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February 23, 2005
I'm Giving Up Blogging!
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

Actually, I'm going to be moving ... my blog that is. After some discussions with both my wife and my blogfather (Paul Brown), blogging appears like it is going to stay with me. I've been getting more interest in blog projects, blog writing, blog marketing, blog networking, blog small talk ... as much as I've been bucking moving, I need to just do it. My current service with Tripod does not support some of the front-end authoring productivity tools that I need. Additionally, although most of my readers are non-bloggers and non-technical, things like lack of support for trackback and some other technical things are not ideal for me. Time to bite the bullet. This move may also give me an opportunity to start fresh and get rid of some bad habits I have like maintaining multiple RSS feeds, writing some stuff in HMTL but having some stuff in other formats, etc.

Here the new destination ... http://www.steveshu.typepad.com. Hope to see you on the other side! We'll be covering Suzanne's series of posts there as well.

Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 3:03 PM CST
Updated: February 23, 2005 3:55 PM CST
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Upcoming Series of Posts on Marketing, Consumer Choice, Unlimited Choice, Precommittment, and Control
Topic: 5) Marketing (Coming!)

My professorial wife, Suzanne Shu, is doing some very interesting research in the marketing department of the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. Recently, she was invited to give a talk on special consumer choice topics to the PR firm, The Richards Group. The Richards Group represents a number of well-known clients such as AIM Investments, Comcast, Corona Beer, Fruit of the Loom, The Home Depot, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Nortel, and Sub-Zero Freezer Company.

In any case, we are planning to cover some of the same topics presented to The Richards Group in a series of posts over the coming weeks. Thanks for tuning in!

Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 10:26 AM CST
Updated: February 23, 2005 10:51 AM CST
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February 18, 2005
Dallas - Business Forecast Luncheon 2005 (The University of Chicago)
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

Today the University of Chicago held its Business Forecast 2005 at the Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas. Excellent talks. Prognosticators were:

Robert Z. Aliber Professor of International Economics and Finance Emeritus, Chicago GSB. Director, Center for Studies in International Finance. Formerly Senior Economic Advisor, Agency for Economic Development, U.S. Department of State.

and

Harvey Rosenblum Senior Vice President and Director of Research of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Economic Policy Advisor to the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Associate Economist for the Federal Open Market Committee.

My key notes from Harvey Rosenblum's talk (my key takeaways: be thankful, be wary):

  • Shocks that happened since the late 90s - surprised they haven't sent us into a deep depression
  • Y2K overspending and then drop in spending
  • Loss of wealth due to stock market crash
  • 2001 World Trade Center
  • 2001 Corporate scandals (Enron, MCI, etc.) drove up cost of capital
  • Sarbanes-Oxley caused unintended consequences where all public companies now have to bear significant costs of implementing S-O compliance, etc. where only 2% of public companies may have problems
  • Iraq war
  • It is surprising we (United States) are not in a depression
  • Credits attributed to good monetary policy and fiscal policy
  • Additionally deregulation has provided the US markets with flexibility to weather these shocks
  • Growth 3-4%, inflation low, unemployment dropping
  • President Bush, while Time's Man of the Year, didn't get enough credit for just in time fiscal policy
  • Long bond rate "conundrum" exists, but the economy appears to be in a zone of price stability
  • Interest yield curves are flat, but history shows that if these tip then 1 year after that there will be a recession
  • Need to watch yield curve. Some concern if Fed follows historical raise rate policies there will be problems.

My key notes from Robert Aliber's talk (my key takeaways: international policy is biggest issue, trade deficit bigger concern than budget deficit, international shocks translate into the United States importing issues as the trade deficit):

  • $600 billion hole is trade deficit
  • 25 year slide of US dollar against Yen & Swiss (which basically means Europe)
  • Thus, we have sharp slide of dollar yet the trade deficit is increasing?? (rarely happens)
  • Perspective on why this is happening. When financial crisis occurs in other countries, it shows up as an import to our trade deficit (i.e., our deficit grows)
  • China's investment boom slowing because of evergreen finance (essentially loans being made, accruing interest, but funny money since no one is paying interest)
  • Going to be a problem in the future.
  • Turning back to international trade as a whole (not specific to China), the asset price bubble may burst if US puts in import controls.
  • Housing market may have some issues. Did we see the Las Vegas numbers?

