Joy of Business Case Study Authorship – iStockphoto US$50 million Calgary success story

Friday, 28 May, 2021

Let’s walk down memory lane. Almost 15 years ago in November 2006, I had the joy of writing and publishing my first business case study about iStockphoto, a Calgary based company acquired by Getty Images for US$50 million in cash in February 2006. If was amazing meeting, interviewing and learning from iStockphoto founder and first employee/ex-president to write the case study for the site Startup Review thanks to its editor Nisan Gabbay.

Before I repost my 2006 case study, let’s put “Stock Photo” in a bit of 2021 fun context by sharing screen captures of search results of “stock photo simu liu”. Yes the same star Simu Liu of Kim’s Convenience and Marvel Superhero Shang-Chi fame appeared on the covers of way too many accounting textbooks if you ask him! HuffPost article “Simu Liu Was A Stock Photo Staple Before He Was A Star” quoted Simu screamed well in an adorable tweet, “PLEASE STOP USING MY FACE FOR YOUR ACCOUNTING MATERIALS!!”

Here is a version of the iStockphoto business case study that I rediscovered thanks to the trusty internet archive. I hope you learn as much as I wrote it in 2006 and as I re-read it now in 2021! 15 years have gone by since I conducted the interviews and wrote the case study, it is an insightful read even for me now in 2021, if I may shamelessly say so. Enjoy!

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iStockphoto Case Study: How to evolve from a free community site to successful business

written by Kempton Lam and Nisan Gabbay, posted on November 26th, 2006

Note from Nisan Gabbay: I am pleased to announce that this week’s case study is the first to be authored by a Startup Review reader, Kempton Lam. Kempton is a management consultant who specializes in assisting start-ups. Please see Kempton’s background and blog for more information. Kempton followed the same process that I take in creating these case studies, and I served as editor to ensure that the format is consistent with the Startup Review format. If you’d like to become a guest author for Startup Review, please contact me.

Why profiled on Startup Review

iStockphoto is both an online community for photographers and a source of high quality, low-cost stock photos. As of October 2006, iStockphoto’s stock photo library contained ~1.1 million images contributed by 23,000+ photographers. In 2006, iStockphoto expects to sell 10 to 12 million photo licenses from this library, at prices ranging from $1 up to $40 per image. iStockphoto’s success opened up a new market segment for stock photography, catering to customers who could not afford traditional, high cost stock photos from the likes of Getty Images and Corbis. This success caught the eye of Getty Images, who acquired iStockphoto for $50 million in cash in February 2006.

Interviews conducted: Bruce Livingstone, founder & current CEO of iStockphoto. Patrick Lor, first employee and ex-President of iStockphoto. Paul Connolly, independent consultant specializing in digital media and the stock photography market. Special thanks to Kara Udziela and Yvonne Beyer of iStockphoto for helping to support the creation of this case study.


Key success factors

Offered a free alternative for a previously high cost service

iStockphoto established the market for “microstock” photography by providing high quality stock photos at extremely low price points. iStockphoto’s innovation was offering all its photo licenses royalty-free, available via easy download over the Internet. The notion of high quality photos licensed for free was a game changing development in the stock photography market in 2000. iStockphoto enabled the distribution of photos from budding and semi-professional photographers to reach a large market for the first time. iStockphoto also drastically reduced the cost of stock photography for a slew of customers (graphic designers, small businesses, non-profits, etc.) that could not afford traditional sources of stock photography.

As iStockphoto increased in popularity, hosting and bandwidth fees for the site grew proportionally, forcing a decision upon Bruce as to how to pay for bills approaching $10,000 per month. Bruce opened the discussion to the iStockphoto community, ultimately allowing the community to determine an acceptable solution. In February 2002, the community decided to charge $0.25 per photo mainly to cover site maintenance fees, with 20% of charges going back to the photographer.

iStockphoto has since gone through several iterations of its business model, but continues to offer photos at a relatively low price point. The first iteration occurred in 2004, when iStockphoto officially became a for-profit entity. At that point iStockphoto charged 1, 2, or 3 “credits” (priced at $0.50 per credit) for photos of different sizes, offering a 20% commission to the contributing photographer. Today, iStockphoto offers photos at a myriad of price points and has a more robust photographer commission structure. For example, photos are offered at price points of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, or 40 credits (priced at $1 per credit). Commissions vary from 20% – 40% based on sales milestones reached and whether the photographer grants iStockphoto exclusive use of images.

Fostered a loyal and active community

iStockphoto was started as a hobbyist site by founder Bruce Livingstone and it remained so for several years. The fact that iStockphoto wasn’t created as a business venture from the start was a big factor in iStockphoto’s success. In many ways it parallels the start of another popular online community, Craigslist. Just as Craig Newmark’s personality has had an influence on Craigslist, so too has Bruce’s personality and passion for photography had an influence on the iStockphoto community. Bruce was always a core user of the site, and as such attempted to nurture the needs of its users.

iStockphoto consciously fostered its community from day one through forums, emails and face-to-face meetings. iStockphoto has many active online forums where new users can post questions and get help from experienced users. These active forums have made the iStockphoto community welcoming to new users and engaging for experienced users. Secondly, iStockphoto makes a point to provide very prompt responses to user questions submitted via e-mail. Even as CEO, Bruce routinely takes the time to send emails to users to offer encouragement or help. Thirdly, iStockphoto hosts a series of trips (called iStockalypses) where users can shoot photographs of interesting places and share knowledge about the stock photography trade.

The iStockphoto site itself has many features that help to get users engaged with the service. For one, it provides transparency around how active certain members are with the site, specifically around number of photos uploaded and number of paid downloads. This enables new users to learn from the success of power users, providing examples of the types of photos that get the most traction. iStockphoto also creates a sense of positive psychological exclusivity amongst users by only approving photos that meet certain quality standards. This process helps users improve their photo taking skills and makes them feel that they have “earned” their place within the community.

Emergence of low-cost “prosumer” digital SLR cameras

In the winter of 2003, the Canon Digital Rebel (a 6.3 mega pixel prosumer digital SLR camera) became available at a price under $1,000. Both Bruce and Patrick viewed the availability of these cameras as a turning point for iStockphoto because they created a great influx of high-quality photos. iStockphoto was in a great position to capitalize on this emerging trend through the infrastructure they had developed over the previous years.

