I’m not a huge fan of electric cars, but you have to check this out:


Biodiesel Ethanol

Biofuel update

Interesting article on Brazil’s rapid reduction of oil dependence thanks to ethanol: New York Times

Great and thorough presentation on ethanol by Vinod Khosla (found on Infectious Greed):

A couple of things I’m curious about and haven’t been able to find the answers for:

  • How do ethanol and biodiesel stack up against each other (Khosla briefly touches on this saying that over time ethanol will be more land use efficient)?
  • Can existing gasoline cars be retrofitted to become flex fuel and work with Ethanol?

Automattic funding

We've been working towards raising a seed round of capital at Automattic and recently completed the final piece of it. Matt explains the thinking behind it here (and promptly celebrated the occasion with a new haircut). VCMike, one of our board members and investors, shares his thoughts here. And here's some background info:

Who are your investors?
Polaris Ventures (Mike Hirshland), Blacksmith Capital (Phil Black, now at True Ventures), Radar Partners (Doug Mackenzie), and CNET/Shelby Bonnie.

Why did you raise VC money?
Because we want to invest money into a rock solid infrastructure for and we want to have a buffer of money in the bank to be able to make long term decisions without having to worry about cutting it too close every month.

How did you go about it?
We looked at our revenues (we currently make money from Akismet, services and web hosting partnerships) to decide how much extra we needed to achieve the above goals. Then we went about finding investors who believe in blogging and open source and in our ability to create a great business. Thanks to our existing revenues we did not need a whole lot of investment dollars, which allowed us to raise money in a measured and incremental fashion that won't disrupt our business or raise the stakes to be sky-high. (BTW, most of this took place late last year before I joined Automattic).

Now that you have some cash in the bank will you be hiring lots of people?
Nope. We intend to stay frugal and grow the company organically as revenues grow.

Will this change anything for the open source community?
Only indirectly. Automattic does not own (it's owned by Matt who is creating a non-profit WordPress Foundation to ensure that WordPress will always remain open source). However, Automattic is a major contributor to WordPress with all of our developers working to constantly improve and support the software. Because this financing gives Automattic the financial stability to be around for a long time, we will be able to continue to contribute to the WordPress community for a long time.


Startup talk

If you'd like to hear what it's like to start companies like Oddpost and Automattic, drop by this Startup SIG event on April 17 in Palo Alto. I'll be giving an informal talk about startups and I've asked Iain from Oddpost and Matt from Automattic to join me to share their experiences.


Windows audio

Years ago I used to work on audio for PCs and video games. This post brought back a lot of memories (written by a hugely talented audio software engineer I used to work with). Check it out if you want to find out why the audio on your PC is so out of control complicated.


Citroen SM

Apropos nothing, I would like to show you this fabulous Citroen from the category of “I’d love to have one if it wasn’t completely impractical”:

Fun facts:
– Maserati engine
– Self-leveling hydraulic suspension
– Self-centering, speed dependent steering
– Headlights connected to hydraulic suspension (to dampen bumps)

About 13,000 Citroen SMs were made between 1970-75. They are notoriously difficult to restore and maintain (hmm, let’s see a hydraulic suspension plus a Maserati engine = maybe some trouble?) but oh so beautiful and apparently very smooth and powerful to drive.


Thinkpad X41 thoughts

I’ve been trying a Thinkpad X41 for a couple of weeks. I have to say this is one groovy tablet PC. It has a few shortcomings (battery life and extra bulk) but overall I’m tempted to get one. It’s just the right size with a 12″ screen and about 11″ square sized body. It works perfectly fine as a regular laptop and the tablet mode is more or less icing on the cake. To use it as a tablet you slide out the digitizer pen, flip the screen around and fold it down over the keyboard. The display automatically rotates from horizontal to vertical mode and the tablet is ready. Other than being generally fun to hold and play with, tablet mode works very nicely for things like web browsing and RSS feed reading. It doesn’t work that well for text input (because the handwriting recognition is slow and annoying), so the tablet mode is definitely not a laptop substitute.

As an interesting aside, my young kids were totally into the tablet. They had a great time using it to draw pictures and took to it without any help:


The only downside of the X41 is the pretty short battery life (a couple of hours). With the extended battery it gets about 4 hours which is OK (still a little short) but it also makes the whole machine a little heavy and bulky for my taste. Oh, and the other annoying part is a bootup time of several minutes (from cold start). Other than that, it’s a really nifty device.



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My favorite personal moment at SXSW: Ted Rheingold from Dogster was introducing his panel on the topic of DIY web startups. He said something like “SXSW is a great place if you want to learn more about starting a web company. Just look around you. Lots of people here have done it. And chances are, the person sitting to your right has probably sold a startup to Yahoo”. So this random guy on my left turns to me and asks jokingly “so did you sell a company to Yahoo” and I said “um, yeah, I actually did” – his double take was priceless.

