First of all, let me welcome any new CollegeMogul readers!  I’m glad you made it here, hopefully what you find will be helpful, or at least interesting.

For my regular readers who don’t know what CollegeMogul is, or why people might be visiting here from there, allow me to explain.  My first post at CollegeMogul went up yesterday – you can read it here.  The reason I’m posting at CollegeMogul is an outgrowth of a partnership between CollegeMogul and Capesquared, a startup company where I am a co-founder.


Capesquared and CollegeMogul are beginning a partnership to revamp the CollegeMogul site, working to deliver better, more relevant, and community-driven content to young entrepreneurs.  Often, the best people to ask advice from are those who’ve been there before you.  That’s exactly what we’re trying to capture in this partnership.  The vision for the new CollegeMogul is a place where young entrepreneurs can find those needed resources from people who have been where they are.  Enabling young entrepreneurs to make our world a better place can be as simple as providing them a place to connect, which is exactly what we’re trying to create.

Keep an eye on CollegeMogul in the near future – there are big and good things coming.



Bye, Bye, Buzz

As you have probably heard by now, Google’s latest product is an entrant into the social media arena: Buzz.

I have to admit, Buzz came in a little under my radar.  Usually, I’m pretty good at these sorts of things, tracking rumors, discussing potential functionality and impacts, and having a pretty good idea of how something might work before it’s released.  Buzz came on totally out of nowhere.

One day I heard a rumor about a new entrant into the social networking fray from Google, the next day there’s a Buzz link in my inbox.  Where’d that come from?  Had Google adopted Apple-like security tactics?

And now – one week later – I’ve removed Buzz from my life and will not go back unless major changes take place.  Let me give you a little run-down about why Buzz bugged me out.

  1. Auto-share. The reason I blog and tweet, as opposed to joining Facebook, is that I prefer to do social media on my own terms.  This means sharing only what I write, and sharing it only when I want to share it.  With Buzz’s auto-share functionality, I’m already following about 30 people (only 10 of which would I want to), and they’re automatically following me.  I’m all for building a reader-base, but not like this.  Give me a choice, Google, don’t just throw me into something out of the blue.
  2. Lack of integration with Twitter.  Before you shout me down with the fact that Buzz does, in fact, integrate with Twitter, my problem is that it’s a one-way street.  Buzz pulled my own tweets into Buzz, and that was it.  That’s not what I want.  In fact, that’s about the last thing that I want.  I know what I wrote.  I wrote it!  If Buzz could pull in my entire Twitter timeline, including @ messages, and let me respond from within my GMail inbox, then we’d be talking.   Until then, however, no go.
  3. Inbox confusion.  Touted as a “feature” (as so many of these things often are) new Buzzes and comments would appear in my inbox like new emails.  I live and die by my inbox, and don’t appreciate things popping in there that are not emails.  I know Buzz is there, and will click on it when I feel like it.  Don’t trick me into clicking over because it looks like an email.  Be patient!
  4. Google Reader Overlap. Buzz also tried to integrate with Google Reader (another service I use frequently and am quite familiar with – even like!).  The problem was that Buzz did a poor job of knowing what was read and what wasn’t, and I would end up seeing articles in my Buzz that I’d already read in Reader, and vice-versa.  I don’t have time to read things twice, Google, so get it straight.

Finally, after enough fiddling, I realized that settings could not overcome Buzz’s shortfalls, and decided to remove myself from Buzz’s vice.  If you’d like to, you can use the same instructions I did at this link.  It seems to have worked well for me, and unless Buzz can live on like some sort of undead social-networking zombie nightmare, I don’t think I’ll be going back.

Better luck next time, Google.  But don’t worry, I’ll still stick with Gmail and Reader.  Just the Buzz-free versions.

On Novelty

A few days ago I wrote about why I won’t be buying the iPad.  Since then, many people have speculated on what role the iPad will really end up filling, and how it might best find success.

