Thursday, November 30, 2006

This month's Silicon Veggie article

This month's column (published for some reason off its first-Wednesday-of-the-month schedule) focuses on reader recommendations for vegan restaurants in the South Bay. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

BlogHer Business '07 Registration is live!

You can read all the details about our venue here.

Programming info is coming in about a week. (Trust me, it'll be good.)

And if you're convinced without looking any further, then just go register here!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Link to more on women at the top (or, not.)

Since this blog is supposed to be about social media and marketing I try not to repeatedly go off-topic, but that doesn't stop me from ranting on elsewhere amongst my many blogs.

So, if you're interested in reading more about women at the top levels in Silicon Valley (originally blogged about here a few days ago) then visit my personal blog for a post digging deeper into the other side of biological determinism.

My Worker Bees post prompted very interesting conversations on Thanksgiving Day, and I just thought I'd take those conversations to their logical conclusion. If you're so inclined, enjoy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Women in the Silicon Valley

They don't have it so good.

Check the stats on women at the highest level in California and specifically Silicon Valley public companies. [Reg. Req'd.]

Key excerpt:
For every nine men in the executive suites and boardrooms of California's largest companies, there's only one woman -- and Silicon Valley firms have the fewest females at the top, according to a University of California study released Thursday. [snip] Women hold only 10 percent of the combined board seats and executive officer positions at the state's 400 biggest publicly traded companies with revenue over $100 million, the UC-Davis Study of California Women Business Leaders showed. About half the companies have no female directors, while a third count only one woman among board members or executives.

A quarter of the companies in the study are based in Silicon Valley, and they have the fewest women on their boards and among executive ranks. Female executives are mostly absent from semiconductor, telecommunications and electronics companies.

Merc reporter Michelle Quinn lists the common theories, AKA excuses found in the original article, and elsewhere, including:
The Pipeline Theory: Girls go "yuck"' when faced with math and science, limiting their options too soon, which contributes to the shortage of women in technology fields.

The Opt-Out Plan: Many talented women climbing the ladder pull the rip cord at critical career junctures to have children or downshift to jobs with less responsibility. And they don't or can't re-enter or ramp back up.

The Individual Contributor Syndrome: Women focus laser-like on doing their jobs but fail to schmooze or work in groups, all of which would help build up their base of support when they want to move up. (Note to self: Take off the earphones at work.)

And there is, of course, straight-out bias. Maybe the way meritocracy is defined around here is flawed. It's like kickball all over again. We're not getting picked, so we're not getting better at it.

Quinn actually favors another theory:
"The Despot Decides" theory: The person in charge of a company is the Sun King, the company his fiefdom. He radiates influence with grand pronouncements, little asides or even raised eyebrows. He tends to favor people he feels comfortable with . . . usually male.

So, let's see. I think there are some interesting resources to debunk some of those theories. I personally blogged about a study that debunked the Opt-Out Myth. And I find the Individual Contributor theory odd, since people more often generalize that women are great at collaboration and therefore rarely take individual credit and gain star status. The non-schmoozing I can understand, the theory that women don't work in groups seems counterintuitive.

Now, the Pipeline Theory. That's one that could probably be endlessly debated. There's a ton of interesting data at the National Science Foundation. This is just one part of it. Yes, women trail men in both academic enrollment and in employment in most segments of the science & engineering world. BUt not to the degree that they trail men in getting to the highest levels within those fields. And the pipeline should be fairly healthy. Their most recent tables (which are granted a few years old) indicate that women are now even with men in obtaining science & engineering bachelor's degrees. You could dig in and spend days in the data, but I think it's fairly easy to say that, again: at the highest levels women trail men disproportionately to how much they trail them at lower levels.

I wish I could say that I thought that it made a difference that they were focusing on large and public companies, that the Silicon Valley would look a lot better if they included smaller or private start-ups. But I don't really think so.

And I'd really appreciate if people stopped looking at theories that only analyze women's role in this (they reject it at early levels of education; they opt out to have babies; they don't self-promote enough) and also look at what society and corporate hierarchies and current traditional management practices might have to do with it.

Unless, of course, you're convinced that:

a) the corporate world really is a meritocracy and if a woman was as good as a man she'd automatically and organically get just as far


b) it's not that important

What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Amanda landed on her feet just fine, thank you

So much for the nay-sayers who thought that if Amanda didn't land a post-Rocketboom in a matter of seconds then she would be old news and miss her moment. Guess not. ABC and HBO. Not bad.

Now, I have to do some name-dropping. See, I already knew this news was coming because Amanda was in California a few weeks ago as a part of her Amanda Across America trip, and she interviewed Lisa, Jory and me. Here is Part I and here is Part II. Under the cone of silence Amanda told us about the impending announcements. And believe me, that was a tough one to keep under my hat.

