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Currie ’78 to Lead Twitter CEO Search

Twitter needs a jumpstart and a new CEO.

And, per the tweet above, the person in charge of finding Twitter’s new leader is Peter Currie ’78. A longtime Twitter board member, it’s been only a few months since Currie tweeted his support for outgoing CEO Dick Costolo:

Now, Currie must find Costolo’s replacement. Do you have innovative ideas for how to monetize a highly-interactive, dedicated, but touchy user base within 140 characters or less? Have a good track record in a Silicon Valley C-suite? Better get in touch with Currie — he’s going to need all the help he can get!


‘Moskau’ ha, ha ha ha, ha ha ha: on the bells at Thompson …

A few days ago, according to a thankyou note on WSO, the campus was filled with Moskau the German pop hit from the ’80’s by Dschinghis Khan, that cross between ABBA and the Village People. Disco from the tower of Thompson!

Hats off to Will Slack and The Guild of Carilloneurs for asserting despite evidence to the contrary that Disco is Not Dead!

Moscow, Moscow, throw your glasses at the wall
And good fortune to us all,
A ha ha ha ha – ha!
Moscow, Moscow, join us for a kazadchok
We’ll go dancing round the clock
A ha ha ha ha – hey!
(What did I ever do with my vest…)


Ephs on Entrepreneurship #2: Anon ‘0x

Not every would-be entrepreneur is in an encouraging community. Here’s the discouraging experience of one Eph emailer who graduated in the last decade (name and class year concealed):

I see great irony in the Alumni Review celebrating those who move back to Williamstown to start businesses, because the College was certainly hostile to current students who try to start them.

Over the summer before sophomore year, one of my friends and I hit on an idea for a web service in the online photo space. A friend of his mother expressed interest and asked us to draw up a business plan, and another friend put us in touch with a coding firm in Eastern Europe. Back at Williams, as we put the finishing touches on our business plan, we proactively notified the dean’s office about our plans and asked whether approval was required by the college regulations for “student businesses.”

Big mistake. We were told that it reaction was to confirm that they considered it a student business even though it wasn’t primarily aimed at selling anything to students — the fact that Williams students could be among the users was enough. And then, we were directly discouraged from proceeding. In repeated meetings, we were questioned about our grades, our course load, our other extracurricular activities, and even our social lives. Message: you don’t have time for this. Then we were told that we couldn’t use college Internet resources — not just for hosting (which we had never planned to do), but for design, maintenance, even communicating with the overseas developers. The process of getting permission dragged on for months.

In the end, we did get approval, but my friend had made the varsity [] team, I started a new relationship, and we put the project on the back burner. . . .

Read more


Ephs on Entrepreneurship #1: Ken Thomas ’93

Near the end of the comment thread in my recent post on entrepreneurship, Ken Thomas posted some of his experiences. With his permission, I’ve compiled  some highlights in a main page post so that more people can read them. I’ve also received and seen some other Eph experiences, which I plan to post in this brief series. Here’s Ken:

I left the world of [humanities] graduate school at Berkeley (another story, but certainly not a world dedicated to entrepreneurship of any kind) to co-found a series of companies…

Certainly that was due, in large part, to the Tripod example– and, in fact, to the very concrete examples of a month of having [Tripod founders] Brett and Bo sharing an apartment with me, and the years of tales of Tripod to follow.

It doesn’t boil, simply, down to that. There were items in Mark Taylor’s Imagologies class (Bo was taking Mark’s Psychology of Religion at the time); there was Dick Sabot’s presence; there were things in many other classes; there was, for that matter, the pure contingency of meeting someone from BBN on a train from Munich to Prague, because M——- ’95 decided to meet here [in Prague], and that this whole chain of events was contingent on sitting next to Bill Fox’s son during a busride from Williamstown to Boston to catch the flight to Munich.

I won’t spin that into a further tale of contingency and luck or spontaneity– all things that are important in the entrepreneurial world.

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Williams and Social Networking

From Williams’ Facebook page:

A recent post from Inside Higher Education, titled “Finding Friends – And Ambiguity,” states that while most colleges now use social media sites, they still aren’t sure what they’re good for. Well, we want to know what you think they’re good for: what do you like about the Williams social media sites, and what could we be doing better?  What features would you like to see on our Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Flickr pages?  Post a comment or e-mail with questions, suggestions, or examples. Williams is a small, intimate community, and we’d like our social media sites to reflect that community.

Anyone have thoughts?  Be sure to cc the Williams twitter email as well!  I do like the new EPHS (every person has a story) page, cool idea.

