Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Nearly Un-Obsolete

15 or 20 years ago, when you needed to trade stocks or fly somewhere – you contacted an agent. Most likely over a landline phone.

Those agents existed because they had access.

They’re nearly extinct now because access is ubiquitous.

So ubiquitous that it’s nearly impossible navigate the options without being paralyzed by choice.

I don’t have the desire to be an expert in the nuances of global airline pricing and scheduling – I just want a cost-effective, worry-free, family vacation in Europe.

There’s not a checkbox for that in any of the travel sites.

And to really understand what that means to me – requires at least an email, but most likely a phone call. The value is no longer in the access. It’s in the expertise and the ability to more effectively navigate the choice architecture. The need isn’t just in travel.

It’s in all significant purchases.

Real Estate agents still exist. Their value was always in navigating the selection and purchase processes. There’s even a word for this type of purchaser-oriented representation: Buyers Agent.

A few venues where a domain-specific buyers agent isn’t yet obvious; healthcare, auto sales, travel.

Now, roll in an evolving notion that the more important/busy/valuable/highly-paid you are – the less direct interaction with technology you’ll have and the more direct interaction with people you’ll have. And the further down that scale you go – the more direct interaction with technology, less with people.

Put these 2 notions together and I foresee an increased demand for what looks an awful lot like the yesterday’s secretaries.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Scan vs Rip

Real Simple magazine is now using Microsoft GetTag’s for online/mobile access to some of their articles.

I hadn’t heard any mention of Microsoft’s QR code competitor for a couple years now. Which means the chances of finding a reader for the Nokia N900 is…

Last time I encountered the technology /
(Microsoft technology * Obscure open source platform) =

Thing is – I don’t even know if my search for a reader would have been worth it. There’s no way to know if this digital version would be anything more than a cute novelty.

In my brief experience with QR Codes – there’s a 95% chance they simply decode to a URL – rather than actually decoding to the source text – say like an ingredient list.

The (seemingly) most useful QR code powered application is this subway grocery store from Tesco Korea.

It’s definitely a great story. Though, I’m not sure of the etiquette surrounding “shopping” on a crowded subway platform.

So, since I couldn’t find a getTag scanner, Jen tore the page out of the magazine (mobile & pocket sized!) and I downloaded the EEG Brainscanning app for the N900

Fair warning, if it looks like we’re taking your picture – we just might be scanning your brain. Muhahahahahhah

Monday, 19 September 2011

Qwikster is to Netflix as AWS is to Amazon

Seems to me, if you name your company ‘Netflix’ and it’s not a streaming movie service – then the company is horribly misnamed.

On the flip side, Netflix has taken years to build a highly efficient distribution pipeline optimized for USPS. And they’ve trained their customers to have high expectations for and quickly report any disruptions in that distribution channel. That’s still an asset, there’s still value there – even if it’s no longer applicable to the core business.

There’s only one other internet-based company so experienced in optimizing the delivery of physical goods: Amazon. But Netflix has done Amazon better – they’ve optimized both the delivery and the return.

When Amazon realized they had excess capacity – they created a new product offering: Amazon Web Services – web hosting, data storage, etc, etc.

Netflix spun off their excess capacity and their physical distribution/return expertise into a new company: Qwikster. There’s nothing specific about movies, entertainment, the internet, in the name. There’s nothing really – except some vague suggestion of ‘quick’ and an even more vague reference to a social network.

Which means – there’s no expectation of just movies. In fact, the Qwikster site suggests a video game rental offering, a product Netflix never provided. And without a concrete expectation in their name – Qwikster could send anything through their channel they think will fit.

Netflix optimized the physical distribution channel for hard-to-find, items generally used infrequently. The real question is – what will Qwikster do w/ Netflix’s unused capacity?

Finding that space between your local library and

Office/Home Decor?
Need some non-offensive (or offensive) artwork for the walls in your office or a home you’re trying to sell? Just visit the ‘Decor’ tab in

Moving Trucks?
Qwikster acquires U-Haul?

Sitting in a room different from the one you are in now

Today, Patrick Rhone and I challenged each other to imagine our respective projects as rooms in our homes.

What color are the walls?

Is there furniture?

Are you sitting? Standing?

How does the room make you feel?

What do you do (an not do) in this room?

I found it a quite interesting and insightful exercise and was reminded of two other projects that came out of sitting in a room different than the one your are in now.

“Cage entered the chamber expecting to hear silence, but he wrote later, ‘I heard two sounds, one high and one low. When I described them to the engineer in charge, he informed me that the high one was my nervous system in operation, the low one my blood in circulation.’ Cage had gone to a place where he expected total silence, and yet heard sound. ‘Until I die there will be sounds. And they will continue following my death. One need not fear about the future of music.'”

“I am sitting in a room different from the one you are in now. I am recording the sound of my speaking voice and I am going to play it back into the room again and again until the resonant frequencies of the room reinforce themselves so that any sem- blance of my speech, with perhaps the exception of rhythm, is destroyed. What you will hear, then, are the natural resonant frequencies of the room articulated by speech. I regard this activity not so much as a demonstration of a physical fact, but more as a way to smooth out any irregularities my speech might have.” [15:23 (1969, original recording @]

Friday, 16 September 2011

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Wait, I thought there was significant business value in my “social graph”?

1. Twitter adds ‘Promoted Tweets’ to everyone’s ‘stream’

“Twitter is expanding its promoted-tweets program and is now including paid tweets from companies that people don’t already follow in their timelines.”

2. Facebook introduces the ‘Subscribe’ button

“Hear from people, even if you’re not friends
Let people hear from you, even if you’re not friends”

What’s missing in both these product announcements?
Any mention of the social graph. Any notion of bi-directional digital relationships.

In fact – both of these announcement are completely counter to the interaction model that allowed both of these companies to gain the trust of their account holders.

The giant sucking sound you hear is the ‘social’ being removed from ‘social media’.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011


“‘Foxfire’ is the name of a series of books which are anthology collections of material from The Foxfire Magazine. The students’ portrayal of the previously-dismissed culture of Southern Appalachia as a proud, self-sufficient people with simple beliefs, pure joy in living, and rock-solid faith shattered most of the world-at-large’s misconceptions about these ‘hillbillies.'”

The Foxfire books have been in my life as long as I can remember. I can still remember their location in my parents’ bookcase. Just as I remember the location of Fleming’s Art & Ideas (1968, 3rd edition) art history book. Even today, all 4 of these books are next to each other the hallway bookcase. All of them describe cultures, traditions, and artifacts seemingly foreign, primitive, and obsolete.

Chimney buildin’, moonshinin’, ox yoke makin’, blacksmithin’ cowbells.

Yet, everything within the pages of Foxfire was captured less than 50 years ago. That recency makes it as much a survival manual as a history book. As much entertainment as reference. As much novelty as reminder of how far we are from plain living.

Monday, 12 September 2011