Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Changing Retail Landscape

A really remarkable amount of my household expenditures goes to Amazon, and Sam's Club. Just interesting to think about how much business has migrated away from traditional outlets, in particular electronics retailers (half or more of the Amazon purchases) and grocery stores (3/4 of the Sam's purchases). Not saying it is good or bad, just interesting. (Well, actually it is good, for me as a consumer, obviously, or I woulldn't be shopping there.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Decision Fatigue

I am just fascinated by this kind of stuff. Especially the sleep connection. I am a strong believer that adequate sleep is one of the four pillars of good health (along with diet, exercise and healthcare). With sleep, there is a big feedback loop into two of the other pillars. I have seen speculation that a factor in the obesity epidemic is lack of sleep. I connect that to the fact that I read the average adult American--in 1900, before the advent of widespread electric lighting--slept an average of 10 hours in the winter. 10 hours, can you imagine!

It also seems clear to me that there is a connection between feeling rested, and having the drive/willpower to exercise. Unless you are confirmed, "addicted" exerciser, it is hard to drag yourself to the gym, or wherever, and put yourself through the paces, when your brain is whimpering "sleep, rest".

Thursday, August 18, 2011

No, I Don't Want To Leave Feedback!

In general the Amazon customer experience is simply off-the-charts great. Beyond belief. I have almost never had to call them, but I did the other night for a Kindle order on my son's phone. They have a "call me" button, and they call you. No wait!! Fluent, helpful, smart CSR, problem solved very expeditiously. Like I say, off the charts.

The one thing that irritates me are all the sellers, begging for feedback. I'm sorry, unless they do something exceptional, I'm not taking time to give feedback. Just not interested. Most laughably, I ordered a $2.38 battery, and they wanted feedback! Maybe Amazon already has an "opt me out of feedback" option, and I haven't found it yet, but it's annoying.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Negate NH, 1 Iowa and SC

I am sick of their outsize influence. How about a Facebook group to pledge never to vote for the primary candidates who over focus on those states?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Groupon Follow-Up

Going out on a limb a little bit...I'll predict that 3 years from now, Groupon will rue the day they turned down Google's $5-6 billion offer. 

ACSOI, mentioned nearly 50 times in the document, showed that Groupon made $82 million in the first quarter of the year. But ACSOI left out the hundreds of millions of dollars associated with marketing the service, acquiring other businesses, and bringing in new subscribers. So it left out very real costs of growth—not one-off investments or unusual charges, but expenditures core to the company's expanding business.
Investors noticed—and howled. The Wall Street Journal termed the filing "magic." Tech blogs declared the company a sham. Many commentators hearkened back to the worst days of the late-1990s tech bubble, when out-of-nowhere dot-coms with cloudy revenue streams got billions from IPO-hungry investors. Forbes pointed to one especially salient piece of commentary from 1998. "Certain internet CFOs are pushing investors to look at EBITDAM," Silicon Valley investor Bill Gurley wrote. "The 'M' represents marketing, and is an attempt to get Wall Street to ignore what has become the single biggest expenditure for internet startups. This only makes sense if you truly believe that marketing costs will one day go away, which should be considered unlikely. Perhaps we should make it easier and skip straight to EBE (earnings before expenses)."

Marketing of Vodka: A Case Study

I think that kids, of various ages and up through high school, need some enrichment classes related to personal finance and consumer behavior, to arm themselves against the shysters and charlatans they will encounter, on a daily basis, throughout their lives. By shysters and charlatans, I pretty much mean every company under the sun. There may be exceptions, but they are precious few.

This article about the marketing of premium vodka would make a heck of a case study.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I've spent my first 10 minutes on Google+. I have my doubts. I think the usability might be better than FB--seems like the usual Google clean-and-lean. Or maybe it is just because it is too new to have grown cluttered. But as far as achieving real success goes, I just don't see the compelling reason to use it. Just like Bing has not been able to interest me in switching away from Google search (and in that case, the switching barrier is far lower).

Like I said, Google shoulda bought LinkedIn. Since that ship has apparently sailed, I think their only other chance is to meticulously identify every single weakness in Facebook, and fix it in Google+. Even then, they will probably need FB to stumble at some point. Some things I am thinking of:

  • Security. Facebook hasn't been so strong here, including lack of HTTPS and the Firesheep vulnerability.
  • Channels. Circles is a good start. I think I am a somewhat typical middle-aged male techie--I think FB is Face-bore. I just don't want to know what my good friends--let alone vague acquaintances--did over the weekend. I want interesting, and I want useful. So the channels I would like to see are:
  • "I need advice..."
  • "I need to borrow" 

Friday, August 05, 2011

Bills that ask for CC Security Code

The CVV2 code is that little 3-digit code you usually have to provide when ordering stuff online. The PCI security rules prohibit storing it, which is a good security feature.

Lately, I have been getting some bills that can be paid by credit card, mainly from healthcare providers, that ask for the CVV2 code. While my reading of the regs indicates that this is not an actual violation (they are forbidden from storing the CVV2 once the individual transaction is authorized and completed), it still seems like a bad idea to have it written down. So I never provide it. I've never had the billing party object.

Should require re-insurance for companies that self-insure

I had a friend whose employer went bankrupt in the midst of a family member undergoing surgery. Because the employer self-insured, he got stuck with the bill when they went bankrupt. This just seems wrong to me. Maybe companies that self-insure should have to have some form of re-insurance as a backstop. Or, alternatively, healthcare providers that accept third-party payment  should indemnify their patients in the event the paying party goes bankrupt.

Only recently employed need apply

This seems cruel and wrong.

Lifetime ROI of Once-Thriving Companies that Go Bust

Just 15 years ago, Borders was growing nationwide. They were wiping out the independent booksellers. Now they are going bankrupt. That reminded me of something I have wondered about, each time I hear the story of a relatively young, successful company that goes bankrupt, or is acquired on the cheap (e.g., Borland).

That questions is--if you invested in the company from "Day 1" of its going public[1], and held your investment through bankruptcy, what would your lifetime ROI be? It seems to me it would most likely not be very good. Most high-growth companies pay little or nothing in the way of dividends. So there wouldn't be much time between no-dividend growth company, and falling star, in which you might get nice dividend payouts.
[1] I want to define Day 1 in a way that factors out any IPO bubble hype. So let's say that is defined as 30 days after IPO.

Pork? Earmarks? What Do You Mean? -

No surprises here, same as it ever was, but that makes that hypocrisy no less appalling. Does not a single one  of these congresspeeps aspire to the chance for greatness, by vigorously denouncing and disavowing the pork in their own backyard? It might cost them re-election, but what credibility in a run for higher office! (Not to mention just doing the right thing and being true to one's ideals.)

Complexity Is the Enemy

From my Android phone, when I click on a NYT link sent to me via email, I eventually get a "Page Not Found" response. Pretty sure this is what is happening:
  1. Clicking link invokes the mobile browser.
  2. Mobile browser fires up, proceeds to try to open (standard) NYT site (
  3. NYT site sees access is from a mobile devices, and automatically substitutes their mobile site (
  4. The link is different, so the result is instant linkrot-type breakage.