Around the time Edward Snowden began working for as a computer specialist for the intelligence community in 2006, I decided to leave my job as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union to go inside America’s growing surveillance state. Congress had created a new office: an office of privacy and civil liberties to advise the head of the intelligence community on how to improve oversight of intelligence programs. Much to my surprise, senior intelligence officials took a chance on hiring me — an ACLU lawyer — to become the office’s first deputy. While I am proud of the work…
VPNs are one of the most battle-tested means of protecting yourself from theft and other web dangers. However, Windscribe is offering VPN security that’s more than just a VPN…which is why you should seriously consider this lifetime pro subscription for just $49 (over 90 percent off) from TNW Deals.
Facebook recently announced the launch of a revamped video streaming service aptly called “Watch.” Despite the hype, we should be careful jumping to the conclusion Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook behemoth have their sights set on Hollywood. The real story here is that the service promises users a more streamlined viewing experience and the ability to engage with their community of friends around the content. Ultimately, the Watch viewing experience is what’s groundbreaking, not the programming it distributes. For modern media companies, the question has always been whether content is king or if products trump all? The right answer is unequivocally: to…
Just as video killed the radio star, so too will AI demolish writers, journalists, and editors. Legions of wordsmiths — from Fiverr freelancers to The New York Times reporters — may soon find themselves out of work. However, they will be defeated not by competitors overseas, but by algorithms. To understand the future of writing and how AI writers might look like, we first need to look at the types of jobs that are already on the chopping block. Writing jobs aren’t easily automated…right? Automation doesn’t touch all jobs equally and it can be easily seen in the US. A walk through…
Note-taking can be a mundane and repetitive process that doesn’t always help inspire innovative new ideas. But that all changes when Guillaume Wiatr puts pen to paper.
Wiatr, CEO and founder of MetaHelm, has become a fixture at the GeekWire Summit. The 44-year-old positions himself just off the main stage at our annual tech conference with a large white canvas that he uses to sketch drawings inspired by the fireside chats and panel discussions.
The one constant throughout the two-day conference was Wiatr and his canvas.
“I visualize their talks and turn their ideas into images,” Wiatr said in an interview. “I create maps of conversations.”
Wiatr’s creative process is a combination of listening, identifying patterns, and ultimately turning words into the “maps of conversations.” The end result is visual web recounting key parts of a discussion that also ties together any overarching themes.
While sketching, Wiatr said he’s doing something called “dual-coding,” a theory about how humans think in images.
“When you think about something, you don’t see a written word — you think of an image,” Wiatr explained. “We think in patterns, too. I’m actively using this. Everyone can do it, but it takes practice and technique to turn it into something larger.”
Originally from Normandy, France, Wiatr immigrated to Seattle nine years ago. He worked a variety of odd jobs — landscaping; tutoring kids; playing jazz piano — and started attending conferences, in part to learn from thought leaders and to also improve his English. That’s when Wiatr, a self-described “doodler” since childhood, began “sketchnoting” and saw the value in this form of artistic note-taking.
“I was tired of jotting down leaner notes; I’d just forget about it,” he explained. “Now with [sketchnoting], I get really re-energized and inspired.”
What started as a personal hobby soon turned into career for Wiatr, who was a senior visual strategist for Seattle startup Point B before launching his own visualization strategy consulting firm, Metahelm.
Wiatr, who has a business background, works with companies to improve communication and collaboration during meetings. While he sketches silently at the GeekWire Summit, his work with Metahelm clients is much more a two-way process, with Wiatr embedding himself in meetings and asking questions to help him paint a better picture.
“When I help facilitate the conversation, that’s when the magic really happens,” he noted. “I get to candidly clarify thoughts or words.”
Metahelm clients range from Fortune 500 companies to startups.
“Startups pitch to me and I represent their pitch,” Wiatr said. “We can see the weak and strong points.”
Wiatr said his mission at Metahelm — which combines meta, the Greek prefix meaning beyond, and helm, equipment used to steer a ship — is to help reinvent the way leaders and teams work together. He said what he does is accessible to anybody and wants to see more folks get creative with their note-taking process.
