Chicago Ideas Week 2013: Tech Summit, Key Takeaways

Chicago Ideas Week wrapped up this weekend with a blockbuster Tech Summit. While much of the content was a bird’s-eye-view of the industry and its trends, there were a few memorable nuggets worth sharing. Three key things resonated with me.

Bing Gordon of Kleiner Perkins at Chicago Ideas Week

Bing Gordon of Kleiner Perkins at Chicago Ideas Week

Distributed

For some time Myspace has been rebranding, hoping to recapture an audience it lost circa 2008 to the likes of Facebook, Pandora, Spotify and others. I don’t know what the future holds for Myspace but I am optimistic. Much like the Digg rehaul, this rebranding effort will incorporate a brand new technology stack, providing nimbleness by shedding off years of heavy technical debt. But there’s one prescient philosophical decision that Chris Vanderhook mentioned that makes me especially optimistic: Myspace is going distributed.

As an ardent believer and proponent of distributed technologies from Git and Tor to BitCoin, the idea of having key resources non-centralized seems obvious. Myspace recognizes that media does not, should not, and will not live on their platform alone. Justin Timberlake’s latest single will be heard on YouTube, Vine and Soundcloud. Myspace claims it will make its new dashboard generic and facilitate distribution of new content uploaded by musicians available to any other platform. By recognizing that they are not the hub and primary resource for this content, Myspace is playing the long game. You’ve heard of Big Data, Mobile, and APIs as the future. It’s time to think distributed.

Manage you Metadata

Currently there are 2B people, and 9B machines connected to the internet! And that machine number is expected to grow to 40B by 2020. These machines are things like CO2 sensors, printers, thermostats etc. and they amass zettabytes of data about the world around them. This data - data about data, is considered metadata, and many of these devices are tracking metadata that relate to us. I believe that any personal data collected by an institution should be done transparently, with consent and with full permission to delete that data when a user sees fit (see my blog post for PLOS detailing how I set out designing their identity system). While we may have voluntarily donated our location, age and sexual preference to the Google and Facebook digital overlords, realize that in the past you used to surf the internet, now the internet surfs you. So when you sign up for your Nike Fuel Band terms of service, make sure their privacy settings have your best interest in mind.

Project Mayhem: Reboot Credit | Tyler Durden

Project Mayhem: Reboot Credit | Tyler Durden

The next big one: Affirm

Credit rating in America is sorely broken. FICO scores, the foundation of this system, which is critical to major life decisions like home loans and student loans, is extremely opaque, convoluted and entrenched. You open a credit-card it hurts your rating, you close a credit-card it hurts your ratings. Que!?

Max Levchin, serial entrepreneur and founder of Paypal and Yelp recently launched Affirm. Affirm has an idea on how to bypass this system and improve banking. Affirm determines credit-worthiness through an algorithm that looks at your facebook profile, your prior interactions with the merchant and other such social and digital signals to assess risk. I think there’s a big opportunity here and I would put my money (Bitcoins?) on Max.

Bonus

My favorite quote of the night

I read resumes backwards, if you don't have any interest(s), neither do I.

- Bing Gordon, general Partner Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers