Category Archives: My musings

Oculus Rift: Facebook’s $2 Billion Attempt to Seize Its Destiny From Apple and Google

Can’t say I saw this one coming.

Facebook, on the heels of its $19 billion blockbuster acquisition of WhatsApp, has dropped another $2 billion (plus a potential $300 million in earn-outs) for Oculus VR, the company that makes Rift.

If you haven’t tried the Rift, it’s extraordinary. The first time I played with it, I was awestruck by the immersive experience. It brings not just gaming, but any type of virtual interaction to a whole new dimension that no other product has ever even come close to accomplishing.

And now it all belongs to Facebook. Why?

Here’s what Zuckerberg said in the press release:

“Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow. Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”

Translated: Facebook sees Oculus as one of the next great platforms for the future. Right now, it doesn’t control a platform. Its content has to go through Google (Android, Chromebook), Apple (iOS, Mac) and Microsoft (PC). It’s friendly with the latter and not-so-friendly with the former.

If Facebook can turn Oculus’s technology into a true platform — not just for gaming, but for everyday interaction — then it’ll be the best $2 billion it has ever spent.

Facebook doesn’t want to be held down by Google or Apple. Acquiring the platforms of the future is the best way for Facebook to control its own destiny.

The Floodgates Have Opened

temp..yaidgitb The floodgates have just burst open, not just in the world of technology, but in the entire free market. In the very way we view capitalism.

I am, of course, talking about Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp for $16 billion ($19 billion when you count the restricted stock units). It is the largest acquisition of a private, venture-backed company in history. This deal is worth more than the GDP of nearly half of the countries on earth. Let that sink in for a moment. We haven’t had an event this high on the Richter scale since AOL-Time Warner and the 2000 bubble.

Of course, the market then isn’t the market now. As my old colleague Chris Taylor intelligently points out, the Facebooks, Googles, Apples and Amazons of the world have grown up. They have billions in cash. They are profitable. They aren’t going anywhere, even if it means acquiring their future threats for $19 billion. Or acquiring one of the world’s most advanced robotics companies. Anything it takes.

Zuckerberg is a rare breed. He’s willing to do anything to make sure Facebook is at the forefront of its mission of connecting people, even if it means giving up 9.5% of his company to do it. He doesn’t care — he thinks about the next 30 years, not the next three. And he has the complete control to make deals like this one. But so does Larry Page. And the same will be true of more and more founders who reach the IPO pinnacle. As Zuckerberg has shown, control is good.

Two years ago, everybody stood shell-shocked when Instagram sold to Facebook for $1 billion. Now we don’t even bat an eye to that number. And with the WhatsApp acquisition, that number is going to continue to look smaller and smaller.

Facebook has opened the floodgates. Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. Don’t believe anybody that tells you otherwise.

~ Ben

Announcing “Captivology”, My Book on the Science of Attention (HarperCollins/2015)

Dear friends, family, colleagues, and supporters,

I’m thrilled to announce my first non-fiction book, working title “Captivology: The Science of Capturing People’s Attention“, due in early 2015 from HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins.

I hope you will sign up for updates on Captivology through my book’s website. You can follow @Captivology on Twitter or like Captivology on Facebook. You can also follow @BenParr for regular updates. And finally, here’s a link for sharing this announcement.

Or you can just click this lovely button for updates:

Captivology is about the science and psychology of attention; why we pay attention to certain people, products, companies and ideas; and how to capture, maintain and grow attention. My book pairs the research of the world’s greatest scientists and psychologists in attention theory with the stories from the world’s Masters of Attention.

The book dives into topics such as:

  • The role scarcity and working memory play on our attention.
  • How Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto created one of the world’s most iconic characters.
  • The power that framing and salience have in directing our attention.
  • The secret sauce of disruptive campaigns and viral products.
  • Sheryl Sandberg on the power of motivation when it comes to capturing attention.

During the course of my research, I have had the opportunity to interview more than 50 scientists, researchers, experts and Masters of Attention. I’m grateful to thought leaders such as Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Dr. Alan Baddeley (leading researcher in working memory), Steven Soderbergh (famed director), Alexis Ohanian (founder of Reddit), Dr. Michael Posner (leading cognitive psychologist), Jeff Weiner (CEO, LinkedIn), Adrian Grenier (actor, producer and director), Dr. Eli Finkel (expert on attraction), Grant Imahara (Discovery’s Mythbusters), Susan Cain (NYT bestselling author, Quiet), Jon Armstrong (Magician, Chairman of the Academy of Magical Arts), Dr. John Sweller (leading expert on cognitive load), Alexia Tsostis (Co-Editor, TechCrunch), Shigeru Miyamoto (Nintendo), Josh Elman (Partner, Greylock), Dr. Dietram Scheufele (Expert on Communications, Framing), Michael Stevens (creator, Vsauce), and many more who have taken time our of their days to chat with me for this book.


