Paris Attacks at the Stadium

I’m here in Paris for a work event with about 600 other co-workers. Last night we all had the night off and me and 2 colleagues decided to go see the France vs. Germany soccer match.  We bought some tickets online and thought we were in for a super fun night.

Little did we know what would happen. In the morning, this would be the headlines from the papers:

The match started and our seats were fantastic. We were right on the left sideline with a great view of Martial. He was incredible and scored a great goal.

About 10 minutes before half, at 9:15pm, everyone in the stadium heard a massive BOOM. It was loud and I immediately said to Jon, “that sounds like a bomb.”  Even the players noticed.  However, everyone went back to watching the game and the players kept playing.  Here’s how it sounded:

About 5 minutes later, right before half, another BOOM. It was loud. Having never been to a soccer match in the French stadium, i thought that maybe it was something that happens regularly.  Nobody seemed to be miffed about it, so i thought it was just part of the scene.

At halftime, i was standing in line for the restroom with Jon. We saw all the security guards start to close all the gates to the stadium, locking us in. We thought that was pretty strange. We told our other friend Marc, who has lived in France before, about it. He said that it was typical so they can route everyone out a central exit when the game is over. Seemed like a logical answer. We went on watching the game. You can see from this picture that we weren’t yet aware of what was happening:

I really started to think things weren’t right when i noticed there were about 10x more security standing between the crowd and the field. At this point you would think we would be freaking out, but we weren’t. We asked the people behind us if they knew anything. Nothing. Nobody knew a thing and the game continued. Nobody knew that the two blasts were bombs exploding outside the stadium at a fast food restaurant and a brasserie.  Nobody knew that the French President who was at the game was secretly evacuated.

About 15 minutes into halftime, at 9:40, there was another BOOM.  Again nobody paid it any attention and continued to watch the game. When the game finished, we were walking out of the stadium when there was a general announcement that there was an incident outside one part of the stadium.  There was a collective “hmm, that’s interesting,” and they continued to the exits. It was calm but you could lots of sirens going on outside the stadium.

As we were exiting, you could see hundreds of police and hear lots of sirens.  Then, the stadium something happened. I’m not exactly sure what it was but the people at the front of the crowd turned around scared shitless and started running as fast as they could back into the stadium. Everyone else started doing that too. It turned into a stampede. Older people and kids fell to the ground and were getting trampled.  We ran too.  After getting away (about 400 yards) from the area that people were running from jon and I reconnected with Marc and walked the opposite direction. At this point, kids were bawling and sirens were blasting. It was clear that the world was not right. We were very scared, but still in the dark about what was happening.

We finally got out of the stadium and called an Uber.  Miraculously one got to us and we told him to take us home as fast as possible. We got a call from another colleague was at a hotel.  He was walking to dinner when he came across a man in the middle of the street waving a gun. He then saw someone who was shot pouring blood. He ran to a restaurant to get cover, but they weren’t letting people in so he kept running. Eventually he got inside and called us.  Our Uber arrived about 15 minutes later to grab him and we all continued back to our listing.

My night wasn’t nearly as scary as his or some of my other colleagues but it was still unnerving. Not knowing whats happening and seeing fear on the faces of everyone in the crowd is terrifying.

When we got back to our apartment, we got online and devoured the news for hours.  It was then that we learned the facts of the night. The scariest event being the massacre at the Bataclan music club.

At that club, a few gunmen entered with AK rifles and opened fire on the 1500 people.  Most people ran to the exits. Many fell to the ground and tried to cover themselves.  The gunmen continued to fire for 10-15 minutes on the people who were laying on the ground. They reloaded 4 times. Here’s a quote from one survivor,

Ten minutes … 10 horrific minutes where everybody was on the floor covering their head. We heard so many gunshots and the terrorists were very calm, very determined. They reloaded three or four times their weapons. They didn’t shout anything. They didn’t say anything. They were unmasked and wearing black clothes and they were shooting at people on the floor, executing them.

What we know now, the next day, is that there were killings in 7 different locations and about 160 people are confirmed dead. It’s still unclear how many are injured. We also learned that the stadium bombs were supposed to go off later, when we were exiting the stadium and not during the match.

