Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Governments are often a vital first resource of macro-economic data, and Data.gov takes that to the next level. This type of organization and openness is well worth the investment as it benefits the overall economy. If I can save 30 minutes a week (which is a very reasonable estimate) then others must be saving time as well. And as we all know: "time is money."
Monday, June 29, 2009
The study claims that the main indicator of crisis seems to be the growth of email cliques - small and isolated groups that exchange emails amongst themselves. The logic is that before times of trouble, people tend to communicate with those that they trust most within an organization. Of course, further investigation will be required to confirm these initial findings.
If these patterns are proven to be valid signs of future problems, then this could represent a substantial leap forward for social-predictive technology. This information might be used for positive purposes such as predicting man-made disasters or impending epidemics. It could also be abused by over-zealous security agencies or evil-doers to foresee threats or public discontent.
With basic social interaction quickly shifting to the digital world (primarily Internet and Mobile), real-time digital records can be easily collected and stored. I predict major debates in the near-future on how to apply these heaps of new and valuable social-data.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
This fundamental human need has traditionally been displayed through the signaling-significance of material possessions such as homes, cars, boats, etc. In the past, warriors have used their size, speed, and number of kills in battle to show military might. During the Middle-Ages, land ownership usually signified real societal standing. For the past century, intellectuals have grown their reputation by publishing books and papers.
For my generation, childhood objective-evaluation usually came in the form of points scored - arcade and video games ingrained this additional layer to the innate need for life-scoring. Corporations and marketing firms realize this particular desire for objective clarity and scoring - this is why Credit Cards and Banks offer accounts based on acquiring various forms of points and rewards.
The Internet has been able to fundamentally leverage this innate human need to supply new forms of life-scoring:
- Social Influence. The number of friends on Facebook, contacts on LinkedIn, or followers on Twitter has given us new ways to score and display our social reach.
- Personal Success. Through the emergence of personal blogs we are able to share our romantic, intellectual, and even cuisine-related conquests. Flickr allows us to present visual evidence of our experiential success. Foursquare gives us virtual points and badges for going out and having fun.
- Financial Prowess. Websites like Covestor allow others to view and mimic our investment moves and broader strategies.
- Reputation. Pinnacle Digest is an investment forum that gives users the power to grade the comments of other users. This type of feedback has been prominent for years on techie/programming websites. Even Facebook has begun to implement a similar system.
Life-measuring and signaling is just one of many ways in which the Internet has utilized, reshaped, and augmented the fundamental ways we communicate and signal to each other. I suspect that any new website or digital tool that leverages this social need in some way will potentially reach a deeper connection with users and trigger a faster adoption rate.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Today, I can control my junk food intake. I can reach a point of satiation after a reasonable portion. This transition doesn't seem to be atypical and marketers/food producers know this very well. This is why sweet food is one of the top products advertised and sold to children. It's easiest to produce and sell a cash-cow product like Froot Loops to children and then hope that nostalgia will bring them back as adult-consumers.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I'll take the liberty to apply a slightly modified version of Four Ps model to demonstrate this fact:
- Product. The physical characteristics of a product determine Utility-Luxury placement, perception, and expectations. More luxurious products are often associated with quality and durability - whether this is factual is irrelevant. On the other hand, silly putty isn't expected to last forever.
- Price. Price serves as both an actual result of the market, but also as a signal - often a higher price screams that a product is really useful/necessary, that it's very luxurious, or both.
- Placement. This usually refers to the physical or digital point of sale. I often expand the definition to include customer placement - i.e. segmentation and targeting. A new Mercedes is never sold to low-income individuals via a multi-brand car dealership in an inner-city setting.
- Promotion. The public image of a product is the most direct way of communicating where the product is on the Utility-Luxury grid and where it wants to be.
