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Month: December 2010


Hey, Assange’s Celeb Supporters, What Time’s Your Protest Outside Quantico? Oh.



Ithink we can all agree that the one thing the world needs right now is another column about Julian Assange.

I’m sitting in a hotel bar about an hour north of London, and spread out on the table in front of me are all of today’s British newspapers – from the Mail on Sunday to the Observer. Every single one of them contains – within the first few pages – a news story or opinion about the antipodean face of Wikileaks.

Online, it’s a similar state of affairs. You can’t move your mouse pointer today without rolling over an Assange fanboy blogger, either propounding conspiracy theories on the real reason for his imprisonment, or demanding to know why Time cruelly overlooked their man for “Person of the Year”. (My theory: Time is wisely sticking to its policy of waiting for controversial people’s stories to play out a bit before putting them on the cover. The whole Hitler thing back in ‘38 rather bit them on the ass.)

With a few traditionally skeptical exceptions, the media mood – online and off – is one of satisfaction for a job well done. Assange is out; free to spend a cosy Christmas tucked up in agrand old English stately home, as opposed to – say – voluntarily returning to Sweden to face the allegations made against him.…

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Lessons from London – and a few UK Start-ups that aren’t Rubbish



So that was London for another year – my annual trip back to the old town to see what’s what, en route North to spend Christmas with the family.

Interested readers might recall (almost) a couple of weeks ago as I was leaving San Francisco, I reiteratedmy already year-old proposition that there are no interesting start-ups (which is to say companies less than 5+ years old) in the British capital. By “interesting”, I dunno, I think I meant companies that are making a splash on the world stage, or might one day bring in – say – ten million pounds plus in annual revenues (hell, even ten million dollars would be nice).

My reason for being so mean-spirited in my review of the UK start-up scene was two fold. First off, I was concerned that my reception in London would otherwise be too warm: punching every British entrepreneur on the nose before I’d even landed seemed like a good way to head off that possibility. But secondly, and more importantly, I wanted to be proved wrong. Brits love proving people wrong, and so I figured that by saying there were absolutely no good start-ups in London, scores of brilliant entrepreneurs would contact me to refute my claim.…

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TC Commenters – Though there’s pain in my chest, I still wish you the best with a FAQ



It’s been almost a year and a half since I started writing for TechCrunch, and a lot has changed since then. I’ve quit drinking, I’ve written anotherbookGreece and Ireland have both gone broke, the Chilean miners have become international heroes, and Julian Assange has been locked up. Oh, and TechCrunch has been sold to AOL.

And yet, plus Assange, plus c’est la meme chose. Long time readers might recall that in my first column I proposed a few basic guidelines for commenting on TechCrunch.

“Rule One: The next time one of you asks the rhetorical question “why is this news?” I swear to God I will come round to your basement, gather up all of your Wil Wheaton action figures and melt them down into a giant plastic phallus. If you’ve ever seen the Miriam Karlin scene in A Clockwork Orange, you know what happens next. Save us both a trip and next time you find yourself asking “why is this news?”, instead ask yourself “why do I still live with my parents?”. It’s news because people better than you said so.”

…that kind of thing. The initial result was encouraging – for a brief period of maybe 30 or 40 seconds the quality of comments on TechCrunch rose noticeably, including a 20% drop in misspelled name-calling and 35% fewer ungrammatical demands for any given writer to be fired.…

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Everyone at Le Web is Wrong: Wikileaks Should be Condemned not Celebrated



Le Web. I’m still unclear on the unique selling point of Europe’s “leading technology conference”, and yet here I am, for the third year in a row, hanging out in a snow-bound venue four hundred miles from the centre of Paris, watching a succession of American entrepreneurs being interviewed – in English – by journalists who have flown in specially from California.

I’ll say this, though: the food is good this year – really good.

Now, having satisfied my annual obligation to be snarky about Le Web, I’m free to talk about what passes for the big story of the conference, and indeed the biggest story of the world right now. Wikileaks. Specifically, the continuing DOS attacksagainst companies who are perceived as enemies of Wikileaks.

Judging by the hostile reaction to Paypal’s Osama Bedier yesterday, the audience here in Paris is of a single mind on the subject. Julian Assange is a hero – a paragon of virtuous openness; a flesh-coloured bottle of sunshine, disinfecting the fetid swamp of global diplomacy. Those who would cross him – the Paypals, the Visas, the Mastercards and the EVERY SINGLE GOVERNMENT IN THE FREE WORLDs – are the enemy, and – inshallah – their websites will soon crumble under the crowdsourced vengeance of all of those who cherish our freedoms.…

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Another Year, Another Possibly Depressing Visit to London



Another day – another year, actually – another airport. This time I’m at gate A11 at SFO waiting for my flight to London. My plan was to use the 10 hour flight to write a column about how I’m looking forward to seeing London again but how I’mdepressed nervous at the idea of catching up with the state of the city’s tech entrepreneurial scene.

From what I’ve heard from Brit friends who have visited the Valley, it seems that London 2.0 has remained – at best – stagnant since I was last there twelve months ago. In some cases, comically so. This time last year, we were all eagerly anticipating the imminent US roll-out of Spotify – the next big UK-based startup that was going to change the world (see previously Bebo – subsequently killed by AOL – and Last.fm – now set in amber by CBS). Twelve months on and, uh, we’re all eagerly anticipating the imminent US roll-out of Spotiy. And that’s it. As far as I can tell, there’s almost nothing else out of London that’s making even the smallest blip on the rest of the world’s radar.

I was going to write a column about that sad fact.…

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