All posts filed under “Inspiration

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Tim O’Reilly speaks at Judge Business School

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Today we had the great pleasure of hearing Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media speak at Judge Business School. He was a speaker I was really looking forward to hearing, and he didn’t disappoint. (He’s on the left in the photo above.)

Tim has a very engaging speaking style, and his presentation was 100 slides of great photos, examples, and quotes. (Much better than the 5-6 slides of 13-point that Bob Diamond of Barclays used!)

The topic of the day was “Watching the Alpha Geeks,” which is something he’s been doing for 20+ years. (He’s been giving a version of the talk for about 7-8 years…) The technology and things that geeks and hackers use or do day-to-day is the stuff that becomes cultural mainstream in 5/10/15 years. It was nearly twenty years ago when the first webcam was hooked up to the Internet at the University of Cambridge. This was pre-WWW, by the way, and the sole purpose of the webcam was to show the level in the office coffeepot so that “the hackers” didn’t have to walk down the hall to check it! Now webcams are clearly mainstream. (Tim didn’t mention this, but I wanted to throw in a little Cambridge-specific info.)

The great phrase that Tim used a couple of times was:

The future is here. It just isn’t evenly distributed yet.

That’s a really powerful statement, and so very true. The future of the next 5/10/15 years is in research labs, startups, and homes of hackers right now. It just takes time and cultivation to get society to use it.

Tim talked quite a bit about Web2.0; not about the technology but instead about the principles behind the technology. His thesis was that there is an incredible amount of data that already exists; Web2.0 is the way different threads tie together to change the world. The most prominent example is Google. Google took information that already existed (links between web pages) and used it to provide the dataset for a much more powerful and useful search engine. Mashups that merge public data on crime with webmaps is another example of two datasets that are poor on their own, but very useful when tied together.

As Web2.0 becomes Enterprise2.0, this is going to shift even further. Sensors which already exist are going to be leveraged in new ways. The data that companies have in their ERP systems in regards to their customers, their suppliers, and their internal operations will be utilized in new ways to provide incredible new insights. And most importantly this will be done real-time, without judgement.

He clearly cares about the environment a lot, and spent a good chuck of his talk on technologies and ideas that are at the forefront of changing how we as a global society think and act in relation to global warming.

Another interesting note came in the Q&A portion; he was asked what technologies that he had been bullish about that didn’t pan out. After saying that quite a few didn’t mature on the timescale he had originally envisioned, he was a bit of a loss for words. But then he simply said, “I don’t think about failure a lot.” I think it was important for the room to hear this for two reasons:

  1. Failure’s not bad. While Europe is getting better with this attitude, it’s not quite as acceptable as it is in the US.
  2. There’s going to be lots of failure on the bleeding edge of innovation. Get used to it.

I highly recommend hearing him speak. (You can check out his recent talk at the Web2.0 conference by clicking this link.) If you are fascinated by technology, he’ll lead you on a fascinating journey.

It was great to hear Tim O’Reilly speak today, and highly recommend seeing one of his talks if you’re ever able to.

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Privately-launched rockets = cool

In my last post lamenting the state of government activity in the space program, I mentioned SpaceX. Little did I know that shortly after I wrote that post, SpaceX made the first successful launch into orbit by a privately-funded company. WOW!

This is a landmark achievement, and I look forward to seeing more successes from them as they rollout increasingly bigger launch vehicles. (aka, Big-F’in Rockets) If they meet expectations, they will dramatically decrease the cost of launching satellites into space, which is a very good thing. (Dramatically = ~10-25% of current costs!)

Watch history in the making below. (My favorite part is hearing the employees in the background go nuts.)

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Saturday rowing finals – Fun, exciting and messy

The only event we had on Saturday was rowing. It included the A finals (and medal ceremonies) for the men and women’s single sculls, double sculls, coxless pairs, and the men’s coxless four.

Photos for everything can be found by clicking here.

The big race

The most exciting race of the day (for us) was the final of the women’s double sculls. Our friend Elise Laverick was racing for Great Britain with her partner Anna Bebington. It was going to be a tough race for them; while they had beaten most or all of the crews at some point or another, a couple of them had posted really strong times in the heats and reps earlier this week.

