Street Smarts Live – an Inc. Magazine Event

Tonight I went to an event sponsored by Inc. Magazine (where I write for the Start-Up blog). The event featured Norm Brodsky, a serial entrepreneur and writer of the Street Smarts column, and Bo Burlingham, Inc. Magazine Editor at large.

I ran into Lauren Solomon of LS Image Associates, whom I worked with several years ago, and haven’t seen in good while. She introduce me to Elyissia Wassung of 2 Chicks with Chocolate.

We went inside, and here are my live blogging notes (excuse typos and partial sentences – this is raw note-taking).

Street Smarts Live – an Inc. Magazine Event:
The Knack, How Street Smart Entrepreneurs Learn to Handle Whatever Comes Up, by Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham.

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NYSIA Legal Forum and Special Interest Group – Live Blogging Notes

NYSIA Legal Forum Summary – Live Blogging

Guest: Mark Grossman – Attorney and “TechLaw” Columnist

The industry should be embarrased – contracts are horrible, not so much one-sided as incompetently drawn, fail to address basic questions. VERY often, the contract delivered is not the deal the parties wanted to do. Most business litigation is honest business people, honestly disagreeing about their items that are unclear.
You have to be on the same page – legal review helps you – lack of attention to details will bite you later – it is a safety net. But sometimes people agree to agree later.

Sellers are in the best position to put out the first draft for a deal. Good form documents are helpful for you to close and seal a deal.

Assumption: assume that no one at the table will be involved after the parties sign, the doc stands on its own, and its well written and could be understood by people not familiar with the details. Who do you write for- the judge, the (high school and college educated) jury, who? – Work with assumption that everyone who negotiated will not be there but have the same skill set – and they could read the document and understand it.

Mark now shows 6 basic questions for a software dev contract – responsibilities, procedures for feedback, corrections and changes; procedures for final acceptance; price and when it’s paid; who owns the copyright and ip rights; remedies for delay or failure.
Who’s responsible for: text, graphics, look and feel, layout. Is it defined?

Licensing – who licences 3rd party software? Who does due dilligence on underlying licenses now?

What’s the procedure for change orders? – must create procedures for collaboration

Changes require approval of both parties, needs to deal with timelines, mechanisms for adjusting price, do not get sloppy with procedure – creates litigation.

Procedure for final acceptance – including functions, speed, and response time. Have to think about failed tests – procedures, time for fixing, etc. What happens if parties never agree it works.

What’s the price for the work when it is paid? – flat fees – more work up front to clearly delinate the scope.
Is it based on time? What’s hourly rate? Time to completion? Require regular updates on time to date.

When is payment due? Dates vs milestones.

Who owns the copyrights and other IP rights in a website?
buyer – “I paid for it – how come I don’t own it?” vs developer – “losing rights to my own programming library.”
Work made for hire – unless agreement says the buyer owns it, the seller owns it.
If doing outsourced work, even if venue for law is New York, always check with foreign lawyer.

Remedies for delay or failure – careful balance needed. If customer doesn’t provide what’s needed on time, like logos, graphics, etc. developer can’t deliver on time.

Whose law should apply? NY can be a compromise state.

Magic language- time is of the essence – – Courts don’t like to enforce time limits, but putting this in can make court put higher priority on timeline. (Shouldn’t be acceptable to a seller).

Where and how to battle – Lawsuit, arbitration, attorney fees to the victor?

Norms on limitation of liability – no matter what we do and how bad it is, we owe you little, and you owe us first born.

Limits on liability – from seller – it’s a price issue, its an industry standard, we’ve never done it any other way, we can’t be possibly responsibile for all the harm our software would do if it failed. You have to have backups in place.

Buyer’s perspective – full amount of contract or more, exclude 3rd party property damage and bodily injury, exclude liability for infringement of IP, exclude NDA liability, reciprocal.

In general, great presentation, very informative, I learned a lot.

Dinner with a Member of UK Parliment

In what has become something of a trend after my UN meeting last month, another friend invited me to meet with a world leader to discuss Social Media. (That actually sounds more formal than the dinner last night actually was.)

2 Tom Watsons

My US friend Tom Watson of Changing our World and On Philanthropy invited Pamela and I to join a group of friends to meet MP Tom Watson, Cabinet Office Minister from the UK.
MP Watson’s office recently released a report on the Power of Information, documented here in his blog.

Yes, his blog, the archives of which go back to 2003.

Five years ago, I set up political blog. At the time, it was seen as a radical act…People couldn’t believe that I had opened myself up to such scrutiny and occasional daily abuse.But the blog broke down the walls between legislators and electors in a way that interested me. So I persevered.

He’s also got a LastFM badge. This is a real blogger. A gentleman at dinner asked him what he looked at first as far as websites and email, and he started quoting LifeHacker and GTD and how he manages his information flow. This already is different from almost any American Politican I’ve met at any level. He also was impressed I had gone to ITP, since he’s a fan of Clay Shirky.