Above: A screenshot from my interview with Adrian Grenier and Dr. Thomas De Zengotita. A special thanks to NASDAQ for letting me use their studios for the interview.

If you have suggestions for my book, please email me at ben@captivology.com with your ideas! I’m especially looking for interesting people to interview and unique stories about how you or somebody you know captured the attention of an individual, an audience or the entire world. A major reason we’re announcing the book now is to gather great stories for the book that I might have otherwise missed.

I hope to complete this research-heavy book in the next few months, so please forgive me if I’m much slower than usual responding to your emails, texts and tweets until then.

A Few Other Announcements

I’m working on Captivology on top of my day job as Co-founder and Managing Partner of DominateFund, the early-stage venture capital firm I started last year with Matt Schlicht and Mazy Kazerooni. We’ve expanded the fund from its original focus on connecting Hollywood with tech, though that is still a component of what we do. Our focus now is on helping startups capture attention for their products and accelerate their growth through our expertise in five key areas: Strategic Celebrity Partnerships, Press, Marketing, Customer and User Acquisition, and Building Viral Products. The fund is the reason I decided to write this book.

We will be making more announcements about DominateFund in the near future, including several new additions to our team and updates on our amazing portfolio companies.

Because I had all of this on my plate, CNET and I decided to retire The Social Analyst, my column at CNET, last year. I want to thank CNET, and especially Jim Lanzone, Mark Larkin and Jim Kerstetter, for being so supportive of me and my column, for being amazing bosses, and for putting up with me and my hectic schedule.

I won’t be bringing The Social Analyst back. At least, not in its current form. The column, which I started at Mashable in 2009, has been my place to opine on the most pertinent issues in tech. CNET was kind enough to let me continue my column.

I will eventually be back writing columns and thought pieces on a regular basis, but ones that are about more than just technology. There is a mountain of research from my book I want to discuss and advice I want to dispense for every entrepreneur who struggles to get the attention of users or artist who wants to be heard. I also have a lot of other insights in media, entrepreneurship, investing and science I hope to eventually share.

One final announcement — I’m proud to announce that I have signed with the Worldwide Speakers Group, which now represents me for all my speaking engagements. You can check out my speaking topics or book me by sending a message to Keith Lambert at KLambert@wwsg.com or calling WWSG at 703-373-9806. I primarily speak about attention, attention for brands, innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.

I want to thank a few people right now for all of their help the last few months. Thank you to everybody I’ve interviewed for the book so far. A special thanks to the best agent in all of publishing, David Vigliano, for always having my back. The same is true of Will LoTurco, who works with Vig. Thank you Marcy Simon and Melinda Mullin, for going above and beyond the call of duty for me. Thank you to my editor, Genoveva Llosa, for being just sensational. Thank you to my partners Matt Schlicht and Mazy Kazerooni for being my unofficial brothers (Nat, you too). A thank you to Hallie, my badass EA. Thank you to my family (love you mom & dad!), and finally a special thank you to my girlfriend Julie, for being my rock.

Onward and upward!

Thank you for kindness,
~ Ben

Please follow me and Captivology on social media!

(p.s. — Happy birthday, sis!)

Man of Steel Review: An Invincible Alien Gets Humanized

I have avoided spoilers in this review.

I was lucky enough to be at the San Francisco premiere of Man of Steel, Dan Snyder’s take on one of the world’s most iconic characters. Is it the next Batman Begins or is it a Green Lantern?

The story for Man of Steel follows the basic tenants of Superman’s origin story — his parents sending him to Earth while his home planet of Krypton is destroyed, him being found by the Kents (Costner does a fantastic job as Pa Kent, by the way), and his romantic interest in Lois Lane.

But the story takes many deviations from Clark Kent’s well known story as well. the first 20-30 minutes are filled with action led by Russell Crowe’s Jor-El and Michael Shannon’s General Zod. It sets the stage for Zod’s eventual arrival to Earth, which results in a series of epic fights whose epic scale is tough to describe. The damage done to the Earth by the alien invaders would have to be at least a few hundred billion. Cities get leveled, punches destroy buildings, and fights end with casualties, despite Superman’s best efforts to save everyone.

general-zod-man-of-steel-superman

But the movie isn’t about the action — it’s about Clark Kent’s attempt to find his place in the world, his quest to learn of his heritage, and his first appearance to the public. Henry Cavill makes for a convincing Superman. He’s good hearted, confused, and forced to make sacrifices that eat away at him. He’s a flawed hero who doesn’t feel like a god, but a human. That might have been the toughest job of this entire movie.

The movie intelligently doesn’t just start out with Clark’s childhood. Instead, it weaves the important pieces of his past into his present quest for answers. Costner shines in this role — he is truly Clark’s father, despite not coming from the same world.

