From: Adam Rifkin (adam@KnowNow.com)
Date: Sat Dec 09 2000 - 13:56:20 PST
I was born exactly five years minus two weeks before Rohit.
I don't know what wicked force of nature it is, but each year Rohit and
I spend November 25th accelerating the final throes of a "down-cycle"
that climaxes soon thereafter, so that by December 9th we're spinning up
and building momentum for the next "up cycle". So it goes.
This year was particularly riveting because in the eight years that I've
known Rohit, he has been preparing me for December 9, 2000 -- the first
day in my post-30 life. Why too 'kay, indeed.
For those of you who don't know our philosophy on thirty, we posted it
on the web about five years ago:
> The "Thirty Hypothesis" is the belief that one's useful life ends at
> 30. This rule was first proposed by Rohit as the "Mathematician's rule
> of 25," which states that anything that was ever useful in mathematics
> was discovered and/or proved by a person by the time s/he was 25. We
> extend this rule to 30 for all fields besides mathematics; in fact, the
> number 30 also corresponds to the average person's life expectancy back
> when the institution of marriage was invented. Let's face it: you make
> your reputation by 30, and then it's all downhill from there. This comes
> from an ISI study of citations charting scientists' initial most-cited
> paper vs age, where the media ranged from very early twenties for
> mathematicians to early 30s for engineers.
Adam Rifkin, welcome to the first post-30 day of the rest of your life.
I spent the first half of this day unconscious -- the first contiguous
12-hour block of sleep I had since KnowNow v2.0 went into its furious
tailspinning endgame Thanksgiving week:
Turns out the billionaire in that post was right. It's very zen:
What KnowNow v3.0 doesn't need is money.
[By the way, I distinguish KnowNow versions 0.1, 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 from
very specific stratifications in technology, employees, money, and focus.]
So I spent the first half of today sleeping. (Who says you can't sleep
your way to the top? :)
I'll spend the second half of today running around Silicon Valley with
my wife, initiating plans to move here permanently. No way in hell I
see her as few days in 2001 as I did in 2000.
I don't have nearly as much to talk about as I did a year ago
although I do note that the market caps of some of those companies just
a year ago compared with now make for the opportunity for the right
company to attract some of the very best people we know away from some
of the very best companies of the last five years.
A centimillionaire last week told me, "Right now is a great time to
start a company." Real estate prices are starting to soften, great
business and technology people are looking for new opportunities with
huge potential, and there's a real chance to INNOVATE again because
there's not as much frenzy over mere features.
Still, my life has changed a lot in just two years
Geez, Rohit, back just two years ago when FoRK had just 40 people we
were still labelling this kind of post as "[VOID]". FoRK is now five
times the size.
Where are the [VOID] posts of yesteryear now? Are we so busy and so
spending all our time with the captains of industry that [VOID] posts
are a thing of the past? We certainly can't send posts to a publicly
archived mailing list that contain lines such as, "...I was just having
lunch with Erin Turner, and..." or "...I was at this party chatting with
Kim Polese, and..." or "...and then I emailed my wife's resume to Larry
Page, and..." or "...and then Andy Bechtolsheim called on the cellphone
but I had to ask him to call back because Randy Komisar was on the other
line..." We don't have the time to namedrop anymore, what has become of
us??? Joe Kraus, teach me how to do that voodoo that you do so well!!
At least this one thing I know, every year on December 9th the mouse
turns one year older:
At least another thing I know, which is that FoRK is about to turn five
years old, and Steve is making plausible noises about moving "the new
xent box" to a co-lo beside the KnowNow boxes, meaning we can *finally*
think about installing real mailing list software.
Frankly, I'm kind of ambivalent about that though, because real mailing
list software could turn FoRK into "just another mailing list" instead
of the virtual community that has evolved over the last five years.
Then again, FoRK in its old incarnation has already died: the list has
become much more chatty and conversational, much more free of the [BITS]
and [VOID] posts that used to define us. I guess the 97% rule has
recursively applied to the signal to noise ratio here, just as it ought to:
Rohit still has these fantasies of evolving FoRK into a Two-Way Web
application called SpeedFoRK. That would be interesting, since we'd
been talking with Dr. Ernie and Gordon Irlam for at least five years
about the concept of FoRKexpress -- though for the life of me, I cannot
find a FoRKexpress post in the FoRK archives anywhere.
