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Further fueling the ongoing debate over the future of the news media and independent journalism, eBay founder and billionaire Pierre Omidyar last month committed $250 million to a news site co-founded by journalist and author Glenn Greenwald. Omidyar’s investment followed the announcement over the summer that Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos had purchased The Washington Post, also a $250 million investment. The late Steve Jobs’s wife, Lauren Powell, and 29-year-old Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes are also pouring money into old and new media ventures.

Could this new band of news media owners shape a technology-led business model that will be profitable and protect the integrity of impartial, ideology-free journalism? Ultimately, according to Wharton experts, the ball will rest with the consumer.

Any new business model that those in the technology world would bring to the media realm would have to address the major pain points currently facing the industry. News organizations have “suffered a lot financially in the past couple of years,” says Wharton marketing professor Pinar Yildirim. Circulation numbers and advertising revenue have shrunk as both readers and companies turned their focus to the Internet. The industry has tried to adjust to the new normal — some newspapers and magazines have cut back on issues or the number of days they produce a print product. Other news organizations have started charging for online access. Still more have tried to add content that mimics what tends to be most popular on the web, especially entertainment-related coverage, Yildirim notes.

Omidyar has indicated that he was motivated more by a desire to protect independent journalism than the prospect of getting a return on his investment, at least for now. In a blog post published on his website last month, Omidyar wrote that his investment in Greenwald’s venture (tentatively called “NewCo.”) stems from his “interest in journalism for some time now.” In 2010, Omidyar founded Honolulu Civil Beat, a news website with a stated focus on “investigative and watchdog journalism.” Earlier this summer, he explored buying The Washington Post newspaper before Bezos became the winning bidder. Around that time, Omidyar said he began thinking about the social impact he could help create with an investment in “something entirely new, built from the ground up.”

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Original author: 
Arik Hesseldahl

cloud1Here’s a name I haven’t heard in a while: Anso Labs.

This was the cloud computing startup that originated at NASA, where the original ideas for OpenStack, the open source cloud computing platform, was born. Anso Labs was acquired by Rackspace a little more than two years ago.

It was a small team. But now a lot of the people who ran Anso Labs are back with a new outfit, still devoted to cloud computing, and still devoted to OpenStack. It’s called Nebula. And it builds a turnkey computer that will turn an ordinary rack of servers into a cloud-ready system, running — you guessed it — OpenStack.

Based in Mountain View, Calif., Nebula claims to have an answer for any company that has ever wanted to build its own private cloud system and not rely on outside vendors like Amazon or Hewlett-Packard or Rackspace to run it for them.

It’s called the Nebula One. And the setup is pretty simple, said Nebula CEO and founder Chris Kemp said: Plug the servers into the Nebula One, then you “turn it on and it boots up cloud.” All of the provisioning and management that a service provider would normally charge you for has been created on a hardware device. There are no services to buy, no consultants to pay to set it up. “Turn on the power switch, and an hour later you have a petascale cloud running on your premise,” Kemp told me.

The Nebula One sits at the top of a rack of servers; on its back are 48 Ethernet ports. It runs an operating system called Cosmos that grabs all the memory and storage and CPU capacity from every server in the rack and makes them part of the cloud. It doesn’t matter who made them — Dell, Hewlett-Packard or IBM.

Kemp named two customers: Genentech and Xerox’s research lab, PARC. There are more customer names coming, he says, and it already boasts investments from Kleiner Perkins, Highland Capital and Comcast Ventures. Nebula is also the only startup company that is a platinum member of the OpenStack Foundation. Others include IBM, HP, Rackspace, RedHat and AT&T.

If OpenStack becomes as easy to deploy as Kemp says it can be, a lot of companies — those that can afford to have their own data centers, anyway — are going to have their own clouds. And that is sort of the point.

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stanford logo change

Earlier today, we reported that the prestigious Stanford University quietly, but officially, changed its logo.

The question on many an alum's mind: Why?

Business Insider talked to Lisa Lapin, associate VP of university communications and the woman who oversaw the update, and it looks like the reason for the change was very Stanford-appropriate.

It turns out that the university — which is in the heart of Silicon Valley and has produced tech giants including the founders of Google, Yahoo, and Hewlett-Packard — was using a logo that just didn't work in the digital world.

"The other mark is very pretty and academic and classic, but it was designed specifically for print and stationery," Lapin said."The world has changed in the last 10 years."

