One Week, Two Cities: Sofia & Stockholm

Past ten days have been eventful, to say the least. I was invited by team WordPress to attend WordCamp Europe in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was for a conversation between Matt (Mullenweg) and me (an alpha adopter of WordPress software), where I deftly steered Matt into only answering (and not asking) any questions. The camp, obviously involved a long journey — San Francisco to New York. An overnight stay in NYC which also led to a chance meeting with Mack Weldon founder Brian Berger and a great cup of coffee at my favorite NY spot, Ground Support. And then off to Sofia via Munich.

To be candid, I didn’t know what to expect from Sofia & Bulgaria. Middle Europe is an interesting part of the continent and candidly, very hard to describe. The city of Sofia, which is the capital of Bulgaria has starred in the history of Europe, but the falling of the Iron Curtain left it with pock marks of communism — stark, concrete residential blocks. Architecture and town planning during the Soviet era was minimal, focusing on efficiency over aesthetics and elegance, almost brutal. Parts of Sofia reminded me of the propaganda films I saw growing up in India.

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30 days of blogging

Matt Mullenweg was challenged to a 30 days of non-stop blogging on his blog. I thought it was a great idea and instead of doing it all by myself, I roped in three guys to the 30 day blog challenge. I think world needs a lot more classic blogging — from links to photos to essays. Hiten Shah (KISSmetrics), Michael Galpert (Aviary) and Toni Schneider (Automattic and True Ventures) are joining me on this journey. We kick it off tomorrow and take weekends off! Hope you can join the blog party! 

End of Savile Row

We, who have had the vulnerability to believe that in this 21st century, there are still things that money cannot buy, have to admit that maybe we were wrong. Savile Row will likely never be the same and the heritage that is heavily advertised by people who have no idea what they’re talking about, is about to die.  — Hugo Jacomet

48

Footsteps of time are silent. Years melt away with nary a whisper. And just like that the boy in you stares at middle age, often thinking of golden summers gone by. The memories come rushing back. You try and take stock of your life, only to find that you are rich in friends and have mostly lived without regrets. And am reminded of how lucky I am to still be still here, for technically my time was up a few years ago. Yet, somewhere in me lives the boy who is living to learn and is learning to live. I am happy that I am 48.

Champagne Supernovas by Maureen Callahan [Book Review]

You can’t judge a book by its cover. In this case, you can’t judge a book by its name. Champagne Supernovas by Maureen Callahan, a Brooklyn-based writer who has contributed to magazines such as Sassy, Vibe, Spin and Vanity Fair, will perhaps stick in my mind as the most unfortunately named book of 2014. That is kind of a shame, mostly because the book itself was surprisingly much better that I had expected.

The book chronicles the rise of three 1990s fashion icons — model Kate Moss and fashion designers Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs. While McQueen committed suicide in 2010, Jacobs still reigns supreme in the fashion world. Moss has reinvented herself as a fashion arbiter for Swedish fast fashion retailer, H&M.

I have an amateur’s interest in fashion and pop culture. I am fascinated by history and more importantly creation of history. I stumbled across Supernovas and was drawn to the premise of the book, because to me it was a book less about fashion and more about the nineties. Callahan argues that “just as movies were the driving cultural force in the 1970s and art was the force in the 1980s, in the 1990s it was fashion that become the prism through which the popular culture was refracted.”

As someone who believes that the emergence of the Internet was the pivotal socio-economic and cultural moment, I obviously don’t fully buy into her thesis, but I don’t reject it all together, either. Callahan’s thesis is that these three icons came to represent a “moment in popular culture, fashion and time” and upended all notions of what had come before. They were a 1990s reaction to the excesses of eighties. They were about rejecting the gauche and the greed of the decade before, where super models like Linda Evangelista could get away with making statements like “We don’t leave home for less than $10,000 a day.”

I started reading the book late evening after arriving in Sofia, Bulgaria for a conference. Severely jet-lagged, I didn’t want to fall asleep early and suffer for rest of the trip. It was almost mid-night before I put down the book, having read through nearly 150 pages of the total 230. I woke up early to start reading it again and finsihed it before heading over to the conference venue.

The author has done an immaculate job of reporting on her three subjects and in the process weaving a narrative of the 1990s, which despite being very narrow rings quite true. I was living in New York City during the time. While I didn’t live in the same world, I do remember reading some of the stories in the New York Post or one of the many city magazines.

The book is clearly not about fashion — I still don’t know what Jacobs and McQueen’s design philosophies are, even though the authors spent a lot of words writing about their work. I still don’t know Moss as a person. However, Moss’s emergence as a model and her subsequent choices were vivid. Jacobs’ personal life has more of a focus, while McQueen comes across more as a Dali painting than an actual person. Callahan has mastered the art of writing great non-fiction — it is hard to tell where the facts end and fiction starts. Her prose is simple and energetic, unaffected by the subjects of her book. So much so, I will automatically buy her next book. The “supernovas” didn’t make Jacobs, Moss and McQueen sympathetic characters — and instead they came across as who they are: slightly narcissistic, talented, and yet broken humans.

Bottom-line: Will I recommend this book? Answer is yes. As long as you are okay with the idea that this isn’t intellectual nourishment. Instead It is a book, about three people and a slice of time. The book reminded me of the old Jackie Collins novels — steamy, hedonistic, shocking, and yet delicious. Even the name has a Collinsque ring to it.

iOS 8 upgrade’s impact on the networks

Earlier today news came out that as of September 21st nearly 46 percent of iDevices have upgraded to the new iOS 8 versus 49 percent who are still using the iOS 7. That is a pretty nifty uptick for an OS that was made available in the market on Sept 17th. According to some reports, a bulk of those upgrades came on the first day the OS was available. Analysis run by Michigan-based network management services provider Deepfield shows the big jump on day one the OS was made available. In comparison to iOS 7 “the jump is way larger than I would have expected,” Craig Labovitz, founder & CEO of Deepfield wrote to me in an email. Larger file sizes and many more millions of iDevices that sold in the past 12 months can explain “the jump.”

Apple has a great weekend

Apple sold over 10 million new iPhone 6 and 6 plus units. That compares to more than 9 million for the iPhone 5s/5c launch and over 5 million for the iPhone 5. This chart gives you some historical context. Some analysts estimate that Apple could sell as many as 38 million units in the September quarter.  My friend Steve asked on Twitter, if there is something with an average selling price of $700 that has sold over 10 million units within three days? By Steve’s ASP math, that is a $7 billion weekend.

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