It is clear that Tom is passionate about helping people get a handle on their information. From the aforementioned blog link:

Today I am going to offer two arguments that I think compliment the Prime Minister’s recent announcement on public service reform.

Firstly, that freeing up data will allow us to unlock the talent British entrepreneurs. And secondly, engaging people – using the simple tools that bring them together – will allow the talents of all our people to be applied to the provision of public services.

Free up data – liberate talent and catalyse creativity. Engage – bring people together using simple tools and you empower.

The dinner was held under Chatham House Rules, which allows the participants to use the information they gathered, but not to attribute the identity or affiliation of the speakers. So, I can’t really go into depth on the discussions. However, it is clear to me that MP Tom Watson will be helping to open up the UK Government in a way that may prove quite beneficial to the citizens of the UK and be a model for us here in ‘the colonies.’

Tom will be in SF for the Web 2.0 Expo, and I’m hoping to get him together with a few of my friends who will be there. If you’re interesed, please get in touch with me.

What I learned at UN Meets Web 2.0 yesterday

Yesterday I had the privilege of moderating a panel about Social Networks for ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) Entrepreneurs at the UN GAID “UN meets Web 2.0″ event.
The real UN, in NYC:

(as opposed to the model U.N. conferences I used to participate in back in High School.)

My panel included: Marnie Webb, Co-CEO, TechSoup, My Luu, Market Development Executive, Small & Medium Business, IBM, Aaron Strout, VP, New Media, Mzinga, and Jordi Duran, Founder and CTO, iWith.org.

We covered a large amount of ground in just one hour, and as moderator I wasn’t exactly taking notes to blog with, but I did learn a few things to share.

Marnie works at Tech Soup, which offers nonprofits a one-stop resource for technology needs by providing free information, resources, and support. It’s so much more than that, go check the site. One of her big projects currently is the net squared mashup challenge. Marnie noted during the panel that they let the “community” (meaning anyone interested) vote for their favorite projects, which will be reviewed at a conference. While some of the contenders might not have been what her team might have picked, she felt the community did a great job in surfacing interesting projects.
The benefit to groups submitting to the challenge was that all submissions were public, and that allowed any smart people to comment on them and potentially improve the submissions before the deadline.
The entire project is a great example of the ‘Wisdom of Crowds‘ that is often referenced around web 2.0 efforts.

Aaron was involved in another community-built effort, the book We are Smarter than Me. This book was written using a wiki to source comments and ideas from anyone on the internet who choose to share and contribute. (Disclosure, I participated in the Wiki a few times, and am credited in the book, but don’t have any significant role in it).

Jordi gave me 2 really great things to think about. First, his group, iWith.org has partnered with AlternativeChannel.tv to host video content for not-for-profits looking to share their video and use something other than You-Tube. Looking at the site, I also note that: Alternative Channel in collaboration with iWith.org in Barcelona organize the Alternative Channel Forum on Social networks and responsible media.. The event is scheduled for April 30, 2008. Read it for more.

Jordi noted that iWith.org had originally offered a bunch of software-as-a-service hosting for not-for-profits, but that when they gave the service away, many groups didn’t make much use of it. Now they charge Euro40/month, but offer grants and discounts to organizations who need them. I love this lesson – if it costs something, it counts and groups will use it. This is the same reason I often have charged $5 or $10 to attend an event like Social Media Club in NY – it’s enough money that people have to think about attending, but not enough to keep people away.

Jordi also had an insight that (and I quote):

NPFs have been leading social movements in 20th century. From charity, to political parties, and labor unions, most of the volunteering from these causes was young people, mainly students that participate with their free time in the cause of their choice. But in 21st century, younger people are spending more and more time online, and the net offers volunteering opportunities, from co-creating an online encyclopedia, to develop an operating system. That is happening while traditional NPOs are becoming more professional, structured, big and “like a job”… [Jordi is] seeing more virtual and less structured groups – those organizations that once lead social volunteering in the 20th century are losing resources to online groups – they must use and participate online in groups or lose attention and fundraising resources – as their volunteers move to other interests online.

It makes sense to me that organizations have to allow the youthful volunteers –who are often the backbone of groups — the freedom to connect with each other and with the organizations online, and become infrastructure for the cause and be a connection point.

My’s project with IBM and the World Bank created a toolkit for small businesses. The site has resources, forms, and content, can be found at http://www.smetoolkit.org/smetoolkit/en . Definitely worth a look!

An audience question asked about deploying social networks, and noted how in the traditional tech model, companies had Integrated Systems Vendors (ISVs) who would deploy hardware and help small to mid-sized businesses who needed coordination and might not have IT staff. What’s the equivalent to an ISV in social media? This ended up being a soft-ball question for me, and I replied that this is part of the role that my company is playing. Many fimrs will deploy a software-as-a-service social network, but not have the strategy abiliites in-house to make a community grow. My consultancy focuses on this strategy component, and I work with other consultants and have relationships with multiple vendors. (end of commercial).

There were lots of other panels, and I will blog about them in the near future. I look forward to questions and comments from attendees and others, and thank UN-GAID and Gary Bolles for this unique opportunity to contribute.