“This is not artistry — I use squares and circles and triangles and lines,” Wiatr explained. “As our world becomes more complex, sometimes the solutions are the simplest ones. Pick up a pen and drive the conversation and help expand people’s minds with drawing.”
In February, Paulo Resende left a 15-year career at Microsoft to start a marketing firm helping Fortune 500 companies improve their branding with fellow Microsoft vet Thom Gruhler. Together they created Fjuri, a digital strategy, and marketing consultancy that leverages big data, predictive analytics, and automation.
“I wear multiple hats at Fjuri — from business strategy and development to helping clients enhance their marketing strategy by tapping into customer experience and engagement data in a more powerful way,” Resende said.
Resende learned how to use data analytics to increase sales and business performance during his time at Microsoft, where he worked from 2002 to 2015. He held positions as a revenue and financial analyst before becoming a director for product marketing. Resende met Gruhler working on Microsoft’s Partner Channel Marketing team. Gruhler was overseeing marketing teams for Windows, Windows Phone, and consumer apps/services at the time.
They used their combined experience to launch Fjuri earlier this year.
“Our approach focuses on being shoulder-to-shoulder with CMOs and marketing teams on the ground to create tangible change, repeatable processes and clear results,” Resende says.
We caught up with Resende for this Working Geek, a regular GeekWire feature. Continue reading for his answers to our questionnaire.
Current Location: Seattle, WA
Computer types: MacBook Pro
Mobile devices: iPhone 6s
Favorite apps, cloud services and software tools: OmniFocus, Slack, Outlook, Zoom, LinkedIn, Trello, Dropbox. Audible and Spotify. And, of course, Excel
Describe your workspace. Why does it work for you? “I split my time between client offices, Fjuri’s office at Galvanize Seattle, and my home office, when I need uninterrupted time to work on something that requires unwavering focus. At my home office, I have an industrial looking desk and a Herman Miller chair. On a corner table sits my dad’s typewriter and mechanical pinwheel calculator. There’s something fascinating about the juxtaposition of them and a MacBook Pro, where I do most of my work. This invisible thread that connects where we came from to where we are today is, to me, conducive to focus and determination in making progress.”
Your best advice for managing everyday work and life? “Set your priorities based on what’s important, and nothing else. Then have the courage to say no. That’s fundamentally important to be able to focus on opportunities instead of problems.”
Your preferred social network? How do you use it for business/work? “LinkedIn. I use it primarily to create new connections and keep up with colleagues and the great things they’re doing.”
Current number of unanswered emails in your inbox? Of the ones that require an answer, two or three.
Number of appointments/meetings on your calendar this week? 21
How do you run meetings? “I find that the most important factors in running a successful meeting are preparation and clarity about its purpose and agenda. It’s also critical to capture actions, owners and timing for next steps. Sometimes meetings can get off track, so bringing it back to the overarching goal or challenge at hand is important. Another key success factor is separating facts from opinions. I strongly encourage the use of data to substantiate arguments. Before ending a meeting, I always ask ‘is there anything we should have talked about that we didn’t?.’ Especially in larger settings, it’s remarkable how often important ideas or concerns weren’t discussed. Too often we can fall into a trap of believing time-sensitive items are also the most important.”
Everyday work uniform? Jeans, a button-down shirt and some classic shoes.
How do you make time for family? “I listen to Harry Chapin’s ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ often. The story of a man’s busy life of work that creates a loss of connection, interaction and love with his kids scares me to death. So, being clear with yourself about your life priorities and rigorously planning around that helps tremendously.”
Best stress reliever? How do you unplug? “Music. Cooking. For some reason, chopping vegetables is an awesome stress reliever.”
What are you listening to? Pink Floyd, Beatles, The Clash, Pearl Jam and Johnny Cash.
Daily reads? Favorite sites and newsletters? “I’ve been listening to Reid Hoffman’s ‘Masters of Scale’ podcast and I’m loving it. I often read the Harvard Business Review, CMO.com and Fred Wilson’s AVC blog.”