Took measures to ensure that submitted photographs met quality standards

As the popularity of the iStockphoto service grew, the number of photos submitted exploded. At the same time, customers came to expect a certain level of photo quality from iStockphoto. As such, iStockphoto developed detailed guidelines for what constituted acceptable photo submissions. iStockphoto views this both as a quality control mechanism and a means to provide feedback to photographers. iStockphoto takes time to explain to contributors why their photos are rejected. According to Patrick, sometimes a new user may only start with a 25% acceptance rate but with constant feedback and guidance are able to improve their acceptance rate to 75% – 90% within 6 months.


Launch strategy and marketing

iStockphoto was originally started as a hobbyist site in May 2000 by Bruce Livingstone. Bruce created the site as a means to share and publicize his portfolio of photographs. Initially seeded with 1,600 of Bruce’s photos available for free download, the popularity of the site prompted Bruce to open the site to other photographers who also wanted to contribute their photo collections. This transformation took place 6 months after initial launch, creating a thriving community of contributing photographers.

Bruce initially marketed the site by word of mouth, telling friends via e-mail. One of Bruce’s friends, web design guru Jeffrey Zeldman helped publicize the site from its early days by blogging about it and using iStockphoto images in magazines like Macworld. Mr. Zeldman’s influence in the designer and photographer communities was highly instrumental in popularizing the use of iStockphoto for royalty-free stock photos.

As the iStockphoto community evolved, its photographer base served as the main marketing vehicle. By promoting their own iStock photos, these photographers create publicity and word of mouth marketing for the service. iStockphoto provides them with some interesting marketing tools (like free, customizable business cards) to help them self-promote their portfolios. Today iStockphoto has 23,000 photographers that are the cornerstone of the company’s marketing efforts.

Later on its lifecycle, iStockphoto began advertising its service on the Internet, in print, and at trade shows. An extension of this advertising strategy was to maintain good long-term relationships with influential book authors within the design community who could provide increased awareness for the iStockphoto service.


Exit analysis

iStockphoto was able to support its operations for many years from the revenue generated by photo sales. However, during business planning in late 2005, the company realized that they needed about $10 million to meet their future growth expectations, including $3 million for hardware expansion costs. With this new capital requirement, the iStockphoto management team sought venture funding for the first time. After securing a term sheet from a VC, management became hesitant that this was the best option for the company. The team feared that they would not be able to maintain product control or nurture the community in the same fashion that iStockphoto had been built upon. Thus Bruce decided to seek other options, and contacted Jonathan Klein, CEO of Getty Images. After some positive conversations regarding company strategy and cultural fit, iStockphoto was sold to Getty Images in February 2006 for $50 million in cash. This represented a valuation substantially higher than the valuation placed on the company by the proposed VC investment. Hence the sale to Getty Images made both financial and cultural sense for Bruce and the rest of the iStockphoto team.


Food for thought

I was surprisingly struck by the parallelism between iStockphoto’s company history and evolution, and that of another successful online community, Craigslist. Both began as a hobby fueled by the passion of their founders: for Bruce it was photography and for Craig Newmark it was local events. The popularity of both services grew beyond anything the founders had envisioned, largely driven by creating a free service where only high cost options existed before (high end stock photography and print classifieds respectively). Both grew to a point where the services had to be sustained by incorporating small fees into the service, all with the support of the community itself.

Some great lessons can be learned by the examples set by these two successful companies. For one, the needs of the user base will tell you when is the right point in time to add fees, rather than implementing a revenue model prematurely. For iStockphoto, as the level of sophistication of its users grew, so did the necessity for more advanced pricing and commission models. For Craigslist, they began charging for some categories of online classifieds to improve the user experience. In both instances, it was actual user needs that drove the revenue model and timing of the revenue model.

Secondly, you have a sustainable company on your hands when you have created or contributed to the financial livelihood of a segment of your users. One reason that iStockphoto has such an active community is that their power users have personal, financial ties to the overall success of the company. For example, the top iStockphoto photographers have had hundreds of thousands of their photos downloaded – that’s real money that iStockphoto is putting into the pocket of its users. eBay and Google are probably the best two examples of Internet companies that have also created significant personal wealth for individual users. iStockphoto has created it as well, albeit on a much smaller scale. Can you create a service that contributes significant personal income to your users? If you can, chances are you’ll have a successful service.

On a separate note, both Bruce and Patrick credited much of their success to having great mentors and advisors involved with iStockphoto. Both Bruce and Patrick have been reading, learning, and applying business concepts and ideas from the business guru Guy Kawasaki for years. After meeting Guy in 2003, he became a close personal mentor for the iStockphoto management team. Having great advisors and mentors can be critical to the success of any company, but particularly a start-up. No entrepreneur can possess all the skills and experiences necessary to succeed themselves; it helps immensely to have the right mentors to act as a sounding board.


Reference articles / additional reading

Additional thoughts on iStockphoto at Kempton Lam’s blog.

“The Rise of Crowdsourcing”, Wired, June 2006 (the paradigm shifts initiated by iStockphoto and others)

“2006 Fast 50 nomination of Bruce Livingstone”, FastCompany.com (a glowing nomination, and a long list of supporters’ endorsements that make for a fascinating read)

“Interview: Bruce Livingstone, CEO istockphoto.com”, Decker Marketing blog, January 2005
Nice interview with Bruce who has some insightful responses on what makes the istockphoto different from the competition and why it was initially successful.

“The stock photo community”, DesignMentor Training website
Has a few detailed paragraphs on Bruce’s background and how iStockphoto got started.


Why does Costco shortchange loyal renewing customers?

Wednesday, 6 November, 2019

20191106 Why does Costco shortchange loyal renewing customers? - Pix 0120191106 Why does Costco shortchange loyal renewing customers? - Pix 02

I posted “Why does Costco shortchange loyal renewing customers?” as a comment on CostCo’s Facebook page yesterday. And Costco’s social media teams replied promptly (within the hour) to inform me my concerns have already been sent to the appropriate team(s). Will see what happen next.

