28 March 2006

Transient data opportunities

I watched a recent demonstration of how one might capture search engine data through an API and track that data over time. It occurred to those bright people that built this application, that a specific search, in a specific moment in time, is lost the moment you change url’s or complete another search. How does the number of hits 10 minutes ago, compared to say in the next hour compare? Now, ask yourself why?

This is transient data. Data lost unless someone tracks it and its variances.

Reading TechCrunch, Meme-orandum and other start-up Silicon Valley type sites has become a bit of a compulsion for me lately. As innovation is my passion, it seems reasonable. With the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurship in my own back yard I wonder if anyone is tracking the angel and VC investment in new companies over time.

So, here is the freebie of the day (likely worth what you pay for it)… start a database site that lists new company startups, tracks investments and profitability. Put a wiki front end on it and it becomes a self-promotion tool for startups and VC’s alike. Tracking the data over time would have value to anyone studying entrepreneurship.

If you fund the project with grant moneys, you could likely fulfill the grant with the transient data. If you run banner ads or search type ads to support the front end, you likely have something flip-able over time. Let me know how much my 15% ideation fee comes to in a few years will you?

Mid sourcing… a geographic alternative

Almost exactly three years ago I moved from the private sector of web site building to the academic side of the world. That move was not exclusive… but likely in the 80% range.

[ Indicator one ] About a month ago I had a chance to judge some low bandwidth web projects as part of an internal agency project. I was stunned. Granted this is one of the top three agencies in the Midwest with a large concentration in interactive, but the technical prowess, the agile-ness of development and the creative innovation was very impressive.

[ Indicator two ] A huge (by Midwest standards) breakaway agency here in the Midwest has transformed itself. When founded in the mid 90’s, it positioned itself as an interaction advertising and marketing expert… but was focused on the usual small national and large regional corporate and consumer accounts. 10 years later, having been absorbed by a very large international advertising cartel, it has become the go to source for interactive, for web development, and for innovation consulting for many, many large corporations.

[ Indicator three ] Given that I am soon to eject myself from academia and go find employment, I have been doing some earnings to cost-of-living analysis across geographic boundaries. Northern California and the great Northwest are extremely expensive places to live (duh!)

[ Conclusion ] Instead of sending programming and other tech services to India (quite unpopular here in the US) or wherever… send it to the Midwest. The Midwest is where many reasonable people with high acumen and great creativity come to raise their families… or buy an estate with their accrued home equity. By the work ethic… it is just as you would expect in an agrarian culture – very high.

16 March 2006


First let me say that I have the up most respect for many d.school instructors and especially those that blog. There are a lot of reasons to blog. Some broadcast information that they feel needs to be out there. Some blog to convince. Personally, I blog as a venting and a mechanism, a form of self-expression. My blog also serves as a chronicle of my thoughts and growth. Those thoughts are often wrong. Sometimes they are even posted, by me, with full knowledge that they may be wrong. I like dialog. I learn, grow and expand – from dialog. People, schools and companies also learn from dialog. I have no idea if what I have to say has much relevance… I don’t much believe in intellectual self-judgment. I am also not that concerned about who or how many read what is written here.

So what is my point? Recently, a leading blogger in the design space removed the ability for his readers to comment. I have no idea why – maybe it was a time issue. Not only is this unfortunate, it is irresponsible. If you put yourself out there, espousing ideas, opinions and news about a topic, you are essentially providing opinions to others, while fully engaged in self-promotion. When you close yourself off to productive discourse, and accept challenges to those ideas, you limit your own opportunity for growth as well as that of others. You do a disservice to your industry and your profession.

I preach to students (and I learned this from one of my professors – he knows who he is) to know what you believe and have the ability to communicate it. Have an opinion, even if it is wrong. Be willing to discuss it. Likelihood is that you will learn from the discussion.

I can divide the people I have met in my lifetime between those I want to spend time with and those I do not. Some are terminal learners – others are not. I have little tolerance for closed opinions and arrogance. You can most likely interpret the rest.

13 March 2006

I am finally coming around...

While reading yet another article about booting some variation of windows on an Intel Mac... I have decided it just does not matter. Well, except for the hardcore hardware nerds that is. Like anything else... pick walmart or target - choose whole foods or save mart, it is a matter for choice and style that does not limit what you do or what you purchase in the end.