Book on your nightstand (or e-reader)? The Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, and Multipliers by Liz Wiseman.
Night owl or early riser? What are your sleep patterns? “Night owl by DNA, early riser by duty. I try to go to bed at the same time every night, and when there’s something important and time-sensitive to do that didn’t fit work hours, I’ll wake up before the sun rises and get stuff done.”
Where do you get your best ideas? “Often, I find the best ideas come when I break focus from the challenge at hand, and then return to it with a fresh perspective. I find walking, reading and talking to colleagues about things that are seemingly unrelated helps immensely. I tend to naturally solve problems analytically and methodically, and I learned that to be creative you need to get off the path you’ve been working on, create space to process those loose and remote associations between the elements of a problem, and connect ideas in a new way.”
Whose work style would you want to learn more about or emulate? “Winston Churchill and Warren Buffett. Both are examples of leaders with incredible vision, grit and a laser focus on achieving goals, who put their team, company and/or country ahead of themselves.
Churchill’s ability to inspire and encourage stand out, along with his determination and strategic foresight. I’m also fascinated with Warren Buffet’s focus, giving the team a lot of autonomy and ability to keep calm in the face of uncertainty.
They are humble leaders, who learn from their mistakes and openly share their lessons. As Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.’”
BELLEVUE, Wash. — Did you ever try inflating bread dough with a bicycle pump? Gourmet technologist Nathan Myhrvold did — and after thumbing through the 2,642 pages of his latest opus, “Modernist Bread,” you just might, too.
Like “Modernist Cuisine,” his earlier work, the new five-volume set of books is bigger than a bread box and costs hundreds of dollars. But although “Modernist Bread” offers hundreds of recipes, these are no common cookbooks: Myhrvold and his co-author, head chef Francisco Migoya, delve into the history of one of the world’s oldest foods, the science and technology of breadmaking, and why stunts like pumping up bread actually work.
“Some people ask me how I could possibly make a 2,600-page book on bread,” Myhrvold told GeekWire, “My answer is, ‘Because I had to hold the line somewhere.’ Seriously, we had lots of material that we had to cut.”
Myhrvold and Migoya manage to deflate a few myths along the way. Some examples: The need to knead bread is a fraud. Some of the “rustic” bread techniques in vogue today aren’t rustic at all, but were invented over the past 40 years or so. And there’s no such thing as true rye bread in America.
“How come it took till the 21st century for us to figure this out?” Myhrvold asked.
“I’ve always loved food, and I’ve been interested in food as long as I’ve been interested in science,” he said. “So, it happens that taking that kind of skeptical, curious attitude toward food is actually really helpful in making better food.”
Sometimes it’s just a case of rediscovering what someone else already figured out. For example, bakers had put out formulas for “no-knead bread” going back decades, but the experiments that Myhrvold and his team conducted in their Bellevue lab figured out more precisely how dough could do what it needed to do without kneading.
And it wasn’t until Myhrvold played host to Austrian bakers that he learned why American rye bread pales in comparison to the real thing from Europe. Spoiler alert: It’s usually just rye-flavored wheat bread, containing as little as 4 percent rye.
True rye flour is gluten-free, and it has to be finely milled to make a nice, fluffy loaf. The closest U.S. product comes from Oregon-based Bob’s Red Mill, Myhrvold said.
Cooking with lab equipment
To test the recipes, and to advance the frontier of baking technology, Myhrvold, Migoya and the team’s other bakers took advantage of a state-of-the-art Cooking Lab set up within Intellectual Ventures’ Bellevue laboratory.
“We have a lot of lab equipment that was repurposed for cooking,” Migoya told GeekWire during a tour.
There’s a rotary evaporator that’s typically used to remove solvents from chemical mixtures, a cryogenic freeze-dryer, a spray dryer, a proofer-retarder, a rotor-stator homogenizer and other gadgets that look as if they’d be at home in Dr. Frankenstein’s lab.
But there’s also an oven that looks as if it came from a college dorm.
