Someday when Apple merges with Disney

On that day, Disney will license all of its content with creative commons licenses, and offer Disney fans a set of creative tools to remix video, and retell stories, and create games, and resell the content they create using Disney raw materials….
Then Disney stories will return to the folk art roots from which they started, and fans young and old will multiply the time they spend with Disney stories and characters by a factor of several, and the market for creative tools and accessories will grow.
Today this is but a fairy tale. Second Life, the creative stepchild of the entertainment business, is enabling the creation fo a secondary market in player-created game content. The stepchild of the entertainment business is misunderstood and despised by its elder sisters, but it will be queen someday.

Katrina reconstruction corruption watch

The New York Times has the scoop on piles of suspicious findings in the $1.5 billion in Hurricane Katrina reconstruction contracts.
More than 80 percent of FEMA contracts were awarded without bidding or with limited competition. The largest deal was $568 million in contracts for debris removal landed by a Florida company that was a former lobbying client of Mississippi governer Haley Barbour. What better deal than to promote your lobbyist to have purchase signoff authority?
The second best deal is to have the buyer’s ex-boss be the lobbyist. Two contractors, the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton are represented by Joe M. Allbaugh, the retired head of FEMA who recommended his college buddy Brown to take over when he left to lobby for reconstruction contracts.
The contracting practices are starting to smell like fish in a freezer with the power out.
Meanwhile, Time hunts for more Mike Browns.

NYT lays off newsroom workers as Yahoo hires

New York Times lets go 500 workers including 80 newsroom employees. Meanwhile, Yahoo hires a war correspondent.
Let’s hope the new models make up for the old and more. The New Orleans Times Picayune staff deserve a Pulitzer prize and a national medal for their local, detailed coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. Our society needs good journalism in order to function.
By the way, I’d be pretty surprised if Yahoo turned out to a significant player in real journalism. Yahoo’s management comes from the heart of the LA entertainment industry. It seems more plausible that they want a war correspondent so he can take pictures of things going kaboom.
What we need as a society with respect to say, the Iraq war, includes information to answer questions like:
* is reconstruction making progress toward a stable and democratic society, or is Iraq headed toward breakup and civil war.
* how much money has the US spent in Iraq, and how much of that money has gone to its intended purposes
By “real journalism”, I mean nothing about the brand which is may well change along with disruptive technologies, and everything about the quality, breadth and accessibility of the information.

US broadband growth slows; Muni fiber can be 10x cheaper

Two nicely complementary stories this week.
The Pew Internet study shows that broadband peneteration showed minimal growth in the six months between December, 2004 and May 2005.
At the same time, a
presentation at the Broadband Properties Summit showed that that Utah’s UTOPIA model, where government-layed fiber supports competitive private sector broadband, is leading to a 10-fold drop in broadband prices.
Connect the dots

Green mortgages

When I did research into sustainable business five years ago, the market was stymied by lack of liquidity. Sellers of green technology faced a lack of much venture and institutional investment interest. Buyers of green technology faced a different problem. Some energy conservation technologies have a long payback period. The buyer needs to spend the money up front, and then reaps consistent savings over the life of the asset. This is a financing opportunity.
via Sustainablog, Fannie Mae is offering an Energy Efficiency Mortgage Program. The program allows homebuyers to finance energy improvements.
According to Cascadia Blog, these mortgages have been on the market since 1979, but required cumbersome paperwork. FNMA’s program streamlines the paperwork and increases adoption. It’s still a niche product, says Joel Weise of Indigo Financial Group, based in Lansing Michigan, a network of mortgage brokers which specializing in these mortgages. Another gap in the market is the lack of home appraisers who can evaluate energy efficiency, says says Wiese in the comments of the Residential Energy Savings Network.
So, a large upside to be had from good marketing and education, with the biggest downside risk being the overall housing bubble. A real estate market crash would take down this generation of innovation and education.

