Episode 26: Mary Hodder, founder & CEO, Dabble on Video Search, Key Takeaways and Insider's Tip to The Best Conferences
A "dabbler." That word defines one strong aspect of Mary Hodder's rich personality. Long before she got involved in developing algorithms for search engines, she was a florist, chef, film-maker and paralegal to name just of few of her transformational careers. Once she perfects something, she moves on. Learn the most important insights she gleaned playing the "Key Takeaway Game" with Susan in this measured and insightful interview with the entrepreneur Marc Canter calls "the leading smartest woman in the Internet today."
Find out more about Dabble.com, the site that lets you search, collect and organize video. Where else would you keep your favorite episodes of "Psycho Potato?" Mary is normalizing the metadata from video across the web. Find out why Dabble.com is an amazing, helpful media planning tool if you are buying interactive broadcast spots. She weaves in human-powered video search rankings to create high-value discovery and recommendation for your next video-ad media buy, including time spent and velocity of specific videos so your ads get in the best video on the web that is most germane to your brand.
Suz and Mary talk about 23andme, the new "personal genome service." Who knew we needed one!?! You can find the origins of your genes and potentially “connect genetically with friends, family, and others across the globe.” And they discuss Aubrey de Grey's "bio-remediation" research focused on reversing the molecular and cellular damage of aging. I'm all for that. Here's his Facebook group if you want to live forever...
Next up is the Social Media User's "Bill of Rights." Mary describes the steps Dabble is taking to protect her user's privacy and the disconnect she sees in "Facebook's extremely liberal view of how they use data." That's YOUR data, dear listener. Did you know FB is collecting data from any sites external to their own platform and matching it up to build a bigger profile of you? Similar to the aggregation done by Rapleaf. Mary doesn't want to "creep people out" but I am definitely beginning to worry...and you might to. Find out what's happening in the world of data collection. It's getting heady.
Finally, Mary, a Silicon Valley Insider and "Chix Populi" gives us her tips on the conference circuit. What's hot? Find out Mary's favorite event, the one she finds most interesting and the one where she convenes with the most powerful women in technology. We'll take more Mary's in our world any day. Bring 'em on!
Susan Bratton: Welcome to “DishyMix” – I am your host, Susan Bratton. Thank you so much for tuning in today. As always, I have a really great guest on the show that will entertain and delight you. Her name is Mary Hodder. Mary is the founder and CEO of Dabble.com.
I had met Mary, oh, a long time ago. Maybe a year or so ago, I went to this women’s group thing and, she probably will not even remember this, but I met 20 women that night and she was singularly the most impressive person, so it really registered for me.
Then, a couple of weeks ago – I do not know if you heard the show that we had Marc Canter on. I asked him who he thought the most important people in the Internet industry were right now, and he described Mary as the leading, smartest woman in the Internet today. [laughing] And I thought: “All right! I have to call Mary and get her on the show.”
[music fades to background]
[snippets of Susan Bratton’s and Mary Hodder’s conversation follow]
Mary Hodder: … and then realised this is such a high-concept thing for most folks. I was much more interested in how people understood where video was and how they could recommend it.
We can give a person insight across the entire Web versus... let us say you are a host of media and you are trying to figure out which ad to put against it - you only really know your own site.
We are working on different ways to organise the data so that people know that there is a lot of something without having to see a gazillion of this in the search index; also to give people a dashboard, so that they can have insight across the web.
It is really nice to have the entire transcript of the video. On the other hand, you could think about it like doing a novel search – would you search novels just based on the dialogue? So much more of the novel is the description and all the other parts, and the dialogue tends to be a small percentage of what is really going on in the piece.
Susan Bratton: So, as a technologist, which you still are – but you are more than that now – what was your key ‘take-away’ as a technologist?
Mary Hodder: Usability, usability, usability.
[music fades to background]
Susan Bratton: Welcome!
Mary Hodder: Thanks very much. Thanks for having me.
Susan Bratton: Isn’t that a great intro?!
Mary Hodder: Yeah, that is really amazing. I was a little surprised when I heard that Marc had said that – that is pretty cool.
[music fades away altogether]
Susan Bratton: After researching a lot of the things about you - things that you sent me about yourself and some things that I could read about you online, I can see why he thought so.
