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  11. <title>Ben Metcalfe</title>
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  13. <link></link>
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  15. <lastBuildDate>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 17:02:59 +0000</lastBuildDate>
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  20. <item>
  21. <title>Starting my new adventure in venture capital</title>
  22. <link>;utm_medium=rss&#038;utm_campaign=venture-capital</link>
  23. <pubDate>Fri, 20 Oct 2017 17:02:59 +0000</pubDate>
  24. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Ben]]></dc:creator>
  25. <category><![CDATA[News]]></category>
  27. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  28. <description><![CDATA[<p>I&#8217;ve made the much-fabled transition from founder to venture capitalist &#8211; I&#8217;m excited to have joined the team at Ridge Ventures. Over a year ago&#8230;</p>
  29. <div class="more-link-wrapper"><a class="more-link" href="">Continue reading<span class="screen-reader-text">Starting my new adventure in venture capital</span></a></div>
  30. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Starting my new adventure in venture capital</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  31. ]]></description>
  32. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>I&#8217;ve made the much-fabled transition from founder to venture capitalist &#8211; I&#8217;m excited to have joined the team at <a href="">Ridge Ventures</a>.</p>
  33. <p>Over a year ago I realized I wanted to make the transition and move into the world of venture capital.  I&#8217;ve loved founding startups (both <a href="">the one that worked</a> and the ones that didn&#8217;t!), and I&#8217;ve loved building products with amazing teams at places like BBC News, Uber, and MySpace.  </p>
  34. <p>Values that have carried me through my career to date include the democracy of publishing, the importance of open source, maintaining an on-going state of curiosity and ultimately leveraging innovation to help improve the society we live in. </p>
  35. <p>I’m excited to embark on the next phase of my career and see how I can manifest those values in the world of venture capital.</p>
  36. <p>Those that know me know I’ve always been a bit of a renegade &#8211; I don’t fit into a particular corporate career ladder or box, having worked across software engineering, product development, business operations, marketing and even a little public policy at Uber. But what I&#8217;ve always enjoyed most throughout my career is exploring new innovation and helping others succeed, grow and fulfill their own potential. It was during some time off doing lots of yoga <em>(yes, clichéd I know)</em> that I realized a career in venture would let me double down on those strengths and experiences and passions.</p>
  37. <p>For the past year I’ve been bolstering my angel experience by looking after <a href="">Gigster’s fund</a> to make seed investments in their most promising clients.  I’m super grateful to good friend and Gigster CEO Roger Dickey for the opportunity, which gave me the impetus to seek out a fulltime investment role. </p>
  38. <p><a href="">Alex Rosen</a> and the rest of the team here have worked hard, heads down, to deliver fantastic successes over the last three funds under their former <em>IDG Ventures</em> banner.  The opportunity to work closely with such smart and experienced early-stage investors represents a huge opportunity I couldn&#8217;t pass up.  But what I&#8217;m also excited about is the new and complementary experiences I can bring to the firm as a startup founder/operator and product-focused technologist.</p>
  39. <p>Finally, the independent Ridge Ventures rebrand makes this a particularly exciting time to be joining &#8212; it really feels like the slate is blank and ready for us to define this new era together. And, if you know me, you know how much fun I had with this kind of branding and marketing opportunity at WP Engine <img src="" alt="🙂" class="wp-smiley" style="height: 1em; max-height: 1em;" /></p>
  40. <p>At Ridge our core areas of focus include Enterprise, B2B SaaS and entertainment software &#8211; but we&#8217;ve made investments in many spaces over the years.  We write mostly Series A checks with some seed deals along the way.  While B2B SaaS is a space I know and love, I&#8217;m also very open minded at this point with what kind of deal flow might come my way. </p>
  41. <p>I look forward to working with entrepreneurs and founders in this new capacity and, as always, can’t wait to dive right in.</p>
  42. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Starting my new adventure in venture capital</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  43. ]]></content:encoded>
  44. </item>
  45. <item>
  46. <title>The feasibility and governance concerns behind 5% contribution to WordPress Core</title>
  47. <link>;utm_medium=rss&#038;utm_campaign=wordpress-what-exactly-do-they-get-for-their-5</link>
  48. <comments></comments>
  49. <pubDate>Wed, 01 Oct 2014 02:13:17 +0000</pubDate>
  50. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Ben]]></dc:creator>
  51. <category><![CDATA[News]]></category>
  53. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  54. <description><![CDATA[<p>As always on the views and opinions expressed here are solely my own and may not be opinions shared, supported, or endorsed in any&#8230;</p>
  55. <div class="more-link-wrapper"><a class="more-link" href="">Continue reading<span class="screen-reader-text">The feasibility and governance concerns behind 5% contribution to WordPress Core</span></a></div>
  56. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">The feasibility and governance concerns behind 5% contribution to WordPress Core</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  57. ]]></description>
  58. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><img src="" alt="5percent" width="300" height="300" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-1584" srcset=" 300w, 150w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /><em>As always on the views and opinions expressed here are solely my own and may not be opinions shared, supported, or endorsed in any manner by any other entity I may have other interests in.  Indeed, these days I work in another realm, transforming the way <a href="">we use bits to move atoms</a>.</em></p>
  59. <p>Earlier today Matt Mullenweg <em>(WordPress co-founder, Automattic founder &#038; CEO)</em> publicly stated that companies operating in the WordPress ecosystem <a href="">should have 5% of their staff base working on the WordPress Open Source Project</a>:</p>
  60. <blockquote><p>&#8220;I think a good rule of thumb that will scale with the community as it continues to grow is that organizations that want to grow the WordPress pie (and not just their piece of it) <strong>should dedicate 5% of their people to working on something to do with core</strong> — be it development, documentation, security, support forums, theme reviews, training, testing, translation or whatever it might be that helps move WordPress mission forward.&#8221; &#8211; Matt Mullenweg</p></blockquote>
  61. <p>His sentiment here is laudable; a well run open source ecosystem requires resources, commitment and talent to ensure it remains healthy, viable and doesn&#8217;t stagnate.  The Open Source Road is lined with the carcasses of many a failed project that didn&#8217;t get this right.</p>
  62. <p>However as the figurehead of WordPress, Matt has the enviable position of being able to set such a lofty vision.  It&#8217;s the rest of the ecosystem that has to translate that into something operationally feasible and financially viable.</p>
  63. <p>5%, Matt asserts, <em>&#8220;looks incredibly modest in hindsight&#8221;</em>.  I would respectfully have to beg to differ.</p>
  64. <p><strong>5% of head count will require more than 5% of payroll $</strong><br />
  65. While Matt was careful to include numerous non-engineering roles companies could help with, ultimately what drives the open source project is source code contribution by software engineers.  Engineers are almost certainly the highest paid individual contributors in any business, and often are paid more than managers and more senior staff occupying other roles.</p>