The move of applications to the net will facilitate any hardware, any OS and certainly most any preference. Some of us who are accustom to a certain level of usability, user experience or even customer service will be willing to pay a little more... and enjoy the results. But just like Guy Kawasaki that who preached for years that you should buy a Lexus rather than a BMW so as to save several thousands of dollars... if you don't appreciate the difference, you should not pay the difference. Some want it and get it, some don't.

This is not a judgment... just an acknowledgment that we have varying needs and wants. Mass customization and further segmentation will assure that at some point we can all buy exactly what we want... change our minds, and repeat the purchase process.

As an added note: We had some serious storm this weekend here in the midwest. It knocked out all the power, and thus internet and all wireless routers in the neighborhood. I can't wait for WiMax or complete Satellite access to the net. Connectivity is sooo addictive!

05 March 2006

A visitor in my yard...

A few days agao, after a series of very windy days, I noticed a small black object in the grass. I was on my way out the driveway and paid it nearly 3 seconds of attention. Days later, I have looked, wondered and theorized. Finally, I walked over to look more closely.

I am surprised that is is still there. I find it curious. Am not complelled to make an effort to return it (though it most likely belongs to a neighborhood child). Further, I am not the compulsive surburnabite that expends huge allocations of time to keep my yard at 'better homes a garden' level.

Days later (this totals over a week) I have figured it out. This is son of wilson. Son of wilson is the prodogy (or possibly a friend) of Tom Hanks' comforting volley ball - or was is a soccer ball - companion? He (I presume it is a he) has come to me in order to provide fellowship and comfort while I hold up in this abode, mostly at this computer attempting to finish my thesis while also paying the rent. Long days and short nights lead to drawing the necessary conclusions, not matter how odd. Thank god I am not living on Wistaria lane.

01 March 2006

More whining… iPod style

A year and seven days ago I bought a one-gig iPod shuffle and loved it. I had resisted the temptation while at Macworld (site of the announcement) as I had just purchased my second model as a Christmas gift. Now having bought my fourth (also as a gift)… I am struggling with my shuffle. I took it to the San Francisco apple store a few in January and they found it to work just fine.

Two weeks later the store near (an hours drive makes this a relative measure) replaced it. Just this week, they again replaced. Each time I get three months of additional warrantee, which I very much appreciate. But the unit works less and less with each replacement model. This time it worked at the store. I brought it home, transferred my favorite selection of running music to it and went for a nice long run. It worked great! So I plugged it backing to the USB port to fully charge it and it has not worked since.

I followed all of the steps on the web site support page (very thorough I might add), yet I still have a non-working shuffle. So I suppose I will head back to the store, yet again.

The support (or commiseration) forums on apples web site have hundreds, if not thousands of similar stories. Most of these are from frustrated owners, just outside of the warrantee zone. So I should probably consider myself lucky. But the question comes to mind, with such (reportedly) small margins, and such extraordinary failure rate, how do they make money at this? Is it time to buy Apple stock on the short?

A spoiled audiophile wines

I like the sound from LP’s better than from CD’s, and I have a large square black block of amplifier in a prime position of my living room. Speakers pose as furniture and their placement takes president over chairs and the artwork on the walls. This, just to set the stage for the commentary that follows here.

I have been searching the web for any sort of technical discussion of file formats for iPod music storage and computer based music fidelity. Maybe I have not looked hard enough or in the right places, but I have found very little.

I do know that having ripped nearly my entire music library to hard drive in Apples Lossless Encoding or AIFF format. They are captured via the standard drive on my Dual G5. They are transmitted via the network to the wireless network to the nice stereo downstairs. And, the quality is sub par. I can only conclude that there is some degradation via compression somewhere along the way. I am not an electrical engineer, an audio engineer or a computer hardware or software engineer. In fact, I am not an engineer at all (be thankful of this – I am barely tolerable as it is.)

My grand plan to cash in all my old CD’s now lies in ruins. I can’t stand the degradation and I suppose I will spend sleepless hours on weekends looking for the solution. The Wall Street Journal today discusses the new notion that people are settling for lower quality sound. I’d like to ask them, “where have you been?” Have you ridden in an American car in the last 20 years, been to a TGIFridays, or nearly any church or public auditorium. Sound QUALITY has rarely been anything but a low priority.

The new announcement of Apple’s audio box thing (is it even stereo?) is a measured step to capture more of the available dollars spent in the living room. We all know folks that have spent hundred for a plastic BOSE box that sounds like a radio stuck in a desk drawer. Do not expect excellence from Apple at every step unless of course, you are noting their ability to generate hype.