For those of you who do not know about Dabble: Dabble is a website that allows you to join as a member and be able to search, collect and organize all of the video that you want from all over the web.
We are going to talk about how Mary does that with the meta-indexing that she does and we will talk a little about video-search. Some of the other things we are going to talk about are: personal genomes – I think you will be really interested in that today. We are also going to be talking about bio-remediation; we are going to talk about the social media users’ Bill of Rights – Mary has some very specific ideas about what that might be. I am going to ask her what she thinks the best conferences are. We are going to talk about everything from wild-beasts to buying paintings on eBay.
She is fascinating, both from a technical and Internet perspective, as well as just in her own, personal life. So let us get started.
Mary, you started at Adobe and you have also worked at Technorati and you founded Dabble in 2005 – so that has been couple of years. Tell us about Dabble and how that is going.
Mary Hodder: I started Dabble very much with the idea of seeing… there is this problem with meta-data and search, and I could see that the video was going to happen this time for us online - a lot of people tried to do things in the late ‘90s and it was really silly, because those people did not have the bandwidth and they did not have computers that could really play video any kind of reasonable way that could be fun.
So I think this project never really took off because it did not work for users. But I could tell two or three years ago that this was going to happen and therefore there was this problem: video is very massy and people put it all over the web. I knew there was an interesting problem set here, but I did not know exactly what Dabble would be when we started – I had some ideas and actually those ideas have panned out; they were based on previous search engines and previous search things that I have worked on. I had been a film-maker a long time before I had an idea of what people might want to do with video.
Some of that was wrong - and I would say the wrong parts had to do with how much I thought people might want to re-mix. It is actually really hard making a film. Most people have a tough time creating a non-linear story in a linear-fashion. It is just really tough. And that is fine – actually, most people do not need to be film-makers to enjoy video.
So I started down the path of thinking about re-mixing and about the meta-data challenges there, knowing that we would have to build the search platform in order to support re-mixing. Then I realised this is such a high-concept thing for most folks. I was much more interested in how people understood where video was and how they could recommend it.
So we iterated the service and focused on the basic search and discovery paradigm that is, just on its’ own, really tough – without even adding any other re-mixing or anything else into it.
We have also iterated on the business model. Earlier on we thought that the business model would have more to do with re-mixing and re-use. Over time we have come to see that, actually, we could provide a lot of value just in normalizing the meta-data and making fun through people.
Those people might include advertisers; or folks who are trying to manage a brand; or somebody who wants to see what is up and coming. In other words, we can give a person insight across the entire web versus... let us say you are a host of media and you are trying to figure out which ad to put against it - you only really know your own site. So the business model side of things is intended to help folks have the insight across video across the web.
Susan Bratton: You bring up a really good point. A couple of things: one – I noticed you moved on from mash-ups to search and that that became more of the strengths of Dabble. What is normalizing the meta-data? What does that mean? You are on a good track here – answer it from an advertising agency media buyer perspective, who wants to run pre-role in some of the top video-shows, video content about buying and building a home. Let us just take that as an example. How would they be to leverage that information – that normalizing the meta-data thing? Yeah, that was good.
Mary Hodder: First of all my apologies for the geek terminology: normalizing the meta-data.
Susan Bratton: Oh, no, it is no problem!
Mary Hodder: First I should say that meta-data is, for anybody that does not know, is the data about the data. The data would be the video and then the data about the data might be the title or a tag that somebody would put against that video.
Susan Bratton: Or the url, right? The location?
Mary Hodder: The location, the url, multiple versions of that video that might be hosted at 50 different sites - there may be multiple copies and we can tell that that same video goes across all of these sites.
So, let us is: it is a how-to video for…
Susan Bratton: Re-modelling your home.
Mary Hodder: Re-modelling your home.
Susan Bratton: You want to buy ‘re-modelling your home’ videos.
Mary Hodder: Right. So maybe it is like a 10-minute video talking about how to repair your roof. An advertiser that might like to go against a video like that, would be, for instance, a roofing materials brand.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, roofing company, sure.
Mary Hodder: Of course, they could go to any host, especially a host like 5minutes.com, where they do mostly have two videos, and buy the videos that have to do with house repairing, specifically roofing. That may be great for that brand, but it also may not reach that many people, because it is one site out of the thousands and thousands that we track, and the audience is all over the place and so are the videos, right?