  66. <p>A reasonable engineer in the US costs $100k/y, and if you factor in benefits <em>(tax funded health-care, anyone?)</em> and overheads you could easily be looking at $130k or more per person, per year.</p>
  67. <p>That&#8217;s clearly much higher than the average employee, and so given that a company&#8217;s 5% contribution needs to more likely be comprised of this kind of employee, that&#8217;s going to be more than 5% of payroll.</p>
  68. <p>A 200+ person web hosting company would need to hire 10 engineers to meet a 5% goal, requiring a budget of anything between $1MM-1.3MM+ per year.  Those engineers probably need a manager &#8211; to mentor them, provide career development etc.  Those 11 people also put pressure on human resources, finance, legal, facilities etc &#8211; probably equating to another person again.  Now we&#8217;re talking probably more like $1.25-$1.5m annually.</p>
  69. <p>Given that the majority of a web host&#8217;s employees might be performing technical support, marketing, administration and other functions that don&#8217;t attract such salaries, it is unlikely the total annual payroll is anywhere near $20m (200 x $100k), and maybe much less than that.</p>
  70. <p>$1.5Million is a lot of money for any business with an addressable market in the WordPress ecosystem, regardless of size.</p>
  71. <p><strong>It negatively impacts customer-service driven companies</strong><br />
  72. Everyone hates poor service, and guess what &#8211; it takes real human beings to staff up a good customer service program.  Whether it&#8217;s a web hosting company, a fledgling maintenance company like WP Valet or WP Curve or a full-service agency with account managers and, <em>well, I don&#8217;t personally know what all those other people do there&#8230;</em> but that requires people.</p>
  73. <p><em>(note: I edited above sentence from original posted version to correct grammar that may have been miss-interpreted)</em></p>
  74. <p>Just to illustrate the point, get this:  As a business owner wanting to keep to the 5%, for every 20 people you hired into any function within the business, you would have to add another engineer to work on WordPress.  Think about that!</p>
  75. <p>Or, you might just have to run your business without the customer service folks you need &#8211; but that&#8217;s shitty for customers, its shitty for the employees who have to pick up the slack and its shitty for those of us advocating WordPress.  &#8220;WordPress really sucks, no one at my web host is able to answer my questions&#8221;.</p>
  76. <p><strong>Bigger guys no doubt get a &#8216;get out of jail&#8217; card</strong><br />
  77. For example, in the last year the WordPress community has welcomed GoDaddy into the fold. Not only should the company be celebrated for dropping its misogynistic marketing endeavors but it has also democratized Managed WordPress Hosting to even more folks by offering a product at price point only achievable due to the economies of scale a large corporation can enjoy.</p>
  78. <p>And yes, they are a large corporation.  Their corporate website stays <a href=";countryview=1">they have over 4000 employees</a>, and that doesn&#8217;t seem to include subsidiaries such as MediaTemple.  I doubt GoDaddy will ever have 200 people (5%) dedicated to WordPress Open Source, and of course their business isn&#8217;t solely based around WP.  But a significant percentage of it is, and as Matt forges closer ties to companies like GoDaddy, it&#8217;s growing rapidly.  </p>
  79. <p>GoDaddy sells a lot of domains that point to WP sites, and host a lot of WordPress, both on their managed and shared products.  Would they be looking to commit even 100 people?  How does that stack up against the fledgling guys who have supported the WordPress community from the beginning?</p>
  80. <p><strong>So where do we go from here?</strong></p>
  81. <p>Clearly the time has come for a serious conversation around how WordPress Core is resourced, and who makes up the leadership that decides and directs that resource.  </p>
  82. <p>Automattic must be recognized for the significant resources they have provided to date, although even Matt acknowledges in his blog post that at 277 people, Automattic has less than 14 people (5%) dedicated to the WordPress Open Source Project.</p>
  83. <p>Automattic&#8217;s contribution may be waning <em>(even if only in percentage terms as the rest of the non-open source part of the business expands)</em>, and Matt is rallying others to step up to fill the void/expand the edges. But with that comes the discussion on how that broadened contribution extends into the leadership of the overall direction of WordPress itself.</p>
  84. <p>A conversation that is long over-due.</p>
  85. <p>It&#8217;s one thing to be asked to commit $1.5MM of resource a year, it&#8217;s another thing to do so with little influence over how that resource is put to work.  IRC chat room meetings, P2s, version leads with significant veto over what their release should contain, all with Matt ultimately having the final say as the project&#8217;s architect&#8230; one could reasonably argue that doesn&#8217;t cut it at this scale, when the WordPress Community&#8217;s companies are being asked to make $million&#8217;s of investment annually.  It does begin to feel <a href="">a little bit too Cathedral and not enough Bazaar</a>.</p>
  86. <p>In addition to being resourced properly, well run Open Source Projects of scale have demonstrable governance and accountability to stakeholders.  Elected boards, voted officers, etc who collectively decide longer term decisions and ensure they are being made are in the greater interest for all.  <a href="">Take a look at the Apache Foundation&#8217;s make up</a> as a model of good Open Source Foundation stewardship.</p>
  87. <p>Our little WordPress has all grown up, and that&#8217;s freaking awesome!  The businesses within the WordPress community will have to work out how they can translate Matt&#8217;s vision of 5% into something feasible.  But at the same time, I urge Matt to also incorporate into his vision reform of the way the WordPress Foundation and Open Source Project is run.</p>
  88. <p>Now is the time to <em>democratize</em> the democratization of publishing.</p>
  89. <p><strong>Update</strong>: Some people have been confused by the original title of the post, which in hindsight I could have done a little better job on. My point behind &#8220;What do you get for your 5%&#8221; title is to say that contribution at a 5% level can&#8217;t equate to blindly pouring in these kinds of resources into somewhat of a black hole, ticking a box and that&#8217;s it.  For the $ amounts we&#8217;re now talking about, there needs to be accountability, a seat at the table etc.  Thats how other Open Source projects of scale usually operate and this is the other side of the coin that&#8217;s missing from the 5% vision.</p>
  90. <p>If people take away from anything from my post, it should be this.</p>
  91. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">The feasibility and governance concerns behind 5% contribution to WordPress Core</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  92. ]]></content:encoded>
  93. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  94. <slash:comments>19</slash:comments>
  95. </item>
  96. <item>
  97. <title>PaperKarma, Craigslist and unintentional disruption</title>
  98. <link>;utm_medium=rss&#038;utm_campaign=paperkarma-craigslist-and-unintentional-disruption</link>
  99. <comments></comments>
  100. <pubDate>Fri, 10 Feb 2012 19:33:25 +0000</pubDate>
  101. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Ben]]></dc:creator>
  102. <category><![CDATA[Media2.0]]></category>
  103. <category><![CDATA[Thoughts and Rants]]></category>
  105. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  106. <description><![CDATA[<p>I study and write a lot about disruption caused directly or indirectly by the Internet. It&#8217;s actually the key tenant that matured my wonder and&#8230;</p>
  107. <div class="more-link-wrapper"><a class="more-link" href="">Continue reading<span class="screen-reader-text">PaperKarma, Craigslist and unintentional disruption</span></a></div>
  108. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">PaperKarma, Craigslist and unintentional disruption</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  109. ]]></description>
  110. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><img src="" width="1024" height="765" alt="disrupters will be googled"/></p>
  111. <p>I study and write a lot about disruption caused directly or indirectly by the Internet.</p>
  112. <p>It&#8217;s actually the key tenant that matured my wonder and fascination with the Internet beyond just the technical/geeky aspect but into the socio-economic.</p>
  113. <p>Most disruption is intentional, and it&#8217;s now a well-weathered story to hear about a genius young entrepreneur out-smart an entire stalwart old-school industry in a way that the big guys didn&#8217;t see until it was too late.</p>
  114. <p>Yay the underdog! Go the little guy! <em>Fuck the establishment!</em></p>
  115. <p>But some disruption is unintentional, and often with negative impact.  The biggest example is probably Craigslist and, as amazing as it is, the incredible negative impact it has had upon the quality of journalism in the US and around the world &#8211; especially local and niche journalism.</p>
  116. <p>This is, of course, due to the fact that those clumsy paid-classifieds adverts financed the journalists in the newsroom.  No more classifieds meant fewer journalists, which meant reduced circulation, which meant reduced advertising rates, and so on into a race to the bottom.</p>
  117. <p>So it is with interest that I read today about an interesting startup whose aim is to make it easier to stop junk mail (of the physical kind) landing in your mailbox.</p>
  118. <p>With <a href="">PaperKarma</a> (for <a href=";mt=8">iOS</a>, <a href="">Android</a> and Windows Phone <em>yuk &#8211; not linking to that</em>) you snap a photo of the offending junk mail item and their system will attempt to notify the junk sender of your wish to be removed and to be put on their &#8220;do not contact&#8221; list.</p>
  119. <p>Sounds awesome.</p>
  120. <p>Except when you consider that its junk mail that is keeping the US Portal System afloat.  Remove the junk mail, and just like removing the classifieds in local journalism, the money funding the system will disappear.</p>
  121. <p>A <a href="">PBS &#8220;Need to Know&#8221; article from September 2011</a> states:</p>
  122. <blockquote><p>&#8220;The days of custom stationery, handwritten letters and scented envelopes may be long gone, the USPS has been increasingly reliant on junk mail — advertisements, catalogs and other unsolicited mailbox “gifts” — to keep the service afloat. BusinessWeek notes that revenue from junk mail increased by 7.1 percent in the last quarter of 2010 – although volume has not increased since. [Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe] has also expressed optimism that junk mail volume and revenue will increase as the economy improves. But the lower cost of direct mailings means that more junk mail is needed to circulate in the system to make up for the accelerating loss of first-class mail.&#8221;</p></blockquote>
  123. <p>And <a href="">that BusinessWeek reference</a> notes:</p>
  124. <blockquote><p>&#8220;[USPS] relies on first-class mail to fund most of its operations, but first-class mail volume is steadily declining—in 2005 it fell below junk mail for the first time. This was a significant milestone. <strong>The USPS needs three pieces of junk mail to replace the profit of a vanished stamp-bearing letter</strong>.&#8221;</p></blockquote>
  125. <p>(emphasis mine)</p>
  126. <p>I quite like having a postal service. I certainly wouldn&#8217;t want their service to deterioate any further than it already has.  Perhaps I should keep my junk mail?  I recycle it after all.</p>
  127. <h3>Postscript</h3>
  128. <p>It&#8217;s also interesting to consider why unintentional disruption occurs.</p>
  129. <p>In both examples, there was a symbiotic relationship between two otherwise disparate and unconnected factors within an economic ecosystem.</p>
  130. <p>It seems strange that people wanting to sell their car, hire a nanny or find a couple to swing with would be directly funding journalists to sit in the local courtroom or investigate corruption in City Hall.</p>
  131. <p>It seems perverse that we have to suffer receiving catalogs and flyers we don&#8217;t want (including the impact on the environment from the creation of these items) just so that we can receive our bank statements, periodicals and other requested and desired items delivered to us in the mail.</p>
  132. <p>The free-market means anyone can build anything (within the law) and disrupt anyone they want (intentionally or not).  Yay the free-market!</p>
  133. <p>But that means we need to think carefully about other examples where there are dubious, untenable or just plain-crazy symbiotic financial relationships that don&#8217;t otherwise make sense. And protect or fix them before more young entrepreneurs come by and disrupt them.</p>
  134. <p>I miss my local journalism, although I guess I wouldn&#8217;t miss receiving my credit card statement in the mail every month.</p>
  135. <p>I still say <em>fuck the establishment</em>, however.</p>
  136. <p>Photo: <a href=""> CC Steve Rhodes</a></p>
  137. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">PaperKarma, Craigslist and unintentional disruption</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  138. ]]></content:encoded>
  139. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  140. <slash:comments>3</slash:comments>
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  142. <item>
  143. <title>From the notebook: musings about so-called &#8216;acqhire&#8217; talent acquisitions</title>
  144. <link>;utm_medium=rss&#038;utm_campaign=from-the-notebook-musings-about-so-called-acqhire-talent-acquisitions</link>
  145. <comments></comments>
  146. <pubDate>Mon, 06 Feb 2012 23:22:03 +0000</pubDate>
  147. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Ben]]></dc:creator>
  148. <category><![CDATA[Thoughts and Rants]]></category>
  150. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  151. <description><![CDATA[<p>So-called &#8220;acq-hires&#8221; (when a company will buy a startup solely/mostly for the talent rather than the product itself) recently came up in a discussion amongst&#8230;</p>
  152. <div class="more-link-wrapper"><a class="more-link" href="">Continue reading<span class="screen-reader-text">From the notebook: musings about so-called &#8216;acqhire&#8217; talent acquisitions</span></a></div>
  153. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">From the notebook: musings about so-called &#8216;acqhire&#8217; talent acquisitions</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  154. ]]></description>
  155. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><img src="" alt="" title="Basketball players on the bench" width="512" height="331" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-1537" srcset=" 512w, 300w" sizes="(max-width: 512px) 100vw, 512px" /><br />
  156. So-called &#8220;acq-hires&#8221; (when a company will buy a startup solely/mostly for the talent rather than the product itself) recently came up in a discussion amongst friends and industry peers.</p>
  157. <p>In my consultancy practice I tend to work with larger corporate/enterprise technology clients who want me to help inject a bit of &#8216;startup mentality&#8217; into their innovation and engineering processes.  Having the right execution team is often crucial to anything I do so getting like-minded employees on board is often one of the challenges to be faced as part of a project.</p>
  158. <p>And so here&#8217;s the bottom line: talent acquisition deals almost always baffle me as it seems like the same amount of money could be used to just pull <strong>and retain</strong> A1 talent from your <em>(more sexy?)</em> rivals instead.  Take the following scenarios for example:</p>
  159. <blockquote><p><strong>Scenario 1</strong><br />
  160. BigCo buys BombedStartup for $4m as an acqhire deal.  The two founders probably get < $500k each and a $150k salary at BigCo - maybe with a 1-2 year handcuff (ie they only see all of their $500k if they stick around for the handcuff period).  The rest of the 8 employees get their tiny %age (maybe enough for a new car or a nice vacation) and the investors get the rest of the cash (with liquidation preferences, low exit compared to amount raised, etc that might mean $3m+).  1/2 of the employees don't accept BigCo's job offer and leave, and by end of the two years no one from BombedStartup is still there - they're all entrepreneurs and want to get back into the game.</p></blockquote>
