Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Skype + LinkedIn

For a business partnership that would create some value, how about Skype joins up with LinkedIn. So you could just click on any of your contacts on LinkedIn and call them on Skype.

I would think this would be a big win for both companies.

LinkedIn would become more useful.

And Skype would pick up more business. And you wouldn't have to go re-create your social network on Skype.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The missing "dislike" button on Facebook

Youtube has one:


but Facebook only lets you "Like."

I suppose it wouldn't be very friendly to dislike the photo that your high school classmate just posted; but it might cut down on the Facebook clutter.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Be your goal

We're all familiar with the Gandhi quote "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

A close cousin of this idea is:

Be your goal.

Feel the difference between:

"I'm trying to run at least three times a week."
"I'm a runner."

"I hope I get an A in this class."
"I'm an A student."

"I'm trying to cut out carbs to lose weight."
"I don't eat sugar."

Until you make that mindset shift, the goal is something external to yourself. But once you become your goal, you are simply following your inner nature. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Don't donate your used glasses

Comparing the costs of buying new glasses for the poor vs. sending and sorting donated, used glasses. Buying new glasses is cheaper. Nice case study on the topic of hidden costs.

Recycling old glasses makes people feel generous and thrifty. They believe they’re helping people and saving money. They think the glasses they donate are “free,” because they don’t consider all the hidden costs of sorting and shipping them. And they don’t realize just how cheap manufacturing new glasses has become. If they really wanted to help people see, they’d send money. Unlike leftovers, it’s guaranteed to fit.
The only thing this article neglects is that donating glasses could be, from the charity's point of view, a loss leader. If people donate their glasses, it is a type of commitment mechanism, and they might be more willing to actually donate money as well. So the additional cost to the non-profit of working with used glasses could be considered a sales expense.

Also, if local talent in the country where the glasses get shipped are hired to do the sorting, then that job creation needs to be factored into the calculation.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What to do about back pain

A friend, Dane Zehrung, who is in good physical condition, was suffering from back pain.  He sought out multiple specialists, none of whom were able to help.

Then, he attended classes with the Gokhale Method.  A series of classes costs $450, and he says they were definitely worth the money.

Basically, they teach you proper posture: how to sit, how to walk, how to lie down properly. The idea is that we learn posture from our surrounding culture, and that our culture in the West teaches us crummy, unhealthy posture. The creator of the method studied posture in many traditional cultures, and developed a methodology to teach us that posture.

If you can't make it to a class, you can check out the book. I just bought it. The exercises in the back of the book look good to me:

8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back: Natural Posture Solutions for Pain in the Back, Neck, Shoulder, Hip, Knee, and Foot

Problem with digital books

Paul Krugman quote:

The problem with digital books is that you can always find what you are looking for but you need to go to a bookstore to find what you weren’t looking for.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


1. Want to be smarter? Get outside and move.
 It turned out that the toys and tastes, no matter how stimulating, had not improved the animals’ brains. “Only one thing had mattered,” Rhodes says, “and that’s whether they had a running wheel.” Animals that exercised, whether or not they had any other enrichments in their cages, had healthier brains and performed significantly better on cognitive tests than the other mice.

2. Seth Godin on finding a scalable solution:
They're broken because the difficult part is finding a scalable, profitable way to market and sell the solution.
3. Want to live longer?
"...researchers determined that watching an hour of television can snip 22 minutes from someone’s life."
 4. Lose wait by maximizing FPC: flavor per calorie
“I don’t drink fruit juice, either. Fruit juice is sugar with no fiber to mediate its consumption. When people tell me they’re going on a juice cleanse, they might as well tell me they’re going on a root beer cleanse.”