Later I was on Lane Becker’s panel about startup cultures, talking about what is different (or the same) about today’s emerging startups. Everyone on our panel remarked on a new and refreshing “culture of help” (to quote Tony Conrad) among current startups. Companies are thriving and new entrepreneurs are emerging because many people are willing to help each other by sharing information, releasing code as open source, and making their products open and interoperable. This is in pretty stark contrast to the startups of the late 90s who closely guarded their information via NDAs and patents, obsessed about first mover advantages and gave away BMW convertibles to recruit people away from each other.


YDN news

Important news from the Yahoo Developer Network (which I used to work on when I was at Yahoo) about a new rev of the Shopping API, and more crucially news of upcoming Photos, Calendar and MyWeb APIs. Why is this important? Because it’s the first batch of Yahoo APIs that open up personal user data. Third party developers will be able to use an authentication API to build apps based on huge data sets like the photo albums and calendars of millions of Yahoo users!



My first few weeks at Automattic have been a whirlwind. It’s very fun to be back at a startup. Aside from some operational tasks (payroll, trademark applications, health insurance, yay) I’ve been talking to lots of customers and potential partners to figure out what business opportunities are available to us. Some of those partners are in New York – I had never seen Manhattan in the snow:


Here’s one looking down from the Business Week offices:

What has struck me in talking to people is just how widely used WordPress really is. I had seen the numbers before – for example that WordPress has been downloaded over 1.4MM times, or that over 1,000 new people sign up for a blog on every day – but it’s something else to talk to person after person and company after company and they’re all either happily using your product or want to use it in the future. I’ve put together this page to give you a small taste of some of what’s out there. We plan to roll out some commercial services in the coming weeks based on the feedback we’ve been collecting.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 impedance mismatch

Everyone but Wall Street seems to be excited about the “new web”:



I definitely got the biodiesel bug now. Since my post on the topic I’ve gotten a lot of encouraging feedback and I’m now researching ways to import diesel Land Rovers and Land Cruisers (I’m also planning on test driving one of these). It’s occured to me that one of the reasons I like these types of cars (shall we say rugged and semi-obscure) because I was imprinted early on. When I was a teenager, my dad got a Gurgel X-12 as a trade from someone who couldn’t pay a bill. It came from Brazil, where Gurgel was a pretty big car manufacturer from 1969 until they went out of business (in the late 80s?). Our X-12 was made of fiberglass, built on a VW bug chassis and painted a faded army green. My dad gave it to my sister to learn to drive in it, and it was handed down to me a few years later (I promptly repainted it and added a stereo on some new wheels – hey I was 17).

I know it looks a little weird, but boy was it fun. In a VW bug with a light, convertible body it feels like you’re going really fast, sliding through corners, and you look down and you’re doing just 40 mph! Here are some random Gurgel links.



Yesterday I found a fellow car nut in Braughm. We chatted and realized that we both like old Land Rovers. I told Braughm that I’d love to drive an old (pre 1994) Range Rover if it wasn’t such a gas hog. He came up with the perfect solution: find a diesel Range Rover and covert it to biodiesel!
He got the idea from a mid 80s diesel Land Cruiser (another car I like a lot) that’s parked outside his office:

It has a biodiesel sticker on it which sort of gives it away:

Turns out it belongs to a guy who has driven several cars on biodiesel and has lots of good info on his site.

If you happen to have an extra diesel Range Rover sitting around, please call me…


First day

I’ve now officially moved on from my job at Yahoo and today is my first day at Automattic!


Cochrane Talk

I heard a great talk this morning at the Etel conference. The very smart and entertaining speaker was Peter Cochrane. The presentation was about a number of future trends (VOIP, RFID, GPS, mapping, demise of telcos, convergence as a myth, and more), he used a combo of slides from presentations that are worth checking out here. A couple of examples that jumped out at me:

  • As a future product idea he talked about a cell phone with built in GPS, compass and accelerometer that you could flick towards a building and it displays info on that building for you (by detecting your position, direction and gesture and looking up the data for the spot that you are flicking towards)
  • He talked about the evolution from internet -> position nets -> sensor nets where smart machines can do things like move products across the globe with much higher efficiency because they know where everything is with relation to each other at any given time (which is the kind of complex logistics problem that computers are great at solving and humans aren’t)

A great day

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Sometimes things work out beautifully: a couple of feet of fresh powder at night, followed by clear blue skies in the morning, lots of skiing all day and Fondue in the evening 🙂