Speak little; listen much

17 08 2014

I’ll be giving a talk at TEDxWellington next weekend.  I’m not allowed to reveal too much about what I’m going to say, but I will be spending some time talking about the IETF’s Requests for Comments, or RFC’s for short.

One of the most important RFC’s is RFC 760, which defined Internet Protocol, or IP for short – this is the really basic schematic for how Internet information packets are put together.  Section 3.2 contains the following lovely snippet, now referred to as “Postel’s Law”:

an implementation should be conservative in its sending behavior, and liberal in its receiving behavior

I was looking for a way of expressing this in plain English, and came across this lovely paragraph from 17th century theologian Francis Fenlon:

Speak little; listen much; think far more of understanding hearts and of adapting yourself to their needs than of saying clever things to them.  Show that you have an open mind, and let everyone see by experience that there is safety and consolation in opening his mind to you.  Avoid extreme severity, and reprove, where necessary, with caution and gentleness.  Never say more than is needed, but let whatever you say be said with entire frankness.  Let no one fear to be deceived by trusting you …  And correct yourself, for the sake of correcting others.

This came from Fenlon’s collection of Spritual Letters to Women, but is equally applicable to us moderns of any gender, especially software engineers.

HT: Stan

Pitching tips

7 08 2014

Idealog magazine published an article today about a great little initiative by MYOB – getting people to pitch their startup ideas for a cup of coffee on their way to work.  Nice one, Sarah Putt – I’m all for anything that encourages people to find their inner entrepreneur and find the courage to share.

Sarah had asked me earlier in the week if I could share five tips for people pitching their ideas on the fly – and here’s what I said:

1. Always start with your name and the name of your business, enunciated very clearly.  Really basic, eh – you’d be surprised how many people don’t get this right, and left me thinking – who was that?  what was their business called?

2. Establish rapport with your audience – look them in the eye, and send out your love.  You’re doing what you’re doing because you believe in it and you want to help them, right?  If not, you should probably be doing something else or talking to someone else.

3. What’s your vision/strapline?  Whatever you’re doing, it’s to solve a real world problem.  Examples: The Warehouse – where everyone gets a bargain;  MYOB – Love your work;  BMW – The ultimate driving experience.  Focus on the why or the end state, not the how or the process.  Make sure your passion shines through!

4. What is it about your team or product that makes it unavoidably attractive?  Kiwis are prone to underselling themselves, now is not the time to be modest.  Don’t lie or overextend the truth, but everyone and everything has some kernel of underlying awesome – leave your audience in no doubt as to what that is.

5. End with a positive call to action – no ask, no get.  Frame it with urgency (not desperation) in the sense that they’ll be missing out if they don’t act.  Do what you can to make it easy to say yes and hard to say no.  If your audience doesn’t know what you’d like them to do, how could you ever expect them to do that?

6.  Practice, practice, practice.  Use live subjects wherever possible – listen uncritically, and integrate the feedback into the next iteration of your pitch.

Okay that was six tips, so here’s an extra added bonus:

7.  Always stretch the rules – but don’t overstay your welcome.

Moxie: The next 25 years of the Internet

29 07 2014

As a side event of NetHui this year, I was asked by Hayden Glass and Glenn Williams to participate in a Moxie Session with Jenene Crossan and Ross Young, marking the 25th anniversary of the Internet in New Zealand and discussing what the next 25 would be like.

My bottom line is that we have the opportunity to level-up ourselves as a society, because Internet.  In order to take advantage of this opportunity, we need to adopt the core values of the Internet itself:

  • Collaborative at the core
  • Celebrates diversity
  • Resilient, even antifragile
  • Has many communities
  • Borderless
  • Self-empowering

Good will triumph over evil thanks to the Internet, because it empowers people to do things never before possible, and everyone wants a better future that’s better than the past.

Do head over to The Moxie Sessions and have a look at the great work these guys are doing.

NetHui 2014 reflections

14 07 2014

This year’s NetHui, InternetNZ‘s annual multistakeholder meeting, was the best yet.