Some of these ideas include targeting non-traditional computing markets – kids, older folks, etc.  Other ideas include incorporating the iPad’s functionality with the existing iPhone infrastructure in novel ways, such as a board game.  Imagine if the iPad was the Scrabble board, and you held your tiles on your iPhone, and were able to interact with both devices and your fellow players at the same time.  That might be a novel application that would drive some serious iPad sales – and I may be forced to eat my words.

Other items have hit the market with great skepticism or early misconceptions about usefulness or applications, only to find massive success at a later date.  Take, for example, pizza.  If my introduction to pizza was the below video, I’m not sure I would be to keen on eating a “biscuit base” topped with “nippy cheese.”  Yet, can you imagine America today without pizza?

Other items have debuted to similar circumstances.  Take the original iPod, for example.  After it’s debut, industry experts were critical:

Apple may take some heat for entering the consumer electronics market.

I question the company’s ability to sell into a tight consumer market right now at the iPod’s current price.

Other apple technologies have had a rocky roll-out, too.  One article said that

“the iPhone has the potential for a high disappointment level because of the high expectations,” and “the initial market looks to be quite limited.”

How did it turn out?  To date, Apple has sold over 42 million devices.  That’s a smashing success, and the skeptics are left looking foolish.

I don’t know how the iPad will turn out, but my only hope is that I don’t end up looking like some of the other early critics.  I still won’t be buying one, but that doesn’t mean that 41,999,999 others won’t.

Cyber SOTU Redux

Wednesday has come and gone, and we have now all had a chance to hear President Obama’s remarks in the 2010 State of the Union Address.  Before the address, I was hopeful that we might hear something – anything – relating to the situation we face in the cyber realm.  With all of the pressing political issues, we heard lots about jobs, lots about healthcare, and lots about the need for reform and new directions.  We heard a lot, in general – this was Obama’s longest address to date.

One thing we didn’t hear about was cyber.

Sure – there were mentions of National Security, including the fact that the National Security budget wouldn’t be frozen as part of President Obama’s debt-reduction plan, but nothing having to do with our online capabilities, critical infrastructure needs, or cyber defense of any shape or sort.  The closest comment to this issue was Obama’s discussion of the fact that there

are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, they’ve been taking place for over 200 years.  They’re the very essence of our democracy.

Unfortunately, comments like this do not make me hopeful that the cyber issue will be addressed appropriately (both in time and in scope).  If we have difficulties wrangling solutions concerning things that nearly every American is familiar with (jobs and healthcare), it is hard to be hopeful for quality policy regarding issues that very few truly understand.

As I mentioned before, Cyber Coordinator Howard Schmidt has been given the challenge of leading this charge.  Today, a piece appeared in NextGov, a site about technology and government.  The article seems to be a fluff piece aimed at quelling the issue that some have about Schmidt’s lack of authority and inability to control a budget in order to engender change.  Does it quell these fears?  Hardly.

The piece, “New cybersecurity coordinator says he has Obama’s ear,” comes out of the National Journal‘s CongressDaily.  The bulk of the short article is spent attempting to give the impression that Schmidt has enough authority to achieve meaningful change:

Schmidt said he doesn’t believe he has to have control over a budget to make change.  “If the president, the national security adviser, the national economic adviser says, ‘Hey, we need these things,’ things will happen,” he said.

I would read this as Schmidt needs to convince the President, the National Security Adviser, and the National Economic Adviser that something is needed before he can move forward on a large scale project.  For the smaller stuff, Schmidt says that he will be working with

Vivek Kundra, the federal chief information officer who works in OMB and will have input into budgetary decisions.

Unfortunately, this budgetary-based approach to security will render only those solutions which are least expensive, not those that are most effective.  Especially without a budget of his own to control, Schmidt faces the monumental task of convincing others that the projects are worth funding with their own money – money that now cannot be spent on projects of their own.

While cybersecurity is certainly an issue that affects us all, when the basis for decisions is dollars, you’re going to get whatever is cheapest.  And that’s generally not good in any arena, much less with technology.

One positive element of the article and Schmidt’s comments is his idea that we must

stop looking to end-users to be the “policemen of the desktops.”