The Four Ps are the vital components that make up a product or service. The past, present, and future placement of a particular offering along the Utility-Luxury grid directly influences and is influenced by the product's particular characteristics.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I've been thinking about potential catalysts that might spark a movement between any of the four squares shown below (in Part I). Here is what I've come up with so far:
- The introduction of new substitutes. This explains what happened with the wristwatch. As mobile phone penetration grew, the watch's practical value declined.
- The introduction of new complements. This partially explains how the Internet became a very valuable tool. With the development of better modems, networks, and more powerful personal computers, the Internet's potential usefulness and appeal grew.
- Increased ubiquity. This of course begs the "chicken or the egg" question, but I believe that the growth of the Internet's ubiquity strengthened its network effect and thus created a positive cycle that continues to push the Internet up the Utility line.
- Changing tastes and norms. This drives movement in a lot of industries, especially in fashion, art, and cuisine.
- A change in the level of scarcity. This is pretty self-explanatory. For example, certain types of fish are now a luxury due to a decrease in their population.
- Laws and other government regulation. The legalization of narcotics would most likely decrease their price and thus diminish many of their luxury-qualities.
- Demographic changes. As the population ages at a faster pace in the U.S., Florida real estate might become more of a luxury.
I'm sure that I've only begun to scratch the surface. What other catalysts for change can you think of?
Monday, June 22, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Nikola Tesla was a Serb born in Croatia in the mid 1800s. He was a worldly person who conducted his most prolific work in Western Europe and the United States. He is most recognized for developing and popularizing alternating current (AC) electric power - the form of electric energy that powers nearly all homes and businesses. His second most important work contributed to the development of wireless communication as Tesla built the first wireless radio - his technology was later utilized by Marconi. Other notable contributions to modern technology included his work in X-rays and the creation of the AC electric-motor.
Tesla took a more revolutionary and eccentric route in his later years as he attempted to develop a system for wireless transfer of electricity. Although Tesla's legacy was overshadowed by Edison and Marconi for over 50 years, Tesla is finally receiving the true credit that he deserves (even having his name attached to a modern electric car company). Nikola Tesla can now justly be regarded as having a role in the development of nearly all the branches of modern technology that power our interconnected lives. Happy Father's Day Nikola Tesla.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Here is what I came up with in 15 minutes:
Clearly the ideas range from widely known to absurdly illogical. But if it took me only 15 minutes to come up with a few reasonable thoughts, I'm quite sure that teams of well paid professionals will come up with a good way to make money from Twitter.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
What does this mean for our current world reality? Maybe this shows why stock market busts are often more reckless and more rapid than stock market booms - once enough fear is created, the details become less important. The big picture of potential financial catastrophe is sharpened while the positive details of particular companies are temporarily forsaken. Ignoring the details for too long is costly. Fear might save us in the short-term, but details are vital for long-term prosperity.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
What makes Lost relevant is how it conquered television. The show represents a prime example of counterculture creating fresh ideas, producing a high-quality product, and quickly gaining such popularity that the program itself morphed into popular culture. During the early 2000s, when game shows and reality television ruled the airwaves, Lost was a breath of fresh air, an ensemble science-fiction drama. It was a real production with real cameras and real investment.
As we all know, history repeats itself and Lost is just one example of many counterculture-to-popular culture uprisings. From Nirvana, to Punk Rock, to the Internet, we've seen it many times before and we'll see it many times again. What will offer such a threat to the kings of current entertainment, to digital social media like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.? Will it be a National Park movement, some sort of museum revolution, or maybe some unimaginable new platform that will connect us in completely new ways?
Monday, June 15, 2009
The tub is relatively large. I need to be a gymnast (which I'm not) to reach all the little nooks and crannies where mold and dirt and grime like to hide. I don't need to clean it too often but the task takes longer than all other forms of cleaning (which you know that I hate). But as the filth accumulates, showers lose their magical appeal and cleaning the tub becomes the only option.
I think you know where I'm getting with this - tonight was the night. I said "screw it" and I washed the damned cauldron of crud...and what I realized is that every once in a while, I just need to do the deed. It might be just the fumes going to my head, but I felt empowered afterwards, my pride/laziness conquered for a short instant.
