Sunday, July 29, 2012

Solution To Empty Seats at Olympics

Article describing the problem of too many no-shows for seats reserved for "the Olympics family--sponsors, organizers, athletes. Part of the problem is "that which is free is of no value" mindset. One solution I have heard used is to reverse the usual nature of goods and payment. You require the recipients of the free tickets to provide a credit card deposit. If the ticket is not used, then their card is charged. If the complimentary ticket is used, then the deposit is canceled.

Another idea would be to take a page from the airlines' playbook, and overbook on a statistically-driven basis, and start bumping the no-shows. This would require selling some of the late standby seats on a non-reserved basis.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

This is exactly the Android opportunity HTC missed

Marco Arment: First of all, geeks are a very large and influential market. As one big example, if not for geeks, Firefox would never have started to catch on in 2004 and broken Internet Explorer’s reign. We installed Firefox on every non-geek’s computer we could find. And while we were there, we set everyone’s search engine to Google instead of Yahoo or MSN, and we made fun of their AOL email addresses until they switched to Gmail. Our preferences matter.

Marco is writing about the Apple App store, but the core point--that capturing the hearts and minds of geeks can lead market-share success--could equally apply to Android. If a manufacturer (HTC would be the most obvious choice) or maybe carrier (T-Mobile) had courted the vanilla-craving geek market from the outset, they could have established a Firefox-like "recommended by the leading geeks" reputation.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tone down the material arms race

If all male elk could decide to, say, halve the size of their antlers it would benefit the species as a whole. Those with the largest antlers would still maintain their advantage in fighting for mates, but the species as a whole would be less vulnerable to predators. Of course, Frank realises that elk are not in a position to make such decisions, but he believes humans can learn from the paradox. For instance, Americans often feel obliged to organise expensive and lavish wedding celebrations as a result of social pressure. If everyone agreed to scale down their weddings then the whole


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Did Ice-T Really Rob Banks?

The rapper/entertainer Ice-T was, improbably, the guest of the week for "Not My Job" on the brilliant NPR show "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" a couple of years ago. I heard the segment the first time, and then I heard it yesterday in a re-broadcast. It was quite funny, and he came off as reasonably likeable (a feat in istelf, since certainly anything about "gangsta rappa" is about 10 strikes in my book of taste, temperament and sensibility).

In keeping with how that segment of the show is set up, he talked about his personal biography. No surprise, this included a troubled youth and young adulthood: "You know, I was out on the streets doing everything. I mean, I robbed banks. I did all kinds of things." The part about "robbed banks" seriously set off my BS detector. It's just not that easy to rob banks--plural--and not get caught. Does not happen very often. I don't believe it is true, at most I think he might have considered a bank robbery. Maybe.

So anyway I decided to see what I could find on the internet. I didn't put a whole lot of time into it, but I didn't readily find any authoritative sources. I did, however, find this article from The Guardian, where he goes into more detail about  his criminal youth. And I find it even more unconvincing.

He talks about robbing jewelry stores and getting away with it as easily as pick-pocketing might be (and I'm not sure how easy that is). And then the topper: "I never been to prison. I never been caught". Just. Too. Improbable.

I see this as just another variation on the human weakness for a story. In this case, Ice-T needs (or needed) a story to establish his "street cred"[1]. The fact that he has never been to prison is actually a problem. So he invents a back-story that gives him the cred and explains away the fact that he lacks the "badge of cred" of doing prison time. Yech.

[1] I loathe this term, but I'll use it here because it seems to fit.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Next Issue Experiment

How Next Issue can rescue magazine publishing

Very interesting i have thought for a long time that subscriptions are the way to go.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Jargonwatch: Early Days

My trained ears detect that "early days" is starting to catch on. I can definitely remember hearing it twice in the past week, once during the Tour de France. That was from Phil Liggett, so I thought it might be a Britishism. Just now I heard it on NPR.

Definition: Too early in an undertaking to make a definitive judgment.

Example: The breakaway has an 8 minute lead, but of course it's early days in this 200 km stage, and the Peleton will almost surely overtake them before the finsish.

Assessment: A nice, colorful expression with clear meaning. Fine for occasional use, but it will quickly become tiresome with frequent use.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Genesis of an Urban Legend - Rare

It is rare to be able to trace an urban legend back to its undisputed origin. This Radiolab story on the origin of the High Five accomplishes that.  As soon as I heard the urban legend version, even before it was revealed as a UL, I was pretty sure that was the case. What gives it away? First, the story just has too many moving parts. Second, the ending is so pat, like the punch-line to a 6th-grade joke. Taken together, it has the feel of an elaborate build-up to a simplistic punchline, intended to obscure the improbable simplicity of the punchline, by burying it in excessive detail.
Sleets grew up in Campbellsburg, KY and starred on the basketball team at Eminence High School.  When he was young, his father, Lamont Sleets, Sr. would frequently entertain visits from his old army buddies.  Sleets Sr. served in Vietnam, in the 1st Battalion, 5th Infantry regiment.  "It was the Bobcat division," Mont said, "but my dad and his friends always called it 'The Five.'"  Sleets Sr. and his army friends started an informal greeting between them while serving in Vietnam.  It consisted of extending their arm straight up in the air with all five fingers parted and saying the name of their division: "Five."  Sleets thinks that when he was around 2 or three years old, it was only natural to want to emulate the old army men that gathered in his house.  Since it was tough for a youngster to keep track of all the different names of the visitors, the saying of "Five" became young Mont Sleets' universal salutation for his fathers friends.  Sleets recalls the story with the weariness of anybody recounting the family stories they heard over and over while growing up, but not without telltale signs of enthusiasm throughout: "They'd walk in the door, and a three year old kid, he doesn't know the difference between all these grown-ups.  But they're all sayin' 'Five' with their hand up like this, so I just start saying to them, 'Hi, Five!' like it was their name."

Article: Power Tools: The Libraries of the Future

I really like the idea of libraries as centers of sharing things, not just books (my prior post on the general idea). If we could learn to better share infrequently used implements, we would save money, save resources, feel more connected band just maybe, long-long-term, have more leisure time without even sacrificing material standard of living!

Data Is Like Evidence

I have always preferred data in the singular, but long ago grew tired of the linguistic debate. For whatever reason, the other day I was thinking that data is a lot like evidence, which of course is well-established as a mass, uncountable noun.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Idea for small businesses to game Yelp

Include a QR code link to your enterprise on Yelp, with the check or receipt. Except instruct your staff to do it very sparingly--only for 10% of customers who are clearly delighted with your enterprise.