Personally, I’d love to see, down the line, more historic athletic highlights and campus music / comedy performances on the Williams YouTube page; those are the types of things that have the potential to generate a tons of viewership and, potentially, even go viral.  I’d also like to see Williams aggregate (when it can get permission to do so) third-party videos featuring Williams or its alumni, e.g., this recent video of Joshua Smith from the Economist.

As for the Flickr pool, there are tons of amazing photos of Williams on Flickr.  I’d love to see an easy way for other Flickr users to suggest photos of Williams by third-parties (students, alums, visitors) be added to the official Williams Flickr pool.  [Perhaps there already is one, but I don’t think so].


Dear Williams Record, please fix your feed

The Record RSS feed has been showing a 5-year-old story on top for the last couple of months. I’ve used the contact form on the Record website to notify them about this issue at least twice, and have not receive any response – not even an acknowledgment that they’ve received my message and are aware of the issue. Does anyone even read messages submitted via the contact form?

I’ve noticed recently that the Record has started to run ads on its pages. Good for them. We’d like to link to Record stories more often and send more viewers to the site, but it makes it a lot easier for us to link to your articles when you have an RSS feed that works. Most of the news and blog sites I visit daily, I visit via RSS feeds and/or Twitter. If your RSS feed is broken and you don’t have a twitter account, you are essentially off the radar. Which might be fine for a personal blog, but is hardly a good idea for a news publication that is apparently trying to earn money from advertising.

And this isn’t a personal or EphBlog-specific complaint. All of the readers who are likely to link to your stories on their own blogs, or share them on Facebook, or on Twitter, or elsewhere, are also the readers who are most likely to be using feeds to organize their information flow. These are the active, engaged readers you are losing when you have a non-working RSS feed.

PS: I should note also that the Record seems to have no social media presence. No Facebook page or Twitter account as far as I can see. Something to think about… but first, before you get onto those platforms, fix your feed. Get the basics right, at least.


Scanning the CPD

Evan Miller ’06’s new iPhone app is featured in the Chicago Tribune:

Anyone with an iPhone or iPod Touch can listen to Chicago Police Department scanner traffic on their Apple device, from anywhere in the world. It’s a technological upgrade to a decades-old hobby.

Evan Miller, a 25-year-old University of Chicago doctoral student, created the iPhone/iPod application, which was released Sept. 27. It sells for $4.99 on iTunes and is the only application that allows users to exclusively tap into the Police Department’s 13 neighborhood dispatch zones, said Miller and other scanner experts…

“It can make for an action-packed listening experience,” said Miller, a former software developer. “It’s a great way to get a sense of how things are working in the city.”

Read more


No social network has ever made it as a public company

We’re a bit late posting this, but this is a great article in WaPo by Bo Peabody ’94:

The standard social networking business model relies heavily on advertising. As millions of members poured into Tripod, my investors and I thought the advertisers would follow. They never did. Advertisers need to be sure that they are reaching the right audience with their message. They have more assurance of this on search engines such as Google or content sites such as WebMD, where information is controlled and organized, and to whose profits investors have flocked. But on social networks, users can post anything they want. In one meeting with a top advertiser, I was asked to pull up a random Tripod member page. What I got was a picture of someone’s condom collection.

Almost 15 years later and as one of the Web’s largest social networks, Tripod generates the same advertising revenue in a year that Google does in an afternoon. The bottom line is that advertising does not work on social networks because social networks are not media businesses. Rather, they are communications businesses. So, how about charging users for social networks, like telephone companies do? We tried charging users at Tripod, and many others have tried it since. It doesn’t work. There will always be another service that will do it for free, and even if there is a fee charged, the amount of competition forces that fee to be so low that it never amounts to much revenue.

Instead of expecting profits that won’t materialize, the entrepreneurial community should instead operate social networks as not-for-profit organizations. Wikipedia has grown phenomenally with a not-for-profit business model, and while Wikipedia has its problems, its fate is in the collective hands of its users rather than in the hands of media companies or the stock market. Facebook and Twitter should enjoy the same comfort.

Read the whole thing here.

Further commentary from Ethan Zuckerman ’93:

Bo argues that Wikipedia may demonstrate the possibility of running a critical service as a non-profit community effort… I’d broaden that argument somewhat – services like Facebook and Twitter are emerging as critical pieces of social infrastructure. It may be worth thinking of them as public goods. We know a lot of different ways to provision public goods – states maintain them using taxation, private entities build them and charge access fees, communities build them and rely on user support, NGOs provide services and use a hybrid of user fees, donations and foundation support. I don’t think it’s crazy to think that this might be how we choose to build social networks in the future… or perhaps if any of the tools we rely on becomes less reliable.

