Showing posts from December, 2005

Christmas Comes Early to One Writer!

Congratulations to Myfanwy Collins , an oustanding friend of mine - though I think I owe her an email or four - who just received two special mentions in the Night Train Yates Contest for her short stories. Collins is as classy as she is talented and placing two stories in this contest speaks volumes for her ability.

Creating Wealth

Steve Jobs once said that the success or failure of a startup depends on the first ten employees. I agree. If anything, it's more like the first five. Being small is not, in itself, what makes startups kick butt, but rather that small groups can be select. You don't want small in the sense of a village, but small in the sense of an all-star team. The larger a group, the closer its average member will be to the average for the population as a whole. So all other things being equal, a very able person in a big company is probably getting a bad deal, because his performance is dragged down by the overall lower performance of the others. Of course, all other things often are not equal: the able person may not care about money, or may prefer the stability of a large company. But a very able person who does care about money will ordinarily do better to go off and work with a small group of peers. This is like a Christmas present from Paul Graham.

On the Power of Common Sense

In a visit to the Harvard Business School, billionaire Ross Perot observed, "The trouble with you people is that what you call 'environmental scanning,' I call 'looking out the window.'" Confession: I had a Perot t-shirt in '92. Not 'cuz I necessarily thought he'd be a brilliant President. I just thought he was entertaining, and if he wasn't entertaining, Dana Carvey's impersonations of him surely were. Anyhow, more on the power of common sense here .

Is It Possible to Trespass on Competitive Websites?

Here's an interesting story : NOVEMBER 21, 2005 (COMPUTERWORLD) - The other day, our CIO forwarded me an e-mail from our general counsel's office, saying that one of our competitors was accusing us of what amounts to a directed denial-of-service attack. ... The complaint was that we were making excessive requests to the competitor's public Web site, hitting its performance so hard that customers were unable to access it. It was obvious now that one of our employees had been making connections to our competitor's Web site...Turns out his job is conducting competitive analysis. He uses a tool that lets him monitor all of our competitors' Web sites for changes to content. So, for example, if one of our competitors launched a new product or had a major news release, we would pick this up within an hour of it appearing on the competitor's Web site. The end of this story shows the "spying" company getting into no trouble at all, which is correct. However, t

On Where We Are

Just try this thought experiment: Imagine that it's 1993. The Web is just appearing. And imagine that you - an unusually prescient type - were to explain to people what they could expect in the summer of 2003. Universal access to practically all information. From all over the place - even in bars. And all for free! I can imagine the questions the skeptics would have asked: How will this be implemented? How will all of this information be digitized and made available? (Lots of examples along the line of "a thousand librarians with scanners would take fifty years to put even a part of the Library of Congress online, and who would pay for that?") Lots of questions about how people would agree on standards for wireless data transmission - "it usually takes ten years just to develop a standard, much less put it into the marketplace!" - and so on, and so on. "Who will make this stuff available for free? People want to be paid to do things!" "Why, even i

My Buddies in the Mortgage Business Will Love This One:

The Top 10 Mortgage Mistakes Borrowers Make 1. Not knowing which mortgage fees you can - and cannot - negotiate. Or how the lender actually makes money on you. 2. Choosing and trusting the first loan officer you interview. 3. Using an interest-only or adjustable rate loan primarily to qualify for a more expensive house. (You could be paying forever, eventually getting in debt over your head or, at the very least, you will pay more interest for a longer period of time.) 4. Thinking the interest rate is always the main thing. (Most "astute" mortgage shoppers think they should call around to "shop" rates. And "rate envy" is common, especially among male borrowers. But what closing costs will you need to pay to get that fabulous advertised rate?) 5. Not comparing the final fees listed on the closing documents to the up-front estimates (to avoid the lender "packing" the loan with added-on fees without your knowledge). 6. Not knowing if your mortgage h


It's been a while since we've pointed to the brilliance of Hugh .

Over 1 Billion Served

Earlier this year, the Net served its One Billionth Customer : Because we have no central register of Internet users, we don't know who that user was, or when he or she first logged on. Statistically, we're likely talking about a 24-year-old woman in Shanghai.

OPINMIND: What They REALLY Think About You...

At this point, this is only fun if you're searching for techie stuff, movie stuff, or other stuff that's prevalent in blogworld. But the concept is great, and plugging your product or service into it could be eye-opening.