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For the record, here is “Why does Costco shortchange loyal renewing customers?” ,

Hi, We just had a rather #awful Costco Wholesale Canada membership renewal experience this past Friday. Ended up spending ~30 minutes talking to three (4) different customer service employees/manager with one of them even threatened me to stop writing down her name (I said I might want to complain about my experiences at some point). I was told I’m not allowed to remember their names in order to properly complain if I wish to. Is this normal and standard operating procedure of CostCo employees to threaten members who may want to complain with precision?
Can someone explain why does CostCo treat loyal customers WORSE than brand new customers? Shouldn’t renewal NOT be taken “for granted”? Is it wrong to think each renewal should be treated as EARNED?

— Calgary Zoo example
In stark contrast, Calgary Zoo does things right and treat each member who decides to renew (some don’t renew) with full respect and work hard to earn each renewal. As a start, the zoo treats a renewing member EQUALLY as a new member and would NEVER shortchange/disadvantage a loyal existing member!

— CostCo: a multi-billion dollar entitled company?
Now back to CostCo, please correct me if I am wrong. When a NEW customer decide to take out a NEW membership on November 1st, his/her membership will expire in 2020 November 30th, correct me if I am wrong?
Now when we renewed on November 1st, we were told that our membership expired on September 30th! Major #fail with CostCo! In fact we were further explained, for ANYONE who “renew” within three (3) months of their previous membership expiration date, their membership expiration is the OLD date! So for example, members who decide to renew 89 days after expiration will have their membership shortchanged with 89 days LESS!
Fair? I don’t think so. This, to me and to be frank, is the actions of a multi-billion dollar entitled company that disrespect loyal customers because “it has always been done like this” or it is in the “terms and conditions” (which I tried to read “Membership Conditions & Regulations, and Privacy Policy” but is unable to find the exact exploitative legal language).

— More Training (not punishment) & Will CostCo start treating Loyal/Renewal customers with respect??
I will NEVER want anyone be punished for my stupid complains. Life is too short. Training may be. I want other customers be treated much better than I had been.
I take time to complain not just to benefit myself (sure, I want my complains fixed) BUT I take time to publicly complain in order to raise issues that I think companies like CostCo should think seriously and consider fixing.
I’ve laid out my complains and the issues (hopefully clearly and factually). Will CostCo review your corporate policy and START respecting all Loyal/Renewing customers reminds to be seen. Don’t take my words for it, Google or ask Calgary Zoo how they treat their renewing members and if they treat their loyal renewing members as good as their new ones and if they also shortchange their members because many are too busy to ask?


Good movies online @Kanopy! Thanks @CalgaryLibrary!

Thursday, 6 December, 2018

Here is a list of good movies online via the Kanopy streaming service. Calgary Public Library (CPL) users get to watch up to 10 movies each month. Hope you will enjoy these movies. (Note: Movie links are for CPL. A quick Google confirms public libraries in Toronto and San Francisco are also subscribers of the Kanopy service.)

  1. Guangzhou Dream Factory (documentary) (5/5 stars), trailer (added: 20181206)
  2. Patema Inverted (Japanese Anime) (4/5 stars), trailer (20181206)
  3. Hearts Beat Loud (drama) (5/5 stars), trailer, SXSW Q&A with Nick Offerman and Director Brett Haley, Sundance Q&A (20181206)
  4. Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict (documentary) (4/5 stars), trailer (20181206)
  5. Sweet Bean (Japanese drama) (5/5 stars), trailer (20181206)
  6. Like Someone in Love (Japanese drama) (4/5 stars), trailer (20181206)
  7. After The Storm (Japanese drama) (5/5 stars), trailer (20181206)

P.S. I love Calgary Public Library system’s awesome collection of books, audio books, and, in recent years, massive DVDs and Blu-rays collection! The brand new Central Library is really a work of beauty! Library users can actually make five (5) suggestions per month to the library (via our online account) to buy new books, DVDs, or Blu-rays to add to its collection! So far two out of my five suggestions have been accepted.

Recently Guangzhou Dream Factory was rejected as a purchase but I was told that the film is actually available to watch online via Kanopy ! Truly a case of one door closes, a window opens!


(video) LOVE #Calgary #GreenBin! #Maggots?! Not so much!

Sunday, 16 July, 2017

LOVE the Calgary Green Bin program which promises to turn our food and yard waste (garbage that fills our landfills) into nutrient-rich compost! Totally #awesome! But MAGGOTS?! What the beep?! I don’t remember the city ever warns us any major risk of turning our green bins into massive stinky maggots farm?!

Take a look of the following photo and video to see for yourself what I am talking about.

20170716 Calgary Green Bin Maggots

LOVE #Calgary #GreenBin! #Maggots?! Not so much!

I plan to phone the City of Calgary 311 help line or do some Google search to see how best to deal with this massive maggots problem.

While I certainly don’t enjoy this stinky stomach-turning maggots problem, I want to emphasize I still LOVE the Green Bin program as we all have to do our small part to help save our planet.

July 18, 2017 Update: I called 311 yesterday and Pam at the help desk connected Dave from City of Calgary Waste & Recycling Services who called me back promptly. I shared with Dave my massive & stinky maggots problem and suggested future city info flyers should include words warning Calgarian of potential issues if they choose to use the “newspaper method” suggested by the city. (with emphasis added and local PDF file included)

//How to make a kitchen pail liner out of newspaper

Wrapping food waste in newspapers or flyers is great alternative to compostable bags. Follow our quick kitchen pail liner guide (local PDF file) to make one at home.//

I Suppose the “newspaper method” can still be used if you don’t mind the maggots (which can totally be composed but it looks sickening) or if you freeze the food waste and put them into newspaper the night before the compost pick up day.

Today is finally the compost pick up day so I will clean up the green cart. This week we will try to use the compose bag and see if things will improve much better. According to Dave, things should improve a lot as the compose bags should stop flies or insects getting to the food waste. Will see how things go.

July 17, 2017 update, CBC News, “Bring us your meat, your veggies, your pet poop: Calgary composting starts on Tuesday – Green carts are already in place in the southwest of the city, with rollouts staggered across quadrants

June 11, 2019 update: It has almost be 2 years since I filmed & shared the above maggots filled video and I have to say I LOVE the green bin now. First of all, for majority of our food waste (bones, veg scrapes, cooking grease, etc) I put them in compostable bags to stop flies from getting into them easily and lay eggs. Otherwise, if I am only two or three days ahead of city pickup day (which I use the helpful City recycle/compose/garbage pickup day app), I might wrap a few items using newspaper.

