The Sweet Joy of Doing

Never wait for perfect. Pretty good might be as good as it gets.

How many of us have written something as a first draft. After a later review, with a satisfied sigh we say, “That’s pretty good.” How many of us try something and wonder, “Why didn’t I do this years ago?” Which is better, the knowledge that a project is complete or the guilt of waiting to start the project? Closure is a very good feeling but even the start of something that will lead to implementation is a good feeling. We call it VSOP, Visible Signs of Progress.

Now is a time for Ireland to stop talking and begin implementing.

Many have noted that we lost generations of entrepreneurs and builders in the past. And the spirit and talent all went abroad or into property and professions. Now another generation can well be lost during this economic crises.

Ireland’s crisis is testing the very confidence in government and the mettle of the people. Everyone agrees that Ireland needs to create jobs and to rebuild the economy, but the only way to build companies is through a sustained effort to create them by investing in jobs and nurturing entrepreneurs.

No doubt, the US is not short on agencies or bureaucracies. But when there was a crisis at the time of the 9/11 attack, there were twenty-two agencies entrusted with American security – it had now been changed to one – The Department of Homeland Security. Although not without problems, it has the virtue of singularity, thus accountability.

We see things from Silicon Valley in terms of accountability and action.

In the last three years we have visited Ireland many times with the Irish Technology Leadership Group, composed of Irish-American CEOs and Irish-born success stories of great merit. Former Intel CEO, Craig Barrett, is our Chairman, John Hartnett from Limerick, our founder. We have met with ministers, spoken to Taoiseachs, held symposia, visited all the major universities, given speeches, held panel discussions, honored start-up companies, and talked until we feel our points were made. We probably added to global warming with our hot air. Then we acted.

We have opened an Innovation Center in San Jose, and have 30 Irish-bred companies that we are mentoring and assisting with our own venture capital fund. The young entrepreneurs that we have encountered from Belfast to Dublin to Kerry are uniformly smart and full of hope. Many of them have sprung from the Intels and Apples of the early Celtic Tiger years; more will come from the Facebook and Twitter of today. Yet we worry that the simplest acts to encourage and build a true innovation economy are not happening – events should make no one sanguine.

Radical thinking is needed and here’s a start:

  1. Begin counting companies created as well as jobs created. Google came from Stanford, but surely needed the job base of our valley to hire the best; companies from Trinity and the UC system will likewise need such a base of talent from new inward investment. “How many companies have been created?” must be a critical question.
  2. Create a venture capital eco-system. In the past, the banks lent their money for real estate schemes. Has nothing been learned? The Irish Innovation Fund must target monies and encourage venture firms that are both expert in the field and will create wealth in Ireland, not Silicon Valley or New York.
  3. Good work has been done by IDA, EI and others, but merge the bureaucracy and curtail the process. Consolidate the Government agencies that are charged with creating, funding, exporting or inspiring wealth creation and training – if America can trust the safety of our nation to one, can the Irish do less. Then measure the results.
  4. Stop talking about taxes: the corporate rate is 12.5% and must remain so to build jobs and expertise for the emerging Irish-bred companies of the future. Creating companies that will eventually pay taxes is the real metric to watch, only then will Ireland have them. Remember when Oscar Wilde chastised Queen Victoria that “if this is the way she treats her convicts, she doesn’t deserve to have any!”

The entire island of Ireland is six million people, about the size of the greater San Francisco-San Jose-Silicon Valley area. Push networks of funding, mentoring and creativity in all areas at home and throughout the Diaspora. Avoid the incestuous thinking that was synonymous with the events that lead to the collapse of the Irish economy and the premature death of the Celtic Tiger. Accountability, consolidation, and innovation must be the hallmark of the new economic epoch. If Ireland is to prosper once again, she must avoid holding seminars, walking in the New York St. Patrick’s Parade, and following the antediluvian policies that brought her low. Simply, she must think and act anew, and in that implementation lies her salvation.

Tom McEnery is an a businessman and former mayor of San Jose. Richard Moran is an author, Partner in Irish Technology Capital and the CEO of Accretive Solutions.