FoRK is two weeks from being five years old, having sprung to life as
the FoG and FWF lists were winding down in Rohit's first few months at
the World Wide Web Consortium. Five years later, I can only think of
two people who are still there at the W3C: Tim Berners-Lee and Dan Connolly.
Five years ago we all suffered through Microsoft's "Pearl Harbor Day"
and dreaded that Microsoft would fuck up the Internet. Boy, what a
difference five years has made. AOL, Cisco, EMC, Oracle, Qualcomm,
eBay, CMGi, Yahoo!, VeriSign, Ariba, CommerceOne, Citrix, Intuit, Adobe,
and Sun all saw much more accrual to their market caps percentage-wise
than Microsoft did in the last five years. (Were some of those
companies even around five years ago? I don't think so. So in five
years where will the Bowstreets and webMethodses and companies no one
has yet heard of be? Stay tuned...)
So what did Microsoft do wrong? There are no sound byte answers, but
here are my thoughts:
1. Pride in staying Microsoft-platform-only. Microsoft should have
fought to support Solaris, Linux, and the Unices as much as it supports
MacOS and Windows, especially since the high-end market for servers etc
clearly prefers the Unices. EMBRACE, then and only then extend.
2. Focused on killing Netscape, which was at best just a distraction.
Netscape wasn't building a profitable business, though that might only
be clear in retrospect. The really profitable areas of Internet growth --
storage, routers, databases, wireless, servers, value-added services --
couldn't be cracked by Microsoft, perhaps because they *are* Microsoft
and you really can have only one consistent message to your customers.
Microsoft is about great commodity software platforms, and maybe it's
impossible to break out of that focus.
3. No strategy in mergers and acquisitions. What the heck did
Microsoft do with acquisitions like Flash and Firefly? How about
LinkExchange and WebTV? Do they make any money off Hotmail or is that
one huge loss leader? Talking from the point of view of someone who has
gone to Redmond a dozen times this year as KnowNow to talk with various
groups there, why did I not once get a "We want to buy you" speech out
of one of the top Microsoftees? Was it because of my writeup about Bill
Gates' house? If so, I take it back...
Oh well. I do think that Microsoft is on the right track with dot NET,
and that Sun Microsystems possibly doesn't understand what the
vulnerabilities of Java are, insofar as appealing to the developer
community. But I also need to remember that Microsoft practically
invented the concept of FUD -- that back in June we were worried that
Next Generation Windows (Web?) Services were much further along than
they actually are even now. It's funny, six months later we're talking
with some beta users of dot NET, and word on the street is that June
2000 was December 1995 all over again. This will take a while.
Which is good.
The Next Generation Web -- whether you call it Two-Way Web or Semantic
Web or Active Web or Web Services -- is a long-term vision that will
take many years to play out.
The stock market was really fascinating this year; I'm really sorry that
because I was working all the time, I didn't have a chance to follow it.
But when companies like Apple (AAPL), 4Kids (KDE), Winfield Capital
(WCAP), and Talarian (TALR) have more cash in the bank than their entire
market caps, something is amiss. Price-to-earnings ratios still make no
sense; Apple's PE is 7 and 4Kids's is 2.5, while companies like Network
Appliance, Broadcom, Qualcomm, and Yahoo still sport triple digit PE's.
Nothing makes sense, but that shouldn't surprise us: we now live in a
world in which Rimpinths works for The Motley Fool. Looking back on
technology bear markets of 1990-1991, 1983-1984, and 1973-1974, one
would think we're only halfway through the house of pain in the public
markets. Eh, but who really knows? The market breaks its own rules
Nonetheless, "Right now is a great time to start a company." Ask any of
Unfortunately, KnowNow v0.1 started 54 weeks ago; KnowNow v1.0 started
April 4, 2000; and KnowNow v2.0 started July 5, 2000.
Fortunately, KnowNow v3.0 is about to begin.
Yes, I do believe it. Right now is a great time to start a company.
Let my post-30 days begin on this note.
Hello, I must be going. Michelle and I need to run around Silicon Valley,
initiating plans to move here permanently.
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. -- Plato
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