Tag Archives: TechCrunch

Cuil. Too cool for words?

Richard MacManus of ReadWriteWeb wrote a post last night about the big coverage of Cuil, thought and/or hoped by many to be the Google killer.

The MacManus post muses about the coverage of the new search engine and the major criticism that followed its debut.  A lot of expectations mismanaged.  So MacManus cites the echo chamber and the hyperbole that stokes it.

But let’s not blame the PR people, people.  Yes, I find much of the language, elitist and cozy, too much to bear.  But somebody’s swallowing it.  And it’s not just the TechCrunches and the Valleywags.  It’s our highly trained, self-proclaimed highly professional mainstream media.

Here are the suggestions I just shared in a comment to MacManus’s post.  Let’s start stripping away the hype.  Ultimately, it’s the best thing for all concerned.

Lots of insightful comments on your interesting post.  This is not a criticism of Cuil, either.  Time will tell.

I do have comments to the press, bloggers, all the new media types “covering” startups, Silicon Valley, tech money:

1  You are part of the echo chamber.  Think before you write.  Choose your words carefully and wisely.

2  Talk with the potential enemies as well as the pals and coterie of the founders and the VCs.

3  Recognize that not everyone tells the truth.

4  If you don’t understand the technology, find someone neutral who does.  Neutral = doesn’t have an ax to grind.

5  In comparing products, rely on your own instincts and that of a true expert to unearth key points of differentiation between products and services.  Don’t just reprint what you’re being fed.

6  Start looking for the real stories of Silicon Valley.  Yes, you’re busy.  But when you take on the responsibility of distilling facts for others, you take on the responsibility to dig.  If you don’t have the work ethic for this role, find something else to do.  We’re sick of the hyperbole.  The real stories of Silicon Valley are not that far beneath the superficial surface on which you skate.

This is coming to you from someone who helps to craft and tell the stories of startups and corporations that are in this for the joy as well as the payoff — and who wouldn’t dream of yanking your chains.  Wake up.

Is Yelp a business, community service or not for profit? Paging Comrade Lenin.

Calley Nye wrote today about Yelp and its impact on companies reviewed there.  Yelp presents itself as a place where the community can gather to share its experiences with businesses — and Yelp likes to invoke conversation as a core concept.  The site is gaining in popularity, and negative reviews can break a business, particularly a restaurant.  So businesses are forming alternate sites to combat the effect. 

Why don’t these businesses just bring the argument or discussion to Yelp?  Because Yelp won’t let them.  Yelp does not permit businesses to respond one way or the other to a review.  This is a shame, because the young company is leaving valuable conversation on the table.  And missing the point of social media.  

Or at least that’s how a lot of people see it.  I’m starting to notice a devilish little trend among startups that seek to change the world.  They reap the benefits of a capitalistic structure without contributing to it.  In this case, Yelp could be helping to evangelize the importance of companies listening to and actually talking with customers — and Yelp could be setting itself up as the nexus of the interaction

Instead, the company is kidding itself — or trying to kid us — into thinking it is leveling the playing field by going after nasty business owners and putting more power into the hands of the “community.”  That businesses are not part of the community! 

Wait a minute.

Is Yelp a business?  And if so,  because Yelp’s CEO [a business term] created a loyalty hierarchy consisting of community, consumers and businesses, as articulated to none other than THE NEW YORK TIMES, into which category does Yelp fall?  Finally, by whose universal standard are Yelp-reviewed businesses measured?  If the answer is the community’s, then who decides the community?  Or are we going to check with Comrade Lenin via seance?

I love it when a startup presents itself as anti-establishment as it indulges in the third oldest profession to make money.  That would be advertising.

Anyway, I find it hard to believe that Yelp’s mission is either noble or democratic.  At least, not any more than any other business trying to launch, make money and do business ethically.  So let’s use Yelp for what it is — a repository of reviews we can use for information but for nothing more.  And let’s not be used by it.

I enjoy being a girl in tech startups. Here’s what that means.

We have a nice recurring event here in the Bay Area that is part of a series which began in London and continues the world over.  It's called the Girl Geek Dinners


Every now and then, the organizers put together an evening — lots of men are there, too! — at which we hear a panel of women discuss their experience in the business world.  The first dinner was sponsored by Google, and it was just terrific.

Another dinner is planned for later this month.  I won't be going.  One of the sponsors is a website, created by women, on which women are compensated for featuring photos of themselves in the altogether.  Nekked.  Or partially so. 

Well, I guess we knew that kind of company would be here sooner or later — under the guise that this is what women's liberation is all about.  I can accept that, as long as it's not in my face or being promoted as a shining example of a woman-owned company — as it was on the blog of one of TIME's 100 most influential people.  [Incidentally, that was the first time in months said luminary decided to discuss a woman-owned company.  Very revealing.  Pardon the pun.]  I can accept the funding of this company, but I'm not comfortable with it sponsoring a dinner designed to bring women and men together to discuss the contributions women can and do make to the technology industry.

Here's the comment I shared with the event's organizers.

Am very disappointed that this great event team has chosen to accept sponsorship by a woman-owned and led pornography company.  Apart from being inappropriate, the choice concerns me from the perspective of what exactly we mean by female emancipation today.  It is not the ability to build and run businesses of any kind in the way that men have — just because we can.  Emancipation means freedom from enslaving ourselves and others to the belief that a woman's role in society is to use her body to attract business, keep business or do business.  Further, having been around since before the millennium, I understand the broader implications of this move both for the pornography company and the men who have given it publicity:  that by accepting this company as a sponsor and attending the dinner, women endorse the creation of pornography and it's because we can create it ourselves now.  You are reinforcing the age-old rationalization that humans are here only to satisfy each other's baser instincts instead of demonstrating that the presence of women in business is a force for growth and greater civility.  This will be thrown up in the face of every woman who attends this event, not to mention the other sponsors and the event team itself.  I encourage you all to re-think your acceptance of this sponsor.  Thank you.

I am not one to talk about being a woman in the workplace — I just want to do it, succeed and contribute.  So I tend not to get involved in skirmishes around how some oaf acted at yesterday's conference or how some buffoon called me a marketing chick in the meeting today.  And I usually have to be slammed with information right between the eyes before I realize that I've been marginalized because of my gender or my looks.  But I've been noticing something lately, and I'm worried.

We now have a whole new generation of men and women coming into leadership positions who feel that relating to each other in business on purely sexual — which should be personal — terms is acceptable as well as newsworthy.  They don't understand that this sort of characterization is a hop, skip and a jump away from, in ten years, calling an accomplished professional the marketing chick.

Without knowing it, women are encouraging men to think of them on purely these terms.  And if you don't think that there are a lot of guys out there primed for this kind of encouragement, grow up.  We've come a long way, but we have a way to go.  While our society has made terrific progress through the efforts of mature, wise men and women in leadership positions, I now believe we run the risk of losing the strengths of womanhood as well as those of manhood just because we have the right to build a porn site.

Here's the nature of a woman's power today:  to help to show ourselves and others that it is possible to lead a company, write code and conceive an algorithm AND be a feminine person.  And to portray femininity by revealing the hidden emotional and intellectual prowess of women, not the vulgar display of your private physical assets.