Archives for November 2008

Alliance of Merger & Acquisition Advisors 2009 Winter Conference: Jan 20-22, Orlando, FL

I look forward to speaking at the Alliance of Merger & Acquisition Advisors’ 2009 Winter Conference, Jan. 20-22, in Orlando, FL. Some of the highlights of the event: a private equity forum, for private equity firms that want to showcase lower middle market companies. There is also a Deal Expo for discussing active buy/sell engagements. Some of the topics that will be discussed at the event: post-merger integration; corporate M&A; and my area of focus, deal origination. I’ll be speaking on how institutional investors and investment bankers are using a wide range of technology to raise capital, win more clients, and identify attractive investment opportunities. I hope that some of you can join us there!

Keyword optimizing your personal profile/resume

Last night, I participated in a panel with Columbia University¬ís Center for Career Education. One of the ideas that came up was keyword-optimizing your personal profile/resume. Most obviously, to do this, you should study the resumes of your peers. Theda Sandiford also observed, “Google Analytics has a tool to suggest keywords. Once you put in all the keywords you have already thought of, run the suggestion tool and add those additional keywords to your [profile].” She added that theoretically, you could also add and remove topical keywords regularly based on popular news stories related to your professional expertise.

Joe Rogan on Connecting Virtually

Over the past few days, I’ve gained a massive amount of respect for comedian and TV commentator (Fear Factor, UFC) Joe Rogan. One of the things that has impressed me most is his very raw, open, heart-felt blog. I was especially touched by this passage in this post commenting on the death of former UFC middleweight champion Evan Tanner:

Sometimes when I write, it’s like I’m reaching out to an old friend without a name or a face. I think of it as some new form of non-physical intimacy.

I’m trying to find my consciousness and merge it with yours, and as weird as it sounds I feel that connection with every myspace message and email I get.

We’re both alone and interfaced with a monitor in silence, and as I craft my sentences and express my ideas my intention is always for you to get an unfiltered view into my thoughts. I want you to take them with you.

I’m opening my head to merge my thoughts with you, and the only way that really works is if I’m 100% honest.

Well said. We don’t have to see people in person to connect at a deeper level. We just have to open ourselves to the possibility and, as Joe said, be completely honest with each other. Even the smallest little deceptions cause us to be more cautious and create barriers to building deep, meaningful relationships.

Joe’s blog and humor are pretty crude. Fear Factor is tame in comparison. If you’re easily offended, skip it. If not, then start reading his blog, look him up on YouTube, and enjoy.

The Complete Vision Board Kit

I first learned of vision boards a few years ago, but I never actually started using them myself until this year. They were discussed briefly in The Secret, and Oprah featured them in her follow-up show, The Secret Behind The Secret. She made headlines with her vision board on election day when she told an NYC radio station that she had been planning for Obama to be elected since February using vision boards:

I was speaking with Michelle [Obama] and Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver – we were all doing a big rally out in California. At the end of the rally Michelle Obama said something powerful: "and I want you to leave here and envision Barack Obama taking the oath of office." I created a vision board. I had never had a vision board before. I came home, I got me a board and put Barack Obama’s picture on it and I put a picture of my dress I want to wear to the inauguration.

I have to confess to being a closet skeptic. I believe in science, not magic. But I’ve also been confronted with so many experiences throughout my life that it’s impossible for me not to believe. I’ve seen Law of Attraction in action in my life, in extraordinary ways. But I still always had a disconnect between my left-brain, logical view and my right-brain reality.

Over the past two years, though, I’ve had the pleasure of becoming good friends with John Assaraf,  best-selling author of The Answer: Grow Any Business, Achieve Financial Freedom, and Live an Extraordinary Life (among others) and teacher from the movie The Secret. If you saw the film you’ll never forget the story of how John discovered the power of vision boards — and how it started him on a quest that continues to this day. Watch the clip at right as he retells the story to Larry King, or read John’s vision board story in more detail.

For the past 25 years, John has studied quantum physics and neuroscience, and then applied these findings to help people achieve their goals in everyday life. Drawing upon his unique knowledge, John has developed a process that helps people live the life of their dreams — and now he’s sharing it in his newest book, The Complete Vision Board Kit™.

Now anyone can cut out a bunch of pictures and paste them on a piece of posterboard, but will that actually help you manifest those visions in your life?

Yes, actually it will. Even just the act of creating the vision board helps focus your subconscious. Keeping it somewhere where you can see it on a regular basis helps even more.

There’s more to it than just pasting pictures up, however. You must understand how to activate the power of your unconscious brain to draw towards you everything you truly want.

The Complete Vision Board Kit fully explains this process. And it’s actually much more than a book: It comes with everything you need to create your own life-changing vision board: a book, a DVD, and a sample vision board. This kit will walk you step-by-step through exactly how to create a vision board AND retrain your brain to actually start believing that you can achieve all your goals and dreams.

