Entrepreneur Week.

For the next week I’ll be guest-blogging over at the Communitech Blog, as soon as we can get some technical details ironed out. Communitech, the Waterloo Region Technology Association has put together Entrepreneur Week, a full week of events geared to helping folks get started creating their own companies.

My first event will be BarCampWaterloo on Saturday, and several StartupCamp events will walk you through the startup process including getting an idea, figuring out how to pay the bills, avoiding dumb sales and marketing mistakes, and other things you haven’t even imagined yet.

If you think you’ve got what it takes, or even if you’d just like to know what it takes, get to as many events as you possibly can. You can check out the calendar here. And if you see me, stop by and say hello.

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My little foray into politics.

Okay, not as a candidate.

Last night I acted as moderator for an All Candidates debate for candidates in the upcoming Ontario provincial election. Though there was some theatrics at a similar debate earlier in the week, this time the full slate of eight candidates kept their differences in check and graciously answered my questions.

I had a great time, and I might have even learned something.


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The dollar may be equal but…

The Canadian and the U.S. dollars may be at parity right now, but that didn’t change the fact that my local bookstore was charging $25 for a book with a U.S. list price of $19.95.

And it isn’t just books; cars are tremendously more expensive in Canada. In fact, as the New York Times notes, even with the dollar equal, products are priced about 24% higher in Canada:

A report released Thursday by BMO Nesbitt Burns, a unit of the Bank of Montreal, estimates that products are priced 24 percent higher in Canada than in the United States despite the Canadian dollar’s steady five-year march to parity with the United States dollar.

I also note that even as the currency rose in value, the price of gas hasn’t changed a bit.Of course Canadians are just used to it:

During the three-decade slump from which the Canadian dollar just rebounded, Canadians became accustomed to paying more.


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A shred of reality.

I never thought I would see a New York Times article critical of climate change, but Joe Nocera’s Talking Business column on Saturday actually did it. In discussing a petition to the Securities and Exchange Commission to force companies to disclose their "climate change risk" in their statements, he had this comment:

I realize that many of you have just put down your morning coffee in order to nod your head in approval. But I would ask you, please, hold the applause. Putting aside the fact that both the Ceres petition and the Cuomo subpoenas are feats primarily of environmental grandstanding, the real problem is that these measures, appealing though they may seem at first glance, are misleading and disingenuous. To put it more bluntly, they are an attempt to use regulation and litigation to force companies to toe the environmentist party line on global warming, and to change corporate business models in ways that are more pleasing to the environmental community. It’s environmental tyranny disguised as public policy.

He explains the potential outcome:

And why is he doing this? For the same purpose that Mr. Spitzer used the Blodget e-mail: to force an industry to change its behavior. See, once he has the messages in hand, he can brandish them before the court of public opinion to “prove” that Peabody Energy is hiding the truth about the risks inherent in building coal fired plants. Of course, at least part of the risk facing Peabody Energy is the risk of being sued by environmentalists — who will use Mr. Cuomo’s “evidence” to do just that. It’s lovely the way this works, isn’t it? You investigate them for not disclosing risk, even as you’re creating the risk through your investigation.

And he points out the reasoning behind this:

In the end, both the Ceres and Cuomo efforts are little more than sideshows — but telling ones nonetheless. They presume that all right-thinking people should believe what they believe about global warming — and that therefore public policy can be built around those presumptions. They assume that the big, bad corporations must be brought to heel even as the rest of us continue to buy our S.U.V.’s and sixth iPod.

Finally, a shred of reality.

And he asks a favorite question of mine:

Question for William Safire: why did the phrase “global warming” morph into “climate change?” Just wondering.

I’m pretty sure that I know the answer to that one.All too frequently global warming proponents have been faced with bothersome issues like falling temperatures and unfortunate things like snowstorms (see the Gore Effect). When you change to the term "climate change" you no longer have to deal with the pesky requirement to provide proof of warming. Suddenly everything – drought, snow, early frost, and the like – are all proof of your hypothesis.

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Personal Development

As I mentioned a while ago, I’ve started a blog on personal development, aptly entitled Larry Borsato’s Personal Development Blog. It will be chock full of the kind of tools that are helping me to define what I want to do next with my life.

I hope that you enjoy it and find the information useful. Apologies for the esthetically-challenged layout for now, but all things in good time. For nowjust the ideas are good.


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NBC offers “free” downloads.

Fresh from pulling their content from iTunes, NBC plans to make money by offering "free" downloads of its shows:

NBC Universal said yesterday that it would soon permit consumers to download many of NBC’s most popular programs free to personal computers and other devices for one week immediately after their broadcasts.

Of course for NBC, free has a somewhat different meaning:

But the files, which would be downloaded overnight to home computers, would contain commercials that viewers would not be able to skip through. And the file would not be transferable to a disk or to another computer.

The files would degrade after the seven-day period and be unwatchable. “Kind of like ‘Mission: Impossible,’ only I don’t think there would be any explosion and smoke,” Mr. Gaspin said.

The programs will initially be downloadable only to PCs with the Windows operating system, but NBC said it planned to make the service available to Mac computers and iPods later.

Now as a TiVouser I can watch NBC shows as often as I want without downloading them, and I can skip the commercials if I like. So can anybody with a DVR or video recorder of any kind, or even a PC if they choose. And I can move that video to my iPod if I like. It’s wonderful that NBC is going to let me download shows to watch on my PC, with commercials of course, but I just can’t imagine they would be stupid enough to pass up the revenue from iTunes sales.

The networks just don’t get the concept of customer choice.


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Setting TimesSelect free.

As Mark Evans notes, TimesSelect is now free:

It took awhile but the NYT finally got it that charging consumers to access certain parts of its online content isn’t economically viable.

Now I’m a New York Times subscriber, so this doesn’t affect me at all. But this is what they told me in an email:

Since we launched TimesSelect, the Web has evolved into an increasingly open environment. Readers find more news in a greater number of places and interact with it in more meaningful ways. This decision enhances the free flow of New York Times reporting and analysis around the world. It will enable everyone, everywhere to read our news and opinion – as well as to share it, link to it and comment on it.

So in the past year or so, the web has evolved into an increasingly open environment? Was it closed before that?

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Credibility and Powerset.

When Google was starting out they didn’t constant issue press releases about how much better they were than AltaVista. They just put themselves out there and people realized they were better. The rest is history.

Not so with Powerset, a natural language search engine. Given the fact that you can’t even try their product yet, they seem to be in a state of perpetual hype, including their appearance today at the TechCrunch40. If you’re seriously better guys, then stop telling me you are and show me.

Natural language searching sounds like a great idea, but the truth is that over half of searchers use one- or two-word queries, hardly the stuff of natural language. And Google does an admirable job when you type in a natural language query already.

Wanna be a Google-killer? Show me what you’ve got.


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