It is a massive help to put trimmed tree branches, yard waste into the green bin to turn into useable soil instead of dumping into landfill.


Watch “Revolution Trilogy” 睇「革命三部曲」

Friday, 18 March, 2016

(Watch my trilogy of documentaries.)

Watch my docs Revolution Trilogy 睇「革命三部曲」

Watch my docs Revolution Trilogy 睇「革命三部曲」

20190812 Director new preface re the word “Revolution”:

The title of my debut documentary “Long Hair Revolution 「長毛革命” was decided in 2004, so 15 years ago. The rationale is similar to “industrial revolution” or “internet revolution”, ideas for improvement. Nothing to do with violence.

“長毛革命”在2004, 即是15年前定名, 其實跟”工業革命”或者”互聯網革命”道理相同, 是嶄新改革的意思, 完全同”暴力”沒有任何關係. Read the rest of this entry »


Wedding gift: “An Old Sweetheart of Mine” stanza translation by Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發

Tuesday, 20 January, 2015

 

A stanza from An Old Sweetheart of Mine - by James Whitcomb Riley translation by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發

A stanza from An Old Sweetheart of Mine – by James Whitcomb Riley
translation by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發

My wife and I want to say a special thank you to Mr. Andrew W.F. Wong 黃宏發 (Andrew was the last President of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong during British rule) for taking time to translate the special stanza from “An Old Sweetheart of Mine” I used in my marriage proposal and wedding announcement (of which I only shared the first line).

Here is Andrew’s translation (which he humbly calls “hastily attempted … translation”, borrowing 同心, 情依依, 異路, 相…時 from Lin Yu-tang 林語堂‘s attempt) of the same stanza in four 7-character lines (七言絕句):-

同心永結情依依
青絲成雪愛不移
陰陽異路難言笑
仍待天國相擁時

credit: translated by Andrew W.F. Wong (Huang Hongfa) 譯者: 黃宏發

Notes:

“An Old Sweetheart of Mine” stanza by James Whitcomb Riley (1902)

When I should be her lover
forever and a day,
And she my faithful sweetheart
till the golden hair was gray;
And we should be so happy
that when either’s lips were dumb
They would not smile in Heaven
till the other’s kiss had come.

林語堂 (再遇幽默大師林語堂) 翻譯的同一節詩 Lin Yu-tang‘s translation of the stanza:

同心相牽掛,一縷情依依。
歲月如梭逝,銀絲鬢已稀。
幽冥倘異路,仙府應淒淒。
若欲開口笑,除非相見時。

An Old Sweetheart of Mine - by James Whitcomb Riley 20150120 with Lin Yu-tang 林語堂 translation

An Old Sweetheart of Mine – by James Whitcomb Riley
with Lin Yu-tang 林語堂 translation

P.S. I wish I had the opportunity to meet Andrew in person but I haven’t had the pleasure yet. Andrew’s fair minded and excellent work during his time as President of the Legislative Council of HK remind HKers the fond memories we miss these days in HK. My wife and I were really happily surprised to see Andrew taking time to translate the beautiful stanza for our wedding which we take as a special gift.

In recent years, it has been my pleasure to read Andrew’s poetry translation work at his fascinating blog “Classical Chinese Poems in English” once in a while to revisit some classic Chinese poems along with Andrew’s graceful English translations to relax my mind. Which is why I reached out to Andrew to ask him a translation question about“An Old Sweetheart of Mine”. Thanks again Andrew for your beautiful translation to help celebrate our wedding!

And yes Andrew, it is indeed been my (now “our”) ambitious plan to work hard on our marriage, love each other dearly, stay healthy for each other, etc etc so that I can present this stanza to my wife on our 50th Wedding Anniversary in 50 years time.

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Sept 11th, 2018 Update: Facebook video, 國學大師林語堂的最後10年:一屋書,一棟房,一生只愛一人

//1966年在台北陽明山,林語堂親自設計建成了自己的小別墅,取名“有不為齋“,寓意君子有所為,有所不為。屋子裡有自己喜歡的書房、臥室和魚池,舒適自在。在這裡他與相伴一生的太太廖翠鳳,度過了他人生最後十年的時光。#林語堂 #設計

In 1966, Lin Yutang designed and constructed his own villa in Yangming Mountain, Taipei. He named it “Youbuwei House”, implying that a noble man should know what to do and what not to do. With his favorite study, bedroom, pond, and, most importantly, his wife Liao Tsui-feng, he spent the last 10 years of life there comfortably and cozily.//


University of Calgary research leads to brain cancer clinical trial (with video)

Tuesday, 14 October, 2014

Interview pix with lead researcher Artee Luchman, PhD, and oncologist Dr. Greg Cairncross.

Interview pix with lead researcher Artee Luchman, PhD, and oncologist Dr. Greg Cairncross.

Please see my in-depth video interviews with lead researcher Artee Luchman, PhD, and oncologist Dr. Greg Cairncross (director of SACRI). I’ve also included the press release from the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) and Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute (SACRI).

note: The researchers’ Clinical Cancer Research paper can be found at this link, “Dual mTORC1/2 Blockade Inhibits Glioblastoma Brain Tumor Initiating Cells In Vitro and In Vivo and Synergizes with Temozolomide to Increase Orthotopic Xenograft Survival“.

Interview w Artee Luchman, PhD, Lead Researcher – UC research leads to brain cancer clinical trial 

Interview w Dr. Greg Cairncross, oncologist – UC research leads to brain cancer clinical trial 

===== Reference news ======

Source: University of Calgary research leads to brain cancer clinical trial October 14, 2014

//Researchers at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) and Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute (SACRI) have made a discovery that could prolong the life of people living with glioblastoma – the most aggressive type of brain cancer. Samuel Weiss, PhD, Professor and Director of the HBI, and Research Assistant Professor Artee Luchman, PhD, and colleagues, published their work today in Clinical Cancer Research, which is leading researchers to start a human phase I/II clinical trial as early as Spring 2015.