John’s work has helped me bridge the gap between science and faith and allowed me to make quantum leaps in the results I’m getting from my personal development practices (I told him The Answer could have been subtitled "Law of Attraction for the Left Brain").

Want to see my vision board? Personally, I’m not a big fan of paper, and I work at my computer 90% of the time, so I’ve created a "virtual vision board", which I have available as a PowerPoint slideshow, and I’ve also set up as my screensaver, so it automatically kicks on after 3 minutes of inactivity, presenting me with these images throughout the day. I’ve saved it to SlideShare and embedded it below:

Do you use vision boards? Tell your vision board story in the comments
below. Feel free to include pictures if you’ve got ’em.

Apparently, Phishing Is Not Funny

A fascinating event occurred on Twitter today. In short, someone cracked a joke about a new 3rd-party Twitter application. Someone else took it seriously and blogged about it on ZDNet, creating a wave of misplaced mass hysteria. Brian Ambrozy has the whole story in more detail, but I especially appreciated his Twitter-style summary:

  • Hay guys, Twitterank gives u a twit score. Mine is 110.23! Check it!
  • Looks like @brianoberkirch made a funneh. oops
  • Now Oliver Marks sez @brianoberkirch hacked twitter omgz
  • A MILLIONTY PEOPLE READ OLIVER MARKS AND RETWEETED IT
  • Everybody skurred nao

This does raise some interesting issues. For example, if you’re generally a highly credible source, as Brian Oberkirch is, do you have a responsibility to be so reliable that you can’t even crack a joke? I experienced this myself last year when an April Fool’s post I made was so believable that it was prompting calls to LinkedIn customer service (even though I said "April Fool’s" at the end of the post). I took a look around the web at some of the other pranksters (Google being one of the biggest), and wrote about it in April 2nd – The Day After. I still don’t know where the line is, but I certainly don’t think Brian crossed it.

The real problem is in the system that allowed a blogger who didn’t do any fact-checking with other sources to jump on the story under the loaned credibility of the ZDNet brand. It was an honest mistake, and well-intentioned, but it was magnified by being published under a trusted brand. As Shannon Whitley wrote:

Bloggers are not journalists in the professional sense of the word.  It’s not only a misconception, but judging by how quickly erroneous information can spread, it’s a very dangerous idea. […] Amateurs can produce high-quality content and, in a particular area of expertise, can provide more depth on a subject.  However, we should never kid ourselves that the amateurs have the same level of experience, nor do they support the same level of standards as the professional.  Read carefully and watch those banners.  You may see a professional logo at the top of the page, but that doesn’t mean the same level of trust can be transferred to the content beneath it.  I think it’s time that organizations like CNN and ZDNet change the layout of their amateur sites.  It’s too easy to mistake the work of an amateur for that of the professional and trusted journalist.

In general, I agree with Shannon. However, I do think he perhaps has some misplaced trust in those "professional" journalists. I have done dozens of interviews with journalists, and while some adhere to very high standards, others are frankly kind of lazy. I’ve been misquoted numerous times in ways that changed the meaning of what I said. I’ve seen stories that drew obviously wrong conclusions from the facts. I’ve seen factual errors in the stories I’ve been quoted in. Many of the journalists are freelance writers with no formal journalistic training. And on non-critical pieces, i.e., anything in any section other than "news", a lot of publications don’t do rigorous fact-checking. If it wouldn’t lead to a potential lawsuit, they don’t bother.

So while you may want to be a little extra-cautious if the author is designated as a "blogger" rather than a staff reporter, you need to take what the reporters say with a grain of salt as well. If you are going to make an important business or life decision based on the information, check your facts with multiple sources.

Notes from conference on NY Games community

Following are my notes from the first panel of Friday’s min-conference, “GAME THEORY/PLAY MONEY“, sponsored by DIGRA-NY. This is a new initiative to bring together the NY games community. The conference looked fascinating, but I unfortunately had to leave after the first panel.

BIOGRAPHIES OF SPEAKERS:

James Grimmelmann is Associate Professor at New York Law School and a member of its Institute for Information Law and Policy. He received his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he was Editor-in-Chief of LawMeme and a member of the Yale Law Journal. Prior to law school, he received an A.B. in computer science from Harvard College and worked as a programmer for Microsoft. He has served as a Resident Fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale, as a legal intern for Creative Commons and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and as a law clerk to the Honorable Maryanne Trump Barry of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. He studies how the law governing the creation and use of computer software affects the distribution of wealth, power, and freedom in society. As a lawyer and technologist, he aims to help these two groups speak intelligibly to each other. He writes on such topics as intellectual property, virtual worlds, search engines, electronic commerce, online privacy, and the use of software as a regulator. Recent publications include The Structure of Search Engine Law, 93 Iowa L. Rev. 1 (2007), Virtual Borders, First Monday (Feb. 2006), and Regulation by Software, 114 Yale L.J. 1719 (2005). In 2007, he was named one of Interview Magazine’s “New Pop A-List: 50 To Watch (Age 30 or Under).” He has been blogging since 2000 at the Laboratorium (http://laboratorium.net/). His home page is at http://james.grimmelmann.net/.