If the user who needs the video does not know about 5minutes.com, they may come to a search engine like us. That is one place where they could put an additional ad and certainly we thought about that (putting an ad on the site).
But I think that is not the most interesting thing for that brand manager. I think what that brand manager really wants to know is where did that video spread across the web and if it is taking off in some other location, can we give them insight to that and share with other places where they could put those same ads in a really efficient way. Can we give them an API, in other words, that can help them with that, so that they can pick out the things that they want, maybe through a dashboard or an interface; then those things that they have indicated interest in, our system can go out and expose that to them - give them the insight.
They could do it from that perspective and say: “Here is where all these videos are posted all across the web; here is the way to have insight into it”. Also, they may be interested in finding out other videos that do not have the proper tagging or meta-data around them, but actually are similarly tuned to what they are interested in.
Some sites just do not carry a lot of meta-data; they may have a title and that is it: a title and a video - that is not a lot of information to go on. But if can match and tell them where things are, we give them more options. It is really tough right now, I think, for advertisers and brand managers, because they are in this position where things are so fragmented. If you a one guy in an ad agency and your client is the roofing company – you just do not have the bandwidth to go on to find every single little video out there that might work for what you are doing, but if you can find everything across the web in an efficient way - now you are using your time more efficiently.
Susan Bratton: It sounds like a really good media-planning tool, just to even look at what amount of video is in the market place, based on tags and keywords, right?
Mary Hodder: Right.
Susan Bratton: And evaluate the quality and find out where there might be a group of things or where there is the most traction. It sounds like it could be really a terrific tool from that perspective. Do you think that people in online advertising are using Dabble that way yet?
Mary Hodder: I think that people are certainly searching, but one of the issues is – and certainly this is what is true right now on our public site – when you do a search at any of the video sites, and there are 50 copies of a video which are, for some reason or another, highly-ranked, because they have been played a lot with by the users, then you are going to get all these duplicates. It is really annoying. That is on the one hand. On the other hand, though, if want every instance of that video, that might good, but it is not very efficient.
So we are working on some tools - both for the public site and for regular searchers, that is easier. And it is going to take us a little while to do this, so I should say that I am not making an announcement.
Susan Bratton: Right, OK. That is fine.
Mary Hodder: We are working on different ways to organise the data so that people know that there is a lot of something without having to see a gazillion of this in the search index; also to give people a dashboard, so that they can have insight across the web.
Susan Bratton: You are talking about Dabble and I can tell that you are making a bifocation here - you are talking about a public product, which is the Dabble Beta, that you can register for and join, use the search and create your profile and index your list of videos that you can keep and track.
Mary Hodder: Right.
Susan Bratton: But it sounds to me that that is not necessarily where your revenue comes from.
Mary Hodder: Well, there is a connection. Here is why: like every search and analytics company. Google is a search and analytics company – they index the web, we go there and search as users - just the general public – and they harvest data from the way that we use the search results and put that back into the analytics side of things. We are doing the standard thing – this is not rocket science. It is a very standard thing on the web at this point, I think.
Susan Bratton: Who else is doing video search. When I think ‘video search’, a lot of times I think about it being not just finding videos on the web, but finding what a particular video contains: like searching in the video rather than searching the meta-data of the video. Describe the landscape of all the companies in this uber-video-search category and how you see the world.
Mary Hodder: I think there are a couple of different view points about how to do search. One that you are talking about in terms of searching into the video or braking into the video – that concept has been pursued by Everything.com and Blinks. Both of those have gotten their technology from their parent companies: Autonomy and, I have forgotten the one that Everything is from, but if you look them up on Wiki, it is right there. Anyway, basically what they do is they do a speech-to-text transcript and then they make that searchable.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Mary Hodder: “Everything” actually does something really interesting. I like this feature a lot where if you want to get the transcript, you can search on something, get the video and then they will show you the transcript. Blinks does not show you that.
Susan Bratton: Mhm.
Mary Hodder: The thing that is interesting for me about that is that, when you are talking about new things or like your podcast - if this were a videocast - it is really nice to have the entire transcript of the video.
On the other hand, you could think about it like doing a novel search – would you search novels just based on the dialogue? So much more of the novel is the description and all the other parts, and the dialogue tends to be a small percentage of what is really going on in the piece. I think that that is the case with most of the other kinds of media, besides newscast or interviews.