One question I had in my mind after this talk was that I understood venture capitalists in the States to be eager to do deals in China. That said, given what I heard today, I would be wary of the propsect of things going south for investments in China in a timeframe that would be shorter than the investment horizon of a VC.

Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 4:06 PM CST
Updated: February 18, 2005 5:02 PM CST
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February 15, 2005
Recently Attended Author Talk On The Human Fabric (Covering Team Building)
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

I recently attended a talk by author, Bijoy Goswami. Bijoy covered team building as based on his book "The Human Fabric". I have to admit that I'm generally skeptical of the practicality of these kinds of talks, especially in cases where modern artwork is posted. Boy was I *wrong* (about both the content and the artwork - the artwork really drove some points home for me - sorry blog readers, no visual reference). All of it turns out to be great stuff. Bijoy's frameworks are useful and can be applied much like Myers-Briggs stuff can be applied (as opposed to being only descriptive).

Although I'm going to botch some of Bijoy's specific nomenclature, Bijoy's talk centered around building teams, and he talked about how successful teams need to build around three archetypes of people: the Maven, Evangelist, and Relater.

As I come from spending a good amount of time in the software world, people that are Maven-types are basically "Tools". Mavens are geniuses when it comes to technology and love architecturally cool stuff like gmail. They tend not to be good marketers.

Evangelists are thought of as people that come across as flashy, and they know exactly how to pitch a product with the one, two, and three top business points why one should buy.

Lastly, there are the Relater-types that are emphathetic and maintain relationships. They put people at ease and seek first to understand before seeking to be understood. They hate gmail, but they love Outlook because it helps the Relater stay connected with people.

In any case, Bijoy's claim is that teams (whether the team consists of two people) need to cover all bases.

As I think about my own archetype (a Relater-Evangelist), I realize that one of my past business relationships had been successful because my counterpart is an Evangelist-Maven. In one of my past client projects, I realize I plugged a key gap because of my Relater background. Now that I'm helping a friend recruit a key person for his company, aside from covering the nuts and bolts during the interview process, I'm thinking about how the new hire will round out the executive team.

Anyway, please check out Bijoy's book. I'm a believer now, and may end up buying the book for some of my clients.

Update (2/17/05): Bijoy has let me know offline that readers can take a look at the art and his website at http://www.thehumanfabric.com . Thanks, Bijoy!


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 10:00 PM CST
Updated: February 17, 2005 9:19 AM CST
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February 9, 2005
More Measurements Says Dr. Brad Feld
Topic: 3) Ventures

Brad Feld, venture capitalist at Mobius Venture Capital and perhaps well-known locally here in Dallas because of the EDS acquisition of the The Feld Group, has a great perspective on measurements. I'm blue in the face from my recent, numerous discussions on the subject. My immediately prior two posts (here and here) are very closely related to the same core subject on reporting and measurements.

A couple of key things in Brad's post that I resonate with are focusing on synthesis, reacting, and not getting lost in the numbers. Sometimes I get nauseous when I recommend to clients that there be more measurements as part of core business foundation, yet I can see that their faces read, "you want me to provide more numbers????".


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 2:18 PM CST
Updated: February 9, 2005 2:32 PM CST
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February 8, 2005
The Relationship Between Change Management Consulting and Valentine's Day
Topic: 2) The Consulting Trade

If you've made a New Year's resolution but have not read this blog entry yet, there may still be hope. Most people have probably broken their New Year's resolutions by Valentine's Day. How can you prevent this from happening to you?

Digging up a study from the University of Washington, there are some key suggestions for succeeding with one's resolutions:

- Have a strong initial commitment to make a change.
- Have coping strategies to deal with problems that will come up.
- Keep track of your progress. The more monitoring you do and feedback you get, the better you will do.

As it turns out, these are the same types of principles that apply to change management consulting projects in the business world. Although style of change management tactics in organizations also plays a role (e.g., leading people to a goal versus spreading gasoline around a organization and coercing people by insinuating that a fire is going to happen), many change management initiatives fail to work out because:

- organizations get distracted,
- do not use project management methods to manage processes (e.g., date, milestone, & issue tracking),
- or ignore the importance of using a microscope on activities early on in the process of change.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 9:58 AM CST
Updated: February 8, 2005 2:34 PM CST
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February 3, 2005
Implementing Metrics Is Connected But Separate from Choosing Management Style, Company Culture, and Incentives
Topic: 2) The Consulting Trade

More often than not in traditional management consulting engagements involving operations, there is usually room for setting up or revising goals, metrics & reporting, and service level agreements. Depending on the phase of development of a company (often couched as Stage 0 [Ad-Hoc], Stage 1 [Functional], Stage 2 [Intrabusiness Cross-Functional], etc. maturity levels by a consulting firm), the next higher-level of metrics and reporting may apply and be a goal for the client organization to strive for.

