Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Thinking of and Thanking Paul Otellini

Image
A friend just sent me the surprising and sad news of the unexpected passing of former Intel CEO, Paul Otellini. Paul did so many things for me over a long career at Intel, and I had to put fingers to keyboard (something Intel enabled, of course) right away to acknowledge his many (and unknown) contributions to my work.

I first met Paul over thirty years ago.  My first (successful) Silicon Valley company had Sevin-Rosen as lead investors, and Roger Borovoy was our board chair, the former Intel General Counsel.  Roger thought that outside board service would be a good experience for an up and coming Intel executive, and that our startup would really benefit from Paul's input.  The company went on to great success, and today is still represented in the product lines of Nuance (NUAN).

Paul was there on the fateful day when I presented a reading machine prototype to the Calera Recognition Systems board.  The board's veto of the project (because it wasn't a big enough financial…

A Call for Millions: Ending the Global Book Famine for the Blind

There’s a global book famine afflicting people with disabilities. They lack the books they need for education, employment, and social inclusion. Billions have been spent addressing the problem over the past decade.

I have good news: For $5 million a year, we can build a global library that provides tens of millions of people around the world who are blind, low vision, or dyslexic free access to books that will work for them.

Benetech has already solved this problem for students in the United States. Our Bookshare library has over 550,000 books that have been delivered digitally over 10 million times. Bookshare adapts to the needs of all readers with a disability that makes reading hard, whether they read with their eyes, ears, or fingers. We’re already delivering services at scale in three other countries—Canada, the UK, and India.


Very few philanthropic opportunities come with the chance to solve a global problem with modest risk. This one does. We just need the resources to scale. Why…

You Can Help Us Strengthen the Social Safety Net!

Tech entrepreneurs can change the world through their philanthropy. They will achieve the greatest bang for their philanthropic buck by prioritizing the better use of community-driven software and data. That was my message in a recent interview, which you can read on the Benetech blog series, The Impact.
Today, I’m writing to provide the first in a series of specific ideas on how philanthropic tech entrepreneurs can do good by doing what they do best: using software and data to create massive value.
What if every person in need had access to the help they needed?
Every day in every community, there are people who need help. From a single mom facing eviction to a vet struggling with PTSD, to a domestic violence survivor fighting for custody of her kids. A web of complex needs exists, but information about the various services that address those needs—services that form the social safety net—is difficult to find. Compared to the data I have at my fingertips about businesses (how many sa…

Why We Are Voting Against the W3C Decision on Encrypted Media Extensions

There is a big controversy in the technical standards area that impacts accessibility of content in web browsers.  Ars Technica covered this recently in their post: Over many objections, W3C approves DRM for HTML5.



Benetech is voting against the W3C decision on Encrypted Media Extensions (EME).  Here is the statement that will accompany our vote:

EME should not become a W3C Recommendation without adding provisions that safeguard the rights of accessibility and security researchers to do their job without risking prosecution under the DMCA and similar national legislation.These types of provisions are already implemented around patents connected to standards work, and we believe accessibility professionals deserve similar protections. DRM has been the enemy of accessibility, not to mention the ugly compromise DRM represents to technical excellence and freedom.  EME’s reason to exist is to implement DRM. EME is irrevocably tainted from an accessibility standpoint because of this close as…

It's Good to be Alive Today!

I am still on the Skoll high Just back from my week in Oxford with my head buzzing and Michael Franti's social change anthem "Good to be Alive Today" ringing in my ears. It's hard to explain why this is the one conference a year I always make the time for. It's a powerful mix of inspiration, singing, ideas and most importantly, peer brainstorming.  I have more than a year's worth of ideas for social good. Let me share just a few!
Systems Entrepreneurship is on the Rise Jeff Walker has been making the case for what he calls "systems entrepreneurship" at Harvard's Kennedy School, Skoll and in a new SSIR article. He uses examples such as the campaign to eliminate malaria to demonstrate we need a new class of backbone organizations (borrowing from the collective impact concept identified by FSG) who are around organizing larger scale systems change with an ecosystem of players, as opposed to setting out as one organization to make the change single…

Fake Facebook Friends and the CIA

Last night I received a Facebook friend request from an old friend and accepted it.  Within a minute or two, a FB Messenger chat started up about the UN and the Sustainable Development Goals.  So, I of course kept the conversation going.  Until it quickly became a classic advance fee scam conversation (originally made famous by folks in Nigeria with faxes). 

I quickly checked, and found that (of course) I already was Facebook friends with my old friend.  Someone had borrowed her picture and name and was starting to ply the scam trade.  Facebook has a handy way of reporting this exact problem and the fake account was suspended within minutes.  But, it was a reminder of how somebody who has been working with people at the forefront of the security field can be taken in, if only for five minutes. 

So, my advice: if an old friend reaches out to you on Facebook, someone who really should already be a Facebook friend, it's probably not your friend.  With the exception of a few folks wh…