Web 2.0

October 8, 2004

I’ve been at Web 2.0 most of the week, pretty much just hanging out with friends. I have to confess (sorry Tim and John!) that I snuck in with someone else’s badge… hey, I don’t have a daddy to pay for me to go to these things any more.

I got to interview Mark Cuban, the Broadcast.com and Dallas Mavericks and HDNet guy, in my role as a fake journalist. I asked him whether he’s still a geek, and he gave me some good advice about buying a projector TV, and much to my glee I got to use the line “There’s no D in Dirk”! The thing that impressed me about him is that he doesn’t seem to worry about seeming stupid, and therefore he is able to allow himself to do simple but crucial things — like focus on his own business instead of worrying about what all his competitors are doing. It’s incredibly hard in Silicon Valley to stick to your own knitting instead of being distracted by the next shiny sexy thing.

A lot of the speakers were kind of the same-old same-old — but a couple of good startups came out of stealth during this conference: Jot, Rojo, and InsiderPages. All three teams seem extremely cool, and it was very exciting to see such useful products. I have to admit that I’m very partial to JotSpot, it’s a perfect example of O’Reilly’s truism that great commercial products often supplant just-OK free products — it is to normal wikis as gelato is to normal ice cream. Joe and Graham are also sort of heroes of mine, because it’s rare to see two guys who are able to remain as sweet and genuine and hardworking after having a lot of success around here. When two guys who made their fuck-you money a while ago are staying up all night hacking on one more feature or perfecting the pitch… you know they have love for the game, not just the rewards it can bring.

Best of all, I got to meet Steven Levy and tell him how his book Hackers changed my life. It’s amazingly prescient that he was able to zero in on the themes embodied by Stallman and Gates so early in the game. When everyone in Chicago told me that I’d be wasting my life on computers, that book gave me a lot of hope that I’d find people like myself in Silicon Valley.

Unfortunately, I’ve also discovered the hard way that the wireless in my Linux laptop sucks balls. It’s humiliating to sit next to a guy who’s connecting easily with XP, when iwconfig says I’m connected but I can’t actually seem to move bits. I’m also starting to suspect the built-in Prism card in this box just isn’t any good.

Oh, and I got to ride in a Maserati. Oddly enough, it had really crappy seat belts — like the kind you’d see on a Ford. 400 horsepower is both fun and frightening, especially in San Francisco… my eyes were shut tight every time we accelerated. Yes, I am a wuss, thank you.

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