  161. <p>Compare with</p>
  162. <blockquote><p><strong>Scenario 2</strong><br />
  163. BigCo wants to hire 4 key, strategic engineering hires from RivalCo. They would normally be paying folks like them $150-$200k anyway, so they take the $4m they would normally have spent on the &#8216;acqhire&#8217; and offer each of them $1m cash over 4 years plus their base salary (ie $450k/y cash salary, guaranteed for 4 years, perhaps with the non-base as a performance/vested structure).  This is in addition to any stock grants.</p></blockquote>
  164. <p>In scenario 2, with that kind of comp on offer you could probably treat Google&#8217;s engineering roster like a menu at a restaurant and just pull who you want out. Ditto for later stage Facebook employees who don&#8217;t have quite as nice an equity comp.  I&#8217;ll assume BigCo has <em>something</em> going for it, in terms of being a relatively attractive place to work even if it isn&#8217;t Google or Facebook.</p>
  165. <p>There are all sorts of additional upsides with scenario 2 too.</p>
  166. <p>Firstly, you&#8217;re going to get precisely who you strategically need (data scientists, virtualization gurus, mobile developer rock stars, etc).  In scenario 1, perhaps one of the founders was working with big data, but he may not be &#8216;guru&#8217; status.  Scenario 2 lets you pick who you want.</p>
  167. <p>And because none of your budget has gone to investors (who to you, add nothing to the equation) you&#8217;ve got all this extra capital to retain the talent over a longer period of time.  Halo effect also means that once these strategic hires are in place you&#8217;re also going to be able to attract <em>more</em> talent because of who is already on your bench.</p>
  168. <p>Finally, as a final win, you&#8217;re going to cause your rival a world of pain because they lost the key talent. <em>(Machiavelli dotBen strikes again)</em></p>
  169. <p>In both instances BigCo spent the same amount of money, but to me the second option looks way more attractive, useful and sustainable in terms of getting talent to stick around.</p>
  170. <p>In reply to a draft of this post, <a href="">Dave McClure</a> points out this is also about obtaining teams that have a proven record of executing together. I totally agree, but there is no reason why you couldn&#8217;t try to pull all 4 strategic hires out of the same team at the same company.</p></blockquote>
  171. <p>What do you think?</p>
  172. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">From the notebook: musings about so-called &#8216;acqhire&#8217; talent acquisitions</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  173. ]]></content:encoded>
  174. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  175. <slash:comments>3</slash:comments>
  176. </item>
  177. <item>
  178. <title>What visa type do you need, exactly, to legally participate in Y Combinator?</title>
  179. <link>;utm_medium=rss&#038;utm_campaign=what-visa-type-do-you-need-exactly-to-legally-participate-in-y-combinator</link>
  180. <comments></comments>
  181. <pubDate>Fri, 03 Feb 2012 21:27:57 +0000</pubDate>
  182. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Ben]]></dc:creator>
  183. <category><![CDATA[Thoughts and Rants]]></category>
  185. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  186. <description><![CDATA[<p>Hacker News has been buzzing with the story of Canadian citizen Zak Homuth, who was refused entry earlier in the week by US Customs and&#8230;</p>
  187. <div class="more-link-wrapper"><a class="more-link" href="">Continue reading<span class="screen-reader-text">What visa type do you need, exactly, to legally participate in Y Combinator?</span></a></div>
  188. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">What visa type do you need, exactly, to legally participate in Y Combinator?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  189. ]]></description>
  190. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><img src="" alt="" title="Interrogation scene with Agent Smith from Matrix" width="1024" height="446" class="alignleft size-large wp-image-1512" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 1366w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><br />
  191. Hacker News has been buzzing with the story of Canadian citizen Zak Homuth, who was refused entry earlier in the week by US Customs and Border Protection to participate in Y Combinator with his new startup <a href="">Upverter</a>.</p>
  192. <p><a href="">His own account of what happened</a> suggests that Zak made over-reaching assumptions as to his &#8216;rights&#8217; to enter the US, that he didn&#8217;t have his paperwork in order and that he gave misleading answers to some of the questions the CPB offier asked him.  Plenty of discussion on that <a href="">in the HN comments</a>.</p>
  193. <p>However, the issue does raise a question that I&#8217;ve been wondered for some time &#8211; <strong>can non-US citizens legally participate on Y Combinator with just regular B1 visa or do they actually need a &#8216;work authorization&#8217; type visa?</strong> And if so, is there even a US visa type suitable for legal participation in Y Combinator?</p>
  194. <p><em>This would be a good time to give the health warning that I am not a lawyer, and all of these thoughts are simply based on my own experiences of working in the US on a visa for the last 5+ years and the knowlege of immigration and visa law that I&#8217;ve obtained over the years.</em></p>
  195. <p>From <a href="">Y Combinator&#8217;s FAQ</a> here are some pertinant facts about participating in Y Combinator related to visas:</p>
  196. <ul>
  197. <li>You must physically be in the Bay Area for 3 months during the program</li>
  198. <li>You must setup a US company (which will either be your startup, or a subsidiary of it)</li>
  199. <li>Y Combinator will invest a small amount of money ($10k-$20k range) in your new entity for 6-7% equity</li>
  200. <li>During Y Combinator you will build out your prototype and seek investment</li>
  201. </ul>
  202. <p>A B1 is the type of business visa most citizens of visa-waiver countries can obtain at the airport when you land (usually having applied for an ESTA online before hand). From <a href="">Wikipedia&#8217;s B1 entry</a> the activities you are allowed to do on a B1 visa are:</p>
  203. <ul>
  204. <li>Negotiate and sign contracts</li>
  205. <li>Purchase supplies or materials</li>
  206. <li>Hold business meetings or attend/exhibit at a convention</li>
  207. <li>Settle an estate</li>
  208. <li>Sit different types of exams and tests held inside the United States</li>
  209. </ul>
  210. <p>Here are the issues, as I see them:</p>
  211. <h3>You are not legally allowed to &#8216;work&#8217; for the startup on a B1</h3>
  212. <p>While seeking investment, and taking the meetings that go with that, would satisfy the first activity type of the B1, building your prototype <em>(ie performing software engineering)</em> while in America doesn&#8217;t.  Y Combinator&#8217;s FAQ mentions that almost all foreign nationals can establish a business in the US &#8211; which is true &#8211; but you are not legally allowed to work for that entity (be it W2 &#8217;employment&#8217; or 1099 &#8216;contractor&#8217;) without a visa and US work authorization.</p>
  213. <h3>You cannot self-sponsor a work authorization visa such as H1b</h3>
  214. <p>Depending on who you talk to it is either impossible or incredibly difficult to &#8216;self-sponsor&#8217; a work authorization visa.  Self-sponsor is when you own a majority or controlling stake in the business wishing to sponsor your visa &#8211; which if Y Combinator takes a 6-7% equity stake, the founders are still going to be considered to have controlling stakes.</p>
  215. <p>Once you have board of external directors (eg investors) who have the ability to fire you, obtaining this kind of visa becomes more easier &#8211; but this of course creates a chicken-and-egg trap because you can&#8217;t get those investors until you&#8217;ve participated in Y Combinator and if you already have them you are unlikely to be wanting to do YC.</p>