So sometimes we all need to get over our pride/laziness and do the deed, fight the fight, solve the health care problem, or begin a revolution. Or sometimes we just have to scrub the tub.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
There were no dramatic exchanges or arguments. There were no explicit emotional outbursts or romantic encounters. Events developed at a much slower pace and no clear plotline was to be seen.
Usually things were much more subtle than I expected. Nuance was the name of this game.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
If this trend holds for most other professionals, what does that mean for the whole U.S. economy?
- Professional and business services accounted for $1,806 Billion of the total U.S. GDP in 2008 (which is around $14,000 Billion)
- 50% of Americans regularly consume coffee
- Coffee affects workers positively for 50% of their day (2 hours in the morning, 2 hours in the afternoon)
- Lets say that most professionals are like me and experience a 20% boost in productivity during the 4 hours of positive influence, which ends up equaling about 26% of all output during those 4 hours
- That results in: $1,806 x 50% x 50% x 26% = $117 Billion
It seems that coffee is conceivably responsible for indirectly generating $117 Billion, or slightly less than 1%, of the total U.S. GDP. This is without considering how coffee positively influences other industries such as health care, education, or manufacturing.
This means that coffee could be responsible for as much as 5% of the U.S. GDP.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
The greatest business successes I've achieved were usually self-created and self-sustained. Bravery, certainty, achievement, and enthusiasm have come from the inside.
Not to be too philosophical, but I have a lot more influence over my accomplishments than I thought.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Much has been said and written about successful teamwork by people much smarter than I - so I won’t beat a dead horse too much. The three to seven person team-unit has been considered as the preeminent problem-solving instrument for organizations for decades by management “experts,” but has existed in nature for thousands of years. It’s no wonder that most predators hunt in packs; it’s a natural way to solve complex tasks.
It’s tough to list all the ingredients that make a well-functioning team. But there are a few things that will definitely decrease chances of real team-based success:
- Arrogance. If even one member feels that he is generally superior to the rest, cracks will quickly appear. There will always be experts, but arrogance is a deadly state of mind and not a matter of actual experience.
- Ignorance. If there is not a minimal level of mutual understanding then the team will not excel. Being able to put oneself in the shoes of another (for even an instant) miraculously boosts results.
- Selfishness. The most obvious team-based malady, selfishness can never be hidden or even masked. It’s also highly contagious.
There are definitely more issues that can hinder teams, but these three are on the top of my mind.
Great new technology is like a great new song. It makes us say "wow" in the best kind of way, it's positively addictive, and there is a touch a familiarity - as if we've listened to it in the past (but which of course is impossible).
[I posted this first on Fred Wilson's blog in response to his recent post - it seems to resonate.]
Monday, June 8, 2009
Off-site personal-dynamics are fascinating. The group is about a dozen people, including two company trainers. Right now, after the first day, morale is quite high and everyone is trying very hard to be friendly and to get along. It's not the most diverse group but there is definitely a sense of newness, networking, and unity. The secluded location has brought us together for a single purpose. We'll see for how long the smooth sailing prevails.
I'll take this week to document what happens at an off-site corporate training - who knows, there might be intrigue or there might just be the usual business developments.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Since I won't be so arrogant as to assume what others value in their phones, I will give my personal top-ten phone features in regards to usage. I am a professional in my mid-20s, living in New York, and this is what I care most about in my mobile handset:
- Voice. This is why I will never purchase the Palm Pre in New York as long as it's on the Sprint Network (my negative perceptions of the Sprint Network are a whole different story). With the mobile phone quickly replacing landlines, voice quality and reliability will grow in importance.
- Keyboard. I type a lot. Unless a phone has a full QWERTY keyboard or something as simple and easy to use, I won't even consider it - important for 3, 4, and 5.
- Corporate Email. This is one of the main features keeping me from getting an iPhone (besides the keyboard). Although the iPhone does support enterprise email capabilities - my company's IT department doesn't. I will not carry two phones.