Multistakeholder meeting? Wasn’t it a conference? Yes and no. It was a conference in the sense that it was held at the SkyCity Convention Centre, some sessions had speakers with questions and answers, and people walked around with name tags.  But it was much more than a conference.

We drew participants from a very broad spectrum of society.  Nearly all Internet conferences around the world are attended by beardy geeks, and sometimes you also get lawyers and public servants – an odd mix at the best of times.  NetHui had all that, plus representation from all sectors of society.  Teachers, startup entrepreneurs, tangata whenua, librarians, politicians, feminists, investors, a High Court judge, business scions, journalists, anarchists, futurists, secondary school students, social scientists … you name it, they were there, helping shape the future of the Internet in New Zealand.  We even had a couple of dickheads.  At InternetNZ, we walk the talk that everyone is a stakeholder in the Internet.

We left plenty of space for everyone to contribute.  Normal conferences have sessions led by a speaker, and you’re lucky if there’s time left for Q&A at the end.  At NetHui, session facilitators were briefed that in the breakout sessions that made up about about half of the allocated time, there was to be no more that 5-10 minutes of scene setting, and then the participants were to drive the discourse.  In the barcamp sessions (more on this below), which represented a significant chunk of the rest of the schedule, participants set the entire agenda and engaged in collaborative learning.  Everyone had a chance to speak and be listened to; everyone had a chance to learn from their peers.  While we did have some excellent star presenters in the more formal sessions, for me the most interesting and useful learnings arose from collaboration among people with no real public profile.

We provided a substrate for community building.  Most conferences are mostly about acquiring skills and contacts, and plenty of that happened at NetHui.  But even more, NetHui was about joining together organic groups of interest that could continue on and make progress after the event.  Community is a wonderful thing, in that communities can form along any common interest, whether that’s based on location, demographic, identity, academic interest, professional skill, political concern, and any one of a host of other variables.  We provided a safe place where people could explore or expound their own interests, and build relationships and communities with people with common goals.

The power hierarchy was greatly diminished.  In normal conferences, there are both explicit and implicit hierarchies – the busy experts fly in, speak, and fly out or engage in meetings with the other busy experts, and high profile names have little entourages around them.  At NetHui, most people were there for the duration and nominally high profile people were very accessible, present, and ready to engage.  Completely eradicating hierarchy is a very big task, but the spirit of NetHui is such that the playing field was about as level as it could get.

NetHui is national Internet Governance Forum (IGF).  Having attended the global IGF in Bali last year, I can tell you that in New Zealand we live multistakeholderism in a much more real way than in many parts of the rest of the world.  It just seems to fit well with the New Zealand psyche, where everyone should have a fair go, and people naturally treat each other as equals.

This year’s theme was “the next 25 years”, recognising the anniversary of New Zealand plugging into the Internet in 1989.  The programme was very wide-ranging, covering subjects like accessible design, data journalism, e-voting, open data, empowering women, education, privacy, surveillance, bitcoin, health, research, and lots more.

This year I volunteered to organise the 11 barcamp (unconference) sessions, along with Kevin Prince and Kelly Buehler.  We asked attendees on Wednesday and Thursday evening to write down their ideas for sessions they’d like to see on post-it notes, an whack them on the main exit door.  My job was to collate these and try to coalesce them into common themes, and then schedule them in such a way that they didn’t conflict with themes running in the other streams – not an easy job, and one that continued into the wee hours of each morning.

Barcamp sessions were run on: Using the Internet to solve global problems, Online media funding models, Bridging the digital divide, Gender Issues, Online communities, Privacy, Education, Citizen science, Online safety, Democracy and legal issues, and Networking over the edge. Notes from the sessions can be found in the resulting collaborative notes from the sessions.  I facilitated most of the sessions, and was very grateful for help from people who volunteered to run the sessions which were either running in parallel, or were way out of my subject area depth.

