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This is my personal & professional blog.  It's a place for me to think out loud and learn. I'll sometimes talk about things I don't understand as a way to begin to understand them. I'll often be wrong, short sighted, and unclear. When you see this happening, please point it out!

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Thursday
Feb112010

Jim & Pam of The Office

I study the love affair between Jim and Pam of The Office with curious intensity.  I think it’s real.  Or at least, I use it as a proxy for what that stage of love is like.  How are you suppose to feel, think, and behave when you’re getting married?  You’re suppose to get the world’s tiniest Bluetooth headset and listen to your lover’s every conversation?  Ok!  I replay what Jim and Pam say to each other.  I plan out the next steps in their relationship.  I look for my own Dwight Shrute to befriend and prank on a daily basis.  I speculate about potential sources of conflict (you do know that Pam wants to go back to NYC and that Jim will go with her, don’t ya?).  I measure my own relationships against this make believe world.  Pam and Jim have off-days, so can I!

Jim and Pam are in love.  I love how they got there: they fell in love gradually without drama or artifice.  It wasn't love at first sight; it was love built over lots of boring and semi-fun days at the Dunder Mifflin office.

Jim & Pam's passsion for each other is well grounded in reality.  No boob jobs here!  They love each other because they share the same sense of humor and love to make each other laugh!  Jim supports Pam in her aspirations.  Pam supports Jim.  Jim worries about what Pam will think of him buying his parents house.  Jim wants to buy Pam a house.  It's awesome.  It's what two people acting as a single unit is all about.

But honestly, I want more from them.  Once they've realized that the world can give life to their love, how can they live without that same magic, intensity, and joy in other aspects of life?  Now, they don't need to write each other love peoms or adopt an Ethopian orphan and name it Zahara.  Or do anything out of character.  But I do want them to do more.  I want them to have friends that they like and enjoy socializing with.  I want them to thwart the daily lives they find so dumb and boring.  I want Jim to exercise his god-given ability to lead and lead something.  Anything really.  A troupe of girl scouts would do.  I want Pam to give in to her desire for boldness.  I want Pam to admit her love for the big city, move to NYC, and make a go of an art career.  Or at least try to sell her doodles on Etsy.com.  (And, for god sakes Pam, puhlease stop wearing cardigans!)

This post would be remiss without a link to Hulu, so here it is!

Wednesday
Feb102010

Yelp and FourSquare: Is Yelp Cloning the Wrong Company?

Yelp is pretty cool.  And certainly pretty valuable.  Google threw $500 million at it.  Apparently, founder and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman threw it back.  Instead, Yelp opted for a up-to-$100 million investment from Elevation Partners followed, presumably, by an IPO.

Anyhoo, Yelp has been around for a couple years at this point.  But, as far as I can tell, Yelp has been horribly slow at innovating.  So much so that I assumed Jeremy and his grandma were the only people at Yelp!  But no!  They've got pplz.  Recently, Yelp abashedly or unabashedly cloned FourSquare, enabling users to check-in at restaurants, gyms and OBGYNs.  At first, I thought, "oh awesome, I can check-in when at my OBGYN!" and "Yelp is making shit happen; Go Jeremy's Grandma!"  Then I realized that of the litany of things I wish Yelp did better, none of them was clone FourSquare.

Yelp, you're good at cloning stuff!  That's a great skill to have.  But please clone any of the following companies!  Because they actually make money.

  • GrubHub/SeamlessWeb.  Um, this is so obvious, I feel like a moron for saying it outloud.  One of the most popular uses of Yelp is "ME HUNGRY, FIND RESTAURANT".  How about you add a "GET FOOD HERE" to the end of that?  And while you're at it, make some money on each order?  Grandma gotta get paid.
  • OpenTable.  Um again, so obvious, don't think less of me for suggesting it.  This adds a "GET FOOD THERE" to the end of "ME HUNGRY, FIND RESTAURANT".  OpenTable already IPO'ed.  So you know it's fo real.
  • ZocDoc.  This one may be easy to miss.  But if you talk to my homey Aaron Blackledge at Care Practice (see their awesome blog), you'll get the dilly.  Yelp is the primary source of new patients for him.  ZocDoc adds the "GET DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENT" to the end of "ME HURT, FIND MEDICAL CARE".
  • Groupon.  I love Groupon.  I think it's one of the best businesses I learned about in 2009.  Groupon is "YOU HUNGRY? EAT HERE!".  A great fit for what Yelp has done well (build a trustworthy brand for consumers, build awareness/relationships with tens of thousands of small businesses that they can effectively sell to).

