Personal stuff

Jun 12


Yesterday, Kathy & I brought home our new baby boy, ZBL. He was born on Tuesday at Stanford Hospital — he and Kathy are both doing super well, and SPL is excited to be a big brother.

What I wanted to write about this morning is optimism. The act of bringing home a new baby is such an incredible act of optimism. It’s just impossible not to look at everything with new eyes and to see potential everywhere.

As I get to know Z, I find that just talking to him, telling him about all the things that he’ll learn about and interact with and make — it fills me with a spirit of possibility.

Raising kids is challenging, no doubt about it. And there are days which can be pretty long.

But we get so many things from our kids, and like it did with his big brother, it’s amazing to me how much Z coming into the world has already given me, how much it’s broadened my perspective, and how he’s already helping me see so much optimism and possibility in the world.

Apr 12


N.B.: this post might be in the “too much information” category for some of you. If so, just click on to the next thing.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months, but haven’t been able to get it done. Partly because it’s been such a busy year, but partly too because I’m not really sure what to say.

Nonetheless, I think it’s important to write, so here goes.

Kathy & I are expecting our second child in June — we’re so, so excited about it. We had our first child nearly 7 years ago — and he’s the sun and the moon for both of us — he’s everything, really. Despite the fact that Kathy & I have known each other since high school in 1985 (no joke!) and have been married since 2000, we waited relatively late to start our family, having SPL when we were each 35. Lots of reasons for that, but I think ultimately we wanted to be “just us” as a married couple for a while, get that sorta figured out a little bit.

It didn’t happen right away for us — it took a couple of years of trying for it to happen. At some level, that was the first really clear indication in our lives that there are some things that you just can’t schedule, you can’t control, don’t always happen the way you draw them up.

Nonetheless, we waited a couple of years to start thinking about our second child — and it was a considerably harder path than the first time around. We went through several surgeries, IUI cycles, and several cycles of IVF. We never really figured out exactly what the problems were, just factors that might have made things less likely.

We started at Stanford, and after a bunch of research and talking with friends we could find, we ended up going to a clinic in Denver. We went through a bunch of invasive & emotional & tiring procedures in Denver that required Kathy to be away from SPL & me for a week or two at a time. My mom came out several times to help — not sure what we would have done without her.

And then, in the cycle that we had decided would be our last time, everything worked. That was about 7 months ago now, and our second child appears to be healthy & heading towards coming into the world in June. We’ll both be 41, and SPL will be nearly 7. So we’re excited, and a little terrified, too (but in mostly a good way).

But here’s why I wanted to write this: as we went on our own path, we would often tentatively mention a word or a phrase related to IVF and when we saw the person we were with nod or respond, then we would discuss a little more actively. We’re so grateful for our friends along the way who had gone before us — they were all incredibly supportive and helpful.

I figure there must be many, many more people going through this than we know. Especially here in California I think people are waiting longer and longer to have kids — so you’d expect more problems along the way.

But there’s a reluctance, or embarrassment, or something that keeps people from talking about it much. I hope that that goes away over time as it becomes more common and better understood.

That’s why I wanted to write this, ultimately — not because I have a ton to add to the conversation — I have some modest insight from our own experience, but mostly it’s been a very personal journey for Kathy & me. But I hope by writing that more people will start to feel that it’s okay to talk about, to write about.

Like so many other areas, sunshine and knowledge are hugely powerful. We’ve been lucky to have so many friends in this along the way, and I hope others going through it do also.

Looking forward to June. 🙂

Mar 12


At TED, I’ve found there are overall themes of each conference that speakers keep coming to again & again — often not the official theme, but a reflection of where the mood of the community is. And then I’ve found that wherever I am personally, I get coherence in different ways. For me this year, and for many of the folks I’ve talked with, the theme is intentionality: how to figure out and live a life that you want to live, instead of taking the one that comes to you.

As a friend said last night, it feels like there were maybe a half dozen talks about just this thing. From Sherry Turkle’s worry about how devices are making us alone, together; to Jen Pahlka’s excellent thoughts on becoming better and more involved citizens; to David Kelly’s thoughts on creative confidence and how to nurture it; and to Bryan Stevenson’s unbelievable talk about how he’s made a difference, and the people in his life who have helped him “keep his eyes on the prize.”

I’m coming to view intentionality, depth of thought and connection, and the power to focus as the central developmental challenges of our society today. We’re going through an incredibly rapid transformation into an always connected, real-time, perma-entertained, ever stimulated world — and it’s becoming clear to me that, somewhat ironically, it’s the people who can take advantage of all of that, while also ultimately staying within themselves, will be the ones who make the most profound and positive changes in our world.

So that applies to all of us, and implies much about how to think about living our lives, interacting with each other, and teaching our children.

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few months — or really probably the last year or so — about how to be more intentional in my life — i think this week has catalyzed some of my thinking, so I’ll plan to write about a bunch of different aspects of it as I work through my own re-intentioning of my life.

Jan 12


Thanks to everyone for the thoughts on my 41st birthday yesterday! I really (& sincerely) enjoyed seeing the stream of notifications on my phone throughout the day — each one a small note, but reminding me of times we’ve worked & played together, all around the world, and in may different contexts.

As an event, 41 is not exactly a major milestone. But it was a very nice weekend & birthday, and caps off a pretty significant 41st year on the planet for me. It’s a funny sort of age — not really old or young at this point.

Last year a lot happened — we moved to Palo Alto, SPL started kindergarten, I started at Greylock (and as an investor, a very new discipline compared to the operating that I’ve done over the last 15 or 20 years), and a bunch of other stuff, big and small.