EphBlog, as always, is ahead of the curve – we’ve never even imagined making any money!


Williams has a YouTube channel


The most recent video is a profile of the newly reopened Goodrich Coffee Bar:

found via @WilliamsCollege on Twitter

This is also a good opportunity to link to the Williams College Podcast feed. Latest episode (24 Aug. 2009): Prendergast in Italy

Both of the above are picked up by EphPlanet.


2 year old eph viral video, now a website

Ephblog readers may remember this post featuring Aaron Flack ’11, before any of the class of 2011 had shown up at Williams. He and his partner from the video have made a website, The website has information on the video (which is still being watched regularly), a T-shirt for sale, and 11 multi-part calculus tutorials with practice problems.

I, for one, am not even sure that I ever did some of that calculus in high school.


Back Issues of the Record on the Internet Archive

Thanks to hwc for pointing this out:

Speaking of digital libraries, did ya’ll know that digital versions of the Williams Record are available for online viewing or PDF download at the Internet Archive?

Here’s the 1971-1972 volume, conveniently flipped to the page with the review of the Pink Floyd “acid rock” concert in Chapin Hall:

November 16, 1971 Williams Record

Use the up and down arrows at the upper right to scroll through all the editions of the full academic year.

The Record caption writer seemed to like Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen (a “country western rock act”) better during winter study, at least noting that they had the crowd in Chapin “up and dancing”.

January 14, 1972 Williams Record

I haven’t found the review of the Winter Carnival Little Feat concert in Chapin yet. It’s in a different volume. It appears that all of the issues form 1904 up through at least 1990 are available on-line:

Williams Record in the Internet Archive




Go Green. Faster.

Do colleges and universities have a responsibility to Go Green at a faster rate than the rest of society? At least one funding body in the United Kingdom thinks so:

Launching a new consultation on how the higher education sector can reduce its carbon footprint, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) said universities should aspire to cutting emissions 50% by 2020 against 1990 levels, and 100% by 2050. The 2020 aspiration is much tougher than the government’s legally-binding target of reducing national emissions by 34% in the same time frame. The consultation also reiterates the government’s previous proposal to link universities’ funding to their greenhouse gas emissions reductions from 2011.

Diana Warwick, chief executive of Universities UK, which also worked on the proposals, said: “We support this goal. Universities, as educators, have been playing a vital role in moving the sustainability development agenda forward, and seeking a reduction in carbon emissions is key to this.”

While the study and story in question involves the UK, which has a different but hardly alien academic (and political) culture, surely the question pertains to academia generally and to Williams in the particular.

[note: comments 1, 2, 5, 6, and 12 below moved over from separate emissions discussion on Speak Up! – Ronit]


The Volcano’s that killed the economy?

As you all know, 26 out of 30 days of rain during June definitely left a mark.

  There is some speculation that volcanic activity in Alaska may be causing this tourist killing weather. The cold temperatures and rain combined with the economy does not equate for a good year.

 I hear Lake George is taking an absolute shellacking.

Any scientific Ephs who have input as to how, if at all, volcanic eruptions in Alaska have impacted the weather- please comment.

Some theories/articles on this here, here, and here.


Cell phones and the Purple Bubble

Brother Smartness contends that cell phones killed the Williams party scene:

The advent of communication technology has drastically, and negatively, altered the manner in which we socially interact.[…]
Think, for a second, about how natural the phrase “running late” has become.  I can’t even front, because I myself have pulled this card on a number of occasions in the past.  The problem lies in trying to be at too many places at once; trying to accomplish more than possible in 24 hours.
Communicating on blackberries or texting on phones at dinner and/or clubs (a pet peeve of mine) make it impossible to live in the moment.  I’ve always contended that cell phones killed the party scene in college. Prior to cell phones every party had potential.  After cell phones, if a party was bad and that information became available through the wire, it was a straight wrap.  Mull that one over if you happened to be in the purple bubble circa 2002.
We risk losing, in the hustle and bustle of trying to be more productive, our sense of respect for one another, which I would argue is important in a world where human interaction is becoming increasingly unnecessary.
The game plan this summer and beyond is put the phone away and arrive on time, never fashionably late.  For the sake of maintaining the sanctity of humanity, I encourage you to do the same.

The advent of communication technology has drastically, and negatively, altered the manner in which we socially interact.[…]

Think, for a second, about how natural the phrase “running late” has become.  I can’t even front, because I myself have pulled this card on a number of occasions in the past.  The problem lies in trying to be at too many places at once; trying to accomplish more than possible in 24 hours.