We found out today that there were 3 terrorist outside the stadium.  The first tried to get into the stadium and when security discovered the bomb on his chest, he backed away and detonated. Then the 2nd one went off 5 minutes later.  The police then found the 3rd person and as they pursued him, he donated himself.   This is why the police at the stadium wanted us to stay in the arena. I’m so thankful that their plan failed.

My company picked Paris in November as the time and location for our big annual conference to send 600 employees. We also choose Friday night as the night to spend out exploring the city. Almost everyone spent the night in and around the areas of the shootings. Talk about bad timing. While many of them were next to the events, luckily nobody was harmed.

I feel extremely lucky and now all my thoughts are around getting home and getting back to my family.

Election Thoughts: Twitter and Nate Silver

The election is over and we can get on with our lives.  For me, living in Colorado meant that our television stations were nothing but ads either telling us that Romney was a bastard or that Obama was incompetent.  I know people who believe those messages and I don’t want to really talk about whether they’re right or wrong. It’s just exhausting.

I loved watching my Twitter feed on election night. I have to say that for live, unpredictable events like disasters, elections, and sports, – twitter really shines.  That said, i was also really impressed with the coverage on television.  The big board on CNN was way more informative with actual stats than any other medium. They knew where things were going down, when they were happening, and why. Twitter was snarky and fun but TV was actually helpful.

The big winner to me for this election was Nate Silver.  If you don’t know Nate, and I didn’t until a little it ago, he’s a guy who first gained recognition for developing a system for forecasting the performance of professional baseball players.  One day he woke up and wanted to the same for politicians.  Last election in 2008, he built FiveThirtyEight.com (538 is the total number of electoral votes out there) and used his crazy smart algorithms to predict, with really cool charts, who would win.  When the final votes came in, he correctly predicted the winner of 49 of the 50 state and all 35 Senate races that year.  Way closer than almost every one else.   Continue reading “Election Thoughts: Twitter and Nate Silver”

iLike & Myspace – it doesn’t make sense

myspaceilikeiLIke was purchased by MySpace this week for $20 million.  Hearing this annoucement, i couldn’t help think that something was off.  Something just doesn’t make sense.

Some facts: iLike has 50 million registered users.  That’s a huge number.  They are definitely one of the most popular applications on Facebook and one of the best applications anywhere for concerts. They have built some things that are quite hard to build such as:

  • A mp3 download store (link)
  • A music activity feed crawling millions of artists and millions of users
  • A ticketing system integrated with Ticketmaster
  • A self-serve advertising system

They have raised $16 million bucks and claim to be profitable.  Both Facebook and Amazon were interested in the deal.   If both of these are true why would they sell for $20 million? Selling for $20 means that the investors get their money back and then then $4 million gets spread around to shareholders.  Basically nobody makes any money that they are happy about.

To compare, Facebook just bought FriendFeed for $20 million and they have 1 million monthly uniques.  iLike has at least 3x that on the web and 50x total and they are growing.

Also, I can’t imagine why a dynamic, fast moving company would want to go work at MySpace instead of Facebook or Amazon.

  • MySpace vs. Facebook. One is doing a fantastic job of innovating and developing new innovative software (FB).  The other is bleeding users, bleeding cash (MySpace Music) and restructuring.  iLike has also actively been courting Facebook for the past 3 years. They’ve thrown Facebook / iLike parties and done everything possible to try to get a FB acquisition.  Going with MySpace is strange
  • MySpace vs. Amazon. One (Amazon) is in iLike’s backyard in Seattle and the other is down in LA.  One is making good inroads into providing a viable music store to iTunes.  The other (MySpace) started as a primary space for music but is now controlled by the labels and is getting worse and worse as they try to cut costs.

Both of those don’t make sense so then you have to conclude that they are just doing this for the money.  But if (a) they are profitable and (b) it’s only $20 million on $16m raised then that doesn’t make sense either.

My conclusion from all this non-sense:

  • iLike was not profitable and were running out of money.  They needed to either raise more money or sell.
  • Fatigue.  Working in the digital music industry and having success at it is exhausting.   Your main content source (music) brings with it tons of headaches.  The labels are working against you every step of the way
  • Facebook had no interest in getting into the music business.  I think they see content area as something for partners and although iLike probably asked them repeatedly, they backed away from the deal.  There is no better content company that is more integrated into Facebook than iLike.  If FB didn’t want them, they’re not going to get anyone.
  • MySpace paid more than $20 million.  They won’t disclose the terms but my guess is that there is some kicker in there that made the deal very attractive to the shareholders.  Too bad we don’t know what it is.

