Focus and Research

May 19, 2006

I recently finished my last semester of college, and my Grant and Proposal Writing professor's two words stick in my mind the best – Focus and Research.  The other phrase that sticks with me is "What makes a good model?" but thats a topic for another post.  Focus and research is what successful companies do.  Lack of focus is what doomed the foreign restaurateur on Seinfeld who had everything from spaghetti and meatballs to hamburgers.  Lack of research is what dooms so many companies that think the market is ripe for their niche product with no customer base.  A few examples from local businesses –

  • Handmade pies for twenty something bucks.  Whats wrong with the local bakery/farm stand etc?  No market, way too much cost for the payoff.
  • Dollhouses.  Not only do girls spend less time playing dolls, but they can be had for cheaper over the internet.  Small market, too much expense (space).

As far as focus, I was talking to a guy from craigslist who had what he thought would be the king of all music sites.  The plan was to have buddy lists, dj'ing, collaborative editing, indie artists, and anything else that might come along.  But each of those needs a team of developers and the money to pay them.  So the project is stuck at square one with a cool prototype image.  If you pick one of the great ideas that is involved, and make it happen, instead of a jpg on your computer, you have, mercora, or pandora.  That is, money in the bank, and a name, and a way to get interested people involved.   


Colbert vs. Bush

May 5, 2006

There's been a lot of buzz about this battle, but this post on boingboing convinced me to say something.

Colbert was in fact funny. Colbert did rip into the Bush administration. That's side one of the story. Side two is that Bush was funnier, and also ripped into the Bush administration. Liberal bias? Vast right wing conspiracy?

I look at this in a couple of ways.

  • Because of the hype about Colbert and the internet viewing, people missed Bush's routine immediately beforehand. Also, many read the transcript instead of watching, which prevented them from seeing Colbert's painfully slow delivery. So to these people, Colbert was funny, and satirical. Compared to Bush though, he was sort-of funny, and only a little harsher than the man himself.
  • The media are in fact lap dogs, and were incredibly worried about how harsh Colbert was to the president. This is why few laughed at Colbert's speech, and fewer still commented on it.  The people who organized this event clearly knew what Colbert is about, so they shouldn't have been surprised by a speech that repeated lines from his show verbatim.

I think the first option is closer to the truth. I'm a fan of Colbert, and not a fan of Bush, but I was feeling like a flipflop after watching them in action. Colbert was a schtick, and not particularly original. He rehashed comments from his show. His best jokes were clever, witty ones, not good hearty laugh inspiring.

All the talk about media bias is too generalized to get the point. It's not a left wing or right wing bias, its both biases interacting in complex ways. Al Franken's book 'Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them' looks at the issue in meticulous detail, coming to the conclusion that, although most of the foot soldiers of the media, the journalists, are left wing in their own thinking, the media's tone is set by the editors and producers, who are usually right wing. That doesn't mean that article's arent written leftish, it means they get corrected to the right. So if the conservative bias was in effect, the liberals would have been laughing at the dinner, and then not publishing after it. But nobody was laughing. Colbert just wasn't funny.

Power (not Wisdom) of Crowds

April 26, 2006

Mark Cuban just posted about stockholders who don't exercise their votes. I commented, but probably should have just posted and linked to here.

Like most popular votes, this one is crippled by three factors:

-time to vote

-time to understand choices

-inability to effect outcome

While I appreciate Mark's power to the people, vote or die attitude here, its not the solution. And if anything, it sounds more like a STFU to those who complain about poor corporate governance. I think something can be done beyond blindly hoping your pittance of votes can make a difference. Organize. Imagine a social responsibility brokerage house. Set up like e-trade, but in addition to market research on profit margins, it also includes social issues in its reports. That's easy, and probably already exists. The kicker is that you make all these people aware of the other people who aren't happy. You make voting the key feature of your brokerage. This is making money to make a difference. Every time a vote comes up, they tell you who to vote for, and how many people will be right there next to you. Even better, they could tell you which stocks are the most vulnerable to grass roots agitation, and encourage buys in those stocks. Make all aspects of making your voice heard available easily, and show people how they have made a difference and how they can help the most, and the world will listen.