I think Amanda probably did the really really smart thing. She took her time. She worked her deals. She didn't fall for the first guy who offered to "save" her once Rocketboom went boom. Smart and savvy if you ask me. And obviously the right tactic.

Thoughts on Web 2.0

I spent one day amidst the Web 2.0 hubbub and had the following completely random thoughts:

-Microphones for audience comments and questions, folks, PLEASE! SXSW had this problem back in March, and Hugh told me it was one of the most common pieces of feedback he he's fixing it for next year. Web 2.0 should fix it too. This is an interactive world, give in to it! Relish it. It really really REALLY makes sessions more lively and interesting. The BlogHer panel rocked, and you can attribute that not only to the great women on the panel, but the great questions and comments from the audience.

-Skip trying to get into the main session room...especially if Google is sponsoring the Overflow Lounge. Rather than squeeze up against hundreds of other people in an overheated, over-crowded ballroom, hang out on the comfy couches and chairs in the lounge, use the free WIFI, and even eat the food and drink...they brought a mini-cafeteria from the Google campus. Definitely a relaxing and productive way to watch the big-name speakers.

-Barry Diller gave me the major quotable I walked away with, mostly because it was most applicable to my current state as co-founder of a bootstrapping start-up. He gave advice to a budding entrepreneur saying that if he could hold on to his company, he should hold on to it. "Don't get me wrong" he said "I'd sell you on selling it if I wanted it, but if you can hold on to it, I say ride it as far as you can." Interesting advice, particularly given the fact that we do indeed seem to be in a mini-Web 2.0-funding-bubble.

I saw a lot of folks, and a lot of the same folks as I see at other events. But with such a large crowd there were certainly lots of new faces too. In fact it was a bit overwhelming. Solution: the comfortable dimly lit Google Overflow Lounge. Did I say that already? We so need to get them to do that at BlogHer!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Art of the Start: Guy Kawasaki interviewing Mike Arrington

I'm here at the Art of the Start conference. My panel already happened this morning. I'll probably write about that later. Thought I might live-blog Guy interviewing Mike until my laptop battery loses juice. (Microsoft Conference Center: more power outlets please!)

This is a conference for would-be or already-are entrepreneurs, so the value proposition of having Mike speak to this crowd is that most of these folks would probably kill to get covered by TechCrunch, so theoretically they're going to learn some tactics to accomplish that.

Mike gets about 40 pitches per day, 30 cold, 10 from referrals. But he probably only covers 1-2 brand new companies per day or everyother day even.

Some pitches get tossed, even if the company is good, because the pitch is filled with ridiculous buzz words. ("Revolutionary" and "disruptive" as examples...and this came complete with diss of marketing and PR folks, of course.)

Get to the point, and compare it to existing stuff, so there's some frame of reference, and some semblance of reality.

Mike is starting to tune out to things that claim "Web 2.0-ness."

2005 was a really good year because TechCrunch wasn't known, so he did the start-up-hunting and spent a lot more time hunting and writing than sifting through all the noise.

They're bringing Rashmi Sinha on stage to talk about the impact being written about in Tech Crunch had. Thousands lined up to sign on. And it wasn't just Web 2.0 rowd/Silicon Valley crowd. And she said the Tech Crunch effect has lasted, but Mike said that's unusual and that usually it's a spike.

Interesting opinion: Mike thinks it's a waste of money to launch at Demo or LaunchPad (which he MC'ed yesterday at Web 2.0.) He did something similar at Syndicate as I recall. So, why is he doing these events if he thinks it's a waste?

...Sorry I got distracted. Came back to discover that gratuitous mutual ass-kissing is going on right now. :)

Back to business:

Across his blogs: 200K visitors per day (including RSS subscribers.)
Revenue: $120-$130K/month (advertising, job board, parties.)

Now he's talking about advertising. He advises against advertising on Tech Crunch, and he won't take ads from a company he doesn't like. His recent bete-noire, Pay-per-Post, wanted to advertise. He declined.

Mike, as I noticed during BloggerCon, seems to be a very sensitive guy. In many ways. Sensitive about what people say about him. Sensitive to the ideas of disclosure, having too much power bestowed upon him. Sensitive to missing a great company and "hurting" them with his lack of posting. etc. etc. I don't know how he gets through the day worrying so much about the impact of his every little move.

OK, I'm about out of juice here.