I prepared for the hurricane, and all I have are these extra peas

So, I got a concerned call from my Mom on Thursday morning, with a complete disaster preparedness shopping list. Flashlights and batteries, radio, water, canned food, sensible so far. Not quite enough. Do you have two to three weeks of food? Canned fruits and vegetables? A cooler? A tent and sleeping bag? Are your papers in a waterproof container?
Now, Austin is 150 miles inland, and my house is pretty well elevated from Stacy Creek. I figured that the most likely scenario if the storm came by was a lot of rain and wind, and the power out for a few hours, a day or two if it’s really bad.
So I went to the HEB, and got some water, tuna, crackers, pbj (all of which will get consumed during the normal course of things). And, against my better judgement, this can of peas. I resisted the temptation to buy a styrofoam longhorn cooler, thank goodness. Came home from the store and found that the hurricane had changed route. The peas will make a fine food bank donation.
p.s. wishing the best for the folks in East Texas and Louisiana who are getting hit by the hurricane, and the folks in Houston for the traffic jam on the way home.

Katrina contracting corruption watch

The Project on Government Oversight has been tracking the story.
The latest juicy tidbit: the administration’s top procurement official, David Safavian, had been working on developing contracting policies for the Katrina relief effort. He was arrested for obstructing an investigation by the GSA’s Office of Inspector General. Safavian allegedly helped lobbyist Jack Abramoff aquire GSA-controlled property the Washington, D.C., then lied about it to the investigators.
Laura Rozen is collecting reports on the Safavian investigation.

What’s Google doing with that fiber?

Om Malik speculates that Google is building a nationwide fiber network, will use wifi at endpoints to reach users, and then use location-awareness to turbo-charge ads.
The dots to connect are:
* Google has been quietly buying up dark fiber around the country
* Google is working with a small startup in San Francisco that has software for location-based services at wifi hotspots
* Google just launched Google Talk, a text and voice messaging client.
* Google spends a lot of money on IP transit fees, and could avoid those fees by sharing traffic directly with ISPs.
If that’s what Google is doing — wow. Google is very good at building very big, low-cost computing systems. The network incumbents have an inflated cost structure and a business model based on lobbying for competitive advantage. Some smart capital investment could free vast potential energy in communication services. This could go kaboom.

Corruption early warning alert

The Louisiana reconstruction has the potential to be a vast cesspool of corruption. Hopefully some investigative journalists smell one-in-a-lifetime muckracking opportunities and will be following the money.
Here’s one bad smell: “A bill introduced in the House [last week] by Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Tex.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.) would waive rules for congressional notification of certain no-bid purchases”.
And another: The LA times reports that “Senior officials in Louisiana’s emergency planning agency already were awaiting trial over allegations stemming from a federal investigation into waste, mismanagement and missing funds when Hurricane Katrina struck. And federal auditors are still trying to track as much as $60 million in unaccounted for funds that were funneled to the state from the Federal Emergency Management Agency dating back to 1998.”
One of the few good things about the D/R fingerpointing is that the Democrats will be keeping an eye on the Feds and the Republicans will be keeping an eye on the locals.

von Hippel’s “lead users” vs. Goeffrey Moore’s Visionaries

Michael Osofsky picks up the thread comparing Eric Von Hippel’s “lead users” to Geoffrey Moore’s “visionaries,” and prompts some more reflection on the similarities and differences between the categories of technologyearly adopters.
I suspect that von Hippel’s Lead Users and Moore’s Visionaries are mostly the same people viewed with different perspectives shaped by time and technology.
Moore saw visionaries as “early adopters” — people who are eager consumers of brand new products. von Hippel studies early adopters as innovators — people who not only consume but customize products.
Early adopters have always played a role in customizing products, but they have more opportunities to do so these days. There are more tools available to modify products, ranging from open source software to low-cost CAD and low-volume contract manufacturers.
When Moore first wrote Crossing the Chasm, it was most important to help technology companies to see how different mainstream buyers were from early adopters. A technology provider wishing to hit the big time needed to focus on packaging the product for more mainstream buyers, and to ignore the eccentric preferences of the visionaries.
These days, customer innovation has been democratized, changing the rules of business success. Successful tech companies (like Google, Amazon, Ebay) need to be good both at packaging a service for broad use, and at providing tools for lead user customization.
By moving away from Moore’s understanding of users as eager but passive “consumers” and focusing on the active role played by lead customer innovation, von Hippel reaches several insights that Moore didn’t a decade ago. Many lead user customizations are one-offs which allow a manufactured product access to an application the vendor couldn’t supply cost-effectively. Many other lead user customizations are applicable to a larger class of customers, and vendors can use the signals of end-user customization to lead their next-generation product development efforts.
So, instead of abandoning lead users, von Hippel recommends serving them with customization tools, and adopting popular customer innovations into the manufactured product line.