The Case for a Tech-Savvy Irish-American President of Ireland

An article in the online blog An American in Ireland from Irish Central yesterday has ignited the idea of the Irish-American Former Mayor of San Jose Tom McEnery (@tom_mcenery on Twitter) being a potential candidate for the forthcoming Irish presidency.

Tom McEnery has had a long and distinguished career in politics, albeit not in Irish politics. As an Irish citizen, McEnery could run if he received the necessary support from a grouping of independents or from the Fianna Fáil party if they decide to allow members to support independent candidates next week.

While not impossible, this would require some effort, with Irish Voice founder Niall O’Dowd citing the difficulties involved in mounting an independent campaign. However, if he could be persuaded to run, he would bring both practical skills and new life to the position of President of Ireland.

McEneryMcEnery has strong ties to the tech community in Silicon Valley, and can act as a bridge to California. This is a connection that Ireland needs to build on as it grows its position as a location for tech investment and as a base for European headquarters of various US multinationals. He was also instrumental in establishing the Irish Technology Leadership Group with John Harnett, a supporter of McEnery’s potential presidential bid.

McEnery also has wide experience in the regeneration of urban areas, something which Limerick and its doughnut effect could certainly benefit from. He has recently written about the need to nurture successes in Ireland rather than trying to restructure failures, and has said that Ireland should not be trying to improve on an already horrible set of past decisions.

McEnery has an extensive knowledge of Irish history, having written his Masters thesis on Michael Collins, and writing the introduction for John Hume’s “A New Ireland”.

While the odds may be slightly against this happening, the time is certainly right for an Irish-American President of Ireland, and McEnery would make a great one.

Disclaimer: Tom McEnery is a regular contributor to this site, and is an owner of the Irish Innovation Center, one of the investors in Technology Voice.

“The Irish are Coming” Southern California Chapter of the ITLG is Launched

Last night over 300 tech and entertainment executives and their guests gathered at Sony Picture Entertainment studios in Los Angeles, California. The event was to launch the Southern California Chapter of the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG). One guest, Dennis Donahue, Agriculturalist and Mayor of Salinas, believes very strongly the ITLG has, “Arguably, the best economic development program in the world. It is a very distinct market based approach with experienced executives, venture capital funds, terrific leadership and a network that can’t be beat.”

Guests of honor were First Minister Peter Robinson of Northern Ireland and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Considering their personal history and the centuries of conflict that Ireland has had to endure it was a wonderful testament to the desire for peace and progress to see both men on a platform together in front of some of the most powerful and successful Irish and Irish-American executives of the Diaspora.

A main theme of the evening was the enormous contribution that Irish led technology companies have made in the past, are making now and will to do so in the future to the entertainment industry.

John Hartnett, President and Founder of the ITLG credited JonMichael Bukosky and Kieran Hannon for presenting the case for having a Southern California Chapter. They clearly saw the potential in bringing together the ITLG’s extensive network of technology executives with significant figures in the entertainment business such as Bill Daly, Senior Vice President of Post Production at Warner Brothers and George Bailey, Sony’s Chief Transformation officer.

After dinner there followed a panel discussion hosted very effectively by Norah Zimmett of Bloomberg Television who were a media partner to the event. The theme of the discussion was ‘technology and entertainment.’ It was interesting to hear the different opinions from Fred Amoroso of Rovi, Robert Nashak, Executive Vice President of Digital Entertainment BBC Worldwide, Jay Roewe SVP of West Coast Production for HBO and Richard Moran, Venture Capitalist, CEO of Accretive Solutions and regular contributor to Technology Voice.

There was much discussion on how new innovations can affect and enhance the production process while possibly reducing costs. It was clear by the end that the panel was united in the view that Silicon Valley technologies would have a continuing and significant effect on the entertainment industry.

To ensure momentum and that the gains from the evening are not lost, JonMichael Bukosky said in a post event interview, that meetings between the technology executives of Silicon Valley and their Hollywood counterparts will continue, facilitated by the Southern Californian Chapter of the ITLG, on a bi-monthly basis with the next one taking place in November.

As Craig Barrett, Chairman of the ITLG and ex-CEO of Intel, announced in his opening remarks which were relayed by video due to previous commitments, “The Irish are coming.”