Researchers used tumour cells derived from 100 different glioblastoma patients to test drugs that Read the rest of this entry »


Cantonese interview with Jo Ho, co-director of HK documentary Women’s Horizon (好風景)

Tuesday, 9 September, 2014

Jo Ho Ka Wui (何嘉滙) is the co-director of HK documentary Women’s Horizon (好風景) with Bryan Chang Wai Hung (張偉雄). A documentary that recorded the lives of five Hong Kong women from 2010 to 2012. Here is a description of the five women from the film outline,

“Kitman, a big fan of online sweepstake; Charlene, a dance instructor and urban fashion shop owner; Esther, growing up in in a christian community aspiring to live the life within the church; Chan Hei, was an advocate for the fair treatment of sex workers and is employed at a bookstore; Kai Kai, Representative of the League of Fanling North Villages and Residents.”

Here is a trailer,

When Jo and Bryan were first planning to shoot Women’s Horizon in 2010, they talked about being inspired by the British Up Series documentary that has “followed the lives of fourteen British children since 1964, when they were seven years old.” The directors of Women’s Horizon hopes to revisit the lives of the five Hong Kong women in a few years to make another documentary. Over the two and a half years, the filmmakers made the documentary with their own money and shot ~60 hours of footage and editing the footage down to a 58 minutes documentary.

Here is an extensive and exclusive interview with co-director Jo Ho Ka Wui (何嘉滙) conducted on the eve of the film’s world premiere on September 9th at the Chinese Documentary Festival 2014.


2013 CIFF interviews short film directors of “Computer Potato” and “The Hunt”

Wednesday, 18 September, 2013

Here are two of my 2013 CIFF interviews with Alberta Spirit award nominated short film directors of “Computer Potato” and “The Hunt”.

“Computer Potato” director Todd Kipp interview

“The Hunt” director Spencer Estabrooks interview


Interview with CIFF documentary Bending Steel director Dave Carroll

Saturday, 7 September, 2013

The 2013 Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF), running September 19-29, just announced the moving documentary Bending Steel is having its Alberta premiere on Sept 20th & 21st (CIFF info & tickets purchase), a film that world-premiered at Tribeca, selected by Hotdocs and has received praises from The Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire, and Toronto Standard. Bending Steel‘s trailer is quite moving . It is a documentary “about an introverted man who decides he wants to become an old-time strongman.” Director Dave Carroll said, “The conflict in the film is when he tries to get out and perform in front of people, he is really up against some of his greatest fears, interactions with people and judgement, and it becomes quite a problem, something he has to overcome.

Bending Steel is Carroll’s documentary directorial debut funded out of his and award-winning producing partner Ryan Scafuro‘s own pockets with friends’ help and money from a $25,000 Kickstarter project. Carroll first met the documentary introverted subject Chris “Wonder” Schoeck when he and his dog heard a noise while doing laundry in the basement of the building he and Schoeck lived in and  that “startling” chance encounter lead to an idea for a short documentary which turned into a feature-length documentary project that spanned 2.5 years and generated 200+ hours of footage.

Have a watch of my interview with Bending Steel director Dave Carroll, which has made me want to watch Bending Steel even more. Carroll told me that Schoeck and producer Scafuro plan to attend CIFF so you may get to meet them.

I love the spirit contains this excerpt from Schoeck‘s “Why Bend?” blog entry (with emphasis added), “Always remember constant progress. Grab a tougher bar and push with everything you got. The bar may not go at first, but remember if it flexes it can be bent. Through time you will bend it. The struggle forces you to reach deep into your mind. Remember its all about the journey. Soon you pity those that have early success. They miss out on that journey.” Have a watch of Schoeck doing some cool steel scrolling! Love it!

Here is Bending Steel‘s short synopsis via CIFF,

“Introverted, middle-aged Chris Schoeck has lived in the New York City borough of Queens his entire life. He feels no sense of home or belonging—until he starts bending steel, transforming himself into an old-time strongman. Suddenly, his life changes.

Bending Steel follows Chris as he prepares for a major performance at Coney Island. As he trains Read the rest of this entry »


Calgary ParkPlus multi-million lawsuit and ownership settlement – An exclusive inside look at a “key” piece of evidence

Tuesday, 9 April, 2013

ParkPlus settlement with Dale Fraser, former CPA General Manager

Background of the “key” piece of evidence

Now that Calgary Parking Authority (CPA) has settled the Parkplus parking management system ownership dispute and disclosed some key information (see endnotes), this reporter feels comfortable in sharing an exclusive inside look at one piece of evidence against Mr. Dale Fraser’s ownership claim without risking harm to the city and CPA’s legal case.

This key piece of evidence (you can judge for yourself to see if you agree it is “key” or not) was an August 2008 video interview with Mr. Dale Fraser conducted by this reporter. In the extensive August 2008 interview (where Alderman Dale Hodges was also interviewed), a variety of ParkPlus topics (including patents) were discussed. This video evidence was almost “lost” at one point as it was originally uploaded and stored on the now discontinued Google Video service!

Fortunately, after some help from a Google engineer friend, the August 2008 interview was recovered along with a few hundred uploaded videos. The video interview was useful enough that Calgary Parking Authority licensed it to help its case which is why I’m claiming this as an “exclusive inside look“.

Unlike the parties involved in the legal settlement (Calgary Parking Authority, City of Calgary, Mr. Dale Fraser, and Mr. Allan Bazar), I am an independent reporter and not bound by any confidentiality agreement.

An exclusive inside look at a key piece of evidence

In the August 2008 interview, former Calgary Parking Authority General Manager Mr. Dale Fraser told this reporter,

”Calgary Parking Authority did create the proprietary approach to this new parking system. And we [CPA] do have a patent-pending on this approach at this time.”

During the 30+ minutes interview, at NO point did Mr. Fraser leave this reporter with the impression the pending Canada/US ParkPlus patent was his (or his & Mr. Allan Bazar’s) personal invention or intellectual property. In fact, Mr. Fraser seemed to me quite clear in explaining the system was developed by MTS Allstream with the funds/resources from Calgary Parking Authority.

As suggested in “The Patents” section in the 2008 August report “ParkPlus by Calgary Parking Authority – Reimagining the Wheels“,

US patent is one of the most important ones to apply for, simply because the US is one of the largest markets and it has a reasonably strong patent protection regime.

Here is my 2008 interview video (pay attention to time code ~3:40 to ~3:50).