At least one or more of these have to be true.  What are your thoughts?

Portfolio’s Failure

 

I’ve heard a lot of talk about the decline of print media these days. There were great speeches by Clay Shirky and Steven Johnson at SXSW.  Recently there was news of Conde Nast’s Portfolio magazine shutting down after plowing through $100 million in two years.  Some people have used this as an indication of the flawed model of print, but reading this story from an ex-employee i think it’s more an issue of mismanagement and lack of execution.

conde_nast_portfolio

Here are some exerpts:

First, let me amplify, the magazine was a failure. It was not market conditions or the general economic meltdown that forced Si’s hand, it was a failure to create something that people wanted to read.

Yet in too many ways to enumerate here, we did not operate in what I fondly call a reality-based environment. In Lipman’s meetings, firings were never firings, stories were never bad or ill timed, mistakes were never made. The air had long been sucked out of that room, and few staffers seemed to believe anymore in the mission of the place, despite a collective desire, and I mean this, to do as good a job as they could do, given the circumstances.

Would the magazine succeeded if it was run currectly?  Who knows, but i do know from past experience at former companies that sometimes too much money is a bad thing as there is no urgency or common goal.  And when you have a leader making decisions that don’t make sense, you can’t help by become disillusioned and discouraged.  That seems to be what happened here.

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Obama poster drama

obama

I heard a great podcast yesterday on NPR about the iconic Obama poster (seen above). The poster is done by a fascinating artist named Shepherd Fairey.  It’s a little known fact that Fairey is also responsible for the Andre The Giant “OBEY” sketches that i remember from the 90’s.  He really gets around.

In this case, Fairey took a photo he found on Google and then altered the neck, the eyes and the colors (and cropped out George Clooney) to make a poster than came to symbolize the campaign.  Shepherd always claimed that he made the poster from an Associated Press photo and about a month ago, it was finally determined which photo he used and who the photographer was. It was a photo of Obama sitting at a press event in Darfur with George Clooney.

darfur

All this would be nice and peachy except that because the photo was an AP photo, the AP came to Fairey and threatened to sue if he didn’t dish out a percentage of revenue he made from the poster. Fairey acknowledged that he’s willing to pay the standard license fee and attribute the photo to the original photographer but he won’t be bullied into paying.  So, instead he sued the AP in an attempt to discourage companies from punishing artists for creating art.

While his argument stands on fair use, to me the real issue is about people making derivative works. It’s the 21st century and lots of people take lots of images and transforming them into art. If each is penalized into paying a bounty for the original source we’re limiting and hurting society.

In this day and age, users are both consumers and creators of content.  So many YouTube videos have copyrighted works in them.  Last week there was a huge fiasco around Facebook’s Terms of Service when they claimed they owned all user uploaded material.  Thankfully, they backed off.  But the backlash from the users illustrates that ownership of property, attribution, and sharing is really important to the web.

If anything this just leads me more and more into believing in Creative Commons. It’s truly the only mechanism that let’s people properly manage their rights

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New Media – What Will It Look Like

Toby and i have been debating and discussing what new media will look like.  His post today inspired me to lay down some of my thoughts. A lot of my thinking stems from this article in The Atlantic and Fred’s Post about his reading habits.

newspapersdead
The Atlantic post described how the NY Times is dead.  With $1 billion in debt, a $400 million dollar loan due in May and only $46 million in cash on hand, it is going down.  Even with the $250 million it got yesterday, it cannot continue to exist the way it is.  No newspaper can.  My beloved Star Tribune declared bankruptcy last too and that’s the beginning of the trend of all papers.

Why are they failing?  Because the business model is wrong.  They are trying to do too much.  They cover things that are commodities.  It’s as if every online music service tried to build an mp3 store to compete with iTunes and Amazon.  They don’t because those work great.  Newpapers try to cover every story: national and international news, sports, entertainment, etc. The local newspaper doesn’t need to cover most of they reports on today because their paper is not going to be the place where the public finds that information. When user’s get online, all of this news is available in other places, for free and in a better, deeper format.  For instance:

  • National and International news: this is covered by AP, Reuters, and CNN.com
  • Entertainment news: this can be found online (RottenTomatoes) or from national news and reviews from individual columnists (Ebert)
  • Sports: ESPN.com and bloggers will cover this

If a paper is covering any of these on their own, it is a losing proposition.  What’s left? The only thing is see is local news. I think local papers should focus on local news because everything else is a commodity.  Even bloggers will be able to fill the gaps left by major journals.