Lapin explained that the previous font "didn't work digitally. It's too thin and fine. People were struggling with the mark online, and we were struggling even further when we were making mobile sites — It doesn't translate to an iPhone screen."

The previous logo also didn't translate well to signatures (like for the school of Engineering) and clothing, so the university primarily went with block letters that merely resembled the official font.

Thus, Stanford hired Bright, a design firm out of Marina del Rey, to create a new logo. Bright had previously done the mark for UCLA.

stanford law school"They spent a lot of time studying Stanford's architecture," Lapin told BI. "They did come up with a font that reflects the architecture of the campus, primarily the arches."

Since the logo is now a trademarked piece of original art, this solves another challenge of Stanford's old mark: Licensing.

The last logo was Sabon font, and Lapin explained that was expensive to license.

"Lots of units wanted to have it throughout the campus, so we were spending," she said.

Now Stanford owns the logo design, which means that it can also prevent others from replicating the school's likeness by just using Sabon art.

But don't worry, the emblematic tree and Stanford seal aren't going anywhere.

Please follow Advertising on Twitter and Facebook.

Join the conversation about this story »

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When you're hired at Google, you only have to do the job you were hired for 80% of the time. The other 20% of the time, you can work on whatever you like – provided it advances Google in some way. At least, that's the theory.

Google's 20 percent time policy is well known in software engineering circles by now. What's not as well known is that this concept dates all the way back to 1948 at 3M.

In 1974, 3M scientist Art Fry came up with a clever invention. He thought if he could apply an adhesive (dreamed up by colleague Spencer Silver several years earlier) to the back of a piece of paper, he could create the perfect bookmark, one that kept place in his church hymnal. He called it the Post-It Note. Fry came up with the now iconic product (he talks to the Smithsonian about it here) during his "15 percent time," a program at 3M that allows employees to use a portion of their paid time to chase rainbows and hatch their own ideas. It might seem like a squishy employee benefit. But the time has actually produced many of the company's best-selling products and has set a precedent for some of the top technology companies of the day, like Google and Hewlett-Packard.

There's not much documentation on HP's version of this; when I do find mentions of it, it's always referred to as a "convention", not an explicit policy. Robert X. Cringely provides more detail:

Google didn’t invent that: HP did. And the way the process was instituted at HP was quite formal in that the 10 percent time was after lunch on Fridays. Imagine what it must have been like on Friday afternoons in Palo Alto with every engineer working on some wild-ass idea. And the other part of the system was that those engineers had access to what they called “lab stores” — anything needed to do the job, whether it was a microscope or a magnetron or a barrel of acetone could be taken without question on Friday afternoons from the HP warehouses. This enabled a flurry of innovation that produced some of HP’s greatest products including those printers.

Maybe HP did invent this, since they've been around since 1939. Dave Raggett, for example, apparently played a major role in inventing HTML on his 10% time at HP.

Although the concept predates Google, they've done more to validate it as an actual strategy and popularize it in tech circles than anyone else. Oddly enough, I can't find any mention of the 20% time benefit listed on the current Google jobs page, but it's an integral part of Google's culture. And for good reason: notable 20 percent projects include GMail, Google News, Google Talk, and AdSense. According to ex-employee Marissa Meyer, as many as half of Google's products originated from that 20% time.

At Hewlett-Packard, 3M, and Google, "many" of their best and most popular products come from the thin sliver of time they granted employees to work on whatever they wanted to. What does this mean? Should we all be goofing off more at work and experimenting with our own ideas? That's what the book The 20% Doctrine explores.

 How tinkering, goofing off, and breaking the rules at work drive success in business

Closely related to 20% time is the Hack Day. Hack Days carve out a specific 24 hour timeframe from the schedule, encouraging large groups to come together to work collaboratively (or in friendly competition) during that period. Chad Dickerson instituted one of the first at Yahoo in 2005.

The Friday before, I had organized the first internal Hack Day at Yahoo! with the help of a loosely-organized band of people around the company. The “hack” designation for the day was a tip of the hat to hacker culture, but also a nod to the fact that we were trying to fix a system that didn’t work particularly well. The idea was really simple: all the engineers in our division were given the day off to build anything they wanted to build. The only rules were to build something in 24 hours and then show it at the end of the period. The basic structure of the event itself was inspired by what we had seen at small startups, but no one had attempted such an event at a large scale at an established company.