Basically, the problem is that you need a lot more information and humans are really good at recognizing what is valuable in a piece of media and then reflecting that back in some way: in the title, in the tags or whatever it is. So there is that sort of difference.
There are also companies like Pixie, which bring in feeds and just do a basic search, I think, like matching and what not. They were founded by some marketing guys out of Microsoft. I am trying to think of who else is …. Oh, and then there is AOL Trivia.
AOL bought Trivia a couple of years ago and they started with the premise that they could break into the header to get meta-data out of the header of Windows media files and then they have expanded now - I think they do more with meta-data. And that is basically that. I think that they get a lot of their traffic from AOL video sites, or AOL other sites, and then they just feed them traffic.
Susan Bratton: OK. I think that was helpful, thank you.
We are going to take a break, but just before we go to break, I would like you to describe… you have one opportunity here for everyone listening right now, to consider to take the minute to come to Dabble.com and try you out or not. Of course, these are internet web 2.0 media people, advertising people, brand managers – it is a beautiful audience. What, would you tell them, would be the reason they should take two or five more minutes and come to Dabble and try your search site.
Mary Hodder: I think the value at Dabble is the human-powered search. Basically, what we are doing is taking the gestures that people make in Dabble and also around the web; we pull in a lot of gestures from outside our own site. We filter those through to return really good search results.
One piece of what we do well, is ranking videos because they reflect what people are interested in. Also, we have time and velocity elements. I think there is value there, because the results are really good.
The other side of things: the discovery side and the recommendation side are really interesting. We have a lot of folks who every day are, and I put that in quotes, “collecting” video bits, because the video really lives out somewhere else. But they collect the representation of it [xx] and the title, and then they talk about the video and they recommend it.
The other piece is to go find folks who are really good at picking out certain types of media - they are really interested in a certain topic: music, jazz, or environmental issues, or something on politics - and then track what they do. Those people are the early signals of what is really interesting in a particular topic area; they are really good at recommending. On a public side that is really what we do.
Susan Bratton: OK. That sounds really good, thank you. You did a beautiful job with that. I have already tried it, so I am biased.
I want to go to break and when we come back, I want to talk about your personal genomes; I want to talk about bio-remediation; I want to play a game with you – if you are game on game, I have a game.
We are with Mary Hodder. She is the founder and CEO of Dabble.com and I am your host, Susan Bratton – stay tuned for these great and fabulous commercials from my sponsors. Thank you sponsors and we will be right back.
Susan Bratton: All right, we are back. I am Susan Bratton, your host. We are with Mary Hodder and Mary is with Dabble. One of the things that I recently saw on one of your “twitterposts”, Mary, was that you were checking out “23 and Me” - you said you were having a speeding contest. You were working on this personal-genome service. Can you describe it and tell us about your experience and what part of the Universe your DNA came from.
Mary Hodder: Sure. What I said in my “twitterpost” was that I was having a ‘nurture-versus-nature’ day. What happened was, at lunch I went to hear a talk by Aubrey de Grey at the Yahoo Brickhouse. He was talking, basically, about defying aging through various medical research and techniques. He did not actually get into the techniques – he basically marketed the project to us.
Susan Bratton: Yeah. Aubrey de Grey is part of SENS. Do you know what his basic tenad is?
Mary Hodder: No, I do not.
Susan Bratton: What he thinks is that we can extend our life-time as humans to live longer than a 100 years. We could potentially live 1000 years, because the problem is what we get sick from; it is not actually aging ultimately that kills most of us. There are certain key things that can really take us out as humans and if we can live through those, we can considerably extend our life. He is a fascinating man. I would love to hear what you have to say.
Mary Hodder: It was really interesting. He did not, actually, even get into that; he just talked about why everyone should be interested in this project.
Anyways, then I was having drinks at the “23 and Me” party, which is the nature side of things. They turned it into a spitting party. I did not actually spit but…[laughing]
Susan Bratton: Was it more of a licking thing?
Mary Hodder: They did have a little station, where you would try and lick a little piece of paper - they had some sort of thing on it that would test whether or not you had the gene for tasting bitter stuff, like broccoli or brussel sprouts.
Susan Bratton: OK.