Toby talks in his post about the Huffington Post which i think is a piece of the puzzle but it’s only interesting because they are trying to be a news portal.  And i agree.  In my mind, most “papers” will shift online and instead of reporting the news, they will be filtering it. And if they don’t, they will die.  They better hurry up too, becuase places like the HuffPo are trying to get there first. You can already see how this is happening.  Filters are already part of people everyday lives the same way a paper used to be.  Technology aggregation and filtering is done at Techmeme, sport aggregation and filtering at ESPN, and news filters like CNN can replace almost any newspaper’s news coverage.

I’m not the only one who thinks this way.  More evidence came yesterday when ESPN announced a partnership with TrueHoop to place NBA blogs in their site because they know that they can’t cover everything.  You can see how techmeme is the “paper” of choice for Michael Arrington from TechCrunch.  He writes:

Image representing Techmeme as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

TechMeme is another four-year favorite. It is the blogosphere’s daily newspaper, and one of the sites we use most often in seeing how stories develop.

Will papers become local news sources?  I think that’s all that’s left for them.  But they better hurry up because local blogs like LAist.com and DCist.com are already attacking this niche and doing a better job than they are.

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Michael Lewis and the financial crisis

Michael Lewis who wrote Liar’s Poker revisits in an article his time on Wall Street and does some digging into what happened and interviews some people who actually predicted the crisis. In fact, reading this article you (a) wonder why more people didn’t see the financial collapse coming and (b) feel a sense of happiness that the firms got what they deserved.

It’s a good read – here it is

As a side note – on my path through Wikipedia: did you know that Michael Lewis is married to Tabatha Soren the old MTV veejay?  And did you know that Tabatha was in the music video “You’ve got to fight for your right to party” by The Beastie Boys? Interesting

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Going from Movies to Music

Joaquin Phoenix, the star of the Johhny Cash film Walk The Line just announced that he’s leaving the movie business and going into music full-time.  Sounds like a bad idea to me. Russell Crowe, Keifer Sutherland, Keanu Reeves, Billy Bob Thorton, and others have tried this and failed spectucularly.

However, i also know that Jason Schwartzman (Max in Rushmore) has been in 2 successful bands (Phantom Planet and now Coconut Records).  Are there any others that have gone from movies to music that i’m missing?

Play this Coconut Records song – it’s one of my favorites (West Coast).

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World Peace? We're Closer than we think

During my trip to Maui, i brought along the book “The Post-American World” by Fareed Zakaria. It’s a good read (not done yet). One part i really liked at the begging was when he was talking about how war and organized violence have declined substantially over the past 60 years – and dramatically over the last two decades. This was news to me. He writes:
The general magnitude of global warfare has decreased by over 60% [since the mid-1980’s], falling by the end of 2004 to its lowest level since the late 1950’s. Violence increased steadily throughout the Cold War – increasing sixfold between the 1950’s and early 1990’s – but the trend peaked just before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the extent of warfare among and within states lessened by nearly half in the first decade after the Cold War.
To that Harvard’s professor Steven Pinker argues, “That today we are probably living int he most peaceful time in our species’ existence.”
This seems so contrary to what i feel everyday due to the constant news of terrorism, bombings, airline accidents, etc. Zakaria addresses this saying:
One reason for the mismatch between reality and our sense of it might be that, over these same decades, we have experienced a revolution in information technology that now brings us news from around the world instantly, vividly, and continuiously…. Every weather disturbance is “the story of the century”. Every bomb that explodes is BREAKING NEWS. It is difficult to put this all in context because the information revolution is so new. We didn’t get daily footage on the ~2 million who died in the killing fields of Cambodia in the 1970’s or the million who perished in teh sands of the Iran-Iraq war in the 1908’s
But now the deaths of ten, because they are seen up close, make the world seem more and more dangerous. When, in fact, the opposite is true.