As I turn 41, I feel both old and young — somewhere in between, I suppose. But I’m looking forward to my 2nd year of investing at Greylock with partners I really, really enjoy and learn from every day. I’m looking forward to continuing to see SPL grow and develop every day, week, month. I’m looking forward to Kathy & my 12th year of marriage (and 27th year of being friends!) I’m looking forward to getting involved with more amazing entrepreneurs and companies of all stripes (commercial, non-profit, civic, and more). And to my extended family continuing to be amazing.

And then a huge thing, as Kathy & I are looking forward to the arrival of our 2nd child, which we’re expecting in June. It’s such a funny thing — new babies arrive in our world every second of every day — but each one that arrives in your own life is just such a massive thing that it’s a little hard to even get your head around.

Having a January birthday always feels great to me — it resets and renews above & beyond the end of the holidays and the New Year. And I find that I’m as excited about my 42nd trip around the sun as I’ve ever been. So much to do this year.

Thanks again to everyone!

Jan 12

Some followup thoughts on my SOPA post

The best thing about writing for me is that it helps me figure out what I really think about things. And one of the very best things about doing it on the web is that others can collaborate, disagree, tweak, suggest, and generally help think through things even better. So after a couple of days of Friday’s SOPA post rolling around in my head, I think I have a tighter point of view now that I wanted to write down. (There were some great tweets, mails, comments & posts in reaction to what I wrote. Super thoughtful & useful.

Here are a few specific starting points, then I’ll get to my main point, which is that we (a technologically-oriented US, at least) are not well set up for the future in terms of how we evolve tech policy. Not a new thought, but I think the SOPA situation may be putting us in a worse spot.

But first 3 starting points and a personal observation:

1. SOPA+PIPA are awful bills. No way around it. They over-reach, they circumscribe civil liberties, and they mostly will not work. They shouldn’t pass, and we should do whatever we can to keep that from happening. They’re the latest in a long line of legislation that looks like this: reducing freedoms in a misguided attempt to protect us from a different big bad. They’re so numerous in US history they hardly need listing here.

2. Existing industries are always oriented towards self-preservation. No exception here. But there’s a funny thing that happens: the most progressive companies of today who become successful and dominant will become reactionary in the future, oriented themselves towards self-preservation. Same as it ever was. And you can see it even in the current situation — the companies who are most outspoken are the modern Internet companies: LinkedIn, Mozilla, Zynga, Google, etc etc. Mostly on the sidelines are the most progressive technology companies of the past decades, even including Apple. So this is not, fundamentally, a techie v content type of issue at all, but more of a progressive v conservative technology issue.

3. We do have existing laws and norms. A number of folks argued that content owners just need to accept that pirated goods are a viable alternative and need to learn how to compete with them. I’m wholly unpersuaded by that point of view. Or, rather, I believe we do have existing laws that govern how we behave. It’s pretty clear (to me at least) that content businesses will need to evolve, and many interesting ones already have. But that’s something for a lawful market to decide, not for anyone to thrust onto content owners & creators.

And then a personal observation: I was actually a little nervous writing about SOPA last week because of the tone of the conversation to date. I felt like it might actually provoke harsh negative reaction and somehow brand me as “SOPA-friendly” or against the web. That’s a weird thing for me to feel, as I think my web & open culture bona fides are pretty well established at this point between my work with Mozilla, PCF, Code for America, and now Tumblr, etc etc. That by itself tells me that there’s something wrong about how things are going.

Okay, so given all that as a context, here’s my main point: no matter what outcome we get to with respect to SOPA+PIPA, we’re in a bad spot going forward. 

I think much of the legitimate frustration on the Silicon Valley side of the fence is that there seems to be no way to have a meaningful conversation about this stuff in ways that we know to be productive. It’s happening at this point with some guy who doesn’t seem to understand technology having his staff & a bunch of lobbyists prepare a non-sensical bill and then try to jam it through Congress, without any real effort to understand what might actually work. (And, worse, it’s being done in a way that seems deliberately designed to misinform.) So it’s a bunch of backroom, captured discussion that has massive impact on how we live our lives — and it’s all completely opaque (at best).

The real thing that I’m worrying more and more about is not SOPA per se, although that’s a very large problem itself. The real problem that I see is that our government just isn’t set up to make meaningful technology policy decisions going forward. I think Larry Lessig would argue that that’s now true about all facets of modern life, but I think that with technology it’s significantly worse. We have massive interconnectedness of systems built on an extremely rapidly changing foundation of technology. But more than that, technology is now transforming our private and public lives so quickly that we can hardly make sense of any of it at a personal level, let alone a public policy level. And there seems to be no way for legislation to keep pace unless we change the discussion there from specific technologies instead to principles of how we want to build and evolve our society.

And I just don’t see how that kind of conversation can happen right now.

I see how to defeat SOPA, more or less. But it’s more lobbying, more rhetoric, more Capitol Hill influence. And I think that all of that stuff ultimately corrupts industries that use it. I know this is not a new objection, and I’m sure that there have been people in every industry forever who have made this point.

So I think most of what I wanted to write on Friday is this: I desperately hope we can (1) defeat SOPA and more importantly (2) figure out a way to have useful technology policy discussions that can inform both our legistatures and law enforcement agencies. This isn’t the last law that will be technically poor and will impinge on civil liberties. There will be more, and they’ll come up more and more frequently as increasing portions of our society get disoriented by and disrupted by new technology.

We shouldn’t rely on symmetric (and corrupting) lobbying efforts to make things better; we’ll just get more of the same crummy situation we’ve got.

What I think we really need to figure out is how to help our leadership in government act and think in a more agile way, informed by more of our citizenry. More like the web, in a lot of ways. (Ed Lee’s announcement of an SF partnership with Code for America is a start.)

Maybe impossible, a pipe dream. But that’s the target I think we should be setting for ourselves, not just defeating a crappy, misinformed bill.