ITLG: ‘Innovation in Entertainment’

The Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) is opening its Southern California Chapter in the heart of the entertainment business today. Entitled ‘Innovation in Entertainment’ the event which will take place at Sony Pictures Studios, in Los Angeles, marks the impact of technology on entertainment and recognize the major advances made by Irish entrepreneurs and technologists.

“Without question, technology advancements are radically impacting the process of Innovation in Entertainment,” says Nora Zimmett from Bloomberg Television — media partner for the night. “With the launch of ITLG’s Southern California Chapter comes validation from Silicon Valley that Hollywood is fast becoming an influential center of technology advancement.”

Top entertainment executives speakers will take the stage on the night to explain how innovation will shape the future of their industry and will include Sony’s Chief Transformation Officer, George Bailey, Warner Bros SVP Post Production, Bill Daly and Rovi’s CEO, Fred Amoroso.

Included in the 300 attending are top leaders, founders, producers, presidents and CEOs from leading companies including Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, Sony Pictures Studios, Intel, Motorola, Bloomberg, Dreamworks, HBO, Google, AT&T, NBC Universal, Paramount Studios, Nokia, and The Jim Henson Company.

The event’s technology showcase and media lounge will be featuring the latest innovation in film/TV, music, video games, mobile applications, social media and 3D Printing.

“The theme of Innovation in Entertainment rose out of the recognition that there is growing convergence between all areas of technology and entertainment and massive race to own the consumer’s screen.

“With so much relevant technology coming out of Ireland and Northern Ireland, there is no doubt that we have the resources and talent to make a demonstrable impact in the global entertainment and technology industries. We just need the public and private sector to continue a forward-thinking policy of strategic investment,” says John Hartnett, ITLG President and Founder.

The event is sold out but we will have a reporter on the ground so you can expect regular updates via our Twitter account, @technologyvoice.

Our Top 10 Irish Twitter Influencers

Centres of gravity in the Irish Twitterverse.

Determining a list of the most influential tweeters can be a thankless task. Influence can mean many things to many people. For some, it’s purely a numbers game; those with the most followers are the most influential. For most however, influence is defined by a range of subjective characteristics so broad and personal that no two lists are the same.

When compiling this list of Irish Twitterati, we looked at several factors; how many followers they had, how many they followed back, how many tweets they had notched up, and whether these tweets were actually interesting and inspiring, or of the Jed-prefixed variety. However, the deciding factor was, as ever in these cases, a subjective choice. So, while many will feel that this list is inherently flawed, we can at least console ourselves in the knowledge that theirs is too.

@glinner: Graham Linehan rose to prominence as the co-writer of seminal Irish sitcom Father Ted. He has also put his name to comedy shows such as Brass Eye and The IT Crowd. It is not unusual for the mind behind so much cult comedy to have the 126,593 followers Linehan has at the time of writing, but his use of Twitter extends beyond the usual celebrity self-indulgence.

Linehan has used his influence on the social network to campaign for a variety of issues in Ireland, the UK and the United States, and was especially outspoken during the recent hacking scandal. He also started the #welovethenhs hashtag campaign in August 2009 in response to right-wing American criticism of the UK health service. The campaign was supported by then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his successor, David Cameron.

Klout: 76
TweetLevel: 82.8

@topgold: Multimedia lecturer Bernie Goldbach is an American living in Cashel, and a stalwart of the Twitter and blogging communities here. He acknowledges that Twitter can mean different things to different people; some prefer casual online chat with acquaintances, while others glean more value from hashtag threads of interest such as the #edchatie thread he follows himself.

“I think influence is a measure of persuasiveness”, explains Bernie. “Over time, minor voices can have a measure of influence if those voices offer listeners value. On Twitter, that can be ambient intimacy, pointers to valuable content, or information about upcoming events. That’s how I decide who or what to follow.”

Klout: 62
TweetLevel: 74.4

@davidcochrane: The editor of Irish political forum, David Cochrane is never far from any Irish political issue on Twitter. His stream is a great source for links to discussion threads on the political issues of the day as well as some lively political debate.

