Friday, November 30, 2007

Biking is the best sport because

1. You never have to be thirsty (wearing a Camel-Bak).
2. It is almost never too hot (since you generate a 15-20 mph wind, even on still days).
3. You can do it on a full stomach (unlike running, where you have to wait at least 90 minutes after eating, and then not too big a meal).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Facebook/Social Networking Use Case

For years, I have been looking for a good local auto mechanic. When I met a long-time resident of Woodbury, I would ask them if they had a recommendation for a really good, independent mechanic. Nobody ever did.

I eventually found one, in St. Paul. It was inconvenient, but worth the drive. Then he closed. But we had fairly new cars by then, so the question became less important. But recently our minivan needed a bunch of work, some minor, some of unknown magnitude. This time I thought to consult my network. It wasn't actually Facebook or LinkedIn, per se, but rather a mailing list of my biking buddies. Sure enough, I got 2 good suggestions out of that, and was very happy with the one I took.

So it was sort of like my personal Angie's List. Also, I think a Facebook-style inquiry would be more efficient than email. The people who care to follow the discussion can follow it, those who don't, don't get subjected to Reply All's, or conversely, overlooked by private replies.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Cereal Packaging Design Value-Add

Cereal is SO much easier to pour out of a bag which has had the corner cleanly clipped off. How hard could it be for the packaging to have a serrated, tear-off corner?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Amazon Kindle Reader

Amazon introduced this e-reader about a month ago, in time for the Christmas season. I haven't followed it closely, but my sense is that it generated next to zero buzz, and correspondingly low sales.

Not surprising. Seems like I've heard this before. $399 is WAY too expensive, and even if it were free, who wants another big device to lug around? I applaud the idea of best-sellers for $9.99--finally , content delivery that recognizes that the cost-savings for non-physical content should be shared with consumers, making it considerably cheaper than traditional, corporeal formats.

But the device makes no sense to me. Much better to incorporate with existing hardware--from laptops to cell phones. If they had to do something, partner with a notebook manufacturer to make a form-factor that is considered perfect for eBooks, and provide a bundling deal.

Business Idea: Third-Party Password Custodian

This Cringely column got me thinking...

Identity thieves aren't so lazy, especially when they have technology to help them. They can start a sweepstakes website that requires only free registration to win that cruise of a lifetime to Bora Bora. And in doing so the thieves can know that a majority of registrants will use a username and password combination that they also use at a lot of other sites, like bank and brokerage accounts. Not only don't they need to actually award the cruise, they don't even have to break into your bank account in order to benefit from the username/password combo. They just sell that information to another crook.

That is kind of scary. I don't tend to register for sweepstakes, but you never know. Plus, there is the old "inside job" possibility, that a company employee will steal and sell your data. Because I DO register for a lot of eCommerce sites. I know, the first line of defense is to use a special password for financial accounts.

Wouldn't a well-established, highly-trusted third-party password custodian be the solution? Kind of like how it works with the certificate authorities in PKI? So you register your User ID for each site, along with a master password (you get to have more than 1 master password, if you want), and then that site generates a strong password for you, which you don't even need to know, and performs the actual login, using that password. I remember reading, several years ago, about a hardware device that did this.

Also, a nice enhancement, to defeat keystroke-loggers, would be to present a bitmap of the alphabet, to allow graphical log-in.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Closing Helpdesk Tickets Too Early

Every organization that logs "tickets" or cases (e.g.., corporate helpdesks, should include a survey option--in the email they send 3 days after they log the ticket, telling you they are unilaterally closing the ticket--"In your opinion, was this ticket closed prematurely?"

I'm pretty sure that all these functions are measured on time-to-close tickets, and since we all know, in mangement, that you get what you measure, what you get is tickets closed on the flimsiest of pretexts.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gmail Has Implemented My "Forgotten Attachments" Feature

I have been wanting this feature in Outlook for, oh, about a decade.

T-Mobile Customer Service

T-Mobile was ranked one of the top performers in this J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Wireless Customer Care Performance Study. I have to agree. I have called their customer service for a number of reasons since becoming a customer, and I have been stunned by the uniformly high quality. The CSRs are friendly, knowledgable, helpful and answer the phone very quickly. I typically get mildly nauseated at the prospect of calling customer service, but in the case of T-Mobile, it has almost been a pleasure.

Free WSJ, woo-hoo!

The Motley Fool thinks Rupert Murdoch is stupid for abandoning the paid model the Wall Street Journal has successfully built, and so many others (Slate, New York Times) have tried and failed at. I tend, strongly, to agree--I just can't believe that advertising can really foot the bill for all that great content. But I will be delighted, JUST DELIGHTED, if my favorite news publication is going free.

Coke Zero Found Mildly Addictive

After 3 months of drinking almost exclusively Coke Zero, I chanced to crack open a caffeine free Diet Coke, and I found it definitely tasted very diet-y.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Useability: Mute vs Hang up the call

I spend a lot of time on conference calls. It is ridiculous how easy it is, on the typical phone, to hang up the call when you are trying to un-mute yourself!