Where management has to be somewhat careful about applying metrics, however, is how people and company culture play a role in getting everything to work together right.

To put a finer point on things, one can put in place a perfectly appropriate set of metrics and reporting systems for a company yet miss the boat completely on a management-level as to how the results should be applied because of the culture.

As an example in sales operations, I have frequently seen a competitive environment laid out. People's individual performance levels are exposed, and poor performing people are weeded out. This environment can work out in some cases. On the other hand, in a collaborative engineering or product development environment, cooperation may be encouraged.

On a related topic, a friend of my wife and I, Dr. Uri Gneezy at the University of Chicago, has some great research on the relationship between competition and gender. From the research summary:

Gneezy suggests that CEOs creating incentives in their firms should be aware that making the internal environment more competitive might create a bias that helps men, while putting women at a relative disadvantage.

My take on applying this type of research would be to recognize and raise one's sense of awareness to the environment one is implementing metrics in. Although metrics may be encouraged to be tracked to an individual-level doesn't automatically equate to that the environment has to be a competitive one. Choosing a collaborative versus dictatorial management style that is compatible with the desired company culture is a separate choice from metric implementation.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: February 3, 2005 12:27 AM CST
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February 1, 2005
The Power of Microsoft Moves Markets and Economies
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
Back in November 2004, I referenced the historic Microsoft dividend payout in the context of what one could buy with money. I often perform these numeric exercises or reference work by others because it can sometimes be hard for people to comprehend how big numbers are. The influence of Microsoft is simply huge. I referenced how their recent moves affected the stock markets in the antivirus space. Now as Suzanne has pointed out to me, it appears the dividend payout has positively influenced the government's measure of consumer spending. Simply wow.

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 9:41 AM CST
Updated: February 1, 2005 9:45 AM CST
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January 31, 2005
Two Stage Venture Financing Model Emerging?
Topic: 3) Ventures
In a prior blog entry, I listed some of my favorite CEO and VC posts. Tim Oren has a follow-up post that builds on one of his prior posts that I cited. Tim's new post addresses "Two Stage Ventures". This post is interesting because it looks at the entrepreneurial financing path from the other direction, and it breaks the mold of what I would call "traditional" (and perhaps passe) venture financing. I also find this post interesting because it is something that I have sensed emerging over the past few years (e.g., by articles or blog entries connected to Accel Partners, Matrix, Dawntreader Ventures), but it is the first time I have seen something explicitly written down without talking around the subject.

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 10:43 AM CST
Updated: January 31, 2005 10:47 AM CST
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eBay Advertiser Sold Out Too Cheap
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
Now I'm no expert when it comes to pricing real estate in terms of advertising dollars (although I could probably put my quant-head genes to work), but methinks this guy sold out too cheap. Efficient market theory, auction theory, winner's curse, ... ba humbug ... set a higher reserve price, man!

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 10:01 AM CST
Updated: January 31, 2005 10:05 AM CST
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January 25, 2005
Gates Foundation Pledges Ton of Money for Infant Vaccination
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
This is heartwarming stuff. I am very touched that Bill Gates (via The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) is spending much more money on vaccinating the world's young ones as opposed to vaccinating computers. The numbers are sometimes hard to grasp when talking about numbers this large, but if you can imagine cities and cities of people all being all infants, this money enables vaccination of that many kids. The population of the entire United States is 290 millionish.

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 9:01 AM CST
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January 24, 2005
Finding One's Groove As A CIO
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

This post has been cross-posted at The CIO Weblog.

buildingclouds.JPG
One of the well-respected consulting firms in Chicago (my prior hometown), Blackwell Consulting, has published a good article on CIO.com covering "The Top Things Every CIO Should Know". While that may be an appropriate title for the article, I thought the article actually captured a framework for finding one's groove as a CIO as opposed to being a list of 10 things that a CIO should know. Although it's not talked about that much, different styles of CIOs thrive in different jobs. To highlight a portion of the article that jumped out at me (because it focuses on what type of valuation mindset one has with a CIO),

"It's important to identify the primary goal of the company's IT efforts. IT may be viewed as a means of cutting costs by increasing efficiency, or as a way to get new things done, or as an opportunity to gain an edge that can't be replicated by the competition. The trend is toward cutting costs.