One of those sessions that was way out of my subject area depth was the session on gender issues, which was facilitated by the brilliant Joy Liddicoat, one of my fellow directors at the Domain Name Commission. One of the few hetero men in the group, I learned a lot, more than I expected from this session.  The timing was great, in that it helped inform my facilitation of other barcamp sessions during the day.  My key takeout from this session is that we aging white men who tend to dominate the agenda and conversation especially in technical forums, are well served to take a bit of extra effort to ensure that people whose voices are less confident, or frequently spoken over, to be heard and acted upon.

The session on bridging the digital divide was also fascinating.  We broke into smaller groups during this session; the group I was in discussed funding access initiatives.  I was surprised to learn the WINZ makes a practice of sending their clients whom they are about to cut off from their benefits to public libraries to compose CVs using the libraries’ computers and Internet.  This results in a significant drain on public library resources for which they receive no funding from WINZ, essentially shifting the funding burden from central government to local government.

In  the subsequent Parliamentary Panel on Digital Rights, I asked the government MP Simon O’Connor why this was happening, and to please fix it.  He seemed to be in a state of denial that this was happening, while the opposition MPs assured the audience that this would never happen on their watch.  NZ First’s Tracey Martin while admitting to not knowing much about ICT, worryingly suggested that universal Internet access could be provided by ISPs at no cost to the end user without government subsidies using an advertising-supported business model.  Given that she is the party spokesperson on research, science, and technology, I hope she can upskill herself should she ever get near real power.

Other standout performances from politicians included a great speech by ICT Minister Amy Adams, who over her term in this portfolio has done a great job of understanding many of the key pain points of our sector.  Her support of open data in government was excellent, as was her commitment to the New Zealand Government’s support of the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance, saying that cross-jurisdictional issues are a big reason why the Internet is best run by non-government agencies.

Of the politicians present, Gareth Hughes from the Greens exhibited the most comprehensive empathy with the audience and knowledge of the subject area, and seemed to have his party’s unqualified backing for improving Internet access, supporting the weightless economy, providing better checks on government surveillance including dismantling the Waihopai spy base, and opposing joining the Trans Pacific Partnership which would severely impact New Zealand’s independence, particularly with respect to intellectual property. Labour’s Clare Curran also has an excellent understanding of the issues.  Labour chose NetHui to launch its ICT Policy which was a savvy move.

Other highlights for me included the plenary address by Privacy Commissioner John Edwards, who beautifully unpicked the right to be forgotten in the aspects of market, mores, law, and architecture.  The text of his address is online, and well worth a read.  In the panel following the address, Thomas Beagle of Tech Liberty explained why he thought that privacy is not dead, highlighting that despite its complexity, we do have considerable control over our privacy, and expressing optimism that with a bit of tweaking, New Zealand’s Privacy Act could ratchet up baseline protections and close existing loopholes for local services.

The barcamp session on privacy was also great, the bottom line of which it all boils down to informed consent. Click-through gobbledygook legalese “I Accept” terms and conditions don’t really amount to people having an understanding of how, why, or for how long the receiving company will be accessing, using, aggregating, and distributing the information.  It was suggested that sites be required to have a maximum-number-of-words plain English summary of the terms available next to the “I Accept” button, and that a third party authority supply badges for sites that reach minimum privacy standards.

Similarly, in the online safety session there was general agreement the we need to provide the skills for everyone from the very young to the very old to think critically about the information they consume, and the actions they take online, both with respect to the impact on themselves as well as other people.  As much as we’d like to be able to protect people, it will never be possible to do this in a foolproof manner, and it would be very useful for everyone to be able to have evaluation skills that will warn them when they are about to do something that is unsafe.

The job of giving the final address fell on Rod Drury, whose time had been cut short by the previous panel on convergence and the future of digital media going overtime.  Rod very artfully embraced the NetHui kaupapa, dispensed with his speech, and drove straight into questions in which he let rip.  I don’t always agree with Rod, but I admire his agility, responsiveness, and ability to cut straight to the heart of the issue, as if time were a scarce resource (which it is).  And Rod is always himself, for which I have great respect.