Mary Hodder: What was interesting was that they said most people who licked that thing and could taste it, do not like brussel sprouts or broccoli, because they can taste the bitter stuff. I actually really like bitter food, so it tasted great to me - and I could actually taste it. [laughing]
Susan Bratton: I know, I like it too.
Mary Hodder: It was funny.
They did different things: they had another station where you would look at the gene for having a “widow’s peak”, which I have got. But it was fun – it was a good time.
Susan Bratton: What is the Yahoo Brickhouse? I do not know what that is.
Mary Hodder: Yahoo Brickhouse is Yahoo’s attempt to have an innovation place that is separate place from the main part of the company. xx is the director there and, basically, they have eight or 10 little software projects that they keep sequested from the rest of the company in order to let them develop like a start-up would have them develop, and then they can throw them out into community and see if people take them up on it.
Susan Bratton: Got it, OK.
And what about “23 and Me” – did you do your DNA evaluation? Did you spit and send it in and get your DNA evaluation?
Mary Hodder: I did not do it.
Susan Bratton: Oh, you did not do it?!
Mary Hodder: It is actually $1000 to do it.
Susan Bratton: Oh, it is expensive!
Mary Hodder: I know. I am making xx
Susan Bratton: Oh, yeah – forget it; that is just way too expensive.
Mary Hodder: [laughing] Exactly. It is actually the cost of the lab – they are not making any money on that. I think they are just pass this thing through.
My guess is that they are going to be a data company. They will get a lot of people to do it and then the way they will make money is that they will be able to sell - not personally-identifiable information, I do not think - but sell that, for example, to a pharmaceutical company. They can say: “Look: this many people total out of our sample set, have these genes.” So it will be like market research.
Susan Bratton: It is a genome mapping project.
Mary Hodder: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: Mhm.
Susan Bratton: I have a feeling it would be over your ‘dead body’ if anybody ever did.
Mary Hodder: [laughing]
Susan Bratton: Before we play a fun little game, I want to talk about the social-media user’s Bill of Rights. I want to caution you that this an entertainment show and so, if you go on a rant, I will… [laughing]
Mary Hodder: That is OK.
Susan Bratton: [laughing] But tell us what you are thinking about with regard to that. So many, I would say probably every single listener right now, is on FaceBook, is on LinkedIn, has a MySpace page. Everybody listening to you right this second, is deep into social media and scared about their rights. So tell us what you have.
Mary Hodder: I think there are two sides: there is the business side – somebody who is making this for us; and there is the side where it is the user, it is me and my data from all of these places.
Certainly, there are companies out there whose job it is, and they get paid by companies like FaceBook or MySpace to do this – to take their email list of all of their users and go match it everywhere else and then grab it and pull it in. It is not just like when you put your data at FaceBook, that is all that is there.
FaceBook is actually collecting data from blogging services and all kinds of other places, and putting it together with what they already know about you.
It is quite involved. The idea of the social-media users’ Bill of Rights’ is that this is sort of a statement that people sign on to. Dabble has signed on – I think we are the first company to sign on and say that users own their data – we do not own it. If you give it to us while it is at our site, we get a non-exclusive licence to it, but if you decide to leave, you can take it with you or delete it; it is gone.
We will do our best to take it out of all our backups. We are actually designing something right now, where it will make it a lot easier for us to just say it is gone from backups as well.
My overall view about this and, hopeful this is not too ranting, I feel very strongly that, as a company, we can figure out ways to make money without violating your privacy or tripping you out. What we are doing with Dabble is exactly that – we did not go down this path of saying: “Oh, we want to know exactly who you are and everything that you watch, and then we report that out to people so that they can come after you.” I think that is unnecessary and I think people do not like it – it is the definition of totalitarian to feel totally tracked everywhere you go.
Susan Bratton: So if someone wants to opt into this or purchase a paid in this Bill of Rights, where would they go to find it.
Susan Bratton: Got it.
Mary Hodder: I am busy running my [xx] [laughing]
Susan Bratton: I understand. I absolutely understand.
What I will do is I will find it and I will post it on the “DishyMix” blog at dishymix.com, so people who are listening can easily get to it.
Mary Hodder: Excellent.
Susan Bratton: One of the other things I want to go back to, too – you scared me when you were talking about FaceBook collecting data from blogging resources. Describe to me what they are collecting and how they are using it, because I do not think any of us are aware of this.