Klout: 61
TweetLevel: 75.5

@arseblog: Andrew Mangan, aka Arseblogger, has been blogging about Arsenal Football Club since 2002, and is renowned for both his passion for the club and for his acerbic wit, for example this rather pointed barb at Welsh football pundit Robbie Savage. Interaction with his followers is key to his large following, even if he acknowledges that, “you can’t reply to all of them, it’s just impossible physically to reply to all of them”.

However, he notes, “Unless you reply to some of them, I don’t see what you get out of it, to be honest, because you can debate things, or have two people coming at the same thing from different angles. Without interaction, it just becomes a soapbox.”

Klout: 79
TweetLevel: 83.3

@miriamocal: Television personality Miriam O’ Callaghan’s balanced and unwavering anchoring of current affairs show Prime Time, coupled with her popularity with the Irish public, led to her being mooted as a potential candidate for President of Ireland recently. Despite such high standing, Miriam is an extremely responsive and engaged tweeter, whether raising awareness about a particular issue, or magnanimously apologising for her employer’s failure to cover Shamrock Rover’s latest game.

Klout: 59
TweetLevel: 65.6

@sendboyle: Green Party politician Dan Boyle may not have the same influence out of office, but few can claim to have ousted a government minister via social media. Boyle’s tweet expressing his lack of confidence in Willie O’ Dea set in motion the machinations which led to his resignation in 2010.

Should the Green Party ever recover from its damaging flirtation with Fianna Fáil, Boyle’s forthright, some would say naïve, insistence on tweeting things more suited to private conversation will likely have more ramifications than we can expect from more high-profile, and reserved, politicians’ tweets.

Klout: 49
TweetLevel: 66.7

@conor_pope: Irish Times journalist Conor Pope’s consumer advice is much sought-after these days, and he often mines Twitter for sources for his Pricewatch column. Conor is always willing to engage with fellow Twitterers, meaning that for aggrieved consumers, help can be just one tweet away.

“It has to be interactive”, he says of his tweeting. “You can’t just post self-publicising, puff, tweets. It has to be engaging, so it has to be interesting to people. You have to interact with people, and you have to really understand the medium, and not take yourself too seriously.”

Klout: 69
TweetLevel: 69.0

@nialler9: Niall Byrne is the editor of State magazine, and the recognised point of first contact for Irish music fans looking to hear the best new music, at home and abroad. Boasting an impressive 22,943 tweets under his belt, nialler9 is a bountiful source of streaming and download links for the best new talent out there.

Klout: 61
TweetLevel: 71.2

@guidofawkes: Like him or loathe him, there’s no denying the ability of British-born Irish citizen Paul Staines to stick in the craw of the administration and the established media in Britain. Under his would-be gunpowder plotting alias, Staines uses Twitter to take all the whispered rumour and plotting of Westminster and broadcast it to the masses.

Klout: 75
TweetLevel: 80.8

@marklittlenews: Former RTÉ news reporter Mark Little didn’t cower with the rest of the Luddites, waiting for online journalism to sweep his job away in a sea of unverified comment, opting instead to meet the challenges presented by citizen journalism head-on. Liberated by the interaction afforded by Twitter, he founded Storyful, a news curation service, which sifts through the reams of citizen sources on the Internet, and presents the reliable, newsworthy sources as news.

Mark sees authenticity, quality of content, and engagement as the key factors in having influence on Twitter, “I don’t necessarily think you have to constantly answer every query or engage with every person who retweets you or mentions you, but there has to be a solid level of engagement with people who follow you”.

Klout: 63
TweetLevel: 81.8

So, while Jedward, Ronan Keating and their ilk may remain top of the Twitter charts, the clear consensus among influential Irish Twitter users is that the pursuit of knowledge and engagement, rather than followers, is at the heart of Twitter influence. 140 characters is the great leveller in this case, as it is the quality of what you tweet, rather than your offline profile, that sets you apart.

The Possibilities of Kinect

In an interview with Wilbour Craddock of Microsoft Ireland we discuss the opportunities that exist for next generation user interfaces, development possibilities and market applications.