One of the side events of NetHui was Hadyn Glass’s Moxie Session on The Next 25 Years.  I was one of three speakers, including Google’s NZ Country Manager Ross Young, and Flossie CEO Jenene Crossan. I had six minutes to describe how the Internet would change the world in the next 25 years.  My central thesis is that things keep getting better, and the Internet plays an important role in this by enabling much faster, efficient communications.  25 years ago, Sun Microsystems’ tag line was “The Network is the Computer” – now the network is everything, the computer, storage, exotic peripherals, users, and even programmer – the Internet of Everything.  This trend is set to continue, and is already significantly impacting the way we think, which will really accelerate as we become fully integrated with the net and each other in the future through direct bodily implants.  Move over Google Glass, you’re a transitional technology.  In order to maximise the benefits of this, we each will adopt within ourselves the core values that arise from the Internet: being collaborative at the core, making decisions using multistakeholder processes, embracing diversity, resilience and antifragility, borderlessness, supporting many communities of interest, and self-empowerment.  Improved integration and communication will help ensure that good triumphs over evil (albeit unevenly), as we all want a future that’s better than the present.

The other key side event for me was the National Startup Meetup, where we launched Startup New Zealand.  Our purpose: to bring together and activate regional and national communities of entrepreneurs, technical talent and related organisations. We run programmes including Startup Weekends supporting early stage entrepreneurs and their ventures. Entrepreneurship can be difficult and risky, but by working together we can realise our goal of a connected, innovative and prosperous New Zealand.  At our meetup, we brainstormed ideas for startups arising from the key themes of NetHui – beginning the process of turning the talk at NetHui into tangible action.  Each person present also had the opportunity to give a one-minute pitch on their startup, and any asks or offers they had to make of the group.  Over 50 people came from around the country, including many who were not NetHui attendees.  Watch this space as Startup New Zealand grows as an organic entity supporting entrepreneurial communities.

In summary, this year’s NetHui was very busy and productive on many fronts. I made many new friends and learned so much, and many of the things I learned were serendipitous, wonderful, and useful.

I’m proud to be an InternetNZ Councillor, that my organisation put on such a great event for the benefit of all of New Zealand’s Internet stakeholders.  But the real credit goes to the organising team, particularly Ellen Strickland, Kevin Prince, David Cormack, Krystal “Ball” Waine, and of course Jordan Carter our Chief Exec, as well as all of the other InternetNZ staff, stream leaders, and volunteers who pulled out all the stops to make it happen.  I’d also like to hat-tip outgoing InternetNZ President Frank March with whom I sat in a group at our strategic planning day back in 2010 sketching out what a New Zealand Internet Governance Forum might look like, and also Vikram Kumar the former InternetNZ Chief Exec who shaped the first two NetHui and pulled it together as a flagship event for our organisation and the Internet in NZ.

NZ politicians on their parties’ startup policies

24 06 2014

I organised a Lean Startup Meetup today exploring New Zealand political parties’ policies related to startups.

Jonathan Young (National), Gareth Hughes (Greens), Vikram Kumar (Internet Mana), and Clare Curran (Labour) all presented their parties’ positions.

I made an audio recording of the session, which you can either download (mp3, 21MB) or play right here:


Photo credit: @Builtinwgtn

Main points –

Jonathan Young:

  • Innovation is the catalyst for economic development
  • Important for government to be as nimble and sharp as the startup sector
  • The formation of MBIE was important, as it brought many disparate agencies together for the benefits of companies
  • The main people leading government – John Key and Steven Joyce – are both experienced private sector businessmen [sic]
  • Recent announcements are beneficial to startups, eg entrepreneur work visas, cashout policy, black hole expenditure, crowdfunding.