  216. <h3>E2 Investor visas <em>(which seem most appropriate here)</em> are no good for venture-backed businesses</h3>
  217. <p>The US has a visa category for foreigners wishing to establish a business in the US &#8211; E2. It&#8217;s relatively easily to get and there&#8217;s no quota.  You just have to invest $100k+ of your own money. The issue here is that most startups don&#8217;t need that kind of money during the very early stages of life, and many entrepeneurs don&#8217;t those kinds of funds available anyway.  Rules state that the E2 holders can never lose less than 50% controlling stake in their company, and as such you would almost certainly never be able to raise venture capital on those terms as there would be a cap on how much investment you could ever take and no method of exit without nullifying the founder&#8217;s ability to continue to work in the US.</p>
  218. <h3>It usually takes 6+ months to get any kind of work authorization visa</h3>
  219. <p>It depends on which country you live in and the backlog at the local US embassy, but obtaining most work authorization visas can easily take 6+ months.  Y Combinator, as I understand it, gives successful candidates only a few months notice at best that they have made it into the program.  H1b&#8217;s, a common work authorization, have a minimum amount of time between application and date of issue to make absolutely sure the sponsoring company can&#8217;t find a suitable US citizen to perform the work <em>(which in itself indicates this is not really an appropriate visa type for a founder)</em>.</p>
  220. <h3>You must prove there is no immigrant intent</h3>
  221. <p>Finally, anyone entering the US without an immigration type visa <em>(B1 is a visitor, non-immigration visa)</em> must prove that they do not have immigrant intent. The onus is upon the individual to prove that they <em>do not</em>, not on CBP to prove that they do.</p>
  222. <p>Establishing a US business with the intention of finding investors to invest, and specifically needing to create a US-based entity because US investors don&#8217;t want to invest in foreign based companies, doesn&#8217;t particularly lend itself to demonstrating clear non-immigrant intent and that everyone is going to pack up and go home when things are done.</p>
  223. <p>My own anecdotal evidence suggests that most foreign participants in Y Combinator do go on to establish living here in the US.</p>
  224. <p>To be clear &#8211; I <em>personally</em> have no problems with people wanting to come and live in the US and create their startup in the US. But I raise this because it&#8217;s the open-ended &#8216;gotcha&#8217; UCIS and CBP use to deny entry so often.  How do you exactly prove you <em>don&#8217;t</em> have the intention to do something?</p>
  225. <h2>So what of it all?</h2>
  226. <p>I love Y Combinator. I love startups and entrepreneurs. I am a foreign national living in the US who wishes the visa/worth authorization restrictions on entrepreneurs were a lot more relaxed AND welcoming.</p>
  227. <p>Zak, our original protagonist in this story probably would have got past CBP if he had his paperwork was in order and had been briefed on what to say/what not to say.  But that doesn&#8217;t mean his participation in YC would have necessarily stayed 100% within the B1 visa type.</p>
  228. <p>And so I remain perplexed as to exactly what visa type foreign nationals wishing to participate in Y Combinator should be on &#8211; and in fact whether any of them are actually suitable or applicable.</p>
  229. <p>We all know the visa situation for startup entrepreneurs is broken, and something like Y Combinator is somewhat unique anyway.</p>
  230. <p>But with stiff penalties for &#8216;fraudulent&#8217; visa application and missrepresentation at the border &#8211; potentially as much <strong>a permanent bar from ever entering the US again</strong> &#8211; I can&#8217;t help but feel Y Combinator has a greater responsibility to the often young and slightly naive <em>(case in point: Zak)</em> entrepreneurs it courts to be clearer on the exact visa their partipants need.</p>
  231. <p>I would go so far as to say that Y Combinator needs to clearly and formally demonstrate how participation by a foreign national is even legally possible given <strong>today&#8217;s</strong> fucked up visa situation.</p>
  232. <p><em>Footnotes: I love Y Combinator, this isn&#8217;t a bash at Y Combinator in any way.  I should also remind you, I am not a lawyer. If you are a foreign national looking to work in the US you should have an attorney anyway.</em></p>
  233. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">What visa type do you need, exactly, to legally participate in Y Combinator?</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  234. ]]></content:encoded>
  235. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  236. <slash:comments>3</slash:comments>
  237. </item>
  238. <item>
  239. <title>Cease &#038; Desist letter sent to Fotopedia, abuser of Creative Commons</title>
  240. <link>;utm_medium=rss&#038;utm_campaign=cease-desist-letter-sent-to-fotopedia-abuser-of-creative-commons</link>
  241. <comments></comments>
  242. <pubDate>Sun, 21 Aug 2011 22:59:08 +0000</pubDate>
  243. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Ben]]></dc:creator>
  244. <category><![CDATA[Thoughts and Rants]]></category>
  246. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  247. <description><![CDATA[<p>I was sad to discover that photos belonging to both Violet and I are being reproduced without our permission at &#8216;photo encyclopedia&#8217; Fotopedia. I&#8217;m a&#8230;</p>
  248. <div class="more-link-wrapper"><a class="more-link" href="">Continue reading<span class="screen-reader-text">Cease &#038; Desist letter sent to Fotopedia, abuser of Creative Commons</span></a></div>
  249. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Cease &#038; Desist letter sent to Fotopedia, abuser of Creative Commons</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  250. ]]></description>
  251. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p>I was sad to discover that photos belonging to both Violet and I are being reproduced without our permission at &#8216;photo encyclopedia&#8217; <a href="">Fotopedia</a>.</p>
  252. <p>I&#8217;m a firm believer in Creative Commons and copyright reform, and so I license practically all creative work I produce under a <a href="">Creative Commons Non-Commercial Use Share Alike license</a>.  This includes all photos I take <em>(even with my pro equipment)</em> and all blog posts I write, including this one&#8230; basically anything which isn&#8217;t otherwise covered under an existing agreement with a client/etc or a personal photo of a family member (I don&#8217;t want those re-used) is CC-NC-SA.</p>
  253. <p>The abuse of work licensed under a <em>Creative Commons Non-Commercial License</em> in a commercial setting &#8211; knowingly and unknowningly &#8211; is a well-written subject.</p>
  254. <p>However it is sad and disheartening to discover companies that abuse the Creative Commons License who operate within the image/photo landscape and thus are placed to know better.  It is even worse when the foundation of their entire company is based around this abuse.</p>
  255. <p>Enter Fotopedia.</p>
  256. <p>You can <a href="">go read their mission</a> about about creating a photo-based encyclopedia for humanity, but the bottom line is that they are a commercial entity backed by $3.4m of venture funding that contains mostly Creative Commons Non-Commercial photos as the foundation of their company&#8217;s database.</p>
  257. <p>In addition to their venture funding, they sell mobile applications that contain a sub-set of photos, offer other mobile applications for free but with sponsorship/advertising and they solicit commercial partnerships on their website.</p>
  258. <p>Fotopedia is clearly a for-profit entity operating commercially and thus their use clearly falls outside &#8216;non-commercial use&#8217;.</p>
  259. <h2>C&#038;D > DMCA, for now</h2>
  260. <p>Rather than filing a series of DMCA requests, which I&#8217;m legally entitled to, I have decided to send them a formal Cease &#038; Desist letter due to the fact that the Creative Common&#8217;s license produces some ambiguity.  I&#8217;d also like to open a dialogue with them rather than simply embark on a DMCA notice/counter-notice play.</p>