“It’s this rinky-dink oven,” Migoya said. “We do a lot of testing in there because we want people who have rinky-dink ovens to do the food that we make. … In fact, some of our best-looking loaves came out of this home oven.”
Another type of oven was used to recreate the bread loaves that are depicted on 2,000-year-old murals in Roman Pompeii. To add verisimilitude to the exercise, Myrhvold had lab employees dress up in Roman costumes for a photo, and bought an authentic (and rather expensive) Roman-era bread stamp to mark the loaves.
“The antiquarian dealer was horrified, of course. … I can’t tell you, ‘Ah, yes, our sales will be 22 percent higher because we recreated the Pompeiian mural,’ but it does sort of speak to how crazy and carried away we get on some things,” Myhrvold said.
The lab doesn’t just recreate old recipes: The Modernist Bread team delves into innovations on the frontiers of baking.
There’s that pumped-up bread, for example: When air is injected into the dough, using a basting syringe or even a bicycle pump, that leads to bigger holes in the baked bread — making for a different taste experience. The team went so far as to build a bubble-blowing machine for bread dough.
“It creates these hollow spheres of bread,” Myhrvold explained. “Imagine a balloon with the outside shell made of something like phyllo dough.”
The meaning of modernist baking
Advancing the state of food technology is what the “modernist” in “Modernist Bread” is all about.
“Historically speaking, this notion that the best bread was in the past is just wrong. … That fabled golden age of bread never really existed,” Myhrvold said. “That’s the first thing. The other thing is, it’s very stultifying if you think that the best stuff happened only in the distant past, and if you think all we can do is struggle to re-attain to what once occurred.”
Six years ago, “Modernist Cuisine” documented the innovations that forward-thinking chefs were bringing to the age-old craft of cooking. This time around, Myhrvold is on a different mission.
“Rather than documenting a movement, what we do is we document the undercover stirrings of all of these things, and try to get the whole baking world to say, ‘Hey, you can have a model for high quality that doesn’t mean you’re copying the past. It’s OK to innovate. It’s OK to come up with new ideas.’ Science and technology is not bad. Science and technology is how the world works.”
Myhrvold is among the inventors listed on a patent for making crisper french fries by soaking them in a special solution and subjecting them to ultrasound. Now his work on “Modernist Bread” might spawn another patent.
“Very late in the process, someone I know who’s got celiac disease and knew that we made gluten-free things said, ‘You know, I would kill for a gluten-free bagel,’” he recalled.
At first, Myhrvold was skeptical. He listed all the reasons why it’s impossible to make a true bagel using gluten-free flour.
“Then, a couple of days later, it occurred to me, ‘Hey, we should try this one thing.’ And by God, it worked,” he said. “We have a gluten-free bagel that’s actually good.”
Is it possible to patent and commercialize that bagel? “It may be,” Myhrvold replied. “We’re looking at it.”
Nathan’s Gluten-Free Bagels: It could happen, people.
It’s safe to say, film fans, that a large part of the enjoyment derived from watching movies comes from listening to them. As video games compete for attention and dollars in the overall entertainment space, they’re doing more to appeal to the conventional cinematic experience, especially when it comes to music.
Thursday night at the SIFF Film Center in Seattle, music composed for the “Halo Wars 2” video game — from 343 Industries and Microsoft Studios — was showcased, along with the folks who created it. The effort was aimed at attracting the attention of Recording Academy members in the area who might help nominate the music and those involved for a Grammy.
Composers Gordy Haab, Brian Trifon and Brian Lee White of Finishing Move, and audio director Paul Lipson, VP of creative services at Formosa Group, created the ‘Halo Wars 2’ music with an 80-piece orchestra on the Fox scoring stage in Los Angeles and a 20-piece choir at Skywalker Sound.
Haab is already an award-winning composer for film, television and video games. His work for the Electronic Arts game “Star Wars: Battlefront” won Music of the Year, Best Interactive Score, and Best Instrumental Score at the 2016 GDC G.A.N.G. Awards, and was nominated for a BAFTA for Excellence in Audio Achievement.