Mary Hodder: Yeah. It says in their terms of service that “we are going to go out and spider the web and grab everything we can about you and match it”.
Susan Bratton: Match in what way?
Mary Hodder: If your blog says Susan Bratton and your FaceBook page says Susan Bratton, and let us say, as part of the spidering there is the ‘contact me’ link on your blog and it is to the same email address, as the one that you log into FaceBook with – well, that is a pretty good match. They can take all those different little indicators and match them everywhere.
The other thing that they do is that you can do a look-up on MySpace with an email address. So even if your name - your handle at MySpace - is totally unrecognisable and you thinking that your email address is buried back deep in the spells of MySpace…
Susan Bratton: It is not. No, it is not.
Mary Hodder: No. So there are basically a couple of companies that will do a look-up of an entire list of email addresses of your users and see what are they doing on MySpace and report it back. FaceBook’s terms of service say: “We can get any data from you about you from anywhere and match, and we are going to. We are going to do that so we can provide better ads to you.”
Susan Bratton: So it is for ad targeting.
Mary Hodder: Well, that is what they say. [sarcastically] But the bottom line is, they have it and they can always say later: “We did provide better ads to you but we also did all this other stuff.” And who knows?
I do not mean to totally creep people out, because I do not think FaceBook is putting themselves out there to be mysterious and evil – I do not thinks so. On the other hand, I just think that they have extremely liberal view of how they can use private information and data that they collect from all around the web. I do not particularly like …. we bought “Fandango” tickets last week. My boyfriend, Ed, was buying them and at the very end there was this 20-second glowing “no thanks” thing and if you read through the long list of things that you were going to get if you did not do anything; it included reporting the purchase back to FaceBook and then posting it to your friends. He clicked “no thanks”, but you only have 20 seconds to do it, and it was like a 5-minute read.
Susan Bratton: Wow!
Mary Hodder: Yeah! I know. And it was not just FaceBook. They did not put FaceBook at the top – it was actually buried way down; there were about 20 other marketing offers and…
Susan Bratton: So everybody is selling their data to FaceBook and making money.
Mary Hodder: Yeah! They have this partnership. If he had not said “no thanks” and the little glowing thing went away, then it would just automatically post.
The New York Times article last week was interesting: they found this guy who had read on FaceBook that his girlfriend had bought this thing that was obviously a Christmas present for him.
Susan Bratton: Oh!
Mary Hodder: Because she did not know that Overstock.com was reporting the stuff – that is just very un-cool.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Mary Hodder: The whole opt-in thing – I know my people do this: usability people understand this. If you do an opt-in, then 20 percent of your users, on average, will take the opt-in and if you do an opt-out, then 20 percent of the users will opt-out. It is a pretty much 80-20 thing – whatever the defaults are, 80 percent of the population will do it. Mostly, because they missed the signal.
Susan Bratton: Correct. Oh, yeah - absolutely!
Mary Hodder: So the thing is: if you are going to be a ‘good citizen’, you have to figure out where your lines are and the bottom line is… I do not actually mind that FaceBook is doing this as opt-in, I just think they need to make it super blatant. Having some thing that is a really long scroll-down to the bottom, like the “Fandango” thing, and then having this glowing thing to say “no thanks” that it disappears after 20 seconds - to me that is beyond the 80-20 usual “opt-in - opt-out” thing. This is like: “We are trying to hide this from you; we barely want you to know it exists.”
Susan Bratton: Mhm, yeah.
Mary Hodder: It is very un-cool. That is the part that I do not like about it. Make it easy for me to opt-out.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Mary Hodder: Do not make it hard.
Susan Bratton: It is a young company, although they have Chris Kelly there as their Chief Privacy Officer – we should definitely get him on one of the upcoming shows and talk a little about what their stand is.
Mary Hodder: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: I want to switch gears, because I do not want to take up all your time today – you do have a company to run. You have had many careers.
Mary Hodder: [giggling]
Susan Bratton: Obviously, you are a brilliant woman. You have done a lot of things. What I thought would be really fun would be the game I had in mind, called “key take-away”.
What I would like to do is name a number of the jobs that you have had in the past and I would like you to just give us a one-sentence response, that is the “key take-away” – the most important insight you gained or the key thing you learned that you could share with us today. Does that sound like fun?