Katherine Isbister is an Associate Professor of Digital Media at NYU-Poly, and also maintains an affiliation at the ITU Copenhagen Center for Computer Games Research. Dr. Isbister has written two books: Better Game Characters by Design: A Psychological Approach, and Game Usability: Advice from the Experts for Advancing the Player Experience. Better Game Characters was nominated for a Game Developer Magazine Frontline Award in 2006. Current research interests include emotion and gesture in games, supple interactions, design of game characters, and game usability.

Aram Sinnreich is a Visiting Professor at NYU’s Department of Media, Culture and Communication, where he teaches courses on video games, intellectual property and digital culture. He is also the Managing Partner of Radar Research, a media and technology consultancy. He has written about media, culture and technology for publications including The New York Times, Billboard, Wired News, Truthdig and American Quarterly. As a Senior Analyst at Jupiter Research in New York for over five years (1997-2002), he produced research covering the online music and media industries and provided hands-on strategic consulting to companies ranging from Time Warner to Microsoft to Heineken. Aram’s kicked World of Warcraft, and is now quasi-addicted to Spore.

Mary Flanagan investigates everyday technologies through critical writing, artwork, and activist design projects. Flanagan’s work has been exhibited internationally at museums, festivals, and galleries, including: the Guggenheim, The Whitney Museum of American Art, SIGGRAPH, The Banff Centre, The Moving Image Centre, New Zealand, Central Fine Arts Gallery NY, Artists Space NY, the University of Arizona, University of Colorado-Boulder, and venues in Brazil, France, UK, Canada, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Australia. Her projects have been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Pacific Cultural Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Please visit her site at: www.maryflanagan.com

Liel Liebovitz received his doctorate from Columbia University in 2007. His dissertation, titled “Thinking Inside the Box: Towards an Ontology of Video Games,” examines the personal and social processes of play. Liel also served as associate professor of communications at Barnard College, and taught at Marymount Manhattan College. He is the author of two books of non-fiction: “Aliya,” published in 2006 by St. Martin’s Press, and “Lili Marlene,” scheduled for publication by W.W. Norton in 2008.

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Sinnreich: There’s a land grab going on in academe: every department wants to own games.
Flanagan: A similar land grab happened with film studies. There’s also a lot of money involved in this for grants.
Sinnreich: Growing 30-40% YOY, while film is flat and music is down. Also, military is very interested in this.

Liebovitz: Can we formally define a game?
Sinnreich: No, not possible.
Flanagan: most innovative games don’t fit within clear definitions.

Liebovitz: Why are video games compelling?
Flanagan: there are many innovative ways to define games.
Sinnreich: there is expectation of transformability.

Question: Are video games as a medium likely to have any long term sociopolitical effects? (compare with longstanding debate about argument of impact of TV on crime/politics)

Grimmelmann: TV didn’t radically change human nature. Viewers kept on living their lives.

Question: What about idea of forming guilds in Obama campaign: “yes we can?”. Does this create energy that could be used towards sociopolitical goals?

Isbister: TV was an isolationist blip. Games move us back to doing things together.

Sinnreich: I just wrote on my blog that Barack Obama is the first mashup candidate. He’s black and white, foreign and domestic. Instead of being a flat neutral candidate, he’s more than the sum of his parts. He’s like “Careless Dead” (mashup of “Careless Whispers” and “Dead or Alive”).

Isbister: Constants include: people like to be social. People have emotions.
Flanagan: We do a lot of social activist games. A game is a framework of action/agency. If we frame that so certain types of actions are allowed (e.g., certain types of communication in WoW are allowed) we impact the culture. Must think about how games create epistemological systems.

Question: What is the role of ‘glory’ in video games, e.g., the high scorers list which motivates people to join it?

Flanagan: you have the creatives, who re-skin; come up with new clothes; reengineer the structures. You also have disrupters, who like to vandalize.

Sinnreich: Games are a model for the free agent economy.
Isbister: I tell my students that eventually on their business card, they’ll put on their business card which guild they were in; what their high scores were.
Grimmelmann: rack of medals on a uniform is just a score, in the ‘game of killing people’

Sinnreich: football, soccer are martial games.
Liebovitz: There’s a huge misnomer in games, which is the idea of interactivity. However, when you actually study the game, you learn that you’re operating within a very tiny window of what the designer allows. However, the game is designed so that you think that what YOU are doing is driving your choices.
Sinnreich: Video games are information spaces which can be explored. One of the biggest questions of the era: if you give someone the tools to explore/discover the space, are they exercising free will /agency, or are there actions being overdetermined? Jon Zittrain’s new book is about that.