[Please note that the interview is protected by copyright. License and use requests (including for press and media) are to be submitted via email and will be handled promptly.]

This article is cross-posted by me to examiner.

Endnotes: Although the settlement agreement has confidentiality clauses, the parties agree to disclose the following information (emphasis added) and I quote from the Media Release – ParkPlus Settlement – April 2013,

(1) The Defendants, Dale Fraser, Allan Bazar and 1707626 Alberta Ltd., (now Intelli-Park Corporation) acknowledge that the City of Calgary and CPA are the exclusive owners of the ParkPlus SystemTM and that none of the Defendants has any right, title or interest whatsoever in the ParkPlus SystemTM;
(2) While the ParkPlus SystemTM is valuable and all necessary consideration for settlement is acknowledged, there is no payment by the City of Calgary or CPA of any money whatsoever to any of the Defendants or any other person;
(3) The claims and counterclaims in the action will be wholly discontinued without costs; and
(4) The parties release each other from all claims and counterclaims in the action including any claims relating to the ParkPlus SystemTM or the employment of Dale Fraser and Allan Bazar with the City of Calgary and CPA.


Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak & I talk Pentalobe Screws

Thursday, 4 April, 2013

Kempton & Woz - ScrewYouApple clip

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak & I talk Pentalobe Screws

Please contribute to help me ScrewYouApple and spread the words.


Argo, Oscars, Grateful President Jimmy Carter, Ben “WTF” Affleck

Sunday, 24 February, 2013

Oct 15, 2015 update: It is with deep sadness that I report the passing of Ambassador Ken Taylor at 81. CTV News report with video. Global News report (with video).

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President Jimmy Carter vs. Ben

90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA. And with that exception, the movie is very good.” — Former President Jimmy Carter on Ben Affleck’s movie ‘Argo’ to CNN’s Piers Morgan.

There’s nothing much right from Day 1 I could do about the movie [Argo]. I changed a line at the end because the caption at the end was disgraceful. It’s like Tiananmen Square, you are sitting in front of a big tank.” – Ken Taylor

Many people (including me) are predicting Argo will likely win Best Picture in The Oscars tonight. So no time is better than now to set the record straight and urge Mr. Ben Affleck, director/actor of Argo to thank Canada and Canadians in his Oscars acceptance speech. If I may be frank and honest, Mr. Ben “WTF” Affleck, enough is enough. Your drama license to twist history to enhance your story telling makes this and other Canadians angry. What will Americans feel if filmmakers from UK or France rewrite history in a “based on real events” movie and minimize the US effort in World War II? Ben, Man up and thank Canada and Canadians in your Oscars speech tonight. If not, I’ve decided to change your name to Ben “WTF” Affleck!

President Jimmy Carter on Argo in Speech at Queen’s University Nov 2012

AP, “Canada deserves Argo Oscar mention, ex-ambassador says ‘The Canadians were brave’, says ex-ambassador Ken Taylor

AP, EX-CANADA AMBASSADOR SLIGHTED BY AFFLECK’S “ARGO”

The original postscript of the movie said that Taylor received 112 citations and awards for his work in freeing the hostages and suggested Taylor didn’t deserve them because the movie ends with the CIA deciding to let Canada have the credit for helping the Americans escape.

Taylor called the postscript lines “disgraceful and insulting” and said it would have caused outrage in Canada if the lines were not changed. Affleck flew Taylor to Los Angeles after the Toronto debut and allowed him to insert a postscript that gave Canada some credit.

Taylor called it a good movie and said he’s not rooting against it, but said it is far from accurate.

“He’s a good director. It’s got momentum. There’s nothing much right from Day 1 I could do about the movie. I changed a line at the end because the caption at the end was disgraceful. It’s like Tiananmen Square, you are sitting in front of a big tank,” he said.

THR, “Ex-Ambassador Again Slams ‘Argo’ for Canada Snub

The full convocation video with President Carter. (portion related to Argo, ~25:55 – 28:15) Queen’s University press release.

An excerpt from the transcript of President Carter on CNN Piers Morgan with my extensive notes,

“MORGAN: A scene from the Oscar-nominated film, Argo, about a daring rescue during the Iranian hostage crisis. I’m back now with former President Jimmy Carter, who was, of course, in the White House at the time. You’ve seen Argo, I take it? How accurate is it from your memory?

CARTER: Well, let me say first of all, it’s a great drama. And I hope it gets the Academy Award for best film because I think it deserves it. The other thing that I would say was that 90 percent of the contributions to the ideas and the consummation of the plan was Canadian. And the movie gives almost full credit to the American CIA.

And with that exception, the movie is very good.

But Ben Affleck’s character in the film was only — he was only in — stayed in Iran a day and a half. And the main hero, in my opinion, was Ken Taylor, who was the Canadian ambassador who orchestrated the entire process.

I was informed about it the first day. And I was very much involved with the Canadian government because the Canadian government would not legally permit six false passports to be issued. So the Canadian parliament had to go into secret session the first time in history, and they voted to let us use six Canadian passports that were false. [Kempton’s note: Lets be clear, I doubt the Americans will issue false US passports to Canadians if our roles were switched. Agree? To me, I am so proud of my government, and the cabinet (?, not the parliament?) in approving the false passports to help our friends in urgent need.]

MORGAN: But when you first heard about this outlandish plan to create a fictitious science fiction movie to get these hostages out, you’re the president of the United States. I mean, if this had gone badly wrong, you would have been an absolute laughing stock. So it’s a bold moment for you, for the presidency, for the country.

CARTER: Well, I don’t deny that, but it was much bolder for the Canadian government to do it because the Canadian government was not involved in the hostage crisis, as you know. They could have been hostages themselves had it been revealed. [Kempton’s note: This is absolutely the case! Remember, other countries (I will not shame them here) were asked to help the trapped Americans and they refused. Canada helped. And by helping, “Argo” is how Mr. Ben “WTF” Affleck decided to thank us?! WTF Ben!]

But as I said, you know, they did the primary work. And as a matter of fact, the American hostages left Iran and landed in Switzerland and landed before the Iranians ever discovered that they had been there.

When I left office, I ordained that we would not reveal any American’s involvement in the process, but to give the Canadians full credit for the entire heroic episode. And that prevailed for a number of years afterwards. [Kempton’s note: This is a right tactical move by President Carter. Totally different from what the movie implied.]