  261. <p>However it is a difficult situation because if I&#8217;m right, and Fotopedia shouldn&#8217;t have any CC-NC photos on their site, then I can&#8217;t see how Fotopedia has any business.  I think the Fotopedia service at its heart is interesting, it&#8217;s just a shame that it is being run by a commercial entity.</p>
  262. <p>I will keep you posted with their response, but in the meantime here is a copy of my Cease &#038; Desist letter in full.</p>
  264. <p>Dear Sir or Madam:</p>
  265. <p>Without Prejudice</p>
  266. <p>It has come to my attention that you are operating a web site found at Your web site contains the following copyrighted images belonging to myself, Ben Metcalfe.  These can be found at: </p>
  267. <ul>
  268. <li></li>
  269. <li></li>
  270. <li></li>
  271. <li></li>
  272. </ul>
  273. <p>These photos have been licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 2.0 Generic license ( and as such  may only be used, reproduced or have copies made without permission of the original copyright owner in situations where there is no commercial activity occurring.</p>
  274. <p>However your use of the above images on your website &#8220;Fotopedia&#8221; clearly falls under &#8220;Commercial Use&#8221; based on the following criteria (but not limited to):</p>
  275. <ul>
  276. <li>You are a Delaware Corporation having raised $3.4m of venture funding (</li>
  277. <li>You solicit commercial opportunities on your website (from &#8220;For business and partnerships: [email protected]&#8221;)</li>
  278. <li>On pages such as, which includes a copyright image I own, there is an advertisment for your &#8220;Above France&#8221; iOS application which is a commercial application costing $2.99 in the Apple App Store.</li>
  279. </ul>
  280. <p>As an aside, I would like to bring to your attention that you have attributed an incorrect Creative Commons license on mine and other images on your site.  For example points to a CC-BY-NC 3.0 Unported license (with url when the original photo on Flickr clearly links to a CC-BY-NC 2.0 Generic license of a different url (  While similar, these two licenses are not identical which further suggests a misunderstanding or bad-faith of Creative Commons Licensing on your company&#8217;s part.</p>
  281. <p>Given the above, your use of these copyrighted images falls outside of the narrow permissions of non-commercial use under Creative Commons and as such you have neither asked for nor received permission to use these images, nor to make or distribute copies, including electronic copies, of same. I believe you have willfully infringed on my rights under 17 U.S.C. Section 101 et seq. and could be liable for statutory damages as high as $150,000 as set forth in Section 504(c)(2) therein.</p>
  282. <p>I hereby demand that you immediately cease and desist use of these images.</p>
  283. <p>Based upon the foregoing, I hereby demand that your confirm to me in writing within ten (10) days of receipt of this letter that: (i) you have removed the aforementioned infringing images from your site; and (ii) you will refrain from posting any similar infringing material on the Internet, Application or any other service you control in the future. If you do not comply with my request to remove the infringing images from the web site within ten (10) days from the date of this letter, you will leave me with no other choice but to pursue all available legal and equitable remedies against you.</p>
  284. <p>Sincerely,</p>
  285. <p>Ben Metcalfe<br />
  286. [address redacted]</p></blockquote>
  287. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Cease &#038; Desist letter sent to Fotopedia, abuser of Creative Commons</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  288. ]]></content:encoded>
  289. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  290. <slash:comments>1</slash:comments>
  291. </item>
  292. <item>
  293. <title>Weekend musings &#8211; BitCoin, PlayStation Network and Google IO</title>
  294. <link>;utm_medium=rss&#038;utm_campaign=weekend-musings-bitcoin-playstation-network-and-google-io</link>
  295. <comments></comments>
  296. <pubDate>Mon, 16 May 2011 01:46:06 +0000</pubDate>
  297. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Ben]]></dc:creator>
  298. <category><![CDATA[Thoughts and Rants]]></category>
  300. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  301. <description><![CDATA[<p>BitCoin I&#8217;ve spent the last few months researching BitCoin, which for those who don&#8217;t know is a p2p currency system that is (sort of) de-centralized&#8230;</p>
  302. <div class="more-link-wrapper"><a class="more-link" href="">Continue reading<span class="screen-reader-text">Weekend musings &#8211; BitCoin, PlayStation Network and Google IO</span></a></div>
  303. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Weekend musings &#8211; BitCoin, PlayStation Network and Google IO</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  304. ]]></description>
  305. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><a href="" title="The now: outside Google IO with my new Droid baby! by, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="300" alt="The now: outside Google IO with my new Droid baby!"/></a></p>
  306. <h2>BitCoin</h2>
  307. <p>I&#8217;ve spent the last few months researching <a href="">BitCoin</a>, which for those who don&#8217;t know is a p2p currency system that is <em>(sort of)</em> de-centralized and certainly delineated from any government control or intervention.  There&#8217;s some pretty sophisticated technology behind it which ensures true scarcity (the fundamental issue for any economic model) but it also enjoys some impressive security features and seems to be incredibly solid on the privacy front.</p>
  308. <p>What is particularly interesting is that you can essentially &#8216;mine&#8217; BitCoins by running complicated algorithms on your computer (or servers) which is how new BitCoins are created (although that also creates an inflation factor in the market of course).  If you are an economics wonk you&#8217;ll cream yourself over BitCoin.  There&#8217;s already a ton of interesting thoughts <a href="">on the cost of electricity to &#8216;mine&#8217; a successful BitCoin chain vs the value of the unit of currency</a>, plus numerous <a href="">trading markets</a> etc</p>
  309. <p>Many wonder if BitCoin is legal &#8211; but that&#8217;s a superfluous question because it&#8217;s totally uncontrollable and the distributed nature means it doesn&#8217;t exist in any one jurisdiction.  Certainly if it becomes a way for terrorists and organized crime to launder money then I guess we&#8217;ll really see governments stepping in.  </p>
  310. <p>Anyway, I&#8217;m seeing signs that BitCoin is about to move out from being an underground project and into mainstream focus over the next few weeks or so.  It will be interesting to see some sunlight on it from existing financial world as I am still on the fence as to whether it is a folly or the early start of something significant.</p>
  311. <h2>PlayStation Network</h2>
  312. <p>Having (apparently) fixed their security problems, Sony have powered up the servers powering the PlayStation Network and reopened it to users.  I <a href="">asked on Twitter</a> whether anyone would actually be jumping back in.</p>
  313. <p>My guess is that kids who don&#8217;t care about the issues, and probably using their parent&#8217;s credit card anyway, will get straight back on there.  As will die-hard gamers who prefer human-based competition as PSN is their only option.</p>
  314. <p>But the growth and strategic opportunity for Sony Playstation Network is the ability to deliver services like Netflix, IPTV, games on demand, etc.  The problem is consumers have many choices there, with competition not just from rival Microsoft XBox Live (and Nintendo&#8217;s next gen console) but Google TV (if they get their act together), Apple TV (ditto), Roku, Boxee, etc.  While the same security problems could theoretically be faced by those vendors too, the bottom line is that they haven&#8217;t had those problems.  And consumers are rightly worried about Sony&#8217;s security.</p>
  315. <h2>Google IO</h2>
  316. <p>Google IO happened on Tuesday and Wednesday this week &#8211; I&#8217;ve attended everyone since they began in 2007.</p>
