Thursday, 30 November 2006

Sunday, 26 June 2005

RSS Feeds to Replace CDs

To this point, musicians need to press bits of plastic (records, CDs) each time they want to share music with their fans. This means, enough music has to be ready to make pressing bits of plastic worth the cost. These bits of plastic are then shipped at an additional cost to stores where hopefully the fans, after hearing about the new bit of plastic via the marketing campaign, will purchase it. Passing little bits of money back to all intermediaries on the return trip to the artist.

I see two weak links in that process;

  1. Musicians needing to have a number of tracks ready at once.
  2. Fans paying musicians at the end of the process.

With a podcast, musicians can release whatever they’d like, whenever they’d like; demo tracks, rough tracks, experiments, final edits, interviews, conversations about the song writing process, anything their fans would enjoy. All of it delivered automatically to their biggest fans.

To access the podcast feed, fans pay up-front, or along the way, or at the end. Doesn’t matter. Passionate fans will pay for access to an empty RSS feed, thereby financing new work, while new fans pay for access to previous feeds, just as they do with previous albums today.

Faster publication and distribution helps musicians refine their work more quickly and gives fans a sense of being involved in the creation process. Two big wins.

What do fans lose when RSS feeds replace CDs? Aside from the physical artifact and the costs of designing, creating, moving, and storing the physical artifact? Very little. Cover art and credits are in the ID3 tags and the feed itself.

Wednesday, 16 March 2005

An Unexpected Yak Shaving

One of the bathtub faucets has leaked for a couple weeks. Monday, I could no longer ignore it. That same day, Seth Godin introduced me to Yak Shaving.

yak shaving: Any seemingly pointless activity which is actually necessary to solve a problem which solves a problem which, several levels of recursion later, solves the real problem you’re working on.

Tuesday, I headed to Home Depot for a replacement faucet stem seat.

According to the helpful Home Depot associate, great strides in faucet technology have been made in the 50 years since my bathroom’s was built (the faucet’s obsolete). He recommended I find a Plumbing Supply Specialty Store for the parts or pick up a new faucet. I opted for the new faucet.

Today, the Yak is clean shaven, er, the leak is gone.

Follow along if you will:

    Day 1:

  1. On Home Depot Trip #2 Jen and I pick up a new faucet.
  2. The old faucet framework wasn’t persuaded by the monkey wrench. It was however persuaded by Mr. Pipe Cutter. Unfortunately, Mr. Pipe Cutter left bare copper tubing rather than the more useful copper tubing + threading.
  3. Home Depot Trip #3 brought compression connectors adding threading to the bare copper tubes.
  4. With the faucet framework attached, it is obvious the old holes aren’t big enough for the new stems and the hole for the tub faucet is about an inch lower than the pipes will reach.
    Day 2:

  1. On Home Depot Trip #4 grab a 1 3/4″ hole cutter for the newer, bigger holes. (Where’d I put the power drill’s chuck wrench?) and a couple of pipes to reach the faucet hole.
  2. With the new holes drilled and faucet installed, I notice the faucet stem lengths don’t accommodate the wall between the plumbing and tub.
  3. Here I ponder tearing out and replacing entire the tub, surround, and wall. Instead…
  4. Mr. Hacksaw and I cut two copper tubing-size channels out of an offending 1×4, proving just enough space to connect the handles.
  5. Handles installed. Faucet installed. Leak ended. Mostly

Update 19 Mar 2005
My dad came by today and looked at the repair. Looks like I got it mostly right. Just needed to be more liberal with the teflon tape. Thanks dad.

Walking into this, I had no intention of shaving a yak. Nor did I anticipate replacing a small bit of formed metal would take 2 days. On the outset, I expected 2 hours, max. That reminds me, here’s a special bonus thought of the day from David J. Anderson: Stop Estimating.

Something takes as long as it takes. ETA isn’t known until you’re deep into understanding the problem you’re solving (i.e. doing it). In physics, there’s the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle principle: you can know a particle’s velocity or its precise location. Not both.
Let’s say ‘velocity’ is ‘doing’ and ‘location’ is ‘planning’. So, to rephrase; You can do or plan. Only doing will give you an ETA.

Tuesday, 8 March 2005

Making a Decision is Always Better than Not.

Yesterday, I grabbed a coffee with one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. We were talking about project teams wallowing in the unknown and stalling out. He proclaimed:

“Just put a stake in the ground and move on.”

His recommendation reinforces Charlie Lazor’s advice, “You really won’t know until you build it.”

Both of these thoughts require an acceptance of being wrong. An acceptance that the first solution, based on what is currently known, just might be faulty. The only way to find out is to build something and get more information – either from the customers, the technology team, or the prototype itself.

Every instance I’ve seen where a project team wasn’t able to easily define an interaction was due to lack of information. Similarly, every instance I’ve seen where defining an interaction has reached Heated Debate, the available information was faulty. A quick call to a customer or developer diffused the situation immediately.

Wednesday, 2 March 2005

Circling Vulture Part 2

A couple days back, I wrote a half-formed rant on the current state of department stores (Picky Customer or Circling Vulture). This morning, while skimming my blogroll [opml] in search of a pick-me-up, Hugh McLeod 1) knees me in the groin 2) points and laughs. He did both in his Cheapest or Best post.

First, his enigmatic business card cartoon:

“if the f’r doesn’t cost you your life, it isn’t a quest.”

Hugh, thanks, I needed the reminder. Today especially.

Second, the post reads like a better Picky Customer, with fewer words. Actually, I should just replace that post with these 2 thoughts from Hugh:

  1. “You have no automatic right to revenue.”