I couldn’t agree more.  We currently force those with the least security knowledge to navigate the bulk of the security problems.  This is an untenable situation, and likely one of the main reasons that we are so vulnerable to cyber attacks.  While Schmidt and I agree on what must be done, it seems that we differ substantially on how.  Schmidt will look to the private sector

to ensure security is a key part of products and that vulnerabilities are fixed.

I would offer that this market-driven solution will yield results approximately as effective as Schmidt’s OMB/National Security Council/National Economic Council budget meetings do – not very.

Instead, we need to invest in some very serious policy changes in which security responsibilities are directly addressed.  We must determine, as a democracy and as a society, how we wish to divvy up cyber control between industry, military, intelligence, and the general public.  Schmidt notes that

several cybersecurity bills have been introduced. But he did not say whether he supported any particular measures.

In the future, we can only hope that Schmidt would seize on leadership opportunities like this – a chance to publicly support some of the pending legislation, or to suggest changes that would make us all more secure.

In the words of President Obama,

Let’s reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values.  Let’s leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future — for America and for the world.

Why I Won’t Be Buying the iPad

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about Apple’s latest release: the iPad.  I watched this announcement with a lot of anticipation, hoping to see a revolutionary device that would really, truly change the way that we interact with our digital content.

What did I see instead?  An iPod touch with a bigger screen.  And nothing more.  Mr. Jobs, I will definitely not be buying this new device.

Ryan Anson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In his keynote address, Jobs said that

The iPad “is so much more intimate than a laptop, and it’s so much more capable than a smartphone with its gorgeous screen,” Mr. Jobs crowed. “It’s phenomenal to hold the Internet in your hands.”

And yet, you must be able to find an open WiFi connection to get to this Internet.  It’s true, I’ll admit, that a 3G iPad is coming (at some later date), but this 3G iPad is $130 more expensive than a non-3G version, and must be used on a GSM network (i.e. not Verizon or Sprint, who arguably have better data networks).  Plus, the data accessed in this method must be paid for separately.  Not good, Steve.

Jobs also went on to say that the iPad is much better than netbook computers.

Mr. Jobs also dismissed netbook computers, another scaled-down device that seeks to fill a limited role. “Netbooks aren’t better at anything,” he said.

I respectfully disagree.  Netbooks are a great compromise for people who must use their mobile device to both consume content and create content.  At the same time as the iPad was released, a new version of iWork (Apple’s Office competitor) that is optimized for the iPad.  It was demonstrated at the event, but even Steve admitted that if you really have to do some work, you’ll want the external keyboard (an option, but at some considerable expense).

It should be said, for the sake of disclosure, that this very post was written on a Netbook – which is more than up to the task of authoring a blog post.

He also touted the ability to run all of the iPhone apps from the App Store.  This is great – because there are lots of great, well-done, and worth-the-money apps in there.  But, here’s a secret – your iPod touch can run all of those apps, too, and for only $199.

Here’s the single biggest downfall for the iPad: inability to make phone calls.  This is absolutely crucial!  Most people I know no longer maintain a landline, instead relying on their cell for all of their phone needs (myself included).  If I have to carry another device in addition to the iPad to make a phone call, you can bet that I’ll be looking to fill all my needs with one device (and not the iPad!).  In fact, I already did.

What Steve Jobs is missing is that people rely on their mobile devices to get them through their time away from a more powerful, generally desktop or large laptop, computer.  Very few people rely solely on their mobile device for everything – this would be nearly impossible.  What people really want out of their mobile devices is the ability to make and receive phone calls, receive emails (and send short responses, if needed), and generally keep up with their world (Facebook, Twitter, News, Sports, and a few games and/or distractions).  That’s it.  This is why the iPhone and Blackberry have been so successful – they fill this need exactly.

And, this is why the iPad will not succeed nearly as much as Mr. Jobs would hope.  Add in the fact that Apple is resistant to Google’s Google Voice service (which would allow calls to be made from a device lacking a cellular connection), and you have a recipe for disaster.

It will be incredibly interesting to see how many of these new iPads get sold, especially the expensive, 3G versions.  I know that Apple won’t be getting my $499, especially when I can get this netbook and a new phone for the same price.