Hardcore Gamer called that score “the best music John Williams never wrote” in a nod to the legendary film composer known for his music for such films as “Star Wars,” “Jaws,” “Indiana Jones,” “E.T.” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and more.
The comparison is not lost on Haab, 41, who grew up a huge fan of the Star Wars franchise.
“John Williams in particular, of all the film composers that have inspired me, is probably the biggest,” Haab told GeekWire. “Star Wars was right in my wheelhouse. It was one of the first movies I can remember seeing. Before I knew anything about music, the music that was sort of inspiring me and making me want to become a musician and a composer was the music of John Williams … Sometimes I have to pinch myself to believe it’s all true — that I get to live in this universe that was the very universe that inspired me to do this in the first place.”
If you can hear Williams’ Star Wars music playing in your head while reading this, welcome to Haab’s world. In writing new music for a franchise like “Battlefront,” he’s tasked with writing transitions out of Williams’ music and into his own and back. He said it’s “kind of cool” to have to bridge those gaps between his own work and the stuff of legend.
While Williams doesn’t write for games, Haab is committed to the medium and the creativity being fostered.
“Games have come so far even in just my time of being involved, which has been about 10 years,” Haab said. “I’ve seen them grow from simply what we called them, which is a game, to being really like a full cinematic experience that you get to be a part of. It really is the next generation of entertainment and being a part of that is really cool.”
For “Halo Wars 2,” Haab, Trifon and Lee White ended up creating 150 minutes of music, with 30 minutes of that being cinematic cut scenes.
“The cinematics are pretty beautiful in this game, I’ve got to say,” Haab said. “It’s like watching a feature film on the highest of levels.”
Haab remembers the video game he was playing when he first noticed a musical score being employed and heightening the experience. He previously thought music in games served a one-dimensional function — faster music means hurry up, or that kind of effect.
“I remember playing this game, ‘Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis’ and the score was a full orchestral score,” Haab said. “It was the first time I’d ever heard that in a video game and I was kind of blown away by it. That was the first moment I realized, ‘Oh, wow, I like games, I write cinematic scores and had no idea that the two could be combined.’ So i started pursuing writing music for video games at that point and sort of found my way into the industry by that inspiration, really.”
Haab has recorded and conducted his music with orchestras from around the world, according to his bio, including The London Symphony Orchestra, The San Francisco Symphony, The Nashville Symphony and the Hollywood Studio Orchestra.
Haab said every game has its set of challenges, just like a film, and while he finds the same inspiration in writing for either medium — characters, story arc — the process for games and movies is very different.
“Composers are brought on to a video game much earlier than they are to a film,” Haab said. “Usually on a film it’s almost the last step in the process in a lot of ways. The composer is usually working in the last six weeks of production when the film is already edited, cut together, there’s a full film you can look at and then you score it.
“But with games you’re writing music almost at the same time the game is being developed, so I’m working with still images, written scripts that give me a sense of what the story might be, concept art, that type of thing. Very rarely am I even seeing game play. I’m writing music to a concept, essentially.”
Lipson spent almost five years at Microsoft on the Central Media Team and then as senior audio director at 343, the studio that makes “Halo.” He left for Formosa Group, one of the largest post-production teams in the world, and he’s spent three years working on “Halo Wars 2.”
“When I was looking to do the next ‘Halo’ score — and I’ve done a bunch of them — Gordy immediately popped out,” Lipson said. “His voice and what he does is so unique.”
He said it made sense to pair Haab and “the two Brians” because “Halo” has a long tradition of being a hybrid score. It’s not just an orchestral score, or an electronic-based score.
“You needed masters of their domain that could work together to produce a singularity,” Lipson said. “You stay up at night and you dream about your partners, and I thought up the team and … luckily I was right!”
Cities around the continent submitted their bids for Amazon’s HQ2 this week, bringing the frenzy of speculation about the company’s second headquarters to new heights. On this episode of the Week in Geek podcast, GeekWire’s Monica Nickelsburg shares details from her reporting on the biggest headquarters contest in history, and looks ahead to what’s next.