Mary Hodder: OK. Cool.
Susan Bratton: I am putting on the spot but you can totally handle it.
All right. So “key take-away”. In your career as a paralegal, what was your key take-away?
Mary Hodder: Know your rights.
Susan Bratton: “Know your rights” – wow! Oh, I can see how that is playing for you today.
As a film-maker, what was your key take-away?
Mary Hodder: Meta-data is really hard.
Susan Bratton: [laughing]
Mary Hodder: Especially bask, before we did everything on computers. I did it by hand. Cutting a 16-millimetre film with a razor-blade and trying to keep track of every frame and then making your own meta-data system – that was really tough.
Susan Bratton: As a technologist, which you still are, but you more than that now – what was key take-away as a technologist?
Mary Hodder: Usability, usability, usability.
Susan Bratton: Mhm.
What about as a search-algorithm writer – what was your key take-away?
Susan Bratton: Basically, there is no point of view from nowhere. Everything has a point of view; there is no technology that is built without a point of view and you have a human social and moral responsibility to do things as right as you can for as many people as possible to be as fair as possible. You have to build it into the algorithms.
Susan Bratton: Here is a good one. What was your key take-away when you were a chef?
Mary Hodder: Life is too short to eat bad food or drink bad wine.
Susan Bratton: I have that bumper-sticker.
Susan Bratton: “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” I agree with you. [laughing]
And what about as a ‘blogger’?
Mary Hodder: You have to be honest and up-front about what is going on. You have to have an integrity or people will find you out in two seconds – and they will just nail you.
Susan Bratton: It seem like integrity is the theme that runs through so much of what you think about and what you do. In an up-coming show, I hope you will listen to, I will be interviewing Dove Sideman [sp]. He wrote a new book called “How..?” – and I am going to butcher the second part of the thing. The first part was easy: “how?” – I can remember that. It is something like “the how of what you do is more important than the what of what you do”.
Mary Hodder: Yeah. How you do everything is definitely more important.
Susan Bratton: It is. It is about imbuing integrity into the way that you work. And so I am excited to have him on the show.
Mary Hodder: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: Congressional Aide – what was your key take-away as a Congressional Aide?
Mary Hodder: [laughing] I was a Congressional Aide for three years in the Central Valley, where I grew up. This is when I was in high-school. Then I went to Washington for one year. Basically, if you make enough phone-calls, you can get everything – anything you want. But politics is dirty in a way that I just do not want to be involved in.
Susan Bratton: Usability Engineer?
Mary Hodder: Probably it is the same as the ‘technologist’, I mean: usability, usability, usability. Maybe I am swinging the same hammer at everything that looks like a nail, but…so many companies’ people attribute their success to other things, but the reality is it took off because they did something that the users wanted and it was easy, it was minimal clicks, it was great. It is really hard to do, but it is the right thing to do.
Susan Bratton: And here is the last one – and this one has got to be something pretty unique. I am not sure it is going to be ‘usability’.
Mary Hodder: [laughing]
Susan Bratton: You were a florist – what was your key take-away?
Mary Hodder: I was a florist for events. And it was mainly in L.A. and mainly talking to movie-stars on the phone and helping them to get flowers.
What was my key take-away? There are a lot of really crazy people out there with a lot of money.
Susan Bratton: [laughing]
Mary Hodder: Some of them were really nice. The really nice people were, for instance, people like Forrest Whitaker or Sarah Jessica Parker; and the crazy people – should I say this, James Wood was freaking nuts.
Susan Bratton: He seems nuts.
Mary Hodder: I sat four hours on the phone with him once, because he was upset about two flower arrangements that we sent. I kept offering to send the people new arrangements and they were actually beautiful – he just did not like they were very similar, because they were two women he was dating.
Susan Bratton: Aha! [laughing]
Mary Hodder: Yeah! Aha.
Susan Bratton: He did not want to get confused about which arrangement went to whom.
Mary Hodder: I kept asking him: “Do they know each other? Does it really matter? What do you want? – I will do anything you want.” He just wanted to chat with me on the phone for four hours to rant about whatever. It was kind of crazy.
Susan Bratton: Crazy.
Mary Hodder: What can I say? I do not know what the learning from the florist experience was.