5. Take an email vacation to get more productive
The study, which was financed by the Army and the National Science Foundation, also found that people who use e-mail on a regular basis “switched windows an average of 37 times per hour. Those without changed screens half as often – about 18 times in an hour.”
6. Teach your kids how to eat like the French
French parents teach their children to eat like we teach our kids to read: with love, patience and firm persistence they expose their children to a wide variety of tastes, flavors and textures that are the building blocks of a varied, healthy diet. Pediatrician-recommended first foods for French babies are leek soup, endive, spinach and beets.
7. History of the lifetime first-class ticket on American Airlines (HT to Tyler Cowen)
Each had paid American more than $350,000 for an unlimited AAirpass and a companion ticket that allowed them to take someone along on their adventures. Both agree it was the best purchase they ever made, one that completely redefined their lives.
8. Seth Godin on how to make money online

  1. The first step is to stop Googling things like, "how to make money online." Not because you shouldn't want to make money online, but because the stuff you're going to find by doing that is going to help you lose money online. Sort of liking asking a casino owner how to make money in Vegas...
  2. Don't pay anyone for simple and proven instructions on how to achieve this goal. In particular, don't pay anyone to teach you how to write or sell manuals or ebooks about how to make money online.
  3. Get rich slow.
  4. Focus on the scarce resource online: attention. If you try to invent a way to take cheap attention and turn it into cash, you will fail. The attention you want isn't cheap, it's difficult to get via SEO and it rarely scales. Instead, figure out how to earn expensive attention


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An upfront?

So I was curious and looked it up. Found this definition on Wiktionary:

upfront (plural upfronts)
  1. (television) A meeting of network executives with the press and major advertisers, signaling the start of advertising sales for a new season

From Innovation Bootcamp post Nov 1 2011

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How NYC could save on garbage collection

On my street, the recycling truck passes two times. On one pass, they collect the recycling from the south side of the street; on the second pass they get the north side.

The truck has one driver and one "thrower" who collects the bags and throws them into the appropriate bin.

The city could save money by having one driver and two throwers.

On narrow streets like mine, there would not be any additional danger to the throwers, since cars can't pass the garbage truck.  So the truck could drive down the street, with one thrower working each side of the street.

There would be a 25% labor savings. Instead of 2 personnel times two passes, you would have 3 personnel times one pass.

Plus, you would get some savings on fuel and truck wear, since the truck would only have to drive the length of the street once.

As an added bonus, you would have less noise pollution, and only have to hold up traffic once per week instead of twice.

This would only work for narrow streets, where cars can't pass the garbage truck. So they would need to re-jigger the routes, and have trucks with a one plus one labor model handle the wider streets.

From Innovation Bootcamp post Nov 1 2011

Monday, May 14, 2012

Earplugs at MOMA

Earplugs! Can you think of a more humdrum, disposable product?

One of my favorite things to see at MOMA is ordinary objects, held up for the elegance of their design.

I bet Howard Leight enjoys the fact that his products are included in the same museum as paintings by Picasso and van Gogh.

From Innovation Bootcamp post Nov 1 2011

From Innovation Bootcamp post Nov 1 2011

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Yes, I still think you are expensive

So the BMW "value service" is $79.95 for an oil change? And they are trying to convince me that they aren't expensive?

I read this ad as a warning not to buy a BMW, as the service costs 2-3x what you would pay for a regular car.

From Innovation Bootcamp post Nov 1 2011

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Who came up with this slogan?

"The Same, Only Better" ??

Advertisements for financial institutions can be pretty lousy, but this is my favorite in the "No content" category.

And what's with the guy in a suit playing with a soccer ball?  Maybe this billboard is supposed to appeal to all those guys who like to play sports while wearing a tie.

From Innovation Bootcamp post Nov 1 2011

Friday, May 11, 2012

Cutting edge demographic

The New York Review of Books subscription gift: a magnifying glass with a map in the background.

"Grandpa, what's a map?"

From Innovation Bootcamp post Nov 1 2011

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Babyproofing recommendation

Dear Alums,

I'm looking for a good, professional babyproofing company to babyproof my apartment in Manhattan. I would appreciate recommendations.  

Thank you.

Dear K____,

In response to your request for recommendations of a professional babyproofer in Manhattan:

It is actually quite simple to keep babies out of your apartment; you really don't need a professional company to help you.  Babies, particularly the younger ones, are not very mobile, so a low physical barrier is sufficient; you don't even need to have your door closed.  As they get older and enter the toddler stage, they do become more clever at outwitting adults; but simple precautions such as locking your door and keeping the windows shut work fine, in my experience.