But I think it’s a great film, and it tells a dramatic story. And I think it’s accurate enough. [Kempton’s note: President Carter is nice. I am frank with Ben and is hoping I won’t have to call him Ben “WTF” Affleck after tonight. Will see.]

This article is cross posted in examiner.com by me.


Is Encana trying to subvert freedom of press by using copyright law?

Thursday, 21 February, 2013

Encana

According to CTV News “Encana seeks to remove embarrassing audio clip from Internet“,

Now the company is asking Chirbit to remove the clip, according to The Globe and Mail.

Encana is the copyright owner of the Recording. It was expressly stated at the outset of the Conference Call that ‘this conference call may not be recorded or rebroadcast without the express consent of Encana Corporation,’” Encana told the web site in a letter.

The Recording has been posted without Encana’s consent. The unauthorized use of this Recording clearly constitutes copyright infringement. … Encana views this matter extremely seriously and requests that you respond to the undersigned on or before the close of business on Friday, February 22, 2013, failing which, Encana will have no other recourse but to take all actions as may be available to it to protect its proprietary rights.

Chirbit has declined the request, invoking fair use laws and saying that under its policy, anyone who wants audio removed from its site should ask the poster to do so.

To hear it for yourself in order to make an informed decision, have a listen to the audio clip in question – Warning: Offensive Language. Also have a read of Globe and Mail report, “Encana wants embarrassing audio file erased from Internet“.

To me, it seems a case could possibly be made that Encana is trying to subvert freedom of press by using copyright law, ultimately if it comes to a lawsuit it will be up to the judicial systems to decide. Now you have listened to the recording, and read the relevant materials, do you think Encana is trying to subvert freedom of press by using copyright law?

Please share your thoughts and comments. All comments are moderated but all fair comments will be approved and I will defend your rights to freedom of speech.

Stretching and bending Copyright Law

It should be noted that copyright law has been used in Canada in recent years to over-reach (in my opinion) into other unrelated areas. Take Euro-Excellence Inc. v. Kraft Canada Inc., 2007 SCC 37, [2007] 3 S.C.R. 20, a Supreme Court of Canada judgment on Canadian copyright law as an example, it ultimately is a case about the import of chocolate that somehow got twisted into a case about copyright.

Note: I have made a record of the audio clip in question as a backup in case the original recording was removed for any reason or by accident. Freedom of press is a principal worth protecting and fighting for by all working jouralists.


Lets roast a duck Kempton Style – from beginning to end

Sunday, 20 January, 2013

Lets Roast a duck - Kempton Style

Lets roast a duck Kempton Style – from Beginning to End is a sequence of four videos showing how I made a simple & easy to make roast duck!

If I can make it, that means you can make it too!

– Lets roast a duck Kempton Style – initial prep – Part 1/4

Lets roast a duck Kempton Style – Flipping the duck – Part 2/4 Read the rest of this entry »


Howie Mandel Videobomb Fox LA LIVE Newscast – Why I’m Guilty as an Accessory

Sunday, 6 January, 2013

Howie Mandel #videobomb Fox LA LIVE Newscast

Did you see the talented comedian Howie Mandel (@HowieMandel) #videobomb Fox LA LIVE Newscast on Jan 2nd, 2013?! That was an awesome moment! And we (a few friends and I) were guilty as charged in coaxing Howie to make his impromptu LIVE TV appearance! Here is the funny clip of Howie Mandel #videobomb Fox LA LIVE Newscast!

So why are we guilty as charged?! What roles did we play in coaxing Howie? Well, you are in for a special treat! “Crimes/pranks” have never quite been captured like this, from the inception, to the coaxing, to the actual execution, and then the final we laughing our heads off all over a few short minutes! Have a watch of how we created this magical #videobomb moment right in our Fox LA Google+ Hangout!

I just LOVE Howie in his quick witted spontaneity, you just can’t fake stuff like this. I first met and listened to Howie live when he came to the yearly Banff World Media Festival in 2011 to receive an award of distinction.

Howie Mandel at Banff World Media Festival 2011

You can watch this very entertaining non-stop funny “In Conversation with: Award of Distinction Winner, Howie Mandel” (with transcript). Here is an excerpt,

Everything I’ve ever been punished for, expelled for, hit for, is what I seem to get paid for and now I’m being distinguished for it, but the thing is the people who supported me are the people who love like, and those were few and far between, my family and my friends, but when I got into this business, what’s amazing is it’s such a group effort so any cameraman that I’ve ever worked with, any script writer that I’ve ever worked with, any producer, network executive or anything, they’ve all supported me and made this possible.

All I do really, and this is what Woody Allen says, is “I just show up.” 90% of success is just showing up and I’ve always done that from day one, from when my career started. I didn’t even have a career, I wasn’t pursuing a careers. I’m still not really pursuing a career. I’m not, I showed up at Yuk Yuks in April 1977 I showed up at Yuk Yuks because I don’t dance, and didn’t like going to discos and they’d opened a comedy club in Toronto and I showed up to see a show and I was fascinated […]

I can’t speak more highly of Howie as great comedian and as a frank, blunt and honest person willing to talk about his own life challenges. And if you have time, also watch this insightful interview of Howie by Howard Stern which I watched to prepare my Google+ Hangout questions for Howie.

Concluding Thoughts about our Google+ magic

I’m a Google+ Hangout News Consultant and I’ve been using using Google+ Hangout since the beginning in July 2011 and Google+ Hangout On Air (G+ HOA) since its launch in September 2011. To me, G+ HOA is one of the most powerful new broadcasting tools available. But like in the world of cooking, even if you have a great knife, an awesome mixer, etc you still have to have great chefs and first rate ingredients to create magic!

And in our first 2013 Fox LA Google+ Hangout with Howie Mandel, that magic was created because our guest Howie rocked and we rocked! Who are we? We are our host Maria Quiban, and co-hosts Anthony Ramos, DeAno Jackson, Jimmy Louis, Kempton Lam (me), Kim Beasley, Matt Moore, Paul Roustan, Sheila B. DuBois, Stormy Henderson (screen thumbnail order from left to right).

note: This article is cross-posted by me at examiner.