Oh, and if cloning is too hard, how about you use that overvalued stock to buy one of these companies?

PS Osha Thai on 2nd Street=5 stars!

 

UPDATE on 6/3/2010: Yelp agrees with me (well, sort of)!  Yelp hasn't quite cloned OpenTable, but they did decide to outsource to OpenTable.  This isn't quite as good, Yelp!  You'll miss out on the majority of revenue and miss the opportunity to build relationships with restauranters, relationships you can use to extract more money and create more value for them in the future.

Wednesday
Feb032010

Obama--The First Year

About one year ago, I spent a couple days in DC for Obama's Inaguaration.  The event changed me forever.  Because I watched the debates closely, rooted for Obama, and attended the Inaguaration, Obama's story feels to me like I own a piece of it.

Obama's meteoric rise to power is THE entrepreneurial story of 2008.  Right Team + Right Offering + Right Timing = POTUS.  POTUS good god!

Check out the following photos from the past year.  All photos are Official White House photos and by Pete Souza.  Also see photos from the Presidential Campaign.

 

Jan. 20, 2009
“We were on a freight elevator headed to one of the Inaugural Balls. It was quite chilly, so the President removed his tuxedo jacket and put it over the shoulders of his wife. Then they had a semi-private moment as staff member and Secret Service agents tried not to look.”

 

Jan. 21, 2009
“This was his first morning in the Oval Office as President of the United States. He was reading some briefing material before a meeting.”


Jan. 23, 2009
“The President meets with his national security and intelligence team in the Situation Room of the White House for the first time.”

 

July 11, 2009
“When I tell people this is the departure ceremony from Ghana, they ask ‘why is he walking away from the plane.’ His motorcade had just brought him to the airport, and the First Family was walking to the stage where he was to give his farewell remarks."


Nov. 16, 2009
“The President listens during a meeting aboard Air Force One as we flew to Beijing, China.”


Dec. 1, 2009
“The President delivers remarks on Afghanistan before cadets at West Point.”

 

Dec. 9, 2009
“The day we were leaving for Oslo, the President’s first meeting of the morning was with his speechwriting team. He said he had stayed up most of the night writing. I was surprised to see that he had handwritten the entire speech so I made a few close-up pictures as he went over the speech with his aides in the Oval Office.”


Jan. 16, 2010
“President Obama had called on the two former Presidents to help with the situation in Haiti. During their public remarks in the Rose Garden, President Clinton had said about President Bush, ‘I’ve already figured out how I can get him to do some things that he didn’t sign on for.’ Later, back in the Oval, President Bush is jokingly asking President Clinton what were those things he had in mind.”

Wednesday
Feb032010

Let's Be Stupid

Watch this video:

Tuesday
Feb022010

The iPad is Revolutionary, Period.

The Apple iPad is awesome.  And it's going to be a success.  I'm shocked and disappointed in Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, for saying "You might want to tell me the difference between a large phone and a tablet."  Apparently he hasn't seen the video of Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, laughing at the iPhone on launch

Undoubtedly, there's a team at Google, under Eric Schmidt's purview, cloning the iPad right now!

The iPad is NOT evolutionary.  The iPad is revolutionary.  It's transformative.  Here's why:

Number 1:  Touch.  Using a mouse and keyboard is silly and, frankly, arcane.  I feel like a moron doing it.  Have you seen how Data of Star Trek interacts with the Computer?  Touch! 

With the iPhone and iPad, Steve Jobs has transformed computer interfaces forever.  The iPad is internet in your hands.  And you use the internet using your human fingers.  No mouse and keyboard, no stylus.  Apple has bet its future on touch.