  2. “We are now moving into a world where you have two basic survival choices:”

    1. “You can be the cheapest.”
    2. “You can be the best.”

    “There is no middle option.”

Amen. Why are department stores, commercial radio stations, hub-airlines, and advertising agencies failing left and right? In Hugh’s list of survival options, they are neither.

Choosing either cheapest or best will give people a reason to do business with you more than once. As an added Free Prize, it will inspire passion (positive and negative) all around – in customers, employees, the press. Passion always means people care and that’s why we’re all here.

UPDATE: Brand Autopsy dissects JC Penny’s Missing Middle strategy. While McLeod and current market conditions are promoting cheapest (Wal-Mart / Target) or best (Neimann Marcus / Nordstroms), JC Penny’s is firmly planting themselves in the middle. Short term, it seem to be working for them (year over year sales up 3.3%), long term it sounds like a strategy to be bought by Kmart’s real estate arm.

Monday, 18 October 2004

Success Comes in Small, Cheap Projects

Instead of spending milions of dollars on “The Superbowl Ad”, why not spend that money cranking out beermat campaigns, till you find one that really works? Using beermats in small, test markets, you could easily create 50, 100 (500? Who knows?) campaigns for the price of one decent Superbowl/TV commercial. It would be a simple, cheap and quick way of working out the necessary language to resonate with the beer-drinking public. – hugh @ gaping void

I met a art professor in college who believed everyone had 500 bad drawings in them. Only after getting the 500 bad drawings “out” would you start drawing well. Some professors asked their students to complete 1 or 2 drawings in a 3 hour studio. This professor – 50. Fifty drawings, each from 5 to 20 minutes a piece. Each one to find out what works and what doesn’t. No erasing. If you’re not happy with it, start a new one.

This quick and cheap way to success stuck with me and is one of the underlying principals of Working Pathways. We’re continually asking, “What’s the simplest, quickest, most effective way to reach the project’s goals?”

With this perspective, we’ve reduced turnaround times for some of our client’s research initiatives from weeks to hours. We solicit feedback continually. We provide long-term ‘teach a man to fish’ success.

We’ve all got 500 bad ideas in us, Working Pathways is here to help you get to the good ideas more quickly.

UPDATE: This notion of small, quick, projects paving the road to success is re-iterated by Robert Rodriguez,

“The more experience you give yourself the better prepared you are for the next project…”

This by way of Anita Sharpe’s Thought for the Day, Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Monday, 11 October 2004

One Sheet Wonders

I’ve been reading Ricardo Semler’s fantastic book, Maverick on how he turned around SemCo in the 1980’s. Each chapter ends with a nugget of organizational wisdom concisely delivered in a sentence or two. This is exactly what I was talking about in my earlier post, Once More, In Half the Time.

In addition to also using Twain’s quote, Semler took the principle one step further.

All the documents at SemCo are kept to 1 page. Everything – memos, proposals, market surveys – one page. If you read my Once More, In Half the Time post, I’m sure you’re wondering the benefit of continued revisions when you could just finish it. Here’s Semler’s response.

This has not only reduced unnecessary paperwork, but has also helped us avoid meetings that were often needed to clarify ambiguous memos…The longer the message, the greater the chance of misinterpretation.

Boiling down important messages to as little as needed guarantees the message will be received. I’m reminded of an example I heard about during a conversation with Caterpillar. Originally, they had a multi-page print-out describing the classification of a given document on a scale of confidentiality. It was never used or misused. Obviously, this is dangerous for all involved. They were able to boil the print-out down to one sheet. One sheet – posted at every desk I walked past.

Concision is something we’re comfortable and familiar with here at Working Pathways. All our proposals are one page. Our research reports are boiled down to just the important bits. As an example, the findings from a recent, 2-week-long intensive customer research project were delivered in an easy-to-read 5-page PowerPoint deck.

The level of concision both Semler and I are talking about requires a deep understanding of what is to be communicated and the most effective means of communicating it.

Wednesday, 19 May 2004

A Best-ter Buy. Part 2

Updating the stores to appeal to a specific customer segment is great, Best Buy goes the extra mile in this renovation and makes sales more visible to staff.

Employees begin their day by reviewing the previous day’s figures, which are written on a dry-erase board and compared to the previous month. At a Westminster store meeting open to the media, Chris Smith, an operating supervisor, pointed out that the store had $550 in overtime costs the previous day, and asked employees to suggest ways to reduce it.

SF Gate has a great follow up on my earlier Best Buy persona post

Over the next few years, each of Best Buy’s 608 stores will focus on one or two of the five segments, with 110 stores scheduled to make the switch by February.

There are two interesting points here:

  1. Starting each day reviewing sales figures with the staff
  2. Looking for improvement from the people with day-to-day knowledge

Like a page out of James Womack’s Lean Thinking. These two points reinforce Womack’s patterns of “visual controls leading to continuous improvement” and “asking for improvements from the people on the front-line leads to a continued commitment”.

Best of Luck to Best Buy.

Tuesday, 10 February 2004

Learning from Living

Over breakfast this Saturday, my wife and I discussed various home improvement projects for our new place. Very early into the conversation, we realized how little we knew about the house. What’s under the carpet? Can the toilet be moved easily? How long will it take to remove the wallpaper?

Answers that can only be found inside the space – and tearing up the carpet.

One of the principles of Kaizen is to be in the environment you’re attempting to improve.

Yet, many conversations I have with clients, especially early-stage meetings, take place outside of the environment in question. Many teams feel pressure to nail down times, processes, and schedules before their first step into the space.