- Personal Email. This primarily includes Gmail but also my personal BlackBerry email.
- SMS (Texting). All phones support this now. Pricing-plans might affect my decisions.
- Mobile Internet. Reading the NYTimes.com and CNN.com fills idle time and is still in front of downloading applications for either of those two news sites.
- Mobile Applications. Games, location-based services, and other types of apps are quickly rising on my list. This will be at #6 soon.
- Performance. Speed and memory matter more and more as the Mobile Internet and Mobile Applications are beginning to push my phone to the edge.
- Battery Life. I've learned to live with bad battery endurance.
- Sexiness. Appearance does matter a little.
I know that a student or a soccer mom might have different preferences. For example, price isn't close to being in the top-ten for me. I also know that the list is somewhat messy, but so is the mind of a typical consumer.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Thus we pick and we choose our entertainment ever-more carefully. No longer is fun enough to justify an entertainment activity. Additional utility is required to justify new forms of amusement. We demand to be bettered and entertained at the same time. Leisure time must move us forward in life.
This is why the Wii Fit has become such a success - fun and fitness at the same time. This is why the Nintendo DS offers users the ability to improve the mind through playing mind-exercising games. This is why Malcolm Gladwell's books are so popular - the ability to learn complex ideas through a lightweight and pleasurable way. This is also why television options such as The Learning Channel, Discovery Channel, History Channel, Food Network, and Home & Garden Television have all substantially grown their ratings and cultural significance.
Future forms of entertainment will greatly benefit from providing productivity in addition to fun fluff.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Taxicab Confessions is a television show about passion. A secret camera documents the taxi ride of interesting people in their most genuine form - usually at night, occasionally under the influence of various mind-altering substances, terribly talkative, and painfully honest. In the newest episode "a disparate group of revelers, fetishists, imbibers, romantics, and lonely hearts let down their guard, spilling their innermost secrets to anonymous cab drivers - and to each other." What results is usually absurd but occasionally brilliant.
Cash Cab is about sugar-coated profit with a hint of fun. The show gives regular people the ability to make a quick buck while riding in the back of a moving game show - a rigged-up New York City taxi. Each correct question is worth $25 to $100 dollars and three incorrect answers leave the passengers stranded at the destination of their third strike. What you usually get is a bit of wholesome entertainment, a productive journey, and a minimal amount of risk. The ride is relatively smooth.
Which ride would you get into?
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
But information is unlike most other forms of energy. Typically energy dissipates as it travels further away from its source. Light, heat, sound, etc. all grow weaker and weaker as the distance from their origin grows.
In our aggregated world, information grows stronger and more valuable as it moves away from its source. Ten beat writers write about a basketball game, one-hundred website writers base their analysis on the beats, one-thousand blogs dissect the analysis, and ten-thousand tweets praise, criticize, romanticize, and collectively create a virtual Picasso from the ingredients of the original event. I'm not sure what that means, but I am sure that it's powerful and that I'll revisit this subject.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
I believe that religion could be added to that list. The mechanics of many mainstream religious activities could be theoretically digitized. With the proliferation of more immersive digital experiences (i.e. virtual worlds such a Second Life), certain religious activities could soon be fully global across the Web and could be made to mimic significant portions of a live service within a digital place of worship. The ubiquity of mobile devices adds a whole new layer to the wider reach that religion could have - literally following worshipers at all time. It's difficult to imagine how or why this could be monetized, but such a trend would have direct consequences for numerous other industries and the world that we live in.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Time Traveler is considered to be the first holographic arcade game. It was released in the early 1990's and there hasn't really been anything like it since - the economics of making it just didn't make sense at the time. I would play and my dad would watch. One day, when we went back to the mall, the game was gone and I was sad. Like a mirage, the game appeared and disappeared within one formative year in my life. Ever since, I've been waiting for a game or a TV show or a movie or a smartphone to recreate the experience I had with Time Traveler.