The first Yahoo! Hack Day was clearly a success. In a company that was struggling to innovate, about seventy prototypes appeared out of nowhere in a single 24-hour period and they were presented in a joyfully enthusiastic environment where people whooped and yelled and cheered. Sleep-deprived, t-shirt-clad developers stayed late at work on a Friday night to show prototypes they had built for no other reason than they wanted to build something. In his seminal book about open source software, The Cathedral and the Bazaar, Eric Raymond wrote: “Every good work of software starts by scratching a developer’s personal itch.” There clearly had been a lot of developer itching around Yahoo! but it took Hack Day to let them issue a collective cathartic scratch.

Atlassian's version, a quarterly ShipIt Day, also dates back to 2005. Interestingly, they also attempted to emulate Google's 20% time policy with mixed results.

Far and away, the biggest problem was scheduling time for 20% work. As one person put it, “Getting 20% time is incredibly difficult amongst all the pressure to deliver new features and bug fixes.” Atlassian has frequent product releases, so it is very hard for teams to schedule ‘down time’. Small teams in particular found it hard to afford time away from core product development. This wasn’t due to Team Leaders being harsh. It was often due to developers not wanting to increase the workload on their peers while they did 20% work. They like the products they are developing and are proud of their efforts. However, they don’t want to be seen as enjoying a privilege while others carry the workload.

I think there's enough of a track record of documented success that it's worth lobbying for something like Hack Days or 20% time wherever you work. But before you do, consider if you and your company are ready:

  1. Is there adequate slack in the schedule?

    You can't realistically achieve 20% time, or even a single measly hack day, if there's absolutely zero slack in the schedule. If everyone around you is working full-tilt boogie as hard as they can, all the time, that's … probably not healthy. Sure, everyone has crunch times now and then, but if your work environment feels like constant crunch time, you'll need to deal with that first. For ammunition, try Tom Demarco's book Slack.

  2. Does daydreaming time matter?

    If anyone gets flak for not "looking busy", your company's work culture may not be able to support an initiative like this. There has to be buy-in at the pointy-haired-boss level that time spent thinking and daydreaming is a valid part of work. Daydreaming is not the antithesis of work; on the contrary, creative problem solving requires it.

  3. Is failure accepted?

    When given the freedom to "work on whatever you want", the powers that be have to really mean it for the work to matter. Mostly that means providing employees the unfettered freedom to fail miserably at their skunkworks projects, sans repercussion or judgment. Without failure, and lots of the stuff, there can be no innovation, or true experimentation. The value of (quickly!) learning from failures and moving on is enormous.

  4. Is individual experimentation respected?

    If there isn't a healthy respect for individual experimentation versus the neverending pursuit of the Next Thing on the collective project task list, these initiatives are destined to fail. You have to truly believe, as a company, and as peers, that crucial innovations and improvements can come from everyone at the company at any time, in bottom-up fashion – they aren't delivered from on high at scheduled release intervals in the almighty Master Plan.

Having some official acknowledgement that time spent working on whatever you think will make things better around these here parts is not just tolerated – but encouraged – might go a long way towards making work feel a lot less like work.

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TEDxBayArea - Adam Lashinsky - Inside Apple.

Inside Apple: How Apple's way of doing business violates everything you learned in business school. It has been said about Apple that its business practices are like a bumble bee: It shouldn't fly, but it does. And how well it does. Apple is the first or second most valuable company in the world, and it got that way by doing business differently from how it is taught in Harvard Business School. The whole world loves Apple products, but even sophisticated business people don't understand how Apple does what it does. Lashinsky discusses in detail Apple's approach to leadership, personnel, secrecy, design, product development, marketing, public relations, and other seemingly mundane but extraordinarily unique approaches to business. The topics make for a particularly lively Q&A session: Everyone has an opinion about Apple (How much did Steve Jobs matter? Can my company be as secretive as Apple? What happens when an Apple product flops?). What's more, the contemporary case study is playing out before the audience's eyes. Each week's news brings fresh discussion points. Adam Lashinsky is the author of INSIDE APPLE: How America's Most Admired—and Secretive—Company Really Works. Adam Lashinsky covers Silicon Valley and Wall Street for FORTUNE. He has been on the magazine's staff since 2001, and for two years before that was a contributing columnist. In addition, he is a weekly panelist on the Fox News Channel's "Cavuto on Business" program on Saturday mornings, and he appears <b>...</b>
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