Future Talk - Digital Publishing

While most publishers will admit that reference content is better accessed on the computer, almost all believe that the traditional non-fiction book or novel will never be replaced with a digital equivalent. I say, “baloney.” It's coming. The sooner publishing executives get their collective heads out of the sand and face the future, the better prepared they will be to meet it. I am convinced that we are only one device away from a digital publishing tsunami. Consider what happened when Apple launched the iPod in October of 2001. They provided an end-to-end solution that made downloading music easy, portable, and fun. Now, 30-plus million iPods later, iPods are everywhere. More from Michael Hyatt here .

It's Too Hard To Type With All This Money in My Hands.

From Fast Company : Next year, money will matter more than ever to marketers -- the money held by consumers, that is. According to a new report from Forrester Research, targeting the affluent and what it calls "mass affluent" -- those with $100,000 to $1 million in investable assets -- will be the focus of marketing efforts in 2006. Forrester says key trends within this demographic include: Online bill-paying generally grows with affluence and declines with age Unlike most other online activities, the use of instant messaging drops as wealth increases The largest percentage of self-directed investors can be found among affluent 40- to 54-year-olds (32%) Broadband Internet access increases with assets and declines with age. So, the wealthier you are, the less likely you are to IM. I find this interesting and not very surprising. I used to IM. Used to IM alot, in fact. But of all the ways I've frittered away time on the Internet, none was as big a time waste as IM. In fact,

Why I Love The Internet Today - Part II

Received an email today from Joseph Finder , best-selling author of Company Man & Paranoia . Finder has cornered the (relatively unfortunately small) genre of the corporate thriller. In one of my earlier blogs, pretty much defunct, but none-the-less archived, I had kind of railed on Company Man, saying I thought it wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped. What I should've said was that I read it immediately after Paranoia, and following up that book - imo - would've been a tough gig for anyone. Anyhow, Finder didn't give me a hard time about my review at all. In fact, as a peace offering, he offered me up a review copy of his forthcoming book, entitled Killer Instinct . After graciously accepting, I bopped on over to Finder's website to find out what Killer Instinct is all about. From the website: KILLER INSTINCT is about a thirty-year-old sales executive named Jason Steadman. He's married to a lovely, elegant woman, and they're trying to have a child. Ja

Why I Love The Internet Today - Part I

Several weeks ago, I wrote that my best friend from high school - a West Point grad. and current Major in the Army - had been deployed to Iraq. I received an email from the Major this morning, directly from Baghdad. In part, the Major wrote: We should be linked up with our Iraqi Battalion in early January and then it should get interesting...Not sure what to expect of this mission yet. While I'm thrilled to hear from the Major, I'm doubly thrilled that these brave guys have the ability to maintain some level of contact with the outside world. I find that the older I get, the less I understand this war. But that doesn't diminish in any way the huge amount of respect I have for guys like the Major. Stay safe.

Long Tail - Show Me the Money!

David Hornik is asking where the money is in the Long Tail? Again, while these different filtering technologies may make it slightly more likely that an end user finds his or her way to a piece of obscure content, it will not likely be sufficient to catapult an artist into the mainstream. The beneficiary of the filtering is the end user and the filterer, not the content owner per se. While I agree that the aggregators and filterers stand to benefit the most from Long Tail economics, there's still a lot for content owners to gain, too: The difference between a so-so novel in the literary fiction genre and a "best-selling novel" in the lit. fic. genre is relatively slight - perhaps as small as 8 - 10,000 copies. In the grand scheme of the planet, an additional 8,000 copies doesn't require a catapult; a simple boost is sufficient to ensure enough sales for the next book contract. Keeping with the publishing model, the most expensive part of selling books - so expensive t

One Man's Bribe is Another Man's Business Model

Bill Gates is thinking of paying you to use MSN Search.

Customer Service That Works....

Can you imagine visiting Dell's web site and waiting more than two seconds for it to load? Well, it takes more than half an hour to reach a salesperson at certain times if you call Dell. 1,800 seconds. Or call Club Med without a touchtone keyboard and the system hangs up on you...Obviously, there's a load balancing issue. In order to have enough well-trained operators to answer every call Saturday at 2 pm, they'd have thousands of underemployed people later on. But instead of punishing the customer, why not reward them? As usual, Seth asks the good questions .

If It Were April, I'd Swear This Was a Joke....