Bottom line: Mike has interesting stuff to say. But in a short year Mike has managed to saturate the market!! Like some other folks out there I think he's way too much the go-to guy for conference organizers of late. Eventually we've got to see new faces and hear new voices. This is Internet-time, after all...where a year is like a decade :)

Enjoyed this exchange, though, don't get me wrong. minimum of chest-beating, maximum of thoughtful, non-hyped commentary.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Speaking at The Art of the Start this week

Have I ever told the story about when my S.O. was most impressed with me?

Well, as a die-hard, long-time Mac developer and a lover of all things Apple the S.O. was only really impressed once I told him that Guy Kawasaki was a friend of BlogHer. I'm not going to name-drop any other folks I've rubbed elbows with via BlogHer, but they are all nothing to my S.O. anyway. (Sorry everyone else.)

So, tomorrow I should probably ask the S.O. for something big, because he'll be so impressed with me he's bound to be dazzled and give in. Yes, I am speaking at one of Guy's (and's) Art of the Start day-long conferences. Oh, see, the S.O. knew I was attending, but it wasn't until today that he clued in to the fact that I was actually on a panel (with another friend of BlogHer, Mary Hodder.)

What shall I ask for? Hmm. The engagement ring is already ordered and en route, and there's nothing much bigger than that. Damn. I'm out of ideas.

God knows what I'll get if I meet the Steves (Jobs or Wozniak, that is.)

PS-the panel should be really interesting. When speaking to the moderator to prepare it was clear that BlogHer's story is quite a bit different than any other company on that panel. I suspect people will be intrigued...and think we were insane when we were starting out!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

I'm a People person

I was much surprised this morning to learn from a San Francisco colleague that Jory, Lisa and I, representing BlogHer of course, were included on a list of "The people who populate Web 2.0 in a San Francisco Chronicle story this morning.

In addition to the "People who populate" piece, it kooks like the Chron has done an entire series on Web 2.0 and "Digital Utopians", I assume in honor of the Web 2.0 Conference which starts this Tuesday. The other parts of the series are:

A more democratic world envisioned
What exactly does Web 2.0 mean? Well..
Web 2.0 words -- from ajax to wiki
Key Web 2.0 sites

I guess it would be fitting for me to mention at this point that BlogHer is presenting a workshop at Web 2.0 this Tuesday. How did that happen? Well, we emailed John Battelle suggesting that O'Reilly events had gotten a lot of flack in the past for their lack of gender diversity, and that we thought he should do what Hugh Forrest from SXSW Interactive did...have BlogHer produce a track of sessions.

It's not like Hugh had that BlogHer track idea, after all, we suggested it to him, and he was up for it. We figured, what the hell, can't hurt to ask.

So, a whole track we didn't get, but John responded immediately offering us a workshop of our own...and as seems to be common practice now, at least with the last few conferences I've attended/spoken at, he was hands-off when it came to content and speakers. We could do literally whatever we wanted.

So, here's what we came up with:

Title: BlogHer Presents...World Domination via Collaboration
Description: Many companies focus on building community to “leverage” it, skipping a crucial step: Collaborating with users to build a product or experience that dominates the market because it's great. It is possible to strike that balance: Building community, maintaining credibility, meeting organizational objectives. Meet company leaders whose models are steeped in user collaboration.
Moderator: Jory Des Jardins, BlogHer
Caterina Fake, Flickr/Yahoo
Jessica Hardwick, SwapThing
Lisa Stone, BlogHer
Jenna Woodul, LiveWorld

We've got the Tuesday right-before-lunch slot (which is better than any right-after-lunchl-slot, don't you think?)

I'm looking forward to being an enthusiastic observer, rather than a participant in this one.

Friday, November 03, 2006

This month's Silicon Veggie: The 30-Day Vegan Trial

This month's column chronicles my first 30 days as a Vegan...imperfections and all. Metro readers have always responded most strongly when I've written about my personal journey as a vegetarian and vegan, as opposed to pure restaurant reviews...even though this column lives in the Dining section of the paper.

Hmmm. I think there's a blogging analogy in there.

I often tell this story:

Over at my HealthyConcerns blog i try to tell the healthcare related stories of people I know and even just people I meet. I also talk about the politics and controversies around health insurance issues. At times this blog has been highly active, although over the last few months my posting has slowed to unacceptable levels (if I expect to cultivate an active, engaged readership, I mean.)

I would often get commentary, and often from other medbloggers who read my blog, from doctors to insurance folks.

But when I published my own stories about my own health issues, most notably the issue of whether coughing up green phlegm requires a visit to the doctor, all of a sudden real, live people came out of the woodwork to comment...give me advice, tell their own stories etc. etc.

Kathy Klotz-Guest and I will be co-presenting at the NewComm Forum this coming March about Storytelling and Blogging (or some other panel name TBD.) She has done research and has all sorts of supporting data about the power of narrative for business blogs. I'm going to talk about green phlegm.

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