I would caution CIOs about going into an environment where it's all about increasing efficiency for two reasons. First, there are only so many costs you can take out, and then you've got to do something beyond that. Second, it's just not as rewarding as working in an environment where IT is valued for its strategic value in moving the company ahead. Ultimately, cutting costs is part of the job, but any worthy CIO should excel in both operational and strategic areas."


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 24, 2005 6:02 PM CST
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January 19, 2005
How Efficiently You Can Reach The Network May Be More Important Than How Good Your Network Is
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

Interesting information from The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki. The book recounts some stats from the TV show, "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire".

For those unfamiliar with this groundbreaking multiple-choice Q&A contest show, participants were given "lifelines" that they could rely for assistance when they did not know an answer to a question. For one of the lifelines, the show participant was able to call up any trusted person that they could think of. The other lifeline enabled participants to poll the audience in the studio, where the masses would respond to the multiple choice question via keypad, the results would be displayed via histogram. The histogram, in effect, showed whether the majority of the crowd believed the correct answer was A, B, C, or D.

Turns out that for response accuracy, 65% of the time "phone a friend" resulted in the right answer vs. 91% of the time "ask the audience" resulted in the right answer. Although the results may be be subject to some selection bias where show participants tended to ask easier questions when polling the audience, it is a very interesting finding for those that leverage networks in personal and business contexts.

How often in the real-world have you gone to friends and business contacts to try to get answers? Now there appears to be a case for reaching a larger audience if you want to get more accurate information. Good research finding for those exploring wiki, open source, blogging, and information market technologies methinks.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 19, 2005 12:06 AM CST
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January 17, 2005
You Can Still Get A Coke With Loose Talk, But You Need To Be Careful In The Management Consulting Business
Topic: 2) The Consulting Trade

Brian had the following post which covers the geographical differences of the use of the terms "Soda", "Coke", and "Pop". Thought it was a pretty striking graphical map of a social norm that I've never been able to put a finger on. In any case, it triggered me to write down a couple of brief thoughts about the importance of nomenclature, and more generally, clear communication in the field of management consulting.

On the one hand, in the early phases of a consulting engagement, there is usually a steep ramp-up curve to gain a common understanding of where detailed operations are at (even in cases where the consultant has experience directly in the client's vertical industry). I have sometimes referred to the ramp-up period as "drinking from the firehose." During this period, both the client and consultant use terms that may not be fully understood by one another. Regular dialogue and monitoring are needed to make sure things are on track.

Such early problems usually work themselves out. However, for all parties to ensure that the consultant is adding the highest amount value, it becomes more and more important as the engagement moves forward to get beyond nomenclature and to understand the vision of what needs to be achieved. As an example, when a client says, "No problem at all. I have that operational data," there is a difference between "having that data" and "having that data and proactively using the data to manage the business". Proactive management requires organizing data regularly, synthesizing new information from the data, developing hypotheses, setting goals, proactively applying controls on a day-to-day business based on the information (as opposed to treating data like exhuast eminated from an automobile), and making data and results transparent to all."


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 18, 2005 10:05 AM CST
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January 14, 2005
Non-Tech Phishing
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

Paul Brown has a very well-written (but sobering) post on the symmetric identity problem. Also demonstrates how phishing can be done without ever touching a computer.

I'll also support Paul and vouch for his wife - she is smart.


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 8:21 PM CST
Updated: January 15, 2005 4:38 PM CST
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January 13, 2005
Interesting Article On Outsourcing From The Perspective Of Current Employees
Topic: 1) General Management

This post has been cross-posted at The CIO Weblog.

This InfoWorld article portrays a positive outlook for companies that consider outsourcing with respect to employees who have their current jobs outsourced elsewhere. Survey results indicate that while an overwhelming majority of employees are anxious about their futures prior to an outsourcing event that post-outsourcing a majority of employees are more satisfied with positions after the transition. From the article:

The poll, conducted in Europe and commissioned by IT services company LogicaCMG, examined the opinions of 200 employees in large organizations before, during, and after their positions were outsourced. While a majority of those surveyed, 84 percent, felt apprehensive at the prospect of having their positions outsourced, around 70 percent said that they were more satisfied with the new roles they were given following the transition.

