again. I once again realized that it was my perception that was coloring all of this. I had been affronted when he dared stray from my preconceptions. Guy was simply using his assets to help his investment succeed. This was business.

In the end I have to thank Guy for an education. Once again (as has happened many times before for me) I have learned that people are people. Putting someone on a pedestal clouds our vision of the real person. I would rather know the person than the myth.

One more thing, Guy, good luck with Truemors.

Brain Zapping, for Fun and Profit.

TMSOver at Wired, Melinda Wenner writes about transcranial magnetic stimulation where with a few Transcranial Zaps they can possibly treat migraines, depression, help you sleep better and even make you smarter.

Inducing brain activity may be a good idea in some cases such as brain disorders as exemplified by the coma patient that recently responded to a Brain Pacemaker. At the same time I think we have to be wary of the fact that the brain is trainable.

I worry the each time you use this device that you are inadvertently re-enforcing some random or not so random set of pathways with unknown consequences. Beyond this, TMS is considered safe ( relative to electroconvulsive therapy ! ) and there is a slight risk of siezures.

I think for now I will wait for a few others to become guinea pigs before I exchange it for counting sheep.

Is Disney good for Club Penguin?

A New Direction. On GigaOM Carleen blogged that she thought that Club Penguin sold out to Disney and it might ruin Club Penguin. I think she came close on a couple points, but missed the bigger picture.

Disney is by its nature a big lumbering beast that is mired in bureaucracy. Having worked there a while I found it was unavoidable. Disney in many cases is less about the projects and more about dealing with the internal politics.

That said we should be fair, most large corporations have the same problem. To combat the bureaucracy large company’s buy small companies and grant them a degree of autonomy. That way the new unit can then at least get some things done.

The problem is that at the same time the new units want to take advantage of other verticals and other parts of the business want to get into what the new unit is doing. Instant politics. The job of senior management then becomes shielding that unit from the politics rather than integrating them into the Disney way. This will invariably mean that a large portion of managements time will be spent away from the main task of running the new unit.

I can only hope that Lane Merrifield CEO of Club Penguin and now EVP at Disney has enough experience to understand and work the system. At the EVP level you can get a bit done if you know how to work the system and keep everyone focused. As a former Disneyland employee perhaps Lane gets it. If so this is a big win for Disney and Club Penguin.

Penguins + Disney = Duh!

Disney Aquires Club PenguinIf you have been curiously watching the news around Club Penguin you may have wondered aloud, is this really worth $500-$700 million?

The answer is it depends on who you are. Certainly on its face the projected revenues by themselves don’t seam to make sense, especially as was mentioned on TechCrunch that penguins (like anything else) are only likely to be hot for so long.

Club Penguin has captured the untapped demographic of children and tweens better than any other game, and games are the driving attention force for this market. For Sony this would have been of little value since they really do not have a way to capitalize on it across their company. They are focused on Generation Y. The Wii vs. PS3 battle is delineated along the demographics that each company targets.

Disney on the other hand is directed almost singularly at the children and tween market. They add a lot of value through brand trust and the ability to market a wide array of verticals towards this demographic. What they have lacked is a good vehicle in online games. They have made some headway with games like ToonTown, but ToonTown requires a client download and is not quite as accessible.

Will Club Penguin remain hot enough to pay back the investment before penguins become pase’? Perhaps, with Disney’s marketing and investment its possible. That is only part of the equation that makes this a no-brainer.

Contrary to Bob Iger’s public statment that Club Penguin will be a standalone business, I believe that this is an important strategic move. It is about grabbing the attention of this demographic and growing it to the whole range of Disney properties. This strategic move should not be as much about making money from Club Penguin as it is about creating a new channel to sell Disney to Disney’s core market.

I think Bob has played a smart hand in buying Penguin, let’s hope it pays off.

And so it begins..

I have been toying with the idea of a blog for some time. Not because I think I have opinions that are that much more interesting that the next, but because I feel the need to write about them.

I have found that in my life I only grow if I challenge myself. By writing about each opinion we have we challenge those ideas and force ourselves to think a bit more critically.

-Marty