Snow Angeled Nine Homes – My submission for Good Book for a Good Deed

Saturday, 22 December, 2012

Snow Angeled Nine Home

In recent years, how many of us has made a conscious effort to get to know our neighbours a little? Something as simple as saying hello and getting to know their names? Not wanting to continue the cycle of isolation, when we moved into our area a few years ago, we made an effort to say hello to neighbours in homes surrounding ours. Yes, we are old fashion. How so? Well, we even delivered small gifts to our neighbours once in a blue moon! To our unsuspecting neighbours, over the years, we’ve shared with them small boxes of chocolate, Chinatown baked goods, home-made banana bread, and yes, a few times I even “shared” my special chicken (see video for a  making of) with them!

Back to today, so my next-door neighbour is away on holiday for a few days and asked me to clear snow for him so his tenant (an elderly lady) won’t be inconvenienced by his absence. Well, this days when I clear snow on sidewalks, I usually do both my immediate neighbours’ as well. Today, something inside me thought, why not clear a few more neighbours’ homes?! So I ended up very happily (yes, I need the exercise) Snow Angeled Nine Homes!

NOTE: To get the ball rolling, I am entering this story as the first entry to the “Good Book (FREE) for a Good Deed: Creative Philanthropy Redefines Success“.

Please submit your entry and I will disqualify myself once I see a first entry! If there is only one entry, you automatically win!


Good Book (FREE) for a Good Deed: Creative Philanthropy Redefines Success

Wednesday, 19 December, 2012

Brett new book "Redefining Success: Still Making Mistakes" interview pix - 2012

A few weeks ago I video interviewed Brett Wilson (businessman & philanthropist, “Dragon with a heart”) to talk about his new book Redefining Success: Still Making MistakesBrett‘s team was very helpful in sending an additional copy of the book so I can give it to one of my readers! That means YOU my readers have a chance to receive a FREE copy of Redefining Success!

Good Book (FREE) for a Good Deed

After reading the Creative Philanthropy chapter in Redefining Success and some careful thinking, I’ve decided on a creative way to give the book away! Here are the rules for a chance to receive a FREE copy of Redefining Success for yourself or one of your deserving friend!

1) Share a true story of a good deed that you’ve done during this holiday season in Alberta.

2) Please keep your story short, may be 100-200 words max. If possible, please post a link to a photo or very brief YouTube video, etc to help tell your story.

3) There is no age restriction, so if your young children want to submit their stories, feel free.

4) Please post your submission here in the comment section under this post. Make sure you leave your contact email (visible to me only to contact you if you win).

5) Contest starts today and closes Saturday Jan 12th, 2013. And the winning entry will be announced hopefully within a week after the end of the contest.

P.S. A good book give away lead to one happy winner. I am hoping the shared good deed stories here will inspire us all to do more good!


CBC Dragon Brett Wilson redefines Success and talks Mistakes in extensive video interview

Saturday, 24 November, 2012

Brett new book interview pix - 2012

Over the last four years since June 2008, I’ve the pleasure to interview Brett Wilson (businessman & philanthropist, “Dragon with a heart”) many (see my 2008 pre-Dragons’ Den interview videos) and many times. I also slowly get to know Brett from industry events (we’ve met at Banff World Media Festival quite a few times (see 2009 interview)) and from his annual charity garden parties (thx Brett for inviting me & my better half). I can honestly say the “up close & in person” Brett is pretty much the same nice & straight talking no non-sense guy that many viewers of CBC’s award-winning Dragons’ Den have come to know and love.

Earlier this afternoon, I had the pleasure to conduct an insightful, open and frank video interview with Brett to talk about his Globe & Mail best-selling book “Redefining Success: Still making mistakes“! I hope you enjoy my interview with Brett as much as I in conducting it. Please share this article & video. And comment too.

note: this article is cross-posted by me at examiner.com

Brett & Kempton at 2010 Garden Party with book cover


Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything – First Look

Wednesday, 21 November, 2012

Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything by Carol J. Loomis - pix 1

Forty-two months! Thats how long I’ve been eagerly awaiting for Carol Loomisnew book “Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012: A Fortune Magazine Book” (368 pages, on sale Nov 26th and online amazon.com & indigo.ca). Carol is Fortune magazine senior editor-at-large and a long time (40+ years) close friend of Warren Buffett! I am thrilled to see Carol’s book published and in my hands as it feels like having an insightful person who knows Warren really well to guide me through some important and insightful articles. It will take me some time to read & review the book, please stay tune for my detailed review. Until then, my first impression of the book is it looks awesome!

Long time readers of Warren‘s news and insights will be familiar with some of key articles in this collection and also see many (for me) new articles that are important but less well known. Carol has added many insightful commentaries before the articles to give us context and share with us her views. For example, the article “The Inside Story of Warren Buffet” (April 11, 1988) is Fortune’s first profile of Warren and Carol’s preamble explains what lead her to finally wrote the first profile about Warren after knowing him for 20+ years at that point! And then the afterword for articles like “Buffett Hits $200 million Downdraft” (Nov 17, 1994) reminds readers that Warren actually made money on the USAir investment (which many people may have an impression of it being a money losing investment).

P.S. Now, let me explain my wait of almost forty-two months in this postscript. You see, in April 2009, shareholders of Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway NOT physically presented at the annual shareholders’ meeting in Omaha were given opportunities to ask Warren & Charlie remotely in advance via email for the first time. And I jumped at the chance by emailing my question to Carol! Along with my question, I told Carol that,

I am a big fan of your Fortune articles about Warren and BRK. (I have taken the time to look up some of your older articles and really enjoy reading them.)”

In Carol’s email reply was where I first read of the mention of a possible book (the book that I am finally holding in my hands)! So, yes, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the book since Apr 2009, and that is about forty-two months! :)

P.P.S. Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed there is a stack of five books in the above picture. Can you guess the titles of the Warren related books in the stack? Find out how many you guess correctly by clicking here to see this picture.

P.P.P.S. If you have read this far, you might as well check out my review of Warren’s biography “Snowball” by Alice.

note: this article is cross-posted by me at examiner.com

May 16, 2016 Update: (with video) “Buffett’s editor Carol Loomis: Pen, paper, Fed-Ex & email but never the telephone“. Via Yahoo, click here to view a full replay of the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting


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