Gareth Hughes:

  • ICT is a priority for the Greens – it’s the future for NZ
  • The development of the ICT sector must be supported by government leadership, including
  • Having a government CTO
  • A Digital Rights Commissioner in the Human Rights Commission
  • Repealing the GCSB ammendments and TICS acts, as well as closing Wahopai
  • Extension of NZVIF
  • Support for organisations light Lightning Lab and The ICEHOUSE
  • Free wifi and public transport

Clare Curran:

  • Startups are part of something much bigger than anyone realises – they’re a critical part of the economy, and the fastest growing part of the economy
  • The ICT sector is at the heart of Labour’s economic development plans
  • We’re facing long-term skill shortages which can only be filled with immigration
  • We have infrastructure issues that need fixing
  • Government procurement must give local companies a decent chance
  • The soon-to-be-announced policy is comprehensive and joined up

Vikram Kumar:

  • The difference between the Internet Party and the rest is similar to the difference between Xero and MYOB – the Internet party was born in the cloud
  • All Internet party policies are ICT policies
  • There are “table stakes” which the government needs to get right as a basis for everything else: provisioning a second cable into NZ and a policy of no government backdoors
  • How do we get, grow, and sustain startups?
    • Free tertiary education
    • Scaling things we know work well, eg the Kiwi Landing Pad
    • Attracting more VC funding into NZ
    • Allowing startup funds to be efficiently recycled by exiting founders
    • More hubs and people working together

Noodle Kugel

22 06 2014

I love to cook.  After a day of mental exertions and various people- and process-related stress, there’s nothing like combining some ingredients, getting your hands gooey, controlling physical and chemical reactions in the process known as cooking, and then serving a satisfying meal to a group of appreciative people.

Ethnic food is wonderful, and recipes from my eastern European Ashkenazi Jewish roots have a very special place in my heart.

One family recipe that I often get asked for is for noodle kugel, a vegetarian egg-based recipe, suitable as a main course or side dish.  It’s easy to make, lasts a long time warming in the oven, and is good for those evenings when everyone is arriving home at different times, or as a dish to take to a party where it will eventually be re-warmed in a microwave.


300g pasta (I normally use cut lasagna noodles, medium egg noodles, or penne)
250g cottage cheese
250g sour cream
3 eggs
2 small onion
3 Tbsp dill (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 190° C
Boil pasta as per instructions on packet until al dente
While the past is boiling, lightly beat the eggs in a mixing bowl.  Add the cottage cheese, sour cream, salt, pepper, and optionally dill, and lightly mix.  Chop the onions into small pieces, and mix them in the bowl as well.
When the pasta is finished cooking, rinse under cool water in a colander, separating the noodles.  Drain.
Grease a covered baking dish with small amount of butter or oil.
Place the pasta in the baking dish, and then pour in the mix of other ingredients.  Mix well in the dish.
Cover the baking dish, and place in the oven for 45 minutes.  Uncover the dish, and allow to cool and set for a few minutes before serving.

Serves 6-8.

InternetNZ Election Statement

16 06 2014

I’m standing for the InternetNZ Council again.  This is an important job in a great organisation. If you’re a member, I’d appreciate your vote.  If you’re not a member, then I’d urge you to join (note you must have been a member for at least three months prior to the election to vote).  It only costs $21, and is a great way to be involved in shaping the future of the Internet in New Zealand and globally.

Here’s my election statement (officially published on the InternetNZ web site), and I’d be happy to answer any questions here in the comments.

Hi, I’m Dave Moskovitz and I spend most of my life in startups at the busy intersection of technology, commerce, and making the world a better place. I’m a programmer by trade, but most of my work at present is in governance, investment, and education. You can find out more about me on my blog or my LinkedIn profile.

I have worked hard as a Councillor since my election in 2010. I currently serve on the Grants Committee and the Investment Committee, as well as being the Council-appointed director on the Domain Name Commission board. I have also volunteered to work on the NetHui programme planning group and will do whatever I can to make this year’s NetHui the best yet. I have also served on the Business Development Committee and the CEO review special committee. If you’re in doubt as to my contribution to any of these groups, just ask anyone who’s been involved.

During my tenure I have done my best to be available to members. I’ve participated on the members and Policy Advisory Group (PAG) email lists, trying to keep the signal-to-noise ratio as high as possible, also taking time to be present at member meetings and fora. I’m easy to find online if you’re trying to get in touch with me.

