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SupernovaHub Mixer: John Hagel and John Seely Brown on The Shift Index (1 of 3)

A conversation with Deloitte’s John Hagel and John Seely Brown at the 2009 Supernova Mixer event on August 11, 2009 at Wharton – SF Campus regarding the Shift Index.

Continue to Part 2.

1 Comment | Supernova Staff | August 17th, 2009 | Highlights, Strategic Change, Video

CrunchUp Tackles Real-Time

(cc) Kenneth Yeung -

Yesterday, about 600 Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, VCs, and social media geeks piled into the historic Fox Theatre in Redwood City for the 4th annual TechCrunch CrunchUp. Instead of turning off our cellphones and keeping it dark and quiet, we filled the room with the blue glow of laptop screens and the rainstorm sound of typing. And instead of sitting back for a summer blockbuster movie, we watched Robert Scoble on the big screen, video streaming live from England.  (Well, okay, there were other panels and presentations, too.)

(cc) Kenneth Yeung -

The topic of the day was Real-Time Streams, and it focused on the usual suspects: Twitter, Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, Seesmic, Google, and Twitter.  A few curveballs were thrown in by way of the product demos, which tended to represent the smaller, more focused startups happening today: apps that aim to be a better Twitter, and apps that aim to make Twitter better. In the realm of real-time content streams, everyone seems pretty clear on which company is the winning horse to back.

At one point an audience member (someone from the People Browsr team) asked a pointed question to Chris Cox, VP of Product at Facebook:

When I create content, I select that I want it to go to everybody, but you don’t make it public and searchable. I want it to be public and searchable.  Why won’t you let me have a public stream?

Cox reiterated that they’re examining a number of things, and tactfully dodged the question.  (At which point Kevin Marks leaned over to me and whispered, “It’s public to ‘everyone except Google.’ No really. They’ve said this to me.”)  The questioner jumped back in:

I don’t think that’s an answer! And I think that if you don’t get this sorted out in the next year or so, we’re going to meet again at another little conference like this in the future, and we’ll find that Little Twitter will have taken over.

The audience applauded.

Meanwhile, back out in the commotion of the lobby (where a platter of pastries stood in place of the traditional popcorn machine), Twitter for Dummies author Laura Fitton was quietly unveiling her super-secret angel-funded startup project, “It’s a Twitter app store,” she announced, and proceeded to show off the cross-referenced catalog of 1100 twitter applications. “It’s going to be a marketplace.” When someone in the crowd asked why the apps didn’t have user-generated ratings or reviews on them yet, she responded, “That’s because you’re the third person to see this.”

The busy lobby was also the home to a makeshift gallery of large works of art by cartoonist, Hugh McLeod.  Hugh designed the poster for the event, and spent the after-party sitting at a table by the entrance turning each poster into a custom signed cartoon. He announced in his conference recap at that every single piece of art displayed at the conference sold that day, and then some. (Congratulations, Hugh!)

(cc) Kenneth Yeung -

The after-party was held at the August Capital offices on Sand Hill Road — a shoulder-to-shoulder outdoor gathering of cocktails, decadent sorbets, and a brilliant sunset.

[Photo Credit: All photos (cc) Kenneth Young --]

Supernova Interview: Beth Noveck, Deputy CTO, USA

Today at the Personal Democracy Forum event, US CIO Vivek Kundra announced the first “IT Dashboard” for manipulating data about how US taxpayer’s dollars are spent. (Good coverage at the NY Observer.)  After Kundra and new media director of the White House Macon Phillips left the PDF stage, Beth Noveck, Deputy US CTO for the Open Government initiative spoke with PDF co-founder Andrew Rasiej about her project. Noveck, the author of Wiki Government, has the rare opportunity of proposing a major change in public policy in a book and implementing it just months later. Using wiki-like collaborative tools like Mixed Ink and Idea Scale, her office is putting “we the people” into the drivers seat to answer questions like  “How can we strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness by making government more transparent, participatory, and collaborative?”

In this video interview, I ask Beth about these initiatives and about her vision for future “” initiatives.

We hope Beth will engage with the Supernova Hub audience, and that in turn our audience will join in her open process.

Comments Off | Howard Greenstein | June 30th, 2009 | Highlights, Networks for Change, Video

Changing Leaders for Changing Networks

The US Senate has finally confirmed Julius Genachowski as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, and Larry Strickling as head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce.  Five months after President Obama’s inauguration, the United States finally has its two leading officials on communications policy.  And not a moment too soon.