Communicating on blackberries or texting on phones at dinner and/or clubs (a pet peeve of mine) make it impossible to live in the moment.  I’ve always contended that cell phones killed the party scene in college. Prior to cell phones every party had potential.  After cell phones, if a party was bad and that information became available through the wire, it was a straight wrap.  Mull that one over if you happened to be in the purple bubble circa 2002.

We risk losing, in the hustle and bustle of trying to be more productive, our sense of respect for one another, which I would argue is important in a world where human interaction is becoming increasingly unnecessary.

The game plan this summer and beyond is put the phone away and arrive on time, never fashionably late.  For the sake of maintaining the sanctity of humanity, I encourage you to do the same.

Can anyone else who was at Williams at the same time comment on this? By the time I got there in 2003, Verizon was quite well established on campus.

On the other hand, cell phones did bring some advantages when they came to Williams. As JG notes:

We graduated in 2001 not only in the rain, but during a thunderstorm. Graduation was paused partway through due to lightning and everyone went running for the science quad buildings during the 45-60 minute delay. Since it was a million years ago before everyone and their mother (and 5 year old) had a cell phone – and Williamstown had little to no reception – nobody could find their families.

On the other other hand, there are times when I would be fine with people not being able to find me. In the age of the cell phone, it is almost impossible to be unfindable. If I leave my phone off, or fail to pick up or return a call relatively quickly, I expect that the person trying to reach me is liable to get a little annoyed. For the sake of  maintaining amicable social relations, I feel obligated to keep the phone/email/messaging device on at all times. And of course, these devices are powerful and addictive in and of themselves, regardless of their social utility. As Stephen O’Grady writes in a love letter to his iPhone 3GS, “I seriously feel like I’m living in the future.”

Twitter makes the pressure to always-be-connected even worse, as Jennifer Mattern discovered:

As one friend observed, “If the people in my life need to know what is happening in my life every 20 seconds, there is something very wrong, either with them, or with me.”[…]

Facebook gives you a fighting chance. If you’re not the brightest bulb, not the sharpest tack, you can still hang out and find your posse. Addictive as it is (Facecrack, Crackbook), one can skip a daily dose and still pick up pretty much where one left off. Yes, Andrea is still in a relationship, heart heart. Yes, Gayle’s pictures from her trip are online now. No, you have not been Superpoked by Etienne, but Tim wants you to join his mob.

Brain. Can. Process. Yes.

Twitter is Facebook as played by Lindsay Lohan on Red Bull minus her daily Ritalin. It’s Racebook, run by people who are tethered to their Blackberrys and iPhones, pithy, clever people who always have a good line. I watch them in amazement. They make bathroom stops hilarious. They multitask with a vengeance. Sparks fly out of my computer when I log into Twitter. […]

I can be funny. I can’t be funny THAT FAST AND THAT REGULARLY. I have nothing to market. I have nothing to tweet. I am tweetless.

If, however, your brain can keep up with Twitter, you may want to follow us on Twitter and/or check out the many Eph Twitterers that we follow. You may find some people you recognize in there. Some of the more prolific Eph Twitterers include Stephen C. Rose ’58, Steve Case ’80, Kim Daboo ’88, and Ethan Zuckerman ’93 . There are many others.

And here are some more Williams-specific Twitter accounts, if you’re into that kind of thing:

PS – A previous post that is kinda sorta related, at least in my mind.


Peter Currie ’78 to advise Facebook

The big news on the tech blogs over the last 24 hours was the departure of Facebook CFO Gideon Yu. He will be replaced, at least temporarily, by venture capitalist, former Netscape CFO and Williams alum Peter Currie. All Things Digital has a good writeup about him:

Meet Peter Currie, Facebook’s New Money Man (For Now)

Back in the heyday, Peter Currie was the money man to see in Silicon Valley.

As CFO of Netscape Communications, he led the start-up into history, as the first great Internet rocket ship, when it went public on Aug. 9, 1995.


Rising to insane levels, the stock was ground zero of the Internet gold rush too, despite the fact that it had no profits to speak of.

But it did have a 23-year-old co-founder and tech wunderkind in Marc Andreessen, and a growth trajectory that was astounding.

If you think it sounds somewhat similar to Facebook today–where Currie will now help out as temporary financial adviser after the social-networking site parted ways with its CFO, Gideon Yu, yesterday following mutual disagreements and announced a search for a replacement–you are correct.

In that job, the 53-year-old Currie will be helping Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg, 24, navigate–albeit temporarily–through some stormy economics [sic] seas on a journey that will hopefully end in an initial public offering.