The interview took place at the Microsoft European Development Centre (EDC) on the day of a Microsoft Kinect Event. Developers gathered to hear speakers such as Fred Herrera of Create Ireland talk about the marketing opportunities for gesture based technologies using the Kinect. He pointed out that in a sense the killer app was that Kinect already had a mass market presence. This would make it very easy to distribute applications.

Stephen Howell from the Institute of Technology, Tallaght demonstrated how simple and straightforward it was to create educational and games programs using the Kinect in conjunction with Scratch; a very basic but very powerful programming language.

Finally, Neil Gannon showed how the Kinect device could be used to record real world environments for creating virtual worlds. Clearly, there were other architectural and landscaping applications to be had as well.

More Kinect events are planned and you can expect them to be listed on the Microsoft Ireland Events site when dates are set.

CRANN and Western Digital: Researching and Developing Nanotechnology for Data Storage

Instead of creating a whole new storage system to replace the hard discs that we use in in our computers it would be much more advantageous to fit more information into the same space. However, when the physical size of these data areas start to become measured in nanometers certain technical roadblocks to progress are encountered.

One such roadblock is being able to make the information stored on the magnetic material stable enough for prolonged repeated use while having the smallest possible footprint.

According to John Donegan, Professor of Physics at Trinity College Dublin, “If [data] is not stable on your disc then maybe when you come back to read it in a week or two the information is gone. That’s a disaster.”

For the information to be stable and available for a long period of time the recording material to needs to have a very high Curie Temperature. The Curie Temperature determines the point at which a given material can have its magnetic properties altered. For the hard disc drives we are used to using the desired Curie Temperature would need to be higher than any likely temperature to be found in the operating environment to prevent the magnetic material from losing the stored information.

The research that Professor Donegan and his colleagues and associates at the Centre for Research on Adaptive Nanostructures and Nanodevices (CRANN,) the Science Foundation Ireland funded research centre based at Trinity College Dublin, are involved with involves heating a very small area of the disc in a fraction of a second. Information is stored there quickly and then moves on to the next spot on the material.

CRANN recently announced a research arrangement with Western Digital. “What we are doing with Western Digital is looking at how make that spot as on the surface of the material as small as possible.” Using heat assisted magnetic recording as much as 10 times more information can be stored.

Schematic of the EAMR (energy assisted magnetic recording)
The laser light through the NFT (near field transducer) heats the surface
to above the Curie temperature. The magnet write pole then writes 1 and 0
on the surface of the disk.

The recording material is iron platinum but Professor Donnegan’s expertise in optics – the study of how light interacts with materials – is involved in using light in the form of a laser to transmit information to the disc.

He goes on to explain, “People will be familiar with the idea that if you shine light through a lens you can see a small spot of light where it comes to a focus. The spot, when using a normal lens, can be made to the size of one micron and that is one millionth of a metre in size.” But that is still a very large space for information to occupy in comparison to what can be achieved by the technology the CRANN team is developing in conjunction with Wester Digital.

“The idea is a simple one…although the physics is difficult.” Professor Donegan explains further. “We have a small channel that we put at the focus of the light (which would be from a simple lens)…The light will then travel down that small channel and make a spot smaller than what we would get with the lens itself.”

The light is produced and transmitted by a commercially available diode laser operating on or near a wavelength of 830 nanometers – just on the edge of visible infra-red.

The nanoscience comes into play with the construction of the light guide, “The channel is 40 to 50 layers of atoms thick…” Starting with a clean surface individual layers of atoms are laid down, ‘grown,’ to the requisite thickness. Light from the focal spot of the main light is guided down this channel and focused on to the surface of the disc.

In a combination of power and focus the surface of the material can be heated to about 300℃. Professor Donegan explains, “It gets very hot but only for a very short period of time — a tiny fraction of a second. Then the laser spot is moved on.

“The material heats up very quickly but cools very quickly as well. The numbers we are talking about are in nanoseconds which is 10⁻⁹. So, it is really a very short period of time for this to occur.” In 10 nanoseconds the whole operation is over and done with; the spot has been heated, the information has been recorded and the device continues to the next spot.

One big advantage of this approach is that this technique can be adapted and applied to technologies that already exist. This saves on implementation costs and makes it more likely that we will have this technology in our computers sooner rather than later.