  317. <p>It costs ~$500 to attend Google IO (assuming you can get a ticket).  The event takes place at the Moscone West conference center, where Google is required to use the conference center&#8217;s in-house catering company for all food and beverage.  The rumor during the rounds at the event was that in order to meet Google&#8217;s own standards for quality of food, the ticket price for the event barely covered the cost per attendee for food (two lunches, evening reception and snacks).  Frankly, those numbers add up to me.  The food was the best I&#8217;d ever had a conference, and the logistics of feeding 5000 people is just insane.</p>
  318. <p>But my point isn&#8217;t about the food.  The point is that every year Google puts on one of the most slickest and highest quality conferences in the conference calendar, at one of the most expensive conference venues in the country.  And it bankrolls with the ticket price being a mere drop in the budget.  I&#8217;m guessing Google easily sinks $10m+ into those two days. It might even sink $50m for all I know &#8211; I have no idea what it costs to rent the Moscone West center for 2 days + setup and tear-down.</p>
  319. <p>The announcements themselves were exciting and refreshing &#8211; like Google open sourcing all of its hardware accessory development unlike Apple which requires accessory makes to get their devices certified (ie pay $$$).  But that&#8217;s for another post.</p>
  320. <p>The point is I can&#8217;t think of another company that makes the level of investment into Developer Relations that Google makes.  It&#8217;s really quite incredible.</p>
  321. <h2>Call to action</h2>
  322. <p>My weekend musings are based on things I observe and comment on during the week over on various social sites.  If that interests you, make sure you <a href="">follow me on Twitter</a> and <a href="">Quora</a>, and keep across <a href="">my Hacker News comments page</a>.</p>
  323. <p><em>Photo: my partner Violet outside of Google IO with the Android plushie Google gave me during my registration</em></p>
  324. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Weekend musings &#8211; BitCoin, PlayStation Network and Google IO</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  325. ]]></content:encoded>
  326. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  327. <slash:comments>2</slash:comments>
  328. </item>
  329. <item>
  330. <title>Thoughts on a &#8220;risk averse BBC&#8221;, as covered in the Guardian today</title>
  331. <link>;utm_medium=rss&#038;utm_campaign=thoughts-on-a-risk-averse-bbc-as-covered-in-the-guardian-today</link>
  332. <comments></comments>
  333. <pubDate>Tue, 26 Apr 2011 09:08:40 +0000</pubDate>
  334. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Ben]]></dc:creator>
  335. <category><![CDATA[BBC]]></category>
  336. <category><![CDATA[News]]></category>
  337. <category><![CDATA[Thoughts and Rants]]></category>
  339. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  340. <description><![CDATA[<p>Maggie Brown asks in the Guardian today &#8216;whether the BBC has become too affraid to take risks?&#8216;. Her piece focuses around the dreaded &#8220;BBC Editorial&#8230;</p>
  341. <div class="more-link-wrapper"><a class="more-link" href="">Continue reading<span class="screen-reader-text">Thoughts on a &#8220;risk averse BBC&#8221;, as covered in the Guardian today</span></a></div>
  342. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Thoughts on a &#8220;risk averse BBC&#8221;, as covered in the Guardian today</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  343. ]]></description>
  344. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><a href="" title="BBC: Cut the Crap by jem, on Flickr"><img src="" width="186" height="240" alt="BBC: Cut the Crap" class="alignleft"/></a>Maggie Brown asks in the Guardian today &#8216;<a href="">whether the BBC has become too affraid to take risks?</a>&#8216;.</p>
  345. <p>Her piece focuses around the dreaded &#8220;BBC Editorial Policy Unit&#8221; which was set up to appese the fallout from the 2008 <a href="">Russel Brand prank call debacle</a> and the prior findings of the <a href="">Hutton Inquiry</a>. &#8220;Russell Brand-gate&#8221; was about Russell Brand being, well, Russell Brand albeit on a pre-recorded radio show where someone editorially should have known better, and the Hutton Inquiry was about the fact that the BBC &#8216;falsely&#8217; claimed the UK government had lied about claims Saddam Hussain had Weapons of Mass Distruction in Iraq.</p>
  346. <p><em>(Except, that it turned out that the BBC was right all along, but that only came to light years after the Labour-government initiated inquiry had performed it&#8217;s &#8216;duty&#8217; and given The Corporation a good kick in the bollocks)</em></p>
  347. <p>The Editorial Policy Unit (essentially an internal editorial watchdog), it is claimed, is stifling bold, innovative and risk taking content from being produced because the BBC is too afraid to broadcast anything that might create another Hutton Inquiry or Brand-gate.</p>
  348. <p>And as a former BBC employee I would definitely agree we&#8217;ve ended up with a BBC that is afraid to take risks.</p>
  349. <p>The reasons for this, however, go far deeper than just the Editorial Policy Unit &#8211; but into areas such as not having the budget for innovative programming because the Tory government has frozen the BBC&#8217;s income over the next 4 years (essentially a 17% reduction marked against inflation).  Or the corporation being kneecapped from doing anything innovative or risk taking online because the findings of the <a href="">Graff Report</a> warned that the BBC might be stifling the commercial sector.  Now whenever the corporation wants to do something new and innovative online it must perform a series of bureaucratic &#8220;Public Value Tests&#8217; and market impact evaluations &#8211; in concert with the regulator OFCOM which takes years to compete.</p>
  350. <p>So yes after the (editorial) kicking, (innovation) knee-caping and (resource) strangling the BBC has gone through over the past 5-10 years, yeah it pretty much is affraid to take another risk. </p>
  351. <p>But isn&#8217;t that by design and as intended?</p>
  352. <p>Graff Report, Hutton Inquiry, et al are all thanks to the desires of past and previous elected governments and the influence of the media industry as a whole but in particular Rupert Murdoch and The Guardian backed <a href="">Association of Online Publishers</a> (AOP).  This is what everyone wanted, no?</p>
  353. <p>It seems ironic that the publisher of the original piece by Maggie Brown is the main protagonist within the AOP that demanded the Graft Report in the first place.</p>
  354. <p>And we, the British public, have let it happen &#8211; perhaps not realising just how lucky we were to have a public service broadcaster like the BBC that would take risks the like of which commercial sector would never consider doing.  The promise that the commercial sector, now un-stifled from the BBC&#8217;s supposed market saturation, would step in and save the day has sadly not proven true.</p>
  355. <p>So maybe there is a place for strong, risk-taking public service broadcasting after all.  Maybe there is a something perverse about people whinging that they don&#8217;t want pay £145.50 a year for high-quality, advert free BBC content but then happily shell out £100&#8217;s every month to satellite and cable providers who&#8217;ve demonstrated about as much risk and innovation as a ham sandwich.</p>
  356. <p>Because otherwise the severely handicapped BBC we have today is the BBC we all let happen. The gift we never really thought we&#8217;d miss until it began to disappear.  Which it now slowly is.</p>
  357. <p><em>&#8220;Cut the Crap&#8221; photo <a href="">CC Jem Stone</a>, a former colleague.  The former Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke actually commissioned these &#8216;yellow cards&#8217; during my service at the BBC for rank-and-file staff to use in meetings if unnecessary impediments were getting in the way of innovative and important work being broadcast. Oh how times have changed.</em></p>
  358. <p>Memories of an era when the BBC was innovative and risk taking:</p>
  359. <p><a href="" title="Why are we doing this by Neil T, on Flickr"><img src="" width="375" height="500" alt="Why are we doing this"/></a></p>