NotePassr – AIMSweringMachine Redux

April 26, 2006

AIMswerinMachine, being unpronounceable, diificult to spell, long, and definitely not Web 2.0, has been replaced by NotePassr (the r is in a different color in my mind).  Props to whoever stole Notepasser on AIM, I like it much better without the e.

The basic version should be released by this weekend.  Then I'm going to add facebook stalking features: find out instantly when your friends add pictures or change their relationship status.  Then after that I'm going to take over evites and calendars.  Then maybe I'll have enough people to convince Google or somebody to give me AdSense. 

The Iran Plans – My Predictions

April 10, 2006

Seymour M. Hersh wrote an article for the New Yorker detailing the extensive military planning regarding Iran and its developing nuclear abilities. He contends that the administration in the US is not only actively planning and preparing for a strike at Iran, but that we may use tactical nuclear weaponry to do so. This is clearly a scary thought, but I don't think it will happen.

First of all, the UN will get to go to bat first, and hopefully, they'll lay down some vicious sanctions. Second, Iran's stability is at risk because of that most powerful US export – culture. Iranian students are learning whats out there, and theyre not going to be satisfied with a country that forbids them so much of it. However, that will take time, and if Iran or the US put the pressure on too fast, it won't happen. I don't think that either country is in the position to bring that much pressure to bear. Iran is (hopefully) several years away from having an effective weapon, so they can't put too much bluster on the table. The US has many reasons not to pursue a violent course of action. We are already stretched thin in Iraq, and any attack on Iran would fully mobilize terrorist groups, which means either escalation of our troops, or evacuation. Neither one is appealing. Evacuation may be our best option, though. We can stop Iran's nuclear development, let the region battle it out, and CIA-back the one we want to come out on top. Doves will be happy our troops are out, neocons will know what we're actually doing, and that will be that.

The troops will pull out in September, to prepare for November elections and the January bombing campaign. Or they could do nothing until just before the Presidential elections, and pull out the troops then. Then the administration has about a year to get in and make it look good before it starts spoiling the next presidential candidate. However, I'm inclined to think they won't care, unless the democrats can bring some amount of political clout to bear on some issue.

So look to see one of two things happen: either UN sanctions, or a removal of troops for the elections and then a bombing campaign. My bet, and my hopes, are on UN sanctions.

Pocket Everything Device

April 8, 2006

I don't want to have my pockets filled with ipod, phone, camera, and (dont have yet) palm type thing, but I want all those capabilities still. Tentative solution? gumstix


  • audio output
    • bluetooth headset
    • sound card – audiostix AC97[BRD00006] – includes out and in – might be able to just make the bluetooth do it
    • mp3 codecs
    • skype
  • audio input
    • bluetooth headset
    • ?
  • storage
    • ideally hard drive, but might be harder to connect
  • visual capture
    • probably hack apart a camera
    • should be a separate device that transmits over bluetooth?
    • unobtrusive
  • visual output
    • lcd screen, gumstix supports this well
  • written input
    • actual keyboard or palm style graffiti
    • serial port
  • mouse-type input
    • touchscreen – included with lcd
  • internet and phone access
    • evdo – 60/mo, over PCMCIA card(50)
    • skype – ?/mo no need for dealing with wireless hardware

So the equipment –

  • gumstix connex-bt 200~
  • audiostix, maybe – 40
  • bluetooth headset – 40
  • storage – ?
  • lcd screen – 200~
  • camera – ?

Form factor should be small, dominated mostly by the lcd. 

Data Visualization

April 8, 2006

 Everything we do is very data driven.  But its all machine readable and translated for what we need at the moment.  The raw data is unseen by human minds, so it is difficult to get a feeling for how accurate it is, or what it means on the whole.  Need to think on this more – but check out, and stamen's backchannel.