It’s been a weird year for hardware: the biggest, most news-worthy launches haven’t come out of Cupertino or Tokyo but out of small Kickstarter campaigns that have, in the end, raised millions of dollars. Makers, in other words, are finally getting their due.
In this short Gift Guide episode of Makers I talk about a few of the cool toys that have crossed my transom over the past few months including an Arudino starter kit from Make Magazine and the Raspberry Pi.
If you’d like to hack with the kids, I’d recommend picking up something like Super Scratch Programming or Getting Started With Arduino, two beginning programming/hardware books for kids and the adults who love them. Then there’s always Minecraft, a sneaky way to teach kids about architecture, programming, and servers.
Lastly, I’m a huge fan of Solder: Time. I like the original kit – it’s a bit more analog (although it isn’t, really) and it’s a great way to teach kids about soldering and electronics. I was able to put it together in a few hours with my son and he had “98% fun,” which is a pretty big amount of fun for him.
This week’s Ask A VC series features a slew of awesome guests in the investment world. Tomorrow, we have True Ventures’ partners Tony Conrad and Puneet Agarwal in the studio, and Thursday, Shasta Ventures’co-founder Rob Coneybeer will be in the hot seat.
Remember, you ask questions either in the comments or here and we’ll ask them of our VC guests.
Coming off True Ventures’ new $205 million third fund, there’s a lot to talk about with Conrad and Agarwal. And the firm now has $600 million under management.
Conrad is the Founding Venture Partner at True Ventures where he serves on the Board of Directors of Automattic (WordPress), appssavvy, Coffee & Power, Quarterly, StockTwits, RescueTime, PastFuture (GDGT), KISSmetrics, 20×200, Smarterer, Qualaroo, Trippy. A serial entrepreneur, Conrad co-founded about.me (acquired by Aol in December 2010) and Sphere which was acquired by AOL in April 2008.
Agarwal, who is a General Partner at True Ventures, started his career as a Product Manager at Crossworlds Software, an early integration software startup sold to IBM. He also spent time in the investment banking world, at BEA in product management and marketing roles and more.
Shasta Ventures’ Coneybeer co-founded the firm in 2004, started his career working in the Astro Space division of Martin Marietta, where he helped build the first EchoStar spacecraft. Later he moved into venture capital at New Enterprise Associates and then founded Shasta.
We’ll be asking Coneybeer, who focuses on investments in mobile and wireless startups, about the firms’ latest bets on collaborative consumption, his thoughts on the current fundraising climate and more.
Check out our latest Ask A VC interview with Kleiner Perkins’ partner Megan Quinn.
Please send us your questions for Conrad, Agarwal or Coneybeer here or put them in comments below!
A Texas judge declined to hear testimony in a landowner’s bid to stop construction of part of TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline because the property owner didn’t correctly file legal papers.
Michael Bishop’s lawsuit against the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates pipelines in Texas, challenges the agency’s certification of Keystone as a common carrier under state law. Bishop was seeking a temporary injunction to stop work on the pipeline in the eastern part of the state.
You’ve made a mistake because the lawsuit can’t start until the entity you are suing is properly served
U.S. District Judge Stephen Yelenosky in Austin, the state capital, agreed with Assistant Attorney General Megan Neal’s argument that Bishop didn’t properly serve the commission with the lawsuit.
“You’ve made a mistake because the lawsuit can’t start until the entity you are suing is properly served,” Yelenosky told Bishop. “Now is the time to note the mistake and see if you can remedy it.”
Bishop separately sued Calgary-based TransCanada in East Texas, alleging they coerced him into a settlement that granted an easement across his farm near Nacogdoches, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of Houston. He claimed the pipeline’s permits are invalid because Keystone is permitted to carry only crude oil, not bitumen from Canadian tar sands.
TransCanada last week won a bid to lift a temporary court order blocking construction.
After the hearing today, Bishop, who is representing himself, said he will have the papers served properly. He said he was pleased the judge didn’t rule on any of the facts or other issues in the case yet.
“He was fair,” Bishop said. “It’s a setback in a sense. It doesn’t alter any of the facts.”
Tom Kelley, a spokesman for the office of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said in an e-mail that the state declined to comment on the hearing.
Bishop said he said he doesn’t want to represent himself, but he and groups opposed to the pipeline cannot find a lawyer to accept the case.
He said one attorney told him that his case can’t be won because “this is an oil and gas state.”
TransCanada has been battling landowners and environmental groups at sites along the southernmost leg of its 2,151-mile pipeline between western Canada and the U.S. refining industry complex on the Texas Gulf Coast.
So far, none of the legal challenges has permanently halted construction on the pipeline, which will carry liquefied bitumen obtained by heating tar sands, along with traditional crude oil produced from fields in North Dakota, Oklahoma and West Texas, Tom Zabel, a lawyer for TransCanada, said in an interview.
The Newtown school shooting tragedy turned social media channels into another disastrous rumor mill. Ryan Lanza and his friends suffered a flood of hate messages after vigilante facebookers attacked him following false reports by CNN (the shooter was Adam Lanza, Ryan’s brother). Actor Morgan Freeman had to deny a viral violence-in-media rant widely attributed to him (although, this may not be as bad as when rumors of his death were circulated). To combat vicious falsehoods, social media updates need a credibility rating. A new lie detecting algorithm that correctly identified truthful tweets 86% of the time could mark a giant leap forward toward that goal.
Following up on a 2010 Yahoo! study, the updated paper to be published in next month’s Internet Research finds that users themselves are the best sources of credibility. Specifically, it builds upon known characteristics [PDF] of credible tweets:
- longer updates
- include URLs
- be tweeted by users with more follower counts
- tweets have a more negative tone
- contain swear words
- 6. contain more frowny emoticons
Interestingly enough, users themselves tend to question potential rumors, making their aggregate skepticism a key indicator of credibility. Authors Carlos Castillo, Marcelo Mendoza, and Barbara Poblete explain,
These results show that the propagation of tweets that correspond to rumors differs from tweets that spread news because rumors tend to be questioned more than news by the Twitter community. Notice that this fact suggests that the Twitter community works like a collaborative filter of information. This result suggests also a very promising research line: it could posible [sic] to detect rumors by using aggregate analysis on tweets.
In the updated study, as reported by Slate, when presented with a random false or truthful tweet, the algorithm correctly identified the truthful ones 86% of the time.
As these predictors become more reliable over time, web apps, such as Tweetdeck, or even Twitter itself, could rank tweets by their credibility, hopefully sparing the public from more vicious rumors. Long ago, Wikipedia recognized this with its famous “” tag. For all our sakes, its about time Twitter and Facebook developed their own version.
[Image Credit: XKCD]