  360. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Thoughts on a &#8220;risk averse BBC&#8221;, as covered in the Guardian today</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  361. ]]></content:encoded>
  362. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  363. <slash:comments>1</slash:comments>
  364. </item>
  365. <item>
  366. <title>23 and John Doe: thoughts on today&#8217;s genetic testing sale at 23andMe</title>
  367. <link>;utm_medium=rss&#038;utm_campaign=23-and-john-doe-thoughts-on-todays-genetic-testing-sale-at-23andme</link>
  368. <comments></comments>
  369. <pubDate>Mon, 11 Apr 2011 09:21:37 +0000</pubDate>
  370. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Ben]]></dc:creator>
  371. <category><![CDATA[News]]></category>
  372. <category><![CDATA[Thoughts and Rants]]></category>
  374. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  375. <description><![CDATA[<p>Genetic testing startup 23andMe is running a &#8216;1-day sale&#8217; that removes their normal up-front testing fee of $199. The catch- you have to agree to&#8230;</p>
  376. <div class="more-link-wrapper"><a class="more-link" href="">Continue reading<span class="screen-reader-text">23 and John Doe: thoughts on today&#8217;s genetic testing sale at 23andMe</span></a></div>
  377. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">23 and John Doe: thoughts on today&#8217;s genetic testing sale at 23andMe</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  378. ]]></description>
  379. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><a href="" title="IMG_0906 by hongiiv"><img src="" width="500" height="333" alt="IMG_0906"/></a></p>
  380. <p>Genetic testing startup <a href="">23andMe</a> is running a &#8216;1-day sale&#8217; that removes their normal up-front testing fee of $199.  The catch- you have to agree to subscribe to 12 months of their genetic update service, whatever that is, @ $9/m.</p>
  381. <p>Seeing as I&#8217;ve had two friends ping me about the promotion, and <a href="">its now ended up on Hacker News</a>, I thought I&#8217;d write an off-topic on my concerns about the impact of genetic testing in this way.</p>
  382. <p>For those that don&#8217;t know, I always expected to enter a career in bio-technology but as my understanding for the topic grew, so did my understanding of its implications and its (non-religious) ethical questions.</p>
  383. <p><strong>23 and John Doe</strong></p>
  384. <p>My advice to anyone thinking of doing genetic testing (be it 23andMe or another route) is to consider seriously doing it at as a &#8220;John Doe&#8221; (ie not using your real name and details).</p>
  385. <p>Knowing you have a high susceptibility to a significant disease could have all sorts of implications for insurance &#8211; medical, life and even car.</p>
  386. <p>In general insurance companies require you to disclose any and all information that you have that would be pertinent to them assessing risk.  Clearly for medical and life insurance you knowing there is a high chance you will get Parkinsons <em>(for example)</em> is information your insurer would like to know.</p>
  387. <p>Here in the US there are currently laws &#8211; such as <a href="">Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)</a> &#8211; to prevent insurance companies demanding this information.</p>
  388. <p>However laws can be repealed.  The health care and insurance industries <a href="">are the &#8216;leaders&#8217; in government lobbying</a>.  23andMe could be aquired by an insurance firm.</p>
  389. <p>Also consider laws differ in other countries, where insurance companies might be able to legally demand results.   In Canada insurance companies can not only request it, they can demand you get this kind of testing before you can obtain coverage.</p>
  390. <p>Consider further that databases <a href="">can be hacked/stolen</a>.</p>
  391. <p>Think carefully whether you want your personal legal name and contact details all over the results of a test like this.</p>
  392. <p><a href="" title="IMG_0906 by hongiiv">Photo CC licensed by hongiiv</a></p>
  393. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">23 and John Doe: thoughts on today&#8217;s genetic testing sale at 23andMe</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  394. ]]></content:encoded>
  395. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  396. <slash:comments>2</slash:comments>
  397. </item>
  398. <item>
  399. <title>Amazon&#8217;s incorrect priorities when it comes to copyright enforcement on the Kindle</title>
  400. <link>;utm_medium=rss&#038;utm_campaign=amazons-incorrect-priorities-when-it-comes-to-copyright-enforcement-on-the-kindle</link>
  401. <comments></comments>
  402. <pubDate>Mon, 04 Apr 2011 22:18:29 +0000</pubDate>
  403. <dc:creator><![CDATA[Ben]]></dc:creator>
  404. <category><![CDATA[Thoughts and Rants]]></category>
  406. <guid isPermaLink="false"></guid>
  407. <description><![CDATA[<p>Bill Schneier has highlighted two types of fraud currently occuring on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace due to lax copyright enforcement. The first type of fraud&#8230;</p>
  408. <div class="more-link-wrapper"><a class="more-link" href="">Continue reading<span class="screen-reader-text">Amazon&#8217;s incorrect priorities when it comes to copyright enforcement on the Kindle</span></a></div>
  409. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Amazon&#8217;s incorrect priorities when it comes to copyright enforcement on the Kindle</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  410. ]]></description>
  411. <content:encoded><![CDATA[<p><a href="" title="Amazon Kindle 3 3G by"><img src="" width="500" height="333" alt="Amazon Kindle 3 3G"/></a></p>
  412. <p><a href="">Bill Schneier has highlighted</a> two types of fraud currently occuring on the Amazon Kindle Marketplace due to lax copyright enforcement.</p>
  413. <p>The first type of fraud stems from content farm behavior moving onto Kindle &#8211; with scammers sucking up content across the internet, uploading the content as Kindle eBooks to Amazon and then using fake accounts to review the books to obtain a good rating.  Unsuspecting readers discover these books via search <em>(because they are stuffed with keywords)</em> and end up buying dud content.  This is discussed in more detail <a href="">over on Publishing Trends</a>.</p>
  414. <p>The second type of fraud involves eBooks uploaded to the Kindle Marketplace by people who do not own the copyright &#8211; which apparently is a growing trend given the prevalence of PDF based distribution by independent authors and those signed to more progressive publishers.</p>
  415. <p><strong>Incorrect priorities</strong></p>
  416. <p>When it comes to resourcing copyright enforcement within it&#8217;s Kindle Marketplace, I think it is a shame that Amazon continues to prioritize on penalizing its customer base while practically ignoring the rampant content abuse and fraud that is going on further up the chain within its own house.  Authors are even complaining that Amazon is ignoring their reports of copyright violation and even DMCA take-down notices.</p>
  417. <p>Instead Amazon would much rather stop readers from exercising their full right to copyright <em>(such as being able to loan a book or even sell it on)</em> by implementing such &#8216;protections&#8217; into their software and devices, and <a href="">even shutting down websites such as Lendle</a> that try to facilitate the token limited degree of &#8216;loaning&#8217; that is possible with some Kindle books.</p>
  418. <p>The Kindle is a beautiful device and Amazon is doing some amazing things with content consumption and distribution elsewhere within their business. Their Amazon Cloud Drive which allows you to store and stream your MP3s is game changing stuff.  But until they resolve these issues with the Kindle, I continue to be put off from buying one.</p>
  419. <p><em><a href="" title=", on Flickr">Photo CC licensed by</a></em></p>
  420. <p>The post <a rel="nofollow" href="">Amazon&#8217;s incorrect priorities when it comes to copyright enforcement on the Kindle</a> appeared first on <a rel="nofollow" href="">Ben Metcalfe</a>.</p>
  421. ]]></content:encoded>
  422. <wfw:commentRss></wfw:commentRss>
  423. <slash:comments>1</slash:comments>
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