This doesn't sound awesome yet.  It didn't even look that awesome when Steve demo'ed surfing NYTimes.com.  But that's because all computer interfaces have been designed to use a keyboard and mouse.  Imagine what multi-touch makes possible on the internet.  You've got 10 mice you can use at the same time!

Number 2: Developers, Developers, Developers.  Apple has built an incredibly talented and vibrant developer ecosystem.  Forget eBooks; this ecosystem will innovate and build killer apps on the iPad.  Here's how they've built this ecosystem:

(1) Stories of developers succeeding are ubiquitous (Max Levchin suggested Facebook get the word out about such stories; he was right, Apple proved it).  This excites developers about building apps for iPhone and, now, the iPad.

(2) There's money to be made.  There's a vibrant advertising market (as demonstrated by Google's acquisition of AdMob and Apple's purchase of Quattro).  More importantly, Apple's marketing of paid apps and seamless integration of payments has shifted user's expectations.  Users expect to pay for iPhone apps that they're unwilling and don't expect to pay for on the Web.

(3) Companies want their own branded iPhone app.  Thousands of companies out there have commissioned iPhone apps.  These are companies that have no business building iPhone apps, companies that often don't have mobile versions of their website.  They just want iPhone apps for the glory!  Even the White House has it's own iPhone app.

I expect this outpouring of resources and cash to continue to fund innovation on the iPad.

 

I really do hope Steve Jobs lives forever.

Saturday
Jan302010

The Story of a Succesful iPhone App

Loren Brichter made Tweetie, a Twitter iPhone client.  It started as a 2 week side project.  And exploded into his focus for 5 months of his life.  Tweetie is a paid only $2.99 iPhone App.

My favorite parts of the video:

There were a couple inflection points in sales:

  1. Press from the Introduction of PEE to Tweetie (Tweetie Fart sounds)
  2. Being featured in iTunes as a Featured App of the Week
  3. Press around the Tweetie 1.3 App being rejected by Apple
  4. Featured on Twitter.com as a Featured App
  5. Press around Tweetie for Mac

(Press is powerful, Large companies like Apple and Twitter discover and support applications by individuals!)

Q: Why did you do it when there were so many competitors?

"Loren: It was stupid in hindsight.  It was ridiculously stupid. I never shouldn't have done it.  But i didn't like anything elset that was out there.  And I thought, crazily enough, that I could do a better job.  I think I got lucky."

Q: What do you do about analytics?

"Loren: I don't do anything.  I don't do any analytics.  I know people do...I don't really feel comfortable with it.  For the iPhone app, all I really know is how many people have bought it."

Kudos to Stanford University for having a class that gets students to build and publish iPhone apps, for inviting Loren to speak, and for posting this on YouTube.

What do you think Loren should do next to take Tweetie/his company to the next level?

Wednesday
Jan272010

The Queen gets All the Good Stuff

Tuesday
Jan262010

Craigslist Slowly being Killed

I've long disliked Craigslist's celebrated approach to running their business and providing value to the world.  I'm inspired to watch startups systematically taking users away from Craigslist and providing better service.

made by Andrew Parker

Monday
Jan252010

The History of Great Men

Every high school in the country should have a course called "The History of Great Men".  This course should pick a handful of men whose achievements are profound.  Men from a variety of disciplines and arts.  And, of course, by "Men", I mean women too.

The course would have these simple goals:

NUMBER 1: Inspire every student to want to make greatness the pursuit of their life. 

Too many high schoolers and Americans and people in general don't know what to do with themselves.  That's good, of course.  How else do you throw off your bowlines and experiment with ideas, arts, possibilities?  But what's UNACCEPTABLE is that too many people do not make greatness the pursuit of their life.  You may not know what you want to do, but you should know you want to make it great.

NUMBER 2: Identify patterns in thinking, behavior, and circumstance among these great men.  That you can emulate them.

In this way, the course would not focus on these men's historical achievements or significance, like so many history courses attempt to.  NO, fuck that!  That doesn't actual teach you how to do anything*.  Rather, the course would give students practical advice about what patterns of behavior lead to what outcome.

This blog post was inspired by Adam Gries who forced me to read Think and Grow Rich.  Every human being who aspires to do anything should read that book.  Buy it here.

*OK, that's hyperbole.