One important thing to note, however, is that employment and labor laws differ between the United States and Europe in that European laws are more employee-friendly in the outsourcing area. The article goes on to point out:

Outsourcing is often confused with offshoring, Dunn said, which involves moving jobs to lower-cost markets such as India, while outsourcing involves a company's decision to move a particular operation or function out-of-house. When companies outsource, European regulations stipulate that affected employees retain the same conditions they had in their previous positions ...

Does this nullify the relevance of the study to US employees? Perhaps. However, I do find that articles like this one highlight the importance of showing everyone the light at the end of the tunnel when working an organization through change.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 11:03 PM CST
Updated: January 13, 2005 11:10 PM CST
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January 12, 2005
Perhaps Not The Best Choice Of Domain Name
Topic: 4) A Random Walk
Perhaps marketing genius. Perhaps an oversight. You be the judge. (safe to click through today [until someone decides to trade it away ...]) http://www.penisland.net

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 13, 2005 11:39 PM CST
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January 11, 2005
Quick Thoughts On New Business Initiatives and On-The-Fly Information Technology
Topic: 1) General Management

Over at The CIO Weblog, I pointed out a review by InfoWorld of four hosted, customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. Now in many cases information technology (IT) initiatives are thought of as corporate-wide programs, and thus, solutions like these are not in the perview of those within a division of a company launching either a new product, new services offering, or backoffice services operation. It is often presumed that if a new business initiative is successful that the processes of the new program will utilize the legacy platform as its core. In many cases, this will be true and one will not want to introduce another system (because of side effects like having multiple processes in place or having exception processing).


Consider, however, that pilots and new business initiatives can move at breathtaking paces and that hosted applications and application service provider (ASP) software can be introduced sometimes instantly or within a few days. Some can also be reconfigured on the fly when flows need to be optimized. Then consider a perspective that people and processes need to be serviced first (even if it means reverting to paper and pencil or Excel spreadsheets and throwing out the IT to get the job done). Then consider whether hosted software might be a good way to get your pilot done. With the monthly subscription plans of many providers, there is often little financial risk.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 11, 2005 7:30 AM CST
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January 7, 2005
Good Article on Venture Capital Blogging ... And Random Thoughts on Business Blogging
Topic: 4) A Random Walk

By way of Jeff Nolan ... one of the best profile articles I have seen on the Net on the small, but distinguished population of venture capital bloggers. Covered in the Venture Capital Journal.

To digress a bit, as a freelance management consultant (and not a VC), I resonate with some things here with respect to business blogging (as opposed to personal blogging): 1) blogging helps me to keep track of non-confidential information that I want to keep track of in a richer format that is better than bookmarks, spiral notebooks, etc., and 2) blogging forces me to actively process information and thus serve a goal of continuous learning. The publishing aspect of blogging is good too in that it is an efficient means to deliver and synthesize information in new ways. Good for low-level, bootstrap marketing (or at least branding if you take a stricter definition that marketing is about lead generation).

Some of my original goals for blogging were to learn more about the format, its use as an informal communication channel, impacts on search engine cataloging, and use as an online networking tool. For the most part these goals have been satisfied.

Unlike some of the VCs in the article, I have not yet experienced any impact on deal flow from maintaining a blog. My product offering is different though, and my audience is different too.

In any case, this circles back to my addition of blogging more about technology in 2005. It serves a goal of continuous learning. It makes no presumptions that efforts will lead to deal flow. Based on reader feedback, however, thoughtful and professional blogging does help me to preserve the brand of my reputation. Reputation and integrity are most important to me.


Steve Shu
Managing Director
S4 Management Group
Email: sshu@s4management.com
Web: http://www.s4management.com


Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 12:01 AM CST
Updated: January 7, 2005 10:02 AM CST
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January 6, 2005
Search Engine and Advertising for Music Brought to A New Level
Topic: 6) Technology
This was brought to my attention via the blog "A VC". Although words can describe it somewhat, you've got to try it. You can basically search by band, musician, or album and pull up a visual map of music that sounds similar and/or may match your tastes. Includes links to Amazon.com for purchasing. Given music is one of the huge topics on mainstream, personal blogs, I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing this kind of music search engine and advertising technology applied to contextual marketing and widgets on the Internet.

Posted by sshu-s4 (c) S4 Management Group LLC at 1:30 PM CST
Updated: January 6, 2005 3:04 PM CST
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