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7.24.14 JOE PROCOPIO

A Rant Against Bad Startup Advice

What I Learned at the July ExitEvent Startup Social

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Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

Every so often, I find myself at odds with a particular bit of conventional startup advice. Usually, the advice starts out as an innocuous one-liner bequeathed to me that I've re-gifted to others and, at face value, it may make perfect sense.

But at a certain point, the advice gets so blown out of proportion that it loses context. Eventually, it becomes something less than helpful. In extreme cases, it can become harmful.

That's when I open my big mouth and get all contrarian.

The last time I went on such a rant was over advice concerning our startup community and the growing number of startup-related events that were popping up everywhere. Long story short -- conventional wisdom was that there were too many startup events and the advice was that we needed to stop having so many startup events and entrepreneurs should stop going to startup events and get back to work.

This was almost exactly two years ago, so my story needs some context of its own.

The ExitEvent Startup Social was one of the first (if not the first) in a new wave of startup-related events that sprung out of a revitalized startup community in Durham. Yeah, there were startup events and meetups and such, but ExitEvent was sparked the night I went to a startup event attended by 100+ people and wound up talking the whole time to the only other entrepreneur there.

I remember what that was like. I remember when there were exactly zero honest-to-goodness startup events in my startup community. And it sucked, way more than being a little bit annoyed by getting the umpteenth startup-related Evite in my inbox.

So when startup events started exploding shortly after ExitEvent exploded, including two events that spun out of an ExitEvent Startup Social on the same night, my response was rock on, go for it, make some noise.

And when there was a backlash, my contrarian response was: Good entrepreneurs will find the value in good startup events and both will persevere. Shitty entrepreneurs who do nothing but event-hop will gravitate toward the shitty, glitzy events, and both will fail. --Read On


7.14.14 JOE PROCOPIO

A Common Language for the Internet of Things

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Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

The Open Interconnect Consortium, a group of big tech companies including Intel, Samsung, and Dell, announced last week their intention to create and open-source a specification for connecting the billions of things that make up the Internet of Things. This is the sole purpose of this consortium, and they're starting with smart homes, smart offices, and smart cars.

Their mission is to define "the specification, certification, and branding to deliver reliable interoperability" between all wireless-enabled devices across all operating systems: Windows, Linux, Android, iOS, and so on.

In other words, if your smart watch and your smart television can seamlessly talk to one another via this platform, they'll be certified and branded as such. Concepts like user identity, authentication, proximity, onboarding and provisioning, and of course communication, would be plug-and-play between any two certified devices.

As you can imagine, this announcement went out without a ton of fanfare. In comparison to March headlines touting a bot breaking the story of an earthquake, this was a blip.

I can see why. This isn't layperson news. This is rocket science, or rather, robot science. And unless you're talking about the Terminator or Robocop or some other machine putting a human out of a job (and/or eventually killing them), people tend to want to get back to enjoying their slow news day.

But this story has much bigger implications for automated content than the template-driven ramblings of an earthquake sensor. --Read On


6.16.14 JOE PROCOPIO

Time To Shelve the Turing Test

No, The Turing Test Wasn't Cracked, But It Wouldn't Matter Anyway

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Filed Under: NEWS: Startups

So the Internet collectively lost its mind last week on the story that machines had finally caught up to us cagey humans, and that a "supercomputer" called Eugene Goostman effectively passed the age-old Turing Test.

The Turing Test, as defined by British mathematician Alan Turing in 1950, portends that if a computer can fool enough humans into thinking that it itself is human, it can be considered to have the same level of intelligence as a human.

Then, as the dystopian among us would have you believe, they take over.

I had four thoughts on the subject:

1) Bullshit. That's just a chatbot.

As soon as the claim was made, it was challenged. Experts called into question everything from the low number of judges it convinced (10 out of 30) to the fact that the test was undertaken with stipulations on what kind of human this was supposed to be -- specifically, a 13-year-old Ukrainian boy who spoke English as a second language.

I mean, come on, then do the test in Ukrainian.

But the most obvious detraction is that Eugene is just a chatbot.

Human conversation is not a tennis match. It has stops and starts, it has people talking over one another, it builds on the ideas from the other participant. This chatbot, like all chatbots before it, immediately fell into a generation-old chatbot routine: --Read On