Week of May 8, 2000
  Editor's Choice Web Pick
   of the Week

Davenetics: Attitude, Relevance Ooze from 'Official Newsletter of the Next Five Minutes'

When it comes to Web content, attitude and relevance are everything.

And that brings us to the site for Davenetics (www.davenetics.com), home of "The Davenetics Newsletter." A one-man endeavor from a West Coast guy named Dave Pell, the Web-only "Davenetics Newsletter" fairly drips with attitude and relevance. In short, Davenetics rocks. Discovering the site is like discovering some great, unknown underground band. (We're obviously talkin' pre-Backstreet Boys here, kids.)

Davenetics isn't about real estate. Instead, as the site proclaims with tongue firmly in jowl, it's "the official newsletter of the next five minutes." Or at least it used to be. Davenetics has just changed its tag line to "your daily safe haven of mediocrity."

Actually, "the official newsletter of the next five minutes" is more like what this site really offers. What Davenetics is about is how the new economy is shaping up - which is fast, unpredictable and hugely consequential. Or as another Davenetics catch phrase puts it, the site is about "connecting the dot coms."

Many of you already know what that means for real estate. Few in the industry now even remotely doubt that cyberspace is irrevocably remaking the face of real estate. In fact, we'd interrupt this regularly scheduled programming to count the number of big-time business honchos who've said, "Every business is becoming an e-business," but we don't have that many fingers and toes.

Links to 'Under-the-Radar' Stories

"The Davenetics Newsletter" has its iconoclastic thumb on the pulse of those larger changes that are transforming real estate.

Most of the content, though, isn't original. Instead, Pell's newsletter is a largely a series of links to recent stories that limn the particulars the new economy's evolution.

True, a lot of newsletters do that, but there's a difference with Davenetics. This e-letter has a knack for hitting the mark on important stories that don't grab big headline. Instead, the cyber-digest gives you content that largely slips under the radar, stories hinting at where change will next pop up its insistent little head.

Pell's writing for the newsletter is very short. It's very important, though, in making this formula work. Pell writes what he calls "quick blurbs," which proceed the links to the stories. Those blurbs are irreverent, occasionally outrageous and almost invariably informative. Most importantly, the intros let you know whether a story is worth your reading time. In addition, Pell apparently scours a wide range of publications, so the content has considerable reach. Since this is a free site, users can search for content through the archives or view the most recent e-letter. If you like what you see, though, you'll probably want to sign up for the newsletter, which is the best way to get the information -- in the of-the-minute context for which it's written.

Befitting the site's non-corporate vibe, newsletter registration is ridiculously easy. All you do is enter your e-mail, which the site immediately acknowledges with its own e-mail.

The Cheeky Headline Files,
Or Publicizing the Headless Chicken

If you're still wondering what "The Davenetics Newsletter" is about, here are a few past samplings from the e-letter's cheeky headlines:

  • "Pen and Teller": A link to a story in "Red Herring" describing, as Pell writes, how "most online banks and other financial entities are quickly realizing that a terrestrial presence can be pretty useful after all."
  • "Auld Langxiety": A link to a Reuters' story detailing the yawning dawning of the year 2000, with Pell's intro reading in part, "People will argue whether we spent too much and, of course, there will be those who still insist the end is near. Ultimately, it was just nice to pop a cork, boot up and find out: Y2K, You're OK."
  • "Eisner on the Prize": A link to a "USA Today" story in which Disney head Michael Eisner lashed out at "Internet pirates [who] try to hide behind some contrived New Age arguments of the Internet. But all they are really doing is trying to make a case for age-old thievery. Theft is theft, whether it is enabled by a handgun or a computer keyboard." To which Pell's blurb waggishly rejoined, "True perhaps, but all things being equal, I would rather be shot in the stomach with a computer keyboard."
  • "Things Are Not Always As They Appeal": A link to a story in the online version of "Wired" gauging Microsoft's chances in its epochal squabble with the U.S. Justice Dept. Davenetics also offers a glut of guilty pleasures in the links that it lists under the newsletter's regular "Terrestrial Take" section.
For example, a link to a BBC story is headlined: "And You Haven't Stopped Talking Since." The accompanying blurb explains, "A new theory suggests that language resulted from a single mutation in the brain of one man living tens of thousands of years ago. How bored was this guy at dinner parties?"

Self-proclaimed "Chief Dotconomist" Pell was also good enough to share with readers the Associated Press story on "Mike, the Headless Wonder Chicken" -- who actually survived, headless, for 18 months in the mid-1940s in Fruita, Colo., where citizens recently memorialized the decapitated capon in the town square with a 300-pound sculpture.

Obviously, this isn't information you have to have. But it is information that provides a few rueful chuckles amid a world in which breathing room often seems in short supply.

I've Been on the Desert on a Site with No Ads . . .
Plus What Dave Really Does

You also gotta like this site's resolute DIY (do-it-yourself) ethos. The site itself is rather plain. Tellingly, there are no ads. What's more, the site doesn't even seem to be making any attempt to get any.

Then there's the fact that Dave is serving as this e-letter's one-man band while holding down a substantive fulltime job. Pell is the managing director of Arba Seed Investment Group (www.arbagroup.com). Pell, says the site, "invests in and advises more than 10 Internet start-ups at various stages of development [and] has built several Web sites and registered a few too many domain names."

You have to scour the Davenetics site pretty carefully, though, to find that little bio blurb. And if you go to the Arba Seed Investment Group site, you'll find absolutely no mention of the Davenetics site, not even a simple link. Correspondingly, the Davenetics site never mentions the Arba Seed Investment Group or links to its site. That utter lack of linkage no doubt fails today's relentless emphasis on business synergies. At the same time, though, it's damn refreshing.

In fact, it gives the site a bit of underground cred. Judging from the Web site, we can see University of California/Berkeley and Harvard Education School grad Pell leading a sort of dual existence: the Davenetics persona a sort of Batman-like alter ego to Dave, the business start-up guru.

Afternoon E-Letter Arrives Monday-Friday

The newsletter is generally delivered Monday through Friday, although Dave occasionally takes a few days off for the holidays.

It usually arrives at mid-afternoon over here in the Eastern U.S. time zone. And, rather than being a distraction, it's often an energizer for new ideas. ("Hmmm: Free-range boneless, headless chickens. Mona, get me the guys in marketing, and make it snappy! Uh, on second thought . . . ")

The site also encourages users to submit content suggestions to Dave (using the "Input" link). Dave's already getting at some of the ongoing interplay between cyberspace and physical space. So it couldn't hurt to ask him if he'd do a bit more.

And Dave, we suspect, actually reads users' e-mails. In fact, be forewarned that your comments end up on-site. As Dave irreverently notes in the introduction to his user input form, "Certain comments may be used in upcoming issues of Davenetics, so add your two-cents (plus equity)." Mischievous, that Dave.



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