I’ve had the good fortune to know Julius and Larry for nearly fifteen years, since my days at the FCC during the Clinton Administration.  I worked with both of them on the Obama campaign’s technology advisory group, and on the Transition Team prior to Inauguration. They are both extremely capable, dedicated, and thoughtful.  And they both have experience working in government, at startups, and in large companies, which will serve them well in their new jobs.  (Julius has actually spoken twice before at Supernova – once as an executive at Barry Diller’s IAC/Interactive Corp., and once as a key advisor to the Obama campaign.)

The FCC and NTIA have critically important roles to play in the next few years. The reason is that networks are changing.

First, broadband connectivity and the applications it enables aren’t luxuries any more.  When every independent band has a MySpace page and the President makes electronic health records a centerpiece of his health care reform initiative, it means the line between “using the Internet” and “living life” has collapsed.  The FCC oversees the vast subsidy system for “universal service,” but those mechanisms were developed decades ago to fund telephone connections by shifting money between monopoly phone companies.  In the 1990s, NTIA under Larry Irving pioneered the notion of a “digital divide” in Internet access, by that initiative fell by the wayside under the Bush Administration.  And finally, as the Net becomes a critical resource for democratic discourse and economic activity, the potential for network operators to act as gatekeepers over content and applications becomes a serious concern.  It’s time to refocus on what all these concepts mean in an interconnected broadband world.

Second, today’s Net is not the dotcom Web of 1999. The real-time Internet is changing expectations and business models.  We’ve just scratched the surface of what Google, Twitter, the iPhone, and Facebook will enable, because all of them are ecosystems rather than merely endpoints.  And services like Microsoft’s TellMe, BT’s Ribbit and Google Voice only hint at how communications will soon be transformed. Wireless data and online video are exploding: The executive director of the Mozilla Foundation estimates 90% of Internet traffic will be video in 2013; AT&T Wireless estimates mobile data usage in 2018 will be up to 600 times greater than it is today; and YouTube says wireless video uploading is up 400% just in the week since the launch of the iPhone 3GS.  The list goes on.

In recent years, the FCC and NTIA haven’t adapted with the world around them.  The FCC still has a Wireline Bureau, a Wireless Bureau, and a Media Bureau… but no Internet Bureau.  So how will it evaluate concerns about AT&T barring tethering and media streaming on the iPhone?  The old categories no longer work.  Similarly, while the website I built at the FCC in 1996 was pretty innovative at the time, it’s grossly inadequate today, despite the best efforts of a hard-working staff. The Bush Administration largely ignored technology and telecommunications.  It just didn’t see them as important, and agencies like the FCC and NTIA suffered as a result.

With the arrival of the Obama Administration, there’s an opportunity for the FCC and NTIA to emerge from their slumber.  Most immediately, in the economic stimulus package earlier this year, Congress directed NTIA to oversee a multi-billion dollar broadband grant program, and the FCC to develop a National Broadband Plan.  (Disclosure: I’m doing work for NTIA as an expert advisor on the grant program.) Work on both fronts is well underway.  Finally, though, these efforts will have leaders empowered to make strategic decisions.

Entrepreneurs and technologists like to dismiss government as byzantine and irrelevant, but in this case, doing so would be a mistake.  Julius and Larry understand how revolutionary the Net can be.  Yet they will need a great deal of help from those outside government to succeed.

Given my experience straddling the worlds of technology and policy, Supernova has always been a translation point between Washington DC and the tech community.  We’ll have several key figures from the Obama Administration at the conference in December.  If you care about the future of the Internet, you need to pay attention to the tech policy initiatives coming out of the FCC, NTIA, and other agencies.  The US government finally appreciates the potential of networks for change.

Comments Off | Kevin Werbach | June 26th, 2009 | Highlights, Networks for Change

Google Grabs One Million Phone Numbers

googlevoice_logo1According to NetworkWorld and ReadWriteWeb, Google has reserved one million phone numbers via Level 3.  NetworkWorld’s John Fontana writes:

Google last month reserved 1 million phone numbers with Level 3, signaling that it may finally be ready to roll out its long-anticipated Google Voice service.

The free service, announced in March, lets users unify their phone numbers, allowing them to have a single number through Google Voice that rings a call through to all their phones.

Sources could not say when the 1 million numbers may be assigned. Level 3 has been supplying Google with phone numbers since the introduction of Google Voice, so the 1 million numbers are an indication Google is close to adding a significant amount of users.”

The question: How will a broader rollout of Google Voice affect/integrate/expand the Android mobile user base?

Comments Off | Supernova Staff | June 23rd, 2009 | Changing Networks, Highlights

Supernova OpenFlow 2008: A Year Later


Open Flow is what happens when information moves freely among users, websites, and organizations. The power of networks is magnified when technical standards and business practices allow different communities and systems to leverage each other. This “conference within a conference,” sponsored in 2008 by BT, brought together leading thinkers and practitioners to discuss innovation at the edges through social networking platforms, microformats, open source, social software, and other manifestations of Open Flow.