I am particularly pleased that during my time on council, our membership has nearly doubled. Our membership is becoming ever more diverse which is fitting as our stakeholders are really everyone in New Zealand. I strongly believe that InternetNZ is the kaitiaki, or guardian of this critical resource, for the benefit of everyone, and want to ensure that we act in the best interests of wider society, keeping the Internet open and uncaptureable, and promoting a better world through a better Internet. This affects everyone, and as the designated manager of the dot-NZ domain space under RFC1591, we have a sacrosanct responsibility to serve the community. We do this well, but we could be even better.

InternetNZ does a lot of good work, in the areas of promoting better rights and freedoms with respect to online security and surveillance, sensible protection of the fair use of copyrighted material, ensuring that citizens’ rights online are equivalent to their rights offline and more. We’ve worked hard to become the “go-to people” for information and policy advice about the Internet. We enable other organisations such as the 2020 Trust, Creative Commons Aotearoa/NZ, the World Internet Project, and Netsafe to improve access to the Internet, encourage free sharing of information, measure Internet usage, and provide public education about online safety. We also partnered with a number of organisations in Canterbury following the earthquake to do our bit to assist with the Christchurch rebuild. And we help connect our members and stakeholders with each other and wider society through events like NetHui.

I would like to see InternetNZ do even more by using a greater proportion of our resources to enable other organisations to make the Internet in New Zealand a better place, fulfilling our Constitutional object “to maintain and extend the availability of the Internet and its associated technologies and applications in New Zealand, both as an end in itself and as means of enabling organisations, professionals and individuals to more effectively collaborate, cooperate, communicate and innovate in their respective fields of interest.” That is our primary purpose, and that is where we should be focussing our attention.

If re-elected, I will continue to work hard, and strive to work better as a networked organisation, leveraging our resources to enable other aligned organisations to participate in and advance our mission.

How to score angel investment for startups in New Zealand

12 06 2014

I was in Christchurch last night presenting to a group of investors and entrepreneurs hoping to get an angel club off the ground in Canterbury, organised by Ben Reid.  I had been asked to present on the angel investment process from a startup entrepreneur’s point of view.  Here are my slides:

I’m very excited by the possibilities for Christchurch, and dearly hope that they can get an angel club together to boost their local startup scene, support Cantabrian entrepreneurs, and lay a piece of new, critical infrastructure that will support the post-quake rebuild.

Wellington, New Zealand’s Startup Capital

8 05 2014

I was invited to Auckland last week to The Project: Digital Disruption to discuss what’s happening in the Wellington startup scene.

Here are my slides:

Key points:

  • Wellington’s key advantage is its scale.  Everything is accessible within a 20 minute walk – but you need to plan for 30 minutes because you will bump into so many people on your way that are doing cool stuff.
  • We have a high density of tech startups, and a great culture to back it up
  • The weather is conducive to getting sh!t done
  • We have a rich startup ecosystem, which is becoming increasingly antifragile
  • Accelerators, incubators, investors, tertiary education providers, “big” tech, events, and support organisations all play their part
  • Promising trends:
    • Government “gets” it
    • Talent, capital, ideas and expertise are being continually recycled and refined to help us level-up
    • We’re attracting amazing people, and achieving critical mass
    • Things just keep getting better in a cambrian explosion of startups
  • The future is awesome, thanks to the hard work put in by many over a long time – we’re really starting to reap the rewards, and this seems certain to continue.
  • It’s all about the people

Government Surveillance

30 04 2014

Do you have strong feelings about government surveillance?  Ever since the release of information about government surveillance by Edward Snowden, I feel that the nature of the relationship of trust between governments and their citizens has changed.

It’s thrown into sharp relief the uneasy balance between citizens’ right to privacy, and governments’ obligations to provide security to their citizens.

InternetNZ is drafting a paper formulating a position on this as the kaitiaki or guardians of the Internet in New Zealand, and have issued a background paper which I would encourage you to read. If you’re a member of InternetNZ you can comment on the members-discuss email list.  If you’re not a member, I would encourage you to join InternetNZ.  And if you don’t want to join or comment yourself, please contact me directly either in the comments below or on the contact form so I can ensure that your voice is heard.