April 08, 2014

Episode Fifty Four: Kill Hollywood; Not That Worried; Healthbook; Webring!

0.0 Station Ident

A short one, this. Brain a bit frazzled. Please send brain juice.

1.0 Kill Hollywood

I was reminded the other day of Y Combinator's Request for Startups 9, Kill Hollywood[1]. 

On the one hand, it's funny, because it feels shockingly naive. Then again, a lot of great businesses get their start thanks to naivety on the part of their founders, who reflecting years later would probably say they would never do the same thing again if they knew then, what they know now.

On the other hand, it's funny because on top of the naivety, it's essentially asking for "disruptive ways to entertain people", but seeking to do so in creative output. Sure, the RFS talks about services and backend infrastructure and so on, but if you ask me, you'd do no wrong looking at a place like Pixar (again) in terms of a marriage of consistent creative output *and* a technical moat. The current crop of mobile games companies don't really do it, I don't think, mainly because the barrier is so low and the fruit is so low-hanging. There's just not a creative pressure there yet that feels easily defensible (not that excellent creative output consistently over time is an easy thing to achieve).

[1] http://ycombinator.com/rfs9.html

2.0 Not That Worried About Oculus

Chris Dixon posted the other day about feeling like the open web was being threatened on mobile[1]. New data shows that people are predominantly spending time inside of apps, not the system-provided browser, though there's some debate as to methodology and results here - it's not clear if the data show people using embedded web views, for example. I bet that Facebook (and to a lesser extent Twitter) account for a bunch of web activity through embedded web views.

Gruber's got a rebuttal wherein he offers his own opinion about what the mobile web is[2], but I think he misses the point, too. For me (and I realise this is a personal perspective) what's webby about the web is the linkiness of it. Yes, sure it's built on browsers and HTTP and later on CSS and Javascript, but as @bopuc pointed out on Twitter, one of the main characteristics of the web is the URI or the URL - the uniform resource locator/identifier that allows you to jump from resource to resource. That, to me, is the web.

But I started this off by talking about Oculus, and what strikes me is that if we're to take Dixon at his word and he values an open, unconstrained and experimental web as vital for innovation, then hopefully we'll see the same fertile medium for experimentation in virtual reality from whatever products Oculus produces.

[1] http://www.cdixon.org/2014/04/07/the-decline-of-the-mobile-web/

[2] http://daringfireball.net/2014/04/rethinking_what_we_mean_by_mobile_web


3.0 Healthbook

Health is pretty heavily regulated in the US and a massive opportunity for Valley-style disruption. And by disruption I mean: a far better product, more focussed on user needs, delivered at a better price. There's way too many stodgy incumbents standing in the way of making great product, but I can acknowledge that at least one of the factors standing in *their* way is federal regulation. Some of it is for the right reason, but I'm happy to agree broadly and in principle that the FDA is probably one of the better examples we have of regulatory capture.

So much in the same way that we saw Google's announcement of their contact-lens blood glucose sensor (if you think about it: why would they want to announce something so early? Could it be, like another Silicon Valley company, it seemed prudent to do so before FDA or FCC trawls broke notice of the product to manage the story?), look to a possible announcement at WWDC14 of iOS8's Healthbook as a pseudo personal electronic health record. But the industry track record for this isn't great. Google - bizarrely, for Google - gave up with Google Health, but I think Microsoft still has HealthVault lying around somewhere, if only because they think there might still be an enterprise play. So will Apple have to pre-announce a pseudo EHR at WWDC in advance of FDA approval? Maybe. The mocks that we've seen on sites like MacRumors[1] look... well, weird, to me. There's a whole bunch of information that would be collected from God-Knows-Where, and I don't think the consumer proposition is all that clear. Especially when there's not a good way to share that information with doctors, who're just going to collect it again anyway.

[1] http://www.macrumors.com/2014/03/17/healthbook-renderings-details/

4.0 Webring!

Because newsletters appear to be a thing, Laura Hall and I have made an Internet Newsletter webring! Because it's the mid 90s and we're all hooked up to the cybernet with our Hayes Modems and AOL KEYWORD: POUND NEWSLETTERS and actually the site isn't hand-rolled HTML2 uploaded with ws_ftp or whatever, it's a Wordpress site with a plugin, and we don't have a gopher service for you to check out but I suppose we could see if someone could resurrect PRESTEL or COMP-U-SERV.

Anyway: if you have a newsletter, join our webring! It's a cool new thing if you're into webs, rings, newsletters and pages on the internet, which is where we're free from government oppression and spying[1].

[1] http://internetofnewsletters.com/

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Phew, that's it. Going to play with some Oculus today.

Send me notes! I got hardly any for the last couple of issues. Makes me sad. You should send some. Even if they're short!

Dan