Interested in sponsoring Open Flow 2009? Click here.

Visualizing OpenFlow2008

More images from Open Flow 2008.

Open Flow Conversation

“The conversation, featuring myself, author and consultant Elliot Maxwell, BT’s Jeremy Ruston, noted technologist (and Open Flow track chairperson) Tantek Çelik, and Chris Carfi of Cerado, covered an impressive range of topics around the meaning of openness in business. From standards that emerge bottom-up, to changing incentive structures in organizations, to the possible links between openness and tyranny, it was a challenging discussion filled with insights.” - Kevin Werbach


Open Flow 2008 call recording, 108 minutes (recorded live, June 3, 2008)

Open Flow Presentation – Elliot Maxwell

What are the real-world benefits of open systems and standards? How much openness is a good thing? And how do organizations and services change as open access to data becomes the norm? This Open Flow session was led by Elliott Maxwell, Fellow of the Communications Program at Johns Hopkins University and a Distinguished Research Fellow at the eBusiness Research Center of Pennsylvania State University.

Open Flow Challenge Session: “Whose Social Graph Is It, Anyway?”

plaxo_logoWithin the Open Flow format, Tantek Çelik moderated  a “Challenge Session” entitled Whose Social Graph Is It, Anyway? In this conversation, representatives from Google, Facebook and session sponsor Plaxo squared off to offer their respective viewpoints on who really “owns” your lists of friends and connections online.

VentureBeat covered this session extensively, noting “During the panel, Facebook’s Dave Morin, Google’s Kevin Marks and Plaxo’s Joseph Smarr were discussing some of the broader ideas for how user data on social networks currently is — and more importantly, how it should be shared.”

The Open Flow Conversations Continue

picture-20Open Flow 2008 was not limited to the presentation hall at Supernova. It seeded and catalyzed numerous discussions beyond the walls of the conference, including this coverage from CNET’s Dan Farber (“Facebook and Google Still Not Ready To Connect Friends“), a web TV show (““) and a host of other conversations.

A great post from Phil Whitehouse caught the gestalt of what was possible in the Open Flow format. An excerpt:

“What made the discussion even more interesting was that the screen behind the panel was used to show the audience’s views on the discussion, via Twitter (using Summize). And then the screen was switched to show this blog post by David Recordon, who was in the audience, criticising Facebook for blocking Google’s Friend Connect service. Unbeknownst to him, this was on the screen while Dave Morin of Facebook was talking about their supposedly open policy.”

Interested in sponsoring Open Flow 2009? Click here.

1 Comment | Supernova Staff | June 16th, 2009 | Highlights, OpenFlow

What’s On Esther Dyson’s Radar?

I was fortunate to be able to sit down with Esther Dyson the other day in theMeetUp offices in NYC. I’ll get to Esther in a second, but first a word about MeetUp (where she is an investor and board member).

I first met Scott Heiferman, MeetUp’s CEO, when he was leading i-Traffic, an early interactive agency, probably ten years ago. I was impressed with him then and I’m even more impressed with him now. The MeetUp offices were bustling with youthful energy and I helped myself to their ample supply of fresh fruit (carefully guarded by an inflated dinosaur). Problems with the website that needed fixing were posted on the wall so everyone there could see the importance of customer service first-hand. Nice to see a company that’s not so full of its own Kool-Aid that it can’t focus on its mistakes. Of course the successes were posted too – lots of pictures of happy in-person MeetUp groups and their pugs, knitting, baby carriages, etc.

But back to Esther. I really find she just lights up the room when she walks in, and you want to give her a hug. Not sure why she has this effect on me, since technically she should be super intimidating, given her bio. But she’s got a great smile, and she’s totally matter-of-fact and not at all pretentious, and she sits down and curls one foot underneath herself and plays with her sock. So you sort of feel like you’re talking with your sister even though she’s one of the foremost opinion leaders of the tech world. She tends to wear jeans, and t-shirts branded with the names of companies she’s invested in. I like that she invests in companies, not clothes.What a great role model – for men and women alike.

I started by asking what Esther finds exciting and interesting these days. Healthcare was the first word out of her mouth, followed immediately by privacy, since the two are inextricable.Esther sees privacy finally hitting the radar screen of the average consumer; it’s not just for privacy advocates anymore. Examples?

“Facebook did something dumb, and consumers noticed” (see my previous ConversationHubpost on this topic), she said, pleased that the notion of users controlling their own data is gaining currency. “When sites put ads on user-generated content, it’s not just privacy, it’s about self-presentation for that user. People are starting to say, ‘I want to control which ads go next to my stuff’.” She warns that companies who think consumers “just want revenue sharing” are missing a big part of the picture.

