Saturday, May 31, 2008

Excess marketing email

It is galling how a company, if you ever order even one single thing from them, will assume you want to receive thrice-weekly email offers from them. Of course I never give out my main email address for commercial purposes, but other people do. I have to wonder, if they could just restrain themselves and only send monthly messages, if they might find "less is more"?

I'm also tempted to punish the offenders by clicking the "report as spam" option in Google. I wonder what Google does if I report Home Depot email, for example, as spam?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Reactions to Ads

I have watched very nearly zero television since about the time I could drive, and the only radio I have listened to is NPR. So basically I took a generation off from exposure to TV and radio ads. Now that I have pre-teenage children, though, I am exposed to a modest amount of incidental advertising.

TV ads have gotten much, much better. Many of them are visually compelling, at least on the first or second viewing. Quite a contrast to the repetitive, jingle-based stuff I remember from my childhood. Radio, on the other hand, seems relatively unchanged. It's pretty intolerable, I find--once you have developed the NPR temperament, I don't see how you could tolerate the grating ads, even if the content were compelling.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Regarding IT As A Profession

A pair of terrific columns by Cringely. He hits the high points in some inter-related themes that I have been thinking about:

1. IT as a profession isn't all that fun any more.
2. IT if factionalized and balkanized.
3. Outsourcing and off-shoring have lots of problems, including quite possibly not saving money, just buying a much higher volume of labor at lower prices.

Choice quotes for each:

One of the real miracles of the PC revolution was that it often was led by super-users -- enthusiasts who had a PC at home before they had one at work and who led their co-workers as much through example as skill. Well those days of the 1970s and '80s are long gone and IT is today as entrenched and isolated as it was during the mainframe era of the 1960s.

in most organizations power ultimately manifests itself in head count, so IT organizations grow like crazy, becoming ever less efficient in the process. The typical power structure of corporate (which includes government) IT tends to discourage efficiency while encouraging factionalization. Except in the rare instance where the IT director rises from the ranks of super-users, there is a prideful disconnect between the IT culture and the user culture.

Outsourcing, while a very popular recommendation to improve IT, is treating the symptom and not the problem. The problem is IT applications require lots of ongoing maintenance and that costs labor, meaning REAL MONEY. Rather than make applications more reliable and reduce problems, IT managers seem to prefer shopping for cheaper labor. The problems are still there. It is cheaper to fix them with offshoring and outsourcing, true, but it often takes longer. If the end users -- the people who actually make MONEY for the company (IT doesn't, Lord knows) -- are unable to work from time to time, this is okay because IT is spending less money.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Behaviorism Health Care

So Express Scripts surveyed thousands of customers to understand better their concerns about generics. It learned some were uncomfortable with how to tell their doctors they wanted to switch, or felt it wasn't their role as patients to bring up the topic. Others found the whole topic too complicated to bother with.

With those concerns in mind, Express Scripts made several changes to how customers were informed about simvastatin, such as shortening the text in its literature and changing its color and including a letter that patients could just hand to their doctor requesting a switch.

The company also framed the message to focus not merely on cost savings, but on how generics can be the better value -- explaining that drugs that cost more but don't do more aren't a better value. People often believe branded or costlier drugs simply are better, says Dr. Nease, whereas Express Scripts' new message stated that the "best buys" are drugs that cost less and do the same thing.

Generic statin use among its customers soared to 53% as of March of this year, Express Scripts is expected to say at a conference Tuesday.

Interesting. I wonder if there could ever be a "tipping point" effect, whereby the idea becomes "socialized" that, like recycling, seeking healthcare cost savings is A Good Thing.

A Little Supporting Evidence for My Alternative Employer Health Insurance Tactic

Among employers, the hardest pressed may be small businesses. Their insurance premiums tend to be proportionately higher than ones paid by large employers, because small companies have little bargaining clout with insurers.

Health costs are "burying small business," said Mike Roach, who owns a small clothing store in Portland, Ore.
So, another reason for small business to find different rules to play by.

Apple Profit

For a long, long time, my mental model of "Bill Gates vs. Steve Jobs" was that they were playing different games. For Gates, it was all about winning, as measured by profit, and as Cringely has observed, "a graceless win is still a win". Everything else--style, innovation, originality--was completely secondary to winning.

Apple, on the other hand, was all about style, elegance, Steve Jobs' vision. What made Jobs happy was having the coolest products, good profit margins, if not the biggest total profits, and getting to boss people around. It was like Wal-Mart and Nordstrom's--same industry, but totally different approaches.

Now, however, Cringely observes that Apple has become a "lean and mean profit machine". So it seems that, finally, Jobs even matching Gates at his own game--winning in volume.

Google Should Buy LinkedIn

I know Google had some foray into social networking, but they somehow missed the boat. I wasn't paying a lot of attention at the time. But LinkedIn has a solid, professionally-oriented user base.
One strategic beneft would be to get a whole lot more people to have a Google login. I would like to use newsgroups and member-only weblogs for organizing various teams my children are on, but the high number of parents who need a Google login is a barrier.

LinkedIn doesn't have the cachet Facebook had, I bet they could buy it for a reasonable price.

Al Franken Tax Imbroglio

I think it is probably much ado about nothing. If conservatives didn't hate him so much, they would be sympathetic with the compliance burden of having to report any pay tax in 30 different states.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Ugly NFL Neon Sets

Is it just me, or are the modern NFL "sets", with all their unnatural, neon-ish gleam and glisten, simply garish? I'm pretty sure they are computer-generated, and not only do I find them extremely ugly--like the Las Vegas strip in miniature--but also very distracting.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Proton Beam Therapy

But critics say that the technique's advantage over X-rays has not been proved, except in certain rare tumors, and that proton therapy might not be worth the substantial extra cost. They say hospitals are engaged in a wasteful "arms race" for the prestige and profits that come from having a proton center.
I have read for years about this kind of hospital "arms race". When the administrators for each hospital are interviewed, they predictably all say "Yes, there should only be one of these--but OUR hospital is clearly the best place for it". I hope the government-mandated collaboration works out...

Consistency

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds

This has long been one of my favorite quotes.