More elaborate precautionary measures, such as moats with a drawbridge, rings of fire, tiger traps, etc, while recommended by experts, are unnecessary, at least with Manhattan babies.  Babies from the outer boroughs can be more aggressive about finding their way into your apartment, however.

If you do find yourself with babies getting into your apartment, crawling around on the carpets, eating your food and leaving traces of it on the floor, etc, check with your neighbors: are they having problems as well? Ask your building superintendent: supers are often able to provide free useful advice.

Sometimes, folks have no problem with babies until they take a long trip: then they return to find several babies crawling around the floor. Don't worry, babies will be kept away by the noise one makes throughout the day, and this isn't likely to recur as long as you are around.

If you are having problems with young children getting into your apartment, then that is an entirely different matter. Finding a "school" or some "activities" can help keep the children out of the house during the day, but they typically return to the apartment at night. I should know. My wife and I have three children running around, and the professionals that we've consulted tell us that it may take up to eighteen years before we're able to get them out of the house.

Best of luck with your babyproofing,

What will replace it?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Real estate agent follow-up

Back in December, I wrote some suggestions for real estate agents.

Among the suggestions was: stay in touch with your customers once the deal is done.

In a recent blog post worth reading, Seth Godin reports a relevant statistic:

One report by the National Association of Realtors found that more than 90% of all homeowners are never again contacted by their real estate agent after the contracts for the home are signed. Why bother... there's no money in it, just the possibility of complaints. Well, the reason is obvious--you'd come by with cookies and intros to the neighbors if you cared.

Here is Seth's suggestion: Care more.  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Unsubscribe from physical mail

The unsubscribe button on commercial email from ethical marketers is a helpful invention, both for the recipients as well as the sender.

The act of unsubscribing sends the marketer useful information, and saves them a very small amount of money on future email blasts.

We need an unsubscribe button for physical mail.  For recipients, it would be nice to have a less cluttered mailbox. And for direct marketers, it would be a boon to be able to save money by not sending materials to people who definitely aren't interested.

Currently, there is a market failure, though, because there is no easy way for me as a direct mail recipient to inform the sender to stop sending me mail. I suppose I could write them, or try to call them up - but that is more trouble than just throwing the junk mail away. Plus, I have a low level of confidence that even if I DID call them or send them a letter, that they would get the message through the organization to the right person and actually remove my address from their mailing lists.

Seems to me this is a business opportunity.

What I'd like to be able to do is use an app on my phone to snap a photo of any direct mail from an organization that I don't want to mail me in the future. I upload it to the site, and the site takes care of identifying the marketer and getting me off their list.

The service would be free to recipients, and paid for by marketers. It costs the marketer at least 50 cents each time they mail me, I would guess, so they ought to be willing to pay $1-2 to the intermediary.

I know that we already do have the National Do Not Mail list, but this seems to be to be a blunt instrument. There are in fact some special offers that I want to receive, so I don't want to get my name off of every mailing list.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Harvard seeks to catch up in the open courseware arena

A couple weeks ago I wondered why Harvard has lagged behind in the open courseware movement among top schools.

An article today says that Harvard and MIT are teaming up with a $60 million initiative, creating a venture called edX.

Harvard will be piggybacking on MITx, the platform the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has developed for its own MOOCs, the universities jointly announced on Wednesday. The combined venture will be a nonprofit called edX. Harvard and MIT together have committed $60 million to the project, which is likely more than the combined venture funds raised by CourseraUdacity and Khan Academy.

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed 

When do I get to see re-runs of VES 107? (If Harvard wants an alumni contribution from me, that would be a good place to start.)

HT to Zach Schrag.

Amazing time-lapse videos of glaciers

One still photo taken every half-hour of day-light; 8,000 photos per year. Watch four years of a glacier's life compressed to one minute. Amazing. I would have liked to see these videos when I was a grade-school kid studying glaciers.

See the videos at the Extreme Ice Survey.

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