The search for a new CFO will also involve Currie, obviously, and will be conducted by Jim Citrin of Spencer Stuart.

But until a new CFO is in place, Facebook’s quest still entails sorting out a substantive advertising monetization strategy while also keeping up its speedy growth rates and managing the high costs that mount with its popularity.

That certainly was Netscape’s major challenge, which it never met successfully and which was made worse by intense attacks from Microsoft (MSFT) on Netscape’s core browser business.


Andreessen, many sources said, was a shadow influence on Zuckerberg’s decisions related to Yu, with whom relations had gotten tense, and to bring in Currie (pictured here).

Currie is certainly a great choice, in terms of the close-knit tech sector’s respect and experience.

Currie is also unusually tall, aggressively avuncular and laid-back, loves Elvis and enjoys pranking reporters like BoomTown. (Case in point: He once tried to spread the rumor that I am short due to a medical condition.)



Ethan Zuckerman ’93 blogs about MediaCloud, a new project to visualize flows of news and information on the internet sponsored by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society:

Media Cloud is a platform to help researchers find quantitative answers
to questions like:

– What type of stories are covered more heavily in blogs than in newspapers?
– How does coverage of a topic like Iran differ between national newspapers, local newspapers and political blogs?
– How much overlap in coverage do two news sources have? If you’re reading the New York Times and the Boston Globe, how much topical difference do the sources have?
– How do news stories move between bloggers and mainstream journalists? How common or infrequent is it that bloggers “break” stories or introduce new analytic frames?

Read more


Trying to Figure Out If Williams Is Selling Its Mailing Lists

I suspect not, given all the warnings that the college has around its online alumni directory (verbiage to the effect that you can’t use the addresses for commercial purposes), but I received a piece of mail today from Comcast touting its “reliable business class communications,” and it was addressed to:

Guy Creese

This form of address is curious, because catalog mailing lists certainly don’t know that I went to Williams–or that I graduated in the Class of ’75. The only other option I can think of is that Comcast bought a mailing list from web registrars, since I am the webmaster for the Class of ’75 web site.

In any case, has any Ephblog reader received similar mail?


Eph Religion?

One of my favorite things about wso has to be the bookmarks. Possibly my favorite recent bookmark (which I think just got bumped off of the main page) was a link to the Church of Noah.

The highlights of the website for me were the “Way of Noah” page and “The Covenant” page (which talks about the End of the World).

I’m not sure what people thought about this–is it legit or a joke? I’m tempted to write the contact address listed on the site to find out for myself. Either way, I wonder if a student has a hand in it. I know I’ve seen crazier religions (online and elsewhere).

Check it out for yourself:


The L Team

This makes me want to go do research now. I wish I were kidding. If only the library weren’t closing so soon…

…check it out:


Electronic Community

I truly miss the extended electronic community which sprang up around Williams and Tripod in the mid-90s, and which was just as abruptly cut short by the decision to terminate alumni accounts.

In those days, I could sit in Berkeley or Paris, and communicate with Williams friends and students, just as I often did while on campus. I’ll have to tell you about that later.

Another tale from that era emerged as I was chiding an young sysadmin who took an hour out of my day today:

Mail (POP) and web were offline for about 45 seconds, but was pingable the whole time.

Some images on did not load the first time when back up, and came up in the wrong fonts…

Being inside your own network can be a real pain when troubleshooting. Back in ’94 for or so, someone hacked the SUMEX-AIM archive at Stanford (then the largest ‘shareware’ archive) and uploaded a folder called “KIDDIEPORN” with just that inside.

Whoever did this was also bright enough to manipulate the servers so that, from inside the domain, you would see the original content of the site.

Stanford’s on-duty sysadmin was one embarrassed puppy when I called him up to let him know, and then reported the incident to CERT, with the footnote “Berkeley 1, Stanford 0.”

Read more


File Sharing 101

It was with some eagerness that I recently examined an opinions piece in the Record entitled “Ethics 101” by Noah Susskind ’07. Susskind is planning to major in Philosophy, which would hopefully make his commentary on ethics especially appropriate. My interest, of course, was that his piece dealt with file-sharing on campus.

He begins by stating the facts and offering a solution:

The average Williams student downloads songs without paying for them. Peer-to-peer file-sharing and downloading copyrighted works (without the permission of the copyright holders) is illegal (MGM et al. v. Grokster et al.) But students do it anyway. More alarming, perhaps, is that they don’t stop to consider the ethics of what they are doing.

Clearly, he’s alarmed by the lack of thought that most Ephs display through their usage of copyrighted materials. So where is his solution again?

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