Susan Bratton: Maybe it is just that there are crazy people with lots of money and no money. [laughing]
Mary Hodder: Exactly.
Susan Bratton: And you can get anyone on the phone. [laughing]
Mary Hodder: Exactly. I did it back when I got out of College and it was something you could go and do for four days and walk out with $4000, because it would be a big event.
Susan Bratton: Nice.
Mary Hodder: There would be some Hollywood movie star wedding or something like that. They would spend $100 000 on flowers for a few days.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Mary Hodder: It was a good deal when you were a College student – it was great.
Susan Bratton: This is my final question for you and I will let you get back to work, indexing video across the universe.
You are definitely one of the Silicone Valley elite – you run in a really nice pack of very intelligent, market-making people. You get invited to all the best parties and events. My question for you is: for us listening today, if there was one conference or event, that you would recommend that we try to wrangle an invitation to, that would be potentially life-altering - if not life-altering, then just a potentially profound experience – what is that one thing you would recommend that we do?
Mary Hodder: See, at the beginning of your question you said: “I want to know the best event.” And I have to tell you my favourite event is “South by South-West”
Susan Bratton: Oh, no kidding!
Mary Hodder: The reason it is my favourite, because people who go – really great, really smart, well-informed people – are people who love this business. There are hundreds of thousands of them at the interactive portion of that conference. They go and they just party and have a good time – and I have to say, I can not get five feet down the street without seeing a person that want to talk to and hang out with; and everyone is in a good mood.
There is something about that, where people just feel free, and they are open and talking about things, and really good relationships are made. I appreciate that conference because on a very human level there is a lot of great stuff that happens there.
As for the latter part of your question, which was: “what would be the most insightful?” – because I would not say that “South by South-West” is the most insightful, in fact I think their sessions are great and Hugh does a good job with it, but it is not the best part of the conference for me - the relationships, all the spending time with people part is the good part.
I know there is controversy around this, but “Foo Camp” which I went to once, I thought was really great, because there were all these really smart people; and because we were all in the same place talking with each other in pretty close quarters - because you are camping and people do not leave for two days, so you really get a good chance to hang out and talk really closely with a real variety of really smart people who are doing amazing things. So that is good.
On the other hand, I know there is controversy around that event because people feel like they are left out – it is tough to get an invite, but I would say, if you get invited – definitely go.
Susan Bratton: Nice.
Mary Hodder: I also hold this thing for women in “tech”. I do not particularly like to push women in “tech” as the ultimate thing, because I care about technology first. But I want to see women succeed, because I think we will all get better products and better companies out of it.
So I do this weekend where I invite a bunch of women to come and we hang out at the beach – and that is really fun. It is full of smart women and we just have a blast: cork and eat and talk about technology. So there is that. I don’t know…
Susan Bratton: That is good. That is plenty!
Mary Hodder: Yeah. There are a lot of really good events and it is true that I probably went to a lot more conferences earlier than now, because doing the company you can not visit as many things.
There are other things. Jerry Makowski holds a “Reatreat” and that is by invite – that is a wonderful discussion-focused thing as well. I think they are really great and Jerry is a terrific moderator. He used to do [xx]
Susan Bratton: OK. Adventures.
Mary Hodder: …really “Swanno” things in his newsletter. He was good at that , I think in the 90s, and he is really smart.
Susan Bratton: That is good.
You gave us plenty of things to consider so I know that we will be all working on wrangling invitations and checking these things out. Thanks for your insight on that.
We are out of time and I want to really thank you so much for being on the show today. It has been a lot of fun to get to know you – you are a very thoughtful and considerate speaker. I know that everything you do, you choose your words wisely and all of us listening to you appreciate that.
Mary Hodder: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Mary Hodder: [laughing] I choose my words wisely except when I do not – then I regret it.
Susan Bratton: [laughing] Oh, yeah!
Mary Hodder: [laughing]
Susan Bratton: Well, it is a human condition – we all do it. Everyone is always forgiving.
I want to also let you know that there is going to be a transcript of this show, so you can listen to it by subscribing on iTunes; you can click to it from dishymix.com; you can find the full transcript on personallifemedia.com. I will also post the “Bill of Rights” on blog at dishymix.com for you.
I think that is it. I am really glad you stayed with us today and I hope you enjoyed Mary as much as I did. I am your host, Susan Bratton and I will see you next week.