Sunday
Jan242010

A Better IRS. Or at least a Better Intuit.

Why Can't the IRS Help Fill in the Blanks? is an awesome NYTimes Article.  Read it immediately if you haven't already.  I've emailed the author congratulating and thanking him!

Incidentally, I was thinking this exact thing yesterday morning.  As I gather my various 1099s and W2s to put my tax return together, I wonder why the IRS is making all this so hard.  Why isn't the IRS leveraging technology to make filing tax returns cheaper, faster, more accurate, and better prevent tax evasion?

The article also mentions that the tax-preparation software lobby is styming improvements to the process and perpetuating the status quo.  That certainly stinks for the rest of us.  But I wish the folks at Intuit would couple their political activism to maintain their market with some innovation to grow their market and business

Specifically, I wish Intuit would approach Fortune 500 companies, file their W2s to the IRS for them, and then market "60 second tax returns" to the employees of those Fortune 500 companies.  This would make it cheaper for Intuit to acquire customers (those Fortune 500 companies could market to their employees through corporate channels), get more customers (more Fortune 500 company employees will sign up), increase barriers to entry, and perhaps increase their margins (they could charge more for faster returns?). 

If Intuit isn't going to let the IRS become the clearinghouse for information, I wish it would become one.

Friday
Jan222010

"Baba"

"Baba" (Turkish for Father) by Lev Yilmaz

Tuesday
Jan192010

Elizabeth Gilbert on Genius

One of my favorite TED talks.  I really should read Eat, Pray, Love and Elizabeth Gilbert's latest book, Committed.

"I am a writer. Writing books is my profession but it's more than that, of course. It is also my great lifelong love and fascination. And I don't expect that that's ever going to change. But, that said, something kind of peculiar has happened recently in my life and in my career, which has caused me to have to recalibrate my whole relationship with this work. And the peculiar thing is that I recently wrote this book, this memoir called "Eat, Pray, Love" which, decidedly unlike any of my previous books, went out in the world for some reason, and became this big, mega-sensation, international bestseller thing. The result of which is that everywhere I go now, people treat me like I'm doomed. Seriously -- doomed, doomed! Like, they come up to me now, all worried, and they say, "Aren't you afraid -- aren't you afraid you're never going to be able to top that? Aren't you afraid you're going to keep writing for your whole life and you're never again going to create a book that anybody in the world cares about at all, ever again?"

http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

Monday
Jan182010

People Magazine

Wow, People Magazine is huge.  The gossip rag does more than $800 million in revenue per year.  Each of the 53 issues per year generates >$15M in ad revenue.  This doesn't include revenue from subscriptions/the cover price. 

In a year where the magazine industry as a whole is in decline and advertising itself is taking a hit, People grew it's ad revenue 4%.

Per it's rate card, it's the US's most popular weekly magazine with a criculation of 3,450,00 issues.

Changes in Magazine Ad Revenue from 2008 to 2009.  Via Silicon Alley Insider Chart of the Day.

People Magazine Rate Card from http://www.people.com/people/static/mediakit/main.html

People Magazine Rate Card

Monday
Jan182010

Go Ahead, Pee in the Shower

Friday
Jan152010

"Boyfriends I have Been"

"Boyfriends I have Been" by Lev Yilmaz

Thursday
Jan142010

Why Blog?

Thursday
Jan142010

How to Eat Sushi

Wednesday
Jan132010

Fifty People, One Question by PostSecret

PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, & God.  Video by Deltree and Benjamin Reece of New Orleans.

 

My favorite?

Guy to Girl: "Allright, you know your cat that disappeared?  I ran it over."

Same Girl to Same Guy moments later: "Hmmm, let's think.  You know, like, you know all those books I have that I don't read?  It's just all these love poems that are about you."

 

Wednesday
Jan132010

Generation WE

If I could make movies, I'd love to make movies that parody movies THIS.

But admittedly, I'm inspired to act/make moves by rhetoric and cinematography like this!  Ugh, I'm so easy.

Nothing like doomsday scenarios to rile the ol' hoi polloi.

gen-we.org via Brett Leve and Jeff Rosenthal

Tuesday
Jan122010

Who is Paying Taxes in 2009?