Google Docs down? Screw it, I’m going back to Microsoft Office!

26 08 2011





It’s the new Blue Screen of Death:

First rule of Don’t Be Evil should be “First, do no harm…”


Nordstrom Gets Strong Same Store Sales with Ship-From-Store

25 08 2010

There’s an interesting story in the New York Times about how Nordstrom is driving strong same store sales with a supply chain and inventory system that allows online customers from to see what’s in each store online.  The customer can then drive to the store and see the product live, or can have the product shipped to them from the store.

What?  You can’t do that with every major, high-end retailer?

The vast majority of multichannel retailers (as they’re called, although any retailer that’s surviving or succeeding must be a multichannel retailer) run each channel separately.  “Traditional retailers have a traditional way of doing things” as Adrianne Shapira, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, points out in the article.

A large share of the innovation you’ll see in Retail and E-commerce will be in more efficient supply chain and inventory management.  These improvements that seem to be behind the scenes will drive the blurring of online and physical, and play a key role in change and innovation in the coming decade.

Late Night Fail: Leno back to 11:30?

8 01 2010

TMZ (via New York Magazine) is reporting that Leno is returning to his old time slot at 11:30 pm.

It’s an unmitigated disaster- the loss of continuity will surely hurt the New-Old Tonight Show if this indeed the case, which it may well not be.  Executives say changes are on the way, but nothing of this change TMZ is reporting as confirmed.

New school has not been working in late-night with Conan O’Brien off of Leno’s numbers and Jimmy Fallon off of Conan’s, both of which I find much funnier than celebrities driving through an obstacle course on Leno.

Back to playing my social games, watching online video, and pecking away on my iPhone.

Conan, Television, and the Hulu Effect

10 11 2009

Watching Conan O’Brien’s ratings plummet, I’ve been bothered that something was off.  Something in this story isn’t completely being told.

Jay Leno moves to 10 pm, Conan O’Brien moves into the coveted Tonight Show seat, and the net effect is that David Letterman moves into first place in the infamous late night ratings battle.

There are a number of other stories that could be told for the drop.  Jay Leno’s show is bad, especially compared to well-written (or even less outstanding) original programming.  A domino effect takes down NBC into a death spiral seems to be the common story.

What I want to focus on is the Hulu effect, namely the oncoming ability for people to access shows online, anytime.  Everyone knows media is moving online.

I am admittedly a Conan O’Brien fan.  However, by his own admission, late night television is a volume play.  And The Tonight Show has seemed to get off to a somewhat slow start in providing memorable moments.  Conan is a comic risk-taker, and it suits him (and David Letterman for that matter) less well than in his later time slot.

Although I haven’t yet collated supporting numbers (and I will share if I do), I believe it’s easy to show that Dave will continue to show strength in the older demographic.  Only time can tell if Conan can pull off the balance between alienating the base and bringing in new viewers. In another interpretation, it’s really shaky to believe that Conan is a mass audience comic like Jay Leno is – it’s pretty obvious that the show has a high young male bend (and Jimmy Fallon seems to be bending that way even further, but that’s another story).

The bigger story is the shift to online, or really more accurately, on-demand video sources.  Again, it’s easy anecdotally to tell the story that younger people have more options: the unlimited expanse of the Internet first and foremost, and interactive entertainment which is a $30++ billion behemoth in itself.

What I think is happening is the types of viewers Conan would attract will generally not watch him in volume live.  Too much to do, and I’d rather catch the episode on Hulu if I feel like it, or cherry pick favorite clips.  That, combined with the ADD, choice-filled nature of media these days, and aggregate viewer ratings no longer tell the full story.

And unless unified media analytics come to fruition that tell this story, it’s quite possible that Conan’s reach may stay underrated.

Whether the spread attention of the younger audience is really that much more valuable, that’s for television executives to find out and prepare for.  But I find this developing story surprisingly intertwining and may have more to say about it in the future.

Mint: A Quality Story – Congrats!

24 09 2009

Recently, personal finance startup Mint was acquired by Intuit for $170 million in cash.

There’s many lessons and stuff to discuss, which I’m sure will be done and done again.  CEO Aaron Patzer has already enumerated some of them with a post on TechCrunch.

Certain other tactical choices are now validated as correct for Mint, but possibly incorrect for others.

I like the stuff about operating on a shoestring and generally being resourceful.  The main lesson I like is focusing on a product that people want and need.  One step further, successful software time and time again has launched fast and iterated quickly.  I can’t reiterate enough how much these are commonalities in success stories.

But to further the inevitability of their success: Mint was “mint” to start with, but definitely got even better as time went on – an iPhone alert tuned me in that I should write a blog post reiterating this.  Ever since Mint was on TechCrunch40, I followed the company.  As the product got better, it’s basically an automated and very pretty Quicken for me.  Perfection!

It is not the critic that counts

25 08 2009

“It is not the critic that counts.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marked by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasm and great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

-Teddy Roosevelt

For those striving for excellence, sometimes it’s difficult to remember that just being in the arena counts for a lot.

The Poker Metaphor and Sunk Costs

12 05 2009

Seth Godin had another brief, biting post about sunk costs, as the number one thing they teach you in business school that is ignored.  I always enjoy his terse posts to bring about maximum effect.

However, I found myself taking issues with this post.  The principle is sound: it doesn’t matter what you spent in the past, only your expectations for the future.

I think I took issue because psychologically effects from sunk costs affects most people, including myself.  But I couldn’t help but think first of all that sunk costs are spent in the first place because of an expectation of future return, rational or irrational.  Abandoning ship, as it were, or ignoring sunk costs ignores this expectation.

The principle does still stand, for this expectation would be part of your “future” calculation.  Given Mr. Godin’s succinct nature, I feel this was somewhat lost. So, I felt it enough to take some time off an extremely busy time to sound off with a quick blog post.  After all, this is also coming from the famous author who recently wrote The Dip, saying that those who are successful are those who can push those the dip (and quit the dips that are too deep and too long).

Later, I found myself thinking about poker metaphors.

  1. Implied Odds.  Betting on a long-shot at LOWER than strict expected value, with the implication that if your card hits, you can take all your opponent’s chips.  The implication is that there is some likelihood that you will earn more than currently in the pot, which really raises your expected value.
  2. Pot Committed.  You eventually reach a point of no return, where despite a possibly low possibility of winning, the amount required to see the bet through is so small that you must make it, according to the expected value calculation.
  3. Defending Your Blinds.  Strictly according to ignoring sunk costs, this seems to make the least sense.  After all, money is money and it doesn’t matter who’s money is in there.  It may seem like an egotistical, psychological reason why you don’t want someone to take YOUR money.  However, you defend your blinds for the expected value of not being the sheep at the table that will get bullied over and over again simply because you don’t defend what you’ve invested.  Same basically as defending any bet (or any sunk cost).

The metaphor of poker applied towards business is not straightforward. I only mention these metaphors because “ignoring sunk costs” is just as convoluted.  Ignore sunk costs at your own peril, but make your calculations wisely.

One more poker metaphor, slightly unrelated: always sit down at the table with the drunk guy.  I’m not a fan of casino poker at times when the goal is to win the maximum possible, because it’s hard to beat the table rake (amount casino takes) with a table of comparably competent players.  With a drunk guy, I am, preferably two.  In other words, you win the game when you have a systemic advantage and it’s wise to heed this advice in business as well.

Gotta love those poker metaphors.