Going back to Healthcare as a topic, Esther described some of her experiences with 23andMe, where she is an investor and board member. It’s a company that has combined DNA testing with a graphical web interface; “you spit on the kit and send it to the lab”.

It outsources the DNA analysis to a third-party lab, and focuses on the task of making the data meaningful. It presents both individual data about you and your health risks, along with visualizations of your genetic closeness to the people with whom you are sharing data (by two-way permission). You can share just aggregate, quantitative data, or specific health data as well.

They do an analysis of 500,000 SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms or “snips”, which were new to DNA lingo ten years ago. Then they send you the results, along with tools for how to look at and understand the data. Esther recruited 30 of her family members to participate, and in true Esther style she posted pictures on Flickr.

Esther's Aunt Alice

23andMe has selected some anonymous prototypes participants can measure themselves against, one of whom is an African man; this was the most dissimilar person Esther found when comparing her family’s results, being 69% alike on the selected data points. The most similar people in her data set were two of her sisters, who were 89% similar. People aregenerally about 84% like their parents and range from 82% to 89% like their siblings.

She was careful to point out that much of this information is not necessarily actionable or especially surprising, unless you don’t know your parentage (or discover previously unidentified relatives). It’s just “more information” – something for the curious to think about.Although it’s expensive for not being tangibly useful, she says, “I’m a big fan of knowledge and informed behavior. There’s no better way to understand risk than when it is visually displayed and personal. It’s one thing to know you should eat your vegetables, and another to consider that information in the context of a personal 23 percent genetic risk of getting diabetes. The number itself may not mean that much, but it’s about you.”

For now, it’s the pioneers or the curious who will seed the 23andMe database and jump start the system, and they do it out of a love of knowledge or a desire to help others. “The first users are the benefactors,” says Esther. “The later users will be beneficiaries.” Later, when enough people’s codes have been collected and we start to see the precise impact of our genetic commonalities, the database will be more helpful for health purposes. So it’s still early days.

Which social networks are of interest? Esther likes Facebook as a platform, saying they are doing a lot of things right. She likes Dopplr – it’s “exactly” what she is interested in which is why she invested (read why on one of her Huffington Post blog posts). She loves Flickr (also an investor) and posts faithfully nearly every day. How about Twitter? It’s “too much”, she says. “I do space, healthcare, am involved in such different sectors … most of what I do is meaningless to most of the people I know. I don’t want to impose.”

I asked Esther what she thought of the whole Microsoft-Yahoo drama we’ve seen playing outover the past few months and days. Her take: “It’s absolutely the right move for Microsoft to drop Yahoo … They shouldn’t want to beat Google, they should do their own thing. It’s stupid … They should make a big effort in health care, which is the last frontier besides education. But they should make mostly small acquisitions and grow organically. That’s why this is exciting; ther’s lots to build, not just buy.” Esther explains that despite Microsoft’s negative reputation with some, their assets as a company are extremely strong. They have a great deal of consumer trust, they know how to sell to governments and large institutions, and they have a very international reach. Her recommendation is not to buy one thing and grow it, but to buy many things and grow their strength in the sector. (One of Esther’s portfolio healthcare companies, Medstory, sold to Microsoft in early 2007).

Esther argues that healthcare desperately needs data-based analysis, combined with an emphasis on users’ control of their own data. We’d all get better privacy with better control of records if healthcare data were kept online. Right now there’s “paper flying around”, she says, and when doctors request patient records they either get nothing, or they may get way too much information, not just what’s relevant to their request. Of course Esther’s already shared these recommendations with Microsoft executives, so maybe we’ll see some more action on this front.

Comments Off | Supernova Staff | May 20th, 2008 | Highlights, Uncategorized

BBC Scares Everyone In The World Off Facebook

The BBC has been able set up a malicious application that can steal details of not only your information but the people you’re connected with. This is because in Facebook, applications have permission to ‘walk the tree’ of your friend contact details, letting the apps do things like populate the list of people for you to forward to, when you choose to “forward this and see what happens.”

BBC NEWS | Programmes | Click | Identity ‘at risk’ on Facebook

We have discovered a way to steal the personal details of you and all your Facebook friends without you knowing.

The article is worth reading. Wow, good job British hax0rz! I won’t say “the sky is falling” because this has been pretty well-known among the geek-o-rati for a long time. BBC notes MySpace apps run on MySpace’s servers, giving MySpace a much clearer idea of what an application is doing with the data.

Perhaps the media attention this is sure to draw will move FB to a more secure model. One can hope.

(note: republished from

Comments Off | Howard Greenstein | May 2nd, 2008 | Highlights, Uncategorized