It's now possible to outsource your fun to China.


From the CEO of Google: At google, we think business guru Peter Drucker well understood how to manage the new breed of "knowledge workers." After all, Drucker invented the term in 1959. He says knowledge workers believe they are paid to be effective, not to work 9 to 5, and that smart businesses will "strip away everything that gets in their knowledge workers' way." Those that succeed will attract the best performers, securing "the single biggest factor for competitive advantage in the next 25 years." Read more here .

Starbucks Clever Again

From the Business 2.0 Blog: When I got close enough to speak to him I told him that his coffee was on his roof. He looked at me and said, "I know, Happy Holiday's from Starbucks!" At first I didn't get it, it didn't sink in, so I told him again, your coffee it's on your roof and again he looked me square in they eye and said, "yes, yes, I know, Happy Holidays from Starbucks." It was at this point that I realized that the coffee cup was permanently affixed to his roof and that he was an advertisment in disguise.


Yesterday, I got an e-mail from the good folks at Squidoo telling me that I should clean up my lens a bit, since I was ranked in the Top 100 (out of more than 3,000). Found out why they were encouraging me to dust the shelves, as Squidoo has now opened to the public. Visit my lens here . Here's the interesting part: I haven't been to Squidoo in more than a month, so how did I have the 88th most popular lens? One word: RSS. Whatever I post on my blog ends up there automatically.

Les Blogs...

I couldn't find my beret, so I didn't take in last week's Les Blogs conference in Paris. Fortunately, this Internet thing means I don't have to. Sounds like Ben Hammersley delivered a top-shelf presentation: 8 Ideas That Will Revolutionize the 21st Century (and blogging isn't one of them). 1. Information wants to be free (vs. copyright). 2. Zero distance (vs. borders). 3. Mass amateurisation (vs. censorship). 4. More is much more. (vs. network blocking). 5. True names (vs. identity cards & databases ). 6. Viral behavior (vs. more network blocking). 7. Everything is personal (vs. everything is trackable). 8. Ubiquitous computing (no privacy).

Just Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingling....

For a price, the company will design a Christmas display, install the lights and decorations, take them down after the holidays and store them until the next year. The average initial cost is $1,500, with the cost going down in subsequent years because the commercial-grade lights already have been purchased. In Maine, Lucas Tree will put up lights, wreaths, silhouetted Santas and other decorations on about 50 homes and businesses for prices ranging from $500 to $10,000. Gendron declined to reveal what he paid, other than to call it a “good value for the money.” For more, go here .

What's Wrong With the Gap?

"'Relying on celebrity spokespersons should be the course of last resort,' said Robert Passikoff, the president of Brand Keys, a New York market-research company. 'It is basically a statement that we have no meaning, relevance or value of our own, but if we stand next to someone real close, maybe some of it will wear off on us.'" Great post on Gap's recent performance lags.

Where The Business Is....

Here's a link to a great report about selling to the small business market. A couple of things I found interesting: Cold-calling comes across as more effective than commonly thought. Direct mail still looks impressive, particuarly if you put thought into doing it right. Trade shows sound like a mighty expensive proposition, given the usual cost to participate. That being said, most companies don't do trade shows right, and if they did, I'd expect these numbers to look better.

Make Work Fun

Even a Water Quality Report can be fun. Don't believe it? Go here .

You Say "Ignore." I Say "Focus"

From Business 2.0 Blog : A study in the journal Nature suggests that smart people are the ones who are good at ignoring things, rather than the ones who can store the most information: From the Editor's Summary : A study of brain activity in subjects performing a task in which they were asked to 'hold in mind' some of the objects and to ignore other objects has revealed significant variation between individuals in their ability to keep the irrelevant items out of awareness. This shows that our awareness is not determined only by what we can keep 'in mind' but also by how good we are at keeping irrelevant things 'out of mind'. This also implies that an individual's effective memory capacity may not simply reflect storage space, as it does with a hard disk. It may also reflect how efficiently irrelevant information is excluded from using up vital storage capacity.

If This Won't Make Up Give Up That Latte, Nothing Else Will...

I’ve created a new Excel spreadsheet for calculating your personal “Cup o’ Joe Factor” , or the true, long-term cost of any regular purchase you make. I call it the Cup o’ Joe Factor because some people think lattes are too expensive and pretentious, and a cup o’ joe will do just fine for getting that caffeine rush. For more, go here .