The main adversaries also do a fantastic job of providing Superman with enemies he must struggle to overcome. Shannon does just as skillful of a job playing General Zod. His motivations are clear, his brutality is just as apparent, and his soldiers make for some lively fights that capture the attention. He isn’t a one-dimensional villain, but a man whose intentions are understandable but whose methods are deplorable.

Amy Adams may have done the best job though with Lois Lane. She isn’t a damsel in distress — she’s a hard-nosed reporter who does her part while connecting with Clark Kent in a way nobody else has connected with him. There are still a lot of unanswered questions about Lois and Clark, but that’s why sequels exist.

superman-man-of-steel

In fact, many of the most iconic parts of Superman lore do not make an appearance in this movie. I won’t spoil it by saying which ones make the cut and don’t, but Snyder does a masterful job of not trying to tell too many stories at once, and has just enough fan service to please the die hards. It also opens up a lot of plotlines to be explored in the sequels.

The action does go a tad long, and there are a few minor plot items that make you scratch your head, but overall Snyder and Nolan deliver on the gigantic promise of Man of Steel. This movie lives up to expectations.

Bay to Breakers, Through the Eyes of Google Glass

I decided to wear Google Glass to Bay to Breakers, San Francisco’s annual “What kind of ridiculous and/or slutty costume can I wear?” race/celebration. This is part of my month-long experiment to wear Google Glass as often and as long as possible to see A) how people react, B) how my habits change and C) whether I will like them enough to keep wearing them.

Quick thoughts:

  • I took a lot more photos and videos while wearing Glass. It was just… so easy to do.
  • I got asked by at least 20 strangers to try on the Glass. Some thought I was assholes for not letting them try it on (I only let friends try it on).
  • It is distracting having a camera on your head, no matter what anybody says. Maybe it becomes less distracting over time, but I felt compelled to take pictures.
  • The device’s battery lasted through most of the day with heavy photo and video use. I was surprised. The battery is still underwhelming, but it’s not as bad as I first thought.
  • Quality is good enough, but clearly not consumer ready. Just check out the video above to see the quality.
  • The sunglasses extension are your friend.

Now here are some photos from Glass:

No, I Will Not Help You Contact Justin Timberlake

Added to the Wall of Shame. Now fuck off.

BenParr.com Gets a Makeover, Thanks to RebelMouse

BenParr.com has become dynamic and social, thanks to RebelMouse.

A year or two ago, I created almost ALL of my content via blogging. I wrote 2,400+ articles on Mashable, and I was blogging pretty often on BenParr.com.

Things have changed, though. Much of the content I would normally blog about appears instead on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Socialcam. Sure, I still blog (have you seen my awesome CNET Column yet?), but I’m spending almost all of my time on work that doesn’t involve blogging (announcements soon).

As a result, BenParr.com got stale and static. It was boring. The last blog post on it was more than a month old. It didn’t reflect all the things I’m doing. It didn’t represent a dynamic life, and it didn’t incorporate all of my activity on the web.

So I asked my friends at RebelMouse to help me fix that. You will notice that the homepage of BenParr.com has been completely transformed — it now contains all of my social activity, in one neat little package. It updates automatically, whether it’s my column from CNET or a new Socialcam video. It feels like my blog has come back from the dead.

Thank you Megan Berry and the RebelMouse team for helping make this happen. And Thanks to Lerer and TC for the inspiration.

Expect more improvements in the coming months (you’ll notice the width of the main column has been expanded), along with a new coat of paint sometime next year. And as always, if you want to see past BenParr.com posts, you can just hop over to the Archives.

Let me know what you think of the new BenParr.com in the comments!

~ Ben

Spamming My Friends With Facebook Ads Is the Wrong Way to Get My Attention


Thanks for spamming my Facebook friends with this ad, MyDreamDorm. Please don’t do it again.

Had Sex With Tim Tebow? Congrats, You’re a Millionaire!

Yes, this is real. The infidelity dating site AshleyMadison is offering a million dollars for evidence of Tim Tebow straying from the righteous path (he claims he’s a virgin).

Great PR stunt for both Rewarder and AshleyMadison. I highly, highly doubt they will uncover any evidence of Tim Tebow… indulging himself.

But if they do… well damn, that’d be one hell of a story.

via @meganberry

The Beauty of Lightning

A lightning storm hit San Francisco on Thursday. It’s an extremely rare event that produced some spectacular visuals that have been flying across my Facebook News Feed all day.

I actually think lightning is one of the most beautiful things in the world, especially when it’s captured on camera. It’s the embodiment of the incredible power of nature.

I thought I would share some of the photos flying around the web today. If you have one I should add, drop me a line. Enjoy!


Image courtesy of Frank McMains


Image courtesy of Robert Collins


Image courtesy of The Daily Mail