Elise and Anna seemed to get a good start, and were well in the mix in the first 500 meters. Some of the other boats seemed to take a bit of a push in the second 500 meters, which pushed them back to about fourth. But in the second half of the race China started dropping back and Elise and Anna really started going strong and put themselves in the lead pack. The last five hundred was incredible, and all three medallists (New Zealand, Germany, and Great Britain) crossed the finish line within ~2 feet of each other (0.22 seconds). Elise and Anna put in a massive effort in the last 250-500 meters to close the gap. Perhaps the best part was that in the last 500 it was clear that the top three boats had really separated themselves from the rest, and were going to be on the podium. We found out later that Elise/Anna were the quickest boat in the last 1000 meters of the race.

I was lucky enough to get tickets to the “friends and family” stand for both rowing finals days. Each country’s supporters group together, and it seems the Commonwealth countries (GB, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) have particularly big contingents, though the US group was pretty big, too. Life in the stands is fun, since so many people know each other from various rowing-related activities and events. But it also gets really messy… for the cost of one pint of beer in London, you can buy eight from the Olympics concessions stands. One GB support or another seemed to bringing a box filled with beer cups up to the stands every few minutes or so. That got interesting…

Luckily we got to meet up with Elise after the race. (Anna had to go to drug testing, which was literally taking hours. She wasn’t done until three hours after they got in.) That’s where I snapped this picture.

Other great races

Michelle Guerette from the USA took a surprising silver in the women’s single sculls event. The Belarus sculler (who had won the last three world championships, I believe) was pushed to bronze. It was an amazing performance for her, and she put in a huge push in the last 500 meters to put herself there. She was featured in a New York Times feature article on rowing earlier this year, so it great to see her success match some of the coverage of her.

The Great Britain men’s double scullers also took bronze. While Australia looked awesome in the event, Matt Wells and Steven Rowbotham look great and took bronze in style.

In a great race, the Great Britain men’s coxless four took gold. This boat has been the “flagship” of the mens rowing squad since 2000. While GB was in the pack, they weren’t leading for most of the race. They stayed near the leaders and put in one hell of a massive push in the last 250 meters to win it. The leaders up until that point (Australia) seemed to crumble once their lead was lost, and ended up losing by about half a length. It was particularly cute when the four did their row-past after the medals ceremony and the sister of the stroke-man (Andy Triggs-Hodge) jumped the fence and swam out into the lake to congratulate her brother.

The men’s single sculls race was as fascinating as ever. Alan Campbell of Great Britain got a great start and was leading early. But the lead switched several times until Olaf Tufte of Norway crossed the line first, with Czech Republic in silver and Mahe Drysdale of New Zealand in bronze. Mahe was predicted to do better, but I heard through the grapevine that he had a bit of a stomach bug earlier this week, which couldn’t have helped. Alan probably could have done better as well, but he had several weeks out of the boat this year for knee surgery. That Alan got into the A final is one hell of an accomplishment after that!

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Meditations – the start of a series

I picked up a book recently that’s been both a fascinating and inspirational read: “Meditations,” by Marcus Aurelius. (This book is the translation I actually own, which is a bit newer and has an unnecessarily pompous title.)

I’ve found it a great little book to keep with my bag as I ride the Tube into work. There are a lot of short but important thoughts that help remind me of what’s important in life and what I really need to be focusing on.

To be fair, it’s also clear it was written over 2000 years ago, so certain bits aren’t very applicable. Some of it is on the metaphysical side, some on the nature of physics, etc. But so much of it is a leader meditating on how to be a better person, and still rings very true today.

I’m going to periodically post quotes from this book; things that I find interesting or important. Perhaps you’ll find them as intriguing as I do!


Today’s closing quote:

Claim your right to say or do anything that accords with nature, and pay no attention to the chatter of your critics. If it is good to say or do something, then it is even better to be criticized for having said or done it. Others have their own consciences to guide them and will follow their own lights. Don’t be gazing after them, but keep your eyes on the straight path ahead of you, […]

-Meditations, Book Five, #3