The first video game I fell in love with was Atari 2600 game, called Number Crunchers. You drive your car over numbers, and whoever goes over the biggest numbers wins. However, there was a bug: if you slid on the number sideways, you got stuck on the number, and you would go to 100 very quickly. That to me was compelling; I had to buy that game.

Grimmelmann: you have to balance between being entirely passive, and giving someone too many options. It’s like dancing, and the tension between being in the lead and the follower role.
Liebovitz: Cheating has become so common in video games, and is written into the code. This is a major subindustry in the code. It’s the “invisible towrope”: you look like you’re skiing but there’s really an invisible towrope.

Sinnreich: there’s a dance going on.
Grimmelmann: one of my favorite children’s books is “There’s a Monster at the End of this Book”, in which Grover tries to stop you from flipping the pages of the book. It subverts the medium.
Flanagan: In Animal Crossing, you can stop and get coffee. There’s a pleasure of discovery in doing that. This is a machine-operated diagetic space. The computer does stuff when you’re not there, to convince you that the world is bigger than just you.
Liebovitz: nothing suggests agency in a game like the ability to stop playing. Question for Isbister:, please comment on relationship between player and character. Games enhance your own powers.

Sinnreich: When I was playing GTA 4, I had to choose whom to kill, but had 2 perspective: my own moral sense of values, and the game’s values.
Isbister: I feel the tension of wearing the narrative suit which doesn’t fit
Flanagan: In the video game “Eve” (?), you start out as a debutante in heels and a ball gown at the opera. The singer turns into an opera singer, who then turns into a monster you must chase..in high heels. There were many blog posts I saw about how this impacted game play?”I really felt like I knew what it was to be a woman.” (laughter)
Flanagan: “Values at Play” is a collaborative effort between a game philosopher and me. We’re exploring what it means to make human values the center of the design. We’re not trying to make decisions about which values are ‘better’, but to think about design issues.
Flanagan: Big theme of game developers conference was growth of independent games, which were winning a lot of the awards.
Flanagan: Values are embedded in a game whether we acknowledge it or not. I just did an interview with Salon.com. They asked, “Do all games have to have shooting?” I recently went to a school to look at a dance game. One of the kids said, “This isn’t a game, because you can’t kill anyone.” What a strange generation to think play=killing someone.
Isbister: bestselling games are always simulation and sports. The key values of these games are novelty and consumption. They make a new version of the sports game every season, and you can’t play the old game.
Sinnreich: Casual games are the way out of the box of ‘you have to kill someone’. There are more adult women than teenage boys playing video games in the US right now?especially Nintendo.
Sinnreich: For the first time, all the mainstream console games are truly networked, and all the major games integrate that network functionality into the games. So we’re not tied to games that are stored on little metal disks.

Question: What are challenges of ‘governing’ the economy of a game?
Grimmelmann: Eve Online has a very tolerant attitude to money changing. It’s based in Iceland. I wonder if it’s being used as a channel for currency.

Howard Bloomfield is looking at doing tests of different regulatory regimes in games.

Question: The video game Rock Band recently beat out itunes for music rights to Beatles catalog. Aram, you wrote that the music industry is shifting to getting revenues mainly from licensing.

Sinnreich: The dominant form in which people listen to music now is the playlist. It’s not a question of ‘album’ vs.’ single’. There is not an ipod user who hasn’t experimented with making his own ‘greatest hits’ record. The Beatles catalog is perfect test case for merging the interoperability of video games with a pure consumption oriented medium.

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Audience questions
Question: Can a game not be Calvinball by definition?
Grimmelmann: The contextualizing of Calvinball in regular games is critical. Calvinball doesn’t make sense unless you know croquet, baseball, etc.

Question: “America’s Army” was a video game developed specifically as a recruiting tool. Comment.

L :We’ll never have a truly successful propaganda video game, because it’s too interactive a medium.
Teten: What can managers learn motivating power of video games?
Sinnreich: the Chinese gold farmers who work in WoW, they play WoW in their off-hours because they’re with their friends. When I was at a dot-com, we played Age of Empires on the company’s LAN.
Liebovitz: Heidegger said humans are different from all other animals because they know they’re mortal. Games free us of that onus.

Question: Who’s doing interesting research in games.
Flanagan: Esward Costranova
Liebovitz: JL Sherry, who’s found little correlation between games and violence.
Isbister: ‘pencil test’. Researchers asked people to study a certain interface in which you manipulated a pencil with your mouth?either clench your teeth (frown) or hold a smile. The people who had to hold a smile liked the interface much more.

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